Happy Lunar New Year 2013

Roam Fee: $0 + gas money.

I would like to share the joy of Lunar New Year. It is one of my favorite events of the year. Lunar new Year means family gathering, good food, and extra pocket money. When I was young, I was allowed stay up passed midnight in the new year eves to start the year with prayer wishing the family health and prosperity. In the spirit of reliving my childhood memories, I had dragged Pat and the rest of the gang to Hsi Lai Temple to celebrate the new year.

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Although I am half a globe apart from my family, I am glad that I was able to spend the new year with my closest friends who are practically my immediate family here in the United States. This year, celebrating at the temple had become a very spiritual event for me. I am very grateful for everything that I have in life. I hope all of you as well. Happy snake year 2013, I would like to wish everybody health and prosperity!!

Over and out^^
Nor

Drunk in Napa

ROAM FEE: $300+ including gas $, lodging, food and wine tasting.

Even though I do consider myself a foodie, I was never too interested in visiting Napa Valley. Maybe it was because I was not interested in wine and did not have $300+ to spend on a meal. Nor might be more liberal in term of splurging on food but even if she wanted to, there always that guilty feeling at the back of her head for spending that much on food. We didn’t know what to expect in Napa Valley, so we had to rely on some fellow bloggers and good ol’ Yelp. We will definitely recommend signing up for a vineyard tour and wine tasting. If you don’t know much about wine like us, you might want to start with Hendry’s Winery which is highly recommended on Yelp. Otherwise if you know better, then you should definitely hit the winery that serve your favorites.

As you all know, after all we are addicted to hiking so we ended hiking in Napa Valley too. Bothe-Napa Valley State Park offered a few trails overlooking the valley but the end result was a bit underwhelming. The views were mostly obstructed by trees and it was a stroll-in-the-park-kind-of-hike. I’d recommend bicycling around the wineries instead. After this trip, I still can’t get myself to spend that much in a meal but I finally started appreciating wine a bit more.

Enjoy the photos!

xo,

Pat

20130215-001455.jpg One of the winery in the Caneros wine region
20130215-001523.jpg Artesa Vineyards and Winery
20130215-001604.jpg Sunset at Artesa Vineyards and Winery
20130215-001541.jpg Hendry’s Ranch
20130215-001551.jpg Yellow mustard flower blooming this season
20130215-001631.jpg Beautiful piece of quiche from Grace’s Table
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Tiramisu in a jar!
20130215-002626.jpg Ca’Momi’s to-die-for beignets
20130215-002637.jpg Carbonara pizza

P.S. don’t forget to check out the Oxbow Public Market for selections of good food and fresh organic groceries.

Blown Away at Joshua Tree

ROAM FEE: $35 per person including park fee, campground fee, and food + gas$.

I recently made this trip right before X’mas. We got a long weekend and before hanging out with the family during X’mas time I decided to spend sometimes outdoor with Sir Boyfriend. Yes, I know what you all think… this girl must be nuts, who goes camping in the winter. Indeed it was freezing…

BUT it was a unique experience. I always love trying or experiencing something new. Camping in winter is just me expanding my horizon!

I am sure any of us would be able to withstand the temperature without the wind chill. But boy it was super windy! Our little tent was threatened to get blown away any second. We arrived at the camp site past midnight, we couldn’t get a reservation for the first night because we decided on the trip pretty last minute. We tried to pay at the park ranger office but obviously no one was maning the booth at that late hours. By the way, that is the secret to get free stay at the national parks. I definitely do not recommend it because the fee you pay goes to the preservation of the parks and we should support them. On the contrary, who doesn’t like to get free stuff sometimes. =)

Before we went to sleep that night, we made an attempt to capture the beautiful night sky. We just recently purchase a Sony camera and we were playing with it for a couple of hours. It was quite cloudy that night so the night sky was not as spectacular as in the Summer. Here is the outcome of our camera experiment.

We could hardly sleep that night due the cold. I slept on for my purple Thermarest, had my fleece blanket wrapped around my feet and draped my down jacket over the sleeping bag (rated for +25 degree F) as well as my face. After attempting to settle down for a few hours, Sir Boyfriend decided to sleep in the car (his sleeping bag was rated for +40 degree F) when the sun came up at 7am; it was 20 degree F.

