Rejuvenation in a Lookout

“And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.” -John Muir

We needed a break. Just a short, little break. From work, from schedules, from things to do, and expectations. To check out. To be completely alone and think of nothing but trees and mountains and sky. To reconnect and disconnect and unwind. To have only one purpose…relaxation.

To achieve that we locked ourselves in a fire tower in Montana. 40 feet off the ground.

And it was perfect.

Have you ever been at that point? Where work stress and life stress and overall busy-ness just seems to be piling up? Mind you, nothing completely life altering was going on for either of us. Some changes in both our jobs that were occupying our minds, Derek’s intensive training schedule, my overly Type A brain, but nothing completely overwhelming or difficult. And although we’d booked our stay in the Up Up Lookout six months prior, it seemed to be the perfect trip that just happened to be at the right time to just hide away and feel restored.

We made our way to Missoula, MT Thursday afternoon and got in with enough time to enjoy some food and a cold beer at Desperado Sports Tavern, a rugged bar known for their chicken wings which we gladly ordered. We then moved over to Myrtle Street Taphouse (an alternate location for Kettlehouse Brewing that is way less touristy than their downtown location) were I ordered a flight of beers to try. Something I always look forward to whenever we leave Utah. We walked around the Main Street/Downtown area to enjoy the sites and make stops at Charlie B’s and Plonk for a nightcap or two. The following morning we had an incredibly delicious breakfast and coffee at Market on Front. It was a cool and overcast day, which made it nice to walk along the riverfront and check out some of the shops. We made a final stop at Imagine Nation Brewing to taste what they had on tap and enjoy their beautiful patio before packing up and driving the rest of the way to the lookout.IMG_E5604IMG_E5614IMG_E5573IMG_5576IMG_5608IMG_5619IMG_5633IMG_5634IMG_5635IMG_5668To rent a lookout you kind of have to be on the lookout (pun intended) or at least I had to. You have to rent the more popular lookouts through the National Forest Service several months in advance as they fill up quickly. Derek decided late last year that he wanted to stay in a lookout for his birthday which was in March, but the lookouts are closed then. So I booked our stay for this July last December. Up Up lookout is about two hours outside of Missoula in the Lolo National Forest. The Forest Service gives you a code to access a gate 3 miles from the tower and a lock that lets you in to the tower itself. We arrived at the tower after seeing a bear on the drive in and began making the trek 40 feet up over 3 flights of steep stairs multiple time to unload all our belongings and settle in for the weekend. There was a pulley system that helped.IMG_9408IMG_9407IMG_5677IMG_5705IMG_5709We had decided previously that this weekend would have no agenda. Although there was much to explore around us, we both wanted to get the most of our time in the tower. So the plan was to stay in. Which is rare of us, but was a nice change. The views were spectacular and the place itself is cozy, not a bad place to lock yourself away for weekend. The tower is equipped with a twin bed, a table, a lot of cabinet space, gas lamps, and map at the center. No stove, no water, and the toilet is 40 feet below at the base. We stocked up on food we could cook over a camp stove and a lot local beer to get us through the weekend. We passed the time looking for animals, playing cards, talking, napping, and just looking out the windows. We enjoyed summer rain storms and bright sunsets over the mountains. It was light until almost 11pm which gave us plenty of time to enjoy the day.IMG_9477IMG_9474IMG_9473IMG_9452IMG_9419IMG_9436IMG_9377IMG_9400IMG_9384IMG_9403IMG_5716IMG_5733IMG_5785IMG_5799IMG_5744IMG_9397IMG_5724IMG_5696Sunday came too quickly and before we knew it we were packing up and saying good-bye to our peaceful mountain tower. I was sad to see the trip end, but we decided we would make it a yearly event and plan to be at Up Up next summer.IMG_9458IMG_9476IMG_9472IMG_9389IMG_2871IMG_5727

 

 

