Backpacking on the Ozette Loop

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Hey there! In July, I hiked the Ozette Loop in Olympic National Park in Washington. Although I completed the loop as an overnight backpacking trip, the Ozette Loop would also make a nice day hike.  The nine-ish mile loop starts in a coastal forest environment, forks right and winds its way across boardwalks until it dips slightly to the coast. Walking along the beach is the more challenging section, but only because you’re trudging through sand. Eventually, you reach Sand Point, a gorgeous outcropping with a large rock that you can climb atop of. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset and the ease of the return trip makes it possible to hike back during twilight and even as darkness falls if you’re not keen on camping. Over the course of the loop, the elevation change is less than 500 feet and beside the beach, most of the trail is on a wooden boardwalk. It’s nearly impossible to get lost and while you should always take a map, you shouldn’t need to consult it even once.

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I found the Ozette Loop to be equal parts easy and exciting. As I mentioned, there’s not much elevation change and much of the trail takes place on a wooden boardwalk through coastal forests. While hiking on a boardwalk can be a bit boring, it gives your brain a chance to focus on your surroundings instead of your next steps. Walking amongst giant hemlock and cedar trees and seeing beautiful ferns and moss dripping with moisture had me thinking about ancient reptiles, sea creatures, and dinosaurs (turns out the first dino bone discovered in Washington happened just a couple years ago).

After about three miles, you’ll shuffle down a short and steep section (there’s a rope to aid in your decent) that spits you out on the sand. At this point, my hiking partner and I took off our shoes and shirts, found an enormous downed tree and had a quick snack and snooze. Then it was time to march on along the beach. Looking out towards the sea stacks we thought about the expanse of the Pacific. Was the trash on the beach from Japan? Some of it seemed so.

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I opted to hike the two beautiful miles along the beach in Chacos. I tried bare feet for a few moments, but the sand was a bit too coarse for comfort. There was also a fair amount of sharp debris, kelp piles, driftwood and rocks covered in barnacles underfoot. Depending on the changing tide, there will be a few impassable headlands. You’ll have to scramble up over a big boulder or two (apparently there are ropes to assist, but we didn’t see or use them) or hike into the woods to navigate around them. These areas are evident and I found them to be easy enough to manage with an overnight pack. I thought that navigating around the series of downed trees was more exhausting, mostly because I’m short and those tree trunks are huuuge.

As you make your way around the headlands, be on the lookout for the Wedding Rocks petroglyphs. I’m sure I would have missed them if my friend hadn’t pointed them out to me. They are so amazing we thought that they might be fake, but a quick google search proved us wrong. I had seen petroglyphs in Mesa Verde, Colorado, but these were radically different not only in style (obviously) but also in size and definition. Thinking back, I wish I would have prepared myself for that moment because I would have stayed and enjoyed them longer instead of thinking I was being duped. I had expected to see small paintings, not large rock carvings. The petroglyphs were carved by the ancestors of the Makah tribe using tools made of rock and bone.

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Soon enough you’ll reach Sand Point and a whole host of campsites. We wandered around for a good bit trying to find a site that was semi-secluded, which proved to be tough since we rolled in late on a Friday evening. Although we could see other tents from our site, once the sun went down I truly forgot that anyone else was around. There was also the option to camp on the beach, but we liked the sheltered feel of the forest. If you do camp on the beach, know where the high tide line falls or you’ll wake up soaking wet. The next morning, bask in the sun and eat your breakfast on the beach before hiking the 4ish miles back to the trailhead.

Know before you go :

  • As always, Leave No Trace.
  • No pets, use of weapons, or wheeled devices on the trail.
  • Reservations and permits are required for overnight camping between May 1 and September 30 & must be made no more than 48 hours in advance. (The website said 72, but we were told 48 at the station. It may depend on the month)
  • Campfires are prohibited between the headland north of Yellow Banks and the headland at Wedding Rocks including Sand Point.
  • Only use driftwood for fires. Don’t gather firewood from the forested areas. Use existing fire rings or build fires on the beach to prevent damage to tree roots.
  • All food, garbage, and scented items must be stored in a park-approved bear canister. Bear canisters are available to rent when you pick up your permit.
  • Max group size of 12 people.

