Holly Geraldson Bucket List Adventures Kauai Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash @jakobowens1

Planning a Trip to Kauai

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Hawaii is one of my favorite places to visit. I spent a semester in college living in Honolulu and my mom and I took a hiking trip to Maui and Lanai a few years ago. One of my biggest goals in life is to visit every island in Hawaii.

Hawaii is six hours from the west coast. Check out my carry-on packing list to make your flight a breeze.

Since I’ve already been to Oahu, Maui, and Lanai, that leaves three more major islands: Molokai, the Big Island, and Kauai.

A few months ago, I saw a video on Facebook about a sugar plantation irrigation system that had been made into a tube run on Kauai. Since then, Kauai has been at the top of my list of where I want to travel to next.

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When I’ll Go

Kauai Garden Isle Waterfall Aerial photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash @jakobowens1

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Kauai, the Garden Isle, is the wettest of the Hawaiian Islands. This damp climate makes the island lush and beautiful, but it also makes some parts of the year better times to visit than others. Spring and fall are arguably the best times to visit, because it isn’t too wet and it isn’t too hot and there aren’t too many crowds, but I plan on visiting in winter. November through March is the rainy season on Kauai, but it’s also humpback whale migration season. I’ve never seen a whale in real life, so I’m excited to have to chance to spot some.

Where I’ll Stay

There are four major areas on Kauai to choose from: the North Shore, the South Shore, the West Side, and the East Coast, or Coconut Coast. The Guide of US: Hawaii website lists the pros and cons of each area.

The Coconut Coast sounds perfect for me. It has plenty to do, from learning about Hawaiian culture to trying out new activities, but it’s also a convenient spot if you want to explore the whole island.

The Coconut Coast has plenty of big hotels and resorts if that’s your thing. I like the charm of something a little smaller. Fern Grotto Inn in Kapaa looks adorable and has great reviews on Yelp. The plantation cottages are located along the Wailua River and have bikes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and beach gear for guests to borrow. There are no restaurants on the property and breakfast isn’t served, but each cottage has a full kitchen or kitchenette so you can feel a little less like you’re on vacation and a little more like Kauai is your home.

What I’ll Do

Tubing

That video of tubing down a sugar plantation’s irrigation system is what shot Kauai to the top of my list of places I want to go.  Kauai Backcountry Adventures offers zipline adventures as well as tubing. Their mission of providing eco-tourism activities means you can have fun without worrying about hurting the environment. Kauai Backcountry Adventures helped restore the plantation irrigation system that is used for their Mountain Tubing Adventure, so you can learn about the Kauaian history they’ve helped preserve as you float down the canals.

Hiking

If you love the outdoors, Kauai is the best island in Hawaii for you. There are hundreds of hiking trails on Kauai, so it’s easy to find a place to explore no matter your skill level.

Sleeping Giant Trail

The Sleeping Giant Trail, or Nounou Trail, on Nounou Mountain is only 2 miles to a picnic area, but it’s far from easy. There’s a 1,000 foot elevation gain and the trail can be hazardous, especially when it’s wet. From afar, you’ll be able to make out the sleeping giant who forms the mountain. Legend says the giant was tricked by villagers into eating rocks hidden in fish. He fell asleep after the meal and still hasn’t awoken. The trail switchbacks up the mountain to the giant’s chest, where you can stop for lunch and admire the breathtaking views of the island and the ocean.

Kalalau Trail

Kauai Na Pali Coast Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash @jakobowens1

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

The Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast State Wilderness Park is one of the most difficult and dangerous trails in Hawaii, but also one of the most rewarding. The 11 mile long trail has an 800 foot elevation gain and some of the most beautiful views in the world. The trail, originally built in the 1800s and rebuilt in the 1930s, begins begins at Haena State Park and winds through five valleys before ending at Kalalau Beach.

The first part of the trail is a 2 mile day hike to Hanakapiai Beach. Even though it’s only 2 miles, this part of the trail isn’t easy. It crosses the Hanakapiai River, which meets the ocean, causing dangerous currents. Swimming in the ocean or the river can be dangerous and plenty of people have drowned here.

Beyond Hanakapiai Valley, you must have an overnight camping permit. There are campsites at Hanakoa and Kalalau, and while it’s possible for experienced hikers to reach Kalalau in one day, it may be better to take your time and stop at Hanakoa overnight. Remember, you’ll be hiking along switchbacks into and out of valleys and along dangerous ridges while carrying heavy gear. Stay safe and enjoy the views.

NOTE: The Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, including the Kalalau Trail, are currently closed due to flood damage. The Milolii section of the park will be reopened soon, but most of the park will remain closed for at least three months until repairs can be done.

Kuilau Ridge Trail

If you’re looking for an easier trail, Kuilau Ridge beginning in the Keahua Arboretum may be right for you. The trail is just over 2 miles each way and an elevation gain of just under 500 feet. While it doesn’t have the spectacular views of other, more intense trails, it does have plenty of beautiful native and non-native plants to admire and birds and other wildlife to watch for, as well as views of Mt. Waialeale, arguably the wettest place on earth. A small wooden bridge marks the end of the Kuilau Ridge Trail, but you can continue on the marked path that becomes the Moalepe Trail.

Don’t forget to dress appropriately and bring food and lots of water for your hike. Before any hike, you should always check the weather and let someone know where you’re going and what time you plan to be back.

Snorkeling & Diving

Honu Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Kauai Hawaii Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash @tentides

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

If you’ve never been snorkeling before, Lydgate Park is a safe and fun place to practice your skills. However, it’s very popular and there isn’t much to see besides fish. If you’re a more confident snorkeler, Nualolo Kai on the Na Pali coast is an incredible place with so much to see. The beach is protected by a barrier reef featuring lots of healthy coral as well as plenty of fish. You may even see some monk seals lounging on the beach. Not all tours go to Naulolo Kai, so be sure to book with one that does. If you’re looking for an adventure beyond just snorkeling, Kauai Sea Tours’ Na Pali Coast Snorkel Raft Adventure will take you into sea caves and under waterfalls as you learn about some of Kauai’s history and legends.

If you have your scuba certification, Kauai has lots to see under water. Since Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, its reefs have had more time to develop than the other islands, giving it rich biodiversity. Humpback whales, spotted eagle rays, and manta rays can be seen in the winter, and there are plenty of tropical fish and sharks to see. What I’m most excited about, however, are the honu, or Hawaiian green sea turtle. My mom and I saw a few when we were snorkeling on Maui, but other tourists quickly chased them off before we could really admire them or get some pictures. Remember, wildlife should be enjoyed from afar and not interfered with!

There are plenty of dive shops on Kauai to help you get in the water. PADI‘s Find A Dive Shop search makes it really easy to find a Five Star Dive Center or Resort wherever you go. Seasport Divers caters to all skill levels, whether you’ve been diving for years or are just dipping your toes into the water. They even have different charter trips for divers of different skill levels. If you have plenty of experience, you can head out on the morning trip, but if you’re new to diving or less confident in your skills, the afternoon trip is for you. On Tuesdays and Fridays, Seasport Divers also offers a trip for experienced divers to Niihau, the Forbidden Island, which is privately owned and off-limits to most people. If you’re not yet certified or, like me, haven’t been diving in a while, you’ll still be able to get a few dives in after some lessons in the pool. You can even get the ultimate souvenir by completing your Open Water certification in Kauai!

