Epic and Unforgettable: Hiking Yosemite’s Half Dome

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That photo above… I know, I know, amazing right? We’ll get there in a moment, let me just set the scene.

We left LA with Drew’s parents in their awesome RV earlier that morning. We chatted, napped and snacked, hanging out as if we were in our very own portable living room… which we were! It was like being in a real Chevy Chase movie, I had never been on a family vacation quite like this before and it felt right :)

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As we began to approach Yosemite, I tossed a pillow at Drew to wake him from his slumber and we all gathered towards the front window to watch as the trees grew taller and greener the further in we went. We opened the windows and felt the cool, gentle breeze touch our faces, encouraging us to take in a deep breath and truly be present. It wasn’t long before we saw a sign for Tunnel View, signifying that we had indeed arrived:

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Ready to gasp for air as we held our breath and made a wish, what we saw next was greater than anything we could have ever imagined:

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The scene began to change colors and became more and more beautiful as the golden sun began to set on the giant granite rocks:

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It was as if we had been thrown right in the middle of a Thomas Kinkade painting!:

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That night we went to bed early in anticipation of our extremely early wake up call the next morning. With Half Dome awaiting, we made sure to eat well (at Curry Village Pizza) and get a good night’s rest (at Curry Village).

Things to Note:

- Be sure to make reservations well in advance for Curry Village or any of the campgrounds located in the Yosemite Valley. You will want to stay there the night before and after your hike. Otherwise, you will have over an hour drive from the South entrance of the park in addition to the 5am recommended start time.

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- You may not cook at Curry Village because of the prevalence of bears… more on that later… but you can bring prepared food as long as it is stored in a bear-safe container/locker.

- You can also split the hike up and make it a 2-day extravaganza by camping at Little Yosemite Valley, located about halfway along the trail to Half Dome (photo below). You can hike there one day, camp, leave your packs and summit, sans crowd, early the next morning! It’s always good to know your options.

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So, how did we get permits to hike the famous Half Dome you ask?

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Above is a photo of the Yosemite Ranger using his satellite iPad (!) to make sure we are on the permit list for Half Dome, luckily we were because we saw a few people have to turn back at this point. (Note: You don’t have to print your permit.)

Only 300 people are permitted to hike Half Dome per day, 225 of the permits are awarded during the Preseason Lottery in March, but we had no idea that we were going to Yosemite at that time. Luckily, from May 21st- October 12th, there is a last minute daily lottery that awards 50 hiking permits per day. You must apply for this between midnight and 1 p.m. PST 2 days before the day of your hike and you find out that night if you won or not. With that being said, we took a chance on the lottery and won!

This little dude was way too preoccupied with his french fry to be excited for us,  but we know he was doing a little dance inside. Note: Don’t feed the squirrels ;) :yosemite wildlife, fat squirrel, squirrel eating fry, french fries, food in yosemite, animal eating people food, don't feed the animalsBack to the hike! So we awoke at the unfamiliar hour of 5am, got our hiking poles ready, put our day packs on and had our Cliff Builder Bars in hand, ready to start the 21 mile trek. (Note: It was an additional mile to hike from Curry Village to the trailhead.)

Remember that bear I mentioned earlier? Well, we were only a few steps in when *squish*… Drew found himself standing in a giant pile of bear poo, eww:

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Note: Bring a headlamp for the beginning of the hike (depending on what time you start) to avoid possible crappy situations ;)

Again, back to the hike:

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With the blue glow of the moon lighting our way, the beginning of the trail was absolutely beautiful and the best part was, we practically had it all to ourselves. Here is a photo of Drew and I, half-asleep, at the Vernal Falls Bridge:

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Things to note:

- Bring a CamelBak and a water filter for the hike. Keep your CamelBak empty until you get to the Vernal Falls Bridge (above), where there is a water fill station. Fill your CamelBak halfway (or about a half gallon full) to minimize the amount of water weight you are carrying as you hike up. At the top of Vernal Falls you can filter water and fill your CamelBak to capacity (at least 1 gallon/ person) for the rest of the hike up.

-We took the John Muir trail on our return trip down and refilled our CamelBaks at the top of Nevada Falls (the top of Nevada Falls does not intersect with the Mist Trail).

After the bridge, we continued on to the Mist Trail, which lead us right up to Vernal Falls, the incline had us all feeling a little more alive already!:

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The hike to the top of Vernal consists of extremely steep rock steps and during the wet season it can be quite dangerous to go up as there is mist blowing all around making it extremely slippery, hence the Mist Trail. Because we were there in August, the falls were pretty dry and tame so we didn’t have too much difficulty. (Note: Wear hearty hiking shoes for the Mist Trail/Half Dome.) Can you spot us hiking in the photo below?:

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Shortly after, we made it to the top of Vernal Falls where we enjoyed the view over the edge and hung out with chipmunks and blue birds before continuing on to Nevada Falls. This guy was too smart to fall for the piece of mulch I was trying to persuade him with:

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Ya they’re cute and friendly, but we know they only wanted our trail mix:

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Look at this pretty little guy:

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The trail to Nevada Falls was short, gradual and shaded, before we knew it she was falling right before our eyes!:

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A little further and we veered left at the next fork in the trail towards Half Dome:

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Little Yosemite Valley was very flat, a much needed treat:

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And we saw a family of deer along the way!

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“Excuse me while I itch my chin.”:

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Check out the green “Incredible Hulk”moss!:
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“Only” 2 more miles to Half Dome! Though these would be 2 extremely steep miles, taking our crew about 2 hours (and 1 shared Red Bull) to complete this summit bound section:

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Located on this part of the trail was Sub-Dome, Half Dome’s shorter siamese twin. The hike up Sub-Dome was steep and tiring, but also extremely encouraging because we knew that soon enough our next step would lead us right in front of our destination…

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Drew’s “Let’s do this!” face:

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The view from Sub Dome was also amazing, in fact, many people decided to stop here, which is not a bad place to stop by any means. You also get to stare at the incredible shape and size of Half Dome, what a stud:

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You see those little tiny ant-sized people in the photo above? The thing that stops many climbers from reaching Half Dome’s 8,836 foot crown is this. We had to climb the last 700 vertical feet to the summit by holding onto 2 steel cables as we shimmied our way up Half Dome’s slick, moon-like face:

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And boy was it steep! With a random 2 x 4 every 20 feet or so, we had to rely on the soles of our shoes to keep us on that rock. In fact, the soles of one of our new friend’s shoes came right off while she was climbing up the cables! Needless to say, it was not a pretty site. Luckily someone had duct tape, but she did not end up summiting Half Dome that day.

