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The other night Kevin and I had the opportunity to preview the Valentine’s Dinner Menu at Cafe Coyote down in Old Town. I haven’t spent much time in Old Town, so it was a fun and new experience to check out the area.

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Cafe Coyote has received the CRA (California Restaurant Association) 32nd Annual Gold Medallion Award for the Best Mexican Restaurant 2016. So if you’re looking for an authentic Mexican dining experience in San Diego, this is where you should go!

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Cafe Coyote is known for their margaritas, so of course we had to check them out! There were 2 special margs on the v-day menu, but I prefer mine not too sweet, so I ordered the Tres Agaves that doesn’t use sweet and sour mix, making it a little more authentic. Kevin ordered the Cadillac Margarita made with Grand Mariner, so it added a little more punch of booze with a hint of sweetness.

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Cafe Coyote amasses a big portion of the block they’re located on. We learned that the restaurant originally started as just the upstairs area, but as businesses went out underneath, they continued to expand and with it, grow their success.

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The restaurant was definitely bustling with life. We sat on the patio and enjoyed the romantic open-air ambiance. We ordered the 2lb 3-course lobster dinner for 2 served Puerto Nuevo Style with Mexican style rice, refried beans, handmade tortillas, drawn butter and fresh salsa. Plus we each got one starter (tortilla soup and pozole) and one dessert (fried ice cream and chocolate Chile pot de creme).

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I much rather prefer a Puerto Nuevo style lobster dinner than a traditional super fancy lobster dinner. It’s fun and filling, and it definitely brought back memories of our summer trips down to Baja!

Our meal was so delicious, and such a great deal! The lobster dinner for 2 is only $49.95 total, almost equivalent to how little you’d pay if you went down to Puerto Nuevo.

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We were shown so much hospitality with little details like chocolate roses, a “candle lit” dinner and an extra special white chocolate fudge heart from the candy store next door.

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For an affordable, fun, and romantic Valentine’s Day experience, I’d highly recommend checking out Cafe Coyote. Plus V-day also falls on Taco Tuesday 😉

Cafe Coyote 2461 San Diego Ave
San Diego, CA 92110

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Thank you to Cafe Coyote for hosting me! As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

San Diego Restaurant is happening, now through Sunday, January 22nd!

Tuesday night, Kevin and I stepped out of our North County bubble and traveled down to The Smoking Goat in North Park for San Diego Restaurant Week. North Park has such a wide array of good restaurants, I just never seem to make the trek. For example, I’m pretty sure The Smoking Goat has been on my “to-try” restaurant list for the past 6-7 years, so I’m glad San Diego Restaurant Week gave me the chance.

The Smoking Goat is a French bistro with a rustic farmhouse vibe that definitely fits the San Diego food scene. The restaurant week menu provides a good representation of what The Smoking Goat normally serves, while only priced at $40 for 3-courses.

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To start, we ordered the French Onion Soup with oxtail broth, crouton and Swiss gruyere and the Foie Gras Torchon with fig preserve and toast. The French Onion Soup had a flavor that was reminiscent of Thanksgiving (perhaps the flavor from the bay leaf?). And the Foie Gras did not disappoint since it’s one of my favorite things (and I don’t think I’ve had it since I studied abroad in Paris basically 7 years go!).

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Our waiter was very knowledgeable and helped me select a Cotes du Rhone to pair with my entree, the Duck Confit. If you haven’t noticed a trend, duck is my absolute favorite! The Duck Confit was accompanied by a sweet potato-oyster mushroom hash, rapini and black truffle jus. And for Kev’s second course, he ordered the Compart Farms Duroc Pork Chop with potato-bacon gratin and braised kale. Both of our dishes were very moist and flavorful, and we completely devoured them.

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This season, San Diego Restaurant Week partnered up with the Girl Scouts of America to celebrate 100 years of Girl Scout Cookies, so chef’s created dishes that incorporated this treat. We found this collaboration in the Chocolate Pot de Creme dessert that came with Girl Scout trefoils shortbread cookies and espresso cream. Of course we had to try one of each dessert, so we also ordered the Apple Cobbler with stone fruit and coconut-oat streusel.

Everything was absolutely top notch! One of my favorite things about San Diego Restaurant Week is that it makes me try new places. And through this format, we’ve always been able to sample a selection of dishes that leave us wanting to come back another time to try more.

The Smoking Goat 

3408 30th St
San Diego, CA 92104

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Thank you to The Smoking Goat for hosting me! As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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If you’re looking for a unique experience in San Diego…then I think I’ve got it.

Last Tuesday night, London and I went to dinner and a (Oh Wonder) show at West Coast Tavern/The Observatory North Park. West Coast Tavern is the restaurant connected to The Observatory. And while I’ve been to The Observatory venue several times for shows (e.g. Jungle and Tame Impala) I never knew that the VIP/Balcony area existed.

When London and I first arrived to the show, we were seriously worried that we weren’t supposed to like Oh Wonder. Everyone was literally 18, or younger with a guardian. However, I guess they were just trendy teens, something we’ve always aspired to be 😛

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Everything was running a little late (mainly stemming from the doors opening ~20 minutes behind). Fortunately, we our dinner was located in the balcony area overlooking the stage. So we were able to sit, relax, eat and enjoy a literally elevated experience!

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We started off with the charcuterie & cheese board (because we can never seem to pass one of these up when we’re together). And the seared hamachi tostadas (which were perfectly mini little bites filled with a lot of flavor).

For cocktails, if you know us and rose…we had to try the “Ladies Choice” made with minuty rose, pamplemousse, leon, simple syrup.

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Next we had the quinoa & feta salad, and I was loving the black olives, marcona almonds and lemon oregano vinaigrette in this (London also said this seemed like a salad I’d make for lunch).

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Lastly, we shared the prosciutto flatbread, that had a sundried tomato pesto base underneath a layer of gooey cheese. Between the food, drinks and live music, we were fully satisfied and entertained in all aspects.

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If you’re planning on seeing a show at The Observatory North Park (and they’ve got a lot of good ones coming up), I highly recommend reserving a table in the balcony section. We had completely unobstructed views. You could hear everyone on the ground level singing to the band (in a good way). And we also got to enjoy a variety of food and drinks delivered straight to our table. And, if Oh Wonder is ever playing near you, go see them! They were amazing live! I would say, even better than on Spotify. And contrary to what I said above, they’re not just for teens! 😉

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San Diego Restaurant Week is back from September 25th through October 2nd!

This past Tuesday London and I ventured down to Prepkitchen La Jolla.  Now…Prepkitchen is a restaurant that I’m very familiar with. I remember when the La Jolla location first opened. Being a freshman in college, it was one of the first “farm-to-table” restaurants I tried in San Diego. And currently, working in Del Mar, I visit the Del Mar location a ton for lunch (and they also participate in all of our events). However, I don’t always get a chance to dine for dinner and that’s what I was the most excited for.

San Diego Restaurant Week is the perfect time to try a new restaurant, or visit a long-time favorite. It’s the perfect way to sample a variety of different menu options — whether new or old to you. Prepkitchen does SDRW right. Offering their whole menu, it’s the perfect way to try everything you’ve always wanted.

So…back to our meal. First off, the night was absolutely perfect. London kept exclaiming how she loved the weather— it was dark, wet and rainy, but the air was still warm. We arrived at PKLJ and were seated in the enclosed patio area. Immediately it felt like we had been transported back to Paris. The two of us, drinking a warming red wine, enjoying a romantic dinner — basically the definition of our study abroad time. Total European vibes, very cozy and casual.

We decided to make our San Diego Restaurant Week family-style, sharing everything and doubling the amount of items we got to try.

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We started off with the Bacon Wrapped Dates— blue cheese & arugula. Like everyone always says, you can never go wrong with bacon. Especially when it’s wrapped around a warm date stuffed with soft and tangy blue cheese.

