Looking Back at 2017 and Forward to 2018!


Skaftarhreppur, Southern Iceland

2017 was an amazing jam packed year of adventures for me. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to many countries, see many different landscapes, animals, and cultures, and checked off several of my bucket list items along the way. I also launched my quest for a new path in life that will focus more on the positives, while still holding deep respect for the current service that I fulfill that has enabled me to pursue travel and hobbies. The year ended for me on a tragic note with the sudden passing of my beloved dog. He was my loyal friend and partner in adventure. He comforted me through life’s ups and downs for over 13 years.  I have been truly blessed with his companionship and his loss is felt by many who knew him. My other dog, remains my furry companion helping me through this challenging time that only a dog lover can understand. 

Jalama Beach
Camping at Jalama Beach with my Best Friend 2008

As 2018 begins, I have many new adventures in plan. Most of them will be day or weekend trips to escape life’s responsibilities and truly enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. My big trip this year that I will be focusing on is a three-week tour of Kenya, Zambia, Zanzibar, Tanzania, and Switzerland. Although I love the many wonders of the United States, part of my heart resides in Africa as I hear that same comment from many others who have visited there. In reflecting on 2017, I will share a few highlights of the most memorable escapes I enjoyed throughout the year. 

Colorado Springs, Colorado

The adventures started in February with a trip to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, and Tulum on and off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. I swam and snorkeled in some of the most beautiful reefs, walked along white sandy beaches, shopped and ate in fantastic shops and restaurants, and visited ancient cultural ruins and landmarks. 

March and April led me to South Africa and Namibia. I spent a week in Kruger National Park visiting beautiful lodges surrounding myself with lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and numerous other African animals roaming the lush green vegetation of Eastern South Africa. Then off for a week in Namibia. Starting in the northern part of the country visiting the Okonjima Valley loaded with giraffes, zebras, oryx, and wart hogs grazing on the vast green grasslands peppered with rust colored ant hills as tall as myself and finishing in the Namibian dunes of Sossusvlei. The simple natural beauty of the Namib Desert is one of those places that can only be imagined in person since photos of Deadvlei end up looking like paintings. My trip ended in Cape Town as I traveled from the vineyards of South African wine country to the gorgeous coastlines along the Atlantic and Indian Oceans with my favorite stops being at Boulders Beach to spend time with the African Penguins, skydiving outside of Cape Town, and shark cage diving off Seal Island. On the way home I spent a quick day layover in Madrid, Spain touring the beautiful architectural and historical sites from a city tour bus. 


In May I travelled with a group of friends to Iceland. It was an amazing trip so tightly packed with chasing waterfalls, hiking cliff faces, swimming between continents, hot spring dips, hurriedly racing to the next destination, with virtually no sleep and lack of food just to take in every possible inch of this fairy tale land. Shortly after coming back from Iceland, I took my mom to Zion National Park in Utah for her birthday. We hiked through Zion and then went to Page, Arizona to walk through Antelope Canyon and kayak on Lake Powell. It was quite an adventure for her because she loves the outdoors but not as the same level of extreme that I do. To finish up May, I went to Ensenada, Mexico to rest on the beach following a full day of exploring the area on ATVs.

After the busy month of May, I escaped for a weekend in June to Mammoth Mountain for some snowboarding, hiking, eating, drinking, and generally having a great reunion with old friends. 

Twin Lakes
Twin Lakes with Twin Falls

July took me back to Mexico. It was a relaxing outdoor escape for a friend’s birthday to soak up the sun and wade in the ocean before taking in some local wineries that rivaled those in Temecula Valley. The following weekend was July 4th celebration at Lake Havasu filled with swimming and boating on the lake amongst all the typical summer river crowds. 

I made my first trip to Maui in September. It is a beautiful island full of all my favorite things to do. The eight-day trip was filled with swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding, hiking, and of course chasing waterfalls. The best thing I accomplished in Maui was to take a selfie with not just one, but many sea turtles, fulfilling a bucket list item. 

In October I visited Yosemite for the first time. It was a perfect time to be there due to the changing fall colors and pristine fresh snowfall. We did many challenging hikes, chased waterfalls, and practiced using my new Nikon camera trying to capture the breathtaking panoramic views all over Yosemite Park.

