Hanauma Bay

The beautiful Hanauma Bay is a snorkelers paradise with warm, deep blue water, soft sand, coral and of course plenty of fish…

The bay is a stunning natural pool that was formed inside a volcanic crater about 32,000 years ago. Today, those explosions are no where to be seen and the waters are calm and so inviting. The ‘Hana’ in Hanauma means bay and ‘uma’ means the curve of a canoe. Perfect name for this gem. Before this area became a very popular tourist attraction it was used by locals for fishing and recreation. Now? You better get there early for a parking spot in the fairly small parking lot or take public transportation.

You can easily spend a whole day here exploring the reef and feasting your eyes on the huge variety of colorful fish, eel (we saw a snake eel), octopus, turtles and if you’re lucky you might even get to see a whale or two out on the horizon.

There’s so much to see…

I’d recommend going during high tide. We stayed for a while so we got to experience a fairly low tide which gives you very little space to make it over some of the reef formations.

Feeding frenzy!

This guy was settling in for a nap.

Hanauma Bay has a bit of a reputation of being crowded. We went early (9am) on a weekday and had no trouble at all. We brought our own snorkel gear (highly recommend) but you can rent it there. There’s a small entrance fee and you’re required to watch a short film before being allowed to go down into the bay. The film explains the history and shows every visitor how to treat the coral and the fish there. (Yet… many still carelessly step all over the coral.) There’s a food stand there, which is fine, but I recommend bringing your own snacks and drinks too. After you’re done you must stop at Leonard’s on Kapahulu for a Malasada. Not just one… several. You wont regret it! If the line is long, don’t pass, wait… patiently. It’s worth it.

A few things…
– wear reef safe sunscreen
– always go with a partner
– if you’re a good swimmer go out past the ‘wall’. There’s way more to be seen out there.

One of my most favorite things is unexpectedly running into something really interesting that I’ve never heard of before. That’s what happened at The Lava Beds, and…we had it pretty much to ourselves.

There’s said to be several hundreds of caves underground here that were formed over 10,000 years ago and out of those about twenty are open to the public. This is a huge gem and the largest concentration of underground lava tubes in the country! The caves are divided into groups varying from least to most challenging.

Visit the visitors center first to register and get important information on current conditions. You’ll also get to visit exhibits inside the center explaining the volcanic geology and the history and culture of the Modoc people who called this home. Bring flashlights. Helmets are a great idea. Good shoes. And a jacket. It can get really cold. There are different levels of caves where some require you to crawl (bring knee pads) through tight spaces. The map you get at the visitors center clearly mark which caves are harder and which are an easier walk through.
If you suffer from any form of claustrophobia or a fear of dark spaces this is not the greatest place to visit, but there are caves for all skill levels and some are huge and more open (Skull Cave)
The Mushpot Cave is a great start. It’s the only cave with lights and there are a lot of signs explaining what everything in there is.

You’ll find yourself marveling at the huge variety of textures, patterns and edges that were formed when the lava started draining from the caves and tubes. Drip stone and Lava-sickles were formed while it was drying before they froze into the current shape. There’s still water dripping from these in some of the caves.
As you stand at the entrance to the caves you’d have no idea what was below you if you didn’t already know.

Valentine Cave.
This one seemed to go on forever and ever.

The Golden Dome Cave.
The entrances are often very steep and small. You’ll be ducking and sometimes even crawling through tight spaces as you make your way through the long tubes.

Gold! It looks as if someone brought paint to brighten up the darkness, but what it really is is bacteria! These gatherings of bacteria are yellow and hydrophobic (water beads up on them) creating this shiny and very attractive sparkle when you shine your flashlight on it in the otherwise very dark cave.

You can clearly see the water beading and holding onto the bacteria in this photo

Sunshine Cave (who came up with that name?! ) Going deep underground here to see more amazing lava formations

Golden Dome.
The ceiling here had a lot of lava-sicles

The last cave we visited, Skull Cave, is enormous. It got it’s name from the hundreds of large animal bones, and two human, that were removed from it around the turn of the 19th century.
This is one of two caves in the park that feature an ice floor. This ice was very important to early settlers as the area has very little water.