Water & waste :

  • There is a creek at Sand Point and Cape Alava, but beware that Cryptosporidium and Giardia are present in coastal streams and rivers. Bring a purification system or boil your water. Iodine is ineffective against cryptosporidium. I didn’t know that until this trip. I’ve been using iodine all my life. I ended up purchasing these chlorine dioxide tablets, which treat both Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
  • Pit toilets are available at Sand Point and Cape Alava. Elsewhere you must bury your waste and paper six or more inches deep and seventy steps from water sources and your campsite. LADIES! Always take your used toilet paper with you after you pee. It’s offensive to see it on the ground. I carry a plastic ziplock that I put all used toilet paper in. It’s that easy.

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What to pack for a day trip :

If I’m day hiking, sometimes I like to be extravagant. Wine with dinner while watching a sunset, anyone?

  • Apply sunscreen + bug spray before you leave
  • Water
  • Purifying tablets
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Knife
  • Snacks
  • Lunch or Dinner
  • Wine?
  • Sunglasses
  • Pullover
  • Rain jacket
  • Chacos
  • Camera
  • Hammock + straps
  • Headlamp

What to pack for an overnight trip :

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The food we packed :

We started later in the day after we ate lunch so we packed snacks, dinner, and breakfast for our overnighter. And wine. And weed. Relax, it’s legal in Washington.

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Mitchell Lake Trail : Summer

We like a good hike, and every once in a while we take the opportunity to slow down, take pictures, and share the adventure with you. You can check out some of our previous Colorado hikes here.

Hello from Virginia! I’m popping in to share a hike that we took a few weeks ago in mid/late July.

We hiked this same trail (and more) two times last October when there was snow on the ground and ice on the trails. You can read more about those hikes in that post, and I’m going to repost some of the general information about the Brainard Lake Recreation Area the Mitchell Lake Trailhead below.

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Trail Location

The trail starts within the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, but quickly leaves that area and continues on into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.

Brainard Lake Recreation Area is open to vehicles from June – October, but the exact opening and closing dates vary each year based on the weather. The entrance fee is on a sliding scale from $1 if you’re walking to $10/car, BUT you can access this area for free with a Nation Parks annual pass. When the area is closed during the winter, you can still park at a lot near the entrance and then enter the area by foot/ski/bike.

During the summer months, you can drive into the area and park at a number of lots. There’s a day-use lot near the main lake that often has spaces, and then there are two smaller lots near the Long Lake and Mitchell Lake trailheads, but in our experience, both of these fill up fairly early and remain packed throughout the day.

If possible, park at the Mitchell Lakes Trailhead and you’ll be able to quickly access the trail, if the lot is full, you’ll have to park in one of the other lots and walk over to the trailhead.

On this particular day, the Long Lake and Mitchell Lake parking areas were full, BUT we brought bikes! It was an easy ride from the day-use lot over to the Mitchell lot, and then we locked the bikes up by the ranger shed at the start of the trail. 

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Trail Overview

The hike to Mitchell Lake is just under a mile, and it’s another 1.6 miles to reach Blue Lake. These are both out-and-back destinations, making the round-trip hike to Mitchell approximately 1.8 miles and the hike to Blue Lake five miles. The altitude at the trailhead is approximately 10,500 ft, with a gradual climb of just 200 ft to Mitchell Lake and then reaching a final altitude of 11,300 ft at Blue Lake.

On this particular hike, we only made it to Mitchell lake, but last fall, we made it all the way to Blue Lake (on our second try!).

This is a popular, well-worn trail that is easily visible when there isn’t much snow on the ground, and was relatively well marked with flashes on the trees..

