Tag Archives: hiking

Pacific Northwest Vacation 2017

This post has been half-complete for about two years now, so it’s about time I finish it and get it posted! Bach in May of 2017, gem and I were both attending a friend’s wedding in Portland. Neither of us had been there, so we decided to take some extra time and explore the surrounding areas.

After flying to Portland, we checked into our AirBNB that was, in my opinion, practically in a forest. Okay, not really, but Portland definitely has a different feel than Southern California. Where as at home, I get the impression we flattened nature and paved it over, it felt like in Oregon people decided to actually live with nature.

We had dinner at Cartopia, a collection of food trucks/carts with a nice place to sit and eat. The palak paneer fries from Potato Champion were delicious.

These are the PB&J fries, which were also quite tasty.

And this is the Girl Next Door from Pyro Pizza with a ricotta goat cheese blend, oregano, rhubarb, Parmesan, Romano, basil, oil, and pepper.

I started the next day with coffee from Never Coffee. I had a Holy Grail and Nutella Puff, about which I wrote “meh” in my travel log, so I guess something didn’t do it for me. gem had a drink called the Hug along with zucchini bread.

After getting our caffeine, we started driving toward our hiking destination, Ape Cave, but we made a detour at Yale Park Recreation Area. It was really beautiful!

Here I’m about to descend into Ape Cave, one of the longest lava tubes in North America.

gem had lights and headlamps for both of us, so we were well equipped!

Ape Cave had two trails, a lower cave and an upper cave.

Lower cave was basically a stroll to a dead end, and then you return to the start.

Upper cave was a great hike in pitch black for the majority of it. This is a hike unlike the ones I usually do at home. Some of it is walking, some of it is climbing over “breakdowns,” large piles of rocks from ceiling collapses, and some of it is crawling under or between rocks. I guess it’s a good thing I’ve practiced a bit of bouldering! This was definitely a cool experience. My Runkeeper tracked it as 4 hours and 25 minutes, but I can’t remember if I was tracking the whole thing. Plus, a lot of the tracking was inaccurate underground.

We survived and made it out alive. I think gem thought we were going to be stuck down there forever.

After leaving the cave, I met this cool little guy! He came up on my fingers. Sorry, I know I shouldn’t have let him. Not shown: the snake I almost stepped on that made me yelp.

After getting cleaned up, we headed to our friends’ Kristine and Justin’s place. Kristine and Justin were the couple getting married just a few days later. gem and I met them in World of Warcraft, which is how they met as well. Kristine is out guild leader, and the two of them are our main tanks for the majority of the guild’s raiding time. Our friends Marc, Matt, Katie, Adrian, and Nate were also there, who we know from the guild as well.

Did I take any photos with my friends? No, of course not. I focused on the cat. gem goes by Mooglegem in WoW, and when Kristine and Justin got this cat, gem suggested the name “Moogle.” So, this is Moogle!

Seriously, I get a good chuckle out of the fact that I don’t have any photos of anyone else at the house that night. I do remember eating pizza, lots of talking, and learning about how Justin destroyed a bidet… twice.

This is a photo of our AirBNB we took the next day before heading out for morning coffee!

We started the day at Heart Coffee Roasters. I had a 12 oz mocha with Scandinavian cinnamon roll with cardamom. gem had an “Ick” coffee according to my notes, whatever that was, haha.

After coffee, we drove down to Koriander in Corvallis to meet our friends Hal and Mary Margaret for lunch! This was great because I hadn’t seen them recently and on top of that… they’re my friend Alex’s parents, and we didn’t tell Alex we were planning this. I texted him this photo and told him I was just grabbing lunch with some friends!

Next it was time for goat yoga!

What’s not to like? Goats? Good. Yoga? Good.

I think the goat enjoyed eating gem’s hair.

Look how cute this little goat is!

Next we headed back to Portland for dessert at Salt & Straw! I suppose it was appropriate that my first time at Salt & Straw was in Portland, as it’s based there. There are a lot of locations in Southern California now though. We got wildflower honey with ricotta walnut lace cookies, pear with blue cheese, almond brittle with salted ganache, and strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper. Yum!

We ended the day at Ground Kontrol, an awesome arcade and bar in downtown Portland. I tried the Falcon Punch (orange Stoli vodka, cranberry juice, and a splash of pineapple juice) and the Green Turtle Shell (Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin, muddled cucumber, and Cock N Bull Ginger Beer). I also ate a chili dog (shout out to Sonic) and a Luigi (pesto pizza). We played a variety of games, including some Pac-Man and The Walking Dead pinball.

