Tag Archives: Hiking

Vegas 2021

We went to Vegas in March but I forgot to write about it. It was great but there were still a lot of pandemic restrictions so it sorta felt normal.

The hiking was phenomenal. We had a fabulous time hiking in quiet solitude since no one goes to Vegas for hiking. There was just us and Search and Rescue at one trailhead in the Valley of Fire State Park; they were busy doing search and rescue stuff so we didn’t see them. The weather wasn’t great, it snowed a bit, but it did create beauty – we drove back from the Valley of Fire State Park by Lake Mead and watched the sun break through the clouds / snow and create a spectacular scene. 

The food was great too – Vegas is two hours behind us so getting breakfast or donuts at 5AM in Vegas is no big deal. We did something new, we went on a self directed food tour, and it was a lot of fun. It was in old Vegas and it was super neat to go to three different restaurants with wildly different food.

About a month after we visited Vegas it became crazy – everyone is done with COVID. We heard the mayor say, “for all intents and purposes, Vegas is sold out of hotel room and rental cars for the indefinite future”. That’s wild!

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Colorado 2020

Hiking in Colorado was amazing. Just a spectacular hike with great company. The weather was perfect, the scenery was amazing, and we went at a time where the mountain flowers were out; 100% perfection.

Since I go hiking in Colorado nearly every year I could tell there were some differences due to the Rona life.

The noticeable difference started at the airport when I flew out on a Friday:

  • Fridays and Mondays the TSA pre-check line is usually quite long with business travelers. Not this time, I was the only person in the TSA pre-check line.
  • Everyone’s wearing masks and the airport is nearly empty.
  • Fellow passengers in the airport are overwhelmingly young people and families. The average age of travelers appeared to be a few years younger than my age.
  • Iceland Air’s plane was missing. Every Friday around 7PM there is a direct MSP to Iceland flight; the plane arrives to MSP the night before and is always at the same gate waiting for Friday evening. It was the same flight we took to kick off our world travels so every time I’ve been in the airport on a Friday I always get a happy reminder of our wonderful travels. The plane was missing. Probably because international travel is nearly non-existent.
  • Loading of the plane was done in smaller groups and went a hell of a lot faster than normal for some reason.
  • Middle aisle free seating on Southwest was really strange. Normally, people don’t want to sit in the middle aisle anyway but this was really, really strange since the plane was full.

A lack of business travelers was very strange. It’s only happened a few times in the past and it was always at touristy but not businessy locations, like Hawaii. The whole experience in the airport just felt surreal.

Hiking was different too. As I mentioned, the weather was absolutely perfect, the scenery was stunning, and I had, as usual, a great hiking companion. However, due to the Rona, Rocky Mountain National Park was limiting the number of visitors and slotting visitors into specific times between the hours of 6AM and 8PM. Since we weren’t able to get a slot we opted to show up before 6AM. Not a huge deal since we usually try to get to the trail head around 5:30AM to watch the sunrise on the trail.

We went to the same trailhead we’ve been to four-ish times in the past, usually no one is around or just a handful of people are around. This time there was a huge conga-line of vehicles driving into the park before 6AM and the trailhead parking lot was 2/3rds or more full with tons of people around. It was wild. People want to hike regardless of a pandemic and I guess they’ll show up at the ass-crack of dawn to go hiking.

Once we were on the trail it wasn’t different. Stunning beauty, serenity, blissful nature. Normally on the return part of the trip we start running into seas of people. Since the time slots exist we didn’t see many people at all on the return and the parking lot was full by roughly the same amount – another rather strange situation since the parking lots are usually jam packed and there are people swarming all over the trailheads.

Otherwise, everything in Colorado was great. We also went down to the Royal Gorge and enjoyed some beautiful mountain scenery along the way.

100% recommend. Would do again. A+.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Las Vegas and San Diego 2020

Well, I’m a bit late writing this. Like six months late. Better late than never, right?

