Hiking · National Parks in US · Travel · Travel with tots · Vacations

Glimpses of Death Valley National Park

We have been trying to cross off one item that has been on our bucket list for quite sometime now – visit all national parks in California. So this past Spring break, we visited Death Valley National Park. With Death Valley crossed off the list, we are only one park short of visiting all national parks in the state. Death Valley NP is a very large park to cover in one trip, especially if you want to explore it in-depth and traveling with toddlers comes with its own perks, but we loved the landscape that the park has to offer. I have to admit, it was terribly hot (we went mid-April) and it is better to travel there when the temperatures are slightly lower. Nevertheless, here are glimpses from our Death Valley getaway with a list of places that are kid-friendly and easy to incorporate if you just have a couple of days to spend in the park. 

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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes – My son loves playing in the sand, so our first stop was at Mesquite sand dunes. He carried his excavator truck and was quite excited just by the sheer amount of sand this place had! The place is huge so you can go out far or just stop close to the parking lot. We went in the morning, but considering the temperatures, it would be an awesome stop at night too considering the rave reviews for star-gazing.

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Yes, we licked the salt – Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park

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Badwater Basin, don’t forget to lick the salt!!! – This stop is so worth covering on your first trip to the Badlands. An easy drive to the lowest point in North America (282 ft below sea level, to be precise), Badwater basin is miles and miles of white salt flats. It’s a vast ground for the kids to run around. We went there in the evening, just before sunset and the temperature was pleasant. The little research that we had done before the trip included suggestions from travelers to lick the salt at the basin and so we did :).

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On Mosaic Canyon trail

Mosaic Canyon – After spending time at the sand dunes, we headed to Mosaic Canyon since the canyons are only a couple of miles from the sand dunes. The rocks at Mosaic Canyon reminded us of Arches National Park, minus the arches of course, but the landscape does have similarities. We barely hiked the Mosaic trail, but we love to hike, and exposing our toddler to these places, even if it is for a short distance gives us hope for him to grow into liking and enjoying it as much as we do 🙂 The kiddos also picked up rocks from the trails to bring home. 

 

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Artists Drive – If you are a regular reader of my blog, it will come as no surprise that colors are an important element of me, so any trip we take, it is mandatory for us to stop all things “artistic”! That said, Artists Drive is a loop with wonderful landscape colors and can be done when the kids are sleeping, since you can just drive around in the car.

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Artist’s Drive, Death Valley National Park

Zabriskie Point – Our goal was to capture sunrise at Zabriskie considering it is very close to Furnace Creek. We made it just after sunrise, and after some persuasion managed to tag my son along the slopes for some early morning gorgeousness for the eyes!

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Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park
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Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

Golden Canyon – Hot is the first word that comes to my mind when I think about Golden Canyon, but the hike to Golden Canyon is quite popular because the original Star Wars was filmed here. 

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Dante’s View – Most folks start their trip with a stop at Dante’s. We decided to end our’s with a stop there. Dante’s offers a grand view of the Badwater Basin, it’s the highest elevation within the park and views are quite stunning. 

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Dante’s View, Death Valley National Park

At the end of our Death Valley trip, I had about 20 lbs. of rocks that my son had gathered from the trip to bring back home for our rock garden 🙂 Death Valley’s spectacular landscape was definitely worth the trip even if it was very hot, we’ll certainly go back, but pick a better (read cooler) month for our next visit. 

Fun fact: If you are a Star Wars fanatic, this should make a great read and make you want to visit Death Valley 🙂

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Hiking · Restaurants · Travel · Travel with tots · Vacations

Portland Tales: Rose city, Bridgetown, Stumptown and much more!

We’ve been in California for more than a decade now and I don’t know what took us so long to make a trip to Portland. We visited the Rose city this September and throughly enjoyed our stay there. If you missed it, we made a day trip to Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood but spent the rest of our trip in the heart of Portland downtown. Here are 10 highlights from our trip – FROM a first time visitor, FOR a first time visitor!!!

