[day 2] Hiking in Mount Laguna

Waking up in the morning to the sound of birds and also your girls talking about breakfast was perfect. When I got out of my tent, the girls were all up (I like to sleep in on weekends!) and they were all cooking breakfast. And it was legit breakfast. They all had their burners out with their skillets, cooking bagels and scrambled eggs! What a perfect breakfast!

Pic: Individual burner with a skillet pan, cooking a bagel

We needed to make sure our bodies were ready for the 6-mile hike and once we were done with breakfast, we all geared up, packed extra snacks, and headed out. We figured it would be about 2-3 hours with lots of rests in between.

We didn’t have to drive anywhere because the campground we stayed at connected to the trail we were going on. We were going to walk the “Big Laguna Meadow Trail” and to start off, it was really nice. Also, we were having the perfect weather for a hike. Lower in the temperature with lots of sunlight, with a little bit of a breeze. Perfect.

Pic: One of my ladies, leading the hike

We had to walk through some forest to get to the actual trail but it seemed like a lot of people used this path as well. It was very easy to get to the trail from the campsite. And trees! It was so nice to be surrounded by green trees again! I’m not 100% but it also looked like this was part of the pacific crest trail. So I can say that I hiked the PCT?

There were also a lot of other hiker and bikers! The trail had lots of bumpy roads and I was so surprised to see so many bikers. Everytime we saw them coming, we moved to give them space, and if they came from the back, we heard the bell. ring-ring. Everyone was so nice to each other, with lots of “good mornings” and “have a good hike.”

Pic: biker coming down the trail

After about an hour or so, we took our first break. We found a flat area with some rocks so we all just plopped down and unpacked our snacks. It was just nice to relax a bit, take off some layers, eat some snacks, and share stories.

Pic: camping ladies group photo

We literally looked photoshopped here! But that is how beautiful it was that day. After snacking and resting, we had to get up and finish the trail. As we kept following the trail, we did end up at a fork and did take a wrong turn, and with our internet not working, we were all making educated guesses but eventually, we were back on the trail.

On the trail, we took in the forest and mountain view, the crisp air, and all the little critters we saw. There were part of the forest that was burnt down and the water hose was still looming around. We were careful walking but it was interesting to see all the brunt down trees and right next to it, there were already new saplings.

Pic: one tree surrounded by ashes

I think I really slowed down the group because I wasn’t so used to walking. I think I was prepared for the 6 mile but I think our hike ended up being around 9 miles? My body was not prepared for that. I was glad that the ladies all waited for me every corner. Eventually, we got back to our campsite and I think it took us about 4 1/2 hours. This is with our snacking time and me being a slow walking. But we stayed on the trail, stayed strong, and finished it!

Once we were back at our campsite, we were met with a mess! Some birds got into our bags and threw some of our paper plates and napkins all over. We quickly picked up all the trash we saw and cleaned it up. We were surprised because there wasn’t any food out. It was just utensils but now we know to even put those away.

We also made the decision to pack up and leave a day early because of the temperature at night time. I was very glad because I thought my toes were going to freeze the previous night! But we wanted to enjoy it until the very end, so we decided to see the stars for the last time before leaving. We put our tents away, started a fire, and just relaxed.

This time, we had a campfire favorite! Smores~ I was so excited! We used vegan marshmallows and it was just as good! I like to keep mine slightly away from the fire and roast them with time. My friend on the other hand, just stuck hers into the flame and made them super crispy!

pic: roasting marshmallows in campfire

They say there are two types of people…. haha. Overall, they were all just so good. And while roasting by the fire, we started to play a card game called “Do you know me?” It asked lots of interesting questions and we got to learn more about each other. If you haven’t played the game, you should! It is a great icebreaker game as well as a getting to know someone better. We had some hot seat questions that made the conversations all the more interesting! (Clik here to find it on Amazon)

We finished up the questions, looked up at the stars more, tried to take some pictures of us and the stars and not getting it quite right. Overall, I think the trip was a success and we all had so much fun! I cannot wait until our next trip together!

[Day 1] Camping at Cleveland National Forest

My friend invited me to a local camping trip and at first, I said no because I didn’t have any camping gear. But when she offered to lend me some, I just had to say yes! The last time I actually went camping (like legit camping) was when was 12 and was on a cross-country trip with my family. I was excited to get back into camping but I haven’t had a chance to do so. So I took this invitation as an opportunity to learn how to camp again.

We were heading to Cleveland National Forest and camping at El Prado Group Campground. I was going to carpool with my friend so I headed over to her place. She has a hatchback and thought it would be enough space but we ended up moving everything to my Tuscon. And good thing we did because we filled the backspace!

