March has been very busy with work, so I find balance in a variety of outdoor activities. I love the diversity of nature that Southern California offers…it’s only hard to choose which activity to do :-)! We had a “rainy” March in California – which means lots of snow in the mountains. It is true, you can go surfing in the morning and snowboarding in the afternoon here in SoCal – all in one day.
We had planned a winter vacation to Mammoth, but due to our tight work schedule, we had to cancel our trip. However, we did a day trip to Big Bear mountain. I was kind of nervous of getting back on my snowboard after an almost 1 year (unintentional) break and not sure if I could even ride down the mountain. The conditions were perfect as there was just a storm that moved over – so all fresh powder. As soon as we arrived on top of the mountain and I stood on my board I remembered what to do. Actually, I’ve had my best snowboarding experience ever. I focused on turning my shoulder on the turns instead of my feet and it worked wonders. I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics and cheering on Shaun White and Chloe Kim. Their skills must have rubbed off on me (HAHAHAHA). Seriously, I’m not sure what it is, but sometimes when you start with no expectations it turns out better than expected. I had a ton of fun and we stayed until it got too crowded in the afternoon. I’m not even sure if we can go another time before summer, but I can’t wait to get back on the slopes!
Run, Bike, Ride, Repeat
There are so many activities we like to do so we try to switch it up each weekend. My only must do is volleyball on Saturdays. I can’t wait to get out early morning and play until everyone is tired and I have no one to play with anymore :-). Another one of our Sunday traditions is starting the day with a (longer – for me) run…mostly in one of the Canyons here so Ulli can get some hill work in. That way we earn our Sunday Brunch 🙂 We’ve also got back on our mountain bike. We have great trails here in Orange County and are really lucky to have Aliso Wood Canyon in our “backyard” which offers some of the best trails in Southern California. The ride starts out pretty easy but then you have to climb up steep & technical trails to get to Top of the World. From there you can choose from several downhill trails. It’s a lot of fun and a good workout….which you only feel when you get home 🙂
I’ve been practicing riding a motorcycle with sidecar to get familiar with shifting. I’m feeling more comfortable each time and having fun doing it. However, I always loved riding with Ulli and being the passenger on the backseat. I feel very safe with him and love the feeling of riding on a bike. So the other weekend after our morning run, we did a motorcycle tour. We rode down Pacific Coast Highway from Laguna Beach to Newport Beach. I can never get enough of this coastal view. There’s nothing like the freedom of riding on a motorcycle down the Southern California coast…..ahhh….until you run out of gas and have to push up the bike and get an Uber to the gas station (yes, that happened). Our reward was a stop at our favorite smoothie/bowl place Sejuiced in Corona Del Mar.
So many activities…so little time! What do you like to do on the weekend? What are your favorite scenic driving routes? Always like to hear what everyone is up to 🙂
These past two months were busy with traveling, exploring city life and going in/out of airports. It was a ton of fun, but this Sunday I was longing for a day in California wilderness – somewhere alone with my husband and connecting with nature. I had just recently found out about this area on the other side of Palm Springs called Idyllwild which is the Mount San Jacinto forest. It’s connected on one side with the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway – but I wanted to explore the other side of this mountain range. Idyllwild is one of the stops for hikers on the John Muir Trail – which as you may know is one of the most scenic hikes you can do. We left our home in Orange County at 8am in a foggy marine layer and arrived at a sunny mountain top at 10am.
We picked up our day permit (no charge, just need to fill out a form) at the ranger station in Idyllwild. Not far from there, across from the nature center is the parking area for the trailhead. We had decided on Suicide Rock Trail, a 6.7 mike uphill hike in San Bernadino Forest.
The hike pretty easy and, but has a nice elevation gain of 2000ft to get a bit of a work out in. It took us about 2 hours through magnificent high country wilderness to the top of Suicide rock. At the peak we took a snack break and enjoyed amazing 360degree views.
