Tag Archives: nature

Victorian Greenhouse

Jevremovac Botanical Garden Belgrade

~B~

We enjoy gardens and parks (here’s a post we did a while back about some of the local ones we enjoy around San Jose). In general, they’re a nice place to just go for a stroll – so when we explored Google maps to check out what was around us and found Jevremovac Botanical Garden we decided to give it a go.

Belgrade Botanical Garden Entrance

After a little research we also found that these gardens are allegedly actually one of the most visited natural monuments in Serbia despite not showing up on any “Things to do in Belgrade” type lists we found. If you are limited on time in Serbia you probably won’t get to it but if you’re there a while (we were there over a month) or nearby, it’s a nice place to go wander around for a little bit. In general, and this is the vibe we get from Belgrade as a whole – we found the area to be peaceful and pleasant.

Walking into the garden
Serbia

Altogether the park contains over 2,500 plant species spread over 12 acres. Some have labels to help you identify them.

Plant description
Spring

There are benches throughout certain areas of the park for anyone who gets tired or just feels like taking in the scenery and sounds of birds.

Park bench

Now, I’m sure the garden may appear different at different times of year, but also keep in mind that it’s not open year-round (info at the bottom).

RoseFlower

Anyway, you can wander about and enjoy the general park/forest garden, but there are also a few specific places within Jevremovac worth mentioning:

The Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden in Jevremovac

We really enjoy the aesthetic of Japanese Gardens. Of course, as far as I can recall we’ve only been to two others – the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Jose and the Japanese Garden on Margaret Island in Budapest (both impressive). We thought about visiting one in Vancouver which is supposed to be great but it was closed the day we planned to visit Vancouver (and prices were a bit high for us). This one was a little smaller than the other two but also very pretty.

Jevremovac
Japanese Garden

Not far from it there’s also this little bamboo area you can walk through which is neat.

Bamboo forest

The Greenhouse

Victorian Greenhouse
Outside the greenhouse

The greenhouse on the property was built in Victorian-style (which we enjoyed) in 1892 (and reconstructed again in 1970, 2005, and 2014) and contains over 1,000 species.

Greenhouse

Inside there are all kinds of different intriguing plants, succulents, and cacti.

Succulents
Jevremovac Botanical Garden
Cute Succulents
Succulents garden
Pretty flower
OrchidsWater drops

When we first made it to the greenhouse we also saw a couple cats and fortunately we had cat treats with us so we sat and enjoyed the company of one of them (the other one was scared).

Kyle feeding catCute cat

Old Oak

There is also a 150-year-old oak tree inside which is a natural monument itself. (Sorry, don’t have a pic of it.)

Now for a little history: the garden was created in 1874 by the Ministry of Education of Serbia. The first manager (Josif Pancic) is said to be the “father of Serbian botany”. So this place is pretty significant in Serbia in terms of plants. About a decade after its creation, the king (Jevrem Obrenovic) donated the garden to the Great School in Belgrade and named it Jevremovac in honor of his grandfather.

And here’s some basic info for a visit:
Cost: 250 Serbian Dinar (~$2/person)
Address: Takovska 43, Beograd, Serbia
Hours: 9am-7pm May 1 – Nov 1
Note: Keep in mind that this attraction is only open from May through November

Cute flower

Hike in Java, Indonesia

That Time We Climbed the Wrong Mountain on Java

~B~

How do you climb the wrong mountain (or hill)? I will tell you. We only recently discovered just where we went! If you are curious because you’d like to do the same (not climb the wrong mountain, but do the same hike) we think we went right here. After a quick search, I managed to find one person who did the same hike as us and their photo had a link to these coordinates.

Kyle had really been set on the idea of climbing Mount Merapi while we were on Java, but unfortunately we found it to be unrealistic due to a mix of cost, time (which also factors into cost- as we had to allot working time), difficulty, and danger. Okay, only I was worried about difficulty and danger but I read a TripAdvisor review where someone said that their legs were jello for days after the hike and Mount Merapi is an active volcano! We had hoped that it was something we could do without a guide so we wouldn’t have to pay, but after listening to a few horror stories from our hosts about others who had given this a try, we decided it wasn’t a good idea. Still, we were really in the mood for doing some kind of hike.

