North America

Hike to Rattlesnake Ledge

I was visiting Seattle for a weekend to visit friends and I wanted to go on a hike, big surprise. I had seen images of Rattlesnake on Instagram. I asked my friend if she was down, expecting her to say no, but to my surprise she replied with a resounding yes. She wanted to bring the whole family along which included her husband, her parents, a toddler and a baby. I looked up the hike, at 4 miles, round trip and an elevation gain of 1160 feet I figured it wasn’t difficult. My friend didn’t have a carrier for the toddler so I was hesitant as to how far she would make it, but I figured with enough breaks we could make it.

We woke up not so bright and early on Saturday and ate a sugar-rich breakfast of maple bars. Did you know a maple bar is a doughnut shaped as a bar with a maple glaze? I learned something new. We filled up every seat in the minivan and off we went. We had an initial hiccup when our GPS misguided us, but after getting directions from a local we found the parking lot for Rattlesnake. The parking lot was already full, so we joined the other cars parked alongside the road.

If nature calls there are portable toilets at the start of the hike. From the beginning the hike climbs constantly. Within the first 30 seconds the toddler declared she was tired and needed a rest. For the next half hour there was frequent stopping and resting. It was at that point someone decided the toddler and the grandparents would return to the bottom and wait for my friend, her husband and the baby to complete the hike.

With new determination we started again for the summit. We asked someone how far we were from the top and they estimated about 45 minutes. The suggested time says it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to reach the summit, but after taking so many breaks we didn’t make it very far. We continued up, stopping less trying to get to the summit quickly. The next time we asked someone they said we were only 20 minutes from the top. Not too far now! Just like the parking lot down below the top is crowded. It is a ledge so you need to keep away from the edge and navigate carefully between the groups of people.

The view at top is a nice reward for the short but strenuous hike. We snapped a few photos and then quickly made our way down. I didn’t know, but it was the first time my friends had ever hiked so I have to give them props for making it to the top.

Camping Trip to Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is famous for being hot, dry and having the lowest point in North America.

Just how hot does it get in Death Valley? According to Wikipedia,

“On July 10, 1913, a record 134 °F (56.7 °C) was measured at the Weather Bureau‘s observation station at Greenland Ranch (now the site for the Furnace Creek Inn), the highest temperature ever recorded in the world.”

Signs are posted throughout the park to remind you to drink water and plan ahead.

Desert Hiking

Furnace Creek Campground

We set up camp in Furnace Creek Campground. From Oct 15 – April 15 this is the only campground in Death Valley that takes advance reservations. The campground is a short 5 minute drive from the Furnace Creek Visitors Center.

Furnace Creek Visitors Center

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are located in the Stove Pipe Wells area of Death Valley National Park. We headed out there in the morning as it tends to get hotter later in the day. The furthest dune is about a mile out. I wore my Rainbow Sandals on way out and walked back barefoot. You could wear sneakers but its pretty much like walking on a beach, sand will get everywhere.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes IMG_9358 IMG_9363

Natural Bridge Canyon

The Natural Bridge Canyon is located in the Furnace Creek Area. The drive to Natural Bridge Canyon is a paved gravel road. It would be ideal if you had a higher car like an SUV. It’s possible to drive a sedan, it will just be a bumpy ride and you want to watch out for dips in the road. Eventually when you think your car is about to break down the parking lot will appear like a mirage.

IMG_7652 IMG_7653

Walk in about 15 minutes to get to the natural bridge.

IMG_7700 You can continue past the arch and scramble over some rocks.  IMG_7673

Eventually you might have to call it quits depending on your rock scrambling skills.  IMG_7682

Badwater Basin

At 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America.

Badwater BasinBadwater Basin Salt FlatsBadwater Basin

If you’re up for a challenge try running the “world’s toughest foot race,”  Badwater Ultramarathon which begins in Death Valley climbing to an elevation of 8300 feet (2530 meters) to Mt. Whitney Portal.

Camping Food

For dinner we ate Korean short rib tacos.

IMG_9421

For breakfast ramen with lime! I’ve never added lime to my ramen before, I’ll definitely have to do this more often in the future.

IMG_9435

 

Vancouver

Day 2

I landed in Vancouver just before 9:30am. I was exhausted and tried to get some sleep on the plane, had my eye mask and noise canceling headphones on but that didn’t help.

I flew Air Canada Rouge from Las Vegas to Vancouver. While boarding the flight attendants informed us to download the app to use their in flight entertainment. I heard this announcement many times over but it wasn’t quite registering in my head.

