Tag Archives: Hiking

Days 1-4 of a Hastily-Planned Trip to Seoul!

27 Feb

James had to go to Seoul for a work trip so he took some leave and we burned some frequent flyer points to get me there and make a mini holiday out of it. It was all at the last minute, which goes against my need to over-plan our holidays, but somehow we managed to make it work!

Day 1 – Travel Day

We got to the airport and through security waaay faster than we thought we would (thanks TSA Pre-Check!) so started off with a boozy breakfast in the United lounge. I had some Moet and James had coffee spiked with Bailey’s, a Bloody Mary and a glass of scotch. A morning glass of scotch. =/ (When we went to our gate there was a 30 minute boarding delay and James said in the most disgruntled voice you can imagine, “we’re going to be sober by the time we get on the plane.”)

Overall it was a pretty uneventful trip (we got ramen on the flight! That was pretty exciting) and we basically slept as soon as we got to our hotel.

Day 2 – Culture Day

This day we pretty much knocked out all of the big cultural attractions of Seoul. We’re not temple/palace people so we decided just to see the main two, which I think was a good choice.

We started off with Gyeungbokgung Palace, where we saw the changing of the guard and did a tour of the grounds.
IMG_20180217_102439Afterwards we wandered over to the Korean Cultural Museum area, which had a lot of Seollal (Lunar New Year) activities and crafts. There were lots of families and people in costumes wandering around which was fun. We made these woodblock prints:
IMG_20180217_112404But had great regrets that we didn’t stop at the “Crafting Dog-Shaped Humidifier” stand (initial ironic-regret turned to actual-regret later in the trip as James’ knuckles started cracking and bleeding from the dry air!)

We really liked these statues of all the Chinese Zodiac animals (a luckily-timed shot, because the place was packed):
IMG_20180217_110948We then walked to Bukchon Hanok Village, which has hundreds of traditional Korean houses, preserved to show a 600 year old urban environment. The alleyways were quite narrow and steep, and I liked the contrast with modern Seoul in the background. =)
IMG_20180217_120303We tried a couple of places for lunch but they were closed because of Seollal. Eventually we found a street dumpling place in Insadong that seemed to be doing a brisk business and ate there.

Then we walked to Jongmyo Shrine, which is the shrine for kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty. Like I said earlier though, we’re not really shrine people and I think we could have skipped this to shorten the day. Though on the walk there we did find a little exercise park with this fun workout machine:

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Also at the shrine there was a raised path with a sign that said “Please do not walk on this pathway. This is for the spirits.” So now whenever James sees a bike path or something like that he tells me it’s for the spirits.

Then we headed to Namsangol Hanok Village, which had some reconstructions of what I assume were upper class Korean houses. There were some Seollal celebrations going on there too, and we made a wish that, in a few days, would be burned with thousands of other wishes.
IMG_20180217_155112Then we walked to N Seoul Tower, climbed a billion stairs, and saw some amazing views of Seoul.
IMG_20180217_164146The tower reminded us of the Space Needle in Seattle.
IMG_20180217_170254While we waited for sunset we explored the stores inside. There were a bunch of people waiting in line for a VR experience, so we figured we might as well join them to kill time.

Here we are, uncertain about what we’re even waiting for – the San Franciscan way:
IMG_20180217_171424I chose the (most popular) harness one which looked pretty impressive:Burst_Cover_GIF_Action_20180217174300But was actually quite shit because the harness didn’t even try to match the movement of the video. The disconnect actually made me feel super sick and I had to close my eyes while I got randomly jostled around. =(

This is James on his bike, which he said was also crappy.
IMG_20180217_174731And here he is looking at a 3D video in the tower:
IMG_20180217_175138By the time we got around to buying our tickets for the observation deck, they had a sign saying that the wait to get to the top was >70 minutes, which was way too long, so we decided to head back.

