“May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits.”
Since moving to California I found my passion for hiking. When living in Florida there are no mountains and also the weather is usually too hot to do such outdoor activity. So my favorite store when moving to California became REI 🙂 I felt like a kid in a candy shop, buying backpacking equipment and hiking gear and emergency blankets (Ulli rolling his eyes). I even became a real geek in taking an adventure class at the local REI shop (yep –you can make fun of me). So I’ve been exploring different hikes in the area, Palm Springs, San Diego and San Bernadino. The most famous peak and the highest mountain in the contiguous United States is Mount Whitney with 14,505 feet (4,421m). It’s located in the Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and connected by a scenic highway in Death Valley. When you google Mount Whitney hiking to the peak, it is recommended that you do a backpacking trip over 3 days so your body can adjust to the high altitude. You also need to apply for a permit as there are only a limited number of permits allowed (I believe 200 per day). When Ulli heard about it he decided he wanted to do a hike/run in 1 day to the top by himself. I loved the idea of hiking this mountain, but would have preferred a multi-day backpacking trip. However, this was not “challenging enough” for my husband. So when we got the permit for May 31, I was excited and anxious to go with him. We arrived in the small town of Lone Pine at 8pm as this is the closest town to the mountain. We picked up our permit from the ranger station and after dinner at the local Chinese restaurant (that was the “healthiest” choice in town) we checked in at the Best Western hotel. We prepared all of our gear what to take on the trip with us the next day. The most difficult part was to decide what to pack – as we wanted it to be as light as possible to move quickly, but also needed some basics like food, extra clothing layers, emergency supplies, headlamp, and water. We got to bed early as we had a very early start planned.
Fun Fact: Yosemite became the 3rd national park in the US (after Yellowstone and Sequoia) on Oct I, 1890. So in honor of Yosemite’s birthday month I’m reminiscing about our last adventure in April and hope to get you inspired to plan a trip there. If you haven’t been; you’re missing out on enchanting forests, gigantic sequoia trees, unique rock formations such as Half Dome and El Capitan and the tallest waterfall in North America. It’s really a magical and peaceful place to unwind and explore.
Catalina Island is beautiful. It’s like having “little Hawaii” in my backyard. There are no cars allowed on Catalina Island and it’s very serene and laid back. We’ve been there before, but this time I wanted to do a kayak camping trip. You can reserve your own little private cove in advance online, but it’s been a challenge to find what the cove looks like – as there are rarely pictures online. I decided on Paradise Cove –with that name it can’t be wrong. 🙂 Ulli and I packed our backpacks with tent, sleeping bags, food, water, snorkeling gear and off we went on the ferry early Saturday morning. It’s about 1 hour 15 min ferry ride from Long Beach to Two Harbors. This is the more remote side of the island (the other side is Avalaon). When we got there we had already made reservations for our tandem kayak and packed up our belongings on the kayak. We wrapped them in plastic bags to protect from getting wet (if we flipped with the kayak it would not be waterproof).
We headed south from Two Harbors along the port and different sea caves. As it was already in the afternoon we had the wind in our back, even though the water was kind of choppy. The problem was that we weren’t exactly sure how the cove looked like. We just had a map with different names of coves but there was no sign which one is which. There was no-one to ask either. So we decided to just go with a spot that looked nice. This wasn’t so easy, as there were mostly big rocks and when there is high tide some coves would be under water. Finally we saw a big camp site where several boats where as well, so we asked and found out we were at Ripper’s Cove. They told us the next one around the corner is Paradise Cove. When we finally got around the side of the island we saw this picture perfect cove…that’s it! We set up our kayak at this big lava rock and put up our tent close to the beach. Right behind was a hiking trail that went uphill. It was beautiful. We put our hiking shoes on and went for a sunset hike to enjoy a stunning view from the top over the island. Then we went back to have dinner and enjoy the sound of the waves hitting the beach. At night the stargazing was spectacular, as it was such a clear sky. We really felt to be on a remote island as we didn’t see anyone around for the time we were there. We didn’t have any cell phone connection either – so it felt a bit like Robinson Crusoe (plus our gopro and cell phone and granola bars).
