havasupai: exploring beautiful waterfalls

Hi everyone! I hope you are having a wonderful day! I am very excited to be able to share another portion of our recent Arizona adventure! The first post I released was about Antelope Canyon which set the tone for what Arizona has to offer. There is just so much to see and it is such a stinking beautiful state. With that being said, I hope you enjoy the beauty of Havasupai. We most certainly did!

After camping in Page for a night, we packed up our things and drove to Peach Springs, AZ. This is the nearest town to the trailhead so I did a bit of research to decide where we would stay. I landed on Grand Canyon Caverns and Inn because they offered camping and had free showers. There was a hotel in the area but in the spirit of sleeping under the stars and saving money, I didn’t want to stay there! The campground was interesting to say the least. We were greeted by a giant dinosaur outside the check-in office.

 See! I was not kidding!
See! I was not kidding!

I was already starting to question my decision about staying here and once I saw the dinosaur I REALLY didn’t think I picked a good place to stay. However, we essentially had the entire campground to ourselves and the showers were nice and hot! A nice shower was really all we were interested in and this place definitely was great in that aspect! So we spent the evening having dinner, enjoying hot water since we wouldn’t shower for a couple days, and preparing our packs to make the morning go as smooth as possible.

The following morning was an early one. Since the trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop was about an hour and a half away, we decided to get up at 3 AM to be able to hit the road by 4. We packed up our things and left on schedule, heading out on a spur road that was surrounded by farmland. It was a little scary driving in the dark there because cows would appear eating right beside the road! Though it was pretty cool to see the landscape once the sun started to come up. Once we made it to the trailhead, we saw that there were so many cars parked along side the road. Mitch dropped my Dad and I off with all the gear at the tiny roundabout at the end of the road and went to park the car. Sooooo many people were already there and it was not even 6 in the morning! While we waited for Mitch, we took a look around. Thankfully, there were two composting toilets that still had toilet paper (yay!), a check in station where people were waiting around for their guides, and some dogs and mules wandered around.

 The trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop! So beautiful!
The trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop! So beautiful!

Mitch found us at the trailhead and we began our descent. We started at a blistering pace to try to beat some of the other hikers down to the bottom so we would be surrounded by less people. Some mules even decided to join us!

We maneuvered our way around the mules and continued down the first mile of switchbacks, hiking through lots of dust from the high volume of people that have come down the trail. The second mile was a more gradual descent to the dry riverbed where the majority of the hiking takes place.

 We made it to the riverbed!
We made it to the riverbed!

The following six miles were flat and easy, just following along the canyon floor. The red rocks were beautiful and the hike was pretty peaceful regardless of how fast we were moving! As we got closer to the village, signs started to pop up to direct hikers.

Before we walked to the center of town, we stopped at a store and kitchen that is right at the mouth of the canyon (about eight miles into the hike). We had decided that we would try fry bread since so many people said it was awesome! We ordered fry bread topped with nutella and bananas and while we waited, hung out with some local puppers.

The fry bread was a perfect snack after making it to the bottom of the canyon! It was like a dense elephant ear. After we finished eating, we hiked to town to check-in and get our wristbands. (A little note: hiking to Havasupai is not a day hike and you will be charged out the wazoo if you hike down to the bottom of the canyon and ask for a permit. We saw this happen and they told the people to pay or hike out immediately. Therefore, apply for a permit right when the application period opens and maybe if you are lucky you will be able to snag one!)

The campground is actually two miles past the town, so that was honestly the hardest part of the hike for us. We were tired and it was starting to get very hot out. As we hiked, we followed the beautiful blue river as it ran through town and watched Supai dogs race past us up and down the trail. They were pretty cool dogs and looked like small border collies. Right before the campground, there is a large hill to trudge down but it is quickly rewarding. We were so stoked to see Havasu Falls!

Seeing the beautiful waterfall revived us a bit and we were able to wander through the campground and pick a site. It is first come first serve and there are no designated spots, just picnic tables placed about. There are also composting toilets which is so nice!

We picked our site and crashed. It was on a raised area surrounded by the river on either side with bridges. The spot was pretty neat! My Dad and I both took naps while Mitch set up the tents and the sleeping pads for the night. Since my Dad and I did not feel very good, it was a reminder to drink plenty of water! After napping, drinking, and eating, we both perked up. Around 2PM, we split up since Mitch and I wanted to see the other waterfalls. So we changed our clothes and shoes and left camp. We hiked to the end of the campground to find Mooney Falls which was just incredible!

To get down to the bottom of the falls, you have to climb through a rock tunnel (going down backwards makes this way easier!), hold onto chains bolted into the side of the rock face, and use ladders. Mind you, everything is wet and slippery from the mist. A funny aside about the rock tunnel: we happened to find it because a guy popped out and scared me. It was unintentional, but he just came out of no where!

