Category Archives: Photography

The 2014 Bucket List

I just HAD to interrupt the continuing story of my 2013 National Parks Road Trip for this —

Check out: Buzzfeed’s Astounding Backpacking Trips All Over The World

Torres Del Paine perfection

Torres Del Paine perfection

GAWDAYM. I really, really wish I wasn’t in school sometimes. And…I wish I was married to some rich guy who also likes to travel. RICH MEN, COME TO ME.

So as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been debating all the things I want to do now while I’m free as a bird (albeit in debt) and single (and childless – which may be forever, or not…)

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Realization: I should have said “F*CK a school loan” and became a travel photographer for a magazine instead

Sometime back in June,  Backpacker Magazine emailed me and asked me if they could use one of my photos from our Sykes Hot Springs backpacking trip (2012) for an article that they wrote about hiking to the springs. I was elated. This is my dream come true!!! I LOVE that magazine (during our summer of 2013 National Parks road trip, Joy and I kept a huge stack of Backpacker magazines in the side door of our car and consulted them every time we hit up a new park or wilderness area).

Then I realized: why the hell did I go back to school. I should have tried to get gigs doing camping and travel photography for magazines instead.

Joy's ass is famous

Joy’s ass is officially famous. It’s worth its weight in gold. Or maybe tin.

The grass is always greener however. Maybe I’ll save that career for another lifetime! Or maybe in another 5 years, we shall see…

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Ladies and Gentlemen: the Salar de Uyuni

Despite the heavy rains that had been plaguing southern Bolivia for a few weeks, by the time we got to the Salar de Uyuni, most of the rain water had cleared – except for a layer of water on the actual salt flats itself. Roads were now completely usable, and we had very few fears of our jeep getting stuck out on the cold Salar somewhere.

We awoke at 5 am to get going on the day. During our slow drive, we were greeted by an amazing sunrise that reflected like a mirror on the Salar’s watery surface:

Antes de la amanacer

Antes de la amanacer

Brilliant

Brilliant

Driving through the Salar's waters

Driving through the Salar’s waters

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From Tupiza to Uyuni Days 2 & 3: La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa

Jumping for joy - at La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa

Jumping for joy – at La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa

The next day we awoke to a cold and pitch black morning around 4 am. Our goal was to leave the town by 4:30 am so we could head out through the mountains on our journey to one of the most amazing National Parks I’ve ever seen: La Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life. Granted, I haven’t traveled that much…but still!

Another view of the Laguna Colorada

Laguna Colorada

DAY 2: LOS PAISAJES INCREIBLES DE LA RESERVA NACIONAL DE FAUNA ANDINA

At 5 am, the morning was cold and dark but extremely beautiful – it reminded me why it’s so worth it to wake up early in the morning sometimes. As dawn began to break, we started to see rolling green hills, winding creeks – and wild vicunas, grazing in the distance.

Early morning jeep ride through the valley

As we began our journey up the mountains, we began to see the ground turn from green hillsides to snow capped mountains. We were definitely gaining altitude.

P1020257

The city of ghosts

On the top of a mountain sits “La Ciudad de Fantasmas”: a lost city – 4690 meters high in altitude – that was abandoned in the year 1750. As the legend goes, the town was once taken over by colonizing Spainards, who forced the local Bolivian population to work in their gold and silver mines on the mountain. Over time however, the local people actually became very rich – and quite hedonistic. Due to their indulgent and “godless” lifestyles, one day a woman (sent by God) came to one of their rowdy parties..and basically got everyone sick. And then everyone died, which is why the village is allegedly still abandoned today.

Abandoned homes

Abandoned homes

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The South America Travel Diaries: The Top 10 Lessons Learned (so far)

So thanks to this lovely thing called the interwebs, I’ve cyber-met a handful of other good people that are also planning on doing a trip through Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, etc. I have a few lessons learned to share, and I’ll try to keep it short. Bear in mind this mostly applies to Peru and Bolivia, the only two countries I sorta know through my travels…

Image

1) You gotta know a decent amount of Spanish – Or travel with someone who does

I honestly can’t even imagine traveling through South America without knowing Spanish. I’ve heard that it’s easier in Argentina (more English-speakers), but whenever I did ANYTHING in Peru or Bolivia (went to the bank, made hostel reservations, crossed the border, went on a tour) – it was mostly or all in Spanish. Some bilingual tours are great (the Pampas), while others give a 5 minute speech in Spanish with a 30 second description in English (Puno). Avoid feeling helpless and having a strange blank look on your face when you’re at the border by working on your Spanish – or befriending other bilingual tourists.

