Tag Archives: Hike

The Pacific Coast Highway and Big Sur

30 Nov

Waaaaay back in June (6 months ago! Eek!) Nicola came to visit us in San Francisco on her way to a wedding. She only had a couple of days and had already done a lot of the touristy stuff, so we decided to drive down to Big Sur.

Day 1

It was overcast when we started our trip. Our first stop was Moss Landing, where we saw otters floating on their backs and a bunch of different birds. Oh, and a decomposing sea lion. (Nixi has the most amazing vision – we were walking on the beach and she said “is that a dead sea lion?” I kind of squinted off into the distance and was like “nah it’s a log with a seagull on it.”)

We walked to this rock pier where we saw a couple of seals and some fishermen.
IMG_20160613_141437Our next destination was Pebble Beach, which is a golf course so famous that even I’ve heard of it. Turns out it’s also a very scenic 17 mile drive, with the ocean as a spectacular backdrop to the golf greens. It’s a private road so we had to pay an entry fee (I think maybe $5?) which came with a little guide showing us which locations to stop at.

One of the stops was to view the Lone Cypress, which is the tree on all the Pebble Beach merchandise. It was a bitch to get a photo of because we kept getting blocked by a busload of super rude Chinese tourists. But anyway, here’s the tree. I don’t really get it.
IMG_20160613_155954Afterwards we drove to Carmel where we checked into our hotel. The original plan had been to drive to Pfeiffer Beach, but it was almost an hour away and we decided just to wander around downtown Carmel and have an early dinner. None of the restaurants looked appealing, so we grabbed some pizza to eat on the beach. Genius!
IMG_20160613_190901We stuffed ourselves and then walked down the beach to admire the waves.
IMG_20160613_201646And watch the sun set.IMG_20160613_200413
Then it was time to head back to our hotel to get some rest for the next day.

Day 2

In the morning we stopped by Bruno’s Market in Carmel to buy a picnic lunch. Our first stop was Point Lobos State Reserve where we did the Cypress Grove Trail, which was a super quick and easy hike.
IMG_20160614_083551The breathtaking ocean views were a great way to start the morning.
IMG_20160614_083918After that short walk we drove until we reached Bixby Bridge, which is apparently one of the most photographed bridges in California.
IMG_20160614_092027Then it was onto Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to do the Pfeiffer Falls trail (about 2 miles), which is supposed to be the “must do” hike in the park. It was a nice hike and I’m glad we did it, but I think if you wanted to skip any of the three hikes we did this one would be it.

It was much clearer and sunnier today so we were treated to some wonderful coastline views. It looks just like a painting!
IMG_20160614_111957The main hike of the day was the Ewoldsen Trail (a 4.5 mile loop) at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Seriously, all these parks and beaches are so confusingly named – I gather the Pfeiffers were pretty important.

We started our hike off in the forest:
IMG_20160614_113814Where we found a giant tree bridge:
IMG_20160614_121216At roughly the halfway mark we had our picnic lunch. It was a good thing we had it in the forest because the rest of the hike was in unshaded hills (though we had views of the ocean, so that was nice).
IMG_20160614_125850After we finished our hike we made our way across the street to check out McWay Falls.

The path leading to the overlook:IMG_20160614_14081130 seconds later we arrived! Isn’t this something?
IMG_20160614_141418We’d made pretty good time so decided to stop at Pfeiffer Beach since it was on the way home. When we paid admission the guy warned us that the beach was extremely windy that day. Afterwards we kind of scoffed and were like “pft, we’re Australian – I think we’ve experienced a bit of wind at the beach”

OMG.

It was so fucking windy. Mein hubris!

Every grain of sand became a tiny needle and whenever the wind picked up (which was frequently) we’d get pelted by a giant blanket of sand needles. I huddled into a ball but the sand would still sting the rest of my exposed skin – my neck my ankles, my hands – it was crazy.

We did manage to explore the beach in between cowering from the sand. The water was much too cold to swim or even wade in (for me, anyway – apparently Nixi has feet of titanium) but I really liked the rocks.IMG_20160614_154559Pfeiffer Beach is known for its purple sand (which comes from manganese garnet deposits in the rocks). The sand wasn’t uniformly purple – only parts of it, and only noticeable when wet. You can see some in the foreground of this photo:
IMG_20160614_155106We saw a lot of beautiful scenery that day and Pfeiffer Beach still managed to be memorable. I bet it’s gorgeous at sunset.IMG_20160614_160025Check out our built in shoe storage:
IMG_20160614_160736Then it was time to brush the sand off our feet (and hands, and face) and start the long drive home. We did stop at In N Out for dinner, because what better way to finish off the quintessential Californian road trip. =)

It’s a super gorgeous drive, especially if it is sunny. There are so many beaches to stop at, and little roadside stands selling fruit, and you feel so outdoorsy and wholesome even though you’re in a car. I’m glad we did it mid-week because it was still reasonably busy, so I bet it’s chockers on the weekend or public holidays. It’s definitely a must-do for anyone living in the Bay Area, so I can’t wait to go with James one day.