A few things…

– You’ll be screened for white-nose syndrome (a deadly bat disease) This means that if you have been in another cave wearing the same shoes since 2006 (or ever outside the US) you’ll need to leave those shoes at home.
-You’ll want to bring food and drinks
-There’s an entry fee ($25 per vehicle). I have America the Beautiful National Parks annual pass and they accept that.


Sawdust Glitter…

Work! To live carefree and in a constant state of adventuring…what a dream! A dream that is definitely not a reality for me. How about you?
I do a variety of work trying to keep up with the cost of living in CA. Most of my time is spent in a very non-glittery way sitting in front of my laptop working online doing translations,editing and other jobs. I prefer using my hands, creating and doing stuff like handy(wo)man jobs. I’m most definitely not the best at this, but I like it. It gets me outside and into focusing on the present…and fortunately I have an extremely patient boss.

…But I do have quite a few years of experience, many of those working at Home Depot while in college.

To me, working on fences outside and getting dirty is so much better than sitting inside on front of a screen all day long.

Working inside isn’t always a bad thing though 😉

Staying organized… sort off. The ocean view is most important here 😉

Building walls and painting

What do you do to survive and pay those bills?
I’ll keep dreaming. Maybe someday this blog will be a bit bigger and I’ll get to spend my time building my own house in stead of fixing stuff for others.

This was one of the best days ever! I got to go snorkeling with sharks (again). Usually I’ll get to see one, maybe two, but this time there were an abundance of them as you can see in the video above and it was just amazing.

No tour, just out in the open ocean with a (very kind) friend brave enough to be just as crazy as I am! Just kidding, these sharks are harmless and pretty shy. They were between 5 to 6 feet and I had to chase them around… not the other way. They are leopard sharks and there was one other kind which I’m not sure what was, but I think it’s the one locals call “Cute Shark”. As with any wild animal, be respectful and they’ll be respectful to you. If you start grabbing them they will defend themselves.
Please excuse the poor photo quality of this post. They were shot mainly with underwater cameras.

I love snorkeling and do it as often as I can. It’s so peaceful and every time I go I experience something completely different. My favorite spot to go snorkeling is La Jolla Cove, but if you’re looking for sharks, then this is not the best place. I’ve only ever spotted one there. (You will see a whole lot of sea lions though.) Instead head to La Jolla Shores, park in the large lot and walk south. You’ll see an area where a bunch of kayaking schools venture out, pass them, and start going out in the water. The best time to go is during mating season which is early June through October, but you can spot them year round. I’ve seen the most during August and September. The video above was shot in September.

The sharks are there because the water is really warm during those months, but warmer water also means stingrays. There are a lot and they can be pretty big! They are much more intimidating and scary than the sharks to me.

A few things…
Shuffle your feet as you go in the water. The stingrays are everywhere and those stings really hurt!
-Go prepared. Learn from locals, stop and ask the local dive shops or lifeguard towers for tips and advice.
-Bring a diving knife. The sea grass can be really long and if the waves are strong you or your friends can get tangled in it.
-Try to swim near lifeguards.
-Always swim with friends, never alone.

Never miss a sunset…

Nojoqui Falls

Nojoqui falls is a fairy tale world of mist, tiny rainbows and little miniature cave villages surrounded by moss and maidenhair ferns… if you dare to step all the way up, as close as you can get, you’ll see. And maybe you’ll hear the faint whispers of the Chumash Indians who long ago called the area home and treasured the falls.
Drop your head back and look up. It’s not very impressive when it comes to rushing water, as you can see. Instead it slowly drips between the two steady streams, softly splashing mist onto ones face.

Little droplets fall from leaf to leaf and some roll into miniature caves creating little ponds.

…or drip so softly that even bees can rest and drink.

Imagine the sound … I could try to describe it but I’d never get it right.

The suns beams, cutting ever so gently through the trees, light up the path to the waterfall. You might get lucky and see/hear a woodpecker or two hard at work, maybe a few lovesick cicadas or the call of a local bird, but mostly it’s quiet. The really nice kind of quiet. The quiet that makes you stop, close your eyes and listen… to absolute beautiful silence.
You’ll encounter a few small bridges and start seeing evidence of the waterfall as you cross the first one.

Suddenly you’ll be confronted by all these signs (above) set up there in a big mess all together. Lots of warnings and red. But as you can see the path continues perfectly on the other side. The waterfall is right around the corner. If you choose to continue please do so very carefully. We have witnessed quite a few rocks falling.

Legend has it that a devastating tragedy happened here once. There were many different settlements of Chumash Indians in the area, and once, long ago, two lovers from two different tribes secretly met here at the falls and because they weren’t allowed to be together, they jumped the 100 feet from the top in each others arms. A bittersweet story to keep in mind when visiting. Some say the meaning of Nojoqui is Honeymoon as a tribute to the lovers, others say it simply means Windy Valley.

A few things…
– the dirt parking lot right by the path to the waterfall is a bit rough but you can park in the area right before it and it’s not a far walk at all.
-go off season and avoid weekends. I’ve been told it can get pretty crowded.
-don’t bring food and drinks. Instead, after you’re done here, drive a few miles to Solvang and eat there for the rest of the day… seriously, you’ll want to try everything. I recommend Olsen’s Bakery, The Red Viking for dinner, Solvang Restaurent for Aebleskiver and Ingeborg’s for Floedeboller. (there’ll be a post coming soon on all these things).

Crater Lake is such an incredibly beautiful experience that is hard to beat. Your eyes and soul will be satisfied staring at the royal blue of that lake and you’ll find yourself telling everyone you know just how amazing that color is exactly. But, if you’re in the area you definitely don’t want to miss the Umpqua National forest. Follow scenic route 138 and you can spend a day or two marveling at least six really amazing waterfalls all just a short distance from each other. Neither of these falls get a lot of publicity so you might have them pretty much to yourself which to me is a huge plus after the crowds at Crater Lake. ( More on Crater Lake here: https://vikinggirladventures.com/2019/09/15/crater-lake/ )
We stopped at Clearwater Falls first. I couldn’t help but just sit for a while, letting the little droplets splash me, while I watched the water gushing over the top and playfully encircle and dance around the moss covered rocks.

The mosses, liverworts and hornworts (relatives of moss) at Clearwater falls are pretty exceptional in the fact that they can dry out completely and then come back to life when introduced to moisture again.
If you climb up to the top of the waterfall you’ll get to see this playground below.

The water is crystal clear and I could spend hours balancing over the many large logs zigzagging their way across.

The forest is worth a little hike too. Quiet and secluded.

Whitehorse falls is about 5 miles from Clearwater falls. It’s not impressive in height but it has a nice pool where you can swim and many logs to climb. The water here is also completely clear and so inviting.

You don’t have to climb any fences, there’s a nice deck you can walk up to to get a great view of this waterfall. I shouldn’t have either, but I like to get close and get my hands and feet wet.

This waterfall is right next to the parking lot and does not require any walking so it’s an easy stop for anyone.

A few things…
-first and most important, do not forget, bring deep woods mosquito repellent. Trust me you wont regret it!
-bring a picnic. There are picnic tables and restrooms and either location couldn’t be any prettier.
-As you follow route 138, Clearwater falls is by mile marker 69 and Whitehorse is only a few miles after it.

The Magic Whispers of an Old Tree

Redwoods National and State Park

Have you ever laid your hand on
the bark of a tree and in that moment felt it’s warmth?
Climbed up so high you got dizzy looking down?
Then sat on a steady branch keeping your arms wrapped around the trunk holding on tight?
And then, looking out at the forest, at the whole world from way up there…
You become
One with the trees
Listening to their sounds 
Deep in the woods 
The swaying, the cracking, the leaves in the wind.  You close your eyes and loosen your grip 
Tune in and there 
You hear it
The stories of long ago 
The scents of earth, the beams of light, the soulless finding refuge in the old, the strong, the trustful.  
Here is peace. 
Here is forever.
And here is always. Hiding deep inside you, deep inside the tree, deep inside this Earth. 

Ah… the Redwoods where my soul is happy.
The land of majestic gentle coastal giants that leave you in awe. These trees, some of the tallest in the world, are not only amazing to look at, they’re also masters of cleaning our environment! As a matter of fact, they sequester 3 times as much carbon as any other ecosystem.
Walking through this forest you easily forget you’re in the 21st century and submerge yourself in it’s intense history and the art of the shapes and stances of each tree, all so different and all so magnificent. You can’t help but feel the calmness and serenity there.

This forest was once over 2,000,000 acres. After decades of logging starting in the 1800’s over 90% of this forest was cut down. This stopped in 1968 when it was finally made into a national park. Today the Redwoods national and state park stand at only 133,000 acres. But luckily there’s still a lot to see and you can still go far into the forest. (For how to help see below.)

Big Tree is worth a stop…

As you’re driving through you’ll get to see stunning views of the ocean

A few things…
-bring food and water.
-wear comfortable clothes and shoes. (not flipflops like me!!) You’ll be climbing and walking a lot.
-take your time.
-and please, take out what you bring in. We, sadly, saw a lot of trash thrown carelessly by the side of the road.

If you’d like to help the Redwoods, then this is a great place to start https://www.savetheredwoods.org/

_ _ _
I’m not much for doing crowded touristy stuff especially in an area like this, but we decided to stop and visit Paul Bunyan (can’t miss him) to go for a tram ride and visit their store for souvenirs. Worth it? It was a nice experience, but not something I need to do more than once. I do want to go back to the Redwoods though many more times.

Crater Lake

A mesmerizing clear deep royal blue makes you stop in your tracks as you make it to the rim of this volcano and look into the lake. The stunning blue left me breathless… I had seen plenty of photos but none compared to the real thing. At almost 2000 feet deep Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America. There are no inlets, all the water comes from snow and rain, and there’s plenty of it there. The area receives about 500 inches of snow a year!

Because the lake only gets it’s water from rain and snow, nothing is carried into it like mineral deposits for example, which makes it one of the cleanest lakes in the world. Visitors can swim at a designated area only and if you do get ready to be cold! There was still snow in June. There’s also a short boat tour where they tell you a bit about how the lake was formed. Make reservations for this and be ready for a steep hike to the water.
A quick stop at the lodge afterwards will warm you up.

Crater Lake fills a caldera that was formed by the collapse of a volcano called Mount Mazama about 7,700 years ago. The collapse devastated a huge area and spread ashes as far as Central Canada. It took between 700 to 1500 years for rain and snow to melt and create the lake we see today. The small island, called Wizards Island, within the caldera is created by a cinder cone.

Just rest your eyes on it, feel and absorb everything around you.

I’m a bit of a bird lover so I was really hoping to spot a Clark’s Nutcracker. You should never feed wildlife but I had read it was okay to share a few (raw) nuts with these guys.

I don’t let just anybody hold my hand but this guy insisted!

We entered the Crater Lake area from the south. I highly recommend stopping everywhere you can. You’ll get to see the Rogue river and learn more of the incredible history of the area.

These rocky spires below are a result of thousands of years of steam and ash erosion.

Stop and explore everywhere you can. You wont get disappointed.

Make sure you stop at Union Creek Historic District. A must try is the Huckleberry ice cream at the ice cream shop. And Beckie’s has tasty Huckleberry soda and a huge variety of homemade pie. The general store was almost out of bug spray. Make sure you bring your own.

A few suggestions…
– first and very importantly, do not forget this, bring deep woods mosquito repellent. We didn’t get bit by the lake, but everywhere we stopped prior to it, we were swarmed!
– bring food and drinks.
– be ready for cold weather. Snow in June.
– look here for camping https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/119140 it’s biking / walking distance from the small town and right on the creek. Or this one which is right next to the first https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/rogue-siskiyou/recarea/?recid=69828
– lodge and cabins at Union Creek https://www.unioncreekoregon.com/

The best way to end an adventurous day is sitting by the fire with some good tequila and telling stories until you can’t keep your eyes open anymore. Pack those bags, tent/RV and go!

Shh… Secrets…

Like a thick blanket
her words comfort me
on a chilly night
the secrets entrusted to me,

I found them! Secret Swing two and three. It was a fun adventure treasure hunting around La Jolla for these. I wonder if there are more… I found the single-rope swing first. The view from it is dreamy… mesmerizing and the constant rhythmic crashing of the waves is a gentle reminder to take the time to listen and unwind. I could spend a whole day there swinging back and forth, hanging from that palm tree, leaning back and looking up at the fronds for a few moments and then resting my eyes on the deep blue of the ocean.
This swing is a little hard to get to. Not only that, expect to get muddy. Really muddy. The rope under my feet in the picture below leads down to the water. Grab it and keep going (you’ll get muddier).

No secrets could be told on a swing like this because there’s only room for one so it’s a good time to quietly think of those secrets only you know… deep down. A moment alone is so rare in our non stop lives.
Are you good at keeping secrets? I try my best to never tell anyone anything, but just this once… okay second time (that is if you’ve read my first “Secret” post https://vikinggirladventures.com/2019/06/10/secrets/) I might give a hint or two as to where these can be found.

Secret Swing 3…

I found Swing 3 by accident as I was walking by the edge of the cliffs and happened to see something moving out of the corner of my eye. We found a little path and followed it to where it was. This one is more secluded and untouched than the other two. It’s hidden in a small groove of trees, but you can still see the ocean from it.

If you were to visit Sunny Jim’s cave in La Jolla, which is a fun experience, you could go out and around the building to the back and find a little path leading towards the La Jolla Shores beach. The view from this path is pretty amazing!

There you might see that bench in the picture below and those stairs, climb up… and then that opening in the bushes will appear. Something cool might be found at the end of that path.

You could follow the main path a little further and if you did, you’d see this bridge. You could look down and spot a path… between the trees, and find a rope that leads to a little treasure.

Above I mentioned following this rope all the way down to the shore. Below are a few photos from there close to sunset.
I did talk about getting muddy above, didn’t I? At least there’s a (muddy) ladder that helps a little.

A little mud is nothing when you get to see the (culprit) perfect little waterfall dripping softly and that view up close. The water is clear and beautiful, but there’s no sand so if you want to swim bring good water shoes.

Have fun hunting for secrets…

Bean Hollow Beach

There are so many incredible beaches to visit when driving up Pacific Coast Hwy. Choosing which to stop at is not exactly easy, but we decided to leave the beautiful sandy beaches alone this time and aim for the more rocky and different ones, and I’m glad we did, because Bean Hollow really stood out.

Appearing to be marching onto the shores of Bean Hollow from the depths of the ocean these cute green haired inhabitants makes you feel like you’re visiting another universe.

But what makes the beach really different is the Tafoni. Tafoni is a weathering of stone that creates the formations in the photos below. These windblown rocks have amazing patterns and holes and if you spend a little time staring at them you can find many different images in them, like dragons…

The tide pools are a lot of fun to explore. You can find sea urchins, crabs, anemones and small fish. If possible, try to time your visit during low tide.

The rocks can be pretty slippery, so wear good shoes or go barefoot.

This beach is about 20 minutes south of Half Moon Bay, and near Pescadero and it’s surrounding farmland where you’ll see rows after rows of artichoke. Be sure to stop in town for some fresh artichoke and artichoke bread.

A gorgeous sheltered waterfall hidden between trees and boulders.
It’s a little treasure you might get lucky to have all to yourself only because it’s not marked well and most pass right by it not even knowing it exists. But there it is, in all it’s glory, just feet away from PCH. Waterfalls have a very special place in my heart and I could have spent a whole day at this spot!

The water is clear, clean and so inviting. Don’t be afraid to jump in for a swim and a climb up to see that famous backside of a waterfall!

The waterfall is located right by a tight horseshoe shaped curve north of Rugged Point (picture below). Park on the side of the road.

