One Year of the Pandemic: CA vs. TX

We’ve been in quarantine for over a year, and I’ve spent six months of quarantine in California and the second six months in Texas. As a Texan who grew up here for most of my life, with 12 years living in San Francisco, recently moving back – here are my thoughts on both experiences.

We lived on the corner of Alamo Square, so each morning I took my walks in this park and had easy access to crisp fresh air. Well, not at first. Truth be told, the first 3 weeks of quarantine in March 2020 I barely left my house, only to go to the grocery store once a week. I was super paranoid about COVID and not quite sure how it was spreading or what was going on (and I lost my job and was needless to say, depressed). Little by little my confidence in being able to go on daily walks and runs increased and soon I spent the majority of my outside time in this park. I miss this park so much!

As quarantine went on in San Francisco, I spent a fair amount of my time running and walking in Golden Gate Park. I walked to places I had never seen before! I usually clocked upwards of 7-10K steps daily and listened to all sorts of creepy podcasts along the way. The weather of course is always so amazing in California, perfect for long walks and hikes.

Hiking in California was relatively easy, because there are so many trails and land is available for public use outside of state and federal parks. You didn’t have to plan (unless the areas were closed from COVID) and it was easy to pick a trail and go. It was, however, much busier since so many people were stuck inside – but we were always able to hike whenever we wanted.

The thing that made everything even more depressing was that businesses were closing left and right in SF. Everything was boarded up. Few business were essential enough to be open, you couldn’t get a haircut for a very long time, and outdoor eating and drinking was on and off allowed, and monitored very heavily. Really the only thing you could do is sit 6 feet away from friends in the park. And we definitely did that a lot. But it was just incredibly sad. I had been in San Francisco for 12 years of my life. Of course cities change a lot over time when people move in and out and dynamics and economy changes the environment. SF was already different 2 years in vs. 6 years in vs. 12 years in of my experience. But it really was not the same city at all that I moved to.

Artists and locals were struggling to live there because of the cost of living, which is understandable, and many were forced out long before the pandemic. And in the years leading up to COVID, my favorite local hot spots, night clubs, dive bars were already on their way out. Musicians and DJs left for places like Berlin or Brooklyn or LA. SF was becoming more consumed with the tech community. I had worked in ad-tech before but for my last 2-3 years in the city I worked in entertainment marketing for the Curran theater, so I lost my job at the beginning of COVID because large theaters were a no-no, tech companies declared everyone could work from home, and the companies that had headquarters in SF laid off 20% of their workers – which was basically their marketing and advertising teams. So yeah, even more and more depressing. I’ve mentioned this before being one of the main reasons behind our decision to leave. And leaving was, VERY very hard for me. But, I know it would have been even harder for me if I stayed and watched the city that I loved dramatically change before my eyes without me being able to keep up.

I miss the coastline. Trees. The forest. Hiking. The amazing weather. Access to wine country and mountains and Tahoe. And of course our friends and John’s family. Being in nature during COVID is 100% better in California.

But, after a dozen years away from Texas, it’s a whole new adventure!

I still spend my run/walks in either the park closest to my house (5 minute drive) or downtown around Town Lake which is about 15 minutes away. Of course we miss the walk-ability of a city like SF. But having a car and being able to quickly get from point A to B is also incredibly nice. Plus the lakes here have their own unique environments, like the turtles that are around every bend, or the bats that live under the Congress bridge. Lake culture is also really fun!

The weather is obviously not as nice as California, but actually it hasn’t been as hot as I feared it would (though we are approaching summer months and I’m sure I’ll hate it). Weather in Texas can be completely unpredictable. We’ve had crazy thunderstorms, golf ball sized hail, triple digit heat, light snow flurries, AND an insane snowstorm that literally almost broke the grid and uprooted civilization for more than a week!

It keeps things very interesting! We’ve also been able to go on a lot of roadtrips and explore new places and small towns. Mostly with family, but we’ve stayed out on the lake and went on a boat adventure, stayed in a cozy AirBnb in the Hill Country and did some distant wine tasting, and also stayed in a haunted hotel in San Antonio. People in Texas are much more open about traveling and visiting areas than in California. They are a bit more independent from government and like to do what they want. I’m not saying it’s bad or good either way, just different. I would say that of my friends in California, John and I are more comfortable with traveling safely during COVID, always sanitizing along the way, sticking to ourselves, and never eating inside a restaurant. But compared to people in Texas, we are the ones who are more cautious about following the rules. We always wear a mask no matter what and constantly sanitize. To me that makes sense, and I know Californians follow those protocols because it’s what scientists have said to do. Not everyone feels that way here, but at least we are in Austin which is the most liberal part of the state, some parts of it feel MORE liberal to me than parts of the Bay Area. With that said, going on local travel and exploration during COVID is 100% more fun in Texas.