I used Livemocha.com a few months before I left to study up and really liked it – you can chat with other people from all over the world while going through formal lessons and learning regional vocabulary.

And of course, many cities in Bolivia and Peru offer Spanish (and Quechua!) language programs too, so check those out!

Image

2) Don’t travel during the rainy season

Well, at the very least I wouldn’t recommend it. As much as I’ve enjoyed my travels, I’ve never realized how dangerous and sucktastic rain could make things: more car and bus accidents, rainy or snowy treks/tours, mudslides, a thousand times more mosquitos, HAIL… quick-dry panties that are still wet because you forgot to take them inside to dry. More plane or bus delays (well, that happens anyway). And cancelled or ruined tours (The Salar de Uyuni tour was almost un-doable due to the heavy rains that have escalated jeep accidents, mud being dragged into the Salar, and floods that cancel 50% of the trip’s activities for a few weeks).

If you do choose to go during the rainy season (because of the low season), just go early – the later it gets, the more chances the rain will ruin the activities you’ve always wanted to do.

That said, pack and prepare for ALL types of weather! From the cold high altitude cities like La Paz, to the hot and humid low altitude areas like Rurrenabaque, you’ll need a variety of clothing options.

P1000086

3) It doesn’t matter how buff you are. Accept the fact that you’ll probably get altitude sickness

Altitude sickness has nothing to do with fitness, actually – I think it has more to do with genetics. I, like some people, thought that I would be fine hiking Machu PIcchu because I go camping and backpacking (with a full backpack) through Tahoe and other places in California every year. Well, California is not Cusco. Get to your destination at least a few early (to acclimate), get lots of soroche (altitude sickness) pills and take them before you get to a high altitude area, have a good first aid kit with a variety of meds on hand, and have people around that can take care of you if things go bad (thank god for Raina and the rest of the homies on the M.P. trek!).

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Puno Pt. II: Going Back to Puno

All dressed up for the party the night before

All dressed up for the party the night before

The next day, we woke early to a traditional breakfast of bread, butter, mate tea and pancake. Ernesto brought out his English-Spanish book and I got a chance to work with him on his English, which was another great experience. While I got great a chance to learn about Amantani’s history and culture and the family, I was glad to have authentic exchanges and great conversations about life in our respective countries with Ernesto, Hilda and Juana.

My room at Ernesto and Juana's home

My room at Ernesto and Juana’s home

As we said goodbye, Ernesto encouraged us to visit them again – without the facilitation of a tour company. Some families appreciate tourism, especially when all the profits go directly to the family instead of the tour company. If you would like to visit an awesome family on the island of Amantani in Lake Titicaca, send a letter to:

The Family of Ernesto, Juana and Hilda Quispe Calsin

Isla Amantani

Or just go to the island and ask for them around town. Tell them that I sent you and that I had a great experience with them – you know, the Chinese American girl from San Francisco, California!

The square on the island of Taquile

The square on the island of Taquile

We left Amantani to go to the Island of Taquile for about 2 hours. One hour was spent hiking up a long road into town, the other hour was spent looking at handcrafts in the main square and eating lunch. We also got a short presentation from our guide about Taquile culture. Many of the men wear hats that symbolize different things. One hat worn to the back shows that a young man is unmarried, another shows that a man is married, and yet another signifies that the person is family of an elected official – those hats are extremely bright and colorful.

When we started to head back to Puno, I realized that all the native South American tourists had become friends over time and were planning to keep in touch and hang out after the trip…

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Backpacking Diaries: DESOLATION WILDERNESS Part I!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Lake Aloha and the Crystal Range

Lake Aloha and the Crystal Range

DESOLATION WILDERNESS is my FAVORITE PLACE on earth.

Desolation Valley

Desolation Valley

I came here on my first backpacking trip ever. They say that you never forget your first love.

2012 was the year of a lot of firsts for me. I started organizing and leading my own backpacking trips (I never trusted myself to do that before), did my first five-night backpacking trip, and organized five camping trips in one summer. Despite the occasional headaches from organizing trip logistics, it was pretty damn fun. This Deso trip included five friends that had varying degrees of backpacking experience – including Rob, who did his first trip with us!