This last winter we decided to leave the frozen tundra and spend some time with friends in Las Vegas and family in San Diego. Back in 2019 we did the same, except we went to Spain, and we missed the worst of winter. It was fabulous and we were trying to repeat our luck this year.

We weren’t so lucky missing the worst of winter BUT we still had a great time. This is easily a trip I could see us making every year. We were able to see a few amazing national parks during the flight and it really was a treat.

First we went to Vegas and the weather was perfect – no higher than the 80s and absolutely wonderful in the morning and evenings. We had a chance to hit up some new restaurants and eat some amazing donuts. Las Vegas has a LOT to offer on the food front. We went hiking in some of the local parks and it was awesome – no one was around in the early mornings and we truly had the parks to ourselves. I get the feeling people come to Vegas for activities other than eating and hiking so we really enjoyed watching the alpenglow at sunrise and sunset completely alone.

Most amazing part of wandering around was when we stumbled across Mt. Charleston, the local ski resort. First, we had no idea it snowed enough to create a ski resort, and second but most important, people were having picnics in the snow. Now, when I saw they were having picnics in the snow I’m not saying all the people were wearing snow gear and sitting near snow. No, these individuals literally were in street clothes and shoes and were sitting in the snow or hanging out in snow piles enjoying picnics. It’s not like one or two people were doing it either, there were hundreds. There must be some novelty to snow.

After a brief few days in Vegas we left to visit family in San Diego. The second half of the trip was equally amazing. Just like before we enjoyed great company and wonderful food. We wandered around San Diego at sunset and sunrise, much like Vegas, and really enjoyed seeing the world come awake and go to bed. Sunsets at Ocean Beach are flat out amazing and seeing the sunrise over downtown San Diego was wonderful too.

We walked quite a bit more and went to different parts of San Diego, like Pacific Beach, just to explore. Of course, we still went to Bronx Pizza, quite a few times, simply because it’s the best NYC style pizza outside of NYC.

Overall, we had a wonderful time and were very fortunate to have had great weather, great travels, and most importantly, great company.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

 

 

 

North Shore 2019

We visited the North Short this fall and it was a bit different than usual. First, it was kind of an odd fall in Minnesota so we didn’t really catch the fall colors. Second, we actually stayed in Canal Park of Duluth, MN, pretty far away from the nice, rural, North Shore that we’re used to. That said, it was still super enjoyable.

We visited Gooseberry Falls and hiked around the park, a first for us, and we finally hike Oberg Mountain! Oberg Mountain is a higher point in the Sawtooths and has a wonderful view of Lake Superior and the mountains to the west. We’ve attempted to hike Oberg Mountain in the past but it the parking area was constantly full. This year we showed up super early and had an absolutely beautiful hike. The hike itself was rather easy even though I was carrying about 30lbs of stuff and the trail had quite a few lookouts of the surrounding area. The hike was well worth the wait and I look forward to doing it again!

Otherwise, we visited our typical parks and lookouts and enjoyed the scenery of the North Shore.

We had a some pretty good food. We found the best BBQ restaurant we’ve ever visited in Minnesota not too far from our hotel and we finally had a chance to eat some donuts at the World Best Donuts in Grand Marais. For whatever reason we have had poor timing and never have had the opportunity to try their donuts – either they were closed for the season or we arrived too late. It’s not like we didn’t try, we’ve visited the North Shore consistently for the last 10 years or so. The donuts were certainly delicious and I can see why they have their reputation!

Enjoy the photos 🙂

Badlands NP 2019

I had never been to Badlands National Park as an adult. I’ve driven past the park many, many, many times so I decided to make a pit stop. There weren’t many people around since it was still winter so it was a great time to enjoy the park in peaceful quietness.

It was mostly cloudy during the drive to the park but the clouds opened up for a brief moment during my visit allowing me to get some decent photos of a beautiful scenery.

It’s not often a person gets to visit a park in peace. My time in the park reminded me a lot of when Jac and I had Zion NP completely to ourselves on our bicycles.

Enjoy the photos :).

