Exploring Pikes Peak + Garden of the Gods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Explore One of Washington’s Iconic Islands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Must-Visit Spots on the Olympic Peninsula

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

Hole-in-the-Wall at Rialto Beach

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


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


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

Hoh Rainforest

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

La Push

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

Tree of Life

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

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

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

Barclay Lake Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Moody Day in the PNW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Exploring Colorado’s Gold Belt Scenic Byway

Make sure to check out the vlog here!

This past weekend we wanted to get out of the house and do some exploring, but with all the smoke and insanely hot temperatures, we didn’t really feel like hiking. We decided to check out the Gold Belt Scenic Byway, and I’m so glad we took the time to explore it!

Image courtesy of GoldBeltByway.com

The byway covers over 100 miles and goes through a number of unique communities and areas with rich mining histories. We didn’t drive the full byway, but we did see some of the highlights along the route. We left from Colorado Springs and first made our way to Vindicator Valley Trail, a short detour from the town of Victor. This trail takes you through old mining buildings and ruins, and was the perfect way to kickstart our day.

From there, we made our way through Victor and Cripple Creek, and then we took Shelf Road all the way down to Cañon City. This portion of the byway was definitely a highlight, as it took us through some gorgeous scenery. We even ran into a family of sheep along the way!

Cañon City was another cool spot, and the perfect area to grab some lunch and enjoy a walk by the river. All in all, exploring the Gold Belt Scenic Byway was a great way to see some new areas of Colorado without having to sacrifice air conditioning or spend too much time in the smoke!

Vegan’s Guide to Seattle

Hello folks! Today I’m sharing with you some of my favorite vegan spots in Seattle! The first couple times I visited from Georgia I was so impressed with how many vegan-friendly restaurants there are, and it’s still one of my favorite places to try new vegan dishes.

I don’t frequently find myself in the city for breakfast, but I thoroughly recommend Wayward Vegan Cafe if you’re looking for some fantastic breakfast/brunch grub. They’ve added even more options since I last visited, but I can vouch for the country fried seitan and pancakes being absolutely delicious! They also serve lunch and dinner, so you’ll have tons of variety whenever you decide to visit.

While some may argue donuts aren’t a “proper” breakfast, I say to follow your heart and eat the dang donuts! Mighty-O Donuts is my favorite spot in the city for vegan donuts because they offer some amazing classics and delicious specialties. I’m a sucker for any cake donut with sprinkles, but their fritters and yeast-raised donuts are also fantastic. What better way to start your day in Seattle than a delicious vegan donut and a hot cup of coffee?

Once you walk off breakfast and get hungry enough for lunch, I’d recommend swinging by Pi Vegan Pizzeria. Pi Vegan offers up some of the best vegan pizza I’ve ever had. My favorites are buffalo chicken and magic mac, which features their very own vegan mac and cheese on top! Don’t worry, if you’re not in the mood for pizza you can also just get a serving of their delicious mac and cheese on its own.

Veggie Grill is another awesome vegan option in the city, especially if you’re on the hunt for something quick and casual. Veggie Grill serves up a variety of sandwiches, salads, and bowls, and anything you order is sure to be delicious. Their salads are absolutely massive, so I love getting one as my entree and then a couple sides to share. If you’re on the hungrier side, they also have classics like burgers and fries to fuel you up!

If you still have room for dinner by the end of the day, you must swing by El Borracho. They actually have a location in Pike Place Market which makes it a fantastic option after a day of shopping. El Borracho’s menu is 100% plant-based and they have so many incredible options, it’s hard to know where to begin. When in doubt, I always recommend the nachos which you can load up with shredded “chicken” or seitan steak.

This restaurant recommendation is a little bit outside of Seattle in a town called Renton, but I included it because it’s a fantastic option if you’re heading into the city from SeaTac. Blossom Vegetarian is hands down one of my favorite vegan Asian restaurants in Seattle. They specialize in Vietnamese cuisine and have everything from Vietnamese chicken nuggets to pho to entrees with plant-based duck and fish. Their menu is extensive and has some of the most impressive plant-based meats I’ve ever tried.

You didn’t think I would forget dessert, did you? Cinnaholic is actually a chain but their Seattle location is worth a visit because these are the best vegan cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had. These aren’t your standard, canned rolls: they have almost any kind of topping you can think of. You can get a standard frosting or try flavors like chai, cake batter, or maple, and your topping options range from fruit to pretzels to vegan COOKIE DOUGH. Yup, you read that right. Mind. Blown.

If you’re more of an ice cream person, Frankie and Jo’s is the place to go. All of their ice cream is vegan, and they offer some deliciously unique flavors like salted caramel with activated charcoal as well as dark chocolate with coffee and toasted almonds. You can also get your ice cream served up in a cone and topped with extras like cookie dough bites and chocolate fudge sauce. Talk about dreamy!

I hope you get to enjoy some of these recommendations on your next visit to Seattle, and let me know what your favorite vegan spots are in the city!

My Favorite Breweries in Colorado Springs

Happy Sunday! I’m changing it up a bit this week and sharing with you guys some of my favorite breweries in Colorado Springs. Local breweries are a really cool way to experience different cities, and we’ve had a lot of fun checking out various breweries in the past couple months that we’ve lived here.

Trinity Brewing Co.

Trinity Brewing Co. is actually the first brewery we explored in Colorado Springs when we went for my birthday back in January. The staff there are super helpful and friendly and will work with you to recommend a drink that they think you’ll love. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every beer I’ve tried from Trinity (last time I went I tried the Raspberry Kolsch which was delicious) and they even have great food! As a bonus, they also offer some vegan options as well, and their vegan wings are a delicious compliment to their drinks.

Colorado Mountain Brewery

Colorado Mountain Brewery is an awesome option if you want good beer and a great meal. There are two locations and both have a great atmosphere which makes this spot perfect for the whole family, whether you plan on drinking or not. I recommend getting a flight to sample some of their flagship beers, such as the Roller Coaster Red Ale and the Monumental Stout. As far as food goes, you really can’t go wrong, but their bison queso is exceptionally amazing.

Bristol Brewing Company

Bristol Brewing Company is another spot I’d recommend checking out for good beer and an awesome location. This brewery is located in Ivywild School, a former elementary school turned food and event hall that also features a bar-coffeeshop combo and a variety of restaurants (we love Decent Pizza Co.). There’s truly something for everyone to enjoy and the setting is super unique and interesting. Plus, their outside patio is dog-friendly!

Trails End Taproom

Trails End Taproom is a really cool brewery concept: instead of being served specific sizes of drinks, you receive a card that you can scan for a variety of on-tap local beers and pour yourself however much you like. That way, you can try a number of different drinks and you simply pay by the ounce at the end of your visit. This brewery features tons of beers, and even some wine, from local vendors, so it’s a fun way to taste a lot without spending an absurd amount of money.

FH Beerworks

FH Beerworks is the perfect option if you plan to bring your pups with you for a drink. They have a fantastic outdoor patio/garden area with plenty of seating options for you to spread out. This is one of the first breweries we brought our dog Willie Nelson to, and it was a great experience for all of us. More importantly, their beer is amazing as well! We got a flight to sample several different kinds and really enjoyed all of them.

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.