In this video, we head out to Joshua Tree National Park on the maiden voyage of our new four-wheel pop-up camper named “Rose”. We explore some of the park’s back roads, make biscuits and pizza in the camp oven, take a hike to Barker Dam, and spend lots of hours in the camper playing Yahtzee before we decide to come back a day early due to some unrelenting wind. Buckle up and come along for this weekend’s adventure to one of our favorite National Parks!

Let me start off by saying I am using the term “hiking” really loosely here. This is definitely more of a walk. But, I have learned that different people have different definitions of hiking, so keeping with the theme of my site, we’ll go out on a limb and call it “hiking.”

This trail is located in the hilly neighborhoods of San Clemente, CA, and as the name would suggest, follows a ridgeline with million dollar homes on one side and dry rolling hills on the other. The trail is paved with small dirt side trails for mountain bikers or hikers.

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Just to the west of the sleepy little town of Lone Pine, California lies an incredible area to explore on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, Alabama Hills. This sparse area studded with cool rock formations and high desert flora is also the gateway to the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, sitting at 14,505′. This is also happens to be where Brian and I got engaged after a long and magical (and sometimes painful) week on the High Sierra Trail.

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Nestled between the neighborhoods in Orange, CA lies 340 acres of beautiful park known as Peters Canyon Regional Park. Here, you’ll find a decent size reservoir, miles of hiking and biking trails, and great wildlife and bird watching opportunities. There is also another thing that you’ll find lots of… people.

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In the hills above southern Orange County, you’ll find an abundance of trails for hikers and mountain bikers alike in the San Juan Capistrano Recreational Trail System. One of the more popular trails because of its stunning views and flagpole at the end is Patriot Hill, which is also fondly called the Rollercoaster Trail because the many ups and downs.

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In the north end of Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll find one of five fan palm oases in the park. Here, there are cracks in the hard earth’s surface that have forced water to the top and provide the opportunity for beautiful and lush fan palms to thrive in an otherwise inhospitable environment. The shade, water, and vegetation creates a welcome sight for desert critters and hikers alike.

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A little over two hours east of Los Angeles, you’ll find Joshua Tree National Park and some of the most incredible desert landscape in Southern California. The park runs 60 miles west to east and 30 miles north to south. Within its boundaries, there are two separate and distinct deserts – the Mojave and the Colorado. In the northeast Mojave desert section, you’ll see whimsical Joshua trees and large boulder formations that look like they belong on Mars. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful section of the park. In the southwest Colorado desert area, you’ll find a much more vast landscape that makes you feel like you are the only person on earth.

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This is the second year in a row that we have decided to skip the crowded beaches and head to the mountains for a very quiet Fourth of July. When we planned this trip several months ago, we thought, ‘what’s a better place than heading to American Lake in Desolation Wilderness to celebrate our country’s birthday?’

I had stumbled upon American Lake five years earlier when on a backpacking trip to nearby Lake of the Woods. I remember thinking it would be a great place to camp and made a point to return there, which is exactly what we did this weekend and it could not have been more perfect.

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“Third time’s the charm” has never had as much meaning as it did this past weekend. The last two years in a row I have had permits to backpack Big Pine Lakes, but for reasons due to weather, fire, and Elton John, they have all been cancelled (and yes, Elton was totally worth it on his Yellow Brick Road tour). This past weekend, those backpacking dreams came true and I laid my eyes on what might be one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen.

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My soul was seriously thirsty for some fresh air in my lungs and dirt under my feet. You see, I’m currently in Orange County, CA about to approach one of the hardest weekends of my life. This weekend we’ll say “goodbye” to my mom at her funeral followed by the burial on Catalina Island.

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Scout Lookout and Angels Landing boast some of the most picturesque views of Zion Canyon in the whole park. With sweeping 360 degree vistas, you can easily understand why this is one of the more popular hikes in the park. There are no permits required for this trail, and in the summer, you can see lines of hikers dotting the cliffside. We hiked the trail in the middle of January during a short three-day road trip. While the crowds weren’t as bad as they are in the summer months, there were still a fair amount of other hikers when we started at 1:30 pm.

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Utah is an amazingly beautiful state from north, south, east, and west. With a state that has so much to explore, we had no shortage of things to do in our three short days spent in southwestern Utah. The hardest part of our brief trip was narrowing it down to a few key things and deciding what we would have to wait and do until our next trip. Another factor at play was the weather since it is the middle of January. Luckily, we had some nice days, but there was a fair amount of snow and ice to contend with from a previous storm.

All-in-all, our three days in Utah could not have worked out better. Some of our adventures were: hiking to Scout Lookout and Angels Landing, wading through the Narrows, exploring Belly of the Dragon, playing on the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, scrambling up to (and down from) the Kanab Sand Caves, viewing Bryce Canyon at sunrise, and wandering through Snow Canyon.

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With winter quickly approaching, I was glad to be able to get in one last backpacking trip before the snow flies in Lake Tahoe. Temperatures are already pretty chilly in the Sierra, so we headed to Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes is a beautiful stretch of protected land approximately 1 hour north of San Francisco. The beaches are pristine, the bluffs impressive, and the views extensive. It is definitely a beautiful place to visit whether you are backpacking or just exploring for a day. We were also blessed to experience beautiful weather for mid-November.

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Guess what?! On August 17, 2019, Brian and I did a thing! We got married! After getting engaged on Mt. Whitney last summer and a year of planning, we had the most amazing wedding in Crystal Cove, CA. I’ll write another post on that after I have wedding pictures, but in the meantime, I have to share how amazing our honeymoon was in Fiji!

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The Sierra Nevada mountains have always had piece of my heart… and now, more than ever. Since I was a child, I’ve called these majestic mountains home. I grew up in Lake Tahoe, nestled in the northern part of the Sierra Nevada range. I’ve covered countless trails, explored many peaks, and camped under the stars. However, it wasn’t until I hiked the High Sierra Trail (HST) that I truly had an appreciation for everything that makes these mountains so magical. Not to mention, I promised the love of my life my hand in marriage from the top of the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, at the end of our trip!

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Last weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to explore Yosemite with Brian and a few of our friends. I had driven through Yosemite before, but had never hiked here, which was something truly humbling. We hiked the Half Dome trail, which was about 15 miles with 4,000 feet of vertical gain. The trail climbs past Vernal and Nevada Falls, meanders past the beautiful Merced river, and then makes the final ascent toward Half Dome. It was definitely one of the most demanding hikes I have ever done.

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I’m still on a high from my backpacking trip on the Lost Coast Trail this past week. You can read about that adventure here. One of the things that I didn’t include in my original post is what I ate, but it is definitely not something to be overlooked. Finding delicious ways to stay fueled on the trail can be tricky, but with a simple dehydrator, you can make some awesome recipes, like the one below.

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The Lost Coast Trail stretches a rugged section of the Northern California coastline where the redwoods meet the sea. It begins at the mouth of the Mattole River and travels south to Usal Beach. There are two sections of the trail. The north section is 25 miles and follows the beach from the Mattole trailhead to Black Sands Beach.  The south section begins at Hidden Valley and travels 29 miles south atop the ocean cliffs and redwood forests. This past week, I had the opportunity to backpack the northern section with one of my closest girlfriends. What follows is a video of our trip and a written summary with some tips and learnings from our journey.

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For the longest time I have dreamed of exploring the Oregon coast and Redwood National Park in Northern California. This past weekend, we made a quick trip, but were sure to get in every ounce of adventure we could in the short amount of time we had. We were also able to get in a precious visit with one of my longest and closest friends who just had a baby. Below are some of the highlights from our trip. I can’t wait to go back!

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There’s no better compliment from Brian than, “this is blog worthy,” when I am experimenting with a new recipe. The inspiration for this recipe originally came from a Cooking Light email that landed in my inbox, but there was one thing wrong. It called for an InstaPot. I haven’t quite jumped on the InstaPot bandwagon yet, but this recipe still sounded like I needed to give it a try. It was a cold winter night and I needed a fiesta in my mouth!

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