1. Portland Saturday market – This was our first stop, even before we checked in to the hotel. Open on the weekend (Saturday and Sunday in spite of the name), Portland Saturday Market is the place to explore for art and food lovers. Not to mention, the fountains and the bridge over the river make it a kid friendly place. What not to miss: Trying out Elephant Ears 🙂

2. Willamette Jet boat Excursions – We opted for the 2 hour Scenic Tour which covered the history of Portland’s magnificent bridges, up close view of the Willamette Falls and a lot of splashing and jet boat cruising🙂. We were skeptical on how our tot was going to do on the tour – he was excited to sit in the boat, but a little afraid when it went fast, but after the first 2 water swirls, he was screaming “Go faster”. He had a blast and we loved the experience.

3. Powell’s Books – For a family that is fond of reading, this was a gem of a find. Especially on a rainy day or later in the evening post dinner when a lot of other places have closed. The place is open until 11 pm so you can head there after an early dinner. Our munchkin refused to get out of the “libary”. No, not a typo – that’s what he calls them.

4. Coffee, anyone? – For a city that loves its coffee, it wouldn’t be fair to list everything that’s out there, but here are a few prominent stops (Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Heart Coffee Roasters, Barista) that we made to see what puts this town at the top for coffee lovers.

5. Doughnuts to go with that coffee! – We almost decided to skip our much awaited stop at Voodo Doughnuts after evaluating the time we would have to stand in those looooooonnnggg lines. But come Tuesday afternoon – a rainy working weekday we were passing by the shop and decided to stop since it seemed a reasonable 30 minute wait. Although I do wish, we would have made a stop at BlueStar Donuts. I guess, there’s always a next time 🙂

6. A stop at a brewery –  Portland’s breweries are famous for their beers and don’t rule out a stop at a brewery just because you have kids. Portland has a few family friendly breweries. We visited Laurelwood Brewing and M had a good time.

7. Food scene in Portland – While we thoroughly enjoyed most of our meals there, picks for family friendly restaurants in Portland are: Slappy cakes – Make your own pancakes! It cannot get better for a kid who likes his pancakes. Yes, we waited an hour (made a quick stop at a nearby park) for our turn and my munchkin loved it. Yakuza – This was quite a find,  the place had great ambiance and we loved it because we haven’t been to a lot of family friendly Japanese restaurants that cater to kids as well as Yakuza does. Although, I am putting Mothers Bistro on here for readers, it was an ordinary experience for us!

8. International Rose Garden – Portland is home to the oldest continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. While, this might not attract every tourist, it’s a great family friendly stop. My son loved running around and smelling the flowers, not to mention it was a perfect place to play peek-a-boo🙂

9. Pittock Mansion – This was not on our list, but turned out that the Portland’s Children’s Museum is closed on a Tuesday and we decided to add this to our list. The place offers good 360 degree views of Portland for photographers to capture. Being an art lover, I personally enjoyed viewing Rhoda’s artwork that’s displayed at the museum.

10. Pioneer Courthouse Square, shopping and more – We also got a chance to explore Pioneer Place and areas around on our last day in Portland. Coming from California, tax-free shopping is an added benefit while visiting PDX🙂

What we missed on our list – Meal at Screendoor (we waited quite a while after deciding to head out somewhere else), Spella Cafe, Portland Children’s Museum (note to families with kids: it’s closed on a Tuesday – so plan accordingly),  more time at Powell’s and many more coffee and food stops.

Travel Portland’s website has a plethora of information for a visitors and we were able to cover a lot of things in little time because of some great suggestions from a colleague who’s a Portland local. Overall, it was a wonderful trip and we had a blast. I hope we go back again soon🙂

Beaches · Hiking · Travel · Travel with tots · Vacations

Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood – Day trip from Portland

We spent a few days in gorgeous Portland this September and while there’s plenty to do in Portland for first timer visitors, we wanted to drive to the Gorge and explore surrounding areas. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know how excited my munchkin gets on spotting waterfalls, and there are plenty of those along the historic Columbia River scenic byway so he was pretty excited about heading out even though we woke him up early. We told him that after the waterfall hike, we’ll try and head to the Hood River beach for a lunch picnic and he was all excited for the drive and the long day ahead of us. We left from downtown Portland early in the morning – a quick spot to pick up coffee and we hit the gorge area before the crowds got in. Unfortunately, it was drizzling for the first hour or so of our trip, so we weren’t able to take advantage of the early start. It got much better as the day progressed and by the time we reached Mt. Hood, the weather was gorgeous too! Although its best to spend a day each at Mt. Hood, but if you are in a time crunch and are trying to fit in both in a day trip, here’s a recommended day itinerary.

