Maui Hikes

King’s Highway, 3.1.16

 

Pipiwai Trail, ‘Ohe’o Gulch, Road to Hana, and Charles Lindbergh’s gravesite 3.3.16

Waihee Ridge Trail, 3.4.16

 

Haleakala Crater, 3.5.16

Skiquel in Seattle

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Last January, my cousin, Lauren, organized a budget ski trip to Crystal Mountain for herself and more than a dozen of her friends from all over the country. This year was the “skiquel.” We all converged at the Green Tortoise adventure hostel in downtown Seattle for a weekend of relaxing, drinking, and camaraderie.

Friday

2-tortoise1I arrived in the PNW on Friday around noon and made my way to the hostel, conveniently located across the street from Pike Place Market. Andrea, another Colorado resident and skiquel attendee, met me in our 6-person room soon after. While walking out of the Target next door, Tracy, a swim team teammate of Lauren’s,  stopped me on the street and we came up with a plan for the afternoon over a shawarma lunch. Tracy and I convinced Andrea to join us at the nearby Rachel’s Ginger Beer bar while the other weekend participants filtered into town.

IMG_2850We tried a few ginger beer cocktails in the popular bar, making conversation with some tablemates visiting from Florida. Andy, Tim, and Kat joined us eventually. I got to say hello to Lauren, Dana, Cece and Anita before I had to part ways to head up the hill.

I made arrangements to catch up with Tim and Brian, fellow San Diego alums now residing in Seattle, over dinner and some Dunkelweiss. I Uber’d my way to Capital Hill and met Tim and his friend, Ray, at Rhein Haus (formerly Von Trapp’s) German beer hall. Brian and a few more of Tim’s local friends arrived shortly thereafter. The life-changing cheesy spaetzle that I remember from my last visit was now only available on the kid’s menu, which I had no qualms ordering from.

After an hour or so of fun and feasting, we all migrated a few blocks to Diesel for more drinks. There, we ran into many more of their friends, some even visiting from San Diego, sharing laughs and countless selfies. I had an morning wake-up ahead of me, so I stayed long enough for an Irish Car Bomb shot and found an Uber back to the hostel. It was great to catch up with Brian and Tim; our time in San Diego didn’t overlap very long, but mutual friends and Facebook have helped us get to know each other better over the years. I always enjoy seeing them.

Saturday

IMG_2880The room was awake by 5:00am and we started getting ready to meet the bus that would take us to Crystal Mountain, a 2-hour ride away. My snowboard binding had broken a week or two earlier, so I didn’t bring it with me. I hadn’t forgotten how difficult it was the year before walking 6 blocks and carrying a boot and snowboard bag , so I was happy to rent at the mountain. We stopped at a Starbucks to fuel up and arrived at the bus stop just in time to load up and find our seats. The $90 (up from last year) bus pass included our lift ticket, which, compared to the current Colorado rates, was a steal.

Somehow I scored both seats in the last row of the bus and was able to sleep on the way. It started pouring rain half way to the mountain, occluding our view of the sunrise and Mt. Rainier. By the time we arrived at the mountain at 9am, Kendall had already learned that all but two lifts were open because of high winds near the summit. I rented a snowboard, put on my gear and met him in the cafeteria, where the rest of the group had gathered to stay dry and wait until 10am, when we would get another update on the conditions.

We caught up, ordered food and beer, played games and did the best we could to entertain ourselves in the bar. A beer or two in, 5 of us decided to brave the elements and attempt at least one run. Lauren, Kim, Andrea, Steve and I geared up and hit the chair lift, but were immediately soaked. We made the best of it, taking some photos at the summit where it was snowing. The trails were traversable, but the rain and flat light made it difficult to see while moving fast. If you didn’t move fast, however, you would get stuck in the glue-like slush; obviously not ideal snow conditions. After two runs we called it a day.

10940607_10101231696122915_1966046486660764315_nIMG_2904The group spent the remainder of the day in the bar, where the selfie-stick and shotski made several appearances. You can imagine how the ride back to the city went on a bus with a dozen passengers who had spent the day in the bar. Thankfully most of the group passed out shortly after we were underway. Upon our arrival downtown, we schlepped our gear back to the hostel in the rain, showered, ordered nearby Thai take-out, and continued drinking. I sneaked off to pick up a pair of flannel-lined jeans from the nearby Carhartt store.

IMG_2907In my haste to meet the Uber driver, I had left my credit card at Diesel the night before. While everyone went to sleep, I mapped out my route and hopped on a bus. I’m still impressed by the public transportation in Seattle; it’s remarkably easy to get around on the buses and trains. The bar was pretty busy, despite the weather, but I collected my card and left. Rather than wait for the bus, I enjoyed a few minutes of solitude while walking back the 1.4 miles to the hostel in the rain.

Sunday

IMG_2913Brian had offered to show me around his new hometown on Whidbey Island, and, having never been that far north of the city, I took him up on it and managed to catch the early bus to the International District. Starbucks in hand, I walked over the train tracks to the King Street Station and took the Cascades Amtrak train north. Car 3 was mostly empty, so I took over the 2 sets of seats facing each other on the west-facing window for the 2-hour trip to Mt. Vernon, where Brian was waiting for me. While we were driving to the island, he handed me a stack of maps so I could decide how we should spend the day. After a tour of Deception Pass and Oak Harbor, we opted to explore the Olympic National Park, which meant we needed to catch a ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. The ferry had yet to arrive, so we parked the car in line and stopped at the nearby cafe for a muffin and coffee. Despite being in the rain shadow, it was still a wet day.

Thankfully, the ferry ride was only 30 minutes and we passed the time by bird-watching from the top deck. I’m fairly sure I saw an orca fin cut through the water before descending below the surface. After arriving in Port Townsend, we enjoyed a slice of pizza and meandered through the rainy, nearly-deserted, Bohemian town. We found a great record store, where Brian purchased a Lloyd Cole CD. A CD single. Not the good one. We hit the road to Port Angeles, a very commercial town where the entrance to the park awaited us. On the way, we talked of San Diego, our new cities, our adventure plans, and a laundry list of other fascinating topics that made the drive go by quickly.

IMG_2959Not knowing I was visiting a national park, I didn’t bring my passport along, though I did get the obligatory cancellation stamp. We spoke with the ranger, who gave us several good suggestions to choose from before it got dark. It was still raining, but Brian and I decided to attempt a short hike. The road was lined with steep, evergreen-lined peaks as we drove further into the park. I couldn’t believe how green it was nor that Brian had this amazing playground in his backyard. After a quick stop for supplies and fuel, we donned our rain parkas in the ranger’s station parking lot at Lake Crescent and started up the trail.

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IMG_3022We came across a handful of other hikers on the 0.9 mile loop, past the river and over two bridges to Marymere Falls. The gloomy day did not discount from the beauty of the 90-foot waterfall, accented by moss, ferns and other intense greenery. Pressing on, the trail led up a flight of stairs to another, higher view of the falls before starting the descent back towards the river. I’d estimate it was a 40-minute round trip. By then, Crystal Lake was glowing a spectacular turquoise color due to a break in the clouds overhead. The water was not warm, no.

For some reason there was only one train listed as heading southbound to Seattle that evening, and we timed our return to Port Townsend so that we’d hop on the 6:30p ferry, ride the 30 minutes across the harbor, and drive to the Mt. Vernon station a few towns over to just catch the Cascades Amtrak back to town. Apparently the destination ferry landing was in shallow water, so we were surprised to hear that the ferry could not leave Port Townsend due to low tide. The next ferry would leave at 8:15p, which meant I was not destined to be in Seattle that evening.

We stopped at a Walgreens and headed to Brian’s new apartment, where he graciously put me up on his couch for the night. The long day got to us and, after a shower, a beer and more conversation, we turned in.

Monday

The commuter train, the Sounder, was running that morning, so instead of trekking back to Mt. Vernon, Brian kindly woke up early on his holiday off to take me to another ferry landing to catch it. Unfortunately, we just missed the 6:30a boat and I had to wait around for the 7:00a departure. This left me with just enough time to power walk to the Sounder station, buy a ticket, and wait half a minute for the double-decker commuter train to arrive.

IMG_3015I arrived back at King Street Station around 8:15a and chose to walk the 15 or so blocks back to the hostel just in time for most of the group to head out to breakfast. I was the only one not leaving that day, so rather than potentially spend the night with strangers, I fired up Hotel Tonight and scored a great price on a room at the centrally-located Roosevelt. I checked out of the Green Tortoise with the group and we headed into the market for a quick egg-and-cheese-on-bagel breakfast and to shop for coffee. Lauren broke out the selfie-stick one last time at the gum wall, and then I parted ways with the group to go check into the hotel.

I had planned on Monday being a work day, intending to hole myself up in a coffee shop and give myself time to address some personal projects that had been stagnant for awhile. Before this, however, I met up with Tim for a quick breakfast at Cafe Pettirosso on his way into work.

Most of the afternoon was spent at Kaladi Brothers and Starbucks, making some progress on the projects and people-watching. Later that day, I met Paul for drinks at Canon, a highly-regarded whiskey and bitters emporium. We chatted and enjoyed snacks before migrating to Elysium Brewing Company for some local craft beer. I grabbed a slice of pizza before crashing for the night.

