Sequoia National Park – The World’s Biggest Trees

This has been the summer of road trips.  We take every spare moment and pack in some camping or hiking, no excuses or exceptions.  Driving into the Sierra Nevada Mountains in central California is always a treat.  Either by entering from the eastern desert or the western grasslands, the drive up always brings a sense of excitement into my heart.  Carrie had spent time there last year, but this would be my first time camping and hiking in Sequoia National Park – land of the world’s biggest trees.

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Entering Sequoia National Park we finally escaped the lingering smoke of the Central Valley.  It had been a hard summer for California wildfires, and we were thankful that the smoke was not in the park at the moment.  The trees got bigger and bigger and soon we were driving through the Giant Forest, feeling quite small in our Prius, but comforted by the calming energy of the amazing nature.

We camped at Lodgepole Campground, at a beautiful spot near a stream at the end of the road.  There was a little waterfall which created a constant calming flow and the sites were well spread out with friendly people occupying them.  The first night we went to bed early, ready to do some morning exploring.

Day two was all about trees.  Giant sequoia trees, that is.   We drove all the way in to bordering Kings Canyon National Park and entered the General Grant GroveGrant Tree was in the grove, the second largest tree in the world by volume.  There was also a cool tree you could slide down, and a few trees with big holes at the base where you could enter and hang out inside of the tree.  The sequoia trees don’t rot like normal trees, so when they die they remain standing for many hundreds of years.  We walked through some tunnel-like fallen trees that were used as shelter by the first people to stumble upon the forest.

Driving back into Sequoia towards camp, we made one more stop at the Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world (by volume) and one of the most popular attractions in Sequoia National Park.  This tree was MASSIVE and the energy put off by the world’s biggest trees was hard to ignore.  We got a buzz just by walking around, it was a really special experience.

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The world’s biggest tree, the Sherman Tree!

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Our last day was a hiking day.  We wanted to see some high altitude lakes in Sequoia National Park and maybe do a little swimming, so we asked the rangers for the best way to do that.  We don’t like to disclose locations of our most amazing and less-crowded excursions, so if you’d like to do this hike yourself you can probably figure out which one it was.

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Our hike ended up being nearly 13 miles, as we rightly chose to venture to the end of the trail and what was suppose to be the most beautiful lake.  It was well worth it, our favorite trail of the 2018 summer and one of the most fun in our lives.  The finish was this incredible lake.  We walked around to where no one could see us and took our clothes off for a nice swim in the clear and not-too-freezing lake, then got some mountain sun laying out on a rock.  It was the perfect way to relax before heading down the trail.

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THIS VIEW!
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The water wasn’t as cold as you’d expect!
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Never ending beauty!
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A swim in the beautiful water!

Sequoia National Park ended up being more beautiful than we could have hoped.  We can’t wait to check out more trails in the future and the world’s biggest trees do not disappoint.  Make sure to check out our quick video of us playing with sequoia trees!

If you liked this article on Sequoia National Park and the world’s biggest trees, please follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and don’t forget to check out our archives for hundreds of other travel stories!

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Our Southwest United States Roadtrip – Almost VanLife

Hi lovely readers!  You may be wondering what we have been doing in the months since we posted!  It’s been so long! Our digital nomad lives have brought us home to the USA for a summer of roadtrip camping adventures, visiting friends and family, and running some workshops and retreats for our yoga retreat company Bigger Life Adventures.  It’s been fun to live “Dirtbag Life” with our Prius and our tent again and explore the beautiful nature of our own country.  It’s almost VanLife, right? Here’s a video we made to show you our road trip through Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.

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Feeling at “ohm” in the gorgeous landscape north of Taos, New Mexico.
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The “Prius Tent Life” Chef

The highlight of the trip was definitely the Via Ferrata in Telluride, Colorado, which you watched at the end of the video above.  This amazing adventure course is bolted into a rock wall hundreds of feet above the stunning Telluride Valley.  It’s super thrilling and LONG, with sections of hiking and sections of scary iron steps and a sheer dropoff below!  It took us about four hours.  So worth it for the views and the adventure though!

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The other huge highlight of our summer so far was hosting our Mid-Summer Reset at Laguna Mountain retreat campout!  We had 13 guests and it went super well!  I got to teach yoga in the beautiful mountain meadows of east San Diego County and Zach cooked amazing plant-based meals for everyone!  We can’t wait to host our next retreat in Sri Lanka!

Check out the amazing video our friends from Where We Wanderlust made about our retreat!

 

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Portobello Mushroom Burgers and Kale Salad – just one of our amazing meals!

 

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Hiking Garnet Peak
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Teaching about Ayurveda!
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Yoga in nature is the best!

