Tag Archives: hiking

Britt Trails

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Location: Jacksonville, Oregon

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Distance: We walked the Ziglar trail and part of the Gold Gulch trail, which was about a mile and a half. One trail loop is four miles long, so choose your own adventure!

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Foot Traffic

I went early this morning while doing childcare in hopes of tiring him out. (It didn’t work until very late in the afternoon, when I didn’t want him to take a nap of course!) He asked me if anyone else was on the trail, to which I replied. “I don’t think so. There weren’t many cars and I don’t think many people walk at 8:30 on a Friday morning.” I was quickly proven wrong as we were greeted by runners, hikers, and even dogs throughout our entire walk.

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Foot Feelings

I enjoy Jacksonville as a whole. You’ve read about some of my adventures there, such as my Chinese New Year experiences. But I have yet to conquer the entire network of trails that lie just behind the renowned Britt Gardens. Since six-year-olds tire fairly quickly when you don’t have enough snacks to bribe them to go further, I didn’t accomplish this today, either. I have a feeling that you will hear more about the specific trails that are part of the Britt Woods as I make return trips until all of them have been trod by my own two feet!

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Foot Notes

-At most of the trail entrances, there is an informational board featuring flowers and plants you might see along the way. This is a good time of year to try to find some of them.

-For optimal parking, go to the city parking lot next to the library. You only have to cross the street to get to the Britt Gardens and the trail heads. Most trail heads also have small dirt parking lots as well.

-Make sure to bring water. We found several drinking fountains, but none of them were working. (Hopefully they just forgot to turn them on after the winter!)

-Bring two quarters so that you can get a trail map or an interpretive trail brochure.

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Roxy Ann Peak

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Roxy Ann Peak on my own two feet.

Location: In Prescott Park of Medford, Oregon

Length: 4 miles of trail. (Most of it is a loop.)

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Foot Traffic

The trails along Roxy Ann Peak are open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. Some local avid runners can be found running loops around the peak in any weather. It’s also a good workout for cyclists, considering the climb in terrain. But the majority of people are hikers like I was. While I could occasionally get a moment alone, on the main trail I could expect a fellow hiker to walk around the bend at any given moment.

I’ve only ever walked Roxy Ann alone. Okay, that’s not entirely true, since I have faded memories of my family going there when I was very young. But in the couple of times I’ve walked this in my adulthood, I’ve always felt safe going solo.

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Foot Feelings

Roxy Ann has a special meaning to me this year. It was my first walk of 2017. I was a bit pressed for time on New Year’s Day, so I didn’t have time to make it to the summit. Seven weeks later, I finally made it to the top.

Besides being a good workout, Roxy Ann Peak is ideal for its stunning views overlooking the Southern Oregon city. As the crowning feature of Medford’s largest city park, Roxy Ann gives you a birds-eye view  of what some travelers may just see as a town for vineyards, rivers, and access to Crater Lake National Park.

I especially like that Roxy Ann is walkable year-round. It was snowing fairly heavily on January 1st, and yet I was not the only one who thought it was a perfect day to go for a hike. While the rain can wash out some of the side trails, the main path is well-maintained since it doubles as a service road for employees who need to work on the mountaintop antenna.

Roxy Ann Peak definitely got my blood pumping, but it did so in such a fun way it didn’t feel too much like a workout. I think many people can enjoy this walk, including families and individuals, active and non-athletic alike. If nothing else, go for the views.

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Trail Tips

-Drive up the gravel road as far as you’re allowed. You’ll find a closed yellow gate and probably several parked cars where you’ll have to stop, as only pedestrians are allowed beyond that point. But driving to the gate is a nice head start.

-There are several side trails you can take, but since they are always more muddy and eroded than the main trail, I have not walked any of these.

-You’ll eventually walk to a fork in the road. You can choose to go either way, as this is the beginning of the loop around the mountain.

-Keep a lookout for the trail to the summit. It’s not clearly marked. After a steep hike, you’ll get to the antennas that top the peak.

-Don’t worry if you don’t have the energy to hike to the summit. You can actually get better views of the city below along the main trail anyway.

-Make sure to bring water! You can also carry a meal as there are a few areas for picnicking.

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Across the Ocean and Right Next Door

My recent guest posts took me all around the world!

Across the Ocean

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If you’ve ever been to Disneyland or Walt Disney World in the United States, you may wonder if it’s worth going overseas to international Disney parks. Even die-hard Disney fans may want to stick to the original two! When I went to Disneyland Paris, I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome!

My second article on TravelingMom has been posted! It’s all about what you can expect at Disneyland Paris! Click here to read 4 Reasons Why Disneyland Paris Should Be On Every Disney Fan’s Bucket List

Right Next Door

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Do you have a tourist attraction near where you live that you just haven’t visited yet? I’m not above playing tourist in my hometown. I’ve enjoyed historic Jacksonville, hiking places like the Table Rocks, and even Harry & David (although I enjoy that last one less since I worked there). But one attraction I just haven’t made it to is also one of the most widely known: the Pacific Crest Trail. I got to explain why in this collaboration with other travel writers. Do you think what I said was a good reason, or just an excuse?

