One Week, Three National Parks

You didn’t think I could actually move within 45 minutes of the gates to Yosemite and wait more than 24 hours to check it out, did you? Because I couldn’t.

I flew back in to Portland Wednesday night, got a few hours of sleep and headed south! I got to Fresno after a little trek down the Oregon coast…

Until I eventually hit California and Redwood National Park! I didn’t get a chance to do a ton of exploring, but it was still cool to drive through the scenic highways surrounded by the giant trees!

I got to my “home” for the next three months on Friday, and Saturday morning I was up and driving up 41 in to Yosemite! I did a little research on some shorter hikes with killer views, since I was pretty out of hiking-shape and didn’t want to commit to a long day. I ended up driving to Tunnel View – not realizing that I passed the hikes I planned on going to, on my way there. Regardless, it was a cool view, albeit, WAY overcrowded.

I retraced my way in to the park and headed back towards the road to Glacier Point. I realized later in the day that it was a “holiday” weekend (Columbus Day), so now I see why it was so insanely crowded. I hate crowds. Especially when I just want to hike and embrace nature and you’re stuck behind a family of 6 with small children screaming.. *eye roll*.

I did the Sentinel Dome hike, which was short but worth it! Great views of El Capitan…

And Half Dome…

Once that was finished, I kept going down the road and reached the parking lot for Glacier Point. If you’re planning on going here, I highly recommend going EARLY. I waited 30 minutes just to get in to the parking lot and got so annoyed that I just ended up driving around everyone. I ended up finding a spot on the side of the road on my way out, which was lucky but I snagged it. I made my way over to Glacier Point…

It was a solid introductory day to Yosemite!

This past weekend I got to go check out Sequoia! I stopped at General Sherman… The largest known tree, by volume, in the world.

I ventured around the Congress Trail where I saw the President…

& the Senate…

After about three miles I made it back to my car. My next stop… Moro Rock!

This was a short, super steep hike, up a bunch of stairs…

That led to a panoramic view of the High Sierras and the valley!

My last stop for the day was around the corner at Crescent Meadow! I ended up reading my directions wrong and walked about 2 miles more than I was supposed to, but it was all beautiful so no complaints! Eagle View, a section of the High Sierra trail, was my plan…

So in my first week at my new assignment, I’ve successfully checked 3 National Parks off the list!

Next up: King’s Canyon 🙂

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Picking the Next Adventure

When people asked where my next stop was and I excitedly told them: “Fresno, CA!”, I got a mix of responses. Anything from “Where’s that?”, to “Oh, that’s a sketchy town”, to “What’s in Fresno?.”

Before I pick a contract, I definitely like to do my research. Besides looking up the facility that I would be working in, I like to focus my search on a few key areas:

  • Safety of the area – what’s the crime rate in the area? Are there neighborhoods that are safer than others? Can I go for a run without having to watch my back/avoid certain areas?
  • Walk score – this is something I didn’t know existed until I started travel and was looking up apartments often. A Walk Score for a certain area basically will tell you how walkable this area is; do you need a car to do most of your errands or can you walk to a local store/bar/restaurant? Along with the Walk score is often a transit score, a bike score, and going along with the safety, a crime grade.
  • Run-ability – This is one that is important to me because I am an avid runner. I don’t want to be restricted to a treadmill or the same old loop in a park. Running is one of my favorite ways of exploring a new area, so I want to know what types of trails are available to me. This isn’t a must-have, but it is something I look in to.
  • Rent prices – this is an obvious one. I need to know what I’m going to be making and how it relates to the cost of living in that area. Can I afford to get my own place (which I prefer 99% of the time), or do I have to maybe consider a roommate? What are the pros and cons of each option? Also along with rent, looking up where my facility is in relation to my apartment. Do I pay more to be closer to my facility? Or can I get away with being a little further away to pay less? Are there even short term, furnished places available in this area?
  • Activities in the area! This one was probably my biggest sway with this Fresno assignment, as explained below. But I want to know what I’ll be able to enjoy on the weekends at an assignment. Am I going to be in the middle of no where with nothing to explore? Are there national parks nearby? Do I know anyone nearby? Does it seem like I can make friends easily?

So why Fresno?

This. Yosemite National Park is about an hour from where I will be living. Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks aren’t too much further. Proximity to National Parks was a huge pull to accept this assignment when I was faced with the choice of two different opportunities. Don’t worry, I’ve already calculated that Pinnacles NP is 2.5 hours, Channel Islands NP is 3.5 hours, and Joshua Tree, Lassens Volcanic and Death Valley NPs are each 5.5 hours away. 

Fresno is slightly under 3 hours to San Francisco and a little over 3 hours to LA. I have a friend from college who lives in San Francisco, and I have a friend in LA until December while she finishes up her final PA school clinical – it will be great to be able to meet up with both of them while I’m out there!

Cost of living in Fresno is pretty low compared to the coastal town that I turned down the offer for. I debated going for my own place and paying more money – but ultimately I decided that I could save a ton of money (aka put all of that towards loans), if I found a room to stay in. So I hit Facebook groups and similar websites to search for affordable living situations. I came across a woman offering a room and private bath for well under my expectations and gladly accepted her offer.

Another reason I chose Fresno was for the facility that I will be working in. This assignment will challenge me in ways that I haven’t been challenged yet in my 2 years as a PT. It’s a new-to-me setting, but something that I’ve wanted to get in to since school. When the facility was willing to train me and take me in, knowing that my experience was minimal in this setting, I knew I had to jump on the chance and take this next 3 months as a learning experience. Like I always say – you can do anything for three months. 

As for making friends, I’m hoping things fall together just as easily as they did in Oregon. But who knows. I’ve looked in to different gyms and have searched for co-ed soccer leagues, since that’s something from Philly that I miss so much. I actually just bought a Groupon for spin classes at a facility close to work – I figure that might be a good way to meet some people my age. I always have the Facebook groups to reach out to, and maybe my facility will have some people around my age that like to explore and will be my hiking buddy.

So today, I say goodbye-for-now to my family and the East Coast, board the plane back to Oregon, grab my car and all of my belongings, and start my trek down the coast to the Sunshine State. I’ve already planned a few stops along the way and I can’t wait for this next adventure!

One Contract Down…

And just like that, my first travel contract has ended and I am now enjoying a little break on the East Coast before diving in to contract number two. So let’s chat.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself in to.. starting something so brand new and foreign to me was terrifying. It was something that I knew needed to happen – I was just in a place in my life where I felt stuck; I was in a rut and needed a change. But all of that didn’t make it less terrifying. Picking up and leaving behind everything that you know: your routine, your best friends, your family, your work, your comfort… That was the hardest thing. Leaving everything behind. But I knew that if I didn’t do it, I would always wonder, what am I missing out on?

So I told my self: Self. It’s only three months. You can do anything for three months. If you hate it, home will always be there. So I went. And I am so happy that I did.

Fortunately, I was blessed with a great first contract. My coworkers were great, I got an actual orientation (that I actually asked if I could get less and get on the floors), the nurses were more than welcoming and became great friends, and I really just enjoyed my time there. The hospital was smaller which made for easier orientation, given that I was used to hospitals twice it’s size. It definitely had it’s challenges, as any new job does. Figuring out each doctor’s protocols and what papers each post-op patient needs and how to decipher the orders in the computer system and getting to know the nurses so that they know me and know when to ask for me. All of that became easier over time but it took some adjusting – and even my last week I was learning things that I didn’t know I was supposed to be doing the entire time…. whoops.

Having a good place to work definitely made my adjustment to the travel life a bit easier. Another thing that helped was making two great friends from the start of my contract.

These two made the last three months so much better. I was terrified of not making friends and not finding anyone that I wanted to hang out with, and was so blessed to find these two via social media.

Whether we were exploring somewhere with just two of us, or all three of us were able to get together, we were always having a great time.

Making this move across country was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s been hard – it’s never easy to see your friends thousands of miles away doing things together or only seeing your brand new nephew via social media cause you haven’t had the chance to meet him yet. But, mentally, I’m in a really good place right now. I’m learning more about myself than I ever knew. I’m putting myself in uncomfortable situations and surviving. I’m exploring new-to-me places and getting to experience adventure that I never would have been able to experience. I’m making life-long friends in places I never thought I would ever be.

I’m living my best life, the best way I know how – exploring, adventuring, taking risks, letting loose.

Never stop exploring.

So my adventure continues now… After spending some time here on the East coast, visiting friends and family, I’ll be flying back to Oregon, grabbing my car that’s packed with my entire life – and driving down the coast to my next adventure: Fresno, California.

North Cascades Adventure

A few weekends before my contract was up, a few of my fellow travel friends and I hit the road headed way north to escape the horrible valley smoke we were all inhaling for a week. The wild fires have been so horrible this year in Oregon – worse than other years, I’m told – and it’s literally been like you’re walking around inside of a campfire whenever you’re outside. We were happy to get away a bit, even though it meant a good bit of driving.

Devon picked me up on her way North from Roseburg, then we hit Albany and joined up with Kristen – then we were off to Everett, Washington! Devon has some travel friends living there and they gratefully offered up their couch/floor space to us so that we could go explore North Cascades National Park!

