Seeing Sequoia

I'm a lover of trees.

I had been wanting to return to Sequoia and the beautiful Redwood Forest for years. The last time I was a small child. 

For my 29th birthday I finally made the trip back to the redwoods.

Setting off on Friday evening, Joel and I drove the 3 or so hours out of the city into the dark and arrived at our adorable lodge on the outskirts of the park just before midnight. We couldn't see much in the dark except for the area of the wooden lodge that was illuminated by their sign. Our keys were left for us in an envelope tacked to the wall of the office. We had spoken to the sweet owners on our way up and informed them that we would be getting in quite late. They left us the keys and brief directions to our room. We wandered up the outdoor staircase with our belongings and entered our room. There was a door out the back with a shared balcony that stretched the length of the building. I leaned against the railing, looking up at the considerably more stars in the sky than can be seen in LA, and listened to the rush of water from the veiled rocky river, trying to judge just how far the water was from our feet. 

In the daylight, it turned out that the river was incredibly close.

After spending some time laying on large rocks by the river, we set off to drive into the park and pick out a camping site.

We realized that we didn't have food for camping yet- whoops!- so we stopped by a small market store off the main drag and grabbed a few things. It was slim pickings, naturally. We walked out with some fruit, hard boiled eggs (which was a cool find), cheese, granola, bread, peanut butter and Nutella. Short on vegetables, but it would do for a couple days.

Next to the market was a cute little cafe. Seeing as how food was on our brains, we popped in and ordered some bagels. We sat down at a table with a chess set.

We paused. Looked at the board and looked back at each other. The question lingered. Neither of us had played chess in ages.

We sat there eating bagels, sipping a latte and played an entire game of chess. (Joel would most likely want me to point out that he won. I will point out that it was close.) 

Time ticked by. It was well into the afternoon by the time we left the cafe. The joy of having no specific timetable. 

It was a slow climb driving through twisting roads as we made our way towards the park's official entrance.

As it turned out, this being the end of April, that up in higher elevations, we were still in the tail end of winter. The park had gotten snow only a couple nights before. The result of this was that chains were still required to enter the area of the park where all of the giant redwoods grow. We did not have tire chains. While we debated for a second the idea of lying about having chains, we chose honesty. When we told the rangers at the entrance that no, we did not have chains, they informed us that there would be police rangers checking for chains further into the park before the giant sequoias. We decided to turn around and take the slow, winding road back towards our lodge and the little town outside of the park where there is a store that rents tire chains. 

At the shop, we immediately became part of a rush hour for tire chains. Apparently, there were a lot of other visitors in the same boat, needing chains for the weekend.

We chatted with the locals while we waited and eventually got our tire chains. We didn't want them on the tires yet, just needed to have them on us. As time carried on, we finally made our way back towards the park.

As we got further up in elevation, the fog moved in. Gently coating the mountain and blanketing the entire landscape in white.

There are a number of turnout spots for slow drivers and even designated picture areas. We stopped at a picture place and captured the lack of view behind us.

The view is meant to be mountains and valleys

The view is meant to be mountains and valleys

Now, I suppose we should have seen this coming....

...there weren't any rangers checking for chains. The roads truly were clear by this point and the chains requirement was officially lifted the following day. Still, when we made our way into the heart of the park, there was snow on the ground. Patches of snow all throughout the forest. Not even an hour from our lodge, the temperature had dropped 20+ degrees. 

One of our first stops was to see The General Sherman tree.

The biggest tree in the entire forest by mass. They've done the math.

And boy, is it a big tree.

Still, that was not my favorite tree in the forest.

Maybe the General Sherman didn't impact me as much because we can't actually touch it. I'm a literal tree hugger and I didn't get to hug Sherman. It's also not the tallest or widest tree, and I think we humans tend to recognize those dimensions better than mass.

My favorite tree was a beautiful redwood right near one of the parking lots before the brief hike towards General Sherman. It smelled like a mixture of maple syrup and cedar. It may be the best smell in the world. No other tree smelled quite as good or as strong. I sniffed a lot of trees. 

Every time we passed, I would go running up to it. Place my hands on the tree and breathe in its beautiful aroma.

My favorite tree

My favorite tree

We eventually made it to the camping grounds and selected a spot for ourselves. Every campsite had its own tent area and picnic table.

We were borrowing my brother's tent for the weekend. I really should purchase a tent.

This tent was remarkably simple to assemble.

Two cross poles.

That was it. (Plus ground stakes, of course.)

By this point the sun was going down and it was beginning to get colder. We were in agreement: an adult beverage sounded excellent. 

Even the beer is named after the park. Yay local breweries!

Even the beer is named after the park. Yay local breweries!

There are a few nice hotel-lodges inside of the park. They are, naturally, a bit pricey, so we were camping. Camping is fun. But camping was cold. We walked to the nearest lodge and they had a bar and lounge where we could grab a beer and relax inside looking out the glass at the trees. It was perfect.

Even more perfect was eating a hot meal at the restaurant inside and splitting a Mounds Bar- the bar's name for their hot chocolate spiked with Malibu Rum. I have to say, the bartender was right, the coconut chocolate combination was excellent.

After eating good food, drinking delicious drinks and warming up in the heated interior, it was time for us to venture back into the cold and prepare for the night.

We created a system with yoga mats and my sleeping bag pad as the base. On top we placed an unzipped sleeping bag. The next layer was us. We covered ourselves with blankets and another unzipped sleeping bag. We then burrito'd ourselves inside, being sure to not have any gaps let in cold air. Whenever we shifted at night, we had to be careful so as not to create a hole where cold air would burst through, causing immediate reactions of "Ah! Cold!" followed by laughter and adjustments. 

It should be noted that I was wearing several layers including thick hiking socks and my beanie.

I'm always cold.

The next morning, the sun came out and warmed up the tent incredibly. I was on the sun side of the tent and began removing layers as I went from cold to comfortable to sweating. We eventually stumbled out of the tent and had some makeshift breakfast. 

That's me. Sitting at the table. Probably putting peanut butter on an apple.

That's me. Sitting at the table. Probably putting peanut butter on an apple.

The rest of the day was spent mostly going on mini hikes. 


We wandered through foggy forest along trails. There were a couple of amazing trees that had hollow bases so we ducked inside and promptly declared that we could live here.

One of the trees was completely hollow all the way up to its missing top.



We also took the trail to Moro Rock.

Moro Rock feels like something out of Lord of The Rings.

It's nearly 400 stairs carved and shaped out of a massive rock peak. It's meant to have absolutely amazing views as you wind up the stairs through the rock formations to the precipice.

To the right is what a section of the stairs would look like on a clear day.

At the top the view would look something like the photo below.



I don't have those pictures.

I'm borrowing those from the internet.

Because for us the view was a bit different.

It was just a blanket of white in every direction.

That sign shows what the view should be

That sign shows what the view should be

Still, it was a super fun climb.

On the way back to the city, we pulled over by some orchards and (illegally, probably) picked fallen oranges. There were so many on the ground we just couldn't resist. 

We actually made the pullover twice, picking different kinds of citrus. Some were probably oranges, others were perhaps clementines or tangerines. Either way, they were absolutely delicious. We ate about half our stash on the drive home.

Neither one of us wanted to get home.

We loved the forest and its trees.


Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

My Desert Adventure

Sometimes the desert just calls you.

The final third of my cross-country venture was planned as a desert adventure.

After leaving Colorado we drove to our Holiday Inn Express (what what! A Holiday Inn Express is relatively high-end by my typical budget-travel standards) in Page, AZ. 

The agenda for this part of the trip included visiting The Arches, going into Antelope Canyon, viewing Horseshoe Bend, generally exploring Lake Powell and checking out Coral Sands.

The Arches

As we made our way toward Page, we encountered The Arches National Park. Carmella and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, "Well, clearly we're stopping."

The park is huge. Once we crossed the line into the park and paid our entrance fee, we essentially had a map and a road to follow that led out into the expansive dessert. The horizon is massive in the dessert. Looking out there was one winding road heading out to the beyond. As we drove into the park we stopped at various locations with fascinating natural structures. Eventually, we made it to the Big Arch, but not before taking a moment to dance in the dessert.

It was brutally hot in the sun. Every time we stepped out of the car we were hit with a wave of heat. Luckily, when we made it to The Arch, there was a strong breeze and shade directly underneath. Besides, the views were worth the heat. We sat under the arch just taking in the sights for a long a while.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is on a Native American Reservation and requires permits to visit. The easiest and most common way of dealing with this is to pay for a guided tour that is run by local tribe members. The price of the tour includes all taxes and fees along with the necessary permits. As it turns out, getting to the entrance of Antelope Canyon involves a four mile off-road drive through incredibly deep sands that requires huge tires and supped up vehicles, so attempting to do it solo would have been problematic. Penny, my trusted Honda, would not have made it. 

Once we arrived at the entrance to the canyon, we disembarked from our monster truck and proceeded into the underground world.

The canyon has been cut by water.

Page, AZ has a rainy season every July and August that can dump several feet of rain onto this dessert oasis. The result is flash flooding and over time water has cut through the sand and rock to create a beautiful canyon. It is absolutely forbidden to visit the canyon during the rainy season as it is incredibly dangerous. In fact, several years ago National Geographic got permission to mount cameras inside of the canyon in order to capture video of the water rushing through the caverns. The water came through at such intense velocity that the cameras were ripped from the walls and carried out, never to be recovered. The holes from where the cameras were mounted still remain, but they are being worn smooth with each passing flood.

