Tag Archives: nature

Tokyo temples, treats and trains

27 Dec

The third and final country on our recent trip…Japan

I finally made it to Japan! This place has been on my bucket list for awhile. Although the item that is on my bucket list has not been crossed off. I’d love to make it here for the cherry blossom festival. Seeing all those pink trees raining pink petals would be a dream come true. But for now, I saw the misty temples near Tokyo and ate many great treats.

This time around we only had three days in Japan. It’s a good think they have some speedy trains. The first thing on our list was to see our friends. Next, we were told we had to see the scramble and Harajuku Street in Tokyo. We knew we had to eat some sushi, ramen and pocky. All those treats that Japan is known for, and some we just found out about like rice waffles and Kippy’s coconut ice cream.

We stumbled upon the cutest place to get sushi in Tokyo. It was small and non-smoking. They guys were making the sushi right in front of us and there was only about 20 people that could fit in the restaurant at one time. It was fantastic! I only wish I could give you directions to get back here. I just know it’s on one of the streets headed away from the scramble.

Sushi Line

We also got to see some really cool temples in the mist and rain. It was a very peaceful experience. We even got to ride in the infamous streetcar on the Enoshima railway line. We wandered the cute streets in Kamakura and Enoshima. It was so much fun with our friends. I’m so happy we made this part of our trip.

Buddha and Umbrellas

Some words of caution when visiting Japan.

Bring cash to exchange or cards with chips in them. Most places don’t accept cards but when they do, you need a chip in it. This included the ATM machines and the airport. Cash is almost a must if you want to leave the airport. Trains, cabs and buses want you to pay cash.

You aren’t allowed to smoke outside so most places allow smoking inside including restaurants. If you’re lucky you can find some places that are non-smoking.

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Taiwan, Asia’s best kept secret

13 Dec

I think Taiwan should be on your bucket list and here’s why:

Hualien Coast

Is that not enough reason to go? I mean, seriously, is this Taiwan’s best kept secret? I had no idea it looked like this. No one ever told me. It’s not one of those popular destinations that people talk about having fantastic turquoise water. Anyone I’ve shown the picture to hasn’t responded like they knew that it existed in Taiwan either. Crazy! I spent a week in Taiwan and all of it was fantastic, not just this one view.

We spent a few days in Tainan City at an apartment. We wandered the streets, ate some delicious food and drank a lot of bubble tea. We tried to find the night markets and were successful on one attempt. There were tons of temples to see and check out. I discovered an amazing coffee shop to work at, Donutes, just up the street from where we were staying. It’s open 24 hours, they have great coffee, amazing cakes and good wifi. What a treat!

After a few days in Tainan City we decided we wanted to explore more of the island and get back to some nature. Once I found some information on the Taroko Gorge I was intent on checking out the east side. I love nature, hiking and visiting waterfalls. We booked a train to Hualien.

Once we were in Hualien we rented a scooter and high tailed it to the gorge. We spent a few hours driving up to the top and checking out all the viewpoints. We hiked a bit and took a ton of photos. The clouds were amazing as they wrapped around the mountains. Like Oregon, we also found a ton of waterfalls coming down the mountains. The clouds were getting lower and darker and it looked like we could get some rain. We started on our way back home. We didn’t make it very far before the downpour started. We were drenched and we had miles to go. It finally let up and we started drying out. However that didn’t last long before another downpour started that was worse than the first. I now understand why it’s so green on that side of the island.

We stayed the night at this amazing hostel. One of the nicest I have ever stayed in. I’d highly recommend Wow Hostel. They aren’t just in Hualien either.

Wow Hostel

Before we headed out of the area we drove the scooter up the coast and that is when we saw the cliffs with the amazing blue water. It was a wonderful drive and there was only sunshine on our backs.

From Hualien we rode the train up to Taipei and stayed one night in the amazing Éclat Hotel (pictured below, center). We were right on the train and bus lines but we were close enough to walk to the night market, Taipei 101 Tower and Elephant park. We stumbled on a photography course in the exact location that we wanted to take photos. It was a our lucky night to learn some new tips and tricks for night photography! We also found an awesome speakeasy tucked behind a wall in a coffee shop. The manager was even from Portland, OR. Talk about a taste of home with those amazing cocktails.

We really enjoyed our time in Taipei. We also enjoyed taking the high speed rail back to Kaohsiung City. I wish we had high speed rail in the U.S..

If I had more time in the Taipei area I would have loved to get to the Yangmingshan National Park. I would have also loved to travel East and see the sunrise on the coast near the Gold Museum. There’s also some more waterfalls to explore.

TaipeiTowerPanoSM

Bush to Beach Australia

29 Nov

I’ve been a bit silent on this blog lately. I’ve been traveling a lot this fall but now it’s time to get back to writing.

Here’s from my most recent adventures…From Portland to Melbourne

Beach to Bush…

I had prepared myself for the long flight to Australia by going to South Africa earlier in the year. Nothing can be longer than that 19 hour flight I took from Johannesburg to DC.

Australia has been on my list of places to go for awhile but even more so in the last few years since I’ve had two close friends that have been living there. We have been in a mastermind group for close to three years talking almost weekly the entire time. It’s been fabulous. They came to visit me, it was my turn to repay the visit and check out their neck of the woods. Plus, I had some new friends to visit as well!

Melbourne is a city that is a lot like Portland. It has a big food and arts scene. It has a lot of funky shops, cafe’s and bars. The weather is totally unpredictable especially in the spring and fall. You never know what it’s going to be like day to day much less hour by hour. We really enjoyed our time in the city wandering the alleys and visiting our friends but it was also nice to get out and see some nature while we were there.

12 apostles

We spent one day driving out to the coast and taking some fun photos along the way. We also took a long loop drive out on the Great Ocean Road and into the Grampians. I grew up on the water so this was definitely my cup of tea. I love getting out into nature and exploring the beauty that this world has to offer.

Grampians View

We saw a few koalas along the way hanging in the trees. We even saw some that were awake and moving around a bit. We saw a few echidna’s, an emu and a lot of different kinds of birds. We saw a ton of wallabies and kangaroos hopping along in the more wooded areas. We even camped in a field where they would come to graze, box and play. It was so amazing to watch these creatures move about. To Australian’s it’s like see deer in the states. They are commonplace in the wild and kind of a nuisance on the roads. Like deer, they are known to leap out in front of traffic. Lucky for me I didn’t encounter any poisonous snakes or spiders. I heard this is the other problem in Australia, too many things that can kill you.

Kangaroos at Play

It was hard to leave the field of Kangaroos and emu’s but all good things must come to an end. We had a train to catch to Sydney. But first to see our awesome friends again. Old and new friends came together in a great farewell dinner. What a nice send off we had at the train station. It was sad that we only saw them for a brief time but it was good to see them at all.

In Sydney we enjoyed wandering through all the parks and gardens. We wandered the waterfront and the free art museums. We also enjoyed a ride on one of the ferry’s to Manly. I have a ton of pictures from the opera house. I sure love architecture, especially when it’s also a work of art.

If you go to Australia I’d recommend you:

  • See the bush
  • Visit one or several beaches
  • Eat a lot of fish and chips
  • Try the parma and the meat pies
  • Enjoy the free museums

I wish I could have seen more things in Australia but someday we may make it back. I know New Zealand is high on my list so maybe another stop or three in Australia will be on the list as well. Who know’s what’s next?!

But first…let’s talk about our other stops on this month long adventure. Next up: Taiwan, then Japan.

Opera House Reflections

Opera House reflections on the Grand Hyatt where we stayed with points. Two free nights because of travel hacking!

Psst…if you like my photography, I have a shop at www.rouxroamer.com where I sell framed photos, prints and much more!

Roaming the wild west

27 Oct

I was able to spend a week mostly disconnected from my computer seeing some of the natural beauty that this great country has to offer. I often forget how much is naturally occurring in the world, especially in the United States. It’s no wonder that people want to visit.

My husband and I went to Yellowstone for the very first time. We saw waterfalls and wildlife. We walked and drive around to many of the awesome sights. There are a few that we missed so it’s a good thing that we bought the year pass so we can go back and also to get to more National Parks.

Bison

We also visited the Grand Tetons and drove through all of Wyoming. We didn’t see a moose but we did see a grizzly bear. That was incredibly cool, yet scary. We were within the “not safe” range, yet we still weren’t really close enough to get a good photo. BUT we did live to tell about seeing a grizzly bear. I consider that a big win for our wild west adventure.

It was also my first time in South Dakota, seeing Badlands, the first National Monument Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore, of course! We briefly drove into North Dakota on our way into Montana. It was a real western adventure. I felt like I was on an American safari. The real wild west with bison, bears, longhorn sheep, coyotes and wolves. Natural beauty like this is so refreshing for the mind, body and spirit.

In Montana we stayed at this AMAZING place, The Resort at Paws Up. There was 37,000 acres of land to roam. If that’s not your scene, maybe you like sitting by the campfire making s’mores or having dinner made to order right in from of you by a wonderful chef. Then there’s the butler on stand by for anything you may need or want. You stay in a luxury tent that has all the amenities of a 5-star hotel but you walk out your door to breathtaking nature…what’s not to love!

Paws Up Riverview

The Wonder of Wallowa

16 Aug

Another Oregon wonder…

I recently went to a place in Oregon that I have never been to, the Wallowa Mountains. Woohoo! I can’t believe how many places I am still discovering after all these years of living in Oregon. I travel all the time but there are some places I have been to way more than others, including places in my own backyard. I’d say I have to get out more, but I know that I do that already. Sheesh! There is just so much to see and do in this world and we have so little time to do it.

Get out there!…after you read this of course.

My trip to the Wallowas consisted of three friends driving 6 hours to NE Oregon. We set up camp in the middle of the night as mice were scurrying through the grass and the roar of the river drowning out most other sounds. It was a cold night but we managed to get through it by throwing on some extra layers.

We woke up bright and early to tear down our camp and make our way to the hiking trail. We were hiking the Hurricane Creek Trail. Turns out that river that sounded so fierce the night before was not as big as we expected, it’s a “creek”. It’s so loud because the rocks in the river are granite. The combination of granite rocks and rushing water are a force to be reckoned with. The water doesn’t even move that fast for the noise that the river makes. It’s quite meditative.

We hiked about 8 miles total. We found a nice lunch spot that also worked as our turn around spot.

This trail and these mountains. What a sight!

ElaineHurricaneRidge-9332

From there we headed over to Wallowa Lake to set up camp for the next two nights. This campground is big and quite busy. Not the quiet secluded campsite that we had the night before. There was not any privacy in these sites but that’s ok because we weren’t there for the campsite. We were there for the scenery.

The next morning we hiked a total of 12 miles (6 in and 6 out) into this beautiful, serene lake surrounded by big, majestic mountains and trees. Aneroid Lake is a tarn. A tarn is a lake that is formed where a glacier used to be. (I know because I looked it up, maybe you’ve just learned something new as well.) The water…well just take a look at this: AneroidClearWater

I think I sat and looked at this lake for an hour. I snapped several photos and ate my lunch. I felt so spoiled with the view. But, I didn’t want to keep it all to myself so I’m sharing it with all of you. It was also nice to share it with two other awesome friends.

If you decide to do this hike, don’t stop at the first lake you see. That is not THE lake you want. Obviously. You can see the differences. The above lake is well worth the extra trek. I think you’ll agree.

FalseAneroidLake

The town of Joseph, which is closest to this beautiful mountainous paradise, is pretty cute too. It’s small but has tons of charm. Stop in and check out the galleries and get some world famous chocolate at Arrowhead. You won’t regret it.