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We also ordered the Heirloom Tomato & Burrata — heirloom & cherry tomatoes, basil, balsamic reduction & fleur du sel. Following the seasonally minded theme of the restaurant, the tomatoes were actually picked from their own farm.

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For our entrees we selected the Scottish Salmon — corn succotash, arugula & basil butter that was absolutely cooked to perfect, and the Porter Braised Short Ribs — potato puree, carrots, pearl onions, criminis & horseradish gremolata. The short ribs were so robust, yet delicate in the way the meat fell off the bone. It was the perfect comfort meal for the rainy sort of night.

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For dessert, we ordered 2 of my favorite types of dessert — hot with cold.

The Warm Chocolate Budino was like a warm soft chocolate cake topped with gelato, whipped cream and crunchy little nibs.  And the Mixed Berry Bread Pudding was moist and decadent, brightened up by the slight acidity of the fruit, and topped with salted caramel and vanilla gelato…yum!

For only $35 per person for dinner, San Diego Restaurant Week at Prepkitchen is basically a steal– a lot (of really really good) food.

One of my favorite things about Prepkitchen (in addition to serving amazing food) is the service and hospitality. You are always treated like good friends and family, and if you’re a regular, even more so!

Whether new or old, this San Diego Restaurant Week I highly recommend visiting any 3 of the Prepkitchen locations (La Jolla, Del Mar and Little Italy)!

Prepkitchen La Jolla
7556 Fay Ave
La Jolla, CA 92037

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Thank you to Prepkitchen for hosting me! As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Continuing the Cactus-to-Clouds story…

The next morning Kev and I were up around 8am.  Rationing our scarcity of water, we made a super strong cup of espresso and an oatmeal with trail mix breakfast that tasted just like an oatmeal cookie.

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Around 9:40am we were back on the trail, equipped with only a day-pack, to summit Mt. San Jacinto.  With half-a-mile out of Tamarack Valley to Round Valley, and then another 3.3 miles to the peak, this was the easiest part of our hike (after all we had endured the day before!).  By noon we made it to the top, to blue skies and absolutely no wind.  It was picture perfect.  We spent some time at the top, snacking on ciabatta, Babybel cheese and hard salami before we headed back.

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At this point our water was getting pretty sparse.  We quickly packed up camp and made our way back to Long Valley, knowing that water awaited us at the Ranger Station.  We were also not 100% sure when or how late the Palm Springs Aerial Tram ran.  

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By the time we made it back to Long Valley, our Camelbak bladders were completely dry.  We rejoiced by filling up our Nalgenes and chugging water.  Then we walked the steep ramp up to the tram.  Lucky for us, it’s scheduled to leave every 10 minutes (a one-way ticket for hikers costs $12).  Note: there is no reception at the bottom of the tram in Palm Springs so you have to call an Uber while on the tram. Unfortunately, this didn’t work for me, and we ended up calling a cab (that took forever to arrive), so one of the parking lot shuttle drivers took us to the last lot before the security gate where we were able to grab a couple bars of reception and call an Uber.

After not too long we were back at the parking lot across the street from the Palm Springs Art Museum, feeling completely worn…like we had been gone for multiple days, and not just one.

Our celebratory meal was a Double Double from In-N-Out and a fat soda. YES! Once back in SD it wasn’t too long before we climbed into bed and quickly passed out.

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SOOOO…tips for backpacking Cactus-to-Clouds:

  1. Don’t wear cotton t-shirts, tech-tee’s only.
  2. Secure a camping permit and have it in hand before you hike to the top with a  30 lb pack.  It takes 10 days to process and with the summer months it could take longer.  Plan ahead!
  3. Don’t backpack cactus-to-clouds, only take a daypack and make it a day hike. There’s a reason it’s rated the fifth hardest day hike in the US.  Trust me when I say we packed as minimally as possible.  The only excessive thing I brought was banangrams, and for Kev, a pair of jeans.  Even with this, it was TOUGH.
  4. Don’t trust everything you read on the internet
  5. Bring a first aid kit (bandaids at a minimum) and vaseline.

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This is one topic you won’t readily find on the internet…backpacking the Cactus-to-Clouds Trail. Mainly because I don’t think anyone is willingly insane to put themselves through what we did. But Kevin and I talked and talked about doing this and got it so far stuck in our heads that taking any other route (e.g. Idyllwild) seemed like a cop-out.

Cactus-to-Clouds is a trail that starts in the desert of Palm Springs (470 ft) — “Cactus” and ends up at Mt. San Jacinto (10,834 ft) — “Clouds.”  It’s ranked America’s fifth hardest dayhike on Backpacker.com, stating “the trek to San Jacinto’s 10,804-foot, boulder-strewn crown is only 800 vertical feet shorter than the climb from Everest basecamp to summit-and comparable to doing more than a thousand flights of stairs.” Now, let’s just add a 30lb pack to that…

Originally, our plan was to backpack up Cactus to Clouds, set-up camp, summit Mt San Jacinto, sleep, and hike back down the next day, completing the Cactus to Clouds to Cactus. But you’ll see how that all pans out…

On Friday night we arrived in Palm Springs around 8:30. We grabbed dinner at La Bonita…which honestly, Mexican food before a long hike probably isn’t the best thing.

We parked on the top of the parking garage located across the street from the Palm Springs Art Museum and slept in the bed of his truck with a camper overnight. Shortly after falling asleep, it was time to wake up…4:10am. We decided to bypass breakfast since we were still pretty full from dinner just a couple hours earlier. We packed up, moved the truck down to the lower level and started the hike at 4:50. Note: the trailhead is located in the north end of the north Palm Springs Art Museum parking lot.

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Within the first quarter mile I was already breaking a sweat. I was warm and already questioning my fitness level and abilities. Next time (ok, if there ever is a next time for this trail), I would start off in shorts. Because it was dark when we started, I associated this being cold. I ended up changing into shorts a couple hours later when my leggings were completely drenched with sweat. Next time I would also not wear a cotton shirt because it was wet and then cold and obviously did not absorb or wick away sweat.

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Since we opted out for breakfast, we munched on Yellow Deli Energizing Green Bars. These were perfect because they are so dense and filling with good and healthy ingredients.

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At 9:20 we reached Rescue Box 2 (one of two boxes on the trail stocked with some supplies and whatever leftovers people leave) and took our first break, 7 miles and 4 hours into the hike. We split a PB&J on ciabatta bread and hopped back on the trail.

At this point we were loosely following a timeline we found online:

• Start at the museum’s trailhead
• Picnic tables (20′)
• Rescue Box 1 (1h20′)
• First plateau (1h45′)
• Flat trail coasting the valley from south to north (2h 50′)
• Rescue Box 2 (3h45’) — around here things go awry.
• First pine tree (4h35′)
• First view of the tramway (4h50′)
• Plateau of the tramway (5h15′)
• Ranger station (5h30′)
• San Jacinto Peak (7h45’)

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We were pretty much hitting everything on schedule, despite the fact we were both packing exorbitant amounts of weight. So we basically expected to reach the top of Long Valley around 5 hours 15 minutes (or ~9 miles based on the rock we saw 1 mile into the hike).

I mean, we didn’t really experience any detours except for once or twice because of my inability to identify trails. First I led us (and another couple) up a path that continued to climb before we realized it was way too steep to be the trail. And then I ran the two of us into a grove of Manzanita trees before I realized when I could barely slip by and that no other human being could have walked through that way.

So based on the timeline we thought we were getting close. Fortunately (because it ended up being at least another 90 more minutes) but my hunger insisted took another break (thankfully) and split another PB&J sandwich.