We started the day at 9am with very little sleep. We decided to check out the trail right behind our camp ground. The Hi-View is a short 1.3 mile loop trail with pretty nice view at the top. You can see the entire city and all the way to the mountains. Although it was still quite windy, the actually helped a lot in terms of the temperature. Definitely pack your windbreaker if you want to try winter camping in Joshua Tree. Here are snippets on what to expect from the Hi-View trail.

Don’t forget to sign the guest book at the top! This trail didn’t get my full approval since it was missing an important element, guess which one?! (continue reading ’til the end of the post for the answer) Nonetheless, it was short and rewarding. Reception was quite spotty… I couldn’t instantly Instagram the view to you all.

Next we head into the Joshua Tree National Park. Park entrance fee was $15 per vehicle, free if you bike or walk in. The view was fascinating. It was almost like the giants from the past purposely arrange the rocks a certain way. With that said, Joshua Tree is the perfect playground for rock climber of all ages. The short time, we were inside the national park, Sir Boyfriend and I had the opportunity to conquer one of the more strenuous trail: Ryan Mountain, a total of 3 miles hike within 2.5 hours. We spent about 45 mins on the top to admire the view. This 3 miles hike honestly felt like 5 miles. It was 100% sun exposure, constant climb, and surrounded by miles and miles of barren rocks. I think my lizard brain always prefer greener scenery. Up at the 5461 feet elevation, we got the unobstructed view of Lost Horse, Queen, and Pleasant Valleys. Again, no reception at the top =(

Next we headed to Split Rock, it was around 4pm when we got there. We started losing the light and warmth. We decided to just explore the area a little bit and not do the 4 miles hike. Still barren surrounding but this time we got very interesting rock arrangements that reminded us of the “127 hours”.

So… Sir Boyfriend and I tried to be a little creative and recreate our very own “127 hours” posters =p

Obviously it’s not as epic as the real poster, but I am kinda proud of my own version as well. That night we both were too scared of the cold, we ended up sleeping in the car. We slept so much better the second night by far. Before we head back to reality, we were determined to complete 1 more hike. As per the ranger’s recommendation, we hit the 49 Palms Oasis. From the name of the trail, I got a bit excited since I was expecting to see a large body of water. Another 3 miles hike, much better hike than Ryan Mountain in my opinion. It definitely didn’t feel like 5 miles, has more interesting ups and downs and twists and turns. About 3/4 of the way, we saw a group of palm trees in the distance, that’s when we knew we were almost there, to the oasis!! Low and behold! This was what we saw:

Then we turned around…

Hm… we were speechless. OK… we sat there quietly for a few minutes and then we heard a trickle of water in the distance. THERE WAS WATER!!! It was just that we can’t really see it and we can’t access it. Oh well, when I got home I checked the Merriam-Webster dictionary for the definition of an oa·sis: “a fertile or green area in an arid region (as a desert)”. I guess, after all the name was right. I was just expecting too much. We completed the hike short of 2 hours, we spent about 30 mins at the so-called oasis (yes, I am still bitter about it).

That’s the story of my short trip. The take home lesson for me this time is: to think twice before deciding to go camping in the desert during winter time. It was fun though, you should all try winter camping at least once in your life time!

P.S. one of the most important element for me is H2O, if you don’t already conclude 2 paragraphs ago. =)

Over and out~

Nor

The Great Conquest of the Half Dome

ROAM FEE: $150/person including permit fee + accommodation + food + gas $.

One of our top bragging rights is being the survivor of the Yosemite Half Dome Day Hike. Pat and I  did this hike with a group of friends back in July 2011. One of the most athletic person in our group was actually pretty gung-ho about training for the hike. Imagine us dragging our butts every weekend to train in the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook or rather the “Stairway to Hell”. Once in a while, we get the a view like below, but mostly we are just huffing and puffing for 2 hours.

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OK, lets move on to the real deal. Camping in Yosemite was actually quite comfy. Always try to be in the Yosemite Valley for convenience and full service campground. Despite the timeless view of the Valley; the draw back was that Yosemite is a very touristy spot. When we were there over the Independence Day long weekend, it was jam packed with people and traffic was horrible. On the other hand, Yosemite really caters to all types of travelers. You are guaranteed world class view and wide array of activities.