We had a hard time figuring out which path to take and after a group of people told us not to take the trail to the right we went on the grand adventure of the “trail” on the left. This “trail” had us climbing and jumping over rocks and boulders, along and across the creek, and had us doubting we’d ever find the waterfall. But we did! And it was an adventure in itself getting there especially wearing well used flip flops. So I’d recommend taking the trail to the right if you’re looking for an easier way in but watch out for Poison Oak. You’ll still be climbing over boulders and across a log to get there, but it’s totally worth it. I wouldn’t recommend it for the elderly and really young kids unless you’re ready to lift and help them climb.

Comic-Con San Diego

Comic-con is a colorful circus of imagination, the totally unexpected and bizarre, mixed with books, toys, gadgets, meeting favorite characters and the freedom of expression. It’s about the comics and everything related to this culture, including meeting creators, authors and artists.

2019 was the 50th anniversary of Comic-Con and it seems to grow larger every year. This year approximately 200,000 people were expected to attend bringing a $150 million profit to the city! Crazy crowded and throbbing with life, massive, I know…I’m not a crowd person, but I still go.

Get your costumes, face paint and badges ready because you’ll be drawn into everything pop culture, imagination and art. Every star and talent behind every big movie of the year will be there. But… tickets are super hard to get. You’ll have to register now to be allowed to try to buy tickets in a few months (they’ll send you an email with exact date) for next summer. You’ll spent a few hours in a online waiting room, biting your nails while watching specific days get sold out, but with some luck you might get to buy that Golden Ticket.

It’s so worth it!

There’s so much to see and do, like play patty cake with this guy.

…and going to panels like Scooby Doo where you can ask the crew anything you’d like and watch exclusive trailers, previews and actual footage of new movies/ shows way before anyone else.

Shop for anything comics related, shake a few hands, try new games and learn how it’s done …

Say hi to a few famous people if you’re into that sort of stuff. People wait in lines overnight and for several nights for their favorite panels. There are also long lines for autographs with the stars. I haven’t had those experiences yet. I mainly wander around the exhibit hall and check out books and attend panels with short lines. Maybe next year I’ll try camping out for Hall H where all the big movies are… that’s a pretty big maybe.

If you don’t get tickets there are a lot of things to do outside the convention like visiting the Walking Dead experience this year.
I got a few hugs!

Some of my favorite costumes…

What would you dress up as? Next year I might be a little more fun and go as something… Any suggestions?

A few things…

-Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking and standing a lot.
-Bring lots of snacks. The convention center’s food isn’t the best…
-The bags they give you can’t hold much. Mine ripped this year. Bring your own backpack.
-Plan ahead especially if you plan on attending specific panels.
-Get that registration done. This is something that is fun to attend at least once in your lifetime.

The Famous Joshua trees … their adventurous spirits are in a constant dance of trying to figure out which direction would be the very best to grow their branches and outdo their neighbor. Which kind of ends up looking like a dysfunctional struggle of trying to find the right direction… but it is exactly that, that makes them so beautiful.
They’re slow growing and some years they may not even grow at all. Their age? Impossible to tell as they don’t grow rings. On top of that, they aren’t actually trees! They are a kind of yucca, a succulent that stores water. But not just any yucca, they are the largest yucca and they grow only in the Mojave Desert.

The Joshua tree got its name from Mormon settlers who crossed through the area in the 1800s. The shape of the Joshua trees reminded them of a story from the bible in which Joshua lifts his hands up to the sky in prayer.

But it’s not just the yucca that make Joshua Tree National Park so amazing, it’s also the massive rock formations that are arranged in such a way that it looks like giants carelessly scattered them around in fun patterns and shapes. But, of course, the truth is that these rocks were formed over the course of millions of years. Great information can be found on the geological formation here https://www.nps.gov/jotr/learn/nature/geologicformations.htm
I love spending time climbing the rocks, finding amazing creations resembling faces, bizarre fantasy creations and animals in them and exploring the vegetation that lives around them. A favorite stop is Skull Rock and Grumpy Guy across the street from him.