This was the highlight of the night. As I walked past the machine, someone asked me to join him and some others in playing Killer Queen. He told me he already paid and I could play for free. I felt like there was a catch, but I soon learned the truth. This amazing game is for two teams of five players. While it can be played with AI controller characters, it’s much better with people. Because you pay per game and not per person, they were just looking for more players. It was a such a fun strategy game! I really love games that encourage socialization, which Killer Queen definitely does. By the end of the night, I was the one asking strangers to join and offering to teach them to play.

Here’s the guy who played most of the evening with us!

Did I mention that our AirBNB came equipped with a kitty? Heck yeah.

The next day we checked out Multnomah Falls, which was beautiful!

Here’s gem in front of the waterfall.

I have a bunch more photos on Flickr!

After checking out the gorgeous waterfall, we went to a place called Crafty Wonderland before deciding to have lunch at Pok Pok, an amazing Thai restaurant. We had spicy peanuts, spicy fish sauce wings, half chicken with dipping sauces, papaya salad, and drinking vinegars (one mint, lime, and cucumber and one strawberry and Thai basil).

Now it’s time to talk about the whole reason for the trip! This is me and Kristine at her wedding!

Look at Kristine and Justin, the happy couple! The wedding was awesome and subtly comic book themed. There were stacks of comics with Funko vinyl figures as table centerpieces, and the wedding (including the ceremony) used some great Guardians of the Galaxy music.

Here’s one of me, gem, and Kristine.

We can’t forget to use Snapchat and involve the cats 🙂

The photobooth was a ton of fun, and here’s the one photobooth picture that didn’t look sloppy drunk haha. I love that seven people in this photo were part of our raid team in WoW, and we were at the wedding of two others. I had already met everyone except one significant other previously, and I think it’s great that such real friendships could have started thanks to playing World of Warcraft together. Even though most of us don’t play together anymore, the friendships continue.

The next day included quite the adventure to get brunch from Screen Door. Our Uber had to make a lot of u-turns and detours because many streets were blocked off. There was some police search going on involving a crime of some sort, but I don’t remember the details now. But what’s important is the food. This huge brunch includes biscuits and meat gravy, beef brisket hash and eggs, praline bacon, and bacon pancakes with strawberry preserves.

Unfortunately, it was time to say good bye to kitty as we left the AirBNB and took a train to Seattle.

Luckily our AirBNB in Seattle came with these two good boys!

Hey baby I hear the blues a-callin’, tossed salads and scrambled eggs… Sorry, I just had to drop the Frasier theme song in here. Anyways, we visited the Space Needle! It was apparently the 46th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival – a cool little bonus!

Here’s the view from the Space Needle. It’s a much clearer view than the solid gray that the Eiffel Tower gave me in Paris!

Seattle Center, the location of the Space Needle and surrounding area, also featured this playground called Artists at Play! While meant for kids, gem convinced me to climb it as well. She had to coax a kid who made it to the top but was scared to climb into the chamber that you can see in the center of this photo. While I helped encourage kid, I was actually thinking “kids are allowed to do this? What if they fall?!” I was right behind the kid, so as I held on, I admit that I was also thinking “come on, hurry up kid because I’m getting tired!”

After leaving Seattle Center, we explored Seattle a bit.

And then we had dinner at Serious Pie! This appetizer was local beets, rhubarb yogurt, and pistachio butter.

We ordered two pizzas. This is yukon gold potato, rosemary, and pecorino romano.

This is soft eggs, smoked prosciutto, local greens, pecorino sardo.

The food was so good, gem left this feedback with pictures!

The next day we rented a car to drive to Treehouse Point. I’m pretty sure it was this car rental visit at which the vendor told us to pick any car from the lot… and then the lot contained one car. While we were out there, they brought a second car, and we ended up taking that new car. “Any car from the lot” isn’t much of a choice when there’s only a single car in the lot!

Treehouse Point had six amazing treehouses. The one above was Temple of the Blue Moon. They were basically like hotel rooms – furnished and with electricity. So cool.

How cool would it be to stay in a place like this?

This one was called Trillium. I love the staricase. I didn’t get a great photo of the next one, called Upper Pond.

This was Nest!

The Gazebo had a little landing underneath it. That seems like such a relaxing place to stay.

Lastly, this one was called Burl. While we only took a tour, people can also book a treehouse for an overnight stay!

Next up was a trip to Snoqualmie Falls!

Here you can see the waterfall from above. It was really pretty.

Here it is at the base. There’s a little hike down this way along with some signs that teach you about the Snoqualmie People, which consider the falls important to their spirituality.