Here is the preview of what we were about to conquer on the 4th of July.

Pat and I were there for a total of 4 days and 3 nights. There were numerous trails and vista points to check out but we highly recommend the Sentinel Dome. We are always in favor of short and sweet hikes. Pat and I completed this super rewarding 2.2 miles on day 1.

P.S. Reception is pristine on the top of Sentinel Dome so don’t forget to brag about your where about on social media of your choice. We know we did!

After this hike, we rushed to Glacier Point Road to view the sunset. Probably one of the most crowded place to be during the sunset. Come early to get the best seat near the edge of the rocks! It was a magical hour when you are bewitched by the beauty of mother nature. It was quite chilly when the sun completely set but it was all worth it. If the world had to end then and there; Pat and I would not want to be anywhere else.

Day 2 was our lazy day in preparation of our great conquest. We rented bicycles and biked around the Valley. The one thing that was vivid in my mind was the bugs. Some bites were as big as half of my fist, itchy like hell, and lasted for more than a few days. But like always, we managed to make the best out of it and biked to the Lower Yosemite Fall. It was a short and rewarding hike with an intimate waterfall experience. This type of hike definitely is right up my alley.

The next day the great conquest begun, we woke up at 4am. It was dark and chilly. Pat and I didn’t really want to add more weight; thus, we decided to ditch the DSLR. We had to settle with our iPhone camera. To me, one of the most memorable parts of the hike (aside from the Cable) was the Mist Trail. It should be called the “Shower Trail” in Summer. We were quickly drenched even though we brought our waterproof gears. Sadly, we couldn’t document this experience because we didn’t want to ruin our phone. The half dome hike was probably one of the prettiest trails we have ever hiked. It offered variety of sceneries including staircases, waterfalls, greens, cliffs, mountains, and valleys. Due to the nature of the total elevation gain (nearly 5000 ft), we took multiple breaks in between. The top of Vernal Fall was quite sheltered to make a pit stop, the sound of the water was super soothing.

7 hours later when we reached the Sub Dome, we started doubting our selves: “What did we get our selves into!!!”, “Why did we decide to do this?”. But we prevailed through the crazy stairs switchback! Our training at the “Stairway to Hell” actually paid off. We regrouped on top of the Sub Dome, had a nice lunch and rest. An hour later, we faced the last hump: the famous 400 ft on 45 degree incline Yosemite Cable!!

I felt like 75% of the experience on this hike was being able to conquer the Cable. The good feeling doubled when you get to the top of the Half Dome. It was almost surreal when we reached the top. Definitely comparable to the feeling of conquering another country! Ok maybe we exaggerated it by a wee bit but not by a lot bit. There were big patches of snow here and there when we were there. Pat and I spent about an hour at the top. We were warned that the storm was approaching and we should be making our way down before it reached us. Being roasted midway down the Cable was not included in the itinerary. To reward your patience, here is the view near the Jumping Board.

After all that magnificence, the way back from the Half Dome was a total snooze to us. Our energy had depleted and so we turned into the whiner and complainer duo. Did we mention that we ran out of water?! Luckily one of our group members had a water filter on him (Thank you for saving our lives Sean!). While he was getting our water ready, we soaked our tired feet in the freezing water. The water took away some of the soreness, quite relieving since we still have about 6-7 miles more to go. We literally dragged our selves back to the camp after that point, whining, and complaining. 16 miles – 14 hours later, we were exhausted and proud. We slept so well that night.

Before we part ways with Yosemite, we wanted to take a final look to bide our goodbye. We made our ways to the Tunnel View on our way out of the national park. The Tunnel View deserved a commendation for its effect. It was like taking a lung-full of air after you held your breath through a vacuum tunnel. Although this spot is highly flogged with tourist, it offered the timeless view of the El Capitan, the valley, and Bridalveil Fall. It was a sweet ending to our trip.

