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NateKat · Family

Family

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We spent our 2015 Memorial Day weekend with Nathan’s parents in our nation’s capital.  Our visit was full of visiting the typical sights including many of the monuments, but the most impactful experience was seeing all the veterans honoring their comrades at various Memorial Day celebrations and in the parade.

Our Thanksgiving tradition is to visit Nathan’s family in San Diego.  It’s only a 4-day weekend, but we always try to make the most of it.  San Diego is a great city to visit, packed with a variety of activities.

San Diego La Jolla Tour

Nathan’s dad is also a certified tour guide so we took a great informative tour of the La Jolla coastline learning about the history, geography and current events in San Diego.

 

 

 

 

Wild Animal Park

We’ve been to the famous San Diego Zoo many times, so we thought it would be interesting to see the Wild Animal Park this time.  The exhibits are more spread out, so it was pretty exhausting, but we saw more young animals since this is the zoo’s breeding facility. The new tiger exhibit was also pretty cool in that it really let you see the Tigers close up.

 

 

 

Lobster Fishing

A few years ago we went lobster fishing and were really successful, catching several lobsters per person.  Ever since then, we’ve been trying to beat that experience, or at least match it. Unfortunately this year it was unusually windy, which meant we had to stay closer to the shore, likely hurting our chances. We caught three legal sized lobsters, but had more fun playing cards in the cabin between pulling pots.

 

 

 

Horseback Riding on the Beach

As a special treat, Nathan’s dad arranged for us all to go horseback riding on the beach! There are only a few places that still allow you to ride horses on the beach in California, so we were glad to get the opportunity.  We took a 2 hour ride along the Mexico border and out on to the beach.  It was fun to see how the horses personalities played out during the ride, even following the same track they always take. Despite our inexperience and some conflicting horse-human personalities, we all managed to stay safe and enjoy the ride. But two hours was more than enough for our unconditioned butts… we couldn’t get out of the saddle fast enough!

 

 

It was another great trip to San Diego, we are already thinking of what to do this year… maybe a trip out to the desert in Anza Borrego Park.

This year was really our first full fall season on the East Coast, so we tried to do a few hikes and activities to enjoy the weather and changing leaves. The warm weather of summer lingered this year, which extended the fall foliage season, but also meant there wasn’t a real ‘peak’ to the color. Still, before we knew it, the leaves were falling and winter was setting in! So we were glad to get out on the trail a few times.

Tohickon Creek Gorge & High Rocks Trail

Tohickon Creek Gorge is over an hour north of Philadelphia near the New Jersey border.  This was a short 4.5 mile hike starting from the Pleasant Valley Park parking lot winding through the woods to the High Rocks Trail.  There were a few nice views overlooking the Tohickon Creek Gorge, but the best colors were at the edge of the creek.

 Overlooking Tohickon Creek Gorge

 

Pulpit Rock & Pinnacles Loop

This hike is about an hour and a half northwest of Philadelphia.  This was a longer 8.7 mile loop with 1,300 feet of gain.  Much of the trail follows the AT (Appalachian Trail) including the two best views on the entire Pennsylvania stretch!

 

 View of Lehigh Valley

 Pulpit Rock

After reaching Pulpit Rock and Pinnacles we headed back down along Furnace Creek.

 AT

On our way back we ran into a couple lost kids about 10 years old who got separated from their mom and other siblings.  Luckily we were able to point them in the right direction, and their mom was eagerly waiting a mile down the trail.  The boys were only wearing shorts and looked very cold, definitely not prepared to spend the night out there!

This was our first hike over 5 miles in almost 2 months, so we were feeling pretty out of shape, but we kept a steady pace and still had smiles at the end!

 

Canoeing the Brandywine River

Nathan’s parents came to visit us and see the fall colors in October.  We thought what better way to see the leaves then from the slow moving Brandywine River in our own backyard!  This was our third time down the river this year, but it was our first time with the autumn colors.

 

 

Making it Challenging

Paradox Winery

We also all met up with Katharine’s parents at a local winery and enjoyed a few fall activities.

Nathan’s parents first corn maze after living in Iowa for almost 30 years!

Pedal Go-Carts!

Corn Cob Sling Shot!

Corn Cob Air Cannon!

It was a great fall season, but felt like it went too fast… We already have ideas for what we want to do next year!

Check out some of the other photos.

It’s been over 4 months since our last post!  In those 4 months we’ve been busy buying and fixing up our first house, catching up with friends and family, and of course working, but we have also managed to fit in a little exploration of the East Coast.  We are just way overdue on posting about it!

Back in April we drove down to Washington D.C. to see the world famous cherry blossoms.

 

We were lucky to have Katharine’s aunt Lisa as our very own tour guide to help navigate the metro and crowded Tidal Basin area.

 

 

This year the peak bloom, parade, and sunny weather all landed on the day that we visited, which created massive crowds lining the Tidal Basin and other monuments.

If you click on the photo to zoom you can see the Jefferson Memorial stairs covered in people

Although there were thousands of people, the trees were spectacular overflowing with blossoms.  When the wind blew, the trees showered the visitors with white and pink petals.

 

 

We don’t exactly love crowds, so we found the experience a little stressful and overwhelming, but it was clear why so many people were there.  The blossoms were amazing and totally lived up to the hype. The monuments, water, and cherry trees make for some unique sights and photos.

 

 

 

We can’t wait to get back to DC to visit the other monuments and the museums. We’ve both been before, but years ago. It’s nice to being so close to so many interesting cities out here!

By Katharine

We have finished with our Epic Trip! We made it home late on Friday night (10/11) and have been settling in to our new life rather than updating our blog and finishing up trip reports. But finally we are getting back into it, so here’s a write up on a few days of hiking in the Tetons with my family back in early September. There are still a lot of Epic Trip posts to come after this… Teton Crest Trail, Yellowstone NP, Great Basin NP, Zion Narrows, Grand Canyon, Balloon Fiesta, Jack Daniels Distillery, and more! So stay tuned 🙂

Day 40-43: Grand Teton National Park, WY (9/12-9/15)

Nathan took a break from the Epic Trip to visit his ill grandmother in San Diego while I stayed in the Tetons with my family. While the guys did another day of fishing, the girls did a nice hike around String Lake with baby Will (the cutest nephew a girl could ask for) in tow.

Alex was a champ carrying Will the whole way.

 

Will seemed to enjoy the ride, taking a nap at the beginning and then smiling the rest of the way.

 

 

Another afternoon we all hiked about halfway around Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls.

The whole family made it together, with rainbow colored backpacks!

As we were having lunch at Hidden Falls, it started raining pretty hard, so we hurried to the boat dock and took the boat back to the trailhead. It cut the afternoon a little short, but we managed to avoid getting soaked, so we considered it a win. It was a great day in the Tetons and great to get the whole family out!

 

 

We are currently backpacking in the Havasupai Indian Reservation (near Grand Canyon) which luckily is not affected by the government shutdown. We were fortunate to finish our Grand Canyon Rim to Rim backpack before the shutdown, and we are hoping the parks will be open by Sunday so that we can finish the rest of the trip as planned!

Day 37-39: Grand Teton National Park, WY (9/9-9/11)

We spent over a week in the Tetons since it’s one of our favorite parks and Katharine’s family and close family friends met us there.  This trip report only covers the wildlife we saw during our trip and some fishing on the Snake River.  There will be a couple more posts to come.

Grand Teton is one our favorite parks because it’s where we got engaged just over three years ago, but there’s a lot to like, especially all the wildlife.  In the mornings and evenings we would drive the park roads and keep an eye out for elk, moose, or bears.  This year we saw all three and then some.

 

 

 

 

 

Katharine’s dad and brother are avid fly fishermen and will jump at the idea of spending time in Jackson Hole.  We were lucky to join them on a float trip down the South Fork of the Snake river.  We started early in the morning catching fish in the river mist.

 

 

 

 

We spent so much time focused on the river and our flies drifting downstream that we often would forget to look up at the beautiful surroundings.  Osprey and Bald Eagles stalked the trout below, and every once in a while we’d see a bird flying off with a catch.

 

 

Nathan even got a chance at the oars while our guide started up the motor.

 

 Trout Fishing Pirates

After fishing we stopped at our guide’s house and were impressed by the domestic turkey and all the chickens.

 

There was one feisty rooster that didn’t like the looks of one of the guides hats.  Eventually the hat won and the rooster was caught.

 

 

Wildlife photography and fly fishing in the Grand Tetons… it doesn’t get much better than that!