Snoqualmie Falls has two power plants. Does this have anything to do with them? No idea. Probably?

This tunnel of rings looked very cool! Snoqualmie Falls was a pretty awesome sight, and of course, I had to stop by the gift shop on the way out for some honey and snacks. I think I picked up some postcards too.

After visiting the falls, we decided to hike Rattlesnake Mountain Trail to Stan’s Overlook.

Here are two panoramic shots from my phone. It was a little over 4 miles there and back, and it had some amazing views!

There was so much green!

A little bit of human infrastructure seeped into nature here.

This little guy at Stan’s Overlook wanted to say “hi” to me. Hiking to Stan’s Overlook and back to the parking lot was a bit over 4 miles and definitely worth it.

Here’s a bit of the trail on the way back.

All that hiking must have worked up an appetite, because we had an amazing dinner at The Black Duck Cask and Bottle in Issaquah. The photos didn’t come out great, but here they come anyways!

This is duck gravy poutine with duck added on top (for an extra cost if I recall correctly).

Look at this amazing dish! It’s mac n’ cheese with duck, cheddar, Gouda, cheese puffs, bacon, and pistachios. I can’t really remember what “cheese puffs” meant now. I can’t imagine there were something like Cheetos in it. I do remember that it was delicious.

This is the black duck pie, which I also showed above. It had duck, arugula, Worcestershire sauce, goat cheese, aioli, and pistachios.

For dessert, this is the house made cinnamon roll with blood orange glaze and white chocolate. Not shown: drinks – Uinta Cucumber Saison, Odin Strawberry Smash, and a Black Duck Mule (house infused ginger and jalapeño vodka with ginger beer).

LOOK AT THIS GOOD DOGGO THAT GREETED US WHEN WE GOT BACK TO THE AIRBNB!

The next morning, we explored Capitol Hill in Seattle

We stopped at a coffee shop called General Porpoise.

The coffee was delicious, and the sign was cute too! I had a mocha and rhubarb lemon jam donut. gem had the coconut cream donut!

Here’s gem with the sign in the door.

We also saw this sweet sign for a pizza place called Sizzle Pie!

Oh, and check out this sidewalk. Lysol rox? Uh, I guess it does actually. And the cat is cute!

Next up was Canada! We drove north across the border, stopping at Tim Horton’s for a Canadian maple donut and a double chocolate donut of course.

Next we drove over Lion’s Gate Bridge and used the Trans-Canada Highway to drive to Cypress Provincial Park, where it was suggested we could get above the city for a good view. We stopped at Barrett’s View, but thanks to the dreary day, the view wasn’t so epic. It was still fun!

Realizing I was somehow bleeding, I made a makeshift bandaid and then we headed back into the city. After a quick stop at 7-11 for bandaids, we had dinner at Peaceful Restaurant for Chinese food!

I’m not sure if we just decided to eat a lot or what, because the next thing in my notes was that we stopped at another restaurant. ANYWAYS! Check out this awesome sign for Ramen Gojiro! How could we not eat there, right? Look at the cute, chalk Godzilla!

The menu is cool looking too!

Now it’s possible that the atmosphere and theme of the restaurant is part of this, but I think this was my all time favorite ramen. We got a big plate of karaage as you can see.

And here’s the whole meal.

Before I stop talking about Ramen Gojiro, look at the art on the wall. It was awkward taking this photo since there were people, but oh well.

You’d think this travel log would involve something other than food for a second, but no. Next up was mango milk tea with boba from Sushi Home. Boba doesn’t count as more food though, right?

Now, on to something besides food! This is the Telus Garden, an office building that drew our attention due to its cool style.

Even the inside was classy. Yes, there’s water behind her. I’m sure I’d fall in if I sat there all day.

After we explored some more, we found where pizzas are grown. No, we didn’t eat there.

Anela somehow has me eating at McDonald’s in every country I visit thanks to our European vacation, so we stopped at a McDonald’s. I ordered the poutine as well as a beanie baby, which was the toy at the time, for Anela. Was it a moose? I can’t remember.

Our last noteworthy sighting in Canada was this John Fluevog store.

How wonderfully Canadian! I bet this is kind of annoying to the locals actually, but it made me smile.

So long, Canada! It was back to States for us.

During a chat with our AirBNB hosts, they recommended we look at the Space Needle from Kerry Park.

It was a great place to look at and photograph the Space Needle!

The next day was the last day of the trip, and we started it off with Starbucks at the 1st & Pike location at Pike Place Market.

It’s considered the first Starbucks store, although it’s the first store’s second location because it moved.

