Exploring Pikes Peak + Garden of the Gods

Hello friends! My parents recently came in town for a visit and we decided to check out some iconic Colorado Springs sights: Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. If you find yourself in Colorado Springs, these are two beautiful spots well worth a visit.

First up was Pikes Peak, also known as America’s Mountain. My dad and I actually hiked Pikes Peak via the Barr Trail several years ago, which was quite the adventure. This time around we decided to take the easy route and just drive up. There are lots of pull-off and viewpoint areas along the drive up so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take pictures and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Pro tip: pay for your tickets online in advance for a small discount! It’s also helpful to call before making the drive over to ensure entire road up is open, as they sometimes close it for poor weather or high winds.

Pikes Peak recently opened a brand new visitors center which is super nice and modern. You must try the famous fresh donuts and coffee, and make sure you take a stroll through their small museum as well. The visitor center is also a great opportunity to take a seat and drink some water which will help you avoid getting altitude sickness. It’s super common to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous when you gain elevation so quickly, so it’s really important to listen to your body and stay hydrated.

Pro tip: it is typically very cold and windy at the summit, even if the weather in the city of Colorado Springs is mild. Make sure you bring layers!

This was my first time driving myself down the mountain, as I’ve always pawned the task off to my husband or parents in the past. Pikes Peak Highway can be a bit stressful because of how steep and curvy it is, and if you’re not a fan of heights you may be a bit wary of the sheer drop-offs. If you don’t feel like taking on the task of driving yourself, there’s also the option of taking the Cog Railway. I haven’t taken it myself, but I’ve heard it’s another beautiful way to experience the mountain.

Next up was Garden of the Gods, an iconic outdoor area featuring dramatic spires and formations of vibrant red rock. Garden of the Gods offers tons of opportunities for walking, hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and rock-climbing, so there’s really something for everyone! Even if you just drive through the garden, it’s a stunning area any time of year.

Another perk of visiting Garden of the Gods is how close it is it’s location and proximity to other activities. I would recommend visiting the garden earlier in the day, grabbing lunch at a nearby brewery (I personally recommend Trinity Brewing – we loved it so much we went twice in one week!) and then doing some late afternoon shopping in downtown Colorado Springs or the nearby Manitou Springs.

Colorado Springs is a beautiful town with so many activities and sights to offer. We’ve had a lot of fun hosting friends and family over the past year since moving here, and we’re always discovering new spots. What are some of your favorite things to do in the Colorado Springs area?

Experimenting with Astrophotography

My parents are in town for a visit to celebrate my mom’s birthday and my dad was eager to find a spot away from the city to experiment with some astrophotography, so I decided to give it a go as well! My dad has been killing the game with astrophotography and even as his own website, Instagram, and YouTube. My gear is a little less fancy than his, but I wanted to try it out anyways.
We settled on the Paint Mines in Calhan, Colorado, as we knew the area would be much quieter than Colorado Springs. Around 8pm we made our way out to the Paint Mines and sure enough, we were some of the only people there. We set up in the cold and after some trial and error began snagging some pretty awesome pictures. I’ll include some of my dad’s photos as well since he’s the real pro here, so make sure to check out his website and social media for even more awesome content!

And some of my dad’s photography:

Bouldering at Stone Fort

Stone Fort, located in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, is one of the most popular bouldering destinations in the Southeast, and maybe even the country. The Stone Fort area is located just about 30-40 minutes outside of Chattanooga, and is unique in that the boulders are located just past a well-manicured golf course. I first learned of Stone Fort about four years ago when I was living in Georgia and working at a rock-climbing gym. It soon became a frequent destination for myself and my group of climbing buddies, where we would endure bugs and humidity in the summer or freezing cold rock in the winter to send our climbing projects. It’s been almost two years since I’ve made my way back to Stone Fort, so this past weekend my husband and I hopped on a redeye, landed in Atlanta at 6am, and met up with a friend to make the 2 hour drive to Tennessee. I didn’t bring my climbing shoes this time around, but it was still so fun to wander around and cheer on my husband and our friend as they worked on some awesome boulders.