The night started out smoothly… Until Kristen’s car decided to pop a tire, on I-5, in the middle of Washington, still 100+ miles from Everett. Ugh. We called AAA, they said it would take them over an hour, we said okay… We hung up then said, let’s just change it ourselves! We “phoned-a-friend” and he walked us through it and within 20 mins, we had a new tire on there! Now I can say I know how to change a flat tire, life lessons. We hit the road and finally got up to Everett a little after midnight – we immediately went to sleep. Upon waking up, we first had to get Kristen a new tire. We stopped at a diner while she sorted that out then joined us while we waited for the car. Eventually we were on our way to North Cascades!

Our original plan was for a pretty intense (what we thought was 8 miles but found out at the visitors center, it was not) 10 mile hike with a 5000′ gain. But with the late start – we didn’t get in to the park until noon – the weather, it was raining and super windy, and recommendations from the rangers at the visitors center, we opted to skip that hike and think about doing a shorter one.

Our first stop though: Diablo Lake!

The hike we were planning on would have taken us to one of the peaks above Diablo, giving you an incredible view of the surrounding mountains and of course, the stunning blue of Diablo Lake. The lookout was just as stunning, rain and wind and all.

As we drove through the park, we passed trailheads and read up on them as we passed them, initially planning on going for a 7 miler. We ended up stopping at Washington Pass Lookout and, you guys…

Unreal.

Epic views.

We ended up scratching the 7 miler at this point and ended up going for the 4 mile hike to Blue Lake. I like that our day went from YEAH 8 mile hike! to NO 10 mile hike. to 7 mile hike! to Yeah lets just do 4. It was the perfect day though just exploring. That’s the thing about national parks – you really can just drive through them and experience so much.

Blue Lake trail was easy to moderate – there were some up and downs but it levels off around the middle in a meadow.

And before you know it you’re there!

I went around and explored different view points while my friends went the other way, my direction was a dead end with less views so I went to meet up with them on the other side. We found the perfect spot to relax and drink a beer.

It started to rain a bit harder so we packed up our stuff and hit the road back to Everett. Our night consisted of drinking beers, ordering in Chinese food and playing card games – basically laughing and just enjoying each others company. It was a great weekend away!

 

Mountain Obsessed

I love the mountains. The mountain air. The snow caps. The sky line views. The overwhelming power that these massive structures hold. The way that they can make you, and all of the world’s problems, feel so small. Mountains may be one of my favorite things that Mother Nature has blessed us with.

With only a few weekends left in Oregon, I knew I needed to get up to Washington at some point and last weekend was it. The mountains were calling to me, so up to Mount Rainier I went!

I left after work on Saturday and drove the 4+ hours up to Tacoma where I booked a hotel for the night. It was less than stellar and I got a horrible nights sleep, but I woke up at 6am ready to tackle some mountains!

First up: Burroughs Mountain Trail

This trail started at the Sunrise parking lot area. I got there around 9am and was ready to roll – I wanted to get there earlier but even in Tacoma I was still about 2 hours from the trailhead. The parking lot wasn’t too full yet and I got a great spot. Off I went!

This trail was great, albeit, tough. The link above will take you to the AllTrails description of this hike. There are 3 Burroughs, the First, Second, and Third. Most people hike to the 2nd Burroughs and turn back, making it about a 6 mile hike. I opted to push on further and continued to the 3rd Burroughs which made is 8.8 miles round trip – according to my Garmin.

It was very exposed with zero covering which made for a very hot trail, even with getting there so early. The end views were SO worth it though. From the top of the third Burroughs, you’re pretty much staring Mt. Rainier in the face, and are able to check out the beautiful glaciers all along the Northeast side of the mountain.

Absolutely stunning.

After the trek back – I ended up jogging any of the straight aways and I made it back in under 3 hours – I was ready for a cold drink and some AC. I stopped in the gift shop for a Gatorade and a sticker, then hopped in my car and made my way around the park to the Paradise Inn for one of the more popular trails – Skyline.

When I say this is more popular, I mean, oh my goodness-people-get-out-of-my-way popular. It was pretty annoying, there were a ton of people in the beginning with lots of kids and it was a STEEP climb from the get go. So definitely go early to avoid crowds – I didn’t get there until about 1 or 2 I think. So not only was it scorching hot at this point (with again, no cover), but the crowds of people were frustrating.

But, I didn’t let the people take away from the amazing views of the South side of the mountain…

You got pretty close to the mountain and the glaciers, but not as intensely as with the Burroughs. One amazing thing was that I could hear the cracking of the glaciers. I didn’t notice it at first, then when I realized what it was, I just stared at the mountain in awe. Ugh, Mother Nature just gets me.

This hike was a pretty steady climb in the beginning, leveled out a bit, then another steep climb on some rocky ground, before eventually descending down rocks. I think I shortened this one a bit and didn’t do the whole 5.5 miles – it was hot, I was tired, my legs are hurting, and I had a 4.5 hour drive ahead of me. 

