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This Memorial Day Weekend’s activities took place in St. George, Utah. With the return of my uncle who lives near there, my family decided we would head down to visit him and his family over the weekend. I was a tad reluctant, because I am kind of afraid of heat – and if anywhere is hot, it’s St. George (Vegas is worse, though!). Kyle and I headed out on Friday night since he had to work until seven, and we decided we would stop in Cedar City and camp out. Even though we were invited to stay at my relatives’ house, I didn’t want to keep them up waiting! This is considering that we got to Cedar City at around midnight, so it would’ve been like another hour before we even got there. We set up our tent at the dark and windy KOA and finally got to sleep at around 1:30.

The next morning, we rose bright and early, got “ready” for the day together in the men’s restroom (this was not the first time I’ve done this – I have a thing about going into restrooms alone at sketchy places, haha!), headed to Wal-Mart for some general goods (our first time stepping into a Wal-Mart in like, a year), and started our way to St. George. Half an hour later, we met my parents at their hotel where they let us take showers (thank God).

Gunlock Reservoir State Park

We then met up with my relatives who led us to our first activity: hiking at Gunlock Reservoir State Park. Before I go on, I must say that I’d never really realized how much there was to do out there; St. George is always just a “pass-through” for us when we’re headed anywhere south (Vegas, L.A., etc.). We’d never really “stopped to smell the roses,” if you will. Anyway, the place we hiked to at Gunlock was supposed to have a bunch of waterfalls. When we got there after a short walk from the lot, there were no waterfalls to be seen! It was still cool without, but I’m sure it would have been just beautiful!

The gray areas indicate where water from the reservoir flows down and creates waterfalls.

Looking down from the top.

Looking up from below.

Kyle and the dogs!

Upon hiking to the top, we saw the reservoir…

We hadn’t kept our eye on Chloe for just a few minutes, and all the sudden we hear a great big “splash.” Turns out she had eyed the branch sticking out of the water and wanted to bring it back to play with!

Chloe LOVES to get dirty!

We spent about an hour and a half at Gunlock and then left to eat some lunch to celebrate my cousin’s/cousins’ (their birthdays are so close together!) birthday. Afterwards, our parties parted and we went our separate ways (for us, it was back to my parents’ room for a quick break).

St. George Narrows

The four of us went back out to a place called the St. George Narrows. This place is literally right in the city and was about five minutes from the hotel. We had read that the St. George Narrows (also known as the “Red Crack”) features a very narrow slot canyon (about a foot and a half wide) that takes about five minutes to get through. Sounded pretty freakin’ sweet to us! I’ll be the first to admit, though, that I do get somewhat claustrophobic, and those first few steps I took into the slot were kind of nerve wracking.

Look at my face…that is not a very confident face.

Five feet later and I was fine, despite thinking just seconds earlier that the 50-yard long slot seemed like it would never end. As it turns out, the “worst part” of the slot occurs within ten feet of the entrance, and it also serves as a great way for those “heavier” folk to “test the waters.” This is precisely what my dad did, and sadly, he didn’t get to go any further. My mom encouraged him to suck it in, and we all joked that if he got stuck, he could just wait two days to get out!

After “canyoneering” through the Red Crack twice, Kyle and I explored and ran around the slick rock. I can’t explain why, but running down it was extremely liberating! If you’ve ever seen 127 Hours, I’m pretty sure I felt just like Aron did when they show him just running across the land in the beginning of the movie. Kyle and I both agreed that we should do this more often.

She’s such a good sport 🙂

Snow Canyon State Park

The next day, we made our way to Snow Canyon State Park, just twenty or so minutes from the city. We got there around noon, and it was already pretty hot out. I began to worry…

As soon as we had the dogs all buckled up, we began our way on the Sand Dunes Trail, one of the only trails in the park that even allows them. About ten minutes in, I already felt myself getting too hot, but pushed on anyway. (This is one of those times that I probably should’ve went back to the car to wait, because once we finished the mile and a half round trip hike, I wasn’t feeling so good).

