How To Make Traveling Work (AKA: Ballin On A Budget)

Sorry, I had to interrupt my regularly scheduled “National Parks Road Trip 2014” series to bring you this awesomeness right here:

I found this great blog post from a woman (who has traveled to over 70 countries) about the different ways you can make your dream travel plans come true. A lot of the tips are common sense; however they’re a great reminder that you should make traveling happen now before it’s too late! And by too late, I mean settle down and become a boring adult. Oh no, I’m not bitter…HAH!

From her Blog Post: How I Afford To Travel


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Utah Diaries: From Escalante State Park to Burgers in Boulder

We were pretty beat as we drove away from Bryce Canyon National Park. After an all day hike amongst the hoodoos, we had to drive a few hours to our next stop: Escalante. Actually – to be honest – we didn’t really know what our next stop would be. I guess that’s the beauty of going on a road trip! A month ago when we were planning our trip, I saw a picture of some gorgeous slot canyons/land formations in a Utah tourist magazine, and decided that we had to go and check out that area. It was in Escalante, but we really didn’t know what that meant. Escalante National Monument? Escalante State Park and Petrified Forest? Escalante city? We had no idea.

As we drove on, we passed by buffalo farms on the roadsides, and miles and miles of the most beautiful landscape ever. No wonder this highway (Highway 12, I believe?) has been designated as one of the “Top Most Scenic Highways of America”. I honestly thought they were lying at first. But then it just kept getting better and better:

Jumping for joy

Jumping for joy


Mountains of red and tan rock as far as the eyes can see. Check out the highway on the bottom right.

Unfortunately, when we rolled into the town of Escalante, the visitor center had already closed (it was already past 5 pm). Joy was still sick and pretty tired, so while there were many places we could have camped at, I made an executive decision to stop and stay at Escalante State Park (and Petrified Forest – it was so cute). It also had a lake/reservoir nearby, and it was getting late. Joy likes water. I thought it might be a good match for us…

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Utah’s Bryce Canyon: Winner of the “Most Out-Of-This-World Hike in a National Park” Award


It’s still gorgeous: outside of Zion National Park

We could have definitely stayed at Zion for another week or so, but Joy and I were only at the beginning of our National Parks road trip – we had just a little over 3 weeks left. This is how awesome Zion is: we met two Canadian guys on the Zion shuttle back to our car who said that they had driven all the way from Vancouver to Utah, JUST to hike and backpack Zion National Park!! They only had like a week and a half for the entire trip, so they pretty much drove down for a few days, spent a few days in Zion, and turned around and went straight back to Canada. No other stops along the way.

P1100722-105As we made the drive towards Bryce Canyon National Park, we stopped to hit up a mini-mart to get some snacks for the road. The store carried hardcover Babysitters Club books and used leather cowboy boots! (the kid who worked the store said that the owner “was kinda weird” and liked to stock his store with interesting stuff). But we just bought drinks and sour straw candy. We on a budget, ya know.

babysitter club book


It was about 5 pm and cloudy when we rolled into the park. The air was muggy but cool (much cooler than Zion), sunlight beamed around the clouds, and the land was beautiful. Mule deer and their babies ate peacefully along the sides of the road as we drove past them towards the hoodoos.

After the sun set, we drove around to secure a campsite. While you can crash the campsites (there’s a few in the park), the good camp sites aren’t guaranteed (many people, it seems, do make reservations in advance). We ended up driving to the North campground where we settled in a nice spot with a lot of space in the middle of a loop. Some sites on the edges of the campground however, have amazing views of the hoodoos from their “backyard”! There’s probably only a few of them, but STILL. That must have been an amazing experience.

The next day, however, made all our campsite-finding problems totally worth it…

Bryce Canyon

View from the overlook

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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…

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Zion National Park: Hiking to Angel’s Landing

So…I really wanted to update this blog on a weekly basis during our month-long National Parks road trip. I REALLY did. And I tried! But there was hardly any interwebs connection wherever we went, thus making it nearly impossible to do any blog updating. Plus we were camping or backpacking the entire time. No wifi there.