I will try to hike the PCT soon. (Not the whole thing; just the part near me.) I’ll let you know what I think when I get there!

Two Days, Two States, Two National Park Sites!

It has been quite the weekend! In addition to Earth Day on Friday  and celebrating the entire weekend with Earth Day-themed posts, I was out celebrating nature as well! Just between yesterday and today, I took two trips, both to National Park Service sites. And one of them even called for hopping the border between Oregon and California!

Saturday: Lava Beds National MonumentDSCF5020

For several weeks, my friends and I have planned to go on a trip to Northern California this Saturday. We were supposed to go to the Redwoods, but people and plans changed, so my friend Steph and I made a last-minute switch and headed to Lava Beds National Monument instead, which is east of the Redwoods in Northern California. Although both of us had been here many years ago, with the length of time since our last visits and flying by the seat of our pants, we weren’t sure what to expect. Yet we left incredibly impressed with all that there was to do!

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  • We admired all the volcanic rock we passed on the way in the monument.
  • We watched an informational video at the Visitors’ Center about the history of the lava tube formation and American Indian tribes that were forced out of this area.
  • A park ranger taught us about the white-nose fungus that is killing bats and quizzed us on our past caving experience to see if any of our clothes needed to be decontaminated. Once we passed, she gave us a caving permit.
  • We drove around the Cave Loop and stopped at any caves that were open. (Some were closed to protect the bats living inside.)
  • Since caves are 55 degrees year-round, I was glad I had left a coat in my backseat! We ended up getting warm from all the exercise we did, anyway.
  • Although the Visitors’ Center loans out free flashlights since battery-powered lights are required to enter the cave, we decided to use our cell phone flashlights just so we’d have one less thing to lug around. I learned that my phone flashlight turns on and off by shaking it. Typically I might think that was convenient, but it wasn’t so helpful when I stumbled around caves!
  • One of my favorite cave names was called “Hopkins Chocolate”, which is named because some of the lava coating inside looks like dark chocolate is dripping down the cave walls!
  • There were other neat-looking things in other caves. Some of the caves had what looked like moss growing on it. (Not sure if it was something living or just the way the rock was colored.) When scattered among the dripping moisture creating stalactites, shining a flashlight on it makes the green specks look like fool’s gold, and the white looks like specks of silver!
  • The next time I go, I’ll probably want to bring a helmet, a headlamp, and maybe gloves so I can go further into some of the lava tubes. Since we weren’t equipped, we decided not to go anywhere that required crawling, but there were quite a few areas that involved ducking down!
  • There were some nice places to walk, too! Both Steph and I really wanted to hike up Schonchin Butte, a .7-mile uphill trail that leads to a fire lookout. The lookout itself is closed for the season until tomorrow, but we got some great views!
  • Although there was so much more we could have done, we decided that the last activity for the day would be to walk around Captain Jack’s Stronghold. This was an area where the military fought against the natives to force them out of this area. Although the history is sad, it was neat to see some of the rock structures that they built that are still standing today.DSCF5028

Sunday: Crater Lake National ParkDSCF5042

I had so much fun on Saturday, I decided to continue the National Park and volcano-themed weekend my closest National Park, Crater Lake. Since this wasn’t as long of a drive, I decided I could make it to church (although I did attend the 9 am service instead the 10:45 service I normally go to), and then head out. With only slightly more planning today than yesterday, I ended up going alone this time. I went to Crater Lake almost exactly a year ago, and it was so odd to see how different it looked this year!DSCF5031

  • It was already a rainy day, and I was praying that it wouldn’t rain while I was at the park. That prayer was answered, but not in the way I expected! As I crossed the park boundary line, I noticed that all the trees were covered in snow. In fact, it was actively snowing most of the time I was there! It’s late April!
  • My first stop was the Visitors’ Center, where I watched the video about the surrounding nature and how Crater Lake was formed by a giant volcano eruption followed by years of collected rain and snowfall. I had to enter and exit the Visitors’ Center from the side entrance because the front entrance was covered with snow all the way up to the roof!
  • I then drove up to Rim Village (being careful in the Avalanche Zone), and parked next to the lodge.
  • After browsing the gift shop in the lodge, I went up to the top floor, which is supposed to have an observation window. Maybe it works on clearer days, but with all the snow and clouds, it was impossible to see the lake from here! Instead I read the museum-style informational signs.
  • I decided that the only way I would have a chance at seeing the lake was to walk through the snow myself. Fortunately, I still had my coat in the back of the car, although I definitely would have benefited from more winter gear!
  • I followed the others who were also outside to the farthest point that could be reached without crossing the safety line. As I looked out, I could barely see Wizard Island, the large island in Crater Lake. After a few minutes in the cold, the air cleared up for some precious seconds where we got to take pictures. It still didn’t display the bluer-than-blue color I’ve seen on sunnier days, though!
  • I warmed up in the lodge for awhile longer, when a park ranger told me to look out the window. You could barely make out part of the back rim, but he said that was the clearest it had been all weekend. Yesterday they basically couldn’t see the lake at all!
  • I went out to the safety line for one more photo shoot, but then decided to turn back and head home. In the summer you can usually drive around the whole lake, but since it snows year-round at Crater Lake National Park, they limit their snowplowing in the winter to only the roads to the South Entrance, Visitors’ Center, and Rim Village.
  • On the way back, I stopped for a short walk by Union Creek. My family used to go camping there when I was a kid. I walked by the Rogue River Gorge and saw the Living Stump!
  • My family had a dinner all together tonight, and since I knew my sister had gone to Crater Lake National Park last weekend, I asked her how well she could see the lake that day. She looked at me confused as she told me it was a perfectly clear day and that many of the visitors were wearing shorts! It’s funny how much the weather can change from one week to the next!DSCF5036