It wasn’t until about the end of the Sand Dunes Trail that we discovered why it was called that:

Sand dunes! Duh.

Just some other photos from Snow Canyon:

What a funny guy.

So if you haven’t noticed already, most of this area looks the same: red and rocky. That’s one of things that Utah is known for…besides Mormons and polygamists (NO, not everyone here is polygamist, jeez!).

To me, it’s not particularly “beautiful,” and I definitely hate the heat that is associated with these places, but I could see why anyone else would love it. The opportunity for adventure is endless, whether you like to hike, rock climb, canyoneer, mountain bike…I’d love to try all that and more, but perhaps when it’s a bit cooler (see you in the winter!).

Two weekends ago, we decided it would be a nice time to start our season of hiking. I mean, why not? The weather was perfect, we were bored, and it’s about that time of year anyway. Since we love including our dogs so much, and since Millcreek Canyon lets dogs be included, we headed straight there as always. (We even ended up buying a season pass, which we are ecstatic to get to use ALL YEAR!)

Our first hike turned out to be pretty awesome. We parked at the lot nearest to the mouth of the canyon and started from there, without knowing where we were going or how long it would take. We began at Rattlesnake Gulch and hiked UP a path (yeah – keyword “UP”) that included lots of switchbacks. Let me tell you – going about eight months without such muscle-use is not only kind of sad, but quite exhausting. Despite it, not once did I think I wanted to turn back. “I’m gonna get to the top, damn it,” I thought to myself.

After about an hour of climbing Rattlesnake Gulch, we came to a fork in the trail. The hikers that started after us (but somehow ended up in front of us) took the right trail with so much gusto that I wondered if they had “somewhere to be.” Kyle and I then decided to take the left trail, also known as the Pipeline Trail. “Ah, I’ve heard of this one before!” (I was kind of pleased with that fact, clearly). It wasn’t too much harder after that (thank God), as it was pretty flat and the climb in altitude, if any, was very subtle.

This was what the trail looked like:

Pipeline. That may or may not be Kyle peeing in the distance.

The views from the trail were also quite nice.

View of the Rattlesnake Gulch parking lot from the Pipeline Trail. It’s higher than it looks in the picture.

The adjacent mountain.

As it would happen, I started complaining right before we made the bend to see the following view:

When we finally reached a view of Salt Lake Valley!

Just a few minutes more and we reached the official Salt Lake Overlook at the end of Pipeline!

We did it! (Even the little one!)

Nice view from the overlook. You can see the Great Salt Lake in the background.

I think Chloe was a little bit too excited to have reached the end…

Just had to post this one. My dogger is so funny! (She gets it from me 😉 )

And of course, it wasn’t until we got home that we researched and found out that we had just hiked a total of SEVEN miles and climbed around 1,000 feet in altitude. What! I guess that seems about right. It did take us about 2.5 hours, after all.

As much as I want to generate fake complaints about how “hard it was,” or “how out of shape I am,” I just can’t bring myself to do so. It may have been hard, and yes, I may be out of shape, but the truth is, I love hiking in its entirety – way too much to complain about it. When I was a kid, four-hour drives to the Southern Utah adventure land were frequent. Even beyond Moab and Zions National Park, it seems as though many of our trips were nature-based (Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, etc.). Looking back, I find it so hard to believe that I almost want to deny it. Between the time that we moved to and from Hong Kong, my parents kind of stopped caring about nature and we subsequently stopped going out to enjoy it. Perhaps I was having withdrawals, but I absolutely think all those times of simply walking on a conveniently formed path through an otherwise natural environment instilled this love in me – one that I won’t ever be able to deny!

Do you love to hike? Where are your favorite trails?

In late April, I was so lucky to get the opportunity to travel to Hawaii for the first time. On April 20, Kyle and I first landed in Kauai, and then flew to Maui after three days.

