2017 Escape to Iceland – Day 1

Last May I planned a trip to Iceland with four of my friends that was full of fun, adventure, exploration, and seeing many of the wonders of this beautiful country.

To begin our Iceland adventure we flew out of Los Angeles on WOW air, one of the only non-stop flights to Keflavik, Iceland. WOW air has fairly low-cost flights but there are some serious trade-offs when choosing this carrier. They have a very restrictive carry-on policy that charges $40 each way for what you would normally be able to take on many other carriers without charge (small overhead suitcase). It was a good thing I wore my heavy jacket for the flight because of limited packing and how cold it was on the plane. WOW air does not provide any complementary food or drink on the 10-hour international flight. In short, if you want to take an inexpensive flight to Iceland, be prepared that WOW air will be a budget flight in all means.

On the Road to Iceland
Let the Adventure Begin! On the Road to Reykjadalur Hot Springs!

After landing at Keflavik International Airport we went to a rental car agency I had researched online as one that should be easy and convenient. It definitely was not that simple as we went through a terrible shuttle experience from the airport trying to locate the agency. For some reason it always seems to be high drama for me at the rental car portion of traveling but once we hopped into our 4WD Toyota RAV4 and raced out of the airport towards our first adventure, all the drama was forgotten.

River Varma
River Varma, Reykjadalur Valley, Iceland

We headed straight towards our first planned hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs which was a perfect way to get rested up from an overnight flight. Reykjadalur is located in a geothermal area in South Iceland near the town of Hverageri. The hot steamy River Varma flows through the valley and town of Hverageri making it a beautiful must see while in Iceland. The hike is about 2.5 miles of off and on steep terrain through lava sites with the river running along side. The smell of sulfur from the underground hot springs bubbling up can be strong as you reach the increasingly heavy steam coming up at the boiling sites. The parking lot at the the trail head has a small café where you can each lunch. Make sure to check the hours of business carefully as we learned about how easily it is to miss out on eating due to the fact that it is day light most of the day and easy to forget about time.

River Varma
River Varma
Relaxing Soak in the Hot Spring
Relaxing Soak in Reykjadalur Hot Spring
Hot Springs
Reykjadalur Hot Springs Area for Safe Soaking
Hot Springs
Hot Springs Warnings

Once at the safe area to enter the hot springs to swim and soak in there is a platform to set your belongings on and partitions to provide privacy while changing clothes. Bring a bathing suit and towel with you to dry off with after enjoying the relaxing soak.  Prior to leaving on this trip I purchased the small, quick- dry travel towel from Amazon that came in handy for most of the trip but I suggest buying the large size towel as mine was too small. Make sure to read all the signs along the path because there are some areas that are very hot and can be a danger to sit in. Keep walking until you come to the appropriate site to soak in which will be marked as safe.

Sulphur Hot Springs
Sulphur Smell Bubbling Up!
Ljosafossakoli Hostel
Ljosafossakoli Hostel

After a full and exhausting day we arrived at Ljosafossakoli Hostel to stay for our first night. We arrived very late and were concerned that we may not be able to get inside the hostel. The owners left the door to our room open with a welcoming note attached that provided us with instructions for our stay. I was pleasantly surprised having never stayed at a hostel before by a very clean and comfortable experience with several bathrooms and a kitchen available where we could warm up some coffee and snacks. We had our own room with towels and sheets provided and a beautiful view of outside. The blackout curtains on the windows were perfect due to the long daylight hours in Iceland during May. We had a good sleep but had to wake up early the next morning to hit the trail towards adventures at Golden Circle!


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!


Heart Rock Trail – Hiking to Escape

Heart Rock
Heart Rock

Located in the San Bernardino National Forest in Southern California is a short and easy hike to a beautiful overlook called “Heart Rock”.  To reach Heart Rock/Seely Creek Trail take CA-18 to CA-138 W in Crestline. The trail starts about ¼ mile south of the entrance to Camp Seely where you can find parking either before Camp Seeley or along the road past the entrance. No Adventure Pass is required for this part of the National Forest but it is recommended to always check if a pass is required before parking. The approximately one-mile round trip hike takes you along Seely Creek the majority of the distance with gorgeous views of the mountain forest. The leaves were changing colors and falling from the trees and it was not too cold yet, so November was a perfect time to visit here. Walking along the creek you will reach a fork in the trail. Steer to the right until reaching the rock landing area marking the trail’s end. There are markers along the trail to lead you in the right direction. Right below the landing is the famous heart-shaped hole in the cliff next to a waterfall. Even though there are ways to climb down into the heart, it is not recommended because the slippery rocks can cause easy falling. I highly recommend Heart Rock Trail for anyone in the area to take because it’s a quick and easy trail to explore the beauty of nature outdoor!


