2 Friends, 12 Days, & 3 Countries

WOW.

Just WOW.

I can’t believe TEN month came to an end so fast. I remember thinking back in August that “10 months is going to feel like forever, but yet, it is going to go by so fast.” Well, 10 months definitely didn’t feel like forever. In fact, it went by too quickly and just as quickly as I became friends with my co-workers, our school year came to an end and it was time to say good-bye (for now).

Thankfully, for me, the end of the school year meant one thing…one of my best friends, Kristin, was set to arrive to travel the US Virgin Islands, BVIs, and Puerto Rico with me. Read more

Redneck Extravaganza

Have you ever had a weekend that filled your heart with so much happiness, gratefulness, love, laughter, and faith? I experienced one of those weekends less than a month ago and have had so much love in my heart since. I’ve been battling personal struggles for the last 9 months and this weekend showed me that I’m on the uphill climb to a new and better me. It’s possible to feel as though you’ve got nothing left but still grow in relationships, make new relationships and reconnect with our Savior.

My Redneck Extravaganza weekend was spent with 5 other Christians, who are so kind-hearted, grateful, loving and all around wonderful humans, who I am lucky to call friends. The weekend didn’t start off as planned, as we were initially planning on climbing to a fire tower through forest and snow. However the day before, Washington’s weather took a turn from sunny and 75 to raining and thundering. Not quite the ideal weather to summit a mountain. Instead, one of the guys, Ben, put an idea out there for camping over in eastern Washington near a popular destination called Mosses Lake. As I didn’t have any knowledge of such place, I was all in, regardless of the decision. And the decision was to postpone the fire tower climb and head east to camp.

We met as a group bright and early Saturday morning, enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and loaded up Big Blue or Diesel. The men (Ben, Paul, and Jonny) had this vision of how the truck needed to be loaded because we had 3 kayaks, 6 bikes, fishing gear, and all of our stuff. Us girls (myself, Brittany, and Angela) really did try to help them, but let’s face it when men have a vision, it’s really better to just let them do their thing. When the truck was finally loaded, we piled into the truck (all 6 of us) and began our road trip.

I selected the middle of the back seat (not sure if I actually selected it or if that’s just how it worked out) but I didn’t mind. It was fun to be between everyone during the drive through the city and beyond to the I90 corridor, as I began learning about many other adventures and stories the group has shared together, more specifically the men’s stories.

We made several pit stops, which all included very random and very hilarious extra activities. Those included random running/sprinting to a pole, group circle push-ups, running through a corn field (resulting in me getting smacked in the face from a corn stalk) and an apple orchard during a MASSIVE wind advisory, and stopping at Wal-mart for a very important purchase, wife-beater tank tops.

The actual location of camping was outside of a town called Othello, in an area called Columbia National Wildlife Refuge/Seep Lakes State Wildlife Recreation Area. A bridge separates the refuge from the recreation area and we decided to take a break there and it turned into the first photo-shoot opportunity. It involved me standing on a truck, the group striking posses on the bridge, and climbing on the sign. We continued on before making our first selection of spots to camp, which turned into our second photo-shoot opportunity, but not our actual camp site.

We piled back into the truck and continued on our way finding a line of rocks blocking a washed out road. This location was our 3rd photo-shoot opportunity and was the start to a good 2-3 hours of off-roading adventure with more random episodes of fun. Us girls started to get restless and we decided to turn back to where the rocks were, but not via truck. The 5 of us, minus Jonny, who drove, jumped onto our bikes and did a little mountain biking.

We finally selected a camp site located near the edge of the lake on a small cliff. It was absolutely breath-taking when setting up camp with the sunset on the horizon and a beautiful, clear sky. Once camp was set up (thank you men for putting up the tents), we enjoy a delicious dinner and some after dinner entertainment with a super moon shining light on us. Nighttime kayaking occurred for Ben and Paul, who went out to fish, and Brittany and Jonny, who took the singles out of the smooth and quite lake. Angela and I stayed behind; I was having too much fun with nighttime photograph trying to capture the stars.

When the group came back from kayaking, I introduced them to something called “Flashlight Nighttime Photography” and we spent a solid 2 hours tracing each other and playing Pictionary via the camera. This was followed by bedtime.

I was the first awake and I woke up to rain dropping down on the tent. Us girls were toasty warm in our tent, but that wasn’t the case when I exited. The rain wasn’t too hard, but it was a bit chilly. I don’t do well just sitting and waiting, so I took off on a hour + bike ride and when I was returning to the camp site the other women were on their way to the restrooms.  Before the men awoke, I got to spend some quality heart to heart with the girls, which whenever you can have girl-time is a special time.

We had some breakfast including coffee and spent some time in worship. I don’t think I’ve been that open and honest with people in sometime. I never felt judgement about my mistake/miss-comings  that I always think I would. I felt loved. I felt friendship. And I felt God again. These 5 people brought back the one thing that was missing during the last 9 months. They brought me back to Him, my Savior, my Heavenly Father.

