Michelle M. Chun-Hoon: Blog http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog en-us (C) Michelle M. Chun-Hoon (Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Tue, 31 May 2016 01:57:00 GMT Tue, 31 May 2016 01:57:00 GMT http://www.mchunhoon.com/img/s/v-5/u441515344-o973521035-50.jpg Michelle M. Chun-Hoon: Blog http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog 120 80 Rad Girls Collective http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2016/5/rad-girls-collective I've been busy in Sydney working multiple jobs, submitting my Partnership visa with Cameron, and studying for my Certificate III in fitness. While I haven't found time to create anything new for my personal blog, I have written a few pieces for an outdoor community I follow, Rad Girls Collective. This community brings together like-minded women who enjoy a good outdoor adventure. Below I have included links to the published blogs as well as an excerpt from the post. Enjoy!

Surviving the Outdoors with Your Partner

"You guys are like peanut butter and jelly, there isn’t anything you don’t know about your partner. I’d believe you if you spent a week together — outdoors.

My significant other and I had been dating for over a year and we’d been camping many weekends together already. It never occurred to me just how much closer we would get over our 9-day backpacking trip through Tasmania’s famous Overland Track. It wasn’t easy and it sure wasn’t all smelling of roses, but we survived (still to my surprise). And in the interest of keeping you and your partner together, here’s how you can survive the outdoors with your loved one."

Read more here

5 Tips for Exploring a New Place

"From one weekend in Yosemite, to another in Desolation Wilderness, Big Sur, or Mammoth Lakes, there was always something new to experience and someone to go with. My world was turned upside down when I met someone from Australia. I have since relocated to Sydney, where the ever-changing weather may resemble my San Francisco home, but suddenly I had no friend base, family, car, or clue on where to climb, hike, and adventure."

Read more here

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) adventure australia backpacking camping explore hiking outdoor women outdoors rad girls collective relationship sydney tasmania travel http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2016/5/rad-girls-collective Tue, 31 May 2016 01:55:55 GMT
Hamilton Island http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2016/2/hamilton-island

Hello lovely friends, family, and the other dozen dedicated readers who have thought I abandoned my blog. Nope, just been running around under the hot Australian sun. I will attempt to catch up on blogging about my trips the past few months, but with my chaotic life in Sydney I won't make any promises! To give you an idea, I have decided to attend fitness school for my certificate III, as well as take up 3 part-time jobs. But lets back up...to the beginning of December when I took Cameron to Hamilton Island to celebrate his 30th birthday.

Our hotel room was astounding. When we looked at the photos online we couldn't have imagined our room was going to look even better in person! Besides the balcony overlooking the clear waters and beach, the room itself could sleep about 8 people in it. There was a living room with fold out beds, a full kitchen, a master bedroom, a huge bathroom and an eating area large enough to practice dance routines.

But, of course, we didn't come to sit in the hotel room. So we took the 2 minute stroll to the beach where we tanned (or, if you're Cameron, burned).

It is strange to be in a country where Christmas is in the summer. Don't take that as a complaint though, it is absolutely wonderful :)

We often forget to be a tourist in our own country, or city even. Cameron has lived in Sydney for close to 12 years now and never been to Hamilton island (or Whitehaven beach, Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef). After this trip, I think he is keen to explore more of Australia! 

I know we were told not to feed the cockatoos, but they came right up to our balcony every morning and it was just so hard to resist. These guys are fearless - letting you feed them right out of your hand!

After a day on Hamilton Island we took a trip to Whitehaven beach and the famous Whitsunday islands. There is nothing quite like them - with the purest white sand and the clear warm waters. Do watch out for the jelly fish though, or just wear one of these stunning swimmers:

The following day we took a tour of the Great Barrier Reef. There was a boat that took us a few hours out to a pontoon. Here they had a submarine, snorkelling, helicopter rides and a buffet lunch.

We splurged for the helicopter ride - I mean, how often do you get the opportunity to fly over one of the wonders of the world? 

 

It was amazing! Below you can see heart reef, which is prominently featured in all tourist photos. The advertisements make you believe it's huge, but in reality the heart is so small you really have to look for it.

After our time in the sky we dove right into the water. We expected lots of fish (it is the Great Barrier Reef after all), but WOW. At times I felt like I was actually lost in a school of fish.

Nothing works up an appetite like snorkelling for hours. So we went back to Hamilton Island for a decadent meal and chilled white wine. The sunset at dinner really was the cherry on top of a perfect holiday.

 ​ 

 

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia beach explore great barrier reef hamilton helicopter island queensland reef travel whitehaven whitsunday http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2016/2/hamilton-island Thu, 11 Feb 2016 02:56:21 GMT
My First Love http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/11/my-first-love My first love came at that typical age of 15. My first love was that love-at-first-sight deal. My love is just so darn cute, cuddly and furry.

