September 10th, 2016. That's the day everything changed. I left my California life behind and began my new adventure - a life that would take me 5,000 miles across the country to my new home in Mount Vernon, New York.
"Wait..." you may say, "it's only 3,000 miles from CA to NY..."
Well, it is 3,000 miles...if you go straight there.
However I'm not about that simple, direct route type of life. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to do things the fun way. My reasoning was - I'm driving across the country! Who knows when I'll do that again? So I might as well take advantage and visit all the places I've been wanting to see, even if it's a little off the main road. And that's exactly what I did.
Let me first back up a bit and tell you a little about this move I was making. This whole move/trip had been in the works concretely since January. I was 25 and ready for a major life change. A lot of my friends were doing amazing things in their lives - getting married, learning new languages, spending months at a time volunteering in foreign countries, having babies, moving away... It just felt like everything was changing (as life tends to do) and I was ready for a change too. I had lived in California my whole life, literally in 3 different cities all within a 20 mile radius, and I was ready to experience something new, to do something scary...
I have always wanted to live in New York, I had traveled there at least 6 or 7 times on vacation and by the last time I vacationed there, I was done. I was just ready to be living there already. I had been wanting to move there for years, and this year was finally going to be the year. I was ready.
I spent months planning out my route, exploring the different stops along the way, and figuring out the places I wanted to explore. At the very tippy top of my list was Jasper National Park. For those of you who don't know what or where Jasper is... it's the most beautiful park in all of North America (in my opinion so far) and it's in Canada. It has beautiful landscapes, natural lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, and the Canadian Rockies along the Trans-Canada Highway are just breathtaking. I had been following @tourismjasper on Instagram for quite some time and I was determined to make it a significant part of my trip. Also, I planned on visiting Portland, Seattle, Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, and Chicago.
So when the time came to finally say goodbye to my family, it was probably one of the hardest things I had ever done in my life. After the tears, well wishes, prayer, and hugs, I finally got in my car... and I left.
The entire drive up to Oregon I had a feeling deep in my chest that is difficult to put into words. Anyone who's done something incredibly scary, life-altering, and slightly unknown by themselves... probably knows the feeling I'm talking about... Fear. Uncertainty. Sadness... Coupled with Hope. Optimism. Excitement. Not really sure if you're going to survive, but knowing that even if you don't, it'll make a great story.
So off I went on this thrilling new adventure. The following photos are just highlights of the amazing things I witnessed and experienced on this 5,000 mile journey. A camera could never do justice to seeing something with your own eyes, but hopefully these photos can inspire others to go out there and experience the world in the same fashion - by doing something that scares you, excites you, and challenges you!
Also, I just want to give a quick special shout out to everyone who supported me in this move, especially my Mom. She flew out to meet me in Seattle and did a good chunk of the trip with me. She took care of me when I got sick (of course) and we laughed, feared for our lives, shivered, gawked at nature, took so many photos, and just had a wonderful time together.
Anyway, without further delay, I present to you my first stop - Oregon!
The coast in Oregon is just as beautiful as the California coast, if not more so. Lined with steep cliffs, jagged rocks, and rough waves, Highway 1 lives up to it's reputation and could easily make for a trip in itself. Unfortunately, I only had a few hours to spend here before I had to finish making my way to Portland.
Next stop - the Columbia River Gorge! Featuring Horsetail Falls, the Oneonta Gorge, Multnomah Falls, views from Crown Point, and the top of Larch Mountain.
That's me, defying death as always. Scaring poor Sheila to death (but she takes my photo anyway haha)
Next stop - Portland! Truly a great city. Not only is it clean, next to all this awesome nature, accessible with a bajillion bridges, but it also has great food and it doesn't seem to be overcrowded. In fact...the streets were eerily empty when we were there. Of course I visited Powell Books, Voodoo Donuts, and walked around downtown.
I didn't exactly go nuts with the photography in the city. I was all about the nature on this trip.
Anyway, special thanks to Sheila, Jack, Naomi, and Doug for being such wonderful hosts for me while in Portland and making me feel like I was part of the family. Can't wait to see these guys again when I come back for a visit. I've got a lot of hikes to do in Oregon!
Next stop - Washington! On my way up I snagged my friend CeeCee and she joined me for my couple of days visiting Washington and Seattle. Our first little adventure was looking for the Vance Creek Viaduct inside the Olympic National Forest...
We had to drive for quite a while, maneuver over a horrible dirt road, hike through private property (I do not endorse this, we were pretty nervous about doing it), until finally we arrived at the Vance Creek Bridge... only to discover it had been partially dismantled and no one short of a crossfit rock-climbing machine could climb up the beams to get up there. (Where I took this photo from was not from on the bridge, I was standing about 50 feet behind the bridge's first beams on a dirt mound that was at the same height as the bridge and where the beginning of it used to be...but was no longer connected. My zoom lens just makes it look like I'm on the bridge). Anyway, it was a sad moment for me, since I really wanted to explore this bridge. But ah well, I'm sure there's more like this one out there somewhere.
We started driving further along in the forest, and we realized that if we wanted to get to Cape Flattery (the most North Western point in the continental US) we would have to drive another 3 hours there, barely catch the sunset, and then drive another 4 hours back to Seattle to get to our hotel... Yikes. We weren't sure what to do....so we flipped a coin and let fate decide...
I guess fate wanted us to go to Cape Flattery.
And thank goodness!!! I'm so glad we decided to go, it was definitely a highlight of my Washington visit. Cape Flattery is so beautiful, especially since it's a well maintained trail that leads to the most gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean. Just look at the photos, I wont even try to describe it...
That's Canada up there ^ I was really excited to see it because I had never been up until this point and was so excited to go I almost skipped Seattle altogether. I'm glad I didn't though. Seattle is pretty cool too.
So after watching the sunset, we packed up the car and headed back on the road for our 4 hour drive back to Seattle. Will I ever do that again? No. But am I glad I did it that one time? Yes. Am I going to keep asking myself questions and then answering them? Maybe.
Seattle was a neat little city. I wish I had known some people who lived there who could've shown me around or something as I didn't do too much research on Seattle before getting there. But I did manage to find this park that had a nice view of the city and Mount Rainier (I think). I also enjoyed visiting the first Starbucks, the Public Library, and the Pike Place Market.
Side note - If you can't tell already, some of these photos were taken with my phone... Just don't want anyone to think my camera quality suddenly drops randomly haha. Although frankly, this phone's camera is AMAZING - the Samsung Galaxy S7. So glad I got it before starting this trip... I highly recommend if you want a phone with an exceptional camera.
Anyway back to the story! This is the part in the trip where my Mom flew out to meet me. I picked her up from the Seattle airport and immediately we were off to Canada. Our first stop for just a few hours was Vancouver where we ate and walked around on Granville Island - a really cute little area under the bridge.
Yes that is a BACON Bloody Mary - in Canada it's called a Caesar. Lord knows why.
After spending a few hours walking around, looking for wifi, exchanging money, and mapping out our route, we finally were headed to JASPER!!!
The drive there was such a dream. But we had no idea how much better it was going to get really...
We made it!!! Oh man I was SO happy. We hadn't even gotten a chance to explore yet, but already I was in heaven.
Our first morning involved an encounter with some majestic wildlife at our campsite in Whistlers. We woke up in the morning and was hearing what I thought to be some strange bird calls... I thought to myself "What in the world kind of bird makes a sound like that??" Eventually the sound got closer so I figured I'd pop my head out of the tent and see what this bird was...
Standing outside of our tent, no more than 4 feet away, was a massive bull Elk. His antlers seemed to be as tall as the trees... and he was staring right at me.
Now keep in mind, we had been warned multiple times - by the pamphlets we received when we entered the park, the rangers, the posters at the rangers station, and the internet - that this is the Elk mating season... and the Bull Elk are aggressive! So stay at least 20 feet away from them at all times, since they have been known to charge at people.
Well here we are, myself and my mom, sitting in a tiny little orange tent with no escape and this big bull elk is staring right at us not even 4 feet away. He was probably contemplating whether or not to stomp us to death without mercy. We closed that tent flap so fast, and silently stared wide-eyed at each other with our mouths gaping. Maybe if we were quiet enough and he couldn't see us anymore he would go away...
Funny logic now that I'm looking back haha, but I guess it worked. He didn't care about us anymore and he walked off.
Of course me being me, I ran to my car to grab my camera. Fumbling and stumbling with my shoes untied and trying to dress myself and track down this elk at the same time, I stealthily searched around the campsite. Shortly I found myself in my neighbor's site where a group of cow elk (the ladies) were grazing.
Aren't they cuties?? And it wasn't long before the bull Elk came back around again...
He looked much bigger in person...
Over the next few days we traversed all of Jasper, visiting the lakes, rivers, waterfalls, stores in the downtown, and stalking the wildlife some more of course.
Below is some shots from Pyramid Lake and the surrounding area.
Next, I present Lake Maligne and the world famous Spirit "Island" - which I learned is really only an island once every however-many years when the lake level rises and covers the little strip of land connecting Spirit Island to the rest of the walk-able world. Talk about a misleading name! You can't even walk out there, "the man" wont let you... and by "the man" I mean the Park Service... specifically our boat Captian... who was actually a woman.
Following Spirit Island is Moose Lake. Contrary to the name we did not see any Moose. (They really should change the name of Lake Maligne to Lake Misleading) Despite the lack of Moose presence, this was probably my favorite spot. It was quiet, a short hike out of the way so not many people were there. I'm always in favor of non-touristy spots. And this little lake just stole my heart.
On our way back that night, we saw... A BEAR!!!! I was sooo happy!
My photos suck because it all happened too fast and we were inside my car.
But who cares, I saw an adorable black bear!
Isnt he adorable??
We tried to pull over and follow the bear at a distance to get better photos, but he ran off too quickly and we couldn't find him again :(
More Elk... One guy was ready for his close up... Then he noticed a lady Elk that walked by and was all like "Whoa baby" and let out one of his mating calls... then seemed to look back like "Did she hear me?"
This was SO funny to me haha, I guess all males are the same really...
Our final day in Jasper we drove down the Trans-Canada highway. It was seriously one of the most beautiful drives I have ever taken in my life. The road gently rolls through the Canadian Rockies providing breathtaking vistas of the mountains, lakes, trees, meadows, waterfalls, and even a glacier.
At one point the landscape changed so quickly that one minute we were by a bright blue lake with autumn leaves and a sunny sky... and the next minute we were by a snow covered mountain with snow falling from the sky and covering the ground. Amazing.
We finally made it to Banff where we saw Lake Louise and walked around the downtown. They have free wifi in the entire downtown area of Banff. Even on the streets. It was very cool! Overall I think I liked Jasper better though... Jasper's just more low key and less touristy. I feel like Banff is nature for people who like hotels, shopping, and convenience, and Jasper is nature for people who really like to explore, camp, and be away from it all while contemplating the meaning of life... Which is exactly how I like it.
Our next stop was Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.
Within 5 minutes of being inside Yellowstone we saw a Buffalo. My mom and I both shout "Tatonka!!!" (Dances With Wolves anyone?) I flip the car around 2 Fast 2 Furious style and get way too close to that Buffalo. Granted, this was being not even 5 minutes inside the park, so I hadn't gotten a chance to read about the Buffalo attacks and not being closer than 20 yards or whatever. Oh well. I lived.
I think he liked me actually.
No offense, but Old Faithful is seriously overrated.
Grand Prismatic Spring was cool though! I want to visit in the summer when it's less steamy (and hopefully the trail that goes up the hill is open by then)
Next up - The Grand Tetons! Special thanks to my great Uncle Paul who works at the GT Park in the summers. He kindly chauffeured us around and gave us the grand tour. He knew where all the good photo spots were! He also told us a lot of fun facts about the parks... none of which I can remember right now.
The last leg of my trip was mostly the drive from Yellowstone to Chicago - BORING!! No photos of that. Nebraska is seriously the most boring state ever. Iowa is not much better. No offense to anyone who lives there. But like seriously I was falling asleep at the wheel in the middle of the day...
Okay you can see one photo.
Okay so after hours and hours and hours of that awful nothingness...
We made it to Chicago!
The weather didn't really cooperate with us too much after the first day, it was pretty overcast and rainy. But it did clear up enough for us to get some good photos. I do have to say - Chicago is clean. And people drive crazy but it's somehow... accepted. Like, no one honks. Even if you're driving like a psycho. Isn't that crazy?? (New York driving has gotten to me already - and I've only been here for a month and a half haha)
Chicago is where my mom left me sadly. But Chicago is also where I got to hang with Nadia! Special thanks to her for being an amazing hostess and for introducing me to a hot dog that I actually loved. (I don't really like hot dogs but this one was delicious)
The drive from Chicago to New York was indeed long. Thankfully I stayed over with some good family friends in Ohio who were amazing to me (thanks Kevin and Vanessa!) They also told me stories of when I was little. Apparently I knew what a viaduct was when I was 3. I don't even know what it is now! I mean, I know it's that thing I tried to see in Washington... But what's it for? I don't know!
Anyway, after 3 weeks of adventure and craziness, I finally made it to my new home - New York!
By the way, that's my new roomie Brienne. Isn't she adorbs?
Even though my journey getting here to New York was full of anxiety, worry, wondering, questioning, missing my friends and family, and feeling slightly out of place... I feel so incredibly blessed now that I'm here and settled in. Everything worked out absolutely perfectly for me, just as everyone knew it would (and I knew it would too). And the road coming here was just the adventure I needed to get out of my own head and remind myself of why life is so amazing.
So there you have it, the weirdest, craziest, and most beautiful 3 weeks of my life. The coolest road trip I've ever taken. The most challenging personal journey that I've ever experienced...
So now that I'm here in New York, whats next?!
I guess we'll find out.