Here’s gem waiting for her coffee!

With our coffee, we were ready to explore the Pike Place Market. We ate at Piroshky Piroshky, bought some Johnson Berry Farm jams, saw the flying fish, and listened to a pianist named Jeffrey Circus (which could be spelled differently).

Here’s gem at the gum wall.

We had a bite to eat at Market Grill. I had Copper River Sockeye salmon. There was a map on the wall with pins signifying the hometowns of customers. We found our hometown!

There was a lot of fun chalk art outside of unicorns, each with an arrow pointing in the direction of the next one. We enjoyed following the directions and looking at them all.

I really liked the exterior of Red Cedar & Sage.

Finally, we explored the nearby Olympic Sculpture Park.

It was a nice garden and park with a variety of sculptures, benches, trees, and good views.

Here’s the Space Needle from the park!

Of course, the adventure ended with food! On the way to the airport, we stopped at The Crumpet Shop. Thanks for the fun, Seattle! That’s it for that adventure. So many great memories! 🙂

European Vacation – Sweden

Sweden was the last country on my vacation, and I was only there for a single night. It was weird knowing that it was ending!

Everything seemed designed so beautifully in Stockholm. Check out this gorgeous bench!

We took a train from the airport to our hotel, but our first actual stop was to get McDonald’s. Anela might not have been with us, but we kept her tradition alive!

We stayed in the Långholmen Hotell, a former prison that’s now a hotel.

Out front, you can see what was once a guard tower!

Looks welcoming, doesn’t it?

Despite once being a prison, the rooms were cute and quite comfortable.

After checking in, we decided to walk to the downtown area. It was a fairly long walk, and it was freezing – a big change from Roma. It started raining too. You can see us on our walk at the top of this post. There were lots of cool boats to see as we walked, like Thor here.

There were nice views of the city as well. Stockholm was a beautiful city.

Despite the weather, gem looked very happy to be exploring Sweden!

I’m pretty sure this was a church, but I guess I can’t remember for sure. This was one of the first interesting sights once we reached the busier area.

I know your mother told you dessert would spoil your appetite, but we went ahead and got ice cream at Stikki Nikki before dinner. The owners were there and were super nice too.

We had dinner at a tapas restaurant called Café Tabac after we searched for traditional Swedish food and failed. Luckily everything was delicious here. We had a few drinks in honor of Yeffe, a super drunk Swedish man gem and I met back in 2007 in Vegas. (I might be misspelling his name.) We used to joke about how Yeffe loves to drink. “What do you think Yeffe’s doing right now? I bet he’s partying and having a drink.” Was he downing shots while we had dinner? It was ten years later. Maybe he was sipping a cocktail – an older, more respectable Yeffe.

These places are crazy. Does it even get dark in Stockholm?

We took some photos in front of Riksdagshuset, the Swedish parliament house, as we walked back to our hotel.

What a terrific view! Again, I’d like to point out that it’s midnight in this photo.

Here’s another shot of gem like the one from the previous evening. It was such a nice window 🙂

I tried to leave in the morning, but Antonio tried to keep me in prison!

All three of us sat separately on the plane back to LAX, which was disappointing. I watched Pan and Anastasia, both entertaining movies, and got some sleep too.

Getting back into the States was much more of a hassle than getting into Europe. Security took forever. Here’s gem with her security photo. The security photographs don’t seem too flattering!

gem’s dad picked us up from the airport with my car that I left with him. At his house, he shared with us a delicious lunch! He’s a great chef!

After three of the best weeks of my life and eight countries (10 if you include the Vatican or count UK member countries individually), we were back in the United States. I missed traveling immediately, but it was nice to relax.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know me well enough to know I like tracking data and keeping spreadsheets. I walked 447 thousand steps while in Europe – close to 184 miles. That’s an average of 20k steps and 8.4 miles per day. Dang!

It’s a good we did that much walking too, because I’ll leave off with this photo. These are all the pizza we ate in Europe. Now of course I didn’t eat it all alone, but we certainly did a lot of eating! That walking balanced things nicely, because I had actually lost weight on the trip.

I enjoyed all the countries I visited. I know I didn’t stay a long time in any one country, but it gave me the chance to get a feel for many different places. More than any particular sight, I just enjoyed learning what each country was like. I can’t wait for the next time I get to travel internationally!

Thank you to gem for deciding to go to Europe and getting the ball rolling, my other wonderful travel companions, Anela and Antonio, and my European friends, Jessica and Andrew. You all made the trip what it was. Jessica, Andrew, gem, Anela, Antonio – you’re wonderful people. The trip would have been nothing without you. I’m so glad I got to spend that time with you. And need some help to your travel financing check this out online Payday Loan.

