Zion National Park Guide

(This post is part 4/6- make sure to read the others. While you’re reading, click anything blue and you will see I attached links and additional images for more information!)

*All times included time spent taking pictures/enjoying the views.

* We visited in the middle of June

Our honeymoon continued with a 3.5 day trip to Zion National Park. Despite most of our planned hikes being closed because of water levels and falling rock, we still enjoyed our time here so much. Our planned hikes that were closed include the following: Narrows, the Upper and Middle Emerald Pools, Observation Point, Hidden Canyon Trail, and Kayenta Trail.

Day 1- Friday

After our packed day from the Grand Canyon, we arrived at Zion National Park around 7:30pm. Upon getting to the entrance to show our National Park Annual Pass, we were told we must purchase a “tunnel ticket” in order to get through. This is something I did not find during my research- RVs must pay an additional $15.00 because in order to get through the tunnel they must stop traffic and allow for one way travel. The ticket is good for 2 trips so entering and exiting. Unfortunately, one of our planned hikes was on the other side of the tunnel so if we wanted to complete that hike, we would have had to buy another ticket. Because of this, we decided not to. The tunnel is “open” from 8am to 8pm but you are allowed to drive through whenever you want. * If you are an RV traveling through outside of these hours and something happens, you are on your own as it is not recommended.

Our first stop after driving through the park, (our campground was on the other side) took about 25 minutes. We stopped at the Zion Brewery for dinner and drinks. We LOVED this place. Greg ordered the elk burger, I ordered a regular burger with their specialty fries, and we ended our dinner with a brownie sundae. They have indoor and outdoor seating and if you can, sit outside to enjoy views as you eat. No worries about the heat, they have misters to cool you off!

After dinner we made our way to the Zion Canyon Campground and we both said this was the best campground so far. It was $54 a night for a full hook-up pull through RV spot, laundry, pool access, shower tokens, free shuttle to the park, a playground, WiFi, and GREAT views of Zion.

Day 2- Saturday

We woke up and headed towards the Visitor Center by foot. We decided not to take the Springdale shuttle so we could take in the views. When entering the park by foot, you must have your pass, a receipt from parking, or pay to get into the park. Once again, we were able to get information on recommended hikes as well as add to our patch collection here. Our first hike of the day was the Watchman Trail. We began around 10:00am.

The Watchman Trail

Distance- 3.3 miles (total out and back)

Time- 2 hours

Shuttle- Stop 1, start at the visitor center.

The Watchman Trail had great views but was a steep incline for the entire 1.75 miles leading up to the view. That okay, because that means a nice 1.75 miles of downhill on the way back. Greg and I found out we love hiking downhill, especially in the heat! The trail was not as crowded as we thought so we were able to enjoy ourselves starting. *Once you get to the top you must complete the Loop Trail in order to get to the scenic overlook (this is included in the trail distance).

From the Watchman Trail we hopped on the shuttle and got off at stop 9 for the Riverside Walk.

Riverside Walk

Distance- 2.2 miles (total out and back)

Time- An hour and a half

Shuttle- Stop 9

Handicap Accessible

We started this hike around 5pm and it was amazing; the sun was behind the canyon and walking next to the river gave off a nice cool breeze. We definitely recommend this hike later in the day. This trail has 2 access points- the first is a paved road and the second in a sandy path right by the water. Look for the sand access points as you will get a better view of the Virgin River while completing this trail. This trail is also handicap accessible with some assistance. The trail ends where you would begin the Narrows Hike so if you plan on doing the Narrows, wait to complete this then.

Our last hike of the day was the Lower Emerald Pool.

Lower Emerald Pools

Distance- 1.2 miles (total out and back)

Time- 1 hour

Shuttle- Stop 5

Unfortunately, we were very disappointed with this hike. Arriving to the Lower Emerald Pool, it looked more like a rain puddle to us. The views of the canyon were better. (This is not to say you shouldn’t visit! This is just what it looked like when we arrived)

Our day ended with dinner again at the Brew Pub where we had a great meal. Our service however, was not so good. We had a different waiter than the night before and we were not impressed.  

Day 3- Sunday

Well… we finally took a step back and had ourselves a day where we didn’t set our alarms and we SLEPT IN!! We knew this day was going to be short in anticipation for our strenuous hike on Monday so we decided to take in some much needed rest. We woke up around 10:00am and ate breakfast. We bought food from Hoodoos General Store– walking distance from Zion Canyon Campground. If you go, check out their market, they have almost anything you could possibly need. Following breakfast, we headed into the park.

We decided to plan our hikes from the furthest to the closest and riding the shuttle back to the campground stopping along the way. Our first hike of the day was Weeping Rock.

Weeping Rock

Distance- .4 miles (total out and back)

Time- 30 minutes

Shuttle- Stop 7

This was a great, easy hike with views of the canyon. The only downfall is that some of the trail was pretty steep. Also, the water runs off the rocks above so you may get a little wet even if it has not rained.

From Weeping Rock, we traveled to complete the Grotto Trail.

Grotto Trail

Distance- .5 miles

Time- 30 minutes

Shuttle- Stop 5 or 6, start at one and walk to the other.

The Grotto was a nice, relaxing hike with views of the canyon. The trails were mostly flat which made it more enjoyable. We were also almost all alone the entire time which we also enjoyed.

Our next hike was probably the shortest hike in the park, an uphill 100-yard hike to the Court of the Partiarchs.

Court of the Patriarchs

Distance- 100 yards

Time- 15 minutes

Shuttle- Stop 4

You will not find this hike on the hiking guide from the visitor center but all of the shuttles will inform you of it. Once at the top, you have views of 3 cliffs- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Although this was a short hike, I would recommend if you need something to do in any spare time.

Our final hike of the day was hiking along the Pa’rus Trail.

Pa’rus Trail

Distance- 1.75 miles (1 way, we completed 1 way)

Time- 1 hour

Shuttle- Stop 1 or 3, start at one and hike to the other or complete a round trip

The Pa’rus trail was another trail where we were almost completely alone. The trail is almost all paved and has multiple bridges that provide a great photo opportunity. As you are completing this trail, turn around and look at the views of the canyons behind you.

We concluded our day of hiking with beers from the Zion Bew Pub. Greg and I loved their beer and this was a great way to unwind. If you go, let us know what beer was your favorite! While there, we asked for recommendations for dinner and were told the Bit and Spur and Oscars were great and nearby.

We chose to eat at the Bit and Spur (Springdale shuttle 6) for dinner and it did not disappoint. We both loved our meals! The prices were a little high but if you sit out back you have great views of the canyon. Watch out though, as we were eating a flash flood warning came in and we were rushed inside!

Day 4- Monday

Our alarms went off at an early 5:00am in preparation of Angels Landing. We were told to be at the visitor center by 5:30 as the 6:00am shuttle is almost always completely full. We arrived at 5:45 and were number 31 and 32 in line. Luckily, we made it on the first shuttle. Others weren’t so lucky however, and had to wait for the next shuttle.

Angels Landing

Distance- 5.4 miles (total out and back)

Time- 4 hours

Shuttle- Stop 6

This hike is not only listed as strenuous, but is also listed as one of the most dangerous hikes in the states.  Look up pictures and videos online and you will see why! The 2.75 miles to get there is completely uphill- I wanted to give up so many times but Greg was there to support me. He waited as I stopped about 15 times on the way up to “look at the views” aka catch my breath and make sure I was still alive (lol). After you complete 2 miles, there is a lookout point called Scouts Lookout where many people stop, take in the views, and turn around. If you decide to keep going, the rest of the trail is a narrow trail with people going up as others are coming down, with only a chain to hold onto on one side (scary!). I completed the first section of the chains but turned around after that. Greg continued on and is now able to say he completed Angels Landing (it gets its name because someone once said it is so high only angels can reach it). This hike is not intended for those with a fear of heights as there are 1,000 foot drop offs on either side as you are hiking up and down the trial. Prior to completing, there is a sign that warns you that many people have died completing this hike! Only complete this if you are 100% confident, if you start and do not feel comfortable like I did, turn around! The views from Scouts Lookout are just as nice.

After completing the first half of Angels Landing, we continued onto the West Rim Trail.

West Rim Trail

Distance- As long or as short as you would like- we hiked a half mile in and then a half mile out for a total of 1 mile

Time- As long or as short as you would like- 30 minutes

Shuttle- Stop 6

You can only access the West Rim trail from Angels Landing, it is a continuation and a complete 14 mile trip if you decide to do the entire trail. Greg and I hiked a half mile to a lookout point and then turned around as we were getting tired and hungry.