Advertisements

Tetons and Yellowstone

Two more National Parks checked off the bucket list! Last week, we drove north while my parents were visiting to do a mini exploration of both parks. We stayed at a quaint Airbnb on a farm in Driggs, ID. The view of the Tetons was spectacular, we would wake up with them right outside our window! We spent Friday shopping around Jackson, WY and driving the Tetons. The rainy weather prevented us once again from seeing the Tetons up close as they were covered in fog, but Jackson was lovely as usually and it was great to spend even a small amount of time in Grand Teton National Park. On Saturday we spent the day exploring Yellowstone. I had never been to Yellowstone myself, so was super excited to see the sights. I was blown away by Yellowstone. Wide open spaces, exploding geysers, and animals everywhere…perfection! It was a breath taking day. We entered from the west entrance stopping at Grand Prismatic Springs, Old Faithful, Yellowstone lake, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It quickly became one of my top 5 favorite parks so far. The drive from where we were staying took us through 3 states-Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. We did a quick tour of Bear World on Sunday, per the request of my mother on Mother’s Day, to see some grizzly and black bears up close as well as some adorable cubs. We saw a lot, but still only a small portion of what both parks have to offer so we are already planning time to go back and enjoy more.IMG_3979IMG_3980IMG_E4006IMG_9309IMG_E4022IMG_9309IMG_9301IMG_4119IMG_9271IMG_9261IMG_9272IMG_9275IMG_4154IMG_9279IMG_4164IMG_9284IMG_9298IMG_4183IMG_9254IMG_9322IMG_9345

 

PDX

Mid-January we traveled to Portland for a long weekend of beer drinking, city exploring, and outdoor enjoying. It was a last minute decision to get of town and check out a city that I haven’t been to in awhile and Derek had never been to at all. We arrived late Friday and checked in to our Airbnb. It was a cute little backyard cabin complete with a record player, tiny fireplace, and a homemade, eco-friendly outhouse. We woke up Saturday morning and ran through Forrest Park and then roamed with the animals at the Oregon Zoo. After some coffee and a shower, we made our way to Hopworks, Base Camp, Cascade Brewing Barrel House, and Schilling Cider House. We ate a long the way at different breweries, but focused more on the beer then the food for most of the weekend (when in Portland, right?).unnamedIMG_1590IMG_1605IMG_1607unnamed-3IMG_1576IMG_1573IMG_1589IMG_1618unnamed-4Sunday we took a day trip to Hood River after a quick stop at Stumptown Coffee. The scenery from Portland to Hood River is absolutely amazing. Although damage from a fire last year is notable, the views of the Colombia River, mountains, waterfalls, and trees are spectacular. We took a scenic drive near Mt. Hood, walked around the picturesque town, checked out Double Mountain and PFriem breweries, and stopped on the way back for a wine tasting. That evening we meandered around the downtown area and walked across one of the many bridges. It was then time for more beer, so we made our way to Breakside Brewing. We had late night pizza slices at Sizzle and browsed Powell’s before turning in for the night.unnamed-7unnamed-8IMG_1686IMG_1678unnamed-15IMG_1689IMG_1695unnamed-16unnamed-21unnamed-20unnamed-19IMG_1733Our last morning, we had coffee at Tov, an Egyptian style coffee house located in a double decker bus. We walked around Hawthorne Boulevard while eating breakfast from local food trucks. We then drove more through Forrest Park and stopped at the Grotto before heading to Fire on the Mountain Brewing to meet up with my friend, Amanda, who I hadn’t seen in ages. It was the cherry on top of wonderful weekend to get to reconnect with an old friend. The three of us had one more beer at Culmination Brewing before Derek and I said our good-byes to Portland and flew back home to SLC. All in all a fantastic getaway to cap off the holidays and prepare for the 10 days of Sundance that followed!IMG_1794IMG_1804IMG_1761IMG_1799IMG_1835IMG_1855

Dushi Curacao

Summer has certainly come and gone here in Salt Lake. And although there is not much I love more than fall colors and pumpkins, our summer was so sweet it’s still got me reminiscing. We missed part of the change in seasons. Our final adventure of the summer was a beach get away to Curacao, a tiny Caribbean island 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela. What was supposed to be a 6 day trip turned in to an 11 day trip for reasons soon to be told. When we left it was summer, when we returned fall had arrived.