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A Christmas Coastal Trail Hike

19 Jan

This year for Christmas we were supposed to be at Mammoth with James’ family but our flight and replacement flight both got cancelled so we were stuck in San Francisco. Booooo!

Most of our friends were out of town, but luckily a few were going for a hike on Christmas Day so we were able to piggy back on their plans. We all headed up to Rodeo Beach in Marin.
IMG_20151225_135715It was a gorgeous day. We started along the lagoon (which you can see part of in the photo above) and headed to a dirt trail. It wasn’t steep steep but it was a long, unshaded uphill segment and we were pretty impressed by the cyclists that occasionally passed us.

Then we turned onto Wolf Ridge trail, which had beautiful hill views and was quite steep in parts. At what we think was the summit (or at least the turnaround point of the hike) there was some sort of army base with abandoned buildings and great views of the Pacific Ocean.

I saw this structure and said to James “you want to climb that don’t you?”

Of course he did.
IMG_20151225_130117And a rare behind the scenes glance at how the magic happens …
IMG_20151225_130152The rest of the hike was easy and just descending, though James has a bad knee so descents are actually the difficult part for him. I think it must have joined onto another hike because it suddenly got a lot more populated (though that could have been because it was later in the day – on the drive back to San Francisco we saw that outbound traffic was completely snarled).

The second half of the hike had a lot of stuff to explore.  There was this cool artillery thing.
IMG_20151225_134521And a couple of creepy abandoned buildings that I didn’t go into but James did, taking this photo for posterity.
IMG_20151225_131739 (1)And here I am holding everyone up with my wanderings.
IMG_20151225_133826The hike alternated between views of the headlands and, as we came to the end, the Pacific Ocean.
IMG_20151225_140419We spent some time here just chatting, snacking and watching the surfers.

James has long arms so is always on selfie duty.
IMG_20151225_132537And strong legs and core so also on piggyback duty.
IMG_20151225_132653(Why do my teeth look so … golden?)

Then afterwards we had dinner and played games until 3am. It was a really nice day with friends and it totally saved us from having the most depressing Christmas ever. Like seriously, we didn’t even have any food in the house.

Last year we wouldn’t have been able to do something so last minute for Christmas and I feel really fortunate that we made some really great friends in 2015. I still prefer Seattle as a city but I love, love, love our friends here.

A Gorgeous Long Weekend at Lake Tahoe

14 Sep

A couple of months back James and I headed to Lake Tahoe with Chris and Daphne and some of their friends. We headed down early Friday and came back on Sunday.

On the way to Tahoe we stopped off in Fairfield for the Jelly Belly factory tour. It was waaay busier than expected and we waited about an hour in line! Most of the line was out of view, and by the time we realised we thought we might as well stick it out. Other people I’ve talked to have said they waited just 15 minutes so maybe we went on an unusually busy day.

There was a Jelly Belly art room which was pretty cool (also they gave us hats).
IMG_20150807_120418We got to see part of the factory where they make Jelly Bellies. Although it was nice and clean seeing it all was fairly off-putting. Jelly Bellies are pretty unappetising in their incomplete form and the air smelled weird … like tasty chemicals.

We sampled some colourless and chalky Green Apple flavoured Jelly Bellies. Then later on, some Very Cherry Jelly Bellies with some colouring added (but not the hard outer shell).IMG_20150807_123717Mmm … powdery.

We also got a lot of sample bags at the end. The tour was enjoyable but not worth the hour long wait – and by the time we left the line was even longer! I feel a bit tight complaining though, given that the tour was free. It’s definitely worth doing if the line is short but if it’s extended into the cafeteria I wouldn’t bother.

The next day we did part of the Rubicon hike around the lake which, according to the guidebook we read, is considered the area’s signature hike. We left early in the morning which was a good call because the tiny parking lot was already starting to fill up.

