Traveling Solo With or Without your Dog.

The first time I travelled on my own I was 17. I had been accepted into a student ambassador program along with a group of individuals that I did not know for a three week trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland. There was two home-stays during the three weeks and many other stops along the way. I remember the weeks leading up to the trip. I was so nervous. I had never gone anywhere with out my friends or family. And while I was going with a group of people, it wasn’t like I knew these people at all. I remember crying because I was so scared, how was I going to do this. I was shy, I didn’t know anyone, and I was going to be in multiple foreign countries. While I was there I had the best time. I made friends with the people in my group, I explored museums and some small towns on my own, I had my first taste the possibility of traveling solo.

Cut to present day. It’s just about 20 years later and I travel solo (or with my dogs) the majority of the time. The more I talk to people, the more I realize I’m in the minority of people willing to do this. And the biggest thing stopping people (especially women) from solo travel is fear.

Honestly, traveling solo is always a bit scary. But it’s totally worth it because traveling solo doesn’t mean you will actually always be alone. I have a few examples of what I mean.

Last summer I decided I wanted to spend a month in Washington. So I planned, budgeted, researched, and booked a trip. This trip happened to be with my two dogs, and it was a long one. The day before I left my mom visited to make sure that I had everything, cause that’s what moms do, and just like when I was 17, I had a moment that involved tears because my support system was going to be in a different state. Then the next morning, the dogs and I got in the car and started the trek up north. Prior to leaving I had contacted people I knew threw different adventure dog groups and made tentative and set in stone plans to meet up while I was there. This meant that I had time to spend hiking and exploring on my own, people to hike and camp with, and people to go out with or at least local suggestions of places to go. I went to the Space Needle, on an Underground Tour and a Mariners game on my own. I also enjoyed a summer thanksgiving dinner with a friends family and a bbq at the lake. It was such an amazing balance of solitude and company that I would do it again in a heart beat.

Prior to my Washington trip I took a weekend to drive through Utah and Colorado. Which I’ve done a few more times since the first trip. But this first trip. I stopped in Zion and Bryce National Parks on the way up. I got to spend exactly the right amount of time there, I didn’t have to wait for anyone, or hurry along because it was just me. From there I drove to Dillon, CO and had some moments on the drive. Like almost running out of gas. And working myself up to pure panic at a rest stop because this episode of Criminal Minds just kept running through my head. But I made it to my hotel safely. Nothing bad happened. And I’ve done the drive since then. In Colorado I met up with a friend. We went on a morning hike with the dogs. And then I went on my own way to visit another National Park.

I recently went to London for the weekend, I flew out on my own but I had a friend living there for a few months that I met up with. So while in London I was not on my own. However, if I had been I don’t think I would have done anything different. I took her on a Sherlock Holmes geek “tour” then we walked along the Thames, waiting for a walking tour through the East End. On the walking tour we met another solo traveler who joined our group as we went from one pub to another. The next day we took a tour to Stonehenge and Bath. It was amazing. I enjoyed being able to go to these places with someone. But really, I could have gone on my own. If I felt like it I could have talked to the other tourists on the bus with me. Or I could have soaked it all up on my own.

So here are a few of my travel tips:

1. Leave the fear at home. That doesn’t mean not to be cautious. Pay attention to the areas you stay in, be alert when walking around alone, etc. but don’t let fear keep you from living.

2. Find tours that interest you. Chances are there are other solo travelers taking those same tours and you have a chance to make new friends for the tour, the trip, or longer.

3. Sit at the bar and have a drink. Yes, that does mean someone will probably talk to you. That’s okay. Hopefully it’s someone local and you can learn about something cool to do. My favorite bar experience was watching a baseball game with Frankie at this outdoor bar down in San Diego. I think I talked to 90% of the people at the bar because of Frankie. Which was way outside of my comfort zone. But it was also fantastic.

4. Try new things. I’ve taken paddle boarding lessons, archery lessons, etc. on my own (or with my dogs) these lessons are a great way to be social while traveling by yourself.

5. Just go. Yep. That’s it. Just get out and do it. Yes it’s scary. And exhilarating. And nerve wracking. Honestly, even on a trip where things just didn’t go as planned. I’ve never regretted taking the trip. So really just do it.

If you have questions about traveling solo with or without dogs, let me know.

Shhhh … I have a secret.

If you are an avid outdoorsy person, I’m sure you’ve talked about them, you’ve maybe showed distaste about them, maybe even wished that they would leave the outdoors alone. Come on, I know you know who I’m taking about, that’s right …. the Social Media Hiker.

And now you might be wondering what my secret is. And you’re thinking “oh no, it can’t be true.” But yes, it is. I am a Social Media Hiker. Well, let me rephrase that. I started out as a Social Media Hiker. I don’t have this natural affinity for the outdoors. Camping is still this weird, foreign concept to me, I’m rarely truly at peace out in nature, but I sure do love a pretty picture of a gorgeous spot. And there’s very little that makes me happier then seeing that gorgeous spot with my own eyes.

Because I am a little obsessed with getting that picture (some of which hang in my walls) I’ve accomplished so much. In 2017, the pups and I hiked 78 trails for a total of 263 miles. And my respect for nature has grown. I’ve always been an environmentalist. But seeing these gorgeous places with my own eyes has inspired me to do more to take steps to protect them, to make sure that the last. Even if, I’m part, it’s so I can see it and take my picture of it.

I want more people to go out into nature. I want more people to learn that it should be protected. And I want them to feel welcome. So if you too are a Social Media Hiker here are some tips.

1. Be Prepared. Look up the trails. Know how long it is and how long it should take you. Make sure you can finish it before it’s too dark. Bring plenty of water. Lots of water. More water then you think you need. Pack a snack (I forget this one all the time). Pack extra socks. Bring layers.

2. Leave No Trace! Seriously. You are walking through something else’s home. Don’t leave your trash. Don’t ever leave your trash, ever. Do not graffiti rocks. No one needs to know you were there. No one needs inspirational quotes on rocks. Visit and leave it nicer then when you came.

3. Respect the Rules. You might think that you should be able to go off the trail, or bring your dog, or whatever it is you think that makes you special. But don’t. Those rules are there for a reason. Many of these places are available to us because it is protecting the natural habitat of plants and wildlife. Breaking those rules, going off the trail might endanger what is protected and might endanger you.

4. Respect your Limits. It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to turn around. Stay safe and make it back to your car on your own.

Enjoy the outdoors!

PNW, Final Thoughts

I read recently that travel should not be easy. That part of the reason to travel is to be challenged. This resonated with me deeply because as amazing as my summer trip was it definitely had its ups and downs.

I started planning this trip around November 2016. I found and booked a place to stay in December 2016. Then in January 2017 I found out I needed to have major surgery that has a fairly long recovery time. So even months prior to my trip I was concerned I wasn’t going to be able to explore the way I wanted to. But I was determined to keep my plans, so I spent the months between the surgery and leaving in July working towards my summer goals.

The night before I left for my trip I had a bit of a panic attack. It’s scary leaving your comfort zone for a month. And even with all the excitement and anticipation there’s also this worry about how things are going to go. After a few tears to release those emotions. I hit the road.

I would say my first set back was hiking Annette Lake. It was my 7th hike on the trip. The bugs were awful, absolutely awful. The hike was hard, harder then I thought it was going to be. And I struggled to keep my spirits up. I saw two snakes on the way back down. I hate snakes. My legs were wobbly. My back hurt. I was just done. So done and over it.

The most important thing though is the next day I still got up and went out exploring again.

A few days later Frankie, the wonderful Frankie, escaped the yard where I was staying. She ran into someone else’s yard and just wanted to play. That person wanted to call animal control to help catch her. Which of course terrified me. It was the last thing that I needed. I was able to get her back with out the help of animal control and my Airbnb host fixed the fence right away. However, I definitely had thoughts, thoughts of packing it all up and heading home.

I decided that I needed a day not exploring nature and decided to explore Seattle, shockingly without the dogs. I found a sitter on Rover.com and headed to Seattle to do all the touristy things possible. I saw the Space Needle, Pike’s Market and toon the Underground Tour. Which all was awesome. But when I went back to my car the back passenger window was shattered and some of my things were stolen. Including my camera lenses. Honestly, after this I wanted to pack it up and head home. I spent time on the phone with my friend and my dad. Tears were shed. Fear and the feeling of violation was present. I called my insurance company and got my window fixed the next day. And I stayed to continue exploring with my pups.

