Death Valley

Just the name of this valley might make you want to stay away. This is North America'a driest and hottest spot, with less that 2 inches of rainfall annually, and a record high of 134 degrees. But remember my husband and I want to see all nine of California's national parks this year?  In the spirit of travel, and seeing new places, we put it on the calendar to go with a few of Riley's Canadian friends from work. I invited my brother as well, he is living just outside of Vegas, so his trip was much shorter than ours from the bay area. Lucky!

This whole weekend was Riley's jam. Off roading in his jeep, spending time with other guys who appreciate cars and a crazy time out on the trails. He was in heaven. I on the other hand will start with a disclaimer. I really want to be truthful about experiences while I encourage people to see new places, because photos show highlights. Please don't get discouraged if your travels aren't perfect. This time, there were many discomforts to say the least. The weather got up to 94 degrees on our last day, the road we found ourselves on for wayyy too long was the worst wash board pattern I have ever seen/experienced. Our day hike left most of us with sore knees, hips, feet, etc (are we getting old??). And I ended up with some not so flattering sunburns, despite my vigilant attempts to avoid them. The eight hour drive home, through a wind and rain storm,  arriving back at 12:30am was the icing on the cake. 

Stuff like this happens all of the time. I don't report it much because it gets buried by the amazing memories made. The discomforts turn into funny stories, and the trip always turns out to be a good time. That's why I keep saying it: go and see new places. No matter what happens, I can promise you it is worth it. We had many laughs, watched the stars, felt the warm, powerful breeze sweep across the salt flats. We drove through uninhabitable land, for hours, seeing a new corner of the world. 

"Experience is the teacher of all things"

I love coming home with my pictures, my sweet memories, and more experiences shared with Riley. Building a life together is the most fun I have ever had. And seeing him in all of his jeep glory was pretty adorable  :)

Here are my favorite things that we did or saw in Death Valley, my highlights:

  • Arriving on the first night to a steak dinner and friends at the campsite
  • Seeing "the racetrack" and its mysterious sliding rocks
  • Watching Riley and his friends rescue a lady in the middle of nowhere by changing her tire out in record time. I love witnessing random acts of kindness! 
  • Dark skies FULL of stars
  • Bottomless cups of coffee every morning thanks to our friends 
  • The salt flats, parts of it looked like ice but it was 90 degrees! SO strange and cool to see
  • Waking up before sunrise and getting to the sand dunes to see that first light
  • Sleeping in our little "home" (our half dome tent) 
  • Hiking to telescope peak (there was snow up there!) and having our surprise champagne at the top

I will never forger this trip or the memories made. Our time living in Death Valley was one for the books. 

"Life wasn't meant to be lived in one place"

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Joshua Tree

Someday these will be the good old days.

Packing up the jeep to head out for a weekend of camping. Fresh air, our favorite little tent, The "best food I've ever had" cooked over the fire, desert sunsets, nature, exploring a new place, unplugging, and quality time- just the two of us. 

Sometimes I hear people say they didn't realize what they had until it was gone. I know how lucky I am to be married to him, to be on this adventure with him. I know God looked out for me when I met Riley. I don't need to loose anything to realize that. 

Things will change, finances, kids, possibly health, I know that. I also know that I will not ever take one thing that I have for granted. 

Life is so good. 

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Peace in his presence

Riley ran back to the car for some equipment and I realized I was alone. 

I haven't been alone in the woods since living back home in Michigan. These woods dwarfed those ones though. Thousands of years of growth. Trees that were so tall and wide they seemed more like skyscrapers. I looked up, unable to see the tops of the redwoods I was standing under. The nearby river was a soothing sound. The moss and ferns blanketed the forest in a giant quilt, made up of every shade of green. The fog silently moved through, covering and exposing new scenes constantly. I realized that there is no anxiety here, only peace. When I quiet my surroundings, I realize what is truly on my mind. Him

I can not feel this peace or see this beauty without thoughts of the creator. I unconsciously whisper "thank you" when I am in the woods, no matter what state I am in. This is where I feel his presence, even more than in church, prayer, or meditation. 

The work, the traffic, the tv shows, the smart phones..they all cause small amounts of anxiety for me. Nothing that I actually notice, until I take it all away. Those things are distractions from what is important. There is nothing for me to do but appreciate, and feel grateful when I am in nature. The woods are my xanax, my peace, my place. The deep breaths taken in that space filled me with life. I instantly knew the reason that I am here, my purpose, and I thanked my creator. Even though I am not thinking of him always, he is always thinking of me.

I just needed that reminder, that peaceful moment in the woods. 

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All photos taken in Redwood National Park.

Big Sur

Riley and I knew we wanted to spend some time in nature for our first anniversary, and the road to Big Sur opened up just in time for our night off together. We packed up the jeep and hit the road. After a bit of traffic all of the city noise left us in what seemed like one big exhale. Freedom. Ocean views. No work. Unplugged. Is there anything better? 