Once Mitch and I made it down to the bottom, we looked at each other and said almost in unison, “well that was sketchy!”. Hiking down in sandals was probably not the best choice but it was perfect for wading through the river!

Mooney Falls was stunning and powerful. It was my most favorite waterfall! We took some neat pictures and just admired the falls before heading on to Beaver Falls. It was about two miles away and we didn’t think it would take that long! There are many paths following the river and all of them essentially lead to Beaver.

The hike there was a lot of fun! We crossed the river many times and waded in to areas that were probably two to three feet deep. The water was sadly not as warm as I envisioned it to be! After hiking for a while, we came across a palm tree keyhole and knew we were pretty close!

Right after the keyhole, there was a ladder going up the side of the canyon. We decided to not take it and cross the river again since we saw some people coming from that direction. We hit a deep part in the river and Mitch had to pick me up and set me on a boulder so I could get out and continue on the path. After we both got out, the falls were so close! The trail popped us out at the top of the falls where someone had left climbing rope to help people traverse the rock face. We first had to scale across a narrow portion of rock before getting to the ropes that allowed a climb down. Once we made it to the base of the rock face, we had the falls all to ourselves and it was so worth it!

Mitch and I hung out and sat on the rocks for a while trying to soak everything in. It was really peaceful. Being there in that moment was a wild thought. We had drove 60 miles on a spur road this morning, hiked into the canyon, and then continued to make it to Beaver Falls in one day. The thought of everything that we had accomplished was pretty amazing to me. And the fact that we were hiking so far off the beaten path with beautiful waterfalls made me so happy and appreciative to be able to do things like this. My soul was happy.

It was starting to get late so we decided we should head back since it took us longer than expected to make it to Beaver and we did not want my Dad to worry! We had fun crossing the river again. The trail opened up to a small meadow and the canyon at dusk was so beautiful! 

It took us about an hour to make it back to camp which ended up being about a 15 mile day. We were pretty tired! It was nice to be able to chill a bit at the end of the night. We made dinner and chatted about what we saw and showed my Dad some pictures. He had went to Havasu Falls and sat in his camping chair in the water which made me happy! I also took time to assess my feet since I had beat them up coming down the trail. With all of the sand falling into my trail runners, it created a lot of friction between my toes and I had multiple blisters. Wearing my Chacos to hike to Beaver didn’t help either and I now had blisters on the sides of my feet! I can deal with blisters (thankfully) since they were pretty common when I was running a lot. When we were hiking in, I saw a lot of people hiking out wearing sandals and their shoes strapped to the back of their packs and now I understood why. I decided to do the same thing on the hike out to try to save my toes a bit (you will get to see a picture of my super sexy hiking socks and sandals at the end).

During dinner, the game plan for the following day was decided. The permit that we managed to get was for only one night so all of the exploring was jam packed into that time. To be out of the sun as much as possible, we decided to get up at 3 again to make as much progress before the sun could reach the bottom of the canyon. We ended up heading out around 5 after having breakfast and packing up our stuff. As the sun started to rise, we saw that it was starting off as a cloudy and breezy day which was perfect! I even managed to get a beautiful picture of Havasu Falls as the sun was coming up.

 So so beautiful.
So so beautiful.

The hike out of the campground was a bit tough because it was hilly, but once we made it to the village it was smooth sailing. We took a brief break to take a couple pictures of Little Navajo Falls and continued on our way.

Hiking in the riverbed was piece of cake. There is barely any elevation change and not a lot of people were out which was awesome! Since we had less of a time crunch, it was nice to be able to look around and take a closer look at things. We were able to focus on being in the present instead of worrying about making it to a destination at a certain time.

The canyon walls were so cool and really towered over us! I also liked all of the overhangs and crevices. We all walked single file along a narrow path that had been formed by everyone before us. As we hiked farther and farther away from the village, there were less trees and bushes along the trail.

We hiked about eight miles until we took a break. This brought us to the final two mile climb out where we hike back up the rolling hill and then the switchbacks. We stopped and snacked to fuel up a bit to make sure we would be ready for the challenge! After our snack, we hoisted our packs back on and started on the final climb. We put our heads down and pretty much hiked until we were fatigued. Due to the time of day, a lot of mules were passing us on the way up and we had to move over to the inside of the trail. The breaks were appreciated! Hiking uphill with weight is tough! Right before we made it to the top, there was a mule that was whinnying and it sounded as if he was complaining about the steep climb out with all his weight. It helped all of us feel less bad about how beat we all felt hiking up the switchbacks!