There was also the hikes that I couldn’t complete because of the surgery. I hope to go back in 2018 and finish them.

There were hikes that I ended up not doing because I was just tired, physically I couldn’t handle trying to summit anything. I replaced them with different easier things. Like the inhabited ghost town.

And our little excursion to Leavenworth.

We did an urban hike through Seattle.

We went to a private dog park and agility training course.

While the trip did not go smoothly, it was perfect in its own way. It showed exactly how much I could overcome and that I could keep going. I saw so many beautiful things. It was truly amazing. Every aspect of the trip added to the entire experience and it would not have been as meaningful of an adventure if it hadn’t had both the highs and the lows.

A Summer in Washington: the Waterfalls

When you spend 28 days exploring one area with no work to get take up your time you get to see so much. Especially when you dedicate that time to exploring the outdoors almost exclusively. Which, to be honest, ended up shifting a little as my city girl side decided to show up and scream “no more wilderness” at certain points along the way. But before it did, and even after we tried to explore all the things, including waterfalls. Who doesn’t love a good waterfall hike? For me they are probably some of my favorite because a waterfall is magical. There’s something about the water cascading down a cliff side, feeling the mist on your face, and seeing a rainbow in the mist that makes me think of fairies and sprites. So whenever I have a chance to hike to a waterfall I do. And so we did, specifically we went to Twin Falls, Snoqualmie Falls, Franklin Falls and Cherry Creek Falls. Each one offered a different type of adventure, all enjoyable.

Twin Falls

We packed up the car for our waterfall hunt to begin and headed up Highway 90. The drive was easy. At the trail head I got the dogs ready with their packs and we started out on the trail. We hiked by a stream that Storm had to play in. But Frankie was impatient to continue on so we did not stop long.

The trail itself meandered by the stream for a bit until we started the first climb up. It was definitely a climb, but the trail was well maintained so it was fairly simple. At the top of that hill was a set of benches that overlooked the falls.

After a brief rest enjoying the view we climbed the next hill. Then a set of well made stairs to the waterfall overlook.

While it was a pretty view. I was not quite satisfied so we continued on the trail. We headed to the bridge that went right over the waterfall before turning back. It was worth it to feel the power and mist of the falls.

From there we went back to the car and went straight to our second waterfall.

Snoqualmie Falls

Also off Hwy 90. This falls is a crowded trip because it is so impressive and it appeared in the TV show Twin Peaks. But more interesting to me is how the falls is used. The Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Plant is at the falls. It is made of two power houses. The first was built in 1899. It is at the base of the falls embedded in the rock. It’s actually the world’s first underground power plant. The second was built in 1910 and expanded in 1957. 1% of Puget Sound Energy comes from this plant.

Just look at some of the equipment they use for to produce power.

We hiked down to view the falls and the old power plant. Enjoying the labeled nature path along the way. And then went back to our flat in Seattle to rest up for more hiking.

Franklin Falls (a recovery hike)

I loved this hike and almost did it a second time while I was in Washington, it was easy with a nice pay off at the end. And sometimes those are my favorite hikes. The day we went was pretty much the only rainy day while I was in Washington, shocking I know, but it didn’t deter us. We slept in a bit and got to the trail head around 10:30am. To say it was crowded is an understatement. But I knew to expect it so I did not let that ruin our time. I enjoyed looking at all the old evergreens as we made our way to the falls. The dogs loved the attention they got from other hiking groups.

The only hard part of the trail is the last little stretch to the falls because the rocks are slippery from the mist of the falls. But there is a guide rope to help you down, just take your time and be careful.

We stayed at the falls long enough for there to be a break in the crowds before heading back out. It was amazing how serene a place can be seconds after being over run by crowds.

And last …

Cherry Creek Falls (the falls in the middle of the city, sorta)

This hike really was part of the suburbs. This flat (oh I love a fairly flat trail) started off parking in a local neighborhood. And led to these trickling falls.

My favorite part might have been actually walking on the side trail through the forest. The lighting trickling through the trees reminded me of fairytales with wood nymphs and wizards. And while I know I’m a bit fanciful, I could picture some of my favorite novels taking place in these woods.

The pups favorite part was playing at the base of the falls. Which we finally reached after getting slightly turned around. Passing by it. But finally finding it with a very nice group of young women, who were kind enough to be okay with the dogs running around off leash.

There was very little interest in posing. But I did manage to capture this shot in front of the falls.

And Storm decided to take a swim break for a second.

But mostly they just splashed and played until it was time to head back.

It’s always fun to visit a waterfall. I hope there are many more to come in this coming up year.

Winter Weekend in Washington

As you might have noticed I might have a bit of an obsession with the Pacific Northwest. Recently the pups and I drove up to get in a couple of snow and be a part of my friend’s wedding.

For this weekend adventure we stayed at an adorable cabin on a farm in Snohomish. I wish I had some pictures of it because it was super cute. But we stayed so busy I was only in the cabin to sleep.

On Friday morning we woke up early and headed up Mountain Loop Highway to Heather Lake. The road was icy which for my native California soul was a little stressful. We arrived safely just before 9am.

While not a hard hike, it was a struggle for me. I’m pretty sure it was the 13 hour drive the day before that made it as difficult as it was for me. The hike was supposed to be 4.7 miles, my gps said I did closer to 8 miles.

The last third of the hike was a bit icy. Thankfully my friend had ice spikes I could borrow which made the hike soooo much easier. Once we got to the snow the pups went nuts. I was impressed with the view of the mountain and frozen lake.

Storm made my heart stop by walking out on the lake.

It was definitely a frosty view at the lake. It was just us and our friends up there for most of the morning. So the pups got to play for a bit.

Then I made them hammock with me.

And Frankie and Storm cuddled a bit under a blanket.

It was a fantastic morning for all of us and our pup friends.

The next day was the wedding. I was constantly on the go while the dogs spent the day with our friend at the cabin. She was nice enough to help me pack up after the wedding so Sunday morning I could make the sunrise snow hike. Unfortunately the sun didn’t get the memo, so it was another frosty morning hike.

Sunday’s adventure took us to Lake Kachess. It was absolutely gorgeous there.

The pups got to run and play off leash as we were the only ones there all morning. And our friend Amber, you can find her pups on Instagram @pawsthatwander, took so many wonderful photos of Frankie and Storm.

Photo Credit Amber Mae Photography Photo Credit Amber Mae PhotographyPhoto Credit Amber Mae PhotographyPhoto Credit Amber Mae PhotographyPhoto Credit Amber Mae PhotographyPhoto Credit Amber Mae PhotographyPhoto Credit Amber Mae PhotographyPhoto Credit Amber Mae PhotographyPhoto Credit Amber Mae PhotographyPhoto Credit Amber Mae Photography

It was so fun spending the morning with @pawsthatwander and @youdidwhatwithyourweiner I was a little sad to get back on the road to head home. But I know I’ll adventure with them again soon.

The Alpine Lakes in Washington

One of the main reasons I love the PNW is alpine lakes. It’s just not something that we have here down in Southern California. So when I started my multitabbed spreadsheet to organize the hikes I wanted to do, you better believe that the majority of them had lake, oh so many lakes.

One of the first hikes we did was to Talapus and Ollalie lake with our Instagram friends @6.dog.squad. This was a gorgeous hike with two lovely lakes to just relax at. The water was so clear. And if it wasn’t for the bugs that like lakes as much as I do. I could have easily set up our hammock and hung out for a few hours. (I’m pretty sure I forgot the hammock)

The very next day we hiked Annette Lake where I saw two snakes in the hike down. Harmless as they were. I’m kinda like Indiana Jones when it comes to snakes …

To say the bugs were insane here would be an understatement. Making it difficult for even Frankie to lose for photos.

One of my favorite hikes was Ira Springs Mason Lake. I was nervous about it because my legs were so tired after hiking the two previous days. And I was meeting up with some new people. But this one turned out to be my favorite hike of all. While it was hard. My new friends were patient with me going slow. The trail was gorgeous. And the lake was so relaxing. Less bugs then the other lakes. In fact. Both pups decided to nap.

Amazing view of Mt. Rainier

Frankie and Storm with their new friend Sora from @longhaultrekkers

This lake gave me all the feels.

Two tired pups.

The next day we met up with our friends from @pawsthatwander and @mycaninelife for a sunrise hike at Sheep Lake.

To say it was an early wake up would be an understatement. We were on the road by 3am to make it to Rainier by the time the sun rose. A 2 hour drive. But it was worth it. The hike itself was a nice and easy one. And we spent the majority of our time letting the dogs frolic at the lake. Which they adored.

We did get a mandatory group shot of all the pups of course.

Mirror and Cottonwood Lakes were the next two lakes on our list. It was a long dirt road to a short hike. Which was just what I needed after the multiple 7plus mile hikes we had done in a week. This short hike took you to two picturesque lakes. One lake you could back pack to and camp lakeside. It was a nice relaxing hike to recover from all the other hiking that we had done. Peaceful and not too crowded.

We hiked five more alpine lakes while we were in Washington. Our main research resource to find these dog friendly hikes was the Washington Trails Association website and app. Check it out at http://www.wta.org.

Comeback when we post again for information on those hikes. And let us know if you have any questions we do have a multi tabbed spreadsheet organizing Washington hikes by area, distance, elevation or features. 😂

Mt. Baker Camping Trip

Today we return to the recap of our summer in Washington by taking a look back at our camping trip in Mt Baker area. The first thing that is important to note is that I am not a camper. After this trip I can say I have been camping a total of 4 times in my life. However, the places I wanted to explore were 3 plus hours away from my home base in Seattle so I was convinced by Jessica, a local who has explored Washington with her two pups, that camping was the way to go. So camp we did.

Lucky for me this turned in to a group camp with camping pros. Jessica, Jen and Dave camped with me. Helping me through the ways of camping and providing gear that I just didn’t have. I highly recommend their blogs http://www.youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com and http://www.longhaultrekkers.com to follow their different adventures.

We all met up in Mukilteo, piling gear for 5 people and 5 dogs into two cars and started our drive north. Our first stop was in Bellingham at the co-op for a delicious lunch. Then we continued on our way into the mountains.

Before stopping at our campsite we briefly stopped at Picture Lake. This wheelchair accessible trail is about a half mile and has amazing overlooks of the still lake with jagged mountains in the distance.

We then continued up the mountain to check out Artist Point. Here, I realized my flip flops were not the best choice in foot wear as there was snow. Soooooo much snow. In July. While my feet were not thrilled the dogs loved it. Because they love all things froze.

After this brief trip into the snow we returned to the campsite to set up camp. Even with all the bugs the campsite was fantastic. As was the stream that was right next to it.

Frankie and Storm settled in for the night. Enjoying being outdoors. I enjoyed the company as we hung out around the campfire waiting for the sun to go down and the stars to come out.

It finally started to get dark. And the Milky Way could be seen overhead at our campsite. So Jen and I drove back to Picture Lake to try our hand at night scape photography. This area has little to no light pollution. So it makes for the perfect spot to capture the Milky Way during the summer months. This was my first time trying this, so we trekked back to that short trail with our cameras, tripods and headlamps (use red or green lights to not disturb others) and found a great place to set up. The photos weren’t perfect. But for a first time. They were decent.

We went back to camp to get some sleep before our hike the next morning. It was an interesting night for me. My air mattress would not hold air so I slept on the ground. But at least the pups did good in the tent. Unlike Frankie’s first camping escapade.

In the morning we got into our cars and piled into our cars to get to the trailhead for Yellow Asther Butte. This trail is tough. I couldn’t finish it because of some post surgery pain. But what I did see was spectacular.

That view, those flowers, and a cute pup. You can’t go wrong

Always searching for the next view. Or squirrel.

The horse flies were out and on the attack.

That view though.

Resting with me in the trail.

While the others finished the trail. I napped in my friends truck with the dogs. It was much needed after a rough night of sleep. Then it was back to the campsite for some river romping and relaxing until golden hour. At that time we packed the dogs and went to Artist Point to traverse the snow and watch as the sun turned Shuksan pink.

Back at the camp we enjoyed some banana boats. And prepared for the next day where we would break down camp and head to Heliotrope Ridge for our last hike in the area.

The pups may or may not have wanted to get up in the morning. But who would want to when snuggled under your Coalatree blanket.

Heliotrope ridge was another stunning hike. However, my camera battery died so I don’t have any photos to share. But it did make for a nice hike where I just enjoyed being, rather then capturing. If you make it to the end you can see the glacier, and potentially people hiking in the glacier. Once again my post surgery pain flared and I missed the last bit of the trail. But I had so much fun camping here that I already have plans to meet up with some of my Instagram friends and group camp here next July.