Gif: packed trunk space

The two of us had a lot of stuff. I think we had 2 tents, 3 sleeping bags, 2 sleeping mats, 1 box of arts and craft things, 1 icebox, 1 box of cooking utensils, a guitar, 2 folding chairs, and our clothes and shoes?

We took the 8 for about an hour and a half and made a small pit stop right before heading into the Park. Once you get off the Sunrise Hwy exit and take Old Hwy 80 to find the last supermarket and gas station. We followed signs for the gas station but if you want the actual pinpoint, use Mountain Super Market. We ended up getting ice here and noticed it was already really cold.

We wanted to get to the campground before sunset so we were rushing but when we saw something amazing, we stopped to take pictures. And that was right before getting into the park. There was a viewpoint and the sunset was just beautiful. We took a moment to take in the beauty before getting back on the road. If you have more time, drive slow and enjoy the mountain views.

pic: mountain view from the viewpoint

Once we got to the campground, the sun was already gone. So we pitched our tents as fast as possible. It got dark really quickly and it was also very windy. My tent almost flew away! Thank goodness a tree branch caught it. After pitching the tent, I got to meet the other ladies. They were all friends of my friend and they were all awesome ladies! They all pitched their own tents and all brought an abundance of camping gear, including snacks 🙂

The sun was gone instantly and we started our firepit right on time as it got to freezing really fast. We all sat by the fire and got to know each other and talked about life. It was really peaceful. Because it was still winter, there weren’t a lot of campers. When we were all sitting in silence, the sound of the wind, the branches brushing against each other, birds and other animals, and the firewood crackling, were all sweet sounds of nature.

pic: campfire

We ended up going to bed a little early to make sure we were prepped for the hike the next day. Once I was in my tent, the temperature hit me so hard. It was FREEZING! Even in the below 0 degree sleeping bag, my toes were not heating up. Plus, the high-speed wind that was shaking my tent didn’t help. It took a while but I think eventually, I passed out. If you are going camping during the winter, make sure to pack thick socks to keep your toes warm, maybe double layer your sleeping bag, and take some heat packs to keep you warm. (This is my notes for future events)

pic: my tent under the stars

Right before going to bed, I took this picture. The wind was so strong that even on my tripod, my phone couldn’t standstill. But I really loved being able to see so many stars with my naked eyes. Not my best photo of stars but I hope you enjoy it.

WEEKEND GETAWAY: SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK DAY 3

This was our last day here. Our original plan was to go back to the Park and do another trail but we decided to cancel that plan. We didn’t want to wait again to get through the entrance. Instead, we decided to go over to another recreation area that was close by called Slick Rock Recreation Area.

You can park in the parking lot but once it’s full, it seemed like you can park on the street. If you stay at the Lodge, you can walk to the stream as well. Once at the parking lot, you have to walk down to the stream area. We noticed that some parts were shaded by trees and some weren’t. It would be best to bring mats and tents in case all the tree shades are taken. We were lucky to find a small spot in the wooden area and setup our mat.

The water here was super clear and cool. You could even see little fishes swimming around. And I even saw a dragonfly just chilling. The water isn’t as deep as the Kaweah Recreation Area but comparing the two, I prefer Slick Rock Recreation Area. This place also seemed pet-friendly, as there were several dogs, small and large, enjoying the waters. Kai really liked the water and he was just jumping around, following his favorite ball.

We were able to have a slow, relaxing day, dipping our feet in the flowing water before heading back home. Perfect for that summer sun.

This was a short and somewhat impromptu trip but it was well worth it and I was able to spend some quality family time. This trip made me really want to see more nature! Time to plan my next trip 🙂

WEEKEND GETAWAY: SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK DAY 2

Today was going to be a full day! There were several things we wanted to see and trails we wanted to do. So we ate breakfast, packed some snacks, grabbed our masks and hand sanitizers, and headed out. We left the lodge around 9:30am and we thought we started the day early but not early enough! The road to the entrance gate was super backed up! It’s a single lane road all the way into the Park so we were stuck in it for over an hour! Once you get closer to the gate, there is a second lane for people who already have a pass so to make it a bit faster, I would recommend purchasing the pass before heading to the Park.

We decided to Hike the Moro Rock and on the way, we first saw the Tunnel Log. Follow signs for Moro Rock and you should see signs that points towards the Tunnel Log so keep going. The drive thru for the Tunnel Log had a huge line so we decide to walk it. If you really want to drive through it, there is a bypass around the log. So many cars were waiting in line to get ready for videos and pictures.

There were also several people climbing up top of the log and taking pictures. I didn’t see any signs prohibiting the action but do be careful and follow signage.

Other than the Tunnel Log, the area had a short trail and some large redwoods! And they were impressively tall! I couldn’t get the photo in one go so I tried a panorama shot. It looks so much better in person 🙂 Just being next to the trees made me feel so small and it made me appreciate nature more.