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Things to note:

- Do not wear old shoes with soles that may or may not fall off!

- You must have gloves! I used my fingerless mountain biking gloves and was wishing I had full coverage gloves.

- There is a pile of old, used gloves at the bottom of Half Dome which people have left for others who did not bring any, don’t count on these being there though as the park service clears them out periodically because they have found rat nests in them in the past, gross.

- Sturdy gloves with some sort of rubber on the palm of the hand work best.

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Half Dome wasn’t named one of America’s 10 most dangerous hikes for no reason, but for us, that only added to the excitement:

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We stayed at the top for quite a while, took off our shoes, ate our lunch, took some more photos and did some yoga. We had worked so hard to get to the top and we were going to stay and enjoy the view :)

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The hike back down the cables was almost trickier, we both found it was easier to lean back and rappel ourselves down, see photo below. Note: If you want to enjoy the return hike and make it back before dark, don’t leave the top of Half Dome later than 3pm.

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It was a long hike back to camp. We took the John Muir Trail, instead of the Mist Trail, in order to avoid the delay and discomfort of the steep steps along Vernal Falls. Though 2 miles longer, the John Muir was definitely faster and we were able to enjoy a new view along the ridge and at the top of Nevada Falls (where we were also able to filter more water, as noted earlier).

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I was nearly 8pm when we finally made it back to camp. With the unavoidable traffic along the cables, the single track trails and “stop you in your tracks” vistas, it can take even the most seasoned of hikers an entire day to complete. Our 5am wake up call doesn’t sound so crazy now does it?

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For the rest of the trip we were mesmerized by every glimpse of Half Dome we were able to catch. We had formed a deep connection with that incredible rock… and all of Yosemite for that matter.  It is definitely something that we will not soon forget.

Things to note recap:

- Bring hiking poles, grippy (new-ish) shoes, full-cover sturdy gloves, a CamelBak (water bladder), water filter (we love Katadyn), sunscreen, sun glasses, hat, CAMERA/GoPRo, headlamp, duct tape (just in case) and lots of snacks (Cliff Bars, apples, trail mix, dried mangoes, triple decker PBJ’s and Drew always likes a Snicker’s bar).

- Here are some additional safety tips.

- Make reservations for accommodations and apply for your hiking permits EARLY! Or apply for the permit lottery, you never know, it might be your lucky day! You just don’t want to be caught like this guy, a deer in the headlights, without a permit (I just couldn’t help myself lol).

deer in the headlights, deer curry village, yosemite deer, deer up close, yosemite wild lifeBe sure to check back soon for our post on hiking Glacier Point!

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An escape from LA is just a ferry ride away!: Exploring Catalina Island

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The morning sun was shining brightly on our sleepy-eyed faces as the salty wind flew through our hair. We could see the outline of our destination in the distance and sat happily as the Cat Express gifted us with stunning views of the Golden Coast along our 1 hour commute. As the bustling roads and jam packed freeways of LA became more and more distant, we felt a sense of relief in our hearts… we were finally returning to one of our favorite places, a tiny island filled with wonder, relaxation and of course, adventure. Aaa, C A T A L I N A  I S L A N D .

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There are 2 ways to journey to Catalina:

1. Helicopter: 15 minutes, quite a bit pricier (you have to call for pricing), great alternative if you get sea sick easily

2. Ferry (Catalina Express, Catalina Flyer): 45 – 75 minutes (depending on what port you are leaving from and traveling to), you can buy a round trip ticket for your bike/surf board too ($7 roundtrip)! The Cat Express is slightly more expensive but they offer a larger selection of more ideal arrival and departure times, and you can ride free on your birthday! If you stay in the open air area you shouldn’t get sea sick, plus you get the best views!:

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Check out the mirage-like view of Catalina from the San Pedro Port:

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Once we made it out to sea, a giant Blue Whale stopped by to show same tail too!

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Before we knew it we had arrived to our destination with world class scuba diving, zip lining, hiking, biking and beach laying awaiting us:catalina island, mr and mrs adventure, the green pleasure pier, green pier catalina island, things to do in catalina island, things to do in LA, best LA secrets, Catalina island casino, catalina island port, avalon port, avalon catalina island, things to do on catalina island

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Our favorite things to do in Avalon include:

1. Scuba Diving at the Casino Point Dive Park with Dive Catalina:

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2. Exploring the shops and cafes along Crescent Avenue, “Avalon Bay Company” is my fave!catalina island shopping, catalina island shops, where to eat catalina, where to shop catalina, things to do on catalina island, catalina island brew house

3. Descanso Beach Club: located just off the main strip with a live DJ mixing jams, fancy umbrella drinks, beachside service, loungers and more, this spot is the Vegas of Catalina! (plus kids lol)
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4. Taking a leisurely stroll along the Green Pleasure Pier, you never know who you’re gonna run into!:

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5. Enjoying a drink and a refreshing dip at the Casino Dock Cafe, “Avalon’s best kept secret!”

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6. Camping at Hermit Gulch (book here) where you can even have catered food delivered to your campsite!:

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Things to note: Reservations are required and there is a 2 night minimum for camping on weekends. You can rent all your camping gear, you are only permitted to burn wax logs (which they sell on site), showers are $1/minute (it was cold water only when we went) and it is located up hill so be prepared for a strenuous hike or bike ride up, or hop on the trolly for a small fee. We opted for bikes :)

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7. Hiking the 3.9 mile Garden to Sky loop, starting from the back of Hermit Gulch Campground (permit required) or starting from the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden:

The view of Hermit Gulch from the trail, you can see our little orange tent!:

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Look at these sweet friends we made along the way. At night they all gather on the golf course to sleep and if you look closely, you can see a hundred twinkling eyes that shine just as bright as the twinkling stars that hang in Catalina’s crisp night sky.