Tuesday

The next morning, I took the light rail back to the airport to make my journey home. It was a beautiful, clear day (go figure) and we had great views of the Cascades from the plane. I finally got back to Denver around 3:00p, where Scott was waiting with my car.

Once again, I had a fantastic time hanging out with Lauren, Dana, their wild and crazy group of friends, and Kendall. It was also great to get to know Brian and Paul better while exploring various the parts of what makes Seattle a fun place to visit. I’ll be back again sooner than later.

San Francisco

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photo 3I just returned from yet another enjoyable trip to California. While rummaging through some papers, I came across a flight voucher with a rapidly-approaching expiration date. I didn’t want to let this opportunity go wasted, so I did some research, liberated some frequent flyer miles, and before I knew it, I was meeting Phil in San Francisco for the weekend. Phil and I have birthdays around the same time, so it was easy to convince him to help me celebrate.

With such short notice, I knew I couldn’t take vacations days, especially with a large site launch happening that week. I instead chose to work remotely, a privilege I don’t take lightly. To beat the crowds, I planned to fly in on a Thursday evening and depart on a Monday night, meaning I had to work Friday and Monday.

I arrived Thursday and made my way to Liz and Jon’s apartment in Inner Richmond, hoping to grab some keys and saying hello before heading out to see Chris X. play with his band at a bar. The BART took me from the airport to the Civic Center station, which I learned was not the best place for a tourist to end up at night. After unsuccessful attempts at finding the bus I needed, I made Jon drive over and pick me up. Exhausted from dragging suitcases around the hordes of aggressive homeless people, I turned in early.

In the morning, I settled in to work at the Castro Starbucks. Phil missed his flight the night before, so he didn’t arrive until lunch time. We finally connected and he, Tim D. and I had lunch at Brenda’s very close to where I got lost along Market St. a few hours earlier.

Conveniently, San Francisco Gay Pride was happening the same weekend, so I knew I might see people I wouldn’t normally see out and about. I figured this would be a great way to make more friends that I could hang with on future visits. I made efforts to connect with the few friends I already have in town, though they already had their own schedules planned out so it was difficult to fit in. We did connect with Chris L. and Gary, recent transplants from Massachusetts with whom I share mutual friends in DJ and Larry. After a few drinks on Friday, we tagged along with their group to dinner and a club. Because it was a travel day, we didn’t stay long and Uber’d back to Jon and Liz’s place to pass out.

photo 1We took our time to get moving on Saturday, but eventually we headed out to have a light breakfast at Tartine Bakery in the Mission, where we ran into Phil’s friend from NYC, Craig. As we waited in line, we saw all the tasty-looking options and our snack turned into full-on breakfast. From there, we returned to the Castro to pick up my bag and joined our new friends, Tim V. and JP for sushi at Barracuda, where I tried my first roll: Vegetarian Fantasy!

Phil was invited to a party by his friend, Paul (formerly of NYC), so we opted to make an appearance there. Phil only knew one of the hosts and I didn’t know anyone, but everyone seemed pretty friendly and talkative. After several enjoyable conversations, we worked our way over to the Castro to meet up with Jon at a club. Madhouse.

The Pink Saturday street party was wrapping up as we arrived, so we had to wade through a sea of drunk people only to find that Jon and his friends had moved on to another bar in a different part of town. Annoyed and relieved, we found our way out of the madness and Uber’d over to the SF Eagle bar, where we met up with Tim V. and JP again. A few drinks and many laughs later, we parted ways and called it a night.

photo 2Sunday morning came earlier than we preferred, but we finally got up and joined Liz and Jon in the car for a road trip to Muir Woods. We took a leisurely hike in the woods and caught up, which was fantastic. Afterwards, we found a great breakfast spot on the pier in Sausalito, called Le Garage. On the way back, we stopped to help some stranded Canadians jump their rental SUV and took some pictures in the Marin Headlands, overlooking the city.

Phil hadn’t been to the city in over two decades, so there were a few touristy things we needed to get to. Jon hunted down the bus we wanted and we parted ways, heading downtown to see Gloria Mundy’s house from Foul Play. Coit Tower was close-by, so we walked up to take in the view. Forgoing the elevator ride to the top, we kept walking to Columbus Circle, where we caught another Uber to Ghirardelli Square for a sundae. Before both of our phone batteries died, we caught one more Uber back to the apartment to re-group, except we didn’t have keys…

Eventually we re-connected with Liz and Jon and decided to stay in for an early BBQ dinner in their backyard, which was very relaxing. Phil left for the airport a few hours later and I headed out for a nightcap at the Lone Star Saloon.

photo 4The next day, I packed up my things, said my goodbyes to Liz and Jon, thanked them for their generous hospitality, and headed to the Castro Starbucks once again. Later, Tim D. and I met up for lunch at Toast in Noe Valley and he took me to meet his 12-week old English Shorthair kittens, Collin and Llewl. Very cute.