During worship, it went from cold to super sunny, which we knew meant it was time to hit the water. The men spoiled us and offered to break down camp as we took off on the kayaks towards the canal. We gathered back together, 4 people in kayaks, myself and Ben on the inter tube tied to the double kayak.

This is when our day gets a little spontaneous. We hit the canal, which is a free flowing body of water so we didn’t have to do too much. That was until we hit the bridge. Yes, I’m talking about the same bridge from the day before. Want to know why we stopped? Well, because we (the guys mostly) wanted to jump off the bridge AND designed a rope swing. Why not? I have no fear in heights and honestly have loved “cliff jumping/bridge jumping” when I’ve done it. Every time something adventurous comes up and I’m with Ben, he tells me “Do it for Mapless Adventures”. It’s hard to say “no” to that (though I don’t usually say no) and so that’s exactly what we did. I jumped off the bridge twice and tried the rope swing, but wow of wow did that not feel good. Brittany and I some how really hurt our hands and fingers from the release off the rope (I actually ended up breaking my top knuckle on my middle finger) but it was still a blast. We ended our trip, after Angela and Ben continued down to the bikes and Jonny and Angela rode onto the truck, with one final photo shoot opportunities with the sunset in the back ground.

It was another eventful road trip back to the city and am so thankful that Jonny was a wonderful driving with the amount of rain we hit through the I90 corridor. Our arrival home was past midnight, but with the amount of laughter and adventure that endured I didn’t mind getting home so late. We called our weekend Redneck Extravaganza, but it ended up being “Chasing Sunshine” because that’s exactly what we did. This one is diffidently one for the books!

A Hiking Adventure: Blanca Lake

My 28th year was quite memorable to say the least. Not only did I move into the heart of Seattle, I made amazing new friends, became more invested with my running and volleyball family, had a major hardship event in my life, and more personal growth than I could have expected happened.

I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do but I knew one thing was certain, I needed to be in the mountains. For the last three birthdays, I have spent exploring the Cascade Mountains and every year it allows me to reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly from the previous year.

Because of the many groups I belong to, I knew I could make an event out of this but the closer it came to my actual birthday, the more I realized things were occurring that same weekend. I still consider this hike to be my birthday hike, even though it was two weeks after my birthday.

This year, I selected a very well known and popular hike called Blanca Lake. I have been dying to hike this particular glacial lake for sometime because from what everyone said it is a MUST-DO hike.

Blanca Lake is a 7.5 mile roundtrip hike through the Central Cascades with a gain of 3300 ft, peaking at 4600 ft elevation. You start hiking in what Washington Trail Association calls “second growth forest” with large trees and begin to climb right off the back. This is the major difficulty of this hike as your gaining 3000 feet in less than 3 miles through switchbacks and pretty much begins right at the trailhead. It’s well worth the climb, as when you reach the peak you find yourself on a ridge line, with switchbacks heading up a rocky face with mountains on all sides and a clearcut view of Glacier Peak.

From here, the remaining hike is fairly resting as you walk through beautiful meadows until you hit this amazing view of the valley at the bottoms of the Columbia Peaks. Then comes the greatest view I have seen. This amazingly milky turquoise water lined with mountains and this white lined glacier. Breath-taking to say the least. WTA calls it “robin-egg blue waters” and explains that the l”Columbia Glacier drains via a twin waterfall into the vibrately blue colored water”. The Columbia Glacier is shrinking and I hate to say that it might not last many more years/decades. This is a must do hike for all locals and visitors to the state of Washington.

I was blessed with several friends who joined me on this hike including friends from all my circles, volleyball, running, and church family. We started off a little later than normal but it was for good reason. I had to run 6 miles before hiking and didn’t want to miss it. On our drive, we met up with another friend and got to the trailhead just before 11, but along our drive we lost the second car and had no service at the trail head. We had no choice but to start hiking. It didn’t take long until we met up with my friend Ben, his father, and his niece and nephew, who are under 6 years old (I think/I can’t remember). Once we reached Blanca Lake, we were met with Tessa and Piotr and Beth and two of her friends. In total, their were about 16 people who joined in the fun.

At the lake, we spent some time laughing amongst ourselves and OF COURSE, took a dip in the beautiful chilly lake. Kate and I spent some extra time at the lake because Ben brought a raft to take his niece and nephew out on the lake and offered us to take a spin. Couldn’t pass it up.

Talk about a great birthday with great friends!

Contiki Friends Visit Seattle

My April Mexican Adventure with Contiki Holiday was amazing and came with many new friendships. Two of these new friendships even made their way to the Pacific Northwest for part of their holiday adventure and I had the privilege to be able to play tourist/tour guide to Nicola and Todd, both who venture their way to Seattle. Talk about exciting!

