• November 23, 2016

    Hawaiian Vacation: Aloha, Mindfulness, and Meditation

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    Welcome to my third and final post about my Hawaiian vacation!  I hope you’ve enjoyed visiting the beautiful island of Maui with me this month!  You know, I’ve always heard people say that Hawaii is a special place.  I always assumed that they meant it was beautiful and fun and a good place for a vacation.  While these things are all true, there is really something special about that place.

    waterfall

    ocean

    While visiting, I spent as much time as I could learning about the history and culture of Hawaii.  I talked to a few locals, including some fabulously interesting Uber drivers, and I feel like I really gained so much from their insight.  You see, Hawaiian culture is incredibly inclusive, respectful, and spiritual – something I think the mainland needs a big lesson in right now.

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    friend

    It seemed like everything done and everything said had special meaning and history.  People would go out of their way to help or to share a smile with you.  This was at the resort, restaurants, shops, tours, car rides… literally everywhere I went.  People were so happy to share their culture and stories with me, it was really wonderful!

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    You’re probably familiar with “aloha” meaning both hello and goodbye?  That is true, but it also conveys respect and love and spiritual connection.  One tour guide explained that native Hawaiian language has limited words and many words are combinations of words, so “alo” is like the uplifted face – the connection you have with another person or god or nature, and “ha” is like your life breath – your spirit and being.  So, “aloha” is that respectful, spiritual connection to people, to god, to nature, to… everything.  And remember in Lilo and Stitch when Lilo says that “ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind”?  That is true, but ohana also extends to all Hawaiian people.  And notice that “ha” also shows up in ohana?  They put caring for the whole community very high on their list of priorities.

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    Every encounter I had while in Maui was extremely positive and I could feel the energy of the people around me.  Once away from other tourists, I could sit and think and absorb the good vibes that I’ve only ever felt in Hawaii.  I took as much time as I could to meditate on the things people told me, to really feel their words.  One gentleman I met spent a good bit of our conversation encouraging me to bring Aloha to the mainland – to spread their love and peace to a nation that is in turmoil and feeling so much hate right now.  I hope I’ve done this… I hope people meet me and feel loved and respected.  I hope I don’t lose the lessons I learned  in Hawaii in the coming months and years.  And, while I don’t necessarily expect that you really get what I am trying to convey by reading these words alone, I do hope that you will also go out and be a light to your community.  Connect with your life breath and treat every relationship as sacred.

    jellyfish

    sunset

    Peace.

    beach

  • November 16, 2016

    Hawaiian Vacation: Road to Hana

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    Our second full day in Hawaii was the busiest by far.  My friend had to attend classes all day, so I met up with a tour group and went on the Road to Hana.  For those who are not familiar, the Road to Hana takes you along the less populated Eastern side of Maui.  There are about 620 curves on this road and much of it is one lane or so narrow that two cars passing must pass within inches of each other.  I do not recommend driving this road on your own – the tour group was lovely and not half as terrifying as if I’d gone alone.

    On the tour, we saw rain forest, waterfalls, and rainbow eucalyptus trees.

    waterfalls

    tree

    splash

    We stopped at the Ke’anae Peninsula where we saw a church that was built in 1856 and was the sole surviving building of a tsunami in 1946.  As I approached the church, I felt so glad that I was almost alone because I could feel that the place was holy.  There was a peace there that I haven’t felt in many other places… I could have sat there for hours.

    church

    graveyard

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    ghost

    Our next stop was Wai’anapanapa State Park where I explored a sacred black sand beach and a magical lava cave where legend has it a Hawaiian princess hid from her abusive husband.  When he found her, killed her in the cave – now the pools in the cave fill with tiny red shrimp  and the water looks like blood which locals say it’s a reminder of the princess.

    black-sand-beach

    cave-enterence

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    Farther down the road was the Haleakala National Park where I was able to explore the cliffs, waterfall, and Oheo pools.  I went for a short hike which was so beautiful and green – I wanted to stay forever.

    ocean

    overlook

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    water-fall

    The last stop was at the Palapala church which was built in 1857 and is where Charles Lindbergh is buried.  It was beautiful, but didn’t have the same holy feeling as the Ke’anae church did.

    lindburgh-church

    lindburgh-grave

    The last portion of the trip was on a terrible, terrible road.  It was so bumpy, my fitbit registered 3,000 steps while I was sitting in the van!  Our guide told us that the locals don’t want to repair the road – they prefer rough driving over having tourists crowding them.  I think I agree.

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  • November 9, 2016

    Hawaiian Vacation: Resort and Luau

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    Did ya’ll remember to vote yesterday?  Did you cling to your tv/radio/social media to follow every second of the tally?  Well I did and I’ve got to say, I am ready for a break from the politics and drama and fear and sadness… I’m ready to go back to Hawaii.  Since that isn’t really possible, though, let me take you on a little trip down my memory lane and you can live a little vicariously through my adventure for a while!

    mermaid

    My friend and I went to Maui and stayed at the Grand Wailea resort.  She was there for a work conference and I was just lucky to get to tag along.  The resort was the fanciest, most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed.  We had a ground floor room with a view of the ocean and it was perfection!

    patio

    celebration

    The first night we were there we went to a luau.   I felt a little strange asking native people to put their culture on display in such a commercial setting, but I did enjoy the dancing and the stories that were told.  It’s amazing to watch!

    hula

    ribbon-dancer

    The second day we had to do some conference things and I didn’t get too many pictures.  It was pretty laid back and I got to touch the ocean for the first time in my life!  It’s so weird to me that some people grow up playing in the vastness of the ocean without a second thought.  I felt sure it would swallow me up if I stayed too long.

    fresh-fruit

    There is a small path at the resort that is lined with trees and plants that are all fruit producing which are maintained organically.  Because of this, you can literally just pick what you like and eat it right off the tree!  So, we had a little harvest party on our walk and a very kind man helped us reach the too tall star fruit.  It was glorious!

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    Another day we were there, I dragged my friend to a dedicated gluten free restaurant where I ate way too much.  I haven’t had fried food in 10 years… so this was amazing and horrible all at the same time!

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    I hope you’re enjoying my pictures and stories.  Check back next week for more of my trip!

  • November 2, 2016

    October Round Up

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    Happy November, ya’ll!  October went a little nuts and I got totally behind on my blogs!  I do want to share my round up for October, though, so here we go!

     

    soup

    My hubby has struggled with a deviated septum his whole life which makes it hard for him to breathe properly, especially when he’s trying to sleep.  So, this fall we decided it was time to get it taken care of and he went in for surgery.  Everything went great and he’s said that he feels so much better now!  He’s able to sleep so much better than before!  To help him heal, I made homemade chicken soup and it was ah-maz-ing!

     

    hawaii

    After the surgery was done and we knew everything was good, I confirmed my girls trip to Hawaii.  A friend of mine was planning to attend a conference for her work and I talked her into letting me tag along.  The trip went splendidly and you can bet there will be tons of pictures and more detail up next week!  *grin*

     

    books

    I also read a lot this month – fall always gets me into the mindset of study,  books, and cuddling up with blankets and tea.  This month I read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and Stir by Jessica Fetcher.  If you haven’t read Jennys blog or books, you really should consider giving it a try.  She’s quirky and fun but she also talks about deep, important issues like parenthood and mental illness.  I also enjoyed The Girl on the Train which is a thriller/suspense novel.  I really liked the mystery of it and trying to figure out what was happening along with the main character.  Stir is a memoir for my book club about a woman whose recovery from illness was aided hugely by her love of cooking and food.  I haven’t quite finished yet, but so far it’s been really wonderful!