I set myself goals every week to have at least one adventure (big or small). I think it’s so important to get out of your routine and explore a new location, experience how close you can get to your physical limits or just get out of your comfort zone by trying a new food. I think this is what life is all about. You have your routine every day – every week – but what you truly remember are new unique things. Yes, it maybe scary at times – but mostly the reward is true inner happiness that will last forever. I’m very active and don’t like to sit around on the weekends. I usually get up at 6am and will be back home by 8pm. I’m lucky to live in sunny California where I can get outside every day. I love lots of different activities like tennis, beach volleyball, stand up paddle board, running, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, road biking, swimming, scuba diving, gym workout – everything where I get to move! This is not in order – so the hardest part for me is to choose which I activity I decide on for the day.
I always wanted to do do a hike up to Mount Baldy, as I heard that it’s one of the most beautiful hikes in Southern California. So when Ulli found out about the “Run to the Top” race on Labor Day – it was time to go! We left our house at 4am and where at the starting line at around 7am. There were about 600 runners and one hiker (me) :-). The race starts downhill from the parking lot to the beginning of the trail, and this is the last time it ever goes downhill until you’re on top of the mountain. Many of the runners started walking after the first hill, and so I had company for the next couple of miles. When you get to the skilift area, the real climb begins. I can’t understand how Ulli can run this entire mountain up! It’s crazy! If you don’t do it yourself, it’s hard to understand, but it’s 4,000′ elevation gain over 7 miles. The nature makes up for it – the views are amazing! At the finish on the summit of beautiful Mt. San Antonio (Mt. Baldy) at 10,064′ it was a real party. Some people brought coolers with beer (we didn’t care about this) and they had fruits & snacks set up. Thank you also to the Rescue Team – which hopefully didn’t have to rescue anyone. It was a great event and memorable Labor Day – much preferred to sitting & drinking all day 🙂
Type: Hill Climb
Starting Elevation: 6000
High Point: 10064
I have to admit I was not a big fan of Oahu and Waikiki Beach, but before you stop reading: I changed my mind :-). Yes, it’s the most famous beach in Hawaii, but I prefer to experience the less touristy side of the islands. We still had planned 2 nights in Oahu, as I was invited to stay at the historic and beautiful Royal Hawaiian Hotel. We stayed at the Oceanfront tower which gives you a special access to a concierge level for breakfast, snacks & drinks throughout the day. The views from our room were spectacular on the white sandy beach and turquoise water of Waikiki. There are plenty of upscale and authentic restaurants and shops in walking distance from the hotel. For people who want to go to the beach and still have nightlife it’s ideal.
I was looking forward to exploring “a more remote” side of the island. After much research I found a hike in the rainforest that would lead to several different waterfalls. Just what I was looking for 🙂 The trail head was a bit tricky to find as it starts in a residential area and you have to be a bit creative with finding parking. You need to look for the yellow “Ka’au Crater” sign behind the mailboxes. Once you get on the trail it’s magical – you hike along a stream, birds chirping and thick lush green wherever you look. There’s no marked trail, so you just have to stay close to the stream. There’s also some rope climbing on a few steep sides of the trail which was fun.
It got very humid during the hike and when we arrived at the first waterfall it started pouring (reminded me of Florida storms). It only rained for 10-15 minutes, and then the sun came back out. We didn’t mind the rain as we were wet in the waterfall anyways. It got only tricky as we hiked back up as it was all muddy from the rain. True adventure! J It was an experience I didn’t think I would have on the island of Oahu – as you wouldn’t think that you’re on the same island as Waikiki Beach. This definitely changed my mind about the island of Oahu – you can have restaurants & nightlife – but there are still beautiful remote parts of the island.