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It takes about 1.5 hours to reach the top, with fresh, cool Pacific breezes the entire way:

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A foxy, new friend!:

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The views truly are awesome from the “garden to the sky”!:

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Ending at William Wrigley‘s Memorial (of Wrigley gum!) in the Botanic Garden:

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This past trip was our third time to Catalina. We have been to Avalon twice and once to Two Harbors, these are the only two ports on the island. While Two Harbors is just as beautiful, we are definitely a bit partial to Avalon. With one store, one bar/cafe and one restaurant, Two Harbors relies on its unique gems to draw attention.

Things to do/see in Two Harbors include:

1. The Wrigley Marine Science Center, a state-of-the-art research center and marine reserve:

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2. A quieter version of the Green Pleasure Pier, plus hiking, kayaking and camping:

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3. And did I mention the buffalo? Yep you heard me right. In 1924, 14 buffalo were transported to Catalina Island for use in filming the motion picture, “The Vanishing American,” an old Western tale. After the picture was completed, William Wrigley Jr. agreed that the buffalo could remain on Catalina. There are now approximately 150 on the Island roaming free and we happened to run into one of them! Well, luckily we didn’t actually run into him:

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No matter where you decide to explore or what you decide to do, there is no denying the beautiful memories and lasting effect that Catalina Island has on the heart and soul.

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As we set sail that final evening, ending our journey right where it began, we watched as the sinking sun transformed the sky into a collection of swirling pastel water colors, reminding us to appreciate just how amazing the world we live in truly is…

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Learning to play with AcroYoga!

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There is nothing like using your partner as your foundation, support and method of balance to help build trust and encourage team work within a relationship. There is also nothing like toppling head over feet onto your partner to inspire some deep, authentic belly laughs:

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After watching people on Santa Monica Beach nail pose after pose, like the one above,  Drew and I decided that it was time for us to take our relationship to the next level, so we signed up for the Friday night All Levels AcroYoga class at The Raven in Silver Lake!:

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This beautiful, open-air studio was filled with a friendly and charming bunch who were eager to welcome us to this fascinating, fun and difficult practice. We all started in a circle, introduced ourselves and after a few partner yoga stretches, the fun began:

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Drew and I were twirled, tossed and flipped in midair by people we had met a fresh 5 minutes prior! These seasoned AcroYogis helped us open our minds and awakened muscles we didn’t even know we had!

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Once class was finished, we stayed to participate in the Friday night Jam. A Jam is an open practice where AcroYogis share their skills with each other without formal instruction, it’s a great way to build community and Acro-confidence by connecting with many different people and trying out all sorts of new things. We were a bit hesitant at first, but with a few basic techniques down, Drew and I were ready to smear that Jam all over the place!:

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yoga at the raven, acro yoga studio, los angeles acro yoga, yoga studios in los angeles, the raven yoga, acro yoga silver lake, best yoga studio los angeles, acro yoga posesIt became clear that the most important skill to have for this was listening. How well can you listen to your breath, your partner’s breath and the cues your partner is giving you? You have to keep a clear mind and trust, because if you don’t, you won’t know how to support each other and you both will fall. Soon enough, as in any good relationship, you’ll begin to understand what your partner needs without them having to tell you and your relationship will turn into a strong and beautiful dance like the one below (you seriously have to watch this video):

Incredible right?! Hey, we all gotta start somewhere ;)

In addition to the Friday night class at The Raven (which was awesome!) Drew and I were lucky enough to be invited to Tari‘s Elegant Acro in the Hills. Tari is part of a small handful of ever-growing Certified AcroYoga Teachers in the World and is also the only resident male AcroYoga teacher in LA and one of only five AcroYoga teachers in all of Los Angeles! Tari hosts LA’s largest, secret Jam, which is invitation only, every Thursday night in his beautiful Hollywood home. With a trampoline, slack line, multiple gymnastic rings, aerial silks, outdoor climbing ropes, multiple poles, handstand canes, dance studio, 2 fuzzy cats and more… it really is as amazing as it sounds! With Tari’s guidance we were able to deepen our practice, learn poses we would have never been able to master in a group class, made new (extremely skilled) friends and had a total blast doing it!

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If you want in on all the fun, please contact Tari Mannello via FaceBook or email him at tari@tari.tv for approval :)

AcroYoga not only gave us a entirely new way to play, but it taught us how to support and strengthen each other as a whole and have fun in the process!

“Meet people without fear, and play.”

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Terrifically real, sometimes vulnerable, strong and wildly blessed: What happens when you persevere.

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We can remember countless times, in various situations, asking ourselves, “How are we going to do this?” With both literal and figurative mountains to climb, trails to blaze, distances to go and uncharted territories to explore, there is no doubt that life is beautiful, but it generally tends to come with some pretty dense wilderness to push through before we can let out that sigh of relief and sit back to enjoy the view:

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Let’s start with terrifically real:

There is nothing  like being covered in sweat, tired, hungry and submerged in the unknown to introduce you to who you really are. It’s times like these when you learn how to handle stress with nothing but your soul to guide your reactions and actions. You learn that while you may not look, act or handle things perfectly, you are living life from a terrifically real place and that in and of itself is incredibly liberating. Through all the struggle, the uphill battles and leaps of faith, by accepting your circumstances and carrying on, your soul receives the greatest benefit of all, you giving it the chance to shine.

Photo below: Drew and I taking cover from the rain after spending the night spelunking and sharing a sleeping bag in a very cold and muddy Worley’s Cave.

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Sometimes vulnerable, we know we’ve all been there and it’s not always the most comfortable place to be.