Near the base of the trail, hiking is relatively easy with that slow, gradual climb to Mitchell Lake. There is one large stream-crossing over a short wooden bridge, and then another crossing over a wider stream with fallen logs used as the bridge. In other segments, planks are used to keep hikers out of boggy areas.

If you go beyond Mitchell Lake, there are some steep areas where climbing the rocks is similar to climbing a steep set of stairs, with an increase in the portion of steep climbs as you approach Blue Lake.

Last fall, there was some snow on the trail that had been tramped down and turned to ice, making some areas slick. This summer there was no risk of snow on the trail, but there were plenty of mucky spots and mud puddles. 

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Hiking with Kids

Last fall I said that young kids (4 to 8 year olds) should be able to hike to Mitchell Lake with minimal help but would likely need help making the full trek to Blue Lake. Older kids 8+ should have no trouble with the full hike. Those estimates were based upon the kids we saw on the trails as we hiked. Seeing 4 year-old Alex run along the trail to Mitchell Lake this summer, I think that we were right on target with the lower range.

One big difference between our October and July hikes was the muck! As you can see, we had (almost) no reservations about letting them go wild.

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Dressing for the Trail

At this time of year (and almost any time!), it was really helpful to dress in light layers. Since it was summer, our base layer consisted of tank tops and shorts for the boys, with a hoodie for more coverage. 

I think the key to relaxing on this hike was recognizing that there was going to be muck and being prepared to let the boys play in it with wild abandon. Both boys wore their water shoes, which were perfect for this short hike. We let the boys get wet, jump in mud puddles, and generally disregarded the rules of hiking concerning good socks and dry shoes. If you’re going out for a longer hike and have kids with sensitive feet, water shoes may not be appropriate. 

And don’t forget sunscreen! While there are some segments with plenty of shade, there is a lot of sun shining on much of the trail.

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If you’re in the Boulder area, this hike and the whole Indian Peaks area is definitely worth your time. Just know that everyone else loves the area too, so try to get there early before the lots fill up. Good luck!

On this hike we realized that by 2pm on a summer afternoon the lots are starting to open up. If you’re going for a short hike like this one, that’s still a great time to head out, with the added benefit that you won’t have the strong mid-day sun shining on you.

Even so, facing the crowds is totally worth it to hike (or re-hike) the trails around Brainard Lake. This is such a beautiful area, and it’s such a pleasure to see the trails change with the seasons.

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Hike McAfee Knob

If you want to see more of our outdoor adventure posts, click here! And if you’re interested, you can learn more about my experience volunteering on the Appalachian Trail.

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McAfee Knob is one of the most photographed views on the Appalachian Trail. From McAfee Knob, you’ll see a nearly 270-degree panorama of Catawba Valley, North Mountain, Tinker Cliffs and the Roanoke Valley. I hiked McAfee’s as a day hike, but there are numerous shelters and campsites along the trail. If you plan it right, you can catch sunrise or sunset on the knob, which would make for some incredible images.

In my opinion, McAfee Knob is the perfect day hike. You get a big payoff for only a slightly strenuous hike 8.8 round trip hike and there’s an option to make it a loop. You’ll climb about 1,700 feet in elevation over 4.4 miles. I wore these sneakers and my feet were more than happy. On a clear day, the views are said to be the best in the Southern Shenandoah Valley. Pack a hammock and a lunch or a single beer like we did, and hang out at the top for a long while.

This hike is about twenty minutes outside of Roanoke. Park in the McAfee’s Knob parking area. Though the trail is well worn and populated, snap a photo of the map on the information board before crossing the road and beginning the hike. Follow the white A.T. (Appalachian Trail) blazes as the trail winds its way upwards. You’ll pass a couple shelters and campsites along the way. Eventually, you’ll cross an old fire road and a power line clearing. The blazes pick up again on the other side of the clearing and after only a quarter mile more you’ll see the first good view of Catawba Valley. Another half mile up the trail and you’ll see the McAfee Knob Spur Trail. Turn left and almost immediately you’ll see amazing views.