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The Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls – Motorbikes in Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

The Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls rest in the hills a little over an hour’s drive outside of Chiang Mai.  This was our first motorbike adventure, and we were a little nervous about it.  There were three of us so Carrie rode with our friend Julie (who is experienced), and I drove myself.  I rented the motorbike for 180 baht from a place called Bamboo Rentals.  The gas was empty when I picked it up so they directed me towards a gas station down the road.  Luckily I had driven Julie’s bike around the lake the day before, so I survived my first leg on a read road without incident. Read more

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Krabi and Railay Beach – Thai Climb Time

Thai Climb Time
Railay Beach!

After a wonderful time in Penang, Malaysia we bought a van ride to Krabi, Thailand for Thai climb time!  For 60 Ringgit each we were speeding across the bridge from Penang back into mainland Malaysia before dawn.  The van trips are cheaper and faster than the bus, and they take you across the border which is convenient.  You can charter the vans at most hotels and hostels.  The border crossing was quick and easy.  We got a visa stamp for 30 days on arrival and no one asked for our onward ticket.  About onward tickets: every country officially requires them but they are rarely asked for.  The only time they generally ask is when you check in for an international flight, but when you cross into a country by land they rarely ask.  Our new trick is to screen shot an old flight itinerary and simply change the date on Photoshop to sometime within the visa requirements.

Our van stopped at Hat Yai, the first city in southern Thailand.  We had to change vans there so had a break to get some Thai Baht (33 Baht = $1USD) out of an ATM and grab a few snacks. Hat Yai is generally not the best city for tourists, so we didn’t plan to linger. We’ve heard its very popular for Malaysians who like to party and enjoy the lax prostitution laws.  Not really our scene though.

A little after 1pm we rolled into the Krabi main bus terminal excited for the next day’s Thai climb time.  From there we got a “sŏng tăew“, a cheap pickup truck shared taxi where you sit in the covered truck bed on benches along the side.  It’s a fun and cheap way to get around, charging about 1/3 of the regular taxi price.  We got our first views of the amazing cliffs that we came here to see, green tops dropping sharply into the ocean and rivers.  We got off at Khong Kha Pier where longtail boats depart for Railay Beach whenever six people are ready to go.  It costs 150 Baht per person and took about 45 minutes to get out to the beach.

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Krabi Boats to Railay Beach

Once on the boat we of course had to stop for gas, then after the gas run the boat wouldn’t start and we almost got stuck drifting under a pier for a moment.  But eventually the old longtail boat started and we were on our way, spilling black smoke into the air and speeding very inefficiently in the direction of more cliffs and some very ominous looking storm clouds.

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Longtail Boat ride to Railay Beach.

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The views were out of this world, it reminded me of something but I didn’t find out til later that this was the site of filming for “Dr. No”, one of my favorite James Bond films!  Within moments of arriving it started to downpour.  We hurried down the floating pier, passing many Russians on holiday with their rolling suitcases and high heels, trying hilariously not to slip and fall straight into the ocean.  After waiting for a bit at the first shelter we found, we walked down the beach walk to a stairway which led to our guesthouse.  Rapala Rock Wood Resort had cheap bungalows, no frills but everything we needed.  Little shacks with palm roofs and mosquito nets and fans are what makes us happy. As soon as we had set our stuff down the sky cleared and it was a beautiful afternoon.

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Our Bungalow

Being super hungry, we set off on what was suppose to be a short walk to Mama’s Chicken.  It turned out to be quite an adventure since it was on the other side of a little jungle.  We first went to the west side beach (Railay is a peninsula with two sides, sunrise and sunset) then we hiked up though a little muddy trail, over some rocks, and onto Tonsai Beach.  The overhanging rocks here we impressive but we were on a mission for food.  At the other end of this beach we found the small road to nowhere that led past some sleepy guesthouses and a few dark climbing shops.  All the way around on the other side we found Mama’s, a super rustic open-air restaurant.  We got some pad thai and fruit shakes and filled our empty bellies.

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Pad Thai!
Thai Climb Time
Papaya Salad!

After eating we continued up the path which lead through the jungle and back to Railay, a much faster way.  We went around town to a few climbing shops and rented a rope and gear from one of them for 1200 Baht for a day.  That was about half the price of the guided tours and we were confident that we could do it on our own.  Before bed I had a beer at the bar near our bungalow.  The bartenders were super friendly and made me feel very welcome.  I learned how to say “thank you” in Thai (“korp kun krup!”) and was pumped about my first glimpses into the famous Thai hospitality.

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Giant black squirrels with two-foot long tails!  They would eat bananas right out of your hand!