Once we were in the air it finally hit me. I had downloaded the app on my iPhone a few shorts hours earlier when I wanted to check in online. I asked the flight attendant to help me with the app. They have older movies and tv shows. The selection is decent for a short flight but would have been disappointing if it was a long haul flight. They did have iPads available for rent for $10.

Stanley Park

Once in Vancouver I headed to the information booth and got directions to Stanley Park via train. My plan was the ride a bike around the Seawall. There is a bus option from the airport straight to Stanley Park but all the bike rental shops are located outside the park along Denman and Georgia. I went with Spokes because they had the biggest shop and they were on the free tourist map. The rental was by the hour and they gave me a helmet, lock and basket! It’s a short 5 minute walk to the bike path. (You’re not allowed to ride bikes on the sidewalk.)

I cruised along the Seawall at a leisurely pace and was passed frequently. Some parts are the bike path are extremely narrow I thought I might fall off. They have the bike running in one direction on the inside and the running/walking path on the outside. The bike path is also elevated about six inches with a curb at the edge. I kept thinking if anyone is going to run off the curb and hit a pedestrian it was going to be me. Thankfully I don’t have any exciting stories to tell here. One biker said, “Keep peddling slowly, it will give you better balance!” So just the usual well experienced biker passing on useful tips to the amateur. (This is my attempt at sarcasm.)

There’s a small little beach along the Seawall path. I decided to stop a bit but was about to give up while struggling to lock my bike up. The beach has giant logs lining the beach and people were leaning up against them. I wonder if it’s something to help prevent beach erosion. It was not the most scenic of beaches but I imagine if you live in the city it’s nice enough and super convenient.

Continuing along the path I eventually made it back to my starting point. I returned the bike and paid $16 Canadian dollars for a 2 hour rental.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

I saw this on the visitors map and decided this would be my next stop. Last time I visited Vancouver I just went shopping and ate but since I can’t buy anything I just needed to do activities.

One the employees at the bike shop knew of a free shuttle service that’s run by the Capilano Suspension Bridge. There happened to be one nearby so I quickly set foot in that direction. I didn’t have an exact address, just a street to follow. As I was walking along Bayshore Drive admiring the beautiful high rises I saw a large coach bus pull up in front of the Westin. I decided to start running because it looked like the bus I would want to take. Turns out it was the right bus and I had just made it! Next stop Capilano Bridge!

Since I just planned it on the fly I wasn’t really sure what it was about. The picture looked cool so why not? Free shuttle? Even better!

It was probably about a 15 minute drive? Once we arrived I didn’t wait long to purchase my ticket. It’s just under $40 without a discount. I think if you’re a BC resident or you have AAA there might be a discount.

I probably spent about two hours wandering the park. The highlight was the suspension bridge. It sways pretty easily and the first time around I had to grip the side for balance. It’s not someplace I would visit again and it’s not at the top of my list but I needed things to do and it was a good time killer.

I did see lots of families but there is a lot of walking up and down stairs and some people were afraid to walk across the bridge.

I was starting to get hungry so I decided to head back to downtown Vancouver. I waited for the shuttle and within a few minutes I just wanted to sleep. I looked up a spot on Yelp for sushi and was set to head there but on the way I saw a Japadog and decided to stop in. The last time I had Japadog I didn’t enjoy it so I wanted to give it a second go. This time I thoroughly enjoyed it and inhaled it before I could even think to take a picture. They had an LA times article on the wall on their future plans to open up shops in the area, they already have food trucks and carts scattered over the city.

Once satisfied I continued onto sushi. I’ve been told sushi in Vancouver is amazing. On my last trip I tried the sushi and was floored. So this time I decided my one meal would have to be sushi. I was not disappointed!

Finally I was pooped and decided it was time to head back to the airport. I looked up online to see if they had showers and they did! The weather in Vancouver was beautiful not too hot and not too cold but after biking and lugging around a backpack all day I was definitely in need of a shower before a 14 hour trans pacific flight. It was the best $21 I ever spent!

And so now that catches me up to the present. They did have nap rooms and I was tempted but decided against it. The shower was really what I needed most.

And now the adventure really begins!

IMG_6290.JPG

IMG_6298.JPG

IMG_0968.JPG

IMG_0967.JPG

IMG_0965.JPG

Las Vegas

This Vegas trip was planned long before. My friend S joked that I not forget about her knowing my penchant to travel on a whim. I did forget for the first few hours when the possibility of this trip was turning into a reality. But luckily I checked my calendar before booking tickets!

