Joshua Tree National Park is only two hours away from LA, and for me, it’s a sacred escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. This desert has an otherworldly feel, and I love it.
On Sunday, we packed up our bags for a day trip to Joshua Tree. Our plans were to meet up with Tushar and Vinh to explore the night sky with a telescope and search for comet Lovejoy, which we had attempted to view last weekend from our rooftop. There’s never a dull weekend with Kelvin!
The morning looked promising. The skies were clear, and we headed out to the desert stopping at Cabazon for some outlet shopping. Before long, the clouds rolled in, which inevitably ended our hopes for seeing the comet that night. The good news was that it made for some beautiful desert lighting.
Kelvin’s sad this fist rock got the best of him. Until next time!
The rock formations at Jumbo Rock are super interesting. It was fun exploring the area for the first time.
The sunset had incredible color. Joshua trees are the coolest looking trees.
PHOTOS BY MELODY KUO
My family and I went on a cruise to Mexico over the holiday. I had a great time spending time with my family and cousin, Mandy. The cruise was seven days, and we visited Cabo, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. There were three days at sea, which I was originally concerned with, but I loved them. I finished reading The Book Thief, which I borrowed from the ship’s library (my favorite place on the ship), hung out with my siblings and my cousin, and I went to the gym like three times a day.
M/S Veendam, our home for seven days
In Mazatlan, we visited a turtle sanctuary, where we released baby sea turtles that had just hatched within the last few hours. I named mine, “Queso”, and the turtle was so cute! It was such an amazing experience watching the little guy sprint for the waters.
We also learned how to make tortillas. The hardest part was flipping the flattened dough onto the pan.
In Cabo, we went on a snorkel trip, where the waters were crystal clear and the fish were plenty. It was my mom’s and Mandy’s first time snorkeling.
In Puerto Vallarta, Marisa and I went on an excursion titled “outdoor challenge”. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It ended up being way crazier than I ever imagined. We went zip lining through the jungle, rappelling down waterfalls, and wearing hockey helmets down the most intense water slide I’ve ever seen/experienced.
Family vacations are still as fun as I’ve always remembered them!
There’s this tall, skinny orange tree that came with our house. It calls the small plot of land between our duplex and the apartment complex next door home. We hadn’t thought much of it when we bought the house; except that we had to keep trimming it down for various reasons: when our house got tented for termites, when we got our house painted, when we got our windows replaced, when our neighbors got their building tented, etc.
Despite all that, it’s ridiculous how well it thrives in our tiny side yard. From the time we’ve owned our place, it’s produced hundreds of oranges. The tree is so tall that we can only reach the oranges from a ladder or our 2nd floor window. Picking oranges from your window is more fun though, so we decided to try that out today.
Having this fruiting orange tree makes me feel like an industrious, organic orange farmer. I feel so accomplished, but really, I did nothing. Literally nothing. We don’t even water the tree. Hearing stories about how less water makes for sweeter fruit, we decided that the tree probably didn’t need much more than it was living off of before. Plus, doing nothing is easier. But, maybe we should be doing something? It’s the least we can do for all the fruit it produces for us.
Now we have oranges for days (we picked around 45 oranges today), and those were just the ones we could reach from our window!
My blog writing has gotten super rusty. I love when bloggers are open and share a glimpse of their normal human lives in their blog posts, but it doesn’t seem to come as easily to me.
I’d like to focus on letting go of worrying about what others think. Looking back, I realize how often I torture myself over-analyzing a situation repeatedly or feeling guilty about something I said or did (or didn’t say or do). This year, I plan to focus my attention on the things I can change rather than mulling over the things I can’t.
I’d like to get more sleep and learn the art of waking up. Sleep (and stress) hugely affects my mood. Ideally, I’d start each day pleasant and prepared.
I’d like to spend more time documenting my adventures. At the end of last year, I finally put together our wedding album, and it was so nice to be able to look back on the photos and reflect on our wedding. I’d like to do more blogging on the trips we take and get better at taking photos and editing them.
Finally, I’d like to stop my habit of mindless Facebook scanning. It’s not productive. I’m always wishing for more time in the day, so here’s my opportunity.
- Image taken at Pelican Bay in Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park
Day 3 was our last day. Our final challenge was Kearsarge Pass (elevation 11,760 ft.). We left our campsite extra early at 5AM with the “best burgers in Lone Pine” at the Whitney Portal Store on our minds. We watched the sun rise as we set off, and from a safe distance, observed an avalanche (first photo). It started raining along the way, but cleared up before we started the climb up Kearsarge Pass. We celebrated at the top before we headed down to Onion Valley.
When we first went to pick up the permit in Lone Pine, the ranger seemed surprised that we were attempting Whitney Portal to Onion Valley in 3 days. After that, I didn’t know what to expect from this backpacking trip. All I knew was that we had good company and that I was up for the challenge. Three days in the Sierras, and I’m completely sold on this gorgeous part of California. The mountains look relentlessly steep from the valleys, and the elevation plays with your mind; but when you make it to the top, you feel infinite, as if you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
PHOTOS BY MELODY KUO
Related Recaps: Day 1 and Day 2
Day 2, our goal was to summit Forester Pass, elevation 13,200′ and find a good place to camp. It was another long day with lots of mileage. The hardest part was knowing that the toughest climb was going to be towards the end of the day.
Everyone was hugely relieved when we reached Crabtree Ranger Station. We dropped our empty wag bags into the storage bin and immediately dug our holes. We met a man who was making a day trip trail running what we had planned to do in 3 days (and we thought we were crazy!). There were quite a few PCT hikers. One man told us that he was attempting the Triple Crown (when you hike the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail). You meet the most fit and inspiring people out in the wilderness. After Forester Pass. we encountered our first patch of snow on the trail, which I proceeded to immediately slip on. After a long day of backpacking, we were all excited to crawl into our tents and sleep.
PHOTOS BY MELODY KUO
Related Recaps: Day 1 and Day 3
Over the Fourth of July weekend, a group of six of us set out to summit Mount Whitney (elevation 14,505′), the highest peak in the lower 48. I was pretty nervous about the elevation beforehand since everyone kept telling me their horror stories about nausea and disorientation, but it fortunately did not end up being a problem except for the usual huffing and puffing up the mountain. We got pretty lucky with the conditions since California is in a drought. There weren’t any sketchy snow/ice spots on the trail to watch out for.
We started at Whitney Portal (elevation 7,851′) where we weighed our packs. (Mine was 32 lbs with my camera.) The trail took us through the forest in the John Muir Wilderness until we eventually entered the Whitney Zone, which requires a permit. We passed beautiful green meadows along the trail. Once we were above the tree line, the hike became very exposed. It’s amazing how much the scenery changed along the course of the trail We stopped for lunch at Consultation Lake. Then, we headed up the 99 switchbacks. The purple skypilot flowers were blooming in full force during this trip. The top of the ridge line is the entrance to Sequoia National Park. Once we reached the John Muir Trail Junction, we dropped our packs for the 1.9 miles to the summit. There were tons of marmots hanging around the backpacks scavenging for food from people’s packs. Once we summited, everyone took a quick nap since the altitude totally sucked the energy out of everyone. We headed back down towards Crabtree Ranger Station and camped at Guitar Lake (total miles: 16).
PHOTOS BY MELODY KUO
Our entire three day backpacking trip in summary.
Related Recaps: Day 2 and Day 3