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Over last weekend, we attended Kyle’s family reunion in Grand Lake, nestled in the midst of the Rockies in Colorado. I’ll talk about all that stuff later, but as soon as I heard that Estes Park was only “an hour” away (turns out it was about 1.5 hours away from Grand Lake), I knew we HAD to go. Why? Because that’s where the Stanley Hotel is, and we all know that I’m a real sucker for tourist attractions…especially the old, creepy kind.

There’s not much to say about this experience, besides the fact that Kyle and I “snuck” into the hotel via one of the many open back doors and roamed its halls for about half an hour. There were some tours going on, but when we managed to escape the crowds, which was all too easy, being alone was definitely and downright creepy, spooky, unsettling, and any other term you can think of. It also didn’t help that Kyle took advantage of my vulnerability and tried to scare me in various ways: hiding around a corner to jump out at me, whispering creepy things into my ear, saying “redrum” in a childish and almost demonic voice while bending his index finger…you know, the like.

Anyway, check out some of the photos I took in and around The Stanley Hotel. It’s almost like they are straight out of a movie…

Just above the grand staircase.

The bottom right picture is room 217, which Stephen King stayed in and is used directly in the novel The Shining.

Have you ever been to the Stanley Hotel?

What infamous movie locations have you visited?

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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, despiteย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

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?

Since Vegas is so close to Salt Lake, it has become quite a frequent travel destination for many people that live here…Kyle and myself included. (Interestingly, we were obsessed with the place before we were even old enough to “enjoy” it fully…now, we couldn’t care less about it).

One of the newer trademark sights along the Strip’s skyline is Paris Hotel and Casino’s Eiffel Tower replica. It stands only half the height of the original in France, but still serves for a great view of the bustling, sinful city. I have been up there twice – the second time was Kyle’s insistence (and while we were up there he gave me a promise ring ๐Ÿ™‚ …I knew he was acting strange before we went up!).

North view of the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard)

The tower is right in front of the Bellagio fountain, thus providing a great view for a show.

Behind the tower you can see Paris’ hotel.

South view of the Strip.

Do you like going to the tops of towers? What’s your favorite part about it?

Who goes to Hawaii and passes this up? (Okay, but only if you’ve been to one before), a Luau is one of those “must-dos” when in Hawaii, especially if it’s your first time to the islands. Luaus are known as the traditional Hawaiian feast that have you indulging in delicious Hawaiian delicacies (complete with roasted pig) and watching hula performances for three hours of your life.

Yes, luaus are tourist attractions, (and nothing screams “cliche Hawaiian tourist” more than a middle-aged man wearing aloha-wear, khaki knee shorts, and socks with leather sandals), but who cares?! When you are fed insane amounts of scrumptious food, given any kind of drink you want (whenever you want), get impeccable customer service from your host, and get to enjoy a variety of traditional hula performances, even the “anti-tourist” tourist is going to leave pleased.

When Kyle and I were planning our trip, we left one evening open to attend a luau. After doing research online, and with the help of Kyle’s co-workers, we settled on the Old Lahaina Luau in Lahaina, Maui. About two weeks in advance, we had two front-row seats reserved! Good thing we reserved ahead, too, because when we called to ask about changing the date about an hour before the thing actually began (don’t give me crap – we had spent all day in the sun and I was feeling pretty dehydrated and sick by then), they said that that evening’s show and every other show that week had been sold out! With that information, I pushed myself to go, despite the handful of times I tried to convince Kyle that I would repay him the $100 he spent reserving my seat. (Yes, that does indeed mean the luau cost $100 per person).

Turns out, with just a bit of fresh ocean air and a few sips of some kind of red, fruity beverage, the dehydration/minor heat stroke/whatever-else-I-thought-I-had went away. The luau grounds were literally right next to the ocean, and the breeze was rejuvenating. For about an hour, we walked around the property, took pictures with the tiki ornaments, and looked at all the souvenirs they had on display. I ended up buying a wooden sea turtle for my parents. One of the guys at the stand even did on-the-spot engraving with a chisel, which was pretty cool to watch.

This picture probably only shows about 1/4 of the entire luau audience. Kyle and I had the pleasure of sitting at one of those lower tables by the round stage.

Another part of that pre-dinner hour was spent “watching” two of the luau hosts dig up the roasting pig from beneath the dirt. I put “watching” in quotes because I was at the very back of the standing audience, trying to capture each moment on film with my arms stretched all the way up, and trying to accurately aim the lens toward the action while standing on my tippy toes. Needless to say, I didn’t get very many great pictures of that, but it’s still cool to visualize in your head, right?

Then it was time to eat! Our table was the first allowed to go get food, and Kyle and I – no joke – were the first people in the entire place to even touch the food at the buffet. We concluded that we struck it lucky in Maui (there’s a lot more than just being the first people to get food at a luau, but I’ll save it for another post)! Just try to focus on not getting hungry when looking at the following photo:

You can’t really tell in the picture, but the plate is about a foot long. That’s a foot-long of food, people.

A bit shaky of a picture, but it was the only one I got of the buffet full of traditional Hawaiian dishes.

After about 45 minutes of stuffing my face, the hula performances begun! The variety of costumes, styles of dance, and emotions conveyed through those dances were a sight to see. I quite enjoyed it all.

Ask me for a review, I dare ya! Just kidding – I’ll just give it to you now. While I have no other luaus to compare this one to, I would have to say that I was very impressed with Old Lahaina Luau. The only thing I have to get over is the fact that it cost $100 per person, but considering all the other luaus in town cost at least that much, and considering this one was recommended by almost everyone (in person and online), I’d say it was well-worth it. Like I mentioned before, the food was amazing, the service was amazing, and the performances were amazing. It was very family-friendly and it provided a great experience (and great pictures!) overall. Just remember that if you are planning a trip to Maui and would like to attend a luau, your best bet at getting that chance is by reserving (and paying for) your seats well in advance. Also, don’t spend all day on the beach and get dehydrated before the show! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) 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!)
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