James has never met a rock he didn’t want to climb, so here he is at the trailhead. IMG_20150808_090751The hike started off with a pretty prolonged descent which was a bummer because it meant it would end with a pretty prolonged ascent! Most of it was in the forest which was very pretty and shady.
IMG_20150808_094209Though obviously the main attraction was Lake Tahoe to our right.
IMG_20150808_102634There were also little beaches that you could go hang out at which was really nice. It was a seriously gorgeous hike.
IMG_20150808_102726There were lots of little ups and downs which kept things interesting.
IMG_20150808_103059And here is James daintily hopping over some water.
IMG_20150808_103754We didn’t go around the whole lake and just turned back when we were ready. It started getting much warmer and busier and by the time we reached the parking lot it was completely full, with cars parked all along the road’s shoulder. The guy who took our spot said he had been waiting for half an hour!

Later in the afternoon we hired a boat to take out onto Lake Tahoe. It was crowded and hot at the boat rental places but glorious once we got out onto the lake.
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The sky was much hazier than it was that morning but still beautiful.

Here is a group shot!
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After a packed Saturday we had a very laid back Sunday morning before we drove back to the city.

It was our first time in Tahoe and I can definitely see why it’s such a popular area. We have several groups of friends who want to go back in the winter for the snow, so that will be super fun!

Hiking Around Mount Tamalpais and Lunch at Fish.

28 Apr

Last Sunday we went hiking with Daphne, Chris, Lisa and Cagri. It was a beautiful sunny day – perfect hiking weather, which I’m learning seems to be almost every day here.

The drive up was pretty packed, but I think there were enough different trails that no individual trail was particularly busy. This is us at the start of the hike.

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image from Chris

We intended to do the Rock Creek loop but there were a lot of crossroads and the trail wasn’t well-signed (which was weird because it wasn’t a remote area – at some points we were walking next to cars on the road). I think we managed to stay on the trail for most of it, but we made a wrong turn somewhere in there because we finished much faster than we should have.

Never mind, there were so many hikes in the same area that we just started on another one!

Attachment 3

image from Lisa

We had a peek at the Mountain Theater where they were rehearsing what looked like Peter Pan. The construction was super elaborate and you could see the water from the top seats.
IMG_20150426_110436Then we kept randomly walking. It was a pretty easy hike through meadows and then forest. I preferred the forest parts because we weren’t in the sun as much.
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After the hike we drove to Sausalito for lunch at Fish., a super popular cash-only restaurant. We got there around 1:30pm and there was a massive line.
IMG_20150426_132551It took a long time to get to the front, and the line stayed out the patio gate until around 3pm. At least you could buy drinks while you waited, so everyone got beers and I had a nice refreshing water.

James and I ordered fish and chips and some BBQ oysters. At just under $60 for the two of us it was pretty expensive, especially for a cash-only place!

The food was great though, and the portions were generous. I couldn’t finish mine and had to give James one of my fish and a big handful of chips.
IMG_20150426_142314Stuffed, we went home where I napped until it was time for us to go to Eliot and Michelle’s place to watch Game of Thrones and eat brownies.

It was a pretty busy Sunday but it was nice to get out and explore a bit. =)

Awesome Portland: Hiking and Tax Free Shopping

15 Jul

The last time James and I went to Portland we had an awesome time and wanted to stay for longer. So this time we stayed for two nights to see a bit more of the surrounding area. We took the Bolt Bus again and this time it was a mere $24 return for both of us – $12 each!

Thursday

We stayed at Hotel Monaco, which I’d highly recommend. It’s part of the Kimpton hotel chain, which we’ve always had great experiences at. They do a cool happy hour between 5-6pm with free wine, beer and even a signature summer cocktail.

Our room was small and cute (note the bear on the bed – $35 if you wanted to take him home!).
IMG_3858We headed to a nearby food truck pod to grab lunch – a Korean bowl for James ($6ish)
IMG_2194and a Mexican combination platter for me ($7ish). It was very generously portioned and even came with tortillas so I needed James’ help to finish it.
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Sufficiently fortified, we headed to Nordstrom Rack for some shopping. James picked up some shoes and socks and I found this giant boot (size 16!) that James refused to let me buy as a bed for Mouse.

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We pre-gamed a little bit at the hotel happy hour before heading to Andina for dinner.

It. Was. Amazing.

Definitely one of the top 5 meals of my life. The service was fantastic and the food was swoonworthy. It’s listed as one of the more expensive restaurants in Portland but it only worked out to $50 a head (including multiple delicious cocktails) before tip. Given the quality I would have expected it to be twice the price, and at that price point it was phenomenal value.

I took some photos but decided they didn’t do justice to the food. Everything was fresh and delicious and if you ever visit Portland (which you should!) you must, must eat here – and make sure you order the anticuchos.

After that amazing meal we walked to an Amazon locker to pick up a shipment of goodies. James was very jealous of my noise cancelling headphones so we got him his own pair. I also may or may not have bought a Kindle Paperwhite.