The last section was more than either of us expected. It was steep, with soft dirt and very few rocks or traction. And it literally went on FOREVER. FINALLY. FINALLY. FINALLY. We reached Grubb’s Notch (the beginning of Long Valley) at 12:15pm.

At this point, we both agreed…we would take the tram back down the next day. Knowing how I already approach downhill’s (very cautiously) coupled with a pack that threw our center of balance way off and made us extremely top-heavy. Even as we depleted our water supplies, due to the elevation, our backpacks seemed to get heavier, not lighter.

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We were SO excited to be on flat land. So excited that we didn’t even mind accidentally touring on the Discovery Trail as we searched for the Ranger Station. As we approached the Ranger Station we noticed a sign stating: “ALL CAMPING FULL.” Although I didn’t physically have a camping permit in hand, I did have a copy of the permit application I mailed in 11 days prior and a copy of the money order. The ranger on-site made a call to the station in Idyllwild to check and see if my permit was there. As we waited to hear the verdict, we were able to fill up our Camelbaks and Nalgenes with water from a spigot on the back porch (which added another 6lbs back to our packs). Unfortunately, there was no record of my application…and since all campsites were full, we were essentially being turned away. We went to talk to another ranger about alternative camping options outside of San Jacinto (and off the mountain). However, with a spot left at Tamarack Valley, WE LUCKED OUT! Lugging these packs around wasn’t all for nothing.

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It was now 1:20, so very hungry and very tired, we drudgingly started the 2-mile trek to our campsite. But at least we had a campsite! We snagged the first site we came across and immediately sat down for “lunch.” Trail mix, ciabatta bread, Babybel cheese and hard salami. We set up camp, and immediately climbed in our sleeping bags for a 3-hour nap. I easily could have slept for the rest of the night, but woke up just enough to have a “housewarming party,” (aka make dinner in our tent). And sure enough, shortly thereafter, we were back to sleep.

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Every night in Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo we found ourselves eating a dinner better than the night before.  If you find yourself visiting, make sure you don’t miss out on these places!

Bistro Soleiado – Soleiades is a French restaurant in the middle of Ixtapa.  We had such a great experience here the year before, this was a definite on our list.
What to order: Mahi Mahi filet with lemon and caper sauce.

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El Mediterraneo – This dinner we met up with another family.  With a large group of 12, we were set up at a long table in the back.  With just a few other tables in the area, it felt like we were in our own private space.  With only the walls surrounding and no roof above (just the stairs), it felt completely open.
What to order: Everyone either ordered the jumbo butterflied coconut shrimp butterflied or the super fresh tuna sashimi.

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La Casa Vieja – The owner was super attentive and did everything — from greeting and seating the tables, to being waiter, bartender, entertainer.
What to order: Shrimp fajitas.

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Ristorante Il Mare* – This was the day that we experienced some intense storms.  We drove over flooded streets, hoping our over-stuffed and small taxi would be able to get maintain traction and get us up and over the hills.  We entered Il Mare, an Italian-influenced restaurant, situated on the edge of the cliffs, overlooking the dark ocean and to the hills that lit up with twinkles of lights.
What to order: Shrimp scampi.

Coconuts – This year and the last, we have unintentionally ended up in Coconuts. It’s a great restaurant, but both times we have started somewhere we did not want to be, left, and found ourselves at Coconuts. Lauren and I were stuffed after we both decided to order a full cornish hen and not share. Lesson learned. Share!
What to order: Cornish hen stuffed with goat cheese, mediterranean vegetables and truffle mashed potatoes.

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El Paraiso Escondido on Isla Ixtapa – This is the restaurant we chose to hang out at when we visited Isla Ixtapa.  To get to Isla Ixtapa, you take a water taxi over from Playa Linda.  The owner of Paraiso Escondido, Juan/”Johnny” said that they offer their own boat, so if you want to stay later than the 5pm cut-off, they can personally taxi you back.  He was super generous and even offered for us to enjoy some of the activities for free (this is when we decided to tube behind a jetski!).  They had fun cocktails like pina coladas in pineapples (adorned with ridiculous fruit faces).
What to order: I went a little out of the norm and ordered grilled octopus in butter.

