Tag: California

California Road Trip

California Road Trip

A few weeks ago I went down to Southern California one last time to visit friends and family before departing for the Peace Corps. One of my cousins who had never been to California before came out to visit and I decided to make a fun road trip out of it of all my favorite sights in the Golden State. 

Day 1: Hollywood

Any first timer to California of course wants to check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame but honestly it’s a little disappointing and dirty. It’s still fun to drive down Hollywood Boulevard so they can see it, so we decided to do that and head to Melrose Avenue to do some shopping. Be sure to catch the sunset at the Griffith Observatory for a beautiful view of all of Los Angeles, including the Hollywood sign. Once night begins to fall, check out the street lamps at LACMA. Oh, and don’t forget some In n Out, animal style 🙂

Day 2: Santa Monica & Venice Beach

One of my favorite restaurants ever is True Food Kitchen in Santa Monica. It’s more of a trendy vegan eatery, but I love how fresh all the vegetables are and the dishes are so different! From there you can walk over to the Santa Monica Pier and then do some shopping at Third Street Promenade

Venice Beach is only a few minutes driving down the road for all things California and weird. People always say that Californians are crazy, but where does it come from? Yup, Venice Beach. From street performers, to people selling children’s reggae (The ABC song, reggae style? What?), and ridiculously overly buff people working out at Muscle Beach, it’s a must-see! 

Abbot Kinney is only a few blocks away, which has some trendy shopping and one of my favorite ice cream shops, Salt & Straw. Where else are you going to find goat cheese and olive ice cream?!

Day 3: Malibu

Growing up in Thousand Oaks, which is only about 20 minutes away, Malibu is the go-to place for the best beaches. Early in the morning we went surfing at County Line, and even though the waves were small it was great being out on the water. It reminds of the high school days; getting up at 4:30 AM to catch waves with my group of girlfriends before having to go to class. 

I met up with my favorite skin & hair care company, Organic Fiji, to do a photoshoot at Point Mugu beach. Rather than just having product shots they wanted to have someone actually using their coconut oil in the photos. You can get 25% off all their products with my code ‘annaharris25cocotribe’ 🙂 

There are so many interesting rock formations and sea caves in this area to explore! And after a long day at the beach, my favorite smoothie place near Zuma is called SunLife Organics. And to top it off, it’s always fun to grab your best pals and have a bonfire right on the beach while looking at the stars. 

Day 4: Up the Coast

The first place we stopped at road tripping up the coast was Ostrich Land in Buellton, where you can feed all the different ostriches and emus. Kind of a fun little spot to stop at along the way! Close by is the little Danish town of Solvang, and don’t forget to pick up some pastries like Kringle or Butter Ring!

My favorite place to get clam chowder is Splash Cafe in Pismo, where they have bread bowls toasted perfectly with butter. And down the freeway is San Luis Obispo, which is a cute little town and has the famous Bubblegum Alley. I think my favorite part was watching parents freak out as their little ones tried eating the gum off the wall. 

Last stop for this road trip was San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge! You can get a great view of the bridge from Baker Beach, but be cautioned! There are nudists! I had no idea until a large nude man started sprinting towards us out of nowhere…

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

One of my favorite things about California is being able to go on weekend trips to such diverse parts of the state! One weekend you could be skiing in Lake Tahoe, and another weekend you could be camping among the redwoods. In April, Caleb and I decided to spend the weekend surfing in Santa Cruz for his birthday!

We stayed in a beautiful art studio in downtown Santa Cruz, so it was only 20 minutes walking distance from the pier, beach, and some great restaurants. Our first morning we rented boards from a shop for $5 an hour, or $25 for a full day. Since we had planned on surfing the next morning too, we decided to rent them for the day. 

We headed to Steamer’s, which is a great spot for experienced surfers over by the lighthouse near the downtown area. It’s a beautiful picturesque spot where you can see the sun rising over the horizon with the lighthouse on the edge of the cliff, and ocean water like glass with bright green kelp forests swaying below your feet. A good spot for beginner’s is called Cowell’s, which is down the road a little ways. It was pretty packed when we drove by but it’s perfect for those learning how to surf! 

