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We decided to get out of LA for a weekend of hiking at Grand Canyon. From LA, it took us roughly 6-7 hours to get to Williams, AZ on a Friday night. There, we spent the night at a motel and in the morning we got up early to go hiking! This was our first national park hike of the year so we were so excited! Looking back, we probably should’ve prepped our bodies just a little more because the hiking at Grand Canyon was NO EASY ADVENTURE. Different Hiking Trails in Grand Canyon include: Rim Trail, Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, Hermit Trail, Grand View Trail. We decided on doing the South Kaibab Trail.

Tips on hiking the South Kaibab Trail (pdf):

1. Parking: While the park recommends that you park at the Visitor’s Center, there is a little parking lot at Yaki Point (the beginning of the trail). The plus side of parking there is that you don’t have to wait for the free shuttle. However, the upside of parking at the Visitor’s Center is there are clean restrooms there. Something to think about if you’re going to spend 6 hours hiking.

2. Steep: This hike is very steep! The first half was very easy seeing that you’re going downhill for most of it. But the second half is KILLER.

3.Points:

Ooh Ahh Point: This point comes up very quickly. On the day we went, the weather was beautiful and had mild temperatures. We were able to go past this point and continue on. However, the BF and his friends got to this point 3 summers ago on a very hot day and this was their turn around point. Consider the weather before you go on.

Cedar Ridge: Most day hikers seemed to stop at Cedar Ridge. There is a port-o-potty there and it’s a great place to rest. Lots of hikers stopped to eat and rest at this point. The view is gorgeous here. The return hike up is tough at this point, so consider that if you are hiking with small children.

Skeleton Point: This is our farthest point. The park does not recommend hiking from Rim to River in one day. We hiked for 6 hours round trip (including picnic lunch) and we barely saw a tiny section of the Colorado River from this point. I can only imagine how much farther it would have been. On the day we went, this section of the trail was pretty empty.

4. Bring Water and Salty Foods! I can’t stress this one enough. I saw a lot of new hikers with little tiny bottles of water. The park recommends 1/2 to 1 liter of water an hour per person. Between the 2 of us on a mild day, we brought 5 bottles of water and we drank it all! I can’t imagine what it’s like in the middle of summer. Also, it’s always good to carry some food. It makes for a nice picnic overlooking the view. But, most importantly, you need to recharge. Bring some trail mix or sandwiches. You’ll thank me later.

Additional Reading and Resources:
Hiking Tips- Grand Canyon National Park

The BF has been talking about Grand Canyon forEVER. For the longest time, I really was just not that interested in going at all. I mean everyone already has a picture of standing in front of a giant hole. How great can it be?
Let me tell you.

Great.

A few general tips on visiting Grand Canyon:

1. South Rim and North Rim: There are two major parts of Grand Canyon. The South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim (the most popular area) is open all year round. The North Rim is at the southern end of the Kaibab Plateauonly and it is only open in the summer seasons (open May 15, 2010).

2. Hike: We love hiking! This trip was our first hike of the season and we were super excited. However, if you visit their website, they have a whole section on tips and warnings about hiking Grand Canyon in the summer. We’re pretty good hikers, but it was really good that we took a lot of their warnings seriously and brought a lot of water. Between 2 people, we brought 5 liters of water for one of the more moderate hikes. It was not a hot day and we still finished all 5 liters easily. Also, there are lots of people who think they can hike from rim to rim (South Rim and North Rim) in one day. Be very prepared with all the hiking necessities and be in very good shape. Read up on the warnings on the website. This is not easy.

3. Lodging: We tried to get lodging in the park, but it was sold out really fast! Do this early! We ended up staying in nearby towns,  Williams and Flagstaff. For some reason, we love staying at Super 8 hotels. For no other reason than that’s our budget road trip motel of choice.

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Last week, I surprised the BF with a trip to Joshua Tree National Park for his birthday. The day started off a little rocky when I picked up a little bit of a stomach ache, but the day turned out to be more perfect than I could have imagined.

Things to do at Joshua Tree

1. Key’s View: This very short .2 mile walk up the side of a ridge gave us an opportunity to see a panoramic view of the San Andreas fault, Cochella, Palm Springs, and Mexico. How’s that for seeing all the sights? We ended up bringing our packed lunch and parking ourselves on a bench.

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2. Ryan Mountain: The park ranger at the West Entrance suggested that we check out a short hike at Ryan Mountain. From there, you can see the Colorado desert and the Mojave (?) desert on the other side. It wasn’t the most beautiful hike I’ve seen, but I think that perhaps I’m just not as into desert hikes. However, since it’s a short hike (3 miles ), it’ll still be worth your time.