Yosemite Park
Yosemite Park

In November I went to Colorado for some hiking and exploration around the Rocky Mountain and Colorado Springs area. We took in some of the local breweries and did some whiskey tasting. I wasn’t able to spend many days there and now must plan another trip because there is so much more to see. For Thanksgiving week, I took my dad on a road trip up the California coast with stops in San Francisco, Napa Valley for some wine tasting, Muir woods, Point Reyes National seashore, and a cheese factory in Petaluma. 

As 2018 moves along, I will be mixing local hikes with short trip adventures, all while planning my big escape in August. Much of my time will be spent on my new admiration for the practice of yoga as I pursue something that I love as much as outdoor adventures. Stay tuned for more posts of past escapes!


African Night Creatures

Leopard After Dinner

There is nothing like the adventure of cruising slowly through the African bush looking for creatures after dark. You never know what you may find or even if you will find anything at all. It all depends on the persistence and experience of your ranger. Earlier this year we were fortunate enough to have two fantastic rangers at MalaMala Main Lodge in South Africa and at Okonjima Plains Camp in Namibia who treated us to some amazing after dark sights. Many African animals and birds are only seen during the night as they are nocturnal. I really wanted to see a honey badger and a pangolin but we were not lucky enough to find those animals on either night. I did get to see a group of bush babies huddled in a tree, a chameleon, a few brown hyenas, a twelve-foot-long African rock python, owls, lion, leopard, cheetahs, and lots of porcupines. It was amazing how our guide could steer the jeep with one hand, while scanning the darkness holding a flashlight in the other and then spot bush babies in a tree so far away. The ranger was then able to find us a tiny green chameleon camouflaged in the leaves of a tree. What an exciting addition to our day safari experience to see these animals in their natural settings at night.

The AfriCat Foundation and the Giraffes of Okonjima Valley, Namibia

GiraffeOkonjima Valley is the home of the AfriCat Foundation Headquarters, a private wildlife conservation reserve. This non-profit reserve focuses on preservation of cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, and other wildlife that have been displaced by predators and commercial farming. While the numbers of these animals are dwindling due to loss of natural habitat, the AfriCat Foundation works as an educational center for local farmers and communities and a rehabilitation center for displaced and injured animals. During our visit to Namibia we stayed at Okonjima Plains Camp, which was absolutely beautiful. One morning we toured the AfriCat headquarters and then a guide took us out into the bush to track cheetah by foot. After seeing leopards and cheetahs around the Foundation, we took our afternoon game drive through the Okonjima Valley seeing some of the most beautiful green rolling grasslands sprinkled with giant rust colored ant hills. When it came time for us to stop for our sunset break we came around a corner and there was a large group of giraffes. Counting at least ten adults and twelve juveniles, we chose that as our rest stop and quietly settled into the “giraffe party”. It was such a treat to be able to sit with these graceful animals, watching the little ones nurse while their moms stretched tall to pull leaves from the trees with their long tongues. They acted cautious when they first saw us so we kept at a comfortable distance so they could carry on with what they were doing. Second to elephants, giraffes are my favorite African animal. Just for that moment, life could not be any better for me than to sit quietly in the calm of the Namibian grassland, drinking a glass of wine, and watching giraffes in their natural habitat. As the sun went down it was time for us to go back to the lodge and although I was sad to leave these wonderful creatures, I knew I would always have the memory of this special experience.

Okonjima Valley

Hiking in Sossusvlei, Namib Desert

I love to hike anywhere. Almost every weekend my friends and I plan a day hike somewhere in Southern California. One of my hiking highlights this year was in Sossusvlei, Namibia. It was extremely windy and hot that day, making the trip more difficult, but I am so glad I fought through the elements and saw the unbelievable beauty of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Dune 45 is the only dune that visitors are allowed to climb. I made it to the top and what a beautiful view I had. Then I headed over to hike to Deadvlei. Not that far of a hike but the heat was grueling. Deadvlei is an amazing act of nature. Nestled inside the red dunes is a small clay valley resembling a giant sugar cookie, supporting dead camel thorn trees estimated to be almost 1,000 years old. I didn’t see much wildlife in this area except for a few groups or Oryx feeding on sparse tufts of grass growing in the sand. Thankfully, I missed the large white spiders of the dunes that I was warned of! If you are lucky enough to travel here, make sure to arrive early before the heat gets too intense, use sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring lots of water. You can drive your car to Dune 45 but unless you have 4-wheel drive, you must take transportation to the Deadvlei area after paying a small fee to the vendor. A definite Bucket List event!

                      Dune 45