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 39
  • Miles driven: 5189
  • Fish caught: 3
  • Pronghorn Antelope: Numerous
  • Bison: Numerous
  • Elk: Some
  • Moose: 4
  • Bears:1

 

Day 27-29: Seattle, WA (8/30-9/1)

While in Washington we also visited Nathan’s grandparents and his parents, who flew up from San Diego.  We met up with everyone at the Space Needle for lunch with a unique view of the city.  We celebrated Nathan (30 yrs), his dad (60 yrs) and his grandpa’s (80 yrs) birthdays this year. The ice cream dessert was in a dry ice bowl, which caught a lot of attention.

 

 

The skies were clear and the dinning area rotated several times during the lunch giving us a 360 view of the city.  After lunch we headed to the sky deck to take some photos.  We recommend the package deal of the lunch and sky deck tickets – it was well worth it.

 

 

The next day we visited the Pike’s Place Market, where we watched the famous fish throw.

 

We also had fish and chips at Ivar’s seafood bar, which in our opinion has the most unorganized ordering system in which you just yell out your order from the crowd and some how it all works out.  It’s not our style, but we got our food without any issue so we can’t complain too much.  We ate outside and watched kids feed the seagulls and when we say kids we are also including Nathan’s parents.

 

 

Nathan’s mom wasn’t so keen on the idea after the seagull took the french fry.

We also visited the first Starbucks, various craft booths, and the gum wall.

 

It is more of a gum alley than just a wall

The next morning we got up early to go salmon fishing in the Puget Sound.

Photo taken by Nathan’s Mom (family of artists)

When we got there the first impression of the boat was a little worrisome, but after a couple of hours we were anchored and casting our fishing lines over the rail.

 

Nathan was the only one to catch a salmon…but it was a little too small to keep.

 

Katharine caught the biggest fish, a rockfish, but we couldn’t keep it either.

 

We did catch a ton of flounder though, which the deckhand filleted and grilled with cheese while we motored back.  It was surprisingly pretty good, but then again what isn’t with cheese on top!

 

Although we didn’t catch any salmon it was fun spending time with Nathan’s family and listening to the endless jokes, banter, and stories.

That night, we had a nice dinner with Nathan’s grandma and got to share some photos of our epic trip so far.  It was fun to re-live the trip memories and realize all the places we’ve been so far.

It was a great visit with family and fun to see the city, but we were also eager to get back to the national parks and camping.

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 29
  • Nights in a tent: 19
  • Miles driven: 3826
  • Seagulls fed: 2
  • Salmon caught: 1
  • Flounder caught: 10+

We are currently in the Chicago O’Hare airport on our way back to Jackson Hole, WY after spending the weekend here to celebrate Katharine’s friends’ wedding. We had a great time in Chicago, but we are excited to get back to the mountains!

 

Epic Trip Day 19-21: Mt. Rainier National Park (8/22-8/24)

We spent about a week in the Seattle/Washington area using Katharine’s cousins Tom and Amy as a home base to explore the three national parks. Our first mini trip was to Mt. Rainier, and Tom and Amy joined us for a few days of day hiking and camping in the park. After almost a month of hiking on our own, it was fun to have some new hiking buddies and people to chat with along the way.

 

Mt. Rainier – Sunrise Area

We started in the northern Sunrise area of the park and Tom and Amy helped us pick a really nice loop trail to do. We had somewhat cloudy weather but were lucky enough to see the mountain for a decent portion of the hike.

 

 

We were also lucky enough to avoid getting rained on despite the ‘doomsday’ clouds rolling in.

 

 

We were often distracted and slowed down along the trail by marmots and pika… Nathan and Tom both had their telephoto lenses and creeped up on the mountain rodents to capture their cute faces.  The marmots were lazy and seemed to enjoy being photographed while pika were very timid and were hard to see amongst the rocks (but easy to hear).

 

Hoary Marmot

 

Pika

After the 7 mile hike, we realized we needed gas so we headed to the nearest town to fill up and had dinner at a dive bar. While we were gassing up, we saw our first elk of the trip… after spending days in Redwoods trying to see them, we got to see elk on the lawn of a motel across the street… not exactly the most wild experience, but it’s still always fun.

 

 

The next day we drove to the Paradise area of the park, which is the most popular for good reason. We did another loop hike and saw an amazing display of wildflowers.

 

The meadows were filled with marmots, including some babies, eating as many flowers as they could while others napped on rocks.