 

American Southwest 2018

We had a wonderful two week trip through the American Southwest and saw some incredible scenery. The American Southwest is one of the last areas we’ve wanted to visit in the US since we’re not big into red rocks or desert so we’ve held off visiting the area until now. After our visit, I’ve changed my opinion a lot and look forward to visiting again, hopefully soon!

We drove a giant circle across Arizona and Utah visiting a ton of parks along the way (Petrified Forest NP, Canyon de Chelly NM, Monument Valley, Goosenecks SP, Arches NP, Deadhorse SP, Capitol Reef NP, Grand Staircase Escalante NM, Kodachrome SP, Bryce Canyon NP, Cedar Breaks NM, Zion NP, Grand Canyon NP) seeing incredible sights, eating incredible food, and enjoying spectacular weather.

It’s hard to describe the enormity of the sights. Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is the perfect example – it’s a national monument / natural feature that has grand mesas and incredible 1,500ft monoclines climbing stepwise nearly 7,000ft over many miles. The Grand Canyon is just that – grand, and the other national / state parks we visited were equally enormous. The slot canyons, hodooos, mesas, buttes, monuments, ruins, petroglyphs, arches, mountain peaks, desert valleys, goosenecks, orchards, and crystal clear night skies were all incredible. No photo is capable of capturing the sheer size and beauty of the area. I tried, I really did, but I know the photos I took are not representative of the area and fail to portray the area accurately. The area is one of those places a person has to see in person.

The national parks were busy. Very busy. To cope, we did one of two things: we either altered our schedule to minimize the number of people we’d be around or we’d figure out alternate paths / alternate activities. As an example of altering our schedule: we chose to do a lot of early morning hiking. Seeing sunrise on Peek-a-boo trail in Bryce Canyon was an experience I can’t describe and is easily one of the best moments in hiking I’ve ever had. We started hiking when it was still rather dark and had hiked in solitude for about 45min in the dark / shade of the hoodoos before we rounded a corner to see a very large valley filled with vibrantly lit hoodoos from the early morning sun. The colors were amazing and the full body experience was exacerbated by the early morning stillness, early morning animals, and early morning smells. It was stunning. As we finished up our hike we saw humanity pouring into the canyon and it was loud. Screaming, yelling, music playing, and selfie taking made it a bit harder to enjoy the trail. I’m confident we would have greatly disliked hiking in Bryce if we would have hiked at a normal human time simply because the crush of humanity would also be enjoying the trails. Renting bicycles and riding around the canyon floor in Zion NP is the other example of finding alternate activities. Humanity is overrunning Zion – people, people, people everywhere so the national park service runs shuttles to minimize traffic in the canyon. I know there is about a 0% chance I’d cram myself into a tourist shuttle so I looked for alternate activities and found we could rent bicycles and bike wherever we wanted; sounded like a great alternative! Not only was it a great alternative, it’s one of the coolest things we’ve ever done! It felt like we had the canyon to ourselves! Since there was very little traffic we could bike wherever we wanted, it was super quiet, and it was stunningly beautiful. It was surreal knowing that there were a ton of people in Zion NP but that they were relegated to shuttles and wherever they decided to get off the shuttle. Had we not rented bikes I’m pretty sure we would have hated Zion since there were so many people.

Outside the national parks, the solitude was incredible. There were vast expanses where we didn’t see other vehicles or other people, didn’t see planes overhead, had zero cellphone signal, and didn’t hear or smell anything other than nature. For example: Red Canyon right next to Bryce Canyon NP. It’s not even a park but part of national forest surrounding Bryce NP. There are quite a few trails in the area so we decided to hike the area. We hiked in the middle of the day and chose a more popular trail, the Golden Wall trail. We didn’t see a single person, we didn’t hear any sounds of humanity, and only enjoyed nature. The sights were really similar to Bryce Canyon but no-one was around. The hike is one of the better hikes we’ve ever done in our entire lives.