I guess you can say we were pretty tired after these hikes. We went back to the RV and both passed out for 3 hours. The rest of the day was spent sitting outside, drinking beers, making smores, and talking with our neighbors. We have made so many friends along the way so far that we hope to keep in touch with. We encourage you to make friends on your trip as you already have one thing in common- your love for traveling!

OTHER PARK INFORMATION

SHUTTLE SYSTEM- There are two shuttles at Zion National Park. The first is for the town of Springdale which we used to get to the entrance of the park and the other for inside of the park. The shuttles inside the park runs every 15 minutes until 8:30am where they then run every 5 minutes. The shuttle stops around 9:30pm depending on where you are inside the park and 10:00pm outside the park using the Springdale shuttle. Be aware when riding the shuttle, you are on the right side of the road depending on where you want to go. 

VISITOR CENTER- Definitely make a stop here, the rangers can provide you with any information or questions you may have, you can buy souvenirs at the gift shop, grab free maps (we lived off of using ours), and get a stamp for your National Park Passport! We added to our National Park patch collection here.  

SERVICE- We had service and WiFi at our campground which was nice for a change, we were immediately able to send pictures to our family. 

FOOD- We packed a lot of snacks for our hikes including trail mix, crackers, etc. Having the RV available after each hike was very convenient for meals as well. There are many restaurants, cafes, and stores in the town of Springdale- you will definitely be able to find what you are looking for foodwise here. Like I mentioned above, we ate at the Brew Pub, Bit and Spur, and Hoodoos and would recommend all three. Oscars was also recommended but we did not make it there this trip.  

LAUNDRY- There was a laundry facility at our campground open 24/7- $2.00 to wash and $2.00 to dry. 

WEATHER- It was hot but luckily, the sun was occasionally hidden by the canyon. The rangers recommend two liters per person while hiking. 

TRAILS- If you are limited on time, plan out your top trails and do them first; you might be surprised that you have extra time in the day that allows for more adventures.

FIREWOOD- You are not allowed to gather branches for firewood, it must be purchased.

OUR NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDATION- Find time to relax if you can.

OUR NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDED HIKE– Greg: Angels Landing or the Riverwalk, Meg: The Watchman.

Grand Canyon National Park Guide

(This post is part 3/6- make sure to read the others. While you’re reading, click anything blue and you will see I attached links and additional images for more information!)

*All times included time spent taking pictures/enjoying the views.

* We visited in the middle of June

After what seemed like forever in the RV (12.5 hours) we made it to the Grand Canyon from Sequoia National Park. We originally had 2 days planned here, but after talking to some new friends at Yosemite, they said to pack everything into 1 day and explore other areas of Arizona- we ended up rerouting our trip include Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

Prior to arriving at the Grand Canyon entrance, we stopped at a visitor center outside the park.

We then made our way into the park and to Mather Campground. At Mather Campground we paid $18 a night, no hook up but very close to everything. The campsites are very large and have a picnic bench as well as a fire pit. There is a laundry facility by the entrance to the campground. The Grand Canyon village is also very tourist friendly and includes things like: a general store, restaurant, post office, chase bank, clinic, a chapel, and multiple visitor centers. Be on the lookout for elk, they won’t bother you but remember to keep your distance (2 bus lengths).

Day 1- Thursday

Our first planned hike was Ooh Aah point but after talking to one of the rangers he said it was not recommended to hike into the canyon between the hours of 10am- 4pm. At that point, we took the free shuttle to the visitor center in order to get to the Rim Trail.

Rim Trail

Distance- As long or as short as you would like- we hiked a mile and then turned around for a total of 2 miles

Time- As long or as short as you would like- 2 hours

Shuttle- Yes

Handicap Accessible

The Rim Trail allows for views alongside the rim of the Grand Canyon (where it gets its name). There are many lookout points you can walk down into and almost the entire tail is paved. You may think you have seen it all but there are so many different views from one point to another, take your time and enjoy this hike. It can get very crowded during the day.

From the Rim Trail we got in our RV and headed to our first lookout, Yavapai Lookout.

Yavapai Lookout

Distance- .2 miles from the parking lot

Time- As long or as short as you would like

Shuttle- Yes

Handicap Accessible

Attached to this lookout is the Geology Museum and we recommend you check it out, we found it had the best views. Take your time walking around/reading about the history of the canyon. Look for helicopters inside the canyon, let us know if you saw any!

From that lookout point we traveled to Pipe Creek Vista.

Pipe Creek Vista

Distance- Right alongside the road/parking lot

Time- As long or as short as you would like (stay in 1 spot to view)

Shuttle- Yes

Pipe Creek Vista, along with the other lookout points has great views, it is interesting to see the canyon from another viewpoint.

Finally, around 4:30 we got ready and hopped on the shuttle to complete the Ooh Aah Point trail.

Ooh Aah Trail

Distance- 2 miles (total out and back)

Time- 1 hour and 30 minutes

Shuttle- Yes

This hike was amazing but difficult! The entire way to the Ooh Aah point is a downhill zigzag which means the entire way out is an uphill zigzag… Greg and I had to take many rests periods along the way back. For reference, it took us 26 minutes to hike the mile down and 52 minutes to hike the mile up. You do have the option of continuing after Ooh Aah point to 2 other lookouts but we knew we were already going to have trouble from this point so we turned around.

After this hike we went back to the RV for dinner and some rest. Around 9:00pm, Greg mentioned how it would be cool to see the canyon at night so we hopped in the RV and headed towards the visitor center to the Rim Trail and guess what… that was literally the best idea! We basically had the canyon to ourselves and were able to see so many stars above because of minimal light pollution. If you can, definitely do this as you will not be disappointed.  

At the end of our day we were really happy with what we saw. You can definitely see the Grand Canyon in a day.

OTHER PARK INFORMATION

SHUTTLE SYSTEM- The free shuttle system at the Grand Canyon is great but make sure you know what time the last shuttle is. Here, they run very late compared to the other parks we have visited.

VISITOR CENTER- Definitely make a stop here. The rangers can provide you with any information or questions you may have. You can buy souvenirs at the gift shop, grab free maps (we lived off of using ours), and get a stamp for your National Park Passport! We added to our National Park patch collection here.  

SERVICE- We had limited service here but were able to communicate with our family when we got closer to the village.  

FOOD- We packed a lot of snacks for our hikes including trail mix, crackers, etc. Having the RV available after each hike was very convenient for meals as well. There is a restaurant/tavern located nearby in the village that looked very popular.

LAUNDRY- There was a laundry facility but we did not use it- not sure of the price.  

WEATHER- It was hot! Hike early or hike later in the day to prevent heat exhaustion. The rangers do not recommend anyone go into the canyon from 10am- 4pm. We found 5pm was a good time to start.  

TRAILS- If you are limited on time, plan out your top trails and do them first. You might be surprised that you have extra time in the day that allows for more adventures. As stated before, we believe you can see the Grand Canyon in one day.  

FIREWOOD- You are not allowed to gather branches for firewood, it must be purchased. We bought ours from the general store and it did not last long and it put black smoke on our smores.  

OUR NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDATION- Go back to the rim trail after dark- it will not disappoint.

OUR NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDED HIKE- Ooh Aah Point!

Day 2- Friday

We woke up early and headed towards Page, Arizona in preparation of our guided tour through Antelope Canyon (Ken’s Tours). Our tour was at 1:30pm in the lower antelope canyon. The canyon did not disappoint, every time you make a turn you see another amazing view of the sun shining through. I am so happy we were able to add this to our trip.

-We were told the lower canyon has better views (compared to the upper canyon) and the best time to go is between 10am-2pm because the lighting is the best.

– With Ken’s Tours, adult tickets are $50 and I believe children are $30.

– You must check in 30 minutes prior to your tour.

– You need a reservation to complete the tour, as we were waiting there were so many people that came up to buy tickets and were turned away. Plan in advance.

From Antelope Canyon we drove about 15 minutes to Horseshoe Bend which was another great adventure. In order to get to the rim/overlook you have to walk about a half mile (some uphill/some downhill) but the views are totally worth it! Look down to see boats and how small they are compared to everything; it puts it into perspective.

– $10 to park

Sequoia National Park Guide

(This post is part 2/6- make sure to read the others. While you’re reading, click anything blue and you will see I attached links and additional images for more information!)

Greg and I traveled from Yosemite National Park to Sequoia National Park to continue our honeymoon. We had 2 full days here and below is what filled our time.