While restaurants in California are closed inside, and only available for takeout or outdoor dining when allowed, everything is open in Texas. That really struck me as weird when we first moved. People still eat inside like nothing is wrong. We are patio people 100%. However the good news is that most businesses have patios! Something not as available in San Francisco due to space restrictions. So yes, we go out to eat about once or twice a week and sit on a lovely patio and support our local restaurants. And we only drink at bars with patios. I enjoy this about our current living situation, and knowing Austin is the most strict of all places in Texas makes me feel safer. So eating and drinking out is 100% better in Austin. You can be safe and there is space to be distant outside, making you feel like there is still some semblance of normality. Also, Texas has HEB grocery stores and that is definitely better here than in CA – I love HEB so much! ( AND our local HEB around the corner has an outdoor bar patio, which is double amazing)

Swimming is something I’m super excited to do again! I rarely ever got in a bathing suit in CA outside of yearly Tahoe visits, and most of that time was for hot tubs. While there aren’t shaded forests, Texas has a lot of interesting geology, greenbelts, swimming holes, and batholiths. I’m excited to explore more in the summer and SWIM – something I feel I haven’t done much of the last twelve years. We will see how I handle the summer months.

Hiking in Texas is very different than in California. You need reservations everywhere you go, and must book them out weeks in advance. This is similar to how camping in California is, the best spots need to be booked out months in advance, so I understand that. But hiking was never an issue. Here, most of the land is privately owned so there isn’t as much available for people to just go hike. And with COVID, reservations are required. It’s kinda crazy to me that we can’t just go outside when we want and explore. But there are definitely places that don’t require reservations. There also aren’t as many hiking trails with elevation changes, so it can feel more like walking. But despite those differences there are some amazingly beautiful hikes we’ve explored. Overall, California is 100% better for hiking.

There are pros and cons to both experiences, and I love California and Texas in different ways. They make up different parts of my personality, and it’s ok that I feel connected to both. I really don’t understand the judgements folks have for both sides. Extreme Californians can’t stand people from red states, and won’t even listen to someone from Texas (this happened to me when I first moved to California during a business meeting) and people who have never left Texas think Californians are coming for their guns. LMAO. But also, it’s incredibly infuriating. I am a 5th generation Texan. My whole entire family is Texan. I mostly grew up here (alongside living outside of Yellow Springs in Ohio for my childhood) and there are some things I really love and admire about Texas. Not everything of course – I am very liberal and lived in San Francisco for 12 years! And obviously there are many things I love and admire about California, especially for me to uproot my life and independently move across country and stay for 1/3 of my life. I can feel connected to part of my heritage in Texas and also feel connected to the west coast life – you don’t have to be one or the other. You can be both. I am both. I am an incredibly independent, free thinking, ambitious hard working woman who believes we are all connected and everyone should have equal rights and access to free health care!

All I am saying here is, never judge someone based on where they live, you don’t know their story.

Moving Across Country… in a Global Pandemic!

Moving is never a walk in the park. Moving across country any time, is a HUGE change. Now imagine doing that…in a global pandemic. Yep, that’s what we did and I’m here to tell you ALL about it!

I recently talked about our reasons for leaving San Francisco. It was definitely a hard decision but we both felt that we were ready to grow, ready for change, and wanted be closer to my family. Once we broke the news to our family and friends, the plans were made…

We knew we wanted to ship about 60% of our stuff, specific furniture that we loved that had sentimental value, all of our art (we own TONS of nicely framed unique artwork), clothes (again, MANY boxes were comprised of clothes, shoes, and jackets alone), and random nick-knacks and things we couldn’t part with. We also knew that we didn’t personally want to drive our stuff across multiple states via U-haul. While we wanted to do a cross country drive with our cat Beatrix, the pressure and stress of tugging our stuff was not appealing and we quickly decided on a pod type move. I made a few calls and got quotes, both from PODS and UPack, and we decided to use UPack because they were a bit cheaper and quicker. While on the phone to both companies, representatives at each place told me that this was the last reservation available for 6 weeks out and that the #1 place they were moving people to was…Austin. Interesting! My intuition was correct. Folks were leaving SF by the droves and also heading to Texas.

After we sold off the stuff we could and gave the rest away to Goodwill, we packed our things very tightly, literally putting EVERYTHING in bubble-wrap. You see, UPack is just a storage container-shipping service, so packing is completely left to you (and you can’t claim breakage if you packed poorly). You also have to hire movers separately if you need and because our SF apartment was on the 2nd floor with a winding staircase, we opted to pay movers to help lug our stuff down into the containers. Boy were they especially quick and experienced! The next day, UPack came to pick up our stuff and it was en route to Texas, we would see it in about 7-10 business days. The rest of the week we slept on an air mattress and worked from our folding camping chairs, and stayed a few nights with friends.

We jam packed our stuff into TWO UPack pods (this is only half our stuff) and luckily only ONE GLASS broke!

The morning of our big departure we walked through Alamo Square for the last time. The air was thick and foggy, and also incredibly smokey from the wildfires – making it hard to breathe. I cried and felt incredibly grateful for my time here and very hopeful for our future. But I also had so much adrenaline to get going – and get to Texas! We threw our last remaining items out, tidied up the apartment, got our rental car, and packed up with Bea and were off!