Another thing that I love about surfing at Steamer’s is that there’s a small coffee shop called Steamer Lane Supply in the parking lot right across the way where you can grab an acai bowl, a fresh smoothie, or other fresh treats right after a good surf. Even if you’re not surfing it’s the perfect spot to grab a coffee and walk along the coast in the morning! 

After surfing we rinsed off at our Air Bnb and walked along the pier, which had some great carnival rides and a beach to hang out. It was pretty packed with tourists so we didn’t stay long, but it looked like a fun spot to take kids. My favorite lunch spot was Pono Hawaiian Grill, where they have really tasty poke bowls customized to your tastes along with other great trendy Hawaiian fusion food. A great dinner spot is Lupulo, which is a brewery with all kinds of craft beers along with tapas. And for dessert, you have to check out The Penny Ice Creamery, where they make all their ice cream flavors in-house and have trendy flavors, and can even make ice cream sandwiches! 

Santa Cruz has a great downtown area where you can go bar hopping and check out live music! It’s perfect to start on one end and explore all the different bars down the road. There’s even windows of little pizza places where you can grab a slice before heading to the next bar! After another morning of surfing we headed back home, but it was a great weekend to celebrate Caleb’s birthday, being in the ocean, and eating our way through Santa Cruz!

Lake Clementine Dam

Lake Clementine Dam

About forty minute northeast of Sacramento, California you can find some really great hikes, one of which is the Lake Clementine Dam. It’s a great 4 mile out-and-back hike to do on a Saturday afternoon with beautiful views along the American River. 

The trail head begins at the Auburn State Recreation Area where you must pay $10 to park since it’s a state park. There are port-o-potties and picnic benches available overlooking the river so it’s a nice spot to have lunch even if you don’t go hiking! From the ranger station, cross the bridge over the river and begin hiking on the trail to your left. You’ll see the Foresthill Bridge 700 feet above you, which is also the tallest bridge in California, and then keep walking the gradual incline for the next 2 miles.

After 2 miles, you’ll reach the end of the uphill and see a forked road – one is paved, the other is dirt. Make sure you take the dirt trail another quarter mile to lead you to the dam! It’s a great spot to hang out, have lunch, and even swim! Since there has been so much rain the water was pouring off the dam like a waterfall and the river was really high. Hopefully next time I hike the trail it’ll be warm enough out to swim and float down the river!

Daffodil Hill

Daffodil Hill

Having only moved to Sacramento 7 months ago, I love exploring all the major sites in the area and around Northern California! Now that it’s spring, beautiful flowers are beginning to pop up everywhere. One place that I came across is called Daffodil Hill, a farm deep in “Gold Country” in the town of Volcano that opens its doors to the public for one month out of the year for this special event. You can guess what they’re open for… Daffodils!

Daffodil Hill explodes with thousands of yellow and white flowers blooming, attracting visitors from all over! They open their doors sometime in March every year, when 25% of their daffodils are in bloom so it really depends on Mother Nature. They close when there are only 25% left, so the best time to go is about 10-14 days after they open their doors for the season to see all the flowers in bloom! The rest of the year it goes back to a working ranch. 

It’s a fun place to check out, and you can see all the animals and have a picnic with your family and friends. Because it’s only open for a short period of time, it gets packed and crazy busy! It’s best to visit on a weekday, but if you can only visit on the weekend make sure you come right when they open at 10 AM. They’re also only open weather permitting, so it’s best to call ahead of time to make sure they will be open, especially since it’s about an hour east of Sacramento! 

Check their Facebook Page for updates! And who doesn’t love free parking and free admission? 🙂

Top Travels of 2016

Top Travels of 2016

Death Valley, CA – March 2016

It’s crazy to see such diverse landscapes all over California! This was my first time visiting Death Valley because I wanted to see the Super Bloom with my friend Shandra (@HowIWishIWasAFish)! The Super Bloom only happens once every ten years, and the whole valley springs to life with beautiful fields of yellow flowers. 