Once we all made it to the top, we cheered! We had two very active and long days and we accomplished everything that we had hoped for! It was awesome! Mitch left his pack with my Dad and I to walk back to the car. We waited and just admired the view.

 Can you spot the switchbacks on the opposing canyon wall?
Can you spot the switchbacks on the opposing canyon wall?

Mitch showed up with the car and we all piled in, thankful to be ditching our packs for a while. Our next destination was Flagstaff so I would be able to get a different pair of shoes to help mitigate my blister problem. Here is a picture of my super cool high socks and sandals as promised.

 Fashion at it's finest.
Fashion at it’s finest.

Well I hope you enjoyed reading about our Havasupai adventure! It was such a beautiful place. If you have any questions, please leave me a comment! Also, I have included some travel tips that could be helpful if you are planning a trip and want some advice. Until next time!

Some travel tips:

  1. Since the trail is very sandy, trail runners are not the best shoes to wear. I love my trail runners but the sand just slips through the mesh and causes blisters to form. I would say that waterproof train runners (since the lining will keep the sand out) or hiking boots would be the best footwear.
  2. Start very early! We got to the trail around 5:30AM and it was still super busy. If you want to spend more time in the shade once you hit the canyon floor and want to minimize the amount of other people you see on the trail, an early start iss for you.
  3. Drink lots of water! Once you start hiking and are off to a good pace, it is very easy to forget about drinking water. You also don’t feel dehydrated until it is often too late. So carrying enough water on the hike in and taking salt tabs (we like the brand SaltStick) along the way will help keep you in tip top shape!
  4. If you don’t have a water filter, there is a spring in the campground where you can fill up your bladder or water bottle.
  5. The campground is two miles past the village so the total mileage to the campground is ten! I would say the the final two miles to the campground after getting your wristbands and tent tag were the worst part of the hike in. Take a break in the village and grab some fry bread before heading down to your site. The trail is very sandy and gets incredibly hot as the day progresses. Be prepared!
  6. Have a ratsack or a bag of the same variety to protect your food when you are away from your campsite. The squirrels are VERY dedicated to stealing your food. I watched one steal a few things from a girl’s backpack before I could chase it away. Keep your food in a ratsack and hang it in a tree!

exploring lower antelope canyon in page, arizona

Hey guys! Life has been extremely busy for me with all of the traveling I have been doing, but I am finally home for a while (until other adventures pop up)! I decided that I would write about my most recent trip to Arizona and break up all of the things that I saw there since we were alllllll over Arizona. It was pretty amazing. So to start, I figured we could take a look at Lower Antelope Canyon!

The slot canyon is located a little outside Page, Arizona. There is also an Upper Antelope Canyon, though the two are not connected. Both canyons are located on Navajo land so you must have a guide to go explore. I was kinda bummed about having to book a tour because I really don’t like touristy things, but for this it was worth it! Mitch booked an afternoon tour for us with a company called Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours and it was a little over $38 per person to be down in the canyon for an hour. A little disclaimer: if you are driving to Page from Phoenix, you will go through an area that is in MDT instead of MST which will confuse your GPS and claim that you will be late for your tour. Have no fear! The time zone is in fact MST in Page and you will be just fine!

We arrived 30 minutes early for our tour and were separated into small groups and paired with a guide. Our guide’s name was Orin and he was great! He was friendly and helped change settings on phones and cameras to have the pictures turn out just right. We started our walk down to the stairs that take everyone to the entrance of the canyon and it was hard to imagine what we were going to see. The top of the canyon looked like this and if you weren’t paying attention, you would walk right past it!

 Pretty decieving, isn't it?
Pretty decieving, isn’t it?

We waited our turn at the top of the stairs as other groups went down to the canyon floor. Just looking around at the red rock that was surrounding us. Once we were told it was time to go, the stairs took us down about 115 feet and were steep! The bottom of the canyon was sandy and every corner we went around, provided beautiful views. Take a look!

The total distance for the tour was a little over a mile and every inch was wonderful. I am always so amazed by the art of nature and the way beautiful places like this are created. That water pouring through the canyon created all of the ridges and curves. So neat!

Since we were on the final tour of the day, we were able to spend about an hour and fifteen minutes exploring and taking awesome pictures. Everyone seemed to enjoy it! I know I did!

 We even managed to get a group picture!
We even managed to get a group picture!

This was a perfect start to our Arizona adventure. It was an easy, neat place to visit and set the tone for the entire trip! Have you been to Antelope Canyon? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

a mini review of lauterbrunnen, switzerland

Hi hi! I hope you fall in love with Lauterbrunnen as much as I did. The waterfalls and cute restaurants make the city so magical! Not to mention the gorgeous valley walk. I hope that I will be able to walk the entire valley someday!