Morning Before Menoreh Hill

After a little research, I decided Kendil Mountain/Kendil Rock would be a good place for us to go. The actual hike I was looking at did not seem too difficult and I even had a second hike just past it (Suroloyo Peak) planned for afterwards if that one went well. Our hosts at the homestay recommended that we take a guide but we just wanted to do some independent exploring, and for us this takes away some of the fun because we no longer have freedom to go at our own pace, do little side explorations, etc. Plus, obviously, guides cost money and we already spent a lot of our activity budget on Borobudur. There also didn’t seem to be any specific major risks associated with doing these hikes solo like there was with Mt Merapi so we asked for directions, hopped on a motorbike, and off we went.

Getting Read to Ride Out

Well, the first problem was that Kyle could not hear me shouting directions at him from the back of the motorbike. He took a few wrong turns and we got a little lost. We got a bit off the path. We stopped to ask a couple random people we encountered for directions but it didn’t quite work out due to language barriers. The maps didn’t seem to completely match up with what we thought we were looking at and Kyle and I had different ideas about which direction we should go. Kyle is more stubborn than me and he was driving so I eventually conceded and allowed him to just take us wherever he seemed to feel like going. He took us on what he thought (though I wasn’t quite sure about it) was the right path but then we came to a closed road on this path. We asked the two men guarding the road for directions but their English was extremely limited.

Road To Menoreh Hill

Well, Kyle thought we must be in the right place and that we should just hike up from there! I said something along the lines of, “Are you serious?! This is nowhere near the mountain we are supposed to be climbing! Even if we could somehow find the way, which I highly doubt we could, it would take a very long time to hike all the way to Kendil from here and there is no way we could make it to Suryolo Peak!” And he said something like, “This’ll take us there.”

Fine. So we parked the bike near these men and began to head up straight but the men pointed us to the right. We asked them again and they seemed to be telling us this was the right direction (only I knew better). We thought about motorbiking up this road but it would have been very dangerous because it was ridiculously steep. That actually would have been terrifying. Even walking up I felt worried about falling backwards. As we began our ascension, I hesitated because Kyle would be mad at the implications of such an assumption, as he often is in when I ask something like this, but I asked anyway: “You have the key for the motorbike, right? You didn’t leave it in the bike.. right…?” Kyle: “Of course n- oh, whoops!”

Well Kyle went and grabbed the key which he left in the ignition and we began up this road. Slowly it became more and more interesting.


Road Up Towards Menoreh Hill

We saw butterflies fluttering all over. We examined large colorful beetles. We stopped to look at interesting plants and flowers.

Perhaps a big cat

We also came across a couple pretty big spiders (you can’t tell from the photo, but this spider was as big as our hands).

Huge Spider Hanging In The Trees

There were also some mosquitos. We had some lengthy discussions about our (mostly my) concerns about dengue, Zika, and malaria on the way up. We kind of felt like we were going exploring a jungle (we kind of were?) so it seemed warranted.

bamboo
Green Path Java

As we climbed higher, we found some pretty great views looking off the side of the mountain. It was also pretty hot. I believe it was somewhere around 100 degrees so we got a little sweaty!

Pretty Hike Yogya
Plaque Commemorating Borobodur Region

Through our climb we encountered a variety of paths- including road, stone, dirt, stairs, stone steps, mud, etc. We didn’t really know where we were going (reality: I didn’t think I knew where we were going and Kyle thought we were headed toward our original destination and I’m only mentioning this because I found it extremely frustrating during our hike that he maintained this idea) but we were on the right path to a peak for a while. Eventually, though, as we do, we got off the trail to the place-we-ended-up-going-but-to-which-we-didn’t-know-we-were-going-and-hadn’t-intended-to-go-as-we-didn’t-really-know-about-it (though once there, we thought we thought we knew about it because of the name but it wasn’t the same place we were thinking of anyway). Anyway, at some point we reached a more level area which appeared to be inhabited and weren’t really sure where to go.

Living Area
Small Village Near Menoreh Hill

We ended up going on this dirt path. We were kind of just exploring, but were also hoping the path would lead up to a peak. We took lots of turns and forks and took pictures on our phone and camera which we hoped would be helpful if we got lost.

We Went Down The Wrong Path

I also took lead navigation for a while because I feel a strength of mine is my hyperawareness of my surroundings which allows me to better watch out for looming spider webs in front of us and gaps in land on the ground. I was pretty convinced a giant spider was going to get us.