We were chatting with the National Forest Service volunteer at the Red Canyon visitor center and she mentioned Highway 12 is “the second most beautiful drive in the world”. Highway 12 runs between Moab and Bryce Canyon NP and goes through Grand Staircase NM, Capitol Reef NP, and a lo of beautiful areas. We had driven on Highway 12 and thought it was quite pretty so we were a bit surprised to hear it’s the second most beautiful drive in the world. I asked her what the first most beautiful drive was and she said “Milford Sound in New Zealand”. Fortunately for us, we had driven that road when we could compare. I think Highway 12 in Utah was more beautiful only because we didn’t really like New Zealand :/. It’s interesting to think that Milford Sound is internationally known yet I had never heard of Highway 12 in Utah.

Speaking of national parks and national forests – I continually re-learn that there is a major difference in crowds visiting national parks and national forests. We’ve hiked, a lot, all over the country and I noticed a while back that the folks visiting national parks seemed to be more like city dwellers who wanted to see nature and have access to amenities like shops, rangers, informational walks, etc., and people who visited national forests for hiking seemed to be the type of people who, in general, want to enjoy hiking far away from others. It’s awesome people want to visit national parks; there’s literally nothing else like the US national park system we’ve seen in all of our travels. It’s truly a unique gem all Americans should take advantage of when possible.

This is the first year I’ve noticed something different about the crowds in the parks and other areas we were visiting. While extremely anecdotal, it seems as though the improving economy has brought a different part of society to the parks. Jac and I started visiting national parks in 2008 and witnessed firsthand the utter destruction the Great Recession had on the tourist areas around the parks starting in 2009. Seeing boarded up hotels, closed restaurants, and shut down tourist attractions was common place. This year I noticed far fewer shuttered businesses and noticed the parks were attracting families / individuals who looked different than the typical national park tourist and may have been a lower socio-economic class. It was exciting to see the folks – the recession was awful and disproportionately awful to the lower socio-economic classes so it’s my hope my observations mean the recovery has worked its way to all classes of society. If my observation is true then the recovery sure took its sweet time. 

We were surprised to find out the area has a lot of homemade pie options. It seemed as though every local restaurant we visited offered some sort of homemade pie ranging from the classic apple, peach, etc., to the more adventurous mountain berry and summer fruits mix. This all started at Capitol Reef National Park. I had read that one of the gift shops sold homemade pie inside the park – which I thought was very strange. I had read that tourists needed to show up a bit early to make sure they were able to get pie, even in March / April, since they tended to sell out. First, I don’t recall homemade items ever really being sold inside a national park. Second, Capitol Reef NP is in the middle of nowhere, seriously, look at a map of the US to find a big city in the area and then look at a population density map, there’s nearly nothing in the area. So, we set off early from Moab and arrived in Capitol Reef NP a bit after 10ish or so. We found they were selling small personal pies in the park so bought one pie as a test quickly discovering we needed seven more. From there on out, I think we had pie with every meal and pie at night before we went to bed. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much pie!

Without planning, it seems our timing was right for a lot of things:

  • we weren’t snowed on, at all, unlike what happened to individuals we know who traveled the area a couple weeks before us,
  • the Milky Way was out in the early morning and we ended getting some great Milky Way photos,
  • our driver for the Monument Valley sunrise tour happened to know an incredible amount about photography and taught me a massive amount about night photography in about half of an hour,
  • the fruit trees in Capitol Reef NP were in bloom and it was beautiful,
  • the road to Cedar Breaks NM just opened for the year while we were in the area and the sunset we watched in solitude was incredible,
  • our gravel / dirt road driving went without a hitch since it hadn’t rained in some time and everything is solid,
  • we were able to get a tour of the Glen Canyon dam,

Despite having grown up in an arid climate I had forgotten how bad static electricity can get. I live in Minnesota now, rarely do I ever build up enough static electricity to shock myself or anyone else. Being high in the mountains and in the arid climate reminded me so much where I grew up; it only took a couple of days to get the metal touching habit back to top of mind so I could dissipate smaller amounts of static electricity frequently instead of getting a few doozies J.