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2. Skull Rock/ Jumbo Rocks: The rock formations are beautiful here. It’s amazing to see how rocks can form into these large round shapes. Nothing you’d expect in the middle of a desert. You almost feel like you’re in a movie with the way you’re surrounded by these globs of rock.

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3. Cholla Cactus Garden: We hit this place by sunset and it was definitely the best way to end our day trip. A rather strange looking cactus garden seemingly just pops out of no where! It really made you wonder how Mother Nature plans these things. There’s a warning sign on the front warning visitors not to touch the cactus b/c they’re poisonous. From the looks of it, it’s a pretty good idea.

There were so many other places to see that I’m certain I’ll be back especially since it’s only 2.5 hours from Los Angeles. On our way there, we stopped by Cabazon Outlets for a quick shopping trip and on our way back we hit the prime rib buffet at Morongo Indian Casino. It was definitely a fun-filled day trip!

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UPDATE:  Congrats to the winners, Denise, Alice, and Nancy!

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This week I’m giving away THREE copies of Fodor’s Thailand Guide with side trips to Cambodia and Laos, 11th Edition.   It has tons of gorgeous full color pictures and would be a great  resource to have! Check out the “8 Essential Experiences” to have in Thailand on Fodor’s.

Thailand

If you’ve seen the movie The Beach, you’ll know exactly how gorgeous Thailand is! Interested in winning? In the comments section, share with me which movie has you dreaming about a destination! Giveaway ends this Friday at 8pm pst.

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Check out these amazing pictures of Milford Sound, New Zealand from Kevin W. I didn’t even realize this place existed before I saw these pictures and now I have to go!!!

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*all pictures credited to Kevin W. please do not copy pictures without permission

Additional Reading and Resources

Milford Sound- Fiordland.org.nz

Milford Sound- Wikipedia.com

Milford Sound- NZescape.com

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Just read this interesting New York Times interview with Ben Bachelder a contributor to Digihitch.com. Personally, I would never consider hitchhiking because I’m a big wussy, but would you? Sounds like a great adventure, huh?

Q: First things first. Is hitchhiking dangerous?

A: Yes. But I’ve got to qualify that. It’s dangerous in the sense that you’re putting your life, your trust, in someone else’s hands. But that could also be said for a lot of other things: like your trusting that the cars are going to stop at a stop sign when you’re crossing the street; your trusting that the pilots are not going to fall asleep at the stick of the plane…

Check out the full interview here.

Additional Reading and Resources

Digihitch.com- Hitchhiking, backpacking & Budget Travel

Hitchhikers.org-The worldwide hitchhikers agency

The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide- Douglas Adams (Book)


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The BF and I recently went to Seattle, WA to attend a wedding. Since I’ve never been there before, I made sure that we saw as much as I could in the one free day we had. It turns out that the very chill Seattle is a great city! We hit a lot of must see tourist sites and ate at a lot of local places.

Tips for Seattle in One Day:

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1. Breakfast at Macrina Bakery & Cafe: We had to wait 40 minutes to eat at this little breakfast/brunch spot, but we figured that it must be worth it if the locals are waiting for it. The savory egg sandwich served with roasted potatoes is surprisingly tasty! We also had the French toast which is served with a side of chicken sausage. Definitely a popular item on the menu.

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2. Pike Place Market: Of course, no first-time visit to Seattle can go without a trip to Pike Public Market. A lively market place with fresh seafood (to be eaten or tossed in the air), it’s a great place to do some light grazing. Hit Piroshky’s Piroshky for a potato and mushroom stuffed bun and then meander your way to the first original Starbucks for a latte (it’s the one that’s crowded with tourist!).  Afterwards, with a cup o’ joe in hand, strike up a conversation with the local artist selling their craft or smell bouquet after bouquet of freshly cut pink peonies. It’s a great place to spend a few hours by the water.

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3. Underground Tour: Full? Walk off it off in a 90 minute underground tour of Seattle’s past.   The tour guide spiels out a very informative history of Seattle’s past when the city burnt down and the city decided to just built a new city right on top. Was it the most amazing tour ever? Probably not. There’s only a few ghost stories and a few deteriorating store signs, but we all agreed it was interesting to learn a little bit of history and see a unique piece of Seattle’s past., especially for $15.

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4. The Harvest Vine: After a long day of walking around, we ended the day with a lovely dinner at The Harvest Vine. This Spanish/Basque restuarant dishes organic/ free-range/no-antibiotic/no-hormones tapas. Just take a look at the picture. Pork belly doesn’t get any sexier than that.