European Vacation – Ireland and Northern Ireland

After England, we headed to Ireland. Besides seeing Jessica and Andrew in Paris, Ireland was my favorite country (countries). It was absolutely beautiful and had so much gorgeous nature. I could see myself living there happily. This post will probably have a lot of photos!

Driving in Dublin was crazy, but gem drove exceptionally! I didn’t drive the first day, but I did later. Driving on the right side of the car and left side of the street wasn’t really a big deal, but being forced to park and drive with most of the car on the sidewalk due to the small streets in Dublin was nuts.

gem’s a natural at driving on the wrong side!

First we walked to the Lansdowne Hotel for some dinner, Guinness, and to wait for a show in the basement.

The Irish House Party featured traditional Irish music and dancing. We sat right in the front row. It was easily one of the best evenings of my life. They were amazing.

Here we are with all the performers!

The next day we did some exploring in Northern Ireland. Perfect sign placement.

Our first castle was Carrickfergus Castle, which was super awesome. There sure are a lot of castles in Ireland though! Here’s gem, Antonio, and Anela in front of the castle.

And here’s me, gem, and Anela on top of it!

Anela seemed just a tad excited by the name of this boat!

Pretty close, right?

This castle wall seemed like the perfect place for them to pose.

I have a thing for silhouettes. I thought Anela and gem looked cool here in the window.

gem leans back all cool on top of the castle. She’s just chillin’. No big deal.

After the castle, we drove to Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, which is 66 feet across and 98 feet above the water. The rope bridge connects the mainland to a little island. It was a bit freaky being on the little rope bridge that high, but most of us made it across without incident. Anela was scared of heights and stayed behind for a while, but eventually someone who worked there walked her across to join us.

Look, we all made it!

I think gem took this photo of me. It was really beautiful on the island.

Of course, I had to do a little yoga. I was still a few feet from the edge; don’t worry.

After our adventures with the rope bridge, we explored the Dunseverick Castle ruins and Dunluce Castle. Both were mostly ruins, and there isn’t a lot to say about them. Afterwards we went to Giant’s Causeway, shown above.

We did some hiking, and gem and Anela rescued a slug from the middle of the path.

This rock reminds me of a dinosaur’s bone. I wonder if anyone else in my group imagined that.

Giant’s Causeway is known for these basalt columns that are naturally formed from volcanic eruption. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Anela, gem, and Antonio hike across the rocks.

Here’s a closer look at the columns. You can see that the number of sides differ.

Watch your step! All three of them are looking down as they walk so they don’t trip.

That face. I don’t know what she was thinking here. 🙂

On the way back to our apartment, we stopped in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, for pizza at Opera Italian Pizza. Anela has no recollection of this, so I’m glad I have photos! You’ll have to excuse the weird neon lighting.

We got two pizzas, but this is the one that I remember. It might look like Hawaiian, but that’s not pineapple. It’s a ham and peaches pizza, and it was super delicious! This is one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.

The next day we took a day trip to County Clare in the Mid-West Region. We grabbed McDonald’s for the road before heading out. Driving on the wrong side was fun!

We started with Bunratty Castle! And I hope all these photos are accurate. I might have some mixed up with Craggaunowen. That’s the problem with using my phone as well as my DSLR since my phone’s clock updated but my DSLR’s clock was set to my home timezone. It’s hard to sort out which photos go together.

I read that most castle staircases are narrow and go up clockwise so that defenders coming down the towers would have more space to swing their swords (since most people were using swords in their right hands). Interesting!

Time for a short break from all the walking to sit and look out a window. I think there’s a pretty decent chance than I asked them to sit down and pose for this actually.

The blacksmith fit Anela her new shoe. He was a nice guy, and I bet he really enjoys what he does here.

gem and Anela help the blacksmith! Honestly, we spent a long time with him. He really wanted to show us a lot of things, but it was fun.

gem also met some new feathered friends!

Next was Craggaunowen, a 16-century castle and open-air museum. Here’s gem on the roof of the castle.

gem learned to spin yarn first. It looks like she took this seriously.

I wanted to try as well. I bet I was focusing and concentrating.

And here’s Anela. Is that the face of someone trying their hardest? I think not! I bet she was laughing at herself, but I don’t remember.

This was in the castle courtyard. It was very pretty and green!

This path led to the rest of the open-air museum.

This is some sort of combination of building and underground tunnel.

The site features reconstructions of what life used to be like in Ireland.