The islands are different in so many ways, but I won’t get into that now. However, I will say that Kauai is not known as “the garden isle” for no reason. It is extremely lush, peaceful, and absolutely beautiful. Aside from the blue Pacific Ocean surrounding the island, pretty much every inch of Kauai’s landscape is green. It literally is like a 500 square-mile garden, and it is wonderful, especially considering the mountainous desert I call “home.”

Besides three of its beaches topping Frommer’s “100 Best Beaches” list, Kauai also boasts a natural formation that seems to be a complete 180 from those long stretches of sand and crystal clear water. I’m talking about Waimea Canyon, also known as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”

Waimea Canyon was a must-see for us since we are huge outdoor and landscape enthusiasts. On day three of Kauai, we finally got up there. First and foremost, the journey starts by traveling south on Kauai’s single one-lane highway, since that is the only way the canyon is accessible. As you near the town of Waimea, there is a pull-off where you can view the mouth of the canyon. Don’t expect jaw-dropping beauty just yet…you have to wait just a bit longer! Kyle and I did stop there, but honestly, you won’t miss anything if you don’t.

Soon enough, you will be passing through the town of Waimea. Drive the speed limit and be sure to keep you eyes peeled for Waimea Canyon Drive – it’s kind of randomly placed toward the Northern outskirts of the town and I didn’t seem to notice any signs indicating to turn. (In fact, we missed it at first so we had to flip a U)! Although, there is a second road (Koke’e Road) that will take you up if you drive a bit farther. Not sure if it has road signs or if it’s “more scenic” or what.

Once you find the road, it’ll feel like the wrong one. Don’t worry – keep driving! Within just a few minutes, you will have ascended at least 1,000 feet. (Don’t forget to pop your ears)! Along the road, there will be plenty of chances for you to pull over to admire the scenery and take pictures. Don’t underestimate those first few minutes of the ascent; look behind you – there are some killer views of the ocean that will render you speechless! Here are a few things you will see on the way up (or down):

This view of the beginning of the Waimea Canyon formation is visible from a lower altitude of the drive.

One of the south shore views from Waimea Canyon Drive.

As you drive up, you can pull over at any of the many pull-offs to check out the view. Here, you can start to see the canyon start to take its form.

After about an hour (factoring in the few times we stopped to view the landscape), you will reach the official Waimea Canyon Lookout. There will be a good number of other sightseers, but it won’t be too crowded. Here’s what the view looks like from the lookout:

This view is from the official Waimea Canyon Lookout. No wonder they call it the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific!”

Proof that I was there 🙂

Panorama! (Click to view large)

Beautiful, isn’t it?! Although not as “majestic” as the Grand Canyon, I would say it’s very comparable.

When you’re done with the view, I would suggest that you continue all the way up the road if you have the time. (It’s about another half hour from the lookout). There supposedly are some more great views, but we didn’t really get to see much of anything except for the foggy mist of a cloud. After all, the end of the road, or Wai’ale’ale, is more than 5,000 feet in altitude, and it’s said to be “one of the wettest spots on Earth!”

Random – doing a bit of geocaching near Wai’ale’ale!

Wai’ale’ale – “one of the wettest spots on Earth.”

The reason that Wai’ale’ale is one of the wettest spots on Earth is because…(find out on Wikipedia if you care that much 😉 ) Also, you should know that it is significantly cooler up there, so your beach shorts and slippers (flip flops) probably won’t allow you to last very long outside of your vehicle. I also heard that there are some great hikes up there, such as the Alakai Swamp Trail. Kyle and I would have loved to do it, but unfortunately, we had a plane to catch.

With that said, down we went. Here’s one last look at the gorgeous view once we neared the end of Waimea Canyon Drive:

If only I had a house with that view…

And of course, every good adventure leaves one hungry. Since it was just past lunch time, and since we had heard so many great things about Shrimp Station in Waimea (apparently the ones elsewhere on Kauai suck), we just had to stop. As the name suggests, pretty much everything on the menu contains shrimp. There are so many flavors, and while they all sounded amazing, I just HAD to get the Sweet Chili Garlic Shrimp plate. Absolutely delicious, I tell ya. Do stop there if you can.

Shrimp Station in Waimea town- a great place to stop for lunch after your adventure!

Overall, it was a great little trip. I would definitely recommend doing it if you are ever in Kauai. However, I will leave you with some driving notes:

  • If you’re driving from the North Shore (Princeville/Hanalei), expect the commute to the mouth of the canyon to be about an hour and 45 minutes.
  • From Lihue, it will be about an hour.
  • From Koloa (where we stayed), it was about half an hour.
  • The drive from beginning to end of Waimea Canyon Drive/Koke’e Road is approximately an hour and a half, factoring in all stops made.
  • It won’t take that long to get back down the canyon. Probably around an hour and 15 minutes.
  • The road does get a bit windy at times, so take proper precautions if you are prone to motion sickness. (Thank God for Sea Bands!)

Taken March 30, 2012 with the good ol' Canon 50D at 300mm.

Thought it was about time to start using the digital again…it had been sitting there collecting dust!

…Maybe it’s the spring colors that have urged me to pick up the 50D again; I shot on black and white film all winter. Perhaps this trend represents how drab and colorless winter is portrayed, and how colorful and full of life spring portrays.

Last May, Kyle and I traveled to the Pacific Northwest for a week of leisure and to attend our friend’s wedding. Since then, I have only posted one – yes, ONE – blog entry featuring my photos of public markets in Seattle and Vancouver. For whatever reason, posting anything more about the trip has been a challenge for me – until now; I’m determined to finally share my stories and showcase pictures from the vacation.

Having done research prior to the trip, I figured that the week would be more relaxing than anything, because unless you’re a complete outdoors-junkie (I’m only half of one), it seemed that there were not a whole lot of other things to do in this densely-forested area of North America. I was wrong. Even with its diversity in terrain (we’re talking the Rocky Mountain range within miles of the Pacific Ocean, here), Vancouver’s natural-turned-manmade attractions were, fortunately for me, catered to the average tourist (and no, we did not attempt the Grouse Grind).

One of the better experiences that I had (not that they weren’t all amazing), and the only activity that sticks out in my memory of Vancouver like a sore thumb, was when we went to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Nestled shallow in the mountains of the Canadian Rockies hangs the free-swinging, 450-foot long bridge, which crosses 230 feet above the Capilano River.

Capilano Suspension Bridge from a distance. May 17, 2011.

I stood at the overlooking base and watched as others made their way onto and across the bridge. I was eager to go, so I made my way toward it. “Get ready to use your sea legs!” exclaimed a wife to her husband just steps behind me. Even though she wasn’t talking to me, I embraced her advice and curiously stepped forward with caution.

A man grasps both sides of the bridge's railings as he walks further onto the Cap Bridge. May 17, 2011.

Okay, so it wasn’t so bad that you had to use your “sea legs,” but the bridge did noticeably sway. Actually, “sway” might even be an exaggeration. It more like…”bounced” slightly. Remember those bridges that you used to jump up and down on at the playground when you were a kid (or even now)? Well that’s pretty much what it was – the only difference being that the Cap Bridge was like, a gazillion times longer.

Kyle and I took our time on the bridge, walking slowly to fully immerse ourselves in our surroundings. We stood near the middle and looked down at the river (well, at least I did). We took pictures. We listened to the sounds of the river and the surrounding rainforest. We even tried to taunt everyone on the bridge by jumping subtly, during which I was forced to block any “what if” thoughts from entering my busy mind. (I figured that if the wires DID snap, I would just grab and hold onto the railing for dear life).

There's my babe on the bridge! May 17, 2011.