Photo by Shandra (@Howiwishiwasafish)

San Francisco, CA – April 2016

Even though I’ve lived in California my whole life, I’ve never actually explored this city, believe it or not! I was here for a Structural Engineering event, but it was a great weekend getaway to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Chinatown. Not to mention the man of my dreams asked me to be his 🙂

Whistler, Canada – April 2016

A beautiful weekend in BC backpacking through the wilderness. It’s an easy drive from Vancouver, but a not-so-easy hike to see vivid turquoise lakes; I highly recommend checking out Joffre Lakes during the summer! Another great hike to do is the Keyhole Hot Springs, where you can camp along the river.

Little Corn Island, Nicaragua – May 2016

A must-see place for travelers who enjoy getting off the beaten path at a cheap price. One of the most beautiful, remote islands I’ve ever been to, Little Corn has great lobster meals, amazing diving, and warm ocean waters. Even though there’s no electricity during the day or running water, it was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been, not to mention we stayed in a bungalow right on the beach for $10 per night!

Tam Cốc-Bích Động, Vietnam – July 2016

Although Halong Bay was beautiful, I couldn’t help but to feel like a tourist being shuffled along with hundreds of other people – it just didn’t feel like an authentic experience. One of my favorite places in Vietnam though was Tam Coc, and a Vietnamese man paddled a tin canoe with his feet down a river through the beautiful Vietnamese countryside. 

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – August 2016

I was so stoked to not only check off the Olympics from my bucket list, but also go to my first South American country! I will admit the focus was on hockey more than getting to really experience Rio since my cousins are on the US national team, but it was a great time getting to experience this lively city and the Olympics. 

Page, AZ – August 2016

This was an awesome (but exhausting) weekend road trip with my man, sister, and best friend. We crammed Zion National Park, Lower Antelope Canyon, and camped at Lake Powell all in one weekend, but Lower Antelope Canyon was probably my favorite. I highly recommend doing the photography tour so you get more time to photograph the beautiful canyon, plus you don’t get all the insane crowds and people running into your photo.

Sacramento, CA – September 2016

This wasn’t really a travel destination per say, but I finally moved from my beloved hometown in Southern California after so many years! I am happy to say that Sacramento is my new home and so far everything is great. I love that I can walk downstairs from my apartment and there’s so many breweries and fun restaurants you can check out without having to drive anywhere! I do miss the ocean, but for now, I’m enjoying city life.

Baños, Ecuador – September 2016

I love going to backpacker havens where few tourists go, so naturally the “Adventure Capital of South America” was a big draw for me. There are so many outdoorsy activities, like hiking, white water rafting, zip lining, bungee jumping, and hot springs, that you could never get bored here. We even opted for a jungle tour of the Amazon Rainforest, and everything was so cheap we were paying in pennies everywhere we went. And of course, the famous treehouse swing “at the end of the world” is something you can’t miss!

Maui, HI – October 2016

I love tropical islands and scuba diving, and since I tagged along with my man to Maui for a week for an engineering convention, I decided to spend some time getting my Advanced Open Water Diver certification! People ask me, so what does that certification do for you? Not much, really, except go on advanced dives that require the cert and it’s one step closer to getting my dive master certification!

Havana, Cuba – December 2016

I had to check out Cuba before the huge flood of tourists since it’s slowly opening up, so I made Havana a priority this year. It was a completely different experience getting to see all the classic cars and how communism and the embargo has affected the country, but it was worth it. Unfortunately the food was a little disappointing, but the mojitos were amazing!

Looking forward to a new year of travels ahead! Next month I’m heading to Indonesia!

Where are you planning to travel this year?

