Pop-Up Trip to Folsom, CA

Our Maiden Voyage

After a few weeks of cleaning and patching up our camper, we decided it was time for a trip! We thought it would be best to stay close to home, just in case anything went awry. We ended up visiting Folsom Lake and stayed at Beals Point. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Sacramento/Norcal area, Folsom Lake is the 9th biggest lake in California and is really beautiful.

This turned out to be the perfect location for our first trip with our pop-up. The amenities were great, bathrooms and showers, and we had no issues while we were there. Our dogs also enjoyed the hiking and beach access that was within walking distance of our site. Oh, and we enjoyed that too :-).

Folsom Lake

In addition to an awesome place to camp, Folsom is also a great place to visit. There is a totally restored old town and a large outdoor mall called the Palladio close to the campsite. You can enjoy the best of camping, with miles of hiking/biking trails, boating and loads of beach surrounded by calm, predator free water. Or you can head into town and have a delicious meal at a great restaurant or see a movie

However, the best part about Folsom and the Sacramento area in general is the proximity to all of the best sites in Norcal. You can visit Tahoe, Napa, Sonoma, Amador County (amazing wine), the redwood forest, the Sierra Nevada foothills, Mendocino/Fort Bragg and Yosemite all in less than 3 hours. Most of these are only 1.5-2.5 hours away, but Yosemite is closer to 3 hours. So, if you decide you want to see more of our beautiful state, your day trip options really are endless.

Virginia City, NV

My husband and I recently went home to visit our families for the holidays. Home for us is Northern California, in the foothills just outside of Sacramento. It had been a very long time since we’d been home and we were excited to get back to our old stomping grounds. While we were home visiting, Nick’s parents wanted to take a day trip to Virginia City, NV.

Virginia City History

Neither of us had ever even heard of Virginia City prior to our trip that day. Weird, considering that it’s only a couple of hours from Sacramento just over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. For those who are like us and have no idea what this place is all about, Virginia City is boom town that sprang up in 1859, when the Comstock Lode was discovered by Peter O’Riley and Patrick McLaughlin. The Comstock Lode was the first major silver deposit discovered in the United States.

Current Day

The town is built into the eastern side of Mount Davidson and sits at 6,200 feet above sea level. It has an incredibly rustic beauty that reminded me of the quintessential wild west. The main drag is quaint and very well preserved to maintain the 19th century rustic construction. There are pubs and shops that are there to cater to the tourists that this town attracts, which is the basis of the town’s economy in the 21st century.

Popular Attractions

The Bucket of Blood Saloon is one of the more famous saloons in the city. While we did not eat there or buy a drink, we did take a look around. There is a huge window at the back of the building that overlooks the valley below Mount Davidson. It’s a really nice view to enjoy over a pint.

The Silver Queen Hotel & Wedding Chapel is another of the more popular attractions, featuring a picture of a woman whose dress is made entirely of silver dollars.

The Silver Terrace Cemetery is another and has been featured on Ghost Hunters as one of the most haunted places in America. As with any proper old town, there are definitely ghost tours that you can take in the evening.

Since Virginia City was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961, there is a pretty large list of Museums that you can visit there. There too many to go over in detail, so I’ve provided a link here for your convenience.

Final Thoughts

We found Virginia City totally enchanting and will definitely take another trip up there when we return home. It was a throwback to the way things used to be in the 1800’s and is as close as we’ve gotten to the wild west. Which is saying something, considering that I’ve lived in Arizona and been to Tombstone :-).

5 Must Sees in Maui

Maui is an absolutely beautiful place! Forested mountains and rich green plains meet the crystal blue ocean. I’ve been a few times over the last 15 years and it’s one of my favorite places on earth. There is a lot to do while you visit this stunning island and I have a few recommendations to help you plan an awesome trip based on my travels there.

1. Snorkeling in Molokini

Though there are a ton of tourists that frequent this partially submerged volcanic crater, it is an absolutely beautiful experience. The boat ride out there is relatively short and there is a lot of sea life waiting to be explored. The coral is vivid and beautiful and so are the fish. We got VERY lucky on our trip and a school of dolphin swam by while we were snorkeling. It was a totally unforgettable experience.

If you decide to book this day trip, there are some cruises that include a stop at Turtle Town on your way back from Molokini. This is a trip that I think is totally worth tacking onto your snorkel experience in Molokini. While I probably wouldn’t just got there, I would absolutely do both in the same day. I’ve been on this trip a few times and I have always seen sea turtles, which is pretty awesome. They are graceful and beautiful creatures and it’s everything you can do to keep from pestering them while you’re out there :-).

2. The Road to Hana

This trip is not for the faint of heart, but absolutely worth taking. It will be a long day of driving through about 65 miles of winding highway loaded with switchbacks. But the sights you will get to see while you make this long treck will stay with you forever. This is where you will see the Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach and the Pools of ‘OHe’o (The Seven Sacred Pools), along with numerous hikes to other incredible locations. Bring your suit and be ready to swim in both locations, as long as your comfortable with a little rip tide at the beach. The pools, however, are fresh water and a nice, easy swim for anyone.

Outside of the specific stopping points, the scenery as you drive through the forest is stunning. When you actually arrive in Hana, it’s like taking a step into the past. The village is remote enough that it remains relatively untouched by the outside world. If you make this trip, it’s wise to break it up by choosing great stopping points along the way.

3. Snorkel in Kapalua Bay Beach

If you’re looking for a great way to spend an inexpensive day, then this is your ticket! One morning, we asked our resort concierge where we could snorkel locally without taking a day trip and they recommended Kapalua Bay Beach. So, we rented some snorkels and fins for $15 and then drove over there from Ka’anapoli Shores Resort. It’s only two towns over and the ride was about 10-15 minutes total. The beach was beautiful, easy to swim and had pretty awesome snorkeling very close to shore. We whiled away the day between sunning ourselves on the sand and heading back to snorkel different spots around bay.

4. Shore Dive in Ka’anapali

Admittedly, I haven’t done a ton of diving in Hawaii since I wasn’t certified when I last took the trip. But, this is the first place I ever dove and it was an awesome experience. If you have any interest in Scuba, this is a very easy dive that is conducted right off of the shore and is only about 30 feet deep. We took a discover scuba course at Ka’anapali Shores Resort at the time, though other dive shops offered similar dives nearby. There is a small reef right off the shoreline that you get to explore and there is also a good amount of sea life.

The coolest thing I’ve ever experienced was holding the octopus, which is pictured in the album above. Our instructor spotted it and caught it for us during the dive. This particular octopus actually suctioned onto your skin and then changed colors to match whoever was holding it. It felt like the softest velvet you could possibly imagine and every time I dive, I pray that I get to replicate the experience. It hasn’t happened yet, but a girl can dream!

5. Hyatt Drums of the Pacific Luau

For some reason, I can’t seem to bring myself to go to Hawaii without attending a Luau! The Hyatt Drums of the Pacific Luau is the best one I’ve been to by far, from both a performance and food standpoint (and I’ve attended a few). The fire dancing is pretty incredible to watch and the show covers cultures from all over the pacific islands. So, if you’re looking for that true Hawaii tourist experience, this will complete your trip!

Honorable Mentions

The most memorable meal we had the entire time we were in Maui was at Mama’s Fish House. The food there is absolutely incredible, as is the ambiance. We stopped on our way back to Lahaina from the road to Hana and that worked out perfectly. This restaurant is a little pricey, so it was our one big splurge while we were there. But, it was definitely worth it! My general rule in Maui is to eat as much seafood as possible while I am there and this is definitely the place to do it!

We hope that this helps you plan out your vacation and gives you a good idea of some of the prime locations to spend your time. There are also some pretty awesome volcanic drives/hikes, specifically Haleakala National Park, which is on my personal to-do list for my next trip. As you can probably tell from any research you may have already done, there is a ton to do in Hawaii. Maui is an incredible place and no matter what you choose to do while you’re there, the energy and the island will make it a wonderful experience!

Florida’s Fresh Water Springs

When most people picture Florida, they see white sandy beaches and bright blue water. They envision the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, dotted with beautiful resorts and condominiums. Or they picture cruising on an airboat through the dark swamp water of the everglades and sighting alligators.