    Despite all the busy-ness of last month, we did still manage to see a couple of movies.  The first was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  I really liked Tim Burton’s take on the story and its overall darkness.  Some things were, of course, left out from the book… but it was so good it wasn’t too hard to find forgiveness for Tim.  We also saw The Girl on the Train which was pretty good.  I preferred the book and felt that there was just a lot more suspense and intrigue than the movie.  My husband did not read the book, though, and said that he was able to follow it just fine and liked the movie well enough.  One thing I do want to understand is why they would change the setting from London to New York?  It made me unexplainably sad.

    Lastly, Halloween!  Because of the crazy, busy, expensive, and exhausting way this month went… I didn’t get to do my decorations as planned.  This makes me really sad because now I’ve failed my 30 before 30.  Hopefully next year we can get our stuff together and carry out my plan.  We did enjoy the fall colors, candy and baked goods, and pumpkin everything in October and that helped a little.  We watched some classic scary movies and drank lots of hot tea.  Now, we’re in November and I am realizing just how much I have to do before Christmas… how did we ever get this far into 2016?!

  • September 28, 2016

    September Round Up

    Wow, you guys, September came and went in what feels like a flash!  I don’t even know how we got here!  I guess a big part of this whirlwind month is that it was so busy (which is why I don’t have any pictures!  Sorry in advance)!  Here’s a little review of all the things!

    If you missed it, I started out September with a major hair cut for charity!  You can read more here.  It was such a rewarding and relieving event – plus I love my new hair!  It’s been so much easier to get ready in the mornings  which gives me a ton more time – I actually started doing dishes before I leave for work!  *haha*

    This month was my hubby and my 8th anniversary!  We usually try to go on a trip or do something big like that, but this year we just had too many other things going on to pull it together.  We did go out for a couple of nice dinners and had a lovely picnic lunch in the park, so it was still very nice.  True to our (sort of) tradition, we didn’t get each other individual gifts… we got one big “gift” for the both of us:

    That’s right, friends, we got a new washer and dryer for our anniversary!  I should have taken a picture of the ancient, rumbly, terrifying old machines… but let’s just say they were way past their prime and we needed the new ones!  Our kitty isn’t terribly impressed and I still don’t really know how to work the darn things, but I am a happy laundress!

    rat-queens

    This wasn’t a great reading month… too many other things got in the way.  I did enjoy a new (to me) comic called The Rat Queens.  The art style is glorious and the comic itself is the perfect balance of adventure and comedy.  There is quite a bit of strong language, so be aware of that, but it’s still really fantastic!

     

    animal-vegetable-miracle

    The book club book for October is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  That’s the only book I’ve really made time for so far.  The focus is on eating well from local sources to promote health, seasonal eating, and farming.  I like it a lot, but Barbara can be a bit preachy in her writing – I often feel like she’s wagging her finger at me like I’ve done something terrible.  She also sets the bar for her cause so high that I’m less inspired than I could be just because I know I could never measure up to her standard.  Worth a read if you’re interested in her ideas, but take it with a grain of salt.

     

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    Besides being too busy to read much this month, I’ve also devoted a significant amount of time to my new favorite show: Outlander.  I’ve been meaning to read the books (and I still will), but I just couldn’t wait to watch the show any longer!  This is one of the most beautiful, thrilling, emotional, and intriguing shows I’ve ever seen and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who likes romance, Scotland, time travel, politics, history, or deep stories that make them think!

    On YouTube, I’ve gotten addicted to Carpool Karaoke.  A lovely co-worker suggested it after First Lady Michelle Obama was on and oh. my. gosh.  So fun!  I really love James Corden and he’s done a really lovely job with the series.  Michelle was my favorite guest so far, but I also really loved Adele and Elton John.

    Because I’m a multi-tasker, I’ve been planning for a short trip to Hawaii while watching all those YouTube videos.  that’s right, next month I’ll be boarding a jet plane with my BFF and enjoying the surf and sun in Hawaii!  We are super excited!  I’ve been researching and learning and planning all month and am practically packed already because I’m so excited.  *grins*  Don’t worry, you’ll hear all about it when I get back!

    Lastly, I ran a 5k this month with my husband.  The last one I did was about a year ago and I’ve been exercising a lot, so I figured it would be easy.  Guess what?  It wasn’t.  The course was very different (lots of hills and running on dirt) and I just struggled so much!  I was pretty disappointed, but I learned for sure that I am really not a runner.  I’m just not.  This realization made my hubby sad since he enjoys running, and he was so encouraging and supportive… he even tried to convince me that we’d run together at home and he’d try to help me get better.  Poor thing… so much hope was dashed that day.  I’m glad we did it, but don’t hold your breath waiting for me to try again!  *haha*

    So, that’s my big story for this month.  I hope you are enjoying this time of transition from summer into fall as much as I am!  Go play in some leaves and drink some coffee!

  • August 3, 2016

    Photo Session

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    If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I got a shiny new toy for my birthday:

    Camera

    It’s a Nikon Coolpix B500.  I’m still learning my way around it, but so far I’ve been very pleased.  It’s not a DSLR, so there are some limitations as far as zooming and focusing and the manual aspect that higher end cameras offer.  That said, I think this is about as close as any point and click camera can get to a DSLR – the zoom is amazing and the images are crisp and clear!

    The reason I asked for this camera is because the DSLR we have is wonderful, but also big, expensive, and hard to take on camping, hiking, and vacations.  I needed something  better than my phone camera but less intense then the Canon Rebel!

    The first day I had the camera, we went to a winery and I snapped a few pictures of the grounds.  Totally forgot to take any of the actual wine tasting… I guess I’ll have to go back and try again!  *grin*

    Vineyard

    Grapes

    One day these will be delicious wine… and I will be back for them!

     

    Wine

    Then, last weekend, we went camping.  The spot we had wasn’t super great for pictures – truly lacking in flowers, moss, or any color really.  I did manage to get some nice shots of the lake, though, and the wildlife as well!  

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    Heron

    That zoom! O.o

     

    Fly-Away

    I hope you will enjoy watching me learn my way around this camera and getting a glimpse into my world as I go.  It’s been a lot of fun for me so far!

  • March 2, 2016

    Bicycle Race

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    Ooooooh boy, I can’t imagine those ladies are comfortable riding their bikes.  But, hey, I’ve never tried nekkid bike riding before, so who knows.  *grin*

    Anyway…. I finally got my bike, ya’ll!  It’s so shiny!  I don’t remember if I ever actually brought up my bicycle dreams here or not, but it’s something I’ve been working towards since we decided to move.  You see, there is a beautiful park near our home as well as some fabulous restaurants and shopping all within walking/biking distance.  So… I’ve been dreaming and scheming for quite some time now!

    By-the-Water

    With the weather getting nicer every day, I decided it was time to take out my savings and bite the bullet.  Lucky for me, the bike I wanted went on sale at the same time I was ready to go and I got a screaming deal on it!  *patience is a virtue for a reason*  Also lucky for me, I have a coworker-friend who is super into bikes and her husband graciously offered to put mine together for me so I could save some money on the shipping.

    In-the-Park

    So, now it’s all put together and looking beautiful – I’m almost afraid to take it anywhere, lest it get scuffed or marred.  Of course, that doesn’t really stop me… but I do think about it every time I take it out.  I realized while we were putting it all together that I haven’t ever had a brand new bike… and I haven’t really ridden one since high school.  High school, ya’ll.  So I’m a little rusty.

    All this talk about my excitement, I’m sure you’d like to know more about this bike that has me so enamored.  First, she’s a Public bike.  I decided to go with a Public brand bike over others for several reasons: 1. style 2. quality 3. affordability 4. they had exactly what I wanted.  I did a year’s worth of searching and reading and pouring over reviews before landing on this one.