DAY 1: The Hike In

At 5 pm, Darrel and I met up at the Glen Alpine trailhead to review our gear and weigh our packs. My pack: 32 lbs. His pack: 43 lbs. He’s not exactly a light backpacker.

ed P1140834-1

Pre-hike sparring

At 7 PM, we began hiking and made it to Susie Lake by a little after 9 PM (about 4 miles). While it was pretty dark after 8:30 PM, the wilderness and lake was absolutely gorgeous at night. We set up camp and I took a photo of Susie lake with the stars reflecting in the lake below:

1 stars sm

Stars in the sky, as reflected in Susie Lake

DAY 2: Susie and Heather Lakes

We decided to take it easy the next day since Darrel did the 4+ hour drive to Tahoe right after working a 10 hour day. So we blew up our floaties, loaded our dry-sacks with gear, and floated/hauled ass over to one of Susie Lake’s many islands, where we pretty much slept and ate and swam all day. He even had the solar panel charger for the iPod dock. There’s just nothing more refreshing than laying on a granite rock in the sun, listening to the wind, in one of the most beautiful places on earth! At least in California 🙂

Susie Lake, glistening in the morning

Susie Lake, glistening in the morning

Heavely

Heavenly

Despite enjoying the serenity of the lake, I still like to be active each day and hella wanted to go hiking. So we make a VERY short trip (less than a mile one way) over to nearby Heather Lake. I got on my floatie and paddled over to a few of Heather Lake’s islands. One has a pretty tall, almost mini-mountain on it. I climbed up and started yelling to Darrel to get his attention.

Where's the pool

Where’s the pool

Then the most amazing thing happened…

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Backpacking Diaries: Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur

When a friend of mine suggested that we do our first backpacking trip of 2012 to Sykes Hot Springs in Big Sur’s Ventana Wilderness, I said:

“HELL. yeah.”

Into the Ventana Wilderness

Into the Ventana Wilderness

Hiking and camping in Big Sur is always one of those must do’s for any native Californian.

The trip didn’t start off very well, unfortunately. Since we settled on going Sykes just a month before the trip, finding a vacant base-camp campsite up and down Highway 1 was pretty much impossible. EVERYTHING was booked up (we also went the weekend before the 4th of July, BIG MISTAKE). However, since I had just gone camping in Big Sur in 2010, I remembered a very small and far away campground called Botcher’s Gap –I was pretty sure it would have vacancies – it’s mostly a camp for backpackers.

After the long and winding drive up and down the mountain to Botchers Gap camp (whenever I go there, I always think that I’m getting lost! Just turn off of Hwy 1 onto Palos Colorados Rd. and you’ll be fine) we finally found ourselves a base camp – albeit a far away and uneven one.

P1130664

We BBQ’ed our veggies, ate our tamales, enjoyed our fire, and went straight to bed.

Pluses of Botchers Gap: cheap, guaranteed vacancies, beautiful views if you’re lucky to get one of the 3 spots on the edge of the valley, easy access to one section of the Ventana Wilderness (not near Sykes though). Downsides: uneven ground, sites close together with no privacy, STANK-ass pit toilets, all sites are rimmed with poison oak. Don’t roll off your site!

In the morning, we woke and made the drive down the mountain to the Sykes hot springs trailhead at the Big Sur Forest Service Station. To get to Sykes Hot Springs via the Pine Ridge Trail, it’s about a 10 mile hike.

Notes about the hike:

Despite the fact that the initial part of the trail that ascends through a lush green forest, the first 3 miles of the hike kinda suck. It’s almost all uphill, most of it is very exposed to the sun, it’s narrow, there’s lots of poison oak, and the trail is deteriorating at times. Do it in the early morning before it gets really hot and dry on that dusty trail. Luckily, after the first 3 miles, it becomes much more enjoyable.

A typical view on the Pine Ridge Trail

A typical view on the Pine Ridge Trail

There’s a few good camps to stop off at, so if you get tired, arrange to make your pit stops there!

Filtering water at Terrace camp, five miles in.

Filtering water at Terrace camp, five miles in.

Halfway through the day, our group decided to go to a camp at the 8 mile mark and save Sykes for the next day, because we didn’t think we would want to do 10 miles straight in one day (our group was a mix of 1st time backpackers and people who haven’t backpacked in years). But we missed the turn off for the earlier camps and went straight to Sykes. It turned out to be the best decision.

The campgrounds at Sykes are numerous – besides the first ones you see on the right when you go do down to the river, there’s tons as you follow the river to your left. As we ventured on and on to find a site, a bunch of naked circus hippies wearing tu-tu’s and hula hoops approached us…

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Camping Diaries: GLORY HOLE Recreation Area!

I discovered this campground a couple of years ago when I was looking for a campground near the Bay Area. I can’t help but love the fact that it’s called GLORY HOLE RECREATION AREA. How awesome is that! It’s not as dirty as it sounds (I think that a “glory hole” is technically a mining term).

Glory Hole!

