It felt wonderful to be back in the Holy City for a week. Though we moved away six and three years ago, respectively, we've never stopped missing the Lowcountry. Luckily, we still have a group of friends living in the area, so we had a place to stay and some fabulous people to catch up with while there.
Because you never know what will happen at AC's, we didn't bring the nice camera out on the town with us, but we couldn't help snapping a few photos while strolling along King Street or out on Folly Beach.
No matter how many times we walk out to the lighthouse, I always find myself stopping to stare and snap a few photos. It felt right, as we were about to embark on a crazy journey, to make the walk that Mike and I had made within weeks of meeting once again.
Thanks again to our favorite pair, Courtney and Travel, for hosting us, to the beautiful Selina for giving us two incredible (and much needed) haircuts, to Luke for being the best kayak guide in South Carolina (and probably the world), to Dooley and Warren for treating us to a karaoke performance of Papa Roach's Last Resort, to Andrew for gracing us with his presence in between pedi cab shifts and intense training at the rock gym (we kid!) and everyone else who made our visit that much more fun.
We love you all, and damn it do we love Charleston.
Thanks again to our dear friend Luke (aka “Boomdoggie”) for taking us out in the estuary. We love kayaking and, in our opinion, Charleston is one of the very best places to get out on the water.
As we glided along through calm water, the only sounds we heard were bird calls and the slow lapping of water through the reeds.
And then, like magic, as smooth as a sharp knife through thawed butter, a fin emerged from the water in front of us, followed by a shiny, sloping back, and descended beneath the surface again without a splash. and then again, but this time with a miniature version. A mom and calf! It was a majestic moment.
To anyone planning a visit to Charleston, make sure to add kayaking to your itinerary. We recommend Charleston Outdoor Adventures - don't forget to ask for Luke!
Charleston is our second home.
It's where we went to school, grew into ourselves (at least a little bit), and made lifelong best friends. It's also where we met.
But, as is often the case when you live somewhere, we had never done the touristy things that many consider synonymous with Charleston.
To train for the sightseeing and touristing we’d be doing abroad, we decided to check two off the list: the Angel Oak tree and Magnolia Plantation.
The Angel Oak is one of many native live oak trees found throughout the state. It's famous because it is believed to be in excess of 1,500 years old. While it's not very tall, it has a massive canopy. The wide spread, draping limbs seem to have grown out instead of up, making for very intriguing photos.
I did a bit of research and some have reported that the Angel Oak is the oldest thing, living or man-made, east of the Rocky Mountains. The tree got its celestial name from its previous owners, Martha and Justin Angel.
Plantations are as engrained in the history and landscape of the American south as Spanish moss, a truth evident in South Carolina. While many of the old rice plantations have been nonoperational for quite some time, they still offer historical tours as well as a gorgeous setting for weddings and other events.
We visited Magnolia Plantation, about 25 minutes driving from downtown Charleston, and experienced the south as it was hundreds of years ago - quieter, overgrown with old trees covered in ivy and moss, with alligators peeking out of the water, covered in bright green globs of duckweed.
As we walked along the boardwalked paths that weave and wind through Magnolia's grounds and the Audubon Swamp, we were surprised by how much wildlife we saw. Though they had all lived within miles of us for years, we had never given much thought to the plethora of spiders, alligators, turtles and waterfowl living peacefully in the time capsule that is Magnolia Plantation.
We spent a week in warm and sunny Florida with Mike's family at their beautiful new house. It was a week of relaxing, with no eight hour drives or figuring out where we'd be sleeping at night. In addition to spending time with some of our favorite people, we were able to get a lot of research and planning done for our trip. Important, since we were only three weeks away from our big departure date!
After driving 15 hours in one day (seriously, we did that), driving 45 minutes to Key West from Big Pine Key was no big deal! Mike and I popped down to the key furthest south one evening to walk around, catch yet another gorgeous sunset, and eat some ice cream. It was a short but sweet visit.
Joyce and Arthur's home in Big Pine Key has been a Peres family vacation favorite for more than a decade. I was lucky enough to get the invite a few times and, after an indoctrination including holding dead mahi mahi, have been adopted into the ocean-loving posse. On this most recent trip, we were right back at it on Arthur's boat, cruising from hole to hole looking for spiny lobster and a variety of fish to catch and eat for dinner that same night. Although the weather wasn't cooperative when it came to scuba diving, we were able to enjoy a few great days on the water with family and friends before starting our journey north up the east coast.
Good ol' "Nawlins" is easy to fall in love with. As we rode the Ruckus around, we were struck by how colorful the streets are. From pastel buildings to bright graffiti and murals, color is everywhere. And don't even get me started on the delicious, unique cuisine. Although we were only there for a few days, we made sure to get our fill of beignets, po boys, and boudin balls. Major thanks to Casey, our good friend, host and New Orleanian. We loved seeing where you live and work though local eyes!
In a word: epic.
Grand Canyon National Park is so amazing, you have to stop occasionally to remind yourself that you're really there, and that what you're looking at is really in front of you, and not just a postcard or something projected onto a green screen.
We hiked three miles into the canyon and looked back up the wall of strata, humbled by scale and the power of nature. We caught a vibrant sunset and a truly breathtaking sunrise over the Grand Canyon before continuing east.
You know you're in trouble when it's 105 degrees at 6 p.m.
We were in Lake Havasu for less than 12 hours - just long enough to photograph one of the most spectacular campsites (crazy summer heat aside) and spot a band of coyotes out for a morning jog!
The shoe fence and mystical sign post were unexpected encounters along Route 62 and both too cool to pass by without stopping to explore.
It's a little bit like Mars and a little bit like paradise... We drove through Joshua Tree National Park on our way east from California, stopping to hike around the unique terrain and photograph the quirky trees, plus lizards, small and large!
We rented bikes in Venice Beach and rode to Santa Monica Pier and back.
I mean, do you see those dolphins? Do you see those sea lions? It doesn't get much better... well, okay, a baby orca or mermaid or something would make it better but whatever, you get what I'm getting at...
This was only a quick stop for us but we liked what we saw and would definitely go back again!
We could go on and on about how much we love San Francisco. It's one of our favorite cities in the world.
This time, we spent less time on the tourist track and more time reconnecting with old friends and family members, checking out the new hot spots, hanging out at neighborhood eateries and even walking a dog around Fort Mason. (We didn't steal the dog, we just borrowed him.)
Hopefully we have much more time in the Golden Gate City in the future. It will certainly be in the back of our minds as a city to beat...
We had a fantastic day in Napa, which we wrote about here.
A day full of sun, wine, art, laughs, vineyards, cheese, more cheese.... what else is there to want?
Driving Route 1 is amazing as it is but unique gems like Glass Beach make it truly incredible. Glass Beach is one of those places that you just don't want to leave, even though it was only supposed to be a pit stop.
In case you've never heard of it, Glass Beach is literally a beach covered in sea glass.
It's as pretty as it sounds. Although I have to admit that when I imagined it, I pictured the pieces of glass being bigger. They're actually all quite small and, because selfish dumb-dumbs took all the red and orange pieces (the most rare) home for their personal collections, most of the glass is green or clear in color. However, with a bit of hunched-over searching/digging through the sand, you can still find pieces ranging in color from blue to purple and that elusive red.
Hunting for certain colors is yet another reason you feel like you need to stay "justfivemoreminutes!"
A bit of history on how Glass Beach came to be, just because we think it's interesting (you're welcome):
Until 1967, the Glass Beach area in Fort Bragg, California was used as a dump site. Tons of trash, including bottles, household appliances and even entire cars, were dumped into the ocean on a regular basis. A few decades later, the beach was covered in sea glass, the result of all those beer bottles and car headlights being broken apart and smoothed down by the ocean.
How big is a redwood tree, really?
And how old are these things?
How many Sons of Anarchy puns/jokes can I make while we're here?
^ examples of questions answered during our visit to Redwood National Park.
Oregon Caves National Monument was something we saw on the road from Portland to Crater Lake and spontaneously decided to get out of the car and explore! While we thought it would only be a 20 minute detour, the guided tour of the caves took an hour and a half. But, seeing as Mike had never been in caves like these, we had to do it.
Venturing more than 200 feet underground was a pretty cool way to stretch our legs mid-drive and cool off on a hot summer day.
Seattle was a hard act to follow but somehow, Portland did it. It totally charmed us.
From donuts and street art to stellar breweries and cute coffee shops, it's easy to quickly discover PDX's perks and quirks.
We stayed in Hood River (thanks again, Bruce, for hooking us up!), about an hour outside Portland and totally awesome in its own right. If we had more time, we would have hiked around exploring the Hood River area more than we were able to. (We did, however, have time to enjoy two of Hood River's fantastic breweries!)
Once again, THANK YOU to Nicole and Lance for taking us in literally the day after they moved into their new apartment from Chicago.
We fell in love with this city. Even Mike said he would live here! Highlights were spending time with our dear friends and Nicole’s awesome parents, sampling delicious food (and then even more delicious food...) especially in Pike Place Market (which I’m pretty sure is actually heaven) and riding around on the Ruckus checking out unique and charming neighborhoods.
We frolicked on the beach. We hiked through the jungle. We drove all the way out to Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point of the continental U.S.
Olympic is so awesome because of the variety of what you can find inside the park. It’s also different from any other park we saw because of the break in park area - the strip of coastline that makes up the park is, in some places, 100+ miles from the inland “chunk,” meaning you have to do quite a bit of driving to see it all.
In fact, we drove a total of 770 miles in only five days. That's like 20 hours of driving. That's a whole lot of driving.
But for views like these, it was worth it.
When life gives you lemons, go to Mount Rainier. We were slightly derailed on Day 7 (thanks, Canadian border patrol) but bounced back even hungrier than before, adding two more national parks to our itinerary. Within minutes of arriving in Mount Rainier National Park, we knew we had made the right call.
Light blue glaciers, evergreen forests, watercolor sunsets or rainbow wildflowers? It's hard to pick which is most photo-worthy... so we took photos of all of them. One morning, we were even lucky enough to catch Rainier without its standard cloud cap - a window that only lasted about 45 minutes!
As we entered, Glacier looked a lot like the Montana woods we’d been driving through already, so we weren’t immediately struck by it. But that changed as soon as we got our first look at the crystal clear, pale turquoise water. And once we ventured up Going-to-the-Sun Road, we were awestruck. Everywhere you look in Glacier could be a painting. It is unreal beautiful.
It made a girl who doesn’t like camping fall in love with the outdoors in a whole new way.
We camped in Glacier for three nights and would go back in a heartbeat. There’s so much more to explore. Check out the post we wrote about hiking the Highline Trail here.
Watching statuesque bison graze and frolic in the plains beats any TV show and geothermal features bubbling up from below are real-life lava lamps. Yellowstone National Park is like America's family room! We only spent a few days here but packed in the sights and hikes, making our way around the entire park loop before continuing on to Montana...
We spent less than 24 hours in beautiful Jackson but were still able to check out the town, pick up fishing licenses, eat some great thai food, catch an epic sunset over the Tetons, make some new friends and enjoy our first night camping on the road!
Grand Teton National Park wasn't the fly fishing mecca we were hoping for (probably user error) but was the unexpected location for our first bear encounter.
After moving out of our apartment in Denver, we drove to Breckenridge and spent a week with the Peres clan before embarking on our road trip journey. It was so special to have the whole family together for our last week in Colorado. Highlights included fly fishing, hiking (Grace's first fourteener!), family hot tub time, delicious dinners and celebrating Matt's birthday.