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McAfee Knob extends noticeably beyond the rest of the cliffs and there’s no way you can miss the line of people taking photos there. We walked past the crowds and explored the cliffs a little further until we found a comfortable rock bench from which to sit, chill and enjoy the view. If you have the time (and the snacks) stay until sunset. On the way back take the fire road for a much easier path down to the parking lot. You’ll also skim about a half mile off the adventure that way.

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What to pack :

  • Water – I only saw one spring on the trail. Pre-hydrate by drinking about a liter of water before the hike as well.
  • Camera
  • Hammock + straps
  • Headlamp
  • Camera
  • Snacks

 

Rules on rules :

  • No camping or campfires on McAfee Knob or Tinker Cliffs
  • Leave No Trace
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed (although we saw a few off-leash, which is always nice)
  • No alcohol
  • No drones
  • Max group hike size : 25
  • Max backpacking group size : 10
  • If camping : There are only 7 designated camping areas. Know before you go!

 

McAfee Knob is a very popular hike. I’m sure we bumped into nearly 50-75 other hikers along the trail and at the vista. That being said, the viewpoint and rock outcroppings are immense and there was room for everyone at the top. I noticed folks being really courteous about moving out of the way for photographs as well. I was also pleased to see that the trail and knob were mostly free of litter. Please remember to follow Leave No Trace hiking etiquette here and everywhere else.

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Postcards from CA

A few weeks ago we went to CA for our annual 4th of July vacation. Today I’m sharing a few postcards from the trip.

Sprinkled among our days around the lake were a few beautiful hikes, many opportunities to walk on snow, and (as always) views that took our breath away.

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Colorado Roadtrip : Great Sand Dunes

You can find more of our Colorado adventures here, and if you like travel posts, we have a lot! We took this road trip in our *new* van (can’t wait to tell you more about it); this post gives you a little overview of what we pack in the van. And here are some of our basic tips for camping with kids.

Earlier this month, we went on a five-day road trip to south west Colorado. It’s a part of the state we haven’t explored, but had heard great things about. We set out excited to experience the beautiful San Juan mountain range. Let me spill the beans right now: this trip was awesome (I’m writing this about a week after the trip, and we’re still talking about it). We loved the scenery, the hot springs, and the towns we visited.

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This is going to be a two-post report. In this post I’m going to share photos and from the first bit of our trip that was spent in Great Sand Dunes National Park, and in the second post I’ll share photos from our visits to Pagosa Springs and Ouray.

We left after work on Tuesday and drove until we reached Great Sand Dunes (it was sometime after midnight). Rather than head straight to the park, we took the rocky and bUMpY 20 minute ride to Zapata Falls, camping there for the night. When we woke up in the morning, the view was breathtaking! From high on the hill, you could look down and see the sand dunes with the mountains in the background. Don’t you love waking up to a surprise like that? roadtrip2

We were so excited to get to the dunes that we had breakfast, stretched our legs, and then got back in the car and headed into the park. Sadly, we didn’t take the time to hike to the actual falls at Zapata Falls. That’ll have to wait for our next visit!

Campground

But, our timing was perfect, because we drove into the park, took a quick stop at the visitor’s center, and then took a drive through the unreserved campground and were able to snag a spot as someone was checking out! I definitely think timing was on our side, there seemed to be daily-turnover in the park midweek, but then as we were checking out Thursday morning, it seemed like everyone coming in had plans to stay through the weekend.
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The Dunes

After securing the spot, we drove straight over to the sand dunes. We knew we wanted to hike on them, and everyone warns that it’s best done either earlier in the morning or later in the evening – times when the sun isn’t shining as bright and the dunes are cooler.

As you can see in the photo above, we came early enough in the season so that the water (from snowmelt) was still flowing through the park. This creek dries up by late June, and I’m sure that would create a much different (hotter/dryer/dustier) visit. I’ll share a few more pics of our time near the water later in the post. First, we just crossed it on our way to the dunes.