Where to Next?

Hmm…good question! I had been admiring the National Parks Passport for some time now, and finally decided to purchase one at Lava Beds National Monument. This is an informational book about all the National Parks in the United States. Every time you visit a National Park, Monument, or Historic Site, you can get a page of the passport stamped. Since I knocked out two parks in just this weekend, I already have two stamps! Now it will be used as encouragement to visit more National Parks.

The Oregon Caves National Monument is fairly close to me, so I may go there sometime soon. Of course, we need to reschedule our trip to the Redwoods that we had originally planned for Saturday! Although we were going for the Trees of Mystery and the Tour-Thru Tree, I can stop by a Redwoods National Park center for a passport stamp.

Although I would love to become a National Parks junkie, it was really only financially possible for me to visit two National Parks in just one weekend because it was part of National Park Week, and the National Park Service allowed all parks and monuments to have free entrance. Normally Lava Beds and Crater Lake each have a $15 entrance fee per car. I would definitely love to take advantage of the upcoming entrance days in August, September, November, or any of the other free days listed here. To save money on National Parks in the future, I may consider getting an annual pass (I can’t wait until I’m 62 and can get the discounted lifetime pass!), or I may try to find out which of my friends have a fourth-grade child, since a car with a fourth grader in it can enter National Parks for free! Some National Parks and Monuments are always free, which thankfully, the Oregon Caves and Redwoods both fall into the free category!

Traveling Can Be Green, Too!

Happy Earth Day! Most of what I write here is creative ways to travel that will save you green. But in honor of today’s holiday, I’m going to shift gears a bit and talk about another way to save the green.

Many environmentalists frown upon travel as it causes greenhouse gases and a bigger carbon footprint. True, carbon costs associated with travel can be astronomical, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be cleaned up and greened up. Since Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22nd, here are 22 ways you can make your travel more green!

(Bonus: In addition to saving the green for the environment, many of these will save the green in your wallet, too!)

Green Accommodation

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Share your campsite to make an even lower impact!
  1. Stay in Hostels Staying in a hostel dorm with others requires less square footage and encourages community. Hostels also often tend to buy in bulk and cut out worthless amenities, so you won’t create excess waste with miniature shampoos.
  2. Go Camping Get in touch with nature, and then be encouraged to preserve it! Any kind of camping is probably helpful for the environment, but you can take it a step futher with primitive camping, where you won’t have electricity hookups, WiFi, or possibly even flushing toilets!
  3. Stay with Friends Instead of creating a demand for a temporary place to sleep, go somewhere that’s already being lived in. Your friends will probably equip you with the same shower, dishes, and bedding they always use instead of providing disposible or temporary supplies like a hotel does.
  4. Don’t Request Sheet Changes Unless Absolutely Needed In your own home, you probably realize that washing sheets from just one bed is enough to load an entire washer and dryer. Save the water, soap, gas, and electricity by skipping sheet changes. You don’t replace your sheets at home every day, do you?

Green Packing

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Unless you need a Delorean because you’re going on a time-travel vacation, don’t pack enough to fill a truck.
  1. Bring Your Own Toiletries in Reusable Containers I’ve shared some of my favorite travel toiletry containers here before. Whether you use my recommendations or not, siphoning toiletries from bulk containers into smaller, reusable containers is much better than purchasing one-time bottles from the travel section of superstores.
  2. Lighten the Load with Carry-On Only No matter which mode you travel with, you’ll always save fuel if you take a lighter load. I backpacked the Mediterranean for 92 days with just a carry-on! I think going on a weeklong vacation with only a carry-on is a piece of cake.
  3. Borrow or Buy Used Travel Gear There are some items that may be necessary while traveling, but useless in everyday life. If you absolutely cannot go without it, ask your friends, family, and social media followers if you can borrow their tent, or ice chest, or lawn chair, or… you get the picture.
  4. Do Laundry Effectively If you need to do laundry on your trip at all, first see if there is anything you can wear more than once between washes. Bring your own eco-friendly soap instead of the single-serve packets found at the laundromat, and try to line-dry your laundry, even if you have to do so indoors.