Lastly, the food was great; not just the desserts, real food too. We had some extremely delicious Mexican food and it was awesome to get Indian tacos again. I had Indian tacos a lot in school growing up and I’ve come to find most folks in Minnesota have no idea what an Indian taco is or where to get one. One of the best meals we had was an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet in Moab after a long day hiking around Arches NP; we made out like bandits on that deal.

Overall, this trip went well above our expectations. I can’t wait to go back!

Enjoy the photos –

Chris W.

Short album:

 

Long album:

Fall 2017

Fall is here and the leaves are actually turning – it seems really late this year but I’m not really complaining.

We’ve had odd weather this fall so we’ve ended up having the best fall colors I can ever remember seeing in Minnesota. Normally, the winter shows up a bit early and the strong winds rip the leaves off the trees in a hurry but this year has been really tame.

We ran up to Banning State Park for the first time ever and were pleasantly surprised on the colors. Surprisingly, there weren’t too many people around so we had a great time in solitude.

I also included a handful of other fall related photos – like cookies, our fall flowers, and campfires. I would certainly like fall if all falls were like this in Minnesota!

Enjoy the photos!
Chris

Colorado 2017

It’s become a tradition to visit Colorado over Labor Day and go hiking with my brother. We returned to the same area as last year and hiked a loop of lakes on the Glacier Gorge Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.

One new habit Jac and I started is bringing something sweet on the trail to eat at the turnaround point; there’s nothing tastier than a nice sweet treat while hiking and it’s fun to sit in nature while snacking on something very delicious. Most people bring things like trail mix, protein bars, fruit, and other stuff but Jac and I bring things like doughnuts. I’ve never understood why someone would settle for something like trail mix or protein bars when doughnuts are available!

So, I was telling my brother about our hiking habit and my brother suggested bringing Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Since we don’t have Krispy Kreme doughnuts in Minnesota I figured it was only prudent.

Like last time, we woke up super early and and headed out. On the way to the tailhead we stopped by a 24hr Krispy Kreme and somehow ended up with a dozen doughnuts for the two of us. We were able to reached the trailhead well before dawn and were able to witness an absolutely magnificent sunrise due to all the forest fire smoke; the sky was so hazy I was able to use my zoom lens to see sun spots!

The air quality in Denver from the forest fires was pretty bad, like India / China bad. The PM2.5 particulates were deeply in the ‘unhealthy’ territory. I think it’s probably the worst air pollution I’ve been in since the world trip – I don’t miss it!

All in all, it was a great visit, a fantastic hike, and a I had a blast. It’s kind of hard not to have a good time since Colorado is awesome.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris

Canadian Rockies 2017

We recently finished a couple week driving trip through the Canadian Rockies and into Vancouver. What a remarkable time: the scenery was stunning, everyone was super-friendly, the hiking was mindbogglingly awesome, the weather was perfect, the ethnic foods in Vancouver were absolutely delicious, and our participation in the 150th Canada Day celebrations in Jasper was very enjoyable and seems like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our only disappointment was making our trip too short, there is a lot to see and we know we’ll have to come back. Had we known how awesome the Canadian Rockies were we probably would have visited earlier and visited multiple times.

Our flight to Calgary at the start of the trip was really interesting only because of who we sat next to: an Airbus mechanic. I’ve flown quite a bit so I had an opportunity to ask him all sorts of questions about planes, maintenance, and flying. My most pressing question had to do with the toilet; many of my flights have been delayed due to toilet problems so I asked him whether it was code for something else. He then went into a long explanation about the plumbing in an aircraft and how people flush all sorts of things that cause huge problems and that, no & absolutely not, is a toilet problem code for anything else. It comes down to people flushing things they should be flushing! Very interesting!