After we experienced pretty much THE BEST TRIP EVER, we came back in August and I had to go directly to grad school. Nowadays, I do NOTHING ELSE except read a shit-ton of books and try to not look clueless in class.

OH YEAH. I digress. Back to the main story…

Angel’s Landing. Yeah, it was awesome. I LOVE ZION NATIONAL PARK! Top 5 fer SURE.


Waking up to this lovely sight of the sun coming up over the mountains from our campsite


Our campsite at the South campground

The great thing about Zion is that we arrived in the height of camping season and STILL found ourselves a campsite! The South campground is first come first served, while the other one contains reservable sites. Reservations are not needed, however. It seems that most people camp just for a night or so, while other visitors stay at nearby hotels or lodges.

Even at 9 am, the day was already getting hot.  Joy and I took the free shuttle to the beginning of Angel’s Landing, where we began our 2.5 mile ascent to the top of the mountain. NOTE: Bring a lot of water and start the hike before 9 am, when the day is not too hot and the morning is beautiful. We saw way too many people hiking up the trail around 1 pm with a small bottle of water shared between them. You WILL pass out.


The beginning of our journey to Angel’s Landing


Our mascot, Rainbow Pony

The hike has a lot of switch backs on the hike up, but it wasn’t too, too bad. There are plenty of places to stop along the trail and take in the view. Plus it’s paved almost all the way up! Never seen that before.


Rock scrambling pit stop

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UTAH: Nothing But Gorgeousness at Zion National Park

While we found Utah to be absolutely gorgeous the moment we passed over the state borders from Nevada,  our trip to Utah didn’t start out too well.

Immediate change of scenery

Immediate change of scenery

I got pulled over by a Utah Highway Patrol officer around 10 pm after leaving Nevada (note to California residents: Utah police cars are NOT Crown Victoria Cali cop cars. I tried to observe all the car lights in my side mirrors to weed out potential patrol members but I was foiled! Plus they are WHITE). On top of that, we tried to camp at some place (not to be named) that was COMPLETELY deserted. I mean, not a soul was in the  campground.  I was spooked, so we drove around and eventually settled on crashing an RV park an hour outside of Zion National Park (not meant for tents, but we were a bit desperate at this point).



As we put up our tent next to our car, a guy in the RV next to us offered to “help us out” (he kept saying that over and over again). Was he just a really nice Mormon man, or a bit of a creeper? Can’t really say. Neither of us slept much that night because we were afraid that he was going to come by our tent and stare at us as we slept. We left quickly at 6 am to get on the road to Zion NP and get out of that place!


The Joyous one and me, by some waterfall on the river / Narrows hike in Zion

Zion was even more awesome than I remembered. I went there once with my family back when all we did was go camping for family trips. I used to complain to them, “Why do we have to go on all these hick family vacations?!”. I wanted to go to Mexico and Europe like the other kids. But now I”m extremely grateful, and camping has become one of the main loves of my life.

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Great Basin National Park: Aspen Trees and a Rock “Glacier” in Nevada

Confession: almost titled this blog post: “Nevada: Nothing to See Here Folks…Almost”

WOW. I have to admit that I don’t get why anyone would live in the state of Nevada. Sorry, I admit that I’m a Cali snob. There’s nothing out here for miles sometimes. Seriously, NOTHING. Lots of dirt and desert-like plants, but I think that most other deserts would be a lot more aesthetically pleasing than this dry armpit of a state.

meth equals death

The best part about Nevada: the constant state signs warning people to report “suspicious odors” and that “METH, CRACK, COKE, SPEED = DEATH”. Joy loved it all because she loves watching Breaking Bad.

Ok, so I’m being a bit harsh and am exaggerating a bit.


Nevada’s nothingness along Highway 50

Sometimes it’s great to be driving out in the open with nothing to watch or oogle at for as far as the eyes can see (I took many photos of the “nothingness” because it’s actually quite impressive). There’s a bunch of quaint little towns with populations of 250 or below that look like a throwback to old Western times. There’s some gorgeous sunsets due to the constant atmospheric haze across Nevada’s wide dirt plains. And there’s a cute little place called Cave Lake State Park just outside of Great Basin National Park that I really liked (the landscape is kinda interesting and the campsites allow you to camp on the land sometimes, but the lake that people fish at looks tiny. Like the boats look like toys in a baby bathtub kind of tiny. Plus all the people out here are really nice and courteous, even though (or maybe because) we’re two little Asian girls traveling across the country in one car.  Okay, so I’m not that little, but Joy is.