I was only in Lauterbrunnen for an afternoon since I had spent the morning at Grindelwald. It was a Sunday and I did not want to get back to Sion too late since I had to work in the morning! Right when I arrived, this was my view:

 Look at that waterfall!
Look at that waterfall!

Staubbach Falls is just magical being that close to the city! I continued my walk towards the valley with a smile and figured I would happen upon a place to eat before I went exploring for a bit. Of course I found a very cute place that is called Airtime Cafe. They had all sorts of pastries, sandwiches, and coffee! I ordered a sandwich and a slice of nutella coffee cake (which was to die for!) and sat down at a table to hang out for a bit.

One of my most favorite things though, was the quote that was in the bathroom. It was so touching and a nice reminder to live your best life.

I left the cafe and continued on my walk towards the valley, still staring at Staubbach Falls and the cute houses.

The valley path was peaceful. I talked to Mitch on the phone for a bit, but other than that enjoyed the quiet time to myself. I really felt at ease. Being surrounded by nature is so soothing to me and I find that it reminds me to be myself. I passed several waterfalls and cute farms as I continued deeper into the valley.

About a mile into the valley, there was a path to cross over to the other side to see Trummelbach Falls. To visit the falls, you must pay a small fee (I think 4 CHF?). The waterfall carved out a path in the side of the mountain and you can either take an elevator to go part of the way up or follow stairs. I picked the stairs since it seemed like a challenge and would be fun!

Climbing up alongside the waterfall was so neat! I was pretty scared once the path turned into a tunnel but the experience was exhilarating! The falls echoed in the caverns and were so loud. I couldn’t believe how alive I felt standing next to something so powerful. I was the only one in the tunnel at the time so I was trying to soak in the moment and remember the feeling.

After I spent some time wandering around, I walked back down the path to head back to the valley. I was pretty tired from being up early and exploring but my heart felt full. I made my way back to the train station, simply reflecting on the opportunities that life has given me.

Thank you for reading about my mini adventure in Lauterbrunnen!

a morning in grindelwald, switzerland

I am so excited to share the first portion of my Switzerland trip with you! It has taken a while to recover from the jetlag and a mini vacation that I went on to Texas (a post will come up about that too!) but I have finally found time to write about one of the places I visited during my stay. So let’s go!

All of my travel took place over the weekends. I would wake up early, grab an espresso, and hop on a train to my destination! I had decided to go to Grindelwald because it looked like a beautiful mountain town. I am completely enamored with mountains and Grindelwald did not disappoint! Once getting off of the train, I was greeted by mountains.

The town was stunning! As I continued to walk past the train station, I could not believe that places like this exist. I had only been to a couple other mountain towns like this in my life and it was so picturesque. Eiger towered beautifully over the houses and shops. In a matter of minutes, I was so pleased with my decision to come!

I had decided that I would ride a cable car up to First to get a better view of the valley and the surrounding mountains. Super touristy, I know, but I had to take every chance I could to be in the mountains. I miss them dearly in Ohio! I arrived at the cable car station to find that it was closed so I decided to find a place to sit down and have breakfast.

I found a little restaurant called Alte Post that was cute and cozy so I decided to give it a try. I ordered a salad and espresso for breakfast and just chilled. I enjoyed how quiet the restaurant was. It was Sunday after all and barely anyone was out. This probably added to why I liked Grindelwald so much!

I finished breakfast and head back to the station. I bought my round trip ticket and I was on my way! The ride was probably 15 minutes in total and was so worth it, even though I was a little scared in the beginning. The view was so nice. I loved being able to relax and just soak it all in.

Once I made it up to First, I couldn’t stop smiling! Just look at the view!

Even though it was cloudy, I didn’t mind. I was just happy to be outside. Since I was up early, the cliff walk and terrace were not crowded. Such a huge bonus!

The cliff walk was also a tad scary! I wasn’t a huge fan of being able to see through the metal grating on the walkway but reminded myself that my mantra for this year is to get out of my comfort zone. I think this fit the bill!

The pictures really don’t serve justice to the beauty of First. I wanted to sit there all day! I even made some friends and we shared some travel stories. I love meeting people while adventuring! After taking some pictures and wandering around a bit more, I decided to head down. I had plans to go to another town the same day and I didn’t want to get there too late!

When riding the cable car down, I reminded myself to live fully in the moment and take in everything. Even though I was alone, it is still easy to get caught up in rushing to the next thing. I think this really made my trip to First very memorable. The last thing on my list for Grindelwald was to visit a gorge that was right outside the town. It is called Gletscherschlucht and a walkway was built into the side of the gorge, allowing people to pass through. It looked incredibly neat! However, when I arrived it was closed for the season due to repairs and would re-open in May. Oh well! It was still pretty from the little bit that I could see!

I had a small snack at the entrance of the gorge and then meandered back to the train station. I laughed a lot as I walked back because I was still in awe of the beauty of Grindelwald. I just could not believe that places like this exist, let alone that I get to see them. I reflected on my life and how lucky I felt (and still feel) and thanked my adventurous spirit for driving me to explore.

If you have any questions about my trip, feel free to reach out! I would be happy to answer any questions! Also, look out for a new post about Lauterbrunnen coming soon!

relaxing week at topsail island, nc

Hi friends! Sorry for the silence on the blog this past week. Mitch and I were relaxing in North Carolina celebrating a friend’s wedding which means spending time with people and not on the computer! Understandable right?

It was so peaceful and kind of strange not having anything planned…the complete opposite of how we usually arrange vacations. However, it allowed us to slow down and just enjoy going with the flow. We ate delicious food (NC BBQ is what’s up!). Walked on the beach at night. Saw a ridiculous shooting star. Hung out with friends. Had coffee next to the ocean every morning. Celebrated an adorable marriage. It was a great time! Take a peek at our week!

If you are traveling to Topsail or Surf City anytime soon, here are some of my recommendations:

  1. Shaka Taco: this little taco restaurant was a perfect stop for a quick lunch. The tacos were so good! Hands down the best fish taco I have ever had. Their BBQ pork taco was pretty good too.
  2. Daddy Mac’s Beach Grille: I had some tasty Mahi Mahi here! There is also a nice deck that is right on the beach.
  3. Inis Spa: an absolute must stop after a busy week. I had 90 minute massage and it was wonderful! They offer a myriad of other services as well!
  4. Sisters Organic Market: a little, cute grocery store with organic food offerings!
  5. Sugar Island Bakery & Supplies: adorable coffee shop and bakery FILLED with books. I had an oat milk latte (yum!) and Mitch had a mocha. Their pastries were also delicious!
 I couldn't pass up taking a picture of this quote!
I couldn’t pass up taking a picture of this quote!

I would like to hear everyone’s recommendations on all things North Carolina! Where are your favorite places to go? Places to eat? Places to hike? Places to relax? Let me know please!

yosemite part 4: half dome

Hi hi! This was an epic hike. So epic that it requires a permit to hike it. Mitch and I knew we were awarded the permit several months before the trip and we were sooooo excited! If you ever want to hike Half Dome, make sure you apply for a permit before hand! Or you can try for a walk up permit at the ranger station the day of but you won’t be able to start as early. It is up to you! Let’s go!

Since hiking Half Dome is almost 18 miles round trip, Mitch and I woke up at 3:30 AM to checkout of Half Dome Village and drive to the trailhead. Once we arrived, we ate oats with peanut butter by headlamp and gathered up our things. We hit The Mist Trail a bit before 5 AM, hiking the first three miles in the dark. This section of the hike was paved and very hilly. In the dark, it seemed like the hills would go on forever and once we would make it to the top of one, there was another one to climb. We also were not hiking leisurely because we wanted to beat most of the other hikers up there to avoid having lots of people on the cables (more of that fun to come later!). Anyway, the trail is called “The Mist Trail” because the mist from Vernal Falls covers stairs that lead up to the falls and around it. Once we made it there, we took our time navigating the steps and walkways before reaching the top. It is just a bit unsettling to be able to hear a powerful waterfall and not see it. A little reminder that nature is powerful and can be unforgiving at times. Mitch and I continued on our way to Nevada Falls, climbing even more as the trail continued.

By the time we made it to the top of Nevada Falls, the sun was starting to come out and we decided to take a break and snack. It was pretty neat to be able to see how far we had come that morning! After relaxing a bit, we started the second leg of the hike through relatively flat Little Yosemite Valley, giving our legs a bit of a reprieve from the first round of climbing. We soaked in the coolness of the valley and the clear morning sky. A mini breather in this rigorous hike! Though it did not last long since the trail picked back up again, loaded with switchbacks.

 Sub Dome hiding part of Half Dome. We were at the tip of the second peak!
Sub Dome hiding part of Half Dome. We were at the tip of the second peak!

This part of the hike to Sub Dome was pretty brutal. There had to have been at least two dozen switchbacks during this segment. It. Was. Rough. It was a relief to make it to Sub Dome after all the climbing only to be greeted with more granite steps and a mini scramble. The excitement was high though! We were within reach of the Half Dome cables to make the climb to the top! At the base of the cables, there was a pile of gloves that had been left behind and Mitch and I just found ones that fit. We were thankfully the only people on the cables on our climb up!

The cables are a lot more vertical than they look in pictures. It was scary and exciting to climb them and when we made it to the top, we were rewarded with awesome views. It was a clear sky and not super cloudy, what a win-win!

Mitch and I hung out at the top, snacking on Snickers bars and trying to take everything in. Thankfully, not a lot of people were at the top and it was pretty peaceful minus the bit of wind. We wandered around surveying the top of the dome. We eventually asked a stranger to take our favorite picture of the hike, where we looked tiny standing out on a ledge, peering down into Yosemite Valley.

 So. So ridiculous.
So. So ridiculous.

How crazy is that ledge! It thankfully isn’t as scary getting out there as I imagined and the picture was totally worth it!

Now. The hike back was the next big task. We relaxed our legs a bit and started to come back down the cables which were busy now! The people climbing down clung to the cable on the left while people climbing up held on to the cable on the right. As we were heading down, a woman going up actually pulled a stake out of the holder and I had to grab it and push it back in for her. This was terrifying and it felt like life was moving in slow motion. But I am still here so everything is okay! (Note to future Half Dome hikers: please pull the cable back, not UP! Ha!)

 Going backwards on the way down. The quad burn was real!
Going backwards on the way down. The quad burn was real!

Clouds were now coming out and our hike was shaded and colder than on the way up. Mitch and I took our time, trying to preserve our knees for eight miles downhill and did not rush. In the switchback area of the hike, we actually saw a bobcat which was pretty cool! Once we made it back to Little Yosemite Valley, we filled up our water bladders with the gravity filter and started to follow the John Muir Trail. We were pretty alone on the JMT even though it was the afternoon. I enjoyed hiking next to the Merced River, letting the calm flow through me since we had a lot of adrenaline pumping all morning. We eventually made it back to Nevada Falls and it was just beautiful.

The smoke had sadly come back since we were in the valley again but the falls were still beautiful. At this point in the hike, it seems like you are pretty close to the trailhead which is false! The JMT around Nevada Falls is steep paved switchbacks with barely any stairs. I would wager to say hiking downhill for eight miles is much worse than climbing that distance. Admittedly, I was getting quite annoyed with all of the switchbacks and going downhill that I ran the remaining mile to the trailhead and sat on a rock, and waited for Mitch. I was ready for it to be over!

Mitch and I walked back to our car, feeling pretty beat up. Our final stats for the day were 17.5 miles with over 5,000′ of climbing completed in 9 hours and 21 minutes. We were quite pleased with how we spent our last full day in Yosemite National Park. I hope you enjoyed our adventure as well!

yosemite part 3: cathedral lakes

The stories all start the same for hiking, as in, Mitch and I wake up early to be the first ones on the trail. Gotta beat the crowds, people! Really though. We parked on the shoulder of Tioga Road across from the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead. As Mitch was packing up the bear canister, I of course was observing the clouds and sunrise across Tuolumne Meadows. If you don’t know me, I deeply love clouds. I could watch them all day.

 Ugh. Pictures can't fully capture the beauty of this sunrise.
Ugh. Pictures can’t fully capture the beauty of this sunrise.

Since we chatted about clouds, we can now go back to the hiking story. We popped our bear canister in a food locker and we were on our way! We were still the only ones at the trailhead and I was pretty happy about that!

We started our ascent up the trail. Surrounded by lodgepole pines and mountain hemlock, we were shaded the majority of the hike. Everything was lush and beautiful. As we took our time hiking, we soaked in the silence of the woods and the clean air. Nothing is like mountain air. I wish I could bottle it up and take it home with me each time I leave moutains but that is another story. The switchbacks weren’t as bad as the previous hike but we could still feel a slight burning in our quads. We would stop occasionally to take a look at how far we had come, really admiring the elevation.

The entire hike to the split in the trail for the upper and lower lakes, we only saw a couple of backpackers. It is always fun to see where they are going and how long they have been out. Some of them had been out for over a week just hanging out in the wilderness! So amazing! Be friendly to fellow hikers, it is always fun to learn from them (if they are chatty of course)! At the split, we thought we were heading for the upper lake when we actually were on our way to the lower lake. The lower lake of course did not disappoint! The trail crossed a river, a rock fall area, and eventually made its way to a lush clearing.

A river wound its way through the meadow, making the ground soft and mushy (bring it on mud!). We had a good time going off trail and just hoping across the channels to make it to the lower lake.

The lower lake was so cool. It was essentially nestled in a big granite bowl and the granite happened to make the perfect place to rest and snack. Mitch and I reclined on the rock, watching the clouds roll by and listening to the water gently lap the granite shore. The amount of contentment that washed over me while we sat there was enormous and even writing this several months later, I can still feel how calm and happy I felt in that moment. The sun on my face. The gentle breeze. The wispy clouds. So so amazing.