*All times included time spent taking pictures/enjoying the views.

* We visited in the middle of June

Day 1- Monday

We woke up around 5:30am to pack up and get on the road. Initially the GPS said it would take us 3.5 hours to get to Sequoia but it took us around 4.5 (there is cheaper gas the further you drive away from Yosemite). On the way to Sequoia we passed right through Kings Canyon National Park and were able to stop at their Visitor Center and stamp our passport. Driving up and down the mountain we were also able to make a stop at a lookout point that overlooked the canyon. It was nice but had somewhat occluded views. We then drove straight to Moro Rock before checking in at our campground as we knew there was a parking lot on location.

Moro Rock

Distance- 400 steps with a steep incline

Time- 45 minutes  

Shuttle- Route 2

We arrived here around 11:15am and there was a fair amount of people- not over crowded but it may seem that way when you are trying to climb up and down narrow stairs. Once you are at the top, there is plenty of room. Going up, I’ll be honest, I had to take a few rest periods. I never knew how exhausting 400 steps would be and after we got to the bottom, my legs were literally shaking. Don’t let this stop you though, the views are wonderful!

After Moro Rock, we drove back to Lodgepole Campground which took about 25 minutes. Lodgepole is a park campground that offers tent/RV spots for $22 a night- no hook up but there are bathrooms, a laundry facility, the visitor center, a restaurant, gift shop, public library, dumping stations, and many water stations. The RV spots here are very big and also have a fire pit which came in handy.

We ate lunch at the Lodgepole Market and both enjoyed our meals. Greg had a spicy Italian sub and I had a grilled chicken sandwich. We also picked up 2 things for breakfast and our total was $29.00. Not bad!

We hopped on the shuttle in order to get to our next hike to see the General Sherman.

General Sherman Hike

Distance- 1 mile (total out and back)

Time- 30 minutes – can be longer as there is a line to take a picture in front of the tree

Shuttle- Route 1 (Makes 2 stops, 1 for trailhead and another for their handicap accessible route)

Handicap Accessible

The General Sherman was absolutely amazing! It’s so crazy that this tree is the largest on the earth! This is an easy hike (with a steep incline on the way back) and definitely worth it. We arrived around 2:00 and it was pretty crowded. There are many photo opportunities right around this area.

In order to make this a longer hike, we added the Congress Trail to the General Sherman.

Congress Trail

Distance- 2 miles (loop)

Time- 2 hours

Shuttle- Route 1, you must pass the General Sherman to continue onto this trail

The Congress Trail is one of those trails that pictures just do not do it justice. The trees are something you have to experience with your own eyes. They are so big and so amazing. Here you will also see the President Tree which is the 4th largest on earth. We noticed a lot of the sequoias had “scars” or burn marks and later learned that fires are actually good for them- typically after a fire you will see a growth spurt! The entire trail is paved and a lot is shaded which helps on a hot day. We had a blast on this trail and would definitely recommend it if you are visiting as it was nearly empty as we were completing it.

From the Congress Trail, we got back on the shuttle to head to the Giant Forest Museum which is nearby to the Big Trees Trailhead.

Big Trees Trail

Distance- 1 mile total walking from the museum and back

Time- 1 hour  

Shuttle- Route 1

The Big Trees Trail is great to do after you complete a trail like the Congress Trail because you get similar views of the trees but with a different backdrop. This loop circles the Round Meadow and has numerous “stations” that provide tree information regarding: the fires, soil, habitat, water intake, history, etc. (There are bathrooms located at this trailhead)

After completing our last hike of the day, we went back to tour the Giant Forest Museum and were glad we did. This museum is so interesting and provides so much information on the Sequoias. It is great for kids and adults.

Our night ended by the campfire making dinner and eating smores for dessert!

Day 2- Tuesday

We started our day with the Topokah Trail as it was only a 2-minute walk from our campsite at Lodgepole.

Topokah Trail

Distance- 4 miles (total out and back)

Time- 2.5 hours

Shuttle- Route 1

This trail was very interesting to us because when you think of Sequoia National Park, typically the trees come to mind. This trail did have some large sequoias on its route, but the main attraction was the waterfall at the end. My watch clocked this trail at just over 500 feet of elevation throughout but many parts are shaded which allowed for a cooler breeze during the time of our visit. We started this hike at 9:30am and were the only two until our way back when we passed many people heading up. Keep an eye out for animals on this route, no bears for us though.

After the Topokah Trail we hopped on the shuttle to get to the Crescent Meadows/Tharp’s Log Trail– from Lodgepole it took us 50 minutes to get to this location.

Crescent Meadows/Tharp’s Log

Distance- 2 miles

Time- 1 hour

Shuttle- Route 2

This trail is mostly shaded and circles around the Crescent Meadow, we added a little bit to see Tharp’s Log so we saw views of Log Meadow as well. Keep an eye out for marked trees such as “Chimney Tree”!

OTHER PARK INFORMATION

SHUTTLE SYSTEM- The free shuttle system at Sequoia is great but make sure you know what time the last shuttle is. The shuttles at this location stop around 6pm and you do not want to get stuck at a trailhead.

VISITOR CENTER- Definitely make a stop here, the rangers can provide you with any information or questions you may have. You can also buy souvenirs at the gift shop, grab free maps (we lived off of using ours), and get a stamp for your National Park Passport! We added to our National Park stamp collection here.   

SERVICE- We had absolutely no service at during our entire time at Sequoia, not even for a minute. I would 100% recommend loading the directions from one place to another on your phone beforehand and taking screenshots- this helped us!

FOOD- We packed a lot of snacks for our hikes including trail mix, crackers, etc. Having the RV available after each hike was very convenient for meals as well. I would recommend packing sandwiches for the longer hikes. The Lodgepole Market also has great food as I mentioned above.

LAUNDRY- Lodgepole has a laundry facility (not sure if there are any others in the park but this was open to the public). We paid $1.25 to wash our clothes and $.50 to dry our clothes for 20 minutes.

WEATHER– The weather here fluctuated. We woke up freezing and even the start of some hikes were cold but by the end of the day we were hot. Wear layers that you can remove.

TRAILS- If you are limited on time, plan out your top trails and do them first; you might be surprised that you have extra time in the day that allows for more adventures.

FIREWOOD- You are allowed to use branches/wood that you find on the ground for firewood here, no breaking off trees.

OUR NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDATION– Pack for the cold, even in the summer the nights can get very cold.

OUR NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDED HIKE- Congress Trail!

Yosemite National Park Guide

(This post is part 1/6- so make sure to read the others! While you’re reading, click anything blue and you will see I attached links or additional images for more information!)

Welcome to this post! If you don’t already know, Greg and I love to travel. Before we were even engaged, we talked about the idea of having a National Park Honeymoon as we have been to Europe a few times, but have not seen most of our own country. Planning for our June honeymoon began in January as something like this takes a long time to plan. We were determined to complete 100 miles on foot between hikes and exploring. Do you think we hit our goal? Continue reading through our posts to find out!

Greg and I were lucky enough to start our honeymoon at Yosemite National Park. Here is a guide for our 2.5-day trip we spent here. We hope you can learn from our experience and we wish you the best of luck if you are planning to travel here!

(We arrived the 2nd week of June and were told there would be more visitors this weekend than Memorial Day weekend due to the weather, so this information below is based off that. Some trails were also closed due to the extreme snowfall they experienced this year- you can find a list of the closed trails on the Yosemite National Park website or by calling.)

*All times included our time spent taking pictures and enjoying the views.

Day 1- Friday

After 19 hours of traveling, we arrived around 8pm at our campground: Indian Flat RV Park– full hookup RV sites are $48 a night, including showers, a restaurant within walking distance, general store, grill, and picnic table (unfortunately no fire pit). There are cheaper RV parks that we found but Indian Flat was only 35 minutes from the entrance of Yosemite (turn right out of the RV park and follow it up, no turns).

We were pretty hungry/tired when we arrived so we went to the local restaurant/bar for dinner which is next door to where we were staying: Canyon Bar and Grill– the food was good, but small, and in my opinion, a little over-priced. I got a grilled chicken sandwich and Greg got a patty melt, for $26.00 (not including tip).

