Page, AZ – The Real Life Screensaver!

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written a blog post, but I’ve got a fun one just in time for spring break! This past 10 weeks with school, work, and life got super busy, but now that I’ve graduated I have more than enough time to dedicate to writing in my blog.

So, without further ado, your guide to Page, Arizona – home of the amazingly beautiful Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend!

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona. It’s considered a sacred and spiritual place by the Navajo – and if you go, you’ll see why! Years of flash flooding and erosion have caused it to be the spectacle that it is today. Last spring break, my friend Anna and I went on a Great American Southwest Road Trip, which included several stops in Arizona – this being one of them.

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We honestly didn’t know much going in – just that we had to buy a ticket online and show up at a designated time. Because the canyon is located on Native American land, there are different tour companies that operate – it’s not something that you can just show up and explore yourself. We went with Ken’s Tours, but honestly both of them seemed reputable. There’s much debate about Lower vs. Upper, but we decided to go with Lower Antelope because it is a little less crowded, longer, and cheaper.

Upon arrival, the land doesn’t look like anything special. Just dry and very dusty. After some waiting with the rest of our group, our tour guide helped us down the nearly vertical stairs down into the canyon. For those afraid of heights, this was a little scary but our Navajo tour guide was incredibly patient in helping us get down.

Once we were down into the actual canyon, the varying colors and textures took my breath away. I’ve traveled plenty and have seen lots of beautiful things in my lifetime, but this was hands down the most beautiful natural thing I have ever seen. Lots of “oh my god”‘s were said.

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The next two hours were spent in absolute awe, gawking at the different formations created in the canyon. Our guide even pointed out parts of the canyon that look like different Native American spiritual creatures.

Some parts of the canyon were so narrow that we had to shuffle through one-by-one and sideways! I did begin to feel a little claustrophobic, but it was also kind of fun to squeeze through the canyon’s walls.

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Squeezing one-by-one through the canyon! Our guide in the background, LOL!

At the very end of the tour, our guide (who was incredibly skilled at photography and playing with the light down there) showed us a cool trick with the sand that made for an awesome photo!

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Horseshoe Bend

Another place that was even cooler to see in person was Horseshoe Bend. Located off the side of the road, Horseshoe Bend is super easy to get to and just requires a short (probably 1/2 mile?) walk down to the viewing point. You’ll have to navigate the mass of tourists, but it’s absolutely worth it.

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We saw a lot of boats cruising by on Lake Powell below, and we heard that it was a great way to see the Bend from below! Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to do this, but it looked amazing!

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Page

The town of Page is absolutely nothing to write home about. Albeit a bit sketchy, Page’s claim to fame is definitely Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon. However, Page is home to some great Mexican food! We went to El Tapatio, which had cheap and delicious food after a long day of being outside. Other than Mexican grub, don’t expect much culinary greatness here.

As a whole, Page is absolutely worth a stop on your road trip! Like I said, Antelope Canyon is basically stepping into a real-life screensaver and will make your jaw drop. It’s an excellent place to learn about the Navajo culture, Southwest culture, and more!

Backpacking the Beautiful Point Reyes

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go with an outdoors club on my university’s campus to the beautiful Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California. One of my good gal pals has a leadership position in the club, and suggested that myself and some other friends go on the trip. Even with very little backpacking experience, I was up for the challenge and wanted to get away for the weekend.

Bleary-eyed at 6 AM when I woke up on Saturday morning, I thought how nice it would be to lay in bed for a few more hours. But then I thought about all of the college debauchery my roommates would be engaging in that weekend and how I so did not want to be a part of it – and I basically ran into my car and threw my backpack in.

A brisk two hour’s drive north of Santa Clara University, Point Reyes lies in Marin County – a wealthy and beautiful area of Northern California. Marin County is incredibly expansive and has a vast area of protected coastline. Driving in, we all remarked how the area didn’t look like the California we have become so accustomed to – or at least the Silicon Valley. Bays, lagoons, and ocean views dotted the landscape making the drive go by even faster.