Don’t miss Oregon’s other wonders. They are all pretty special.

7 wonders of Oregon

19 Jul

My home state has to be one of the best, if not THE best! We have 7 wonders…and then some!

I was just on a 1,000 mile road trip with a new friend to a new place. We went down to the Alvord Desert in southwestern Oregon. It was incredible, but not on the official Travel Oregon roster for the 7 wonders. But, really you can’t put all of Oregon on the list.

You can read all about the drive and experience on the Alvord Desert and see pictures in my last post.

Oregon’s desert hot springs

After watching the sun rise above the desert we went to relax in the Alvord Hot Springs. There’s a small $5 fee to go in but the views are great. You are sitting in this hot pool overlooking the desert on one side and looking up at Steens Mountain on the other. This is also a place you can camp if you don’t want to rough it without a toilet or fire pit. They also offer a private access road to the desert from the camp and a day use area for hiking.

When we were done soaking up the beauty and warm water we drove around the mountains and up to the top. It’s a rough gravel road but we made it to enjoy the view of the desert from 9,733 feet (the Alvord Desert at elevation of about 4,200 feet, that’s why it’s called high desert).

Alvord from Steens

 

Steens Mountain to Painted Hills

From the mountain we headed North to see the Painted Hills. My friend had never been there and we knew that if we timed it right we could make it by sunset. If we camped near by we could also do sunrise. Two of my favorite times of day. The world is so quiet and the light is just right for photos. Everything glows and looks so beautiful. when taking photos during mid day everything can get so washed out with the harsh light or provides weird shadows, especially on people.

We lucked out when we arrived before sunset to see the moon rising above the gorgeous Painted Hills. No camera tricks here, these hills actually look like this. The light changes slightly, but they are always amazing.

Painted Hills at Sunset

 

Painted Hills to Smith Rock

A short distance from the Painted Hills and pretty much on the drive home, is Smith Rock. Another of Oregon’s official wonders. It’s a great place for camping and hiking but we didn’t get to do either as we were pretty much exhausted from driving and playing for two days in the desert. We were ready get home and shower.

Smith Rock Sisters

 

Mt Hood

On the way home from Smith Rock you get awesome views of Hood and after a short drive (and/or hike) you can have even better views. I just wish it weren’t so warm this year. The snow melt is way ahead of schedule. The plus side is that wildflower season was happening when I was up there. (Photo taken from the PCT trail — a short hike from Timberline Lodge)

Wild Hood

 

Columbia River Gorge

Another of Oregon’s wonders that didn’t make our road trip this time but I go up there quite a lot is the Columbia River Gorge. It’s cool on warm summer days and stays green year round. I love all the shades of green that you can see in the gorge. The waterfalls aren’t half bad either.

Latourelle Falls

 

Oregon Coast

The place where I’ve spent many years of my life, the Oregon Coast. We don’t call it a beach or beaches because it’s not really warm enough year round to hang out and get in the water but it’s still pretty special. It has some of the most picturesque places with all the rocks and trees. The wildflowers are nice too, when you can catch them.

Beach textures

 

Crater Lake

Crater Lake is another FANTASTIC wonder that you must see. The blue color of the lake is unreal. This place really is our #1 wonder! Well, that’s my opinion anyway.

Picture 070

The last official wonder is one that I have never been to but I hope to go soon. I’ll let you know about it when I get there but in case you want to go before me it’s in NE Oregon, the Wallowa’s.

UPDATE: I went to the Wallowas and it’s incredible!

If you like what you see, I sell prints of my photos. I have thousands (some on Flickr, some on my business website)!  You can also follow my daily adventures on Instagram. I post tons of photos from around the world. I’m also pretty active on Twitter.

I hope you enjoyed looking at the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them and sharing my home state’s beauty.

Cheers!

