Mt Whitney – On top of the U.S.A.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The passion for hiking and climbing does not stop at reaching the highest point. I always wonder what above that point is. What is the next challenge?

Mt. Whitney is the highest in 48 states and I didn’t think twice when I was asked to do it. With 6000 ft elevation gain, 22 miles round-trip, 17-hour hike it was a great challenge to overcome.

I was once again the only girl in the group and it definitely made me push myself harder. It almost seems I try to prove something to the guys. Yet, after a few long miles when the elevation hits your body, the beat of your heart is pounding your brain, and you can only hear your own breath – there you realize it’s about your own mental, physical, and emotional challenge. It’s about making it to the top and feeling complete with the nature.

Venice Beach, California

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I thought Portland, Oregon was weird but not until I visited Venice Beach, California.  I was mesmerized by the street mishmash and chaos. My eyes could not stop running from street performers, to CD rap sellers, from dancers, to shops, and would finally stop and stare at bodybuilders. They were definitely there for the girls with cameras like us.

I was like a kid in a candy shop watching the people. There was not a single moment without an exciting, exotic, or exceptional person passing by, performing, selling, dancing, skating, biking, playing basketball, or offering marijuana prescriptions. It seemed like a big melting pot of the most abnormal but at the same time typical people of LA. They were the best of the best.

It definitely is a must place to visit in LA. The atmosphere is there.

Mt. Wilson, California

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This was one of those hikes just like the one in Panama: a group of guys, steep elevation, and telephone towers at the top. Apparently, flat Los Angeles has its hills and mountains as well.  I knew nothing about Mt. Wilson and showed just up  for the sake of adventure and exercise. When we got to the parking lot, the hike was supposed to be 6 miles. I was unsure if it was one way or a round trip and didn’t dare to ask. The guys looked tough for whiny questions like that.

Half way up, I realized that the hike was 14 miles round trip with 4745 feet elevation. To describe it in a few words,  it was  challenging, hot, and sweaty. It definitely was not for beginners and if you wanted to push yourself – there you had it!

We all made it to the top where we quickly chewed on some snacks and rushed back to the parking lot. I could feel my knees screaming and toes getting numb. Yet, the great satisfaction of personal achievement and being in the nature was incomparable. I must add the best reward of a double burger from In-N-Out afterwards!

GETTING THERE: Get there early on a nice weekend day to get a parking spot

PARKING: Free on the street or $10 at a private parking lot that opens at 8:30am and has 30 spots

San Diego, California

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Who would imagine? San Diego has so much diversity and beauty! It’s almost like a hidden treasure of California. Not knowing about it, I was imagining it being similar to L.A. but just with more heat and traffic.

To my surprise, it turned out to be a pretty fun place to spend a day. Our curiosity took us to Seaport Village. It definitely is a  tourist trap with cute little boutiques, cafes, ice cream kiosks, bookstores, and restaurants. People do all kinds of arts and crafts. We saw mimes, clowns, jugglers, painters, parrot owners, kite runners, and psychics. We strolled along the Pacific ocean, had our beer (of course), watched people, listened to music, and took photos.

I felt like a tourist again and lost my consciousnesses of the place and time for a few hours.  It was nice just to be present in the moment.

17 hours of Solitary Driving: Oregon to California

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

17 hours of driving, from Portland to Los Angeles and I finally arrived to start a new chapter of my life. Not excited, not disappointed, I just arrived. There was it all along the I-5 south: tall Oregon evergreens, beautiful Mt. Shasta, endless dry California desert, strong warm winds, and smoky clouds of nearby fires.

I was luckily met by my best friends and had a few days to look for apartments and explore the area. I didn’t have expectations about CA but as I am starting exploring, I start loving it more and more.