We showed up to Canada not really knowing what to expect. We chose the Canadian Rockies because we’ve never been to the area and we figured it was time to visit. In general, we’ve found areas with large amount of tourists rather unenjoyable places to visit because it’s tough to move around, it’s expensive, it’s a poor value, and people with their bad behavior ruin just about everything. As an example: our first stop on our first day in the country was Waterton National Park and a young couple became enraged at us when we took the last available parking spot at a waterfall. Another example would be when we showed up really early to Lake Louise to start the Plain of Six Glaciers hike and were hanging out near the outlet of the lake taking a few photos of  the sunrise on the lake when someone walked over and asked us to move so she could take a photo. It was early so not many people were awake or around and her request took us by surprise. We looked to our left and looked to our right to see another 10-20 people on the near quarter mile paved pedestrian area where this person could have easily taken a photo. Somehow, we had ended up in the exact spot she wanted to take a photo. Baffling.

Fortunately, these were very rare events and discovered pretty much no-one veered far from their car or the parking lot so we were able find pure joy filled solitude in the mountains surrounded by fantastic views, wonderful smells, and the beautiful sound of nature! Our lodging was generally a bit away from the major tourist areas so it was a bit more quiet for us. While things were generally more expensive than in the US, we found pretty much everything to be a good to great value. I can’t really think of a bad meal we had, bad lodging, or anything else that may have been a poor value. We had a lot of great conversations with locals and found pretty much everyone to be happy and very proud of Canada. We used Airbnb almost exclusively and once again Airbnb didn’t let us down at all and very much added to our trip experience. The flat we rented in Vancouver was easily one of the best views we’ve ever had on any trip and it was such as special experience  to be able to watch sunrise and sunset on the beautiful mountains and city every day.

The hiking was some of the best hiking we’ve ever done – the trails were well marked, well maintained, and went to areas of great interest. We were able to complete quite a few hikes but the two hikes we enjoyed the most were the Eiffel Lake trail which runs behind Moraine Lake and the Plain of Six Glaciers trail which runs behind Lake Louise. Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are two of the most photographed / most visited places in Canada so we were expecting throngs of people on the trails but found solitude. The Plain of Six Glaciers has a really cool tea house near the end of the trail and serves some delicious food. We found out the non-perishables are helidropped and the perishables are hiked in when needed. Knowing this, it was surprising the food was so delicious and reasonably priced!

For the most part, we have never had dangerous encounters with wildlife while traveling. Our luck turned this trip when we encountered a grizzly bear on the trail during the Eiffel Lake hike. We had started our return and I was about 150ft ahead of Jac when I came face:face with a grizzly about 20 feet ahead of me as I rounded a blind corner. Fortunately, I had read the bear safety pamphlet the night before. Unfortunately, I completely disregarded all advice and recommendations in the pamphlet due to fear and panic.  So I turned and ran back to Jac while shouting many curse words intermixed with ‘bear’ and ‘run’. I looked back periodically only to see the bear coming our way on the trail at a nice pace causing further panic. We eventually ran into a couple on the trail and asked if they had bear spray. They told us we should not run from a bear. Right about that time Jac slipped in some snow and was no longer standing so I couldn’t help but think it wasn’t really the best time for a conversation. We soon noticed the bear that had been following us on the trail once we started running had lost interest and was running into the valley below us. Jac and I don’t have any desire to come into contact with animals while hiking. Nature is very dangerous and even non-meat eaters like moose, elk, mountain goats, etc., can really mess up a human. We neither think seeing bears is cool nor strive to see apex predators in the wild while we are also in the wild because we both know six in claws don’t mix well with a human’s desire to thrive. Once we continued our return hike we warned hikers about the grizzly bear only to get replies like, ‘oh, cool!’, and ‘nice, I want to see one!’ WTF is wrong with people!?

We were lucky to be in the tiny town of Jasper (pop. 2,500) for Canada Day on July 1st. It was the 150th anniversary so the festivities were bigger than normal. We started Canada Day by going to an all-city pancake feed in the park, went to a flag raising ceremony where birthday cake was served, watched a parade and finished the day watching fireworks. Canada Day was awesome and we were lucky to have been in Canada for their special day. We saw locals sitting around, BBQing, and enjoying the day. While Americans celebrate July 4th right, I think the Canadians give us a run for our money when it comes to celebration our respective nations’ birthdays.