Green Transportation

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You could travel by boat for a really fuel-efficient getaway. But if going by raft, you may get wet!
  1. Carpool If someone else is available to travel with you, going in one car instead of two will cut your emissions in half. Better yet, if you’re both licensed drivers, split the driving time to help keep alert and avoid accidents.
  2. Take the Bus or Train I love both of these options! You get to see so much more of the country, and reap the benefits of extremely low passenger miles per gallon! Trains are often a vacation in themselves, and long-distance buses make travel available to all income levels!
  3. Walk or Bike Everywhere at Your Destination Make a point to do this everywhere you go, even if it means staying closer to the city center. I can’t imagine all that I would have missed out on if I took cars or city transportation everywhere I’ve been.
  4. Don’t Fly First Class I’ve flown first class one time, and it was WAY overrated. Flying in coach means that the seating allows for more passengers to fly (and thus cuts down on emissions per person), plus lowers the waste of beverage cups and snack wrappers.

Green Eating

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My take-away container was already full when I bought these in Paris. But I could recycle the cardboard and bag!
  1. Pick Restaurants that Serve Local Food You’ll get a better sense of the local cuisine and prevent excess trucking and shipping of food.
  2. Become a Vacation Vegetarian I’m not saying you have to give up meat. (Not everyone can!) But try to select veg options in your travels. Besides the environmental advantages, vegetarian options often cost less, and you will be less exposed to those icky stomach bugs that travelers fear.
  3. Bring Washable Dishes or Stay Somewhere that Offers Them It’s not that time-consuming to wash your dishes after eating instead of throwing them away.
  4. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle!) Vacations tend to make me thirsty! Instead of buying drinks everyday, I’m saving my wallet, my waistline, and the Earth with a reusable bottle.

Green Entertainment

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See those love locks at practically every major attraction? Skipping this activity will reduce the waste of the lock and packaging, reduce the pollution caused when the key is tossed into the water, and reduce the repairs needed on the structures that are getting vandalized and weighed down!
  1. Recycle Ticket Stubs (or Use an eTicket) These are usually recyclable, but rarely do people think to recycle them!
  2. Visit Local Parks Fresh air, green plants, and a free place to explore the local culture. What’s not to love?
  3. Borrow Books or DVDs for Downtime Sure, you could buy a paperback for those times you need to relax. But many hostels, and now even some hotels, offer lending libraries or book/movie exchanges. Reduce the demand for new materials, and lighten the weight of that carry-on you brought!
  4. Visit Ethical Attractions What you define as “ethical” is ultimately up for you to decide, but consider how workers are treated, how animals are used, how waste is disposed of, and how guests can contribute to the community.

Green Shopping

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Arnold Schwarzenegger bought this bear statue as a souvenir of his time as governor, but then left it at the California State Capitol! I guess he couldn’t even fit it into his suitcase.
  1. Avoid It Why do you need a tacky souvenir (that’s probably not even made at your destination), when there are more effective, and more eco-friendly, ways to capture your memories? One of my favorite mementos are my travel journals. Photos are another great option, or if you absolutely want to buy something, send yourself a postcard or letter from your destination.

An Outdoor Retreat

Nearly two weeks ago, I attended a young adult Bible study for the first time. Since I was a newbie, and summer and European possibilities weren’t too far away, I didn’t expect much to come of it. But little did I know that the group was planning an outdoor retreat! I didn’t know anybody, but since I was invited I decided to go for it. So on Friday afternoon, I brought my over-packed backpack, sleeping bag, and pillow to a big white van where I met up with a few of the others. We hopped in and headed south to Klamath National Forest in Northern California.

Now, if you read this website as inspiration for your own travels, I must warn you that I can only sort of help you in this post. This retreat was done mostly on private property. However, if you can find a natural setting, you can still imitate a multitude of things that happened in the past couple of days.

Go Off-Grid

Our humble abode for two nights: no electricity, plumbing, or cell service!
Our humble abode for two nights: no electricity, plumbing, or cell service!

I do believe that the internet is a wonderful thing. But I think all of us can admit that, deep down inside, there is something missing from it. When we rely on instant connectivity, we tend to forget about connecting with the people and environment around us. Since everyone that went was in the same boat, we enjoyed some rare, uninterrupted face-to-face connection.

Have a Campfire

Fire was our only source of heat on this trip, so it brought us together on so many levels!
Fire was our only source of heat on this trip, so it brought us together on so many levels!

Mix a little bit of danger, a little bit of fellowship, and a little bit of visual stimulation, and you would get what’s known as a campfire. Now, campfire’s aren’t all fun. This weekend I ended up with a hole in my favorite pair of pajama pants due to a spark landing on them! But even after that incident, the fire ring was still the best place to circle up and participate in conversation.

Enjoy Solitude

My solo toes pointing to my view during my time away.
My solo toes pointing to my view during my time away.