I truly loved this hike – very calm (only the chirping of birds and sounds of squirrels) and walking through the sun-alpine forest. Even though it was a Sunday, we were pretty much by ourself the entire hike. The trees and fauna were changing from the bottom of the trail to the top. I especially loved the Manzanita bushes which have the really beautiful red bark. I truly felt reenergized inside and out after this day in nature!
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” John Muir
It’s been a while since my last post. Even though I’ve been super busy I had to remind myself the reason I started this blog was to keep a journal of our adventures. These days I’m reminded again to make every day count. There’s no weekday or weekend – there should be joy in every day living. There are days where you easily forget and not every moment is a happy day. However, my goal is to experience something new every week and live in the moment each day. It has to be a conscious decision to do so, as it’s easy to get lazy in your routine. I tell my husband every day that I love him and he makes me laugh every day (I know I’m lucky).
Sunday is our adventure day. We always make this our special day together – with lots of activities and good food. As I thrive to explore new areas we decided to focus on Northeast Los Angeles. LA is so big you have to concentrate on one area at a time. I found out that there are amazing hikes (aka trail runs) in the San Gabriel Mountains and also the drive on Angeles Crest Highway is one of the most scenic ones you can imagine. So Ulli picked out the car and I picked out the trail. I decided on Switzer Falls Trail which is a 50-foot waterfall and about a 4.5 mile out-and-back trek. We wanted to make this a trail run (instead of hike) and parked on the top of Switzer Falls Parking area. We were there super early and not a lot of hikers in sight yet. We saw a picnic area and ventured off on a single track into the wilderness. It was beautiful scenery and a nice run up and down hills. After about 3 miles into the run we still didn’t see any Falls (even though the entire hike was 4.5 miles roundtrip). We finally encountered another couple and they told us we ran in the wrong direction – starting from the campground. Oh! That’s why we didn’t see any other hikers around. We ran back and then found the correct trail to the Falls. When we finally got there after 2 hours of running we earned our dip in the (freezing cold and little) waterfall. That was fun! While Ulli was running the steep cliffs back up, I hiked (I was tired) and on top we encountered some deer in the forest. I’m actually glad that we discovered this other trail, as it would have been too short trip otherwise.
We then drove on Angels Crest Highway – listening to Strauss (yes thats right – we’re classy like that ;-)) – and stopped at Newcomb’s Ranch. This is an iconic roadhouse and meet up for all car and bike enthusiast. Everyone was checking out each others vehicles and in a good mood. Not any healthy food options there so we headed back to Pasadena to EAT! We went to a really good sushi restaurant (that I forgot the name)…oh we earned that meal! In case you’re not familiar, Pasadena is the home of the world-famous Rose Bowl Stadium (saw Coldplay there a few months ago) and beautiful wide, tree-lined residential streets with Arts & Crafts-style architecture. Pasadena Slogan is: “Old World Charm. Modern Convenience.” Really cute town. We did some window shopping on Colorado Boulevard and got some coffee (in my case: Matcha green tea) at Intelligentsia Coffee – MUST DO! Love a Sunday like this with not a minute to waste 🙂 What was something new you discovered / learned this week?
It has become our Labor Day tradition to participate in the “Run to the Top” race to Mount Baldy. It’s a very tough course as its starting at 6,000’ and finishing on the summit of third tallest mountain in Southern California–Mt. Baldy at 10,064′ – which means an 4,000′ of gain in only 7+ miles. Ulli ran the entire climb up in 1hour 40minutes, while I hiked in 2hours 20minutes. It was very windy/stormy on top but the scenic views made up for it. Have you done any fun races or adventures lately? I would love to hear!
