Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Climbing Mt St Helens

Helens in front of us, it doesn't look so beastly from this angle!

Mt Hood doesn't even look real 

Date Hiked: Saturday June 24, 2017
Miles Hiked: 12 miles out and back
Elevation Gained: 5699 ft
Highest Elevation: 8328 ft
Difficulty: Hard
Gear Used: Microspikes, gaiters, and ice axe
Amount of water brought: 3-4 Liters
People in the Group: Sarina, Hillary, Paul, Kayli, Catherine R, Cody, Sergio, and me!

I secured permits for climbing Mt St Helens back in February. Mount St Helen's Institute opens up all permits to the public and you just buy the day you want to go, no lottery for this one. But permits are limited, before mid-May they sell 500 permits/day after mid-May they only sell 100 permits/day. The permits go so fast, within a blink of an eye it goes from 100 to 3 left it seems, and they sell out. So make sure to log on the day they open up the permits! The site also kept crashing when they first released the permits! But in the end, I was able to secure 8 permits for June 24th. I thought they would put a cap on how many permits you can buy, but it didn't seem like that was the case. I had my friends PayPal me money before hand, so I could buy them all at once, and permits are $22 each.

I picked June 24th because it was a date that was convenient for me, and it happened to work out for the others too. You never know with weather up here though, so you're always going to chance it when buying ahead of time, not knowing if it's going to be a nice sunny day, or a gloomy rain filled day. Some had to cancel their Helens hike due to bad weather a few weeks prior. But weather worked in our favor last weekend, and it was the hottest weekend we've had in the PNW so far this year! I refused to check the weather till 3 days prior so I wouldn't get my hopes up lol. I check various weather sites, using this one the most often though: Mountain Forecast.

Seattle to Marble Mountain Sno-Park: 189 miles (3.5 hrs drive time with no traffic)

So the weekend of our big hike was finally upon us. We took 3 cars to the trail head Friday, each leaving at a different time due to conflicting schedules. Hillary left the earliest at 1:00 pm and still hit traffic, Sarina's car left around 4:30 pm, and we left the Seattle area around 6:30 pm. As you can imagine traffic was terrible, but we wanted to be at the trail head night before, and you're allowed to camp at trail head. The car I was in pulled in a little after 11:00 pm to the Marble Mountain Sno-Park. As of last weekend, Climber's Bivouac (summer route), was still closed, and we had to take the winter route, which starts at Marble Mountain (in which winter route adds an extra 2 miles and 1000 ft gain!). The other 2 cars got there before us, and the girls were fast asleep in their cars when we pulled up. We threw up tents real fast and went to bed within 30 min of getting there. We all had a dreaded 3 am wake up call.

Here is how my day went:
4:30 am - We hit the trail
5:15 am - Sunrise
5:45 am- We hit Chocolate Falls, which is about 2 miles in
6:30 am - The group took a break at the base of the mountain before pushing forward
8:00 am - We hit the next notable landmark, the weather station
11:45 am - I summited Helen's
12:45 pm - I started heading down from the summit
1:40 pm - I had glissaded all the way down to the weather station
4:45 pm - I got off the trail

Our group had eventually split up as the day went on, with Catherine summiting first amongst the group. We carried walkie talkies this time, and it came in really handy when trying to communicate with the others through out the day. Catherine was nicknamed the Hare, while I was nicknamed the Tortoise lol. Rightfully so.

Going up was slow going, the scree, snow, and 5000+ ft of elevation gain definitely slows you down. Coming down was a little quicker, with the long steep glissade chutes and sliding down on our butts, but once we hit the scree-filled ridge it was back to slow going with unsure footing. But eventually we all made it off the mountain safely.

The two times I got scared on the trail was, first at the summit and not getting too close to the edge due to snow cliffs that could disintegrate under one's weight (a guy died in February from sitting too close to the edge, he fell into the crater), and the second time was glissading down. Being new to the technique of glissading (sliding down snow on your butt), I held my ice axe so tight to my side that I left bruises on my ribs. I wanted to go slow and have as much control as possible. We ran into a volunteer who leads guided hikes up Helen's, and he told us that a guy had glissaded down earlier and face planted into rocks and was definitely injured (the guy also did not have an ice axe or trekking pole though to stop himself). I did NOT want to be that guy. Some of our group had actually passed the guy on the way up and they said he did not look ok.

Overall though, even though it took me 12 hrs to hike it, and I was scared at times, I would do it again, next time though I want more snow. The scree was awful! (Scree is tiny loose rocks that cover the side of a mountain)

It was definitely Type II fun as they say: "Type II fun sucks the entire time you are doing it, but you are excited to either brag about it at the bar later or look back on it and value it as a character-building episode. People in the Tetons love it for both reasons." -Teton Gravity

Until next time Cougar, WA!
Worm Flows Route
Notice we are all in tanks and t-shirts standing on snow
Mt Hood in the distance
 A picture doesn't even capture the difficulty of hiking on scree
 We glissaded down the path to the left of the rocks
Thanks for capturing this Hillary! Struggles!
 You can see Rainier from the summit!
People chilling at the top
 The crew at the summit in recovery mode
Even with the struggles, I'd do it again.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Getting Around Croatia

Dubrovnik from the Old City Wall

Nights Spent in Croatia: 4 nights
Cities Visited: Dubrovnik, Hvar, Zadar, Plitvice National Park, and Zagreb
Transportation: planes, ferries, and buses

Whenever I am in Europe I like making the most of my time and traveling to more than one country since it's very easy to do. This time around, we chose to go visit Croatia! Tizzy and I had heard and seen some amazing pictures and stories of the country, we wanted to check it off our bucket list. We only had 4 nights so we tried to make the most of it by exploring a different city each day, overall it was a great time and we wished we had more time to explore!

This post will be a breakdown of how we planned everything and about how much we spent getting ourselves around the country. At first we contemplated renting a car since we were planning going from one end of the country to the other (like 375 miles apart), but then can you imagine the bickering that would go down between Tizzy and me?! So glad we didn't go that route lol. Plus learning a foreign countries traffic rules.... is completely foreign to me! Anyways, we went the public transportation route.

Booking Flights:
We all had roundtrip tickets flying in and out of Munich to the States, so when we were booking our Croatia flights, we ended up booking 2 separate flights, since we were closer to Zurich, Switzerland when flying out, we booked Zurich to Dubrovnik, Croatia and then Zagreb, Croatia back to Munich. I also chose for us to fly out of Zagreb because there were direct flights back to Munich and not some roundabout way, with horrible layovers lol. Our flight there, we had a terrible layover, we went from Zurich layovered in Barcelona then to Dubrovnik, which took us 8 hours. If we had flown direct it would've only taken 2 hours, and if you look at a map, flying to Barcelona was backtracking... anyways, things you do for cheap flights!

We booked 2 months ahead of time so the price breakdown of our flights were:
Zurich to Dubrovnik via Vueling: $100
Zagreb to Munich via Luftansa: $200

Booking Airbnbs:
Tizzy and I browsed through Aribnb and there were so many options we were slightly overwhelmed. We ended picking the places we did by the good reviews, the cost, and the pictures. Location should've weighed in, but since we didn't know the cities, we chanced it and it didn't turn out too bad.

First city we stayed in was Dubrovnik: Studio with laundry $55
Location wise, this place was the least desirable since we were far from the old city and had to walk over a mile to get to the main attractions. There were buses but they didn't seem to run on the posted schedules. One of the perks of this place was that it had a washing machine though! After 7 days in Europe we were in desperate need of doing laundry, so this place worked out well overall. It had a full kitchen but the burners were crap and it took us an hour to hard boil some eggs for breakfast.
My rating: 3/5

Second city we stayed in was Hvar: Apt w/ View $90
This was, hands down, both Tizzy and my favorite place we stayed. It had an AMAZING view and the apartment was brand new it felt. Location wise, it was really good. It was an easy walk from where the ferry dropped us off and the next morning it was a short walk to the Fortica (an old fort in Hvar). We utilized this place's kitchen for dinner and made ourselves a meal as well. It had a great balcony to sit and enjoy the sunset!
My rating: 5/5
Hvar Airbnb

3rd city we stayed in was Zadar: Studio with A/C $40
We spent the least amount of time in this one. We had gotten in at 1:00 AM, slept for a few hours, and left by 7:30 AM to catch a bus to Plitvice from here. Location wise, we took a taxi from the main bus station the night we got in, and the next morning we walked it. It was about a mile away from the bus station. So location wise, it was ok but it was a super duper clean apartment! You also can't argue with $40/night.
My rating:4/5

Zadar Airbnb

4th city we stayed in was Zagreb: Apt in the Heart of the City $70
Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and the location of this apartment was perfect. We were right next to the bar district, and easily walked to the shops and the daily farmers market from it. What made this apt so great was the host. He let us store our luggage after check out, and even offered to drive us to the airport for 25 Euros, which took a lot of stress off us in finding transportation. My only gripe about this place was it felt like people had smoked in it previously, and there was noticeable black mold in the bathroom, so this was the least clean place out of the 4 airbnbs we stayed in.
My rating: 4/5

Public Transportation:
I had originally wanted to book buses and ferries ahead of time, but we chanced it by booking when we got there, and it worked out fine. I mean, some situations could've been a lil better, but overall we got to where needed to go lol.

We took a bus from the airport to the city the first day for about $10/person. We just walked off the plane and followed the bus signs and found our way.

The next day we needed to take a ferry to Hvar, and we found a schedule online saying there was only one boat time, 4:30 pm. So the next morning we went looking for ferry tickets first before we explored Dubrovnik. It was a 3 hour ferry ride, and the fare was around $30/person. Because the ferry left later, we had plenty of time to explore the city!

Once we got to Hvar, we were told by our airbnb host that we should buy our next day's ferry ticket that night since she was afraid they would sell out. But we chanced it and waited till the next morning. The next morning, we went looking for ferry tickets and were told there was only one boat out of the area, and would be leaving at 7:45 pm. Ideally I hadn't wanted to stay that late on the island because, it was a 1.5 hr ferry ride, then another 2 hour bus ride to our next destination. But the other option to get off of the island Hvar was to take a bus to the other side of the island and catch the car ferry, that sounded too complicated so we sucked it up and took the 7:45 pm ferry out. Fare was also around $30/person

The ferry from Hvar took us to the city of Split where we walked to the bus station and bought bus tickets to Zadar. We waited around for an hour before the bus came, and we got into Zadar a little before 1:00AM. Bus fare was around $25/person.
The ferry boat!

From Zadar we took a bus to Plitvice National Park. I felt this was the most stressful of buying last minute transportation tickets. We couldn't buy the bus tickets the night before because the booths were closed. We looked online, and saw the first bus out was at 8:00AM and the websites said we had to have printed tickets so we couldn't buy them online, we didn't have anywhere to print them. So the next morning we got to the bus station 30 min before our bus left and were able to buy the tickets at the counter! Score! It was also around $30/person. From Plitvice we were heading to Zagreb so we couldn't buy that bus fare in Zadar, but were told we could get it at the national park.

Our bus fare from Plitvice to Zagreb was around $25/person. Overall, looking back, we dropped a fair amount of money on transportation in Croatia! Add it all up it was about $150 per person, not including the 25 Euros ride to the airport. I am not sure if we could have gone cheaper though if we booked ahead of time. But that is still cheaper than renting a car or flying from one city to the other.

So overall, flights + airbnbs + transportation = $550-600 total per person

Overall, Croatia is an amazing country. It has so much history and it was so beautiful! Next time I go to Croatia, I think I would want to set aside 10 days instead of trying to see it in 4 days. Also, I felt so safe in this country! Unlike when you go to Barcelona or Rome, you worry about pickpocketers and taxi drivers trying to rip tourists off. I felt none of that in any of the cities in Croatia.

Until next time Croatia!
 Tourists inside the old city wall
1500 residents still reside inside the old city wall of Dubrovnik
Mussels! Yummm
Cliff jumping in Dubrovnik
 View from our balcony in Hvar
View from the Fortica in Hvar
 Map of Plitvice National Park
  Felt like we were in Hawaii!
Such a beautiful place, Plitvice National Park
 Boardwalks everywhere!
My first national park abroad!
 Zagreb Cathedral
Zagreb Funicular (only cost 50 cents to ride it!)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Traveling to Germany

View from the tower of St Peter's Church in Munich

Cities visited in Germany: Munich, Konstanz, and Meersburg
Days spent in Germany: 8 days

I headed to Germany recently to attend a wedding of one of my closest friends. Our friendship is unique and I definitely miss the days when we spent every weekend together while she was living in California for an internship for 7 months, but now that she is married and living in Germany, it gave me an opportunity to travel to go visit! I met Melanie 12 years ago in high school when we both participated in a school exchange program. 12 years later we are still great friends. With the boyfriend and best friend in tow, off to Germany we went!

I tend to try to travel on a budget, so overall my time in Germany wasn't too expensive, but I also don't travel extravagantly. The first night we stayed in a hostel, shared co-ed room, $26/night per person. The 5 days in Konstanz we stayed with friends, and our last night before we flew out, we splurged on a hotel, but we split it 3 ways (since I was traveling with my boyfriend and best friend), the room came out under $40 per person. 

As for transportation, I like going with buses and trains. I bought our train tickets from Munich to Konstanz (145 miles apart) ahead of time, and train fare was only $26 a person. If I had waited and bought them day of, it would've been closer to $50 a person.

The wedding was so much fun! It was also the longest wedding celebration I have ever been too, it started at 3 pm and went till 4 am!

We also took a day trip to Meersburg with my friend Tessa and got to explore an old castle. It was great seeing old friends and catching up, I hadn't been back for 7 years.

Here are some photos from our time in Germany.... after a week in Germany, Tizzy and I jetted off to Croatia for 4 nights, but that's gonna be a separate post.

Until next time Germany!
New Town Hall - Marienplatz
 Two things I had in excessive amounts while in Germany: beer and bread 
One of my favorite "fast food" meals in Germany: Currywurst!

In the Munster Church Tower in Konstanz
 The weird sculptures that I will forever remember from high school that are in Konstanz
 One of the best brunches we had! Zeitlos
Another Germany fave of mine: doner kebabs!
 The pink castle! Mel & Ken's wedding venue
 The beautiful bride:)
The Americans
 Teaching the foreigners how to play corn hole haha
Who wants it!
One of the most beautiful wedding venues I have been to!
We love you MellyBelly!
 Knights in Shining Armor 
Meersburg, Germany
 German breakfast at Tessa's
Breakfast views of the lake
Playing tourists, off to Switzerland we go!

Caught the sunset last night in Konstanz at Campingplatz Sandseele