Eventually we made our way down to Vancouver. Shortly after we arrived we found out Vancouver is a food mecca and we were able to get all sorts of authentic food in Vancouver that we haven’t had since our world trip. We had amazing bowls of Japanese ramen, delicious Malaysian char keow teow, fantastic Vietnamese crepe, real-deal Syrian baklava from a guy on a street corner, authentic NYC style pizza, and even found the real-deal elephant ear donuts! We ate our way through the city so it was great we walked 45 miles in total as we walked from place to place over the course of five days. I am an early riser so I would walk around Chinatown while the area woke up. Chinatown wakes up a bit earlier than the rest of the city so I was able to snag fresh/warm apple turnovers at the many bakeries while it was still very quiet. I did it enough times to call it the Tour de Apple Turnover and even found a Chinese favorite bakery.

After our world trip I pretty much lost my apprehensions about being around dingy or unsavory areas. We discovered people are people and they, like everyone, pretty much want to be left alone. So walking around homeless areas and or dilapidated areas really hasn’t been a big deal to me. Well, I went for a walk around 5AM near our place in Vancouver only to find a massive amount of addicts hanging out around the safe injection site / needle exchange. I walked through the area and it was a surreal experience – these individuals had set up a market in a similar style to what we saw in the third world countries we visited and were selling items that looked like their personal possessions like used clothes, toiletries, and so on. People were yelling, people were passed out, people were talking, people were holding each other, people were helping each other do drugs. I was the only one like me and I haven’t felt that uncomfortable around a group of people in a long time but no one looked at me or acknowledged my presence. It was quite the sight to see. I walked through the area on a later day around 10AM only to find the market was gone and very few folks were around but the folks that were around now talked to me and said things like, ‘I’m going to kill  myself’, and ‘I see you following me, I see you’ while staring at me with pinpoint pupils. What a weird experience.

Vancouver is a really interesting city. There have been many migrations of foreigners and pretty soon there will be no majority race / ethnic group in the city. It’s also a very rainy city and it apparently rains 300 days a year so we consumed nearly 10% of their sunny/non-rain days per year during our visit! I always like to see if it’s possible for me to get a job in any area we visit and what wages would be like relative to the cost of living. I was a bit surprised to find Vancouver would easily be one of the worst places we could move. Once currency translation and generally lower wages for engineers are taken into consideration I would be making about half what I make now but also have nearly four times the housing cost. I was blown away by the idea I would be making less than I did when I graduated from college 10 years ago and have living costs many times higher than now. Vancouver has very expensive real estate like Seattle, San Francisco, LA, and San Diego, but unlike those places the same type of very high paying jobs don’t exist in Vancouver. Even after five days in the area and many conversations with the locals I’m still not sure how people make a go of it in Vancouver.

All-in-all, our trip to Canada was amazing. There were many other things we did, like watching and listening to avalanches, riding a bus type thing one a glacier, taking a boat cruise on the pristine Malign Lake, and many other hikes and tours where all of it was awesome but I want to wrap this up. I can state with certainty we found another area of the world that falls on our favorite list. We’d happily go back and I’m sure it would be just as enjoyable.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

 

Hawaii 2017

Hawaii is a fantastically weird place.

Hawaii has natural beauty and is very diverse: amazing mountains, lush rain forests, desert plains,fertile farms, barren lava flows, gorgeous beaches, craggy/rocky shorelines, wonderful sunshine, monsoon rains, ridiculous humidity, dry breezes, wonderful smells, and crystal clear air with stunning night skies. The range of climates on those tiny islands was truly astonishing.