    Public

    The bike I got is the Dutch Step Thru C1 which means that it only has one gear.  I went back and forth a lot about one gear vs. 3 or more and ended up deciding on the one gear because of the terrain I’ll mostly be riding on – park and neighborhood only.  I don’t have any plans to take her on main roads or try to commute to work and there aren’t any major hills in my nearby area.  Once I get better at riding again, I might look for another bike with more gears and that can travel faster on main roads, but that’s probably quite a ways off!

    Bike

    And, one of the best things is, because I got the bike on such a great sale, I was able to also get some really amazing accessories too!  There’s nothing like customizing stuff so it genuinely reflects you as a person.  I have some other customization goals in mind… but I’m totally broke now… so it’ll have to wait.

    What was that about patience being a virtue, again?  ha!

  • August 5, 2015

    Ollie’s First Camping Trip

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    Recently, my husband and I decided to take our little corgi, Ollivander, on his first camping trip.  We’ve been working with him to be more social and less of a grump and figured he might be ready.  I was a little nervous to take him, but we made it through 2 nights of sleeping in a tent and even took him on a very successful 4 mile hike!

    The hike went around a reservoir near the campground and was just beautiful.  The trail itself was well maintained which made things much easier on Ollie’s little bitty legs.  *grin*

    We had encounters with some great small woodland creatures, but my favorites were the frogs!  There were (literally) thousands of them and it was so hard not to step on them!  I felt like I was tiptoeing through the woods!

    Do you see them?

    Do you see them?

    There were also less wild interactions… Where we were camping, it’s open range.  This means that there were all kinds of surprise encounters with cows.  The best, though, was this bovine beach party:

    Beach-Party

    After hiking, we checked out the creek and watched the water.  Ollie was so tired that he didn’t want to play at all, preferring to sit stoically and observe his domain.  It was adorable.

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    Creek

    Of course, the people had their own version of a relaxing reward:

    Reward

    Each night we closed down camp with a fire and delicious dinner and dessert!  I found some gluten free graham crackers and we had the best s’mores I’ve ever eaten!  Ollie, ever the work hound, helped build the fire.

    Fire

    What a helper, eh?  *grin*

    So, that was Ollie’s first foray into the forest.  I call him my mountain dog now and I think he really likes it!

  • May 20, 2015

    Top 5 Travel Tips

    Guess what, guys?  It’s almost summer!  And you want to know what that means?  It’s vacation time!  It’s travel time!  It’s get off the couch and out of your house time!

    Now, I know that isn’t always so easy, so I’ve gone ahead and made a list of my top 5 travel tips for you to ponder and hopefully put into practice very soon!

    Number 1: Research the place you’re going ahead of time. 

    Going somewhere new means you get to explore and discover, but you should definitely do a  little of that ahead of time.  Look at places that will be interesting (museums, parks, restaurants, etc) and make reservations at those places if needed.  A lot of times, you can also get discounts for buying tickets early or buying a day pass that includes several attractions.  When we went to Canada last fall, we saved a ton by booking our ferry pass with our hotel and the museum that we went to all at once.  Check Groupon for similar deals and passes in  your destination area.  Just be careful that you don’t pack your day so full you don’t have time for adventure too!

    Number 2: Use apps to help you navigate your destination. 

    I like Navmii (navigation for different countries where you can’t connect with google maps) and Duolingo (start learning the language most commonly spoken in your destination).  If you are leaving the country, be sure to double and triple check your cell phone carriers rules for phone and data use where you’re going.  If you mess up, you could end up with a cell phone bill of several hundred dollars.

    Number 3: Plan your budget ahead of time. 

    Figure out how much money you can afford for each day or week (depending on how long you’ll be gone and how tight your budget is) and do your best to stick to it.  It can be helpful to use a cash/envelope system so you can clearly see how quickly you’re burning through your dough.  Keeping this in mind, it is also important to leave room to splurge a little – being on vacation is all about having fun and letting loose a little, so plan to splurge and keep a little splurge fund separate from your normal daily fund.  Another important money tip is to keep boot money on you at all times.  When I say boot money, what I mean is that you should keep cash hidden on your person at all times just in case you get separated from your purse or wallet.  I usually literally keep money in my shoe, but I just discovered the FlipBelt on Pinterest and am starting to think that’s a really freaking good idea.  *grin*

    Number 4: Pack light.

    Choose clothing that you can easily mix and match tops and bottoms.  For even greater success, try to keep everything within same color group so you only need a couple pairs of shoes that will go with everything you have.  If you’ll be staying at your destination for a longer amount of time, consider doing laundry while you’re there so you can recycle your outfits.  There are also lots of things you can just grab at a drugstore when you’re there (shampoo, toothpaste, etc) rather than lug it around in your bag while you travel (this is probably more practical for flights and longer stays away from home).

    Number 5: Get off the beaten path.

    A lot of people seem to think they need to stick to what the travel guide book says or join up with a tour or resort, but I say put yourself out there!  Meet local people and eat local food!  Get out of your comfort zone and try something different!  Find out where your tour guide likes to go for a pint after work and go there too!  Forget the touristy and chain places and see what the local life is really like.  This is significantly more educational and way more fun!  Plus, the local places are probably a lot less expensive and much more authentic.

    So there you have it, my top five tips for travel.  I mean these tips for both local and international travel – no matter where you go, the same principles apply.  But probably the most important thing is to be safe and have fun!  Vacation is meant to be fun and relaxing and rejuvenating for your mind and soul

  • October 22, 2014

    Canadian Adventure (Part 1)

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    Earlier this month I mentioned that hubby and I escaped to Canada for a week back in September. This was our first really real vacation, so it was pretty exciting! It was also a ton of work and preparation… but worth it in the end!

    We drove for most of our trip, so the first thing we decided to do is get the heck out of our house right after work and camp for a night. It was so relaxing and such a great way to start out even if we didn’t get very far out of town.

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    I don’t have any pictures for the next couple of days because it was mostly driving and not very interesting in terms of photography. We did stop to say happy birthday to a dear friend and then attended the wedding of another dear friend… so that was fantastic! It is such a rare thing for us to be able to travel and really catch up with friends and family who live far away.

    The day after the wedding, we took a ferry over to Victoria, Canada. This was a little frightening for me, but we actually really enjoyed it after we got our sea legs! *grin* The water and the view was so beautiful!

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    Landing in Victoria and officially crossing the border was easier than I had expected, but navigating (and driving – hello Kilometers!) in another country was challenging! After finding our hotel, we decided to go back downtown to explore a little.

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    There are lots of little shops and things to see there, but everything seemed to close up around 6 or 7, so we didn’t get to do much. No matter, we still had to find dinner!  We decided to eat at the Bard and Banker. Housed in a historic building that was a bank for most of it’s years, this was by far my favorite meal of the trip! They were incredibly accommodating when I asked for gluten free options. The setting is absolutely beautiful as well, and towards the end of our meal there was live music. After eating, we found the local ghost tour and spent the evening learning local history and being scared. They had a horrible story about the man who put the Bard in the Bard and Banker, so I was glad to have already eaten there rather than waiting until after to have dinner!

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    The following day, we didn’t have much time before needing to be on our way to catch the ferry to the mainland, so we had to be choosy about what to do. We decided to check out the Royal British Columbia Museum. They had a visiting exhibit on the Vikings which was incredible (no pictures allowed, though, sorry)! They also have permanent exhibits featuring native peoples and natural history.

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    After a lengthy ferry ride, we landed on the mainland and headed north to Squamish where we set up camp in the dark (whoops! The campground we originally planned to stay at was totally full when we arrived, so we had to drive around a bit to find another place for the night).

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    All of that was totally worth it, though, because the next day we made our way up the Stawamus Chief mountain!

    You’ll have to check in next week, though, to hear the rest of the story!