We spent a frustrating amount of time trying to find a restaurant that wasn’t closed, and in the end had some mediocre seafood fried rice. We were utterly wrecked by this time, cos we’d walked 9.5 hours and I had discovered my new boots weren’t completely broken in. =( Just in time for …

Day 3 – Hike Day

We actually ended up walking far less than we did on our first day! We spent the morning hiking (a tiny) part of the fortress wall that used to surround part of Seoul.

Here we are at the Changuimun Gate before our hike:
IMG_20180218_095843We had to sign up for a pass that allowed us access, because in the 1960s North Korean soldiers had used this portion of the wall, which is quite high-up so apparently tactically advantageous, as part of an assassination attempt on the South Korean president.

It was definitely high up. Living in San Francisco we’re pretty used to stairs, but this hike had a shit ton of stairs.
IMG_20180218_103054The military was everywhere, but they were basically all kids in their early 20s, and when we said hello (one of the few words we know in Korean) they would smile and bow at us.

Our passes!
IMG_20180218_103930 (The soldiers were definitely looking for these, because at one point I’d put my jacket back on, which hid my pass, and one of them gestured to me to pull it back out so he could see.)

This is James hamming it up next to a tree with bullet-holes from the assassination attempt: IMG_20180218_104517You can see how long the wall stretches!
IMG_20180218_112254We ended the hike at the Sukjeongmun Gate at the north. You can keep going around the whole wall but we were happy to stop since we’d done the most interesting part. =)
IMG_20180218_114158We returned our passes, then caught an Uber (which is 2-3x the cost of a cab in Seoul, so that was the only time we Ubered) to grab some lunch.

I wanted to try some stuff that we don’t normally get in the US, so had jjajangmyun, which is a Korean/Chinese fusion dish of noodles in black bean sauce.
IMG_20180218_125404It wasn’t really much to write home about. The noodle texture was really good but the dish wasn’t as flavoursome at it looked (the deep brown colour fooled me!).

James also got an Oreo churro for dessert, which he said was average and also not as exciting as it looked. =(
IMG_20180218_133121We were still knackered from the other day, so we went back to our hotel, had a nap, and then dinner and a ton of drinks in the hotel lounge (all freeeee! Thanks to James’ Marriott Gold status) and had an early night because we had another big day coming up.

Day 4 – Fun Day

Fun Day lived up to its name! We started off at the Trick-Eye Museum near Hongik. It was super tacky, but really quite fun! There were lots of photo ops with various trompe l’oeil exhibits, and you could download an app that made the exhibits interactive.
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Cheesy but cool, right? Right??

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We kept holding our phones up to all the exhibits to see how they’d change.

Magic!

IMG_20180219_104955Enormous James and Tiny Kaye – how do they make their marriage work?
IMG_20180219_104642Because James is such a cool dude, that’s how! Cowabunga!
ArtCam_2018219103951Then we exited via a mirror maze (surprisingly disorienting!) to the main area, where we entered their small ice museum. It was really cold inside and I’m pretty sure everything was some sort of plastic, not ice, but it was entertaining enough for 5-10 minutes.

Third wheel!
IMG_20180219_113708There was a cool little slide:
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Back in the lobby there was a little cafe where you could get a latte with a custom picture on top! You had to take a photo of yourself on a phone that had some special app installed (I assume) and then they printed it on your foam. Behold!
IMG_20180219_115512Afterwards we headed to a meerkat cafe which was insanely adorable. The meerkats were so curious and sweet! A couple of them took naps on James:
IMG_20180219_130836Apparently a group of meerkats is called a “mob”, “gang” or “clan”. But it should be “abundance”. Look at that abundance of meerkats.
IMG_20180219_130917
They loooved standing on our shoulders and peering around.
IMG_20180219_131202 They also stuck their paws down our butt-cracks and fished around a bit. =O One of them grabbed James’ braces which he did not like, a couple of them scurried down my shirt, and one of them kept sniffing around my nose and mouth and eventually stuck his nose right up my nostril.

Me: Did you get a shot of the meerkat sticking its nose up my nose?
James: Yeah I think so.IMG_20180219_131103
(That’s the handler’s hand as she tried to dislodge my meerkat).

