Escape to Colorado – Part 1

Escape to Colorado
Escape to Colorado

I took a quick outdoor escape to the great state of Colorado for the first time this last weekend. We boarded an early morning flight from Los Angeles to Denver and picked up our rental car to start the journey to Colorado Springs for the day. Being tired from the exhausting logistics of an early flight, we stopped at Crowfoot Valley Coffee in Castle Rock for a much-needed caffeine fix. I had a vanilla chai latte with soy milk and a chocolate chip muffin at this cute little coffee-house. Nice place and successfully recharged us for the busy day ahead. 

Fountain Creek
Fountain Creek
Hike to Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

We made it to Colorado Springs in good time and started our first hike at Garden of the Gods Park. This registered National Natural Landmark has a fantastic Visitor and Nature Center with exhibits and history of the area. Admittance to the park is free and the large main parking lot makes stopping at the Visitor Center convenient. There is limited parking along the road throughout the park to pull off and take a view of the towering sandstone rock formations set against the snow-topped Pikes Peak and bright blue skies. There are fifteen miles of trails within the park area. Due to time constraints, we took a few of the shorter trails where we could see the red rock formations surrounded by the brilliant blue sky peppered with fluffy white clouds. Nature had made photography easy for me by creating the postcard perfect weather.

Our next stop was Rainbow Falls located on Fountain Creek in the West end of Manitou Springs. There is a cement walkway along the river, which was brimming with fast-moving water. After walking along the path for a short time, we came to the waterfall located under a bridge. The area is call Rainbow Falls due to the massive amounts of colorful graffiti on the rocks and trees. It was a little shocking at first because I hate to see anything defaced but the area is known for this “nature art” and that is what draws crowds making it definitely different from what you normally see at a waterfall.

With the day passing quickly, we headed to North Cheyenne Canon Park to hike to Helen Hunt Falls. We took the short walk to the top of the falls and also viewed it from the base. Helen Hunt falls is a fairly small waterfall compared to other waterfalls I have seen but glad we went to take in the beautiful views and the nice drive up in the park with many places to stop and explore along the way.

As it was starting to get dark we drove towards our hotel in Estes Park, very exhausted from our day that had started at 4:00 am. We stopped at Sweet Basilico Café and I had veggie lasagna that was vary good. After that I fell into bed and slept  like a bear because of the long day of fresh air, beautiful sights, and successful great first day in Colorado.








Escape to Maui – Day 3 – The Road to Hana

Wailua Falls
Wailua Falls

Today’s goal was to head out on the Road to Hana and explore waterfalls. Waking up early is a must because the road is dangerously narrow most of the way and the pullouts along the road have few parking spots that fill up fast. Also make sure to take along a swimsuit and towel for swimming in the many pools at the falls. Our first stop was at Twin Falls. To our disappointment, we arrived before the famous snack stand, Twin Falls Maui Farm Stand opened up, so we missed out on the delicious coconut drinks they serve. Twin Falls is a fairly short walk to a beautiful set of waterfalls cascading into the pool below. Getting to the falls and seeing their beauty is a worth the quick stop on the Road to Hana. 

Our next stop was the Na’ili’ili-Haele Falls. To reach the trail we had to park on the side of the road in the weeds as there is not a formal parking lot available. It was a little difficult to find the starting point of the hike but found our way up to three of the four waterfalls on the trail once we found it. We first passed through a thick bamboo forest that reminded me of the ones I have ran through in North Carolina that are full of spiders at night. Thankfully it was daytime and the narrow path cut through the bamboo wide enough that I didn’t have to worry about spiders. We then crossed the wooden make-shift bridge over the stream to get to the first waterfall. The pool that the water falls into is large and we were able to climb over the rocks for a close viewing although you can also see it from the bamboo forest.  The second waterfall flowed into a pool large enough to swim in. We took a short rest and jumped into the water to cool off. To reach the third waterfall we had to use ropes and ladders to climb up the side of the rock wall. The fourth waterfall was another quarter mile further but there was swampy looking water to wade through so we decided to turn back to continue our adventure to the next stop.

After the hike to Na’ili’ili’-Haele Falls we decided to take a stop at the Garden of Eden. The Arboretum and Botanical Garden is a nice stop along the Road to Hana to take a peaceful stroll looking at Maui’s beautiful nature on display. There are trails leading throughout the property lined with the plants and flowers seen all over Maui. Peacocks roam the territory and we were lucky to see a group of baby peachicks! If you want to feed the peacocks make sure to bring some quarters as there is food available to purchase for them. We caught an incredible view of the Pacific Ocean from the Garden of Eden.

It was time to get some energy for the last part of our chasing waterfalls escape so we stopped at Halfway to Hana Snack Stand for some incredible shaved ice and veggie sandwiches. Make sure to have some cash as they did not accept credit cards. After a recharge from the good food, Pau’a Ka’a State Wayside Park was our next stop. Pau’a Ka’a has a beautiful waterfall with a large pool at it’s base. Although the water was a little cool, I still jumped in and floated under the falls for a cooling off with an amazing view.

Our last stop was at Wailua Falls and Upper Waikani Falls. Both are just off the Road to Hana with limited parking but worth the stop to see these beautiful waterfalls and pools. We took the long way back on the Road to Hana to our hotel. In places it’s a very narrow and rocky gravel road and make sure to be on the look-out for the cows and horses that frequently walk across your drive. I was exhausted after my third day in Maui but it was a total success of fullfilling my passion of chasing waterfalls!

Just a follow up on my Karma Drone drama. It was on this trip down the Road to Hana that my drone went rogue and was lost in the bamboo and forested hillside. After four weeks of phone calls and arbitration, GoPro finally resolved my case by providing a replacement Karma Core, battery, stabilizer, and propellers. I had to purchase the replacement GoPro Hero5 for 40% off list price and of course I lost my SD card containing my first three day’s photos and videos. My pictures from this trip are limited but my memories are vast. Thank goodness for iPhones. I know I will continue to use the GoPro Hero5 and be a great fan of that line of products, but it will take some time one day reluctantly use the Karma Drone in an area free of trees.




Learning to Get Off Auto

Forest Falls
Getting off “Auto”

I have always used cameras that are set to “Auto” or those without the ability to make setting adjustments. Although some of my “Auto” pictures look great to me, I decided it was time I learned to get the most from my digital camera and use the numerous available settings on a dSLR. So this weekend I drove to a beautiful little waterfall at Forest Falls in the San Bernardino Mountains to try out some different settings on my camera. It was the first time I had tried making changes to the shutter speed and aperture settings. After taking over one hundred shots, I downloaded the pictures and saw how difficult it really is to capture a beautiful image. I knew that if I really wanted to get off “Auto” I was going to need some help. I decided to sign up for the online photography course offered by Nomadic Matt on his website. The price is very reasonable and I think it will be a good start for me. I also found a great step-by-step book titled “The Beginner’s Photography Guide” written by Chris Gatcum. I am currently using a Nikon D3300 that came with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses but have ordered a Tamron 16-300mm lens that will replace these making it easier by not requiring lens changes. My goal someday is to be able to capture star trails using techniques in night photography. I will continue to use my GoPro and IPhone for taking pictures, but am excited to learn a new way to bring life to the joy of my outdoor escapes!