I don’t know where to begin to describe the time we had in Curacao. It’s an amazing little island full of beautiful beaches, bright colored houses, and delicious eats. The people are friendly and the island is easily explored. We spent part or all of everyday at different beaches snorkeling with tropical fish and sea turtles. As mentioned before, our trip ended up being a little longer than anticipated. Hurricane Irma hit Miami the weekend we were there shutting down the airport in Miami for several days. We didn’t experience any weather effects of the hurricane, except some intense humidity and a couple hours of rain, but since all flights to the U.S. flew mostly in and out of Miami our flights were cancelled twice, extending our trip by 5 days. We were supposed to leave on Monday we didn’t get home until Saturday. Needless to say, we got to know the island pretty well. IMG_8196IMG_8195IMG_8540IMG_8524I’m sure the number one thing to do in Curacao is go to the beach. The island has over 30 beaches with a wide variety of appeal. You can find any preference of beach. Beaches connected to resorts, beaches you hike to, beaches with locals, beaches with no one. Most of the beaches are prime spots for snorkeling and scuba diving and the Caribbean blue and turquoise waters never get old. The best beaches were Kleine Knip, Grote Knip, Directorsbaai, and Playa Grandi. There’s also Tugboat beach where you can snorkel a sunken tugboat. They fish are plentiful and don’t seem to be near as scared of people. On Sundays there is a small food market in the tiny town of Barber. People venture to the market to sample some local fare like stewed chicken or beef and home made lemonade or Tamarin soda and then head to Playa Grandi to watch the locals fish and swim with the sea turtles that come closer to shore to check out what’s going on.IMG_8288IMG_8276IMG_8346IMG_8515IMG_8638IMG_8649IMG_8865IMG_8462IMG_8460IMG_8703My absolute favorite beach was Playa Gipy. It’s on the very northern tip of the island and takes a short hike to get to, but it’s beautiful and rarely filled with other people. We went twice and the second time we were there for about half a day and had the whole beach to ourselves. We swam, drank wine, and built sandcastles. It was amazing. We also went to the Blue Cave. It’s an underwater cave that you hike about a mile or so to from Santa Cruz beach. You jump in and time the waves right to dive under and get in to the cave. The light from the water makes the whole cave sparkle with a blue tint. Unfortunately, my underwater camera died before that day, but it is burned in my memory because it was so beautiful!IMG_8474IMG_8484IMG_8475IMG_8630IMG_8466We spent part of a day in one of the two national parks on the island, Christoffelpark. We made it to the park in enough time to start the climb of Christoffel Peak, the tallest peak on the island (1,220 ft.). The park has a cut off time of 11am to start the hike due to the high heat, humidity, and the trail being exposed. Luckily, we hit the trail on a cloudy and overcast day which made it a bit cooler, but the humidity was still rough. You can see the whole island from the top of the peak. The trail is steep, but short and the views make it worth it. The island has a unique terrain of tropical jungle like trees and desert looking cacti intermixed everywhere you look and iguanas are easy to spot all over the island. IMG_8337IMG_8449I got to check off a bucket list item while on the island. I spent a morning snorkeling with dolphins at the Curacao Dolphin Academy. Getting to actually swim with dolphins and not just splash around a bit has always been a dream of mine. It was a surreal experience. To get to dive, swim, and play with 4 dolphins (two were babies!) was spectacular and the best part was I had the whole excursion to myself. No sharing!IMGP0066IMGP0059IMG_8657IMG_8287The capital city of Willemstad and it’s brightly colored neighborhoods are also highly worth exploring. The island hosts a port which separates two neighborhoods Punda and Otrabanda (literally “the other side”). The floating Queen Emma bridge connects both sides and when ships need to come in to the port the bridge moves and opens like a gate to let the ships in. If you time it correctly you can “take a ride” on the bridge and stay on it as it moves. Both sides of Willemstad have color splashed buildings and street art in various places. At night the city and the bridge light up with more beautiful colors everywhere. Curacao is certainly colorful in more ways than one!IMG_8580IMG_8581IMG_8582IMG_8585IMG_8588IMG_8589IMG_8620IMG_8722IMG_8805IMG_8807IMG_8776IMG_8771IMG_8770We feasted on meals that often included plantains, rice, and beans. We tried lionfish at Seaside Terrace overlooking the ocean and Asian/Caribbean fusion at Ginger in the hip Pietermaai district, right next to Punda. The most memorable dining experience was stewed iguana from Jaanchies where there are no menus and the owner actually comes over, sits at your table, and goes over what they have until your ready to order. If you clean your plate you get a bowl of homemade peanut ice cream for dessert. We had Jamaican food at Cool Runnings, the portions were so large we ate on it for a couple of days. We also dined on goat burgers at Williwood, which mimics Hollywood with a similar sign across from the restaurant. We visited Curacao Brewery twice to sample locals brews and did a tour of Landhuis Chobolobo, which is home to the distillery that makes Blue Curacao (as well as Red, Orange, Green, Tamarin, and Coffee flavored). Curacao also has a decent food stand and food truck scene throughout the island. We made sure to stop at one and try some traditional Dutch food. And of course, Derek made his traditional McDonald’s stop. He eats McDonald’s in every foreign country we visit!IMG_8432IMG_8497IMG_8455IMG_8549IMG_8889IMG_8225IMG_8229IMG_8188IMG_8623IMG_8626IMG_8681IMG_8459There are so many other wonderful sights to see! Like the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, which is the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas. It’s beautiful on the inside and the floor is covered in sand which makes it even more unique. Punda also hosts a floating market where vendors sell all sorts of fruits, veggies, and other local goodies. The cemeteries and churches are also worth stopping to visit. The multi-colored tombs and churches catch your eye all throughout the island. There’s also a flamingo park, an aloe vera plantation, an ostrich farm, and tons of art galleries. Something for everyone! I came home with a piece from local artist Nena Sanchez and also enjoyed seeing all of the Chichi’s (which is Papiamentu for big sister) at Serena’s Art Factory.IMG_8563IMG_8557IMG_8555IMG_8543IMG_8789IMG_8785IMG_8711IMG_8709Curacao is a constituent country of the Netherlands and the Dutch influence is still very prominent on the island. Almost everyone on the island speaks at least four languages-Dutch, English, Spanish, and the local language of Papiamentu. In this language, the word Dushi is used very frequently and you’ll see it all over the island on t-shirts, souvenirs, and a big statue in one of the squares (see above). The word essentially means “sweet” or “good”. It’s the perfect word to describe Curacao!IMG_8895IMG_8887IMG_8717IMG_8193