And here are some shots proving that we were, in fact, inside of the canyon.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe bend was recommended to us by our Antelope Canyon tour guide. It was a great recommendation.

Getting there required a bit of a hike, and again it was hot (being the dessert and whatnot), so luckily we were told by a fellow sight-seer to bring water. We hiked through sand and sharp pebbles towards The Bend and when we arrived we were blown away by Nature once again. Figuratively, for sure, but we were almost physically blown away as well, since there were massive winds down on the rim that whipped sharp sand against our skin as we stooped for cover and safety. It was all rather amusing, despite the genuine pain and element of danger. I kind of enjoy a small amount of peril in order to see Mother Earth's gems.

horseshoe bend

Lake Powell

We discovered these sights simply by going for a drive and seeing what we could find. Carmella and I have similar travel styles with regard to a "Let's just explore and see what happens!" attitude, which is why we make good travel buddies. After Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe bend, we didn't have a specific plan until heading out toward Coral Sands in Utah the next day. So we decided to take a drive.

Coral Sands

After we left Page and headed toward Los Angeles, the plan was to swing by Coral Sands in Utah. It was a little strange getting there as the roads are not clearly marked and I felt as if I was following a road to nowhere, but we did eventually end up at the visitor's center in Coral Sands National Park.

Once there, we had a photo shoot in the smooth (albeit HOT) pink/orange sand.

Destination Reached

And then before I knew it, we were driving on the freeway into Los Angeles. I made it to Downtown LA after the sun went down, but not before catching a west coast sunset. By the time I reached my brother's downtown loft, it was a city night.


Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Breaking the Rules at The Grand Canyon

In 2008 my father and I hiked the entire Grand Canyon, South Rim down to Phantom Ranch and back, in ONE day. 

Which, for the record, you are not supposed to do.

Grand Canyon Warning Sign

It really is not a very wise thing to do. I certainly do not recommend it for anyone who is not a serious hiker. Fortunately, I happen to be a crazy hiker and my Dad is still an avid cross country runner, so we were able to do it. We are certainly not the only ones to have done this, but it is firmly NOT recommended.

Of course, the original plan was not to do it all in one day. Hiking the Grand Canyon has always been on my Dad's bucket list. In 2008 he was in his late fifties and thought he should do it now before getting any older. Knowing that I was an fervent hiker, he thought I would be up for doing it with him. Which I was. Unfortunately, my Dad being my Dad, had this great idea and wanted to plan it for the near future. He had a business trip in Texas in a few months, so he figured he would then take a hopper over to Arizona and I could fly in from LA and meet him at the airport. We would rent a car and drive to the South Rim, spend the night on the rim, hike down to Phantom Ranch, spend the night at the ranch and then hike back out the next day.

As it turns out, Phantom Ranch, being small and the only option down at the bottom of the canyon, books up about a year out. we were going to hike the entire thing in one day.

Going down was actually very easy. Which was somewhat surprising because as any avid hiker will tell you, uphill is way better than downhill.


Uphill may be tiresome, but downhill is hell on your knees and ankles. Luckily, the South Rim path isn't particularly steep so the down hill section was pretty gentle on our joints. We made it down to the river and Phantom Ranch in 3 hours.

Down at the tiny little ranch, we ate lunch and relaxed for a bit. 

Phantom Ranch is unexciting.

Quaint. But unexciting.

Phantom Ranch

Which is good because we wanted to get going back fairly soon since it was starting to get hot. There is a huge temperature difference between the rim and in the canyon. It gets way hotter further down. We set off fairly early in the morning so we were currently fine, but we knew if we lingered down at the Ranch, our hike back up would not be pleasant.

Going back up took double the time. 6 hours. Therefore, our total hiking time for the day was 9 hours.

Going up was rather exhausting. By midday there was no shade to be found. We were hiking uphill for 6 hours straight under the blazing sun. This is why your average visitor should not attempt the all-in-one-day trek. By the end we were spent.

Despite our intense desire to collapse as soon as we made it back to the rim, it was a fantastic experience that I loved getting to share with my Dad. We had a great time and felt a massive sense of accomplishment when we got back.

After showering, we made our way to one of the restaurants on the rim for dinner. Sitting on the wooden booth my Dad commented that he had never been this sore in his entire life. He looked dog-tired, as I'm sure I did too, but we both still had goofy grins on our faces. Pride in accomplishment.

To this day this one of my Dad's and my proudest achievements. We are so glad we did it.

I'd happily do it over, but my Dad says "Never again." He's in his 60's now so I suppose that's fair. Either way, we did it.



Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.