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Patys Marimar* – At this restaurant your feet are literally on the beach, where you can take off your shoes and dig your toes into the sand. They offer 2 x 1 drinks, but that means they bring you both drinks at once! Tyler and I decided to get mango daiquiris and strawberry daiquiris and swap. At first the mango tasted really mild (like maybe there was no alcohol).  However, we were informed there was alcohol, and were offered additional alcohol, in the form of a double shooter to add as we pleased.
What to order: Shrimp fajitas.

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La Casa Que Canta* – This is probably one of the most beautiful, nicest, and romantic restaurants in Zihuatanejo, located in an upscale hotel.  You feel like you’re on the edge of the world.  The food is delicious and the service is impeccable.  Walk around the grounds and you’ll see an infinity pool that looks like it drops off into the ocean, and a salt water pool that looks like it sinks deep with no end.
What to order: Coconut shrimp.

Bars —Señor Frogs and Alex’s – for the dancing experience and the blue mystery liquid poured down your throat, go to Senor Frogs.  And for the DIY DJ experience (aka make your own playlist and play it on YouTube) go to Alex’s — a bar carved into the side of an old dilapidated stadium.

*You cannot top the view at any of these restaurants.  I have marked a couple of the restaurants that sit on the edge of the cliffs or are literally on the beach and look out to the water with an asterisk.

These past 2 years vacationing to Ixtapa have been an absolute treat!

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This was one of those vacations where you completely relax. When your biggest decision is what bikini to wear, and your only commitment is dinner for the night.

Our daily routine consisted of waking up for a run, eating breakfast at the house (usually greek yogurt, fresh pineapple and mango, white gold honey and granola), going down to the beach for a couple hours, going back up for lunch (usually tortillas, frijoles, queso, aguacate and chipotle sauce), followed by a couple more hours at the pool, the occasional massage on the beach, and then dinner out.

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With all the time spent bronzing and drink cervezas, I finished 4 books —Into the Wild, The Luckiest Girl, Disclaimer, and The Husband’s Secret. Out of those I would highly recommend Disclaimer and The Husband’s Secret. I had started Into The Wild before I left, and I really like John Krakauer books so I enjoyed his investigation of Chris McCandless and highlighted the passage “the joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”  The Luckiest Girl was a good beach read, but not very dense and kind of reminded me of a Lifetime Movie. Disclaimer kept coming with twists and turns — a woman who reads a book and realizes that it’s about her. And The Husband’s Secret has 3 different storylines that all begin to intertwine.

Back to the trip….We flew into Ixtapa on a Saturday, stopped at the grocery stores and picked up supplies to make breakfasts and lunches for the week. By the time we arrived and checked in, it was time to shower and go out to eat.

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On Sunday and Monday we worked on getting ourselves into the routine. You know, having loungey breakfasts, lathering up with sunscreen, and getting ready for a full day of relaxation.

I also competed in a beer drinking competition, of which I had to do 2 rounds consecutively (the first time I kind of drank it like a shower, which led to a rematch). I really didn’t want to chug any more beer, but I also didn’t want to lose…so I ended up winning 😛

Tuesday and Wednesday we experienced some stormy weather. However, by Thursday the skies were blue and the rain had really cleared everything up.

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Thursday we visited the Isla de Ixtapa where I ate octopus, fed a deer with my mouth, and went tubing behind a jet ski. To get there you take a bus to Playa Linda, hop on a boat that taxi’s you over to the second harbor on the island. When you get to the island, you choose the restaurant that you will essentially hang out at all day. There’s lounge chairs and access to the other side of the beach that is prime for snorkeling (lots of fish and lots of coral).