Exhibit A: Bungee Jumping off of the Bridge to Nowhere… OMG thinking about it still makes my hands all sweaty. We all have different limitations and different “items” that we put into our, “Oh that’s just not for me” box… for me, bungee jumping was one of them… until I agreed to do it… twice… in a row. It’s easy to say, “No” sometimes when we have already told ourselves that we can’t do something, but this is something that Drew and I try to never tell ourselves, hence the reason why I agreed to bungee x 2.  You see that face? Sheer terror:

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And then I jumped… still sheer terror:

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And then I realized that all of my limbs were still attached and I had done it… it was done! I allowed others witness my vulnerable state (tears and all) and together we were able to overcome. Being vulnerable is extremely difficult, yes, but it also is one of the most beautiful feelings to witness and share in life when used in the right ways:

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Part of having a full life requires us to open up our boxes and air out those things we think we just can’t do… sometimes we have to embrace vulnerability and allow life to take over and support us.

Strong (adj.): having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks; able to withstand great force or pressure.

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Without consistently pushing ourselves to stick to our goals and thrive in new and challenging places, we would never be able to grow the stamina and strength that is required for us to experience the adventures our hearts find so vital.

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To be honest, we don’t always feel super strong, but what’s important is that everyday we work with what we’ve got and slowly but surely our strength always returns. It’s habits like these that make us… and YOU strong, flexible and unstoppable.

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Now we’ve made it to the best part, the creme de la creme, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: being wildly blessed.

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In the midst of every challenging experience, we can find comfort and gratitude in knowing that there will always be a collection of glowing memories that will effect the rest of our lives whether we realize it or not. They say that there is no risk without reward, and we have found that the most challenging experiences, always end up being the biggest blessings in our lives.

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Whether it’s a relationship, a trek, a calling or an obstacle in life, we must remember that we have already been gifted with what we need to persevere, we just have to believe it, because when we do, we are wildly blessed every step of the way.

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How to plan an awesome surprise party!

how to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideasI have a huge smile on my face just looking at this picture, I can’t tell who had more fun, me or Drew! As a surprise party planner you experience the immense elation that comes from an artfully and, hopefully, successfully executed plan. Whether all the parts fall flawlessly into place or the unexpected occurs and you have to change course completely, seeing the look on the other person’s face and hearing everyone yell, “Surprise!” at that one pivotal moment, has the potential to fill your heart with so much joy it could completely burst..! :) how to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideas surprise party planner He had no idea it was coming, it was amazing. Though, I should mention the fact that we did have an extremely close call: I had just gotten back from picking up the cheese cake, his favorite, and finished hanging the last lime green streamer, when all of a sudden I heard someone approach the door. I froze, hoping it was just the mailman or something, that’s when the top lock turned. At that same moment I flew across the living room, literally flew, turning the lock just in time to save the night/ surprise/ everything! OMG. How was I going to keep him out of the apartment without making him totally suspicious and ruining everything?! He wasn’t supposed to be home until 6:30 that night, he was over an hour early! The plan was to meet downstairs, I would bring the bikes and from there we would ride to the LACMA for “jazz on the lawn” and return at 8:30 in time for the great reveal… I had to think quick. Of course right when I locked the door and refused to let him in, he demanded to know what was going on. After going back and forth I pleaded with him to promise me something, he reluctantly said, “Yes.” I said, ” Good, you have to promise NOT to ask ANY questions, but there is NO WAY you are getting into this apartment until after the LACMA!” He of course was confused and understandably frustrated but I didn’t care; I knew it would all be worth it soon and my looking crazy would work out to the benefit of everyone in the end. Luckily, he’s not the suspicious type and thought I was cooking him a belated birthday dinner…  my masterfully designed plan was coming together beautifully, and he had no idea. how to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideas surprise party planner I tossed him a book to read in the courtyard as I finished up a few last minute touches. With the candles in place, the welcome note written to our guests and the key under the mat, all that was left to do was leave. how to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideas surprise party planner how to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideas surprise party planner As we rode away from soon-to-be celebration central, I thought back to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, everything seemed to be in order and once we got to the LACMA I updated our friends with our status. We snacked, enjoyed the sunset and listed to jazz as our friends gathered and prepared for our return: lacma jazz, lacma jazz on the lawn, lama summer events, outdoor concerts LA, lama lights, must do's in LA during the summer, la summer events lacma jazz, lacma jazz on the lawn, lama summer events, outdoor concerts LA, lama lights, must do's in LA during the summer, la summer events After mentioning that he had been craving a serious night out with our friends (score!), we got ready to ride back. I discretely texted everyone a 3 minute warning and they assumed position, turning off the lights, lighting the Birthday candles and “shushing” each other until they heard our footsteps at the door. As we walked up the stairs he stopped to let me go ahead of him so I could welcome him to the romantic meal and scene that he thought was awaiting him. Being careful not to give anything away, I bashfully looked to the ground, as if to politely say,”No, no, no you go first,” and as he unlocked the door and slowly began to turn the knob… BAM! I hip checked him into the door and he was pelted with confetti, silly string and camera flashes as all of our friends welcomed him with the best surprise ever!!!  how to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideas surprise party plannerhow to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideas surprise party planner, mr and mrs adventure The fiesta was complete with ridiculously FUN, INCREDIBLE AND AMAZING friends: how to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideas surprise party planner Way too many laughs to count: how to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideas surprise party planner how to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideas surprise party planner An adorable teddy bear balloon that I was clearly convinced was Drew… classic case of bear meets girl, girl falls in love with bear, girl and bear live happily ever after: how to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideas surprise party planner, teddy bear balloon And lots and lots and LOTS of love: how to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideas surprise party planner how to throw a surprise party, drew neumann, best birthday party, party planning, how to surprise someone, best surprise party ideas surprise party planner Thank you to everyone who made this night so unforgettable and Happy 27th Birthday Drew!! May this year be filled with the most incredible adventures yet! I love you. So you really wanna know the secret to planning a truly awesome surprise party: sheer determination and wonderful friends. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmpVk4KQZoY

Summer never looked so good!: Camping and Hiking in Malibu

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Malibu, known as the play ground of the rich and famous – home of Ellen, Will Smith, Madonna, Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, to name a few – is also the play ground of Mr and Mrs Adventure. While we may not be not quite as rich or quite as famous, this past weekend we definitely felt like we had the best beach-front property of them all:

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As we drove along the “27 miles of scenic beauty” to our destination, we reminisced about all our favorite memories made along this stretch of the PCH over the past 3 years. There was hiking our favorite SoCal mountain (about 100 times), mountain biking a killer 28-mile loop, running in the Malibu Half-Marathon, exploring Eagle Rock in Topanga Canyon, biking to the rusty set of M*A*S*H* and rock climbing “Planet of the Apes” in Malibu Creek State Park. Needless to say, there has never been a dull moment in Malibu, and this weekend was only going to put an exclamation point at the end of that statement…!