Nicola, who is from New Zealand was venturing to Hawaii with several girlfriends after Mexico but given a few extra days between decided to come to Seattle. Reason…”I just always wanted to come”. Unfortunately, due to work conflicts and busy schedules (as this was just 10 days after I returned), I wasn’t able to spend an extreme amount of time with her. Luckily, we did manage to finagle a night, where I took her the Seattle Underground Tour in Pioneer Square. This is very touristy, not honestly not as touristy as you’d think. These tours take you to the original Seattle downtown, which as the tour title gives it away is underground.

If you don’t know already, Seattle’s original downtown is actually 1-level below the current street level. I could provide you with more details but quite frankly this is one of those learning experiences that you actually need to hear and see for yourself. Nothing I could write would explain it to you well enough, nor do pictures do it justice. This type of experience is one that I was very happy I got to share with someone who isn’t American and really didn’t fully understand what makes Seattle my favorite city. I love the history of this city and HIGHLY RECOMMEND anyone visiting Seattle to attend one of the Underground Tours.

After the underground, we ventured to a coffee shop close to where Nicola was staying and spent a good hour just talking. It was a very simple yet exciting time to spend with someone as lovely and kind as Nicola, plus she can make anyone laugh!

A few months after the Contiki tour ended, I had the chance to spend a few days with another tour mate, who to be honest with you, I only spend maybe 4 hours with him. He was on the second half of the tour, whereas I was on the first. Thankfully, Contiki provides a good chance to interact with people in that short amount of time.

One of the main reason Todd ventured south from Vancouver, BC, Canada was to watch the Seattle Mariners baseball game. Don’t get me wrong, I do love baseball, but I have always had a hard time with  the whole “American Baseball Experience” concept. At the same time, I’m never going to say NO or turn away from going to a sporting event, and I do love watching baseball. This was exactly what Todd and I did pretty much immediately after I met him at the greyhound station just outside the stadium!

We spent the afternoon chatting about our travels and enjoying some delicious beers watching the Mariners! After the game ended, we ventured into the heart of downtown and wandered the city before parting ways for the evening. The next morning was our “Extreme Touristy Day”, which is basically doing every typical Seattle tourist attraction within the downtown area. We walked through Pike Place Market, where we enjoyed delicious mini-doughnuts, Starbucks, and some Beechers cheese; spent some time being grossed out by the Seattle Gum Wall then headed off to the Space Needle. At this point, I was suppose to head off to work but due to unfortunate circumstances, I was blessed with the entire day off.

So what do you do with an unexpected day off with an Aussie…well I took him to one of my most favorite places to eat…”The Crab Pot”. Let me explain. The Crab Pot is a restaurant overlooking the Puget Sound and you can select from various mixtures of seafood, which they proceed to dump the food directly onto the table. You are given a mallet, a wooded board and bibs. Get it Crab Pot. It was quite delicious and very messy. After lunch, it was time to send Todd back to the greyhound station for his return to Vancouver. I didn’t know Todd much before this quick trip but I’m thankful for Contiki Holidays for allowing us to create such a wonderful friendship! Now it’s my turn to visit his city: Sydney, Australia. A girl can dream…one day, one day!

Best Friend visits Washington

One of the best things about my best friend is how random she can be when trying to do other things like packing. This was one of those moment. She randomly decided it was a good idea to book a ticket to visit me in Washington. No complaints here. She was my first visitor outside of my family and I absolutely loved having her here for a whole weekend.

Our weekend started out very simple and wonderful- dinner for two and hard apple cider. We spent the whole evening talking and laughing just like old times. We took the night pretty easy because I had a wine-filled adventure the next day. Yup, I decided the most perfect way to spend our Saturday was in Woodinville, visiting as many wineries as possible. There are more than 90 tasting rooms in this one small town just north of Seattle and I wanted to treat her to something unique to this region. I mean not even California has that many wineries within 10 miles from one another.

We started our day out at Chateau St. Michelle and enjoyed a combination of Rieslings and red wines (and the sun, which decided to join us). Chateau is known for their late harvest riesling (which is delicious) and I know my bestie Kristin isn’t a huge red wine fan. What better way then to start off at a sweet wine winery. From Chateau, we headed across the street to Columbia Winery then to Long Shadow Vineyard and Winery. After these three wineries we ventured off to a local pizzeria for lunch/pit stop before finishing our adventure at Otis Keynon Winery and Zebra Cellars. Luckily, our day didn’t stop here. We continued our adventure in Seattle where we ended out day dancing away in Capitol Hill.

By Sunday, my bestie was starting to feel the ‘pain’ of our wine-dancing adventure but this friend wasn’t going to let her waste her last day in bed. I practically forced her out of bed and into my car to be tourist in Seattle. Places we visited: Pike Place Market, Gum Wall, Space Needle, and ending at Alki Beach with the Seattle Skyline. Kristin was well aware when she booked the ticket that I love being tour-guide and I love planning adventures and everything we did was perfect, mostly because we were together again! It was a weekend to remember and I hope I didn’t wear her down too much to never want to return. Anyone else want to come and visit me in this amazing city of SEATTLE?!?!?!