We camped at a place called Ventana but I have to admit, it was more like glamping with the amenities. Our site was so peaceful, the tent sat between two redwoods, just a short distance away from the crackling fire. The weather was perfect, so comfortable for sleeping outside. We enjoyed our quality time, talked about the highs and lows of the past year, and looked up through the trees at the gorgeous starry night. I am so grateful for this life we have together. What will it be like in the years to come? What highs and lows will we talk about on our second anniversary? I guess if we knew, life wouldn't be as exciting, it wouldn't seem like an adventure. 

In the morning we found a restaurant and had breakfast outside. We were surrounded by plants, flowers, and the sweet scents of a garden. A leaf fell from a tree, twirling in the breeze until it landed on my coffee cup, a subtle reminder that seasons are changing. Sometimes it is hard to tell in this California weather. 

We stopped at many places we had been to before, about two and a half years ago. Back when I was a travel RN at Stanford children's and I referred to Riley as my boyfriend. At Pfeiffer beach we looked up at the rock structure that we had captured with our cameras years ago. He said, " it's weird. I never knew if I would see this beach again. You never really know if you are going to see some places again or if that's it." I have that same feeling whenever I am somewhere special and far from home.  What if my travels never take me to that corner of the world ever again? But when they do, all of the memories come flooding back. Dating long distance, knowing I had to leave California to be with him, the excitement of our short trips visiting each other and packing sight seeing into them (as much as was humanly possible). Marriage has allowed us to slow down in a sense, and learn about each other in the simplest of ways. No more trying to pack it all in, and what a relief that has been. I think I'll always prefer this simplicity, this slower pace. 

Looking forward to our next trip down highway 1, I'll just call it memory lane, along the "best coast."

xoxo

I wish you wellness 

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A blessing in disguise

Over the weekend Riley and I packed up our camping gear and headed for Crater Lake. We had tried going there when we road tripped from MI to CA last year but the roads were shut down from  a snow storm. It felt really exciting to finally go back and see what we had missed. The temperature here in the bay area was also suppose to be over 100 degrees at that time. No thank you. We were ready for a weekend away. 

The drive was about six hours, we stopped for a delicious lunch in Redding, then carried on. I looked up hikes that we wanted to do, and viewpoints for specific pictures I had planned to take. 

We noticed that the views on the way were hazy,  white clouds seemed to be blanketing the scenery. Mt Shasta looked like something out of a sci fi film.. a snow covered mountain "floating" in the sky on a 110 degree day. We realized at this point that the views up at crater lake may not be what we were hoping for, but we drove on. 

When we arrived, we were able to see some of the lake but our earlier suspicion was correct. Oregon forest fires near the coast were affecting the air quality all over the state and the views were very hazy. We were a little bit bummed but eventually realized how good this actually was. The entire focus came off of what we "had to do" while we were there and fell completely on relaxing. We lived at our campsite, cooking over the fire, napping, laying in the hammock..It turned into a weekend of complete relaxation. One of those unplugged getaways that you didn't know you needed. Sometimes it is good to sit in silence and actually listen to the unprompted thoughts that come to mind.

I realized how much I think about our future, and hope that we can live our dreams. I realized how much I think about other people, and how I want to help them on their journey to wellness. I realized how much I think about life, and how short it is. We are only here for "a couple" of years in the grand scheme of things. What kind of memories do you want to have? What kind of time do you want to sacrifice for work, especially the 9 to 5 type work? I realized how much I reject this lifestyle, I always have. For example, I spent a lot of my money on three large trips that I took between 2013-2016. Here's the truth: objectively, I should not have spent that money. Anyone doing things "normally" would look at my income and tell me I am not saving enough for retirement and that the trip  money should have been invested there. But I chose to spend it. I spent a month in Africa, one in Europe, and 1.5 months in New Zealand in those three years, I spent money that I probably shouldn't have.  I also job hopped and started travel nursing to see more of our country, and have more time off. I have made way less money than I could have these past years, and I have never regretted it. I saw parts of the world and met people that I never would have if I just focused on the perfect retirement fund. Guess what we aren't guaranteed? To live long enough to retire. It may sound ridiculous to you, and I completely understand that, but I would rather live now, than hope to live later. There is so much opportunity outside of the 9 to 5, and I will do whatever it takes to get us there. That is what I laid in our hammock and thought about... how I will sound crazy to others, how I won't care, how I will keep pushing for wellness, and freedom from the life that everyone accepts. I will not work to pay bills in a circle, for the rest of my precious life. I realized that there is a way out, and I am taking it. The trees above me stood in silence, like any good listener would, and I heard my hearts desires. 

In in the midst of the haze, I gained clarity this weekend, and for that I am grateful. 

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