We chose a one-way car rental from SFO airport to the Austin airport over about 5 days. We already had plans to buy our friend’s car in Texas, so this was the most efficient way for us to move across country. Our car was packed with a few suitcases of clothes, our computers and camera, a handful of items we wanted to personally hang onto (like paperwork and family heirlooms) and of course our baby cat. The plan was to drive down the 5 to Bakersfield and hit Las Vegas, then through Utah to stay in Moab, cross into Colorado and stay in Denver, drive down through Colorado Springs, cross New Mexico and into Texas to stay in Amarillo the final night, with the last day driving through until we reached Austin. We did this route because both of us recently spent time in New Mexico (and I in Arizona) and neither of us have really explored Utah or Colorado – so we wanted to go where we could explore more things, even if it did take a little longer.

I didn’t book us any hotels in advance. And luckily, we drove through states where they weren’t implementing quarantine for COVID (another reason we didn’t stay in New Mexico, they were more strict in the pandemic). We took turns driving our fun Hyundai Sante Fe mid-size SUV which was perfect for us. Keep in mind, I haven’t owned a car in 12 years and I didn’t drive much in California, so I wanted something that I felt comfortable in and this car was amazing. We agreed in the future if we ever saw a good deal on this vehicle we would get it! So smooth and safe. Two thumbs up from us!

The first day of the trip was the WORST. I knew it was going to suck hard, not only because of being emotional saying goodbye, but it was the longest drive of the whole trip, it was hot en route to Bakersfield which also isn’t a super interesting landscape, and we knew Bea was going to have a really hard time. For about 2 months before we left, John practiced taking Beatrix for drives around the city, although in shorter spurts of 30 minutes. It got a lot easier for her after a few times, but that was no where close to being in the car for 8 hours or so. We had a flexible cat carrier and I put a sweater of mine down that she loves to sleep on, and brought toys and treats. We had a travel liter box as well and kept her in a cat harness the whole time she was in the car. Initially we wanted to keep her in the middle seat, but she cried way too much and I put her on my lap. It was a LONG drive. We passed through burn scars from the fires on the 5, only 2 days after it was put out! It was a chaotic time to leave and the energy was crazy. Bea wouldn’t stop crying and once we made it to Bakersfield, we decided to stop to let her walk outside in the park on her leash – she did NOT like this at all and immediately ran back into her cat carrier, and we didn’t hear a peep from her the rest of the drive.

We finally made it to Vegas. I booked us a room at the La Quinta over by Red Rock Canyon because they are pet friendly with no additional charges (other hotels wanted anywhere from $20-$100 extra and half of the hotels didn’t even allow animals). The first night I really questioned our driving plan. I seriously thought about just going through Arizona and NM and getting to Austin ASAP because Bea had such a hard time and I was worried about her. John assured me everything was going to be ok, and once I had a good night of rest I would want to proceed with our plans. Boy was he right! The next morning, we left Bea in the hotel so we could go explore Red Rock Canyon on our own and enjoy what we could while she felt safe. It was so beautiful! It took about 45 minutes for us to do the scenic drive and we were only about 5 minutes from our hotel. We decided to keep this strategy for the rest of the trip: pick a place we want to explore in our destination, find a La Quinta nearby that location, leave Bea in the room and go explore in the morning, checkout by noon, and onward to the next location. This was AMAZING for us and worked well. And Beatrix was in much better spirits on the second day, she loved exploring the hotel room.

I really wanted to see the Hoover Dam while we left Vegas but it was closed due to COVID. I looked up if we could see anything driving by, but others had attempted the same thing on TripAdvisor and confirmed no dice. So I just drove us straight out of Vegas, through the corner of Arizona (for about 30 minutes, hey at least we saw the backside of the Grand Canyon!) and into Utah. I visited Salt Lake City in high school once but never spent time in southern Utah. Man, it was GORGEOUS! Wow. We stopped almost every 30 minutes to take pictures because the geology was so unique and constantly changing. It was the best part of our drive, the most mesmerizing and gorgeous.

We made our way to Moab and checked in to La Quinta, dropped off Bea, and went to a lovely dinner on an Italian patio on the main strip. The food was good but the atmosphere of Moab was amazing. What a cute place!

While Bea was curled up by the window, we spent the next morning at the Arches National Park, just a 10 minute drive from our hotel! If you are ever in Utah, this is a MUST DO! It was INCREDIBLE. Words can’t describe being surrounded by the beautiful GINORMOUS red rocks. You stayed in the car (hey, a great COVID activity!) and drove to each point of interest where you could get out for photos. It was one of our favorite things we have ever done together. It really felt like Land Before Time.

After the park we grabbed some delish quesadillas and did a little shopping on the main street for some cute Moab shirts, souvenirs for family, and an ornament before packing up and making our way to Denver. We also saw that there were fires in western Utah and eastern CO, so they were basically everywhere this point in the summer (hey climate change is real)! We left behind red rocks and arches for trees and mountains, and lots of super windy roads.

An old college roommate of mine lives in Denver and we made plans to meet up for a beer at the local brewery, so we opted to stay at the La Quinta in Lakewood. It was great to see Jessica and her beautiful family! And the beer was as good as they say it is in Denver. 🙂

My old college roommate and I being safe and socially distant! We used to wait tables together at Hyde Park Bar & Grill and also worked together at the famous NXNW.