While some may consider their first love to be a high school sweetheart or college fling, mine is certainly my miniature dachshund. No one has consumed my time, thoughts or heart like this short and long 10 pound fur baby. 

As many of you know, Pixie has had health issues this last month. It began with a little cough and turned out to be the feared "C" word - cancer. We've lost countless hours to restless nights, worry, stress, and panic, but we didn't lose the most important thing. 

I realise that cancer or no cancer she can't be by my side or cuddled up on my lap forever, but she will always be my first love - and that kind of feeling never goes away.

And for fun, here's a timeline of our time together thus far:

Pixie and her "real" mom playing :) She's 7 weeks old here and I've already fallen for those floppy ears and little brown boots.

Pixie begins to train myself and the rest of the household to give in to her every demand. How could I say no to that face?

Pixie sticks by my side through the midriff phase...

...and the thin eyebrow phase...

...and just about all the painfully awkward phases of being a teen.

Pixie celebrates the holidays with me. She allows me to dress her for certain occasions for up to five minutes (pictures last a lifetime though!).

Pixie and I discover we have many similar interests, such as the outdoors and running. Sometimes we run laps together around the living room table.

But our ultimate common interest is each other.

Get well, my sweet soulmate xx

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) best friend dachshund dog doxie love pixie puppy puppy love http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/11/my-first-love Fri, 13 Nov 2015 04:57:40 GMT
Road Trip to Big Pine Creek (aka 2 Girls on the Open Road) http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/10/2-girls-on-the-open-road-aka-road-trip-to-big-pine-creek

My Instagram feed is constantly full of mountains, lakes, and beautiful places. It inspires me and reminds me how big and full of wonder the world is, cheesy as that sounds. When I see a photo that strikes my fancy I usually screenshot it and do some research on it later - or forget about it and it floats along somewhere in the cloud along with the million photos of my dog. One of these photos I actually researched turned out to be just east of Yosemite, so I convinced my best friend to take a few days from the office and go on a road trip.

I've been to Yosemite a half dozen times, but Mono Lake always seemed out of the way. Melsa and I were driving right by it this time though so we decided to stop. I don't want to say it was disappointing, because the tufa formations were unlike anything I've seen before, but I am glad I never went out of my way to see Mono Lake during previous trips. 

There was a mile loop that walked you through the tufa and allowed for some neat photography. The whole place seemed like another planet - and was eerily quiet. 

At this point we had been driving for over five hours and needed a break. Mono was a bit too creepy and deserted so we looked on the map and saw Convict Lake, which appeared to be right off the main highway. Best. Decision. Ever.

Convict Lake is surrounded by the high Sierras and protected from gusts of wind so we thought it would be the ideal place to SUP. The whole hour we were either pinching ourselves (is this real life?!) or giggling from our excitement.

We got a little daring and tried out some yoga moves on the board. How do people do that? Needless to say, we are far away from combining those two hobbies into one.

After spending time out of the car and high from the release of endorphins we continued another hour or so to Big Pine Creek campground, our home for the next couple of days. 

I set up the hammock right away so Melsa could rest while I set up camp - trade off for driving us the whole way. 

I joke that Melsa and I are the healthiest campers. Our dinner consisted of kale and vegetable quinoa. 

Followed by more time in the hammock. (Best gift ever, Cameron!)

We tried to stay awake until dark, but we ended up sound asleep before 8pm. After 11 hours of sleep it was time to wake up and have a power breakfast: vegetables and eggs, bacon, cornbread and coffee (Michellz, the camping version of Philz). 

Then we hit the trail, hoping to complete the 15 mile loop that would take us by 6 lakes.

The path was gorgeous, taking us along the creek, up into the mountains and through trees with changing colors. Fall is here, guys!

After 5 miles we came to the first lake, which showed off it's beautiful teal water and had Temple Crag standing magnificently in the background. We didn't think it could get better than this.

Then, we arrived at lake two, where the water was even more saturated with that teal color. This was better than in the Instagram photo I had seen in my feed weeks ago.

Besides discovering new favorite lakes and trails, we also discovered our love for Mamma Chia's chia squeezes. 

We ended up seeing all 6 of the lakes, although as Melsa said, compared to lake two the others were horrid. Obviously exaggerating, they were still gorgeous!

 

Somewhere along mile 9 we lost the trail and ended up bushwhacking for a bit. The key is to keep your cool and have a sense of direction.

When we made it back to camp we happily took off our gear and indulged in some snacking.

The following day we packed up and headed to Mammoth Lakes. We put our stuff down at the campsite and headed straight for the trails, as we had a 10 mile hike planned for the day.

Here's the first lake we passed, just a little over a mile in. It's appropriately named Emerald Lake.

This trail was also alive with fall colors. I tried to capture them through the lens, but nothing beats experiencing them first hand.

And here we are on the switchbacks up Duck Pass on our way to Duck Lake. It was a rocky climb, but the views were spectacular. 

And for your entertainment, here's our selfie stick fail:

And then our selfie stick win:

Once you reach the top you can see Pika Lake and Duck Lake, and it's the perfect spot for lunch :)

 

We were back at camp in no time and still had energy left to burn, so Melsa had the idea of renting bikes. The bike paths took us along (more) beautiful lakes and offered views in almost every direction.

By the time we finished our rides we figured it was beer time. And since Mammoth lodge was near camp, we headed inside to get away from the cold.

Our 4 day getaway was more than I could have asked for and I hope to make it to Mammoth Lakes every year from now on. Of course, I'll only go if this girl comes, because who else can you get a headache with, vomit in the middle of the night with, and lose vision in your eye with and still have the time of your life with? Love you, Mels! I'll think of how excited you got about our matching Mammoth mugs every time I drink out of it.

Other things worth mentioning:

- Melsa informed me during our trip not to eat the squirrel and chipmunk feces, otherwise we might get the plague. 

- If the water tastes like metal you probably shouldn't drink it, even if the camp manager says its safe.

- There is nothing along the 395 from Yosemite to Big Pine Creek. I repeat, nothing.

- Mono Lake is actually not pronounced like mononucleosis.

- When the locals call Big Pine Creek a resort, it is not the kind of resort you are picturing in your mind.

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Big Pine Creek California Mammoth Mammoth lakes Temple Crag adventure backpacking explore hiking lake mono mono lake outdoors road trip travel http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/10/2-girls-on-the-open-road-aka-road-trip-to-big-pine-creek Sun, 04 Oct 2015 00:46:56 GMT
Home Away From Home http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/9/home-away-from-home Travelling back to Sydney feels like a trip home. I have my favourite cafes and eateries, I have friends to catch up with, I have a running route and gym routine to jump into, and I've got my guy to lean on. Of course, California will be my home forever and always, but it is nice to feel at ease and relaxed all the way across the globe (except when driving, I don't know if I'll ever get used to that).
 
 
Cameron and I are excited to close the miles between us and make long distance a thing of the past, but until then we are making here-and-there trips work. At the beginning of September I flew down under for a week of long blacks and chilly spring weather.
 
The trip was kicked off by my all-time favourite café in Surry Hills, Lumiere. They had these jam donuts on display that we couldn't resist - and they were THE BEST. They were so good I couldn't stop devouring one long enough to take a picture.
 
We headed to Bondi next to get some paperwork done for my visa and then celebrated by cooking salmon and popping open some champagne. Note: it was a short day due to my jet lag and inability to stay awake much past 4pm.
 
 
How beautiful is Bondi beach? Click play above and watch the waves roll in...
 
 
The following days were full of drinking coffee, eating copious amounts of food, and simply enjoying the company. 
 
How cute is this bookstore with a cafe inside?
Of course, I loved getting back on the motorbike. Sorry, Mom.
Guess what Cam is feeding?
Eels! The Glebe pond was full of them! We even got close enough to touch a couple.
We spent one afternoon just kicking back at Centennial Park.
And another afternoon kayaking in Rose Bay.
 
 
But probably our favourite afternoon was spent learning how to make pasta. It was a unique experience, as the class was held in the Italian woman's home, which was beautiful and intimate. She led us through a 4 course meal and we switched between observing and hands-on experience. 
 
 
Cam and I were so high from our class we went out and purchased all the tools and ingredients to make pasta at home. Cue an impromptu night of cooking for friends...
 
Reflecting back on my trip, thinking about all the coffees, meals, and sunny weather, I would have to say that the thing I miss most now that I am home is being there at the end of the day to catch up with Cam. It is a small thing, but having someone to share your stories, ideas and plans with at the end of each day is so important. 
 
]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Rose Bay Sydney cafe coffee cooking food foodie kayak travel http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/9/home-away-from-home Thu, 24 Sep 2015 03:02:48 GMT
Oahu, Hawaii http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/9/oahu-hawaii

My dad grew up on Oahu in Hawaii and so for as long as I can remember my family and I have flown from the mainland to the islands several times each year. While the focus of each visit remains the same, to visit my 102 year old grandmother, my family and I do our best to incorporate vacation time as well.

Our first and favourite destination for this trip was Turtle Bay, a resort that sits on the most Northern Point of the island. When you tell someone you are going to Oahu, they think Waikiki: crowded beaches, high-end shopping and tourist trap tiki bars. But Turtle Bay is different, it's a part of the island that mostly remains untouched from commercial buildings and tourist attractions (exclude the large Polynesian Cultural Center) and it boasts private, quiet beaches and tropical greens instead of concrete.

The days were spent reading by the beach, snorkelling, biking to the famous Banyan tree (featured in the popular TV series Lost and the well-known movie Hunger Games) – but mostly, we just let the time pass a bit more slowly.

After being refreshed and rejuvenated from the Northern island lifestyle we headed into chaotic Waikiki to visit family. My grandma may live in the now-bustling Honolulu area, but she resides in a quiet room decorated with photos from another time. We went through photo albums, witnessed her comically pull out her dentures, and watched her eat ice cream(!).

To pass the time in Waikiki I looked up a nearby hike I had never done – a 1.5 mile stroll to Monoa Falls. It was such a luscious, green, tropical part of the Honolulu area I had never experienced before. The waterfall at the end was stunning, despite the crowd of people posing in/around/all over. Be warned: get up early and get your butt to the trailhead, because as we were heading down there were mobs of people on the trail.

 

Until next time Hawaii. *~Aloha~*

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Hawaii Manoa Oahu family hiking honolulu travel turtle bay waikiki http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/9/oahu-hawaii Tue, 15 Sep 2015 01:57:33 GMT
Pyramid Peak, Desolation Wilderness http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/8/pyramid-peak-desolation-wilderness

I first discovered Desolation Wilderness when Cam came to visit me in California. I have had it on my mind ever since. And with over 63,000 acres there's a lot of discovering to do. 

So Gracie and I headed North to check out Pyramid Peak, an 11-mile day hike. The trail started out perfectly - wildflowers blooming, majestic trees, blue sky and absolutely nobody else around.

The trail takes you right to Lake Sylvia which is the perfect spot to refuel before ascending the summit. 

It is also the perfect spot for a quick photo shoot with your best friend.

Then things got a little tricky. The trail disappeared and the directions I had printed out weren't so clear. 

We figured we would just head up. Up a pile of loose rocks to the top of the mountain ridge. 

 

The views sure paid off though.

And after about a mile of scrambling up loose rock and boulders we arrived at the summit. Yeah, Pyramid Peak sure didn't disappoint. 

I was so excited to eat lunch I spilled it all over myself. I will neither admit or deny haven eaten that blob off of my dirty leg. Gracie may or may not have trapped a giant bug in her cleavage. And we might have done some staged yoga at the peak. 

In conclusion, Pyramid Peak was an exceptional hike, but not for a beginner as some route finding and climbing was necessary. I would highly suggest a weekend trip with camping overnight at Lake Sylvia. 

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) California Desolation Wilderness El Dorado National Forest Pyramid Peak Sylvia Lake explore hiking outdoors trekking http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/8/pyramid-peak-desolation-wilderness Tue, 18 Aug 2015 03:03:45 GMT
Camp Richardson (aka Thank You, Dad) http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/8/thank-you-dad

My Dad really deserves more than two days to be celebrated (Father’s Day and his birthday). Not only has he dedicated 32 years of doing everything for my brother and I - he has spent his lifetime making the people around him laugh, reflect, ponder and have a good time. If you’ve been lucky enough to have attended one of my Dad’s BBQs or sporting events you know exactly what I mean.

So for his birthday this year my family and I took a long weekend at Camp Richardson to celebrate.

We took a hike around Emerald Bay. I got out my selfie stick and embarrassed my entire family.

Then my brother and I decided to rent a paddle board and kayak. That lasted for 20 minutes before lightening struck and the beach was cleared. There may have been a moment when my parents ran across the beach yelling as we hopelessly tried to paddle and not get knocked over by the waves (yes, waves in Lake Tahoe). One of us succeeded in not getting knocked over.

We took cover from the storm at Beacon Bar and Grill and found out why everybody in the area recommends their rum runners.

The next day we rented bikes and went down memory lane, except this time I was riding my own bike and not the tandem with Dad.

Afterwards we headed downtown to window shop, enjoy bloody marys and soak up some vitamin D. A seafood buffet followed (my hands were too busy cracking the all-you-can eat crab for a photo). After we had stretched our pants tight enough we went to gamble a bit in the casinos.

All in all, a successful weekend with the family. Thank you, Dad, for being you and always knowing how to have a good time!

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) California Camp Richardson Dad Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe Tahoe family lake outdoors travel http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/8/thank-you-dad Fri, 14 Aug 2015 02:51:00 GMT
Butano State Park http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/8/butano-state-park I found Butano State Park by scrolling around the Google Map of California and then searching the different parks I hadn’t heard of. Not only was this park pretty much in my backyard, it is completely overlooked because of its proximity to Big Basin.

And here are few photos from on our way to the park, along the road in Half Moon Bay... because, flowers are pretty :) 

To many people’s surprise, I didn’t look up any hikes or plan a route – I just grabbed my hiking buddy and followed my GPS. We grabbed a map at the Visitor Center and decided to take a longest loop on the map.

The longest loop turned out to be somewhere around 10 miles, which flew by  quickly with Gracie and I chattering away about feminism, gun control, travel plans, career goals and relationships.

Along the trail we saw a bunch of banana slugs , big and small – but best of all, we saw very few people. It felt as though we had the whole trail to ourselves.

While Butano State Park won’t offer you an ocean view, lake view or a high summit point for you to look down from, it is a beautiful and enchanting getaway from the city, office, home life.

 

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Butano California active explore hiking outdoors outside parks http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/8/butano-state-park Thu, 06 Aug 2015 04:38:51 GMT
Glacier Point & Clouds Rest, Yosemite http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/7/glacier-point-clouds-rest-yosemite I've been to Yosemite a few times now, but always seem to hike the Half Dome trail. This time, I set out on a mission to explore what else Yosemite had to offer - and I sure am glad I did! After driving a few hundred miles and purchasing a campsite illegally from a stranger (that's another story) my friend and I began our first hike of the weekend: 10 miles roundtrip on the Glacier Point trail. 

Now, you can also access Glacier Point by driving right up to the top, but honestly - where is the fun in that?

Every twist and turn of the switchbacks led us to a more stunning view.



I'll admit it, by mile 7 or 8 we were feeling our sore feet and forming blisters. When we arrived back to the campsite the chilled Coronas in the cooler were definitely well deserved.

Melsa got to experience my go-to camping meal, cous cous and veggies (added garlic almonds this time too!)

We woke up with sore feet but light spirits, and after the bacon we set off with heavy, full stomachs. Our second day of hiking was going to be twice as long: 20 miles roundtrip on the Clouds Rest trail.

The first few miles follow the same trail as if you’re going to Half Dome – the Mist Trail to Nevada Falls. When the trail splits – that’s when things get good. The views are breathtaking – or maybe it was just the never ending switchbacks

Reaching the top was bittersweet. We were rewarded with a 360 view of Yosemite – a view far more spectacular than my images depict. Yet, at the same time, it was much more crowded than expected. The switchbacks on the way up had been empty. Turns out there are two trails that lead to Clouds Rest – and we took the much harder of the two (sorry, feet).

Fun fact: Clouds Rest actually looks down on Half Dome, as it is over 1,000ft higher in elevation.

The decent was… miserable. Melsa and I were trying our best to get back to camp before the sun went down, but blisters and sores were plentiful and kept us at a slow pace. To top it off, when we did arrive to the campground cafeteria, tired and famished, it had closed 10 minutes earlier. We bought frozen burritos and ate them by the microwave in the gift shop. To all those people in line buying postcards and tee shirts – don’t judge.

The third day we decided that there would be no hiking – or shoes – involved. We drove to check out Tenaya Lake and then headed into Groveland for a hot meal not cooked in my one dirty camping pot. It tasted glorious.

Weekend wrap up: Glacier Point and Clouds Rest were two of the best hikes I’ve completed in Yosemite and highly recommend them. I would recommend the easier route to Clouds Rest though, starting from Tioga Pass and hiking downhill for a couple miles versus the 10 mile trek of uphill switchbacks.

I have to give a special shout to Melsa, who managed to get the largest blisters I have ever seen in my life and still powered through 30 miles in 2 days with very limited complaining. Cheers to you, my strong, sometimes bossy (lol) best friend! Cheers to many more (less painful) hikes in the future!

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Clouds Rest Glacier Point Half Dome california explore hiking outdoors outside travel yosemite http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/7/glacier-point-clouds-rest-yosemite Fri, 31 Jul 2015 01:26:03 GMT
Berry Creek Trail, Big Basin http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/7/berry-falls-trail-big-basin

This summer I am checking a lot of Bay Area hikes off my list, including Big Basin. Despite California being in a severe drought I decided to check out the Berry Creek Trail, known for its giant redwood trees, numerous waterfalls and the main attraction - Berry Falls.

Big Basin is home to many Banana Slugs - be mindful when around these guys and don't pick them up with your hands, the salt on our skin is deadly to them.

We came across a few smaller waterfalls before Berry Falls, which weren't impressive, but still beautiful.

Here's the majestic Berry Falls, still going despite the drought:

My review of the Berry Creek Trail is a positive one. I found it wasn't too crowded, especially compared to some other Bay Area hikes (such as Point Reyes, Tomales Bay and Mission Peak). The trail was a maintained 10 miles that winded uphill and downhill among the towering redwood trees and left you satisfied, refreshed and tired all at once.

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Berry Falls Big Basin California adventure explore hiking outdoors redwoods waterfalls http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/7/berry-falls-trail-big-basin Thu, 23 Jul 2015 04:37:11 GMT
Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/6/sykes-hot-springs-big-sur Other titles I considered using for this blog post:

The Heaven and Hell Trail

Rise and Shine or You'll Bake and Burn

The Trail of Sweat, Pain and Almost Tears

Here I am fresh, cheerful and ready to take on the ten miles uphill in the brutal heat with a backpack that is too heavy (but someone has to carry the bacon!).

My friend and I were headed for Sykes Camp which is where you can find natural hot springs, making it a popular Big Sur destination. Luckily, the ten mile hike weeds out a lot of tourists. 

The Pine Ridge Trail is a beautiful windy trail that even I couldn't get lost on. There are only about two forks in the trail during the entire trip.