The take away message here is to bring for the Half Dome hike:

  1. Half Dome permit: need this to pass the cable, there is no exception.
  2. Water: about 3-4 liters per person. It could a combination of water and gatorade.
  3. Food: it could be as simple as tons of energy bars. Pat’s fave was the chocolate chip Clif Bar and Nor’s was the oatmeal raisin walnut Clif Bar. Those of you who are willing to bring more can pack sandwiches =).
  4. Clothes: there is a big temperature range. Layers will help you stay cool or warm as needed. Don’t forget to pack your waterproof jacket. Gaiter is optional to prevent your feet from being drenched in the Mist Trail.
  5. Good pair of shoes: you need to make sure they are completely broken in. You don’t want any blisters, especially not in this trip.
  6. Gloves: this is an important item to improve grip on the Cable.
  7. Backpack with waist strap: this helps you shift the weight to your hip and ease up your shoulders.
  8. Headlamp: unless you are super fit, chances are you are either going to start in the dark or end in the dark.
  9. Camera!! How else are you going to document the epic trip?!
  10. And an island full of motivation: we don’t care where you find it, you will need it when you have a moment of doubt like Pat and I.

This was a turning point in our lives. We were never athletic, and we never believed it was possible for us to finish it. But we did it, and you can too, if you put your mind into it. Now, it’s your turn to make your very own Yosemite memory…

P.S. Don’t forget to share your experience with us in the comment box.

Love,

Pat and Nor.

One Lazy Sunday at Vasquez Rocks

ROAM FEE: $0 + gas $.

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To spice up my lazy Sunday, I decided to visit this beautiful hiking site about 45 minutes away from Los Angeles. Highly recommended by my artist friends; Vasquez Rocks is a unique blend of desert feel in the city setting. It is a perfect get away site for those of you who like to get intimate with nature. Wonderful for climbers-to-be and also hikers who are eager to share the experience with their pets. Remember to pack your hiking boots, plenty of water, and sunscreen.

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The best things about this site are: it’s free of charge, family friendly, and absolutely no restrictions. You can practically climb where ever and how ever you like.

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Here is the view from the tip of the rock…

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Best advice I heard while I’m on site: “When in doubt, get on you butt!”

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Over and out,

Nor

Los Liones Mini Getaway

ROAM FEE: $0 + gas $.

Last weekend, Nor and I finally went on a short and sweet 4 hours hike together. Los Liones Trail is about 15 minutes drive from home, so we basically did not spend anything in this ‘mini getaway’, not even for parking! This hike has a lot of good reviews on yelp, so both Nor and I were definitely expecting it to be interesting.

The hike is about 7.2 miles and it is composed of 2 parts. The first part is a single track trail, and you go into the lush canyons of Topanga State Park.  At the end of the single track trail, you have the amazing view of the ocean, Downtown LA and beyond.  This first part will probably take you less than an hour round-trip.  If you decided to continue on to Parker Mesa, you will now be hiking on fire roads, which are definitely less fun than single track trails.  You do gain some elevation, but the hike itself is pretty easy. On clear days (such as the day we were there), you can enjoy the views from the Pacific Ocean all the way to Mount Baldy and San Jacinto Peak! If you are in LA, and you want to see the city from a different perspective, this hike definitely meets all expectations. Enjoy the pictures!

Single Track Trail

View at the end of the single track trail

Sun slowly setting

Pacific Ocean and Downtown LA

Parker Mesa View

Love,

Pat & Nor

Crash Course to Laguna Niguel

ROAM FEE: $9/person + food + gas $.

Since I’m not on-call this weekend, I felt like getting away from the city. Last minute planning and limited time made me travel like a bum this time. You’ll find out soon enough with what I meant by “traveling like a bum”…

First destination: The Top of The World Park

I was contemplating whether to see the view in the light or in the dark. Since I left Los Angeles at 11pm, I ended up deciding that maybe I should be at the Top of The World at night. The night lights would be a spectacular view, I thought. So much for wanting to see the night light… When I get there it was super foggy and dark, I was walking around the park in “Blair Witch Project” mode with my little lantern. This left me no choice but to come back in the morning.

From there I headed out to my camp site around 12:30am. Guess what?! I couldn’t find the camp ground because I was driving in the dark and obviously didn’t do enough research. I decided I shouldn’t waste any more time driving around and just sleep in my car: at the Top of The World!! It was my first time having to sleep overnight in my car, my first time feeling like I’m traveling like a bum. The feeling was proven not too bad!! I saved $ for accommodation, SCORE!!