After relaxing on the shore for a while, we decided to head to the upper lake. We backtracked along the trail and eventually made it to the spot where we were supposed to turn initially. Though going to the lower lake first was certainly the best in my opinion.

The upper lake was just as beautiful, presenting awesome views of Cathedral Peak. I spotted a rock that went out a little bit into the lake and decided that we had to go there. It was the perfect spot to dip our feet into the crystal clear water. But don’t be fooled. Just because it was sunny doesn’t mean the water was warm because it most certainly was chilly! It was totally worth it though because now we can say we put our feet in an alpine lake (later on this trip, Mitch jumped into one at 10,300′ which was way cooler than me just dipping my feet in).

We hung out for a bit just admiring the views and chatting with fellow hikers. Since it was getting close to the afternoon, we decided to head back down to the car. At this point, the trail was pretty crowded and noisy. It was nice to enjoy our morning solitude while it lasted.

Overall, the hike was pretty relaxing, totaling out to be around eight miles. It had to be an easy hiking day since we were moving to Yosemite Village tonight and hiking Half Dome the following morning. We were both pretty excited to head to YV because there were showers! It had been a couple days since we were clean! We really take for granted how nice showers are since we have them everyday. Go a couple days without one and it is one of the most amazing experiences. Try it. Clean has a whole new meaning.

 Half Dome Village sign feat. a clean Katie!
Half Dome Village sign feat. a clean Katie!

So. Half Dome Village is an interesting place. There’s camping, yurts, a lodge, a dining hall, a gift shop, and several other attractions in Yosemite Valley. We both thought it was an odd spectacle in the middle of the NP. The only reason we wanted to stay here was to be as close as possible to the Half Dome trailhead (other than getting the shower code). If you like peace and quiet, I would recommend that you don’t stay here since it was incredibly busy and everything was jammed together. Though we did see some very funny people there (imagine couples rolling massive suitcases through wood chips to get to their “fancy” yurt). On another note, it was very smokey down in the valley compared to our previous camping spot. You can see the smoke in the picture above. The wildfire smoke just settled here, especially if it wasn’t windy. We checked into our yurt and laughed since it was so expensive for essentially a tarp on top of a wooden frame.

 Inside our yurt.
Inside our yurt.

We organized our belongings, packed our bags for tomorrow, ate dinner, and showered. It was going to be an early night since we were waking up 3:30 AM to hike the first half of Half Dome in the dark. Cheerful from happy bellies, we hit the hay to prepare for our early morning.

yosemite part 2: cloud’s rest

Now. Cloud’s Rest was one of our favorite hikes in Yosemite. The amazing views and final climb on the exposed ridge line were just stunning. I highly recommend this hike due to the beauty of the hike and pretty low traffic in the morning. Our round trip hiking for the day was 14.5 miles and it was so worth it. Enjoy!

Mitch and I woke up early and arrived at the trail head around 6:30 AM. There was only one other car there when we arrived so we were pretty stoked. It is always peaceful to start hiking and just listen to the quiet woods around you.

The first two to three miles were the most difficult with lots of switchbacks. Large boulders as steps were the norm. Though it was worth it, we were greeted with beautiful views and surrounded by a pine forest.

We stopped to have a snack once the trail opened up to a rocky clearing. We lounged on rocks and explored the area a bit before taking off to finish the climb. The sun was starting to come out and it was thankfully a clear day. Hooray for no smoke!

The final climb of the trail was a crushed rock incline with limited shade. Once reaching the final ridge climb, the view down into Yosemite Valley was beautiful, we could even see Half Dome!

Hiking the ridge was very fun and a bit scary. These experiences always remind me of how nature is powerful and can be unforgiving, especially with the steep falls on either side of the ridge. The picture barely shows how steep it was!

Once we made it to the top, we hung out in the sun and soaked in the views. It was stunning! We could also see peregrine falcons riding thermal vents. I don’t know about you, but I was stoked to see them. I love birds of prey!

Overall, the final elevation was 9,931′ and we climbed over 2,000′ to get there. It was certainly worth it! P.S. looking back on these pictures makes us laugh at what we were wearing. Fashion is certainly not the most important thing to us while hiking! Regardless, still funny. After hanging out for a while, we hiked back down to our car before heading off to find our new campsite for the night.