Day 1: We arrived bright and early so early I didn’t get to sleep much since I was doing last minute packing and planning.

Instead of staying at Aria or around that area we decided to try out the new SLS Las Vegas.

Having lived in LA for a number of years everything about the hotel felt familiar. Some of the same restaurants in LA have made their way to Las Vegas. We decided to hit up the buffet first, a Vegas classic. We were underwhelmed by the food but found everyone to be friendly and helpful.

With our bellies satisfied next stop was the pool to work on our tans. We searched high and low for a free lounge chair but they were none to be found. We caved and ending up buying a pool bed. It worked out since it was so hot out we took frequent dips in the pool to cool down.

Since we decided to splurge on a pool bed we cancelled our sushi reservations for Yellowtail at Bellagio. I was looking forward to it but it would have been expensive and the pool bed was actually cheaper.

After a couple hours at the pool (including a detour when I met up with friends for lunch outside the hotel) it was back to the room to get ready. With the SLS being so far from everything else you kind of end up staying in the hotel all day or out all day.

We will have to say the ‘selfie’ mirrors inside the rooms are a big win. They have two mirrors facing each other with lights you can turn on and off. If you look at either of the mirrors it looks like you’re in a hall of endless mirrors.

While waiting for a taxi we ran into another Britney fan on the way to the show. After about a 2 second encounter we decided to share a cab and continue to chat about our favorite topic of conversation, Brit Brit. The cab that pulled up and the advertisement on top was for the Britney show! We excitedly told the driver, “Britney show please, you’re driving the Britney cab!” To which he replied, “Oh am I? I drive a different cab everyday I never check.” We continued to chit chat with the driver and fellow Britney fan.

I will have to say I’ve had the friendliest encounters on this trip to Vegas. Usually there might be a simple, “How are you doing today?” and then end there but it’s led into conversations where we learn a little bit about each other.

We arrive at Axis quickly purchase drinks and head to our seats. Having been here before I was somewhat familiar with the venue, but not so familiar with how to get to the venue from the casino floor. I’m pretty sure that’s the plan for every casino confuse people and keep them inside the casino so they never leave.

The 30 minute countdown pops up on the screen and we begin to get excited. According to the timer the show was expected to start about 15 minutes late. I think every Britney concert I’ve ever been to Britney has always started late. But this time Britney surprises us and ends the countdown before it hits zero and then boom, “it’s Britney b*tch.”

Then for the next 90 minutes it felt like we were in a Vegas club and Britney was performing live, which was exactly what happened. This time around we didn’t spot any celebrities in the audience. I want to say there were a few costume changes from last time but I can’t be sure. Even from where we sat I could tell she’s been working on her abs. Post-breakup Britney might be spending more time in the gym or possibly it’s motivation from her new clothing line.

After 90 minutes of singing and dancing and no sleep the night before we were exhausted. We walked around the mall unable to find our way out and eventually ended up at the Planet Hollywood taxi line. The line was long and I couldn’t see the end of it. I was too exhausted and couldn’t bear the thought of having to wait in that line. A suggested we head to the Elara hotel nearby and try their taxi line. Back to the mall we went and found our way over to Elara, the line was shorter, barely anyone there but there were also no cabs. Luckily we didn’t wait too long before we hopped in a cab and headed back to SLS.

Once there I began packing and figuring out what I would need until I got to Sydney. I wasn’t sure if I would have to recheck my bag in Vancouver or if it would go straight through. I picked out a few outfits and packed everything up again. Finally got into bed just before 1am for my 3 hour nap, oh the joys of flying during peak season.

At 4:15 am my alarm went off. Confused I hit snooze and went back to sleep. At 4:20 my first backup alarm went off and I realized it was time to get out of bed. I groggily got out of bed and got ready.

A few weeks ago I had a dream which I’ll call a nightmare. In my nightmare I forgot my passport and only realized this once I was at the airport. I was frantically trying to reach my mom and tell her where to find my passport and bring it back to the airport. While she was looking I realized I left my passport in Los Angeles and in my dream I was in NY. I woke up sad and disappointed in myself. Sometimes my dreams feel so real I can’t immediately distinguish what’s reality and what’s only a dream. Once I realized I was only dreaming I felt relief.

So far it’s only been one day and I consciously make sure to put my passport back each time I take it out.

IMG_6237-1.JPG