Our My Little Pony travel mascot at Cave Lakes State Park

Our My Little Pony travel mascot at Cave Lakes State Park

After leaving Cave Lakes State Park (more nice people over there, esp. the rangers) we drove over to Great Basin National Park nearby. At first it didn’t look like much. It looked like yet another dry mountain with some trees on it? NOT impressed at all. And the glacier that we had heard about before was a “rock glacier” (what the hell is that?). But as we drove up the mountain, rising 7,000…8,000…9,000…10,000 feet – all the way to the top campground near Wheeler Peak, I was in for a pretty pleasant surprise.

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Road Trip, Days 1-3: Blue Lakes Campground

Joy striking a power pose at Twin Lake near Blue Lakes campground, CA

Joy striking a power pose at Twin Lake near Blue Lakes campground, CA

OH MAN. The interwebs out here is so terrible. I just wrote a whole long blog post about this campground (bumming free wifi from a grocery store near Zion National Park) and then it ALL crashed and erased. It’s 10 am and I’m attempting to blog again from the inside of our car (in an underground grocery store parking lot, because even though it’s early it’s still crazy fcking hot outside) while Joy takes a nap in the driver’s seat. Also: no one out here likes Credo mobile. I never have service! Sorry mom and dad, you’ll have to get updates about us from Joy’s phone.

Joy, Rob and Mey loungin at the edge of Lower Blue Lake

Joy, Rob and Mey loungin at the edge of Lower Blue Lake

This campground here is the shit. Just look at the photos. Nothing but clear sunny skies, the bluest waters…and swimming and floating and more swimming and more eating bomb ass food all day long (aged cheeses and bread, watermelon beer, fish tacos, raisin bread French toast, Reem’s “fool” dish made of fava beans).




Breakfast: french toast with strawberries, smoked sausage, and egg scramble with spinach.

Just remember to bring lots of mosquito spray and a vehicle with high clearance (to handle the rocky dirt roads) and you’ll be having the time of your life. OH. And don’t forget to bring floaties. We had to haul 5 people to a granite island on 3 small floaties.

The swim over to the islands



You can’t see it in the photos, but Reem and I had to float/swim “Princess J” over to an island for one trip while he sat on the cush spot on top of the donut floatie. It’s pretty hard to swim when you’re hysterical and laughing that hard.

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35’s the New 21: Joy and Tiff’s Left Coast Road Trip 2013!

Gawwwdamn. It’s been a busy year! Returned from my two month trip to Peru and Bolivia in the end of February. Applied and got into grad school for the 2013-2014 school year. Just finished up my last day of my job (of the past nine years!) yesterday. I came up with this idea last year, but I never had a chance to execute it.

Joy and I are about to embark on a mini-bucket list dream of mine to hit up as many National Parks as we can from Cali to Arizona, up to Utah, Colorado and Wyoming…to our MAIN goal of reaching Glacier National Park in Montana, back down through Washington, Oregon, and back to the Bay Area. I guess it’s not so much of a “cross country trip” as it is just a “road trip loop” of the north and southwest United States. Except for Nevada. Ain’t nobody got time for Nevada!

Follow along with our adventures HERE!


  • Blue Lakes Campground, El Dorado National Forest


  • Grand Canyon (the cooler side)


  • Zion National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Arches National Park


  • Mesa Verde
  • Mt. Sneffles
  • Denver
  • Rocky Mountain National Park


  • Grand Tetons
  • Yellowstone National Park


  • Glacier National Park


  • Coeur D’Alene


  • North Cascades
  • Goat Lake
  • Olympic National Park


  • Portland
  • Crater Lake


  • Lassen National Park (?)

Any recommendations on hikes to do, places to go, other parks to see? I know this is a bit of an ambitious list for a month, but we’ll see how it all goes!

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