I’ve been here on numerous trips – I can tell you that it definitely has some strong pluses and minuses as a campground and “recreation” area – which I’ll get into more detail below.

Roger brought the Shake-weight on our Glory Hole camping trip

One of my favorite memories of Glory Hole happened during a camping trip with the non-profit youth group that I work for. I took them on a “night hike” and soon found out that they were pretty much scared of everything that moved – or didn’t move.  At one point we were all just running and screaming hysterically down a trail after a few of them spotted some glowing deer eyes in the dark and got freaked the hell out! Good times.

Glory Hole’s Positives:

You Can Float In the Lake ALL DAY LONG

When my friends and I came here, we loved the fact that the weather was usually pretty nice (much warmer than the Bay Area), and that the water’s pretty calm. New Melones Lake is a huge body of water that many use for boating and fishing, but the brochures never mention how great it is to float on the water for entire afternoons. After working my non-profit job day in and day out, there’s nothing more cheap and relaxing than a leisurely float. I think we passed out for 2 hours uninterrupted.

Tranquility

The Boating Is Pretty Fun

If you get 10 friends to throw down $15 each, y’all can have yourself a speed boat for an entire day and drag your friends behind you on a raft. It’s pretty much my childhood dream come true. However, if you’re more like me and a bit more broke, you and a friend can pitch in $15 instead and get a double kayak for a whole day. I highly recommend the latter. There’s some fun little islands on the lake to explore, and you can also paddle from beach area to beach area during the day.

Plus…how can you not appreciate the fact that…

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Analog Girl’s Five Commandments for Backpacking and Camping

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, this past summer I planned and organized 3 car camping trips and 2 backpacking trips from as early as February of this year. As much as I LOOOVVVE camping and backpacking, organizing those trips and coordinating everyone together becomes a pretty laborious process. It’s like herding cats. I now have a “NO INVITE” list of people that are no longer going to be included on my trips. Sorry, don’t take it personally – you’re still my friend! If you organize a trip, we’ll play by your rules. But when I organize a trip, these are mine.

I prefer to be a happy camper. Or a happy climber. Whichever.

In no particular order:

RULE #1: PLEASE DO NOT FLAKE

Unless you have an extremely good excuse (like someone dying, like you breaking a leg), please, please, PLEASE do not flake on a camping or backpacking trip! I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s hard to plan a trip when you don’t know how many people are coming. It affects cooking shifts, who brings what food, how to divvy up the supplies and the costs of the trip, car rides there, and just plain ol’ organizing fun activities. I take people’s interests and what they like to do into account when I plan my trips, so when people don’t show up it’s just hard to reorganize. I also try to make things simple so that no one else has to do very much, and I do try to ensure that the trips have enough people so that everyone has a good time.

RULE #2: NO WHINING 

That also means complaining, being a “Debbie Downer”, and having an attitude about what we’re doing during the trip. Make the best out of the experience! Complaining when things go obviously wrong, or when things are sloppy is okay (sans negative attitude perhaps). As mentioned above, I try to take everyone’s feedback into account when planning these trips. The hard part is that people don’t always know what they DO like, but they often know what they DON’T like (when it arises, not beforehand). If you don’t want to do the activity that most of the group wants to do, you don’t have to do it. Not a big deal! We can split up and regroup later. However, if you really don’t like how the trip is going, it might have been a good idea to choose to not go in the first place.

I had to convince people to go to Horsetail Falls. Totally worth it! Reem and I were obviously all about it.

RULE #3: IF YOU GO ON A TRIP WITH ME, KNOW THAT I LIKE TO BE ACTIVE

Everyone has a different camping, hiking, or backpacking style. I’m not the type of person who does 20 mile days (I like to take photos and make stops at nice places), but I do want to make the most out of any location that I’m at. That means when I go backpacking through an amazingly beautiful wilderness area, I want to see new sights, climb mountains, swim in lakes, and go places. I don’t plan on sticking by the campsite all day long and sleeping, or just going swimming for an entire day (this only applies to backpacking. If we’re car camping, that’s okay). To me that’s just glorified picnicking. A day of rest is okay, but more than a day makes me sad. I also like to be active during the day (as opposed to only being active in the morning or evening, when it’s cooler). If you don’t like to hike or go swimming during daylight hours, you won’t want to go camping or backpacking with me. I also don’t tend to wake up before 7 or 8 am unless 1) it’s wayyy too hot to hike during the day, 2) I’m trying to cover some serious distance when backpacking, or – 3) I’m trying to see an amazing sunrise. See Rule #2 again.

An exception to the “no getting up before 8 am” rule

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , ,