Posts Tagged With: road trip

New Zealand Highlights: Part 2

This vlog covers part of our road trip on the South Island – from Queenstown to Mount Cook and Tekapo and then the drive down to Stewart Island to go birdwatching. From there we drove to Te Anau and beautiful Milford Sound.

Link here for Part 1.

Categories: Exploring New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Road Trip to Steamboat Rock

Steamboat Rock is a little bit further than I normally venture on the weekend, but we decided to visit on a random weekend in May last year and ended up having a great trip! Spring is always rough because the weather gets super nice in Vancouver, but it still takes several months for the snow to melt in the mountains. I was itching to take my hiking boots out, so we decided to head in search of less snowy trails.

It’s about a 6 hour drive to Steamboat Rock, which is a state park in Washington on the other side of the cascades. It’s a long distance for a single weekend, so we decided to get a head start and drove halfway there on Friday night, crossing the border in Abbotsford and camping in the cascades south of Manning Park and Ross Lake. It was after 10pm by the time we pulled into the campsite, so we didn’t do much Friday night except set up camp and get some sleep. We were still in the mountains, so it was pretty cold overnight and I was glad I had packed my winter bag. Emily was sweating in her homemade down sleeping bag, but the rest of our poor friends, Lien, Kevin, and Yuka, were all pretty cold as it was a first time experience for them camping in the mountains in May.

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We got up early on Saturday and had the most beautiful drive through the rest of the cascades. The most interesting part about driving to Steamboat Rock is that you pass through almost every landscape you can think of on the way there. We were below the snow line at the campsite and the rivers were flowing fast from snow melt. But as we continued, we drove back up past the snow line and were surrounded by gorgeous snowy mountain vistas. It was a little jarring to see that there were still a ton of snowshoers and skiers out in May when we were all anxiously awaiting the next season.

We left the cascades and entered the flatlands that slowly turned into desert. It’s a really different kind of landscape, but beautiful in it’s own way. We passed several dams and reservoirs before eventually coming to Steamboat Rock State Park. The old river has carved out canyon like features at Steamboat Rock and the river bed has since been impounded for use as a reservoir, so it makes for a dramatic view looking at the rock canyon and the still water below.

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We got a campsite right next to the hiking trail. All the campsites were car camping and it was primarily RV’s at the park. Not really my preferred kind of camping, but it was easy and we had a gorgeous view of Steamboat from our campsite. It differed from a lot of campsites I’ve stayed in in that there were pretty much no trees around, just grassy fields running into the lake, Not ideal for privacy, but great for stargazing, which was one of our other motivations for visiting the park.

I really liked the hike, although I wasn’t super impressed with the maintenance of the trail going up the canyon. The campsite is located next to the lake, so you start the trail by hiking about 200 metres up to the top of the canyon. From there it’s a pretty flat hike around the edge of the canyon, with some great views of the lake and surrounding area. But the hike up to the canyon is pretty sketchy. I’ve done my fair share of sketchy hikes, but this one is located right next to a 300 site campground filled with RV’s, so it’s a pretty high trafficked walk and I saw a lot of inappropriate footwear and preparedness that I thought warranted the park investing some more work in the trail. You’re mostly hiking up scree and some sections where the rock has all worn away on the sides and it’s a steep, slippery trek. It’s not too bad on the way up, but really dangerous coming down as it’s super easy to dislodge rock that could hit those below you. I personally fell twice and scrapped up my hands a lot.

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But once you get to the top, it’s pretty easy going! We hiked the entire trail around the rim of the canyon and I really liked it. The topography is so different from what we’re used to seeing and it was fun to explore something new. What was surprising though, was that we saw a lot of people on the hike up, but once we started hiking the rim, we didn’t see a single other person! So I think a lot of people just hike to the top for the view and then go back down (more reason to invest in the trail).

I have barely spent any time in the desert, but between this trip and my trip to Vegas (which was only a few weeks before), I went on two desert hikes in the same month! We joked on our hike to Valley of Fire State Park in Neveda that we would freak out if we saw any rattlesnakes or scorpions. Well we had that opportunity at Steamboat Rock State Park! We actually ended up seeing an impressive amount of wildlife on the trip. We saw one deer on the road driving through the cascades, as well as 3 more deer hanging out on top of Steamboat Rock. We also saw a ton of marmots of all sizes on Steamboat Rock and the whole park was filled with all different kinds of birds, from small songbirds and blackbirds, to eagles and dozens of vultures.

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But the most jarring was definitely seeing a rattlesnake for the first time. Or more accurately, hearing a rattlesnake for the first time. Me, Emily, and Lien were hiking ahead when we heard a rattle and frantically started looking around, immediately spotting a rattlesnake staring at us to our right. We backed away, but evidently he was just as afraid of us and turned on his heel and slithered away into the bushes, shaking his tail at us. About 10 minutes later, Lien came across another snake, this time directly on the trail. This one didn’t have a rattle in it’s tail, but after a bit of research, we think it was a baby rattlesnake, because it definitely wasn’t a garter snake. Kevin (who missed out on both snake sightings) thought it would be funny to secretly shake a bottle of pills later on the trail and watch the three of us freak out, but he got a stern talking to about how traumatic it was for the rest of us.

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Snake trauma aside, it was a super fun trip. It was really hot out and even though it was only May 4th when we went, me, Emily, and Lien decided to take a quick dip in the lake when we finished the hike. It was the earliest I’ve ever been swimming and while it was cold, it really wasn’t that bad and had nothing on some of the glacial lakes I’ve swam in. It felt great to wash all the dirt off and the cold water feels so good on aching muscles.

One of the pros of spring camping is that the fire ban hasn’t yet kicked it! So we spent the rest of the evening roasting hot dogs and enjoying a campfire. Yuka impressed us all with her wood chopping skills and Lien was ecstatic about finally getting to try out his tent for the first time. Once the stars came out we all spent about an hour making some attempts at night photography. They weren’t some of my best photos, but I had fun messing around with the camera and actually having a tripod for once (thanks Kevin!).┬áThe only downside to the campsite was the sandflies. It wasn’t bad during the day, but once the sun went down they came out in swarms. Fortunately they don’t bite, but it was really annoying and a ton snuck into our tent somehow.

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We rolled out around 10am the next morning and had a long drive back to Vancouver. It wasn’t too bad on the way there because we broke up the drive between two days, but it definitely made for a long drive back. We stopped in this cute little town called Leavenworth on the way back for lunch. It’s in the middle of the cascades and the whole town is German. It’s a total tourist trap with all kinds of German restaurants and attractions. We had schnitzel burgers and ice cream before hitting the road again. We hit some pretty bad traffic after that, but we found an old CD case in the car with all of Lien and Kevin’s angsty teenage music from the early 2000’s and had a great laugh seeing what kind of music they used to like. Apparently Kevin had a penchant for angry German screamo and techno tv show theme songs, while Lien had a secret love for country music and Avril Lavigne.

So overall I had a lot of fun on this trip. I do think it would probably work better with an extra day to explore through the cascades a little more, but it was really fun to get out of Vancouver and explore something totally new!

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Categories: American Road Trip | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Latest Great Adventure

I feel like I’ve had a lot of adventures in the last year, but our latest adventure is going to be a whirlwind 5-week trip around New Zealand for our honeymoon!

New Zealand has been on my bucket list for a long time (pretty much since the first time I watched Fellowship of the Ring), but it’s never been the right time to go – either too far or too expensive. But the stars have aligned and we decided to embrace doing something new together over the holidays this year (although my Mom wasn’t too impressed about it). It’ll be our first time ever not going home to Newfoundland for Christmas, but we’re excited to have so much time to travel around New Zealand and create our own memories for our first Christmas married.

As usual, I’m planning to blog the whole trip! It’s definitely a commitment to write when you’re on the go, but I always get a lot of enjoyment out of it, so I’ll do my best. We have a big itinerary planned, so I’ll just give you a quick overview of our plans!

We’re flying into Auckland and then almost immediately taking a second domestic flight to Great Barrier Island. It’s a small island off the coast of Auckland that is known for its wildness. There’s no electricity on the island and everything is powered by solar and generators, so we’re looking forward to kicking back and relaxing for a few days and hopefully doing a bit of stargazing, since the entire island is a dark sky reserve.

After that we’re taking our second, and last, domestic flight down to Queenstown on the South Island. From there we’re planning to rent a car for the rest of the trip and slowly make our way back to Auckland over the span of the next month. We’re starting with a little road trip around the south part of the island, doing some day hiking near Mount Cook (the tallest mountain in New Zealand) and then road tripping down along the east coast to hopefully see some cool wildlife. We’re taking a ferry at the very bottom of New Zealand to another island called Stewart Island, which is known for it’s birdlife. I expect this may be the highlight of the trip for Seth and we’re hoping to see a Kiwi.

From there we’ll start back up the west side of the island to Te Anau, where we’ll drive the world famous Milford Road to do a boat cruise of Milford Sound. We’ve decided to take it one step further though and we will actually be hiking the Milford Track, a 55km trail through Fiordland National Park, which might be the highlight for me. The Milford Track is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand and is insanely popular. Only 40 people can hike the trail a day, so we feel really lucky to have nabbed 2 spots! We decided to do the hike over Christmas since nothing will likely be open during that time.

We’ll have a well deserved break in Queenstown for a few days after the hike and then we’re back on the road to explore Wanaka and Fox Glacier. This was one of the more self indulgent parts of the trip and we have decided to splurge and heli-hike Fox Glacier. But nothing’s a sure thing and who knows what the weather might do, so cross your fingers we get to do it!

After that we have a few days in Abel Tasman National Park. We were planning to just hang out on the golden sand beaches for a few days, but when we discovered there are no roads in the park, we decided to go on a 3-day kayak trip instead. We started kayaking last year and have really been enjoying it, so we’re looking forward to the trip. We purposely set a pretty slow itinerary for the park though so that we can still relax and enjoy the beaches.

That pretty much ends our time on the South Island and we’re planning to take the ferry to Wellington in early January. We’ll spend a little bit of time in Wellington, but we’re planning to head out to Tongariro National Park pretty quickly so that we can do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, another super popular hike. This is a 20km hike, but it’s usually done as a day hike, so no big backpacks for this one. It circles around Mount Ngauruhoe, which is more popularly known as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy!

We’re planning for one last adventure activity in Taupo – white water rafting – and then we’re planning to slow it down for the rest of the trip. We have a few days in Rotorua to explore some of New Zealand’s culture and geothermal wonders, as well as some of the hot springs. The other highlight of the trip will come after Rotorua when we visit the Shire and Hobbiton and finally achieve my childhood dream!

Hobbiton will just be a brief stop on our way to the Coromandel Peninsula where we’re planning to visit the beautiful Cathedral Cove and maybe do some snorkeling. After that we’ll drive back to Auckland for a day on Waiheke, a small island next to Auckland that is known for its wines! Then we’ll finish the trip with one more drive north of Auckland to check out a few of the attractions just outside the city.

So it’s going to be a pretty packed itinerary. It’s hard to believe it, but even with 5 weeks, we still couldn’t fit in everything we wanted to do. New Zealand is so rugged and wild – it was so hard to settle on only doing one of the Great Walks. I have a feeling I am really going to love New Zealand and can’t wait to start exploring!

Categories: Exploring New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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