For a couple hours on Saturday morning, each trip participant had the opportunity to go into a different part of the property for some time alone. Since there was no agenda during this time, we could read the Bible, nap, pray, snack, journal, sing, or just be still and become more aware of our surroundings. I did a bit of all that, except for sleeping. (The army of ants crawling up my shoes encouraged me to stay awake and alert!) My spot was next to the creek with cascading miniature waterfalls. While this activity was very simplistic, it actually turned out to be a unique and enjoyable activity. After all, how often do you get the opportunity be alone and away from anything man-made?

Enjoy Company

Although I only had had small talk with a few people before this trip, I got to know everyone better this weekend.
Although I only had had small talk with a few people before this trip, I got to know everyone better this weekend.

Whether it was taking the long drive to and from our destination, sharing a meal, setting things up, coexisting during downtime, or trying to figure out how to remove the head of a tick from someone’s skin without any tools, there were plenty of opportunities to enjoy each other’s company. (Except when we were enjoying solitude as mentioned in the point above!) Funny, interesting, and embarrassing stories were shared. It may have been because it was a limited number of people with limitations on things we could do (being off-grid after all), but we got to know each other faster than people I’ve seen on a regular basis over a long period of time.

Take a Hike

Hiking through the woods
Hiking through the woods

Hikes are always fun. We took a hike that would have been fairly short, except the trail wasn’t always a trail. Sometimes vegetation made it hard to find the path. Sometimes we had to climb over or in-between rocks. For a few instances we balanced on a log as we crossed the creek. There were several points where we relied on the literal helping hand of others. A couple people got scrapes or bee stings. Twice I fell! But the unique situations made it all the more adventurous.

Find a Waterfall

There were several waterfalls along our hike, ending with this one.
There were several waterfalls along our hike, ending with this one.

You must know that I love waterfalls. There weren’t any waterfalls that we found notable enough to be named, but we found several tucked away deep into the woods. We were quite possibly among the few people who were able to witness this unknown waterfalls, which in and of itself was something pretty special.

Raft a River

One of our rafts on the Klamath River.
One of our rafts on the Klamath River.

This weekend marked my first time rafting in California. Actually, it was my first official time rafting anything other than the Rogue River. While I didn’t attain my goal of rafting over class five rapids, we did hit a few fun class threes. Plus, there was plenty of calmer water where we just got to talk, splash around, and find birds and turtles. Our group took two rafts out on the Klamath River on Sunday, and it was a beautiful day for doing so. Definitely a highlight!

Don’t Keep Time

Day and night are the best ways to tell time, anyway.
Day and night are the best ways to tell time, anyway.

A few years ago, I read a book where one chapter issued a challenge to spend some time without keeping time. It was a nice idea, but since I always need to be somewhere or do something at a certain time every day, I could never do this for a sufficient period. But as we pulled into our camp for the weekend, I decided to turn off my phone and not turn it back on until we were headed home. I didn’t bring a watch or any other way to tell time. In fact, the only electronic I used was my camera, and the time stamp on that isn’t even accurate! Other than overhearing a few people tell each other what time it was, I had no idea what time it was at any point in time. It didn’t matter if it was 10 am or 2 pm, lunch time was when I was hungry. Bed time was when it was dark and I was tired. I don’t know if I went to bed at 9:30 or midnight. You probably won’t understand how it feels until you try this yourself, but it is a very freeing experience.

I also used this weekend as a study on how I pack, in preparation for packing for three months of Europe in a carry-on. Coming up, you’ll see what I learned from this experiment.

Since today is Memorial Day in the United States, I’m sure plenty of you have also enjoyed some sort of outdoor experience this weekend. Share what you did in the comments!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: The Desert

Do dinosaurs still roam the Earth? Is there beauty in the desert? And what happened in the desert that would cause me to write my first angry review? You’ll find all that out in today’s post, but first, you may want to read what happened first on this road trip. 

After our night in Sacramento, my mom and I ate breakfast at the hostel and were back on the road by 7:45. There really isn’t much of anything on the I-5 between Sacramento and the Greater LA region. Besides rest stops, our only break was at a Ghiradelli outlet in Lathrop, where I enjoyed a free sample as well as an expensive-but-worth-it chocolate chip cookie. We arrived at my grandmother’s house in the afternoon and spent the night there. The next day, all three generations of us set off on a unique part of our journey.

Twentynine Palms Desert in California

I grew up hearing stories about my mom’s childhood memories of “the desert”. Despite hearing about these experiences, I never went to the desert myself, and never even thought to ask where exactly it was! But my mom thought it would be a great idea to take my grandma out to Twentynine Palms where they used to vacation in order to relive old memories, and introduce me to what they’ve been talking about my entire life!

