Tag Archives: California

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…)

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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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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.


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…

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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.


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…

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Day Hiking to Alamere Falls, Pt. Reyes

Every year, my friend Bo takes a trip back to the Bay from his home in Shanghai and wants to do something “outdoorsy”. On his first trip back, we camped in Yosemite and did the monstrous all-day hike to Half Dome. The next year, we camped in Tahoe and did a day hike to Susie Lake in Desolation Wilderness. The next two visits were short trips, so we only had enough time to do day hikes to Mt. Tamalpais and Pt. Reyes. While I love Mt. Tam and Muir Woods, Pt. Reyes has to be one of my all time Bay Area favorites.

Bo wanted to be exposed to some of the best hiking that the Bay Area has to offer, so I thought I’d take him on the scenic (albeit mild) hike to Alamere falls (he usually wants a longer and a more rigorous hike, a la Half Dome – but I know of very few enjoyable and SCENIC hikes of that caliber within two hours of Oakland. If anyone has any recommendations, please send them my way).

While the hike was not that challenging, it didn’t matter – we couldn’t have asked for more amazing weather or a more picturesque day!

The famous Pt. Reyes shoreline

The view from the Coast Trail

To get to the start of the hike at the Palomarin trailhead, you basically go towards Stinson Beach but keep going up Hwy 1 until you reach the town of Olema. After that point, you must drive on an unpaved dirt road (bring the 4 Runner!) for a mile or so until you reach the trailhead parking lot.

At Palomarin, you have a few options…

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Backpacking (and Day-Hiking) Diaries: Mt. Tallac

This year I swore that I’d make a trip back to my favorite place on earth: Desolation Wilderness in Tahoe, CA.

So far, I’ve been there three times for three different backpacking trips, and have day-hiked the area countless times while staying at my favorite Lake Tahoe (car) campgrounds.

During our five day/five night backpacking trip this past August, we spent the morning of our 4th day taking on Mt. Tallac. I am quite pleased to say that I highly recommend it.

On top of Mt. Tallac

The hike itself is not that bad if you approach it from the PCT / the Gilmore Lake area (it definitely helps if you’re camped out there), but it looks like a helluva climb if you day hike it from the Mt. Tallac trailhead near Fallen Leaf Lake – there’s nothing but little jagged switchbacks on the dotted trail on the map.

Unlike hiking, say Dicks Peak, in Deso, the hike to Mt. Tallac is much more meadow-y. We saw a good amount of purple, vermillion, magenta, and yellow wildflowers despite the fact that we were hiking it in early August.


Meadow on the mountain

From Gilmore Lake, it’s about 2 miles to the very top of the mountain. For 90% of the hike, we saw no one on the trail. The only other living creatures around us were a few marmots scurrying to their homes in the ground below some old tree trunks.

That’s why were kinda surprised (Rob was straight shocked) to hear a bit of a commotion as we approached the top.

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Campground: Sardine Lake

Back in March of this year, a friend told me that I had to go camping at Sardine Lake because it was just too pretty to not visit. Of course, after I booked a site there he flaked on the trip a few months later. Sucks for him.

Sardine Lake is one of many campgrounds in Tahoe National Forest (not to be confused with Lake Tahoe, which is over an hour away in a completely different area) – but I’m sure it’s one of the best there is out there. Why? Mainly because you don’t get to see this near most campgrounds…

Lower Sardine Lake = fishing galore

Upper Sardine Lake, with the Sierra Buttes in the background

My friend R-Dizzle said that this was the best looking lake he’s ever seen before.

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