This is the most #latepost ever, coming in 1 year late. But in the spirit of New Year’s, and because I wrote this and never shared it, here is a recap of our 2016-2017 NYE in Yosemite…

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I am not the earliest of risers, but for Yosemite, I’ll do just about anything. Although I haven’t been since I was like 12, I’ve been #yosemiteready for the past couple of years.  So for Christmas, Kevin surprised me with a trip to Yosemite for New Year’s weekend.

On the Friday before New Year’s we woke up at 4am and were on the road no later than 4:45am.  The drive was pretty seamless, except for we encountered some heavy rains while I was driving in the early hours and my (almost) immediate reaction was to just scream because I couldn’t see anything.

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We made it safe and sound around 11am.  Our first stop was the viewpoint after the tunnel, and then a quick walk up to Bridalveil Falls.

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We were able to check into our heated Curry Village tent cabins early around 1pm.  Then we decided to go on a short hike.  We set our sights on Mirror Lake, and kind of just started walking along the road.  Taking the longest route possible (in hindsight), we found ourselves at Mirror Lake, and it truly lived up to its name!  The walk back was much shorter (and direct), rounding this out to be a 4 mile hike.

When we got back it was dark and time for dinner.  Since Curry Village doesn’t allow for you to cook in or near the tents, we cooked our stew in the parking lot and ate standing around the Subi.

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To celebrate our first night, we got dressed up and shuttled over to the Ahwahnee to sit by the oversized fireplace that you can literally sit inside, and sip on some drinks.

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The next morning we had snow-shoeing on the agenda.  We drove up to Badger Pass where I rented snow-shoes for $22.50 for the full day.  We started at the top of the Badger Pass parking lot and followed the trail to Dewey Point.  This was my first time snow-shoeing and I had no idea what to expect, but it was so much fun. My vision of snow-shoeing was those old-timey tennis rackets for shoes.  Who would’ve known that technology and equipment has advanced to create what looked to me like bear traps (lol) 😛 The view at Dewey Point was spectacular, leading to an incredibly epic lunch.

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The days seemed to pass by faster than we expected.  Originally we thought we would have time to snow-shoe, nap, hike and then get ready for NYE.  However, we ended up getting back in time for me to not lolly-gag in order to make our NYE plans and destination.  This should be known as the NYE that did not work out in any fashion it was supposed to. But it ended up being the most hilariously unreal event.

So, the week prior to our trip, we thought we would be fancy and go to a special New Year’s Eve party in the park.  The options available were 6 courses at t (way out of our price range), The Yosemite Lodge non-hosted apps and drinks (didn’t seem like anything too special) and the Big Trees Lodge(formerly known as Wawona) prix-fixe dinner with dancing.  So we purchased tickets for the Big Trees Lodge. Having no real concept of the grandiosity of the park, the Wawona is at least 45 minutes away from the Valley.  There was no shuttle or transportation to service this hotel.  And it was New Year’s Eve (come on, we were planning to drink) and it was anticipated to snow at 3500ft.  So we made the mature decision that we wouldn’t get too wild and made the drive.  By the time we got there it was 7pm, and it was like we had entered the Twilight Zone.

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The event stated dinner was served from 5pm-10pm, and I was never prompted to input a reservation time online. When we arrived, we were told the wait would be at least an hour. Ok, we thought, our fault.  As we waited, it appeared as though this hotel never anticipated this many people to show up. We all clamored around in the lobby, most sitting on chairs brought in from outside.

Tom Bopp played the piano, and literally performed the New Year’s song twice while we were there (every hour on the hour — it’s New Year’s somewhere!).  Should be a hint as to how long we were there! After 1 hour I went up to the hostess, expecting to be seated, but she very passive aggressively told me it would be at least another 30 minutes and thank you for checking in.  I told Kevin the next time he would have to go deal with the situation because all I was getting was the ‘tude. 30 minutes later we were no closer to being seated and were informed that 8 reservations were in front of us and they had not even started seating their first walk-in (which was at 5:30!!! And we were considered walk-ins).  So after an hour and 30 minutes later, we decided to leave.

Luckily we received a refund and hurried back to the Valley. I told Kevin I would be completely fine eating pizza and drinking prosecco. As soon as we got back to Curry Village we ran into the lobby and quickly spouted “where’s the pizza?” To our dismay, pizza stopped being served at 9pm and it was currently 9:15pm. All other restaurants in the area (including the Yosemite Valley Lodge) had stopped food at 9pm. Our only consolation was that the Lodge had a vending machine (LOL).  I was ravaged so we ended up eating canned soup I had brought just as back-up. Extravagant NYE!

Then we decided we would, in fact, go to the Yosemite Valley Lodge for drinks. So we went to the shuttle stop and stood there for a while until we realized service stopped at 10pm and it was now 10:45pm. We hoped we would be able to find some way to celebrate NYE some how. I found myself to be kind of delusional because I started running towards any blinking lights that I thought might be a bus (which included a construction sign on the road LOL).  We eventually found a bus, got to the Mountain Room at the Lodge and realized this was where we should’ve been from the start.  We were able to successfully ring in the New Year!

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Sunday morning started off slow.  We packed up our tent since that night we were upgrading our already glamping digs to (what felt like) a luxury suite at the Tenaya Lodge (just a couple miles outside of the park).  We were torn as to whether or not we’d spend the afternoon cross-country skiing, but I’m so glad we did because it instantly became my new favorite sport!  Except for one problem…we didn’t know how to take them off. At one point we found a nice snowy meadow we wanted to stop in and take a break. However, we couldn’t get the skis off, so we ended up standing on the side of the trail, skis still one, eating our sandwiches and drinking our beer.

However, we enjoyed cross-country skiing so much we decided to keep our skis overnight with the intention to come back early the next morning and get a half day in before we drove home.

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Since our NYE dinner did not come to fruition, we totally balled out for dinner at the Tenaya Lodge #treatyoself.  To the point where our dreams of sitting in a heated pool quickly went to the wayside because we were overly stuffed.  We had a great nights sleep at the Tenaya Lodge and I excitedly woke up early in the morning for skiing.  We ended up skiing from 9am-1pm and it could not have been more of a picture perfect wonderland.  It was lightly snowing and we went on a path off the main track that took us up and down and in between trees. All the while I was trying to remember the “these are a few of my favorite things” song.

After this trip, Yosemite has become a happy place, that just kind of sits in the back of mind, and a magical place to ring in the New Year.

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If you’re looking for a last minute gift for the traveler in your life, look no further than SeatDreamzzz. A new product solving for an old problem – the dreaded head-bob (and also drool, if you’re like me).  The extended “airline” strap wraps around the independent headrest, keeping your head stationed during the flight. For at home, or other traditional uses for a sleeping mask, you remove the extended strap to reveal the regular mask strap.

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SeatDreamzzz is lightweight, waterproof and washable. Plus it’s compact and comes in an sidekick bag, allowing for extreme organization to keep all of your essentials in one place.

Plus you can get really creative and find other uses – like camping and hammock napping – in addition to traveling via plane, train and car, or using in bed.

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My friend, Will, recently launched this Kickstarter campaign and I’ve been lucky to help him with his efforts!

And since SeatDreamzzz is still live on Kickstarter, if you wish to buy this product as a holiday gift, you can back this project and get instant access to a gift certificate to print at-home.

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Tumalo Mountain (not to be confused with Tumalo Falls or the town of Tumalo), is located almost directly across from Mt. Bachelor. It’s around a 4 mile up-and-down hike with a good amount of elevation gain (1,312 ft).

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For some reason, Tumalo Mountain is one of my least favorite summer hikes. It seems like a lot of vertical climbing, for not much of a reward. The first time we hiked Tumalo, it was late-August –the day before the solar eclipse. I remember because we looked from the top over to Prineville and could see a line of cars and lights. The wildfires and amount of smoke had been fluctuating, so there was a weird haze to the air and the sun.

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The second time we hiked Tumalo was mid-September, right after the first snow. Since the snow wasn’t too deep, we were able to hike in hiking boots. I found the snow to make the hike much more enjoyable because it didn’t seem as steep. Plus it made the usually dry mountain feel like a winter wonderland snow globe.

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Tumalo Mountain
Entrance: Dutchman Flat Sno-Park
Directions: Heading from Bend, you’ll drive on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. The parking lot is about 1/4 mile past Mt. Bachelor Sunrise Lodge parking entrance.
Miles: 3.9

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Neskowin, OR – This is a cute little town, nestled between bigger cities of Pacific City and Lincoln City. It’s made up of a few blocks of narrow streets and beach cottages. We visited here with a group of friends to celebrate Logan’s birthday.

Where we stayed – cute beach house through a local vacation rental company, Grey Fox Vacation Rentals.

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What we did – While the boys went crabbing/surfing, the girls went clamming in Pacific City. Amanda identified a designated clamming area, and we ventured down with an empty 5 gallon ice cream tub, oatmeal (to help the clams open up and spit out water/sand) and gardening tools. I ended up getting so into it, I ditched the tools and just went hands first, digging and feeling around for any hard objects.