Diving Anacapa Island

Diving Anacapa Island

Anacapa Island, California is one of the best places to dive in the world and is renowned for its beautiful kelp forests. This trip I was diving with Hannah Gabrielson and Craig Gabrielson from Beneath the Blue (check out their website for great underwater photography!) with Raptor Dive Charter. It took about 45 minutes to get out to the island, and the surf was pretty big and the water was a chilly 58 degrees F in early May. It was a three tank dive, and we saw incredible wildlife, including sea lions, sand dabs, giant king crabs, and other native fish in the kelp forests. It was a totally different world, and for divers that haven’t been to a kelp forest yet, I highly recommend it! I would look for a charter with a jacuzzi on the boat if you’re going in colder months because that wind chills to the bone between dives. Check out my video and Beneath the Blue’s photos!

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Death Valley Super Bloom

Death Valley Super Bloom

Once every ten years, something magical happens in the hottest place in the US: Death Valley springs to life! My friend, Shay (@howiwishiwasafish), and I decided to take advantage of this rare occurrence and drive four hours out to the middle-of-nowhere California.

Shay and I have met a handful of times before through mutual friends, but this was our first time really hanging out together. And we decided that our first time hanging out we would spend four hours driving each way and camping out in my Mustang. For most people, that spells disaster, but everything clicked for us and we got along perfectly. Couldn’t have had a more enjoyable weekend adventure partner!

We cruised down the 395 in the late afternoon on a Saturday and turned off to head East towards Death Valley. I was a little nervous driving all the way out there because 1) my car was having so many problems that if we got stranded we wouldn’t have cell phone service and 2) we were driving a MUSTANG through a dirt highway in pitch black darkness – that was a first for me, and driving on that highway took forever.

There is one gas station that we saw when we pulled up to the town of Death Valley, so make sure you fill up before heading to the national parks! The town was packed with people! It was incredible how many came out just to see the Super Bloom, but I mean, it only happens once every ten years so might as well before another decade passes.

We decided to do some astrophotography so we headed to the Badwater Salt Flats for the night. The weather was so perfect – 70 degrees and clear skies during the day and night – I definitely recommend visiting Death Valley in March! Unfortunately because of all the recent rain, the salt formations were completely destroyed and didn’t look like the usual pictures we had seen in magazines, but the stars were incredible regardless.

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After a few hours of photography, we called it a night. Yup, we slept in my Mustang and it was actually very cozy. We slipped into our sleeping bags and reclined the seats and dozed off to sleep. It was 5:30 AM when first light hit and we were totally awake and headed back down to the salt flats to take pictures with the pastel morning light. It was an incredible backdrop, with vast whiteness for miles and in the distance you could see the mountains glowing purple and pink.

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We headed towards the Mesquite Sand Dunes, but along the way the bright yellow flowers were blooming everywhere! It was incredible to see so much life in a place with a name of death! We stopped on the side of the road near Artist’s Palette to take pictures, of course, and it was a good thing we went that weekend because you could tell the flowers were starting to wither. It was still amazing to see all the flowers but in some areas it was very sparse.

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The Mesquite Sand Dunes were unexpectedly huge! I brought outfits with me just in case, because I imagined it looking like the Sahara Desert with sand as far as the eye could see and I wanted the look to be a “lost dame in distress.” The sand dunes are in a great location so you don’t have to do a long trek; you just pull up to the parking lot and they’re right in front of you! The iconic dunes you see in magazines are a pretty far walk, but if you’re just interested in getting a few great photos you don’t have to worry about venturing too far in the heat.

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Other than that, our trip was spent eating nothing but PB&J and egg salad sandwiches because we were cheap, skateboarding in dresses barefoot as cars drove by and people laughed, and completely splitting the crotch of my jeans trying to get this shot:

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I’d say it was a successful weekend! Check out my Instragram @Filipokie for more photos!

Flying California

Flying California

For all of you aviation lovers out there, here’s a great Sunday itinerary to fly all over California and see all the best sights! We’re based in Southern California, so feel free to tailor this to your needs.

Fly up the coast along PCH for a nice ocean view, and head towards San Francisco for the Bay Tour!

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Head east for lunch at Lake Tahoe for a gorgeous view of snow capped mountains and vivid blue waters!

