Tag Archives: hiking

Off to Anchorage, Alaska

First of all, Sarah Palin, you are a liar. I never got to see Russia from where we were staying, which was quite the disappointment as I’ve heard Putin’s winter coat should just be coming in. But, the scenery more than makes up for it in Alaska.

Alaska train

Driving between the major cities, Anchorage and Fairbanks, takes about six or seven hours. Being battle-hardened road trippers, Mandy and I had no problems here, and the mid-point between the two cities is Denali National Park, which is just pants-on-head, stupid beautiful. If we had any hard feelings about leaving Fairbanks, it was only because the farm we were staying at was so nice. The rest of the trip was pretty okay, but I didn’t feel like we were really mourning our leaving of the city as much as our dwelling.

If you’ve spent time anywhere else in Alaska, your first impression of Anchorage is that it’s much more of a city than most other places.

In fact, Anchorage is the most populated city in Alaska, at ~292,000 people. The second biggest is Fairbanks, at ~31,535. The difference in population of the most populated to second most populated is around 257,000 people. As you can expect, there is a lot more to do in Anchorage. We tried to hit as much as we could in our week there. I think we did alright.

On our first day in Anchorage, we did some sightseeing in downtown where Mandy managed to make it to almost all (two out of three, ain’t bad) of the yarn shops and we took a humbling, interactive hike that detailed the sort of destruction a 9.0+ earthquake wrought upon the city in ’64.  I also slipped down a muddy hill, thoroughly ruining everything I was wearing for the day. All in all, 10/10, would embarrass myself in front of locals again.

Mushroom
An authentic Alaskan mushroom, found near the trail

Our second day was spent on an eleven hour boat tour of Kenai Fjords in Seward, Alaska. Much like the Denali trip, we’ll give this section its own post, but glaciers, whales, puffins, and sealife abound.

Kenai Fjord Tour
A glimpse of the changing views seen during the Kenai Fjord Tour

The rest of our trip consisted of a lot of hiking, sightseeing, and coffee drinking. Anchorage actually has more espresso stands, per capita, than anywhere else in the US.

Flattop Mountain Trail (Information)

Panorama view from Flattop Mountain

We hiked Flattop Mountain, which had advertised itself as an easy hike.

This is false advertising.

John during the Flattop Trail hike
Uh oh…

The hike was an extreme uphill stair climb against gravity, and when you got past the steps, you were rock climbing the west of the way to the top. Combined with mossy, loose rocks and slippery mud, it made for a harrowing climb. But in the end, as always, we conquered the mountain and were in for a hell of a view at the top. You could see most of Anchorage and the Seward peninsula leading out into the ocean, as well as a fantastic backdrop of mountains. The climb down was actually a lot easier, as you could crab-walk most of the way.

Mandy and John on Flattop Mountain
Mandy and John on Flattop Mountain

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (Information)

This was an easy, paved trail with nice views and perfect for biking as well.

Mountain views in Anchorage
From the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

Eagle River Nature Center (Information)

About 40 minutes out of Anchorage, this trail system felt a lot more removed from the city than the other trails. There are salmon and beaver viewing decks, along with meandering, shady trails. The Rodak Nature Loop is nice and easy, probably taking no more than 30 minutes to go around if you stop for a bit at the viewing decks. The Dew Mound trail comes off of the Rodak Nature Loop, it’s an easy but not boring hike. We swear we heard a wolf howling a few times while we hiked!

Taking a break from nature, we walked the Anchorage Museum and saw tons of native Alaskan art and tools. We watched a talked-up movie about the aurora that was of horrendous quality, with seats out of a medieval torture manual – seriously, don’t pay for this unless you can get in the viewing room first.

By the end of the trip, we had put 2000 miles on our rental car, but there is still so much more out there waiting to be seen. A monumental state with monumental qualities, Alaska is not a state to be experienced in a matter of weeks. Regardless of the time you have, anybody that considers themselves a fan of nature should pack a bag and head off to Alaska.

 

A little bit of Colorado, lots of hiking

It’s been a couple of months since our last travels. John is getting ready to start school in September, so when my sister Jessy asked if we wanted to join her on a trip to Colorado, we jumped on it. One last hurrah!

There’s not much you have to say about Colorado, pictures are enough, so here goes:

A small trail next to Sabrina’s house

Going hiking!
Sabrina, as we set out on the trail near her house

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A wooden chair
A little old chair <3
Flowers near the trail
Lots of flowers in August
Buddha statue surrounded by trees
A little zen in the forest
Panorama of Diamond Lake
Panorama of Diamond Lake
Jessy taking a picture with her cell phone on a hike
Jessy, taking a picture of Mandy on a short hike just steps away from Sabrina’s house

Red Rocks Amphitheater (Visit Red Rocks)

We visited Red Rocks twice during this trip, once for a Walk the Moon concert and again for Yoga on the Rocks. Looking up from a concert or while in a warrior pose to see that breathtaking view was amazing.

Red Rocks concert
Watching the sun set before the concert starts
Yoga on the Rocks
After Yoga on the Rocks
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Driving away from Red Rocks

4th of July Trail up to Diamond Lake (Trail information / Directions)

This Colorado hike is absolutely beautiful. It was a little rough for some of us Floridians, as we still weren’t used to the altitude, but totally worth it. It took us about 5 hours round trip, we saw 3 or 4 waterfalls and the top of the trail takes you to Diamond Lake near the top of the mountains.

