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Tag Archives: hiking

Bellinzona and Valle Verzasca – Pinterest Success!

pinterest-valle-verzascaIn Como, I made up my mind that I was going to try to find this swimming hole that I had pinned on Pinterest that mapped out as pretty close by. Pinterest has a new mapping feature, which is pretty cool if you’re traveling! So I used the hostel wifi at breakfast to pull up Google Maps and see what the transportation situation was like. I found out that while this place wasn’t very far away, I was going to need to change trains in this town called Bellinzona and because I would likely be getting in mid-day, I would need accommodations for the night.

Researching Bellinzona I found out that it actually is a UNSECO World Heritage Site with three castles! Pretty awesome! So I packed up my backpack (which was extra small as I had left my backpacking one in Milan and was traveling with a school sized backpack… yeah, I wore the same clothes over and over… but it’s good to travel light), booked my hostel and I walked to the Como train station. Well, first I walked to the wrong train station, but they straightened me up over there. Because I walked to the wrong station, I missed the first train and spent the majority of the afternoon hanging out at the train station.

I point this out because people think that traveling or vacation is all glamourous and pleasant all the time. Yes, it is wonderful, but part of the reason why I’ve seen so many amazing things is because I’ve been ok to eat PB&J, stay in and work, sleep in my car, accidentally go to the wrong place, hurry up and wait, wear the same thing over and over, ride long distances.

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The Town of Jackson

I was fortunate to get a last-minute Couch Surfing acceptance from Seth in Jackson, Wyoming. Locals call it Jackson, not Jackson Hole. I made that mistake and put Jackson Hole in my GPS and ended up at a parking lot of a resort I couldn’t afford to stare at. When I finally made it into town I walked around and swung into the Grand Teton Gallery. Seth was out in the woods and I needed to kill time before meeting him. I found the right gallery as they were having a magazine launch party that evening! I lucked out! Bar! Who needs a bar! I found a social place with free food (and good stuff – shrimp cocktails, cheese, meat, crackers, watermelon…), wine  and lots of art! A few of the pieces in the gallery were from some of the same artists that show at the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival in Thomasville, Georgia. I do work for the arts festival, so I was so excited to see the work of some artists that I knew!

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Tillamook, Sauvie Island and Portland

I left Gold Beach on another overcast and drizzling day and made for Tillamook State Forest. I knew I wanted to visit Portland, but also that I would need to stop somewhere in-between according to the distance I am willing to drive and the money I had. I knew free camping and a coffee shop would see me through. I was also buying time wondering if I should contact my second cousin who I thought might still live in Oregon. Five years my junior, she had always been to me a spoiled princess that required babysitting. When I last saw her she had grown from an attention-needy child into a boy-crazy teenager and I was debating whether I really wanted to visit with someone who I plainly took as annoying.

I stopped at a farmer’s market in Coos Bay to stretch my legs and then in the late afternoon pulled into the state forest. Finding a secluded camping spot turned out to be quite a challenge, as the free camping available was mostly for ATV enthusiasts who were out in full force. I unfortunately damaged my car backing into what I thought was a campsite and into a rock.


The next day, I brushed my teeth and cleaned up in the coffee shop bathroom before going to work. The coffee shop did lack one thing though… outlets. I decided to go find a more suitable work location and stumbled upon the generous and spacious Tillamook Public Library. I also decided to connect with my cousin, after all she is older now and it’s not right to judge someone by their youth.

I grabbed some cheese curds from the Tillamook Cheese factory on my way out-of-town and headed off to meet my cousin Olivia when she got off work. She was very excited that I was in the area and was beyond welcoming. I have several first cousins close to my age and I never really thought about how lonely it must be for her. After all my dad is her first cousin and he’s close to the same age as her dad. Also, all of our family lives in the South and she’s all the way on the opposite end of the country! Read the rest of this entry

Paths Crossed in Gold Beach

Paths Crossed in Gold Beach

I found my way to the house in Gold Beach and pulled in right after John. I saw that old red 4-wheel drive with the platform bed inside and felt so excited that I had the opportunity to see one of my friends from the road again. In Vegas (Viva Las Vegas post) we discussed the possibility of our paths crossing at some point, but by this time I had began to doubt that it was going to happen.

Bless the good folks that let us crash at their houses. We were one in the same. Two sun-tanned road bums show up with loaded down hatchbacks, long hair that we trim ourselves, in dirty clothes, with dirty bodies… having not washed in days. Both not entirely sure when we are going to leave. Both happy to sleep on the floor or in the car. Read the rest of this entry

When Yosemite is Your Yard

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The roads from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite wind around and around. I’m not used to mountain driving, but it doesn’t really scare me. You just stay on the road. The height doesn’t really worry me too much, because I keep my eyes on the road. Paying attention is probably the most helpful thing one can do in mountain driving where staying on the road becomes even more important than it is on flat land.

I was happy to rest in Angel’s Camp for a while. A cute little town, I loved how they had clothes hanging over the street. It reminded me of shoes that hang above Spectre in Big Fish. Signs were in every window for the upcoming Culaveras County Jumping Frog Jubilee. Apparently Angel’s Camp’s claim to fame is that Mark Twain published a story about a frog from there.

I didn’t really have a place to stay planned out for Yosemite. I thought I’d find a camping spot either inside the park or somewhere nearby. I had heard rumors about maybe some nearby BLM camping. I was caught off guard though when I found out that all the campgrounds in Yosemite were filled to capacity and that there wasn’t any BLM land nearby. I decided the smart thing to do would to be to stop and rent a bear can at least, so if I did make some last-minute camping arrangements than I wouldn’t have to worry about my car being broken into.

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Bishop, CA

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I arrived at dusk in Bishop, CA. I decided I was going to enter Yosemite from that side, as my climber friend John, who I met in Vegas was free camping out there and invited me to join him. He also has his car set up to sleep in and I felt more secure with the thought of camping parked next to someone I knew. I found the rode and drove down it, as the sun set behind the mountains. I drove and drove and never found his car. I ended up finally getting ahold of him and I found out he had already left for his next stop. Disappointed and in the dark, I decided to try to find a place in town. Unfortunately the only place I found was the Super 8. I hated spending so much money on a bed! It was the only motel I’ve stayed at for this entire trip.

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Viva Las Vegas

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I planned to camp at Mead Lake before entering Las Vegas. Along the road I was distracted by the little Route 66 town of Seligman, Arizona. I had to stop for a float and to walk the streets filled with antique cars and vintage storefronts.

Seligman put me about an hour off of my estimated arrival time and I pulled into the Lake Mead area to witness a sunset over that strange landscape and the locked doors of the visitor’s center. After determining that it would be impossible to find a camping spot in the dark, I headed to the little town of Boulder City, NV. While the town looked quite cozy and cute, even after dark it was ridiculously expensive. My jaw dropped at the price of the absolute seediest cheap motel in town.

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I decided to call a hostel in Las Vegas and head into the city a little early. They asked if I was a student. I told them I was. They asked if I had a student ID. I said I did. Las Vegas isn’t really known for being the sort of place where people are very honest anyway. I’m not a very good liar. The guy behind the front desk asked me about my trip and I went on and on. Lies tend to lead to more lies – “So, how are you doing all this traveling while in school?””Online classes.””Oh, Cool. What are you planning on doing when you finish this trip?””Well, other than school, I have this little side graphic design/website business… it would be great to do it full-time.”

Obviously a converted old hotel, I checked into my room at the USA Hostel. I opened the door on three college girls from the U.K. spraying perfume and dry shampoo. They were trying on their fancy dresses and heels about to go out for some “posh” nightlife at one of those “posh” casinos. I asked if I could go along and I tried not to look like the hipster road bum I had become. We waited for forever for a cab, so long that we about gave up on going out. It finally showed up around 12:30 a.m.

Time doesn’t matter in Vegas. Read the rest of this entry