I was excited to learn that there are some great beach dive spots on the Big Island, as I always get sea sick on boats. Last time we went on a scuba diving trip in the Florida Keys and I took bonine plus chewed ginger before and on the boat, and still got nauseous (and provided food for the reef fish). I wanted to get a dive guide for our first trip on the island, as I think it’s easier to follow a guide who knows where the reef is. However, the guy was not available on the day we wanted to go and the dive shop was very helpful in explaining us in detail where the good spots are. Also, Ulli always prefer to self explore than go with anyone else. So we rented our gear at Kohala Divers (recommended) and went to the beach dive spot in Puako. As I didn’t dive for a few months, we took our time with setting up our gear and not going too deep. It felt good to be in the warm waters (in California I usually wear a thick full wetsuit plus hoodie) and it was also pretty calm. On our first dive we explored the beginning of the reef. As it was such a positive experience, we rented the gear again on Day 5 and went back to the same dive spot. That time we actually went further out and found the lava tubes – amazing to dive through there! Unfortunately, we had the wrong filter & lens on our gopro camera, so none of our video reflects the underwater beauty. Later that day we went to Hapuna Beach for some more snorkeling (I became a fish on this trip) and I filmed with my iphone – at least I got some nice memories from my sea turtle friends (Honu). I went snorkeling every morning at the resort, where they were 3 turtles at home. They are so peaceful and gentle when they swim. It was very important for me to never get too close to them, even though they seemed not afraid.
More stories from my Big Island Hawaii Adventure Day 1+2 + Day 3
On Wednesday we planned a zip lining trip in the rainforest –which is the other side of the island (Hilo side). The drive was quite spectacular as we started on the sunny, warm Kohala coast, drove over Mauna Kea –which is 4,200m above sea level – and it got freezing cold all of a sudden (we had our top down in the Jeep) and then went back down to the town of Hilo where it was warm and rainy. All of this within 2 hours of driving! We also spotted several rainbows – no wonder with all this change of weather.
We met with the tour operator of the zip line in Hilo and took their bus in a private area in the rain forest. Unfortunately, it was raining the entire trip – but the weather was still warm so I didn’t mind. I’ve done zip lining before and I’m not (too) afraid of heights, so I had a great time going through the lush green forest and enjoying the view different waterfalls. My favorite part of the tour was when we stopped for lunch/fruit snacks in this little hut. There was a pig that welcomed us and loved our fruit. Ulli and I named the pig Ziggy – it also had little piglets. They’re so smart – I could see having a pig as a pet 🙂
This was a special day as it was my birthday and Ulli surprised me with a decorated room and a beautiful breakfast. My first highlight of the day was a 2 hour helicopter tour over the entire island. I’ve done several helicopter tours in Orlando, Kauai, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon – and each one is amazing, but this one was special as we were flying over an active volcano! When we got close to the volcano we saw a lot of smoke and how far inland the lava has come – which is kind of scary for the people that live closeby. In the last couple of weeks I saw some amazing images from how the lava now flows back in the ocean – which looks spectacular. When we were there it was flowing the other way and we could get really close to the crater. We could see fires in the rainforest, from where the lava got close to the forest. The pilot told us that it only takes a couple of seconds until the lava cools, so some locals hike close to the volcano, but it is very dangerous as you don’t know where the lava is still hot and where it’s cold (as it flows under the ground, and just comes up at random spots). After this part of the tour, we stopped in Hilo to refuel and then went over the west side of the island and saw amazing waterfalls along the coastline. You could truly see the different climate zones – with the rainforest, dry sunny kahala coast and cooler side by the volcano. I highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting the island!
For lunch we went to a vegan – Indian inspired- restaurant called Under the Bodhi Tree, which became our favorite during our stay. It was delicious food and reasonable priced. They also brew Kombucha freshly daily in three different flavors (blueberry was my favorite). You can’t buy it anywhere else on the main island (I just have to go back for it!). Back at the hotel I had an appointment for a coconut oil scalp and full body massage in a tree house. Just what I needed after this stressful day so far….;-)The end to this perfect day was a dinner at Browns Beach house (restaurant at the hotel) which was so romantic : outside by the ocean, with a Hawaiian guitarist and award winning cuisine. I’m such a blessed girl to deserve such a wonderful birthday!!
Read about Day 1+2