Three planes, a train, a bus, a ferry and a five hour car ride with strangers was all that stood between me and Tofino, British Columbia; a land of towering rainforests, moody beaches, hidden hot springs where the forest meets the sea and knee deep bogs.
I’d read about the world-famous cold-water surf town of Tofino originally in a Bon Appetit magazine. I had never been surfing, or traveled somewhere completely alone before, for that matter. But there I was, carrying an overstuffed duffel with backpack straps that were not meant to be used for more than a quick jaunt across the airport on my back, and another backpack in my arms, jumping into a car with people I’d only briefly chatted on Facebook with, in a foreign country.
I quickly realized that the Canadian accent is not just an American gimmick and that my trepidations for going on this trip alone were for naught. By the time we got out of the car in Tofino, me slightly green from riding in the back seat on winding mountain rounds through Vancouver Island, I had made two new friends.
My favorite campsites are the ones you discover in the middle of the night, the ones that surprise and stun you when the sun rises.
We’d pulled up in the middle of the night, so had no idea what we’d wake up to. The temperature had plummeted in the wee hours of the morning and when I woke, in my hat, gloves, two pairs of pants and down jacket inside my zero degree sleeping bag, a hot cup of coffee was the only thing on my mind.
I unzipped the door and numbly shoved my socked feet into my hiking boots. I went to pull aside the fly and froze, my breath a cloud billowing above me.
Aspen is undoubtedly one of my favorite places to visit, but it can also be crazy expensive. Staying, eating and recreating can quickly add up to the point that a stay-cation starts to come with a vacation price tag.
We try to visit Aspen at least once a year, if not more, so I’ve put together this guide on how not to go broke in a matter of days!
The best places to hike, camp and drink coffee in Moab, Utah. Fisher Towers, Dead Horse State Park and camping on HWY 128.
One of my very favorite things to do is to throw some camp gear in the car, take off after work and drive through the dark to find what we hope is an epic campsite, stumble around with headlights and then wake up the next morning to discover where we ended up.
This past week, our destination was just outside Moab, up Utah State Highway 128. We rolled into a campsite at 2AM, the sucking blackness hiding any hint of a landmark, and awoke the next morning to this view:
Waking up at first light and making coffee on the camp stove while Topher sleeps is another one of my favorite activities. I love the smell of hot coffee and damp grass, watching the sun touch our little corner of the universe, feeling the warmth of the coffee seep through the tin mug into my numb hands and the steam warm my cold nose.
This trip to Moab was focused on hiking. On Thursday we explored Dead Horse State Park and hiked the East Rim Trail, from the visitor’s center to Dead Horse Point. Its an easy 3 mile round trip hike with stunning views the entire way. After thinking it looked familiar, and texting my dad a picture, I realized that I’d rafted that section of river and hiked up the mesa at the point when I was 15, long before the Instagramification of the scenic spot. Yes, I am a hipster.
On Friday, we got up early and did my favorite hike to date. Fisher Towers feels like stepping onto another planet. The trail immediately takes you down into a canyon and keeps climbing in and out of various canyons, along ledges, on top of cliffs, all while being shadowed by the most amazing red rocks spires. At just over 5 miles round trip, the hike was definitely strenuous with all the elevation loss and gain, but well worth it. There are many epic views along the way and the scenery is incredible. There’s a point where you have to descend an approximately 10 ft metal ladder into a canyon, which was definitely a feat with the dog. It took both of us balancing precariously and a stranger pushing her over the ledge to get her across.
This is a trail that I would definitely not attempt in the heat of the day or at all in the summer months. With no shade or running water, once you’re out of the spires’ shadows, you’re pretty much being cooked. Bring more water than you think you could possibly drink, sunscreen and a hat. If there’s even a chance of rain, don’t attempt. Much of the trail winds in and out of canyons that are prime territory for flash flooding.
While we’re not normally “campground people,” we did choose to stay in one of the BLM campgrounds along HWY 128 because we knew we’d be coming in late and didn’t want to have to search for primitive camping. At $15 a night, these plentiful campgrounds are a great option. Note that they were completely full by a Friday night in March, so finding a spot on weekends may not be possible.
While we spent most of our time hiking and reading in camp, we did stop at Moab Coffee Roasters on our way to Dead Horse State Park and were pleasantly surprised by their coffee being roasted in paint buckets in the side of a Life is Good store. Give them a try if you’re in town and in need of a cup of coffee.
I love the stark beauty of the desert. Beaches and rain forests and bustling cities are beautiful, but sometimes all that amazing-ness coming at me is overwhelming. I love the simple colors, the harsh landscape, the marvel of a teeny tiny flower blossoming under a rock or nothing but red rock and scrub brush as far as the eye can see. Somehow, that simple beauty is more beautiful to me than the busiest landscape.
I love Utah, I love Moab and I love the desert. Go visit for yourself.
Stay tuned for why you should go take a road trip there 🙂
I was in Washington D.C. this weekend and saw this quote on a napkin stuck to the wall in Baked and Wired, a crazy amazing coffee shop and bakery (seriously, go get one of their cinnamon rolls and prepare to have your mind blown.)
The distinction between being and doing is one that’s been made very apparent to me over this past year. When you’re traveling, I think it’s one that needs to constantly be on the forefront of the mind.
It’s really easy, especially when you’re in a place with so many things to do such as Washington D.C., to make a list, take a selfie and check things off.
Selfie at the Washington Monument? Check.
Picture of the kids in front of the White House? Check.
Elbow a hundred other people aside to get a picture of the changing of the guard at Arlington? Check.
It can be tempting when on a trip to do, do, do. I’m one of those people. I don’t want to lounge in a hotel room and read a book or sleep in. I’m up with the sun and want to make sure I’m making the most of my time in a destination.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do and do it all. But the motions, the pictures, the hopping in and out of the rental car will not be what you recall about the trip in ten years. If you take the obligatory Snapchat and race on to the next stop, you’re going to miss the being. The being in the moment and letting it engulf you. Whether that’s cracking up with your friend over your horrible Uber driver or taking a few minutes to actually read the Emancipation Proclamation and letting the goose bumps appear on your arms.
Those are the moments I’m going to remember the most. The moments where I wasn’t worried about fitting everything in, or getting perfect pictures or making sure my companions were having a good time. When you let yourself truly be in the moment, the moments stop being items on a list and start becoming a memory.
If you feel that you might be doing more than you’re being, if you’re tired or stressed or just want to get on to the next sight, stop for a moment and close your eyes. Take a deep, yoga breath (inhale through your nose to the count of four and exhale out of your mouth to the count of four.) Ground yourself and make sure you’re really present in the moment. I guarantee you’ll start to notice more. I guarantee you’ll start to feel more.
Be mindful. When we stop doing and start being, we start to see. We start to smell. We start to breathe and to laugh and to feel. We start to live.