Soon enough, we were at the other end of the bridge and walking right into dense forest. I looked up and saw people strolling across even more bridges that were perched up in the giant Douglas firs. This would be our next event: the Treetops Adventure. We easily ventured across each short bridge that connected one tree to another without any fear or hesitation. The ambiance was oh-so peaceful and the cold, moist air on my face was refreshing. And unlike the main suspension bridge, these smaller ones weren’t as crowded.

Just a couple of the very tall Douglas firs on the other side of the bridge. Depth is kind of hard to perceive in this photo.

One of the short suspended bridges that make up the Treetops Adventure at Capilano. May 17, 2011.

That's me being a tree-hugger. Although not nearly as wide as a redwood, Douglas firs are still pretty large. May 17, 2011.

Kyle as he takes a picture of the main bridge from the other side. May 17, 2011.

Within two hours, we had experienced all the features that Capilano had to offer. It was a relatively expensive two hours ($30 per person), but I think that it was worth experiencing, especially because there are neither rainforests nor cool bridges where I’m from. If you’re afraid of heights, this might not exactly be the perfect activity for you, and even though I’m not, I must admit the first steps onto the bridge were somewhat agonizing. But in the end, it wasn’t at all bad. So if you like nature, architecture, and/or “cliche” tourist attractions, then I would highly recommend visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge if you’re ever in Vancouver. Your memory of it, amongst everything else, will stick out like a sore thumb 🙂

I haven’t blogged in a while. Yes, you know that. What you don’t know, well, are the reasons why. For one, I was not at home all of last weekend through Wednesday; I was enjoying myself another vacation – this time in Southern California. I didn’t blog about it beforehand this time, but then again I didn’t tell anyone but my parents, so try not to feel left out. Second, I GOT A JOB! (Insert cheers, hollers, and “yay!”s here). After two very long months of unemployment, I have attained a position at Overstock.com as a Copywriter. I started on Thursday and am already feeling pretty comfortable with my responsibilities, my co-workers, and the overall environment. It’s pretty awesome and I am 100% grateful for this opportunity. (And don’t worry, I will not be renewing my unemployment benefits…by the way, I’d like to thank all the tax payers for helping me get through the past two months. I promise that I only spent the money on rent and food).

With that said, expect to see a decrease in blog posts from me. I know, it sucks. I feel like I was becoming more popular and stuff during the past month, but I do hope you’ll stick around. Follow me on WordPress or subscribe to my blog with your RSS feed (because that’s how I follow other blogs). Follow me on Twitter, too.

Anyway, I’d like to talk briefly about my trip to the O.C. We primarily went to visit Souk, our best friend, who had relocated there for his job. When we finally arrived (yep, road trip again), we spent almost every waking minute together – eating, visiting Asian markets, hanging out in our two-bedroom suite in Newport Beach, getting stuck in horrific traffic…it really was just a relaxing time. Really. But as nice as it was, it came so quick after my trip to San Francisco that I was honestly just a little tired of being away from home. I never thought I’d say this, but for the first time in my life, (okay, maybe the second or third time), I’m glad to be home, sweet home.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the trip. Besides the constant 60-degree weather (like, double the temperature of Salt Lake City right now), one of the best highlights was that we got to spend a few hours on the beach (let me hear a “woot! woot!” for Laguna Beach!). The three of us made sand things (as opposed to castles), waded in the ocean, played catch with random lemons, and jump-roped with long strands of seaweed. It was amazing, and I wish I could do that everyday.

Blue sky, blue ocean, 60-degrees. Laguna Beach, December 13, 2011.

Silhouette of a beach wandering bird. Laguna Beach, December 13, 2011.

Kyle's feet have sunk into the sand at Laguna Beach. December 13, 2011.

Souk the merdude. One of the sand things we made at Laguna Beach. December 13, 2011.

Kyle "jumping seaweed" at Laguna Beach. (Oh crap! Just realized the seaweed I saved is still in my trunk!) December 13, 2011.

Here is a view of the ocean from Marriott's Newport Coast Villas...not from our suite, unfortunately. December 12, 2011.

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