Colorado is a popular winter destination but if you love the outdoors you have to experience it in the summer. The days are warm and sunny and you have plenty of adventures to choose from: hiking, mountain biking, road cycling, rafting, trail running, climbing, golfing, horseback riding, fly fishing…each activity with its own spectacular scenic views. Here are some of my favorite activities that we did… Continue Reading…
Today we wanted to venture out of the city and into nature. I was researching different areas but for a day trip the best option was Mount Takao – the closest mountain to Tokyo. When we got to the subway station the morning commuters where walking from the train station to their office building. I can’t put into words how many people in black suits where walking to their offices, but everything is organized and even roped off – people going one way or the other. This went on for hours in the morning. It was amazing to witness. Also getting on the train people form exact lines without being told to. There’s never chaos despite the millions of people in small space.When we got on the subway we were squeezed like sardines and couldn’t move one bit. If I think about other countries I would be grossed out to be that close to other people, but in Japan good hygiene is most important. I haven’t smelled anything bad, no one is eating/drinking on the subway (or while walking) and most of them wear mouth protection. We thought it’s because of germ protection, but someone else told us when girls don’t wear makeup they put it up too (not sure what the truth is or if it’s a mix of different things). If you have any insight on the reason let me know below 🙂
The subway ride was about 45min to Mount Takao. We first took the exit to Takao but it was actually the last exit of the station. Once you get off you’re in the middle of a cute mountain town with small restaurants, gift shops and even a cable car up to the mountain. There are several trails to choose from – we went up Inariyama trail and down Biwa waterfall trail (liked this one better). It’s a pretty steep climb up with lots of stairs but not too long (about 1 1/2 hours).
On top of the mountain we had a great view and even saw Mount Fuiji. I first thought it was clouds but then saw it’s the snow on the top of Mt Fuji. Maybe next time we come back in the summer and take on this mountain! There were many people on top and we had a nice chat with an older Japanese who spoke very good English. He showed me how to eat musubi (Rice ball triangle filled with meat, fish or his was apricot). He was a very sweet man and said he visited Pacific Palisades, California before.
After finishing our apples we started our way down the trail. This time the trail went along a river and stepping stones within the stream. We also reached a Buddhist temple in the middle of the forest that even had its own waterfall. There was a female monk who did a bathing ritual in the ice cold water by the waterfall while chanting loudly. It was a bit intimating to be honest and the lady didn’t look too happy coming out of the water. I later read this is one of the head temples of the Chisan sect of Shingon Buddhism.
When we got back to the mountain village we were looking for a restaurant. All of them had soba noodles so we decided on one where we could see the chef preparing soba noodles freshly. So precise and made with much dedication. In every task Japanese people give 100% which is so admiring. The soba were made with an ingredient that they discovered (I forgot the name) and is good for your health. It was a grey jelly like paste– tasted great too.
After refreshing at the hotel we picked out a conveying belt sushi bar close to the hotel. We have exactly the same type of set up in one of our favorite sushi bars in Litte Tokyo, LA. It’s all computer animated where you place your order on the screen and get a gift when you reach a certain number of plates (by finishing them and put them in a type of “slot machine”). Its pretty entertaining but the most important part was the food – sushi was excellent. After dinner we wanted to go to a karaoke bar and found one closeby. We had in mind it’s a bar where you sit down and watch other people sing karaoke. This one was a lot different. You “rent” a room with a professional set up of screen, lights, microphone – like your own recording studio and get charged in 30min increments. First we had to figure out how to switch from Japanese to English and I just clicked on buttons on the screen where we found 2 English songs: Ed Sheeran & Coldplay. Ulli didn’t want to sing so I entertained (tortured) him with my singing. It was actually a lot of fun despite just being the only two in the room. I can imagine how amusing it is to go there with a group of friends. It was a perfect ending to the night.
Some new things learnt today…
Public Bathrooms so clean: Even on the top of the mountain at Mount Takao the bathrooms were TOTO with all kinds of features. You don’t see these kind of fancy bathrooms & toilets in most of the hotels in Europe/US and this was on top of the mountain!