 

Exploring Oregon’s high desert

7 Jul

Last year, I didn’t travel internationally at all. This year I went to Africa. When I’m not traveling internationally I am trying to see more of the United States and my home state of Oregon. There is so much to see and do in Oregon that my wanderlust is often quenched just by driving an hour or two.

Recently, I went to the desert. Yes, it’s not all trees and rain in Oregon. In fact more than half of the state is pretty dry and desert like. But there is actually a desert depending on your technical definition. This was a recent discovery of mine. Once I found out about the Oregon desert, I obsessed about going. I had to find a time in my schedule to go and I preferred to go soon. I found someone that wanted to go with me and we began planning the trip. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well, as life sometimes does. A few days before the trip my friend was canceling due to a family emergency. So I put a last minute call out to a new friend of mine. She is visiting from Australia and loves photography. You know what? She said yes! The next day we set off on our 7.5 hour road trip.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before: if you want something to happen you just have to ask or as Nike would say, Just Do It. Get outside your comfort zone and go for it.

On the road

We didn’t stop much for pictures until we were almost close to our destination. We just couldn’t help it with these colors and the open road. I love contrasting colors of nature and playing with perspective.

High Desert Road

Then, we came around a bend to this sight (below). We just had to stop for another photo of the storm that we were driving into. I thought, hey, what the heck, my car needs a bath. But first, a photo!

On The Road with Zoe

We drove slowly through the rain storm. We couldn’t even see the road, much less the desert we were looking for. Once the clouds parted my car looked like it went through a car wash, so that was a plus. A few more miles and we were close to our destination, yet we couldn’t figure out how to get on the desert. With some help from our new friend Rose, we found the way.

It’s really super cool to drive out on completely flat land in the middle of nowhere. It was even better to see the remains of the storm pass around the other side of the desert, somehow, leaving it as dry and cracked as ever.

Desert Rainbows

I did feel a bit guilty as my car did leave a small “footprint”. I try so hard to be a good steward to the environment and not leave any marks. However, the desert is about 6 miles wide and 11 miles long so I wasn’t going to walk the whole thing. I really wanted to explore and knew that driving on it was allowed. I thought about running the whole thing but in 100 degree heat I didn’t think that was too advisable without a lot of water.

There is a tiny lake that is left on the desert from winter. You shouldn’t drive too close to it or your car will likely get stuck in the mud. You can see in the photo where the wet desert meets the dry desert. To me, it’s a nice yin and yang.

Desert Yin Yang

This was one of the most phenomenal sunsets I’ve ever seen. It was everywhere. All around. Literally something to look at 360 degrees. I did’t know where to look and when. It was absolute perfection.

Where do you camp in the desert?

Anywhere you want, so why not the middle? That was my choice. If this was my once in a lifetime chance to camp in the middle of a playa I was going to take it and you know what, it was totally worth it. The silence is so silent. The only time I’ve ever been in such a silent place was skydiving, the moment after you open the shoot and before you get close to the ground. You could hear a pin drop from a mile away. In the desert that pin was a mosquito. You could hear them flying at you like no place I’ve ever been to. I felt like I had super hearing.

Long Sunrise Shadows

The light in the morning is absolutely incredible as well. The desert literally glows, sunrise was pretty spectacular.

Some recommendations I have if you decide to visit a desert like this one.

Rent a car. My car hit a lot of bumps on the roads and it got extremely dirty. I don’t just mean the outside either. My car was filled with dust inside out. I’m not even sure how to get the dirt out of all the crevices and upholstery. I tried for two hours and there’s still dust. Sigh…

If you plan for night photography, like we did, you should pick a night that’s not close to a full moon. Oops! Oh well. You can’t have everything you want all at once. It was perfect enough as it was. Plus, that meant we actually got some sleep. The only thing to wake you, was the flapping of your tent when the wind picks up. Otherwise, utter peace and quiet. It was absolute bliss.

Next stop hot springs! Then a few of Oregon’s other wonders. Stay tuned for more on the blog…

In the mean time follow my daily adventures on Twitter and Instagram.