Continuing Down The Wrong Path
The path got extremely narrow at times but I don’t have any photos to show it well, though, probably because those places were not the best to go around taking photos! At times, I also said things like “Kyle, I don’t think this is a well-traveled path. I really don’t think this is even a hiking trail! I think animals made some of these paths!” Still, we were both pushing to go just a little further, taking different paths in hopes we’d eventually see that a path that was leading to a peak.

Yogy Quote 02Small stream

After it began to sprinkle, though, it was time to turn around as I was getting worried that we would slip on these narrow muddy paths. This entire way was devoid of people, aside from a person near a single path we found somewhere in the middle which led to someone’s home. We saw they had constructed pipes to their house that went along the mountain and found it pretty interesting.

We navigated our way back to the area from which we found this path and found a man. Either we asked him something or he just looked at us and pointed. I don’t really remember, but anyway, we then began our way up this cobbled road. We encountered a few friendly roosters and as we made our way we up, we saw a sign! A sign! It read: “Menoreh Hill.”

A sign-menoreh hillRooster in the mountains

That was a name I knew. It turns out, the whole thing is not as straightforward as you’d think, though. The map our hosts had provided with showed something called the Menoreh Hills (plural) but it appeared far on the map and I when I had looked into it online it also looked like it was an unrealistically far distance for us to go to which is why we had nixed the idea of going there. So this couldn’t be that, right? We could see our place from the top of the hill and weren’t far at all. I had also researched other hikes in the area and come across Menoreh Hill (singular), but everyone’s photos involved going and standing/sitting on this tall platform which you could reach via ladder (like this one, though this blog states Menoreh Hills plural, also). This advertised tour for a Menoreh Hill trek also does not resemble the trail we took. We definitely did not go to Kendill Rock or Suryolo Peak either. After some further research, expanding now to social media, I did find a couple other people (again, pretty sure locals) on Instagram who did get to this same place and they tagged their photos #menorehhills. (The other person I found through a quick google search- from which I got the coordinates in the intro, was from another site.) For this hashtag I found a variety of different views, a few which displayed photos from the path we took and some which clearly did not. My conclusion is that there are a bunch of Menoreh Hills. I mean Menoreh Hills is plural, but what then, is the Menoreh Hill or do they just call each of them Menoreh Hill? From our past hikes we are used to different peaks and hikes being given different names even if they are a part of the same mountain range which is part of what made it confusing for us. Also, when I try typing in Menoreh Hill or Menoreh Hills on Googlemaps, I’m not given anything.

Anyway, we continued up and came to this area which appeared to have a couple houses. This made us question if we were in the right place. We walked around and encountered a very sweet and friendly dog. It looked like it wanted to play with us.

Friendly Dog At Menoreh Hill Village
Kyle

We also saw a young boy and then we heard a family inside their house as we looked around. Soon we found another sign leading up.

House in the mountains
Village Near Menoreh HillSign To Menoreh Hill
Climbing Through Chili Pepper PlantationMuddy stairs

We climbed up some final muddy stairs and reached the top and I have to say, I ended up being quite happy with this alternative route we took.

Yogy Quote 01

The view was amazing. I think I may even have preferred to do this hike had I only known. Who knew our essentially random wanderings would lead up to this?

Overlooking Menoreh Hill
Overlook Picture

We took some time to just stay there and really enjoy our view. We were the only ones around and there was a little hut for us to sit in which I enjoyed until I saw a big spider weaving around the wood pole next to me. I also noticed one sitting on the backpack. How long was it there??

Shelter At Top Of Menoreh Hill

We pointed out various landmarks visible beneath the light fog and enjoyed some snacks. We had a nice view of Amanjiwo Resorts throughout most of our hike. At somewhere between $600 and $1600/night, the hotel was out of our price range (lol!) but it does look pretty impressive. It offers a number of suites, including one which offers you your own private pool and garden! There are some other nice hotels there, too, though, including one inside the Borobudur area (Manohara) where we had meals a couple times.

Overlooking Yogyakarta
Our AirBNB Is Down There Somewhere

We rested our legs while watching as the dark clouds rolled closer.

Looking At Borobodur
Clouds rolling inGetting Dirty

I said to Kyle (or something like this), “We need to get going or we are going to be slipping and sliding down those stairs until we are both a muddy mess!” He agreed and we took just a couple more minutes to enjoy our view before heading down.