Celebration in Las Vegas

Over Labor Day weekend we surprised a most beloved cousin, Cole, for his 30th birthday in Las Vegas. We spent Friday night camping in Cedar City, UT. They have a cute Main Street where we spent some of the evening tasting wine and eating pizza.

We made it to Vegas Saturday morning and surprised our cousin at DW Bistro. Cole had no idea we were coming, his wife, Kelsey, did an excellent job at planning. Her sister and brother in law also surprised Cole for the weekend and w got to meet some other friends of there’s that live in Vegas as well. We had bottomless mimosas for brunch and then gambled a little on the strip. We ended up back at Caesars’ where our cousins were staying and relaxed poolside for awhile. We checked in to Alexis Park where we were staying for the night and got fancied up for a night out with dinner at Canalettos in the Venetian and drinks around the strip. That night we were also able to meet up with some friends from Texas who also happened to be there that weekend.

Sunday we checked out various casinos and did a little more gambling. We drank beers at Hop Nuts brewing and Banger Brewing on Fremont. We then moved over to Heart Attack Grill for delicious burgers and a unique experience complete with wearing hospital gowns and getting spanked when you didn’t finish all of your food! We casino hopped for awhile and then Derek and I headed to stay with my life long best friend, Sharon, her husband, Ricky, and their two kiddos for the evening.

Monday morning we went to breakfast with Sharon and her two kids at Makers and Founders. We said our good-byes and made our way back to Utah. We stopped in the Valley of Fire (aptly named since it was HOT) to enjoy a bit of nature before making it home.

It was another fantastic getaway although not long enough with people we love dearly!

