Death Valley and Red Rock Canyon

This past weekend Dave and I packed up my mom’s Honda Accord and hit the road. We made the five hour trek up to Death Valley to check out a new national park, spend some time together and relax in the great outdoors.  We reserved a spot at Furnace Creek campground for Sunday and Monday night and decided to wait on our Tuesday night destination depending on whether we needed more time to see Death Valley or we were ready to move on.

Our first night in the park we just set up our tent, lit up a fire and spent the evening relaxing under the stars. Monday morning we were up early and ready to hit up the major “must see” destinations of Death Valley. We started by driving down Badwater Road to the lowest point in the US (and one of the lowest on earth at -282 feet below sea level) Badwater Basin. We lucked out and were the only people at the site when we arrived- making for some great shots of the scenery. Visitors are able to walk as far as they’d like across the Basin, but the trail only extends about a 1/2 mile out so the going gets tricky pretty quickly. We hiked out about a mile or so, but opted not to continue the 5 miles across the valley. Making the Basin even more beautiful is the fact that it’s framed by Telescope Peak, which sits at an elevation of more than 11,000 feet!

IMG_0133 IMG_0165 IMG_0169

From Badwater Basin we made our way back up Badwater Rd. stopping at each of the scenic hikes, outlooks and drives along the way. We did a short hike at the Natural Bridge and marveled at the dry waterfalls. Next we stopped off at the Devils Golf Course to view some of the crazy formations created by the salt and wind in Badwater Basin. Walking across the course is allowed, but extremely difficult due to the shape of the formations. Warning signs caution of broken bones and major injuries to those who attempt the hike. Needless to say, we didn’t go too far.

IMG_0227 IMG_0199 IMG_0205

Next up on our list of sights was the Artist’s Drive. It’s a three mile drive through beautifully colored rocks and canyons. Colors range from brown and green to red and purple to pinks and blues. And they change depending on the cloud cover and how the sun hits them. The one-way drive was also a lot of fun because of the thin, winding road and the fact that’s it’s off the major road. We parked along the drive at the Artist’s Palette and hiked around the hills for awhile. It was mid-day so I don’t think the colors were as vivid as they’d be at dusk or dawn, but it was still incredibly beautiful.

IMG_1992From the Artist’s Drive we made our way to the last stop of the morning, Golden Canyon. The canyon leads to the “Red Cathedral”, a formidable rock colored red and kind of resembling a cathedral. Pretty self explanatory….Before the hike we scarfed some lunch and then had a nice stroll down the “interactive” trail. At the end of the trail you can continue on to other points or take the extended loop trail back down and around, but we just scrambled along the rocks for a bit before heading back to camp.

IMG_2028 IMG_2040At camp we cracked open some beers and took a much deserved break before jumping back in the car and heading to the Mesquite Sand Dunes for sunset. Death Valley is so beautiful and so diverse. I’ve never been a big fan of the desert (I’m partial to water and trees), but I have such a new appreciation for the beauty of deserts and dry places. It’s amazing what time and nature can create. We spent all morning hiking along dusty rocks worn down by ancient waters and through salt beds that still sustain life (the Death Valley pupfish) and then spent the evening hiking over a completely different kind of desert creation, sand dunes. We sat on the dunes and watched the sun dip behind the distant mountains, keeping our eyes peeled for the first star. We saw one and then minutes later there were hundreds. Death Valley is officially known as an international Dark Sky Park because of how little light pollution affects the area. On a clear night the intensity of the stars is awe inspiring. It was an amazing sight to see.

IMG_0274

IMG_0197

IMG_0236

IMG_0303

IMG_0247We were up early the next morning to catch the sunrise. One of the park rangers told us that the best place to see it was Zabriskie Point so that’s where we headed. It was chilly and early, but the sunrise was definitely worth it!

IMG_0307 IMG_0313

From Zabriskie Point we checked out the historic 20 Mule Trail and then headed back to camp for some breakfast and to pack up. The next stop was north, just past the sand dunes at Mosaic Canyon. The hike begins with a narrow trail that opens up to a big canyon. We spent a couple hours hiking around and taking in even more incredible views and rock formations. I even got Dave to pretend our water bottle was Simba on one of them. I have the picture to prove it:)

IMG_2097

IMG_2115After our hike and some lunch we drove west to our last stop in Death Valley, Father Crowley Vista Point. We got a great view of the western side of the park and even got to see two low flying jets fly out on a practice run over the canyon.

IMG_2135As we drove away from Death Valley we were reading over the literature we’d gotten from the park. We knew that Death Valley’s name came from the Manly Party who back in the 1880s were lost in the area and thought they were going to die. When they eventually found their way out legend has it that one of the men turned back and said, “Good Bye Death Valley”. After hiking over the mountains they came upon fresh water at Indian Wells and today a brewery has been erected on the site. Indian Wells Brewing Company still uses the same spring water in their beers and sodas today. We love our beer and it was really refreshing to throw back a few cold ones after all the hiking and driving of the day.