And those dunes are spectacular. It’s such a mind-bending experience to see these large (largest in North America!) dunes at the base of the granite mountains. From some angles you could see the mountains, and from others you just saw sand and blue skies.

If you look closely in the photo below, you can see people hiking off in the distance, and it helps to give you some perspective of the size of the dunes. roadtrip5 roadtrip6 roadtrip7 roadtrip8

We set out on our walk not having high expectations for how far we’d get (that’s the best mindset you can have with two little guys in two)… but I secretly think that both Calder and I were hoping we’d make it to the top!

We were prepared with both a larger hiking pack to hold the big kid and the ergo to hold the smaller kid. There were times when the boys were in their packs and there were times when they were out, and step by step we made progress until we made it to the top!

It was hard work, guys. About 2 hours of hard work. Every step you took involved some sinking into the sand and sliding slightly backwards.  roadtrip9 roadtrip10 roadtrip11

As you can see in the photo above, we carried along cardboard in the hopes of sledding down the dunes. Many friends told us that this worked for them. It definitely didn’t work for us. I’m not sure what went wrong, but we had the most success just sitting on our bums and doing a slow slide down the steeper sides of the dunes.

Dune Shoes : And, as mentioned above, the dunes do get hot. I wore sneakers, while Alex and Calder both had slip-on summer shoes. I saw lots of other hikers with sandals and flipflops. Honestly, I’m not sure what kind of shoe is best. The boys had trouble with sand getting into their shoes, and so did I! I didn’t expect it with my sneakers, but sand was sneaking in through the mesh fabric of the shoes. It even got stuck between the layers of fabric, and for about a week, it would slowly weasel its way out as I wore the shoes. But the sandals and flipflops also seem like don’t offer enough protection from the hot sand. Who knows, you just have to pick your poison. roadtrip12

After our hike, we were worn out and starving, so we headed back to the campsite for an easy ramen and eggs lunch, and then naps (for everyone!).

The Water

Post naps, we headed back over to the dunes, and spent a couple of hours near the water. The boys had a great time play in the sand and wading in the water while C and I had a chance to relax and enjoy the view.

Can you spot the deer in the photo below?! roadtrip13 roadtrip14 roadtrip15

Then it was back to the campsite for marshmallows, stories, and an early bedtime.
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Etc.

Just a few additional observations and hearsay about Great Sand Dunes :

  • sledding down the dunes : As I mentioned, many people told us to pack cardboard for sledding. That didn’t work at all for us. Maybe it will for you? We also saw people sledding and “surfing” on boards rented in the park. They look like fun, but you have to want to carry them up the dunes.
  • mosquitoes : We had no trouble with mosquitoes, but have heard from others that they can be overwhelming in June.
  • hiking : In addition to the dunes, there are many other hiking trails. We didn’t venture out on any, but would love to on a future visit.
  • campground store : There’s a nice little campground store that carries a wide variety of items. We stopped in one night for ice and firewood and saw that they also carried ice cream and avocados. Great store!
  • shade tents : many families brought shade tents to the water area, and that looked like a great idea if you planned to stay all day (it seemed like many people treated it like a beach day).
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Sydney Coastal Walk


You’ve spent a few days in Sydney and you’re ready for adventure. The Coastal Walk is the best way to stay close to the city center while enjoying a bit of nature and getting some exercise in. If you go about completing the entire walk from Coogee to Bondi it’s about six km and will take you anywhere from two to three hours, but I recommend packing a little beach backpack, starting in the morning and seeing where your day takes you.  Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities for side quests. You can challenge yourself by scrambling over boulders, refresh yourself by taking a swim in various tidal pools and beaches and of course there are plenty of places to stop and eat and drink throughout your journey. 