Here we are still being cheerful and full of life. Playing with the tall grass and spring flowers.

The views were plentiful and the weather was cooperating. We started the hike early enough where there were still pockets of shade now and again. Be warned, this hike should not be attempted after 10am.

This sign (above) was tempting us to set up camp at the seven mile marker, but we decided to stick with it. Let me just say, the next three miles were loooooong.

But, finally, we arrived at Sykes Camp - dirty, sweaty, exhausted, and bruised from carrying our backpacks. Did I mention dirty?

The Sykes campground is amazing and made every step worth it. Clear water flowed through shaded trees and we practically threw our shoes off to go splash around.

   

We set up the tent, changed into our bathing suits, and followed the cairns towards the hot springs. 

The springs were smaller than I expected, fitting only about four people at a time (and really, only two comfortably). Only a handful of others had survived the journey to the springs though, so we had the place mostly to ourselves.

  

We waded through the water back to camp, enjoying the cold on our feet. 

 

Dinner was next on the agenda - and you guessed it - cous cous and veggies (as always). Followed by chocolate which was devoured too quickly to even snap a photo of.

Staying awake until a decent hour was the second hardest part of the trip. Our bodies wanted to sleep at 5pm, but we knew better. We managed to stay awake until 7pm, thanks to the entertainment of my selfie stick.

Now, my favourite part - brekky! There is nothing quite like coffee, bacon and eggs after a night in the tent.

Here we are right before our ten miles back to the parking lot. We're feeling optimistic knowing that our packs are a bit lighter and its all downhill from here...

But then, this is how I looked when we finally made it to car park. Turns out going downhill isn't so easy either.

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Big Sur Sykes backpacking california explore hiking hot springs outdoors pine ridge trail http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/6/sykes-hot-springs-big-sur Thu, 18 Jun 2015 15:59:46 GMT
Yosemite (aka Cam's California Visit Part 3) http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/6/yosemite-aka-cams-california-visit-part-3 You can read Cam's California Visit Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Part 3 takes us to Yosemite. We drove after work on a weekday and stayed in the cutest little hotel, Hotel Charlotte, in the cutest little town of Groveland.

We had a jacuzzi in the room - pair that with some brew and you have the perfect way to end a long day and begin a great vacation.

I pulled over at the Yosemite sign so that we could take the mandatory touristy photo.

This seems like a good time to mention that I was all wrong about selfie sticks. I rolled my eyes before, but now I am a changed woman - they are the best. Can you even tell we're using one? (below) 

We scored and got a first-come-first-serve campsite at Camp 4. We really scored when we got everything set up before any rain came through.

There were squirrels everywhere, which was obviously a huge plus for Cam and I. Here we are following the rules and not feeding the squirrels...

 

 

The rest of Day 1 in Yosemite included scouting good photo spots, trying to find top rope routes to climb, viewing Yosemite Falls and hiking to Mirror Lake.

  

At the end of the day, we cooked cous cous with veggies (the go-to camping meal) and added garlic almonds from the Farmers Market. I often dream of this eating this meal, paired with a Pale Ale and a warm fire.

The start of Day 2 was a bit rough. A storm was supposed to come through so if we wanted to make it to Half Dome as planned we would have to start early- like 5am early. With heavy eyelids and empty stomachs we marched up the trail. 

Nothing like the Mist Trail to wake you up. Being mid-May the trail certainly lived up to its name.

We beat the storm and made record timing. Check out the cables from the top: (photo taken by Cam)

On the way down we took our time, enjoying the waterfalls and epic views.

And the storm did eventually hit us...

 

The last day we were lazy and the rain outside didn't help with that. Our stove ran out so we shamefully ate Funyuns and protein bars for breakfast before heading into the car in search of vista points. We made it to the lookouts, but with heavy clouds and fog there wasn't much to see. Despite the weather, our moods were cheerful and the trip was an overall success. Especially after the blackberry pie with extra whipped cream at the Iron Door Grill.

 

Sadly, Yosemite was Cam's last highlight before returning to Sydney, but I took enough photos to keep us busy on instagram for the rest of the year.

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) California Groveland Half Dome Yosemite camp camping nature outdoors outside tourist travel http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/6/yosemite-aka-cams-california-visit-part-3 Thu, 11 Jun 2015 22:04:01 GMT
Reno and San Francisco (aka Cam's Visit to California Part 2) http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/6/reno-and-san-francisco-aka-cams-visit-to-california-part-2 If you missed Part 1 of Cam's California Visit see here

From Desolation Wilderness, we drove to Reno, Nevada for a baseball extravaganza my Dad set up. 

When we arrived we were dirty, smelly, tired and hungry. We checked in and headed up expecting a modest hotel room, but instead we were greeted with a suite surprise (Thank you for the upgrade Dad!).

Jacuzzi next to the king size bed overlooking Reno? Don't mind if I do.

