My Favorite Hiking Areas in Washington

If you get the opportunity to visit the beautiful state of Washington, you may find yourself overwhelmed by all the hikes and amazing areas to explore. I’ve spent a good amount of time visiting and even living there and I have still only seen a tiny fraction of everything it has to offer! Today I’ll share with you some of the hiking areas in Washington that I’ve come to love so you can have some guidance for your next trip to Evergreen State!

Mount Rainier National Park

Make sure to check out the photo diary from my last visit!

This one may seem like an obvious choice, but Mount Rainier National Park is such a well-known national park for a reason. It is one of the most beautiful national parks I’ve visited and has some amazingly unique landscapes that are hard to find elsewhere in the United States. Mount Rainier itself is an incredible sight that I never get tired of seeing, and the park has tons of hikes ranging in difficulty. Not only are the views in the park amazing pretty much anywhere you go, but you’re sure to see some wildlife as well. Last time we visited we saw elk and a bear! Mount Rainier National Park is well worth the visit and a national park I think everyone should visit in their lifetime.

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is a massive area that includes the western region of the Cascade Mountain Range. A large portion of the national forest is located just about an hour east of Seattle, and that specific area is one of my favorites. This National Forest offers almost countless hikes ranging from fairly easy to very challenging. Some of my favorites include Heybrook Lookout, a short but steep hike to a fire tower, and Barclay Lake (check out my photo diary from that hike here)! Whether you’re in the mood for a casual hike to a stunning lake or a viewpoint of the mountains, or you’re ready for a challenging summit or scramble, the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has it all!

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and has some of the most diverse landscapes in the entire state. The park is home to forests, alpine areas, a rainforest, and beaches, so it truly offers anything you could be looking for. The rainforest is an amazing place to stroll through massive trees covered in thick moss while the beaches are rocky and dramatic. As a bonus, for any Twilight fans out there, the town of Forks is located just 30-40 minutes outside of the park and is an awesome little spot to check out as well. Hikers, photographers, and fishermen alike will love this area and everything it has to offer.

Five Ways to Spend Your Summer in Georgia

Hello friends! Can you believe it’s already mid-July? Summer will be over before you know it and while fall is my favorite season, I don’t want to let the summer slip away too fast! Without further ado, here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy the Georgia summer and escape some of the heat and humidity.

Tubing in Helen

If you didn’t grow up tubing through a small Bavarian-themed town in the middle of the mountains, did you really have a childhood? Sure, it may be kitschy and touristy, but tubing in Helen is one of my favorite memories from summers in Georgia. There’s nothing quite like floating on the river, getting nice and sunburnt, and then enjoying some overpriced German food in town. Better yet, grab some boiled peanuts for the drive home. Now, you’re a true Georgian.

Hiking Blood Mountain + Taking a Dip in Hemlock Falls

Blood Mountain is one of my favorite mountains of all time, and one I recommend to everyone who finds themselves in Georgia. The hike itself is pretty tough, but the views are a fantastic reward. Make sure to check out the trail log located in the shelter at the summit and read through notes left behind by all the hikers and backpackers who have passed through! After working up a sweat on your hike, drive the 10 minutes or so down the road to Hemlock Falls. The falls are stunning and the hike down is very short, but be warned, the water is freezing cold!

Kayaking/Swimming in Lake Blue Ridge

Lake Blue Ridge is a beautiful summer destination for swimming, kayaking, paddle-boarding, or boating. I personally prefer this lake to others that are closer to Atlanta because it seems cleaner and better maintained in general. Plus, there’s nothing like cooling off in a lake surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. After your adventures make sure to check out downtown Blue Ridge or downtown Ellijay for some delicious food and local brews.

Wading in Sweetwater Creek

If you’d like to explore somewhere closer to Atlanta, be sure to check out Sweetwater Creek. This state park offers lots of walking trails and hikes, and plenty of opportunities for swimming and wading. The area is beautiful and was actually used as a filming location in Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1! The ruins of the mill are an awesome sight as well, so make sure to take a moment and learn about the history behind them.

Grabbing Peaches from a Local Farmer’s Market

Sure, farmer’s markets aren’t exclusive to Georgia, but they were always a staple summer activity when I lived there! There are a lot of fantastic farmer’s markets throughout the state ranging from small to pretty large, but my favorite was always the Marietta Farmer’s Market. The market is big enough that you have plenty of options to choose from, but not so big that you’re overwhelmed with crowds. Marietta is a cute town to explore as well, with lots of bistros and cafes for a quick breakfast or lunch. It’s also close to Kennesaw Mountain, another of my favorite hiking spots in Georgia.

I hope you’re enjoying your summer wherever you may be, and that you get to try out some of my favorite activities for yourself!

A Weekend in Breckenridge

Hi folks! Recently we’ve gotten to take several trips to Breckenridge and have absolutely fallen in love with this mountain town. We haven’t yet experienced it in the winter, but look forward to checking out the ski resort when the season starts! Today I’ll be sharing with you the perfect 2-day itinerary for exploring all that Breckenridge has to offer.

Day 1: The Great Outdoors

Breckenridge is nestled in between some amazing hiking areas and peaks, so on your way in I definitely recommend stopping for a hike. We loved exploring the Blue Lakes area (check out that blog here) because it was very accessible and offered different options depending on how long and challenging of a hike you are looking to do.
On the way to Blue Lakes, we also passed the parking lot for Quandary Peak, a well-known 14er. I haven’t hiked this mountain myself, but I hear it’s quite challenging, though you do get some rewarding views at the end.
If you have kiddos with you or are looking for something where you can pretty much drive up and explore, I would recommend the Breckenridge Troll, Dillon Reservoir, or Sapphire Point Overlook. All beautiful options with little to no hiking required for some awesome sights!

For lunch, there are tooooons of options available in Breckenridge depending on what you like. I would recommend Breckenridge Brewery & Pub for their delicious brews and small bites. We loved the cheese curds, soft pretzel with beer cheese, and wings! Another good option is Ollie’s Pub & Grub, a low-key spot with classic American fare. This restaurant is located on the river and they also sell fish food for you to throw right off the bridge!

From there, I would recommend resting up at your hotel or Airbnb before taking on Breckenridge at night. If you’re not feeling totally tired yet, it’s also fun to just drive through town and some of the surrounding neighborhoods. There are beautiful mountain views everywhere you go, and there are some pretty spectacular multi-million dollar homes in the area. Another fun option is the Breckenridge Gondola, a series of free gondola rides that offer a unique perspective of the town from above! Plus, it’s a great opportunity to rest your tired feet.

There are dinner options galore in Breckenridge, varying from barbecue to Italian, and everything in between. For a drink and some live music, check out the Gold Pan Saloon, a longtime establishment with a fun western theme. Both times we visited we happened to get Asian for dinner, so I’d recommend Pho on Main or Bangkok Happy Bowl. There are lots of other options though for pretty much any craving you could have! If you’re craving something sweet afterwards, check out Higgles Ice Cream for some deliciously unique flavors.

Day 2: Shop Til You Drop

Before beginning your day of adventuring through town, you of course have to enjoy some breakfast. Cool River Coffee House offers some delicious breakfast sandwiches and baked goods, as well as some fun and unique flavors to spice up your latte or iced coffee. If you don’t mind venturing a little further out, Frisco, a town about 15 minutes from Breckenridge, also has some great restaurants. We thoroughly enjoyed Bread + Salt, a breakfast spot that offered scrambles, hashes, and some delicious challah French toast. Frisco is another great town for walking around if you somehow manage to exhaust your options in Breckenridge!

There are so many shops throughout Breckenridge that you’re sure to find some you love. We always end up at Limber Grove, a spot that features local artists and brands. They have lots of cool stickers, hats, shirts, and other beautiful, high-quality souvenirs. We love just strolling up and down the streets and popping into any shops that catch our eye. Whether you’re in the mood to purchase a new bike or some fly-fishing gear, indulge in some handmade fudge, or pick up a fun souvenir for family back home, there are endless options for everything you could think of.

And there you have it folks! I hope you enjoyed this guide to Breckenridge and have the opportunity to explore this beautiful town for yourself.

Backpacking in Georgia

Hello all! Today I’m going to be sharing with you three of my favorite backpacking spots in Georgia. If you haven’t already seen the video, make sure to check it out here!
I think Georgia is a seriously underrated spot for backpackers and nature lovers of all kinds. The Southeast in general is beautiful and offers some amazing backpacking, kayaking, and rock-climbing areas. I count myself lucky that I got to grow up there, and I spent most of high school and college hiking and backpacking as often as I could. Without further ado, here are my three favorite backpacking trips in Georgia!

Appalachian Approach Trail

The AT Approach Trail begins at Amicalola Falls State Park and travels roughly 9 miles to the summit of Springer Mountain. Springer Mountain is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, which runs 2,000+ miles in length from Georgia to Maine. Though the Approach Trail isn’t included in the official mileage of the AT, many section and thru-hikers embark on this trail to begin their hike. This is actually the first backpacking trip I ever went on with my family (check out that blog post here) and boy, was it quite the adventure.
I’ve returned to this trail several times since and had much more enjoyable experiences than my first impression (I would recommend visiting in the spring for mild, pleasant weather). If you choose to go out and back you’ll be hiking around 18 miles altogether, with 4,000’+ of elevation gain. I would consider this trail challenging, but a good introduction to backpacking as the trail itself is well-marked and fairly moderate. For a classic hike that gives you the perfect opportunity to test out your gear and comfort on the trail, the Approach Trail is a great way to go!

Woody Gap to Neels Gap

Woody Gap to Neels Gap is a roughly 10 mile section of the AT that begins near Dahlonega and ends near Blairsville. I personally love this section of the trail because it takes you through some pretty iconic AT features, including Preachers Rock and Blood Mountain. You’ll gain about 2,500′ of elevation which is definitely a challenge, but still doable for someone a bit newer to backpacking as long as you set realistic expectations and pace yourself.
Although you could definitely just do this section as a day hike, I recommend camping at the summit of Blood Mountain to catch some gorgeous sunset/rise views. Plus, the final push up to the summit is pretty tiring, so you’ll have definitely earned a solid break. Blood Mountain is one of my personal favorite mountains of all time, and hiking to the summit via from Woody Gap is a great way to add some mileage and gain a new perspective of the trail!

Cumberland Island

This one may seem a bit random, but hear me out: Cumberland Island is unlike any other backpacking spot in Georgia, and possibly the entire Southeast. Located off the coast of Georgia, this island is only accessible via ferry and offers a surprising amount of backpacking trails. The island itself has a really interesting history, and each area offers a unique and fascinating environment. You can see the ruins of Dungeness, a mansion that burnt down in the mid-1900s, and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of some wildlife, which includes horses, pigs, and armadillos.
I believe we camped at the Stafford Beach Campground, located about three and a half miles from the ferry drop-off. While you don’t have to worry about too much elevation gain, the island does get quite hot, humid, and buggy, so you have to make sure you’re well-prepared. We returned back to the ferry via the beach, simply following the coastline until we reached the dock. It’s such a unique and cool experience to backpack on the coast, and Cumberland Island is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen.

How Much Does it Cost to Drive Across the Country?

Aloha and hello! Today we’re talking all about how much it actually costs to drive across the country. Before we dive in, make sure you check out my video on this topic as well! Summer 2020 my husband and I embarked on a road trip from Georgia to Washington. We were on the road for 10 days with several stops and detours along the way, and I want to break down exactly how much this trip cost.

The four main categories we’ll be talking about are lodging, gas, food, and activities. I will preface by saying that we drove our own car (a Subaru Outback) which saved us a good bit on rental car expenses and also got pretty good gas mileage.
If you haven’t checked out the first part of this road trip series which talks all about big picture planning, check out the blog here and the video here!

Lodging, food, and gas are definitely necessities and should be the first things you budget for. Activities are where you’ll have some flexibility in how much you want to spend. Thankfully, there are typically a lot of free activities to do no matter where you are, but it can be fun to plan ahead and schedule some outings as well. Our overall strategy for this trip was to have fun and enjoy ourselves without going overboard on the spending, and I think we definitely accomplished that!

Lodging

We stayed in a variety of Airbnbs, hostels, hotels, and with friends and family. TIP: if you find yourself in a town where friends and family live, don’t be afraid to reach out and see if you might be able to stay with them! Of course you never want to impose or expect them to have a place for you, but it also never hurts to ask.
We did a lot of research comparing lodging options to make sure we were going to be in a clean, safe area for a reasonable price. We wanted a private room since we had a lot of personal belongings with us, but outside of that, we weren’t too concerned with how luxurious the room was!

Night 1: Airbnb in St. Louis, MO$91
Night 2: Airbnb in Sioux Falls, SD$89
Night 3-5: Grandparents’ house – FREE
Night 6-7: Hostel in Teton Village, WY$200
Night 8: Hotel in West Yellowstone, MT$117
Night 9: Airbnb in Spokane, WA$62

LODGING TOTAL: $559

Food

Our strategy for food was to buy groceries that would be okay in a cooler or not need refrigeration at all so that we could eat breakfast and lunch on the road and just splurge on dinner. Some of our favorite snacks were apples, peanut butter, Clif bars, beef jerky, tuna packs, trail mix, and sandwich supplies!
We bought groceries once in Georgia right before we left and then again in South Dakota about halfway through our trip. As far as eating out, we tried to enjoy local spots and we also treated ourselves to coffee almost every day which is, in my opinion, a road trip necessity.

Groceries: $100
Eating out: $400

FOOD TOTAL: $500

Gas

This one was a bit of a challenge to calculate because it will depend a lot on the kind of vehicle you have, current gas prices, and which state or area you’re currently in, but I did my best to provide an accurate estimate!

GAS TOTAL: $250

Activities

Most of the activities we ended up doing, such as hiking, checking out local parks, skateboarding, or walking through town, were totally free. We did, however, budget for some planned activities that were really special and created some great memories. Additionally, we do have a free annual national parks pass thanks to my husband being in the military, and we definitely took advantage of it!

Electric scooters: $10-$15
Hiking/national parks: FREE
Horseback riding: $130

ACTIVITIES TOTAL: $150

GRAND TOTAL: $1,459

Now, I won’t sugarcoat it: this is a lot of money. I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to take this trip, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. We did do a lot of planning and budgeting to make this trip happen, and I think we struck a good balance between enjoying ourselves and still being conscious of how much we were comfortable spending. I’ll also point out this total is for me and my husband over the course of 10 days, which works out to be $72.95 per person each day. I would say this is a pretty fair amount considering it includes lodging, food, gas, AND activities, and I don’t regret a penny that we spent.

Thanks so much for reading and don’t forget to follow the blog and subscribe on YouTube to stay tuned for my next installment in this road trip series!

3 Towns in Washington (Other Than Seattle) You Have to Visit

Hello friends! Several years ago, my parents made the move from Georgia to Washington and since then we’ve had so much fun exploring all the different areas the state has to offer. While Seattle is probably the first town that comes to mind, there are so many other awesome towns that I think everyone should explore if they find themselves in Washington. Without further ado, let’s jump in!

Snoqualmie
In 2019 I had the opportunity to intern at a museum in the town of Snoqualmie, and it was one of my favorite jobs ever, largely because I fell in love with the town. Snoqualmie is located about 30 minutes east of Seattle, making it an incredibly easy and worthwhile day trip. The main feature of the town is Snoqualmie Falls, a roaring 268′ waterfall that now serves as a hydroelectric power plant. You can visit the park for free and walk through a series of trails that will give you views of the waterfall from above and at river level. Be warned, it does get extremely busy during the summer and weekends, but if you can go earlier in the day or during an off season, you’ll probably miss some of the madness. Don’t forget all the nearby hiking too – Mount Si is one of the most well-known in the area, and I suggest Franklin Falls if you’re in the mood to chase some waterfalls.

Leavenworth
Leavenworth is a bit of a haul to get to, but the drive there and the town itself make a visit well worth your time. Leavenworth is located about 2 hours east of Seattle in the Cascade Mountains. The drive there will take you through some beautiful mountain roads and the town itself is designed to look like a Bavarian village nestled in the mountains. One of the most popular times to visit Leavenworth is in the fall and winter when they host Oktoberfest and put up a massive display of Christmas decorations. There are tons of shops, restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, and breweries to keep you occupied, and there’s also some paved trails that will walk you by the river (which you can tube in the summer!)

Coupeville
If you want to experience Washington’s version of “island life,” Coupeville is the way to do it. This small town is located on Whidbey Island, which is about 2 hours north of Seattle. To get to the island, you can either take a ferry or pass over Deception Pass Bridge, both of which are pretty cool in and of themselves. Coupeville is located right on the water, making it the perfect town to grab a cup of coffee and just wander around. There’s a dock area where you can try to spot some sea life (we saw a seal one time!) and plenty of little shops and restaurants to keep you occupied. I would also recommend visiting Lavender Wind, a pick-your-own farm that is a beautiful sight in the summertime.

Travel Guide: One Day in Yellowstone

In summer 2020 my husband and I found ourselves in Wyoming – we were driving from Georgia to Washington and were trying to see as many sights as we could without going too far off route. We decided to take a little detour and explore Yellowstone National Park, a spot we’d both been wanting to visit, but hadn’t yet gotten the opportunity to. The only catch was that we had a single day to explore the park which boasts a whopping 2.2 million acres of land. It took a good bit of planning and some clever scheduling to make it happen, but we managed to see almost all the major sights Yellowstone has to offer in just one day of exploring. If you find yourself in a similar situation and want to know exactly how to tackle the park, this travel guide is perfect for you!

Image courtesy of YellowstonePark.com

6:00am – breakfast offsite in Teton Village
We stayed outside of the park because most of the lodging options inside were either booked up or a bit more expensive than we were wanting to spend. Instead, we stayed in Teton Village, a town about an hour and a half south of Yellowstone. It definitely wasn’t ideal to be this far from the park, but it made the most sense for our particular situation. As a bonus, we got to explore Grand Teton National Park the day before as well (stay tuned for that travel guide)!

7:30-8:00am – arrive at Yellowstone
We tried to make it to the park fairly early in the morning to beat some of the crowds and ended up entering through the South Entrance a little before 8:00am. Starting early also meant we had cooler temperatures to walk around and explore, which made it a lot more enjoyable.

9:00am – Old Faithful
Our first stop was Old Faithful, probably one of the most iconic features in the park. We kept a close eye on the National Park Service website to see when the next predicted eruption would be, and in the meantime walked along the boardwalks of the Upper Geyser Basin. Seeing Old Faithful erupt was absolutely spectacular, and well worth the crowds. As soon as the show ended, we made our way back to the car to head on before there was a massive rush of people trying to leave.

10:30am – Grand Prismatic Spring
Another icon of Yellowstone, Grand Prismatic Spring is located just about 15 minutes up the road from Old Faithful. Unfortunately, we got a little lost while hiking around the area which meant there were some serious crowds once we actually made it to Grand Prismatic. Despite this, Grand Prismatic was absolutely worth the stop, and it was one of the most gorgeous sights we saw the whole day.

1:00pm – Mammoth Hot Springs
We were a little hesitant to visit Mammoth Hot Springs considering it is at the very northwestern point of the park, but we were so glad we ended up making the drive. I didn’t expect to be super wowed by this area considering how dramatic Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic were, but I was pleasantly impressed by how beautiful the Mammoth Hot Springs area was and how different it looked from the southern part of the park. The crowds were also a little better which made strolling through more enjoyable.

3:00pm – Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Unfortunately, the road connecting Mammoth Hot Springs to the Tower-Roosevelt portion of the park was closed, so we instead opted to head south and then east to explore the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We checked out both Artist Point and Inspiration Point, and this was one of my favorite areas in the whole park. The Yellowstone River is absolutely stunning, and the waterfalls were some of the biggest I’ve ever seen.

4:30pm – Hayden Valley
We opted to take the long way out of the park by heading south from Canyon Village so we could drive through Hayden Valley and past Yellowstone Lake. Hayden Valley did not disappoint as we encountered a massive herd of buffalo. I’ve seen buffalo before in other states, but it never ceases to be an amazing experience. We pulled off the road and watched the herd for quite some time before continuing on past the lake. We didn’t make any stops in this area, but it was a beautiful drive as the sun slowly began to set. We passed by the South Entrance we originally came in, as well as Old Faithful, before exiting through the West Entrance and even seeing some elk on our way out.

7:00pm – dinner in West Yellowstone
Once exiting Yellowstone, we got some dinner and spent the night in West Yellowstone, a Montana town not far outside the park. This town is a great option if you want to be close to the park but not actually stay within park boundaries. It was the perfect spot to rest up and enjoy some bison chili after a full day of adventuring!
I would definitely recommend eating meals outside of the park if possible, because food inside Yellowstone tends to be overpriced and a bit limited – we snacked on PB&J sandwiches and other snacks which saved us both time and money!

And there you have it folks! Yellowstone has so much to offer that I would definitely recommend taking more than just one day to explore it, but it can be done if you’re willing to do a good bit of driving! I’m so glad we made the detour to check out the park and I can’t wait for our next visit.

Road Trip Like a Pro | Planning 101

“Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun.”

National Lampoon’s Vacation, 1983

Before reading this post don’t forget to check out the accompanying YouTube video!

So, you want to take a road trip… but where do you start? Well, you’ve come to the right place! I would consider myself a road trip pro: I’ve embarked on several multi-state road trips, from Georgia to Washington, Florida to South Dakota, Georgia to Colorado, and along the East Coast. All of these adventures have taught me some valuable tips and tricks for planning the perfect road trip that’s fun, low-stress, and budget-conscious. And now, I’ll be sharing all of my knowledge with you! I’m so excited to kick off this road trip planning series, so make sure you follow the blog and subscribe to my YouTube to stay updated.

Today we’re talking all about the first stage of planning your trip, aka the big picture stuff that you should, ideally, be considering a few weeks or even months before you embark on your trip. I have learned time and again that starting early and breaking down the process into stages will make it way more manageable and enjoyable in the long run. We’ll get more into specifics in future posts and videos, but today we’re just going to start with the basics.

What are your goals for this trip/what is your road trip style?

The first thing to consider is what you want to get out of your road trip and what type of road tripper you are. As far as goals, just jot down some preliminary ideas on what types of things you’d like to see or experience, and what memories you want to make along the way. Maybe you’re in a rush and don’t have the luxury of sightseeing, so you just want to efficiently get from Point A to Point B. Or maybe you have unlimited time and resources and want to see as much as you can!
Similarly, it’s important to think about what type of road tripper you are: do you want to travel leisurely and make frequent stops? Or would you rather crank out a 10-15 hour day and then take an off day to recover? For me, 8-10 hours is usually a good amount of time in the car per day before I start getting antsy and cranky. This also gives me the flexibility of starting early and making a few stops without getting to my final destination too late. But ultimately, it’s up for you to decide!

What route will you take?

We’ll get more into specific route-planning in another video (and I’ll even share some itinerary ideas!), but it’s still good to consider a general route you may want to take. Is there a certain region or area you have in mind? Do you have a set end destination but don’t mind taking some detours along the way? For instance, when we drove from Georgia to Washington, we had the flexibility of taking a bit of a roundabout route instead of cutting straight across the country. This gave us the opportunity to visit some national parks and see friends and family!

What’s your budget?

Again, I will have a whole video and post dedicated to road trip budgeting 101. But, it’s still helpful to start considering how much flexibility you have in your budget so you can start planning and saving. It’s always a good idea to have an emergency fund set aside in case of something unexpected like your car breaking down or an unexpected extra night at the hotel. I, personally, like to save way more money than I actually plan on spending during the trip so that I don’t have to stress about things being more expensive than I accounted for or situations arising that are out of my control.
Gas, lodging, and food will be your biggest expenses. Gas is probably the hardest to plan for because prices will vary greatly depending on the vehicle you have and where you are in the country. As far as food goes, I try to stick with breakfast and lunch on the road in the form of groceries I pack beforehand in a cooler, and then I’ll splurge and get dinner in whatever town we’re staying in. You’ll also potentially have some flexibility in your nightly accommodations which brings me to…

What kind of lodging do you prefer?

Lodging can be a pretty big expense, but it will depend a lot on how flexible you can/want to be. Hotels are the obvious choice, but there are also Airbnbs, hostels, campsites, and vans where you can just park and sleep. A lot of this will depend on your needs and what you’re comfortable with, so take the time to figure out what kind of lodging works best for you, and then start comparing prices. My mindset on lodging has always been that I’m pretty much just there to sleep and use the bathroom, so as long as it’s clean and safe, I’m not too picky.

STAY FLEXIBLE!

My final point is probably the most important because no matter how well or thoroughly you plan your trip, to be frank, sh*t happens. Sometimes it’s bad, like a blown tire, bad weather, or a road closure. In these scenarios, it’s important to keep your cool, and try to have a backup plan. A lot of times, though, I’ve found that unexpected changes create some of the best memories. Taking a detour to visit a national monument, meeting up with a friend who happens to be in town, and staying out to catch the sunset remain some of my favorite road trip memories, and they’ve all happened spur of the moment.
Similarly, don’t force yourself to do or see things just because you feel obligated to go. If you’re tired, take a nap! Cancel your dinner reservation! It’s going to be way more enjoyable if you do it when you have the energy and are in a good mood. Fear of missing out is definitely understandable, but you need to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs.

Thank you so much for joining me as I kickoff this series! Stay tuned for next time, and don’t forget to follow and subscribe!

The Ultimate Guide to Chattanooga, TN

Chattanooga, TN is a hidden gem located in the heart of the Southeast, and I make it a point to visit this beautiful mountain town as often as possible. Over the years, I have embarked on countless day and weekend trips to Chattanooga, and I’ve put together the perfect itinerary for your next visit. Note that this guide is geared more towards young adults than families, but there are tons of kid-friendly activities in the city as well!

Where to Stay

If you’re looking for a peaceful mountain getaway, I suggest The Terrace at Tiny Bluff, a gorgeous Airbnb located on Lookout Mountain. This cabin is the perfect size for a couple or a small group of friends, and the views from the wraparound deck are simply stunning. We loved the midcentury decor and while the accommodations are simple, they have everything you need. The Airbnb is about a 20-30 minute drive from downtown Chattanooga, but is the perfect option if you want to unwind after a long day of exploring.

For those who prefer to stay within the downtown area, I recommend Bode Chattanooga, a super hip hotel in a great location. The 2-bedroom option is perfect for a group of 4, and the vibe of the hotel is very modern and industrial. We enjoyed this option because we had the flexibility to walk or Uber around the city rather than drive, and having a full kitchen meant we didn’t have to eat out for every meal.

What to Eat

— Breakfast —

Frothy Monkey is a really cool space located in Chattanooga Choo Choo, a former train station turned shopping area with restaurants and a boutique hotel. Frothy Monkey has all kinds of interesting tea and coffee concoctions (I recommend the Lady Lavender Latte), and their bacon is exceptional.

Niedlov’s Bakery & Cafe offers a variety of breakfast options that center around their fresh-baked breads and pastries. Their avocado toast is simple but delicious, and the lox and bagel is an awesome twist on the classic breakfast dish.

Maple Street Biscuit Company is a Southern chain restaurant, and though locations tend to get packed, it’s for good reason. They offer a ton of unique twists on the classic biscuits and gravy dish, and my personal favorite is The Iron Goat which is topped with goat cheese and sautéed spinach.

— Lunch —

Sugar’s Ribs is an unassuming, but absolutely incredible, barbecue spot located on the outskirts of town. Not only is the barbecue itself amazing, but the sides hold their own as well. If you’re looking for a hole-in-the-wall spot with some of the best barbecue you’ll ever have, Sugar’s is the place to go.

El Embargo, an authentic Cuban restaurant, is a rare find in the South, and they offer a delicious menu for those looking to branch away from typical American fare. You can’t visit a Cuban restaurant with ordering Yucca fries, and I like to opt for the Tostones Nachos as my main entree.

Poblanos Mexican Cuisine is one of many Mexican restaurants in Chattanooga, but they’re one of the best in my opinion. They offer a massive menu and even have some breakfast dishes which is a fun option. I was also really impressed with their selection of vegan tamales, as those are a rare find.

— Dinner —

Tony’s Pasta Shop is a great option if you’re looking for something a little more upscale or romantic. They have a solid selection of pastas and Italian dishes, and the restaurant itself is located in a beautiful shopping area that makes for an intimate dining experience.

Taco Mamacita is a fun dinner spot that specializes in, you guessed it, tacos! Their appetizer sampler is a great start to your meal, and they have lots of taco options ranging from traditional to vegan to Southern-inspired.

Urban Stack is a spectacular burger joint with a massive selection of vegetarian, classic, and more high-end sandwich options. Aside from your typical beef patty they also offer house-made vegetarian patties and Beyond meat, as well as ground turkey, fried chicken, and Wagyu beef.

— Dessert —

Clumpie’s is my all-time favorite ice cream spot in Chattanooga because they offer tons of flavors that are all insanely delicious. Aside from the classics you can find anywhere, they also feature unique and seasonal flavors, such as malted peanut and strawberry rhubarb crisp.

The Ice Cream Show is another fun ice cream spot that lets you build a completely customizable flavor. They have seemingly infinite toppings and flavor combinations so you can really go all out and create your perfect ice cream.

— Coffee —

Stone Cup Cafe is my favorite coffeeshop in Chattanooga because of its location and, of course, the coffee. I recommend grabbing a drink to go and then taking a stroll on the iconic Walnut Street Bridge.

Mean Mug Coffeehouse is another great option for a cup of coffee – we love the Nortshore location for its relaxed vibe and cool decor.

— Bars —

The Leapin’ Leprechaun is a classic Irish pub with good drinks and some food options as well – it tends to get crowded on the weekends but is still a more low-key option than some of the other bars in town.

Unknown Caller is a really cool speakeasy-style bar that you enter through a phone booth. The decor is really fun and stylish and they offer some delicious signature drinks, as well as all the classics.

What to Do

Lula Lake Land Trust is an incredibly beautiful property with lots of hikes and some stunning waterfalls. The only catch is that the preserve is open during select weekends, so you have to plan in advance and prepare for some crowds.

Walnut Street Bridge is a well-known spot for a casual stroll or jog, and you can also explore the bridge on bike. The bridge will give you some stunning views of the entire city, and is beautiful in all seasons.

Sunset Rock is a hidden gem of a park on Lookout Mountain that will give you views of the entire city. The drive up itself is also gorgeous, winding you through the forest and some stunning, regal homes.

High Point Climbing and Fitness offers a physical challenge for those wanting to get some rock-climbing in during their visit. The gym is a great size and offers lots of options for kids or more experienced climbers.
BONUS: for an outdoor climbing option, Stone Fort is the place to go. This world-renowned climbing area is one of the best in the Southeast and features tons of climbs for all experience levels.

Winder Binder is an awesome little bookstore that also sells vinyl records. Frazier Avenue in general has some great shopping options, and Winder Binder is a casual spot that is great for browsing.

One of the best parts about Chattanooga is how walkable it is, and there are so many different pockets to explore. I recommend taking the time to stroll through Bluff View Art District, Coolidge Park, and the Tennessee Riverpark.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoy some of these spots next time you find yourself in Chattanooga.

Cross-Country Road Trip Part 1: Washington to Oregon

 

Check out the vlog at https://youtu.be/yMNEyW2-3yE

Hey folks – long time no talk!  Life’s been busy, but good.  On August 27th my husband, Solomon, and I set off for Georgia from Washington.  The first leg of our journey took us to Oregon for a few days.
We left August 27th with a lot of food and a lot of baggage (in a purely physical sense).  Stopped for a drip coffee and a dirty hemp chai latte at Vinaccio’s Coffee in Monroe – they have the best dirty chai I’ve ever had.  We ran into Mike, the owner of the shop, who actually sent Solomon a five pound bag of coffee beans when he was deployed overseas, and chatted with him for a hot minute before taking off, for real.
The drive was pretty but felt long, given Solomon’s insistence on playing only music of the Willie Nelson variety (don’t get me wrong, I like Willie Nelson – just not hours of Willie Nelson).  We pulled over for lunch in the parking lot of a gas station and chowed down on cheese sticks and baby carrots.
Made a stop at Cape Disappointment and walked through the ruins of the fort and up to the lighthouse.  The area was beautiful but hot as hades – we would later learn from the owner of the hostel we stayed at that Oregon was having one of the hottest summers in the last few years…
After sweating our butts off, we hopped over the Oregon state line to stop at Pier 39 and listen to the sweet song of the iconic sea lions.  Our home for the night, Seaside International Hostel, was just 15 minutes away.  The owner (I want to say Ed, but don’t take my word on that) was hilarious and helpful, giving us a dinner recommendation and informing us the hostel would provide pancake mix and his own homemade maple syrup for breakfast.
We took Ed’s advice and stopped for a bite at Sam’s Seaside Cafe, a no frills seafood restaurant tucked in-between cringe-y tourist traps.  The oyster shooters were fresh and flavorful, and the tuna salad sandwich was perfectly classic.  From there, we drove over to Cannon Beach to check out the iconic Haystack Rock at sunset, which did not disappoint.

The next day we woke up, treated ourselves to pancakes with Ed’s homemade syrup, and chatted with one of the hostel workers, a self-proclaimed bicycle nomad.  We walked through the hostel’s backyard garden to catch a view of the river before heading out for Portland.
Unfortunately, our stop in Portland was a bit of a bust.  We were already pressed for time and pretty much only had time to grab a cold brew from Coava Coffee Roasters (which was smooth and refreshing).  We drove through the city for a bit and were mostly met with construction, confusing road signs, and traffic, which was a big bummer.
BUT things improved once we got out of the city.  We stopped for another parking lot lunch (this time, at a Safeway) and then headed for Bend, our destination for the night.  The drive took us right by Mt. Hood and through beautiful, stormy plains.
After meeting up with our Bend friend (nice rhyme, I know) we had a quick climbing session at Bend Rock Gym and then grabbed a hefty dinner from River Pig Saloon – nachos for me and a bison burger for Solomon.  We turned in early for the night in preparation for the day ahead…

Thursday (August 29) we started the day with breakfast burritos from Taco Salsa and made the (not so) lengthy drive to Smith Rock State Park, a gorgeous climbing area that rivals the southeastern crags Solomon and I are used to.  A quick hike into the canyon floor led us to Morning Glory Wall, where we knocked out 5 Gallon Buckets (5.8) and The Outsiders (5.9).  We hiked over to another wall that I don’t know the name of and climbed a few more routes that, again, I don’t know the name of…whoops.
As storm clouds began to creep in we threw in the towel and drove back home for naps and showers. After refreshing ourselves with sleep and soap we met again at The Lot, a courtyard of food trucks where we picked up some massive portions of pad thai and stir fry.   After hanging out for a bit we all gave in to exhaustion and decided to call it a night, as the next day Solomon woke up bright and early at 5:15am to make our way to Salt Lake City, Utah…