Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene

My first backpacking trip was when I was eight years old, for one night, and we camped nearby Lake Serene. Two decades later it’s a trail frequented by hikers on nice summer weekends, but it’s just as beautiful as always. I had the opportunity to show M the lake.

We were still in desert hiking mode, wearing clothes that protected us from the sun and carried lots of water with us. But this wasn’t the dry climate that we have gotten used to. The trail to lake Serene runs through big trees that are covered in moss. Lush undergrowth is hiding the forest floor and little streams of water as well as small rivers are coming down the mountain. As a result sun glasses and hats could stay in the backpack for almost all the way and M got a good workout carrying water up and down the mountain.

About 1.5 miles into the trail, there is a short, but steep, trail to a view point of Bridal Veil Falls. The trail includes many wooden stairways that are built into the ground. These aid with climbing the terrain but more importantly keep the trail from being washed away during the wet season. Once we reached the viewpoint, the falls were as beautiful as I remembered with clear cold water rushing down the falls and running across the rocky landscape.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

However, coming back down from the viewpoint gave our legs a taste of what was to come. My knee started giving me trouble before we had even rejoined the main trail up to the lake! As usual, I was too stubborn to turn around, so we hiked the next 2 miles straight up (~3000 ft) to the aqua blue clear lake.

Lake Serene

Lake Serene

Lake Serene

Lake Serene

The lake was busy on this weekend day with groups of hikers of all ages enjoying the view, the snack and some even a refreshing swim. After a little bit of scouting we found a spot to eat our sandwiches on a big rock next to the lake. Food just tastes so much better after a strenuous hike. It always amazes me how the simple meals prepared after a long day of outdoor activity taste better than a star restaurant on a normal day. But maybe that’s just me.

On our scouting trip we found another viewpoint that overlooked the valley. From there we had an awesome view of the cascades as well as Highway 2 and the railroad line that make their way through the valley. The trains going through this valley run all the way from Seattle to Chicago. Adding a third day to that journey would spit you out in New York going from coast to coast.

Going back down to the parking lot ended up being as exhausting as the detour to the Bridal Veil Falls had suggested. But we made it…  …and then we didn’t move for a day. But that was okay since we were in a pretty place and could just sit and enjoy the view.

 

Picture of the Day: Days 1 – 10

Day 1: Sailing out of Marina del Rey.

Day 1: Sailing out of Marina del Rey.

Day 2: California State Route 36, and both ends of the car.

Day 2: California State Route 36, and both ends of the car.

Day 3: Bike journey to the Coquille river lighthouse.

Day 3: Bike journey to the Coquille river lighthouse.

Day 4: Oregon coast at sunset.

Day 4: Oregon coast at sunset.

Day 5: Successful battle to capture Mt. Rainier from the car!

Day 5: Successful battle to capture Mt. Rainier from the car!

Day 6: Professional fish carving at Pike Place Market.

Day 6: Professional fish carving at Pike Place Market.

View of Seattle from the West Seattle Bridge.

Day 7: View of Seattle from the West Seattle Bridge.

North Cascades mountains at sunset.

Day 8: North Cascades mountains at sunset.

Hike to Lake Serene.

Day 9: Hike to Lake Serene.

M cut and split a pile of wood.

M cut and split a pile of wood.

 

 

Road Tripping the US West Coast

More and more boxes appeared in what used to be our living room as we were packing all of our belongings. The nerve-wracking part of this was that we had a rental car reserved and we only knew that it would be a standard SUV. But I wasn’t terribly worried because J is a packing genius and worst case scenario we would have left some things behind. When we picked up the car the night before we had to be out of our apartment, we realized how small standard SUVs are on the inside. Luckily we got upgraded to the next class but getting everything into the car was still a close call.

After everything was in the car and the bikes stored on its back we started our journey…      …by boat. Okay we drove to the boat first. But as the last part of our sailing licenses we chartered a boat on our last day in SoCal and sailed up the coast for a couple of hours. After a wonderful afternoon on the water we got back into the car and started on our trip up north for real.

by BOAT!

by BOAT!

We had already driven up and down the Pacific Coast Highway in California a few times and therefore decided to focus on the Oregon coast. This resulted in us driving up the I-5 through the night and finally pitching our tent 100 miles north of Sacramento. The next morning we continued on route 36, a little winding road that took us to the coast. This is one of the smaller and less traveled connections between the I-5 and the coast and it is an amazing drive. Fun isn’t a straight line. This little road took us from the dry grass lands over many mountain tops and ridges and spit us out in one of the Redwood groves just south of Eureka. Before you decide to go on this drive you should fill up your car. There isn’t much in terms of supplies along the way except for a taco truck and a little store about 2/3 of the way towards the coast.

We spend the next two days driving up the 101 towards the Washington boarder. The landscape along the way is breathtaking. There are the giant Redwood trees, steep cliffs, sand beaches with waves that are breaking against big boulders, light houses, little fishing towns and the great sea food that comes with them. The best fish we had was probably at the Luna Sea Fish House (http://lunaseafishhouse.com). The owner is a fisher man and catches most of the fish himself. If you happen to pass through Yachats I highly recommend that you stop and try their fish and chips. [J’s note: AND CHOWDER!]

The drive through the Redwood forests also never gets old. I’ve been there and to Sequoia National Park many times but the beauty of these enormous trees still fascinates me. [J’s note: Also, M is fascinated that a single tree can block his whole view of the road. The whole view!] After living in SoCal for a few years I’m also deprived of green vegetation. J makes fun of me because when we travel I usually take pictures of trees, meadows and bushes. Well I definitely got my green fix on this trip.

Elk!

Elk in Redwood National Park

 

Redwoods

Redwoods

It was nice to have the bikes along. One night we were staying at Bullards Beach State Park, which I can also recommend. The camp grounds inside the State Parks seemed nice in general. Unfortunately they are very busy in the summer months and often have no vacancies after 3-5pm. From the park we went on a nice little bike ride to the Coquille River light house. This was another great way to experience the coast, breath in the sea air and get some exercise after a long day of sitting in the car.

Bikes and Lighthouse!

Bikes and Lighthouse!

 

BullardsBeachLighthouse2

We packed up the tent in the rain on the last morning of our drive to Seattle but it turned into a picture perfect day around noon. The sun was shining and Mt. Rainier was towering high in the background. I felt even border-line hot when we were unloading the car. But that might have been the heavy boxes’ fault.

We dropped the SUV off the next day. After moving out of the apartment, the car had felt a bit like a rental home on wheels to me, especially since it was carrying all of our stuff. We are now completely homeless which is both a liberating and scary thought at the same time. We have a week in Seattle before we depart on our big trip to Southeast Asia. I’m sure the week will fly by while we are catching up with friends, exploring the city and running last minute errands. And then we’ll be on our way…

Liquidating and Packing EVERYTHING

In the last two weeks we have sold all of our furniture, all kitchen appliances, a significant portion of our dishes, glasses, pots, pans and bowls, our car (in 6 hours from posting to being handed cash!) and packed up almost the entirety of our apartment. Come July 31st, everything we own must find a space in the SUV we have rented to carry our gear and us up the western coast of the United States. While I’m displeased to be driving a monstrosity of an SUV up the coast, I’m grateful for the $1000+ saved by not renting a U-haul or similarly sized truck!

The process of selling and giving away most of our household was less painful than expected. Already before we started to advertise our moving sale we were able to sell some of the big pieces like the couch, the dining table and the bed to acquaintances that approached us about it. Once the rest of our things were posted for sale online the 80/20 rule came to life. 80% of the things were claimed within a couple of hours and sold within two days. Another 15% were sold more slowly over the course of the week and the remaining 5% will go to goodwill.

Another interesting discovery that I made during this sale is that it’s possible to tell with a high accuracy from the initial email or phone contact if somebody is really going to buy something or not. People who are really interested in the part move the interaction forward quickly, sound more enthusiastic and have more realistic price expectations. Paying attention to this really pays off when multiple people are interested in a part. Showing it first to the one who seems serious about it saves time and hassle.

We had contemplated keeping and storing our furniture, but with the uncertainty of which continent we will settle down in, and when, we eventually came to the conclusion that everything must go.

We also ran the numbers on renting a storage unit and shipping our household. The finances of this obviously highly depend on the type and value of furniture you own, the storage location and the shipping distance. Our furniture and future furniture aspirations led to the conclusion that starting over at our next home will be the way to go.

Selling our household has also taken the edge off of our pre-trip costs, as we have already spent over $1000 in plane tickets and travel related medical expenses alone!

While moving and packing is certainly stressful, it provides some much-needed motivation to sit down and decide what is important to hold on to. I moved here with everything I owned stuffed into a 1995 Ford Taurus sedan. M moved here with everything in two bags he carried on the plane. It’s absolutely astounding how much stuff two people can accumulate in a period of 4 years! Much of it, like furniture, help make a house a comfortable living environment (as I type this, sitting on our hand-crafted bed of thermarests, blankets and pillows, I can certainly tell you how much more comfortable chairs, beds and couches are!) However, we also tend to accumulate a lot of waste: extra food, bought on sale, which never gets used; an excessive amount of clothing; household decorations. All of this stuff is inevitably given away, or otherwise disposed of.

Of course, we’ve held onto a number of things, such as souvenirs from prior travels, a ridiculously large set of high-quality Pyrex cookware and a full set of camping gear, which will be stored in a family members house until we find ourselves a long-term home. These accumulated belongings explain the outrageously large fuel gobbling machine we have rented to transport them! However, as much as sorting through and selling our belongings makes us wistful for a minimalist lifestyle, we also realize how far we are from such an ideal. Regardless, by the time this posts online, we will frantically be filling every nook and cranny of our rental car. We’re looking forward to finally starting the adventure we’ve worked towards over the last couple of years!

UPDATE: Fully Packed!

Fully packed SUV

Saying Goodbye

I’m stoked about our travel plans. I’m excited to see new places, experience new cultures and play in the mountains, oceans and dojos of South East Asia. While all of this is great and we are leaving voluntarily, I’m nevertheless feeling sad about having to say goodbye to SoCal.

The saying goes that ‘you don’t know what you got till it’s gone’.  Talking about ‘the good old times’. Sure, that has happened to me before. But I find that most of the time it’s a slow process of saying goodbye. As the date for moving away comes closer, I start to notice how much I enjoy some of the everyday things as I’m doing them for what might be the last time. Most of them are small things like hanging out with friends, the food truck at work, some random building, the smell of the pine trees along the single trail, not having to worry about the weather. I remember consciously noticing all these things when I first moved here. But then the every day routine blocked them out.

This pattern also occurred in the places I lived in before. I guess that part of it is important in order to not get an information overload. But it is also sad that I stop noticing these little things. Especially on a sucky day they would make a positive difference. So my resolution is to make an effort to pay more attention to the details around me and spend less time on autopilot.

But I got side tracked. As a result of feeling sad about having to leave, I started a bucket list of things that I want to do before leaving SoCal. To be honest it started with all the things I want to eat before we leave. Fortunately food can be combined with seeing friends. Next all the major attractions that we haven’t been to or want to go to again got added. Finally the little every day/weekend things made it on the list. Interestingly, now that the list is lying in front of me the little things stand out the most.

The first line that I got to cross off my list was say goodbye to the San Gabriel Mountains. A friend of mine was training for a two-week hiking trip in the Mt. Blanc area and we decided to do Mt. Baldy as his final ‘I’m I ready’ test. Mt. Baldy or Mt. San Antonio as it officially called is the second highest peak of the San Gabriels at 10064’ above sea level. We started our hike at Manker Flats, had a short break at the ski hut and continued through the ‘bowl’ up to the top.

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It’s a pretty hike although the top is a bit anticlimactic. There is no final ascent or technical part but it just levels out. However, the view from up there is amazing as you can see the neighboring mountains, Los Angeles and the flat desert towards Las Vegas.

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This awesome view stayed with us as we descended down the devils backbone. This is a beautiful trail along a mountain ridge that I consider the highlight of this hike. Before you know it the trail spits you out on top of the ski slopes that lead down to the ski lodge and from there we took the fire road back to the car.

The first time J and I hiked up Mt. Baldy I didn’t take the hike seriously because, well, it’s not the Rockies or the Alps. Even though J tried to get me going we started way too late in the day and ended up hiking down the Devils Back Bone during sunset. While we had to hurry to get to the fire road before it was completely dark it made for some great pictures.

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The next big item that needs to be crossed off the list is hitting the beaches one last time. If only I could decide which one it is going to be…

The Curse of the Ambitious Adventurer (aka The Interview)

Less than 40 hours after we had decided on the blog title “Ambitious Adventurers” M got the email. He was invited for an interview a little over a month into our planned trip. What an affirmation of our chosen, though not-yet-purchased, domain name! While breaking up M’s trip for the interview would be a logistical challenge, our main goal was to travel while maintaining our careers. We didn’t endure a decade of higher education to completely abandon our degrees! We also don’t believe our lives should be dominated by work.

Ambitious Adventurers is about our journey pursuing fulfilling experiences while maintaining a professional career. Unfortunately, we have encountered the attitude that we must be slackers, unwilling or unmotivated to work hard when we publicly disclosing our months-long journey. Hopefully our journey will show that having a career and traveling more than two weeks per year is achievable!

This blog will allow our friends, families and strangers to vicariously follow our travels and struggles while we maintain these ideals. It will also serve as a platform to share our amateur photography of the beautiful places we will be visiting.

Long’s Peak. M climbed to the top. J climbed to the notch on a separate occasion, and turned back as the thunderclouds rolled in.

Long’s Peak. M climbed to the top. J climbed to the notch on a separate occasion, and turned back as the thunderclouds rolled in.

The rough travel plan is currently to drive up the west coast of the United States for two weeks, starting the evening of July 31st, 2014. Then we will fly to Southeast Asia, for a 3+ month vacation, starting in Thailand. About a month into the Southeast Asia jaunt, M will take off for a week to fly to his interview, after which we will rejoin and continue exploring Southeast Asia. We hope to return stateside in time for a family Thanksgiving. Afterwards we will travel to visit friends in family in the US and well as in Germany. From there, our plans start to get vague but will assuredly involve excellent adventuring.

August 2014 West Coast USA, Thailand
September 2014 Southeast Asia, M’s Interview in Europe
October 2014 Southeast Asia
November 2014 Southeast Asia, USA
December 2014 USA, Germany

Independence Day in St. Louis

“Are you going to start a blog?” is the question we have frequently been asked after we outline our plans for the coming months to friends and family. Sure, why not? We’ll start a travel blog! But how?! Well, it has been said that the key to success is to start before you’re ready (http://jamesclear.com/successful-people-start-before-they-feel-ready) so here we are. Starting before we’re ready.

We explored St. Louis, Missouri over the weekend. We are still getting used to the new camera, and enjoyed the opportunity to play with the various lenses and settings while we wandered through town.

As we flew into STL, we noted the brightness of the lush green ground below the plane. The famous arch can be seen for miles as you approach the city center, and towers over you once you stroll towards it. As usual, pictures don’t do justice to the impressive height of the massive engineering marvel.

Gateway Arch, St. Louis.

Gateway Arch, St. Louis.

We didn’t make it to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. You try talking a German into touring the manufacturing plant of Budweiser. I dare you. However, we did see the Busch Stadium downtown as enthusiastic Cardinals fans decked out in red streamed into the ballpark.

Busch Stadium, St. Louis.

As it was Independence Day we went on a mission to find a place to watch the fireworks. As we took the metro from the hotel to Forest Park we overheard a man telling a group that they couldn’t possibly get lost on the metro, as you could only ride in one of two directions. Indeed, while the public transportation was limited to only two lines, it was ridiculously easy to use. Not to mention well organized! When we were leaving the park, crowds funneled towards the metro where several transportation personnel organized our movements. We found ourselves on the metro back quickly, and with elbowroom! Although, other train-riding companions appeared distressed at how crowded it was, frequently mentioning the lack of space. I refrained from suggesting they experience a Parisian train during a strike, and wondered at the packing density we will experience on our upcoming Southeast Asia adventure.

4th of July fireworks, St. Louis.

4th of July fireworks, St. Louis.