Coffee over tea: We learnt that coffee actually plays a bigger part then tea in Japan. They have many great individual owned coffee shops and we explored a different one each day (may favorite to come the next days)
Thanksgiving has become one of my favorite holidays as it’s the start of Christmas season but without the stress of getting presents. It’s all about good food and spending quality time together with your loved ones. This Thanksgiving day we had a super early start at 4:30am as we signed up for the 10k Turkey Trot run in Dana Point. It was a crisp morning in the 50s with over 16,000 runners. I usually run part of this route on my own as it’s so scenic, but it was fun going out together as a group. Also, there were a lot of unique costumes and people (and dogs) cheering the runners on. I was happy to finish in 59minutes which was 10min faster than two weeks ago in Las Vegas. I guess a 15k has to be the next challenge…
The rest of the day we spent decorating the house, going for a walk on the beach and enjoying our feast (vegan roast was delicious). It’s also the season when I can finally watch all Christmas movies again. We watched Love Actually and Family Man – what are your favorite Christmas movies?
“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.
While everyone else was in the Halloween spirit this weekend, we attended two unique culinary experiences. First we went to the Vegan Festival in Costa Mesa on Saturday. I’m not vegan, but I don’t eat any dairy / cheese or meat (read my blog post about my diet change). However, I’m always eager to learn about nutrition and the latest vegan products on the market. There were many trucks and booth set up with everything from food, vegan clothing, juices, nutritional supplements and even information about local animal shelters / farms. They also had a stage with inspirational speakers, which we listened to a few of them. One of the speakers spoke about the fact that you can be vegan and still eat unhealthy – like coca cola & french fries! So being vegan doesn’t mean you’re eating healthy. Nevertheless, most vegans eat consciously. Another interesting point of view he mentioned was how in other countries our farm animals are considered as “holy” but our pets (like dogs) are eaten like in China. In Germany they eat horse and people in Peru eat guinea pigs. Basically it mainly depends on where you grow up that influences your opinion on which animals to eat is “normal”. When you visit a sanctuary with farm animals like pigs you can experience that they behave like dogs – rolling on their back when you give them belly rubs and wagging their tail when they’re happy. And cows are cute! Just because you grow up thinking its “normal” to eat pigs and cows it doesn’t make it right. I also watched a cooking demonstration by Jackie Sobon for a (healthy & vegan) corn chowder. She had such an energetic and positive personality – it was fun to watch. I learned some new tricks, e.g. about cooking with liquid smoke (Am I the only one that never heard of this before?). If you want to check out her vegan blog or cookbook – here’s the link. In my opinion, there are so many delicious and healthy meatless options from all around the world available in the grocery store – there’s really no excuse not to give up meat.
On Sunday we attended a much different culinary experience in Torrey Pines (close to San Diego). The annual event “Celebrate the Craft” was held at the beautiful Terrace at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. It’s a food and wine festival with the best chefs from the region. They are representing innovative dishes and highlighting ingredients from local farms or ranches. They also have local breweries and vintners to pair with the plates – but I don’t drink alcohol, so can’t tell much about it. It was a delightful experience as you could experience how creative and with much love for food each chef prepared their dish. My favorite was a cauliflower Brussels sprout salad by True Food Kitchen – which I have to visit in Newport Beach soon.
One of my favorite places in Europe is the Amalfi Coast in Italy. The reason may be that it reminds me a lot of California – Highway 1 Big Sur – with its rocky coastline, sunny weather and blue sea. But as soon as you see the LEMONS – the size of grapefruit – you know you’re not in California anymore.
The closest airport to the Amalfi Coast is in Naples (about 1hr 30min by car), and the drive there is one of the world’s most picturesque drives in the world. The landscape and coast are so fascinating that they are even protected by Unesco. It’s not only a beautiful, but also very thrilling sightseeing road and can be intimidating for some drivers. Think Italian Vespa’s and local SITA bus speeding past you at hairpin turns along cliffs high above the sea. Many locals will suggest going by public transportation. I disagree – the best part of going to the Amalfi coast is driving yourself….or ermm…having your husband drive 🙂 So, don’t listen to the online reviews and go rent a car or motorcycle (even better) and take advantage of the endless photo opportunities along the way.