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Mt. Hood from Timberland Lodge

Vista House at Crown PointOur first stop was at the Vista House observatory. It had amazing views of the Gorge even on a drizzling morning. I can imagine it being picture perfect on a bright sunny morning.

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Columbia River Gorge – Waterfalls HikesAfter leaving from the Vista House, we headed to Latourell Falls. Its a pretty short hike to the base of the falls and can be easily done with a toddler. Our next stop was Multonomah Falls, and finding parking there was a nightmare because they are the most famous falls along the loop being the second tallest in the US. If you are short on time, and don’t plan on hiking to the top of the falls, I would skip going up to the bridge and rather pick a hike to Wahcleella which is toddler friendly.

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Bridge of Gods, Cascade LocksBridge of Gods spans across the river connecting Oregon and Washington and we decided to drive on the steel truss instead of getting out since it had started drizzling again.

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Bonneville Lock and DamThis was an unplanned spot, but we found out there was an option of spotting fish through the fish ladder at the Bonneville Dam and N wanted to see some “fishies”. A pleasant stop to spot some fish :).

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Historic Columbia River Gorge HotelAnother unplanned stop was at the Historic River Gorge Hotel. This is a nice place to sit, sipping coffee and enjoying the spectacular views of the river.

Waterfront Park at Hood River – The best stop of our day trip: This was an absolute gem. Away from the crowds, more popular with the locals, the Waterfront Park has a nice sand beach with shallow waters for swimming. Hood River is THE place for windsurfing and kitesurfing in Oregon and Waterfront Park is THE place to watch the windsurfers and kitesurfers. Plenty of restaurants at walking distance from the park for lunch and some food trucks if you want to do a picnic lunch at the beach. There are breathtaking views of the gorge from this park. Ideally, you could easily spend an entire day here.

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Timberline Lodge at Mt. HoodAfter a late afternoon lunch, we headed to Mt. Hood. En route are plenty of orchards for apple picking, but our kiddo was napping so we decided to head directly to Timberline Lodge. If you are headed to Mt Hood post lunch, don’t forget to stop for some freshly baked goodies at one of the orchards/bakeries on your way. The route itself is quite scenic. After spending some time at the Timberline Lodge, we headed up the hiking trail. N was excited to climb the mountain. Although it was chilly, he had the energy to pace up the trail.

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Timberline Lodge has picturesque views of Mt. Hood and it was worth every bit of it. We headed back to downtown Portland after a wonderful day in the gorge and Mt. Hood! We did spend a lot more days in downtown Portland, but this day trip was a highlight of our mini vacation for my son – waterfalls, swimming at the beach, sand play, climbing mountains (well, for him that’s what it is even though it’s barely a mile or half of climbing :)). Can’t ask for more, right?

Hiking · National Parks in US · Travel · Vacations

Yosemite National Park: Now and Then….

Yosemite National Park is one of our favorite places to visit in California. I know I have said this a gazillion times but this is what comes to my mind every single time I sit to write about Yosemite. Our first visit to Yosemite was way back in 2006 during Thanksgiving break and our latest in June of 2015. Yosemite is a place for all seasons and for all ages. All our previous trips to Yosemite were either camping trips or hiking trips which did not require a lot of planning when it came to reservations. But last year, when a friend asked us if we wanted to book the Yosemite lodge for this year since it would be more convenient staying in a lodge rather than camping or staying at Curry Village, especially with babies, we agreed and got reservations at the Yosemite Lodge for the first week of June. And I am so glad we did! I was able to see Yosemite in a whole new way..So here’s Yosemite for you: Now and Then…
YOSEMITE NOW (Year 2015)

On our way to Yosemite, I told my son he was going to see waterfalls and he picked up the word so quickly that we heard ‘waterfallls.. waterfalls..waterfalls..” a million times. Okay, I am exaggerating but the point is that it worked and it kind of made him look forward to the trip. One of the advantages of staying at the Lodge is we could walk to Yosemite Falls! On our trip to Yosemite back in 2009, we climbed up the rocks at the Lower Falls and went as high as up we could go. Fast forward to 2015, we were running around after my 18 month old to make sure he did not cross even a single rock. It’s surprising how parenthood changes you! Of course, M, N and I will definitely climb to the top of the falls once he grows up a little. For now happiness is at the base of the falls 🙂

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When folks ask us “What do you do when you go to Yosemite?”, the answer is always the same: Hike! But this time around it was going to be slightly different. We were a group of 5 families with 5 toddlers in the mix so we had to pick activities other than hard core hiking. We did the usual strolls and the walks, but here are a couple of things that we enjoyed doing on this trip with N.

