Redwood National and State Parks

You can just see the Redwood forest from the beach.
You can just see the Redwood forest from the beach.

After seeing the Sequoias (biggest trees by volume), Adam and I wondered if the Coastal Redwoods (tallest trees) would stack up. While they are also beautiful and the beach near the trees is stunning, I’d say the Sequoias have the slight edge in awesomeness. We spent one night in the park, and did a small hike and a great bike ride to the beach. Jump to the park or our trip.

The Coastal Redwoods are not quite Sequoia sized but still quite impressive.
The Coastal Redwoods are not quite Sequoia sized but still quite impressive.

Continue reading Redwood National and State Parks

Mount San Jacinto State Park

Mt_SJ_Pano3The Mountain: Mount San Jacinto is the tallest peak in Southern California. John Muir, a conservationist and naturalist, famously wrote, “The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!” Though it’s only 10,834 feet tall, it’s one of the most topologically prominent peaks in the country, which means that everything else around it is flat. There are great hikes all over the mountain, with well-marked trails. We picked up a free copy of this very good map from outside the State Park.

I had a hard time figuring out a plan for the park, so here’s some details on what I figured out. You can jump to what we did if you like. Continue reading Mount San Jacinto State Park

Joshua Tree National Park


Adam with one of the larger Joshua Trees we found.
One of the larger Joshua Trees we found.

The Park: Joshua Tree is a huge national park in Southern California containing two deserts, the Colorado and the Mojave. The famous Joshua Trees grow in the Mojave, which is higher elevation and in the north-western portion of the park.  Since it’s a desert, their busy season is in the winter, October through May, rather than usual summer busy season.

Once you get there, you’ll find a good number of campsites, and most are first come first served. The park is $15 to enter, and camping is $10-$15 a night. At the park, there are great places to hike, road or mountain bike, and rock climb. The NW corner of the park, with most campsites, and many exhibits and small nature trail “hikes”, was especially great to experience on a bike.  It’s 65 miles from the Black Rock Canyon in the NE corner to the Cottonwood Visitor’s Center on the south side of the park. Water is available at only a few locations in the park, so you’ll want to make sure you have enough on the way in.

Going wild.
Going wild.

Our Trip: 

After leaving San Diego and passing Anza Borrego and the Salton Sea, we arrived in Joshua Tree. (Here’s the post on the hike we did at Anza-Borrego in case you missed it yesterday.) We spent one night there enjoying the unique and surreal landscape on bikes and on foot before heading on to climb Mount San Jacinto in Palm Springs.  Continue reading Joshua Tree National Park

The First Draft Plan

Hello! I’m Leslie and this is my first blog post ever. My husband Adam and I recently left our jobs, packed up our apartment in the city, and are leaving Chicago this Monday, March 30th. Naturally, many of our friends and family have asked where we are going. While we don’t have a true “plan” in place yet, I have a few ideas for our rough location over the next few months and it looks something like this:

US Map with Rough Draft Roadtrip Plan
US Map with Rough Draft Roadtrip Plan

Go ahead… judge the artwork. I will do my best to improve on that from here on out.

We are planning to hit up a bunch of national and state parks and visit some friends in San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Not pictured above is our planned flight back to DC for a late June wedding and then a 3-day Amtrack ride back across the country.

I’m collecting recommendations for any of these areas and have already heard about a place for the best breakfast burritos in San Diego, hot springs just north of Yosemite, a whole spreadsheet of ideas for the Pacific Northwest, and a handful of great blogs from other travelers. I can’t wait to plan out a more detailed itinerary that hits as many of these spots as possible.

We’ll be back in Chicago by the middle of August for my sister-in-law-to-be’s wedding and then head out to the east coast at the end of August for a cousin’s wedding. After that… it’s really, really all up in the air! So, what should be sure to see? Let me know in the comments or via email. And check back soon for more updates from the road!