Tuesday, February 10, 2015

GrandTen Distillery

We wanted something local and warm to do over the weekend, and having a fondness for craft distilleries (as well as their products) we decided to investigate one of Boston's. After a few quick Google searches we settled on GrandTen for two reasons: It was close, and it's free on Saturdays. Double win.

It's located in a more industrial part of South Boston, and thanks to plenty of signs it's not hard to find despite its less-than-obvious location. As soon as you enter you're aware of just how small an operation it is. You can almost see everything from the door. The staff were great, making the tour entertaining, and highlighting the differences between their distillery and one far more industrial. But the highlight of the tour, by far, was the tasting.

I have tried my fair share of spirits. And I'm not embarrassed to say that generally I really don't like them on their own. I have never enjoyed anything that smelled simply of ethanol and burned my mouth like antiseptic mouthwash. So, generally speaking, I haven't enjoyed a tasting at a distillery. So it was pretty darn surprising when I actually enjoyed the tasting at GrandTen. None of their spirits smelled simply of ethanol, instead I smelled banana, fresh carrots, almonds, chocolate and butterscotch. Instead of burning my mouth, it went down smooth and tasted delicious. I'm not usually a whiskey person, but I would drink their South Boston Irish Whiskey neat. I wanted to buy almost everything they sold, but settled with taking home a bottle of their white rum, sold exclusively (for the time being) at their distillery.

In short - you should go

Website: http://www.grandten.com/

Monday, February 9, 2015


Dear God when will it stop?

Admittedly this is my first real winter. Growing up in central California doesn't expose you to the same kind of winter experience that New England does. Sure, we visited the snow. But who would be so idiotic as to go live in it?


Well, it turns out that snow, while pretty, is a pain in the ass. My car is currently buried underneath it, the street hasn't been plowed in 2 days, and I find myself trapped indoors or stranded because public transit is no match for the whims of the weather.

Hilariously, one of my cats has decided to wait out the weather in the form of a burrito.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

'Merica: The Road Trip

My mom recently pointed out that I've fallen behind on my blog. Reasonably so, since 2014 was probably the craziest year in my 26 years of life, which is now even more evident by the difficulty of filing our tax returns.

Sunset in Nevada
Just as an update, and as a promise of things to come, we moved to Boston. In August of last year, right after our wedding, we packed up as much as we could fit in two tiny cars and  drove across country so that I could pursue a graduate degree. Since then, I've been exploring Boston, surviving my first semester as a PhD student, and of course traveling whenever we get the chance.


Driving through Wyoming     

Boston is proving to be lacking in certain respects - such as it's not as conducive to spontaneous backpacking trips as California was. There's plenty to see and do out here, it just requires more planning, something which I've never been very good at. Luckily I married a planner.
In the mean time, here are some photos from the biggest culture shock I've ever experienced: 'Merica - the Road Trip.

Middle American High Fashion - as seen as the Worlds Largest Truck Stop, Iowa 
Optimus Prime is real - and strangely enough has retired to Iowa. 
Camping along Lake Michigan after visiting Detroit  
No American rode trip is complete without Niagara falls - which has to be the worlds largest tourist trap   

Monday, October 13, 2014

Skyline to The Sea

I've had this trail on my bucket list ever since it came out in BackPacker Magazine in 2012, when it won readers choice. The trail starts in Castle Rock State Park and goes through Big Basin down to the coast and ends at Waddell Beach. Parking for this trail is really tricky - in fact I have no advice to offer on parking other than call each park before parking your car there to make sure you're parking where permitted. We parked my car at Waddell Beach, then took Kevin's car up to the trail head. We both got tickets. Also, you'll need to book your campsites well in advance for this trail due to popularity.

The total trail length is 29.5 miles, we planned to do this in three days and two nights. We ended up doing it in two days instead, camping just one night in Big Basin.

We hiked this trail in October and it was really nice. The streams and the waterfalls weren't at peak flow, and the wildflowers had mostly passed, but the temperature was perfect and there was lots of wildlife.  We met a good number of people hiking the trail along side us, so I can only imagine how busy it is in the height of backpacking/camping/adventuring season. I would suggest doing the trail in either early spring or late summer/fall when fewer people are on the trail.

Butterfly Fried  
The best part of the trail is the section that follows the Berry Creek Falls loop in Big Basin. I'm sure some people would disagree since there are some cool views from Castle Rock... But Between Castle Rock and Big Basin, you're mostly following along a road, and at times hiking so near peoples homes I kept expecting a redneck with a gun to yell at me for trespassing.
California Newt Friend (they are poisonous)

After leaving Big Basin the trail turns into a fire road - which was pretty, but highly trafficked and lacked the feeling of being in the wilderness - a quality I generally look for when backpacking. However, considering the proximity to urban life - this trail is pretty satisfying for a weekend adventure less than 2 hours from home. In fact, that may even be the best part of this trail. It's incredibly accessible, and can be broken down into a series of day hikes for those who aren't craving (or don't have time for) a multi-day hike. In fact, I highly recommend just hiking the Berry Creek Falls loop in Big Basin. It's 1/3 the distance, it's the prettiest part of the trail, and you don't need to worry about booking campsites or getting a parking ticket!


The end of the trail nearing Waddell Beach

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sykes Hot Springs: Ventana Wilderness

For this trip, you hike along the pine ridge trail - starting from Big Sur Station and culminating at Sykes hot springs in the Ventana Wilderness.

I have hiked this trail a total of two times. The first trip I did was in the spring time, and it was absolutely beautiful! All the wild flowers were out, it was warm but not too hot, and the winter rains had washed away the previous seasons hippy filth (this will be explained).

For my first trip - I went with a group of friends and we started out fairly early in the morning from Big Sur Station, hiked to Barlow Flats where he had our lunch break, then finished hiking to Skyes hot springs. We spent only one night at Skyes hot springs campground, and then did the same hike only in reverse the next day. The whole trip is a little less than 20 miles round trip, which if you're in decent shape (and some of us weren't on this trip) you can do in a weekend relatively pain-free.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean from Pine Ridge Trail.   
River at Barlow Flats 
On my second trip to Sykes, we did things a little differently. We started late, and hiked about 4 miles to Ventana Camp, where we spent our first night. This is where I spilled boiling hot water on my boyfriends bare feet - causing second and (almost) third degree burns. Yeah - I'm classy like that. To make matters more interesting, this trip was me, my boyfriend, and his two male friends. Not only do I feel like I'm intruding on some epic bro-out, but after the boiling water thing I'm pretty sure Kevin's two friends thought they were going to be first hand witnesses to our break up, with an incredibly uncomfortable hike/drive out the next day. By what could only have been a miracle (or maybe love), Kevin never even yelled at me, just an awkward angry moment, and then things worked out. More amazingly Kevin finished the trip, 16 miles with very burned feet.

The river at Sykes Campground - where people were POOPING IN THE RIVER!  
From Ventana we hiked to Barlow Flats, where we had a lunch break, and a dip in the river to cool off. Then after being refreshed we hiked on to Sykes where we camped. DEAR LORD THERE WAS SHIT EVERYWHERE! And I'm being literal. People are really dumb, and decided that they didn't want to use the wilderness toilets because heavens forbid someone might walk up on them while they're doing their business. So somehow they reasoned that shitting on the river bed, where the river that we all get our water from, and people swim in, and walk along all day long, is some how a more private/safer option. I have never been so afraid that I was going to get Giardia, or worse.

Not only were people just pooping wherever they felt like it without even the decency to bury it, they were leaving trash, used toilet paper, beer bottles/cans, etc all over  the place. Now I can understand someone in a wetter climate thinking that toilet paper will biodegrade...but in what place do beer bottle compost back into soil? Oh right...that's no where on Earth. Sykes Hotsprings is a hippie mecca - a place where Big Sur Bohemians have trekked for decades. But these people who are supposedly nature loving, outdoor enthusiasts, in favor of preserving open and wild spaces for generations to come, clearly have a massive disconnected from the rhetoric they spew and 'the man' versus their own actions. I really don't understand why anyone would think it would be okay to poop in the water that they drink. PLEASE, DEAR LORD PLEASE, DON'T PARTICIPATE IN THE DESTRUCTION OF THE HOTSPRINGS BY LITTERING AND POOPING IN THE RIVER! Okay, done now.

After tootling around the springs for half a day we hiked out along the Pine Ridge Trail to Terrace Creek, where we broke for lunch (found more people who'd pooped in the stream which is once again you're only water source). Instead of continuing on the Pine Ridge Trail we took the Terrace Creek Trail out to Coast Ridge Road. Once you hit the road, you can follow the road, which is dirt and not well traveled, to the Ventana Inn. WARNING: To do the trail this way you need to leave at least one car at Ventana Inn before starting out at Big Sur Station. Also Terrace Creek Trail is not recommended for beginners, it is a long and steep climb from Pine Ridge to Coast Ridge Road). The views from Coast Ridge Road are spectacular, however it is definitely less wild and doesn't feel as remote as the Pine Ridge Trail. More information about the Pine Ride Trail and Skyes hots springs here.      
One of the many stunning views from Coast Ridge Road

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Oakland, I Love You!