The next morning we explored downtown and Sloan’s Lake. We got coffee and vegan donuts and walked around Confluence Park and saw the city before making our way to the peaceful lake. This was the only time we were able to see views of downtown and they were really nice. I also felt a bit out of place because I was dressed up a bit in boots and a skirt, while literally everyone around me wore workout clothes by North Face or Patagonia, LMAO.

We packed up Denver and made our way to Colorado Springs for a picnic lunch in the park and some boutique shopping. I always heard the best things about Colorado Springs and it didn’t disappoint – I actually liked the vibe more than Denver, personally. The shops were adorable and I scored a few things like a crystal candle, moon earrings, and a tie dye scrunchie. And just look at our adventure cat enjoying the town square!

I drove the next stretch down southern Colorado, across New Mexico and into Texas. It was extremely flat in the panhandle and I had never seen that part of Texas before! Crossing the state line made it the more real that yes, we are Texans now.

We were on a mission to get to Amarillo (by mornin’…) to check into our final La Quinta and grab a chicken fried steak. And FANTASTIC chicken fried steak we had! Bea even got accustomed to hotel living, she was a real great indoor house cat on our journey.

Our last night was spent on the west side, 10 minutes away from Cadillac Ranch. John brought his own spray paint just so we could tag the cars. I had no idea how many people actually tagged this art installation every day! Less than 2 weeks before we went, Rhianna was there and left a tag that said “Fuck Trump” and put a picture of it on her Instagram. All of the local Trump supporters immediately went and painted all the cars red with pro Trump slogans. By the time we got there, everything was completely covered with various tags – you would have no idea that this even happened. (also SO MANY spray paint cans on the ground which I wasn’t a fan of, we took ours with us)

After breakfast we loaded up and began our journey to Austin. We had to stop in Lubbock though because John’s dad has a romanticized view of Lubbock from previous work history and we needed to send him photos. I went to Lubbock only two times before, once for a UT football game where I got hit in the head with a dried up tortilla (yes, Texas Tech does this and it makes no sense) and the other time was to visit a friend after college. John’s reaction was “that’s Lubbock?” – LOL.

The last day was another hard one for Bea. At this point in the trip she was over the car. And we were about 7 hours away from Austin so it was almost as bad as day 1. But we persevered! I had never driven through that part of Texas before and wasn’t used to the rolling hills. That’s not the Texas that I am familiar with, but it was cool to see! What WASN’T cool to see were the buttload of Trump signs. But as we got closer to Austin those became less frequent. Our last pit stop was in the town of Ballenger where I grabbed us amazing Mexican food to go, and we ate in the town gazebo with Bea. (man I SO WISH I got a picture of this moment!) Our new home was so close!

Five days and 7 states later, we arrived! We dropped off our things at our new house, returned the rental car, and stayed the next few days with our friends Jen and Ian until our stuff arrived from UPack. What an incredible journey! Looking back, I can’t believe how quickly we made everything happen. And Bea loves the new place! She has more rooms to explore, more windows, and more sunlight (which she LOVES to bathe in and never really got to do much in SF as we didn’t have much natural light in our place). She watches the grackles chirp each and everyday from her cat tower and the back kitchen door, peering into our backyard. Being in the car for multiple days in a row is a very distant memory for her.

There will be more posts from my new perspective in Texas in the coming months. I loved our time across country and will cherish those memories forever. But to be back, see family, and have new energy and state of mind is such a great feeling! It was DEF the right move. Texas, Texas…yeehaw!

Goodbye SF, Hello Texas, and Reflections of COVID-19

I moved to San Francisco in 2008, shortly after my 23rd birthday. I only visited once and decided then and there I was moving, and three months later I arrived. I had only intended on living in the Bay for 2 years. I assumed I would have my fun (with a time limit) and then come back to Austin. Boy, was I way wrong!

In California I really came into my own. The longer time went on, the more extroverted I became. The more I found myself confident in my opinions, speaking up when I could. My style was OFF THE HOOK (I take pride in this!!). I made the best friends! Ones I know that I will be in touch with forever. I developed amazing skills and tried new hobbies – hello DJ world, improv performing community, hiking and watercolor times! I fell in LOVE. I found myself. So why decide to leave?

Truth by told, as much as I love San Francisco and cherished my time in the Bay, I had been feeling for a few years that I was ready for a new adventure somewhere else. John and I had been talking about trying something new together for a while and couldn’t ever really decide. When I started working in marketing for the Curran theater, I knew that I would be tied to SF as long as I had this job. I grew my skill-set so much! I planned so many amazing parties, red carpet events, after parties and beyond. I was an avid part of the VIBE of the city. (I want to address my career separately, so am only touching on it here). But when COVID first came around I lost my job pretty immediately, and all of entertainment went cold, I felt the time came to make a big change.

