A Walk in the Woods

Being on mandatory stay-at-home isn’t really too different from my every day life.

I work from home so I wear pajamas almost all day.  I am kind of a homebody, so I don’t go out all that much.  I also have taken to reading a lot and going to bed at 9:30, so I’m pretty socially distant as it is.  Do I miss drinking a beer on an outdoor patio with friends?  Sure, but I also have my lovely deck and a view of the bay, so it isn’t all that bad.

That being said, I do love to get outside for a hike when the weather permits (which, as we know, is hit or miss), and for the first nice day in a while, I got off my butt and drove to the local lake.  There’s a 6-mile trail that’s pretty flat and along the shore, and although it was muddy, it was a gorgeous day to get lost in the woods.


Even though it’s not the lovely warm weather of summer, Washington is pretty killer in the spring.  Because of all the rain, yes things are muddy and slippery, but it also means things are unbelievably green.  For funzies, I took some pictures and none of these have been color enhanced.  It really is that green out here in March.


About 2.5 miles in, I came to an obstacle.  I knew it had been windy and rainy for the last few days, but I suppose I wasn’t really aware of just how bad the weather had been.  There were three trees and several vines down (blackberry bushes are NO JOKE) and I considered turning around.  But with less than a mile to go, I figured the worst that could happen is that I fall in the mud whilst climbing over the trees.


I made it over and to the end, which means I had a 3.1 mile hike back to my car.  I can’t complain though, because I am constantly reminded of what a truly beautiful place I live in.  I know not everyone is as lucky as I am, but there is always something nice to look at when you look out the window – be it a landscape, garden, or even a skyline, should you live in a concrete jungle.


If you can, shake off those quarantine cobwebs and get outside.  We all could use the extra vitamin D, and nature has a great way of refreshing the soul.


The End of the World as We Know It

Cabo da Roca is a lovely lighthouse located on the western-most tip of continental Europe.  It also happened to be a very short and easy hike from our hotel.


We got an early start and had some bocadillos from a bodega near the hotel, and set off.  The hike there is along a beach, which has some of the most turquoise water I’ve ever seen.  It was hard to not just sit on the beach and watch the waves all day.  The waves went from deep blue to green to light blue to white, and then back out again.  The salty air was enough to make me fall in love, but if we wanted to get to the lighthouse, we’d have to make at least decent time.

At the end of the beach was a wooden staircase.  We climbed up several flights of stairs among dinosaur footprints, and reached the top.  There was a well-worn path along the top of the cliff, but it was a “proceed at your own risk.”


The well-worn path


There were paths down to various beaches, and we did take a detour (to be detailed in a later entry) for an hour or two, but for purposes of this entry, we pressed on.  The whole time you could see the lighthouse in the distance, and that helped to keep the motivation high.

IMG_20180609_184650Eventually, we made it to the lighthouse, which was swarmed with busses of Chinese tourists.  Can’t win them all, I suppose, but despite them being…well…tourons…it was still a pretty awesome sight.  Once the tour busses were gone, we were able to enjoy the sights.



We spent a few minutes gazing out at the Atlantic, realizing we had gone to a place that only several thousand years ago, Europeans thought was literally the Ends of the Earth.  And we’d done it together.


Praia d’Ursa


Beach of the Bear.  Guess what?  They weren’t wrong.  Getting down WAS a bear.  I mean, sure there was a well-worn path with stairs half a mile from where we scrambled down the side of a cliff, but we aren’t going to take the easy way, are we?

While walking to Cabo da Roca, we spotted what looked like an amazing, secluded beach below us.  Anna and I decided to take the detour, as it definitely couldn’t take that long, right?  The path from the top was not as well-traveled, but it seemed fine….that is, until it disappeared.


It was a wind and water beaten cliff face that we would need to scramble down.  I began to climb on my rear, removing my shoes as I went.  It was only when I was about halfway down that I realized Anna was still on the top of the cliff, close to a panic attack.



I climbed back up (damn you, long fingernails) and we went down slowly, and after a laborious 20 minutes of soothing talking, and butt-scrambling down, we made it onto the hot sand.  She calmed down and went to frolic in the waves while I went exploring down the other end of the beach.

Anna is smiling here, but she is definitely not happy with me. 

Protip:  Nude beaches aren’t always marked.  There was some – ahem – eye candy, and there was also some…less sweet stuff, but it’s true that Europeans are a lot more open.  Also, open containers of beer, wine, spirits, and what-have-you were everywhere.  Trouble happens when you party naked?  If this is how it goes, on a beach with food, friends, and a gorgeous view, sign me up!

After a short break on the beach, I decided to test my climbing skills.  It’s always a good idea until you realize you have to climb back down, and I am pretty sure I’ve perfected the spider move.


When it was time to get back on the path to the end of the world, we noticed a family with several young children.  There was no way they came to that beach the way we did, so we decided to follow them back up.  It was then that we found the actual entrance path, and felt like morons.


Back on the top of the cliff, we took one last look at Praia d’Ursa and continued our trek to the lighthouse.

B.E.A.C.H.: Best Escape Anyone Can Have

I’m from New England, so I am quite familiar with beaches.  The movies always talk about the white sands of [insert tropical paradise here], so when my research led me to discover the black and green sand beaches of Big Island, I just had to see them.

Green: This beach is incredible to see, and while locals say it isn’t as green as it used to be, it’s still greener than any other sand I’ve ever seen.  It was a pretty hard hike (marred by locals trashing the desert and wanting to make a quick buck, and lazy tourists taking rentals out), but IMHO, was totally worth it and gives more of an appreciation for the natural beauty.

The hike was 2.6 miles each way through flour-like orange sand, in direct sunlight with gusts of wind.  You could step on what you thought was solid ground and sink in half a foot, something like walking in powdery snow, or you could be walking on hardened sand that felt like rocks.  It took the better part of 60 minutes, which is a glacial pace, but every grueling minute being sun and windburned was worth the view.







Black: There is one black sand beach near where I stayed, and it was a short drive from Volcano National Park.  The sand is more like large grains of salt than tiny grains of sand, and it shines when you look up close.  It feels like heaven on your feet, and is simply beautiful to look at.

There are sea urchins all over the bottom of the shallow water, and there was a local diver harvesting them with a special tool.  I had the opportunity to look and touch one (“um, if you really want to,” he told me), and yes, they hurt.  A turtle was also hanging out, and unfortunately some Chinese tourists scared him and he floated back out to sea, but it was nice to see natural marine life.


Volcano National Park

For the last few years, my travel mantra has been, “if there’s a national park, forest, or monument near my destination, I’m going to go there.”  So when I booked the trip to Big Island, a day at Volcano National Park was high on my list.

It’s not for the faint of heart; it’s unshaded, there are uneven and sometimes sharp surfaces, and it’s not a typical national park.  That being said, it’s got its own sort of majesty and beauty, not to mention the crazy and awe-inspiring views of new earth being formed.

The hike out to the lava flow is a long and treacherous one that starts of in the blistering sun and ends in the shivering cold of cloudless nights.  They do rent bikes, but I am a firm believer in walking, as you get to take in the sights slower, and therefore more thoroughly.

One of the most inspiring things is that you can see new growth all along the walk.  This proves that life will persevere, even in the most desolate of times.


There was a travel group searching for the more dangerous flows, but I chose to wander over decades-old (and sometimes only years-old) lava to a steam vent, which proved only slightly better than utterly disappointing.  By now, my feet were killing me, I was definitely overheating, and I really wanted to see the main event.



The main event, the real treat, was waiting on a lava cliff as the sun was setting to watch lava flow down from the volcanoes and into the sea.  I got as close as I could, but there were lots of ropes and signs telling us to keep off, due to suddenly falling earth into the sea.

By the time I realized I wasn’t going to get any closer than about a mile away, it was pretty late.  My feet didn’t feel much better, but sitting was a gem.  And  I will say, the sights were pretty spectacular.  I’m pretty sure I’ve exhausted all the words I can muster on the magnificence, danger, and its sheer enormity, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.






Life is a Highway, Part 17: Canyonlands National Park

Moab is pretty cool.  No, really.  It’s a bit touristy, but it’s got some decent food, decent beer, and it’s fairly young and active.

The other nice thing is that it’s positioned close to two gorgeous national parks:  Canyonlands and Arches.  I would be spending two days there, and the first was dedicated to Canyonlands.

If you remember the story of “that dude that went hiking alone, and fell and got trapped, and he had to drink his own urine and saw his arm off and now James Franco played him in that movie that was nominated for some awards,”  well, that happened in this park.  Not that I saw the movie, but I knew this place got a lot of attention after it came out.

I was getting a bit more excited because this was going to be the first real park where I got to start the day early and hike till my heart’s content.  I chose a trail that would lead me up and around, and to a canyon rim.  And the view was totally worth it.  Of course, the first thing I noticed was the road….

IMG_20150507_131203712_HDRWhile this wasn’t a terribly strenuous hike, it was pretty hot out on ground level.  But once I got some elevation, there was a whipping wind that I thought might actually blow me off the cliff.  I managed to stand my ground, however, and ended up staring out into the great beyond.  There are a few entrances into the park (something I realized too late), and I ended up at Island in the Sky.  I planned a few trips – I have all day, might as well use it – Upheaval Dome, Whale Rock, the overlooks.


The overlooks had, by far, the most breathtaking view.  There’s just so much to take in, and it really does look like an island in the sky.



I explored the Upheaval Dome, a crater made from meteor impact around 170 million years ago.  The curious bit is that there are green points in the middle – there are two theories of how it was formed.  One is that it’s a salt dome, and the other is that it’s an eroded impact crater.  I like to think it’s baby mountains or something.


I don’t have any photos of Whale Rock, and it’s because I took a lovely tumble down it.  Balancing with camera in one hand, water bottle in the other, and quickly becoming aware of an issue with the joints in my toes in my left foot (as in, with too much strenuous impact they swell to the size of kumquats and make it impossible to walk comfortably), I stumbled, fell, and was mortified.  I tore my jeans and skinned my knee so deep, it ripped through scar tissue I’ve had since 2004, it didn’t heal for almost a month, and I will probably have a scar forever.  The two Italian tourists (both a good deal older than I, and gracefully jaunting down the path) were amused at the little round Asian chick tumbling down the rocks like a tumbleweed.

Anyway, following that, I was a bit less enthused to go scrambling and running down the rocks.  What can I say – blood, torn jeans, and general embarrassment at my inability to walk properly sort of dented my confidence.  Instead, I decided to make use of my small stature and climb into places normal-sized people couldn’t fit.


Check out my ripped jeans. I’m so rugged 😛


The canyon rim walk to end my day here was probably one of the best, and most wonderful walks and moments of my life.  Slightly over a mile long, the views were spectacular, and because it was late in the day (6-7pm?) the sun was starting to go down, and the trail was all but deserted.  It’s interesting – I was forced to go slow because of my (still bleeding) knee, and I was able to really get up close and personal with some of the rock formations.  It’s amazing what the elements can do.  I have to admit, I didn’t notice some of the things at first, and it was only on the way back.  I guess what they say is true:  Hindsight really is 20/20.


When I reached the end of the trail, there was a large flat rock, and I just lay down and took in the vast landscape.  It was the closest to zen meditation I’ve ever gotten, and when I finally opened my eyes, I felt very at peace.  There’s something about being out there, something about being so small, that really makes you realize what’s important and what isn’t, and in that moment, I felt very grateful and lucky.