We packed our picnic baskets and dined under a wild tree for my 29th birthday. I hung lanterns and garland and requested that my closest friends bring plenty of campaign, cheese, and sweets. The tree branches hung low, creating an intimate secret place to share stories and champagne.
Whether you’re twelve or twenty-nine, I recommend celebrating life’s significant moments at your local regional park. All you need are some wine crates, blankets, pillows, finger food, fizzy drinks, and good company! For some adventure, try creating a map that leads your guests to the secret picnic spot.
Photos taken at Irvine Regional Park, Orange, CA
Costs: $5.00 (Park Entrance Fee), $20 (decorations and supplies)
“There’s a certain nostalgia and romance in a place you left.” – David Guterson
It’s a 12 hour journey from Orange County to the most northern Redwood forests of California. Although driving through the night can be exhausting, there’s something magical about witnessing the sunrise as you drive through mist-covered hills and redwoods at dawn.
The first pit-stop was a hike through Fern Canyon, where I saw wild Roosevelt Elk and old-growth redwoods that stood in primeval majesty. I felt like I had wandered into a lost world, a wild kingdom of old.
The journey continued through the Redwood Forest and into Six Rivers National Forest, where I stayed at an off-the-grid cabin the woods. While walking up the steep road, I befriended this beauty keeping watch over the property:
After breakfast I crossed the Oregon border and drove through windy mountain roads to see the wonderful Oregon Caves. It’s a unique 90 minute tour that allows visitors to see crystals and marble inside of a mountain. I also loved Jedidiah State Park and many other pitstops along the road. There always seems to be something beautiful to admire when you’re near the Redwoods.
If you’re driving up the 101N into Oregon, you must visit Samuel H. Boardman State Park. If you search hard enough, you can find the path to “Secret Beach,” an ethereal location relatively unknown and hard to find.
Cotapaxi is the third highest active volcano in the world. It was one of the most memorable and challenging experiences of my life. Despite the altitude sickness and exhaustion, the hike up to the glaciers was worth every step of the way.
Exploring the Ecuadorian Amazon felt like a combined experience of the Discovery Channel, Indiana Jones, and Anthony Bourdain. Highlights? We fished for Piranhas, ate monkey, and drove through wild jungle roads.
Day 1 started at 5am. It was an 8 hour journey to the jungle, which included a plane ride over a smoking volcano and a breathtaking three-hour boat ride through a gorgeous river. On our drive from the airport to the river, our host Felipe told us his insane kidnapping story. He shared that in 2012 he was taken to Colombia and was imprisoned in a cage for 40 days until he was able to escape and return home!
After the drive we climbed into a motor boat. The heat and humidity was weakening, but as soon as I felt the wind wildly blow my hair as we sped across the river, I felt wonderfully alive and happy.
When we made it to Felipe’s Cofán village, we jumped out of the boat into the mud and walked to shore, laughing as our bare feet felt the river mud squeeze between our toes.
The house was amazing – like a glorified treehouse with an electric generator. There were hammocks in the living room and beautiful wood flooring and walls. They had pet parrots, cats, dogs and chicken… And a dead monkey in the fridge. Saem and I showered with rain water in the darkness of the night. We were scared yet somehow found ourselves laughing hysterically. We slept in mosquito nets.
The next morning our hosts took us fishing for piranhas and catfish. It thundered and poured during parts of the trip, but it somehow made the entire experience more exciting.
When we arrived back at the house at sundown, our host prepared us a bowl of wild monkey stew and fried piranha. No, monkey does not taste like chicken.
We took a three hour bus ride to La Casa del Arból Baños, a treehouse and swing seemingly built in the clouds! The journey there was just as enjoyable. We passed by rushing rivers, cliffs, lush mountainsides with waterfalls, and old buildings.
After a taxi ride up the mountain, we continued the journey by foot up a steep muddy hill with patches of grass. When we finally arrived at the top of the mountain, we met many other visitors from around the world who had come to play on the swing.
There’s a museum in Quito, right smack on the equator. In fact, you can watch water flush in opposite directions depending on if it’s north or south of the equator.
After the museum, Saem’s mom drove us through windy mountain roads, higher and higher until we saw it. A restaurant in the clouds! There we dined, with views of mist-covered valleys and glorious greenery all around.
ECUADOR DAY 1: We woke up in a beautiful lakeside wood cabin with views of misty mountains and a volcano. It was incredible. We walked over to the restaurant on the lake for breakfast, where I had the best cup of coffee ever.
After breakfast we drove to Cascada de Peguche, where we journeyed on foot through a small village with cobblestone paths into a forest where we hiked to a breathtaking waterfall!