Rise and shine to this view on Sunday.

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20121210-001516.jpgAlta Laguna Park

Second destination: Crystal Cove State Beach

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I pretty much had the beach to myself!! I stopped by for an hour or so to check out the tide pools and enjoy the sun.

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Final destination: Mission San Juan Capistrano

Beautiful historical site for a small fee. The Spanish church ruins is undergoing a face lift at this moment but none the less it was still very pretty.

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20121210-004033.jpgThe interior of Serra’s Church

Overall this short trip feels quite fun and rustic.

P.S. a little something to brighten up your day… Smiling whale shaped mussel community in the Crystal Cove tide pool. Do you see it?!

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Over and out,
Nor

Business Trip in AZ – Camelback Inn

ROAM FEE: None, Boss paid!

I’m very lucky to have a job I truly enjoy. Working in advertising can be very stressful and fun at the same time. Last week, I went to Scottsdale for a three day conference. While I don’t looove traveling for work, I usually go to some really cool places I otherwise would not go to, and that can always be fun. We stayed in a historical resort, which was beautiful and full of charm. Unfortunately, I did not have time for a hike, but I heard the hike right behind the resort was beautiful. Full of tall and interesting cacti. Enjoy the pictures!

20121211-205636.jpgResort Main Building

20121211-231208.jpgLodging

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20121211-205806.jpgSwimming Pool

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20121211-230945.jpgChilling by the Fire

xo,

Pat

Thanksgiving in Bryce!

The thought of camping in Bryce Canyon during Thanksgiving was definitely dreadful. The temperature was as low as 23°F (!!), and the drive from LA was awfully long (8+ hours). Incredibly enough, the dreadful feeling always goes away as soon as we arrive at our destination.

Looking down the Canyon from the overlooks can be majestic. However, that is just skimming the surface. You really need to hike into the canyon to experience it fully. You no longer just see distant, cold and untouchable hoodoos. The experience becomes intimate, warm, and dynamic. The scenery changes in every turn, or even as time passes and the sun hits the canyon in different ways.

We experienced 2 hikes:  Bryce’s  most popular Navajo trail (super rewarding 1.3 miles roundtrip hike), and the Peek-a-Boo loop hike (5.5 miles). Enjoy the pics!


Peek-a-boo loop trail (5.5 miles)

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Peek-a-boo loop trail (5.5 miles)

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Navajo Loop Trail (1.3 miles)

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Navajo Loop Trail (1.3 miles)

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Navajo Loop Trail (1.3 miles)

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Navajo Loop Trail (1.3 miles)

XO,

Pat

Happy Thanksgiving from Zion National Park

ROAM FEE: $25/vehicle + food + gas $.

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Emerald Pool Trail

This time we have to spend the Thanksgiving holiday away from each other. TT___TT Pat is in Bryce Canyon while I am in Zion. Although it’s not too far apart it felt weird not traveling together. On the other hand we always try to make the best out of the situation. This meant that we roam two places at the same time.

20121129-232109.jpg The Grotto Trail

Zion is best during Fall season. I fell in love with the weather and color. I wish I have the time to camp there. That’s definitely in my checklist for the upcoming year. Zion is perfect for people like Pat and I. Super practical hikes and not too strenuous. The brochures definitely over estimated the average hike time. During the 5 hours I was there, I was able to cover 5 trails, minus the Angel’s Landing Trail, which is the most popular hike in Zion. Too bad I was not well equipped for it but I will definitely do it when I’m back. My favorite hike so far is the Hidden Canyon Trail. Fun, dynamic, and rewarding.

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Hidden Canyon Trail

If you are in Vegas area, Zion is only a short 2.5 hours drive. It has all the “Nor approved” elements in each of the hike: warm sun, beautiful view, fresh air, non-strenuous, and of course water.

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P.S. When you get to the end of the Hidden Canyon Trail, if you are adventurous and equipped with a GPS, follow the trail to the left to explore the bottom of the canyon. And if you follow the trail to the right, you’ll find an epic view like below.

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Over and out!
Nor