Sabrina hiking
Sabrina on the 4th of July Trail
Walking on a trail
A little mud never hurt anyone
Group of hikers on the trail
One of many waterfalls on the trail
Hikers
Pointing out another waterfall
Jessy on some rocks by a waterfall
Oh, what’s that? Another waterfall?
Strong woman near a waterfall
Jessy, triumphing over the rocks!
Hikers near a waterfall
John and Paul getting adventurous
Hikers on the 4th of July Trail
More trail shots!
Diamond Lake hikers
Having some lunch by Diamond Lake – we made it to the top!
Diamond Lake
Jessy, taking pictures of the lake
Hikers at Diamond Lake
Our group, happy to have made it to the top!
4th of July Trail view of the mountains
One of the many gorgeous views on the way up (or down)
Rushing waters
Rushing waters

Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park
A little shot of Estes Park – we didn’t take many pictures while we were here, just did a lot of shopping and walking

Colorado is beautiful in August and the weather is amazing, especially in the mountains where it gets a bit cooler  (a wonderful contrast to Orlando).  We highly recommend the 4th of July trail and, of course, a visit to Red Rocks Amphitheater for the sunrise or sunset!

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

I’ve visited Pittsburgh maybe 25 times in my life. I can’t say that Pittsburgh is in the forefront of my mind when it comes to planning a trip but my mom lives there, so we visit pretty often.

Mandy and Jessy when they were young
Me and my sister when we were teens getting ready to go snow tubing!

Continue reading Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Visiting Eugene, Oregon

Once upon a time, John and Mandy filled out the 20 minute quiz on Find Your Spot. The website asks tons of questions to give you a list of cities in the US that match your weather, political, financial, and cultural preferences. One of twenty-four results on our list was Eugene, Oregon.

After spending a couple of days in Portland, then Seattle, we headed down to Eugene to visit for the first time. There is a big difference between those two large cities and Eugene, for sure. Even after spending 4 days there, we can’t say we could point out the city center of Eugene on a map. There aren’t many towering buildings and there isn’t much traffic to speak of. The traffic is especially unnoticeable after dealing with Portland for a few days.

Continue reading Visiting Eugene, Oregon

Hiking to Earn More Food

We love hiking — getting outside, going farther than you probably should before you turn around, burning calories — but the meals you eat afterward are the best because they’re so guilt-free.

This is what we discussed after our hike at Lair o’ the Bear with Beana while eating cookies and brownies.

The trail at Lair o’ the Bear wasn’t overly strenuous but it was pretty. From what Beana told us it can get fairly crowded, but we only passed one person on our tromp through the woods.

View from Lair o' the Bear

We saw no lairs nor bears.

Mandy and John at Lair o' the Bear

Mandy and Beana at Lair o' the Bear

Mandy and John at Lair o' the Bear

After about an hour at Lair o’ the Bear, we’d completed one of the loop trails and decided to move on to Red Rocks because we had not had enough hiking.

A view from a trail at Red Rocks

So… this hike was an ass-kicker. Not only did the altitude steal every breath from us but the trail has a 16% grade incline.

Mandy and John before things really got started on the trail
Mandy and John before things really got started on the trail
Beana and John going uphill
Girl, look at that steep hill.

Pretty views from Red Rocks

Mandy and John pretending like they're not dying.
We’re trying to pretend that we’re not dying up here.
Beana leading the way
Beana is leading the way downhill — our destination is the parking lot at the top right of the picture.

We went into the Red Rock Amphitheater Hall of Fame downstairs from the parking lot (yep, more stairs).

Mandy and Beana

Sabrina and John
Ain’t no thing to go back up for Beana and John (I think they’re holding it in).
Beana and John acting tough at the top of Red Rocks
We made it back up to the top!

Views from Red Rocks

View from Red Rocks
You can see the car down there! It’s all downhill from here.

We made it! I’d definitely recommend hiking around Red Rocks — they’re tough hikes but well worth the views and make you feel like a bad ass when you’re done (though not as bad ass as all of the mountain bikers we saw riding around).

Today’s Steps: 12,000+

Sunrise and Snow Hikes

On Saturday morning, we decided to get up early and make it to the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Golden, CO to catch the sunrise.

Sunrise at Red Rock Ampitheater

One of the first early morning shots we took.

Sunrise at Red Rock Ampitheater
The sun is beginning to reflect into the clouds. The colors just cascaded across the sky.
Sunrise at Red Rock Ampitheater
You can barely see the sun starting to crest the horizon.
Sunrise at Red Rock Ampitheater
Closer, still.
Sunrise at Red Rock Ampitheater
A shot of the amphitheater at sunrise. There were only a few people there with us.
Sunrise at Red Rock Ampitheater
The sun finally crossing the horizon. You could slowly see the dotted lights of Denver fading out as the sun hits them.
Mandy at Sunrise
A shot of Mandy in the early morning sun.

After we had our fill of the sunrise, we decided to head out to a small town not too far down from Red Rocks called Evergreen and do a hike up to Maxwell Falls. A very uphill hike in the fresh snow, that left Mandy and I feeling like we had run a marathon.

IMG_1923
Pines and snow were basically all you saw on your way up the falls.
Wee! Downhill!
Mandy posing a picture on the downhill.
A Selfie at Maxwell Falls
Us, somewhere near the top of the falls.

Total Steps: 22,000+