Sunscreen

That Time We Almost Died in the Desert

Okay maybe that’s a little dramatic, but let me back up. 🙂

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Anna and I had planned on going for a hike while we were in Tucson so she reserved a Zipcar for the day on Monday. We got a little Dunkin Donuts breakfast and coffee (god I adore their iced coffee) and we got the car. It was parked in Zipcar parking at the University so it was a two block walk from the hotel.

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We drove to Oro Valley and stopped at Trader Joe’s to grab food for lunch. We planned on doing a hike in Catalina State Park. I did one with my parents last time I was in Arizona. This time we did the Romero Pools Trail. It was classified as “moderate” and sounded like a nice way to spend the day. (I looked up the trail info for more details when I got home and apparently it was 5.6 miles roundtrip to the Pools, over 7 if you do the whole canyon trail. 1000 feet elevation gain.)

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It was a lot hotter out on Monday than the rest of our trip. We packed a ton of water and I had one bottle of Gatorade, too. We were definitely well-hydrated, which was good. (Last trip to Arizona my family hadn’t hiked long because we didn’t pack enough water.) Us girls got a later start in the day than ideal but it worked out alright.

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We set out on the trail through the wash and the easy, wide part where the horses were. We even saw some horses!

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The trail started to go uphill a little. We were blazing a trail in the beginning and as the hike went on, the elevation climbed and the day got hotter we slowed down. There was a part of the trail that had “stairs”, which was nice.

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Then the trail started to turn into a rock “scramble”. It wasn’t rock climbing, but there were many, many parts of the trail where it felt kind of like it!

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Thankfully most of the trail wasn’t on the edge of a cliff, which is a no-go for me. I felt relatively safe for most of it.

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We saw some creatures. Geckos and lots of hummingbirds! Whenever I reached out to use a rock for assistance in the climb I ALWAYS looked first to make sure there weren’t scary or deadly critters waiting to get me. This little guy looked harmless though.

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There is something kind of magical about being in the tan, brown, gray desert and all of a sudden seeing splashes of color. The desert flowers that bloom are particularly colorful and pretty!

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It was a really popular trail. As we were climbing up, most of the people we saw were heading down the trail. Whenever we found shade (which wasn’t very often) we took advantage of it and took a break. We stopped often for water breaks, too.

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I was wearing the sunshirt I bought in Maui and wearing lots of sunscreen! Thankfully neither of us got too burned on the hike and re-applied sunscreen several times.

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We seemed to be near the top of the ridge. We asked a few hikers if we were close to the pools. We got different answers from everyone. Some people said we were almost there and it was worth the hike. Some said we were halfway! Some said it was another 15 minutes…well, we finally arrived at the top and then the trail went downhill.

Then we were at the pools!

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The secluded canyon had a lot of shady areas, which was nice, and there was a cool breeze that felt wonderful! Here is the calorie count for the hike up:

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We set up our picnic lunch in the shade on the rocks and relaxed. Lunch was courtesy of Trader Joe’s: a small loaf of Asiago and black pepper bread, sliced Gouda cheese, sugar snap peas and Rainier cherries. It was the perfect lunch!

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After relaxing, cooling off and eating lunch, we explored the pools a little bit. I really wished I’d brought my swim suit! It looked like a wonderful place to cool off.

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We decided it was time to head back down. It was getting hotter in the day and would soon be the peak. We had enough water to last us the hike down, so that was good. I never felt dehydrated, also good.

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We hiked back up to the top of the ridge. Then started to come down the trail.

Then I stopped.

And took two steps backwards.

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Anna was behind me and said “OH MY GOD IS THAT A SNAKE?!”

Um, yes, yes it is a snake. And it’s a big one.

So I’m gonna just stand back here and let him pass by his merry way and not bother him.

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I let the snake slither across the trail (it was moving VERY slowly) and took a photo of it. Thank goodness for zoom lenses because eff that! I’m not getting close to that thing. But I wasn’t going to make any sudden movements, either. So I just stood there and waited. Once it was in the brush I decided it was okay and I ran (leaped) down the trail past the snake and then coaxed Anna to follow. She freaked out a bit and then followed.