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On Friday we resorted back to our usual routine — run (this time a 10 miler), breakfast, beach, lunch, and pool. We had dinner at the gorgeous Le Casa Que Canta and then met up with the rest of the group to go out to Alex’s bar (where the DJ is youtube on a computer and you can play anything you want), followed by a true Mexico nightlife scene at Señor Frogs (not exempt from blue liquor).

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Saturday is always an awkward day because check out is at 10am, but then the flight isn’t until after 4pm. We packed up all of our stuff, headed down to the resort restaurant for breakfast, and then hung out at the beach for the majority of the morning. When it was time, we took a quick shower in the pool bathrooms, and headed to the airport.

Overall, this trip was the epitome of a real vacation!  Stay tuned, post to come on “Where to eat in Ixtapa!”

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As I’ve read, Joshua Tree is not one for bountiful trails and hikes say for like Yosemite NP.  However, it’s filled with what I would call points of interest (such as Arch Rock and Skull Rock), that are easily accessible and less than 1 mile off the paved road.

Originally I wanted to do The Lost Palms Oasis hike, one of the longer hikes in the park (around 7 miles).  However, once we arrived we realized this located near Cottonwood Campground, roughly 30 miles away from us.  So instead, we decided to do 2 shorter hikes — the first one classified as a “challenging hike,” and the second as a “short walk/nature trail.”

Both of these hikes were easy to find from the road, clearly indicated by wayfinding signage.  The hikes themselves were well maintained and straight-forward.  For example, we thought finding the petroglyphs would be more challenging, but even they had signs pointing towards them.

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Ryan Mountain — “challenging hike,” 3 miles out-and-back with 1,000 feet elevation gain.  The total elevation ends up being a little over 5,000 feet, with sweeping 360 views of the entire park, Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio.

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Barker Dam — “short walk/nature trail,” 1.5 mile loop, with the only body of water in the park and Indian Petroglyphs.

I’m glad we did Ryan Mountain first.  Although it is deemed a strenuous hike, we had no problem going up and down this within an hour and 30 minutes, with a prolonged break at the top.  If we had only “hiked” Barker Dam, I think we both would have been fairly disappointed, although the Indian Petroglyphs definitely made up for this (we were so stoked and intrigued!!!).

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Where do you camp when all the campgrounds are full in Joshua Tree?

With no real plans except for a few campsites in mind (e.g. White Tank, Jumbo Rocks) Kevin and I arrived at Joshua Tree National Park late on Saturday afternoon to a full park.

We were informed that the only campground with open sites was Cottonwood.  However, Cottonwood was 30 miles away within the park, basically at the South entrance/exit.  So instead, we decided to weigh our options and scout out the backcountry sites.

I had read of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) camping which is free and primitive camping outside the National Park (and from what I’ve read quite desolate).  However, we found out that you can do dispersement camping (pack-in, pack-out) at designated Backcountry Boards inside the park.  These are located throughout the park (look on the map for the blue B’s).  All you need to do is find the Backcountry Board, and fill out a free permit that basically provides the information for your car (so you can park overnight) and some accountability for yourself going out there.  The only real restriction to backcountry camping is that you must be 1 mile from the road and 500 ft from any trails.

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After driving through the White Tank campground and realizing that even though all of the sites are divided by huge boulders, there is still a lack of privacy.  Going off the grid was exactly what we both wanted, needed and liked (camping is all about isolation!).  We ended up using the Twin Tanks location (you can see 12 other spots within JTNP here).  With just enough time to carry 2 loads from the car (we’ve worked on condensing since our first dispersement camping experience) and set up camp, we took a hike to the nearest rock formation.  After climbing about 50 feet up, we reached the top for the most majestic sunset.

I find that camping in completely remote locations is the best way to disconnect and relax.  With no cell reception, and the sun serving as your gauge of time, it’s easy to lose yourself into complete stillness and tranquility.

We also happened to catch the full moon which illuminated our little valley like a spotlight!

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I feel like after 24 hours in Joshua Tree, we had a pretty good understanding for the park.  Even though I had done some research prior, it’s always hard to place things in perspective and know how they all relate!

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