Muddy path

It began sprinkling just as we finished our way down the muddy stairs and it rained on and off on our way back. It did make us more cautious on the way down as a whole, though but it was also quite lovely!

Bright Orange Flowers
Briana Overlooking Menoreh HIll

Kyle also picked up a couple more snacks for himself on the way back. (I did not partake.)

Roadside Chili PeppersI Ate The Chili Pepper

We saw very few people through the entire hike, and didn’t see any other hikers. Aside from the man who pointed us in the right direction and the boy with the dog, we saw some people working on a building to the right of the trail at the very beginning of our journey and then a woman hauling up groceries. On our way down we saw a woman and her child.

Once we made our way back to the motorbike we hopped back on, headed back, and then we each took a shower! Later we realized we were able to see the peak and platform from our place. While it started out a bit rocky, this turned out to be one of our favorite hikes we’ve done!

Family Friendly part of bangkok

Lumphini Park

~B+K~

I added Lumphini Park into our itinerary for the day we visited the Snake Farm (Kyle’s choice) and Wat Hua Lumphong because it was nearby, I wanted to go to a park, and most of all: I wanted to ride the duck pedal boats in the lake! The last time I rode a pedal boat was when I was a child visiting Germany (or maybe Austria) with my family (when we lived in Italy) and it was a lot of fun! I thought this would be a neat activity for us and it would only cost just over a dollar.

Duck boat

After our long day which included the walk to the metro station, the ride there, the above activities, and various other little stops, we were pretty tired but I knew I would be upset if we didn’t go. 

Upon entering, we found that there were many people enjoying the park. Several thousand citizens were going about their days. We noticed that the park is a popular fitness place, with lots of people running around and others taking part in various group exercise/aerobics classes. There were also many families and individuals simply taking in the nature.

Runners in the park

At first we just plopped down in the grass and enjoyed the weather and people-watched for a bit.

Kyle in grass
Warm Bangkok Sun

After we had rested, we decided to go for a stroll.

Looking at lumphini lake

The wildlife was quite active, with many birds, fish, and turtles going about their business. We had read that there were monitor lizards at the park, but we weren’t sure if we’d actually be able to see them – we found a couple early on swimming the lake and it was pretty neat.

Monitor Lizard at Lumphini Park

We proceeded on a bit afterwards, and even came across a collared cat. We don’t know whose cat it was, but most likely it was just someone’s indoor/outdoor cat that found a great place for a nap. We pictured his owners going for a run and seeing him sitting there and say ‘So, this is where you go during the day, Oscar.’

Cat Nap

Finally, we located the swan-boat rental area. The cost is/was 40 baht for a half-hour ($1.13). Initially you must give 80 baht, but as long as you make it back in time, they’ll refund you 40 baht. We hopped into the boat and spent the next half hour puttering about the lake.

Park in BangkokOn Lumphini LakeKyle paddlingIn the boat

We also had a great skyline view in some areas.

Bangkok Skyline

Towards the end of our ride, we stumbled upon what is apparently the resting ground for the monitor lizards, because we found dozens of them dozing in the late afternoon shade along the bank of the lake. We noticed that they were actually pretty much everywhere, climbing onto boats, or where ever else they could find a quiet spot. We tried not to bother them, though because it’s clear they just want to be left to themselves and can become scared quite easily, despite looking like mini dinosaurs.

Monitor Lizard

The sun began to go down as we got out of the boat, so we made our way back to the entrance. Luckily, there is a metro station not far from the entrance which makes it easy to access.

Sunset Reflections

More on the park:

The park was created in the 1920s by King Rama VI. Originally meant to be an exhibition center, it was converted into the first public park in the city after World War I. It was named after the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal. Today, a statue of the king greets you at the southeast entrance to the 142 acre park. You will find more than a park, though. Lumpini park is home to a library, an apprentice school, an Elder Citizens club, and more. If you can get to the park early, you’ll find tai chi classes offered. As well, there are various playgrounds for children. Between 10 and 3 you can also cycle for exercise.

If you want to visit, you can get to it via the MRT Subway Silom or Lumphini Station and the BTS Saladaeng. The park is open from 4:30am to 9:00pm. 