Edited to add Anela’s comment: “Also, that looks like we ’bout to drop the hottest album of the year!”

Here’s an actor playing the role of someone who might have lived here in the past. He was nice!

After finishing at Craggaunowen, we explored Aillwee Cave, a cave system that includes an underground river. I don’t have a lot of photos to share since it was dark, but it was fun to go on the tour.

The Cliffs of Moher are quite possibly my favorite place. I don’t mean my favorite stop on our trip. I actually mean my favorite place ever. It was amazing.

Just look how gorgeous these cliffs were.

I spent a bit of time sitting alone. I wish I was close enough to sit and think at the cliffs regularly.

There were even some pretty pink flowers growing along the edge of the cliff.

I believe the little island is the Branaunmore Sea Stack. Atop the cliffs is O’Brien’s Tower.

gem went to explore the tower more closely!

At this point it was getting late and we were getting hungry. In our rush to see as many places as possible, we hadn’t planned enough time to eat. It didn’t help that the sun set much later than we expected and that restaurants seem to close earlier. In our search for a restaurant, we did find some nice cows that checked us out while we checked them out.

Eventually we found a bar with a bartender nice enough to reopen the kitchen to get us some amazing stew. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day. However, there was one small part of the day left. I had an approximately 170 mile drive back to Dublin – late at night, single lane and unlit highways, wrong side of the road. I was so tired. That was possibly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Thanks for trusting me to get us back safely guys!

We got back to Dublin much later than we had planned, so we decided to sleep later and spend the day in Dublin rather than driving to County Cork.

We began our day with a meal at O’Neil’s. I had some delicious shepherd’s pie! Afterwards we did some exploring. Here we are at Dublin Castle.

Next up was the Christ Church Cathedral.

We also got to go down into the crypts, which was a museum, but I didn’t take any photos worth sharing here.

Anela and gem pose in front of Peacock Green after we stopped for a treat. They gave us free pastries!

We went on a walking tour of Dublin where we were told that it was good luck to grab the left breast of the statue of Molly Malone. I bet no local believes that and that it’s just something they tell tourists.

Three lovely ladies post for a selfie. Molly Malone wouldn’t duck face.

The tour also took us to Trinity College, but I didn’t take any photos worth showing.

gem touches the tip of the Spire.

We spent the rest of the day walking through the city. We saw some interesting sights and learned some fascinating things. I was intrigued by the story of Father Pat Noise. You can read about it on Wikipedia. The tour guide told us that Irish care more about the story than the truth. Two brothers installed a plaque on O’Connell Bridge commemorating Father Pat Noise – someone who didn’t really exist. It was eventually removed (after two or three years). Another was installed, and when it was planned to be removed, a City Councillor argued against it. It’s still there.

Anela and Antonio look at something in difference while gem looks directly into the camera wondering why I’m taking a photo.

On our final morning, gem made us some breakfast sandwiches before we headed back to the airport for the next leg of our vacation!

Ireland was so amazing and beautiful. I know there are so many places to visit and so much traveling I’d love to do, but I really hope I can return to Ireland and spend a lot more time there. And while I’m hoping, I hope that the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remains relatively invisible after the UK exits the European Union! Thanks for the memories, Ireland!

White Mountain Peak

white mountain peak

When Erica asked me to be a subject in a sleep study at White Mountain Peak, it sounded like a fun adventure! I spent four days at 12,500 feet, met some awesome people, and saw breathtaking views of nature.

white mountain peak

I stayed for three nights, and each night I was using a different routine. The first night I slept with AVS. From what I can tell with some Googling, it uses the ambient air, pressurizes it, and basically forces you to breathe it. I’m simplifying. I slept with a mask over my nose, and I actually liked it quite a bit. The second night I slept normally, and the third night I slept with oxygen.

The treatments are nice because the air is a lot thinner up there, and there’s a lot less oxygen. Simple tasks could really wear me out. Soaping my body with my bar of soap caused my heart to race. Talking while hiking would leave me needing to catch my breath. I also felt the effects of altitude sickness pretty badly at times.

white mountain peak

Despite the difficulties from high altitude, I did some great hiking. We even saw deer! They’re in this photograph, but I know they’re too small to see clearly. We also a hawk of some sort with a red tail. I’d like to say it was a red-tailed hawk, but for all I know, there could be a lot of hawks that happen to have red tails.

white mountain peak

Everybody on the trip was awesome as well. Steve, the caretaker at Barcroft station, was a puppeteer and is a delicious cook! I had the opportunity to get closer to Erica and Alex, and I’m thankful for that. Dillon rescued me from altitude sickness one day by joining Alex and me in a great conversation on morality and ethics. Matea, despite saying she doesn’t open up easily, left me breathless as we chatted during our hike. Corey gave me some photography tips – especially regarding shooting the stars. They must not have stuck with me, because you’ll notice I’m not sharing any starscapes.

Now I know 12,500 feet is pretty darn high, but I’d definitely go again. It was gorgeous! Check out more of my photos from the trip in this Flickr album!

Action-packed Super Bowl Sunday

Quail Hill

Sunday morning I went to Quail Hill for a hike!

Quail Hill

gem used her nice camera while I took pictures with my phone.

Quail Hill

It was a really beautiful day. We didn’t hike for very long, but it was nice to get out. The sky seemed especially blue against the greenery.

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After our hike, Anela suggested tea. It was a great idea! Roasting Water was serving their drinks in cute glass bottles with corks. The tea was tasty, and I got to keep a neat bottle.

When we were finished with our tea, we headed to Boiling Crab for lunch. It’s a Super Bowl tradition. The plan is usually to eat during the Super Bowl to avoid the rush, but this year we went before the Super Bowl. It was still relatively empty. I didn’t take any photos, but it was delicious. You’ll have to trust me.

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With food out of the way, I went to hang out my friend Aiya.

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We also trapped this baby. Henley didn’t seem to mind.

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Actually, I went to spend time with Alex, Darnell, and Henley, three of my very favorite people in the world. It was wonderful seeing them. Every day I get to spend with them is always one of my favorite days.

It was a excellent and action-packed day!

Hiking, yoga, and Slapfish

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Wednesday evening I went with gem to the Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s “Sunset Yoga in Bommer Canyon,” a hike with outdoor yoga. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and she’d never done it. We set up our yoga mats under the trees before leaving for the one-mile loop.

The hike was about a mile and took 20 minutes, so it was fairly leisurely. It was a nice evening, and it was interesting to learn about the area and what else we could do there. It sounds like there might be some good hikes there.

yoga hike

I stole gem’s Snapchat. Anyways, after the hike we did about an hour of yoga. It was definitely a different experience than my usual. It was much more relaxing. The yoga accommodated a wider range of age and skill level than that with which I’m familiar I think. While not an intense workout, it was nice to relax outdoors under the trees. They do this event regularly, so I think I’ll try to attend more.

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Afterward we went to Slapfish, a seafood restaurant in Huntington Beach that she’s been mentioning. Each dish we ordered was brought to us when it was ready. The first was the lobster dip and chips. Why would I ever want chips and salsa again when I now know about chips and lobster dip? It was amazing. Even the seasoning on the chips was good!

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Next came the chowder fries. I feel stupid for even wondering what this was – fries covered with chowder and bacon. It was pretty tasty too.

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The lobster grilled cheese was a delicious sandwich featuring an ample amount of lobster. It came with chips and a dipping sauce, but I wasn’t sure whether the sauce was for the grilled cheese or the chips. I tried it on both and decided I liked the taste of the sandwich without the overpowering sauce. gem had hyped this up quite a bit, and she was right to do so.

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Lastly, we got these little lobster toast bites free for liking Slapfish on Facebook. Crunch, crunch! The staff were friendly, and the food came quickly. I could definitely eat here again!

Santa Cruz weekend: Redwoods and the Boardwalk

Quality Inn & Suites Santa Cruz Mountains

Sunday was Katie and Matt’s wedding in Ben Lomond. To make a weekend out of it, gem and I decided to spend Friday through Monday in Northern California. After a late start on Friday, I drove to Ben Lomond in Santa Cruz County. Here’s a photo of our hotel, the Quality Inn & Suites Santa Cruz Mountains. The drive was relatively uneventful but fun given that I enjoy talking! We didn’t actually reach the hotel until about 11 o’clock, so this photo is from Saturday morning. It was quite beautiful. Unfortunately, there was an odd smell that caused us to keep our clothes in the car, but let’s not dwell on the negative.

Hiking

Saturday morning we went to the Henry Cowell Redwood State Park for a hike. It was absolutely gorgeous! Southern Californian hikes are terrible by comparison.

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It was about 10 when we got there, which felt like a late start. It wasn’t really. I’m just used to hiking in direct sunlight down here. It wasn’t hot at all, and I probably didn’t even need sunblock.

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gem and I discussed wanting to see wildlife, and when we heard a train, our conversation segued into the idea of “wild trains” being native to the Santa Cruz area. You see, they spend their whole lives growing tracks and migrating across the lands. When they die, their offspring can use the tracks grown by the previous generations.