It was such an epic day though. Just what the doctor ordered – 14.5 miles, over 3,000 feet gain for the day (maybe even 4,000+), just me, my thoughts and the mountains.

 

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Oh, Hey!

And just like that, it’s been over a month since I last posted. Looks like we have a lot of catching up to do…

I’m now more than halfway finished with my contract. Whoa. Time has certainly flown by and it’s making me anxious and excited for where I’m heading next. I don’t know where I’ll be, but I know it’ll be an awesome adventure. So what have I been up since we last chatted? Hiking, duh. And working. And meeting friends. And falling deeper in love with the PNW.

I’ve seen a lot of waterfalls… like, a lot.

I ran the Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park, which featured, obviously, ten waterfalls.

South Falls – I started here at the South parking lot
North Falls – One of my favorites of the 10!
Upper North Falls – photo cred to the couple I kept creeping up behind

I went up to the Columbia River Gorge area and saw Multnomah Falls, the tallest in Oregon.

And checked out Horsetail Falls…

And even hiked through waist deep water to get to Oneonta Falls! (Disclaimer: the hike to get to Oneonta was pretty epic, through a canyon and along (in) the creek – BUT, it was so, freaking, crowded. Like, families bringing small children and dogs over these huge log-jams which meant more waiting time for others (I went around the line and climbed up a different way). It definitely took away from the experience a bit)

While in the Gorge, we checked out Punchbowl Falls as well…

More recently I checked out Silver and Golden Falls, outside of Coos Bay…

Silver Falls
Golden Falls

And last weekend, I went and explored Salt Creek Falls, extending my hike to see Diamond Creek Falls!

Who knew Oregon had so many dang waterfalls?! 238, to be exact… I just Googled it. 

I got to experience Crater Lake National Park in all of it’s incredible, epic beauty.

A butterfly actually landed on my finger…
Mount Scott

And my personal favorite picture, unedited…

I went to a Portland Timbers game! And they won!

I went to the coast and hiked, then watched the sunset at Cannon Beach…

Hug Point
Cape Lookout – it was like a rainforest, and there was no look out due to fog 😦
Cape Falcon

And I climbed a little mountain…

Those layers though…

 

I only have FOUR weekends left in Oregon, unless I decide to extend my contract, which I would only do if I can’t find anything that I want. But that just means I have to make the most of these next four weekends!

Unfortunately, the forest fires have been pretty bad out here and are ruining a lot of my plans – including a 12-mile summit hike we were planning on doing in 3 weeks… which as of right now, the trail is closed due to fires. Ugh. But we have a plan B, which is to head up to Mount Rainier, so either way it will be a great weekend!

I’ll try to be better about posting – at least once a week so I can really tell y’all about my weekends, rather than just photo dumping things on ya!

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First Few Weekends

As mentioned before, I reached out on Facebook before getting in to Eugene in hopes to find fellow travelers in the are to make friends. Luckily, two girls reached out and I’ve had such a great time getting out and exploring with them these first few weekends! Friends?!

I don’t know if you all have ever been in a place where you know zero people, but it’s hard to find people to be your friend. And when you finally do make plans, oh my gosh, I felt like I was going on a first date. What if she doesn’t like me? What do I wear? What if I don’t like her and want to make an escape? Will she think I’m cool?! Will she even want to be my friend?! Am I trying too hard?! All of these thoughts and a million others run through my brain. But you just have to be confident, go in there, and make a friend. Yay friends!

First Weekend

I met up with a fellow traveler down in Roseburg for an Arts festival – which really meant we skipped the art and went straight to the beer tents. She’s also from the east coast so we had a great time chatting and I got to pick her brain with all of my traveler related questions.

The next day I met up with a friend who actually worked with one of my best friends from PT school – naturally I knew she would be the perfect friend to explore with! We ended up heading down to the coast to Florence where we grabbed lunch before heading for a few hikes!

We went to Thor’s Well, Heceta Head Lighthouse, and trail along the Oregon Coast.

Second Weekend

Weekend two was filled with more hikes and a relaxing day by some epic pools. Explained best by pictures, here’s a photo dump.

First up, Devon and I headed to Lincoln City to check out a few hikes; God’s Thumb:

Next: Cascade Head Trail, a 4.2 mile, 1,200 foot elevation gain hike.

And last, Drift Creek Falls – my first waterfall hike!

On Monday, I headed about 2 hours north to the Opal Creek Wilderness to Three Pools, and omg

 

I could not believe how clear the water was! It was such a great day and I even worked up the courage to jump off one of the smaller “cliffs”. Yolo?

I now understand why travelers always say that it’s like they’re on vacation every weekend – I can’t wait to keep exploring this beautiful land!