Desert View from Holiday Inn Express in Twentynine Palms

Before we got to our hotel in Twentynine Palms, we made a couple detours along the way. The first one was at the store for Hadley Fruit Orchards in Cabazon. It’s a pretty similar concept to Harry & David in that it’s a mail order gourmet company selling mostly local foods. But there was one thing that really made Hadley stand out, and I’m not even talking about the wide selection of free samples. They are known for their specialty date shakes. As I was ordering my shake, I realized that I didn’t even know where dates came from. (I then learned they came from palm trees. Who knew?)

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The next stop was also in Cabazon, just down the street. My mom excitedly asked me to take a picture of a giant sign that said “EAT”. So I did. She had told me about dinosaurs and was looking forward to seeing them again.

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I didn’t realize this until after the trip, but the t-rex looked pretty familiar to me. It has become pretty famous on Pinterest as an iconic roadside attraction. In fact, he’s pretty famous since he was in other media, too.

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But the first dinosaur here was the even larger apatosaurus. My mom remembered that for years it did not have its “skin” on and was just a metal skeleton! There was a picnic table in the shade under the apatosaurus’ belly that would have been nice for a picnic, and apparently there was a museum entrance in his tail that probably would have been interesting, but it was a full day of plans with places to go and things to see, so we said good-bye to the Cabazon Dinosaurs and journeyed on.

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There was a long stretch of road that was very windy, so at least they were making full use of it by setting up thousands of windmills. Is it just me that enjoys driving by a bunch of windmills?

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After driving through a few small desert towns and seeing a Joshua tree for the first time, we checked in at the hotel and then set out to find lunch. My mom chose a burger and ice cream shop that she was sometimes treated to as a kid.117

Oh, but the stories of her childhood did not end there! As we drove around town, she pointed out that the military base looked a whole lot bigger than it used to, and showed me the pumpkin carriage that used to be her favorite playground toy, and all kinds of little things like that!

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But the biggest walk down memory lane happened on Goodie Lane. The people in that area always referred to it as Goodie Lane long before it officially got a street name, because two brothers with the last name of Goodie each had houses across the street from each other. (My mom’s family referred to them as Goodie One and Goodie Two!) But this is also the street where my great-grandparents had their desert house, where my mom, grandma, grandpa, and three uncles would stay on their desert trips.I took pictures of that house, as well as both of the Goodie houses, but since we have no idea who owns them now, wouldn’t it be strange to post pictures of their houses online? It was weird enough that we we got out of the car to take pictures on this underpopulated dirt road!

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After plenty of sightseeing, we went back to spend the night at the Holiday Inn Express of Twentynine Palms. Now, I know I’ve said on here before that I hate hotels, but this particular Holiday Inn Express was not a normal hotel. First of all, it had a wonderful, friendly staff. At check in, they told us that they would be popping popcorn in a few hours if we were interested in any! When I turned on my room’s television, none of the channels worked, so they sent up not one, but two staff to get it fixed! While they were working on it (which in this situation turned out to be a not-so-easy task), they kept a smile on their face as they recommended restaurants and places to go. But besides the staff, the hotel had little “extras” to make it especially memorable. In the evening, they had a guest reception where they provided so many snacks, we didn’t even have to go out for dinner! And at the continental breakfast, there was this cool contraption that I have dubbed “the pancake printer”!

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Our experience with the Holiday Inn Express staff and resources was wonderful, but unfortunately, the next place we visited did not have such great values. Yes, I am about to complain. I don’t like to do it, but I believe in this case that it is necessary, and even I am surprised that I have to complain about a National Park.

I haven’t mentioned this, but my grandmother has been handicapped for as long as I can remember, and since I last saw her four years ago, she has switched from crutches to a wheelchair. When my mom was planning the desert leg of this trip, she made sure that everything would be accessible for her. She got grandma a handicap-accessible hotel room, and the Holiday Inn Express not only did a great job in furnishing that room, but making sure all three of us were doing well. When researching Joshua Tree National Park, she found out that the Oasis Visitor Center had a fully-paved, handicap-accessible nature trail. We were excited to go. But when we got there, we found this:

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Now, construction can be annoying, but it’s understandable that everything needs improvement at some point or another. But it is NOT okay to blockade the one and only wheelchair ramp leading from the parking lot to the sidewalk! And that wasn’t even the worst of it. Despite the Joshua Tree National Park’s website touting that the path was accessible (and it didn’t note any changes relevant to that in their construction announcement), the temporary path entrance was made of sand. FYI, wheelchairs cannot be pushed through sand without getting very, very stuck! But the part that really got to me was how rudely we were treated by the park staff regarding this (especially since we were so polite in light of the situation at hand)! Joshua Tree National Park, your staff needs an improvement just as much as your Visitor Center trail does!

I sent the park a message via Facebook several days ago including even more details about our poor experience, and so far I have not received any sort of response. If you are interested in finding out if and when they respond to this, you can check out the message by clicking here. (If it leads to a broken link, then it means they must have deleted my comment instead of using decent PR to respond!)

My grandma insisted that she stay behind while the two of us took the trail, and while we were both still incredibly frustrated at the experience so far, we decided to go ahead and take a look at some of the scenery anyway.