Outdoor Escape to Maui – Day 2

Super South Beach
South Beach, Maui

Day 2 in Maui started early in an attempt to get ahead of the crowds. As you may be able to tell by now, I am the traveler that rarely sleeps or rests on my escapes. There are only so many hours in each day and I make sure it is packed full of adventure. We headed a few miles north of our hotel on the west coast of Maui to Napili Bay. I had read that this was a good place to swim with turtles and that was what I wanted to include in each day’s escape. I could see them from the shore as they were popping their heads out for a quick breath of air but due to the full moon the night before, the water was rough from the high tide and it made seeing turtles while swimming difficult.

We then decided to head south to try another place to snorkel, stopping at Boss Frog’s Rentals to pick up some equipment. Boss Frog’s is located throughout Hawaii and specializes in organizing tours and renting all types of water supplies. The staff there are very helpful in suggesting places to explore from a local’s point of view. We rented a paddleboard for a reasonable price of $37 for 24 hours and they strapped it safely to our small rental car. We drove as far south on the island as possible ending at a gravel/dirt road that lead to La Perouse Bay, a beautiful beach surrounded by dry lava beds and a view of bright teal blue water. After parking in the small lot, we hiked down a portion of the Hoapili Trail. The trail length is a challenging 5.5 miles and takes at least 6 hours, therefore if you plan on reaching the end, take plenty of water and dress appropriately. The beach in closed due to it being a marine life conservation area and no fishing or swimming is allowed but it is a beautiful sight!

Our next stop was Ahihi-Kinau Natural Reserve Area. There is a large parking lot attended with helpful rangers who give out information on where to snorkel and how to protect the reefs while swimming. There are two paths leading to the snorkeling areas that take you right into the water. Unless you have tough feet I suggest wearing flippers or water shoes while in the water because it is quite rocky.  There is an area that is perfect for surfers and that is where I decided to paddleboard and snorkel. Sadly, I didn’t see any turtles here but saw some of the most beautifully colored reefs and lots of fish.

Big Beach and Makena Beach State Park were our next stops. Big Beach is named just for that, it is one of the longest beaches on Maui and known for great boogie boarding, surfing, paddleboarding, and snorkeling. The tan-colored sand is some of the softest I have ever felt. The tide was again not good so we walked around the beach, resting for a bit in the warm afternoon sun.  The beach is lined with big palm trees and is perfect for a quick nap if you do not want to sit in the direct sun. After the quick rest we headed out for Maluaka Beach. Parking is limited here to only parallel parking on side streets. It was worth the effort to get to Maluaka Beach as this was the best snorkeling and paddleboarding of the day. 

The next place we stopped at was Five Caves which I had heard was another fantastic area for snorkeling.  Five Caves is a somewhat hard place to find unless you look close for the signs with arrows leading down through the lava rocks. The tide was very rough and crashing over the rocks so we knew that it was not a good time for snorkeling. We talked to a local who was sitting there on the rocks reading a book and he told us that this was the best ever place to snorkel but it was the “king tides” going on due to the full moon that were caused the rough water throughout the island.  With that we were very disappointed we could not snorkel here and learned an important lesson for others, make sure to check the tide reports prior to making the trip down to Five Caves.

To end the afternoon, we made one more stop at McGregor Point Lighthouse. This picturesque lighthouse sits on a beautiful cliff overlooking the amazing beaches below. Our stomachs started grumbling from a day full of swimming and paddleboarding as we headed off to Duke’s Beach House for dinner. Since we had not stopped for lunch and were starving, we indulged in nachos, salad, garlic fries, the best fish and chips, and some refreshing drinks. We sat at the bar to eat our feast and watched another beautiful Maui sunset. I highly recommend Duke’s to end a busy day because of the great food, even better drinks, and live music. Day 2 ended without swimming with turtles but lots of paddleboarding and fantastic beaches!