From here, it just kept getting better. Did someone say buffet?

It was fun introducing Cam to family and friends. It was even more fun drinking and devouring non-camping food.

The next day was for baseball. I don't know much about sports so I don't have much to say about this afternoon.

...Except that there were lots of smiles....

... Lots of beer...

...Lots of healthy food options...

...and Cam even got a baseball for a souvenir to take home!

I can't remember if it was a close game, or who won, but it was an afternoon well spent. Look at these two winners!

A special thank you to my Dad, who so often brings us all together and takes so much time organising all the details.

It was bittersuite to say bye to our fancy hotel room, but San Francisco was waiting to be explored.

Of course, we covered the main tourist attractions like visiting the Golden Gate Bridge and walking Lands End.

 

Although we were on the go a lot, we still had time to relax at home, make Pavlovas, and - most importantly - bond with Pixie.

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) baseball giants golden gate holiday lands end nevada reno san francisco tourist http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/6/reno-and-san-francisco-aka-cams-visit-to-california-part-2 Fri, 05 Jun 2015 04:39:49 GMT
Desolation Wilderness (aka Cam's Visit to California Part 1) http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/5/desolation-wilderness-aka-cams-visit-to-california-part-1 I am still alive folks. I've just been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I'll start from the beginning - May 1st. I had been counting down the days and hours until Cam's flight would land at SFO. Of course, there were flights cancelled, rescheduled and all sorts of travel mayhem, but he finally arrived. The following day I took him on a three day backpacking excursion in Desolation Wilderness (payback for that 12 hour hiking and canyoning trip I did jet-lagged!). 

Out of all the places I have hiked and explored in California, including parks such as Yosemite, Big Sur and Muir Woods, Desolation Wilderness is my current favourite. The hike we did was not for the faint of heart though, be prepared for bear tracks, getting lost and knee-deep snow.

Getting off track the first time. (above)

Eagle lake is the first lake we encountered, still expect a handful of people around here as its the beginning of the hike, but can you blame them? Its gorgeous! (Note: the rest of the trip we saw a total of 10 people or less!)

My dad swore up and down there would be no snow. Thankfully we brought our boots just in case. 

Getting off track  again (above) and looking for cairns (below).

We chose a camping spot right below Dicks Pass and adjacent to a stream. No set campsites here, just pick a place that suits you. The first night we feasted on our favourite camping meal - cous cous and veggies. 

Dinner was followed by a nature's fabulous light show. It doesn't get much better than watching that golden light hit the peaks.

We fuelled up on bacon and eggs the next morning and then searched for some indication of a trail in the snow. We found one and Cam led, this way he fell in all the snow pits first. Such a gentleman :) 

Sometimes when hiking you'll hit a point when your feet are wet and the snow is reflecting the sunlight blindingly into your eyes and you'll wonder why you left your bed at home and embarked on this journey. When you get to that point, you just have to take a good look around. Yup, totally worth it.

We came to several partially frozen lakes after Dicks Pass, making for some neat photo opportunities and (possibly dangerous) fun. (below)

Then we came to what we thought was Dicks Lake. Which we cleverly refer to as not-dicks-lake from here on out. 

When the exploring was done for the day we cozied up in the hammock.

...and drank whiskey. Here's Cam after the first taste:

Here I am after the first taste:

The third day came too quickly and we packed up and hiked down. 

 

When we got to the car we shoved our backpacks and dirty clothes in the trunk and pulled out the rope and harnesses. Time to climb!

I wouldn't trust anyone else to set up the anchor and belay me outdoors. Thanks for putting up with my climbing fears and neurotics, Cam! 

The wall, appropriately named the 90-foot wall, was much harder than it looked. I am still convinced Cam pulled me up part of the way. 

The trip was a huge success and one of my favourite spots to daydream about from my office desk. Of course, it was made so special by my guest from overseas! Never a dull moment with this guy around...

 

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) California backpacking climbing desolation wilderness dicks peak el dorado explore hiking lake tahoe outdoors http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/5/desolation-wilderness-aka-cams-visit-to-california-part-1 Sat, 30 May 2015 03:30:10 GMT
McNee Ranch State Park http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/4/mcnee-ranch-state-park

I may not know who the Bachlorette picked, or which movies won what awards, or even know what sports season it is, but I can tell you all about the hiking trails in the Bay Area. 

With Spring here people are crowding the trails on the weekends, making it harder to find solitude in the great outdoors. Places like Point Reyes, Mission Peak and Tomales Bay are packed by 10am on a Saturday or Sunday.

McNee Ranch State Park is a bit of a gem. It is close to the city (about a 20 minute drive from the heart of San Francisco), offers typical California Bay Area views of coastlines and grassy hills, and while you won't be alone out on the trail, the crowds are minuscule in comparison to those mentioned above. 

Did I mention that your favourite hiking buddy can come along on the trails too? Yup, this is a dog friendly zone.