IMG_0269

We decided that our last night camping we’d stop at a different site and had read some great things about Red Rock Canyon State Park about halfway between Death Valley and LA. The park was almost deserted and we had our pick of spots. We set everything up and then drove a little ways down the road for some dinner. That night we had one last campfire and some final stargazing before turning in for the night.

IMG_2164

We spent our last day on the road hiking around the campgrounds and at another canyon just down the road. A lot of old westerns and in addition to some more modern films were shot at Red Rocks including scenes from Jurassic Park. We had the trails all to ourselves and fun checking out a place so close to LA that’d we’d never taken the time to visit.

IMG_0278

IMG_2176 IMG_2184

IMG_0346We had a great time getting away from everything for a few days and seeing a new place. It sounds corny, but stepping away from technology and taking the time to be quiet with nature is so refreshing. I’m lucky I have a partner who thinks so too.

Thankful in the Fall

We’ve been back in “real world mode” for a few weeks now and most of our time has been spent job hunting, trying not to spend money and lounging around with the family. The silver lining to being (f)unemployed is that you have lots of time to do all the things you wish you were doing when you’re working. We’ve been trying to explore some of the cheap/cost-free options in and around LA and our wonderful family has treated us to a few things along the way as well.

The last stop of our mini-moon was at the Hangar 24 and when we told my dad about it he mentioned that a new brewery had opened up in Monrovia called Pacific Plate Brewery. The weekend after our return the whole family piled into the car and drove down to split a couple a samplers. The brewery is small, but the beer was delicious! Later that week we met up with my old friends Jessie and Travis at another local brewery called Eagle Rock Brewery. They were having their 4 year anniversary party the night we met up and were offering special flights of their Solidarity beer and passing out delicious chocolate cake. We had a great time catching up and laughing about old times while downing some more delicious beer.

IMG_1307 IMG_1304

In our efforts to save our dough (and work off that beer) we’ve been taking advantage of the ridiculously warm So Cal weather by doing a lot of hiking and getting out to the local ball fields to throw and hit the softball around. Last weekend Dave and I hiked up into Bailey Canyon and got some amazing views of the south land. It had rained a little bit the day before and we could see for miles- all the way out to the ocean.

IMG_0490IMG_0493IMG_0499

In November Dave and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary by partaking in happy hour at DogHaus in Pasadena. We also celebrated my dad’s birthday with a family trip to Huntington Gardens and a sushi dinner at Kabuki in Hastings.

IMG_1323 IMG_1322IMG_1434IMG_1433

Later in the month we headed into downtown LA to check out the LA Auto Show. I don’t know much about cars, but it was really fun to check out some of the fancy models and pretend to drive a Porsche around. After the Auto Show we took Dave to eat at the Pantry, a famous LA establishment that’s been open continuously since 1924. Fotor1206171025 IMG_1500 IMG_1509

We had a great time celebrating Thanksgiving with two massive feasts. On the actual day we drove down to my uncle and aunt’s house in Temecula. They prepared a great dinner and we had fun visiting with them and my cousins, Emilie and Leah. The next day we whipped up the whole meal all over again. Dave and I hadn’t been in the States for Thanksgiving in three years and were keen to do all our favorites and have leftovers galore. We cooked all day and then shared a second amazing feast that Friday. It definitely beat battling Black Friday shoppers.IMG_4043

IMG_4049 IMG_4055
IMG_4044

In the past few weeks we’ve also been able to make it down to Costa Mesa to visit with our friend Sachi, who moved to Orange County from Berlin, grab dinner with friends Alexis and Peter, catch a taping of the Jay Leno Show out in Burbank and I was able to have a girls’ day with Robyn, Katie and Kathleen checking out Kathleen’s cute, new apartment. Last weekend we saw Catching Fire with the family. And then just this week we trekked out to the LA Zoo with Maddie’s friend Sarah who is down in LA for a quick visit.IMG_1438

IMG_1526IMG_1447 IMG_1670I guess looking back over the past month we’ve actually been able to keep pretty busy. It’s finally starting to cool down in California and we’re looking forward to getting a Christmas tree and pulling out all the decorations this weekend. We’re leaving for Maine in just about 10 days now so we have lots of Christmas gift crafting to do in the next week, plus job searching of course… Merry (early) Christmas to everyone and hope you have much to be thankful for this holiday season!

 

I love June!

June was off to a rainy start in Berlin. The last two weeks of May were also a little rainy, but with intermittent days of sun. Luckily the weather is turning and we’ve had so much going on the past month there has been little time to be annoyed with the weather!

For those of you who don’t know we’ve decided to officially move back to the US at the end of August. We’ll be spending about two weeks in Maine and then heading out to California to prepare for the big wedding! We’re not sure where we’ll end up post-honeymoon, but are going to look for job opportunities in a couple of our favorite cities, probably staying with my parents for a month or two while we figure out our next move. Hopefully this doesn’t mean the end of our international adventures though, we’d both love to live abroad again in the future and we’re going to miss Berlin and all our wonderful friends here immensely!