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After lunch, fly back down south along the Sierra Nevada for views of Mt. Whitney, Mammoth Mountain, Mono Lake, and Big Bear.

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Scuba Certified

Scuba Certified

I am officially a scuba diver! Three weeks ago I started an incredible hobby and now I can’t wait to dive all over the world. It started out with two full days of classroom review and pool dives. Everything we learned in class was basically what I learned in all my physics classes so it was good review. The pool dives were interesting since we were getting a feel for the sport and testing out how much weight we put in our BC (a vest that inflates and deflates to control buoyancy) and testing us on standard and emergency procedures.

The next week we had a beach dive at Paradise Cove in Malibu. It was a great day and the visibility was surprisingly good. We explored the bottom of the ocean and weaved through kelp and even saw lobster. I felt like a fish in the sea. The next and final day we woke up at 3:30 AM to drive down to Long Beach to catch the 6:15 AM ferry to Catalina Island. It was a clear, warm day and I was excited to dive in one of the best spots in California. The first dive we got down to 60 feet for 34 minutes and I was already feeling a little narked (“drunk” from nitrogen in your tank diving at deep levels) so I poked every fish in sight. There must have been fifty golden Garibaldi’s surrounding me as I observed my surroundings. We saw 200 pound sea bass, eel, calico, sea cucumbers, and other strange creatures I’ve never even seen in those National Geographic shows. The second dive we went down to 54 feet for 28 minutes, which surpassed the amount of time we were allowed to be down there according to the dive tables, but not to our computers. Either way, when I got out I felt incredibly nauseous and tired. We grabbed lunch, ice cream, and headed back to the mainland at 3:45 PM. It was a full day and now I am officially scuba certified!
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Mt. San Jacinto

Mt. San Jacinto

Yesterday I summited Mt. San Jacinto at 10, 834 feet! Originally I had planned to do it with Kyle so I paid for our permits a few weeks ago, but since things didn’t work out I found someone else to go: Alex. Alex was a buddy of mine in my Heat Transfer class – very outgoing, motorcycle-racing 25-year-old half-Asian towering at 6’3″. He told me that I am his new best friend the other day, so on Saturday I asked if he wanted to hike Mt. San Jacinto with me; he was exhausted from his race that day but he agreed and was excited to go.

I got back late from a LA Galaxy soccer game with one of my friends Saturday night, so Alex and I didn’t get to bed until 12:30AM. We woke up at 4:30AM to top it off. We drove 2 hours & 45 minutes to the quaint town of Idyllwild to stop by the ranger station and we headed over to the Marion Mountain Trail head. This trail is the shortest route up the mountain at 17 miles, but is also the steepest and most strenuous. We accidentally strayed off the path and hiked through pure wilderness; we had no idea where we were going for an hour but kept going straight up, and literally climbed and pulled ourselves over ledges to keep going. Later in the day as we got closer to the top, Alex decided he wanted to try a “shortcut” by himself while I stay on the trail. I agreed without thinking, and continued on my way as I saw him disappear into the forest. After about an hour of separation I started to realize that he might end up on the wrong summit or be injured and I would have no way of reaching him. The anxiety of not knowing where he was pushed me to haul up the trail faster, and I hoped that he was waiting for me at the top.

I passed by the stone hut, which is a shelter during a rainstorm for hikers and has bunk beds and emergency supplies. The summit was at my reach, and I just had to climb over huge boulders to make it. As I hoisted myself over the final boulder, I heard Alex’s voice from above and I felt so relieved and happy to see him. We took pictures with the sign and ate the rest of lunch dangling our legs over the side of a cliff with a couple thousand foot drop below. We jogged back down the mountain, making it down in 2 hours. I wore my brand new running shoes that day so I wouldn’t get tendonitis like last time, but my feet were all bloody from blisters popping up everywhere. Even though it was bugging me I was determined to get back to the truck, but Alex noticed and insisted he bandage me up with his Eagle Scout skills. We were so happy to see the truck and get back home. We had an awesome day together, and I’m excited for all our upcoming adventures planned!

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