Eventually I made my way back to the airport for the short trip back to Denver. It seems like I’ve had a San Francisco hangover since returning – I’d love to live in such a vibrant, exciting, historically-interesting city, but the cost is a major deterrent. Maybe someday!

Overall, it was a great trip. I had fun exploring the city with one of my best friends, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. I already can’t wait for the next trip.

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Crystal Mountain ski weekend

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In December I saw my cousin, Lauren, while we were both visiting family in Florida. She had arranged a ski trip to Seattle, staying downtown in the Green Tortoise Hostel,  and spending a day skiing at Crystal Mountain. At the time she already had over a dozen participants signed up, friends of hers from Chicago, North Carolina and elsewhere. Lauren was really pushing for me attend because I had already met a handful of these people at Lauren and Dana’s wedding back in November. For kicks, I looked up airfares and found round trip tickets for $96 on United. Sold! I booked the tickets on the spot.

A few of us arrived at SEA around the same time late Friday night, gathered our gear, hopped on the light rail and trekked downtown to the hostel. By the time we had checked in, it was midnight. We struggled to settle into the tiny, 8-person room and were asleep by 1am.

Sun coming up behind Mt. Rainier

Sun coming up behind Mt. Rainier

Several hours later, we woke up, packed our things, and headed out to a Starbucks to fuel up before  meeting the Crystal Snow Bus (a motor coach, not a coach bus as we were later corrected).

Bus rideFor only $89, we got a lift ticket (including gondola access) and a ride to the mountain. We didn’t have to worry about driving, gas, traffic, or parking – this is a hell of a deal, considering the lift tickets cost $74 on their own. A few hours and many laughs later, we arrived at the base.

We split up into smaller groups based on our skill level/interest and took to the mountain. Kendall showed up shortly thereafter, and we headed up the gondola to the top of the mountain. I could have easily spent a few hours in the lounge chairs on the summit that faced nearby Mt. Rainier. The weather was near-perfect – little-to-no wind, sunny, reasonably warm – and provided significant visibility.

After a few more runs, we met up with the group at the Summit House restaurant for some hearty chili and chilled beers. If I had to go back to the bus at that point, I would have been happy. The runs that day had all been pleasant, with reasonable ground coverage, limited ice, and fun trails. Lunch concluded and we split up again, stumbling upon the long, green trails with rolling hills, where we skied for the rest of the day.

Group

When the day was over, we trucked back to Seattle and regrouped before having dinner and beers at the Pike Brewing Company, where my San Diego friend, Tim, met us. We got to catch up over some tasty porters, stouts, and Scotch ales before closing the place down at last call.

On Sunday, most people went off to visit Mt. Baker for the day, while I decided to sleep in, staying local to explore. I finally got moving by 10am, jumping on a bus to Kerry Park, where I hoped to try out the new camera. Sadly, the view was obscured by fog, so I went over to Capitol Hill to meet up with Tim for lunch at an awesome German beer hall, Von Trapp’s. Maisel Dunkelweisse beer, cheesy spaetzle, pork winer schnitzel, good company – enough said.

From there I went to the coffee shop Kaladi Brothers, which has a branch in Denver, where I did my weekend routine on the laptop. Wayne, a friend from LA, stopped by and we caught up briefly. Later on, I enjoyed a mexican dinner with Jerry at Poquitos and a beer at Diesel, where I ran into Tim again.

There are some serious Seahawks fanatics wandering around Seattle. Coincidentally, I was wearing the team colors on my ski jacket and the flannel shirt I wore that day.  People felt the need to shout “SEAHAWKS!!!” whenever I walked by. Thankfully the game ended shortly after I arrived at Diesel, so the screaming died down.

Tim and I chatted more, but he had to work the next day, so he called it an early night. I walked to The Crescent, a karaoke bar, where I found Lauren and the gang having a good time. We stumbled back to the hostel around midnight and crashed.

The Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains

By the time I had awoken in the morning, most people had already left for the airport. I packed up, said my goodbyes, and began the trek back to Denver.

This was my third trip to Seattle, and every time I leave thinking how easily I could spend a few more days there.  The people are friendly and welcoming, there’s a ton of interesting shops and restaurants, the scenery is outstanding, and it’s so easy to get around. I hope it’s not another 5 years before I return. Overall, a fun-filled weekend with cousins and friends, new and old – I look forward to the 2nd Annual  Ski Weekend in 2015. Thanks for twisting my arm, Lauren!