Whale Watching

Humpback Whale Breaching Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash @amyjoyhumphries

Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash

Winter is whale watching season on Kauai. The kohola, or humpback whales, spend December through May in Hawaii’s warm waters breeding and giving birth to calves. While there are plenty of vantage points to see the whales from the shore, a tour or charter boat can get you up close (but not too close!) to these playful giants. Blue Dolphin Kauai‘s whale watching tours also offer hydrophones, so you can hear the whales talking as well as seeing them play.

surfing

Surfer Photo by Ryan Magsino on Unsplash @rymagsino

Photo by Ryan Magsino on Unsplash

Even though I’ve been to Hawaii a few times, I’ve never tried surfing. I’m used to calm lake waters, so the idea of intentionally going out into the waves seems scary. However, just because something is scary, doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, and I always like to challenge myself and try new things.

There are a lot of places that offer surfing lessons all over the island, but some of the best reviews I’ve seen are for Learn to Surf on the East Shore. Lessons last an hour and a half and kids as young as 5 can participate, so this is a great way to spend the morning having fun with your family.

You can surf the Great Lakes! Read my article about lake surfing here.

kayaking

Kayaking is an amazing way to experience Kauai, but it isn’t for everyone. If you’re prepared for a challenging adventure, Kayak Kauai has several options for ocean tours. Spend a few hours, a day, or several days exploring Kauai’s beautiful coastline from the water. Be aware that tours can change or be canceled due to weather. The one-day tour of the Na Pali coast is not offered in fall or winter.

If you’re not quite up to kayaking in the ocean, Kayak Kauai also offers a tour on the Wailua River to Wailua Falls. This kayaking and hiking tour is much more relaxing than the ocean kayaking tours, making it perfect if you’re looking for a less strenuous adventure.

NOTE: As mentioned with the Kalalau Trail above, flooding has altered access to many areas on Kauai, which affects some of these tours. Always check the website for any tour you plan on booking or call the company to get the latest information on any tour changes.

Don’t forget to pack…

Sunscreen

 

Badger Balm Sunscreen is reef safe, so you know coral will be as safe from you as you are from the sun when you hit the beach. Most sunscreens contain oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate, or 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, all of which damage coral reefs. Always check the ingredients before purchasing sunscreen to be sure you’re doing your part to protect our environment.

A cute swimsuit

 

Any time there’s a beach, a cute swimsuit is important. Whether you’re playing in the water or laying on the sand reading some trashy romance novel with Fabio on the cover, you want to look good.

This adorable one piece from Eomenie has adjustable straps, so there are several different options for how to wear it. I love switching it up, so this suit is great for when you want to pack light, but have a new look every day.

I love halter tops, so this beautyin bikini caught my eye when I was searching for swimsuits. It comes in several different floral patterns, but the one constant is the adorable striped top.

Can you tell I like stripes? This Cupshe bandeau one piece is so cute! You can wear it strapless or with the removable halter if you’re like me and need a little extra support.

Water shoes

If you’re going tubing, you’re going to need water shoes. These ALEADER water shoes are actually pretty cute, which is not something you expect from water shoes. They’re also sturdy, so they can hold up to any adventure you take them on.

An Underwater Camera

 

There’s so much to see beneath the surface in Kauai and you should have a camera that can capture it all. The camera I use right now is a GoPro, which is great for when you want to focus on the experience and worry about what you got on film later. If you’re looking for more control of your images and footage, a SeaLife camera is a great option that has plenty of add-ons so you can customize your camera for your exact needs.

What does your dream vacation look like? Let me know where you’d go and what you’d do in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Travel Diaries Lake Washington Arboretum Waterfront Trail Header Image

Walking the Lake Washington Arboretum Waterfront Trail

Recently I took a trip to Seattle to visit my friend Steven. He’s lived there for a little while now, and while spring isn’t the best time to get outside and do things, he was excited to show me around.

Sign at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA Trail along Lake Washington

One of the first places he took me is the Washington Park Arboretum, which is super pretty. My favorite part of the trip was the Arboretum Waterfront Trail along the edge of Lake Washington.

Map and information about the Arboretum Waterfront Trail near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The trail is a 1/2 mile long. Most of it is pretty muddy and the parts that aren’t are floating walkways that allow you to walk across the water from Foster Island to Marsh Island.