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Where we hiked – After capturing all the big mac daddy’s of clams, we continued our lady’s day with a hike. Originally, we were trying to hike to Hart’s Cove (captured, but from a different perspective) but missed it because we didn’t drive far enough up the road before we stopped to park. We were quick to park at the first sight of a trailhead, since the road up was windy and bouncy – and the Subi was carrying precious cargo – a sloshing bucket filled with oatmeal spitting clams.

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We ended up hiking the Cascade Head Nature Conservancy Trail, all the while looking for signs to Hart’s Cove. We got to the point where we calculated a 10 mile hike round-trip, and decided to ditch the cove and just head back. We also must’ve done the opposite direction of most people (parked at the top vs. bottom) because we got a lot of people congratulating us and thinking we had done the trail multiple times (up-down-up) in one go.

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The next day we also hiked God’s Thumb in Lincoln City. It was an easy hike until we reached God’s Thumb. Not being the biggest fan of heights, it was pretty steep but I just made sure to keep my steps in the natural steps and not lean back 😉 From the top we could look directly across to the Cascade Head Conservancy Trail.

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Where we ate – Post-crabbing and clamming, we had the most decadent feast. We also had dinner one night at the Cafe at Hawk Creek that we affectionately started calling “the littlest cute” because it, like the town, was so cute!

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The first time I hiked Green Lakes, it was an early morning during mid-summer. While I was only hiking, I remember seeing trail runners and thinking it would be a great trail to run. We started at the Green Lakes trailhead, and once we got to the Green Lakes campground, continued on the Soda Creek Trail, that would eventually loop us back to the trailhead/parking lot. Originally we were looking for the trail to reach Broken Top summit, but couldn’t find it. This hike was very green, and butterflies were abundant (especially on Soda Creek Trail).

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Fast forward to late September, when I felt like doing a solo trail run and thought Green Lakes would be a great option. We had just experienced our first snow dump in the mountains. However, I didn’t know how Green Lakes would be affected. My trail run ended up being probably less than a half mile, before I came across mushy ground lined by ice. I thought it would clear up eventually, but soggy dirt turned into slippery ice that turned into deep snow. This trail follows Fall Creek, where you’ll encounter some waterfalls (one of my favorite things about Oregon is that there is no lack of waterfalls). It’s a fairly mellow/moderate hike, with only a few switchbacks towards the very end. On the last stretch you’ll be required to jump a few rocks across some streaming water. Once you reach Green Lakes, you will have stunning views of Broken Top and South Sister.

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I found this hike to be entrancing, especially in the snow. Since the snow was fairly fresh and other trails weren’t well identified (and I was also only wearing trail running shoes), I decided to make this an out-and-back hike and return the way I came from.

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Green Lakes
Entrance: Green Lakes Trailhead
Directions: Heading from Bend, you’ll drive on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway for 23.5 miles. Keep an eye out for the signage on your left and the parking lot/trailhead on your right. It is 0.6 miles past Sparks Lake, so be prepared as you’re driving.
Miles: 9.3 mi (Green Lakes via Fall Creek out-and-back) or 12 miles (Green Lakes to Soda Creek Trail)

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The landscape of the Oregon Coast is one of my favorites, with the rocky forest that meets the sea. It remains comparatively untouched to the California coast–sparsely populated and not impacted by houses brimming the cliffs.

Florence, OR – Immediately west from Eugene. Known for encompassing part of the Oregon Sand Dunes (largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America).

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Where we stayed – Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park. This campground has 7 first-come, first-served sites. Tucked on the east side of Highway 101, our campsite was under the ultimate tree canopy (to the point where we had to watch for falling branches). Even though we were in the center of some campsites, we felt completely secluded (my kind of camping!). 3 tents fit perfectly in this space, and we probably could have fit a few more.

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Where we hiked – Valley Trail to Hobbit Trail/Heceta Head Trail, accessible from the Carl G. Washburne Campground. First you’ll come across Hobbit Trail, that will take you down through a vine canopy to the beach. If you go back and continue on the trail further, you’ll experience sweeping views of the Oregon Coast through towering trees. Around 2 miles you’ll make it to the Heceta Head Lighthouse and Heceta Head Beach. We made this a one-way trek and met the boys who were surfing at Heceta Head Beach.

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The key to camping is simplicity. And when it comes to packing, less is more. This was especially true this past weekend when Kevin and I kayaked into a camping spot. We knew we’d have limited space to transport all of our goods, so we tried to economize. This included planning our meals in advance and finding meals where we could re-use supplies. We decided to bring Bruegger’s Everything Bagels and Bruegger’s Garden Veggie Cream Cheese. With these ingredients, we were able to make a traditional breakfast with eggs, bacon, and bagels with cream cheese. And for lunch, we made a bagel sandwich with cream cheese and salami. Super easy and minimal, yet completely satisfying! Bagels and cream cheese also make the perfect pre-hike fuel, and the perfect packable lunch.

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For Labor Day weekend we’ll be camping again with friends, and plan to pick up a bundle of bagels and a variety of cream cheeses. Whether you’re camping, or celebrating Labor Day weekend at home with friends, make sure to grab up your bagel bundle, too. Starting August 31st, Bruegger’s is offering $3 off their Big Bagel Bundle (13 freshly-baked bagels and 2 tubs of cream cheese). You can claim your offer by visiting here!

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bruegger’s Bagels. All opinions are entirely my own.

IMG_8908For our move to Oregon, Kevin and I sold most of our belongings and caravanned/road-tripped up with only what fit in our 2 cars. Our route included 1 night in Santa Barbara, 2 nights in the Sequoia National Forest, 1 night in Modesto and 1 night in Crater Lake. While in the Sequoia’s, I had the chance to field test both the Katya Top and Kayla Jean from the prAna summer line. Both of these items are made of organic cotton, creating a functional, and eco-friendly product.

IMG_8910 The Katya Top proved to be lightweight and breathable, and didn’t cling to my skin even when I started to break a sweat. While the Kayla Jean was thick and substantial, warding off bugs and any prickly shrubs. Both pieces were perfect for hiking and exploring around the Sequoia National Forest, and I definitely plan to wear both of these to work. I love that prAna creates versatile clothes perfect for indoor and outdoor activities, that are also sustainable, recycled and fair trade certified.

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Suit up for your next adventure at prAna.com. Use promo code “MSS17DA” for 15% off your next purchase, good until July 13th!

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This post is sponsored in partnership with prAna and Mambo Sprouts. However, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Calling all San Diegans. If you’re looking for an inexpensive getaway to somewhere not Southern California, Alaska Airlines offers direct tickets to Monterey for $130 RT in winter/early spring! Jen and I visited late February for a work conference that we extended into a weekend stay. Here are my suggestions for visiting the Monterey Bay Area.

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Where to Stay in Monterey: Jabberwock Inn. This bed and breakfast, located in New Monterey (and only 4 blocks away from Pacific Grove), is named after Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky poem from Alice in Wonderland’s Through The Looking Glass novel (I actually had to memorize and recite this poem in 4th Grade). Everything at this Inn is tied to this poem— from the names of the breakfast dishes to the names of the rooms. We stayed in the Tum Tum Tree, which was a quiet little cottage separate from the main house with ocean views, patio hangs, and a pot belly stove fireplace. The sunroom in the main house has expansive windows that look west with ocean views. Every morning you’re prepared breakfast by the innkeepers (it alternates from savory and sweet every other day). And every night, there’s wine and cookies sitting out for you.

Where to Eat in Monterey: Pacific Grove was my family vacation spot growing up, so visiting now makes it very familiar. Red House Cafe is one of my favorite brunch spots. Although we didn’t have a chance to visit there this time, it’s where I developed my “sophisticated” taste buds for marscapone cheese and berry crostinis. You should also stop by the Espresso Bar at Crema, serving up Verve Coffee Roasters espresso and the best baked goods (scones, cheddar biscuits, etc.)!

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Where Else to Go: Unfortunately when we visited, sections of Hwy 1 were closed leading up to Big Sur due to mudslides from the recent big storms. Instead, we drive from Pacific Grove through the scenic 17 Mile Drive, which led us directly to Carmel. When you’re in Carmel, don’t miss walking along the rocky, forested coast. It is probably one of the most peaceful things you could ever do, and you’ll feel like you’re on your own secluded retreat.

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Where to Stay in Carmel: We stayed at Hotel Carmel, formerly the Dolphin Inn, that was recently remodeled into a hipsters hotel paradise. The lobby is decked out with a marble table, indigo dyed pillows and leather butterfly chairs. They also serve a complimentary bagel bar in the mornings.

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Where to Eat in Carmel: Also, don’t miss lunch/dinner at La Bicyclette. This cute French/Italian bistro serves up some of the best salads, pizzas, entrees, rose, etc. We hit this spot twice during our 2 day stay. There are also a ton of wine tasting rooms (like 15+) in Camel, so you’re guaranteed to never go thirsty!

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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.

 
 
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