“You have only been on four dives! Like even during your training?” my diving guide exclaimed in disconcerted shock. I averted my eyes in embarrassment and I jotted down six dives on the sheet over the four I had put down on the sheet originally. I felt like exclaiming, “UTAH DOESN’T HAVE AN OCEAN YOU WANKERS, AND I’M SMARTER THAN I LOOK!” I was diving in Cabo San Lucas, it was my first time scuba diving in a real Ocean, I was excited and terrified.
I stayed in the corner slightly embarrassed by being the newest diver in our group. The person just above me in dives was an older gentleman with 22 dives in his dive book, ‘Great….I’m going to be the weak link here’ I thought begrudgingly, mentally self-flagellating.
So for new divers, the dive company takes you out and will hook up your BCD, get you fitted for fins etc. It is a mad dash, and it all happens very quickly, so be prepared and know exactly what you need. Also, the weights you use in fresh water are going to be much much lighter than the weights you use in salt water. Physics in real life I guess, so I had to add a few more pounds to what I typically wear. Probably the only time that I’m going to say ‘it’s ok to add a few more pounds’ lol.
Traveler Tip: I used Cabo Adventures Dive Shop (not sponsored) they were so precise, on time, and even offer a free drink at the end of the dive. Highly recommend them, especially for first-time ocean divers. Viator also offers Scuba Tours for Beginners as well.
Getting Geared Up
I put my full footed scuba fins on, trying not to think of how many other athlete’s foot infected feet it had previously been on (#healthcareworker problems). While putting on the BCD I brought with me, I momentarily panicked ….. the zippers wouldn’t reach around my girth. ‘I couldn’t have gained that much weight on the cruise already! It has been two days!’
A moment of clarity made me realize that I hadn’t loosened my straps up…oops. It’s hard to try and act like you know what your doing when the boat is getting rocked too and fro, the sea is so choppy that even my friends snuba and her snorkel were both cancelled because of the bad weather. I was secretly hoping that the choppy waves would bring the whales closer into shore so that I could swim with them. Focus Janiel.
This is when the embarrassment started for me as I previously relayed to you. The handsome guide padded his way over to me with the clipboard, “You have only been on four dives! Like even during your training?” he exclaimed in disconcerting shock. I averted my eyes in embarrassment and I jotted down six dives on the sheet over the four I had put down on the sheet originally. I felt like exclaiming, “UTAH DOESN’T HAVE AN OCEAN YOU WANKERS, AND I’M SMARTER THAN I LOOK!”
Slightly irritated I took to getting my mask defogged and placed on my face. I mentally ran through my checklist Air was on, BCD fitted and pre-filled slightly with air so I don’t sink right away, fins on and then the other scuba members started jumping off the boat. There were two other people who were master diver’s from Las Vegas and knew my instructor Rachelle from Scuba Utah. They got the special advanced diver tour….sigh….I will get there…..My turn to jump into the roiling ocean.
The boat pitched to the starboard side just enough that I
was able to unhook the scuba tank from the plastic holders on the sides of the
boat. ‘I will not grunt to get up’, I was by far the largest person diving that
day…’stop it Janiel, just own it. You just found out you have Hypothyroidism,
and a Progesterone level of a Post-Menopausal woman and your only 35 so just
stop it, own it, and the healthy habits will come as your hormones level out’.
I waddled my way to the end of the mid-size boat/yacht, flippers and all and felt like a penguin out of Mary Poppins dancing awkwardly to the end of the boat. I shoved my mask tightly onto my face, held my blessed regulator (air supply) and took my giant stride into the ocean for the first time. It wasn’t too different from jumping into a wave pool, just with more gear strapped on.
Once I broke the surface, a wave generously greeted me with a slap in the face….thank goodness for the mask and regulator. I quickly switched over to my snorkel gear as Rachelle had taught me to help conserve some of my air for the actual Scuba Diving portion. It is the kind of snorkel gear that doesn’t allow water to backflow into the tube, so even though the waves would hit me hard, I could still breath the fresh air.
The current was a little hard to fight with the current weather. We were instructed to hang on to the previously placed buoyed line the dark tall and handsome Hispanic staff had set up for us. Focus Janiel. The other members of the group came over, and then I was whipped around by the best-looking male staff member. ‘Hello Poseidon, I will be your Mermaid prisoner’ I thought dreamily, then was interrupted by him grabbing the front of my BCD and he thought I was freaking out, so he just said, ‘breath slowly, in and out’—– ‘o….m….g…..Dark skin, grabbing the front of my BCD, the waves circling around us…..I’m in a freaking LOVE NOVEL!’ Focus Janiel. Then I heard what he was saying, “Stop freaking out, and just breathe slowly. See if you can sink, “Innn nnoott fweaking ouwww” I tried to say through my snorkel tube….’lovely, now I look like an idot’ I inwardly groaned at my unfeminine unflirty way of handling myself.
The Blue Abyss
We finally got the weight right, my BCD straps re-tightened down and we started to descend into the blue abyss below. Our first stop was the Sand Waterfalls, this would bring us to an edge of a cliff that had sand billowing down into the 1000 or so meters below making it appear as if there was a sand waterfall, underwater. My dive buddy, James, a Dive Master from Oklahoma, graciously decided to join the Open Water crew, where he was so incredibly kind to keep an eye on me and make sure I didn’t dive too deep or kill myself in some naïve way. Thank you James, you da best!
I put my red filter on my GoPro and started swimming with the group. The fish we saw were incredibly colorful to my eyes, stripped, black and white spots, puffer fish galore, and I even found Dory! I wanted to smile, but when you do that it makes it hard to breath, because it takes the air seal away from around your regulator and vuala, you are gagging on salty sea water. So I pursed my lips instead and made a few little squealing giggles, which scared the fish away…..diving is apparently a serious endeavor. Just for your information, fish don’t like bubbles either. It is hard to not create bubbles because the first rule of diving is that you have to keep breathing….so I just breathed a little deeper, and more slowly and a fish came right up to my mask 😊
As we were making our way towards the sand falls, the photographer with us, clinked something on his tank and waved us over. After my eyes adjusted to the colors of the rock, I saw it, a HUGE Eel head with his mouth open and what looked like no eyes. If you aren’t good at bouncy I suggest keeping a safe distance from them lest you accidently encroach on his terf and get electrocuted. I don’t think getting CPR, or dying from electrocuted drowning sounded fun so I got as close as I dared with my current skills and without the current driving me into the eel.
As we made our way around the cliff, there was a school of shiny silver fish, let’s call it Tuna that was swimming around lazily. I quickly turned back facing down and watched them follow each other just like they did in Finding Nemo. ‘I should have been born a Mermaid. I wonder why God didn’t really make Mermaids’, my computer on my wrist beeped at me angrily, signaling that I would need to descend further as I was slowly rising to the surface in awe of what I was seeing. Focus Janiel, no Nitrogen Toxicity for you. Guess diving really is a serious business if you want to go back home without a stroke, electrocuted, or near drowning. Who knew that Scuba Diving could be so dangerous!
The Underwater Sand Falls
I snorted a bit sea water, and quickly cleared my mask, readjusted the tank on my back and then realized we were swimming over the sand waterfalls. Sadly, due to the current and choppy waves above, the underwater physics of it all wasn’t working.
These sand waterfalls are formed by the friction between the tectonic plates of North America and the Pacific, combined with the union of the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez. There are very few places in the world that this geological wonder exists. Please be advised that if the waters are choppy, or a storm is near, the sand falls may not be ‘working’ as well as if the seas are calm.
Ascending from Heaven
After a few minutes at the sand falls, we made our way back
over to our pickup point and did our 3 minute ascending safety stop to ensure
we didn’t get Nitrogen toxicity.
I watched the double arrows on my non-air integrated Cressi watch to ensure I was not ascending too quickly. One arrow indicates you are going too slowly, two arrows indicates you are ascending at a good speed, three arrows the watch gets angry and starts making an annoying beeping like your alarm clock you would do anything to turn off. Two arrows, all the way up for me.
I broke the surface with 1200psi on my air reserve —
perfect – I wasn’t the weak link! So happy that I made it the while dive
without any issue and wasn’t the first to run out of air. I switched over to my
snorkel but the waves and current were a bit too much to handle, I figured I
had the reserve air in the tank for a reason, so I switched back over to the
tank air and kept my regulator in until I was safetly in the boat. I was so
glad there was a protected area lined off for us to surface as the tour boats
full of tourists were all over the place bumping around. Not quite bumper
boats, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it came to that.
Diving Tip:Make sure you take your fins off before you enter the boat, I know they teach you that in Scuba School – but when there is a lot of chaos and bad weather, you might forget and fall back in the water slipping off the ladder. Not that I would know, I took my flippers off just after I had a hold of the ladder…..ahem….just like a pro would.
A Surface Interval with Whales
I walked over to my seat, taking half the ocean with me in the process. I knew my energy stores were low, and was kicking myself for not stealing some granola bars or something for between dives. Then I saw someone eating fruit on a stick, then my eyes glued onto the fruit in the plastic bin….LOADS OF FRUIT! Juicy sweet yellow pineapple, soft honeydew melon that melted in my mouth, and cantelope the orange rind fruit that topped the delicious first dive off with a bang! I then washed it all down with some sweet tea and water they had available for us in the jugs near the dry area of the front of the ship.
After a deliciously sweet interlude with the fruit, I grabbed my GoPro to check some of the footage. The diving staff magically switched over all my gear to the new tank (THANK YOU)! Then I heard a OMG from the front of the boat. My emergency response medical training kicked in, and a slight giggle as I rushed to the front of the boat – hoping that one of the handsome men would somehow need CPR. It was better than giving mouth to mouth to one of the sea god staff members that was helping us – three huge spouts of water blew up into the air a few miles ahead of us. The sea god staff members began yelling, ‘Vamos! Vamos! Vamos! OMG – Did you see that! It’s A WHALE!’
The engine revved and we dropped to our knees holding onto the front of the boat as we all yelled, ‘FASTER’. The captain showed a smile of delight at pushing the engine of the boat to its full capacity as everyone started laughing and scanning the distance at where the whales would have gone to. ‘There!’ I exclaimed in delight as I saw a massive fin come up out of the water on the left, and another spout on the right. The captain slowed as we neared the area, and then it happened, one after another there were two whale backs and a spout that we could feel the spray from on the front of the ship. We all broke into cheers, jumping up and down, slapping each other on the back as if our team had just won the Superbowl. Little did we know the best was yet to come, whale back’s crested again in front of us, two more whale tail fins to the right.
A spout in the distance, and then a whale breached – we were all so stunned we couldn’t believe what had just happened. Nearly crying with excitement I asked the sea God staff member next to me if I could jump in …..they were RIGHT THERE! My ultimate bucket list ambition is to swim with whales – it is the entire reason I got scuba certified! They were so close, alas, the joy quickly disappeared from his face, and a very serious look replaced it with a hard, ‘NO, it is illegal to do that in this area of the ocean’, my dive master friend James chimed in reluctantly saying, ‘Yeah, it might not be so safe if they are feeding. We had some bottle-nosed whales grab us by our fins and start playing with us the last time we went diving’. Although my hopes were dashed in that moment, with a touch of fear…..nothing could dispel the joy I felt at having just witnessed what I did.
During the brief pause of the show – I grabbed my Sony DSC M3 Camera and not 1 minute after I came back to my comrades on the front of the boat the whales gave us another gorgeous show that I was able to capture on camera. My cheeks hurt by the end of the whale of a show from smiling so much, I didn’t even mind though. I was within 20 feet of some of the most gorgeous creatures in the ocean and they just put on one hell of a show for me for my Birthday.
I couldn’t help but think that my Grandmother who passed away two weeks before this trip was there experiencing this with me. I said a little prayer of thanks to God, and whispered under my breath…Thank you Grams, I love you and miss you every day. I don’t think I will ever forget how we went on the Alaskan cruise together, and her awe at spotting whales, and seals in the distance – or small permanent smile my Grandfather had while looking through his binoculars out the window of the cruise ship trying to spot something for his sweetheart while listening to the string quartet in the background. This will always be one of my favorite moments of all of us together. Now I am carrying on the tradition of cruising and whale watching. Don’t cry Janiel, ya gotta be tough, just be grateful and send your love into the Ocean.
Seals, Shipwrecks, and Sand
Refocusing on the task at hand, we made our way back to Land’s End – our second dive site. This is where the open ocean meets the edge of the land mass that is Cabo San Lucas. It was still quite wavy and bumpy in this area, but the sun was peaking out below the stormy looking clouds, and creating a beautiful glow in the water. We quickly dropped into the water and followed the same procedures as above. We quickly dropped down to depth (35 feet) and made our way to the ship wreck that had washed in from the ocean. We were greeted by more colorful fish, my favorite fish were the yellow ones that came towards you in swarms when you played in the sand – they would suck up the sand looking for things to eat. Gorgeous little things almost were left behind in the process of playing with the fish. My cheeks were so sore from smiling, then trying not to smile around my regulator. How did people not choke to death from smiling at all of this!
We continued to see coral reef rock that, honestly, looked a little dead – but fish still seemed to be able to hide in the nooks and crannies. We rounded a rock outcropping and there was the shipwreck, laid out in front of me. Rusted from the ocean, and covered in new coral growth it was laid out so that you could still recognize it as a ship. The ribbed underbelly, the wheelhouse, it was absolutely massive! We slowly made our way along the innards of the ship, being careful to keep our bounancy at the right level so that the strong current in this area wouldn’t pull us haphazardly into a metal ship shard.
I heard the clinking on the air tank from our guide pointing upwards and that’s when I saw the sealion! Playing in the water like a child let out for recess on a sunshiny day. The ocean surprised me yet again, when our guide clinked and told us to come to him and drop down through his hand signals. We dropped to an open area where sand protected us from the shards of the ship. As soon as I dropped down next to the guide, more sealions, six of them to be precise dropped into our view and began barking at each other underwater. Twirling, swirling, flying around each other and above us. It must have been that they have just eaten, I’m always happier when I eat too 😉
We stayed in that area for quite some time until the sea lions were done with their show. We made our way along the ship again, when a fellow diver pointed to an area underneath a warped piece of metal creating a cave like area underneath it. There in the cave was a fish that was bigger than the top part of my body put together (be sure to watch for it in my YouTube Video). The thing was bigger than two sealions put together. I didn’t want to find out if it was friendly or not, nor did I want to find out if it was territorial- I kept a safe distance and realized just how small I was in this massive world I was just discovering.
Ascending as a Sea Goddess
Gathering together, we performed our last safety stop. I could tell I was getting tired because I couldn’t quite get all the air out of my lungs. My Asthma was beginning to kick in and I knew it was time for me to be done and use my inhaler again. Once we got to the surface, it was difficult to fight the current when I was this tired so I turned over on my back – kept my regulator in and methodically kicked my way towards the boat. I knew I needed to get in the boat before my energy gave out, but I took my fins off, hauled my butt and the heavy gear up the 5 rungs on the ladder – leaned forward to let one of the Sea God Staff members grab the top of my tank and helped me into the tank holder and I sat down with a thud.
As I was catching my breath, my diving buddy and master diver, James thudded down next to me and said breathily, ‘You can be my dive partner any day. You did AWESOME! Your buoyancy was so good. You should be really proud of yourself with that being your first ocean dive, especially with the weather we are having’. It put another achingly satisfying smile on my face, and I replied with a slightly stunned, ‘REALLY!?!? You mean that?’, ‘Absolutely, you did great for your first dive’.
Just call me a Sea Goddess! I had just mastered my first
dive successfully with a compliment from a Master Diver that was more of the
quiet type, yet he congratulated me. I was indeed proud of myself, despite the
concerned looks that friends gave me when I said I wanted to do diving. The
kind, but doubtful way that people often look at me because of my size – with
the unsaid words of ‘difficult diver’, ‘burden’ ‘too big to fit and all the
other self-depreciating, anxiety driven encounters and moments along the way
the last 4-5 months of diving….I had done it, and I had not just completed it,
I was SUCCESSFUL at it.
See the thing is, we are the masters of our own souls – we
are the driving force behind each decision. Don’t let your own insecurities,
own self-doubts get in the way of doing something that will give you a reason
to live and reconnect not just what is important, but who is important (you),
and memories of loved ones that may be important to you. Push your internal
boundaries, and a whole new world will truly open up to you.
As always….happy travels, happy tales, and see you on the flip side.
The Rio Secreto (or secret river) is eight miles long with fifteen natural outlets. It was through one of these outlets that Mr. Don Cleofás, a local landowner had been hunting an Iguana and quite literally stumbled into it.
The Importance of the River to the Mayans:
After an unceremonious cleansing in the chilly waters to remove any lotion, makeup, sunscreen and jewelry that may contaminate the river. I donned my wetsuit and helmet and filed into the line that would lead us through the ancient jungle. Winding through the palms, and ferns of this jungle I imagined what it would be like to be a Mayan during this time. Did they run these same paths? Did they run barefoot? What did they like to hunt? Where did they get their water? These and many other questions jumped through my mind like rabbits in a field.
We came into a clearing and were greeted by a local Mayan Shaman. These men are highly revered in the surrounding communities for their healing and spirituality. The Mayan’s believed and still revere this underground semi-sunken river as a place of spirituality, and sacred place where the rain God, Chaac visits. Despite being in a thick vegetation, it has always been difficult for the people in this city and surrounding area to get clean fresh water.
These waters are what they use to sustain life, and largely do not carry disease or animals that can contaminate it. It makes sense why the ancient culture would treat these waters as sacred, the waters are pure, and anything pure is sacred. Other historians believe that the skeletons represented human sacrifices due to the Mayan people believing these areas were inherently connected to the underworld. I like to think of the caverns as a connection to the rain God myself, seems less creepy to me.
There have been several artifacts and human skeletons discovered within the caverns, some dating back nearly 13,000 years. Caritas, or little faces, have been found carved into several of the natural entrances into these caverns, along with small piles of stones piled near the entrances as a way to both mark and adorn the entrances to the sacred river.
It wasn’t just the Caritas they found though, at one entrance, a vessel was found. Believed to be used as a water collection reservoir, dating back to 1000 AD, it is considered to be the best-preserved relic of that period. (It is now located at the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History). One of the most impressive finds Don Cleofás made during his initial descent into Rio Secreto was a vessel believed to date back to the post-Classic period of Mayan history (1000-1697 AD).
Descending into the Dark:
After understanding how important this river was to the culture, and the history of the people. The Shaman further cleansed us with incense and a blessing before we descended into the dark. Making our way down into the cavern via the slippery stairs, it became increasingly dark. Our small group of six turned on their headlamps, revealing the caverns of the rain God.
Mystery enveloped us all and a smile tugged at the corners of my mouth, ‘I’m the real Indian Jones’, I thought. After receiving final safety instructions and how to best preserve the caverns beauty. We filed into a buddy system and entered the sacred halls of Mother Earth.
The stalagmites and stalactites, collections of minerals forming into pointed columns over the last 2.5 million years adorned the ceilings and floors. We stepped into the river itself, carefully stepping in places where our guide advised us to – helping to preserve this space for future generations. The reverence and respect that our guide had for this place, bled into me, and I felt I was truly witnessing something majestic. My headlamp illuminated the blue-tinted waters below me, each step producing a puff of mineral like clouds. Was I walking on earth, or in some other world? Fascinated by what I was seeing, my heart and soul drank in my surroundings…..I felt connected to the Earth and to the best parts of my soul.
I have seen stalactites and stalagmites before, these massive mineral arms are eternally reaching towards their counterpart. Formed when water seeps through the earth, drawing minerals with it, then when reaching the cavern drip from the ceiling. Over millions of years, the columns gradually stretch towards the ground, where another column forms reaching up to the ceiling.
Eventually, these two arms reach each other, clasp hands and form grand columns, caverns that creates a palace fit for the Gods. It is imperative that you only walk where the guide asks you to step and walk; because of the damage that can happen not just to you but to these ancient formations. If you rub up against the sides of the walls, the sharp limestone and calcium carbonate columns can cause open wounds and lead to infections.
Fun Fact: Calcium Carbonate is the same chemical component that you find in Tums, a supplement used for heartburn for decades.
We penetrated the caverns further and further until we were swimming in blue, mineral-rich lukewarm waters. The minerals made my skin feel so soft, the warmth provided by the wet suit with the surrounding coolness of the caverns and waters made for a relaxing and exhilarating adventure. There were a few points where we had to hang onto our partner’s ankles, floating on our backs while our guide towed us across gaps where we couldn’t walk or swim.
Each juncture our guide would stop, provide instruction, ensure our safety and provide educational information about the cave system itself, and how the water supply is still used today. My favorite part was swimming through tiny arches, hard hat on, doggie paddling to a new visual feast. I was, in essence, the next Laura Croft in the making — THIS is what I live for, unique adventures! There is nothing more fulfilling to my soul than seeing natural wonders that are nearly untouched by man or machines. They are becoming the rarest thing humans are able to witness on this earth.
A Greater Understanding of the Sacred River:
Our guide gathered us into a cluster in the middle of a pool we were unable to touch the bottom of, carefully keeping his flashlight underwater and asking us to turn our headlamps off. He told us how important respecting nature is, how we as humans have the sacred responsibility to preserve these things that mother nature has provided for us. I would typically classify these types of talks and conversations as ‘hippie dippie‘; but there was something in his manner and gentle way of talking that made me believe this was something more.
He went on to explain that our lives are often filled with money, tasks, things to see and do…..but we forget the most calming thing is often the most natural, slow and easy experiences. He brought his flashlight up out of the water and as the light illuminated my surroundings, my breath caught at the beauty. We were in a massive cavern with stalactites surrounding us like chandeliers in a great ballroom. Another light was turned on behind the adjoining cavern, and a smile took over my face. Wonder blossomed in my heart and my mind knew I was witness to something intensely special.
A few minutes passed and he then asked us to link arms in a circle, where we would be facing outwards. Then asked us to lay back into the water, letting ourselves float while looking up at the ceiling. He turned off the light, and everyone was silent. The darkness enveloped us, the water took away all sound and cradled us in its arms — a sensory deprivation experience like none other. He let us stay like that for some time. My mind ebbed and flowed like the water surrounding me, lazy, relaxed while being infused with goodness from this sacred river.
All Good Things Must Come To An End
The light lit the grand cavern like an unwelcome torch, and I reluctantly brought myself erect in the water. Calmness and serenity had settled over the group, the quiet calm and silence persisted……we were all feeling it……the earthly sacrament we had just partaken of.
As we wandered through the last part of our journey, I felt intensely grateful for this experience. My friend that was traveling with me, kept saying how she wished her children could experience this. We shared our feelings and perceptions of the journey through the Rio Secreto and understood why it is protected so intensely by the locals. A dim light ahead signaled the end of our journey.
I was grateful to be headed above ground but felt a tugging to stay. We headed back towards to base camp and were brought to a buffet like meal after spending an hour or two in the caverns. We talked amongst ourselves and shared our experiences with the other group that had been taken through another portion of the cavern. Despite our time down there, I discovered that only 10% of the caverns are utilized for tours. What other wonders lay down in those otherworldly caverns? If you find yourself near Playa Del Carmen, Cancun or Rivera Maya….I highly recommend taking this journey through the rain God’s palace. It is an experience like none other and will leave you with a new perspective and whole new respect for mother earth and her treasures.
Sailing in Seattle seemed like the perfect activity to experience what those in Seattle call a right of passage to being a true Seattleite.
Note: This post is NOT, I repeat…NOT sponsored — I am simply sharing my love for Sailing after my first experience with the best Captain & Sail boat on the planet.
Booking a Sailing in Seattle Trip:
When you decide to book your sailing, I would highly recommend the captain and SY Cynthia R Boat (unless you have a group of more than 6 people). I found the captain through the Airbnb experience page, but he also has a website Emerald City Sailing you can book your unique adventure through. If you do have more than six people just let Michael know and he can make arrangements for parties of 12, 18 and 24 on other ships that have that capacity.
Traveler Tip: Never tried Airbnb Experience? Get $40 off your first stay by signing up with this Airbnb link.
Getting to SY Cynthia R Boat:
The Pier that the boat departs from is north of Seattle, about a 25-minute ride from Pike’s Place Market. I took an Uber Shared ride and it cost me about $14, but I would allow for extra time. Once you get to the Pier, there are private docks that you have to have a card to get into; so be sure to get Captain Michael’s number. It is a short walk to the boat itself, and then you have to board the boat via a small plastic step stool with 2 steps. Your captain can help ensure you get on safely. We had one passenger who recently had a pelvic fracture was on crutches and still was able to safely get on the boat. Once on the boat, you want to make sure you have your footing, so hang onto something as you make your way around the boat.
Meeting the Captain
Captain Michael Schaible was born in Seattle Washington. He is a certified PADI Master Diver, licensed boat captain and was part of the US Coast Guard in 2014. He is certified with the American Sailing Association levels 101, 103, 104 barebones charters and 105 coastal navigation, Instructor level 201-204. So needless to say he has quite the resume and knows what he is doing. The thing I found fascinating about the Captain was that he can read the wind based on the texture of the water.
Sounds like a false claim doesn’t it? Nope, I was able to identify what he was talking about based on the water texture, but my goodness, to have the razor sharp eyesight to see that far ahead of the boat (I’m talking several miles) without binoculars was quite impressive. He is a second generation vendor at the world famous Pike Place Market. His family runs a textile business that his father established in 1973, El Gringo Imports. He is very excited about this textile business, and even has some amazing sweaters to keep you warm while on the boat — which are also available for purchase, should you so desire. For those traveling from abroad, he also speaks Spanish fluently, so can accommodate International passengers as well.
The History of the Boat
Cynthia R is a historic and classic modern sailing yacht measuring 44.4 feet long. Designed by John Alden Company as a ketch rigged Pearson custom center cockpit sailboat. She was first launched in Thomaston Main by the Morse boat building company in 1967! You wouldn’t think she is this old when looking at her, but age is just a number, she is beautiful just the way she is 😉 If you go below deck, ask Michael for the history of the boat book collection he always has stored on board. Here reflections of the original owner’s voyages across the Atlantic four times, the sailing path of his trip with his wife through the Mediterranean and across the world are laid out in a storybook-like way to keep you enthralled for hours.
These voyages are also chronicled in Robert Carter’s book: Sail Far Away, Reflections of Life Afloat. This non-fiction book is an account of the 10 years in Europe Robert spent with his wife, sailing Parts of the Boat It is important to know what the parts of the boat are, especially when sailing in such frigid waters in Seattle. I personally didn’t realize that if someone falls into the water here (even if it is in summer) without a wetsuit that they can go into hypothermia very quickly. So in order to not get knocked into the water here are some main points.
Rule One: Stay in the boat
Rule two: Stay behind the Mast when the wind is blowing
Rule three: Don’t get on the boat if you have problems with dizziness or can’t keep your balance on solid ground.
Other than that, its all a matter of getting to know the boat. Michael is actually a sailing teacher and is really patient and open-minded about those who want to learn. He even let me cinch down the jib halyard and jib sheet (aka the ropes that tighten down the sails and control them). Here is what I personally learned on my first sailing trip about the boat and all its parts:
Mainsail: Catches the wind
Jib: Helps with turning the boat and also catches some wind
Mast: Holds up the sail
Boom: keeps mainsail stationary and helps to keep constant sail trim
This is what will hit you push you right off the boat should the boat need to turn quickly to not run into a sandbar or rocks. So as I pointed out before, stay behind the mast & the anchor point of the boom if the sails are out.
Keel: Stabilizes boat and also uses water pressure to propel the boat forward.
Tacking: turning the boat through the wind (but requires a lot of velocity to do this)
Jibing: turning the boat through downwind point of sail, requires a lot of weight management and distribution.
So ladies, don’t be offended if he asks you to step into a certain spot to help maintain the boat direction. It is for your safety and has nothing to do with you being fat or the anchor of the boat — it could be he is trying to even out the heavy stove downstairs.
Trim: A way of sailing the boat so as to create less resistance and faster sailing time like they do in racing.
If the sails are too tight the wind will bounce off of them like bouncing off a brick wall. If the sails are too loose they will ‘luff’ is the technical word, but I prefer ‘laugh’ at you by flapping in the wind. When they flap I feel like they are saying, ‘HA! You think you’re going anywhere? THINK AGAIN!’. Lastly, make sure you bring a snack, something warm to wear (that is wind resistant), and be sure whatever you bring (including cameras/hats/shoes etc…) are secure and won’t roll off the boat when you start sailing. The flat floor of the boat when sailing goes to about a 50-degree angle at times to help with speed and trim.
Passengers on the Boat
In total there were 6 passengers on the sailboat, and it was just the right amount for everyone to have a place to sit. One thing I would mention, don’t expect a cushioned seat of gold with servants to place grapes in your mouth gingerly. This is a boat, with a place up front for about 5 people to sit/lay (Michael does provide cushions, but no gold or servants). There is a place for 3 people to sit behind the wheel, although you will have to move quite a bit for Michael to be able to actually sail the boat.
The other 5 passengers were all from the Greater Seattle area. There were two other couples and then 2 single women. I became friends with one of them, Berkley, she had this bubbly personality that was so infectious. I personally get nervous in groups of people more than three, so it was nice to have someone to connect to. Berkley was so interested in my website and instantly wanted my Instagram handle. She didn’t care to talk much about herself, just wanted to know everything about me. She helped me take photos, asked about trips I was going on – and each time I tried to ask a question about her…..she played it off as if she wasn’t that important. So Berkley, on this public platform, I want to thank you for being so kind and making me feel included and comfortable with your group. I think you have are a beautiful human being inside and out & hope we can have another grand adventure in the future. You see, my Culture Trekking friends, it doesn’t matter if you travel solo or in a group — there will always be a kindred spirit whom you can connect with. They will teach you how to be a better friend, and maybe even become a lifelong friend. So please do not be afraid to travel alone — or start a conversation with a local. In doing so, it enriches your soul and provides a memory that will be forever burned in your mind.
Helping Sail the Boat
Not only was Berkley kind and inclusive, but Michael was a fascinating individual as well. If you put a California Surfer Yogi Master onto a sailboat…..Micheal would be the definition of that image you just conjured up.
He had a Jewish Star with each of the Chakra stones in it on a leather cord, a hat to control the long slightly curly sun-bleached hair, sunglasses and a smile that took up his whole face. Although there was a certain amount of shyness that was hard to pinpoint. So I decided to try and make everyone feel more comfortable by doing something a little silly, try to help out on the boat.
Michael let me cinch down several lines, and the rest of the group watched as I put my back into it. If you try and do this, just know your triceps are going to be in outright protest when you do. Luckily I had Berkley and the rest of the group as my cheerleaders, which ended up putting a huge smile on my face. I even got to sit behind the wheel!!!!! I steered us out to the Puget Sound while Michael got our sails ready to go, and then BOOM! Sails were out, lines were tight, and I WAS SAILING A BOAT!!!! GAHHHH!!! I became so comfortable about an hour into it, I just felt like jumping into the water (fully clothed mind you). We were relaxing in front of the gorgeous view of the Seattle skyline and I just wanted to jump in. Luckily, Michael told me, ‘uuuuhhhh, that wouldn’t be a good idea, but I mean if you really want to I guess we could make it work.
The problem is, the water is cold enough that you could only be in there for about two minutes before I would have to pull you out because you could easily get hypothermia’. So professional of him to say not say what he likely should have said ‘that’s a stupid and dangerous idea’ in such a nice way. Thus the Rule ONE from above, stay in the boat with your seatbelt fastened and arms and legs inside the ride at all times (unless your in warmer waters that is).
Embracing Freedom and Feeling
When you get me on any kind of boat, I feel like I am home. When we were kids my parents had a boat, most of our summers we were out on the water trying out the latest water toys. I remember the air chair, the chariot, the doughnut tube roller coaster thing that would spin you over the wake & roll you over and over until you finally just drop out the back of it because you get so dizzy.
So as soon as I stepped on Michaels boat, I felt at home, I felt peaceful and immediately took my shoes off and walked every inch of the boat. (I’m a little nosy and slightly impaired when it comes to being appropriate in social situations). Luckily Michael was laid back and let me snoop around his boat home.
Once we got out to the water, surrounded by the serene beauty of the Puget Sound and the Seattle Skyline — I couldn’t help the feeling of freedom. There was an inherent sense of feeling free — like I was away from the crowds, the cruise ships, the taxi’s the muggy heat of the city. I had the wind blowing in my hair, a fabulous group of passengers around me, a Captain who regaled us with stories of the boat crossing the Atlantic four times….I felt at peace there. I could have stayed out on the ocean for hours on end. At one point I even thought, ‘I need to get my own sailboat so I can live in it like Michael’. Once the wind hits those sails, and you feel the boat tilt, the water lapping at the sides of the boat, the sun glistens on the water, and the only sound you hear is the wind whistling in your ears telling tales of adventure……nothing can beat this feeling.
It was the perfect timing for me to experience sailing. My Mom had just discovered after 35 years of marriage that my Dad had been living a double life. They were in the process of getting divorced and all the drama that comes with that. No matter how old you get, finding out your Dad was not who you thought he was, is always hard, and I was going through a significant mourning period.
So being able to be on this boat, imagining disappearing into the great blue beyond was just what my soul needed. I can’t tell you how grateful I was for this experience, for the freedom I felt and it truly helped peace return to my soul. One of Michael’s goals for his passengers is to have this type of spiritual experience. To have a sense of calm in a world that never has enough time for the quiet moments of life that are so precious and rare.
If you are going to Seattle, and have a chance to hang with Michael on his boat…..do it…..no matter what the cost is. I promise you won’t regret sailing in Seattle with him. It isn’t like the commercialized sailings that are right off the main pier, this experience is unique because he and his boat are unique.
Michael has been sailing for so long, through so many countries, has so many adventures to tell — there was not one minute I felt bored. You will get to help sail the boat, feel peaceful away from the rat race of life, and see the Seattle Skyline without having to fight others for the perfect picture. You will capture moments that more commercialized boats don’t allow the time or space for. Most importantly, it gives you the perfect setting to connect with people in a way that will make your trip to Seattle even more memorable.
This was NOT a sponsored post, everything in this post I shared with you was to help you see how doing the unique things…..even if they are a little more expensive, can have the greatest return in meaningful memories that will fill your soul. Personally, I cannot wait to book an overnight (or maybe a few nights) sailing trip up through Canada and through the plethora of islands that surround Seattle.
As Always Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See You on the Flip Side.
Seattle Sightseeing Photography Tour with Tim Menzen. What a great opportunity for me to see the hot spots of Seattle, not get lost, and maybe get some good ideas on how to be a better photographer. I booked the experience (which was ~$50 at the time), and a Sailing in Seattle Experience (article on this to be posted next week). I was finally set for my three day weekend in Seattle.
Tim Menzen is a Photographing Camera genius, well at least to me. He often is recruited to do videography for local news stations, shoots for sports teams, car racing, rallies, and so much more. The man is legit and knows his stuff. Take a look at his Facebook and Instagram posts to get a better idea.
I met Tim at the Art Museum in Downtown Seattle (appropriate for the type of tour we were doing). He was very communicative, told me what he would be wearing, what to expect, and was flexible when my Uber was late. He shoots with a Cannon 1DX (the beast of all beasts of a camera), and was really jealous about that honestly. I shoot with a Sony DSC M3 (which has an incredibly steep learning curve with the technology), yet he really helped me discover how much more technical I can get with my camera.
The Seattle Sightseeing Photography Tour isn’t just about going to the hot spots, tourist traps, or getting those Instagram worthy photos. He teaches you to utilize your camera and finally get out of the Auto mode – resulting in less grainy photos with darker pictures, the play of light to your advantage, helping you be more aware of your surroundings fostering the creative edge, and takes you around the more unique areas of downtown Seattle.
Walking the Seattle Sightseeing Photography Tour
I was a little nervous about how much walking we would have to do, not because I can’t physically do it, only because I was afraid of getting hopelessly lost in the end. Just to calm those fears, please know that he takes you right back to the Art Museum so you can get your bearings again.
The walking itself was not that strenuous, you do have to go up and down several flights of stairs, so those with bad knees beware. It was a Saturday that I chose to do my tour, and unfortunately, there were 2 cruise ships in port, and loads of tourists. As we walked into the hoard I turned to Tim and said, “I hate crowds, it makes me nervous – so if we can avoid them a little for this particular tour and see the more unique things about Seattle that revolve around the culture in Seattle – I’m happy to do that”. He happily agreed to get out of the crowds and showed me the more artistic side of Seattle. Winding through alleyways and backstreets, I was able to see the best and the worst of what is…..Seattle.
Getting To Know My Camera
The first couple of stops I had my camera on Auto mode, I had told Tim about my background as a travel writer and photographer. A part of me was a little nervous to look stupid in front of this professional, but we all have to start somewhere right? I told him that I felt like my composition in my photos was horrible, I try to be a cutesy fartsy Instagram babe and usually fail miserably at it, and then told him that I really didn’t understand how to control the lighting with my camera other than the dial on top. I’m pretty sure this rough introduction helped break the ice, and he took it all in stride and we got to work.
He had me stand in one spot, showed me how his Cannon worked, stood behind me as I tried to find the same settings. Refreshed me the in’s and out’s of Time value and aperture & how the photography world trends have changed since I took my photography course in college (where we were still shooting on film— yes, I realize this makes me sound ancient). Shooting the Parking sign, again and again, changing different settings, zooming in and seeing the grain that resulted from those changes was very beneficial to me personally.
It’s hard to start exploring the settings in the camera, not because it is hard intellectually. I am so afraid of screwing up my camera (when I use it so often) and not being able to get it back to where I need it to be for other shoots. Having someone guide you through it, tell you its ok when you (insert preferred cuss word), and then help you fix it – really helps with the nerves.
Not only did he help with the technical aspect, but he also validated me as a photographer. I showed him my own Culture Trekking Instagram, and he said, “I think your composition looks great” — now I just need to work on telling a story with my photos instead of just shooting fun ads for those destinations.
Here’s the thing, anyone can be a photographer….you take out your phone, take a photo of your pet, apply a filter and there you go…your a photographer. Most people can become professional photographers without much training, or rather get that training via Udemy or YouTube. However, a real artist or artistic photographer….will incorporate all of these things and capture the viewer with a suggested story with one click of the shutter button. Having an ability, eye, and sense of the story within a setting is the way to really make a name for who you are and the message you want to create. Do you want the story to be of the game, or do you want to show the more human side of the teammates hugging after a goal, a player running to his partner/child after they cross the finish line? Human moments are the best sort of moments for me, but telling the story is what makes it true Art.
For this tour though, I tried to focus on implementing the techniques he showed me while touring downtown Seattle. So here are a few of the places we visited, and some of the good photos as well as some of the…..well….not so good photos. Just to help you see that out of 500 photos there are only a few that are worthwhile sharing due to composition, storyline, lack of graininess, and my own personal preference to what I deem to be an ‘ok photo’.
The Gum Wall
Taking the back road from the Art Museum, you find some classic Seattle Liberal stickers and signs (which I thought were quite comical). Everything was relatively clean and orderly, then you start to see it….The Gum Wall. This iconic spot started in the mid-1990’s outside the Theatre, Unexpected Productions. The Theatre didn’t allow gum inside, the most logical solution was to stick it on the wall outside as you entered and put a quarter on it to thank whoever had to clean it up.
The gum literally stuck….with now 50 feet of wall on either side of this theatre covered in second hand chewed gum. There are surrounding businesses selling the gum to help the disgusting artistic expression of defiance, and now it is now an iconic part of the city.
The quarters have disappeared, and historically appears it has only been cleaned once in November of 2015. When the cleaning began, I don’t think they realized what they were getting into. There were several inches of gum stuck to the wall with the deterioration of the brick happening underneath. They scraped and steam cleaned the walls for weeks, it took 130 hours to clean the wall. The next month, you could hardly tell that it had been cleaned as loads of tourists came to take part in the mastication party.
Selfies abound and I just couldn’t bring myself to participate in this right of passage. My medical background and the roiling stomach and heebie-jeebies I was experiencing from this disgusting attraction made taking photos of the pretty girls taking selfies totally adequate. Needless to say, I took the obligatory photos at the wall and then told Tim I was ready to move on. (Still get a lump in my throat thinking about this).
As you make your way up the slope and take a right up towards Pike Avenue, you will see artistic ‘posts’ of different artistic events located in town. SO MANY COLORS! I WAS DYING! Turn around and appreciate Ghost Alley Espresso, this lovely coffee shop was formerly the first Public Male Restroom (for my UK readers… the Loo). Yep, go in and help yourself to a brown cuppa coffee and think of how many…….never mind….just enjoy your coffee.
As you walk up the slope of Pike Ave, you will start to hear the hustle and bustle of Pike Place Market. Fun Fact: the slope you are walking on was formerly where they would hold the soap car races (back in the day). Once you reach the top of the slope, STOP, turn around…..this is the best place to take a photo that doesn’t require you to have 500 other people in the photo with you in front of the Pike Place Sign. There are plenty of fresh flowers for you to buy and hold in the surrounding shops. I personally didn’t feel the need to do this, but apparently its a ‘thing’ to do this.
Walking Pike’s Place Market:
There are a few places you should visit, or at least see if you like the tourist traps and tasting original or local cuisine. See the Pike’s Place Market directory to plan your visit and hit the best of the best.
I personally didn’t feel the need to indulge, especially with how long that line was. This is where the original Starbucks Coffee store originated before becoming a global phenomenon. I would suggest going to the Starbucks Reserve instead at a location within walking distance of Pike’s Place, where you can sit down and be educated and taste different coffee beans and roasts from around the world. These highly specialized roasts are variable depending on the week & what their researchers send in. There is no menu or cash register (you pay a flat fee), you sit down/explore the store and just indulge in the Starbucks Brand like never before.
A Russian classic passed down from Babushka to her Grandchildren. This particular pastry shop will delight you with the authenticity and handmade Russian pastries. The line for this shop was also quite long, so I again passed it up given I only had two hours with Tim. Check out the Piroshki Piroshki’s Menu for all the delicate delights they have to offer.
Pike Place Fish Market
I personally call this place the Fisherman’s Bar because you step right up, order your fish and a show ensues. The show of throwing the slippery slimy fishy’s across the bar to each other, while yelling what the fish is, who ordered it and how many. It is hard to miss should you find yourself in Pike’s Place. If you have an Airbnb, typically you can have the Fish cleaned and skinned for you, then take it back to your rental and cook up a great meal. There are plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs in the market to really cook up something good. I would suggest taking a look at the Fish Market Menu before approaching the bar, as they move very quick, and you don’t want to accidentally get hit with a fish while trying to decide what to order.
Artisan Crafts and more
Tim and I made our way into the market itself, right under the Restroom sign there are some stairs that lead you down underneath the busiest part of Pike’s Place Market. Here you will find all those items you could wish for as souvenirs at a much more reasonable price than those shops above. You also get an added bonus of seeing the photos of what the market looked like back in the day, before it became Instagram famous.
For more information on Unique Photo Stops near Pike’s Place, Check out The View From Right Here – where a local lays out her glimpses of the beautiful Seattle Region.
There are not very many Alley’s that are named in Seattle, this particular alley was named due to the Post that was produced and sold along this alley. The alley begins at the North End of Virginia Street, between first and western avenues running all the way to main street at the South end. The alley is not continuous as it has had apartments built, sectioning it off.
We walked all along Post Alley, and it was the perfect way to avoid the worst of the crowds in downtown Seattle. It also has some of the cutest boutique shops, photo ops, unique structures and a fabulous Irish Pub and Wine Bar in Seattle. I would suggest coming here instead of in the heart of Pike’s Place Market. If you notice a super long line of patrons waiting at the North End, that particular line is apparently for some Clam Chowder.
I’m not a foodie per se, so I get a bit snarky when it comes to waiting in lines to taste food. Personally, I feel you waste your time for something that will just end up in the toilet in the end. I know I know, gross Janiel (insert laughing)- I’m a medical person…. we talk about shit all day.
We made our way down to the Pier where we got some fabulous views of the Puget Sound. He gave me some tips on how to shoot on cloudy days and the layout of the surrounding mountains.
Pre-Photo Tour tidbit: When driving into town via Uber, my driver said that the Ferris Wheel on the Pier isn’t really worth it. The part that he said was MUCH better and more affordable was Wings Over Washington, this was built like the ride in Disneyland Soarin’ Around the World – and he said that this will give you all sorts of visions of how beautiful Washington can be, is indoors, and perfect for those rainy days.
The biggest charm factor for me during this tour was the plethora of courtyards with lush foliage, cute cafes, murals and a general ‘live your life well’ relaxing feeling. While you will have to take the Tour with Tim (that has a nice ring to it doesn’t it), to find all these courtyards – you can really find murals and fantastic places to exercise those photography skills by just wandering downtown Seattle.
I did find a fantastic map of different murals throughout the city at The Evergrey with the histories behind each mural (if you love street art like I do). There is also the article from the Seattle Met on ‘The City Is a Canvas’ which has some great advice on where to find the best murals.
Safety in Seattle
Not all of Seattle is safe, so as a general rule daytime is safe, nighttime is not. If you like the Party scene go up to Capitol Hill where most of the college crowd hangs out and there are a lot of the LGBTQ bars and such are as well.
If you find one of these, just leave it, if you find a man/woman passed out with one of these near them….just make sure they are breathing – drop a Tylenol and a bottle of water and then keep walking.
Ending the Tour
Seattle stole my heart because of this tour. I was able to see the best of the best, and even the underbelly that is also iconically part of what Seattle is.
There is a plethora of conflicting representations here with a general feeling of embracing not only the fickle weather patterns but also Art, Technology, History and the Present – all which make a great big interactive platform to discovering the best of what Seattle has to offer.
I did not get paid to tell you to book a tour with Tim but appreciated his validation of my work, the tools that he taught me and the patience he had while I took my sweet time with getting it right. I will definitely be back to Seattle, I hope very soon. Have you been to Seattle? What was your favorite part? Have you tried an Airbnb Experience before? To Book a Tour with Tim Menzen visit Airbnb Experience Photography Tour with a Pro. New to Airbnb? Sign up with this link and get $40 towards your next Airbnb experience. Stay tuned for my Sailing in Seattle Airbnb experience & don’t forget to PIN this article below.
As Always……Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See You on the Flip Side.
This post may contain affiliate links, for more information read our full disclosure The travel industry is throwing around this term: Responsible Tourism or Sustainable Tourism. So what does Responsible Tourism mean? Each year we travel, consume, photograph and share on our social media channels, exposing friends and family to expand their knowledge of the cultures of the world.
Responsible Tourism is a multifaceted approach, which includes:
Minimizing negative social, economic and environmental impacts while traveling
Generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities
Improving working conditions and access to the worldwide industry
Involving local people in decisions, markets, and trade that affect their life and chances at life.
Making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, embracing the diversity.
Providing more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.
Provides access for physically challenged people
Is being culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
There are many different ways that this can be addressed and focused on. The Culture Trekking Community is one that focuses on numbers one, five, six and eight. Creating a community where ideas, religions, cultural idiosyncrasies are both shared, respected and embraced. As the Community grows I want to improve awareness on environmental impacts as well as fight the uphill battle of having more meaningful human connections. Today I will focus on the latter.
Where the idea started for my own Responsible Tourism:
The video was quite graphic when I saw this 2 years ago, but it really impacted me in so many different ways. The moral of the story is…..you don’t know what you don’t know until you educate yourself on how small choices like using single-use straws can impact the environment. I now carry a reusable metal straw in my purse at all times. This video is where responsible tourism started for me….watching this turtle in so much pain made me feel like I needed to do more for the environment.
It isn’t just the plastic straws, it is garbage that is left strewn about in all the different places that I visit. I remember walking behind someone in Yellowstone National park…..they dropped a wrapper on the ground (a large one). I was so frustrated by this because they had a bag they could have easily slipped that wrapper into. I picked it up and gave it back to the tourist, who naturally acted like they dropped it by accident (even though I watched them look around before dropping it). It is not that hard to slip those wrappers into a pocket, a bag, in your shoe….anything but on the ground. Taking a few more steps to ensure your rubbish gets into the proper receptacle is not as hard as you think…..as Nike says ‘JUST DO IT’!
Another video that truly impacted me was one man in India, who returned to his home to find the beach he loved filled with garbage. He knew he had to do something so he started knocking on doors and aims to be that change he wishes to see in the world. Take a look at the video & then I want to think about how much of a difference we could make if each of us committed to picking up 3 pieces of trash wherever we travel to. What about taking an extra garbage bag on a local hike in your hometown? We could all use a few more squats in our day, right?
Why am I showing you all these videos? A picture is worth a thousand words (or so they say), but I feel that videos are the way to make an impact that can create change. What is better than a video? Visiting a place like the Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon Oregon (several displays are located throughout the United States, see the Washed Ashore Exhibit Locations for more information) can both teach our generation and the generations below us how to protect our earth and save our oceans.
Traveling can be an exotic thing full to the brim with activities that will make your friends envy your life & maybe even despise you a little. The more I travel the more I realize that I want to make a difference in the world, no matter how small it is. Ecotourism and Volunteering for cleanups and service can help connect our communities, open minds and hearts, and help start the change we wish to see in the world.
Supporting Companies with good causes:
Save the Baby Turtles!
A Blogger friend of mine in Fort Lauderdale Florida was able to participate in the nighttime protection of hatching baby turtles. These baby turtles get confused by the city lights and instead of going into the ocean (following the moon), they follow the city lights. This leads them to be run over or crushed by bikes, cars or fall into holes they cannot get out of. What these volunteers do is once the baby turtles hit their 10-foot periphery line, they gather them up in a bucket and take all the confused little fellas to the ocean where they set them free. They also move beach chairs and sandcastles to allow for the mothers to come to the beach easier and lay their eggs. Check out her post on Saving Baby Sea Turtles and how you can help or participate!
Soul Flower Clothing Company
As soon as I found this clothing company, I know I had found my tribe. Just look at their tagline:
Soul Flower is a natural clothing brand for kind souls and free spirits. Mindfully made with natural fibers and heartfelt art, we design our threads with kind vibes from start to finish. We seek inspiration in the simplicity of everyday life – in nature and in music, in free-spirited adventures and in like-minded souls. We create clothing in a way that supports our planet, spreads a positive message, and most importantly — helps you express yourself.”
To all my big headed ladies out there (I’m talking literal, not egotistical) – this is the place you should get your headbands! Every time I wear these headbands I feel a little better about myself, I read the inspirational message printed on it and cannot help but feel inspired to finish out the day with a bang! Plus, let’s be honest, sometimes a girl just needs a headband to decrease the stress of doin’ da hur….ya feel me? To get your headband:
The other items I have personally tried and fallen in love with so far are the yoga pants and shirts. If I’m being honest, I wear the pants EVERYWHERE! Not just because the pants are comfortable, but because they have the most adorable prints on them that inspire me to continue to be Eco-friendly in my day to day life & inspire me to live a simpler life to help have less of an impact on the environment. I wore the shirt for two days in a row people! I know that’s gross but it has been so hot over here, and it is so light, airy and cute with the little leaves on it… I couldn’t resist
Personal Note: It is sooooo hard to find cute and comfortable clothing as a curvy woman — so to find a company that caters to my desire to be eco-friendly and embraces those of all shapes and sizes really just gives me warm fuzzies and I want to shout out from the rooftops how much I appreciate and love them for this.
You don’t just have to participate in environmentally friendly activities at destinations you visit. You can start being environmentally friendly to companies just like Soul Flower. Check out Soul Flower Summer Specials today!
Other Ways to be a Responsible Tourist:
Be Respectful of Religions and Cultures:
Look at local customs and rules when entering churches across the world. Do not make derogatory jokes or compare those within the country to something you deem as ‘more sensible’ or ‘better practices’. Do not impose your beliefs on those within the country unless prompted to. Respect the cultural idiosyncrasies of what is considered ‘normal’ for that country.
The bottom line is, just because something, someone, or a country as a whole does something different than what you know to be normal — doesn’t mean that it is wrong. There are some exceptions where it endangers basic human rights, practices, or harms/mutilates any animal or human being (obviously). Even if you do see something wrong, intervening as a tourist could land you in jail – be careful, be cautious and if you have a concern about the country/destination use a guide that you can ask questions about what is appropriate or if you can do something/intervene without landing yourself in jail.
Be Respectful of Shop Owners Overseas:
Do not take photos of products, items, or anything in different countries that could affect their livelihood. Do not get offended if they ask you not to take photos, there is a reason! Unnamed countries citizens will visit these economically struggling countries and take photos of their products and produce them at a fraction of the cost, but they are not authentic products.
Moroccans, for example, rely on their skill and artistry of furniture, clothing, architecture, woodworking to profit from their craft and provide for their families. How many times have you visited a country and thought, ‘Oh I can get that back in my own country, I don’t need to buy it here’. This is why it is so important….so many countries rely on tourism and the money it brings in to put food on the table. So please….before you take a photo in a store, ASK the owner if it is ok.
Be Aware and Educate Yourself on Regional Issues:
Human trafficking, terrorism, and so many more unsavory things happen in this world. I have too much of a tender heart to focus in on the negative all the time, so rarely listen to the news – but I do search for those individuals who have the capacity to handle situations such as this. I support them, I share their stories and donate when I’m able to.
It is important to be sensitive to cultural and religious practices (as part of Responsible Tourism) that help to positively define a culture, but that never means we should tolerate those who continually violate the basic human rights of food, safety, and shelter.
With having experienced Rape and sexual assault myself, the topic of sex trafficking is a very passionate topic for me. Operation Underground Railroad is a team of individuals of highly specialized individuals who have years of experience in special forces, law enforcement working proactively since 2013 with local governments that I wholeheartedly support. This is a video that had me in tears for how grateful I was to the men & women who do this. Please support them in whatever way that you can…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_CgQcNkUlw&feature=youtu.be If you would like to Donate to O.U.R. please feel free to do so, if you are unable to donate, then try and Volunteer for O.U.R. to help aid in their efforts.
Small changes can make a big difference:
Wear environmentally friendly products:
Keep any soap while camping at any location away from runoff areas (at least 100 feet).
Bury or pack out your human waste. Look at the requirements for each camping spot you visit for their rules and regulations.
Wear environmentally and Ocean friendly sunscreen as this often washes off the ocean, causing damage to coral and marine life.
Bringing your own straws, skip the straw at Starbucks. If this doesn’t make sense, please keep watching the video of the Turtle above until it does.
Get a recycling bin or start a recycling group in your neighborhood. (More information below on recycling that could be available in your country).
Make a list of low-cost companies that produce Biodegradable Products and keep a list. Hand the list out to anyone who uses straws, show they alternatives. Don’t force it down their throat — educate with KINDNESS! Honey works better than vinegar when trying to entice people to change their daily habits or companies to change the status quo.
Utilize the Reusable Grocery Bags:
This is such a simple change that we can all do (especially those of us in the States). In most other countries they are charging for the plastic bags, yet when we implement it here to try and help support the environment….everyone loses their minds! They tried to do this when I lived in Texas and I would stand there and see with my own eyes, these grocery baggers get verbally assaulted for doing their job and charging for the plastic bags. Come on people…..be better than that……do better than that…….realize that this isn’t just about YOU and YOUR needs, but for the betterment of humanity and animals. If you still aren’t convinced that plastic bags are a big deal, watch this video of the whale found dead with hundreds of pounds of plastic bags in its stomach. If that doesn’t convince you, well…..I don’t know how to help you become a better human being.
I need some advice myself on this one….grrrhhh….. I have all the reusable bags I can handle. I start daydreaming on the way to the grocery store, then out of habit, forget to take the reusable grocery bags I brought off the garage wall where I put them so I wouldn’t forget them. If you have some advice on how to remember these things…..let a girl know in the comments below.
A Call to Action for Responsible Tourism:
Here is a great resource if you would like to participate in Ecotourism on your next trip: Ecotourism.org
Straws:The Last Plastic Straw is a great website for a list of all the different types of straws, where to get them and how they are better than the plastic straws. There is also a site completely dedicated to Living a life without plastic, this is where I get my reusable metal straws (bamboo and glass is also available).
Home, Pets, Cleaning supplies and more:Life Without Plastic gives you so many bamboo or steel options that can replace many of the household items that have or contain plastic. Gift certificates, gift registry, and points program are also available on this site to help you invite friends to the #noplastic movement.
Recycling throughout the world: Recycling in the States (contact your city councils to arrange this), Recycling in Australia, Recycling in Canada, Curbside Recycling available in New Zealand please check your local city councils, Recycling is also available in the United Kingdom for each household (mandatory supply of bins from government), Spain also has recycling available in some areas, and the Netherlands actually pays you to bring in your recyclable materials (typically at grocery stores).
IF YOU HAVE RECYCLING IN YOUR COUNTRY AND IT IS NOT LISTED HERE, PLEASE LIST THE RESOURCE OR WHO TO CONTACT BELOW 🙂
A Must Read Plastic Free Blogger: If you are like me and feel a little overwhelmed by how many things in your home contain plastic, visit Beth Terry: My Plastic Free Life Blogger. She will teach you, take you step by step through the process and show you how to live a plastic-free life.
Worldwide Plastic Pollution Coalition – Now NO ONE has an excuse to not participate in reducing their plastic use. This is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution.
How To Tour Responsibly:
We have such a duty to protect creatures who outlived the dinosaurs, are essential to our planet’s ecosystem – the Sea Turtles. We don’t have to start being Eco-friendly or participate in Responsible Tourism practices only when we are traveling. Get involved in the activities now, one goal or plastic straw at a time.
Be respectful of religions, people, cultures, and races as long as they do not infringe on basic human rights to live life peacefully, safely without fear of bodily harm and can provide for basic human needs of shelter, food, and water.
Get involved in volunteer programs locally where you can help end human trafficking, gang violence, opioid epidemics, and so much more. There seems to be an Instagram hashtag or Facebook group for everything these days. If you have any suggestions for local groups you are passionate about, please let it in the comments below with a link to their site. Teach those around you, share the information on your social media platforms….it just takes one rock in a pond to start a ripple that turns into a wave. Be that change you wish to see in the world.
How do you like to contribute to Responsible Tourism?
What is the most important thing to you regarding Responsible Tourism?