But did you know that the northern/central part of the state is home to a ton of fresh water springs? The water is a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit, crystal clear and bright blue. They are popular dive and snorkel locations, as well as lazy river float haunts for college kids. They are a wonderful way to see the state in a different light and give their visitors a nice reprieve from the state’s summer heat.

Blue Grotto

Blue Grotto is an incredible spring located at the bottom of a sinkhole, for lack of a better description. It looks as though the earth fell away and opened into a rocky cavern of crystal clear water.  It’s spring fed and has that same cool, constant temperature mentioned above year round.

We dove Blue Grotto and it was a fun, but short dive. There are a lot of rugged rock structures and interesting fossils to see while you’re down there. There is also an underwater lookout point that is filled with breathable air. This is kind of awesome from a novelty standpoint. Getting to be underwater and taking off your mouthpiece is a trip!

However, as far as animal life is concerned, it’s a closed system so there isn’t much in the spring. This is part of what makes it a short dive. Once you’ve explored the upper and middle caverns, there’s not much else to see. However, there is Virgil! Virgil is a lovely female, soft-shelled turtle who has lived in the cavern for years. She is pretty much tame and sneaks up on you when you least expect it! She is absolutely beautiful, so we’ve embedded a video for you guys to see.

Rainbow River

Rainbow River is by FAR my favorite fresh water dive and actually ranked closely with the kelp forest dive we did in Monterey Bay, CA. It’s a drift dive in an absolutely spectacular location. You start at the Rainbow River Park and take a boat up to the mouth of the river. Then you jump off the back of the boat and let the current take you down the river while you scuba.

The water is crystal clear and you are surrounded by spectacular trees with Spanish moss waving from their branches on the ride up-river. Then, once you get underwater, it is even more beautiful. There is a ton of vivid green, waving sea grass and quite a few caverns and structures during the dive. This is mixed with plenty of colorful fish and turtles swimming all around you. I wish we had more dive footage of this, but the go-pro images we had didn’t really convey the peaceful serenity of the experience. It seems like there’s something special about this dive that doesn’t quite translate on camera. Guess we’ll just have to go back and try again…darn! 😉

I did, however, find a really cool video of the fresh, underground spring water bubbling up from the sand. This is compliments of our friends Joe and Nora, so thank you guys!

Places to Stay

The best part about most of the springs we’ve visited is that they are open for camping. On this particular trip we camped at Devil’s Den, which is another awesome spring just a short drive away. However, you could definitely check out the camping sites at Blue Grotto or Rainbow River and be just as happy.

As a side note, if you do decide to visit Devil’s Den, I would not recommend scuba diving there. We did that the first time we visited and it wasn’t really worth it. It is definitely worth snorkeling though!

Tips for Fresh Water & Spring Diving

Before I finish this post, I wanted to share a couple of tips for fresh water diving and the temperature in the springs. The first tip is that you will definitely want gloves, boots and a 5 millimeter wet suit. Though 72 degrees Fahrenheit doesn’t sound that cold, it is not warm at all. I can’t imagine doing this, or any spring dive, without a wet suit of at least that thickness.

The second tip is with regards to buoyancy. For those of you who are newer to fresh water diving, the weight needed to achieve proper buoyancy is much less than in salt water. We dove in Blue Grotto first, which is a super easy dive to use to adjust your weight. There is a floating dock right by where you will dive and you can add or remove weight as needed right there, without impacting the enjoyment of your dive. If you are going to do both dives, I’d do that one first so that you get your weight right there instead of at Rainbow River.

Final Thoughts

If you are not a diver but love to snorkel, then all of the springs mentioned in this post are still incredible locations for you! Diving is not required in any of these places and I think you could have a great experience and see a lot of what the springs have to offer if you snorkeled instead.

As always, we hope you enjoyed this post and please feel free to reach out to us with any questions you might have! If you’re interested in more dive spots, check out our post on Belize.

Southern France

The Village of Eze

During our visit to the French Riviera, we stayed in a picturesque village called Eze. Conveniently located between Monte Carlo and Nice, it’s a great home base for a peaceful trip. When Nick and I go on vacation, we like to be away from big cities and spend our time in nature. This was the ideal location for that as it was the most beautiful place we’d ever seen.

