Bellevue Botanical Garden

The Bellevue Botanical Garden is a peaceful escape in the heart of Bellevue, perfect for an after-work stroll or a family outing. The garden is free to visit and features several trails and walking paths through 53 acres of gorgeous forests and meadows. There are 11 unique areas within the garden that offer plentiful opportunities to wander around and explore.

The majority of paths within the garden are gravel, and there is minimal elevation change, making it a great option for families and hikers of all experience levels. The garden is open year-round, and is gorgeous in every season, though I find spring and fall to be exceptionally beautiful.

My favorite areas within the garden are the Ravine Experience and the Yao Garden. The Ravine Experience features a massive 150′ suspension bridge that leads you over a deep ravine. This is a great spot for photos, and to observe the surrounding forests. The Yao Garden, a traditional Japanese garden, is also a beautiful area. During the fall, the maples throughout Yao Garden turn an incredible shade of bright red.

The garden also hosts several seasonal events, such as a Mother’s Day event and a holiday light display in the winter.

Bellevue Botanical Garden has become one of my favorite spots to explore because I always discover a new area, path, or photo op every time I visit. If you seek a relaxing nature escape but don’t want to drive far out of the city, Bellevue Botanical Garden is the perfect spot.

Franklin Falls

Franklin Falls is a 2 mile out-and-back hike in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that’s perfect for hikers of all experience levels.

The trailhead for Franklin Falls is located about 25 minutes outside of North Bend on Denny Creek Road, just past the campground. While you can enjoy Franklin Falls year-round, Denny Creek Road does tend to close in the winter which will add 4 miles roundtrip to your hike.
Franklin Falls is also a very popular destination for hikers, photographers, and families, so try to visit during off-times (such as weekdays or early mornings) when possible.

Pro tip: parking is $5/day or free with a Northwest Forest Pass – more info at fs.usda.gov.

The trail runs parallel to the Snoqualmie River most of the way and, with only 400′ of elevation gain in total, is very family-friendly. The river does flood on occasion which may make the trail exceptionally washed out or muddy, so be prepared to get a bit soaked along the way. It’s also fun to spot the gorgeous A-frame cabins along the river as you hike.

After a mile, you’ll begin to hear the roaring of Franklin Falls and soon, you’ll spot the stunning 130′ waterfall. Be careful as you hike downward over slippery rocks to the base of the waterfall and take in the full beauty of the falls.

A short hike back will return you to your car to carry on with more adventures! Franklin Falls is one of my favorite hikes in the area because you get a stunning view for minimal effort, so let me know if you’ve visited or plan to soon!

Diamond Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Going Remote!

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

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

Why remote?

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

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

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

Where to look

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application/interview tips

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

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

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

Barclay Lake Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lake Isabelle

After a few days of haze, the smoke has finally begun to clear and reveal the beautiful views Colorado has to offer. In celebration, I decided to venture over to Indian Peaks Wilderness for the first time and hike to Lake Isabelle.

Pro tip: the Brainard Lake Recreation Area that this hike is located in requires a timed entry reservation which you can acquire here.

Indian Peaks Wilderness is located along the Continental Divide and offers some of the most beautiful hiking in Colorado. Located about an hour west of Boulder, Indian Peaks Wilderness offers some fantastic day hikes and backpacking areas.

Indian Peaks is located about 2.5 hours from where I live in Colorado Springs, so I left town around 5:45am and made it to the parking lot just after 8am. The ranger at the entrance instructed me to park at the Brainard Lake Trailhead, though I later learned I could have continued on and parked at the Long Lake Trailhead. I didn’t mind parking at Brainard Lake because the walk from Brainard Lake to the Long Lake Trailhead was a good warmup, but it did add 2 miles roundtrip.

Long Lake was another beautiful sight as well, and I was hoping to see some moose or even a bear as the park ranger said there had been recent sightings, but I suppose they were all taking the day off because I didn’t see any wildlife.