Friday

The next morning James and I got up at 6am to go hiking. We walked to a Zipcar and drove an hour to do the Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls hike, which is supposed to be one of the signature Oregon hikes.

I heard it can be really busy in Summer so definitely wanted to do it early on a weekday. We hardly saw anyone on the way up, so it was absolutely perfect. =)

Early into the hike we took a quick detour to Punchbowl Falls.
IMG_3868The water felt quite cold but otherwise it looks like a pretty nice swimming hole. We walked along the creek and even though we lingered at the Falls we had the whole place to ourselves.

IMG_3873There was a second, smaller, waterfall a bit further down the creek.
IMG_3875Then headed back to the main trail and traversed some creeks and bridges. It was starting to get sunnier but we were mainly walking in the shade so it was nice and cool.

I think this section was called the Potholes. They were very soothing to walk on.
IMG_3882Soon after, we turned a corner and there was Tunnel Falls. You can see the tunnel which leads behind the falls – so we actually got to walk behind a waterfall, which was super cool.
IMG_3886And even better, we had the whole falls to ourselves! I don’t mind busy hikes but it’s so much nicer when you’re the only ones around. I imagine that goes tenfold on a narrow hike like this one.

Look how massive it is!

IMG_3905For a sense of scale you can see the tunnel going behind the waterfall halfway down. And for extra scale here I am at one of those tunnels:

IMG_2211Some crazy people actually do cliff jumps into the water below. I think it’s something like a 70 foot fall, which is high enough that you can actually injure yourself if you hit the water wrong.

A lot of people turn around at Tunnel Falls but if you keep going a little while longer you can catch another waterfall. The narrow path there is called the Vertigo Mile and I definitely noticed James looking a bit nervous at parts.
IMG_3906

You might remember that he is a little nervous around heights. Most of the really high, narrow parts had cables (which he made ample use of) but he said he was fine as long as he didn’t look down. I didn’t have any problems – partially because heights don’t really bother me but I guess I’m also smaller so the path was relatively wider.

After a short walk we saw Twister Falls, which was predictably twisty and totally worth the small amount of extra time it took to get there.
IMG_3909After that we turned around and started heading back. Unfortunately by this time it was starting to get really warm in the sun, so the walk down was much more unpleasant. We also saw a lot more people heading up, so an early start was definitely the way to go.

The hike took just under five hours going at a leisurely pace, detouring to Punchbowl Falls and taking a lot of photos. Afterwards we went to Pok Pok, which is a fantastic Thai restaurant (seriously, Portland food punches sooo far above its weight) and back to our hotel for a nap before heading out again to see … BABY WOLVES AND SNOW LEOPARDS. 

But that is a subject that deserves its own blog post =D

The Quintessential Seattle Hike: Mount Si

12 Jun

A few weekends ago it was a beautiful day and we needed to use our Zipcar quota for the month so James and I decided to hike Mount Si. It’s a 3150 foot (960 meter) elevation gain over 8 miles, so a nice leg workout.

I read somewhere that it’s the most hiked trail in Washington, so we were prepared for crowds. We arrived in the parking lot around 9:15am, snagging one of the last available parking spots.

As you can see it’s not particularly scenic on the way up. The majority of the route is through the trees, so at least you don’t have the sun on you.
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Most people on Yelp said they reached the summit basin in 2.5 hours, one guy ran up in under an hour, and someone said that 2 hours was reasonable for someone in decent shape. James wasn’t feeling 100% (getting over a cold and some lingering asthma) but we made it up in 1.5 hours.

I often had to trot to keep up with James. It was pretty much constant uphill broken up by slightly steeper uphills. I do feel that my hill sprints paid dividends here – I definitely couldn’t sustain a jog but it wasn’t a huge deal to break into an uphill run every so often to catch up to James.

Also, and I’m sure this is only interesting to me, but my glutes only started getting sore during the last 20% of the ascent. I’m super quad-dominant so I think that’s how long it took for my quads to tire out and stop doing all the work.

As predicted, it was a really busy hike. We were constantly passing people on the way up and there was a steady stream of people on their way down. This is how many people were at the entrance to the summit basin, and by the time we left it was 2-3 times as packed.
IMG_3682It was entertaining doing some people-watching. Hikers ran the gamut from young kids to the elderly, the super fit to the obese. Some people were in jeans and others were kitted out with massive packs and hiking poles (and James got a fair few comments about his Vibrams). We also passed a brave little chihuahua.