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Once our larger group arrived to the trailhead, we set on our way. The first time I went backpacking last summer, I swore that I wouldn’t bring so much the next time; however, my backpack was weighed down by the sheer amount of snacks and wardrobe changes I decided to bring. Beach weather is unpredictable, right?

We hiked along the coastline and through the trees to the beautiful Alamere Falls, which is a waterfall that feeds right into the ocean. Talk about amazing! After a lunch up on the bluff overlooking the ocean, we scrambled down to the ocean to get a better look at the waterfall.

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At the falls, we found several people relaxing and picnicking. It was the perfect day, with the sun shining and a slight breeze blowing!

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Shortly after our exploration to the falls, we made our way to the Wildcat Campground, where we made our camp for the night. The campground was equipped with a rather gross toilet (but a toilet nonetheless!) and featured beachfront views.

That night, our group sat on the beach for a couple of hours and shared stories while watching the sunset. The sunset was gorgeous and was the perfect cap on our day.

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After a delicious dinner, we shared all kinds of stories around the picnic benches – some more embarrassing than others – and really got to know one another. Although my friends and I on the trip are Seniors, many people on the trip were Freshmen and Sophomores, and it was great to get to know them!

In the morning on our way out, we hiked along the beach for a couple of miles to get back to the falls. Although it was difficult walking with the heavy backpacks through the sand, the views were absolutely incredible!

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As soon as I knew it, we were done and back at the car! Although it was a short few days, I had the most amazing time on this trip! I got closer with my friends, made new ones, and didn’t have to worry about the stresses of work or school. Not having cell phone service was actually amazing because I had no idea what was happening back at home.

To cap off the awesome weekend, we stopped at one of my favorite cities in Marin County – Stinson Beach. I’ve had a soft spot for Stinson Beach ever since high school and love coming there. It’s a small, cutesy little town that offers little boutique shops, restaurants, surf shops, and yoga studios. Luckily, we stopped here for lunch and munched on delicious hamburgers and ice cream cones.

If you haven’t been to Point Reyes – or, rather, Marin County – I 100% suggest you check it out, especially if you’re from the greater Bay Area! It makes for a bit of a longer day trip, so spending the night would be ideal. The views are absolutely out-of-this world and it truly feels like you are in another planet. You can either day hike to any of the greater hiking trails in Mt. Tam State Park, visit Alamere Falls, or spend some time in lovely Stinson Beach! Either way, you can’t go wrong!

Conquering the Road to Hana

During my winter break for school, my mom and I were lucky enough to visit Maui, Hawaii! Although we have been to Maui before, we wanted to do something adventurous that we hadn’t done before – which included the infamous Road to Hana!

Honestly, if you do a quick Google search, the Road to Hana looks absolutely terrifying, impossible to navigate, and stress-inducing in figuring out which stops to look at. Being the big planner I am, I scoured several blogs in order to figure out the best stops. Every blog recommended different stops, and to be honest – it stressed me out. The best piece of advice I came across was download the “Road to Hana Maui GyPSy Guide” on the iTunes App Store. With this thing, there’s absolutely no planning necessary. The narrator tells you exactly which stops are “must-sees” and which ones are worth skipping over. Tired of researching, I left everything up to the app and couldn’t have been more happy with my choice.

Don’t be fooled – the drive is very tiring if you do the whole thing. But you will be very happy if you get up early (think 6am!) and are able to complete it! The roads are very narrow and there are lots of locals who will want to speed around you, but I didn’t think it was bad as some of the blogs and reviews made it out to be. If you take it slow and don’t mind being passed by locals, you will be fine!

Keanae Arboretum

The Keanae Arboretum was one of our first stops, mostly because we missed the first few and wanted to get a feel for the road first. This was one of the “must-do” stops. Here, parking is a little more plentiful and it’s a nice walk to stretch your legs. There are some really cool plants – a personal favorite of mine was the rainbow eucalyptus!