The North Peak Trail is an 8 mile route that will have your buns burning from the steep incline, but makes up for it in vista points. Thanks for coming along Yana and Dasher - hiking the trails with someone always makes the burn better :) 

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) McNee Ranch Pacifica San Francisco california explore hiking nature outdoors outside http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/4/mcnee-ranch-state-park Sun, 19 Apr 2015 16:18:16 GMT
San Mateo Farmers Market http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/4/san-mateo-farmers-market

One of my favourite things to do while travelling is visit the local markets - turns out, it is also one of my favourite things to do right here at home in California. Gracie encouraged me to make a visit to the San Mateo Farmers Market last week which I have somehow never been to before. Thank you Gracie, my work week lunches will never be the same! 

Look at the rainbow swiss chard (above) - isn't is gorgeous? 

I am hooked on these beans - they have been sprouted, releasing enzymes which make them healthier and easier to digest. They are absolutely amazing in my quinoa salads at lunch. 

These colours and patterns, its hard to believe they are completely natural. 

There's my running buddy, head-lamp walking, food photographer extraordinaire!  

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) farmers market food foodie fruits local market organic photography vegetables http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/4/san-mateo-farmers-market Sat, 04 Apr 2015 02:15:30 GMT
Hannover, Germany http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/3/hannover-germany

I was just getting back in routine at home when my new job decided I should attend a work event - in Hannover, Germany. Two days later I had my passport in hand and was in route to Paris > Hannover. This wasn't my first time to Germany, as my brother spent a few years living there when I was in university and my family and I would make regular visits, but it was my first time to Hannover. 

The Old Town was quaint and charming, but quite small, about a three block radius in total. Of course, the city took quite a hit during WWII so it was to be expected.

If you are vegetarian, Germany is not the place for you. I generally try to intake as little meat as possible, but there was no hope in Hannover. Sausage and potatoes were the hot items on every menu. 

Cheese for breakfast? Yes please! The hotel I stayed at, Hotel Wegner, was the perfect German accommodation. Traditional breakfast spreads, friendly staff, and clean rooms.

I did get one day off during my trip to venture over to the Herrenhaussen Gardens, which were completely dead due to the freezing temperatures. I am sure in the spring this place is breathtaking. 

The famous painter Niki de Saint Phalle painted this grotto in the gardens. It was beautiful, and such a contrast to the cold, empty branches I saw all about the gardens. 

I did get to see some live plants when I visited the Orchid garden across the street. To be honest, I bought a ticket to stay warm in the greenhouse, but these flowers were a nice bonus.

All in all, Hannover was - ok. It was too cold for my liking, the food too heavy, and the city a bit too bland. But for two weeks of work, it was exciting, fun, and absolutely exhausting. 

 

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) europe food gardens germany hannover travel http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/3/hannover-germany Tue, 31 Mar 2015 05:22:04 GMT
Pinnacles National Park http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/3/pinnacles-national-park Having an office, behind-the-computer, 9 to 5 job makes the weekends a bit sweeter - or maybe thats all the Larabars I consume while trekking around California. This weekend my favourite running buddy and I headed to Pinnacles National Park for a spectacular 6 mile loop.

We started from Bear Gulch and headed to the caves and reservoir before continuing to High Peaks trail.

The trail starts off with stunning rocks, lush greenery and beautiful spring flowers. And the sights only get better as you go...

"This is why I do yoga" - Gracie 

A section of the trail is labeled "steep and narrow" but the steps (above) are totally worth it. The top of the pinnacles make for a perfect snack spot (below). 

Today I am back to the run/work/sleep routine, but I have the memories and photos from this weekend to tide me over until I can pick a new spot on the map to explore.

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) california dirtbag darling hiking national park nature outdoors outside pinnacles trekking http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/3/pinnacles-national-park Tue, 03 Mar 2015 05:14:05 GMT
Tomales Point Trailhead http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/2/tomales-point-trailhead Destination? Tomales Point Trailhead.

Who? My two lovely friends and I.

Distance? 9.5 miles of maintained trail along the coast.

Weather? Heavy fog followed by clear blue skies. 

I mean... seriously heavy fog. On a good note, it made for some magical picture taking opportunities.

Yay - the fog cleared! And just in time to view the elk:

After two hours we made it to the point. Save your picnic lunch for here - tons of views to admire while refuelling for the trek back.

The entire trail is exposed so make sure to bring sunscreen. My friend Rachel, pictured above, got creative and sported two baseball caps with an extra windbreaker draped over them.

I am always happy to get outside and thankful I live in an area that offers so many options for hiking, climbing, and exploring. Also thankful for my beautiful friends who accompany me and make sitting through traffic tolerable. What's not to smile about?

]]>
(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) bay area california explore hiking point reyes tomales bay trekking http://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/2/tomales-point-trailhead Sun, 15 Feb 2015 18:26:33 GMT