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Look what else we found while hiking! What could that be?

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It was a geocache! I fail at geocaching most of the time, so I was pretty happy to find this one in a tree stump.

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gem and I signed the log.

Lighthouse!

After hiking, we went to the Best Western Plus Inn in Scotts Valley to meet with Marc and one of his friends. He drove us to the beach to meet his other friends, only running one red on the way. Okay, he caught it half way into the intersection and backed up. No harm done.

By the time we got to the beach, his friends were leaving to go back to the hotel. We walked around a little in attempt to get to the lighthouse, but after realizing we were on the wrong side of something, we just decided to leave.

Sea lions!

We headed toward to Santa Cruz Boardwalk and strolled along the wharf after getting some delicious ice cream. Looking down through the pier, we saw some adorable sea lions! They were pretty cute. One kept trying to jump out of the water but couldn’t quite make it.

matt & katie's wedding

As the time approached that Matt and Katie were going to arrive at the hotel, we went back to meet with them and the rest of their friends. Here I am holding Katie’s wedding dress trying with all my might not to drop the dress. It wasn’t heavy or anything, but I couldn’t help but think about how horrible it would be if something were to happen. Everything was fine though!

matt & katie's wedding

We all went back to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Anela had recommended we check it out, and I know I went there as a kid but don’t really remember it. I’m glad Matt wanted to go; it was a lot of fun. I love taking pictures of colored lights, fairs, and the like, but for some reason I didn’t really take any pictures. I guess I was too busy having fun and meeting new people. Their friends are super awesome! gem did get this picture of me in line for the Giant Dipper rollercoaster though!

Matt and Katie

We ended the night at the arcade. How did the happy couple spend their last evening before getting married? They played some classic arcade games obviously.

Tetris

After some air hockey, gem and I played Tetris against each other. I’d never played this version. She kicked my butt. I also played some Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac-Man, my favorites!

matt & katie's wedding

Last year gem and I met with Katie, Matt, and Marc for the first time while we were in San Francisco. We took a few photos, but none turned out well. This time we had much better luck! From left to right that’s gem, Marc, me, Matt, and Katie. It was so, so good seeing them. My eyes are about to tear up just thinking about the wedding, and I wasn’t even planning on talking about the wedding itself until the next post.

You can view more photos in my Flickr album aptly named Matt and Katie’s Wedding.

You can read about the wedding itself here: Santa Cruz weekend: Matt and Katie’s wedding!

Goodnight, weekend

We really managed to pack in a lot of fun this weekend. I saw Alex for the first time in half a year, played some WoW, went on a 17 mile bicycle ride, talked comics with the waitress at California Shabu Shabu, hiked up Turtle Rock View Point, went to a BBQ, went swimming, indoor rock-climbed, worked on my game, almost finished a DIY vinyl toy, and watched Scott Pilgrim.

I’m beat.

Day 2 – Black Friday

We started the day with an interesting twist; the Hurst fridge died, so we had to wait for it to be replaced. During that time, I shopped on the Toshiba site, taking advantage of a Black Friday sale to purchase TVs! That made me happy. After the fridge was installed, we decided to do some hiking.

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We headed to Manana trail after picking up some new board shorts for me that actually fit this time. The trail was great – very scenic with some challenging parts. We eventually hiked to Waimano Falls, which was a great little waterhole for some refreshing swimming and a sweet rope to swing out over the water. We had to climb up some rocks with the help of a rope to reach a place from which we could jump. Surprisingly, I found that my week doing in-door rock climbing at Rockreation helped prepare me for climbing this rock! Anyways, jumping in was a lot of fun, and the swimming itself was invigorating.

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While we were swimming, a full thunderstorm rolled into the area. It was really sweet honestly, and I guess we were technically hiking in a rainforest. There was a rock overhang, so we moved our stuff out of the rainfall, sat down on the rocks, and enjoyed our lunch. We had packed leftover Thanksgiving dinner sandwiches, which were quite delicious. The whole afternoon was pretty magical in my opinion!

Hiking in Hawaii

After the storm subsided, we hiked for a bit more before heading to Aulani to see Darnell. I’m glad we got to see her at work! We walked around a bit, taking into the sights, and even swam in an infinity jacuzzi and saw a music and dance performance! Aulani had great architecture and design. The Disney magic can be found here as well. I enjoyed seeing the Menehune sculptures, the legendary people of Hawaii who are craftsman and build many things when no one is looking. We had some fruity drinks before heading to Just Tacos for Mexican food. It was a fun evening.