Category Archives: Travel

No Other Place Like Zion

Sometimes the best adventures begin on a whim, making a spur-of-the-moment decision, to pack your bags and hit the road. Over last Memorial Day weekend, I had the fantastic pleasure of exploring Zion National Park with a new found friend that was visiting the States from Africa. A bit skeptical about the experience, knowing how busy the park would be, I got some valuable tips from a colleague that has spent a lot of time guiding and wandering the park. Here are a few tips I would share with you:

Hike the Narrows. If you plan to do this, be sure to check if it is open yet. There are two ways to hike the Narrows. From the top down and from the bottom half-way up and back. It all depends and the depth of the water and whether or not you can make it through certain parts of the canyon. It’s worth a stop by the Zion Adventure Company, located right outside the park in Springdale, to gauge what the river is like. They also have neoprene rentals which come highly recommended if you have a hard time with being in cold water. You will be in the river most of the day with limited sunshine. We wore our shorts and warm tops with tennis shoes and keen sandals and acclimated quite quickly.

YOU MUST, get as early as start as possible. Hop on the first shuttle up to the trailhead. You will not regret it. We were in the water by 7am and were so happy we did. There were many stretches we nearly had the canyon to ourselves. The later in the day, the hike gets packed with people, I mean packed.

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Virgin River, Narrows, Zion National Park © Ami Jones
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Virgin River, Narrows, Zion National Park © Ami Jones
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Virgin River, Narrows, Zion National Park © Ami Jones
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Virgin River, Narrows, Zion National Park © Ami Jones

Where to find a campsite? We were given a great tip by a local that worked at the Adventure shop to camp just outside of Rockville. If you are heading out of the park, take a left on Bridge Rd. where you will cross a bridge over a small river. Take this road until it dead ends then hang a left up the hill. We found a perfect spot with incredible views. Yes, we still had neighbors, which was to be expected with the holiday weekend. 

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Campsite, Rockville, Utah © Ami Jones
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Campsite, Rockville, Utah © Jeff Trollip
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Campsite, Rockville, Utah © Jeff Trollip

Do the Canyon Overlook Trail. This is an easy hike with high rewards. The trailhead is just after you exit the tunnel in the park, you can park on the right, cross the street and hit the trail.

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Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion National Park, Utah © Jeff Trollip
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Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion National Park, Utah © Jeff Trollip

Looking for a place to cool off we asked a park ranger the nearest area to access to water. He gave us the insider tip to check out the Pine Creek Pools. This is not so well-known and we ended up having the waterfall and pools to ourselves for about an hour mid-day. It’s a short hike that you can access shortly after the Zion National Park entrance on Hwy 9 (via Springdale). About a mile past the entrance, the road will turn right and you’ll cross the Virgin River and pass Floor of the Valley Rd. Drive straight to the switch backs. The 1st (right) turn crosses Pine Cr., and at the 3rd (right) turn, there is a pull-off (inside of the corner). Stop here (you’re about 2.5 miles from the park entrance.) Cross the road going north. Follow the trail; It’s less than 50 yards off the road.

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Pine Creek Pools, Zion National Park © Ami Jones

There is absolutely no place on earth like Zion. This was truly a trip that will never be forgotten! While trekking up the Virgin River on our hike through the Narrows we kept saying we wish we new a geologist that could explain what we were seeing. That night, at our campsite, it just so happened, that a geologist from Norway who had been conducting research amongst the many parks in Utah had set-up camp right next to us. We soon were chatting about the region and he confirmed there is truly no place like it on earth. So, be sure to add ZNP to the bucket list and take these handy-dandy tips with you!

Street Art of São Paulo

São Paulo is easily revered as one of the best cities in the world for street art. Many well-known graffiti artists hail from this region, which not only have their pieces adorned throughout S.P., but worldwide. Artists, such as, Onesto,  Kobra, Alex Senna, Zezão, and the twins, prominently known as Os Gemeos have bedecked the walls of SP with their artistry. The colorful hues that transcend through the city have transformed it into a walking outdoor museum. There is vibrancy around nearly every corner, always leaving more to be found and explored. Be sure to visit Vila Madalena, Beco de Batman and São Paulo’s historic center to find some of these brilliantly hued pieces.