We spent some time exploring the area; scrambling over rocks and finding nice views (protip: pretty much everywhere had a nice view).
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The good thing about the summit basin was that it was really spread out, so even with the crowds it was easy to find somewhere secluded to sit and admire the view.

This was where we had lunch (I may have taken James by surprise when I took this photo).
IMG_3708After lunch we decided to climb the Haystack, which is the true summit of Mount Si. When we were hiking up we hadn’t decided either way, but once we saw it we thought it was doable.
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On a sunny, dry day like ours it wasn’t difficult (lots of easy handholds and places to put your feet), but it is a little scary because if you lose your footing you can fall a long way, and apparently people have died doing it. Plus sometimes people higher up would accidentally kick loose rocks down.

There were a lot of people attempting it but not many people made it all the way up. I don’t think we saw any of the people in this photo at the top.
IMG_3716Funnily enough, although James is afraid of heights – he doesn’t even like being in a chairlift – he was fine climbing the Haystack. He said he doesn’t like relying on things that aren’t himself to keep from falling.
IMG_3717Although the WTA website recommends against climbing the Haystack I was really glad we did it, and James said it was his favourite part of the hike.

The view at the top was pretty similar to the basin, but I guess a bit more panoramic. I don’t think it’s worth climbing to get the slightly less obstructed view, but if you feel like some additional work and are a completionist it’s nice to get to the true summit.
IMG_3723It’s also a lot less crowded at the top – maybe 5-10 people at a time compared to 100+ spread around the summit basin. We chatted to the others up there and had a nice time just looking around and taking everything in.

IMG_3726Going down the Haystack was trickier than going up, but there weren’t any worrying parts. Some bits it was easier to do facing the wall and other parts it was easier to face out.
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But yeah, not technically difficult by any means – just a matter of taking it slow and making sure you had good footing.

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By the time we’d finished mucking around on top it had gotten massively more busy at the summit base as a several big groups arrived. Mount Si is the wrong hike if you’re after a solitary experience, but it’s as challenging as you choose to make it with a phenomenal view (and optional fun climb) to reward you at the end.
IMG_2100We trotted the whole way down, but it didn’t make much difference to our time – maybe because I was in the lead. A slow jog down, not even fast enough to start breathing heavily, was about as fast as I felt comfortable going, and our descent took 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Afterwards we met up with Rian and Sandra for dinner at Marination Ma Kai in West Seattle for victory fish and chips, fries and sliders.
IMG_3759I don’t think the food is as good as their other locations (still tasty!), but it makes up for it with cocktails and the view across the water towards Seattle. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful Seattle day.
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Hike at Poo Poo Point

2 Jun

Hee. Poo Poo.

A couple of weeks ago some friends organised a hike at Poo Poo Point. It’s a 7.4 mile (12 km) round trip with a 1650 foot (503 meter) elevation, so probably the easiest of the hikes we’ve done in Washington. It’s a very popular hike through a forest and quite narrow for most of the way. There was a sign warning about bears and cougars but we didn’t see any. =(

This was near the start and one of the widest parts of the trail:

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Since I skipped hill sprints that week I tried to jog up some of the hills. It was surprisingly okay, especially since then I got longer breaks while I waited for people to catch up.

Poo Poo Point is definitely one of those hikes where the payoff is at the end. I kind of don’t mind hikes like that – on something like Yosemite’s Mist Trail I definitely want to stop to ooh and aah, but on trails where the scenery is a bit same-same I like to challenge myself a bit.

We did find a nice bridge though:
IMG_3617About 2/3 of the way through the hike James was assigned baby-carrying duty. James said it was like having a little furnace strapped to his chest. He was a good little baby though, and apart from some slight awkwardness when he tried to suck on James’ boob, was content to dangle there in quiet confusion.

IMG_3626I think at this point we saw a sign that made us worry we’d taken a wrong turn (we hadn’t). Notice TJ looking like a vengeful ghost in the background. You stoooole my baaaaaby …

The view from the top was beautiful. We were fortunate because it was a clear day so we could see Lake Sammamish and surrounds. There was also a green strip that hanggliders and paragliders use to launch.

IMG_3653This is my James. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

We set up at a picnic table and had some snacks, which attracted scavengers.
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Victory photo!

IMG_3658The descent is always a bit boring because you’ve already seen the scenery and it isn’t the same physical challenge that going uphill is. I did get a chance to test out my new (to hiking) shoes going downhill and they were fine – much better than my old runners (toes jamming against the front) and my Vibrams (even worse – toe webbing jamming against the front).

Afterwards we had Victory BBQ. That’s right, Victory BBQ is a thing. A delicious, delicious thing.