They also had some friendly raccoons:
00005IMG_00005_BURST20180219123819_COVERAnd wallabies.
IMG_20180219_132414
And if you know James you know that of course he couldn’t leave without annoying a couple of the resident cats with his friendship:
IMG_20180219_134927Afterwards we walked to Kyochon Chicken to grab some chicken and beer. It was really, really good.
IMG_20180219_145257Then we took a train to the Gangnam business district to have a peek at Google Seoul and for James to grab a coffee from the microkitchen. James said this was his favourite room:
IMG_20180219_170006 And I thought this one was pretty cool too: IMG_20180219_170202
It was less exciting than all the other Googles I’ve been to – the views were amazing, but we’d seen fantastic views our previous two days already. At least the coffee helped perk James up. =)

To finish off our sightseeing we headed to Samsung D’Light just down the road. It’s a big Samsung store on the ground floor with more conceptual stuff on the top two floors.

James tried some VR, which he said was much better than the one at N Seoul Tower (James: and we didn’t have to wait in line!!).
IMG_20180219_174342In his virtual reality he is riding a racing pig but in actual reality he is sitting in a chair.

Upstairs they had this surprisingly fun quiz thing, where you went to multiple stations and answered questions about yourself and it would ostensibly tell you about your personality, but really it was just an excuse to show off cool visuals on their awesome screens.
IMG_20180219_180003Here is James designing his ideal planet:
IMG_20180219_175817He was very proud of this picture, which had captured his movement to make an artsy composite picture (like he’s seriously proud of it – it’s now his Facebook and Google profile pic):
senseUs on the big screen!
IMG_20180219_182932There was a car racing game with a swish curved monitor, car controls and chair.IMG_20180219_180859This was some interactive display about … I want to say a composite chip maybe?
IMG_20180219_181139On the top floor there was this really awesome “house of the future”. You can see from the photo that the house was blank, but if you lifted up the tablet everything would be coloured-in on the screen with a bunch of actors and CGI showing the technology and how the house occupants used it in their everyday lives. As you moved the tablet around it would show you the section you were pointing at – on the same angle and everything!
IMG_20180219_182122(We initially didn’t realise how to use it – it was on a stand angled downwards and when we pressed start we were like “WTF it’s just a shot of people’s feet”)

We finished off our Samsung experience with even more VR (an abundance of VR!). This one was a rollercoaster. =D
IMG_20180219_183438Seriously it was so much cooler than the one at N Seoul Tower and we just walked straight on – we were the only ones there!

For dinner we had bibimbap. It was okay but very rice-heavy (I didn’t realise they didn’t come with meat because all the ones we’d had in the US did) and there was so much of it I couldn’t finish. =(
IMG_20180219_195111 James mid-bite with it all mixed together: IMG_20180219_195612It turned out James had more room – just not for rice – and he ordered some fried meat on a stick at the Myeongdong street market.
IMG_20180219_210656Then we went back to our hotel and had an early night because we were going to the Olympics the next day!

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A Point Reyes Christmas!

12 Jan

James and I spent Christmas in Point Reyes this Christmas. It’s about 1.5 hours from San Francisco, so it’s perfect for a long weekend getaway.

Christmas Eve

We’d picked up our rental car the day before, so got an early start on our trip. Here we are heading out of the city:
IMG_20171224_081946We arrived at the Point Reyes Lighthouse a little bit before it opened. There were very few people around, and on the walk to the lighthouse we saw some elk. This one crossed the road right in front of us!IMG_20171224_095757I guess he has a fancy necklace because they monitor the elk population or something?

We had some nice views of the seashore and (what I’m going to assume were) Cypress trees.
IMG_20171224_100144Before descending to the lighthouse, a warning to us all:
IMG_20171224_100802There were just a couple of other groups, and everyone was very considerately staggering themselves, so we had the lighthouse to ourselves.
IMG_20171224_101407We saw the Fresnel lens and the inside of the lighthouse. James read the lighthouse keeper’s diary and said it was basically the diary of a man slowly going mad. Apparently it was mainly complaints about how little work the other lighthouse keeper did, and also every few months he would see a boat.

