I recently had the opportunity to take a quick solo trip to Washington DC, and I ended up only spending about 30 hours in the city. Even though my trip was super short, I still got to see some incredible sights and do some top DC activities. Here’s exactly how I spent my 30 hours in Washington DC! P.S. make sure to also check out my vlog from the trip right here!
8am – land in DC and hop on the metro 9am – get off at Capitol South station and walk over to the Capitol 9:20am – head over to the National Mall and walk over to Museum of Natural History 10-11am – explore the museum
I recently took a spontaneous solo trip to Washington DC and one of the things I was looking forward to the most was enjoying some delicious food! From previous trips to DC I remembered the city has some excellent food options and I wanted to try a variety of restaurants I’d never been to before. Here’s everything I ate during my 30 hours in Washington DC!
Lunch: Old Ebbitt Grill
For my first meal in DC, I arranged a lunch reservation at Old Ebbitt Grill. As I was researching lunch options near the National Mall, where I planned to be most of the day, Old Ebbitt Grill kept popping up as one of the highest-rated restaurants in the area. The restaurant is just a block or so away from the White House and holds the title of oldest bar in Washington DC, having been in operation since 1856. I definitely suggest making a reservation if possible because lunchtime on a Saturday was incredibly popular. I started off with their Queen Bee cocktail, a gin and soda concoction with lemon juice and hibiscus syrup which was super light and refreshing. I also got a cup of New England clam chowder soup which wasn’t super creamy but had great flavor. For my entree, I tried the jumbo lump crab cake sandwich with a side caesar salad. The crab cake had a very mild flavor which was especially delicious with a squeeze of lemon on top. I almost wish the crab cake had more of a fritter vibe, as it was a bit one-note with the crab, but overall I really enjoyed it. The caesar salad and side of coleslaw were tasty as well, and I definitely left satisfied.
After exploring a few more museums, I headed to Oyamel for dinner. I was super excited to see they had an entire station dedicated to making fresh guacamole, and I was definitely not disappointed. I tried their spicy guacamole which was some of the best restaurant-made guacamole I’ve ever had. It was incredibly fresh and all the flavors were perfectly balanced, from the bite of the jalapeno to the fresh-squeezed lime. Don’t worry, I didn’t eat that entire bowl – though I was defintely a bit tempted! I also ordered their classic margarita which was equally fresh and delicious. For my main course I tried a dish I had never heard of: cabacitas con frijoles. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it ended up being a very light stew of white beans, squash, corn, and spices. I absolutely loved this dish and am eager to try and recreate it at home.
Of course, I had to save room for dessert. I ended up swinging by Dolcezza to pick up some gelato, and this ended up being one of the highlights of all the food I tried in DC. I grabbed a pint of their black and white cookie batter gelato without sampling it or reading the description first, because I’m a sucker for anything cookie batter! The flavor ended up being amazing, with stripes of icing and chocolate ganache and chunks of cake. It wasn’t overly sweet, but definitely hit the spot after a long of day of walking in the DC heat.
Breakfast: Farmers Fishers Bakers
To kick off day 2 in DC I made my way over to Georgetown to enjoy breakfast at Farmers Fishers Bakers. I heard Farmers Fishers Bakers offers some of the best brunch in town, and I was excited to try for myself. To start, I ordered a bellini which was very light and refreshing – the perfect way to kick off Sunday brunch in my opinion! My first round through the buffet I grabbed some fresh green beans, parmesan grits, sourdough bread, yogurt with granola, hummus, and a sweet corn pancake. The highlights from this round were definitely the sourdough and hummus as well as the corn pancake. My second time through the buffet I opted for broiled grapefruit, fresh pineapple, hashbrowns, a buttermilk pancake, and a french toast stick. My favorites by far ended up being the broiled grapefruit and french toast stick. My main complaint with Farmers Fishers Bakers is the buffet itself was a bit disorganized, with there being no defined line or sense of which direction to go. People were wandering all over the place, hopping in and out of line, and there also happened to be a large group of children running around which made things a bit stressful (though that obviously wasn’t the restaurant’s fault). While the dining experience was a bit chaotic, I did enjoy all of the food I tried and would definitely love to return to try more.
After breakfast I set out on a mission to find some fall-inspired coffee, and I settled on the local chain Compass Coffee. The space itself was very cool with tons of seating, and it was obviously a very popular work/study location for locals. I tried the pumpkin spice cold brew which was super delicious, with just the right amount of sweet and spice while still maintaining a smooth cold brew flavor.
My final meal in DC was lunch, which I actually ended up eating at the airport. I didn’t have high hopes for airport food options, but was pleasantly surprised to see Cava, which I consider the Mediterranean version of Chipotle. I had eaten at Cava on a previous trip to DC, and remembered it was super quick, fresh, and delicious. I got a greens and grains bowl with their super green lettuce mix, brown rice, lentils, falafel, roasted vegetables, tzatziki, hummus, pickled red onion, cucumber, feta, and harissa vinaigrette. My bowl was super delicious and filling and ended up being the perfect airport lunch option.
All in all, I was super impressed with all the food I tried during my time in Washington DC. DC has some amazing food options and I always thoroughly enjoy trying new restaurants and dishes during my visits. What are some of your favorite restaurants in the DC area?
Horseback riding is one of those classic Colorado activities you have to do at least once, whether you live in state or are visiting from out of town. In 2021, I was able to go horseback riding through Garden of the Gods with my husband which was a super cool experience, so we decided to go riding again this year while my in-laws were in town. This time around, we opted to book our ride through American Safari Ranch in Fairplay, about 45 minutes outside of Breckenridge.
The main appeal of American Safari Ranch for our group was they don’t do nose-to-tail riding, but actually let your group space out and ride alongside each other. The setting also looked beautiful, with rolling hills, forests, and some water crossings as well.
Our guide for the day was Pedro, a super friendly and knowledgeable ranch hand from Spain. We booked an hour and a half ride which was the perfect amount of time to take a beautiful loop up a rocky mountain and through a gorgeous forest of aspens. All of the horses were very well-trained and Pedro did a great job sharing facts about the area, the ranch, and our horses. All in all, we had a fantastic time, and I would say it was one of my top horseback riding experiences yet!
American Safari Ranch also offers ATV tours and various lodging options. The ranch is also home to some adorable goats and even some alpacas!
My husband and I recently had some friends in town and one of their goals was to summit a 14er during their visit. We were ready for a challenge, so I suggested checking out the DeCaLiBron Loop, a well-known trail in Colorado that covers four 14ers in one hike! The loop leads you up and over Mount Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross (though the official summit of Bross is technically on private property and closed to hikers). I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the entire loop this time around, but I set a goal for myself to do at least one of the 14ers, which ended up being Mount Democrat.
We arrived at the trailhead around 6am, which many in the Colorado hiking community would probably consider a late start. Thankfully, we scored the very last parking spot in the lot so we didn’t have to park along the road. There is a $5 fee to park and you will get a ticket if you choose not to pay, so don’t skip out!
Technically, you can hike the DeCaLiBron Loop either clockwise (starting with Democrat and ending with Bross) or counterclockwise (starting with Bross and ending with Democrat). I read mixed opinions on which way is easier – many commented that the descent from Bross (or ascent, if you begin with that 14er) is very rough as it mostly consists of gravel and loose rock. With that in mind, we decided to start with Democrat.
The trail to Mount Democrat (the leftmost peak)
The trail to Mount Democrat begins at Kite Lake Trailhead, which sits at 12,000′ in elevation, and meanders upward as you near the base of Democrat. You start gaining elevation almost as soon as you leave the trailhead, so don’t expect much of a warmup for this hike! You’ll eventually reach a saddle between Mount Democrat and Mount Cameron, which is a good place to catch your breath.
Views from the saddle between Mount Democrat and Cameron
From the saddle, the trail turns into rocky switchbacks as you begin the final ascent up to the summit. There is a false summit before a short stretch of relatively flat trail that leads you up the last 100′ or so to the actual summit of Mount Democrat. From here, you’ll be rewarded with incredible sweeping views of the surrounding mountains.
The summit of Mount Democrat
I decided to head back to the car after Democrat while the rest of my group pushed on to complete the full loop. On the way down, I encountered a family of mountain goats which was a real treat to see! In total, the hike from Kite Lake Trailhead to Mount Democrat ended up being about four miles in length with over 2,000′ of elevation gain. The hike was tough but relatively short and sweet, and I’m so glad we all got to summit together.
Mountain goats and a view of Kite Lake
I’m super proud that the rest of my group pushed on and completed the DeCaLiBron Loop. Their pictures looked amazing and they all had a blast, but they did agree the descent off Bross was pretty brutal and unpleasant. I can’t wait to return and finish the loop for myself by summiting Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross!
When I first heard of the Cascade Creek Trail to Mirror Lake and Crater Lake hike, I knew it was a challenge I wanted to take on in 2022. The scenery looked so surreal and picturesque that I set a goal to experience this hike for myself before the summer was over! The hike to Crater Lake is about 7.5 miles one-way, and most people opt to camp overnight before making the return trip. Unfortunately, all of the camping permits were booked up for days I was free to camp, so I decided to take on the additional challenge of doing the entire 15 miles in one day (and I dragged my husband and dog along as well). With around 2300′ of elevation gain in total, I figured the hike would be challenging but doable if we got an early enough start – and it ended up being quite the adventure!
We decided to car camp at the Monarch Lake Trailhead the night before so we could get a full night’s rest and a super early start. Monarch Lake Trailhead is located in Indian Peaks Wilderness, and you will need to purchase a parking pass in advance or at the trailhead itself. Our dog, Willie Nelson, kept us up part of the night so we didn’t get as much sleep as we were hoping for, but we still managed to hit the trail around 6am.
The first 1.5-2 miles are relatively flat and a great warmup for the rest of the trail. You’ll meander through forests as you skirt around Monarch Lake before the trail gradually begins to ascend switchbacks as it follows Cascade Creek. There are a number of river crossings and waterfalls along the trail which made the entire journey super scenic – and our pup loved the constant supply of water!
At around 4.5 miles you’ll encounter Cascade Falls, an especially impressive waterfall that is a great place for a quick break. The last 3 miles or so of the trail are a bit more challenging as you alternate hiking through forests and meadows. The last mile to Mirror and Crater Lakes is steep, but so worth it as the lakes and Lone Eagle Peak come into view. The jagged mountains and crystal clear water were so unreal to see in person. There’s even fishing allowed at the lakes, and my husband managed to snag a small trout at Crater Lake!
We made really good time on the hike to Crater Lake, averaging 25-30 minutes per mile. After an hour-long rest at the lake we refueled wth snacks and water, reapplied sunscreen and bug spray (a definite must) and began the journey back. We continued to make great time for the first 5 miles or so on the way back to the car, but the last 3 miles really dragged on because the sun was beating down on us and our feet (and Willie’s paws) were starting to get sore. The last push around the edge of Monarch Lake seemed neverending, and we rejoiced once we finally stumbled upon the trailhead.
All in all, this hike was definitely a challenge, but so worth it. I haven’t done a day hike of this length in several years, so I was really happy that we made such great time. The elevation gain is challenging in some sections of the trail, but overall fairly moderate. I would have definitely loved to experience camping at Crater Lake, but this hike is very popular and permits tend to book up pretty far in advance. If you haven’t checked out Cascade Creek Trail to Mirror Lake and Crater Lake, I highly recommend paying it a visit!
Today I’m really excited to be sharing a review of some RightOnTrek backpacking meals! RightOnTrek was kind enough to reach out to me and send over some of their meals for me to taste-test and review. I got to try the vegan shepherd’s stew, mac and cheese, backcountry chili, and high country pad thai, and I was really impressed wih all of them!
RightOnTrek was founded in 2018 by a group of backpackers after they completed the 200+ mile long John Muir Trail in California. The company is based in Montana and specializes in making the backcountry more accessible for hikers and backpackers. For being a relatively small company, they have an impressive variety of backpacking meal options, with plenty of allergy-friendly meals as well!
The first meal I tried was their mac and cheese, which was actually rated the #1 mac and cheese by Backpacker Magazine! I can definitely see why – the mac and cheese was super creamy and flavorful, and very filling as well.
Next up, I tried their vegan shepherd’s stew meal. I was really happy to see that RightOnTrek offers vegetarian/vegan meals, as many backpacking meal companies aren’t so accommodating. The vegan shepherd’s stew was really hearty and comforting, and my fully carnivore husband enjoyed it too!
The next meal I tried was their backcountry chili. Chili is definitely a staple when it comes to backpacking meals, and RightOnTrek’s version was a great option. Like the other meals, the chili was delicious and filling, especially with the addition of the corn biscuits that came as an optional mix-in.
Finally, I sampled the high country pad thai. I actually didn’t realize the pad thai was vegetarian, and what I thought was chicken was really soy curls! The pad thai was super rich and flavorful, and definitely one of my favorites from the meals I tried. I especiaally enjoyed it with the addition of the peanut butter, sriracha, and salted cashews that RightOnTrek provided.
All in all, I was really impressed with all the RightOnTrek meals I tried. I definitely plan on stocking up next time I embark on a backpacking trip! Thanks again to RightOnTrek for sending over some meals. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever heard of RightOnTrek, and if you’ll be trying some of their meals for yourself!
The Flatirons Loop, also known as the Bluebell, Royal Arch, Flatiron, Bluebell-Baird and Meadow Trail Loop, is a short and scenic hike in the town of Boulder, CO. The hike is just 2.4 miles in total with an elevation gain of around 730′. This short and sweet hike offers beautiful views of the First and Second Flatiron, as well as the town of Boulder and the surrounding mountains. This hike is fairly moderate making it a great choice for visitors of all experience levels.
The hike begins at the parking lot for the Chautauqua Ranger Cottage. We opted to do the hike counter-clockwise which I believe is the most common route. The trail begins with a moderate incline along a wide gravel path as you make your way up to the Flatirons. Meadows surrounding the trail are home to beautiful flowers and cacti, and you’ll likely spot some deer along the way.
As you enter the treeline, the path gets a bit rockier and narrower until you pass a marked detour to Royal Arch and reach the First and Second Flatiron at about 0.8 miles. We watched a few hikers beginnning their ascent of the Second Flatiron which was really cool to see. The highest point of the hike is about 1.15 miles in, where you’ll reach a spur that takes you to the Third Flatiron.
Continuing along the loop, you’ll begin to head downhill as you pass over a scree field. The trail is very well-marked as you descend into the meadows and eventually make your way back to the parking area.
This hike is very popular on weekends, so try to visit during the week and early in the morning or later in the evening when possible.
McMinnville is a charming Oregon town just an hour southwest of Portland. The town is well-known for its historic ties to the Oregon Trail and for the various wineries that can be found throughout the area. I recently spent a few days in McMinnville over July 4, and these are some of my favorite things I did while visiting!
Check out the historic homes
The town of McMinnville was first established in the mid-1800s, and the area’s rich history is still evident today. There are tons of historic homes throughout McMinnville, and many can be found on sidestreets near the main downtown area. A great way to enjoy these homes is taking a drive or walk through town!
Go shopping downtown
McMinnville’s downtown area, which primarily runs down NE 3rd St, is super cute and full of awesome shops. You can shop for everything from clothes to art and locally-made treats. I highly recommend taking a stroll down NE 3rd St and popping into any stores that catch your eye.
Learn about the local history
McMinnville is home to a number of museums that educate visitors on various facets of the town and its history. One of the most well-known museums in the area is Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, a huge museum that holds a number of civilian and military aircrafts. Another great option is the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center, which focuses on McMinnville’s agricultural history.
Taste some local wine
A visit to McMinnville would truly be incomplete without sampling some local wine! There are a lot of tasting rooms and wine bars in downtown McMinnville, and all offer unique blends and offerings. I was thoroughly impressed with my visit to R. Stuart, but you really can’t go wrong in McMinnville.
Keep your eyes on the skies
Did you know McMinnville is home to the country’s second largest annual UFO festival (with Roswell, New Mexico being the location of the first largest)? In 1950, a number of UFO photographs taken on a local McMinnville farm were published in the city’s newspaper. Since then, the small town has become a surprising hub for UFO-chasers. Whether or not you believe in aliens, it is fun to keep an eye on the skies during your visit. In fact, my dad is big into astrophotography, and he captured some amazing star photos during our time in McMinnville (though we didn’t spot any UFOs). Check out his website to see more incredible astrophotography!
I highly recommend a visit to this charming Oregon town, and if you’ve been before I’d love to hear what your favorite activities in the area are!
Newport is a quaint town on the coast of Oregon that is teeming with things to see and do. Located just 2 hours southwest of Portland and 5 hours south of Seattle, Newport is the perfect coastal escape. From rugged coastline to charming shops and some delicious food, Newport truly has it all. If it’s your first time visiting Newport, these are some of the top activities to make the most out of your trip.
Start your day with some coffee
Newport is home to a number of great coffee spots, so make sure to kick off your visit with a cup of Joe. If you prefer something quick, check out one of the coffee stands in town, such as Bonnie’s Espresso or Camp One. There are also a lot of roasters in town where you can enjoy a more laidback coffeeshop experience. My favorite is Surf Town Coffee – make sure to try their lavender chai!
Grab some treats
Another activity I recommend doing in the morning is paying a visit to Pacific Sourdough, which is technically 20 minutes down the road in Waldport. Pacific Sourdough is a legendary bakery that is well-known throughout the Pacific Northwest. They offer a wide variety of breads and both sweet and savory baked goods. I’ve sample the sourdough baguette, lemon rosemary sourdough, lemon bar, lemon poppyseed loaf, chocolate chunk cookie, marionberry muffin, and old-fashioned sugar cookie, and all were to die for! Warning: be prepared to wait in line if you don’t arrive before opening.
Go seal-spotting and explore some tidal pools
You can spot all kinds of animals throughout Newport, from eagles to whales and seals and so much more. One of the best places to do some wildlife-spotting is Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Near the Yaquina Head Lighthouse you can find a set of stairs leading right down to the rocky beaches below. At low tide, countless tidal pools of all shapes and sizes are formed where you can spot anemones, starfish, crabs, and other marine life. You’re also likely to spot some seals in the distance! The Yaquina Head area is not only beautiful but also an incredible opportunity to experience Newport’s biodiversity firsthand.
Enjoy some local grub
Unsurprisingly, Newport is known for serving up some exceptionally delicious seafood. You can find everything from small hole-in-the-wall joints to upscale culinary experiences, and almost all are sure to impress. Clam chowder, oyster shooters, and fish and chips abound in Newport, and there are some amazing restaurant options to sample some of freshest and most flavorful seafood I’ve had in the PNW.
Buy fish straight from the source
For seafood-lovers, Newport is a true paradise. There are several great markets in town where you can buy some incredible seafood. One of the coolest options for purchasing seafood is Chelsea Rose, where you can buy a variety of items straight off the boat! Just head down to the pier off of Bay Boulevard and keep an eye out for the vessel. Right down the road is Local Ocean Seafoods, which is another awesome spot to purchase seafood as well.
Get high (in the sky)
Just 15-20 minutes north of Newport you can find Cape Foulweather, a beautiful land formation rising several hundred feet above the sea. There’s a stunning view from this point and you’re guaranteed to get some amazing photos. I also think this would be an amazing place to go stargazing or do some astrophotography, which my dad is really into (you can see some of photos right here).
Despite its small size, Newport offers a surprising amount of activities and sights that make it the perfect weekend destination. I hope you find this guide helpful as you plan your trip, and if you’ve been to Newport before I’d love to hear your top recommendations!
This past weekend I decided, a bit spontaneously, to take on the challenge of summiting a 14er, which is a mountain with a summit at 14,000+ feet in elevation. I’ve already completed three other Colorado 14ers (Mount Sherman, Mount Bierstadt, and Pikes Peak) and wanted to check off another: Mount Evans. While there’s actually a paved road leading all the way to the top of Mount Evans, there are also a variety of routes you can take to hike to the summit. I opted for the Summit Lake to Mount Evans route which is considered a moderate hike, but fairly easy compared to other Colorado 14ers. At around 5.5 miles roundtrip with 2,000′ of elevation gain, the hike is challenging but relatively beginner-friendly. This hike is also rated Class 2 out of 5, meaning it has minimal exposure/risk. Some hikers will argue that you only properly summit a 14er if the route has at least 3,000+ feet of elevation gain, but I say: hike your own hike and be proud of yourself regardless!
The trail begins at Summit Lake in Mount Evans Wilderness. You will need to purchase a $2 timed-entry reservation to park here, but if you arrive before 8am you can just display the printed reservation in your windshield, regardless of what time slot it’s for. There is also a $5/vehicle fee which you self-pay at the parking area, unless you are an interagency pass holder in which case you only have to worry about the reservation fee (display your pass in the windshield as well). More info can be found at Recreation.gov. I arrived around 6:15am and the main parking lot was already full, so I had to park in an overflow spot along the road. Mount Evans is an incredibly popular hike so if you visit on a weekend, plan to arrive as early as possible.
From the parking area, you’ll begin on a marked trail that leads you around the lake and up to the summit of Mount Spalding, which has an elevation of 13,840′. The initial ascent out of the parking lot is almost entirely uphill, and you’ll gain around 1,000′ of elevation in about a mile. This portion of the trail is well-marked with cairns, and I had no issues sticking to the route. After around 45 minutes I made it to the summit of Mount Spalding where I stopped for a quick snack. From here, you’ll have fantastic views of Mount Evans and the surrounding mountains.
Views from Mount Spalding
The next portion of the trail leads you down and over a saddle that will connect you with the ridge that eventually leads to the summit of Mount Evans. As of June 18 there was still a little bit of snow on the trail, but nothing too serious. The saddle is a welcome break from the ascent to Mount Spalding, and the trail is very easy to follow.
Views from the rocky ridgeline
Once you reach the rocky ridgeline, your pace will likely slow down significantly as you have to step carefully in certain areas and keep a sharp eye out for cairns. I didn’t have any issues sticking to the trail, but I really took my time and didn’t rush through this section. My main priority was to prevent altitude sickness and keep a steady pace. There is a bit of a false summit that you’ll hike around, and the trail stays below the ridgeline for the last mile or so. Eventually, the road and summit complex will come into view and you’ll finish the ascent on some moderate switchbacks that lead you to the summit.
Views of the trail, summit complex, survey marker, and an obligatory summit photo!
After snacking on a sandwich and grabbing some photos at the summit, I began the descent. I would say heading back down the trail almost felt rougher than going up. Going downhill on such rocky terrain was uncomfortable on my knees, and I did stray off-trail once or twice. I believe there are a few routes along the rocky ridgeline and I managed to get off of the main one, which is the easiest. I’ll also note that my watch ended up tracking the hike as closer to 6.75 miles in total. All in all, I was back at my car by 11:30, so I wrapped up the hike in almost exactly 5 hours. I felt totally fine during the hike but was hit with some altitude sickness once I made it back to the car. I definitely recommend staying well-hydrated and bringing plenty of snacks to combat this as much as possible. If you’re visiting from out of town, it’s also important to let yourself acclimate to the elevation before attempting this hike.
If you squint you can spot a marmot!
I thoroughly enjoyed the hike from Summit Lake to Mount Evans. It was sufficiently challenging that I felt I was pushing myself, but not so hard that I questioned my ability to summit. For locals, I’m sure this hike is a walk in the park! I would definitely recommend this hike if you’re visiting from out of town or looking for a beginner-friendly 14er.