There is a $9 entrance fee which is a bit annoying, but the parking lot is well-maintained and the area is generally safe which is a perk. The boulders are also located just past the clubhouse which makes it easily accessible. I would definitely recommend picking up a guide book, as Stone Fort is massive and can be confusing to navigate if you’re unfamiliar with it. You can also reference Mountain Project for lots of helpful information.

Leaf Peeping in Colorado

Fall is officially here and I couldn’t be more excited! Growing up, fall has always been my favorite season. There’s just something about a chill in the air and a cup of hot apple cider that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
This is my first time celebrating fall in Colorado and I knew I had to plan a day for my husband and I to take a drive and enjoy the beautiful colors. We settled on Interlaken Trail near Twin Lakes, and it did not disappoint.

Twin Lakes is about two and a half hours from our home base in Colorado Springs and located just north of Buena Vista, a cute mountain town. We got a late start to the day but still made time to grab drinks from The Coffee Cottage in Woodland Park, another little town worth a visit. The drive to Twin Lakes was beautiful in and of itself, and we spotted lots of aspen groves that were bright golden yellow.

We finally made it to the Interlaken Trailhead around 3:30pm, which turned out to be a great time to visit as it wasn’t crazy crowded and it wasn’t too hot. Some clouds were starting to roll in which contrasted beautifully with the golden aspens.

We started to hike along the Interlaken Trail but soon decided to head straight for the shoreline of the lake. My husband brought some fishing gear and our dog Willie was super eager to explore. We wandered along the shoreline, took some family pictures, and headed back home after about an hour of meandering around.

I would love to revisit Interlaken Trail another day when we have more time to explore as I’ve heard there are some old abandoned buildings at the end of trail! All in all, I was blown away by how beautiful Colorado is this time of year, and I’m so thankful we got a chance to experience it firsthand.

Diamond Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness

Diamond Lake Trail, located in Indian Peaks Wilderness, is a moderately challenging out-and-back hike with beautiful views of Diamond Lake and the surrounding peaks. Altogether, the hike is about 5.4 miles in length and gains roughly 1,220 feet in elevation.

Pro tip: make sure to check the weather frequently, as it can change very quickly in the mountains. The forecast the night before we hiked was clear but we ended up getting rained on about a mile into the hike and again during the last quarter mile! Which reminds me…

Pro tip: ALWAYS pack rain gear (if space/weight in your pack allows) – even if the forecast is clear.

The hike begins on Arapaho Pass Trail which departs from the end of Fourth of July Road, just past the town of Eldora. The trail will lead you gradually uphill through dense forests, until you reach a junction at about 1.2 miles, where you’ll bear left to begin on Diamond Lake Trail.

From here, the trail gradually descends, leading you over a creek crossing. After the creek, you’ll begin ascending once more until you reach Diamond Lake after about a mile. Diamond Lake offers lots of options for walking around and exploring the surrounding meadows!

How to Explore One of Washington’s Iconic Islands

Whidbey Island is one of the most underrated destinations in Washington, offering a number of activities for history buffs, hikers, and foodies alike. Whidbey Island may not be as well-known as Mount Rainier or downtown Seattle, but the island and surrounding areas provide a beautiful escape from the hustle of the mainland. If you only have one day to explore Whidbey Island, here’s exactly how to do it to get the most out of your trip. 

Begin your day by hopping on the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry which will take you directly to Whidbey Island. If you’re not a fan of ferries or don’t want to pay the fee, you’re more than welcome to drive via Deception Pass Bridge, but we’ll take that route on the way home. Mukilteo is another cool area to explore as well – check out my photo diary from a recent visit! 

Pro tip: swing by Southern Cross Espresso in Clinton for a quick cup of coffee. I highly recommend their London Fog as well!

From Clinton, begin the drive north to an area known as Ebey’s Landing. Ebey’s Landing is a historical preserve with beautiful hiking/walking trails that educate you on the island’s rich history and provide opportunities to spot wildlife. The historical preserve spans a few hundred acres, and my favorite area to explore is the Prairie Overlook Trail. For specific information on this hike, check out my adventure guide on Outdoor Project.