I know I am a super intuitive person. I was the first person in our group of family and friends that realized, very early on, how big of a deal COVID would be. I envisioned losing my job immediately, industries shutting down, flocks of people moving out of cities – things closing for months on end. Despite feeling this way, I persevered. Everyone was let go, letting go of more people, and places were on hiring freezes. Businesses were closing left and right. It felt hopeless. I tried everything I could everyday to get a new job. I brushed up on my skills and got 3 additional marketing certifications. I didn’t feel confident that the job market had my back in SF, with remote work blooming everywhere and everything described above. John’s work was always remote, so we decided it was time. From a career perspective, Austin felt right because I knew companies would be moving work with all of the tax breaks and cheaper cost of living, so all of the opportunities I once had in SF were now relocated as well.

I ended up going back to work for a previous employer, remotely, and an old amazing (and very chill) boss who confirmed I could move anywhere I wanted. This was so exciting because I knew what I was getting into when all of the rest of the world felt scary. I was going to have a reliable source of income with great work-life balance, and could live anywhere I wanted…

You see, John wants to go to grad school….in Edinburgh! He likes the program at the university and has connections through his work. It would be a 1 year plan and we intend to go in a year from now, when vaccines are administered to everyone and travel is opened up. So in the meantime, we decided, it was the time to be closer to my family. Hence, preparations for Texas were en route.

The weekend we decided to move we were in Carmel.
My California man, taking a risk to become a Texan temporarily and live in a *gasp* RED STATE!

Telling our family and friends was the hardest part, but for the most part everyone was pretty supportive and excited for us. Austin is a really rad town, it was where I went to college 15 years ago and the first city I fell in love with. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I spent the last 12 years building myself up to be this person, a West Coast performer who loves nature and the great outdoors – how could this person exist in Texas? Where it’s HOT and the views don’t always align with my own?

I grieved. A LOT. I cried. EVEN MORE. But after everything is said and done, I knew deep down this was what we were supposed to do. My parents are in their 70s and I’ve been gone a long time. If anything, COVID has taught us that we are not promised tomorrow. So make memories while you can, NOW.

Our socially distant, Alamo Square park goodbye shindig.

I loved my apartment on Alamo Square so much. I lived there for 10 years, and the park was on my front doorstep! It did me well, and later on, John moved in and it did him well too 🙂 . I am forever grateful for the memories we created with our friends and families who visited us and spent time in our home. The backyard BBQs, charades, dance parties to records in the living room, Tuesday Night Dinner club, and more! While I knew I could stay there as long as I wanted, I was ready to grow and that entailed being uncomfortable.

We packed our belongings, sent them off to Texas, and said our final goodbyes with tears in our eyes. It was very painful leaving, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I feel so connected to California. We want to move back and settle down when we are ready to do so – but we have more adventures ahead (in Texas and Edinburgh and maybe somewhere else along the way).

The last sunset in our neighborhood we experienced, before moving the next morning.

We drove across country with Beatrix in tow and stopped at some unique places along the way (I’ll write about that as a separate post). After navigating Las Vegas, Moab Utah, Denver Colorado, Amarillo and New Mexico, we eventually made our way to our new home in Austin. We have been here a few short months and it finally feels like we’ve settled into our new surroundings. And merging old Texas Emily with current California Emily is a lot easier than I thought. I am the best version of me yet! I am so excited for what is in store this coming year – I feel very grounded and have had lots of time to reflect and plan goals.

In our new home in Austin.

Throughout everything, John and I are lucky and happy to have each other in this crazy time. We both have steady remote jobs that allow us the flexibility to explore our surroundings. We have our cute cat who snuggles us everyday. We have close friends down the street, who also moved from SF just 6 months prior to us! My family is only a 2 hour drive away. And we frequently zoom and facetime with his family and our friends back home. Who knows where our future will take us, but for now – we are taking it one step at a time.

Happy 2021, may it bring you health, wealth, and happiness!

Favorite Bay Area Hikes, Part 2

The Bay Area has some of the best hikes in the country and I was lucky enough to live there for over 12 years and experience so many awesome trails. I recently went over my top 3 favorite hikes in the Bay, specifically tied to moderate trails that were about 5 miles or so, for the perfect workout. But there are so many that I’m including other trails we frequented that are purely gorgeous!

  1. Marin Headlands, Marin

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge lies Marin, the beautiful woody North Bay community that is so stunning, people come from all over the world to hike in the area. The trails at Marin Headlands / Tennessee Valley are incredibly gorgeous, very mellow, and RIGHT on the coast. Plus you can see the Golden Gate Bridge from the top and into the city on a clear day!

Wow Emily, this is gorgeous!

You might be thinking, WHY wouldn’t I include this area on my favorite hikes?

Well mostly 2 reasons: one, it’s always very crowded and parking is annoying and two, the trails aren’t challenging. It’s a lovely walk/hike by the ocean which is AMAZING, but when you train for intense trail hiking adventures it doesn’t cut it. But if you want a nice picnic and beautiful ocean views, nothing else will compare!

The trails along the headlands remind me of the Irish coastline down by the Dingle peninsula!

The Tennessee Valley trail opens up so you can walk right out to the ocean, just a hop skip and jump away from the headlands trail. You can easily do both in one afternoon.

2. Castle Rock, Saratoga

This loop is great because there are many trail options. It can be several miles up to about 12 if you do the whole thing (we didn’t). This was one of the hikes we trained on for our British Columbia adventure which included a great range full of of easy, moderate, and hard parts.

