Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wilderness!!! Or How to Survive Camping Near a Wildfire

Well, mostly.

I live in San Francisco.  I love it, I think it is one of the most wonderful cities.  That being said, I love the mountains.  I spent many summer vacations visiting Lake Tahoe as a kid.  I don't ski, and I don't rock climb but I love the mountains.  The smell of pine and wood smoke makes me so happy.  My parents a few years ago FINALLY bought a house on the west shore of Lake Tahoe (seriously, after 20 years of looking) thus ensuring many more years of time spent in Tahoe with my family.

This is seriously one of my favorite places and it's in my state
I would like to think I'm more outdoorsy than I actually am.  I like camping but you're not going to find me backpacking anytime soon.  I went to Outdoor Ed, just like most of the other kids in public schools in San Mateo County.  It was great,send a bunch of kids from the 'burbs to the Santa Cruz Mountains for a week and give them a working knowledge of the woods and ecology.  It was so great I went back in high school as a cabin leader.  I like exploring nature, and thankfully, California has a lot of different kinds of nature.

When I was in middle school, there was a school trip to Yosemite.  It was awesome.  Literally, awe inspiring.  It was December, and it snowed.  It snowed a lot.  It snowed more than the program leaders had seen in a long time.  We were a whole bunch of kids from the San Francisco Bay area who had only ever seen a light dusting of snow on the local mountaintops and had never seen falling snow in our lives.  It was great.  So even though it was crazy snowy, and we were hiking miles and miles in the snow for a week, I loved every second of it, and I absolutely fell in love with the jaw-droppingly beautiful landscape that is Yosemite National park.  I could not wait to go back.  We went in April of 8th grade too, just as much fun, and almost as much snow.  My love of the outdoors was not satiated.

Fast forward to August 2013.  My boyfriend and I enjoy camping every now and then, so we decided to go camping in Yosemite.  He'd never been.  I somehow through some sort of miracle managed to get campsites reserved for one night each.  We get everything ready and make sure we have all the stuff we're going to need.  Then the Rim Fire started.  We seriously considered canceling our trip,and I spent many anxious days looking at air quality reports for Yosemite.  After much deliberation we decided to go up anyway, even though the main entrance to the park was closed due to the fire.  I am so glad we went.

We arrived in Yosemite Valley through "the back route"  which has some VERY SCARY roadways.  The tradeoff for these extremely harrowing roads are the INCREDIBLE views you are greeted with as you drive into the park.
There were more views that were prettier, but I was driving
We got to our campsite, set up our tent and made dinner practically in the shadow of Half Dome.  It was amazing.  We had no cell phone reception, but we spent the evening sitting by a campfire looking up at the stars while eating roasted marshmallows.  It was magical.

Our surprisingly spacious campsite

I set up the stove, after failing to build a fire

Xander proved his ability to make fire

And I made Dinner
 We went to sleep listening to the wind in the trees and awoke to this:

I wish I could breakfast here everyday
 We had breakfast and decided to go for a short hike before we had to check out of our campsite and head up out of the Valley to our second campsite.

Xander didn't want to leave this spot, and neither did I.  It was just so peaceful.
Now remember that GIANT wildfire I mentioned earlier?  The air quality in the Valley was fine, and it seemed like there were fewer people than there might have been otherwise because of the fire.  On our way back to our campsite from our hike, we stopped at the ranger's station and asked if Crane Flat was open.  The ranger informed us it was closed and if we had a reservation it had been refunded.  We looked at the nice man with bewilderment I'm sure and asked if there was room for that night at our current campground.  He said it was full, but if we hurried, we might be able to get a spot down the road at Camp 4, which being in the valley was not affected by the fire.  We thanked him and hurried to PACK OUR SHIT.  I think we just threw stuff into the car.  I was really glad we had done our dishes from breakfast before our hike.

Tune in next time for the continuing tale of Jessamy and Xander in Yosemite!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I'm back...

From my hiatus that is.  I'm seriously going to try and keep this going this year, especially since I am ACTUALLY going to be traveling this year. So keep up with this spot.  I swear I'll blog this year.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Blend in with the Natives...