Pro tip: some areas in Ebey’s Landing require a Discover Pass, so come prepared!

You’ve probably worked up an appetite after exploring the bluffs at Ebey’s Landing, so it’s time for a quick lunch break. It’s a short drive over to Coupeville, a gorgeous coastal town with a number of restaurants and shops. If you’re craving fresh seafood, Front Street Grill is a great option located right on the water. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll see otters or seals, too! I also recommend Ciao Food and Wine for delicious pasta and desserts. 

After lunch, your next destination is Lavender Wind Farm. I had never been to a lavender farm before coming to Washington, and it has become one of my favorite summer activities. Lavender Wind Farm is u-pick, so you can stroll through rows of flowers and pick lavender as you go. Before leaving, stop by the on-site store for more lavender goodies like soap, bath salts, and lip balm.

Pro tip: the lavender u-pick season typically runs from May to September, so make sure to check the farm’s website before planning a visit. 

Now it’s time to make your way off the island, but the adventures aren’t over just yet. Instead of returning home on the ferry, I recommend making the drive over to Deception Pass State Park. This area is absolutely beautiful and a great place for families to visit, either for the day or a weekend. There are lots of walking trails through the forests or along the water, and plenty of opportunities for spotting wildlife like eagles and otters.

Pass over Deception Pass Bridge, another iconic landmark that is stunning in and of itself, and you’ll find yourself on Fidalgo Island which soon connects you back to the mainland. Before driving home, swing by Snow Goose Produce in Mt. Vernon. Snow Goose Produce is a large country market with awesome local products like fruits and vegetables, hot sauces, seafood, beer and wine, and some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. There’s truly no better way to end the day! 

Pro tip: Snow Goose is another seasonal operation, so make sure they’re going to be open before making the drive over!

I hope you found this travel guide useful and incorporate some of these spots on your next visit to Whidbey Island! 

Must-Visit Spots on the Olympic Peninsula

Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is one of the most unique and ruggedly beautiful areas the state has to offer. From a dense rainforest to rocky beaches and quaint coastal towns, there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy. If you get the opportunity to explore the Olympic Peninsula for yourself, here are some must-visit spots to include on your itinerary!

Hole-in-the-Wall at Rialto Beach

Hole-in-the-Wall at Rialto Beach is an incredible rock feature that shows you firsthand just how uniquely beautiful Washington’s coast can be. Rialto Beach is located within Olympic National Park, so be sure to pack your national park pass, or you’ll have to pay $30 per car to enter. The Hole-in-the-Wall feature is roughly 1.5 miles from the Rialto Beach parking area (so just about 3 miles roundtrip).


Note: this trail becomes inaccessible at high tide, so checking the tide schedule is key!


From the parking area, head north along the rocky shoreline toward the towering rocks ahead. Soon, you’ll catch a glimpse of the incredible, naturally-formed arch known as Hole-in-the-Wall. If the tide is low enough, you may also see a number of tidal pools with sea creatures like starfish and barnacles. Overhead, keep an eye out for a variety of seabirds and the occasional eagle, and don’t forget to check the ocean for signs of otters or even whales.
Hole-in-the-Wall offers some stunning views for minimal effort, making it a great option for families and hikers of all experience levels.

Hoh Rainforest

I was shocked when I first learned that one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S. was located in Washington state, and seeing it for yourself is a truly amazing experience. The Hoh Rainforest is also located in Olympic National Park, and is easily accessible from the town of Forks, another popular destination. There are a number of hiking options to explore the Hoh Rainforest, though I would recommend the Hall of Mosses and the Hoh River Trail.
The Hall of Mosses Trail is an incredible hike considering it is less than one mile in length and will take you through towering trees and, you guessed it, thick blankets of moss. If you only have time to do one hike, or you want to get the most bang for your buck, the Hall of Mosses Trail should be your first choice.
If you have a little more time to explore, the Hoh River Trail is another great option. Though the trail is 18.5 miles one-way, ending at Blue Glacier, it only takes about one mile from the Visitor Center to reach the Hoh River itself. I recommend at least making the trek to the river because the water is crystal clear, flowing directly from the Hoh Glacier on Mount Olympus.

La Push

The village of La Push, located within the Quileute Reservation, is a gorgeous spot for views of forested coastal islands and dramatic sea stacks. The village itself is small, though it does offer some food and lodging options, and the area of First Beach in particular is worth a stop for views of the Pacific and a chance to see some wildlife (we saw a young eagle on our last visit). These beaches aren’t like the ones you may be used to seeing in California or Florida: they’re typically very rocky and often scattered with driftwood of all shapes and sizes. First Beach is also a popular destination for surfers, and though I’m not much of a surfer myself, it is fun to watch and admire from the shore.

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is another fascinating natural feature located in Kalaloch, just south of La Push. The Tree of Life can be found just off the 101 Highway, near the Kalaloch Campground. Once at the campground, simply walk down the stairs and bear right along the beach. Soon, you will see the precariously perched tree for yourself. The roots of the tree actually form a cave, though I would caution visitors from spending too much time climbing under and around the tree, as erosion is clearly taking its toll. Though you may not spend an extended period of time at the Tree of Life, it’s a truly unique sight that is well worth a detour in my mind.

I’d also like to mention that while the town of Forks may be worth a stop for mega Twilight fans (hey, I don’t judge!), it is very small and quiet, and isn’t a must-visit in my opinion. The town does offer some easy access to fishing spots which may appeal to some, and it can serve as a good home base for visiting all of the spots I’ve listed above. When we first visited the Peninsula for a few nights in 2020, we camped at 3 Rivers Resort in Forks, which was a very comfortable and budget-friendly option!

I hope you found this guide helpful and use it as a source of inspiration when planning your visit to the Olympic Peninsula. Keep in mind, there are many other towns and areas worth visiting that I didn’t mention here, so make sure you do your research and visit as many spots as you can!

I’m Going Remote!

Hi friends! I’m coming at you with a super special post because I have some very exciting news: I’m going fully remote! I recently accepted a position working entirely remote as an Administrative Assistant for the company Clevertech. It was a bit of whirlwind going through the application and interview process, but I’m so excited to begin this new role in the coming weeks and transition into working fully remote.

For anyone else looking for remote work opportunities, I wanted to share some resources and tips for finding potential jobs and making yourself stand out as a strong candidate. Without further ado, let’s jump in!

Why remote?

Firstly, I think it’s important to note that working remote is not for everyone, and that’s completely okay! I began seeking out remote positions for a couple reasons, mostly centering around my lifestyle and family needs. My husband is in the military and often has to go out of town for multi-week trainings or deployments, so working remotely will give me the chance to travel and visit friends and family while he’s away.

Piggybacking off of this is the fact that all of our friends and family live in other states. In fact, being stationed in Colorado actually puts us right in between Washington, where my parents live, and Georgia, where his parents live! One of my biggest hopes for this position is that it will give me more opportunities to visit family without having to worry about taking time off or not making money if I’m not physically at work.

Another big reason I wanted to move into remote work was the fact that I wanted more opportunities for growth and to gain new experiences to bulk up my resume. I’ve been working in the outdoor retail industry for 5+ years and while I have absolutely loved it, I found myself working at jobs where there wasn’t much opportunity for upward mobility. I may not be working in this role forever, but I am looking forward to making the most of my time there and using it to build up skills that will open up more career opportunities down the road!

Where to look

Once I decided I wanted to seriously consider working fully remote, I began seeking out websites, forums, Facebook groups, and other resources that would help me find jobs I’m currently qualified for. Below are some of the places I would recommend checking out:

Female Digital Nomads on Facebook
This is an excellent Facebook group with thousands of members located all around the world and working in a wide variety of fields and industries. If you have questions about working remote or are looking to connect with other “digital nomads”, I would recommend joining this group, or finding others like it.

We Work Remotely
This is one of the best websites I’ve come across for remote job seekers, and this is where I found the posting for the position I got hired for. We Work Remotely is great because they post reputable job opportunities, the website is very easy to navigate, and job postings are updated frequently.

Fiverr
Fiverr is a great resource to check out if you’re interested in transitioning into remote or freelance work over time, without jumping into a full-time position right away. You essentially create “gigs” where you offer services, which can range from marketing to photo-editing to working as a virtual assistant, and so much more. While I don’t make enough on Fiverr to do it full-time, it is an easy way to earn some extra money and build up your freelancing portfolio.

Glassdoor
Glassdoor is a fantastic website to utilize as you can not only search for job postings, but you can also read reviews that current and former employees have left of companies to get a sense for how people like working there. I will say to take every review with a grain of salt, because I find most of the people who leave reviews either had amazing or horrible experiences, so it can be hard to find the middle ground. However, I frequently use Glassdoor to search for companies and jobs, and I’m more inclined to want to work for a business with higher ratings, because it generally reflects a good company culture and work environment.

Reach out to your own network
Another great way to find remote opportunities is to reach out to people you know personally who work remote, and see how they started doing it! Oftentimes they’ll know of some great places to look or can possibly get you in touch with someone at their own company to discuss open positions.

Application/interview tips

So, you found a remote job that sounds amazing and you’re ready to apply, or maybe you’ve already scored an interview! Here are a few things I would recommend doing to ensure you stand out as a strong candidate:

  1. Depending on how many jobs/professional experiences you’ve had over the years, create a few different versions of your resume that cater to specific fields/industries. This will help you narrow down which experiences are relevant to the job you’re applying for and avoid sending in a multi-page resume that overwhelms potential employers.
  2. If relevant, include any personal projects you have been involved with, even if they weren’t paid. For instance, I typically include a section about Wandering the Gap because even though it is a personal blog and not a paid job, it shows I am comfortable with technology, have a creative side, and am confident taking the initiative to start projects on my own!
  3. Know how to communicate your strengths and weaknesses. Talking about yourself can be uncomfortable during an interview, but it’s important you pinpoint specific strengths and examples where you demonstrated them. A potential employer simply isn’t going to have the time to dig through your resume and discover your strengths for themselves, so get comfortable hyping yourself up!
    On the other hand, it’s okay to acknowledge areas or skills that you may be lacking experience in, but instead of saying “I don’t know how to do that” or “I’ve never done that before,” spin it as: “That is a skill I would love the opportunity to develop more” and “While I don’t have extensive experience in that currently, I’m comfortable taking on the challenge and I’m always eager to learn new skills.” This shows a willingness to be coached and challenge yourself!
  4. Don’t just talk about who you are and what you’re passionate about, demonstrate it through relevant scenarios and experiences. One of the biggest pieces of advice my dad has given me about building my resume and acing interviews is that instead of just saying “I’m passionate about XYZ,” actually put your words to action and seek out experiences or situations that show employers who you are and what’s important to you.
    If you’re passionate about volunteer work, for instance, find opportunities for volunteering to put on your resume and bring up specific scenarios in your interview where you demonstrated a spirit of service and giving back. Anyone can talk the talk, but having tangible evidence of living out your values and priorities is so much more impactful!
  5. Do your due diligence to pick the best opportunity that will work for you, not just the first opportunity that you can find! There are so many things to consider when looking for a new job, from pay/benefits, to how much/when you’ll be working, and how it will accommodate or perhaps challenge your currently lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to go on a number of interviews, even if it means getting rejected or being the one to turn down a job offer. I almost always accept a job interview when one comes my way, because it’s great practice and a good opportunity to see what roles and positions are out there. Before accepting a job, however, I’ll make a short list of things that are top priority to me, such as a certain pay rate, work schedule, etc., and I try to stick to those as much as possible. Be your own advocate and stick up for what’s most important to you!

I hope you find this post helpful in some way, and for anyone on the hunt for a new job, I wish you the best of success! If you have any specific questions or other resources you’d like to share, be sure to leave a comment on this post. Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to you all soon!

Barclay Lake Revisited

Check out the original photo diary from my last visit right here!

Barclay Lake is a fantastic day hike located in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. If you’re looking for a relatively short and family-friendly hike, this trail is a great option!

Pro tip: don’t forget your Northwest Forest Pass! For more information, visit fs.usda.gov.

The trailhead for Barclay Lake is located near the town of Baring at the end of a fairly rugged forest service road. This trail is super popular so make sure you arrive early to claim your spot at the trailhead parking lot. This 4.4 mile out-and-back trail departs directly from the trailhead, leading you gradually downhill through a thick forest. Eventually, you’ll begin to follow Barclay Creek, meandering your way through dense foliage.

Pro tip: If you visit on a clear day make sure to keep an eye out for some views of Mt. Baring along the way.

You’ll gain about 200 feet of elevation as you head to the lake, and after about a mile you’ll cross a bridge over Barclay Creek which is a great photo op! It won’t be long before you reach Barclay Lake itself, a picturesque Pacific Northwest lake framed by evergreens and jagged peaks.

Pro tip: be prepared for the lake’s water level to vary significantly depending on the time of year you visit. When I first visited in July 2020, the lake was fairly high, but this time around in August, it was significantly lower.

There are a number of campsites and opportunities to take a lakeside snack break as you meander around Barclay Lake. No matter where you stop for a rest or set up camp, you’ll be treated to some gorgeous views in a peaceful and serene setting.

Barclay Lake is one of my favorite hikes in Washington, and I’m sure it’ll become one of yours too! Let me know in the comments if you’ve visited Barclay Lake before and what your thoughts were.

Directions: from the town of Monroe, head east on US-2 toward Baring. After roughly 25 miles you will see The Baring Store on your right; at this junction, turn left onto 635th Place NE. You will cross over railroad tracks and soon the road will become unpaved. Follow this road for about 4 miles until you reach the Barclay Lake Trailhead. More detailed information available at WTA.org.

A Moody Day in the PNW

I’m finally back in Washington for another visit and decided to take advantage of the cloudy, moody weather that greeted me the first day by doing some of my favorite PNW activities.

I started the day by visiting several different coffee stands and enjoying some specialty drinks. If you didn’t know, I run an Instagram called @pnw_coffeestands where I feature a new coffee stand around the Pacific Northwest every week. Since I’m not currently living in the PNW, I have to visit loads every time I visit so that I have plenty of content throughout the year!

Pro tip: make sure to do some basic research before you pop into a coffee stand or you may find yourself at a bikini coffee stand, which might not be your cup of tea! Oftentimes the stands will say “family-friendly” to let you know the baristas will be fully clothed!

After loading up on plenty of caffeine, I made my way over to Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing. Ivar’s is an old-school seafood chain with a variety of locations throughout Washington that vary from walk-up seafood bar to sit-down dining. The Mukilteo Landing location is one of my favorites because you get fantastic views of the Puget Sound. On a cloudy day, nothing is more comforting than enjoying a cup of warm clam chowder and watching the ferries go by.

After lunch, I strolled over to a nearby pier and watched some gentlemen fishing and crabbing. You should always keep your eyes peeled when you’re near the water because you may catch glimpses of sea life such as starfish or seals!

Pro tip: bring plenty of layers, and always carry a good rain jacket with you. Even though I was fine in a short sleeve shirt during lunch, I quickly had to layer on another jacket as I strolled by the water.

Next up, I walked over to the Mukilteo Lighthouse, a quaint little park featuring an over 100-year-old lighthouse that still works to this day. This park is a gorgeous little spot to stroll through and catch some amazing waterfront views.

From the lighthouse park you can easily make your way to the docks and continue your stroll along the shoreline. It’s not uncommon to see seagulls feasting on things like mussels and crabs, and I love watching the sailboats head out onto the Sound.

After a cozy and relaxing afternoon in Mukilteo I made my way up to Barclay Lake for a quick early evening hike, though you’ll have to stay tuned for that photo diary!

If you ever find yourself in Washington and want to experience some classic moody PNW vibes, I highly recommend enjoying some seafood along the Sound. Let me know your favorite ways to take advantage of cloudy PNW weather, and stay tuned for my next post!