Steven walking along the muddy Arboretum Waterfront Trail in the marsh along Lake Washington near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The Arboretum Waterfront Trail is in the largest wetland in Seattle, hence all the mud. The floating walkways give beautiful views of Lake Washington, but a lot of the trail is actually in the marshes on the lake’s edge. Willow and birch trees hide the lake from view in these areas, but there’s still plenty to see. If you watch carefully, you may spot some dragonflies, marsh wrens, or even a turtle.

Sign showing prohibited activities on the Arboretum Waterfront Trail along Lake Washington near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The marsh is a fragile environment, so bikes, runners, and dogs are not allowed.

Since the trail is all mud and floating walkways, it’s not accessible for wheelchairs or strollers and you should be prepared to get a little dirty.

Holly standing on the steps of the raised observation platform overlooking Lake Washington on the Arboretum Waterfront Trail near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

There is a raised observation platform on Foster Island as well as several other platforms on Marsh Island, but they don’t look very well maintained. Steven assured me that the observation platform was *probably* safe, but the wood looked like it would give way at any moment, so I didn’t want to risk going all the way up to the platform. Even getting on the steps was tricky, since there was a mud pit in front of the platform and the bottom step was missing.

A bench in the marsh on Marsh Island in Lake Washington on the Arboretum Waterfront Trail near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

The benches along the trail looked just as dilapidated and unsafe as the platforms.

Save This Trail sign from Seattle Parks and Recreation for the Arboretum Waterfront Trail along Lake Washington near the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, WA

At the end of the trail is a sign from Seattle Parks and Recreation asking for help in preserving and improving the trail. If you’ve used the Arboretum Waterfront Trail, be sure to take the survey about how often you go, your favorite activities, and how to improve the trail, or email garrett.farrell@seattle.gov with how you would like to see the trail preserved or improved.

Saline Valley Death Valley Sand Dunea

New Year’s in Saline Valley

My boyfriend, Bryce, and his friends have a tradition of camping in Saline Valley for New Year’s. This was my first year going with them.

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It was getting dark as we headed into the desert, and the view of the joshua trees against the sunset and the mountains rising up in the distance was beautiful. Saline Valley is surrounded by mountains, both from the Sierra Nevada Range and the Inyo Mountains. As we drove in over washes that made the road almost impassable (completely impassable to 2-wheel drive vehicles), I was told that when it gets cold, the three passes into the valley can become snowed in and visitors can be trapped in Saline Valley for up to a week while they wait for the snow to melt. We lost phone service almost immediately after leaving Lone Pine, the last town before the valley, so a week trapped in Saline means a week with no way to contact the outside world.

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As we drove through the mountains via South Pass, Bryce and his cousin George talked about hearing about a car that had flipped on the way in, as well as a Jeep Cherokee that had caught fire and been abandoned. When we arrived at our campsite, Bryce’s cousin Doug and his wife Dana told us they had heard about a car flipping on North Pass as well. The car that had flipped on South Pass was gone by the time we drove in, but we passed the burnt out Cherokee. It was still there when we left four days later.

Saline Valley has historically been home to nomadic communities. The original inhabitants were the Timbisha Shoshone and their ancestors. Petroglyphs from these ancient peoples can still be found in parts of the Valley. Some of our group had hiked to find some of these petroglyphs before and Bryce’s cousin Doug was able to show us where they were. It was amazing standing in a place and knowing that thousands of years before, other people had stood in that place and made these markings on the rocks.

Salt mining began in the valley in the early 1900s. Bryce had pointed out some salt flats as we drove into the desert. Most of Saline Valley is a dry lake, part of which is still a salt marsh. A tram had been built to carry the salt from the valley over the Inyo Mountains to the Owens Valley on the other side of the mountains. The remains of this tram, the steepest ever constructed in the United States, is still in the valley along with other remnants of the salt mining operation.

