Meditation in Paramo Del Sol


“The mountains are calling and I must go” -John Muir

For some time now, I have been wanting to do a solo backpacking trip in the mountains. I’ve been spending my evenings watching you-tube videos of solo backpackers on their epic adventures- alone, out in the quiet wilderness. Pitching their tents between big beautiful trees after a long day of hiking and settling in front of a fire cooking beef stroganoff over a wood stove. Steamy morsels entering their mouths and the look of delight on their tired and exhausted faces. Pure joy. Sitting on the couch, I would become so envious of these hikers who were completely enveloped by the peaceful solitude and beauty of the mountains.

A friend of mine in Colombia tipped me off to Paramo Del Sol and I am forever indebted to him because of this. It is a pretty obscure place that isn’t so well-known in the hiking world. I probably wouldn’t have been able to find out about it on my own. Come to think, there are probably so many places like that; hidden hidden gems. When he sent me pictures, I knew that this was something I was absolutely going to have to do.


Paramo Del Sol

Paramo Del Sol, located in Urrao, Antioquia, Colombia is a stunning, extra-terrestrial trek that tops you off with breathtaking views from above the clouds. The summit,  Alto Campanas, is the highest point in Antioquia at 4,080 meters above sea level.  It encapsulates some of the most diverse vegetation, flowers, plants, and trees that you will ever witness in one hike. Hummingbirds, beehives, indigenous orchids, mossy fairy tale like jungles, and Frailejones covering the plains of paramo makes blinking a serious inconvenience.  You won’t want to miss a second of the unique tropical alpine ecosystems of the northern Ande region.

The journey started on a bus ride from Medellin. It takes about 4-5 hours to get to Urrao depending on the traffic. On the drive, I found myself getting more and more anxious thinking about the next day. “What the f*** have I signed myself up for?! Am I prepared for this?”. My worries faded away as we drove on and my attention shifted to the sunset outlining the trees and mountains.

I stayed at an old quaint little inn located right near the city center where the bus would be departing from. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well at all. The next morning was an early start waking up at 5 a.m. to catch the bus. My anxiety sky-rocketed when we ended up missing the bus that takes us near the starting point. I silently drank my tiny cup of coffee and waited for a taxi to take us to the trail head.


Off to a great start






At the trail head, we could see the mountains that loomed ahead. After we asked the mountain for its blessings, stretched, ingested some coca leaves, we began our hike with high spirits and quiet excitement. I was feeling really good at the start despite a restless night of sleep. I can’t emphasize how important it is to start a trek off on the right foot mentally. It’s what will give you the momentum you need in moments when you are tired and second-guessing yourself.


It’s also so important to consider who you are trekking with!! My comrades were positive, strong, kind, nature loving souls. Our tempo as a group was also in sync and it made it easier to move through the mountains as a unit….well I started to trail off a bit towards the end, but always had my friends in sight. Don’t go with people who won’t slow down or speed up a bit, people who will get irritated or upset that you are going to slow or too fast, and may potentially leave you behind. It really kills the vibe and makes it harder to enjoy the experience.



Hummingbird feeders


The mossy forest leading up to Paramo plains.




We walked and walked and walked some more. Passing by the Hummingbird Reserve , walking up what seemed like an endless staircase, walking through the mossy forest, and then finally entered Paramo del Sol.











There’s an uncanny sensation that ran through my body as I entered Paramo. Frailejones pervaded the entire landscape. I felt like I was being watched as I walked amongst them.







It is an arduous hike to get to the peak. I remember hating myself for getting myself into this and it took every ounce of my strength and brute perseverance to put one foot in front of the other. The final stretch of the trek is approximately 1.5 hours of what basically felt like very steep torturous climbing.  You get to the final destination with steady resolve and many short breaks. Tears came to my eyes as I tried to steady my shallow breathe and take in the insane beauty before me as I reached the summit.




From the summit, we could see the tops of the Frailejones, the Choco jungle, the Pacific Ocean, the plains of the Paramo del Sol, and the city of Urrao.


We sat together and watched the sunset.






One of my favorite parts of this trek was witnessing the camaraderie between Jose and Juan. They had been working together for a long time, going up and down Paramo many a times. I’m sure their friendship deepens with every trip.