Like most of our travel posts on Live Seasoned, we like to give you a general idea for your day or adventure, but leave the details up to you. For that reason, I’ll point out a few of my favorite places to take a dip and grab a bite to eat, but otherwise, the world is your oyster. Pack your bag, slather on some sunscreen and have one of the most beautiful walks of your life. The Coastal Walk is not to be missed. I trotted along this path five days in a row never tiring of the scenery. 



Before I ventured to the coast, I was under the impression that it would take up a full day, which it certainly can, but I didn’t realize you could hop on and off the walk, take a bus to one area and then walk or uber to another, the possibilities really are endless. On my final day in Sydney I decided to walk north from Coogee to Bondi and then turn around and walk all the way back. With ample rest and refresh time throughout it was quite an easy walk and the perfect final day on the eastern coast. This walk is suitable for young and old alike, beginners and uber fit altheletes, it’s really perfect for everyone.


What to pack:

  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle 
  • Sunglasses
  • Sneakers (it can be done in sandals)
  • Camera
  • Turkish towel or sarong




Highlights:

Take a dip in the rock enclosed tidal pool near Coogee. After you cool off, scramble over sandstone boulders, sunbathe by the sea and brave the incoming tidal waves. 

Now it’s time to begin the walk, head north to Gordan’s Bay and enjoy the pristine views. 

Take a seat in the shade at Bundock Park for a little rest while you watch the surf lap along a collection of rocks, fondly referred to at Wedding Cake Point, way out in the ocean, don’t worry, you’ll see them. 

After a little refresh, it’s time to head further north towards Clovelly Beach. If the rough Sydney surf intimidates you, the Clovelly ocean pool is the perfect solution. Swim a few laps, drip dry on the sunbathing deck and then pop into Sea Salt cafe for a little snack. 

After a nibble, prepare yourself for Shark’s Point, a massive rock cliff that is sure to take your breath away. Sit and meditate here for a moment before walking on towards Clovelly Bowling and Recreation Club where you should certainly buy a drink to enjoy in the air conditioned event ballroom that overlooks the ocean. 

Once you’ve had a proper break and you’re all cooled down, walk through Waverly Cemetery towards Nelson’s Bay and Bronte Beach. Bronte baths is another nice seaside salt pool for swimming and lounging or you can head to Bronte Road, the street behind and parallel to the beach and park, for a lunch prepared with fresh ingredients. Over the course of the week, I ate at Jenny’s & Bronte Bela and both were yummy.

The next section of the walk, between Bronte and Tamarama is absolutely gorgeous so really take your time on the cliff and cave section and do some exploring.


 Round Mackenzies Point and  enjoy the final stretch to Bondi Beach. Bondi is a surfer’s paradise and you’ll likely see hundreds in the water at any one time. After strolling past the beautifully painted cement wall that separates the grass and sand at Bondi, stop at Lush Cafe to reward yourself with a snack and libations.

You could easily end the night here by watching a movie in the park or grabbing dinner at one of the dozens of restaurants on Campbell Parade, but if you’re up for it, you could also stroll back once you’re feeling refreshed.


If you decide to walk back, which you should because the sun hasn’t set yet, end your night at Coogee Pavilion. It’s an enormous restaurant with multiple bars and a ton of game and play areas for families downstairs and lots more ocean view seating upstairs for a calmer chill, outdoor garden type of vibe.

After dinner and drinks, you’ll probably have to crawl back to the car, but I know it was worth it.

Pack a bag, tie up those trainers and hop on the coastal walk and remember, jumping off the path occasionally makes the experience last longer and fuels you for that next flight of stairs so take my suggestions and nibble, drink, meditate, swim and play along the way. Enjoy!

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Why You Should Volunteer

I’ve been volunteering my time quite a bit lately and as always, it feels wonderful. I’m republishing this post in hopes that you’ll research a new volunteering opportunity in your area and field of interest. If you have any experience volunteering or suggestions for others, throw them in the comments.