Below are a few of my favorites.

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Breathtaking British Columbia

In a spur of the moment decision to get away with a friend and a dire need for a mini vacation we stumbled upon a cheap flight from Denver to Seattle. Neither of us having been to the northwest coast and not sure what to expect we quickly realized that Vancouver was only a short drive north. We immediately booked our tickets and anxiously awaited for the week to pass.

I had never travelled to Canada and to be honest it was never high on my top 10 must see places bucket list. However, I cannot express how rejuvenating, beautiful, magical and surprising British Columbia was to me. This is a place where natural beauty still abounds. Vancouver is a city full of cultural diversity, culinary expertise, impeccable public transit, and funky districts all surrounded by bridges taking you out of the city into the mountains that encircle it all. If you have not yet been it is a must add to the travel bucket list. Here are just a few of the highlights….

Our first night wandering the city, having gotten settled late, we found this gem of a pub. Moose’s Down Under offering Aussie fare in the heart of Vancouver. I indulged myself on a traditional Aussie meat pie and a local Vancouver beer…

a traditional Aussie meat pie at Moose's Down Under
a traditional Aussie meat pie at Moose’s Down Under

We found the perfect place to stay on airbnb in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Our gracious and accommodating host Justin from London made sure we had everything we needed. Situated on Granville Street we were within walking distance of everything we wanted to see and… the view from the balcony was incredible…

The sunsetting on Vancouver from our balcony
The sunsetting on Vancouver from our balcony

We got up early the next morning and headed up to Whistler/Blackcomb to ski for the day. The drive up the Sea to Sky highway will take your breath away. Although the clouds settled in low, as they tend to do most days during this time of year in B.C. the views were still stunning.

Driving along the coast on the Sea to Sky Highway
Driving along the coast on the Sea to Sky Highway

We arrived at Whistler seeming somewhat surreal that we were just driving along the coast in fog and rain and before us was the largest ski resort located in the Americas.

View from the Peak to Peak tram
View from the Peak to Peak tram

After a day full snowboarding the vast terrain we headed back down the coast on a mission to catch sight of some waterfalls that we had spotted on the drive that morning…

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Shannon Falls- along the Sea to Sky Highway

After returning back to Vancouver that evening….

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… we gallivanted around town and ran  into the Lamplighter Pub in the Gaslight District. Here we bellied up for the night and induldged in delicious local craft brews. The next morning we stumbled upon the La Luna Café and ordered up coffee, crossaints and a London Fog.

Afterwards, we headed to the Capilano Suspension Bridge just outside of the city. It being one of the largest tourist attractions in Vancouver we were a little hesitant to pay the 30$CAD to be surrounded by bustling crowds. It was money well spent. The park is designed around a suspension bridge that was built by pioneers in the late 1880’s that spans across a massive canyon that is home to diverse wildlife including the majestic bald eagle. They have also built a cliffwalk that overhangs the cliffs above the river as well as a treetop walkway that winds you through the tops of ancient cedar trees. Nearing closing time and the beginning of sunset we were the only two left on the bridge overlooking the vast canyon. Suddenly right below us was a massive bald eagle fishing for his dinner in the river….

Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge
View from the Bridge
View from the Bridge
Meandering through the treetops
Meandering through the treetops

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” 

– Robert Louis Stevenson

Later that evening we decided to indulge in some of Vancouver’s finest sushi and sake. We found a place close by located on the riverfront called Miku. Here they prepare some of the most delicious aburi style sushi that I have ever come across. Five stars in my book.

Early the next morning we packed our bags and said farewell to B.C. but only for a moment. This place will forever hold special meaning…. If you have ever traveled on a whim, promised that you would say yes to the whole experience, opened your heart and mind and returned home a different person you can relate to the feeling. A sense of wanderlust had been fulfilled…

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