Results for tag "crazy-adventures"

Into the Wild: Photos from My Hike at Zion National Park

Virgin River and mountains at Zion

The river was lower than normal (it’s winter) but that didn’t stop the deer from making this river their playground. I saw a dozens of them hanging out here.

I was supposed to go to New Orleans last weekend but my trip was canceled at the last minute, so I decided to go to Zion National Park in Southern Utah instead. I went by myself, which proved to be a rather emotional and lonely experience (more about that later) but the park itself was gorgeous. I highly recommend going there. I stayed the night in a motel and spent two days hiking and wandering through the park. Here’s a photo recap of my stay.

I woke up at 5:30 on Saturday morning with the plan to leave Las Vegas for Zion at 6:30am. I was on the road by 8:30am (Ha ha.).

church and village of Springdale Utah

Springdale, Utah is the closest town to the park. It’s literally right next to it. You can walk into the park from the town’s center.

Because this trip was so last minute Because I’m lazy, I hadn’t booked a hotel, so I wasted my first couple of hours there trying to find a cheap hotel room.

In honor of President’s Day weekend, the park had waived the entrance fee, which naturally meant there were tons of people in town.

By the time I had checked in and made it into the park, it was getting dark. I went hiking anyway though. It was spooky.

Tiny swamp at Zion

Zion may be located in the desert, but it’s actually home to little baby swamps like this one.

Virgin river at Zion

There’s a river that runs through the park. Being winter and all, the water was really cold. But there were people wading in it. They must have been from Canada…

The next morning, I woke up early early-ish and drove up the mountain.

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20 minutes and a large cup of coffee later, nature called.

I pulled over to the side of the road in search of a bush I could use as a potty. Because I was paranoid of running into hikers or park rangers, I wound up walking really far away from the highway. Afterwards, I hiked around these cool checkered mountains.

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I was feelin’ pretty adventurous, so I took a selfie in an attempt to capture the moment.

I was going for “mysterious adventurer” but I think I just wound up just looking ridiculous. Oh well.

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Next, I hiked a mile along The Overlook Trail.

The path takes you through a cave, across a rickety wooden “bridge” and along the edge of a cliff. I was patting myself on the back for being a daredevil until I saw some two-year-olds on the trail. Hmpf.

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It was really windy at the lookout point.

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Really, REALLY windy.

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Also, my cell phone camera sucks. The view was stunningly beautiful. I guess you’ll just have to trust me about that. Or google it. This was the best I could do:

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I was feeling great after my successful summit to the lookout, so I decided to take on a trail called “Angels Landing”.

The sign said it was only 2.5 miles. I thought: “How hard can it be?”

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Turns out, the hike was pretty intense! See that winding trail? I hiked up that. This photo was taken at the half way point.

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You can’t tell, but that’s a cliff.

Would you think I was cool if I told you I stood right at the edge and looked down? No? Okay, great. Cause I was too chicken.

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Here’s a photo of the view from near the top.

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And there you have it. I survived the hike. I did not fall off a cliff. I did not plummet into a canyon and have to cut off my arm. The scariest animal I saw all weekend was a crow. As far as adventures into the wild go, this one was pretty tame. But I’ll get another chance in a few months when I go back for a camping trip. Stay tuned for Round 2!

Tips if you’re planning on going to Zion:

* Zion is only 2 1/2 hours away from Las Vegas, so it is possible to go just for the day. But I wouldn’t do that if I were you! Lodging isn’t too expensive (my hotel room was just 50 dollars), plus there’s a lot to see. It makes more sense to go for at least two days if you have the time.

* There’s a $25.00 charge per vehicle to enter the park

* Even if you don’t like  hiking, you should still go! You can drive through the park if you’re feeling lazy and there are a lot of easy, flat trails you can try.

New York, LA and Everywhere in Between: Where I’ve Traveled So Far This Month

Ok, so I’m sorry for neglecting this blog over the last few weeks but I have a great excuse: I’ve been maddeningly busy! It’s true. Here’s the photographic evidence.

In the past 30 days, I…

Visited Northern California…twice

Flew to New York for four days to be in a college friend’s wedding

And completely re-fell in love with the fall foliage. We don’t get much of that here in the desert.

Went Cliff Jumping*

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*That’s not a picture of me (Duh). But I did jump off this 30-foot cliff.

Went Camping in 30-Degree Weather

It was freezing! Some friends and I went camping at Mt Charleston, which is only about an hour north of Las Vegas, but the elevation is much greater (its 11,916 feet tall – that’s 3,632 meters), which means that its usually a good 30 degrees cooler there than it in Las Vegas. While this is great news in the summer (when the Vegas valley can get as hot as 120 degrees Fahrenheit) it makes for somewhat extreme mountain camping conditions in the fall and winter. Although it wasn’t as cold as it was when I went camping there in February, it was still cold – 30 degrees cold – and I hadn’t been as prepared as I should have been. I really need to get me some cold weather camping gear (one of my friends had a heater in his tent…genius!).

Took a Roadtrip to LA for My Birthday

And then Yesterday I…

Almost Died While Hiking Through the Arizona Desert*

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*Ok, so maybe not so much. I didn’t almost die…but but after five hours of rock climbing, scrambling and hiking uphill in the sand, my muscles certainly felt like they wanted to. Then there’s the fact that I got attacked by a poisonous velcro plant and hurt my wrist while sliding falling down a giant boulder…but I’ll have to tell you more about that later.

So. As you can see, every weekend in the past month has been packed full of activities that (sadly) have not included spending some quality time with the old blog-a-roo.  But that’ll change soon! I promise.

Here’s what I was doing this time last year (cause I bet you were just dying to know, huh?): http://www.takenbythewind.com/2012/09/09/fred-flintstone-horse-race-coyotes/

What have you been up to the last month?

I See London, I See France…I See Photos from My European Vacation

A few weeks ago,  some friends from college and I went to a friend’s wedding in Finland. We then caught up with some peeps in London and France. Rather than bore you with all of the details, I figured I’d give you a photo recap of our adventures instead.

Thus, here’s the cliff-notes version of what happened:

My friends and I met up in Finland, where we played around in a train graveyard

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And got lost

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We saw some cathedrals

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And then went to London

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Where we took some silly photos

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And then got lost some more

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We saw some blue trees

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And a blue rooster

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And went to high tea

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Where we ate some buttery scones with strawberry sauce…Yum.

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Then we went to Hogwarts

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Okay, not really…

But my friend DID get photobombed by a guy that looked a lot like Harry Potter

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Next, we went to Paris

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Where we sat in cafes

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And saw some more cathedrals

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And got lost (again)

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And then 36 hours later…

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…I left my friends and headed to a city in the French countryside

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Where I met up with friend I hadn’t seen since I lived in Germany

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And ate some cheese, some duck and this delicious creme brûlée

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And then took a train to the top of a volcano to visit some ancient ruins

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Okay, so obviously a bunch of other stuff happened that I left out. Mainly my friend’s wedding ceremony and reception, my accidental detour to Latvia and my stay in a 747 airplane-turned-hotel in Sweden…but nobody’s got time to hear about all that, right? It was a whirlwind trip (I visited seven cities in eight days) and by the time I arrived home from France, I was exhausted and jet lagged and I swore that I was done with traveling for good…

Ha. Just kidding.

…I’ll be traveling to New York in two weeks.

Where have you been recently? Any where good?

Why Jet Lag is No Joke (Or, How I Accidentally Ended Up in Riga, Latvia)

“Good morning and welcome aboard to flight 283 to Riga,” came the flight attendant’s cheerful announcement over the airplane loudspeaker. While under normal circumstances, this might have been the start to a predictable and boring story about my vacation to the capital of a former soviet country in Northern Europe, the fact that up until that moment I’d I thought I’d been on a flight to Helsinki, Finland, makes this story well, a little different.

“RIGA!” I thought, suddenly afraid. “Where the hell is Riga?!” I glanced at the passengers sitting around me, looking for signs that that they too, were shocked by this sudden change of plans. But they all appeared bored or half asleep; not at all like passengers who’d just been informed of a change to their flight itinerary. Which could only mean one thing:

I’d gotten on the wrong flight.
jet lag is for amateurs

I blame it on the jet lag.

Seriously. If I hadn’t been so jet lagged when I was booking my flight 40 minutes earlier, I may have noticed that Riga and Helsinki weren’t the same city. I may also have noticed that they weren’t even in the same country. ‘Course, if I hadn’t been so jet lagged, I probably wouldn’t have booked a last-second plane ticket to begin with, but let me back up a little and explain.

My mom works for an airline, which means that although I can fly for free (yeah-uh!), I can only fly for free if the flight has an empty seat available (and seats are assigned to employees and their families based on seniority). This makes traveling anywhere long distance a somewhat stressful juggling act of split-second decisions and terminal changes and sleeping in airports because the flight you were hoping to get on was full and the next one doesn’t leave until the following morning.