We settled on Aspen Grove Campground in Inyo National Forest, which is first come first serve and ten miles outside of the Tioga Pass entrance. Like the name, the campsites are nestled into an aspen grove right next to a river. It was such a nice place to stay even though there weren’t any showers! Once picking a site, we set up camp since we would be staying at this campground for a couple days before moving to Yosemite Village. The day was rounded out by heading to visit Mono Lake in Lee Vining, reading, and journaling. Stay tuned for Yosemite Part 3!

yosemite part 1: north dome and may lake

Yosemite National Park has been on our list for a while and we were so excited to be able to go in 2017. It was a great trip filled with amazing views, memories, and hikes. I am happy to be able to share it with everyone and write about what we experienced each day. I hope our journey leaves you feeling inspired and excited to go on your own adventure and get outside!

Our first night was spent outside the park in Stanislaus National Forest at the Lost Claim Campground. The site was peaceful and right next to a river. Not a lot of traffic comes through since this campground only has 10 sites (a nice bonus compared to the much larger campgrounds in the national park). We arrived in the afternoon, pitched our tent, and then decided to have dinner in Groveland at a restaurant called The Iron Door Saloon. It certainly had a lot of character! There were dollar bills tacked to the ceiling, farm equipment hanging on the walls, and of course lots of taxidermy! We filled up on burgers and then went back to the campsite to relax a bit before our week of hiking began.

 Porcupine Creek Trail Head

We woke up early, packed up our camp, and drove to Porcupine Creek Trail Head to start our North Dome hike. We wanted to start off with a hike that wasn’t too difficult since we did not do a lot of training before we came out to California. Plus, we read a lot about North Dome and it had to be one of the hikes that we got in on our trip! The trail starts off in a pine forest and then leads to the first ridge of the hike!

Once we made it past the couple of ascents and descents in the pine forest, we hiked along the first granite ridge, eventually traversing down the side of the granite face to be able to reach the base of North Dome.

 The view of North Dome from the first granite ridge!
The view of North Dome from the first granite ridge!

We continued hiking, following a path worn into the rock and enjoying the feeling of the sun on our faces. It was a pretty warm day! The view from the top was stunning and we admired the mountains that were surrounding us. From the top of North Dome, you can take a look at Half Dome looming in the distance and also peek into Yosemite Valley. It was so smoky from the wildfires but we still enjoyed it!

We spent some time admiring the views and snacking (Snickers were the snack of the week) until we turned around to head back to our car. Along the way, we took a small detour to see Indian Arch and Mitch climbed up into it! At this point in the early afternoon, a lot of people were on the trail and it was not as peaceful as the hike up. We prefer to wake up early and get to trail heads when barely anyone is there to be able to fully enjoy the peace of the forest by ourselves. It is always a wonderful experience!

 Indian Arch

Once back to the trail head, we fired up our mini stove and had one of our Mountain House MREs for lunch. Mountain House is our go-to MRE brand while camping since we really like all of the different options and they never disappoint! After chatting over lunch (yay lasagna!) about the next hike, it was decided that we would hike to May Lake as a cool down. It would only be 2.5 miles round trip and it seemed like the perfect way to close out the day before finding our next campsite.

 May Lake, Yosemite National Park

In total, we hiked 12.4 miles on our first day. A perfect way to start our Yosemite adventure! Stay tuned for the next segment of our trip!

our morning at brewnuts

You guys. This past Sunday was National Ice Cream for Breakfast Day and of course Mitch and I participated! If you did not already know, I absolutely love ice cream and can really eat it at any time. There’s no limit on ice cream consumption. Also, if I am traveling, I love to try out local ice cream shops. So fun! There’s only a couple of ice cream shops in Cleveland that we have yet to try.

I have been craving donuts for a couple months now, so I was thrilled to see that Brewnuts was having a collaboration with Mason’s Creamery to make donut ice cream sandwiches. When I say thrilled, I mean incredibly thrilled. Thrilled as in text-Mitch-in-all-caps about-how-excited-I-am-about-this-and-how-we-have-to-go.

 I love the people in the front window looking confused at me. Ha!
I love the people in the front window looking confused at me. Ha!

Since I love to be on time, we arrived at 10 and thankfully beat a huge line that filed in after us; the place was packed! We decided to each get an extra donut to try as well to sample some of their standards (double the donuts, double the fun!). I love bacon so naturally I went with maple bacon and Mitch picked peanut butter Oreo.

An ice cream station was set up in the back of the shop where the sandwiches were put together on the spot! There were two different types of ice cream, frosting, and toppings which were all delightful. I chatted cheerfully while patiently waiting for our treats.

 Love at first sight!
Love at first sight!

Everything was great. The donuts. The ice cream. The sprinkles. We are certainly going back at some point! If you are in the Cleveland area, go check them out!

I mean, how could you not want to check them out when I look so excited? Thanks again Brewnuts for a great morning!