ATL

Just spent a wonderful weekend in Atlanta with two friends I do not get to see near enough. It was a weekend full of laughter, reminiscing on old memories, making new ones, and exploring a lively city. Anyone that has traveled with me will tell you that I like to cram as much into the time I’m visiting somewhere as possible. I want to see, eat, and do as much so I can to get a full taste of what the city as to offer.

I got in Thursday afternoon and met up with my friend, Mary Kate, who came in from NYC. We headed straight to Decatur to check out the shops and square. We met our friend, Erin, who was kind enough to let us crash with her for the weekend and also the main reason we were. She was a wonderful tour guide for the weekend! We snacked on empanadas and sangria on the square. We walked around for a while and met up with her husband, Stephen, and went for burgers at the Vortex in Little Five Points.img_7883-1The next morning, Mary Kate and I spent to day on Freedom Park exploring the MLK, Jr.’s home, museum, and the Ebenezer Baptist Church. This experience was profoundly moving more than I have time to describe here. We also went though the Jimmy Carter Presidential library. We feasted on pancakes and French toast at Thumbs Up Diner and then went back to Little Five Points and Decatur to explore more in the daytime and without carrying out bags everywhere. That evening we ventured to Three Taverns for some sour beers and Fat Matt’s for some delicious southern BBQ.img_7885-2img_7877-1img_7648-1img_7875-2img_7669-1Saturday began with tea and breakfast at Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party which is just as magical and whimsical as it sounds. I felt like Alice in my own version of Wonderland with umbrellas on the ceiling and fanciful decor. It was straight lovely. We made our way to through Krog Street Market and through the Krog Street Tunnel. The tunnel is wall to wall street art and graffiti. Beautiful! We walked the Beltline to Ponce City Market (this is Atlanta’s version of the Highline and Chelsea Market in NYC). We ate food and shopped for a bit before stopping at Jackson Street bridge for views of the skyline and meandering through Piedmont Park. We bought food to make dinner from the Dekalb farmers market and had dessert downtown at Cafe Intermezzo.img_7871-2img_7872-2img_7874-1img_7866-2img_7861-1img_7864-2img_7860-2img_7732-1img_7845-1img_7846-1img_7842-1img_7809-1img_7839-1img_7758-2Sunday we walked around downtown through the Centennial Olympic Park and saw the Capitol building. We ate delicious tacos with a Southern California feel at Bartaco and tasted ciders at Urban Tree Cidery. That evening we did a women in history tour of the Oakland cemetery with dinner afterwards at the aptly named Six Feet Under across the street.img_7833-2img_7820-2img_7832-2img_7819-2img_7826-2img_7817-2img_7828-2img_7822-1img_7793-1img_7818-1Monday we said sad goodbyes as our weekend came to a close and parted ways. Erin went to work, Mary Kate made her way to the airport to return to NYC, and I stopped for coffee at Aurora Coffee and strolled through some picturesque neighborhoods in Atlanta before making my way to the airport for my own flight home.img_7825-1I loved Atlanta! It is a fun city with a rich culture. It’s beautiful and gritty and full of history and modern all at the same time. There is still so much of the city I would like to see, it us definitely a place that I would happily return to.

Colorado Vacation

Every other year Derek and I spend a week with his side of the family in South Fork, CO at a family RV park called Fun Valley. His family has been attending for 40 something years and a good 30 or so people on his dad’s side show up for the week to camp, play putt putt and cards, and eat, eat, eat! We stay in old vintage campers that have probably been around since the sixties and pass the days relaxing, conversing, and exploring.
This last week was just as wonderful as years in the past. We spent a day jeeping in the San Juans with his parents, took a day trip to Pagosa Springs with some cousins to check out some breweries, re-visited the waterfall in the area where Derek proposed to me 9 years ago, enjoyed afternoon summer storms, and spent many evenings around a card table or campfire catching up with those we don’t get to see very often.

The area is spectacular and being surrounded by the mountains never gets old. It was a fun filled week in CO and always hard to say good-bye to those we love and get back to reality. Good thing summer’s not over yet!

IMG_7190IMG_7195IMG_7218IMG_7226IMG_7235IMG_7238IMG_7273IMG_8465IMG_8467IMG_8468IMG_8472IMG_8474IMG_8478IMG_8492IMG_7285IMG_7297