The proper hike to Lake Isabelle, which begins at the Long Lake Trailhead, is fairly moderate, meandering along the edges of Long Lake before veering right and uphill to reach Lake Isabelle. The last half mile or so of the hike is fairly steep, though the views that soon emerge make it well worthwhile. Lake Isabelle itself was absolutely stunning, and you have plenty of options for exploring the shore of the lake and the surrounding meadows. The lake is framed by stunning peaks and the area was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in the state.

The lake wasn’t too crowded by the time I arrived, but after stopping to rest and take some pictures, the hike back was fairly busy. All Trails reports the hike to be about 5.5 miles roundtrip with about 550 feet of elevation gain. I would say this hike is appropriate for new and experienced hikers, and there were lots of families when I went! Because of how popular this area can be, I would recommend visiting during the week or earlier in the morning on the weekend.

Pro tip: dogs are welcome but must stay on leash – there were lots of dogs when I went, and I even brought my own, Willie, but if you’re doing the same, please abide by the leash rules! There were several times unleashed dogs approached Willie and I, and though Willie is friendly, not every dog is. Plus, there’s always the chance you’ll see some wildlife, and even well-behaved dogs have been known to take off after other animals.

Overall, this was a gorgeous hike and I hope to return again soon. Let me know if you’ve hiked to Lake Isabelle yourself, and drop your recommendations for hikes in Indian Peaks Wilderness!

Mayflower Gulch Trail

I’ve been wanting to get out and take advantage of the warm weather before Colorado goes full fall mode, so I decided to explore the Mayflower Gulch Tail. This trail is located near the town of Breckenridge and will lead you along an old wagon trail to the abandoned Boston mine camp where you can roam among old cabin ruins. The trail itself is about 6.1 miles out-and-back, though you can add mileage by hiking around the gulch once you reach then cabins, and gains about 1,500′ of elevation. The trail gains elevation at a fairly moderate rate but once you reach the cabins it makes the whole hike worthwhile! Unfortunately, it was still pretty hazy from the wildfires when I took on this hike, so I’d love to return when the weather is a bit clearer.

Check out All Trails for all the info!

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.

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.

Blue Lakes Trail + The Breckenridge Troll

Happy Saturday folks! We have some friends visiting from Florida and wanted to give them a taste of the mountain life so we settled on a trip up to Breckenridge. The weather was supposed to be a bit dicey but we wanted to check out some local hikes, so we decided to hope for the best and venture out despite the chance of rain. The first stop we made after arriving from Colorado Springs was the Breckenridge Troll. It’s not hard to find this guy as there are plentiful signs and even some fun footprints guiding you to his home in the woods. This ended up being more of a walk than a hike, but there were some other trails in the area if you feel like staying to explore. You’ll reach the troll in just a couple of minutes, and it is definitely a sight to behold. I couldn’t decide if he was creepy or cute, but either way, it was a really cool concept and I love how well-integrated he was with the forests around him.

Next up, we actually backtracked a bit to head to Blue Lakes Trail. I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as crowds for this trailhead, but we were pleasantly surprised to see only a few other cars in the parking lot. You’ll pass one beautiful lake as you continue along the road to the upper trailhead, and from there you can either cut to the right for a steep scramble to the top, or cut left for a winding, gradual path. The upper lake was absolutely stunning – super blue, as the name suggests, and surrounded by jagged mountains. We began wandering around and it wasn’t long before we spotted a herd of mountain goats! I’ve seen mountain goats several times before, but this herd actually had a few kids which was such a cool sight. Some of us decided to head uphill for a better look at the herd (while still making sure to give them plenty of space) and along the way we also saw some marmots and pikas. It was so cool watching the herd scramble around, and we got to hear some of the kids crying to their moms which was incredible. All in all, Blue Lakes Trail was an absolutely stunning hike that I’m so glad we decided to check out.