After walking around and admiring the trees, we headed back to our car and drove over to Moro Rock. It is very close to the Tunnel Log and the drive through the forest was really nice.

The parking lot was really small and was already packed but you can park on the side of the streets. This must be a popular spot since we started to see packs of people. Most of them were wearing masks which made me feel slightly better. There were Covid related signs so please follow the signage! Moro Rock is a staircase hike that is narrow so if you want to social distance yourself, this is not for you!

I don’t mind stairs that much so I was excited for the hike but only about 15 minutes in, I realized that I was so out of shape! There are several “rest area” on the way up and I took full use of them. Some part of the stairs had railing and others didn’t so just be careful when other people are around. Also, as I mentioned, parts of the trail are super narrow and zigzags. Meaning only one person can pass at a time. So be mindful of people heading the opposite direction of you.

Once that the top, you get a great panorama view of the Park and it made the hike worth it. There weren’t a lot of people at top and most of them were wearing masks. I did notice people taking off the mask for just the picture and putting it back on. People were being mindful of each other and being considerate. We were all able to enjoy nature together.

The hike down was easier but again, we had to be careful of the hikers coming up. If there is traffic headed your way, wait a couple seconds for everyone to pass before heading forward. Courtesy goes a long way on these narrow hikes.

There is a bathroom at the start of the Moro Rock trail if you need to use the bathroom. Make sure to take hand sanitizer/wipes with you. The people in line were social distancing and there were signs on the round indicating where to line up.

After the hike, we decided to head back to our lodge to grab lunch and go to the recreation park nearby. We saw people swimming and jet-skiing so we wanted to check it out. It was called Kaweah Recreation Area and there were lots of tents, people swimming, jet-skis, and more. The water wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. Actually, it was rather lukewarm (meh) but my family had a good time here. My dad didn’t want to go in so he just dipped his feet and watched people on their boats (you can see a part of a boat on the right side)

My brother and SIL brought their dog Kai and he didn’t want to swim at first. I think it was his first time swimming? He wanted to escape so bad but he got used to being in the water on one condition. That his favorite ball was also in the water with him.

After playing in the water for a bit and using all our energy, we headed back to the lodge. We relaxed until the sun went down and headed out to see the stars. This was around 11pm and it was dark enough to see the starts with your own eyes. The one that was clearly visible was the dipper. Sorry for the picture quality. My camera isn’t the best for night time photography. But you can still see the dipper on the left side 🙂 We watched the stars quietly for about 30 minutes and headed back to the lodge and passed out.

Weekend getaway: sequoia national park day 1

Every time my parents visit the US, we try to do a small family gathering by traveling together. My brothers live in opposite coasts and usually we only get to see our parents once a year. However, with covid this year, we couldn’t all meet up since the domestic flights were still pretty packed and we didn’t want to risk anyone’s health while gathering.

So the ones that were together decided to go camping. We asked dad to pick between Yosemite and Sequoia and he picked Sequoia. I instantly went to Sequoia National Park’s website to make sure they were open and luckily they were. The website had all the information about what would be open and what would remain closed. I tried to book their lodge but they were already filled up for the days we were planning.

And when I checked the campgrounds, they were also all booked! This was 2 weeks prior but they were already booked, weekdays and weekends. For campgrounds, they had limited number of spaces available (for social distancing) and you can make reservation 3 months in advance, so it must have booked up quickly. We ended up reserving a lodge about 6 miles out from the Foothill entrance in Three Rivers area called Western Holiday Lodge.

On the day of our trip, we had a slow start. We stopped by the Asian Market to grab some food and snacks for the trip. Plus, we were on vacation and decided to take it slow. When we arrived, the lodge didn’t seem too bad. The check-in process was very quick and the staff were all wearing masks. There were people grilling in the picnic area and kids playing in the playground. It was very family-friendly. The rooms were spacious too but the amenities for the rooms were slightly different so that was interesting. We booked 2 rooms and room A had a seating area with a sofa and coffee table while room B had a mini kitchenette. Both rooms had a fridge and microwave. If you have an amenity that you need, I would let the lodge know ahead of time.

We arrived late (around 6pm) and started cooking dinner right away. The sun was already starting to set and we needed the light to cook. The balcony had enough space to place our small burner and grill. We pan grilled samgyupsal (pork belly), washed up some veggies, opened up some side dishes we brought from home, and microwaved rice! And Voila~

There were not a lot of restaurants around the area so it might not be so bad to bring food and prep them at the lodge. There is only one BBQ spot so come early and claim it or bring your own! If not, bring microwavable food.

We were able to cook and prepare dinner before the sunset and that sunset was on point! The drive wasn’t too bad but we wanted to make it slow so after dinner, we just enjoyed some free time and each others’ company. I loved looking at the sunset glow and relaxing. Day 2 was going to be a full day!