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Happy Monday!  Over a year ago, when Katie and I started this blog, we had intended for our Mondays to be inspiring.  We thought, what better to read on a Monday morning than something that will amp you up for the rest of the week or at the very least, make your Monday a bit better.  We’ve strayed a little bit from that scheduling because we realized we have so much to share in all spheres, but today we’re going back to our roots and inspiring you to help out a little. You know, volunteer a few hours or a few days, whatever you can. Today I’m sharing my two cents on why you should volunteer followed by a recap of my recent volunteer experience on the Appalachian Trail that includes a remembrance of our dear hiking friend.

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Winter (Van) Camping

We like to get outside every chance we get, whether it’s a quick run, a day-long hike, or a weekend camping trip. You can see all of our outdoor adventures here, and more of our Colorado hikes here.

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Last weekend we packed up the van and headed into Rocky Mountain National Park for an overnight adventure! Since winter camping is not a common past time, especially if you have little kids, I thought I’d share some details about our adventure, and hopefully encourage you to take off into the snowy mountains for a weekend of fun.

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Like Haiyaha Hike

We like a good hike, and every once in a while we have the chance to hike slow, take pictures, and share the adventure with you. You can check out some of our previous Colorado hikes here.

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These are photos from a hike that we took a few months ago, and I just happened to find them here in an unpublished post. I was so sure that I wrote about this hike, but a few searches finally convinced me that I’m crazy.

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Sticky Waterfall – Bua Tong

During my adventures, I’m often captivated by the natural beauty I witness. I’ve felt the sudden and overwhelming need to hug trees, lay down in the dirt, and literally salute the sun, but every once in a while there is a place that leaves me in complete aw. A place so magical that I know I will visit again because I must show someone else the wonder. Bua Tong is that place. All afternoon I felt dumbstruck. How is it possible that this type of beauty exists in nature? I felt like I was transported to Neverland, there was just no way that what I was seeing and experiencing was real. Was I asleep? Did someone slip me acid? Am I in a storybook? Nope, the earth is really this amazing and I had the opportunity to experience it.  Let me attempt at explaining what I experienced at Bua Tong although surely no words or images will come close.

What is Bua Tong, the sticky waterfall? As unbelievable as it sounds, it’s just that. It’s sticky not slick, so one is able to walk quite easily up and down the slope of it even with water rushing by. What makes it this way? An abundance of calcium carbonate runoff.  Calcium carbonate is commonly found in Limestone, which is what lies under the thick deposits that you see covering the falls. Even though I briefly researched the waterfall (I didn’t look at any photos) before visiting, it didn’t prepare me for the experience.


Walking up a waterfall. How absurd. That’s what I thought while reading about Bua Tong. Once I arrived, I stripped down and slathered on sunscreen all the while keeping my eyes on the handful of people walking up the falls. They were making it look so easy, but they looked athletic and young, surely it was harder than it appeared. Then it was time to try it for myself, I braced myself, felt my core tighten and prepared to face plant as I took my first step. Complete shock and amazement washed over me as I took one step and then another upwards through the rushing water. With my mouth hanging open and my eyes wide, I looked around at my friends, ‘are you seeing this!?,’ is what I’m sure my expression read. Pure bliss and bewilderment followed me around the rest of the afternoon and I climbed up and down, up and down, all around  Bua Tong. The mineral deposits look like white, cloud-like  sponges and actually feel similar though a little bit harder and slightly pricky, the surface even gives slightly under a firm touch.  There were a few patches that were slick, but it is because the calcium carbonate was covered with a mossy slime. These spots are easy to see and avoid.