Juan went ahead of us at some point to set up this tent before we got to the campsite. It was covered in black tarp that was skillfully propped up by a giant stick to block out the insane winds and gust that were picking up more and more speed. I showed my dad this picture and he said, “You slept in that piece of crap?!”.

Yes dad, I sure did. And I was also sandwiched in between Juan and Jose for extra body warmth. Just kidding, I didn’t tell him that part.


Who needs fancy REI gear? Look at this magnificent tent.



The next morning


I woke with a colossal headache that was brought on by the altitude and sheer exhaustion. It was the kind of headache you would feel justified calling in sick to work for. Fortunately for me, my friends had prepared a hot medicinal drink called Panela. It is boiled and evaporated sugarcane juice. My headache went away instantaneously.  Magic in liquid form!





The journey back to the town of Urrao was not as arduous as I thought it would be. My body was beyond tired but my spirits were high and I felt peaceful and calm the rest of the way. There was a poignant moment for me walking back through the Paramo plains. My mind was clear, my heart was full, and I remember feeling so empowered and grateful for the life that I am privileged enough to live.


Happy endings

Here I am back at the start. One eye smaller than the other more than usual, exhausted, pushed beyond my limit, happy, laying in the grass just reveling.





One final and important note:

This wasn’t completely a solo trek. The city of Urrao requires that you have a local guide take you to Paramo Del Sol. My guide, a 22 year old, born and raised in Urrao. A genius mountain hiker with a killer sense of humor and the most genuine and kind disposition. We called him The Jaguar. Never still, running ahead, running back, picking up sticks, sniffing flowers, tirelessly providing a botany lecture on every plant we passed by. I couldn’t believe this guy. Its like he didn’t know the meaning of tired. Later, he told me that of course he gets tired, but what really matters is one’s mental stamina. “I am immortal”, he said. I’ll never forget it.

There was also Jose. The owner of a local travel agency Viajando Sin Afan. With very little notice, he arranged all of the logistics from buying and reserving bus tickets to Medellin, booking a hotel room for the night before and after the trek, the food, the tent, arranging the local guide, to being my steadfast encourage-er. I wouldn’t have been able to do the trek without his help. He did everything he could to make sure I had the best experience on this trek. One of the kindest, warmest, strongest humans I have ever come across. If you ever want to do this trek, or explore other parts of Colombia, definitely talk to Jose. He enhanced my experience ten-fold.


So there it is. The three of us. Three strangers. And then, three friends.

I guess I’ll go for that solo-trek another time.


Juan. Me. Jose



  • Duration:  Approximately 7-10 hours from the base to the top, Alto Campanas. Trek time: 2 days and 1 night.
  • Difficulty: Medium-difficult. Depends on whether or not you stop and camp at sites along the way before you get to Alto Campanas.
  • Distance: 14 kilometers on the direct route. We walked non-stop the first day to get to Alto Campanas. The second day we walked 14 kilometers back down the mountain to the trail head,  la Terminal de Chuscal.
  • Elevation: There is a net gain of 1,700 from approximately 2,380 m above sea level.







Norway all the way



Utopia. That is the first word that comes to mind when I think back to my time in Norway. In its capital, Oslo, rolling green parks, beautiful families strolling through the city eating pastel colored ice cream, trendy well designed store fronts, picturesque flower arrangements decorating historic buildings, music and art oozing out of every corner of the city, warm breezy weather and stylish people, the city just seemed to permeate with delight.

In rural parts of Norway, pristine clear blue bodies of water, fjords, mountains, trees, quaint little towns, colorful wooden cottages, churches, well cared for cemeteries and locally brewed beer-all lead to one conclusion: this is a place where the sum is greater than all the parts.



World’s Best Democracy

This Scandinavian country has earned the reputation of being the “World’s Best Democracy”. Over 78 percent of the population vote and people seem to feel a kinship with the law-makers. The city of Oslo deliberately does things to make its citizens feel ownership over their city. They built their parliament to have big large windows and open spaces to promote a sense of transparency and inclusiveness. The citizens get to vote and choose the playlist that goes off when the city hall clock hits the hour. The royal family lives right in the center of the city and doesn’t have security patrolling the perimeter. Seems trivial, but one would be amazed by the powerful impact these small details can have.

It is a progressive place where abortion and same sex marriage has been legal, where women’s rights were historically protected as sex workers, and where even in the height of political tumult, prisoners were actually treated with dignity and respect. Don’t get me wrong, nowhere is perfect, certainly not Norway. People still struggle with homelessness, drug use, and mental illness. Nonetheless, it seemed to be a community of people who are generally flourishing.


Top 4 highlights from the trip:


1. Roaming around Oslo

I’m not a huge fan of free city walking tours. I hate being rushed around with a big group of tourists sticking out like a sore thumb for all to see. But, we did the Oslo city tour anyway and it turned out to be really interesting and informative. We got to see a few gems; Parliament, the famous opera house, City Hall, Viegland Sculpture Park and the National Theater.



City Hall


The Oslo Opera House blends into its aquatic surroundings as it is built to look like a glacier on the water.

Oslo Glacial Opera House


If you are in Oslo, the Vigeland Museum is a must. Its history began in 1919, when sculptor Gustav Vigeland made an offer to Oslo Municipality to donate his creations to the city. There, in the middle of the park, the naked men, women and children stand in the most intimate and tender of ways.




2. Island hopping

We took a ferry ride to the smaller islands in the inner Oslo Fjord. They are bunches of mini islands where people go to picnic near the water, camp, or frolic with whimsical and awkwardly shaped trees like we did.



Trolling in the trees.

3. Road-tripping through rural Norway

This was my favorite part of the trip. We rented a car in Oslo and drove through the country side passing through Aurland, Flam, and Gopner. Each one a quiet village situated in between the fjord landscapes. The Stegastein viewpoint in Aurland provided the most vast and breath-taking views of the fjord. Looking at it, I felt like I was flying away into its majestic structures , untethered, looking down at all of life’s stress. Its carnage became ever so minuscule as I felt myself drifting further and further away. I took a deep breath to lock that feeling in.

Can’t emphasize it enough, when in Aurland, be sure to stop by Stegastein viewpoint to catch breathtaking views of the town and vast fjords. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip.




We passed by a few churches and cemeteries. I felt envious of the buried who had found their final resting place nestled in such serene surroundings.




When in Flam, take a fjord tour..we didn’t have time to do this, but just imagine getting on one of these vessels and venturing out to get up close and personal with the fjords.




Unbelievable views as we drove from town to town.


Imagine drinking coffee and enjoying a pastry with this view.

We drove through the rain to make it to Gaupne where our cabin awaited near Lustrafjorden. We got so lucky with the rain. There’s something about rain that makes me more profoundly aware of my emotions. It evokes nostalgia. I was reminded of old camping trips up to Sedona with my parents as a kid. We would drive through the rain in silence, almost solemn, as we took in the sights of nature being embraced by water. As we drove through the winding roads to Gaupne, I knew that this would be a moment of the trip that I would hold on to and look back with fondness.

The rain continued to patter down when we got to our charming little red cabin. It was only a few feet away from the fjord and we were delighted by the grey-ish atmospheric views as we slurped down our warm cup of noodles. It was perfect.

Our home for the night.
Our cabin door opened to this scene.

The next morning, my travel buddy and I set out to hike Molden. It is about a 4 mile hike up to the top of a mountain. On the way, more wooden houses, views of the fjords, sheep, and endless varieties of saplings and vegetation native to Gaupne.



A closer look.
Ran into someone.


4. Bergen

We got to Bergen and settled into our little airbnb located about 20 minutes from the city center. Stylishly decorated with plants, postcard art, and tasteful furniture, we thoroughly enjoyed our airbnb experience in Bergen.

As someone who studied classical piano for many many years, we had to visit the home of Edvard Grieg. He is a famous classical composer who’s best known works include his piano Concerto in a minor and the Peer Gynt suite. It has since become a museum that many people visit from all over the world. Unfortunately, the museum was closed when we went, but when it is open it offers a tour of the inside of the home and of the outside mini cabin where most of his best works were created.

The famous classical composer, Edvard Grieg’s home.
“work space”
Inside the cabin where Grieg composed his music.


We still had our rental car and were able to drive into the center of the city. Beware, the parking is a little daunting. Parking in the designated parking garages will be the best bet even though they are a little bit pricier.

Famous Bryggen wooden houses. Some of them were damaged by a recent fire..can you tell which ones?


We took the Fløibanen, a funicular railway, all the way up to the center of Mount Fløyen to enjoy the mountain walks and incredible views of the city.


This is where you buy the tickets for the funicular.
View from the top of Mt. Fløyen.



There’s plenty to see while wandering the streets of Bergen. Visit the fish market, selling all sorts of delicious food ranging from seafood sandwiches, jambalaya, to nice steamy bowls of clam chowder. It was so lovely to stroll around the neighborhoods. There was so much to admire.

Street art.
Not your average store front.


If you are hungry, go to Litteraturhuset. It was my favorite place that we ate at during the entire trip. Light, simple, but extremely flavorful morsels of food! We loved it so much that we went there twice before we left Bergen.

Coffee, eggs, tomatoes, toast. It honestly doesn’t get better than this.
The beautiful interior of Litteraturhuset.


I’ll end with this. Go and travel to Norway. Get a glimpse of a country where people really seem to value the quality of life above all else. You probably noticed from reading so far that Norway is a wealthier country with more resources than most places in this world. Yes, it is a privileged country, but it doesn’t hurt to go and enjoy some of that for yourself. Enjoy the beautiful fjords, tasteful interior and exterior designs, gorgeous parks and gardens, and amazing nature Norway has to offer. And then bring a little piece of that Utopia back home with you.


Every now and then you need to take a trip to be in nature with a group of solid girlfriends. I just got married, moved to a cute new home in LA, and started a new job. All exciting stuff, except that it had me going non-stop without time to just be still. A trip to Utah surrounded by nature and magical people was just what I needed to replenish my crazed soul.

On our way to Kanab bright eyed and bushy tailed.


We hopped on a short flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and picked up our rental car. Flying into Vegas and driving to Utah breaks up the travel into more digestible chunks of time. We drove from Las Vegas to Kanab in less than 4 hours. We pulled into the charming little town of Kanab in our trusty Ford Explorer to check into our Airbnb. It was the perfect place to stay because it was so central to all of our destinations. With the spectacular red cliffs as the backdrop, we were more than pleased with our new home.

Now time for a funny story…..

As we were settling into bed, my bed buddy and I heard what sounded like the rest of the girls chatting away in the upstairs room. A few moments later, we realized that we were hearing the voices of small children right outside the window to our room. Wearing nothing but a sports bra and some yoga pants, my friend pulled back the window curtains and we were surprised to find an entire family standing outside with their luggage. Eyes wide open, we stared at one other deeply confused about why the other was where they were.

In a panic, I jolted out of bed and went to open the front door. An adorable little girl said to me with a sad and very very tired voice, “you are in our home”. It didn’t take long to realize that we had checked into the wrong unit of our Airbnb. In the next couple of seconds, the rest of my crew also realized what was happening and in a wild frenzy, like ants whose home had just been over-turned, we skidattled out of there and went next door to the correct unit. We moved with unparalleled speed and somehow managed to grab every last item…except for one lonely bottle of face wash that got left behind…

Of course in the over 500 guests that have stayed there, we were the first to have gotten it wrong. We left a beautifully written letter of apology for goldi-locksing the first unit and despite the hooplah we caused, our host wrote us the the nicest review on Airbnb. Not our finest moment, but definitely one that we will giggle about in years to come..,


Reflecting back on the trip, there were so many moments of heartfelt awe and breathtaking moments, but here are a few favorite highlights of the trip:

  1. Buckskin Gulch: On the second day of our trip we decided to hike the Buckskin Gulch trail. It is the deepest and longest slot canyon in the southwest. Unfortunately it had rained the week before and we were unable to hike all the way through to the end of the slot canyons. We still got to hike approximately 4 miles and got a taste of the slot canyons until we hit deep puddles of water that we had not prepared to hike beyond. The exterior  texture of the canyons was unbelievably smooth and almost soft to the touch. The colors of the canyons changed from shades of orange, red, and eventually purple as the sun made its way across the sky. The scenery leading up to a confluence where the Wire Pass trail-head exists is vast and framed by the beautiful Paria-Vermillion Canyons. Open grass fields, herds of cows solemnly observing us pass by, and the stunning outlines of where the blue sky met the canyons inspired within us an exquisite sense of limitless freedom and a deep appreciation of life.


Just look at that skyline.
Modeling deep in the canyons
Found a new home.
“We found the confluence!” This face says it all..


2. ATV in Kanab: We had the pleasure of ATV’ing with Larry and the Kanab Tour Company. Who doesn’t love a little adrenaline rush? For about $115 bucks per person, we got to ride on ATV’s for 2.5 hours. I highly recommend them. We flew through the dunes and hills like megalomaniacs of the desert…dirt flying into our faces and dust getting into every crevice of our body we probably scared the crap out of wildlife as we were yelling at the top of our lungs…out of excitement and probably fear too. Larry gave us a tour of the infamous Peekaboo Slot Canyons located near the Red Canyons in Northern Kanab. We were happy to feel so alive.


No shame.
Bang bang coral sandz gang.
Peekaboo slot canyons.
So much to admire.


3. Bryce Canyon: I can’t even begin to accurately describe how I felt when I saw Bryce Canyon. It is absolutely incredible in a majestic but eerie way. The canyon is covered in oddly shaped rock formations technically known as rock spires and more commonly known as hoodoos. Hoodoos is a fitting name for these unique rock formations because it seems like nothing short of witchcraft could have created them. We started at the top and hiked down into the canyons stopping every five minutes to take pictures because we just couldn’t get enough. 

Hoodoos everywhere.
A closer look.


4. Pink Coral Sand Dunes: The Pink Coral Sand Dunes are located between Mount Carmel Junction and Kanab off of highway 89 in the southwestern part of Utah. Go about an hour before sunset and watch the colors of the sand change as the sun reaches its destination underneath the horizon. The sand dunes are spectacular because of the expansive hills of monochromatic coral that seems to just wrap around you like a great big blanket. Sitting in the sand together, we watched the sunset each deep in our own thoughts but united in what felt like a spiritual experience.

Just passing by..
Velvety coral sand dunes
Sunset views.


5. Seven Magic Mountains: We stopped by the seven magic mountains located in the outskirts of Nevada before we headed out to the airport  on the last day of our adventure. Supposedly, it took 4 years and 3.5 million dollars to build. Not sure why or how it required all these resources to build but we admired the fairytale-like vibes. It was definitely an awkward juxtaposition to all of the natural beauty of Zion, Bryce, and Buckskin Gluch, but I found myself appreciating it anyway. We took the opportunity to demonstrate our interpretation of some basic betch photos to close out the trip.

Caption this…


Thank you so much to my beautiful and extraordinary friends for a trip that I will never forget. I am always mesmerized by your intelligence, wisdom, love, and strange quirks that seem to get weirder by the day. Cliche as it might sound, I am inspired to live life a little better every time I’m with you. Important priorities surface and the rest of the bullshit just seems to fade into the background. I’m so glad to have found people that I never ever want to let go of… much love to you all.

Chickadees at Zion National Park.


And that is the end.

Cusco, Peru: Elevation 11,152′

picchu.jpgLast April 2017, Anthony and I went head first into one of the greatest undertaking of our lives thus far. We flew into Peru to conquer the 4 night 5 day Salkantay trek in Cusco, Peru. It all started the year before when I was sitting in my office at work feeling like life had gotten a bit dull. I spent my cyber Monday lunch break browsing through websites and bought plane tickets to Peru. Did I consult my dearly beloved partner? Of course not. He was coming with me no matter what!

The flights ended up being about $400 per person to fly into Jorge Chávez International Airport located in Lima, Peru. You also have to buy plane tickets to take about an hour and a half flight into Cusco from Lima in order to partake in any of the treks that lead to Machu Picchu. Those additional tickets ended up being about $170 per person.



Why Machu Picchu?……

I’ve always had an affinity for South America. I think their family oriented culture and ability to co-exist with nature; using it but respecting it, is very humbling and admirable. Cusco was of particular interest because of how much it remains such a beautiful relic of  the largest empire in pre-Colombian America. Machu Picchu, is not only beautiful to look at but it gives us the chance to study the agricultural techniques, time-telling techniques, and respectful use of the natural elements. The Incans emerged as a powerful state and built Cusco into their capitol. It is fascinating to see how the remains of the Incan times have been weaved into present day Peru despite the influences of Spanish, French, and Portuguese colonization.

Though the official language of Peru is Spanish, most Peruvians are still very proud of the indigenous Qechuan language. In fact, our guide for the Salkantay trek could speak fluently in Qechua and passionately lectured us on the correct pronunciation of ‘Machu Picchu’. It’s actually pronounced ‘Machu Pickchu’ with sharply accented consonants and means ‘Old Mountain’ in Quechua.

I bought two tickets for the Salkantay Trek from Eco Path Trek. I bought the tickets from their website, They charged $270 per person for their 4 night 5 day trek. I did more research once I got to Cusco and found that you can actually purchase tickets at the Plaza de Armas which is the central square in the old city. There are hundreds of little local travel agencies who are happy to take your money 🙂 I bought tickets in advance because I wanted to have control over the dates of the trek. Eco Path Trek got good reviews and they were super helpful during the purchasing process (I had a million questions and they were really patient and kind the whole time). I would highly recommend Eco Path Trek because they provide food, tents, porters, and experienced guides in their trek packages. You can also choose to do a shorter trek or even the most popular trek which is the Incan trail.

We stayed at a little Air Bnb a few miles from Plaza de Armas. I prefer staying at Air Bnb’s over hotels because I think it gives us a chance to see how other people live in the places that I visit. It makes for a richer more authentic learning experiences. The couple we stayed with were so incredibly nice and informative. I was already starting to get altitude sickness. They offered me Coca tea and biscuits to make it more bearable. Coca tea is the antidote to altitude sickness! (Peruvians drink the tea and also recommend chewing on the leaves during hikes for more stamina and energy). The wife was an archaeologist  and told us all about the ruins that we should make sure to visit while we were in Cusco. They recommended their favorite restaurant a few minutes from their home called the ‘Napalitano’. We thoroughly enjoyed our first meal (and drink) in Cusco 🙂





There were so many highlights from this trip but here are my top five:

  1. Humantay Lake Salkantay- A gorgeous lake surrounded by snow topped mountains. What makes this lake so beautiful is that it reflects the beautiful colors of the mountains that surround it. Here is my dearly beloved posing for the camera 🙂


Another angle of the beautiful lake…


Below is a picture with most of our group. One of the best parts of this trip was traveling with complete strangers who came from all over the world to see Cusco!



2. Staying in the tent villages- There are little campsite villages along the way of Salkantay. The porters carried all of our camp gear, sleeping bags, and kitchen supplies on their backs. They came with us on the trek but were always a few hours ahead so that they could set up our site by the time we got there.

The photo to the left was our campsite at Humantay Lake. The photo the right was our campsite at Chaullay:




I will never forget all the meals we shared with travelers from all around the world. There were people from Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, France, Canada, and Germany. It sounds cliche, but in 5 days we became bonded in ways that I didn’t think were possible. We rallied with one another during the most difficult and exhausting points of the trek. No man would be left behind!

(One of the travelors was a photographer and is actually shooting our wedding for us on February 3, 2018 🙂 He is flying all the way from Belgium just to capture our special day.)



On day 2, we stayed at a little camp village that actually sold beer. I got to share a drink with these guys after nearly 6 hours of trekking through mud, rain and ice cold winds. Beer never tasted so good!


Al Paca is served quite frequently as one of the main sources of protein. It tastes a little stronger than beef but is much less fatty. It is a leaner meat. I wasn’t a fan, but was glad I tried it.



3. All of the dogs!- Most Americans would feel sorry for all of the stray dogs living in Peru. However, these dogs are actually well fed and taken care of by the community. I ran into so many little pups even during the trek. They are different from the dogs back home..more trusting, tenacious, and in a lot of ways, more gentle. I loved meeting each one.



For the cat lovers, there were plenty of cats too! Look at this little ball of love!




4. Zip-lining Right before the Urabamba River and near Hedroelectrica there is an opportunity to go zip-lining. Initially, I was very hesitant because of my fear of heights, but I am so glad that my better half convinced me to do it. The views are absolutely breathe-taking…even upside down 😉 It is a must do for thrill seekers!



5. Machu Picchu- Getting to the top on day 5 was almost a religious experience for me. It was dark and rainy. Knees basically busted, muscles trembling with exhaustion, we had to climb up more than 3000 narrow, steep, steps to rest our eyes on Machu Picchu. We were joined by at least a hundred other trekkers and climbed up the steps in a single file line. In the dark, quietly, we hiked the steps as the sun started to rise.

Here is a picture of the mountains before the clouds started to shift away:



More pictures of the ruins:



As you can see in the pictures, the Incans used a lot of steps in their architecture. The step design is used in the Chakana, which is the Incan cross. It is a three tiered cross with a whole in the center. Hana Pacha is the first level of existence and it represents the upper world where the superior gods reside. Kay Pacha is the world of our every day existence and the third level, Ukhu or Urin Pacha is where the spirits of the ancestors, deities, and the dead reside. In the center, there is a hole, or the Axis that the shaman travels through to all three levels. Sometimes the Incan cross will have a symbol of mother earth, or ‘Pacha Mama’ in the center of it. Cuscans believe that Cusco is the navel, or the center of the world.

Each step of the cross has a meaning assigned to it. The three that resonated with me were, “Don’t lie, Don’t be lazy, Don’t steal”. I love how short and to the point their ethics are.

Final picture of Machu Picchu and all its majesty. Completing the Salkantay trek was one of the most spiritual and rewarding experiences that I have ever had. I can’t count the number of times that I felt my breathe being taken away as I felt like I was being engulfed by the beautifully majestic, bombastic mountains. The trek also solidified that my dearly beloved and I can conquer anything that life throws our way if we could survive Salkantay with nothing but smiles on our faces! 🙂 I would come back and do it all over again in a heartbeat. I am so grateful to Eco Path Trek and our guides who made this trip possible!



New Year’s Eve at the Grand Canyon

To conclude 2017, I decided to tag along with my mom’s hiking club to the Grand Canyon. The club is made up of a group of Korean ladies in their 50s and 60s who share a common passion for hardcore trekking. We drove from Phoenix at around 2:30 p.m. and arrived at the KOA located in Williams, CA at around 6:00 p.m. We had rented two cabins to accommodate 8 people and 2 dogs. For $50 per night per cabin, the site came with a picnic table and a fire pit perfect for cooking and grilling outside. The biggest perk about this KOA site is the bathrooms! The bathrooms are heated and include free showers with warm water. I found myself hiding out in the bathrooms from time to time to get some reprieve from the below 12 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures.  KOA cabins were the more convenient lodging alternative because we were planning on going down and up the canyon in one day. There are campsites at the bottom of the Canyon near the Colorado River for those who want to split up the trek and enjoy the scenery.

We left the KOA site at approximately 6:30 a.m. and started our drive to the Grand Canyon. The drive is about 50 minutes.  We parked the car at the Bright Angel public parking lot and took a short shuttle bus ride to the South Kaibab trail head. No need to park at the beginning of the South Kaibab trail head! You will finish the hike near the Bright Angel Log and will need to take a bus back to your car if you parked at the South Kaibab trail head. Trust me, you will want nothing more than to hop in your warm car after a day’s worth of trekking in the canyons!

Here’s the beginning of the South Kaibab trail head. It includes a lot of warnings. Rightly so, this is a serious hike!



We started hiking at the beginning of the South Kaibab trail head and was granted the privilege of beautiful clear weather. Up, down, left, right, there was nothing but gorgeous canyons surrounding us as we began our way down the trail.

Here is a photo from the top of the trail head:



Be sure to grab a few photos at the ‘OOH AHH” point.




Keep in mind, you are hiking into the canyons, which means you must go down first before you come back up. It is important to pace yourself both mentally and physically because the way up is even more strenuous.  My favorite thing about this particular hike is how nicely the trails are paved and maintained. It really frees up your mind so that you spend more time looking up and taking in the scenery instead of worrying about which step you are going to take next.

You can see the trail switchbacks snaking through the canyon as you make your way down:


It’s amazing how much the character of the canyons start to change as you go deeper and deeper into the canyons. Things become much more eye-level and you start to see the vastness of the different elements that make up the canyon. The rocks, cacti, shrubs, glimpses of the river, and the colors.




About two hours into the hike, you will start to see the Colorado River:





Another great thing about this hike is that there are bathrooms every few miles. First restroom is at Cedar Ridge which is about 1.5 miles into the hike. The second bathroom is located at Tip Off where the trail splits off into Tonto West trail and the Colorado River trail. The Tonto West trail is about 3 miles shorter than if you were to go all the way down to the river.

Here is the sign. At this point, you are at about 4.5 miles. If you have come prepared with enough snacks, water, and the right gear, I am jumping up and down as I encourage you to continue down to the river. It is one of the most beautiful nature sites I have seen in my old age of 31 😉 Take a break, grab a snack, pee and keep going!



Down and down you will go walking over a rockier less even trail. The river looks close but it is still about 2.6 miles before you get to the black bridge.






This is where the famous Phantom Ranch is located. If you are lucky enough, you can book an overnight stay here to soak in the beauty of your surroundings in a much more leisurely manner. This is a much coveted lodge and you now have to enter your name into a lottery in order to have a chance at staying here overnight.


You are also able to camp overnight if you have the permit. Unfortunately for my legs, the trek continues…The environment down here feels much more quaint and simple. There are more trees and little creeks that run off from the river. It was a flashback to the “Little House on the Prairie”:

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You will see the Bright Angel Trail sign. This is the direction you should go if you are planning to hike back up to the top of the canyon. It will take you over one more bridge and then you will be well on your way…..UP! (There is a pretty nice bathroom down here too if you need to take a poo or pee. Be sure to empty as much as possible! Oh, and you can fill up with fresh water as there is a water fountain available as well!)










I honestly felt sad to have to leave this area so quickly. A feeling of calmness and serenity swept over me as soon as I entered this part of the Canyon. The river was so blue and quiet.


Knowing that it was all uphill from now made my stomach turn a little bit too. I would recommend taking a 15-20 minute break after walking across the bridge. On that note, breaks are incredibly important to surviving this trek. During your breaks, you should avoid sitting down because it’ll cool down your muscles and heart rate making it much more difficult to get going again. I snacked on some cured meats for protein, pickles for electrolytes, bread and honey for carbohydrates and the extra boost of energy.

Another 4.7 miles and you will arrive at the Indian Garden campground. It is a small campsite tucked away under a lot of trees and shrubs. It isn’t much as far as scenery, but there is a small creek that runs through the site that adds a little sparkle for the exhausted hiker.

The Bright Angel Trail continues to become more and more of an incline once you pass the Indian Garden campground. I found myself paying less and less attention to majestic views and more attention to all the aches and pains from walking more than half the day. It is at this point where you have to start working your mental stamina. I realized that where your mind goes, your body will follow so I sucked it up and told myself that I would make it. The sun starts to go down and the canyons start to change color. Don’t make the same mistake I did and look up and around as much as possible!

The soft pastel colors of the sky start to melt into the canyon around 4-5 p.m.:


The switchbacks become more frequent as you get closer to the top of the trail. You will see a bathroom at the 3 mile mark.  This is a good time to take your final break before you finish out the trail. I recommend the Gu energy pouch. It is chalk full of vitamins and electrolytes that will buy you at least 2 more hours worth of energy:



Look who I ran into on the way up. Pretty sure he was cheering me on:


About 1.5 miles to the top, you will see the first tunnel of the trail. I took this picture off of google because I forgot to take a picture of it during the hike. My mom says its the gate to hell because of how difficult the last few miles of the trail are:


Once you see this tunnel you will feel a sense of relief but beware. With less than 1 mile from the finish line, I found myself getting more and more tired as the day was starting to get dark.  Mom was right! I had passed through the entrance to hell!!

I sat down and tried to re-gain some strength but found myself getting even more tired and cold. I took a deep breathe and managed to take some time to reflect on the huge feat that I was about to accomplish on New Year’s Eve. The take away for me is this: “the body follows where the mind is”.


This is probably one of my favorite moments of the trek:


Thank you so much to my mom and her hiking club!! You ladies are truly inspiring and I am grateful to have tagged along without a care in the world! Happy New Year’s to you and me!  I hope 2018 will bring many more worthy challenges, rewards, and gratifying experiences. Cheers!



Continue reading “New Year’s Eve at the Grand Canyon”