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It had changed a lot since my mom was little, and is now just several yards off a road and contained lots of dead plants. But we did come across a lot of cottontails, which were fun to find.

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And being the desert, of course there was cacti. In the following picture, I asked my mom to pretend that she had just sat on the cactus!

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We then made our way out of the desert and back to grandma’s house, to rest up for more adventures that lay ahead!

I hope you enjoyed hearing my perspective on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the desert! But going to the desert was not the end of our road trip. I have a couple more posts planned for the next few stops. If you’d like to get a preview of what’s to come, I posted some pictures on my Instagram account!

National Park Day at Crater Lake

A few weeks ago, the U.S. National Park Service celebrated the “Opening Weekend”, in which parks that have to be closed for the winter can typically open. But best of all, admission to all of the National Parks across the country was FREE that weekend! The National Park closest to me is Crater Lake, and I was definitely interested in getting in for free! Even though it was a nannying weekend for me, I brainstormed ways to make it fun for the kids while still enjoying the time myself. But when I got that Saturday off, it seemed like everything fell into place perfectly, and off I went!

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Coming from the South required going though lots of farmland and forest, which is probably my favorite driving scenery. I even happened to come across a little trail system next to a river, so I stopped there along the way. (There are a lot of other places to stop, but I had already been to most of them while going on my Jackson County One-Day Road Trip!)

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It was a pretty long drive to Crater Lake. Even after my GPS announced “arriving at destination”, there was still a lot of driving through the forest to get to the actual entry area. I drove right past the admission booth and parked at the first Visitor Center. The had a film that told many interesting facts about the uniqueness of the lake. Of course after seeing that, I had to head up to the lake myself!

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Now, it has not snowed all winter where I live. There wasn’t even much snow in the mountains, so little that the ski area was closed down! I guess all the snow ended up at Crater Lake. In the past I have snowshoed through the area, and once even played in the snow midsummer. So I was expecting there to be some snow, but not as much as there was! Most of the roads were closed off, and the one road that was open up to the lake did not have enough cleared-out parking spots, so I and dozens of other drivers parked in the middle of the road! It was thick enough that I could stand on the informational signs, and had to bend all the way to the ground to put garbage in the trash cans. There were even signs warning us to stay off the roof! (Although the footprints on the snow-covered roof suggested that not everyone followed that rule!)

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The funniest sight was that half of the people there were wearing shorts in the snow. If it wasn’t for the breeze picking up the chill from the snow, it actually would have been a very warm day! But of course, the best sight was the Crater Lake itself:

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On the way back, I stopped at Union Creek and walked on a short nature trail by the stream.035

The most memorable thing about Union Creek is “The Living Stump”. As you can see in this picture, this stump has been healed over, proving that even though it was chopped down, it is still alive. The reason behind this is that its roots are grafted to the roots of the tree next to it.

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And here are a few more pictures of Union Creek.

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This nature day trip to Crater Lake National Park was pretty fun, and on a wonderfully low budget, too! My only expense was the gas in the van I drove. However, if you’d like to visit Crater Lake National Park, know there is typically an entrance fee. But I do have good news: If you’d like to visit a National Park, whether it be Crater Lake or anywhere else, you can get in for FREE on August 25th, in celebration of the National Park Service Birthday! In fact, there are several days each year where all U.S. National Parks are free to enter. Plan your low-budget park visits on these days!

Up There on Lower Table Rock

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The Table Rocks are a sight to see in Southern Oregon. These plateaus are not only a unique view in the mountain range, but the hiking trails on each of these twin mountains leads hikers to a unique view of Jackson County at the top.

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I’m actually ashamed to say that, although I always lived within a half mile drive of these mountains for most of my childhood, I only hiked them a handful of times. I believe the first time was when I was in fourth grade and we took a class trip there. Even our first-grade buddies were able to keep up on the strenuous hike! I remember hiking with my family once during the winter rain, and my shoes got stuck in a sticky mud puddle, causing me to face plant in a pile of mud! There was also one time I went with my youth group. In our middle school rebellious state, my friend and I carved our initials on a tree and watched as some of the boys threw things off the edge of the mountain, including a paper airplane and an orange. The last time I hiked up Table Rock was when I was still in high school, with a few of my closest friends at the time. Being able to count my Table Rock memories on one hand, I knew I needed to return.

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Last weekend, I had Saturday off. Between working at a call center and being a weekend nanny, this is an incredibly rare occurrence, so I had to celebrate it in some way. I invited a couple of friends to do something with me, suggesting Table Rock as an option. Unfortunately, while I had a rare Saturday off, they did not. Not to worry though; I’ve traversed the continent by myself, I should be able to manage a little hike a few miles outside of town!

On Saturday morning, before I even changed out of my pajamas, I received a phone call. I was off from jobs #1 and #2, but job #3 called. The housemother on duty at the teen mother home wasn’t feeling well, so I was asked to cover for her. I love spending time there, so it was not a problem to change my plans. Besides, I would get off at 3:00, so I would still have time to go for a hike afterward.

