- Location: Sugar Pine Railway, Stanislaus National Forest, Strawberry, California
- Distance: 4.6 miles (out and back)
- Ascent: 1079 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
It’s funny how you can visit an area for years knowing about a trail right around the corner. I’ve been heading up to Strawberry to my family’s cabin for five years now, and it wasn’t until this last trip at New Years that we finally expanded our hiking area (maybe it was the lack of snow!) In my defense, I’ve always gravitated towards the nearby Pinecrest Lake trail, and when sticking close to home, we tended to walk the backroads and search for mushrooms.
Right before this trip, we were walking one of the roads when I saw a sign saying, “Do not enter, trail 300 feet ahead.” What? A trail? And lo and behold, 300 feet ahead, there were indeed trail markers and a well-defined (and well-used — am I really the last to know about this?) trail heading down the hill.
A couple weeks later, friends and I finally explored this new trail, which turned out to be the Sugar Pine Railway trail, where a railroad used to be and taken down in the ’70s.
Another item bought for my trip through Europe. I needed a rain jacket that was small enough to fit into my backpack but large enough I could wear several layers underneath for warmth. Last, I also wanted a jacket that I could reuse on backpacking trips.
The Patagonia Women’s Torrentshell Jacket fit all of these requirements. The only downside was the bright green color — which isn’t a fault of the jacket (I deliberately choose it to be visible while backpacking and mountaineering), but wasn’t the most classy item when out in public.
Can you believe the California drought? I went up to my cabin several times this winter and there was absolutely no snow. It’s especially bad for Strawberry and Pinecrest, where my family has a cabin — tourism drives the economy and no one wants to head up to the mountains if there isn’t any snow.
We went up expecting light snow and that’s what we got. Just enough that the roads were a tiny bit icy, but not enough that we needed chains and there was only the tiniest amount of slippage when driving before it got warm. Of course, we took advantage of the two inches of snow and went sledding (+ bonus dog!)
When we took off for our three month trip abroad, my partner and I cancelled our gym membership which also includes indoor rock climbing (Bay Area friends, you know I’m talking about the amazing Planet Granite.) We got back in December, but it wasn’t until last week that we finally renewed our membership, and yesterday, finally got back on the climbing wall again.
Another amazingly useful item from my travels through Europe!
I’ve wanted a knee-high casual boot for a long time, but most I found had issues — trendy, saggy ankles (never the best look on me), too much of a heel, not tall enough, or not tall enough… so when these Merrell boots (Merrell Captiva Strap) went on sale at REI, I snatched them up immediately right before we departed for Europe.
- Location: Strawberry Peak, Stanislaus National Forest, California
- Distance: 4.1 miles
- Ascent: 767 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
Alas, didn’t take many photos of this hike near my cabin in Strawberry, California. I’ve heard about Strawberry Peak from family who had climbed it before (and “climb” is kind of a poor term, since it’s really just walking up a hill.)
I’m lucky that my day job at WeddingLovely means I can work pretty much anywhere, as long as I have an internet connection and my laptop. Over the last four years I’ve taken two major trips abroad — in 2010, a two month trip to Rome, Paris, Bruges, and Amsterdam, and in 2013, a three month trip to Brussels, Cologne, Freiburg, Munich, Prague, and Berlin (among other smaller stops.)
The biggest challenge is balancing work and travel — on the second trip, the middle part of the trip my partner and I rented a car and traveled around the Black Forest and the Romantic Road in Southern Germany. Our stops ranged from 2-4 nights, and our work productivity slowed drastically. Changing places all the time takes a ton of time and is rather exhausting — so you’ll generally want to spend your time visiting the area rather than on a computer. When we reached our next major long-term stop (in Prague), we were so behind in work that we pretty much spent a full week without going outside, leading to some friends to exclaim, “You’ve been in Prague for a week and you haven’t seen the castle yet?!”
Here are some tips from experience to make sure you can work and play while traveling abroad:
I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf, and I easily could — I live in San Jose, and it’s a small hop, skip, and jump over to Santa Cruz or up to coast to Mavericks. However… the Pacific is freezing. And I could don a huge wetsuit to surf, but wouldn’t it just be better to learn how to surf in warm waters?
As reminded by this Reddit thread, I’ve had a hankering to go to Costa Rica and learn to surf there for years now. Ideally, I’d like to go for three weeks, to a camp that specialized in surfing as well as yoga. Perhaps some Costa Rica exploring activities during the day as well.
Hopefully within a year I’ll be surfing in Costa Rica!
The last time I went abroad for several months, I brought a suitcase with wheels — which turned into a big pain. Dragging the suitcase over cobblestone streets in Rome, (can you imagine how loud and annoying that was?), through deep swaths of snow in New York City… while it saved my back, it was very annoying.
For my most recent trip through Europe, my partner and I bought the REI Vagabond 40 packs instead. The one photographed here is the one I used throughout the trip (thus the scuffs and dirt marks!) I managed to use just one backpack for the entire three month trip abroad.
All in all, 2013 was a rather sucky year for outdoorsy stuff — I was so overwhelmed with things at my startup, WeddingLovely, that I pretty much stayed home and worked all year long (though, it was a great year for traveling, I can’t forget my three month trip through Europe.)
I started this blog in order to encourage me to go outside a bit more, and 2014 will hopefully be a big year for new outside adventures.
- Repeating myself: spend more time outdoors! Hiking, biking, climbing, etc.
- Lose weight and get in shape (of course, right?) While I’m able to do most things I want to do, I’m still ridiculously out of shape. I can hold a plank for maybe 45 seconds. My shoulders and upper back are weak enough that I can’t hold a full plank (arms extended) for a minute. I have enough endurance to climb mountains, but not continuous enough that I don’t need to take breaks all the time.
- Learn new skills — surfing, snorkling (though these two I might want to wait until I’m in an area with warmer waters, thanks Pacific), or something else.
- Climb Shasta and actually summit.
- Take a week long rafting guide course. I love rafting and almost quit everything to become a rafting guide a few years ago. While I don’t want to quit everything this time around, I do want to spend a week just rafting and learning how to guide — just in case.
- Do the entire John Muir Trail. 2-4 weeks of continuous hiking. Something I’ve wanted to do for years too.
- Climb Half Dome again, either with the JMT trip or on its own.
- Maybe, maybe do a road trip this year to visit family in Ohio, as well as seeing Zion National Park, Arches National Park, and Boulder, CO on the way (and maybe Banff on the way back.)
I’m hoping that 2014 will be a huge outdoorsy year for me! What are your plans? Anything fun scheduled for 2014?