Backpacking California


I woke up on a crisp cool morning next to my best friend inside our tent. It was our last day car camping and we began to break camp for our backcountry adventure. It also happened to be my 26th birthday, talk about an awesome place to wake up a year older. One of the best parts of having a summer birthday is getting to spend it some pretty special places. This definitely topped the list.


We drove down a winding dirt road to a tiny campground parking lot. We unloaded the car and got our packs on. After the previous days hike I was excited for a shorter hike. The hike was pretty straight forward, only a little elevation gain…but you know me and elevation gain! I could seriously win an award for worst uphill hiker.

 We planned to camp at Green Lake. The craziest part of the day came right before the end of our hike. We reached snow!! Remember snow had already changed our entire trip, but still this Florida girl was shocked to see it hiking in June. We almost couldn’t cross the river to get to our campsite because it was flowing so fast. We had to cross two logs…with our packs on…to make it to other side! Talk about an adventure!

The best part of camping in the backcountry is being so secluded. We had this side of the lake completely to ourselves. We set up camp and explored around our little area. We had a perfect view of the most pristine lake surrounded by mountains.

 My birthday dinner was rice, chicken and a little wine!! Totally worth the extra weight! It was absolutely freezing at night, we had a fire but that didn’t help much. I will never understand people who camp in the snow! TOO COLD! I was VERY thankful for my fleece and my vest! Eventually we crawled into our sleeping bags just to stay warm.

We woke up to a beautiful day and got mentally prepared for the tough hike ahead. We would be crossing the lake and climbing a mountain to get to another lake. The mental part of it was you could see the giant mountain right in front of you. I seriously considered just hanging out at camp while everyone else climbed the crazy mountain.


My dad convinced me otherwise. He promised to go at my pace. We would hike 20 minutes, then take a break. This patterned continued and I have to say it was some of my best hiking!

I am so glad I decided to go on the hike because it was amazing. At one point we were hiking straight up a rock pile in the snow! The snow got so deep we were unable to finish the hike. We really only had a mile to go to reach the lake! Don and Ryan tried to venture a little further but decided it was unsafe. 

It didn’t matter to me, we had an INCREDIBLE view from where we stopped. Plus hiking in the snow gave me a major adrenaline boost. I felt like I was on top of the world!!! We made our way back down to camp and half the group hiked a little farther. Mom, Matt and I returned to camp exhausted!

I absolutely LOVED our campsite. We had a giant rock (think the rock in the Lion King) that jutted out by the lake. We would lay and enjoy the sun to warm up! After a long day of hiking we enjoyed our last night at our perfect campsite. I woke up the next morning around 5:00 am to go to the bathroom, and was treated to the prettiest sight ever.

 The light was a soft yellow and bounced off the mountains and filled the air with a calming yellow. It was beautiful. Totally worth crawling out of my tent and into the cold!

Once everyone woke up we broke down camp and began our trek back to the car. For some reason it took FOREVER. I kept thinking we were there and then we would have a little farther to go. When we finally reached the car we broke into the Yeti and enjoyed and ICE cold beer!

 It tasted magical! Haha! We said our goodbyes to Don and packed into the car. We were heading to Lake Tahoe for a few days of relaxation!!

Car Camping Barney Lake

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Wow! I am so sorry I have been terrible at updating,lots of exciting things going on in my life…I AM BUYING A HOUSE (ahhh!) but trying my best to catch up! First up? Our backpacking trip to the Hoover Wilderness. Last summer we adventured through Yosemite Back Country, this year we stayed close to Yosemite but tried a couple different trails in the High Sierras.


We flew into Reno, talk about a cheesy airport casinos every 5 ft, and stayed at a hotel there. We woke up early, hit Costco, REI, Sierra Trading Post, and then started our drive to the Hoover Wilderness. Our trip had a few wrenches thrown into it before we even arrived. Hoover Wilderness was experiencing some late snowfall. We had to change our plans a little bit. We would spend two nights car camping, and then two nights in the back country.