Thai climb time! In the morning it rained and I was having some stomach issues, so we didn’t get out to climb as soon as we wanted to.  When we did get to a climbing spot everything there was a little above our level then we got frustrated and had a fight.  Not gonna pretend everything is always perfect between us on this blog!  We are human after all!  I was so excited about climbing that I got crazy and ended up slipping in the mud and pacing around in a rage.  The rains were coming in again now so we had to go back to our bungalow.  Oh, the frustrations.  I eventually calmed my crazy self and we went back out and found a few routes on the 1,2,3 Wall and Muay Thai Wall.

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Ready to send!
Thai Climb Time
Muay Thai Wall.

It was important to find walls with the new Thaitainium Project bolts, as the original steel bolts have become unsafe by the constant exposure to salty air.  All these challenges added up and it wasn’t until the end of the day that we each got to climb a few routes, and then we got tired so quickly from being out of shape!  I think it was a success in the end, but it was definitely character building.  We had a few sends and it felt good to get back on the rocks.  The adrenaline made me feel alive again and we couldn’t wait to come back for more.  In December WE WILL BE BACK!!!

Here’s a kind-of-lame video of us being kind-of-lame at climbing.  Next time we go to Railay we hope to be stronger and have a DRONE to make an awesome video for you all!

 

If you are climbing in Thailand or anywhere else, Mountain Project is the best online resource for climbers.  Enjoy hearing about Thai climb time in Railay Beach?  Find more climb stories from California and Arizona in our archives!

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Penang National Park and Environmental Observances

On our last day on the island we took the bus to Penang National Park, about an hour ride from central Georgetown.  There were several possible hikes but the Canopy Walkway was under renovation so we settled on the hike to Monkey Beach. 

Here is a short video of our adventure.  Make sure to check out 1:25 for some angry monkeys.

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Jungle ground in Penang National Park
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A giant jellyfish in Penang National Park

We spent over an hour walking the jungle path until we came to the beach.  We sipped coconuts and had the usual arguments with the monkeys.

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Monkey Beach

They never like me very much and it never fails that we end up screeching at each other.  There were a lot of the little buggers and they had big teeth so we let them win this time.  We didn’t eat enough breakfast for such a long hike and were super hungry by the end (having only eaten like twice before leaving).  So we got some roti (fried folded delicious bread) while waiting for the bus back.

Penang National Park
Penang National Park

We were upset with the amount of trash in Penang National Park and saw quite a few Malaysian hikers throw their empty bottles right onto the beach.  Several people on Monkey Beach were selling a variety of drinks, all in small plastic bottles but there were no trash bins and it was obviously too much work for people to just carry it out.  A group of 20-30 middle school students passed us, each with their own small plastic bottle of water.  We talked while hiking out about how they could clean up all the trash in a few days with just a few people.  Near the entrance we came upon five park employees sweeping leaves off the path.   Yes that’s right, FIVE PEOPLE.  SWEEPING. LEAVES. OFF. A. PATH. IN. THE. JUNGLE.  I was really frustrated by the whole system and I tried to calmly explain this to the Park Ranger at the front gate on our way out.

Me: “Why do so many people throw trash on the beach?”

His response, waving his hands as if it’s hopeless: “They are local people.”

Me: “Do you tell them not to do it?”

He smiled and said, “Have a nice day!”

Well, that was that.  Non-confrontational Malaysian culture for the win!  Reflecting upon it, I don’t blame the people anymore.  Yes, we all need to be more conscious of the products we buy and the waste we produce but I blame the governments for not educating their people better and most of all the companies that produce the bottles.  If I were Supreme Dictator of The World, the Coca-Cola company would no longer exist.

Want to read more about Penang? Check it out here!

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Cameron Highlands – Tea Country

On our way to the Cameron Highlands in the mountains of central Malaysia, we experienced our first breaths of cool air in some weeks.  Everything was green and full of life as our bus wound its way slowly up and up, honking before the tight turns to warn oncoming traffic that we wouldn’t be slowing down.  The weather was so beautiful with clouds drifting across the mountain tops.  Our destination was Tanah Rata, the main town for adventures in the Cameron Highlands.  We dropped our stuff at Kang Travellers Lodge, a simple guest house with cheap rooms and friendly staff.  Rain clouds started to roll in but we were able to hike to a small waterfall before the downpour.

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Pretty, but unfortunately there was a lot of trash in the water 🙁

The main drag in town was very touristy but there were a few good Indian restaurants that were not expensive.  After dinner we went home and realized there was a bar attached to our guesthouse– Jungle Bar.  It was the first real bar we had been to in Malaysia.  Many of the towns are very Islamic and there are not a lot of parties happening.  Jungle Bar had a pool table and fireplace and a good collection of travelers to talk to.  It was a great dive bar with a fun atmosphere and just what we needed after only talking to each other for the past week or so.