Additional Reading and Resources:

Travel and Outdoors- Seattle Times

36 Hours in Seattle- NYTimes

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Arches

At the last minute, we decided to skip Monument Valley and drive out to Arches National Park. Afterall, how can we leave Utah without seeing the Arch??

Hiking Trails at Arches National Park:

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1. Delicate Arch (Long): This really isn’t a tough hike at all. However, I venture to guess that on a hot day, this could be very difficult since there’s no shade anywhere on the way up! Personally, I would’ve considered this an easy-moderate hike since a good deal of it was flat. Other recommended long hikes: Fiery Furnace, Double Os, Devil’s Garden

2. Moderate Hikes: We actually drove through Park Avenue. I’m not sure what this hike is like on foot, but I’m sure it would be gorgeous in the morning and at sunset.

3. Balanced Rock: See below… you’ve got to see this in person.

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Zion National Park is relatively close to Bryce Canyon National Park, but it couldn’t be any more different. While Bryce had its beautiful hoodoos, Zion had magnificent mountains. I would randomly snap pictures on the camera while the car was moving and this is what I’d get:

DSC00203FREAKEN AMAZING!!!!

Anyhow, we only spent half a day at Zion, so we did one hike and moved on. It was a gorgeous day for hiking! We huffed and puffed up Angel’s Landing, a 5-mile strenuous hike takes about 4 hours to complete.

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Tips for Hiking Angel’s Landing

1. Strenuous– Angel’s Landing is mostly paved but can be difficult for people who are new to hiking. It can be very difficult on a hot day since it’s all uphill (duh). A lot of people stop at the landing right before the last half mile. It looks like a very daunting and slightly frightening vertical hike, but it really isn’t that bad. The most difficult part of it is navigating your way up in a single person pathway. Don’t be scared! The view is well worth it!

2. Water- Bring water. Bring lots of water. You’ll need it!

3. Bring a light lunch- The weather was so gorgeous and the view so breathtaking! I packed a very light lunch and we had a picnic on top of the mountain. Highly recommended.

One last picture: DSC00172

SO AMAZING!!!!!!

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After a 4 day road trip through the beautiful and colorful state of Utah, I’m back! Our trip went something like this: drive 6 hours, attempt sleeping in a teepee only to realize it’s warmer to sleep in a car, hike through muddy hoodoos, hike a mountain, drive through natural “monuments” at sunset, star-gazing in pitch black darkness, trek through red rock canyons and pass out from exhaustion.  For four days, we did a TON and it was incredibly cheap! We went into this trip knowing that we were going to be as cheap as humanly possible, but we still had a really great time! This is a highly recommended trip for families, active groups, and couples who are looking for a budget trip.

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Ways to Stay Within Your Budgets:

1. Car Rentals: Everyday, I put a bid on a car on Priceline.com. Since you can only submit one bid per day (w/o changing anything), I started at $8 and worked my way up. Truthfully, I couldn’t get a super ridiculously cheap deal, so I ended up with Hotwire.com. My rental car was still only $15 per day! After taxes, it came up to be around $22. Not bad!

2. Food- Meals at the grocery store: Honestly, we didn’t have very high expectations for great food on this trip. Perhaps if we were in Salt Lake City it would’ve been different, but since we knew we would be on the road most of the time we went to the grocery store a lot. We ate a lot of beef jerkey, deli sliced turkey, baguettes, tomates, bananas, and water. Our best meal was at a Denny’s at the Arizona/Nevada border! Consider your destination and you can probably save some money going to the grocery store.

3. National Parks and Federal Recreation Land Pass– otherwise known as an annual pass for all the national parks in the US. It’s only $80 and it covers the cost of one car entry fee. I almost broke even and I’m pretty sure I”ll be hitting a few more national parks in the next few months! It was a no-brainer for me. $10 for Seniors.

4. Request an economy car: Enterprise tried to hand me off an SUV despite the fact that I requested an economy car when I made the reservation. I insisted that they honor the reservation and waited for a economy car. After 2 hours, I decided to ask them to throw in some sort of freebie for the inconvenience. Initially, the rep refused and I had made up my mind to call corporate to file a complaint. However, he came around and threw in half a tank of gas for free. Lesson of the story? Don’t be scared to ask.  We saved $20 for the half tank of gas and $100+ for the extra gas we would have paid if we accepted the SUV.

Locations: Bryce National Park, Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Natural Bridges

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