Much of the salt flat is solid enough to walk on if you’re careful. If you step wrong, it’s easy to punch through the salt to fall into the water and mud beneath. Bryce and I had fun finding salt crystals in the footprints of people who had stepped through the salt. As the salt forms into crystals, other minerals are drawn out, giving the crystals layers of colors beneath the white salt.

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In more modern times, the hot springs in the valley drew hippies who built the tubs at the campground we were headed to. Water is piped from the sources of the springs to the four tubs for visitors to soak in.

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The upper springs at the north end of the campground has the Volcano Pool and the Wizard Pool. Wizard Pool is named after Wizard, who was camp host, a permanent resident and caretaker of the valley, until his death. I heard the pool was named after him because he once spent an entire day soaking in it and drinking beers without ever getting out.

The lower springs at the south end of the campground has the Sunrise Pool and the Crystal Pool, the spout of which is surrounded by crystals found nearby. There’s also a grassy area next to the lower springs, along with a koi pond and another small tub.

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I was the only first-time visitor from our group, so I was shown where the showers are to rinse off in and where the footbath to rinse your feet at each pool is. I had been told that most of the visitors to the springs were old timers who had been coming for years, but they clearly weren’t the secret oasis they once were. There were more young people than old timers and many seemed not to know the rules about showering and rinsing your feet to keep the hotpots clean for everyone.

The spirit of the original builders of the oasis prevails in the modern day and most people soak nude in the hotpots, though there are still many who choose to wear swimsuits.

Though secrecy of the hot springs’ location is encouraged to protect them from an influx of tourists and people who won’t respect the communal atmosphere, I heard plenty of rumors of famous visitors through the years. The most legendary of these was Charles Manson, who several people told me had visited with some of his followers.

Most of Saline Valley became part of Death Valley National Park in 1994, which brought new regulations to the springs. While before there had been many people who were permanent or semi-permanent residents, now there is a 30 day per year limit on how long visitors can stay. The exceptions are camp hosts, like Wizard. The current camp host is Lizard Lee, who oversees the care and cleanliness of the springs.

The annexation into Death Valley National Park created a controversy for the springs. The improvements of creating the hotpots with water piped from the sources and the green space and pond would not have been allowed had it happened as part of a national park. However, these improvements were created and became a beloved part of the valley before annexation. There have been suggestions of dismantling the hotpots and green spaces and returning the springs to their natural state, but for now it seems those plans are on hold.

I’m lucky that plans for dismantling the hotpots have not yet been put into action. Spending the new year surrounded by friends and strangers all brought together by a sense of community and a love for the desert and the springs was an amazing experience. I can’t wait to see what new adventures lie in store for me this year that will lead me back to Saline Valley.

Thanks to George and Bryce for contributing photos to this post.

Traveling the Northwoods

This weekend my boyfriend, Bryce, and I are going Up North. My family’s cabin is in one of the towns just north of Minocqua, WI, so we will be doing plenty out on the lake. Unfortunately, it’s getting cold early this year, so we probably won’t be doing much swimming.

Kayaking is one of my favorite things to do at the cabin, so I’m sure we’ll take plenty of trips around the lake. There’s so much wildlife to see no matter the time of year. At the beginning of the summer there were some loons nesting on the lake. There are also beavers and sometimes otters who live on the lake and eagles who next in the trees on the shore.

The woods are great for hiking, even with all the mosquitos. Northern Wisconsin is home to white deer. If we’re lucky, we’ll catch a glimpse of one. The white deer are just regular white tail deer with a genetic trait that makes them all white instead of brown.

On Friday we will probably head a few towns over to Manitowish Waters to eat at Little Bohemia Lodge, where John Dillinger had a shootout with the FBI in 1934.

There is so much to do in the Northwoods and it’s a beautiful place to visit. Every lake is different and it’s so fun to explore them all. If you ever get a chance to spend a weekend Up North, I encourage you to do so.

Hiking Roche-A-Cri State Park

If you follow my YouTube channel, you know that I hate the Wisconsin DNR website. A lot of the hiking areas on the site don’t have maps or information about what kinds of plants and animals are in the state parks.

They did a little bit better with Roche-A-Cri State Park in Friendship, Wisconsin. There’s even a map of the park showing all the trails.

The first stop I’m going to make on my trip to Roche-A-Cri is at Ship Rock. Ship Rock isn’t in the park, but it’s a wayside on Highway 21 just east of the park. There isn’t much to see there, but I’ve driven past Ship Rock several times and I’ve always wanted to stop to get some pictures.

At Roche-A-Cri Park, I plan on hiking the Mound Trail, which is 0.3 miles. There are stairs up to an observation deck on top of Roche-A-Cri Mound. Since the mound is a State Natural Area, you can’t leave the stairway and observation deck in order to preserve the area for everyone to enjoy.

After the Mound Trail, I’m going to take Chickadee Rock Nature Trail, which is another 0.3 miles. This trail is also handicap accessible.

At Chickadee Rock, I’m going to go right on the Acorn Trail and go back around the mound to see some petroglyphs. The Acorn Trail is 3.55 miles, but I won’t hike the whole thing.

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Hiking Devil’s Lake

Devil’s Lake State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Wisconsin. It’s known for the beautiful pink quartzite bluffs that overlook the lake as well as all the activities the park has to offer. Camping and swimming are some of the most popular activities. The park also has 29 miles of hiking trails, including sections of the Ice Age Trail, and the bluffs make Devil’s Lake one of the best rock climbing areas in the midwest.

My boyfriend, Bryce, and I are planning a day trip to Devil’s Lake this sunday. We’ll just be hiking and maybe swimming, since rock climbing isn’t my thing.

The last time I was at Devil’s Lake was last October, when I hiked the Balanced Rock Trail with a group of other hikers. The fall colors were out in force in October, so I’m excited to get some sunnier pictures this trip.

 

This time I want to do the Potholes Trail, which is extremely difficult and steep, but has amazing rock formations, making the hard climb worth it. The trail is only .3 miles, but the difficulty of it means it should take about two hours to hike.

Planning a hike at Effigy Mounds National Monument

My boyfriend has a friend visiting from California this week, so we’re planning to take her hiking at Effigy Mounds National Monument.

An effigy mound is an indian mound shaped like an animal. Most of the ones at Effigy Mounds National Monument are shaped like bears and birds, as well as a few that are just rectangles or circles grouped together to make patterns. The effigy mounds were built by various peoples collectively known as the Mound Builders during the Late Woodland Period.

Bryce and I had taken Rascal and Moky there a few weeks ago. We hiked in the North Unit of the park, out to Twin Views and back around the loop to Fire Point and Eagle Rock, which is just over three miles. This time we plan to go all the way to Hanging Rock at the end of the trail, which is a seven mile hike.

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It’s free to enter the park and dogs are allowed on the trails, but not in the visitor’s center. I recommend looking around the visitor’s center before hiking in the park. There is a lot of historical information and information about the animals and plants in the park that will give you a better understanding of what you’re seeing.

The mounds themselves are too big to capture in one photograph, at least from the ground. The trails are well maintained, so it’s clear what areas you should walk on. The grass on the mounds is left longer so it’s clear where they begin and end.

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All of the overlooks have beautiful views of the Mississippi, so if you stop for a few minutes, you can watch the boat traffic go by.

There’s a lot of wildlife to see in the park. Bryce and Rascal and Moky saw a turkey bumbling through the brush while I was distracted by a dragonfly, but I’ll have a better eye out this time.

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Getting all the way out to Hanging Rock is going to be tiring, and we’ll be leaving really early in the morning, so I plan on taking some RuckPack energy shots. They’re healthier than normal energy drinks and energy shots because they use natural ingredients and rely on nootropics instead of lots of caffeine to keep you going. Use coupon code BB026 to get 20% off your order here.

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