The next morning we got up early as we had scheduled one of the tours from an agency in town.  All the companies sell pretty much the same thing for the same price and take you to different places around the area.  I think it was 45 Ringgit per person ($10) and lasted most of the day.  Our first stop was a butterfly sanctuary.  The first room was full of Birdwings, the national butterfly of Malaysia, a big blue one that didn’t want to fly very much because of the lack of sunshine.

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They also had many other insects and reptiles.  My favorites were the stick insects and other bugs that blended in perfectly with the trees.  It was a challenge to find each one.  There were also toads that looked exactly like the leaves they were resting in.  The flowers were amazing as well; we really enjoyed the place and would never have found it without being on the tour of the Cameron Highlands.

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Butterfly flower
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A beautiful butterfly flower
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These flowers produced a small amount of water that was super sweet!
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This giant stick insect was about 18 inches long!
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Can you spot the leaf insect munching away?

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Our next stop was a tea plantation.  We had never seen tea growing before so it was cool to learn about the process.  Boh (“Best of Highlands”) Tea was still owned by the Scottish family who has owed it since the 1800s.  Many workers were trimming the tops of the bushes with giant hedge saws that deposited the cuttings into large sacks.  The leaves were then taken to be sorted and processed in different ways to make the different tea styles.  They are still using the same labor contract that was created when the plantation opened, with workers working six days a week for very low wages.  Most of the laborers were immigrants from Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal.  Most of the tea produced was consumed domestically, with some being exported but only to Indonesia and other nearby countries.  The landscape was majestic and they had a nice tea shop and cafe to enjoy the view of the nearby hills.

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There were six other people in our group and we ended up making friends with a British couple.  They were on an indefinite trip as well so we shared stories of our adventures.  After the tea plantation we got back into our Jeep and drove up a steep road.  The vegetation got thicker and thicker and our driver stopped along the way to identify different plants and let us smell things like tiger balm, citronella, and eucalyptus.  At the top of the hill was a path leading into the Mossy Forest.  This area was under a misty cloud 95% of the year which created a very surreal environment where moss grows on everything and thousands of types of plants flourished.  It reminded me of FernGully, a great movie from our childhood that was ripped off by stupid Avatar.

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Our guide said that in Borneo there are larger versions of these flowers that eat insects.

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After the Mossy Forest we stopped at an organic strawberry farm where they sold everything from boxes of berries to berry coffees to berry shakes.

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From there they left us at a hiking trail (Trail #3) that lead to another trail (Trail #5) which took us back into town.  It was a cool 1.5 hour trek through the jungle and we had a lot of fun.  Luckily we had our rain gear because it started coming down hard near the end.

We really enjoyed the Cameron Highlands.  It was wonderful to escape the constant heat and humidity of the lower altitudes and we always enjoy some outdoor time.  Stay tuned for some Island time off the eastern coast of Malaysia!

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Chacos – The World’s Greatest Shoe

Chacos

There is no debating it, the people at Chacos have put together the worlds greatest shoe.

Some of the best uses for Chacos are:

Hiking:  Chacos really grip those rocks and don’t move around on your feet.

Backpacking:  Super durable and maintenance-free.  Your feet stay omfy and dry fast after you get them wet.  It’s also great to not need as many pairs of socks, which always smell and are hard to wash in the sink.

At the salsa bar:  Great for showing off those gringo dance moves.  The chicas will be muy impressed by your super style.  They come in several styles and hundreds of colors.

On the bus:  Throw on some socks under your Chacos for those air conditioned rides and rock that classic dad look.

Church:  That’s right, Jesus would have worn them on the pulpit.  Birkenstocks? Yeah right!

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Jesus rocking an early Chacos prototype.  Disclaimer: Walking on water not recommended

In the rain:  Chacos are super-waterproof and grippy even in wet conditions.  However, if you’re planning to go hiking in the rain with deadly snakes and flesh eating fungi, think twice!  Just don’t do it with any shoe.

 

Chocos in the jungleThis hike full of poisonous plants and animals is not recommended for Chaco-wearers.   This picture is from the day I got a weird rash all over my hands and feet.  Most of my fingernails and toenails died, peeled off, and looked really stupid for the next few months.

They retail for just under $99 or 3000 Thai Baht or 0.02 Bitcoin and you can get them from REI or anywhere that sells outdoor gear.  If your local store doesn’t have them than you really just need a better local store or figure out how to use the internet for things other than selfies.  So why don’t you stop wasting time here and get out and buy some killer sandals??

Not a sponsored post, I just love them!

www.Chacos.com

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