I tried to explain this to the friends I was planning on seeing in Finland, but as it is with anyone who isn’t familiar with how the airline world operates, phrases like “standby”, “open seat” and “I have no idea how I’m getting to Europe, but trust me, I’ll get there…eventually,” aren’t always understood.

“You mean, you don’t know when you’re arriving?” My friend asked me on Facebook. Her wedding was the reason I was flying to Finland to begin with and I think she thought I wasn’t going to make it.

“Not exactly…”, I wrote, “I think I’ll be arriving sometime on Friday morning…or afternoon. It really depends on which country in Europe I end up in first.”

My mom’s airline didn’t fly to Finland, which meant that my plan was to get as close to Finland as I could (by flying into Stockholm or Oslo) or if Scandinavia didn’t pan out, I’d try Frankfurt or Paris. Basically, my only real concrete goal was to get to the European continent. Fly to a country in Europe – any country in Europe –  and then buy a plane/bus or ferry ticket once I landed. Though I didn’t tell my friends in Finland this, not only did I not know WHEN I’d be arriving, I wasn’t even sure HOW. If airfare proved too costly, my plan B was to take a boat.

While this may seem like a crazy way to travel, when I’d been planning this trip a few weeks ago, I’d been fairly optimistic it would all work out. And it might have too…if it weren’t for the jet lag.

Because by the time I finally landed in Stockholm (I’d gotten the last available seat on that flight), I had spent seven hours at the airport in Las Vegas, four hours in the airport in New Jersey and 13 hours on two different planes. I hadn’t slept more than 30 minutes in 30 hours and I’d reached that point in my sleep deprivation where part of my brain – the part responsible for rational thought – had crashed and I was operating in a spacey, brain-fogged stupor.

I was so exhausted, for example, I spent the first 20 minutes after I got out of customs in Stockholm wandering around in a daze. I had to repeatedly remind myself that I was in Sweden and not in Norway or France or Germany or one of the many other Plan B, C, D and E destinations I’d had almost ended up in.

I eventually found a cafe that had free WiFi and ordered a cup of coffee, thinking that a little caffeine might help jump-start my malfunctioning brain. I handed the cashier a wad of purple paper bills.

“Latte,” I said, pointing at the photo above the cashier’s head.

“akhkdhskhsd?” the cashier asked in Swedish. I nodded, too brain dead to do much else.

“akhkhskhsk?” She asked again. Clearly her question hadn’t been of the ‘yes or no’ variety. Thinking that I’d miscalculated the exchange rate, I handed her some more purple bills but she just laughed and handed them back to me. She then gave me a cup of espresso and a bottle of milky-looking lemon soda; neither of which I’d ordered, but I took them and sat down anyway.

It was in this dazed state of mind, as I sipped my bottle of weird milk lemonade and rubbed my dry, bloodshot eyes, that I opened my laptop and began to search for a cheap plane ticket to Helsinki. And it is in this dazed state of mind that I apparently bought a flight to Riga…a flight to Riga which, by the time I’d finally finished purchasing, was due to depart in 40 minutes.

WHAT. I stared at my cell phone in disbelief. How could it be 9:15 am already? Had I really been sitting in that cafe for a whole hour?

The next 30 minutes was a blur of rushed conversations with ticket agents and a sprint across two different terminals. By the time I reached the gate, I was breathless and sweaty, and had at some point in my rush to get through security, lost my jacket. But I made it on the plane just before the doors closed.

HALLELUJAH.

Now, as I glanced at the man seated across the aisle from me, I briefly considered asking him where Riga was but then dismissed the idea. That would have been far too embarrassing and besides, it was too late to do anything about it anyway. We were backing away from the gate. I was now flying to Riga – wherever that was – whether I wanted to or not. I just hoped that it was somewhere in Europe and that I wasn’t flying to say, Indonesia, because I had a wedding to attend in 24 hours.

Luckily, I had an idea. Pulling out the in-flight magazine, I flipped to the world map at the back, grateful to see that all the cities were in English. I scanned the map, running my finger along Iceland and Estonia and Lithuania before spotting it. Of course! Riga was in Latvia! DUH. I was flying to Latvia.