Further down the trail we came across some other hikers who asked if we’d seen a snake. Apparently they’d heard Anna’s screams. 🙂

Here is Anna before the SNAKE INCIDENT:

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Carefree and happy…It was definitely a heart-pounding experience. I don’t know what kind of snake it was. I wasn’t looking too closely. I showed the picture to a friend later who’s local and she thought it was a Diamondback but I’m not sure. I don’t recall if I saw rattler at the end of it. I wasn’t looking too closely.

OKAY. Ready to exhale now.

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The rest of the hike was pretty uneventful. It was kind of harder to go down the mountain, honestly. My knees were doing okay, but I had to take some very long, high steps to climb down. I pulled my thigh muscle a little bit but didn’t hurt it too much, thankfully, and there was no lasting injury. Both of us were experiencing shaky legs as we climbed down.

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There were many spots where it was just safer and easier for me to sit down on my butt on the rock and slide down to get sure footing. I’m surprised at how long it took us and how many calories I burned climbing back down the mountain–nearly the same number as the hike up!

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Finally we were off the mountain and back to the wash, then the parking lot. We high-fived and congratulated each other on NOT dying and then we guzzled some water in the car. On the drive back to the hotel we made a stop at In-n-Out for the most amazing milkshakes ever. It was so tasty and cold after being in the hot hot sun (91 degrees) for four hours. (I’m kicking myself for not getting a burger at In-n-Out).

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After cleaning up after the hike we met a friend of Anna’s from the Peacecorp. He saw some of her Facebook posts and they arranged a meeting. We met them at Thunder Canyon Brewery for happy hour and had honestly the worst food I’ve ever had. It was truly atrocious (and it made me kick myself even harder for not getting In-n-Out!!!). But the company was fantastic and it was fun meeting him and his girlfriend.

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Anna and I flew home to Oregon on Tuesday mid-day, feeling refreshed and happy and sunkissed and both wishing we didn’t have to go back to reality. It was a fantastic trip and I had so much fun. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the desert a little bit!

Maui – The Beaches

When we were planning our honeymoon we had it narrowed down to Maui, Kauai, Cancun, and Costa Rica. Costa Rica got eliminated pretty quickly, even though we both really wanted to go. We just didn’t want to spend 10+ hours flying from Portland to Houston to Costa Rica then to drive hours to get to the coast. Cancun was crossed off because it was the start of hurricane season and not that I was particularly worried about a hurricane, I just didn’t want to travel that far and have it rain every day!

So it came down to the two Hawaiian islands. We went to Kona a few years ago and loved it but one of the downsides were the beaches. They were definitely not the postcard perfect, sandy beaches I imagined. There were a few nice beaches we found but they were quite a drive from where we were staying. We found one beach we liked and ended up going back to that one several times because the rest of them were so rocky. Kauai is my dad’s favorite island and so many people raved about it. But we also heard some not so great stuff about it (i.e. boring, not much to do, not touristy, really windy, etc). It was such a polarizing thing. We decided to go to Maui because we KNEW what we were getting–there were no mixed reviews. You were getting perfect beaches and touristy stuff. Okay by us!

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We stayed in a condo in Kihei, south Maui, and I am glad we did. There were so many great beaches near us and we didn’t have to drive an hour to get there. It was easy to go out to the beach, swim, snorkel and then 10 minutes later be back at the condo taking a shower. I would definitely stay in Kihei again. It was more relaxed than Lahaina.

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Big Beach/Makena

When we first arrived in Maui Monday afternoon we picked up our rental car, made a stop at Costco and Safeway, grabbed a snack at Da Kitchen, and then went to our condo. It was like 3 in the afternoon by this time and we immediately changed and went to the beach.

Our condo came with every beach toy you could want. Great snorkel gear, frisbees and balls, beach mats, beach chairs, boogie boards and umbrellas.

Big Beach was beautiful. Picture perfect. Gorgeous white sand that felt like we were walking through softened butter. The parking lot was large and easy to find a space and the walk to the beach was short. The beach was uncrowded and so large that even if it was crowded you wouldn’t be on top of your neighbor.