 

 

 

As we climbed a bit higher to Panorama point, the weather got very cloudy and foggy, so we didn’t actually see Mt. Rainier at all that day. But the marmot-palooza definitely kept us entertained!

On our third day we did a hike along a stream with several very impressive waterfalls. The trail description hadn’t really emphasized them, so it was a pleasant surprise.

 

 

 

Just as we reached the top of the climb and came out into the open in the meadow, Mt. Rainier was peaking through the clouds with a brief spot of blue sky. Within five minutes though, a new batch of clouds rolled in and completely covered it for the rest of the afternoon.

 

 

It turned out to be a great hike with enough of a climb that we felt like we really earned our view of the mountain. When we got back to the trailhead Tom and Amy headed back to Seattle and started driving towards Olympic NP.

 

Mt. Rainier NP is understandably centered around and focused on the mountain, but since the weather didn’t fully cooperate, we were more impressed by the flowers and wildlife. John Muir also visited Rainier, and his most famous quotation was actually about the flowers, not the mountain itself. So we’d definitely love to return and get a chance to hike (or snowshoe) around when the mountain is backed by blue skies.

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 21
  • Nights in a tent: 16
  • Miles driven: 2630
  • Miles hiked: 91
  • National Parks: 6

Day 17-18: Portland, OR (8/20-8/21)

After seeing the sunrise in Crater Lake, we started the drive back to civilization. Our first stop was in Eugene to visit a friend of Katharine’s from her study abroad semester and Fulbright year in Germany. It was great to catch up with Eleanor and meet her fiancé… sadly we completely failed to get a photo!

We continued on to Portland to see Katharine’s cousin Nancy. Nancy and Bill welcomed us into their beautiful home overlooking Portland and Mt. Hood with a delicious dinner and great conversation. They had just finished a remodel of their deck, which turned out beautifully and was a perfect place to relax in the evening.

View from the deck

 

That night we very gladly slept in a comfortable bed and managed to catch up on some sleep from the night before. In the morning we were again treated to a breakfast feast and then headed out for an adventure in Portland called the 4-T’s trail. The trail is actually a combination of Trail, Tram, Train, and Trolley and makes for an interesting way to explore the city. We started by hiking in the woods for a couple miles, then took a short tram ride down from the top of a hill, then took a trolley (street car) to downtown.

 

Once we got downtown, we checked out Powell’s books and did some people watching. Then we walked to Voodoo Donuts, a classic stop in Portland. We met up with Nancy there and got a couple crazy donuts for the road. The maple bacon was delicious and the traditional voodoo was surprisingly good despite the rather gruesome shape.

We had a great short visit in Portland, we definitely wish we had more time to explore the city and the great hiking around it.

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 18
  • Nights in a tent: 14
  • Miles driven: 2380
  • Miles hiked: 73
  • Square Footage of Powell’s City of Books: 68,000+

We headed to Dana Point with Nathan’s parents to try to observe bioluminescence organisms with the Ocean Institute.  It was a new moon and the weather was cooperating, but in the end the night cruise turned up a bit disappointing display of bioluminescence.  There is always some bioluminescence, but to really get the ‘wow factor’ you need a bloom of organisms that make the water glow instead of just a few sparks in the water.  The fog quickly surrounded us making it hard to see any faint horizon line at night.  We then got a little sea sick as the boat turned parallel to the waves and rolled back in forth in the fog. We were quite happy to make it back to calmer waters. On the way out to sea they pointed out some curious animals that are active at night including a few different types of birds and some new seal babies. The trip was a little expensive for a night cruise in the fog, but the crew was knowledgable, and if there was a way to predict that there would be a bioluminescence bloom happening on a particular night, then we would definitely recommend it.

Several weeks later, Katharine was camping at the beach north of Malibu (Thornhill Broome Beach) with two of her friends who were visiting LA. The waves were huge and crashing with quite a lot of force on the steep beach. As the sun began to set, we noticed that the waves seemed to be glowing and once it was fully dark, it was an amazing, indescribable show. The white water portion of every wave would glow in a very brilliant blue/green, then dissipate as the waves settled. It was probably a once in a lifetime experience; we talked to other campers who had been there for a whole week and only saw it that one night. Unfortunately Nathan wasn’t there to see it or capture it with his camera. Kim managed to get these photos of the waves and our tent with her camera; it’s a bit blurry, but it gives an idea of how bright the glowing was.

 

Other photos from the Ocean Institute boat trip:

 

 

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