The route I should have taken:

flight route map

The route I actually took:

flight itinary baltic

It’s funny because when I worked for an airline, I would sometimes meet a passenger who’d gotten on the wrong flight and wound up in San Francisco by accident and I would think to myself “HOW? How did you buy a ticket, print a boarding pass, find your gate and board a plane without once checking to see where you were headed?” Usually it was someone who didn’t speak English very well. Or someone who’d thought they were flying to San Jose, Costa Rica but had booked a ticket to San Jose, California instead (an easy enough mistake, I suppose). But every once in a while there’d be a passenger who would collapse at the ticket counter, her hair messy and her clothes wrinkled. “I’m just so tired, “she’d confess. “‘I’ve been up for 30 hours now”.  And then she’d hand me her plane ticket and I’d have to give her the bad news.

“I’m sorry, but you’re at the wrong airport.”

or

“I’m sorry but your ticket was for yesterday’s flight. You booked the wrong day.”

or

“I’m sorry but you bought a ticket to the wrong destination.”

And although at the time, I judged them (just a little), I now totally understand. Jet lag is no joke. It doesn’t matter how often you travel: stress, lack of sleep and multiple time zone changes are a dangerous cocktail. Add a few sips of of weird Swedish lemonade and you’re toast.

Luckily for me though, this story has a happy ending. I eventually made it to Helsinki and in plenty of time for the wedding, too. And although I would have loved to have seen more of Riga, the next flight to Helsinki left right away, so I was only there for an hour. I never even left the airport.

I just hope that the next time I find myself in Riga, Latvia, it’ll be on purpose. I also hope that this whole ‘I accidentally booked and then boarded the wrong flight’ thing was a one time deal. But knowing me though? I highly doubt it.

Ever wonder what it’d be like to spend the night in the cargo hold of a 747? No? Well, I’m gonna tell you anyway

I got stuck in Stockholm for a 12-hour layover on my way from Helsinki to London (long story) and I had the flu and didn’t relish the idea of sleeping in the airport again (another long story), so I googled “hostels near Arlanda airport” and what popped up? The Jumbo Stay hostel.

Apparently this hostel wasn’t just NEAR the airport, it was AT the airport (on one of the stops on the airport shuttle bus) and apparently it wasn’t just a hostel but a former Pan Am 747 that had been refurbished into a 27-room hotel.

airplane hotel in Arlanda airport in Sweden

 jumbo stay hostel from a distance

DSC01923exterior of the Jumbo Stay hostel at the Arlanda airport

the wing of the Jumbo Stay Hostel

wing of the Jumbo Stay Hostel

This was cool for two reasons:

1. I LOVE AIRPLANES (I used to work for an airline, after all).

2. This place had been on my bucketlist for at least two years, ever since I first heard about it on Twitter. I even blogged about it. I’d forgotten that it was located in Stockholm though and it was just by happy accident that I ended up there at all. Yay for happy accidents!

cafe at the Jumbo Stay Hostel in Stockholm SwedenHere’s the cafe and reception desk, located towards the front of the plane.

Cafe in the Jumbo Stay Hostel in Stockholm SwedenHere’s a view of the cafe.

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Apparently they have conferences and even wedding receptions there. The wedding ceremonies are held on the wing of the plane and receptions are held just off of the cockpit. The cockpit has been transformed into a private suite.

cockpit of the Jumbo Stay HostelHere’s the private bedroom in the cockpit.

DSC01951Inside the shared washroom (sinks only. The toilet/showers were separate).

Though most of the rooms were shared (three to a room), by lucky accident I wound up staying in one of only a few private rooms the hostel had. The room had a private bathroom and was located above the wheels, in what I’d have to assume used to be the luggage compartment.

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Here’s where I stayed (right above the wheels!)

DSC01952Taken while I was lying in bed watching the Swedish version of American Idol.

hotel room at the airplane hostel in Sweden

hostel dorms in the Jumbo Hostel in Stockholm Sweden

The hallway of dorms.

I got to say, though the experience was cool, it was also a little creepy. Snuggled under the covers in my tiny loft bed, I could hear people walking around in the hallway above me as well as the sound of the wind whipping around outside. When you add the fever and my worries that I wasn’t going to wake up in time for my 7am flight the next morning, I was lucky if I slept more than a couple of hours.

Now that I’m back home in Las Vegas, it’s hard to believe any of it happened. I mean, did I really sleep and pee in the cargo hold of an old Pam AM airplane parked on the edge of an airport in Scandinavia? It’s got to be one of the weirder things I’ve done (and that’s saying a lot).

But just in case you doubt my story, here’s the proof I was there:

in front of the airplane hostel in Sweden

 There’s me, sans makeup and with messy, unbrushed hair (I had the flu, alright?).