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Filled with the excitement of making more momeries, we pulled into Thornhill Broome Beach campground. Reservations must be made at least 2 days ahead of arrival and can be made up to 7 months in advance. We made our reservation back in January because, if you want to camp here during the summer,  you absolutely must reserve exactly 7 months ahead of your arrival date, as spots will sell out by midnight on that day. We now understand why:

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After buying some firewood from the Ranger Station ($7), we drove on over to spot #55, aka. our little slice of paradise. As soon as the car stopped, we ran out to shore to feel the cool kisses of the Pacific at our feet and the warm glow of the summer sunshine on our faces.

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We walked along the coast, followed by a family of jumping dolphins, and watched as our footprints filled with the sun’s golden light and disappeared as the waves rolled over, taking them to sea.

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Staying in that moment as long as we could, we then set up camp and got ready to cook by the light of the fire.

Step 1: Smooth over a nice plot of land, removing any rocks, sticks or other poke-y items:

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We may have skipped a couple steps, but VOILA! Our beautiful, newly built, beach-front property with the freshest air around, and complimentary ambient sounds and lighting too:

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As our potatoes, haricots verts and mushrooms roasted over the fire, Drew literally chased after his burger patty as a seagull tried to drag it away! Learn from this example and do not leave any food unattended at the picnic tables. Luckily the patty was still in a ziplock bag, so Drew was able to retrieve it (relatively) unharmed. No photos or video of this incident unfortunately, but you can definitely imagine the scene :)

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Cozy by the sea, we watched as the fire crackled in the dark night sky and stared in awe at the hundreds of stars that glittered above. It’s amazing how we could be so close to one of the busiest and brightest cities, and still feel like worlds away.

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Lulled to sleep by the sound of the crashing waves, the temperature couldn’t have been more pleasant. That night we slept in our bathing suits and awoke to something even better than our dreams:

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The first thing we did was jump into the ocean and soon enough we were joined by a pair of playful seals and an impressive line up of pelicans overhead!:

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After our morning dip, we continued with our walk along the beach and decided to cross the PCH and climb “The Giant Sand Dune (map here). ” We had seen people trekking up and down it the day before and had to try it out for ourselves:

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It probably only took us about 3 minutes to summit, but boy did we feel the burn! Think stair steppers in quicksand… ya.

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Short of breath and with tired legs, we reached the top and all of that was replaced with grateful hearts and sweet, sweet relief:

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Tip: Go early in the morning before the sun starts shining on the west-facing dune, unless you’re ok with burning hot sand..! Another idea, bring shoes :)

Hungry and ready for breaky, we raced back to camp and fired up our grill and JetBoil for a breakfast of champions. We surfed, relaxed and stuck around until 1pm (check-out is at Noon, but luckily they are pretty relaxed about it). Next on our list of things to do for the day? Summit Mugu Peak!

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Mugu Peak towers over the Pacific Ocean from a drastic elevation of 1,266 feet. There are a few different ways you can choose to summit this seaside mountain, we opted for the 6.5 mile journey from the bottom of La Jolla Canyon (Ray Miller trailhead map here) in Point Mugu State Park (just steps from our campground) with 1,250 feet of elevation gain.

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The trail started out pretty gradual, but without a cloud in the sky and being in the bottom of the canyon, there was no denying that it was hot and dry:

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Grateful to have a full Camelbak, we continued onward towards the summit. We came across a couple forks in the trail and veered left at all of them, including the Mugu Peak Trail marker:

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As we came to the first vista of our trek, we saw our campground down below and were in total awe of the turquoise colored water surrounding us:

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At this point the ascent became more rigorous. It was pretty much a climb until we reached the rocky switchbacks taking us to the summit, at which point it was definitely a climb… all the way to the top of the flag pole:

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(It’s a good thing I trust him.)

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The views at the top of Mugu Peak were absolutely ridiculous.

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We could spot Sandstone Peak, aka. Mount Allen, in the distance:

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And to the West we could see the Channel Islands floating peacefully in the Pacific.

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After taking our time at the top drooling over the views and meeting new friends and fellow-summiters, we made our way back down and decided to take a scenic short cut, leading us right along the ledge of the mountain:

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Not only was the short cut something new to explore, but it also provided us with a cool breeze the whole way down. Note: We do not recommend this short cut for everyone as the ground was very loose and we were sliding all over the place in some spots.

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After looking forward to this weekend for several months, it definitely exceeded expectations. Oh Malibu, you’ve out done yourself again.

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The Great Escape: Camping and Rock Climbing in Big Bear

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You ever get that urge to get away and disconnect? There is only so much typing on a computer, texting with miniature buttons on a miniature screen and being reachable 24/7 that one can take before going mad – at least that how we felt this past weekend. So, in an attempt to disconnect from technology and reconnect to ourselves and nature, we decided to go camping and rock climbing in Big Bear – ah the great outdoors. I can already breathe more easily just thinking about it.

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After taking care of a few last minute things on our “to do” list, we drove over Saturday afternoon and finally arrived to Big Bear around 5:30 pm. Once at the lake we had about 30 more minutes to go until we were at our destination for the evening, Holcomb Valley’s South Lot Campground (google maps here and extremely detailed and helpful directions here).