The two lighthouses were built shortly thereafter: Battery Point Lighthouse and Brother Jonathan Lighthouse. Make sure to be on the lookout for all the Tsunami warning signs, there was a deadly Tsunami in 1964 that leveled the town & they are still trying to rebuild the area today.
Battery Point Lighthouse:
Built in 1856 with 22 inch thick slabs of granite, this lighthouse is only accessible at low tide. The beach near this area is quite small but full of agates that locals come to regularly collect and make into jewelry. If you look to the right, there is a house nearby that has a comical yard piece that made me laugh til I cried…..the one and only, Harry the Henderson.
Beaches near Crescent City:
South Beach is the first beach you will come to when heading North up through California. This is a very popular beach in winter and especially summer. Here you will find some of the best tide pools near Crescent City, and if you are lucky you may see the annual Noll Longboard Classic Surf Contest.
[gallery ids="12490,12489,12488" type="square"] Endert’s Beach is my favorite Beach near Crescent city. This place is a hidden gem right off of the 101 hwy, with sand dollars, sand crabs at low tide and fishing for red-tailed surf perch at high tide. There are plenty of agates, shells, and other fun gems on this beach as well. This beach is perfect for that holiday BBQ as they have picnic tables and BBQ stands every 500 feet or so. There is hardly anyone on this beach & the perfectly untouched sand stretches on for miles. We let our dogs off the leashes and let them run for miles and miles.
Simpson Reed Grove This Redwood Grove is great for families and those with children. The path is easy and full of the gentle giant Redwood Trees that have created a natural playground. Climb over the enormous trees, hide in the center of the fallen giants, wiggle across branches that have created natural bridges.
[embed]https://youtu.be/ihduTVZkHz8[/embed] Stout Grove This is the grove that is a favorite among locals due to it being right by the shoreline of a river. Here you see these massive trees and then a beautiful river running right next to it. The best time to visit is in the summer around 3-5pm during the golden sun lit hour. Be sure to bring loads of mosquito repellent as they are quite bad in the summertime.
If you are not much of an Adrenalin junkie, then you may prefer to Kayak or Tube the River by the Redwood Groves lining the shores. Take a dip in the Smith River at South Fork where the water is crystal clear and will give you a refreshing jolt to those on a road trip.
Try your luck at fishing, the Smith River is the best place for salmon, trout and steelhead fishing in the whole State of California.
There is also class IV-Class V white-water-rafting, snorkeling with the salmon and trout, and taking a helicopter to the only open water lighthouse open to the public….St. George Reef Lighthouse.
Trees of Mystery:
This is the slightly more commercialized area of the Redwood forest, with statues of lumberjacks and a chair lift that takes you soaring above the skyline of the forest below. This is the ideal place to go if your party or family is feeling a little run down as it has a museum, a forest café, and six different trails that everyone can enjoy.
Takes about 2 hours, has a little show with sea lions, kids get to touch the fish. The aquarium has a guided tour of the sea life touch pool, aquarium & sea lion/seal show.
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Adults $12.95 child $7.95 babies free. There is a nice gift shop & photo opportunities around every corner at this place. .
When you first drive into Crescent City California, you will think you are driving into a bit of a ghost town. This is likely because most of those who do live there are out exploring the surrounding areas themselves. With so many wonderful outdoor adventures from whitewater rafting, the Redwood Groves, the Smith River, and the plentiful tide pools and ocean activities… it is hardly a ghost town. Crescent City is a town teeming with adventure waiting to be had.
As Always Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See You on the Flip Side.
The tribes were defeated in their resistance and relocated to the Siletz (the collective name of the 20 tribes relocated here) Reservation. This reservation is a 48-hour walk (with current road systems) from Bandon to Siletz Reservation. They were placed in an area that is 5.82 sq miles, and have gone from 10 distinct languages to one. The Siletz language now has a talking language dictionary due to the help of National Geographic Society and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, their language will hopefully continue to be preserved. Time went on and in 1873 George Bennette with his sons Joseph and George, along with Mr. Sealy came from Bandon Ireland to this area. The original name of Averill is changed to Bandon a year later and the town continued to flourish. Mr. Bennette helped to both build and destroy Bandon. He brought his native grouse plant from Ireland, which you will see throughout the town. The grouse is characterized by waxy leaves and small yellow flowers in thick thickets of bushes (especially along the coastline). The grouse plant is what started the great fire in 1936. The older folks in the town may remember the fire still, it would take years for the town to rebuild itself. Wood production, sawmills, water plants helped the town flourish, even the first Bandon Cranberry Festival took place (1947). You can still visit the Cranberry Sweets factory today and sample some of the treats and other boutique shop items.
Have I piqued your interest in Bandon yet?
It may look like a small town that is brand new, but this little town packs a big punch in both history and in the outdoor activities you can participate in.
Floras Lake State Park:
This hike is a lot more strenuous than it appears. You start off walking over a bridge to a beach like area. It is quite unique as there is a lake on one side and over the sandy hill is the ocean. The sand is more like small pebbles that really took a toll on my calves. The lake is a very popular place to come Kitesurfing as the wind is usually perfect for this sport.
As you walk along the edge of the lake to the forested area, I would suggest bringing water shoes so you can walk on the packed down sand near the shoreline. Once you reach the wooded area you feel like skipping down the trail singing, ‘Lions and Tigers and Bears oh my!’. Although nothing really jumped out of the woods at us, except for an occasional squirrel it is truly a place where you feel Gnomes and Fairies could live. We walked for quite awhile, 1 mile before most of the group turned back. My friend Breanna was so excited for this trail as it is supposed to spit you out along the sweeping cliffs complete with gorgeous waterfalls.
As she led us along this trail we ran into large puddles of water. With the edges of the trail being thick with sticks, moss, and underbrush we had to wade straight through the ankle-deep mud. I finally looked at my Fitbit watch and informed Bree that we had just hiked 2 miles in (which means we would have 4 miles back). She was sorely disappointed when I told her she could keep going, she caved and turned back with me. On the way back, about 1/2 mile past where the others had turned back, we noticed a tiny little sign (its brown and has a 1 inch by 2 inch arrow with tiny little black mileage on the sticker)….this was where we were supposed to have turned to head to the end of this hike. In total, we hiked 8 miles this day through pebble beaches, sand, sludge, wooded areas and were completely knackered by the time we reached the rest of the group.
So if you decide to hike in Floras Lake State Park, be sure you either have a GPS guide or someone who can tell you where the bloody turn is.
This 40-foot lighthouse was built at the mouth of the Coquille River to help the Mariners get by the dangerous shifting sandbars that dot the river. In 1890 the Bandon Oregon area was known for its fishing and timber industries. Congress approved the $50,000 it would take to build this lighthouse (in 1891) and it was completed by 1895 and was first used February 1896. The fire in 1936 slowed the ships into the town of Bandon and with the amount of money needed to rebuild the town, the Coast Guard decommissioned the Lighthouse by 1939.
Eventually, the lighthouse was restored, and in 1991 was gifted with a new solar-powered light. It is now open from mid-May to September. Address: 56487 Bullards Beach Rd, Bandon, OR 97411
Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon Oregon: Art to Save the Sea
This was by far my favorite place to visit and where I feel my quest of using the least amount of plastic possible began. You wouldn’t expect something like this in such a small town, but artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi started this non-profit community art project in 2010 to bring awareness to the plastic problem in our seas. Every single piece of the marine life sculptures in this gallery are made entirely from garbage that is removed from the Ocean. After walking the magnificent beaches of Oregon Angela decided to make a bold statement through Art, by using this garbage to created the animals who were the most affected by the garbage pollution.
Be sure to stop by and help create one of these masterpieces, I’m sure you will leave the Washed Ashore Gallery with a greater sense of responsibility to #SavetheSea Address: 325 2nd St SE, Bandon, OR 97411 Hours: Thurs-Sat, 12pm-5pm Other exhibitions: St Paul Minnesota at the Como Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois, S at the Shedd Aquarium, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Washington, DC. Donations can be made to WashedAshore.org – a Non-Profit organization
Shores Acre State Park
A picture can tell a thousand words, but a video can help you experience all that Shores Acre State Park has to offer. This park was once a magnificent estate of Baron Louis Simpson, a logging tycoon that wanted to create a palace for himself on the Shoreline of Oregon.
Stroll along the trail from the parking lot to the Ocean Cove at Simpson Beach. Take a gander inside the viewpoint gazebo during any season and watch the waves at high tide crash against the shoreline. You may even see some migrating whales along the shore during December and March.
The Simpson mansion has since disappeared but the formal Shores Acre Gardens are still well maintained and close by. Walking through these gardens is a like a botanical Disneyland. You start your journey through a tulip-lined walkway with fountains and benches. Birds softly chirping around you, and you are sheltered from the Ocean winds. A small house sits on the property with a cottage like feeling that welcomes all who enter. Be sure to take in the Japanese-style garden with a lily pond, and the two rose gardens. If you are there during the Christmas holidays, volunteers will delight you by filling the garden with lights making for a perfectly romantic holiday getaway. Address: Cape Argo Hwy, Coos Bay, OR 97420 Note: Credit Cards are not accepted for parking pass purchases. Receipt from any other Oregon State Park Campground is accepted as a daily permit, just display it on the driver’s side of the dashboard.
Crabbing in Charleston:
Did you know that you can go crabbing in Oregon and California? I thought that crabbing was reserved only for being on the boats in the middle of the Alaskan Bearing Sea. When we went to Oregon, I found out that you can go Crabbing just off the Pier in Charleston (a town right near Bandon). Grab some Crab Pots at Davey Jones Locker, along with some thawed out fish heads and such & catch some fresh Crab for your dinner.
Right between Bandon and Charleston are two places where you can ride ATV’s. Our itinerary did not allot for the time to do this, but is definitely on the list should we go back.
The trails that you would be looking for are Winchester Trails for ATV riding, and Blue Ridge for ATV, Camping, and Sand Boarding.
Check out Oregon’s riding restrictions before you go, so as not to get a ticket.
Although Bandon is not well known for its attractions, it is a truly beautiful place. If you are an outdoor fanatic like me, you will feel so at peace and at home being amongst the moss lined trees. Seeing Bandon on the map is quite a different experience than actually being in this city. The area is suited not just for the outdoor savvy, but those with children, elderly, families small and large, and for those who may have disabilities. Participate in as many hikes, sand labyrinth walks, and art projects as you can while visiting.
As Always Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See You On the Flip Side.
No matter if you are traveling with children, alone, or just with your furry friend – Road Trips can either be Hell on Earth; or a vacation in and of themselves. So after driving all over the Western United States for most of my life, here are a few Travel Hacks for Road Trips I highly recommend following when planning your own Road Trip at home or abroad.
This is a fantastic app for your road trip, and can also be accessed online to help plan your vacation on the road. I first found and utilized this when taking a Road Trip from Dallas Texas to Nauvoo Illinois. I was going to be traveling through a bunch of open fields. After planning out my route I explored all the spots along the road that had a good rating and found this gem in the middle of nowhere! It is in the Spinach Capital of the United States. A statue of the spinach-eating machine himself has his own little garden and fountain. This also happens to be across from the Police Station, so you have ample entertainment for all!
This app and website are a fantastic way to make those 12 hour drives a little more bearable on the road. From a medical standpoint, it also gives you an excuse to get out of the car every few hours to walk around. People who sit and travel long distances can have swollen legs and blood clots at times as well if they do not walk around sufficiently.
How to stay awake while driving
Get enough rest the night before
Doing this will help you be more alert on the road and less prone to falling asleep at the wheel.
IF YOU ARE TIRED AND START TO LOSE CONCENTRATION THAT IS THE FIRST SIGN YOU ARE AT RISK FOR FALLING ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL.
Pull into a gas station and take a power nap.