McGregor Viewpoint
McGregor Viewpoint

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Haiku, Maui
Haiku, Maui

Everyone have a lovely weekend! I will be exploring the things I have learned from week one on Nomadic Matt’s online photo course by taking some pictures. May this inspirational quote from Albert Einstein carry you through the weekend as it will me…

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”


Franklin, North Carolina

Dry Falls, North Carolina

Franklin is a small town in Macon County, North Carolina just about fifteen miles north of the Georgia/North Carolina State line. The town sits within the Nantahala National Forest and is surrounded by many beautiful waterfalls and hikes. Franklin is also where my grandma lives. I love visiting her as it is a great escape from the hectic and fast-paced life of living in Southern California. Her house sits on 5 acres of beautiful grass prairie surrounded with lush green trees and a clear view of Scaly Mountain. A brook runs just twenty feel behind her house and at night with the windows open it’s constant sound gently lulls you to sleep. During the summer night fireflies dance around the trees and the sky is full of bright stars.

We usually visit in August when it is hot and humid but we can escape the heat by tubing down the Little Tennessee River, sliding down the waterfall at Sliding Rock, swimming in a nearby lake, or simply wading in the brook behind the house. Every Saturday night in the summer, downtown Franklin hosts “Pickin’ On The Square”. The streets surrounding the downtown gazebo area are closed off and large groups of people bring their chairs to sit and enjoy local entertainment and music, while some do spontaneous line dancing to the sounds. Franklin in October is beautiful when the leaves are changing colors as fall sets in. The Nantahala Forest turns from dense bright green to various shades of green, red, orange, and yellow as the days pass. It gets cool during the day and cold at night. This is my favorite time to visit Franklin for hiking because the weather is perfect during the day. Franklin is just a little over an hours drive to Asheville, home of the Biltmore Estate. This is a great day trip to visit the historic mansion and it’s lovely gardens. We usually take a day trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which is a beautiful drive over the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. There are many things to do in Gatlinburg including my favorite, moonshine tasting at the many moonshine distilleries.

Waterfalls are abundant around Franklin. The largest one, Dry Falls, has a nice parking area and foot path down to the falls were you can walk underneath the 75 foot falls. Bridal Veil Falls is right off the U.S. 64 and is visible from the road. In the summer Bridal Veil Falls is rather small but during the wet season it is more impressive. Cullasaja Falls can be seen from U.S. 64 or hiked to for a better view by taking a short but rather steep trail through some rough terrain. Sliding Rock is always fun in the summer. This natural waterslide can get crowded in the summer with people jumping in the water towards the top and sliding down the face of the smooth rocks in the rushing water. These are just a few of the wonderful waterfalls in the Franklin area. Hiking trails are just as abundant in the area. My favorite hike is at Chimney Rock State Park. It is a somewhat strenuous climb up many stairs to get to the top but definitely worth the view of the valley and river below. Everywhere you turn in Southwest North Carolina is a new outdoor adventure. I have just started exploring the area and I have been going there for over ten years!


Selfoss and Dettifoss Waterfalls, Northeast Iceland

I am a waterfall junkie. When I see pictures of a beautiful waterfall I will do my best to search it out. This year I planned a trip to Iceland with four of my friends. We spent the week traveling throughout Iceland to see as many outdoor escapes as we could fit into each day. Although Iceland is really one beautiful waterfall after another, Selfoss and Dettifoss were two I had to see. Selfoss is on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river. The river’s source of water comes from the Vatnajökull glacier. Less than a mile further down the river is Dettifoss waterfall. Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. We had been out all day exploring and were dead tired but we made a group decision to just trudge on. It took us about 45 minutes to find the falls but seeing them was one of the highlights of my trip.  We had to hike and climb over large slippery rocks to finally reach the edge of Sefloss. It reminded me of leaning over the edge of Victoria Falls in Zambia while swimming in Devil’s Pool. I kept thinking my mom would kill me for taking the risk of slipping and falling into the falls as I sat there soaking up the beauty.  We could not get as close access to Dettifoss because the trails were closed due to extreme misting and slippery conditions but it was an incredible view from were we were able to see it. The sight of these most impressive waterfalls is definitely worth the journey to get there. Just a note about the weather conditions we encountered in Northeast Iceland during May. Due to airline packing restrictions, I had to be clever in what I brought on the trip. I kept warm enough while hiking by wearing layers of shirts. My Columbia fleece jacket was fine and I wore thermal leggings under my lululemon yoga pants. Wearing thick hiking socks, my Ahnu waterproof boots were perfect. I adapted to the cold climate pretty well for a Southern California girl!

Sitting on the Edge of Dettifoss