The way back up – 308 steps!
IMG_20171224_102810We went to Point Reyes Station to do some grocery shopping (it was slammed!) and then headed to get our oyster lunch(es).

Our first stop was Hog Island Oysters where we ordered raw oysters, oysters with barbecue sauce, and half a Dungeness crab.
IMG_20171224_123909They sold oysters that you could take home and shuck yourself, which sounds amazing. Maybe next time!

Afterwards we went to The Marshall Store. They were more expensive than Hog Island, so if you’re getting plain oysters you should probably go elsewhere, but the smoked and barbecued oysters were incredible – and the barbecued oysters came with a giant, satisfying hunk of bread!

Hog Island Oysters had the pretty fairy lights, but it was really nice sitting on the water with our delicious oysters. IMG_20171224_140411Afterwards we headed to our rental cabin in Point Reyes, ready for an early start the next day.

Christmas Day

We got to the Palomarin trailhead around 8am to hike Alamere Falls. It’s one of the most popular hikes in the area but the parking lot was empty on Christmas Day.

It’s an 8 mile (12.8km) round trip – we actually did 10 miles (16km) because we missed the turn-off. We think there used to be an official sign but now there’s just this mysterious rock arrow pointing into some bushes.
IMG_20171225_102019On our hike back we watched from around the corner to see what people would do, and everyone took the shortcut. I guess James and I are just very untrusting people. =(

After a long and circuitous walk on an empty beach, we finally arrived!
IMG_20171225_113928The falls emptied out to the ocean, which was really cool.
MVIMG_20171225_113959
Here is James having lunch at the base while I wandered around.
IMG_20171225_114252When the tide came in it cut off the beach route that we had taken to get to the falls. The shortcut involved a bit of a scramble up a cliff. IMG_20171225_120228At the top there were several little falls before the main waterfall.
IMG_20171225_120731 We think this was the top waterfall but you can never be sure. IMG_20171225_121216
There were a lot of people on our walk back and when we got back to the carpark it was full, which was a bit surprising given that it was Christmas. But I guess I don’t know how full it would have been on a regular day to compare.

We got home, showered and napped. Then we had dinner, drank a bottle of champagne and played Exit: The Abandoned Cabin, an escape room game. It was so cosy and satisfying spending the evening solving puzzles together. What a perfect day. =)

Boxing Day

This was our cabin at sunrise.
IMG_20171226_074223 (1)After we checked out we went kayaking on Tomales Bay. It was a beautiful morning and the water was like glass.
MVIMG_20171226_110400 We spent a lot of the time following this bird around. He hated us; every time we paddled within 50 meters of him he glared at us and flew away. MVIMG_20171226_104019We saw some elk on a beach. They also weren’t happy to see us, and fell a couple of times trying to jump a ledge to get away from us. Sorry elk!
Elk at Tomales Bay failing to climb a ledge, as seen from our kayakWe stopped for lunch on Heart’s Desire beach and then continued on our kayak journey. The water had gotten quite choppy and we were fighting against the current. I say “we”, but unfortunately for James, my paddling was largely decorative.

You can tell by his happiness levels. Here we are, kayaking out:
IMG_20171226_102750 (1)And kayaking back:
IMG_20171226_124600Logistically it had been a poor decision to kayak on the day we didn’t have a hot shower immediately available, but it was the only way I could have fit everything in since the kayak place wasn’t open Christmas Day and the lighthouse wasn’t open Monday to Thursday.

But anyway, we dried off as best we could and headed back to San Francisco. It was a really wonderful way to spend the Christmas break. =)

We spent the rest of the day relaxing at home (OMG my ankles were so sore after the hike) and playing with the cats. Then in the evening Jaimie and Jeff came over and we played Watson & Holmes (where we were all completely out-deduced by James).

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.

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.
20150808_170034
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!

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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. =)

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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