Wai’anapanapa State Park

My absolute favorite stop along the Road to Hana! Honestly, we could’ve spent all day here. There are tons of walking trails and the scenery is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Highlights here included the gorgeous black sand beach and some awesome lookout points. Bring your swimsuit!

Keanae Peninsula 

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The Keanae Peninsula was also another awesome stop – and we almost missed it! The turn off for this one is right after the Arboretum, which we didn’t realize until we had already passed it. Keanae is a traditional Hawaiian village that has a few scattered homes, a baseball field, a bomb banana bread shop, and a very cool old church and cemetery (pictured above). There are awesome views to be had nearly everywhere you look!

Aunty Sandy’s – get the banana bread, you won’t regret it!

Be Open!

Another thing I realized during this journey was to be open to nearly everything! Don’t go in with a set plan and number of stops, because that will surely change! If you see a ton of cars pulled over on the side of the road, pull over and see what they’re looking at – it won’t hurt. We discovered an awesome swimming hole and waterfall this way.

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Remember that the whole drive is about the journey not the destination! The town of Hana isn’t really much – but the sights along the way are much better! The diversity of landscapes along the 64-mile stretch is incredible and not something you’ll see in the mainland US! At times it felt like we were in Jurassic Park or on some Caribbean island.

Have fun, bring a swimsuit, and take lots of pictures! Oh, and buy the banana bread! 🙂

 

Winter Wonderland at Lake TwentyTwo

I just came back from a lovely trip to Seattle, Washington a few weeks ago (more on that later!) and one of the highlights of the week was an awesome hike to Lake 22. Whenever I go to a new place, I think that going on a hike is always a great way to explore the landscape and get a feel for what everything’s about. So, after consuming an absurd amount of food in the prior days and feeling like we needed some exercise, my friends and I made the trip out to Lake 22, which lies about a 45-minute/1 hour drive away from Seattle.

After a quick Starbucks run, we began the drive out! Breakfast sandwiches in hand, we marveled at the awesome scenery that greeted us on the way. It seemed to be a very typical Seattle-esque winter day – somewhat dreary, foggy, and drizzly. However, it seemed almost magical as we drove through the forest. Arriving at the trailhead, we were impressed with how well the signage was, despite supposedly being closed for the season.

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Lake 22 Trailhead Marker

Despite chilly temperatures, my friends and I jumped out of the car ready to go! Everything was incredibly well-marked and the trail was maintained – there was no way you could get lost. As we climbed in elevation, it became more snowy and icy, causing us to slip and slide all over the place. If you go during inclement weather, I’d highly recommend bringing a pair of spikes/crampons because the ice became too slippery to walk on the way up!

After nearly 3 miles of slipping and sliding, the arrived at the lake! It was one of those views that you can’t really see until you turn a corner, and boy were we in shock! It absolutely looked like a postcard of some sort of Bob Ross winter painting. We could even hear huge chunks of snow and rock falling in the distance amidst an otherwise absolute silence. It reminded me of almost a grander version of Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park in Montana.

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Luckily, there was a little trail that went around the lake that we got to explore. We saw the lake from nearly every angle and took tons of photos! Since there was nearly no one around us, I had to dig out a section of snow to prop my phone up to take a photo of all three of us! We spent nearly an hour at the lake taking in all of the gorgeous scenery before heading down.

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For those looking for something outdoorsy to do in Seattle that’s not too far away – I would highly recommend this hike! It was around 5 or 6 miles round trip and not too strenuous if you have the proper footwear. However, I would not bring kids or animals in the winter due to the huge amounts of snow and ice. It was quintessentially PNW and I hope to come back in the summer – I’m sure it looks a whole lot different!

Do you have any favorite winter hikes in the Seattle area? Let me know in the comments!