All that said, the people and culture of Hawaii is incredibly strange. Jac and I aren’t ocean people, we don’t snorkel, we don’t scuba dive, we don’t fish, we don’t hang out at the beach, we don’t eat much for fish/seafood, we don’t eat much for meat, we don’t really consume much for alcohol, we don’t like big crowds, we don’t do all-inclusive type activities, and we dislike touring with groups. So, we spent time off the beaten trail talking to locals and learning about how Hawaiians make Hawaii, Hawaii. After all of our experiences, I can honestly say that if someone told me Hawaii was an English speaking anglo-centric independent county in the Pacific and I knew nothing else else, I would wholeheartedly agree. Why? Well, it’s complicated but here are my best guesses:

  • I think most folks fly down to Hawaii to go to their all-inclusive resort to get wasted all day long or go sleep on the beach to get wasted all day longi. I don’t think most people see the side we saw or even look for it given what most visitors want to do in Hawaii.
  • Few people are from Hawaii. It seemed like 98% of everyone we met are from somewhere else and moved to Hawaii because they fell in love. It’s a lot like California or DC in that regard. When no-one is from the area then it always makes the area seem a bit different.
  • No one is really in a hurry. As Jac said, “when everyone is on vacation is anyone in a hurry?”
  • The descendants of the Japanese immigrants from 100 years ago still keep parts of the island feeling like Japan. During one of our Airbnb stays we went to a restaurant called Teshima’s and had a bowl of udon soup very similar to what we had in Japan. Of all the cultures who migrated to Japan, it appears as though the Japanese are the only ones who tried to keep their culture. The Chinese, Africans, SE Asians, etc all assimilated and we couldn’t find authentic restaurants for those cultures.
  • There is still a very strong Japanese influence in Hawaii since Hawaii was about 40% ethnic Japanese at the time when the US took over Hawaii. We can go to local supermarkets and see a Hello Kitty section that is a non-trivial amount of space in a tiny store.
  • We only went to Maui and the Big Island. Maui seemed a lot of Vegas where lots of folks are there to party and then there’s the support network while the big island has a lot of agriculture and ranching. Two very different feels.
  • There aren’t the typical buskers and homeless people commonly found in warmer climates. I’m not sure if busking is illegal but they just aren’t around. I think it’s because folks need to actually fly to Hawaii via an expensive plane ticket and can’t hitchhike or take a cheap grayhound to a place where the cold won’t kill them.
  • If you’re white you’re a haoli (howly). I guess until the 1950s/1960s or something white people were the extreme minority. Then jets were invented and tourists started flocking to / moving to the islands so all the other immigrants from 100 years ago treat the white people a bit differently and view them as non-local.
  • We’ve been told by multiple people that moving to Hawaii is hard and there can be difficulties in assimilating. Visiting is fine and welcomed but moving to Hawaii is somehow viewed differently and negatively by the locals.
  • There are only a handful indigenous Hawaiians, like the people who migrated from Polynesia a long time ago, left. Because the pre-contact Hawaiians were such a warring culture there are a ton of battle sites and grave sites everywhere. This causes construction projects to be cancelled / strung up in court since it’s pretty much a guarantee construction workers will hit piles of bones at some point. Huge developments get abandoned because the developers run out of money fighting the court battles with the indigenous peoples. Even repairs to weather damaged areas get strung up in court – a beautiful valley we tried to hike in had its trail system destroyed by a 100 year flood a couple months back and the indigenous people are claiming ever rock and rock placement is sacred so they are trying to prevent any sort of repair work.

Of all the things we wanted to possibly see in Hawaii it was lava so we were very lucky we visited Hawaii in April. As it turned out, the volcano was somewhat active and it was possible to see lava flowing into the ocean from the 61g flow and see lava bubbling to the top of the Kilauea cauldron. We were fortunate because the volcano generally isn’t this active and we had an opportunity to watch quite the show!

It was so strange to be continually reminded of Japenese culture – from amazingly complicated bidets to amazing meals. We loved our visit to Japan and it was like some parts of the island were ‘Japan lite’; just enough to remind us of Japan but not different enough to feel like we were outside of the US.

So, all-in-all, we enjoyed our time in Hawaii while finding is a very strange place. I made two different photo albums, one of just the highlights in Hawaii and the other with a ton of additional photos or random Hawaii stuff.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris

Highlights:

 

Big album: