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…

The Must-See of Seattle

 

Hello all!  At the beginning of December I took a trip with my family to Seattle to get a feel for the town as my parents will be moving there next summer.  The trip was incredibly fun and the perfect way to kick off Christmas break, so I wanted to share our itinerary in case you find yourself there and need some ideas of what to see and where to eat!

Day 1: Pike Place Market and the Gingerbread Village

Although our first day mostly consisted of travel, we did have the evening to explore the area around Pike Place Market.  The market is probably one of the most famous establishments in Seattle, and although it was closed the night we first went, we came back another day to walk through and see the different vendors.  From there, we stopped in Metsker Maps, a super cool store containing – you guessed it – lots of unique maps, postcards, and guidebooks.  If you find yourself in downtown Seattle around Christmastime, the Sheraton hosts a Gingerbread Village featuring crazy cool and detailed sculptures all made out of candy!  We were also lucky enough to be staying in a hotel right next to the Space Needle which is a beautiful nighttime sight.
Where to eat: Blossom Vegetarian in Renton is a perfect place to grab a bite after a long flight; they have countless vegan options including the best faux chicken nuggets I’ve had!  Veggie Grill is a great option as well with a variety of sandwiches, bowls, and sides.

Day 2: Books and Records Galore

F4413286-D57B-4830-8ED6-B2B80DE211C0.jpg

We took a lazy Sunday to check out some shops around town: the Elliot Bay Book Company is a really nice store with tons of books and stationary.  There are lots of record shops nearby as well so make a point to stop by one and browse away.  After picking up some groceries and checking out the well-known Jimi Hendrix Statue on Broadway St., we took some time to relax in the hotel before heading back out for dinner.
Where to eat: vegan waffles and ice cream from The Cookie Counter make for a delicious start to the day.  Pizza Pi Vegan Pizzeria has some of the best vegan cheese I’ve had with tons of topping options!

Day 3: Olympic Sculpture Park, Redmond, and Bellevue

Start your morning off by taking a lazy walk through the Olympic Sculpture Park.  With lots of interesting sculptures and art pieces and a prime view of the water (we were lucky enough to see a seal!), it’s a beautiful spot.  Taking a short walk up towards 5th Avenue will also take you by the Pacific Science Center where you can see some more sculptures and catch a beautiful view of the Space Needle.  That day, we took a drive up to Redmond to visit the Microsoft campus and grab drinks at a coffeeshop before catching the sunset in downtown Bellevue and enjoying the Christmas lights.  Finish off the day by taking a walk or drive through Candy Cane Lane, a neighborhood in Seattle that goes all out with the Christmas decorations every year.
Where to eat: Teapot Vegetarian House in Redmond is another delicious vegan Asian restaurant to check out – make sure to try their Thai iced tea!  If you’re looking for a cup of coffee and a relaxing vibe, stop by SoulFood CoffeeHouse (also in Redmond).

Day 4: MoPOP, Starbucks Reserve, and Kirkland

The Museum of Pop Culture is a super cool stop with exhibits that rotate out – when we visited, they had one about science fiction movies, one about horror movies, several music exhibits about David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix, and a huge area dedicated to Star Trek.  After taking our time at the museum, we visited Starbucks Reserve, a location serving blends and drinks you can’t find anywhere else.  After lunch nearby, we decided to spend the rest of the day driving through the Lake Washington and Kirkland areas.  The homes in these neighborhoods are stunning and they have beautiful views of the water so be sure to check them out if you have the time.  Our last day in Seattle was relaxed and fun, the perfect end to a stellar vacation.
Where to eat: El Borracho serves up some amazing vegan nachos with the best vegan queso I’ve had yet.

There you have it!  I’m eager to go back and see more of Seattle and the neighborhoods around it.  If you need more inspiration, check out my friend Olivia’s blog about her trip to Seattle over the summer: Olivia-Frances.com.
Until next time!

A Day in Chattanooga

Another year, another trip to Chattanooga!

Every good road trip starts with a solid playlist – some of my picks include:

  • I’m Shakin Jack White
  • Closer Kings of Leon
  • Never Gonna Give You Up The Black Keys
  • Human Rag’n’Bone Man
  • Secrets The Weeknd
  • Jacked Up Weezer
  • Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet Fall Out Boy
  • Personal Jesus Depeche Mode
  • Told You So Paramore

After arriving in Chattanooga around 11:30, we made our first stop at High Point Climbing Gym on Broad Street.  


The gym features an outdoor wall on the outside of the building which looked cool, but the insane humidity kept us inside for all of our climbing. 


One of the high points (pun intended) of the gym was their top out boulders, where you actually finish the route by climbing on top of the bouldering structure! 

After a few solid hours of climbing, we popped in next door to Rock/Creek to browse some Patagonia and Prana gear, and then we headed to Tremont Tavern per the recommendation of one of the climbing gym employees.  


We snagged some window seats to people watch and planned the rest of the day while chowing down on a havarti burger (him), a hummus wrap (me), and some killer tater tots (both).  

After lunch, we headed over to nearby Frazier Avenue to check out Chad’s Records (which is now located inside Winder Binder).  They offer lots of vintage records and books, and you’ll probably be greeted by the friendly resident dog who I remember from my visit last year. 

After noticing some incoming rainclouds, we quickly made our way to Walnut Street Bridge to take in the view before the storm hit.  Although it’s almost always packed with tourists, the bridge is a cool spot to get a panoramic view of the city and watch the brave souls who continued kayaking and paddle boarding in the face of an impending thunderstorm.  


As it started to sprinkle, we stopped by Revelator Coffee Company, a super spacious and minimalistic coffee spot with yummy espresso.

Our final stop was Clumpies Ice Cream Co. which had a wide variety of both classic and crazy flavors (salted watermelon anyone?).  They even had dairy-free options! 

On our way out of Chattanooga, we took a drive up W Road to check out Signal Mountain.  Unfortunately, due to some poor navigation on my part, we only caught a couple views along the way, but the drive up was still fun (albeit pretty stressful given the crazy sharp turns – it’s called W Road for a reason!).

All in all, it was another lovely day spent in Chattanooga.  There are always new spots to discover and adventures to embark on, and I can’t wait for my next visit!

Colorado Trip Highlights

As my time in Colorado comes to a close, I’ve been looking back on the past 2 weeks and realizing how much cool stuff I’ve gotten to experience and how many unexpectedly awesome moments emerged.  So before we begin the journey home, here are a few of my highlights from this trip:

Discovering abandoned train tracks

Train2

We spotted the cool remains of an old train track while making our way to the first hike we would tackle on this trip (more on that in a second).  One of the things I love about Colorado and a lot of the Western states is all the incredible history that still lingers, as seen in the countless ghost towns and abandoned mines that sprinkle the area.

Stepping foot on the Continental Divide Trail

After hearing about this hike from some family members, my dad and I decided to check it out one morning – starting from Rollins Pass, we hiked a little over 2 miles up to Rogers Pass, which intersects the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).  I was really excited to step foot on the CDT – a 3,100-mile-long trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada – because along with the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Coast Trail, it makes up the Triple Crown of Hiking.  One of my goals is to hike all 3 of these long-distance trails, and seeing the CDT in person only made me want to accomplish this goal sooner!

Bonus: close encounters with a herd of moose

IMG_9632.jpg

On our drive up to the trailhead for the Rogers Pass hike, we actually spotted a small herd of moose crossing the road!  Getting to see them so close was incredible – they’re a lot bigger than I would have thought, and I would not recommend messing with them.

Spotting a fox

IMG_9874.jpg

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I am completely obsessed with foxes.  One thing I have always wanted to experience is seeing a fox “in the wild”, and it actually happened on this trip.  We were driving through the town of Alma when I noticed a fox sitting near one of the buildings, quietly watching the road.  I flipped out and made my dad turn the car around so we could get a better view of it.  The fox just quietly watched as we got closer – it looked so beautiful and peaceful that I may or may not have shed a few tears.

Climbing my first 14,000′ tall mountain

On my family’s first big trip to Colorado last summer, we tried to summit our first 14,000′ tall mountain but had to turn back just a few hundred feet from the summit due to bad weather.  This year, we were determined to come back and make it happen – and we did!  We chose to hike Mount Sherman, a moderately difficult mountain dotted with abandoned mining buildings and topping out at 14,035′.  We took a slow and steady pace on this hike which started amongst rolling hills, climbed through rock fields, and ended after a steep push along a snowy ridge line.  None of us were expecting the mountain to be so rocky or snowy, so it ended up being a really fun but tiring challenge.

Exploring Garden of the Gods

IMG_9901.jpg

On one of our designated chill days in between hikes, we spent some time exploring Garden of the Gods.  The rock features in this park are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and they’re simply incomparable.  We went on a short walk through the park, but even just being able to drive through it and pass all of the features was amazing.

Summiting Pikes Peak

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-9-26-41-am

This was our last big hike of the trip, and it did not disappoint.  Pikes Peak is a legendary  mountain (it’s known as America’s Mountain) and it has some of the best summit views I’ve ever experienced.  The hike to the summit is no joke: the trail (officially called Barr Trail) gains 7500 feet of elevation over 13 miles.  My dad and I originally planned on tackling the trail in 2 days, stopping 6 miles in at Barr Camp (an area with a hostel-like setup and campsites for hikers) and then finishing the remaining 7 miles the next day.  The night before we began the hike, however, we began to see trail reports from hikers who managed to complete the whole trail in 6-8 hours, and we figured we might as well go all in and plan on doing it one day.  I knew the trail would be tough, but I’m also confident in my health and physical abilities, so I was excited for the challenge.  This trail ended up being the most difficult, but most rewarding, hike I’ve ever gone on.  The first 6 miles are a steady incline up through a forest, and the steepness gets really serious once you reach the edge of the timberline and finally hike up above the trees.  From there, the trail winds through foothills before ending with an insane 2-mile stretch of endless switchbacks up a rock field that leads you to the summit.  My dad and I ended up taking about 7 1/2 hours to complete this trail, and I’m so proud we were able to knock it all out in one day.  It was a painful but awesome experience, and one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever completed.

Georgia to Colorado: The Road Trip Diaries

Hello all!  I am here in beautiful Colorado visiting family, hiking mountains, and enjoying the lovely weather and scenery.  This year, my family decided to road trip our way out west instead of flying.  We spent 3 days on the road, taking our time to enjoy the changing landscape and feast on some incredible vegan eats.  Here’s how we did it…

Day 1:
Georgia — Tennessee — Kentucky

Light layers for driving through humid Southern states.

The Playlist:

Tumblr Girls by G-Eazy
Kick, Push by Lupe Fiasco
Into You by Ariana Grande
All My Friends by Snakehips
Let’s Get Lost by G-Eazy
No Church In The Wild by JAY Z
Sucker For Pain by Lil Wayne

The Eats:

We stopped in Nashville at a vegan spot called Graze for an early dinner – and boy was it good.  My family ordered a bunch of appetizers and small plates to share and everything was incredible.  I recommend the Citrus Caesar salad and Bahn Minis, and be sure to save room for dessert: they had a lemon/blueberry/basil cupcake on the day we went which was a perfect summer treat!

Day 2:
Kentucky — Illinois — Missouri — Kansas

Classic layers for endless plains.

The Playlist:

Agnes by Glass Animals
Single by The Neighbourhood
The Heart of Me by Miike Snow
Downtown Love by G-Eazy
This Summer by Maroon 5
Closer by The Chainsmokers
Talk Too Much by COIN

The Eats:

For lunch we stopped by PuraVegan Cafe in St. Louis – this place has some of the freshest and most inventive dishes, from raw wraps and hearty soups to loads of healthy juices and sweet treats.  I recommend the Maca Cappuccino and Kale Collard Wrap!
Once dinner rolled around we swung by Cafe Gratitude in Kansas City and oh my gosh, this is probably one of the best vegan restaurants I’ve ever visited.  They place a lot of focus on self-empowerment and positivity as seen in their menu: each dish finishes the statement “I Am…” – I recommend the I Am Fabulous (a raw lasagna).  Save room for The I Am Eternally Inspired: an insanely delicious chai milkshake!

Day 3:
Kansas — Colorado

Plaid for the mountains and a jacket for chilly mornings.

The Playlist

You Don’t Get Me High Anymore by Phantogram
Nine In The Afternoon by Panic! At The Disco
The Kids Aren’t Alright by Fall Out Boy
Roses by The Chainsmokers
If I Believe You by The 1975
Oh Ms Believer by Twenty One Pilots
I Feel The Weight by Miike Snow

The Eats

On the last leg of our journey we had one thing on our minds: WaterCourse Foods in Denver, Colorado.  This is one of my absolute favorite restaurants – last time we were in Colorado, we ate here 3 separate times, and everything is fantastic!  If you get the chance to visit, make sure to try the Cauliflower Wings with buffalo sauce, and I’m also a huge fan of their Berries and Cream Pancake Stack and the Biscuits and Gravy.  WaterCourse also has an amazing chai milkshake which always hits the spot (Atlanta seriously needs to step up its vegan milkshake game).

5 Mountains in 48 Hours

A couple weekends ago, I gave myself a challenge to climb Georgia’s 5 tallest mountains in 48 hours.  I ended up accomplishing the challenge in 29 hours and 45 minutes!  Check out the video below to hear more about my adventures:

The Stats:

1. Brasstown Bald – 4,783′.  Reached summit via Jacks Knob Trail – about 6 miles roundtrip.

IMG_9750
(Top of Rabun Bald)

2. Rabun Bald – 4,695′.  Reached summit via The Bartram Trail beginning at Beegum Gap – 3 miles roundtrip.

3. *Dicks Knob – 4,619′.  Reached summit via Forest Service Road 54B, ATV trails, and bushwhacking – about 5 miles roundtrip.

IMG_9542_edited-1.jpg
(Hiking up Dicks Knob)

4. Wolfpen Ridge – 4,560′.  Reached summit via Jacks Knob Trail – summit is about 2-2.5 miles into the hike.

5. Blood Mountain – 4,459′.  Reached summit via Byron Reece Trail (which then connects to the Appalachian Trail) – about 4.5 miles roundtrip.

IMG_9528.jpg
(Top of Brasstown Bald)

*Note – while there is some information available on the Internet about how to get to/hike Dicks Knob, I’d strongly recommend contacting a local ranger service or forest watch.  They will most likely have the most recent and accurate information.

An Afternoon in Chattanooga

The other day my friends and I had the rare chance to spend the day together, so we decided to take a spontaneous trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Armed with some good tunes (check out the latest from The 1975 or throw it back with Twenty One Pilots’ self-titled album), an abundance of snacks (peanut butter crackers all the way, baby), and zero plans or expectations, we made the quick drive up to Chattanooga under cloudy skies.

Once in town, we grabbed a bite to eat at Terminal BrewHouse, a relaxed, tasty, and well-priced spot with an awesome rooftop garden (although we did have to seek refuge under some umbrellas once cloudy skies turned into light showers).

IMG_9694.jpg

Next, we wandered across the street to  Wildflower Tea Shop & Apothecary, the absolute cutest place to grab a cup (or a pot) of tea and do some studying or socializing.

IMG_9703.jpg

IMG_9707.jpg

After a relaxing pot of Fairytale Blend tea we meandered over to Warehouse Row, a chill shopping spot residing in a former warehouse, a la Ponce City Market.  We wandered through stationery stores, admired the aesthetics of Anthropologie goods (because who has an extra $90 laying around for a tank top?) and freaked out upon the sight of a golden retriever puppy.

IMG_9710.jpg

IMG_9713.jpg

We then took the long, hot trek to the other side of Walnut Street Bridge, where we enjoyed fresh juices and snacks at Pura Vida, scoured through record shops and thrift stores, and took a ride on the antique carousel in Coolidge Park.

IMG_9718

IMG_9719

Once we returned to our side of the bridge, we treated ourselves to some ice cream and made our way back to the car to return home.

IMG_9689

All in all, it was a lovely day with lovely people in a lovely town.  There’s something so special about taking a spontaneous trip with friends, and I’m glad I was able to spend the day with these beautiful people before we embark on our respective adventures of college, work, and traveling.

 

A Brief Journey on the Appalachian Trail

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take a few days to hike a 40 mile section of the Appalachian Trail (the same section I did last month with my dad), but this time around, I hiked it alone and I completed it in 3 days rather than 5.

This section of the Appalachian Trail is absolutely beautiful, and the weather this weekend was perfect.  Everything was lush and green, there was a nice breeze all day long, and even though there were definitely some tough sections, I enjoyed every moment of my hike.

Check out my adventures below:

This trip really felt like the beginning of my gap year, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to spend some time on my own in such a beautiful place.  Getting to reflect on high school and think towards the future has only made me more excited for this upcoming year.

Until the next adventure,

Lizzie (trail name: Spitz)

 

40 Things I Learned Hiking The First 40 Miles of the Appalachian Trail

Last week, my dad and I spent 5 days hiking the first 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail, starting at Springer Mountain and ending at Hogpen Gap (just past Blood Mountain).  This was my first time taking a multi-day hiking/camping trip, and it was an incredible experience.  Here’s what I learned along the way:

  1. Nothing prepares you for the excitement/nervousness of beginning a big hike
  2. Starting early in the morning can take some getting used to, but you’ll appreciate the cool morning air once the afternoon sun hits
  3. Wild owls are cool as heck
  4. The best way to start the day is with a view of the sunrise from the top of a mountain
  5. The trail may be pretty empty at the beginning of the day…
  6. But the later the day gets (and the closer you hike to popular campsites), the more hikers you’ll see
  7. Peeing in the woods is both freeing and terrifying
  8. While hikers seem mostly divided on whether to use sunscreen or not…
  9. Bug spray is a must
  10. Giant millipedes are not cool as heck
  11. Hitting your mileage goal for the day is super rewarding…
  12. But having a long afternoon at an isolated campsite on your first day of hiking can get pretty boring
  13. Setting up camp for the first time can be pretty stressful
  14. Sleeping in a tent may take some getting used to
  15. Seeing the stars at night is unreal
  16. Getting up to pee in the middle of the night is a decision you have to thoroughly think through and commit toIMG_9327 copy.jpg
  17. Candy is a luxury most hikers have no problem carrying extra weight for
  18. You’ll feel really proud of your 8-mile-a-day average until you talk to other hikers who are averaging 15-20 miles…
  19. But you’ll learn it’s not a competition and at the end of the day, everyone is equally excited and exhausted
  20. You can’t skimp out on stocking up on water
  21. The key to tackling uphills is going slow and steady – stopping and starting is a painful process that will only drain you physically and mentally
  22. Seeing people in their 60s+ tackling the AT will give you some serious inspiration
  23. You’ll meet people from all over the country (and sometimes the world)
  24. Staying in shelters may not be your cup of tea…
  25. But take the time to get to know your tent neighbors…
  26. Because you’ll probably end up encountering the same people multiple times on your journey
  27. If you have a trail name, use it! (even if it’s something pretty uncool, like Spitz)
  28. Creeks and streams are a literal godsend, and a popular resting spot for hikers of all distancesIMG_9086.jpg
  29. 9:00 p.m. is a late night for most hikers – once the sun starts setting, anytime is fair game to turn in for the night
  30. Make sure to dig a big enough hole when you stop to go #2
  31. You may think you’re getting an awesome tan, but it’s probably just dirt
  32. The downhill on Blood Mountain is almost worse than the uphill…
  33. And you’ll learn that hiking on flat ground is infinitely better than hiking downhill
  34. Neels Gap feels like a home away from home after a couple days on the trail
  35. You’ll have a whole new appreciation for things like running water, picnic tables, and bathrooms with actual toilets and toilet paper
  36. You’ll meet some of the coolest, weirdest, nicest, craziest, and friendliest people on the trail…
  37. And all it takes is a nice campfire and a round of swapping trail stories or showing off battle wounds to feel like you’ve known your fellow hikers for ages
  38. People who set up “trail magic” stations deserve medals of honor
  39. Hiking a section of the trail will only leave you wanting more…
  40. And hiking any part of it, no matter how big or small, will make you realize how beautiful our world is, and how much of a gift it is to experience, explore, and just exist in it

IMG_9347.jpg