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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Backpacking Malaysia: A Guide for Easy Asia Travel

Backpacking Malaysia is great for easy Asia travel.  Easier than South America, easier than Thailand.  We traveled the length of the Malaysian peninsula from Malacca to Penang, Kuala Lumpur (KL) to the Perhentian Islands through the Cameron Highlands.  The people are friendly, welcoming, and excited to have you in their country.  The buses are clean with organized stations and the roads are smooth with minimal traffic, especially in the countryside.  The highlight of backpacking Malaysia was the food.  From Malay to Chinese to Indian, the cuisine is an amazing fusion of different cultures, living together in relative harmony.  Low food costs are easy for every budget traveler and in Malaysia you can get a full meal starting at $1.50 for a vegetarian banana leaf lunch.  Even though the government just added a tourist tax to all hotel rooms, Malaysia still has good deals for travelers on a budget.  We stayed in some of the nicest and most fun hostels of our lives, and our 15 days in the peninsula didn’t scratch the surface of what the country has to offer.

Pick a Route:backpacking malaysia easy asia travel

Picking a backpacking route though Malaysia is easy.  For a two week trip we would recommend starting in Singapore and working your way north from Malacca to KL, Cameron Highlands, Perhentian Islands, then back across to Georgetown, Penang.  If you have three weeks we would suggest adding Taman Negara National Park and Langkawi Island.  These are both trips along the standard backpacker trail, great for your first time in Malaysia.  Since Malaysia has much fewer tourists than Thailand, you will run into the same friendly faces as you go.  There was one lady on our trip that we ran into in at three different places on our adventure.  Of course there are many other parts of Malaysia worth exploring, mainly the jungles of Borneo where things are more wild.  On a four week trip we would suggest spending a week there getting off the tourist path.

Enjoy the Food:

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The food in Malaysia is easy and good for any backpacker’s budget. The most we “cooked” for ourselves in Malaysia was to peel a banana, maybe once.  The local markets are great places to pig out economically.  Check out the laksa, poh piah, mee koring, and nasi kandar.  Western style restaurants are there, but they are the most expensive and generally not as exciting as the local flavors.  Every city has a Chinese neighborhood and an Indian neighborhood.  Little India was always our favorite spot to eat, great for vegetarians and meat eaters alike!  For one meal I had seven different curries and spent a total of less than $3. For these reasons, Malaysia was my all time favorite country to eat in!

Stay in a Hostel:

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The Frame lobby — a minimalist hostel in an old framemaker’s shop. Frame is a very zen/minimalist place with cedar ceilings and antique stairways. We really liked our private room here and stayed for three nights enjoying the AC and waterfall showers.

Backpackers will love Malaysia for the hostels which are cheap and easy to book online.  Sometimes they do fill up, especially in the busy season, so we suggest booking in advance.  They range in price and quality and there is a new 10 Ringgit tourist tax for every room.  Our favorites were the Lemongrass on Long Beach in the Perhentians, and Frame Guesthouse in Georgetown, Penang.  Prices range from $10 per night for a dorm bed, $15 for a beach bungalow, or $18 for private room with A/C.

Speak With the Locals:

Backpacking Malaysia is easier than other parts of Asia because most people can speak or at least understand English.  A majority of the signs are also in English and Malay, so you will never have a hard time finding your way around.  Malay also using the English characters so it’s easy to pick up a little bit along the way which always makes the locals appreciate you more.   Knowing few words like terima kasih (thank you) can get you a lot of respect points and make you look a little better than the average traveler.

 

When looking for easier Asia travel, backpacking Malaysia should be at the top of your list.  With top notch people, food, nature and adventure, and hostels, never ending aventuras await you in this tropical paradise!

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Like this post about backpacking Malaysia for easy Asia travel?  Check out our archives for never ending travel advice, reviews, and many stories of adventure in Malaysia!

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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.

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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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Hiking Mt. Whitney, TO THE TOP!!!

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The view UP from Whitney Portal

We had been trying to get a permit for hiking Mt. Whitney for years.  This year we finally won the lottery and got the chance to hike to the highest point in the lower 48 states.  We picked up the permit the day before at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center then drove up to Whitney Portal where we would camp for the night.  It was an amazing campground with huge boulders and even bigger rock walls.  The area was always full, but a nearby stream of icy mountain water blocked out the sounds of other people.  We packed our big backpacks, ready to wake up early and adventure upwards.

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The morning came fast; the adrenaline had already kicked in making for anxious sleep.  We packed everything we wouldn’t be carrying into the car then, after putting our extra food into a bear box, we started hiking Mt. Whitney Trail.  There were lots of hikers, mainly very friendly people.  The trail wove its way up a steep canyon and eventually leveled out to high lakes with constantly flowing water.  There were many creek crossings where we had to rock-hop through deep, streaming water.  We were especially glad for our trekking poles at those times!  Soon we were among the snow piles, still melting from the hard winter.  We saw chipmunks and very fat marmots, waiting to score a snack off an abandoned backpack.  It was only six miles to Trail Camp at 12,000 feet so we made it around 1pm, the summit above us and cold lake beside us.  We set up our tent and got water to filter.  With our boots off we spent the afternoon lounging, hydrating, and reading.  We felt strong and had great feelings about making it to the top.

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Energy Gu Cheers!

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At Trail Camp

The alarm went off at 5 and we were out at 5:30.  Dawn was already creeping over the horizon, so we left our headlamps at Trail Camp and started up the infamous 99 Switchbacks. There was running water over some of the paths and when you took your feet from the water to the rocks your feet would become instant ice-skates. Good thing it wasn’t any colder.  We wore hats and gloves; it was cold but the air was still and since we were well trained we powered up the switchbacks as I sang “99 Beers On The Wall…” in my head, to surprising accuracy. We thought the name “99 Switchbacks” was a joke.  Nope, there are really 99 of them.  Hikers going up were in all shapes, mostly doing pretty well, but a few seemed to be struggling with altitude sickness. We finished the ‘backs and entered another area called the Pinnacles, I think. This was the stage where you merge with the John Muir Trail hikers to summit for the finish of their weeks-long adventure. The trail zig-zagged behind the peaks with some amazing views of the inner Sierras and nice drop-offs to the opposite side toward camp. Carrie thought that it looked like an ancient castle, long worn down by weather. The final section was up the back of the peak, sometimes jumping rocks and following a new path near the end as the old was still snowpacked. Up, up, up until finally around 9:30am, the peak of the Stone House, more than 100 years old, inched over the horizon and then the world was below us and a cliff of nightmares and we had made it!!!!!!! 14, 496 feet, the highest peak in the lower 48 states!  Everyone was overjoyed, we kissed and sat near the edge and soaked in the moment. We signed our names in the register with everyone else and didn’t linger, it was a long way down. Hiking Mt. Whitney sure isn’t the easiest thing we’ve ever done.

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Sunrise view from the 99 Switchbacks
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Going through The Pinnacles
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Looking west over the John Muir Trail into Sequoia National Park
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We made it!

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Back at Trail Camp we packed our tent and were out of there by 1pm.  The way down was easy but we took it slow, avoiding injury.  We felt accomplished, the world was ours!  Since we were done hiking Mt. Whitney we needed a new mountain to conquer.  Any ideas?

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Enjoying some flowers on our way down

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Enjoy our post about hiking Mt. Whitney?  Check out our other posts from backpacking in California HERE and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject

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