The annoying tourist is a stereotype for a reason.  They seem to be in every major city and attraction, at the giant ball of yarn, and they often are easy targets for scammers and thieves.  Here are five bits of travel advice to not look like these people.  

Hopefully these tips will also make your trip more enjoyable and memorable.

1. Wear Comfortable but appropriate shoes
I cannot stress this enough, some shoes WILL make your feet hurt, and no one at that fancy restaurant wants to see your sneakers.  If you are going to walk around all day, don't wear high heels or flip flops, but if you plan on going out to dinner after a long day's walk, wear something comfortable that don't scream "basketball court", think nice, flat weekend sneakers like Converse or Keds.

2. A Small point and shoot camera is all you need
If you have a smartphone, you might not even need to bring a camera.  A big honking camera around your neck says "I'm a tourist, please take my money"  If you don't like the camera on your phone, a small, fits in your pocket sort of camera will be just fine.  Unless you are a professional photographer, you shouldn't need anything more, and your neck will thank you too.  

3. Take public transportation
Driving somewhere unfamiliar is always a hassle, add a city such as San Francisco to that, and you will begin to hate everything.  In San Francisco, there are a lot of crazy streets, one way streets, miles where you are not allowed to turn left, and parking is always an issue.  Do yourself a favor and take public transportation.  Especially in places where most of the local population relies on public transit, it is generally easier to get around on the train/bus/whatever than driving.  You won't have to worry about a rental car and you might discover some new wonderful bistro or coffee shop.

4. Don't be afraid to go off the beaten path
Tourist traps suck.  They are expensive, and generally pretty boring compared to the rest of the place you are visiting.  San Francisco's Chinatown district is more than just the one street, if you go two blocks away from the main drag, it's like you are in China, the dim sum is cheap and the only English on the menu is the word "each". Most tourists never see this part of Chinatown because they get stuck in the tourist trap. There are literally hundreds of interesting things to see in San Francisco if you venture away from touristy areas.  In any city this is the best way to understand a city, go where the locals are, and you will learn why people live there.

5. Ask Questions
Talk to the locals, ask them where a cool bar is, recommendations for cheap things to do on a Friday night, etc.  You will learn so much more about a city and maybe even make some new friends in the process.  Most people are more than willing to help welcome someone to their city, even if it's just by giving them directions for which bus to take to get to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A note on the weather

It's raining today, and cold.  On Friday I wore a sundress, it was a gorgeous day.  San Francisco has weather that changes at the drop of  a hat.  Last week I was out and about and the fog started to roll in over the hill, after a lovely day.  San Francisco has two seasons, rainy and not rainy.  Anything other than that is kind of a grab bag.  

When traveling in San Francisco, be prepared for nearly every kind of weather.  Seriously.  There is a reason that the hoodie is synonymous with San Francisco.  It's the right amount of warm for when it's sunny, but cool, also the hood will keep any errant raindrops off your face/head.

This is not to say that San Francisco is ALWAYS cold and gross.  Like I said, I was in a sundress, on the 15th of February, and I live near the coast.  San Francisco has weird micro-climates  as does the bay area in general.  In July, I can be visiting my Parents who live 30 miles south of San Francisco, it will be hot, sticky and really good swimming weather.  I then come home and it's about 20 degrees cooler and foggy.  On the western edge of the city, inland a little bit it's sunny and warm.

What I am getting at is that if you plan on traveling in San Francisco, wear layers.  It can be cold and foggy ten minutes away from an area that is sunny and ten degrees warmer.  I almost always have a light sweater with me.  In the summer it provides just enough warmth for the evening chill, and in the winter it is another layer under a coat.  It also is necessary if you plan on moving about the city, micro-climates can be sudden and unforgiving.

So plan ahead, bring a water bottle and layers, and you should be just fine.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Hi everyone!  Welcome to Travelin' Lass: One broke girl's guide to travel.  

I love to travel, I like doing research about travel, and I have gleaned some useful knowledge along the way.  I also happen to live in San Francisco, and have some cool tips for doing stuff off the beaten path/ on the cheap.

This is all just a start, and input is always welcome.  So if there's something you would love to see, drop me a  line and I will see what I can do.  

Thanks for joining me on this crazy journey!

- Jessamy