The most challenging part is crossing the boulders on the cliff-side where you hold a rope in order to pass. This made me very uncomfortable (due to my fear of falling off a mountain top) but I persevered and made it. This is definitely a more challenging hike if you’re up for it but you feel so good afterwards!

3. Alamere Falls, Bolinas

This trail is a lovely 8 mile roundtrip, there and back experience. It does get pretty crowded on the weekends, so I would highly suggest going either super early in the morning or waiting until after 2pm in the afternoon. There’s also some very muddy areas so be sure you aren’t wearing shoes that you care about getting dirty!

Hiking down to the bottom is very challenging, I didn’t even do it! John was brave enough to climb down to the bottom on the side of the cliff to get these shots. I am just anxious about being cliff-side so if that doesn’t bother you, then it won’t be too hard to get down.

4. Muir Woods, Marin

Over the years and visits from friends and family I’ve been to Muir Woods countless times. The first time I thought it was the most incredible place I’ve ever seen! But with the expansion of my hiking experience, I realized that the beauty that you find within Muir Woods is also available in countless other areas. It’s also VERY crowded and you now need reservations to visit (and parking passes) but with that said, it is still so beautiful I’m including it here. It’s also more of a walk and less of a hike, but you must see it at least ONE time.

The last visit we actually camped on private property just on the backside of the park, so we easily made our way down onto the trails which was better than dealing with the main entrance in my opinion. I mean, talk about an AWESOME CAMPING adventure!

5. Dusky-Footed Woodrat Trail, Redwood City

Before moving back to Austin we went on a fun 5 mile loop with one of our favorite hiking pals, Heather, down in Redwood City. This loop is very close to my favorite hike at El Corte De Madera Creek, but we opted for something different in the area for one last hike.

This was a great 5 mile moderate loop with challenging twists and turns (not too challenging though!) with very few other folks on the trail. I would definitely do this one again – Redwood City is beautiful and my favorite place in the South Bay!

And now I miss hiking in the Bay! Enjoy a trail or two next time you’re in the Bay.

Favorite Bay Area Hikes, Part 1

El Corte de Madera Creek

Living in California for 12 years changed me in many ways. I became more outspoken, confident, eccentric and open minded than I ever was before. The climate also allowed me to become somewhat of an outdoor person. I got into hiking and camping and spending adequate time in nature, things I didn’t do much of before because Texas was always so DAMN hot. (and let’s be real, I’m prone to being an indoor cat…)

I’m writing a post of my favorite Bay Area hikes, recapping the most gorgeous spots with the best trail memories. I’ll do this in two parts, with this post focusing on my top 3 favorite hikes in the Bay. Let’s do it!

  1. El Corte de Madera Creek – Open Space Preserve (Redwood City)

I’ve written about this trail before after the first time John and I experienced it. After all the trails all over the area, from South to North Bay and even East Bay – this trail is hands down my favorite spot. I think we’ve hiked it about 5-6 times over the years and I always want to return. GIVE ME THOSE TREES!

I love it because it’s a damn good hike and it feels like you’re immersed in a badass forest. It can also be anything you want it to be. Want to go easy? Take the shortcut and avoid the steep section. Want it to be hard? Do the whole thing! It has the beautiful redwoods, moss, a creek, an easy to follow trail that isn’t very crowded. It is shaded but also sunny in parts. There is a separate section with a huge Boulder and also a nice view up top with a picnic table. I always felt at peace here.

View from the top

Everytime we hiked we always stopped at the Mountain House for a beer before heading home as it’s only 2 miles away. (This restaurant also has a bizarre old-timey mirrored ad of Czar Nicholas II. John didn’t believe me and we immediately went home and watched a documentary about murder of the Romanovs)

All I can say is….this is the perfect moderate trail! DO IT.

2. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park – Vista Trail (Sonoma)

This trail is absolutely gorgeous in the winter time! Went once in January and another in May, and preferred the dreary winter vibes more. It’s so mossy and green and is perfect on an overcast day – thought the sunny summer vibes are also nice! I just like overcast dreary weather more than the average Bay Area person.

One side of the trail is full of waterfalls not far from the road, twisting and turning into different secret spaces within the rocks. The other side of the road and trail opens up a bit more with rolling hills.

This trail has a nice contrast in a pretty rad spot in Sonoma. You have to drive through a vineyard and a neighborhood to get there but once you round the corner into the State Park it feels pretty remote, especially since it’s in the middle of wine country! Go wine taste afterwards or stop and eat something amazing.

3. Sweeney Ridge Trail (Pacifica)

Ok this one is a weird one. The first time we did it I thought it was so hard. To be fair, it was the first hike I had done in like a year, and it starts off EXTREMELY steep. The kind of steep that just keeps going and going, and you think you’re at the top and then you’re not and then you get grumpy. Well once you get past that part it’s pretty awesome!

The first time we went the old Nike Missile Site was still there with tons of graffiti and we were lucky to get some good pics. We even saw some chick dancing for her music video on Youtube so it felt pretty eventful.