Besides buying plane tickets home, figuring out some visa details, planning our departure and full-time work (for me at school and Dave on his thesis) we’ve been able to have a lot of fun since our return from Greece. We’ve taken advantage of sunny days by visiting Berlin’s many parks and outdoor cafes. I signed up for a Japanese cooking course (in German) with my friend Saskia and had a great time cooking and eating Japanese food the last fewTuesdays. Take a look at my homemade sushi plate presentation:)

IMG_1294 IMG_1297 IMG_1299

I’ve also been able to spend a lot of time with my work-besties. Jon, Irene and I even had a “sleep over” the other week. Our sleep over included wine, martinis, dancing in our pjs and watching Priscilla Queen of the Desert. A few weekend ago they also persuaded me to finally visit a club in Berlin (something the city is known for). And though dancing past sunrise is not usually my cup of tea, I have to admit I had so much fun! Dave and I have also hit up a couple different bars, kept up our promise to try new restaurants and take advantage of all that the amazing city of Berlin has to offer.

club club2

IMG_1052 IMG_1063 IMG_1070 IMG_1071 IMG_1078 IMG_1080 IMG_1082

IMG_1033 IMG_1042

This past weekend for my 28th birthday Dave surprised me with a weekend trip to Munich. We’d both visited the city when we’d studied abroad, but had solely seen the inside of the fair grounds at Oktoberfest. Turns out there is more to Munich than that! Though the beer and giant pretzels still rank pretty high on the list of “things we love about Munich”.

We left early Saturday morning and as soon as we got there we headed to the Augustiner Keller. Maß beers were the perfect welcome to the city and we even got to enjoy some traditional German music. After our time at Augustiner we headed to the English Gardens and enjoyed a great evening exploring everything. We even rented a row boat to see the gardens from a different perspective and then enjoyed dinner at another beer garden inside the English garden.

IMG_1090 IMG_1095 IMG_1111 IMG_1129 IMG_1131

Sunday morning brought my birthday and luckily another sunny day! We started the day with some ice coffees (my faves) and then a guided tour of the city (I love history!). From what we saw Munich is a much more “traditional” German city than Berlin. When the city was destroyed (about 80%) in WWII they took pains to reconstruct everything exactly as it had stood prior to the bombings. Everywhere we went we saw locals and tourists wearing lederhosen and dirndl. Munich’s population is about 1.3 million, but it has a little bit of the small city feel. We learned a lot about the city and saw a good chunk of the Old Town.

IMG_1162 IMG_1175 IMG_1178 IMG_1181 IMG_1187 IMG_1189

After our tour we visited (what else) a biergarten for lunch and to rest our feet. We had a delicious lunch of Weißwurst, pretzels and beer- so German! Unfortunately it started to drizzle a little bit towards the end of our meal. We decided to head back to hotel for a nap and so I could skype with my family. After our rest we headed back out to see the old town at night and to find a spot for dinner. We found a bierhall with a good looking menu and had another delicious German meal (with some complimentary shots!) to celebrate my 28 years. It was a great birthday and I’m so grateful to Dave for planning everything!

IMG_1202 IMG_1201 IMG_1203 IMG_1218

Our last morning in Munich started with a big, traditional German breakfast…we kind of have a theme going here: lots of traditional German beer and food. There was a “Munich Breakfast” on the menu that included a 1/2 liter of beer, but we both opted for coffee instead. We then walked up to the top of St. Peter’s to view Munich’s famous Glockenspiel from above. The rest of the day was spent souvenir shopping, a little more touristing and some last minute beer drinking. Towards the end of the day we ran into the weirdest thing- 2 huge tributes to Michael Jackson and his monkey Bubbles. The pictures don’t quite capture the absurdness of the memorial, but we both thought it a bit creepy. Ahh….people of the world you make us laugh. On the way home we hit some major traffic due to all the flooding in Germany because of the rains and didn’t make it home until almost 3am, but it was worth it!

IMG_1226 IMG_1231 IMG_1236 IMG_1251IMG_1268 IMG_1276 IMG_1253

The next morning came a little too soon for my liking, but I had an awesome surprise from all my wonderful friends at work. They showered me with flowers, gifts and a delicious homemade cheese cake and made me feel so special! I am still enjoying the cheesecake Sandra made:) Such a wonderful birthday treat.

IMG_1286

IMG_1303

IMG_1288 IMG_1289 IMG_1291The first half of June has been action-packed and full of fun. Plus the fact that it doesn’t get dark until almost 10 makes it easy to be motivated and get out and do stuff after work! We can’t believe how fast time is flying, but we’re working hard to enjoy every minute left we have in Berlin and can’t wait to update everyone again soon!