Yosemite Valley Moonlight tour: We signed up for the nightly open bus valley tour along with a bunch of other friends. It’s a two-hour long tour which begins at 9 pm. Everyone is asked to dress up warmly and carry blankets, especially with babies. N was extremely excited at first because he thought he was riding in a dump truck. He started with saying bye-bye to the moon and trees. Eventually he dozed off. We really enjoyed the tour and some of the highlights were viewing the climbers at El Capitan in the moonlight. We could only see their head lights but it was stupendous! There are a couple of stops where you are allowed to get down (Tunnel view before Glacier Point and the Swinging Bridge). The skies were glowing with stars and the view from the Tunnel Point Vista was surreal. We could see the Half Dome in the background. Truly picturesque! Since I was holding N in my arms, I did not get down at any of the stops but all in all it was a fun tour.

Glacier Point Tunnel View - MoonLight tour of Yosemite Valley
Yosemite NOW – Glacier Point Tunnel View : MoonLight tour of Yosemite Valley (June 2015)
El Captain View from Moonlight tour - Spot the climbers (a.k.a their headlights)
Yosemite Now – El Captain View from Moonlight tour, spot the climbers (a.k.a their headlights) (June 2015)
Biking: The last morning of our 3 day trip, we rented bikes, my son calls them “bikal” – still don’t know if it’s a mix of bike + cycle or if he just skips the ‘see’ when trying to say bicycle (by-see-kal). Anyhow, once the bike trailers were loaded with tiny passengers, we set out. It took me more time to get used to the bikes than my little one in the trailer. Having learnt how to ride a bike in India, I tend to pedal backwards when I don’t need to accelerate. Here when you pedal backwards, it acts as a brake. I find that so annoying and it always has me on the edge every single time we rent a bike.

YOSEMITE BACK THEN (Years 2006 through 2014)

Although I have shared a couple of stories previously, for anyone that missed reading it, here goes the list our exciting Yosemite Stories 🙂

Car lockout Thanksgiving 2006: Our first trip to Yosemite was unforgettable, because 5 of us got locked out of our car on our way to Tenaya Lake at a random vista point and it started snowing. Our jackets were in the locked trunk, and we only had 2 phones with minimal battery with us. Ranger calls, waiting for AAA, rescue by a family from San Diego, and a white Thanksgiving! How can it not be memorable 🙂 Read more about it here.

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Driving a car with almost failed brakes and a lost campsite: Back in 2007, we camped at June Lake which is at the other side of Yosemite valley (toward Mammoth Lakes). Gorgeous scenery and secluded locations, but here’s the fun story associated with the trip. Ever reached a wrong camp location because it was pitch dark and GPS signals were pretty bad in the national park? And then forced someone out of their designated campsite? Well, we’ve done that!!! Not only did we end up staying at a different campsite than the one where we had our reservation at, but we also set up our tent at 11 in the night because we had to drive a rented car on the windy roads with almost failed brakes 😦 The entire next day was spent in Mammoth Lakes trying to get the broken car fixed. We hardly spent time inside the valley, but the story definitely comes up on all our Yosemite trips. Read more about it here.

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The Vernal/Nevada Hike: 5 of us hiked to the top of Nevada Falls via Vernal Falls back in 2009. This was a practice run to see if we had it in us to hike the Half Dome some day. I can say this has been my only trip where we things didn’t go a bit haywire.

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The Epic Half Dome Hike: 7 of us hiked to the top of Half Dome back in 2011. I have no idea how I pulled this one! But it will be a story I will cherish my entire life. Read more about it here.