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Photo Credit: SoCal Climbers MeetUp

As we drove along the bumpy dirt road, we passed Wilbur’s Grave on our left (mentioned in the driving directions linked above). Wilbur was apparently one of the early miners in the area, but nothing else about his life is known (random right?). His grave always seems to be decorated with one or more American flags and it’s a tradition to add random trinkets and decorations to it whenever passing by:

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While there is a number of campgrounds in Big Bear, the Holcomb Valley South Lot is our favorite. Not only is camping here completely FREE, but you can pitch your tent wherever your heart desires and you don’t need an adventure pass to park! The only downer is that you can’t have a campfire, but we had our portable propane powered grill and JetBoil so we were set. After scoping out the area, we settled upon a cozy little nook situated between some rocks and pine trees, providing us with our own little outdoor getaway – check out Drew looking so satisfied:

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It was now time to sit back, relax and watch the golden, summer sun slowly sink below the pine tree caked mountains, and as the night came upon us, the absence of our computers, television and phones became evident in the most peaceful and present sort of ways. With nothing to update, nothing to post, no one to answer to, we enjoyed each other’s company and began our slow evening of grilling, laughing and snuggling under the stars.

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With sleeping bag hair and squinty eyes, we rolled out of our cozy tent and prepared breakfast tea and morning oats – fueling up for the day’s adventure of climbing rocks :)

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The Holcomb Valley Pinnacles is a moderate mecca with 75% of its 300+ sport climbing routes being 5.10 and under in difficulty (helpful scale explanation here). With classics like Gold StandardBye Crackie and Coyotes at Sunset, to name a few, there is no lack of epic routes to scale.

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We spent the majority of the morning brushing up on our lead climbing skills and luckily found the perfect shady spot to do so – Lizard’s Head, located on Motherlode‘s North face, is a playfully long 10-bolt climb which earned its name for obvious reasons:

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lizards head, motherlode holcomb valley pinnacles, best rock climbing holcomb valley pinnacles

As you can see, I was seriously into it:

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lizards head, motherlode holcomb valley pinnacles, best rock climbing holcomb valley pinnacles

About 5 hours in and our arms had turned to jello. It was time to throw that hammock up and enjoy a signature triple-decker PBJ:

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Transitioning from a morning of climbing to a hammock induced siesta, we decided to spend the rest of our afternoon relaxing by breezy Big Bear Lake:

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Sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, ferry riding, sport fishing, mountain biking, etc. – there are an absolute ton of activities to choose from when visiting Big Bear in the summer. For once in our lives, we opted to relax and parked along side the lake where we were able to take a small path down to the serene beach:

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It was beautiful. The sun was shining, the ducks were bathing, the pirates were sailing… wait, what??

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big bear lake, big bear in the summer, things to do in big bear, camping big bear, rock climbing big bear, visiting big bear lake

A few years ago, the mock pirate ship shown below, named the Timed Bandit, sank to the bottom of Big Bear Lake in a storm. Today, she is fully restored and back in business, offering 90-minute tours to visitors each summer ($19 for adults and $12 for children).

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I’m not sure if it was the pirates or the shimmering crystal blue waters, but soon enough Drew was inspired to jump into chilly Big Bear Lake. I on the other hand, opted to stay on land for survival purposes ;)

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big bear lake, big bear in the summer, things to do in big bear, camping big bear, rock climbing big bear

Fulfilled by our weekend of disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with each other, we drove back home grateful for the much needed escape. Next weekend? Camping in Malibu!

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We Won a Liebster Award!!

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Wait… what does that mean?? While we were extremely stoked to have received this honor, at the same time we had no idea what it was! Thankfully, our new blogging friends over at Nerd Nomads, who nominated us, also explained what exactly this award meant.

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The Liebster Award has been around for several decades now and originated in Germany, directly translated it means The “Dearest” Award. While there is no actual committee that nominates you and there is no prize associated with it (no million dollar checks or around the world tickets yet!), it acts as a kind gesture, given by bloggers to other bloggers they admire and find interesting. Pretty nice idea right!

Upon accepting/ winning the award, there are a few rules to follow, and while there are many different versions of the Liebster Award rules, we decided to follow the ones given by Maria and Espen of Nerd Nomads, the fellow adventurous couple who nominated us :)

  1. Thank the blogger who gave it to you (Thank you!!!)
  2. Answer the 11 questions they ask you.
  3. Nominate 5 other bloggers with less than 5,000 followers.
  4. Ask those bloggers 11 unique questions.
  5. Let the bloggers know they’ve been nominated so they can continue the chain!

nerd nomads, travel quote, saint augustine, books, limber award, mr and mrs adventureThough we are generally not ones to follow the rules, we are always willing to make an exception for a worthy cause. So, here it goes:

Our answers to the 11 questions from Maria and Espen:

1. What made you start your blog, and what makes your blog different?

We originally started our blog as a way to keep in touch with our friends and family members who are scattered across the globe – Brazil, Michigan, Florida, France, Pittsburgh, Germany – we wanted everyone to feel that they were a part of our lives no matter how far they (or we) were.

What makes our blog different is that it isn’t just a resource for those seeking adventure, it’s a true story about how 2 people can explore this incredible world, do what they love with who they love, and learn more about the definition of freedom every step of the way.

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2. What do you most enjoy writing about?

While we spend the majority of our time writing stories and guides about our various excursions to newly discovered lands, we are really looking forward to developing our Q & A category, which will allow us to share more about the insights on life and our relationship that we gain along the way. Our most popular post to date, which was also the most fun to write, is “How are you guys always so happy?

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3.What is your favorite destination, and why?

Our favorite destination is always somewhere we have never been because there is no much opportunity for growth and exploration! We also love places where we can visit old friends or family, nothing beats those kind of hugs.

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4. If you were to give one piece of advice to someone thinking about traveling, what would it be?

Go with an open mind and go now:

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5.What kind of transport do you prefer when traveling?