The second time we went however, the missile site was removed and no more graffiti <sad face> and John was pretty bummed. BUT- it wasn’t NEARLY as hard because by the time we hit this trail again (1 year later) we completed many hikes while we trained for our BC hikes, and actually hiked BC, so this felt much easier.

Here you can see panoramic views of the Bay (hence the steep up and up) and feel like you’re on top of the world.

If you’re in the area, hope you are able to get out and enjoy one of these fun hikes. Next time we’re in the Bay we are definitely hitting up El Corte de Madera again 🙂

Stay tuned for Part 2.

City By The Bay

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It’s well known that San Francisco is gorgeous AF. We really are spoiled here, between the rolling mountains, wine country, ocean and bay, amazing Victorian architecture and more, it’s no wonder SF is one of the most sought out places to live in the world and why I thank my lucky stars that I have rent control.

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But if you aren’t a local there are many other unique and interesting things that make SF eclectic….like:

  • Hanging out “in the park” is what everyone does – there are parks EVERYWHERE, and it’s a perfectly logical thing to get together at one of them (Golden Gate, Alamo Square, Dolores, Crissy Field – many more!) and picnic ALL DAY, day drink, play games, or even smoke on the weekends.
  • There are more costumed events here than in any other city! Bay to breakers, the binge drinking event built around wearing costumes and walking a running race route, is the biggest costumed event in the Bay all year.  Of course there is also Halloween, but there are many themed bar crawls and events that require costumes at all times of the year (Victorian ball, anyone?!), no one bats an eyelash when seeing many people dressed up (or even nude, as we are the biggest nude town in America as well).
  • It’s perfectly acceptable for vendors to walk around parks, selling edibles and their baked good treats like brownies and truffles, for consumption in public.
  • Apparently, as I learned on a documentary show on Vice called Slutever (omg great name BTW) that there are weed oriented sex products and parties on the reg in the Bay. I’ve lived here 10 years and never knew that, but now I do and am not surprised one bit!

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I love this goober’s smile ❤ R E S P E C T

Whether or not you want to partake in any of those things, the Bay is a CHILL place to be, where you can be a mermaid any day of the week and no one would think that is strange. I love this big weirdo of a town! ❤

It’s the Lands End Of the World as We Know It

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As January comes to a close I reflect over the past 31 days with fondness. January felt really awesome in a lot of ways! Did you feel that too, or was it just me? From slowing down and being more available “with myself” to incorporating more yoga into my routine to FINALLY getting a DSLR and embarking on a new hobby (and goal) –  I feel very pleased with how 2018 has blasted off. Nope, I didn’t watch the State of the Union Address either because I am focusing on things that make me happy at this time in my life, but I heard about the crazy drinking games surrounding it and I think that WOULD be the only way I could have watched it tbh… but let’s move on to the BEAUTIFUL LEFT COAST!

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Just creepin’ around….INTO YOUR SOUL.

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Lands End is one of my favorite places for a nice trail walk in the city. It’s at the edge of the city (hence the name Lands End…DUH) right where the cliffs meet the ocean and the thick fog meets the gorgeous forest. It’s not super close to our house but also not too far either. It’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors without having to drive away from the city or embark on a strenuous 8 mile hike. Or as I would say, lazy nature. ❤

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I am really getting into this photography thing and I’m also pleasantly surprised that John is taking a liking to it too, maybe even more so than me! But that’s all good news because #instagramhusband and all. (Who else is going to take my picture to prove that I’m a #realblogger? 😉 )

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Look at the surfers from way up top! They look like ants. The ocean is like a center for ants….

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This view is so gorgeous. The west coastline takes my breath away for real. When I get overstimulated, I take a walk outside, find a park, breathe in the fresh crisp air, and think about all of the things that I am grateful for, like THIS CITY OMFG Y’ALL!!!!!

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And what a perfect flower to stumble upon at the end of our walk, SPRING IS COMING and I’m taking it all in! But right now, let’s live for today and focus on what is in front of us…like BIRTH MONTH FEBRUARY – HOLLA! ❤

GUALALAAAAA LOVE

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Last month John and I had a little getaway up north to Gualala, just right off the coast. It very much felt like the vibe from the AMC series of Bates Motel, if that means anything to you (not gonna lie, if it’s creepy I’ve probably seen it). We found a badass Airbnb on a private property in the redwood forest WITH A PRIVATE HOT TUB!!!!!

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It was so nice to get off the grid for a little bit. Working in tech and living in SF can make one lost in touch with nature and the outside world of not being on your phone all the time, which is why we always make an effort to get outside and hike and remove ourselves from technology. We were blessed with great weather that allowed us to kayak for a few hours, and it was a ton of fun just the two of us, the river, kayak, and sunshine.

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Northern California is just SO DAMN BEAUTIFUL, I tell you what (any King of the Hill fans here?). While mid-kayak we stumbled into this campsite off the river that was in off-season. It felt strange walking around this abandoned campsite, exploring the space alone. Although this particular campsite was super awesome and beautiful, I would totally go camping there in the future.

IMG_8014.jpgHello 1983? Can you bring back 80’s camping movie vibes into current modern day media? K, thanks~

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The water was pretty low since it was in fall season. John had to drag us through a couple low points barefoot which was funny to experience. But if you happen to make a trip to Gualala, I highly suggest kayaking or camping as it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen!