I was a little disappointed at the idea of car camping…this was supposed to be a HARDCORE back country trip!! But after two nights of car camping, I am SOLD. We had beer, wine, and delicious dinners. Car camping is my new favorite thing! We also strung our hammocks all through the trees surrounding our campsite. Oh and did I mention there were bathrooms?! Albeit, not the nicest bathrooms in the world, but also not a bush outside.


The first night we drove to the Whoa Nellie Diner, which we have visited before. It is a DELICIOUS little spot right on Mono Lake…it just happens to be inside a Mobile Gas Station. We had a good meal, beers, and just enjoyed the nice weather. When we returned we sat around the campfire and made smores!


The next morning we embarked on a big hike. I was under the impression the hike to Barney Lake was 4 miles round trip…nope turned out it was 8 miles round trip. It was a HARD hike on me mentally. It just kept going and going, and I thought it would never end. The beginning of the hike was fairly easy, we went through wide open fields and slowly climbed in elevation. Then we hit some switchbacks going straight up. I wanted to cry…I did cry.


Mid climb, I had a mini meltdown. I thought I was going to pass out, throw up, or all of the above. If you havent learned yet, I am not the best uphill hiker…and I get a tad bit of anxiety while doing it. I hate the thought of slowing everyone down. Once I sat down I was able to calm myself down. I told the group I was staying put and would meet them when they came  back. Don our guide convinced me to continue going, and I am so thankful he did. The lake was SPECTACULAR. To this day, I still can’t believe how perfect it looked in person. The ice cold water felt wonderful on my feet. We picnicked at the lake, and took a little rest. The hike down was MUCH easier in comparison…no tears going this direction.


Did I mention, this all happened on my 26th birthday eve? Pretty amazing way to spend it! I would ring in my actual birthday in the backcountry! We returned to our luxurious car camping spot and had tortellini and chicken with RED WINE. The stars that night were spectacular and I tried my hand at capturing the stars. This was our last night car camping, we were packing up in the morning to head into the backcountry!


Teaching Mission: Ending our Trip

Again, I apologize for being SO behind in posting. I promise there are TONS of exciting posts heading your way! This will be the last post from my trip to the Dominican Republic, but I just found out I get to go again in October! SO HAPPY!

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*These posts are taken directly from my journal*

The morning started off EARLY. We had to get everything together to leave. WE stripped the beds and moved our stuff outside. When I first woke up it sounded like a monsoon. I began to mentally prepare myself for a back of the truck ride in the pouring down rain. We were pleasantly surprised when we came outside and saw no rain! It was just the wind we heard. The people here desperately need rain so I was a little sad it wasnt raining. We said goodbyes to our baby goat friends. I was very tempted to smuggle one back in my bag.

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We got to the school and prepared for a 1/2 a day. The teachers were SO appreciative, but we made sure to let them know just how much we learned from them. My favorite thing we did was create a chain. Each day everyone wrote something they learned and at the end of the week it was huge. After lunch we said more goodbyes and climbed in the truck for the trek back to the capitol.

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On the way up we had the truck to ourselves, but on the way down it was PACKED.Many of the teachers take weekend classes. I was sandwiched smack in the middle of a bag of food. Little Brittani sat on my lap. Going up and down for over an hour in the back of the truck i rough. I definitely got an ab workout not falling over. Little Brittani fell asleep on me. We made it to the gas station in San Juan. I got a cold red gatorade, and we climbed into the nice AC bus. Tea Brittani and Tiffani joined us.

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It took FOREVER to get to Santo Domingo. When we finally neared the resort I had no clue what to expect. We stayed at Playa Esmeralda. It was nothing super fancy, but it was absolutely perfect. I may have cried when I saw the beach. We instantly dropped our bags and ran down to catch the sunset. The beach was full of beautiful palm trees. It was so spectacular to start my morning surrounded by mountains and end it on a beach.

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Before dinner we found Sister enjoying pina coladas. She told us to go grab a drink #itsincluded. and I think our jaws hit the floor. When a nun tells you to enjoy a Pina Colada you do it!