It depends really. We love exploring intricate cities, like Paris, on foot but we also loved having a rental car in Costa Rica because we could go wherever we wanted whenever we wanted. The train is also a great option when traveling slow between countries or states, but nothing beats the plane when time is of the essence. It really all comes down to choosing the best option for the kind of adventure you are hoping for… but if we had to choose one, we would have to say by bike – we absolutely love getting to wave at the various people we pass by and there is no better way to get to know the layout of the land, plus we are always up for a good challenge! Check out our post on Biking from Paris to Versailles!

mr and mrs adventure, biking, drew neumann, brittany rouille

6.How do you promote your blog, and what works best for you?

We are still trying to find the secret formula, but for now we are mostly enjoying the grassroots kind of thing. Whenever we go out on an adventure we are always sure to bring our Mr and Mrs Adventure caribbiners along with, they are way more fun than a business card and people can take them with on all their adventures – hopefully sharing our blog with other adventurous souls they meet along the way!

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7. Is there any place in the world you never wish to visit?

Without experiencing the world for ourselves it’s easy to rely on cheap stereotypes to guide our thinking about certain places. Travel reminds us that we are more bound by similarities, than separated through differences. And while it’s important to read up on current travel warnings before deciding on a destination, you can bet that we will be doing twice as much research to find out if we should heed those warnings and if so, when it will be safe to return. So, to answer the question, no :)

mr and mrs adventure, full moon, inspiring quotes, kayaking, costa rica, drew neumann8. What does traveling mean to you, how has it affected you as a person?

Oh wow. We could write an entire post about this one. Travel (V.)- to make a journey, typically of some length or abroad.

To us travel is not segmented to define a two week period each year… to us travel is a way of life. It challenges us to be open to change, it dares us to triumph when the unexpected occurs, it realigns us with what is most important in life and it encourages us to keep exploring, to keep learning and to support each other each and every day. Travel has made us very different from the majority, it has turned us into chronic adventurers and has allowed us to discover our true passion. Travel continues to fill our hearts with endless possibilities and guide us towards a life filled with the unknown. So let’s try this again:

Travel (V.)- an act of courage that urges one to leave “their box” and adventure into the unknown, allowing new people, sites, tastes and sounds to change them for the better.

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9. What country has the best food in your opinion?

We absolutely love Indian, Ethiopian, Mediterranean, Japanese, Mexican and Californian cuisine… Wow, that does not narrow it down at all, haha. But again, back to the question… we haven’t been to every country yet, so this won’t be a fair assessment, but so far, we’d have to say France. I grew up going to France every summer when I was a child and every morning we would wake up to fresh “brioche” and “pain au chocolat” baked at the “patisserie” right under my great-grandmother’s apartment in Brittany, France. My grandma would heat milk over the stove and my family would start the day together at the table before walking to the outdoor markets to get fresh ingredients for the rest of the day’s meals. Last summer Drew had the chance to go to France together for the first time! I made sure he sampled all of my childhood favorites and watched as he fell in love with my heritage. La vie et belle et delicieux!

paris, french food, french markets, girl smelling fruit, picking fruit, brittany rouille

10. If you could choose any country in the world to live, where would it be and why?

We feel that it would be an incredible learning experience to live somewhere with such different… everything! With that being said we are intrigued with South East Asia, after that we’d have to say Australia or Chile.

11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Somewhere wonderful.

mr and mrs adventure, open your mind, inspiring quotes, costa rica, brittany rouille, drew neumann

Now we get to nominate 5 other bloggers that we find wildly interesting and endlessly inspiring! The nominees are:

1. Alex in Wanderland: Alex has been traveling the world for 3 years and counting! Her site is full of awe inspiring photos and priceless wisdom on how you can live your life abroad too :)

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2. Adventurous Kate: Kate quit her job in 2010 to travel Southeast Asia for six months. Six months turned into three years across more than 45 countries and there is no end in site. Check out her great posts for travel insight and inspiration!

adventurous kate, travel blogs, viking hat

3. California Through My Lens: Josh has created a great site with stunning photos and easy to follow guides for some of the best hikes in SoCal, along with insight into some of the most stunning and bizarre places as well!

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4. K8_N_N8: Meet Kate and Nate! An adventure couple that is road tripping their way across America taking awesomely creative photos, they even have a crystal ball that captures sites in some beautiful, one of a kind ways!

k8 and n8, travel blog, crystal orb, creative travel photography

5. Pura Vida! Eh?: Ricky and Nikki are an amazing resource for any and all of your Costa Rica adventuring needs! They have great articles and discounts on their site and are amazing at answering any questions you might have, they were a great resource for our trip to Costa Rica :)

pura vida eh, best adventure blogs, resources for costa rica

And now, here are our 11 questions to the nominees:

  1. What made you start your blog, and what makes your blog different?
  2. What do you most enjoy writing about?
  3. What is your favorite spot so far and why?
  4. If you were to give one piece of advice to someone thinking about traveling, what would it be?
  5. What the most interesting job you have taken on to support your travels?
  6. How do you promote your blog, and what works best for you?
  7. Is there any place in the world you never wish to visit?
  8. What does traveling mean to you, how has it affected you as a person?
  9. What’s your most memorable travel moment thus far?
  10. If you could choose any country in the world to live, where would it be and why?
  11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

 Looking forward to hearing everyone`s answers! And thank you again Nerd Nomads for nominating us :) 

The Best Way to Summit Mount Baldy!

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You’d think that out of all the hikes we’ve done in Southern California we’d come to a place where we could say we’ve done it all… not a chance – there is so much to do out here! We are constantly discovering more and more epic adventures to add to our bucket list, one thing we were able to check off our list this week was summiting Mount Baldy!

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Mount Baldy, which is the highest point in the San Gabriel Mountains, serves as a ski resort in the winter months and is located just an hour east of LA (map here). Before embarking on this trek, we read many articles and heard many stories about how to hike this 10,064 foot summit and in the end, we concluded that ascending via Baldy Bowl and descending along The Devil’s Backbone, making for an 11.3 mile hike, was the best route – we stand by this decision :) (Great post about the various trail options here.)