So I moved, quit my job, got a new job, quit new job, got married, and am now moving again (this time across the country), and starting a new job.

I haven't been adventuring around Big Sur since moving to Oakland. I dearly miss Big Sur, but I've fallen in love with Lake Merritt, and Mt. Tamalpias (post coming soon). I live within walking distance of the lake (at least for the next two weeks), and it's wonderful. There's Fairy Land, the Lake Chalet, the Botanical Gardens and bonsai collection, and the park itself is just beautiful. My favorite thing about Lake Merritt is that it's actually not a lake, but an estuary. So every time I go walk around the lake my husband is terrified I'm going to fall in because I walk right on the edge and stare into the water. The algae, fishes, invertebrates, and birds that you'll see in and around Lake Merrit are just about the very last things I ever would have expected smack in the middle of Oakland.
Along side the exceptionally large Canada goose population that seems to be resident and non-migratory, you'll see more black-crowned night herons than anywhere else in the bay area. They just happened to be one of my favorite birds, with their compact little bodies and long white feathers decorating their heads.

I've only been living in Oakland for about 4 months, but I'm sad to be leaving this city. Oakland still has a bad reputation, and it's not completely unjustified. Luckily, that bad reputation keeps the rent lower than San Francisco, which in and of itself may have contributed to Oakland's gentrification. As San Francisco gets more and more expensive, the East Bay gets more and more attractive to young professionals and artists alike. Oakland is probably the most hipster city in the bay area - which has it's ups and downs. The downs being it's full of hipsters, the upside being it's full of hipsters and their incredibly cool restaurants and businesses. There are some really fantastic restaurants here, and I am most sad that 4 months is just not enough time to eat my way through my neighborhood, let alone the entire city. And talk about vegan/vegetarian food! Oh, so much meat-free goodness. There always seems to be vegetarian food wherever I travel, but that doesn't mean it's good. Oakland's vegetarian food is done right. I have seriously not had anything that wasn't worth eating. If you're vegan/vegetarian you'll know exactly what I mean.

Well, there's too many good things to say about Oakland to put them all in one post. It boils down to this: If you live in the Bay Area - you should come spend some time in Oakland. If you're planning a trip to the Bay Area - you should spend at least a day in Oakland. And you won't experience Oakland fully unless you eat some delicious food at a spectacular hipster establishment, check out Lake Merritt, and imbibe in some locally made wine, beer, or spirits.    

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Been Lazy (and Busy..)

So I've been neglecting my blog. I don't really know what to say for myself other that I've been busy, and when I'm not busy I'm really lazy. So there you have it. I'm in the midst of quitting my job, moving, and getting married so any down time I have is usually spent doing whatever the hell I want. Which lately has been staring at the wall and eating cookies.. Then I feel guilty because I figure I'm going to get fat and I've already ordered my dress, and how awkward would that be if it didn't fit on the big day.

I'm still adventuring around Big Sur, we actually had quite a bit of an adventure last weekend when we tried to hike to the Circular Pools. The hike is really easy for anyone who hikes a lot. Even if you don't hike a lot, I would imagine the most challenging part of this hike is the stream crossings. Right now, because of this awful drought, the crossings were really easy. The water is shallow, and if you don't mind getting wet you can just sort of trudge across the river quite safely. However, I did witness two people fall while crossing the river - one who was in our party had to be taken to the hospital. Before you freak out though, the person in our party isn't a hiker. She doesn't like hiking, she's never really gone hiking, and this was the first time she's hiked in a year. In fact, if her boyfriend hadn't tricked her into going -  she probably would have chosen to stay home. The point is however, be careful while crossing streams. I'm a total klutz so I ALWAYS pay attention while doing ANYTHING in the wilderness. Because our friend fell and hit her head before we got to the pools, we never actually made it. Although I'm determined to try again. It's a 8 mile round trip hike, so if you're not in shape it's probably going to be a bit strenuous, especially considering the streams and downed trees. The trail after Fish Camp isn't the best but certainly isn't the worst either. In terms of elevation change, it's relatively flat, and extremely flat by Big Sur standards. I am eager to try again, especially because it was so beautiful. The trail follows the Little Sur River, and you just kind of wind through the canyon. There were trout in the river, the river banks were so mossy they looked almost like something out of middle earth, and there were ferns and big trees galore. All I can think is that if the hike getting there was as pretty as it is the circular pools must be gorgeous. I'll update soon with pictures. I believe my Fiance has commandeered the flash disk that they're currently trapped on, but I'm not sure...