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Be it our 2006 White Thanksgiving trip or our 2011 Half Dome trip or our 2015 trip with the kiddos, they have all been memorable. I heart Yosemite National Park. I will end this the same way I began: Yosemite National Park is INDEED one of our favorite places to visit in California 🙂
Beaches · Hiking · Travel

Day trip to the Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz

Two years, multiple surgeries and a plethora of ups and downs later we are back to doing things that we love. And I hope it continues this way. We kicked off 2015 with a short hiking trip. Our first hike in almost over 2 years and our first hike with our one year old was at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, California. I must say that picking a hiking spot was slightly challenging since we are trying to get used to carrying a baby on our backs and want to target shorter hikes. Nevertheless, our first pick find turned out to be a great one. It was M’s idea to go to Natural Bridges State Park to photograph the monarchs, spend time at the beach and keep it baby friendly. So off we were to Santa Cruz all prepared to introduce our little one to hiking.

Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge

So what’s special about this state park? As per the state park’s website: The beach, with its famous natural bridge, is an excellent vantage point for viewing shore birds, migrating whales, and seals and otters playing offshore. The park’s Monarch Grove provides a temporary home for up to 100,000 Monarchs.  From late fall into winter, the Monarchs form a “city in the trees.”   The area’s mild seaside climate and eucalyptus grove provide a safe place for monarchs to roost until spring. The monarchs typically begin arriving in mid-October and have left by mid-February. 

On the Monarch Trail
On the Monarch Trail

The GOOD: Lovely weather, clear skies and my excited little one who couldn’t stop muttering “fy-fy” and fluttering his hands like a bird when I explained to him that we were going to spot butterflies and they fly too, just like birds!

Can you count how many monarchs are there?
Can you count how many monarchs are there?

 

The BAD: Not being able to spot as many butterflies as we hoped too.

Before we went on the hike, I googled up the ‘Monarch Trail’ to find out what to expect and I was thrilled by the images I saw. It appeared as if it was going to live up to the hype that M had created. Of course, I knew that since we were going there towards the end of the season, the number of butterflies might be less since they migrate back. Google up images for monarch butterflies at natural bridges state park in santa cruz and you will know what I am talking about.

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Unfortunately, we did not get to witness so many butterflies and the so called “monarch bokeh”. When we were on the hike, the rangers told us that the number of butterflies has been much much lesser this year. Even during the start of the season. They are dwindling in numbers 😦 I wish next year and the years to come are better! I never thought I would say this – NEVER and I really mean NEVER, but we need to preserve nature and our natural habitat, for the next generations. I am a nature lover and I feel a joy that I cannot explain when I go hiking and it would be nice if my child can experience it! The rangers at the state park are encouraging everyone to plant more milkweed plants because that is the only plant these monarchs feed on.

Caterpillar spotted at the visitor center
Caterpillar spotted at the visitor center

Anyhoo, after the hike we headed to the beach and spent some time there. There’s only one natural bridge now, but earlier there used to be three. The first one fell off in the early 1900’s and the second one around 1980 due to a storm. There is access to tide pools from the beach so we took a stroll there. All in all, it was a great day out and my little one loved it. Post our trip, butterflies have become a thing for him. He cannot stop saying “fy fy fy” and flutter his hands when he spots a butterfly in the book. Every time I see that, I feel the trip was worth it 🙂

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Beaches · Hiking · National Parks in US · Travel · Vacations

Counting it down – Top 10 Travel Memories (Part 5)

After a 8 month hiatus, I am back to the blogging world. Had I written this post 8 months back, I would have written it much differently. There would have been yipees and la la la’s and drum rolls and what not! Its post number 50 and I have to be celebrating, and the blogger-in-me 8 months back would have heard drum rolls playing in my ears as I published my 50th post. But no drum rolls today. Why? Just because!

I am happy to be back doing things that I love and instead of drum rolls and a grand celebration, the blogger-in-me today wants to pause and humbly be thankful to everyone and for everything :). The beauty of life lies in the fact that it is unpredictable and you have to embrace it as it happens. Let me tell you that life without drum rolls is even more worth living and I have made memories to last 10 lifetimes in the past 8 months, but more on that later!

It’s been long, so here’s a quick recap on what we were up to. We were on our way to a count down of my top 50 travel memories (be it day trips, adventures, things that I did to overcome fears or just a short walk down the street) through a 5 series blog. You can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 in case you have missed it. The basic idea behind doing this was to make a list of trips/moments or days which were memorable either because I attempted an adventure, or tried to overcome a fear, or had a gala time with friends or I was introduced to something that I was oblivious to until that point.