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Parking for the trailhead is pretty easy. After driving on Mount Baldy Road for a little ways, we reached Manker Flats, made our first left turn and parked here, if you reach the ski lift parking area then you have traveled too far. There are two blue outhouses and a road gate, the trailhead starts at this white gate (pictured below). This is a popular route so you will likely see many other cars here, a late start will result in parking further down the road. Many recommend hitting the trail at 7am but we were honestly quite happy with our 8:30 start time because we were able to hike sans crowd.

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With the bright morning sun on our faces and the cool pine-scented breeze whirling all around, the trail started on a luxuriously wide fire road, lush with flowers and trees providing a stark contrast from the site of Mount BALDy above:

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Summiting mount baldy, best southern california hikes, hiking california, ski resort hikes, summer hikes in california, best way to hike mount baldy, how to hike mount baldy, baldy bowl

Summiting mount baldy, best southern california hikes, hiking california, ski resort hikes, summer hikes in california, best way to hike mount baldy, how to hike mount baldy, baldy bowl

Not too long after getting started, we took the second trail that branched left, taking us off the fire road – we would have totally missed this if it wasn’t for the group ahead of us, as there are no signs for it. (Be sure not to take the first side trail on the left, this one is located by a stone wall and has a trail sign, it will lead you up a completely different path.) This marked the beginning of Baldy Bowl ‘s 4.5 mile, 3,900 foot ascent… basically 1,000 feet per mile! It is absolutely crucial to bring enough water, as there is nowhere to refill until you reach the Top of the Notch restaurant.

Summiting mount baldy, best southern california hikes, hiking california, ski resort hikes, summer hikes in california, best way to hike mount baldy, how to hike mount baldy, baldy bowl Halfway up the mountain and 2 hours in, we found ourselves at the Sierra Club Ski Hut, a perfect place to rest, drink plenty of water and enjoy the shade:

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You can actually reserve a bed in this awesome 16-person hut, fully equipt with a kitchen, running water, cookware, solar lighting and best of all, board games!

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Giant log benches, perfect for a little “r & r”:

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And there’s even an adorable little outhouse – just don’t breathe if you plan on using it…

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Some dried mango and a homemade rice crispy treat later, Drew and I were up and at it again. This aggressive climb is, thankfully, also the shortest route to the top of Mount Baldy. A total of 4 hours, 4,000 feet and 4.5 miles later, we had finally arrived to the top of Baldy!

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Summiting mount baldy, best southern california hikes, hiking california, ski resort hikes, summer hikes in california, best way to hike mount baldy, how to hike mount baldy, mount baldy summit

With Mount Jacinto at 10,833 feet and San Gorgonio at 11,503 feet in the backdrop, the views were absolutely remarkable:

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It was the most crowded summit we had yet to experience! There were people, lady bugs and butterflies everywhere!

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Summiting mount baldy, best southern california hikes, hiking california, ski resort hikes, summer hikes in california, best way to hike mount baldy, how to hike mount baldy, lady bug

With no shade to be found, we decided to make ourselves comfortable as we soaked in some rays and enjoyed a long and slow lunch break before taking the switchbacks of Devil’s Backbone Trail that would guide us down to the notch.

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Summiting mount baldy, best southern california hikes, hiking california, ski resort hikes, summer hikes in california, best way to hike mount baldy, how to hike mount baldy, mount baldy summit, mr and mrs adventure, baldy switchbacks

Check out the amazingly white “moon rocks” that cover the peak:

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They don’t call it the Devil’s Backbone for nothing – the single track trail crosses the spine of a skinny ridge with steep drops to the north and south, providing immensely sweeping views. You would not want to hike this in the winter, but during summer, under normal weather conditions, the trail is devilishly exciting!

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IMG_8495

As we approached the ski lodge we come across an inoperable ski lift providing us with an excuse to sit, rest and snap some awesome photos- there’s something so memorable about sitting on a ski lift in 90 degree weather and reading the signs for the ski runs as people hike up and down the dirt covered slopes:

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Summiting mount baldy, best southern california hikes, hiking california, ski resort hikes, summer hikes in california, best way to hike mount baldy, how to hike mount baldy, ski lift

Avalanches… ice… we wish!

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An hour after departing the summit of Baldy we had finally arrived to the Top of the Notch where we were able to order an ice cold drink and watch the World Cup soccer game. There was a DJ playing reggae outside and a cool breeze blowing in through the windows of the ski lodge, it was turning out to be a pretty epic day. After watching Costa Rica advance to the quarter finals we laced back up and headed out to finish the final leg of our journey… but not before hopping on a snow mobile!

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The trail back down is located just to the right of the Mount Baldy Ski School (pictured below).  It was a nice and easy descent along the same fire road on which we started. We had to be sure not to take the first trail off to the left again, as this would have taken us to the ski lift parking lot.

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Summiting mount baldy, best southern california hikes, hiking california, ski resort hikes, summer hikes in california, best way to hike mount baldy, how to hike mount baldy, summer ski resort

11.3 miles and, if we’re counting hiking time only – 6 hours later, our Mount Baldy adventure was complete. One of the most balanced and enjoyable hikes we have yet to do, we both finished this hike satisfied and extremely grateful for the experience… and each other.

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Things to know:

- You need an Adventure Pass, you can pick one of for $5 at the Visitors Center (map here) before parking

- Bring a lot of water, Drew and I each had our camel baks with 3 liters of water, which we finished by the time we got to the Top of the Notch

- You can refill for the hike down at the Top of the Notch; there is a water fountain near the restrooms

- You can opt to take the ski lift to or from the Top of the Notch, it’s $15 up, $12 down or $25 roundtrip. We of course recommend hiking both ways but if you really only want to do a one-way hike, we recommend hiking up Baldy Bowl and then taking the lift down. Another option is taking the lift up, hiking to Mount Baldy’s summit, and then hiking back to the lift and taking it down.

- Bring a hat, sunglasses, camera, chap stick (the air is dry), hiking poles (we forgot ours and really wish we had them) and plenty of sunscreen (we wore SPF 50 and still got rosy!)

- Stop at the Top of the Notch for an ice cold drink, they have a full bar and food available too! It’s open Friday – Sunday, 8am – 6pm