Day 2- Saturday

Bridalveil Falls

Distance- 1 mile (total out and back)

Our Time- 30 minutes

Shuttle- no shuttle stop, there is a parking lot

Handicap Accessible

We woke up around 6:30am to get to Bridalveil Falls early- we were told this parking lot fills up and if there are no spots, you will probably have a far walk for a short hike. I recommend planning to start your day with this hike. After getting ready and driving, we arrived at 7:30am and there were plenty of spots available. We finished the hike around 8:00am and still less than half of the spots were filled. Bridalveil Falls is an easy hike but has a short/steep incline at the top. When we visited it was very wet. Our shoes did not get wet but others said their shoes were soaked which caused their feet to be cold for hours. It was also very cold at the top.

We then drove from Bridalveil Falls to the Yosemite Valley Lodge (this is where RVs must park) in order to catch our first ride on the free shuttle. We took the shuttle from the Lodge (shuttle stop #7) to the Visitor Center/Theater (shuttle stop #9) which opened at 9:00am.

From the Visitor Center we got back on the shuttle and headed to the Mirror Lake Trail.

Mirror Lake Trail

Distance- 1.8 miles (total out and back) or 5 miles (around)

Our Time- 3 hours for a modified 5 mile loop

Shuttle- #17

When hiking this trail you have the option to either hike out to the lake and turn around or to hike all the way around the lake and make a circle. Our original plan was to hike around the lake but along the way, we met people who informed us that the conditions were not the best (1 area required you to take your shoes off to hike through water and the other required you to go off the trail because the path was flooded- not appealing for us). We decided to hike to the very top and once we reached Snow Creek Falls we turned around. This hike was about 5 miles total but was a really good hike with plenty of shade and visits from animal friends!

From the Mirror Lake Trail we got back on the shuttle and headed to The Loft at Degnan’s for lunch (shuttle stop #4). Here, you have 2 options- a deli on the first level with ordering kiosks (pizza, sandwiches, all day breakfast, etc.) or you can go upstairs for a set menu. We decided to go upstairs and the food was great. The portions were also great and the prices were not bad. I ordered a Teriyaki Chicken bowl and Greg ordered a Beef Burrito all for $22 (we expected prices to be higher inside the park).

After lunch we got back on the shuttle and headed to the Lower Yosemite Falls, we were told if you are visiting Yosemite then you must do this hike.

Lower Yosemite Falls  

Distance- .5 miles (total out and back)

Our Time- 30 minutes

Shuttle- #6

Handicap Accessible

The views at this hike were wonderful! You could get so close to the waterfall and there was a nice mist to cool you off. This hike is almost entirely handicap accessible too!

This trail concluded our day so we headed back towards the shuttle stop. We ended up waiting in long line for 35 minutes so we decided we would just walk back to our car. This took us about 15 minutes- probably because we were exhausted from our day!

On the way out of the park we stopped for gas and paid a hefty $4.78!!! Crazy, right!? But we needed gas and this was the only place around. It was a Chevron gas station located 8 minutes from our RV campground. If we wanted to go elsewhere, we would have had to add another 30 minutes to our drive to find another. We recommend filling up if you happen to drive by a place with decent pricing.

Day 3- Sunday

Our alarms went off at 6:15 on day 2 in order to get to the recommended hikes early. (No worries, we were both asleep by 9:00pm the night before. Man were we exhausted!)

On our way to our first hike, we stopped at Tunnel View. We had planned to visit this after our hike, but the parking lot was nearly empty as we drove past (7:30am). The views were great but our pictures were a little washed out as the sun was rising at this time. It was still great to see firsthand with your own eyes though!

From Tunnel View, we continued to drive up the mountain to the Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Trailhead. I was terrified during the drive up because there are no rails to protect you while you’re 6,000+ feet up! I constantly felt myself leaning while in the passenger seat away from the drop off (lol). So I definitely recommend taking your time and allow others to pass if needed.

Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Trail

Distance- 2 miles (total out and back) or 4.5 (loop)

Time- 2.5 hours for the 2 mile trail

Shuttle- no shuttle stop, parking lot located at the trailhead.

We arrived here at 8:00am and we were one of maybe ten cars in the parking lot- just under ½ full at this time. Our original plan was to do the entire loop in a counter- clockwise direction as recommended but after visiting the Visitor Center, we were informed part of the Taft Point loop was under about 5 feet of snow and greatly impacted ability to locate the trail. Instead, we walked from the Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Trailhead up to the top of Sentinel Dome and back. Towards the end, there is a steep incline, and at the time of our visit, it was covered in snow; made it extra fun to climb! This was hands down the best view we saw during our time at Yosemite. Greg and I kept saying “Is this real? It looks like a fake backdrop.” We 100% recommend this hike if you can only do one during your time here.

From the Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Trailhead, we traveled to Glacier Point which was only 10 minutes away. Online I read to arrive before 10:30am or after 5:00pm. We arrived at 10:45am and were lucky to find a parking spot (after being told we would not be able to, on our way out someone was leaving!). We spent about an hour here looking at the amazing views, taking pictures, and visiting the gift shop. On our way out was a line of over 50 cars waiting to find a spot in the parking lot. If this happens to you, try to park up the road more and make the extra walk. The hike to the top is very short.

On our way back down the mountain, we made another stop at Tunnel View. We arrived around 1:30, the parking lot was PACKED and people were illegally parked which was annoying and made it difficult to navigate an RV. We ended up finding a spot and were able to get more pictures that weren’t washed out. Overall, I would recommend getting to this location between 8:00-10:00am or later in the day.

As we continued down the mountain, we passed the Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Trailhead and the Bridalveil Falls Trailhead- both were so packed the streets were lined with cars trying to find any spot they could fit in. This justified our 6:15am alarm which allowed us to enjoy the hikes with minimal people around.

At the end of our day, which was only around 2:00pm, we decided to make one last trip into Yosemite Village. We parked at the Yosemite Lodge and walked 15 minutes to the Visitor Center because we knew waiting for a shuttle at this time would take forever. We continued to be amazed by the views and wildlife that walks around as if no one is there.

If you have been to this park or go for a visit, let me know what your favorite hike is!

OTHER PARK INFORMATION

SHUTTLE SYSTEM- The free shuttle system at Yosemite is great. In the morning from 7:00am-10:00am it is scheduled to come every 30 minutes, from 10:00am-10:00pm it is scheduled to come every 20 minutes. Towards the end of the day you can wait upwards of 40 minutes and in a line of people so check the map to see how far you are from the next stop, it may only be a 5-minute walk!

VISITOR CENTER- Definitely make a stop here. The rangers can provide you with any information or questions you may have. You can buy souvenirs at the gift shop, grab free maps (we lived off of ours), visit the theater, and get a stamp for your National Park Passport! We started our National Park patch collection here- if you are visiting the parks maybe you will enjoy starting a collection of something like us!  

CELL SERVICE- We had absolutely no service at our campsite and limited service once inside the park. I would 100% recommend loading the directions from one place to another on your phone beforehand and taking screenshots- this helped us! We were told to download the app “You Need A Map” for trails, but be aware, it may drain your battery.

FOOD- We packed a lot of snacks for our hikes including trail mix, crackers, etc. Having the RV available after each hike was very convenient for meals as well. I would recommend packing sandwiches for the longer hikes.

WEATHER- The weather here fluctuated. We woke up freezing and even the start of some hikes were cold, but by the end of the day we were hot. Wear layers that you can remove. All of the hikes we started in long sleeves/pants but we had an extra shirt in our bags.

TRAILS- Unfortunately, with the limited time spent here and due to the weather conditions, we were unable to do everything we planned. We did expect this and definitely plan on returning. If you are limited on time, plan out your top trails and do them first; you might be surprised that you have extra time in the day that allows for more adventures.

GAS- As I mentioned above, we paid $4.78 for gas at a Chevron going into the park. We recommend you fill up your tank before you get close to the park, even if you are ¾ full, I promise it will save you money. We found out the hard way but this was our first park and our first time in an RV together.

OUR NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDATION- Start your mornings early!!

OUR NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDED TRAIL- Sentinel Dome! Starting at Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Trailhead and then continuing counter clockwise.

Post Wedding DIY Project

Having post wedding blues like I did? I have so much extra time now. I LOVED planning and staying busy with wedding crafts. I know, crazy right? I loved the hectic life which makes sense when I tell people I want 4 kids. I was urging for 1 last wedding craft and knew I needed to do something with the wedding cards that were taking up space in a drawer because I couldn’t just throw them away. But what? I looked on Pinterest and found my inspiration. I had so much fun making this with my mom and it was so easy!

Things you’ll need: frame (we used a 16 x 20 inch from Hobby Lobby (on sale for $28.00) which required about 65 cards but you can and will most likely use more than 1 punch from each card if you like this size), Fiskars 2 inch hexagon punch (FIND ON AMAZON HERE), crafters tape– you’ll need 2 for this size project (CLICK HERE), scissors, a ruler, possibly a background sheet, and wedding cards! Oh and maybe a glass of wine.  

Step 1- If you want a focus point, decide on what card you will use and set that aside. The card we chose was 3D and you cannot cut those so it was perfect, it says “Just Married”.

Step 2- Use the Fiskars punch to cut your wedding cards. You may have to cut some of the cards with scissors to get to the desired cut area.  If possible, cut more than one from each card because you will need a lot of fillers for the edges. *Most cards are glued together which makes cutting hard, I had my husband separate them with a knife. ** Check the back of the cards, sometimes there are cute little pictures! *** If you have more of 1 of the same card like we did then get creative with what you cuts!!

Step 3- Background sheet. We used the back of the “picture” the frame came with as our background and attached it to the cardboard using the crafters tape. If this is not possible, cut and attach a white piece of paper to the cardboard (Hobby Lobby has sheets for free at checkout!).

Step 4- Measure for the center and place your focus card in place. *We played with the idea of the focus card not in the center and it didn’t look bad! This might be a fun option.

Step 5- Start from 1 spot, place your pieces with the crafters tape, and keep going! Have fun with this and use your imagination with placement! *I kind of moved all over the place and found it was harder at the end.

Step 6- Put the frame together and you’re done! Show it off! I posted a picture on Facebook and had people commenting that their cards have been sitting for years and now they are going to do this.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out! Share a picture if you create your own!

Planning A (destination) Wedding

Welcome to this post! If you are reading this just to read, I hope you enjoy it, if you are reading this because you are recently engaged then WOO HOO CONGRATS, and enjoy! I want to first start off by saying our wedding was not a “true destination wedding” but we planned it from 1,251 miles away (Florida to New York) and I can only imagine that we had to deal with some of the same things someone planning a destination wedding in Jamaica, for example, would deal with. I hope you can learn tips and tricks from this whether you are planning a destination wedding or not and urge you to reach out if you have any questions, I LOVED planning my wedding and would do it all over again tomorrow if I could.

A little back story first. Greg and I were born and raised in the Northeast and knew that even though we were making the move to Florida, we would still have our wedding up North for a few reasons, 1- Have you ever seen the fall colors up North… do I even need to explain myself? 2- Florida is hot and our September wedding would probably be an 80+ degree day filled with humidity, no thanks. 3- We knew we wanted a big wedding with all of our family/friends and making people travel would most likely drop our guest list count. As bad as this sounds, the churches Greg and I grew up going to were just that, we grew up going, but then went away to college and eventually moved away- we wanted to get married in a location that meant something to the both of us. We had vacationed in the Finger Lakes for a few years with our families combined and I had always envisioned having our wedding there at one of the vineyards overlooking the lake… also for many reasons including the location, the attractions, the beauty, and the memories.  For those of you who do not know, the Finger Lakes is a region in New York named for its series of long, thin lakes filled with vineyards, breweries, and distilleries- this sounds like the perfect wedding destination, right?! Because of this area being a bit of a drive from our friends and family in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, many guests made a long weekend or even week trip!

Okay, so lets’ get to it. There are many reasons why couples are interested in a destination wedding and let me tell you, if you want to do it, do it! Yes, some family members are going to be mad because they cannot financially afford the trip, they cannot afford to take time extra time off work, or your parents might even be mad because you are not getting married in your hometown but this is your day and I promise it will be worth it in the end- luckily our parents were on board from the start but we did have some guests who could not make the 4 hour drive for us especially because… wait for it… we did not have kids at our wedding, we understood.

#1 step– get a wedding binder, for real, you will not regret it. It helps keep everything organized and when I say put everything in it… put everything in it from your “To Do List” to receipts. It is fun to fill and will limit stress. I had so much fun with mine which ended up almost filling a 3-inch binder, oops!

Do I need a wedding planner? Here is my answer: if you are the least bit organized and enjoy planning things then no. I planned my wedding by myself from 1,200 miles away. I made it fun. Was it stressful at times, yes, but I knew what the end result was going to be. My venue did come with a day of coordinator that I e mailed throughout the planning process which did come in handy and I would recommend (My day of coordination also helped throughout the process as needed because of our situation: if I needed dimensions of the room to plan where tables and decoration would be then he provided them, he helped pick the wine we would be serving, and even provided a recommendation on where to get our cake- he was the best).

Picking the location/venue. This is totally up to you, some people want a destination that holds a special place in their heart (like us) and others want a destination that is new, either is fine and I urge you to do whatever the two of you want, after doing research. I do not know much about Caribbean locations but the time of year is probably very important to keep in mind… I’d stay away during hurricane season as an example. It may be hard to believe but if Hurricane Irma was a week later we would have had to get in a car and drive 20+ hours to New York for our wedding because EVERYTHING was shut down here in Florida. Look up different venues and see what comes with each no matter where you are getting married. If you are the type of person that does not want to spend excess time hiring vendors then look for a venue that provides it all!

Deciding on your vendors. There are many ways to go about this, for us, the internet was our best friend because we did not know anyone who lived in the Finger Lakes area to provide recommendations- WEDDING WIRE and THE KNOT were the main websites we used other than google. We did not have much luck with the “app communication” so I would recommend sending messages through your personal e mail or communicate by telephone. When communicating with vendors weigh the pros and cons, don’t automatically go for the cheapest option because more than likely they will work with you. For example, Greg and I did not need an engagement session because we were not going to fly up to NY just for that, our photographer ended up dropping the price because of that. Ask all the questions you can think of and believe me there is not a stupid question- We asked each one “What happens if you cancel on us?” which I would recommend asking and getting the response in written form and… put it in your binder. Our photographer canceled on us with less than 3 months to go but we had the contract printed out to refer to (things ended up working out for the better). OFFER A CASH PAYMENT! We got a little extra with a few of our vendors by doing this!

Meeting with the vendors. Unfortunately, we did not get to meet our photographer, videographer, or band before the wedding but we trusted our decisions because of the research and communication we had previously done. My biggest piece of advice for someone planning a “destination wedding” is to plan a time to go to your location before the wedding. We flew up to New York 8 months before the wedding and took care of the following within a 5-day period: food and cake tasting, planning the rehearsal dinner, picking out flowers, visiting the church, meeting with our day of coordinator, hair and makeup trial, etc. It was actually fun doing a full week of planning and took off a lot of stress; when we got back from that vacation almost all of the “big stuff” was done, we were able to relax and take our time with the little things for the next few months. I constantly had people at work ask me “How are you planning this wedding all by yourself, you don’t seem stressed at all”. That was a good feeling even though on the inside I was stressing, a little. I understand some people may hire and fly their vendors to their venue location, that is another good option!

Guest List. This is probably one of the hardest parts of the wedding planning process. I don’t even know how to give advice because it is different for everyone and depends on many things including your venue size. I would start off with making a list of everyone you could possibly think of inviting and then to eliminate from there, if your parents are helping with the wedding, out of respect, ask who they would like to invite. Do not feel bad if you end up not being able to invite someone, they will hopefully understand. My other recommendation is to not invite more than your venue can hold, sure they say about 20-30% cannot make it but my parents invited 210 to their wedding and 206 came. Don’t over chance it.

Sending save the dates. For those planning a destination wedding you will need to send your save the dates out a little earlier, we sent ours out 10 months in advance. Sending early will not only allow your guests to plan in advance but if they know they will not be able to make it, then you can start to invite those off your “B list”… if you have one. For those not having a destination wedding, I’d say 6 months in advance is ideal, you do not want to send it too early. Have fun with your save the dates! We ordered ours off of VISTAPRINT because the quality and prices were great, they always have a sale and if not, contact the live chat and ask for a current coupon- my favorite cheap thing to do! Remember, you do not need a save the date for every person, you need one for every household, don’t make the mistake I almost did and order 235 when I only needed 115.

Sending invitations. This can get tricky and is based off of a few things. If you are having a sit-down dinner you will most likely have to give your venue a final count a few weeks before the wedding (ours was 3 weeks and we could not make any changes after that). If that is the case, send your invitations 10-12 weeks out and make your deadline a week or 2 before that final count is due; 2 weeks before our final count was due, we were waiting on 62 people!!!!! If you are having a buffet, I’d say 8 weeks out gives your guests enough time to RSVP, hopefully. Once you get your RSVPs back I recommend doing your seating chart on paper, I printed out a simple circle from Word and then used stickys to move people around as needed, it worked out great.

Packing. If you know me, you know I hate packing. Whether you are getting married 1 mile or 10,000 miles from home, begin this process early and make a packing list. You do not want to forget something (I use to have dreams I woke up the morning of the wedding and realized I forgot to pack my wedding dress- wedding nightmares are a real thing!). The hardest part for me was getting my dress up to NY; the company I bought it from offered to ship it but I declined as my dress was not leaving my sight! I called the airline a few weeks before and they told me to approach the customer service desk when I got to the airport and they would be sure to keep the first few overhead compartments empty for me; my dress was my carry-on. Some bigger airlines have a closet up front, call before to find out if that is an option. (I did not get my dress pressed before this as I knew it was going to be wrinkled when I took it off the plane, I made an appointment for when I got to NY to have this taken care of). Greg rented his tux from Men’s Warehouse (the worst but most convenient company we found) and was picking it up when we got there so this was not an issue for traveling. Luckily, our parents live in Pennsylvania/New Jersey and held 90% of our wedding items in their house- from there they drove it to New York when we arrived up North a few days before.

Out of town boxes. These were SO MUCH FUN to make, my mom and I got together and did them all by ourselves! Greg and I knew we wanted to have a little something at the hotels for the guests that made the drive to celebrate with us. We ended up making the box below filled with: a map of the area with things to do, snacks (pretzels, gum, mints, Hershey kisses, pringles) and a water bottle. Everyone loved them. My mother in law bought the boxes and I’m not sure where, but click here HERE for a link of what we used. We got the cardstock and ribbon from Michaels and used double sided tape for the front. The front says- Thank you for making the trip and sharing our special day with us. (Most hotels will hold these and hand them out as your guests check in but just to be sure, let your guests know to mention they are there for the ______ Wedding)

Things may (or shall I say will) go wrong. You are planning a wedding and you cannot control everything. Go with it! Think of the end result, you are GETTING MARRIED. The night before our wedding not only was my sister vomiting and missing the rehearsal dinner but we had tornado warnings and all I could think about was “What if Mollie gets sick while standing up with me? What if she can’t be in the wedding? What if the weather is like this tomorrow? That means no outside pictures, no fireworks, no drone from the videographer, and frizzy hair”; but guess what, September 22, 2018 ended up being the most beautiful, weather perfect day Geneva, New York has seen and my sister was by my side, feeling 100%. As perfect as I make it sound 2 things did go wrong but we laughed about it as it was happening. The first was after the limo took Greg and the bridal party to the church it forgot to come back and pick up me and my dad, I remember saying “Dad, it isn’t coming back”, looking nervous he said “It will, it is probably stuck in traffic”… after 20 minutes of waiting on the side of the road we called and then it came back to get us. The second thing that went wrong was my dad ran out of gas after dropping our dog back off at the house after getting pictures, it caused the reception to start late but that is it. I’d say we are pretty lucky.  

After the wedding. RELAX AND ENJOY YOUR TIME. Take it all in because you are married! Greg and I stayed in NY for a few days to do wine tours but flew back to Florida 3 days after the wedding. We took the rest of that week off work because a few friends and family members came back to Florida with us to continue the celebration. We did not go on our honeymoon right away and I am glad we chose to do it that way. We were able to get home, open our cards, and not feel rushed to get out the door again. By waiting, were able to save money and vacation days- we are 1 month away from our 18- day honeymoon and have something else to look forward to! Keep an open mind about this, I know a lot of people are doing this lately and have no regrets.

Tips. DIY can be your best friend. I am not the craftiest person but I had help from friends and family and was able to save money this way. If someone offers to help, take it. Play around on the computer and have fun, I made my wedding invitations and wedding programs on Microsoft Word… yes, you read that right and I received compliments on both.

Ask your venue for assistance. We knew we wanted a lot of corks for decorations, our venue ended up providing us with over 1,000 to play with, for free! We barely purchased any decorations for the wedding.

Write out your vendor thank you notes ahead of time and have someone in your bridal party hold them. You can hand them out at the end of the night and won’t have to worry about sending them right after the wedding.

If you can, make payments ahead of when they are do. A lot of vendors require their final payment 1 month to 1 week before the wedding and if you do not plan, that can be a lot at once.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out, like I said I had the best time planning my wedding and would love to help others if I can.

I Live Where You Vacation

If you don’t already know, Greg and I live in Dunedin, Florida (click HERE to read about our move to Florida). Dunedin is on the west coast of Florida, about 30 minutes west of Tampa and north of Clearwater- it is right along the Gulf of Mexico and is known for their beaches, downtown area, Honeymoon Island, and their part of the Pinellas Trail. We have enjoyed this area so much and have taken advantage of many opportunities it has to offer; we live like we are on vacation… well after getting off work and during the weekends. Here is more information and some of our favorite things to do- there is so much more that may attract you, we hope this urges you to visit!

Speaking of visiting, luckily there are 2 airports close by: Tampa International Airport (about 25 minutes) and St. Pete- Clearwater Airport (about 20 minutes- here you will be able to fly smaller airlines, this is our go-to airport)

Dunedin Causeway– The causeway is a 2.5 mile route that leads from Bayshore Boulevard directly to the entrance of Honeymoon Island State Park. The causeway has free parking and is our absolute favorite spot to watch the sunset, especially from our hammock that hangs in between the palm trees. No dogs allowed on the beach but they are allowed on the trail which runs the entire 2.5 miles. Unfortunately, we do not have a Jet Ski but there are always people on theirs here so if you have one, go for it! We often bring our kayak to this location and head to Caladesi or Honeymoon Island (you can also rent kayaks and paddleboards, HERE is the website). Their hours are from 5am – 11pm.


Honeymoon Island State Park– A Florida State Park located on Honeymoon Island. The island receives more than 1 million visitors each year and is the most visited state park in Florida. There is an $8 entrance fee per vehicle (8 people or less in the vehicle unless you are alone which is $4). Greg and I have their family annual pass which we paid $125. The park is open from 8am to sundown, 365 days a year and offers the following: trails (biking, walking, running), fishing, picnicking, beaches (cheaper and less crowded compared to Clearwater beach), concession and restaurants, playgrounds, interpretive exhibit, and our favorite the dog beach (Dogs must be on a leash at all times. There is a wash station outside but you have to bring your own dog shampoo and towels- this is great for getting the sand off before your dog gets back in the car. If you are visiting during the weekend plan on arriving before 11:30am or you will sit in traffic for about 25 minutes on the causeway- gorgeous views but you’ll want to get in).

Caladesi Island– An island accessible by boat, kayak, the ferry, or by walking 3 miles from Clearwater beach. You can take the ferry from Honeymoon, $7 for children and $14 for adults (you also have to pay the fee to get into Honeymoon). This island has a small restaurant with foods like burgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, etc but has a great beach!

Pinellas Trail– The Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail is a linear trail currently extending from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs (over 30 miles) and is a multi-use trail everyone can use for: running, walking, skating, and biking- no motorized vehicles are allowed. Greg and I enjoy hopping on the trail by bike and going downtown to eat or visit one of the many breweries.

Breweries– There are 7 microbreweries in downtown Dunedin, all within walking distance. Woodright Brewing Company, Dunedin Brewery, Dunedin House of Beer, 7venth Sun Brewing Company, Caledonia Brewing, Cueni Brewing Co., and Soggy Bottom Brewery.  All are different in their own ways and offer things like live music, pool, darts, beer pairings, food, games, etc.

Spring Training Baseball– This speaks for itself. I grew up in Philadelphia and was raised to be a Phillies Pan, luckily, we are 8 minutes from the Phillies Spring Training field which also holds other events during the non-baseball season. The other stadium right in Dunedin is for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Downtown Dunedin– Okay our downtown offers so much, there is literally something happening all the time. I was told they will be decreasing the number of events held this year because there were over 150 in 2018… I think they are great and they should keep it how it is, that is what attracts people! From November to June we have the farmers market every Friday and Saturday morning (clothes, homemade items, food, drinks, entertainment, etc.) Our main street is filled with local shops, cafes, and restaurants that are great, you’ll be able to find whatever you are looking for and if not take in the amazing views of the Gulf of Mexico down by the arena.

You can even go fishing off the pier!

Some of our favorite things right outside of Dunedin:

Weeki Wachee – An enchanted spring where you can see live mermaids, take a trip on a river boat cruise, learn about Florida wildlife, swim, or paddle down the river. There are many places you can kayak from but we recommend the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park Kayak Rentals (click HERE for their website). The cost is $50 for a tandem kayak for 4 hours which is plenty of time to complete the 5 mile river trail. If you are looking to book, I recommend a week day as the weekends are so crowded you have no room for yourself! We were told the manatees are in this are from the middle of January to the beginning of April- we visited April 2 and saw about 10!

Dog Bar– The dog bar is another one of our favorite places to take Nash (click HERE for their website). It is a unique combination of an off-leash dog park and a full service bar, is there any better combination?! They have 2 pools and various areas for the dogs to play on as well as a “rufferee” that watches over the dogs, although you will be too. You must be 21+ to enter but you do not need a dog with you. You can catch us either here or at the Honeymoon Island Dog Beach every weekend!

Busch Gardens– Although we have only been here once since moving to Florida, this is a great amusement park, ZOO, and water park about 35 minutes from Dunedin. Click HERE for their website.

Clearwater Beach– If you are looking for a tourist beach this is the place for you. In 2018, Clearwater was named #1 beach in America and was in the top 10 beaches in the world; not only will you get great views but there are so many things you can do to fill your time- boating, fishing, shopping, water sports, dining, dolphin watching, etc. We typically will bring out guests here once during their trip and then to Honeymoon Island because, to be honest, sometimes it is too crowded and parking can be a little expensive. If you are visiting during the “warmer months” which is basically May- September I would recommend arriving by 10:00am so you can get a parking spot or you can take the Ferry from Dunedin!

Tampa– It would take me forever to list all of the fun things to do in Tampa. Fortunately, because there is so much to do in our town of Dunedin we do not spend as much time in Tampa- we go there maybe once a month. Do your research before you go because visiting Tampa could be a vacation in itself.

Moving 1,200 miles from home

July 4th, 2014 was the first week I spent in Dunedin, Florida with Greg and his family- it was my first time ever visiting the west coast of Florida but Greg had been here before to visit his Aunt, Uncle, and cousins. I LOVED the area from the beginning, if you have never been here I recommend you book a trip now. I told Greg I wanted us to live there one day… even though he and I didn’t even live together at the time and wouldn’t for another year and a half in New Jersey. We would continue to visit every July to celebrate the 4th of July and January to go to Gasparilla- a pirate festival held in Tampa that attracts over 300,000 people every year.

As we were planning our trip for January 2017, Greg told me he was not going to be able to get off work to go this time; working in the medical field, my schedule is very flexible as I can swap a day and work on the weekend. I remember telling Greg I still wanted to go and he was surprisingly okay with the idea. My parents ended up coming along because they knew we loved the area so much and had talked about moving one day. The trip was great, like always, filled with beach days, shopping, and hanging out, but I did something I had never done before on this tip- I contacted a realtor to “see houses”, my excuse was that houses in Florida are VERY different from houses up North so I wanted to see what they were like. My parents, the realtor, Greg’s Aunt, and I headed out to look at houses the day before we were scheduled to leave, I fell in love with the first house but continued to look at 6 others; at the end of the day I requested to go back to the first house and was still in love- it was in a great neighborhood, a reasonable price for the area, 2 miles from the Gulf of Mexico which meant THE BEACH, 2 miles from downtown Dunedin which meant we could ride our bikes, 4 bedrooms so family could visit, a huge backyard for the area, and was just completely redone from top to bottom. I called Greg and said “Hi, I love you, and I love this house I went to look at”, his response “You’re crazy”. Houses in this area tend to sell within 1-2 weeks (this one was on the market for 3 days) so I explained to him that if we put in an offer, the house would be “ours” for 2 weeks so I could come home, we could talk and decide what to do. Greg is the most easy-going, go with the flow go guy (I’m so lucky to have that trait in a husband) and agreed. I called and did it… I placed an offer on a house while I was on vacation, a house Greg hadn’t even seen (to be fair before he said yes, I sent pictures and a video walk through). The next morning, as I was boarding the plane to go back to New Jersey, I got a counter offer, literally walking on the plane I called Greg who said to go for it, called them back, and accepted the offer! Sitting on the plane I was thinking “Is this the right thing to do? Are we really going to move 1,200+ miles from 99% of our friends and family?” We are both so close to our entire families and will be starting over if we move- new jobs, new friends, new state, new temperatures, new everything!

I get back to our 750 sq ft apartment in Jersey, in the cold, with a view of a parking lot- wanting to be back in Florida already. We talked it over and the decision was a little scary but we knew if we didn’t make a move now, we would get married, have kids, and then possibly never move- there is always an excuse for why you shouldn’t make a huge life change, right? I felt that the spontaneous decision was exactly what we needed! We agreed that if we ended up not liking Florida we would move back; if 1 of us was unhappy we could not stay as it would probably cause fights and make things worse.

Buying a house in a different state is difficult and I’ll be honest, causes a lot more stress- everything is done through e mail/the phone so I recommend if you are thinking of doing this get a folder and keep everything together- we were unable to fly down from when we bought the house to when we moved in, looking back I would have made that possible. We were not able to be there during the inspection which also caused some issues, the day we moved into our house we had no electric in 1 room, our problem now as it “passed during inspection”.

As for moving our belongings, we used the company PODS which was the most convenient option and I would 100% recommend. Basically, they drop off a storage container at your house (you can pick from 3 sizes), you load it up, call them, they pick it up and deliver it to your destination of choice, and then you unload it. I believe it took about 3 days for it to go from New Jersey to Florida – we were on a vacation in Europe so luckily Greg’s family unloaded it for us, still thankful for them! We got the largest POD although were told the smallest could fit a small apartment and is the size of an elevator. We filled the largest POD… other than bathroom/kitchen/personal items we had: 2.5 bed room sets, a couch with 2 chairs, and a dining room table with 8 chairs- not all of this was in our apartment as we were moving to a bigger house. PODS has insurance on their containers which we also liked but some rules which caused Greg to have to drive down with a U-haul. You are unable to put anything with gas in them even if it is empty- no grills, no motorcycles, no lawn equipment, etc. Something else to make note of is rules of the town/neighborhood. Our neighborhood has an HOA and only allowed the POD to be in our driveway for 4 days which is why we had people empty it while we were on vacation.

I shipped my car so I could fly and probably used the worst company out there- I don’t remember the name but they were based out of New York, I erased it from my memory. I based my choice off website reviews and the price, don’t do that, do more research than I did because looking back every review on the website was the name of someone I talked to. If I talked with John S. on the phone then John S. had a 5/5 review on the website, if I talked to Barbara M. then she had nothing but great things to say on the website reviews and would “book them again in a heartbeat”. Doing more research, I found the terrible reviews. My car wasn’t damaged or anything but the experience was horrible- communication sucked, they tried to change the price, they were late picking up my car (again we were on vacation so a friend sat all day waiting for them to pick it up), and they were 2 days late dropping it off so I had limited ways to get around once in Florida.

Jobs. While on the vacation back in January 2017… you know, the one responsible for this move, I also reached out to a few rehabilitation centers. I basically sent e mails explaining that I was thinking of moving to Florida and if they believed they would have a job opening within the next 6 months, I would like to come take a tour/meet the staff- 1 place got back to me, how disappointing. Anyway, I set up a time to meet and fell in love with the facility; I knew I would learn so much as an Occupational Therapist working there. It was only 18 minutes from Dunedin which was also a plus. Unfortunately, the Director of Rehab said she did not foresee any job openings but if I wanted to fill out an application for PRN (as needed work) I could for when I moved, so I did. March 2017, I get an e mail that stated a full time OT job was opening up and asked if I was interested, heck yes! but we were not moving for another 4 months. I explained my situation and she said “Lets go through the interview process and if you are the right fit for the job then we will hold it for you”, is this real? This is perfect! I go on 2 phone interviews and end up getting the job which was a huge relief, I was to start July 2017. Greg worked with a recruiter and landed an Accounting job before we moved as well- all of his interviews were through Skype. We are both still at the same companies and have grown from our jobs.

It has been a year and 10 months since moving to Florida and we love it- we aren’t sure if this is our “forever” place in the states but as for now this is home. We have had visitors or either been back up North almost every month of living here which might sound like a lot but it helps with being homesick- we also have each other and so many great friends that fill our weekends with adventure.

Planning a National Park Honeymoon

Planning a trip to a National Park or planning your honeymoon, I am here to help! I have already done the work and hope you can take something from this. Be aware, this is long but can be helpful!

Greg and I have always loved to travel, especially together- we met in Europe, vacationed in the Bahamas, traveled back to Europe together, and went on many local weekend trips together. While talking about our honeymoon we realized we have seen more of Europe than the USA. We decided our honeymoon would consist of renting an RV and traveling to various National Parks out west.

I am writing this before we go on our honeymoon- this was the planning process and our itinerary, I will write another post after the honeymoon regarding tips, things I wish we knew, what I would do different, etc. (Stay tuned!)

The first part of our planning process was deciding when to visit. We knew we wanted to visit during the warmer season but also had a lot to think about: summers at the National Parks are crowded (people have said they felt like they were at Disney, not appealing to us!), some parks remain closed up until the end of May or beginning of June due to the snow not melting, traveling during a holiday probably isn’t the best idea, and deciding when we could afford to take 3 weeks off work was huge. After much talk, we decided our trip would be June 2019.

Second. We have set the dates, now what? Where do we want to go?… or should I say where can we really go during our 18 days without being on the road every day and being able to relax… I mean this is our honeymoon. We looked at a map and realized in order to get the most out of our days, starting in California will be best.
After researching multiple parks, we decided our trip will include: Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, and Grand Teton while making a day stop at Horseshoe Bend (20-minute detour while traveling from Grand Canyon -> Zion). Now, if you are reading this thinking “What, why aren’t they going to (INSERT PARK HERE)?!”, listen, if we could, we would literally quit our jobs and visit every park but that is not possible right now… we will visit every park, just give us time; our 2nd trip is already in the works.
Thanks to Google Maps, we were able to see the distance between each park and plan how long we could stay to make the best out of our time. Planned is: 10 days of no driving AT ALL and 8 days that requiring driving (average of 3 hours with 2 days that have a 10-hour drive).

Third. How do we get around? Okay this process was much more stressful than anticipated mainly because we were not planning a “round trip”, we knew we wanted to start in 1 state and end in another. CRUISE AMERICA offered this option but we had to get special permission as they must keep specific inventory at each one of their rental locations (this is much more complicated than “special permission”, it required us to change our trip about 10 times… no lie, before they gave us permission). Their cheapest RV to rent was the 7 passenger RV but that was 1: way too much space for the two of us and 2: way too big of an RV for us “first time RV drivers” to drive. The rental we ended up booking was the 19-foot compact RV that holds up to 3 people (much more expensive than the 7 passenger- around $2,000)- don’t worry, it has a shower, a toilet, and a small kitchen!

Fourth. Yay, the “when and where” is booked, now time to book the flights. Let me tell you, the app SkyScanner is AMAZING. Enter your: From/To locations and your travel dates and the app will do the rest including: tell you when prices are expected to rise/go down, and give a 1-10 point rating based on details such as when you will arrive, if there is a layover, price, etc. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
For our trip, we will be flying from Tampa to San Jose and then Salt Lake City to Tampa (we got our flights for $193 each heading to San Jose and then $177 each heading home to Tampa).
Our flights also were based on where rental locations for Cruise America were located (Newark, CA and Salt Lake City, UT). 

Wait, where are we going to sleep?  Yes, we have the RV but where will we park? The fifth part was booking RV sites. If you are reading this and plan to travel within the next 6 months, book now, Yosemite National Park fills up the day they open reservations!!! For real, call or look on RECREATION.GOV for more information- we found it was way easier to call rather than look on the website (877- 444-6777), you can talk to someone who knows more about the area and they can do a search of multiple campgrounds at once. We booked our trip 6 months out and only got into 2/4 National Park Campgrounds, Lodgepole Campground at Sequoia for $22 a night and Mather Campground at Grand Canyon for $18 a night (they are much cheaper than regular RV parks and campgrounds so we would have liked to get in more- Bryce National Park and Grand Teton are “first come first serve” so we will be heading there… still unsure of where we will sleep if they are full).
** Call the number above even if it says the campground is full, especially if you are staying more than a night. We have to change campsites at one location but we are able to be in the park.
** Make sure you research the rules of the campground ahead of time and plan, most do not let you run an RV generator during the night.

Sixth. The big details are done but now, what are we going to do to fill our days? How are we doing to enjoy the parks in the time we have?
So… I am a planner, I like to do my research, and spend way too much time looking up information but can you blame me? I want to make sure we are making the most out of our time. I wrote down each park name followed by certain information including: best time to visit, average temperature in June so we know what to pack/wear, common attractions, best things to do, where to stay, tips, things to remember, etc. (Greg and I also bought a National Park Adventure Guide off of Amazon that has the “Top 10 Things to Do” in each park, find it here -> NATIONAL PARK GUIDE BOOK).
Here is what we have planned at each park knowing this will not take up our entire time but will allow for free time to explore and get recommendations from locals:

  1. Yosemite National Park- Mirror Lake Trail, Bridalveil Falls, Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Loop, Tunnel View
  2. Sequoia National Park- Moro Rock Trail, Congress Trail, Big Tree Trail, Tunnel Log, Topokah Trail
  3. Grand Canyon National Park- Ooh Aah Point/Cedar Ridge, Bright Angel Trailhead, Mule Barn, Grandview Point Lookout
  4. Horseshoe Bend- Sightseeing
  5. Zion National Park- Narrows Hike, Angels Landing, Emerald Pool Hiking Trail, Canyon Overlook Trail
  6. Bryce National Park- Navajo/Queens Garden Loop, Sunset Point, Tower Bridge Hike
  7. Grand Teton National Park – SNAKE RIVER LUNCH RAFT TRIP, Colter Bay Village Marine kayak/boat rental, 42 Mile Scenic Route.

** Greg and I have done some leisure hikes while we lived in NJ so all of these listed above are at most considered “moderate”, like I said I will be writing another blog about our trip/hikes once we return.
** Some hikes in the park require a permit, do some research before you go… none of these require a permit.

Seventh, packing list. I think this is the worst part, right? Each park has a different average temperature listed in June so I know I am going to over pack, not like anyone ever does. Other than clothes, here are some essentials: backpack (preferably one with a water bag to stay hydrated), hiking shoes, bug spray, flashlight, copy of you license, rain jacket, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, portable battery pack, medication (you don’t want to get a headache or feel sick while you are on a 6 mile hike), National Park annual pass (worth it if you plan on going to 3 or more parks in a 1 year period), snacks, first aid kit., etc.

Eighth. RELAX BECAUSE YOUR TRIP IS PLANNED AND START A COUNTDOWN!

Things to remember: make sure someone has a copy of your exact itinerary, you’ll want to plan on checking in but be aware you may not have service everywhere you plan to go, let them know!   

Our tri-pawed pup Nash

Follow his journey on IG @not.so.ordinary.nash

Greg and I are so lucky to have Nash in our family. Many people say we saved him but we believe he saved us.

Last October was just a normal day scrolling through Instagram, I know you’ve gotten stuck in this situation before… I came across a picture of a 3 week old black lab puppy, Nashville or Nash for short, featured by @talesofalab. The picture was posted in search of a home for Nash who was living in Las Vegas, Nevada at the time. Nash was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his paw which resulted in a club paw, making him function on 3 legs. As you can remember, October 2017 was the Route 91 shooting in Las Vegas, where 58 people lost their lives and many more were injured. The community came together to help the victims and their families so little was available to help local animals during this time… including Nash who veterinarians said would have to undergo an amputation of his front right leg, estimated at $2,500. Because of the estimated costs of current and future vet bills, Nash was having trouble finding a home… until I saw his post. I immediately contacted the page who put me in contact with his owner, from there we had 2 phone interviews. I explained how not only were Greg and I looking to expand our family but how I am an Occupational Therapist and will provide the best life by loving and working with him and his “disability” (I really hate that term and use it loosely because if you ever met Nash you would see he is a 100% fully able dog). Greg was on board from the beginning and booked a round trip flight for the following Saturday (yes, out and back from Florida in 1 day); on November 5, 2017 Nash came to his “furever home”.

A year and a half later, Nash has proven to be the most energetic, loving, caring, and goofy dog we could have ever imagined; he is the best addition to our family and goes everywhere with us- some of his favorite activities are going to the dog beach and the dog bar- perks of living in a dog friendly town!

Nash helps with anxiety issues I have dealt with after being involved in a serious car accident and is a certified Emotional Support Animal. One day we would like to get him certified as a Therapy Dog because he also loves to visit my patients at work, some who are just like him- working with a “disability” but not letting it stop them.

** After meeting with an orthopedic surgeon in Florida when he was a few months old, it was determined Nash does not have to have his leg amputated unless issues arise later in life. He will stay with his club paw which makes him who he is today.

@agoldphoto