I have had so many of you ask me when I was going to finish the last part of the series that I feel blessed to have readers like you :). So here you go! My top ten travel memories..

10. Speed Boat adventure, Lake Oroville, California – Summer 2007
It’s no surprise to folks who have known me for sometime that I am not a water person. I don’t look forward to water activities and I am never in my element around water bodies. But something took over me when I got control of a speed boat on a day trip to Lake Oroville. My friends wanted to try out knee boarding. I passed on the knee boarding but I’d like to think that knee boarding wouldn’t have been so much fun without such an awesome driver handling the wheels of the speed boat :). You’d be surprised how many water adventures are there in the list although I am petrified of it!

9. Wildlife spotting, Yellowstone National Park – Spring 2010
I wanted to visit Yellowstone for the colorful springs and geysers, but my husband only had one purpose on the trip – wild life photography. Chase the crowds because that’s where the wild life is. Little did I know that the thrill of watching wolves and bears (grizzlies and black ones) only 100 feet away would be a thing I would enjoy so much. Forget the fear, I was running with his tripod when we saw crowds piled up to get a glimpse of the wild life.

grizzly bear spotted at yellowstone np
grizzly bear spotted at yellowstone np
Spotted a fox on route to Lamar Valley
Spotted a fox on route to Lamar Valley

8. Ray Feeding, Moorea, Tahiti – Winter 2008
Every time I talk about this adventure, people are amused and they often tell me that you are quite brave to be in the vicinity of sting rays. Frankly speaking they were the most docile creatures I have come in contact with. Even though I was extremely skeptical to get into the water, petting them was an experience I will never forget. Mesmerizing!!!

Ray Feeding - Motu excursion Moorea
Ray Feeding – Motu excursion Moorea

7. Delicate Arch Hike, Arches National Park, Utah – Spring 2008
I always liked hiking, but back in 2008, a 3 mile hike was a big thing for me. That too uphill in the scorching sun! But the hike to the Delicate Arch in Arches changed my perspective. I realized that the best views and the best locations cannot be seen driving around in a car and by stopping at vistas. You have to go that extra mile (in this case three miles :P) to be rewarded with stunning views. A sunset at an absolutely breath taking location made all the effort worth it!!!

Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch

6. Mendocino and Fort Bragg Getaway, California – Summer 2011
My husband has an uncanny knack of pulling surprises when least expected. Our Mendocino getaway had plenty of elements to make it one of my best trips so far. Gourmet food, hiking, visit to glass beach (quite artsy!), a train ride and a stay at a cozy cottage with breath taking views of stone arches in the ocean. What more can a girl ask for :).

Skunk Train ride - Fort Bragg
Skunk Train ride – Fort Bragg

Picking sea glass at Glass Beach in Fort Bragg
Picking sea glass at Glass Beach in Fort Bragg

5. Flying (in) a Cessna, San Jose – Summer 2013
It was one of M’s childhood fantasies to be a pilot. He never pursued the idea, but he’s much more adventurous than I am and so for one of his birthday’s I gifted him a flying lesson in a Cessna aircraft. I did not fly the Cessna, my husband did (of course, we had an instructor with us and take off and landing were handled by her) but an extra passenger was allowed and I accompanied him. The experience was so fantastic that it made it to my top 5 🙂 🙂 :). We cruised over Santa Cruz mountains at around 4000 ft, much much lower than the cruising altitude of a commercial jet liner so it was a whole new flying experience.

In Cessna flight over San Jose
In Cessna flight over San Jose

View from ~3000 ft
View from ~3000 ft

4. Hiking the Half Dome, Yosemite, California – Summer 2011
I underwent couple of knee surgeries when I was 16. And that was the reason that friends/family never really saw me as someone who had the physical tolerance to attempt a 17 mile long hike reaching elevation of 8000 ft. That’s why the hike to the Half Dome is one of my most cherished memories. Getting to the top of the half dome wasn’t easy, but getting climbing down from the dome was a challenge in itself. I have a fear of heights and I did not look down even once. I blindly followed instructions from you know who 😛 and kept coming down the ropes till I was at the bottom of the half dome. I managed to pleasantly surprise quite a few folks. In my mind, I always knew I could do it, but I know my mom must be really proud when she saw what I attempted and accomplished :).

half dome hike
half dome hike

3. Swimming with Turtles, Maui, Hawaii – Thanksgiving 2010
This was the highlight of my Maui trip and the first time I swam in the ocean – with people and with turtles too 🙂 – off the coast at Black Rock on Kaanapali Beach. And my husband think a turtle even bit me. When I was out of the water, I had a bite mark on my right shin and it no way looked like a coral scratch. It was a smiley shaped mark with a couple of teeth marks too!!! Enough to make it to the top three list!