IMG_7987.jpgHOT TUB TIME MACHINE HAPPY HOUR FOR THE WIN!

Relaxing in the woods was just what we needed. It could have been a scary movie at any point, as most start usually with a cabin in the woods or a hike gone wrong. But luckily we didn’t fall victim to any weirdos out there lurkin’. (#murderino #stayoutoftheforest)

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One night we ate out at St. Orres, this enchanting old timey parlor house that serves delicious fancy cocktails. We definitely knew we were in a small town as we were asked frequent questions about who we were, where we were from, what were we doing in Gualala, WHAT WERE OUR RISING SIGNS?!, etc. It was a completely different vibe from the city, that’s for sure 🙂

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We took one last hike from the back of our Airbnb to this glorious viewpoint before heading out on our next adventure up the road at Hearn Gulch Cove.

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We found the enchanting pathway that lead from the top of the cliff down into the cove, and felt like we were the only people on earth!

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IMG_8083.jpgGoonies vibes, anyone? #ourtimedownhere

After saying goodbye to Gualala we drove down the beautiful PCH and ended up at Fort Ross, an old Russian fort from the mid-1800’s, because #history.

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What a much needed refreshing weekend with my boo in a gorgeous and relaxing environment! Happy to share our experiences with you. ❤

 

 

Hallowkeen + Other Fall Updates

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My oh my don’t I love a good Halloween and fall season! I guess they don’t call me the Queen of Halloween with my peers for nothing…

This year John and I decided to be Burt Macklin and Janet Snakehole, the fun alter egos of Andy and April on Parks & Rec. It’s a pretty easy costume that takes minimal effort but is still unique, cute, and comfortable (and if I do say so myself, being comfortable is alllll the rage as you age 😉  ). I admit that it’s more fulfilling for me to put in hard work on a costume for many weeks (like the Bjork swan dress I made a few years ago) rather than opting for something simple and easy, but it’s impossible to have energy like that year in and year out. Only Heidi Klum can wear the TRUE Hallowkween crown

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This cute vintage veil pillbox hat was only $20 on Amazon! Now I have something to wear to the weddings of my mere frenemies for the future to come!

Even Beatrix dressed up! This year she opted for Meowry Catoinette and meowed all night “let them eat cake!” just like you would expect.

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Look at that beauty! ❤

Fall is also my favorite time for weddings. Fall foliage makes for great scenery and a fun impromptu photo shoot. Just check us out at John’s step-brother’s recent fall wedding down in Soledad…

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How sweet is this crushed blue velvet bell sleeve dress? I bought it from Elsie’s closet last year. It’s an original Red Velvet original creation by way of A Beautiful Mess (RIP Red Velvet).

John is becoming quite the Instagram boyfriend if I don’t say so myself. He only learns from the best I guess!

While we only have a little bit of fall time left before winter “officially” comes, let’s remember to enjoy these beautiful moments before they slip away and I have fall fomo for another 9 months…

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A Hidden Gem Within The Santa Cruz Mountains

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A few weeks ago John and I made our way down to Loch Lomand, a hidden recreation center located in the middle of the Santa Cruz mountains. I had been before with a friend in the past but wanted to show him how cool I thought the area was and knew he would love it. Turns out, I was right! #duh

I navigated him about an hour and a half south of the city, and many twists and turns later, we found ourselves in a hidden mountain neighborhood area loaded with a lot of “keep out!” signs. He was convinced we were not in the right place, and I kept reassuring him by saying “Patience, young grasshopper.”

Once we found the entrance and paid the $6 fee, we made our way to the glorious nature escape we were hunting for. This lake is SO GORGEOUS! You can rent paddle boats, go fishing, and picnic along the water to get some glorious sun. #vitamindplease

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We must have picked a crazy busy day to explore because there were children EVERYWHERE waiting for a paddle boat.  While it was cute, being around a bunch of screaming kids wasn’t exactly the nature get away we were looking for, so we opted for a hike around the water and up into the mountains.

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My goal was to take John to the top for the vista point, but there was just too much poison oak that it deterred us from going up higher. I mean, it COVERED the entire trail, even several feet out from the sides. This picture was about as high up that we got, but it was still really fun and cute, and all in all we hiked 3 miles.

Once we left Loch Lomand we headed to the Cremer House for a delicious bite accompanied by a tremendous beer selection. This place is SO FRICKING GOOD. I loved every part of it and I would gladly go again. Then we proceeded to do some vintage store thrifting, which is like John’s favorite thing on the planet. See I like the more curated vintage shops, the kinds that have everything organized by color and it’s clean and cute and doesn’t smell like mothballs. John will straight up dig through boxes of “goods” that people leave put out on the street. And sometimes he finds something good. Most of the time he tends to find things like a casserole book from the 70’s. It’s hit or miss. BUT Felton does have a good amount of random mountain town thrift stores, if that’s your thing!

I’m bummed we didn’t get to the top of the mountain, as I did per my previous trip (pic below) but I am glad we had a good time and got to explore! California is full of so many great day-cations and I want to explore them all.

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Until next time!