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I am seriously so in love with every person on this team, and I am going to be so sad to leave. We ended the night laying in sand watching the stars. It was the most PERFECT end to an AMAZING trip.

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Oh and I finally got my first real shower of the week…it was cold, but I didn’t care!

Happy Birthday National Parks!

Today is the National Park Systems 100th Birthday, and of course I need to celebrate this big day because without National Parks my love of traveling never would have begun.
I was about 8 years old when my dad took our family to our FIRST National Park. We piled in the minivan and drove from Orlando to North Carolina to visit the Great Smokey Mountains. We hiked (a LOT), white water rafted, and of course became Junior Rangers. Every summer following that we visited at least one National Park. 

My dad always believed that is was extremely important for us to explore the outdoors and to see everything the USA had to offer. As kids we TOTALLY took this for granted. I will never forget the miserable hike up The Mist Trail as a 13 year old. My parents had to bribe us the MnMs the entire way up! To return to that same trail almost 12 years later was incredible. This time around I was taking it all in. 

It’s always been amazing to return to the same place twice…just at different moments on my life. Visiting Yellowstone was spectacular when we went in the summer. We spent the night at the Old Faithful Inn, and white water rafted…and I honestly don’t remember too many hikes (I hated hiking as a child…). Nothing could prepare me for seeing Yellowstone in the winter. It’s pristine and magical. 

So…the question I always get asked…what is my FAVORITE National Park I’ve visited? And my answer is always the same. I can’t pick. There is something about each park that I love. Whether it’s the wildlife seen roaming the park or the giant mountains, there’s something for everyone to appreciate. 

Today in my second grade classroom we spent Social Studies time working on the Centinnial Junior Ranger badge book. I absolutely love getting to share that with my students. We spent a lot of time talking about what an incredible man John Muir was (seriously my hero). I love the message they shared…how ONE man can have such a lasting impact. I am so happy our country has these beautiful and protected places. I can only hope one day to share it with my children. 

Teaching Mission: Day 6

Teaching MissionDay 2(7).pngThis morning we had toast and spam for breakfast…so I had toast. Today I led the ice breaker in English and Gretchen translated into Spanish. Science was the subject of the day. Beatriz planned 4 great activities. We had a blast. I ran the density experiment. The teachers had so much fun.

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We met some really kind people during our time here. First Gretchen brought us to meet Mercedes who gave her an avocado the day before. Mercedes was so sweet and told us…

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” This is your house, you are my people. Everything I have is yours. I do not have much, but I am rich because I have God and I have friends. We are family because we are God’s children.”

She made us coffee and today I tried some. SO GOOD! They only drink little cups of coffee because they are so strong.

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I got to facetime my kiddos again this afternoon. Service was better today. I was able to answer their questions. “How do you shower?” My response received a shocked gasp from the class. “Do you have a bed?” Yes BUNK Beds…”WOOOOOO!” I may complain about my class all the time, but I do miss their little (or big) personalities a LOT. The motorcycle ice cream man came by again today. We stopped him and Daniel bough and ice cream. The local teachers all laughed as we ran after them…but you bet they all bought some ice cream too!

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We made our last drive back to the mission house in the truck. I can’t believe our week is coming to an end. In the morning we will leave the mission house with all our belongings. We will finish at school around 12 and begin the trek back to Santo Domingo. We are expected to get there around 5:30. We are staying near the beach. I am hoping for a spectacular sunset and sunrise!

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We are getting ready for dinner…and I have already spotted fried chicken! YAY! While getting ready for dinner we hung out with the baby goats across the street. I seriously might smuggle one home with me.

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After dinner we had one last walk through town. We discovered the kids gym! Of course I had to join in. The boys followed us home and kept us laughing the whole way! We crawled into our bunk bed room for one last night.

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*Gerry the mouse update. We set traps to catch Gerry and we ended up catching 4 Gerry’s.

Teaching Mission: Day 5

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these entries are taken directly from my personal journal kept during my week in La Cucarita.

This morning my alarm wen toff and I would’ve given anything to sleep 30 more minutes. Breakfast was pancakes and cream of wheat…not very exciting. Thank God I put a cliff bar in my backpack! The day went very well. The morning was focused on Ash Wednesday. We did a little Mass or prayer service. The music teachers sang and the 8th graders did the readings. We ended the service by receiving our ashes. It is crazy to think the last time I was in the DR I got ashes for Ash Wednesday.

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Lunch was fish, potatoes, beans and rice. The fish and potataos looks like canned peaches. I ate it Monday but I couldn’t do it again. So today I had rice for lunch, very boring. I told myself I was fasting for Lent.

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After lunch we were wandering around the little town and one woman invited us to sit down. She offered us coffee. She said once she was in a new town and a stranger showed her kindness, so now she shows kindness to strangers.

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The afternoon we worked with our English Groups to read scripture in English. They read the Good Samaritan and then wrote their own version of the story. We filmed them reading in English so they could hear themselves. I LOVE my group! They are so silly and fun, but so eager to learn. One of the girls in my group Helena is awesome. Every time I praise her progress her face lights up. She always thanks me at the end of the day.

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When we got back from school we hung out on the porch. Before dinner we walked to the primary school. The sun was getting ready to set so the sun was hitting the mountains perfectly. It was beautiful. The thing I love most about this group is that we do everything together.

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Dinner was pasta y tostones. The pasta was SO good. One of the guys in our class is training for the Olympics. He stopped training to take a picture with us. So sweet.

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I have missed being away from my kiddos, but I have been able to facetimed them a couple times. Their silly questions cracked me up! “Why is your hair blue?” (I was wearing a headband). “Why are you wearing the same shirt?” (because I only packed so many) “How’s Africa?” (not in Africa). “I LOST A TOOTH!”

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*wrote this quote in my journal “Some people are to tired to give you a smile; give them one of yours, as none need a smile so much as the one who has no more to give.”





Teaching Mission: Day 4

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These entries are taken directly from my journal kept during my trip.

Today we woke up to my alarm. I slept well despite the crazy day before. I honestly don’t think my body could take not sleeping. I was just so exhausted both mentally and physically. Breakfast today was blaah, so I only ate a little oatmeal and a piece of bread (un poco de pan haha I was practicing Spanish in my journal!)

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Daniel and I went to the school “library” down the hill for some books

Luckily today was a repeat of yesterday but with a different group of teachers. Today’s group had so many fabulous ideas and they were so gracious to have us there. My Spanish is getting better and better and I am getting more and more confident in trying it out. Explaining games for Math is hard. Thankfully they laugh with me (not at me) and somewhat understand what I am saying…I definitely had act a couple things out.

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these cuties were heading back from the river with water

Lunch was…can you guess? Chicken and rice and corn. It was the best chicken we had all week. At the school the bathrooms did not have running water so each time you needed to flush you had to walk and get a bucket of water. It is crazy to me that we take something as simple as a flushing toilet for granted.

My English group in the afternoon is amazing. They are SO eager to learn English. I kept telling them I would them English and they can teach me Spanish. When we finished today one of the girls in my group told me “You are a very good teacher” It made my day, because I had not been feeling very effective.

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dinner chicken, rice, potatoes

We got back to town and Becca was finally home from her adventure to the hospital. Our injured team member called us after dinner. I think it was good for everyone to hear her voice. She was going to be flown back to the USA.

At night we had reflection and went over the next day. Daniel is doing a religion day for Ash Wednesday. Poor Daniel is the only boy in a group full of chatty ladies. He was getting so frustrated because we kept interrupting him! haha! I was dying of laughter. We also have a new house pet…Gerry the mouse. We are all on high alert tonight!

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Salon de Mission

I finally got to wash my hair for the first time all week! It was in a sink. The town has no water so we are using buckets. We turned our house into a salon. It feels magical to have clean hair. Friday we will get a REAL shower. I am SO PUMPED!