Bed & Breakfast

We stayed in a wonderful bed and breakfast called Domaine Pins-Paul.  It’s a stunning stone home, tucked into the cliff-side that overlooks the old castle of Eze. The home has historic charm but all of the modern amenities. We do highly recommend this as a place to stay, but be sure that you request a room with AC if you get hot at night.

The breakfast is delicious, especially the pastries. There is also an infinity pool that is cut into a cliff and that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, lounging in the sun and reading.

Places to Eat

There isn’t much to eat in the Village of Eze, but the Village de la Turbie is a quick 5 minute drive away. The village is situated on a large cliff, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It’s home to quite a few delicious restaurants and the coolest soccer field I’ve ever seen. We both WISHED we could have played there just one time.

Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo is everything that you’d expect and more. How to best describe it? The palace and the casinos were lavish and full of wealth. Everything looked as though it had been scrubbed clean. The gardens and landscaping were spectacular everywhere we went.

We made the mistake of going on a Sunday, not realizing that everything would be closed. We want to pass this information on because we want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake.

Nice

Nice was very pretty, but to us, it was just another big city. However, we spent a great day there shopping and eating lunch by the ocean. The perk of this big city is definitely the shopping. Europe has a tendency to be a little more fashion forward than the United States. So, you can get some great clothing there that’s unique.

Final Thoughts

Because we tacked this trip onto the end of my master’s program trip, we didn’t have as much time as we’d have liked. It was truly the most beautiful place we’d ever been in our entire lives and we’d definitely go back. The cliffs and the Mediterranean Sea are absolutely breathtaking! Though if you’re planning to spend anytime on the beach, please bring water shoes because you’ll be walking across large rocks to get to the sea.

We hope you enjoyed the photos and reading about our trip! Please reach out with any questions if you are planning a trip to the region.

 

Visit Oregon

Nick and I enjoyed a quick 4 day trip to Oregon. We started in Portland and visited the Gorge and then made our way towards the coast. This was one of my favorite vacations because it was so incredibly beautiful. The scenery in Oregon is unlike anything you will see anywhere else in the world.

The Gorge

We spent a full afternoon driving through the Columbia River Gorge and enjoying the natural beauty. The forests are vivid green and teaming with waterfalls. We just got lost and explored all of the scenic lookout points and parks it had to offer. There are a lot of signs that direct you to these areas, which makes it very easy to find your way around. But if you’re a planner, then this site on travelling in the Gorge is a great resource to help you plan your adventure.

The Oregon Coast

After our sightseeing adventure in the Gorge, we drove out to the coast. Even the drive from the Portland area out to the coastal towns is absolutely spectacular. We saw mountains and miles of picturesque farmland as we drove towards the Pacific Ocean.

Sand Lake Country Inn

We stayed at the Sand Lake Country Inn, which is a bed & breakfast located between Oceanside and Pacific City. It is easily my favorite B&B to date. The hosts were fantastic and breakfast was truly to die for every single day. Though, the best thing about staying here is the COFFEE! If you request it, they provide you with a french press every morning. Best way to start your day EVER!

Things To Do

This was a very short trip for us, but we made the most of the time we were there. We went horseback riding on the beach with Green Acres Beach & Trail Rides in Pacific City. We then spent the day in town and and enjoyed some delicious wine at Twist Wine Company’s local tasting room.

We also spent an afternoon and evening in Oceanside, walking on the beach and hiking through a small cave in the rocks. When dinner time came, we had a wonderful meal at Roseanna’s Cafe. The restaurant sits up on the dunes above the beach and the view is both romantic and completely serene.

On our last day there, we went on a short nature walk/hike and then visited Cape Meares Lighthouse in Tillamook. The forest was filled with massive trees and lush greenery. The picture of the fallen tree with the person in front of it is actually of me. I’m about 5’6″ and that photograph shows just how massive the tree’s root system is. Stunning, isn’t it?

Final Thoughts

This wasn’t my first trip to the coast, so I wanted to share a quick thought from my first visit. Further south along the coast near Florence, there are some pretty amazing sand dunes. They have dune buggy rides that are wild and crazy fun! So, if you have more time, it is definitely worth the day trip!

Oregon is a beautiful place to spend your vacation. It’s peaceful and relaxing, without the hustle and bustle of the city. We both loved this vacation and plan to head back that way sometime in the near future. We will definitely make sure we stay longer next time.