All in all, it’s a great place to enjoy nature while you’re in a city of over 12 million people. 

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you like parks, also check out these other other parks/similar within other large cities:

Parks and Gardens in San Jose

Le Van Tam Park (in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)

Bukit Nanas Rainforest (in Kuala Lumpur)

Cedars of God

One of the primary reasons I wanted to visit Lebanon was to see the Cedars of God – the famed Lebanese Cedars. 

Cedars of God Tree

The Lebanese Cedar

The Cedar, which once covered nearly the entirety of the Mt. Lebanon range, has now been reduced to small fraction of it’s original expanse with only a few remaining groves in the nation – the Cedars of God being the oldest.

Cedars of God Views Mountain

Famed Throughout History

The Cedars are mentioned of importance across numerous cultures and religions. They gain their name from the Epic of Gilgamesh, in which the forest was protected by the Sumerian god Enlil, who lost a battle to humans. Though other Christian stories say that God planted the trees himself. The Cedars are referenced over 100 times in the Bible and were used to build Solomon’s Temple. The trees are also of significance to Pagans and Druze.

Cedars of God Tree

The trees were held in high esteem by the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Israelites, and Turks. The wood was considered of high quality and is attributed to the Phoenicians being the first sea-faring trading civilization. The Egyptians used it in some papyrus while numerous people used it for holy buildings and offerings. In all cases though, the trees were cut down and used without being replaced. The most notable cutters were the Phoenicians, and then later the Turkish for train fuel.

Briana and Kyle

Only a Few Remain

Today, only a few groves remain, although the Lebanese government has enacted measures to spread the tree’s range. Interestingly, they promote natural reforestation, instead of replanting, so the forests will be more wild.

We began our way to the Cedars by walking from our AirBNB in Bcharre. We intended to grab a taxi, but had no phone or way to get a hold of one beforehand. Ultimately, we were prepared to make the hike up to the forest. Thankfully, a taxi pulled up beside us a few minutes into walking. Getting in saved us from a 10 km hike with 800m elevation gain.

The drive took about fifteen minutes and $20, during which we steadily climbed the mountain. Bcharre and the Kadisha Valley shrank below us. At one point, the taxi driver pulled off to the side of the road and took our picture overlooking the valley. Jumping back in the car, we made our way to the entrance of the Cedars of God. The taxi driver kept insisting that he would wait outside for us and that it only took 30 minutes to see the forest. He then offered to come in and give us a tour (because he was also a tour operator).

View of Kadisha Valley

Getting In

We tried to turn him down, but he kept insisting. Briana managed to get him to understand that we did not want him to give us a tour, though he would still wait for us (we wanted to visit the Kadisha Grotto after). We also stated that we would be about an hour or so, although we kept telling him we’d rather do two.

Entry into the forest was by “donation”. There is no set fee, so you can donate however much you want. We paid 1000 LBP (~$0.66) each to enter. From there we descended a stone stairway that then led into the grove.

Path From the Entrance Cedar Of God

Exploring the Cedars of God

The fresh air was quite freeing, and cool fragrance of cedar and flowers floated through the air. The entire grove was blossoming with numerous flowers as millennia old cedar towered above. The path wove it’s way down a gully, and then made a few switchbacks as it moved it’s way uphill.

Flowers at Cedars of God
Cedar of Gods Forest 1

We came across the oldest tree in the park, estimated at 3000 years old. It was very large and gnarled.

Big Tree at Cedars of God

A Small Stone Chapel

We came around a turn and found ourselves at an old church. I wish I knew what the name was, but we found that most the plaques in the forest were devoid of any information. However, we ventured inside and found a stately chamber. Although it was dark, we could still see the glitter of gold on the art work.

Cedars of God Church Entrance
Cedars of God Church

Walking out of the church, we then made our way down a path that led towards a large central grove with a few stone ruins and some central trees.

Ruins at Cedars of God

See Jesus in the Trees

One tree in particular was roped off and at first I really didn’t understand why. But Briana said there were carvings and upon a closer look, noticed that numerous trunk sections had been carved to look like Jesus. The carvings were phenomenal and you could easily look at them for a long time.

Cedars of God approaching Jesus ree
Jesus Tree Carving at Cedars Of God
Jesus Tree Carving at Cedar of God
Jesus Tree Carving at Cedars of God

From there we then proceeded on through various winding paths through the forest for about another 45 minutes. The flowers were in full bloom. We would have liked to spend longer within the forest, but had the taxi waiting. Ultimately, we spent about an hour and fifteen minutes within the forest, but you could easily spend another hour if you take your time.

~K~

Cedars of God Meadow
Cedars of God Switchback
Cedars of God Path
Cedars of God Grove
Pine Needles at Cedar of Gods

Ngu Lam Peak, Cat Ba National Park

We started off our Cat Ba day by eating a meal at the Buddha Belly in Cat Ba town, in preparation for our hike to come. We then returned to our AirBNB, gathered our things in preparation for Ngu Lam Peak.

Riding In

We rented a motorbike for the day from our host for 120,000 Dong (~$6) before making our way up the hill towards the town center, getting two liters of gas for 30,000 Dong (~$1.50) and continuing on the road.

You follow the main road for about 20 minutes (we took a few stops for pictures along the way) and then come upon the park headquarters and main entrance to Cat Ba National Park. We parked our bike in the parking lot adjacent to the entrance and paid the entry fee of 40,000 Dong (~$2)  each and a parking fee of 5,000 Dong.

Normally, you can get a guide from the entrance, but this being the off-season, it didn’t seem like there was anyone there who would assist us – not that we wanted a guide, though. The person manning the entry gate told us, without prompting, that we would just keep going and there would be a sign that would point us to the trail.

The Signs Aren’t Always Clear, But It Doesn’t Matter

Originally, we thought we would be hiking the Lookout Tower Trail which is a very popular trail as it provides great views, a decent hike, and at a reasonable length. The guy at the entrance also assumed that this is the trail we were wanting, luckily he was right.

While we did hike this trail (we think), we did took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up climbing to Ngu Lam Peak instead of the Lookout Tower. This was no disappointment, though. 

The Specimen House

Upon entering the park, we came almost immediately upon the Specimen House. We decided to go in and take a look – and use the bathroom.

Big White Building/House
In front of the museum area

The house was pretty interesting, though a little bit in disrepair. There are two floors of rooms, each containing preserved animals endemic to Vietnam. Each room had it’s own theme: birds, reptiles, mammals, insects, and fish. While very interesting, it was also a little bit creepy. I would have liked to know a bit more, but unfortunately nothing was in English. On the first floor is a giant relief map of the island that is worth a few minutes checking out.

Inside the white building
Jars of dead things
Butterflies

Where Does The Hike Start?

We exited the house and then proceeded on down the small paved road. We passed by small homes with front gardens.

Along the path
Drying laundry

A few people were working the plots, and an old lady was selling drinks to hikers. We also passed by many dogs just lazing around in the dirt.

Cat Ba National Park

We continued on the road for a bit, wondering where the trail was going to be, and finally came to the end of the road, and the start of the trail.

The road culminated at what appeared to be a restaurant / bungalow. It appeared to be empty, but during peak season, we imagine it could be full of hikers taking a break or sleeping through a long trek. You could get food or drinks here. We ultimately didn’t get anything until our return (mistake, we were thirsty the whole way and hadn’t brought any water).

When You Enter The Jungle, Everything Else Fades Away

We climbed a few steps and then proceeded off to the left of the Lookout Tower Loop Trail. Almost immediately you dive straight into the jungle, climbing over twisted roots and navigating dangling vines. We visited in very early March on a somewhat cooler day, but in the summer the humidity and heat of the forest could certainly be too much to handle for some. But for us, the climb just had us take off our jackets a short way in.

The hike up

Nearly the entire way was a pure climb up rough stone steps. There were barely, if any, flat parts. Luckily, the path was pretty clear and it isn’t difficult to get lost. But be prepared to take breaks as you climb so that you don’t exhaust yourself. Good shoes are also a must, especially if there has been a recent rain.

The limestone rocks are very jagged and very sharp. It would be very easy to trip, or twist an ankle and fall. A fall on these rocks will almost certainly result in some nasty cuts and injuries. Luckily we had no problems along the way.

Hiking up

Up, Up, Up

The climb up is pretty straight forward, although there are a few turns that veer off in directions that we weren’t sure about. But when in doubt climbing a mountain, you can’t really go wrong with “up”. So we continued to climb up.

In places, the trail devolved into just a scramble of jagged rocks that required all hands and feet to navigate. About an hour or so into the climb we came to a spot that gave us a little bit of confusion – the trail seemed to veer off to the left and right, but both ways were up.

We heard voices off to the left, so we chose left. This may have actually been the wrong direction, as we never actually made it to lookout tower, but instead we got to Ngu Lam Peak. At ~550 meters (~1705 feet), you get some great views.

In the tower
Looking outGreen beauty
First Area

More Stairs?

Near the top, a few steep stone staircases presented themselves and allowed us to climb out of the tangled underbrush and break through the canopy to spectacular sights. At the top of stairs and rocks, there was an observation tower (not the lookout tower) that made for a wonderful panoramic view of the park. We sat here for a few minutes enjoying the views before we noticed that there was yet another peak just a little bit further up the trail.

Great View

With a little convincing, I managed to get Briana to accompany me to the top of that peak. Here we were presented with even more great views, situated about a hundred feet higher than the previous peak. We sat on the ridge and rested for a few minutes.

Ngu Lam Peak
Beautiful

Don’t Try This At Home

I saw a cool little perch a ways over and took a (dangerous) climb over to it. I was very carefully climbing my way along the edge of cliff face, with roughly a 300 foot drop on my left before it began to slope out to the floor about a thousand feet down.

Once at my perch though, I got a nice view, and a couple good shots. When I was ready, I carefully made my way back to the ridge and then we proceeded on down the trail.

Out on the ledge
Yikes!

Ultimately, we spent around an hour at peak, it’s really not too difficult to do so. But if you visit in the summer, be warned that the peak is completely exposed. So make sure to wear sunscreen and bring water. Also, pay attention to any storms that could pop up, as the peak is sure to be a magnet for lighting.

At the top

Descending Back Into The Jungle

Our descent went rather quickly, but was just as difficult as the way up. Descending had to be done very carefully, and required a lot of assistance from trees, railing where available, and at times just turning backwards and literally climbing down.

At one point, there was a lot of rustling off tot he left, but we could never quite make out just what it was we were hearing. We thought we saw a bushy tail or two, but the forest creature(s) were elusive. We had thought about trying to go up the trails that we had passed on our way up, but our legs were pretty tired, and we were very thirsty, so we just went down instead.

Lazy Dog Days

Along our way back we passed several more dogs out relaxing in the sun, and later a dog interested in some monkeys (caged for rehabilitation) we passed by at one point. We heard some commotion as we went past this area and think one of the monkeys may have reached through the cage to provoke the dog.

Dog lazing

Finally we came back down and arrived at the little bungalow again. And here we bought ourselves a lemon green tea. It was very good, and just what we needed.

Stop for a drink

We did explore another area which did not involve any steep incline on the way back.

Cat Ba National Park

The climb was good, and it was a great journey through the jungle. It’s certainly not easy, and if you have knee problems you may want to avoid the hike – but if you can handle a little workout it’s certainly worth the trip.

~K~

Made it!

East Bay Hikes

~B~

1. Mount Diablo State Park was one of our favorites! We gained more elevation here than any of our other hikes and the landscape changed often and was always beautiful. I think we came at a good time of year, but started a little later than we should have and got lost in the dark at the end. Despite this, the way back was beautiful too- we were able to see all the little lights sparkling in the bay. It was really indescribably beautiful but we could not really capture it on our camera/phones. Between the dark and the fog we could barely see in front of us the rest of the way back, which was scary, but fun. We eventually found our way to the car but our muscles hurt for the next week and a half or so.

Walking on Mt DiabloMt DiabloWater DropletsMount Diablo

2. Las Trampas. We just did a short hike here when we were in the area for something else. A little elevation gain, some nice views, that’s about it. Kyle walked barefoot some of the time but probably shouldn’t have done so.

Las TrampasLas Trampas

3. Wildcat Canyon Regional Park was possibly the shortest hike we have done. The park was not as big as we thought but it was nice, and we were in the area.

Wildcat CanyonWildcat Canyon

4. Sunol Regional Wilderness was the location of our first hike! We climbed to Flag Tree Hill. The trail was short (only a little over a mile) but with a big elevation gain. I had a rough time because I was not at all in shape for hiking yet. There were some great views from the top, though.

Flag Tree HillSunol

5. Berkeley. We walked around a trail on this campus. I had considered going to Berkeley when I lived in CA as a kid but hadn’t visited. It was more spread out and not really how I had pictured. The trail was okay.

Berkeley

6. Around Fremont. Sometimes we just wander around.

Bridge in Fremont

Even though they are not all in the Bay Area, we thought we would also make a post for the national parks we visited in California from 2014-2015 (in alphabetical order). I had been to some of these before this and also visited the Redwood National Park(s) with my family when I was younger and lived in California. The parks that we particularly wanted to visit but did not get a chance to were Lassen and Lava Beds but we predict that we will make our way back there sometime. You can find a list of all the National Parks in California here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:National_parks_in_California

1. Joshua Tree National Park.  We have only technically visited this park. On our way over to California, we drove into the park, stopped and walked a trail. It was a nice break after driving and we enjoyed it, but only saw a very small portion of the park. We were there in the summer but read that it looks particularly nice in the spring when everything is blooming.

Kissing in Joshua Tree National ParkCactus

2. Muir Woods National Monument. I think most people who visit the San Francisco bay area make a stop here. It is beautiful and there are lots of redwoods. According to John Muir, “This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.” When we visited, we hiked through Muir Woods and then out of the monument over to Steep Ravine to the coast and back. It was a long day but one with great views.

Muir Woods National Monument SignAt Muir Woods
Steep Ravine

3. Pinnacles National Park was another one of our favorites. As you would expect by the name, there are some cool rock structures. Only recently designated as a national park, Pinnacles contains caves,  stairs, great views, streams and more. One of the highlights of this hike was getting caught in a hail storm for a little bit (I really enjoy precipitation.) Check out a more recent and in depth article about Pinnacles here.

PInnacles National ParkPinnacles National ParkRocks in Pinnacles National ParkKyle at Pinnacles

4. Point Reyes National Seashore. Many people visit Point Reyes for the lighthouse and to see the whales and elk. We were interested in the elk but visited at a time the elephant seals were active and got a little distracted by them. We bought a bus ticket to an area where we would be able to see a bunch but prior to the bus leaving accidentally got pretty close to the seals by walking down the beach. Once we stumbled upon them Kyle chose to inform me that they are actually very dangerous. We took a couple pictures and left. We also visited another beach and the lighthouse and did see some whales!

Point Reyes LighthouseElephant SealPoint Reyes

5. Sequoia National Park was another adventure. We woke up early, drove there and began a hike to Tokopah Falls. I was tired, had a headache and allergies, and got a bite from an unknown bug which was painful for nearly the whole day. Heads up: there are many bugs on this trail, at least in the summer. We made it up and it was beautiful though. We saw wildlife including marmots and black lizards up close and on our way back also saw a bear just across the stream from us.

Tokopah FallsUntitled

Next, we drove to a different section and made our way to the General Sherman tree (the biggest tree in the world) and other trees and explore that part of the park. On our way out of the park, the car broke down. We had no service and had to walk a mile to the nearest hotel, then back then back, etc. Eventually, a tow truck towed us to the nearest town where the car could be fixed the next day. We stayed in a motel and by the next afternoon were heading home.

UntitledSequoia National Park

6. Yosemite National Park. I think Yosemite is one of the most popular places to visit in California and in the United States. Even many international travelers want to check it out. The original plan was to go to Yosemite for my birthday (I had been before with my family but wanted to see the park during the winter) but then opted to wait because there would likely be snowfall if we waited. It was a good choice because we got our winter wonderland.

We were the first people to arrive in Mariposa Grove early in the morning. The road was closed because of the snow so it was a little bit of a walk (especially in the cold) to get to the grove. It was a magical experience knowing only we were there and making the first prints on the snow (that is, aside from some animal prints!) It was silent except for the occasional sound of snow falling off of a tree branch. Eventually, a British family arrived and caught up to us and on our way back we encountered more international people. It is actually common to encounter people from all over the world on all of our hikes. For whatever reason (perhaps laziness) I think Americans are not as interested in hiking as people from other countries. After we were done here we drove further. We passed Bridalveil Falls and saw El Capitan and Half Dome. We also took a trail up to Yosemite Falls and got pretty close to the falls (close enough to get sprayed by them).

Mariposa Grove in the SnowSnow in Mariposa GrovePrints in Mariposa GroveYosemite Falls

~B~