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It was a fabulous “time to unwind” beach. Not a fabulous swimming or snorkeling beach. The waves were huge. It could have been the time of day, too, but the waves and shore-break were just too big to attempt swimming and definitely not snorkeling. We just kind of splashed around in the warm water and relaxed on our beach towels in the sunshine.

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It was also pretty windy.

 

Kapalua Bay Beach

The second day of our trip we went to this beach. It was up near Napili/Kaanapali north of Lahaina. It was in a resort heavy area but the beach wasn’t overly crowded. Maybe on a weekend it is.

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This was a fabulous beach! There was great swimming and snorkeling and there were two giant sea turtles right at the shore that would pop up out of the water. I also saw a few turtles while I was snorkeling around looking at the neon colored fish. It was way cool.

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The only downside was that it was so far from our condo. It was about an hour drive from Kihei, where our condo was.

Ulua Beach

This was a great little hidden beach in Wailea. It had great snorkeling and swimming.

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We went to this beach twice. What I loved about Maui was that most of the beaches had great facilities. Bathrooms, several outdoor showers. They were clean and well maintained. A lot of them had lifeguards. They also had good parking options. Some of the bigger ones even had multiple parking lots. We never felt like we couldn’t get a place to park. Ulua Beach had a good lot and we got primo parking twice.

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Picture perfect, right?

Kamaole Beach I

Our condo was directly across the street from Kamaole Beach 1. It wasn’t a great beach for swimming or snorkeling. The waves were huge and the water was super murky. However, it was GREAT for boogie boarding and just splashing around. The beach was fairly small and could be crowded. It shrank even more when the tide came in and spots got limited.

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We could see the beach from our lanai, which was an amazing way to eat breakfast every morning. 🙂

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Mostly we just walked on this beach at sunset. It was perfect for that.

Wailea Beach 

Hated this beach! It was tagged as one of the “best beaches in Maui” and I so don’t get it. It was in Wailea (fancy resort area south of Kihei) and the beach was in front of the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea Resort (which looked amazing). So why did I hate this beach?

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Mostly the people. It was a small-ish beach and it was pretty crowded with guests from the Four Seasons. None of the beaches in Maui are private, but it definitely felt like a private beach. The people were just gross. Seriously. There was this woman that was yelling at her nanny on her cell phone who was apparently watching one of her kids up at the pool and she was ignoring her other two little kids playing. Then the wait staff came by where the lounge chairs and umbrellas were set up taking food and drink orders. It was just SO NOT what I wanted.

Plus the waves were really big and didn’t look great for swimming or snorkeling plus there were a bunch of gnats flying around that were really gross and annoying. It was the only beach we experienced any of this type of unpleasantness and we didn’t stay long. We packed up and back to Ulua Beach 5 minutes away.

Maluaka Beach

This was our last beach of the trip! It was one of my favorites. The beach itself was amazing. It was a little difficult to find but once we did, I was glad. It was in front of the Makena Golf Resort (which is actually where we considered staying before we decided to do a condo instead).

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The beach was super quiet and chill. It was mildly crowded but never felt crowded. People were chill and respectful and everyone was having fun.

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We got there around 9am on our last day in Maui and ended up staying until almost 2pm! We loved it and didn’t want to leave. The swimming was fantastic. The water was pretty calm. Later in the day the waves got bigger and it was just fun to jump around and ride the waves.

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I did a lot of snorkeling and saw some fish and one turtle. We ate our picnic lunch on the beach and then I went out for one final snorkel/swim round. I had a great time swimming around the rocks on the south end of the beach. I decided I was done and we packed up and started to go. That’s when I saw this:

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Um…? What?

So apparently a shark was sighted RIGHT WHERE I HAD BEEN 5 minutes before. Like for reals. Someone else on the beach said that it was spotted and then someone else said that there was a turtle bitten in half (not sure if I believe that part).

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A lifeguard was out in the water on a jet ski telling everyone to get out of the water and he was zipping around looking for the shark. I never saw it but…that was kind of freaky. Good thing it was our last day! CRAZY.