Swimming with turtles @ Black Rock in Maui, Hawai'i
Swimming with turtles @ Black Rock in Maui, Hawai’i

2. Kayaking the Bio Luminescence Bay, Puerto Rico – Thanksgiving 2011
I literally thought for an eternity before placing this at number 2. It probably shares the same spot as my top travel memory, but I settled for a close second spot only because the top one was the first time I had attempted something out of my comfort zone. Yet again a water activity – This time it was kayaking through mangrove channels when its pitch dark to get to the bio luminescent bay. Touching the water to see it glow with billions of bio-luminescent organisms! I have never experienced ANYTHING LIKE THIS ever.Sort of fairy sparkles in water that vanish in a matter of seconds. Surreal and out of the world!!! And the fact that normal cameras cannot capture this phenomena totally makes it an experience that is just for your eyes to cherish.

bio luminescence kayaking, puerto rico
bio luminescence kayaking, puerto rico

1. Shark feeding, Moorea, Tahiti – Winter 2008
Hold on..before you visualize me in a cage feeding sharks let me tell you that we fed non-killer sharks (the ones you can dive without a cage) on a motu excursion in French Polynesia! Excitement down by a few notches?? Well, for me although I was not in a cage, it was yet another water adventure and the first time I had attempted something of this magnitude. By the way, Tahiti is famous for its motu shark feeding excursions – I believe there are no great white sharks in Tahiti, but Tiger and Bull Sharks both of which you can dive without a cage! It took me 3 tries to finally get in the water with the instructor with my snorkel on. I was tightly holding on to the rope attached to the ship. When food was let out a bunch of sharks rushed in to eat them. I thought I fainted in water, but 20 mins later, back on the ship I was a different person. I (We) went, I (We) saw and I (We) conquered.

Shark feeding in the pacific ocean @Moorea
Shark feeding in the pacific ocean @Moorea

Hugs to everyone who were part of my travel memories and adventures. I truly cherish them from time to time.

I hope you enjoyed my top 50 travel memories. The travel, the memories and the blog are all going strong. I need to go plan my next travels, the next 50 blogs and make new memories. Until then, please keep reading and stay tuned for more!

Beaches · Hiking · National Parks in US · Travel · Vacations

Counting it Down – 50 Travel Memories (Part 4)

This post is in continuation with the previous “Counting it Down” posts. Check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 for a list of my top 31-50 memories! I am more thrilled as we get closer to the top 10 🙂 But for now, let’s count down travel memories 20-11!

20. Rafting at American River, Lake Tahoe – Summer 2007
I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I am not too fond of water. I say that today, but a few years back, I was petrified of most water activities. So, when a bunch of friends signed me up for a rafting adventure, I was skeptical. While we got our paddling instructions, I prayed not to fall in the river. But half a day of instructions + class 3-4 rafting + not falling in the water = a super happy me and a long lasting memory.

Rafting at American River, Tahoe
Rafting at American River, Tahoe

19. Crater Lake, Oregon: Bluest of blues – Summer 2009
I had read a lot about Crater Lake being the bluest of all lakes, but my definition of a blue lake changed after our Crater Lake visit in Summer of 2009. As blue as it can get :). What made the trip more memorable was reading up stories of Llao and Skell at each vista to discover how the crater and the lake within were formed along with great hikes, camping and picturesque views.

Wizard island - Crater Lake National Park
Wizard island – Crater Lake National Park

18. Seattle, Washington : The emerald city – Spring 2011
We only spent 3 days in Seattle and absolutely loved every bit of our stay. I wish we could have stayed longer. I did not know whether to pick Pike Place Market or engineering marvel at Ballard Locks or views of Seattle downtown from Kerry Park or the underground tour of Seattle’s historic district or colorfully yukky Gum Wall. It was definitely a great vacation!