In the company of only about two dozen other travelers, Bua Tong had truly felt like one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever visited. Usually while traveling you’re forced to share the magic, but here it was all our own. As I looked around, I saw that most people had carved out a little space on the waterfall’s slope to sit in the sun and marvel at where their life had brought them. It was only a few minutes later that I joined my best friend, Natasha, on a sunny log in the middle of the rushing current to simply be. As I lay meditating, tiny tickles of what I thought were mosquitoes kept dragging me back to the outer world. It was in the midst of one of these tickling sensations that I opened my eyes and realized, it wasn’t mosquitos at all, but dozens of colorful butterflies. I closed my eyes again, determined to be at peace with each coming sensation. As I reflected on my weeks in Thailand, the friends in my company, my path in general, I had the overwhelming feeling of gratitude that materialized as a single teardrop from each eye. Life is beautiful. There is magic everywhere and I have so much to be grateful for, sometimes it takes a trip to never never land to remind you that every single day is a gift to be cherished and spent wisely, whether you’re climbing a sticky waterfall or navigating your work week.


Are you ready for a spiritual awakening? Kidding, but here are more details on how to reach Bua Tong and what to experience while you’re there.

What to pack:

  • Money for gas and snacks
  • Bathing suit
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Book
  • Camera
  • Dry bag/waterproof bag if you have one
  • Long sleeve or sweatshirt (the ride home will be a little chilly)

 

How to get there:

Located over an hour outside of Chiang Mai, Bua Tong isn’t on the beaten tourist track, but still worth a visit. We rented motorbikes for the duration of our stay in Chiang Mai, which costs roughly 200-300b per day. I personally enjoy driving and navigating through crazy Thai traffic, but to some this may seem dangerous or unappealing. If you are in the latter group, you can ask your guesthouse or a tour operator for a songtaue to Bua Tong, but because it’s so far outside the city, it will be kinda pricy for Thai travel standards. I would find a cool crew the day before and convince them that they need to join you on this quest, that will surely reduce the price of the songtaue. If you’re in the former and you’re down to drive a motorbike, download either the app maps.me or google maps and download the northern Thailand map, while you have wifi that way you’ll have to problem navigating to Bua Tong. It really isn’t too tough and once you are about twenty minutes outside Chiang Mai, the traffic really slows down. I think driving the motorbikes to and from Bua Tong really added to the adventure and it was nice exploring the falls at our own pace instead of knowing a songtaue driver was waiting around for us.
What to explore :

Obviously you came for the sticky waterfall. If I were you, I’d take the stairs all the way to the bottom, stash your bag on a log (most people left their bags near the bottom of the falls unattended, I did the same and didn’t worry about my $3,000+ camera once, but do what feels comfortable to you) and start the climb up. Find a nice space to sun yourself midway or hike all the way to the top in one go. Now it’s time to hike down. Slightly scary, but equally easy. There are several ropes along the way to offer support in tricky areas  and ensure your decent is safe. Don’t you dare chicken out and take the stairs back down. You only live once. Once back at the bottom, continue a little further than the bag drop area where the stairs end. You’ll find another smaller waterfall with a shallow plunge pool at the bottom. Submerge yourself and dig your toes down into the soft, glittery sand, you did it.


After you’ve had your fill of the waterfall, hike back up to the tip and explore the natural seven colored fountain. Even if you’re famished and tired (we were both) you can make it to the fountain. It’s less than a five minute walk and it’s a wooden boardwalk the entire way. You’ll be amazed at how insanely clear the water is and you’ll enjoy leafy jungle views on the way to and from.

There’s also another short hike depicted on a large wooden sign near the entrance to the fountain trail, we decided against it only because we were sure to die of hunger (or morph into hangry demons) at any moment. We contemplated buying a snack from the small restaurant on site and then completing the hike, but we wanted to have time to stop on the road for a late lunch and return to Chiang Mai before dark.


Where to eat & stay:

On the way back to Chiang Mai, we stopped at the loveliest little guesthouse and restaurant. If we had more time, we certainly would have stayed the night. The guest house is called Howiman or Horwiman. You pull off the road across from Lhongkhoa Resort and head straight down the dirt hill, you’ll immediately see a grouping of dark wooden buildings on the left and you’ll probably hear a yapping little dog, and you’ll know you’re in the right place. If we could have stayed and drank our Chiangs in frosty mugs all evening we totally would have. Next time I visit Bua Tong I will.  


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