I have done this a few times in the past, where I pull into a busy gas station and take a 15-20 min nap. This always helps me feel more refreshed.
Avoid sugary foods or high carbohydrate content as your snack.
When you eat high carbohydrate and high sugar content foods, it starts a vicious cycle of fatigue. Why? Well, you eat that doughnut or candy, your body sees it as too much sugar, so it releases insulin and then drops your blood sugar again. Then you become very sleepy or hungry again, starting the cycle over. I try to avoid sugary foods whenever driving for this reason.
When I get warm I tend to fall asleep much easier. It is more comfortable to be warm, but I would rather have cold toes and arms before risking crashing my car and killing someone else.
This is my favorite way to stay awake. Imagine this like the old radios back in the day that would tell the cowboy stories to the children. The children would be so enthralled by the battles and day to day explanations because they didn’t have TV, this was their entertainment.
Audiobooks typically have quality actors and actresses that are able to do multiple accents, voices, and inflections to keep the listener engaged. Yes, some of the audiobooks are entirely too boring and drab to listen to on the road, but there are many that are not.
I personally have signed up for Amazon’s Audible Book subscription for $14.95 per month. I am an affiliate with them, but I have never been more grateful for the positive entertainment value it provides and now listen to them on the way to and from work all the time.
This is something my flatmate is really into. She has several Podcasts that she listens to on a daily basis to and from work. I think this could also work for road trips as well, you may just need to download the podcasts to your mobile device prior to starting your trip.
What are some of your favorite podcasts?
If all else fails, just start swigging Caffeine. Think of all those boring meetings from work you have survived on the sweet nectar of the Gods.
Travel with a friend:
Switching off while driving is really important while on the long road trips and stretches of the road.
Stretches and Facial exercises:
This is an odd one, but I start stretching my legs, toes, fingers, neck, back arms etc…. It keeps your heart rate slightly more elevated than at baseline, thus increasing blood flow to your brain and keeping you refreshed.
Facial exercises also help to keep me awake at the wheel. I open and close my mouth as hard as a can, wiggle my jaw side to side, see how many animal sounds I can make with my tongue etc….
Check road conditions and weather conditions
With the age of the internet came the ability to check your road conditions prior to starting your journey. There have been several instances that I wish I would have, and others where I didn’t and wish I would have.
There was one instance where I didn’t want to leave my parents house to drive back to Las Vegas and did not look at road conditions. I ended up leaving the house when it first started to snow, and by the time I hit Cedar City Utah, I was in a complete blizzard. Traveling at 25 mph on the freeway because of road conditions, and was nearly hit by a snow plow.
Organizing the car
This is paramount for safety while driving. The less distracted you are on the road, the better off and safer you will be.
I will put all the luggage in the very back of the car, the cooler in the middle of the back seat where it is easy for your friend to reach if needed. If you are traveling alone, set up your ‘snack bag’ where you can easily reach it.
Make sure you have Sunglasses to help with Glare.
If you are driving at night, turn down the dashboard lights. This will help your eyes not feel as tired from trying to adjust to the brightness of the dashboard vs the road.
Have your music or audible book playing before you put the car in drive.
Garbage bag, paper towels, and Kleenex should also be nearby where you don’t have to bend over, reach, or stretch to access them.
Check Your Car for Maintenance
Before you pack anything in the car, make sure your spare tire is filled up and in good condition.
Have a small gas can handy, just in case you miss an exit and the next gas station or turn around isn’t for another 50 miles and you are on empty.
Make sure you check your tire pressure after everything is loaded and in the car.
Change your oil, cabin filter, and engine filter before you go. This will help with gas mileage in your car.
Have your local mechanic esure all fluids are topped off, and the washer fluid is the appropriate one for the area you are traveling to.
I once was driving from Las Vegas to Utah in the snow and went to use my windshield wiper fluid and it froze on my windshield. I had to do an ACE Ventura head out the window to drive to the next town to get it fixed. They had to thaw out the windshield wiper lines with a hairdryer and vinegar, then unplug them. This really cut into my total driving time and was a major stressor. So mention to your mechanic if you find you will be driving to different climates and what they suggest for those areas.
Plan for Gas Stops
Don’t push the car to the point the gas light comes on! I always make a rule for myself that should I take a long road trip where I have never been before I never let the tank get down past 1/4 tank. Even a 1/4 tank is pushing it for me, I typically will fill up at 1/2 tank because I know I will be able to drive for several hours to the next gas station.
Get On The Road Again
Road trips can be a fantastic way to make bonds with friends, and see new destinations. It is important to plan, stay safe and stay awake on the road. There are over 100,000 car accidents per year from people falling asleep at the wheel in the United States. Make sure you know your own limits on when you need a break, even if it is just a mental break. There are plenty of unique things you can see on the road, not every place has to be Instagram worthy. The best adventures will always be the locations that make you feel more fulfilled and productive in your daily life, spark your creativity or help you create a more meaningful connection.
Happy Travels, Happy Tales & See You On The Flip Side.
The Bad Omen: Omens are a thing of legends and a word often used by mystics in the age of King Arthur, right? Well despite the word being associated with paranoid people and magicians in movies, I am still a big believer in them myself. Case and point number one, my roommate forgot her wallet about 45 minutes after we started on the road. Some may call this an accident, but I jokingly kept saying, ‘ It’s AN OMEN’!
When things like this happen, it often puts you on the wrong foot when starting, what is supposed to be, a relaxing vacation. Be sure to check out my Packing Lists to ensure that you will not forget anything you could possibly need, but at the same time, not over pack.
The Salt Flats:
There are several places among the Salt Flats that you can stop and get stellar photos and selfies. Because we are short were short on time, we stopped at a rest stop with a short 5 foot walk onto the Salt Flats with gentle rolling hills in the Distance.
Try to wear monocolor clothing without any wording on it or symbols. In photos it just looks distracting. Don’t wear sunglasses unless they are reflective and you just want the attention to be on your face. Avoid watches as this can also be distracting for the viewer. I personally love to wear flowing dresses here, because it just looks cool when it blows in the wind. Otherwise pair your clothing with something that will contrast to the background. For the Salt Flats, Sunrise or Sunset is the absolute best time to go, the white ground gets very reflective of the sun and can blow out your photo.
After this Quick stop, we were on our way to Tokatee Falls. If you are driving from Salt Lake City on your way to Wendover, this is also a great little stop that is only 1.5 hours away.
Timing Tokatee Falls:
We arrived at Tokatee Falls about 30 minutes before Sunset was complete. We had to do the hike rather quickly, and there are lots of stairs folks. I also had swollen legs from sitting for 16 hours in the car. It made it very difficult to do this trail quickly, this was the first instance I kicked myself for being so out of shape of many on this trip.
To avoid those swollen legs when driving or flying for long distances, compression stockings are a LIFE SAVER! No literally, they are life saving. When I would have patients come into my office with calf pain, one of the first things I ask is if they have done any traveling that required them to sit for long periods of time.
The ones who ended up having blood clots in their legs, were often the ones that said yes. I bet you are thinking, ‘Oh, that only happens with old people’…..NOPE…..think again. Some people are more prone to it than others, especially younger people who overload themselves on energy drinks and caffeine to stay awake. No one is immune to blood clots. A good rule of thumb is to get out of the car every hour or two and walk around for at least 15 minutes.
Getting to Tokatee Falls was awe-inspiring and took my breath away. I have never seen a waterfall like this in my entire life. The hike was fairly easy getting there (minus all the stairs). There is a hike that goes by the river, that I spotted plenty of swimming holes. Tokatee Falls itself was a contrast of white and dark, smooth and jagged visual delights. When there are such contrasting elements in one photo, I get very inspired. Views such as this are nourishment for the soul.
Floras Lake State Park
We arrived in Bandon and set up camp quickly in the dark. It is a lot more humid in Bandon than you would expect, so a drop of 15 degrees at night can be the type of chill that sinks into your bones. (I will post some tips on how to stay warm camping in Humid environments on Culture Trekking YouTube Channel, be sure to check it out). The next morning we were delighted with eggs and toast by Bree’s sister, who lives in Grant’s Pass. We headed to Floras Lake State Park and started a hike that would take us around a lake known for its kite surfing, into an enchanted forest.
The forest had moss-covered branches, topsy-turvy turns and truly felt magical. We couldn’t help skipping down the trail singing ‘Lions, and tigers and bears OH MY!’
The trail is best to do in the summer as it is likely a bit drier on the trail itself and covered in shade for most of the journey once you make it around the lake. We decided on doing this in Spring as it would be cooler for the 3 children that accompanied our group. The kids loved this hike, playing among the logs strewn about, and splashing in the lake on the way to the hike. If you look closely in the muddy puddles that dot the trail, you may just spot a Salamander.
Bree attempted to kiss it, at her niece’s delight, to see if it would turn into a handsome prince, but alas….it did not. I have taken too many microbiology classes to attempt that, lol, handsome prince or not.
If you plan to go in Spring or Fall, be sure you do this hike in Keens or sturdy watershoes.
After about 2.2 miles the kids started to get tired, the trail was then covered in water and required those without water shoes to start bushwhacking. Those with water shoes were walking through sludgy mud that had pinecones and sticks, fantastic cushioning for your feet.
Half of the group turned back at this point and then 0.25 miles later Bree and I were the only ones left on the trail with our dogs. We hiked another mile or two through the rough conditions & I finally told Bree we had gone too far and I could no longer hear the ocean (our final projected destination).
Reluctantly she agreed, and we turned back around to head into downtown Bandon and meet up with the rest of the group.
On our way back to the group (2 miles back), I noticed a metal pole with an indiscriminate trail on our left. I examined this closer, and it was a sign to another trail, I could also hear the ocean at this point. Pointing this out to Bree, she said some things I will not repeat here, and we both yelled our frustrations for the Forest to be witness to.
At this juncture we were both so exhausted we decided not to attempt another trail as our party had already been waiting quite awhile for us and headed into town, grumbling the whole way. If you have problems with tight calves like I do, when you hit the sandy area, walk closer to the shoreline for a more solid surface. It really aided in being able to make it back to the car. Now, this was the second time I chided myself for my out-of-shapeness. Bree’s sister, however, is an active Triathalon Athlete, and even she was exhausted by the end of this trek.
Moral of the story, don’t try hiking in heavily wooded areas without GPS, or something to tell you exactly how far you have traveled. I luckily had my Fitbit on me (not entirely accurate, but good enough of a guess) to tell us we hiked a total of 4.1 miles in 4.1 miles out and a total of 8.7 miles that day……ouch.
We visited Cranberries sweets, and the washed ashore gallery that day as well, which are also in Bandon. I will post a full list of activities in Bandon within the next few months.
Bad luck Crabbing in Charleston:
Day three was an exciting day for our group and the kids go crazy seeing us catch crab. We headed over to Charleston to visit Davey Jones locker to get our crab gear and pots.
Arrive early and rent a pot, otherwise you will have to pay $29.95 to buy one. Out of state-vs-in-state licenses are going to be different pricing.
After getting our licenses and crab pots, we headed over to the pier and found there were plenty of people attempting to catch some delicious Dungeness crab. There are guides to show you what kind of crabs you are allowed to catch and which ones you are not. It is based on gender and measurements, you keep the males and their shells must be a certain length from side to side.
If you want to watch a show I’m totally obsessed with, Deadliest Catch, you can see how they measure the crabs when they pull their crab pots in.
The best time to catch the crab is when it has not been raining for several days, and also at the end of summer. (Stay tuned for all the details of how to catch crab, along with more tips and tricks to make it memorable).
I was able to catch one crab for the seven of us for dinner. This was not going to be very filling for all seven of us feasting on one crab. Luckily there are some friendly folks who taught us how to cook our crab, clean the crab and even had a few more crab waiting there for us in the shop at the pier. As far as I could gather, this was the only place that sold crab, and in March of 2018 it was $5.99 per pound and they clean and cook it for you right there. We elected to cook it ourselves back at camp, so they cleaned it for us, put them on ice for us.
The Redemption Meal:
The crab turned out to be delicious! The most delicious crab I have ever had! There is nothing better than getting fresh crab, or fish from the rivers and oceans.
We melted our butter over the campfire which gave it a nice smoky taste and then cooked some S’mores to top it off. I called this, the redemption meal because of how good it truly was. Are you salivating yet? If this has tickled your fancy for crab, head over to Whole foods and get your Crabby on 🙂
Witnessing Mother Nature at Shores Acre State Park:
This is the day that we were robbed…..by raccoons. Well, Bree’s Sister was robbed anyway, her food cooler was broken into by Raccoons. The food was everywhere, bags were ripped open and strewn about the camp. None of us thought that Raccoons knew how to open coolers, but apparently, they are evolving and getting smarter. Consider yourself warned!
Bree and I salvaged breakfast with French Toast, Eggs, and Turkey Bacon. The group then headed to Shores Acre State Park. The best time to go here is at High Tide, this way you can see just how powerful the ocean truly is. In spring and summer you won’t be able to witness the full extent of mother nature, but during a Winter Storm….prepare to be awed by the power of water. There is a small shelter with a viewing platform that you can appreciate just how much the land has changed from the relentless pounding of the sea. Here you will also learn of a logging millionaire that built a mansion on these shores, complete with tennis courts that have since sunk into the ocean. If you pay attention you will see a large slab of concrete peeking out from under a blanket of Ivy that use to be the spot where his tennis courts were.
If you take the trail to the right of the viewing platform you will be able to see these tennis courts. Approximately 200 feet beyond the tennis courts is a unique area filled with, what I call, bubble rocks. These rocks and their current shapes, pockets, and bubble-like appearances were what has been sculpted by the seat itself. explore all the nooks and crannies with your kids or friends and witness the wonder of nature.
One thing I must stress to all my readers is to NEVER challenge the ocean, it will always win. The people in Oregon call those who visit, ‘Flat-landers’, those who come on vacation and do not have a healthy respect for the ocean. Do not travel in Oregon without a Tide Table booklet, these are available at any visitors center or major port city center. You can turn your back on the ocean and the next thing you know, you will be swept out to sea by the ‘sneeker waves’, as the Oregonians call them.
Facerock Wayside Beach and Sandy Labyrinths:
After some downtime after Bree’s sister’s family headed home, we went out to Facerock Wayside Beach for a special experience. I was particularly excited for this adventure. At Face Rock Wayside Beach, you will find a group of individuals that are committed to inner peace, healing and reconnecting with the humans that surround us. This group was started by a man named Denny, who in an effort to find that inner peace, you started to draw in the sand. Circles in the Sand The drawings soon became large, intricate works of art that were a walking meditation for him. Word grew and soon it expanded into a Community of like-minded individuals who meet on the weekends to take the walk. Each walk has a theme and can be up to 0.5 miles of walking.
There is encouragement given as you decide to take the walk through the circles, to disconnect from the world around you and realize happiness comes not from our electronics but from the peace we find within our own hearts and minds.
It helped me recenter my beliefs for our own community, that in order to truly be the change I wish to see in the world, first I need to be happy with myself.
Rain, Snow, Waterfalls, and Racoons:
After heading back to camp from the Circles in the sand appearance, we were enjoying a lazy and euphoric evening. Luckily our dogs were around, the rasciliy raccoon tripped over my tent stake, and triggered Zoey into a barking frenzy. Zoey is my dog that is part Cocker Spaniel, part poodle and definitely loves to chase animals of any kind. My dog likes to think she is a bear, but in fact is a 16-pound ball of zest and fluff. Zoey pulled the leash right out of my hands and took off into the bushes after what I assumed was a squirrel. She deftly tracked the Raccoon up the tree where it stayed for the next hour with us examining it. This Raccoon was GINORMOUS! The raccoon was easily three times the size of Zoey, and likely had all sorts of creepy critters crawling on it that I didn’t want Zoey to inherit.
I quickly gathered her up, calmed her down, took a few photos of the Raccoon, and then packed our own cooler in our car. We couldn’t do much with our garbage as we had just been headed to bed, so we put the garbage in our extra cardboard box.
The next morning we found the garbage bag ripped into, but all garbage was neatly contained in this box. We loaded it, and all our gear up into the car and headed out to Silver Falls State Park.
Silver Falls State Park
In checking the weather on the way to Silver Falls State Park, I discovered we were heading to an area where it was actually going to snow. I only own a 3 season tent and was worried about being too cold when we got there, especially Zoey as she doesn’t handle temperatures lower than 45 degrees very well. Luckily Bree was able to reserve a small Yurt or cabin for us for when we arrived at Silver Falls State Park. These are often equipped with an outdoor firepit, picnic table, electricity, beds, and a small heater that really does a stellar job.
We were both so happy to have a warm place to dry off our clothes, we stayed here awhile just to enjoy the warmth.
The cabin costs about $61 per night with dogs. At Silver Falls State Park there are only two cabins that are available for those with animals, so be sure to book early.
Many trails within Silver Falls State Park do not allow animals on them (for unknown reasons other than water contamination). So renting a cabin is a great way for you to put the pooches in a warm area that is contained and protected from visiting wildlife. Our first stop was to South Falls, the most iconic waterfall of the entire park. This towering monstrosity drops 177 feet (53.95 meters) into the River below. There are several different areas to take iconic photos, the first being at the top of the viewing platform. This is a platform where you can park your car and walk to the edge of the stone shelf and take a photo.
The other photo areas are along the trail itself, with one location before the bridge, and one location on the bridge itself.
From the bridge you have several options:
1- Continue along the trail that will bring you to a total of 10 different Waterfalls, each with its own unique appearance.
2- Take the trail up, around, and behind the waterfall. This is the option we chose as we were running out of daylight.
Hiking behind the waterfall was not like anything I have experienced. The sheer drop of the water into the river below sends reverberating sounds into the caverns that you hike through. It truly is an experience like none other, as these sounds are so loud you can hardly hear yourself speak and feel the thunder sink into your chest. We stayed behind the waterfall for some time, getting soaked from the spray of the waterfall and the rain that had begun for the evening. I wanted to stay there forever, just watching the mesmerizing fall of the water into the river below.
Bring a Poncho with you, or a garbage bag that you can drape over yourself to help you from getting soaked. If you are taking photos, make sure that your camera is either waterproof or has a protective covering like a shower cap on it to help keep out the majority of the spray from the waterfall.
Giants, Elves, and getting lost in Ferngully:
Leaving the warmth of that cabin was entirely too difficult. I wanted to stay and explore all the waterfalls within Silver Falls State Park! Alas, our itinerary did not allow for enough time to explore properly. If you want to properly explore Silver Falls State Park, make sure you allot for AT LEAST 4 days in this park.
Loading up our gear, and our pups, we headed to Willamette National Forest to hike the Tamolitch Blue Pool Trail. When we arrived at this trail, we were both greeted by a place that looked as if fairies would live here. This hike tracks the river for about 2.0 miles up to a spectacular Blue Pool of water fed by the McKenzie River. We assumed that it would be easy for us to spot, but after hiking for what seemed like ages, we ran out of time and ended up turning back. We did not have GPS, nor did our cell phones have service to let us know where we were.
After coming back home we realized we were 0.25 miles away from where it actually was. I don’t believe that trail is only 2.5 miles though personally, my Fitbit said I had gone 3.92 miles by the time we turned around. We were extremely disappointed about missing this feature as this is a very popular trail. Be sure you explore the Tamolitch Blue Pool Trail on Google Maps and drop the little man to see what it looks like on a normal day. There are several areas that appear to be the right spot, but alas are no. The trail was not a total loss for me, I had no idea what we were hiking towards, so wasn’t really disappointed when we had to turn around. The trail was absolutely stunning! There was moss over EVERYTHING and the areas that you could see the river were breathtaking.
When I visit Oregon again, I will definitely have to do this trail again as I really enjoyed just playing in this forest that looked like I was walking in Ferngully.
The Hot Spring that Isn’t So Hot:
Hiking 6-8 miles a day for me is a big deal, I have a typical desk job that I sit for most of the day taking care of my patients. Needless to say, my body hurt by day 6 and I was ready for a nice soak in a boiling Hot Spring.
Heading to Bigelow Hot Springs after our failed attempt at reaching the Blue Pool. Parking the car in a nearby parking slot, we headed back across the road and to the left trail along the bank of the river. The Bigelow Hot Springs was only a 0.1-mile trek in if that. Make sure you come with water shoes because the rocks are not friendly on bare feet. This Hot Springs I feel was very deceiving in many ways. When you first see it, it is on the right-hand side of the river with rocks that form a sort of hot tub appearance. The bank of the river is 12 inches away from this Hot Spring and would be fantastic in the Summertime. There was steam coming off the top of the water and my excitement level peaked because I thought for sure it was going to be piping hot. I peeled off my clothes with my swimming suit underneath I fumbled my way across the rocks and into the pool, anticipating delicious warmth from the frigid cold air.
I was sorely disappointed at the initial dip of my foot but wanted it to be warm so badly I decided to venture further into the pool. There was no area of this Hot Spring that was an actual HOT spring, it was more like a tepid bath……highly disappointing. We only stayed in the bogus Bigelow Hot Spring for about five minutes. If you were to come in the summertime it would be fantastic though. The spring would be tepid enough to not overheat you, a good place to wash off the grime of camping and lounge by the river. In the Spring and Fall getting out of this spring will be frosty, not to the point of snot-sickles. Whatever part of your body you decide to immerse in the water will quickly become numb upon emerging from the spring.
Cougar Hot Springs is the better Hot Springs as it is so hot, that you have to experience it in small doses. Unfortunately, the road was closed due to a rock slide and we could not safely reach it according to the Willamette National Forest Service Website. Make sure to check conditions of roads prior to visiting the different areas in the Pacific Northwest as the road conditions are dynamic.
If you want to check out other Hot Springs in Oregon, check out the Oregon Hot Springs Website, for the information you will need about the different Hot Springs.
A Perfectly Picturesque Conclusion with Sand dollars:
There are not many people that know about this beach, and I hesitate to share this with you because it is so fantastic but come on, I have to share it with my Culture Trekking Crew! It is marked as just a Picnic area in Crescent City, but is a beach full of Sand dollars! If you go at low tide earlier in the day you will see that the beach has sand dollars. When Bree told me about this I imagined a beach with all the Sand dollars in perfect condition lining the Beach. When you actually get there, you have to look for the Sand dollars. I would suggest going close to the waterline and looking for white pieces.
If you find a greenish looking Sand Dollar, please put it back as this is still alive sand dollar. There will be broken ones and whole ones of the white Sand dollars, these are ones that have already died. We went at low tide later in the evening and it looks like people had already picked the beach for the whole sand dollars.
The sunsets here are amazing and would suggest you take a picnic and enjoy it as a perfect ending to your trip along the Southern Oregon Coast.
The Lessons Learned for our next Oregon Coast Camping Trip:
Overall the trip was an utter success, with many memories that will stay with me for a very long time. Some things that I took away from this trip that I would do differently for next time: get a paper map for any trails we go on, get a GPS device, bring more sweaters, allow more time for enjoying the journey, and don’t try to take a dip in the hot springs when it is 45 degrees outside and you can’t defrost in a hot shower afterwards.
Make sure to check out my car camping list for any items you may need for your trip. This list will continue to be honed down and carefully crafted to help you travel. I will also be posting detailed videos of my experience & crucial information for your trip on the Culture Trekking YouTube Channel, be sure to subscribe and stay tuned.
Top Highlights of our Oregon Coast Camping trip were definitely Silver Falls State Park, Tokatee Falls, and the Sand Dollar Beach. As always my friends: Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and see you on the Flipside.