View from Kerry Park in Queen Anne
View of Seattle Downtown from Kerry Park in Queen Anne

17. New York Downtown – Summer 2006
The first time I went to New York was for a 2 day job interview for one of the Big 4’s. 2 days in Times Square and I knew what all the hype about it was. I visited New York again with my family after my graduation and fell in love with the place all over again! Though I do want to visit New York during winter when it is snowing!

Rockefeller Center, New York
Rockefeller Center, New York
Outside UN Building, New York
Outside UN Building, New York

16. Camping at Lake Huntington, California – Summer 2011
Although I have written this earlier, I have to repeat it. Repetitive reading is good sometimes!

Pitching tents, sleeping in cozy sleeping bags, waking up to birds chirping, experiencing living in the woods surrounded by trees, moonlight strolls, star-gazing under open skies and finding the time to admire the beauty of nature from our busy and technology dominating lives: That’s what is CAMPING FOR ME in a nutshell!

Out of the numerous camping trips I have taken I pick Lake Huntington Camping. Why? A last minute reservation, amazing star gazing, late night hike to a freaky lake and spotting shooting stars (No, I did not have time to make any wishes). I was just in awe that I got to see them!

The joy after building the tent :)
The joy after building the tent 🙂
Those campfire stories B-)
Those campfire stories 🙂

15. Off-road Adventure at Canyonlands National Park, Utah – Spring 2008
M likes to off-road and so do a few of my friends! But little did I know that a person like me who absolutely was against the idea of off-roading would end up putting this so high up in the list of travel memories. This makes me believe that the more you explore, the more you discover – Things that you did not know about yourself 🙂

Off-roading at Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Off-roading at Canyonlands NP, Utah
Cars on Poison Spider Trail, Canyonlands NP, Utah
Poison Spider Trail, Canyonlands NP, Utah

14. San Francisco Walking Tour, California – Sometime in 2010
I have been in the bay area for over 5 years. And every time we have a visitor, we take them to ~~cliched~~ (not for the visitor I assume) touristy places. For once, we signed up for a full day guided San Francisco tour. And that has been one of the best days I have had in the city in all these years :). From Pier 1 Farmer’s Market to Grace Cathedral to Victorian Houses to Sausalito to Muir Woods – trip had it all. I highly recommend this for all bay area locals!

Grace Cathedral - San Francisco
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Victorian Houses, San Francisco
Victorian Houses – San Francisco

13. Zip Lining at base of Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii – Thanksgiving 2010
This was my first zip-line adventure. Five courses with each course gradually increasing in length and depth! Whoa what fun 🙂

Zipline adventure tour, Base of Haleakala, Hawaii
Zipline adventure tour, Base of Haleakala, Hawaii

12. ATV Adventure (a.k.a Accident) at Pismo Beach, California – Spring 2009
I have visited Pismo Beach multiple times and unfortunately none of those trips have been accident free 😦 Our Spring 2009 trip was memorable because since this was my third time on an ATV, I was more confident (or rather over-confident!!). I tried a jump on one of the sand dunes and had a bad fall with the ATV on my leg! A permanent muscle scar is bound to make such trips memorable! What say?

ATV at Pismo Beach - One of them is probably me :)
ATV at Pismo Beach – One of them is probably me 🙂

11. Snorkeling, Multiple places (can’t pick one particular place)
The first time I snorkeled it wasn’t fun. It takes time to get used to the gear and learn the tricks, but once you get the hang of it, it is a lot of fun. We snorkeled in lagoon waters of Tahiti and Moorea almost every day we were there and for a couple of days in ocean waters of Maui, Hawaii. Snorkeling in lagoon waters is quite different from snorkeling in the ocean, but nevertheless, I can’t pick since each trip was memorable for different reasons! I enjoyed all my snorkeling excursions except for the first couple of times!

Snorkeling @ Black Rock - Kaanapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Snorkeling @ Black Rock – Maui, Hawaii
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More Snorkeling

I hope you enjoyed travel memories 20-11 and are looking forward to the top 10. I am surely looking forward 🙂 My half century in the blogging world is coming up soon. Stay tuned!!!