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There are two mountains that make up the collective Table Rocks: Upper Table Rock and Lower Table Rock. They’re not named for their heights; they’re named for their location on the river. Upper Table Rock is faster to get to, but it’s in a location with more shade, so I was afraid that, with Oregon’s liquid winters, that would translate to more mud. (I’m pretty sure that was the one we hiked when I fell in the mud!) So I decided to go out to the more iconic Lower Table Rock.

Thinking back to my first hike, we must have taken a lot of breathers and extended stops where our guides explained the flora and history of Table Rock. The incline really does get your heart pumping! It’s less than two miles to reach the summit of about 800 feet, and I was so relieved to get to the top.

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My goal behind reaching the top (besides the mini-challenge in itself to reach the top) was to get a bird’s eye view of the county. The trail takes you to the side of the plateau opposite of the metropolitan area, so I began walking to the other side to see what I could see.

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What I saw was a sunset. While pretty, it meant that I would need to turn around soon in order to make it back to my car by the time it got dark. So after spending several minutes at the summit, I turned around and headed back down, determined to try again in a few days.

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My next day off was Thursday, so I headed back to Table Rock that day. The problem was, while I wouldn’t have gone if it was raining (you know, the whole mud thing), it was incredibly foggy.

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So I waited until the afternoon in hopes that the fog would lift. It did clear up a little bit, and when I got to the top of Lower Table Rock, it was bright and sunny. Of course, that was just because all the fog was below me! Yes, a thick layer of fog separated me at the summit from the views below. Although, it did provide a unique view of the fog. It almost looked like an ocean!

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Two hikes in one week, and I still didn’t get what I came for. But third time’s the charm, right? Perhaps next time, on a clear, dry day with plenty of time before dark, I will have a picture of an incredible view to show you!


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Travel Journal Tuesday: Peru, August 4th, 2009

Giving the first of 5,000 shoulder rides in during this week. I never did learn this girls name.

After we landed for the night, we waited forEVER in the immigration line. Then it was on to grabbing luggage, customs, and finding Gary and Estabon so we could take the bus to Loma Linda. There were some really cool lighted buildings, like a Vegas-style “Hello Hollywood”, a bank tower that had lights shooting across it, and a cadaver art exhibit. Most people fell asleep, but I stayed awake, listening to Dale and Gary talk about Peru stuff and watching the slum buildings go by outside. When we got to the hotel, I was put in room 20 with Nicole, Callie, and Patty. We even had a TV! We also got other luxuries like a closet, extra soap, and a toilet seat. We pretty much went to bed.

Around 8:30, I woke up and took a shower. After getting ready, Nicole and I went exploring. We went up the hill trail and over to the water tower. Soon, it was breakfast time. Bun buns and eggs- with ham- and papaya juice. We then had time off, so a bunch of us went to the store for Inca Kola, and walked to the suburbs, which was very interesting to see real Peruvian homes up close. We came back just in time to go to the orphanage… finally!

We took public transportation, which was definitely a learning experience! It’s one thing to cram on a bus with the team, but another to cram on a bus with people you don’t know! We had to walk a few blocks from the dropoff to get to the orphanage, but once we got there, it was great. The orientation included the kids singing songs in Spanish and Quechua, dancing, and asking us to join for some jumping song, Every Move I Make, and Happy All the Time. Introductions were made, lunch was served (rice, meat, fries, and Pecan cake- and the beverage selection included Inca Kola), and then we just hung out. I talked with the older girls after lunch, but after that, I spent most of my time playing with a little girl. After getting tired of playing volleyball, I went off to talk with a girl on the play set (speaking of which, a play set, volleyball court, and new building were built on the school side since we left). I still don’t know her name, but she had a blast chasing me, throwing pebbles at me, having me chase her, and riding on my shoulders. She barely spoke, just laughed. In the midst of this, I also hung out with the 2-year-old twins (which is a rare thing to take in kids younger than 3, because of diaper costs and stuff. The twins must have had a really devastating situation), as well as some of the older girls and Melany. Melany didn’t forget how I gave her shoulder rides from last time, because as soon as she was on my shoulders, she covered my eyes. Aw, good times. Soon, we left for hotel. Before dinner, I was insane enough to go with Nicole for another hiking trip- to the padded room and the far side of the hotel. That got us ready for dinner, starting with my favorite soup, which made it hard to eat the rice, fries, chicken chops, and caramel crepes, along with my favorite warm drink. Then came ad-libbing Spanish Disney, devos, and finally winding down for the night. Good night!

Highlight of the Day: While hiking this morning, Nicole encouraged me to take a shortcut downhill. I followed her but I slid down… hard. Dale was in frong of his room when I walked by, with my hand bleeding in two places. Apparently, it took awhile to get ointment and band-aids because the medical stuff hadn’t been gotten into yet (they weren’t anticipating an accident so soon). Krista had to take me in her room, clean my wounds, cut off my skin, and so forth. Dale made fun of me all day.