Acadia National Park

We embarked on a gps-said 4.5 hour drive to Acadia National Park. Friday’s drive included a caramel macchiato for each of us and a playlist named ‘lobstah races.’ En route to Portland, ME we go!

Having been to Portland only once on a day trip for my recent birthday, I had a few things I wanted to see and revisit. One of them includes walking in Old Port and the other includes Holy Donuts – We left with a sweet potato ginger and a sweet potato lemon glazed donut and ate it on the remaining 2.5 hour drive up the state of Maine.

By the time we arrived in our little beach efficiency, we’d been traveling for a little over 8 hours. The mixture of pre-4th traffic, Portland stop, and grocery shopping wore us out. Instead of recapping the trip by day, I’ve broken it out by categories of what we did.

Hikes

  • Beehive Trail (1.3 mile loop) – this was our ‘warm-up’ hike, and little did we know, it was the most strenuous of the trip. Reviews warned us about the steep rocks and the metal rung scaling, and reminded me of my fear of heights. Going in, we knew we had somewhat of an advantage from living in Arkansas. Length-wise was quite short, and after some rock hugging and eye-closing, we made it to the summit. Thankfully, the way down is through another loop called Bowl Trail – much less intense and manageable. You’ll get plenty of Instagram-worthy images in throughout the trail. In summary, we went on a cloudy/foggy day, and given a sunny day, I would do it again.

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  • Great Head Trail (1.4 mile loop) – we actually did this as our back-up hike when we found out Precipice was closed due to falcon nesting (don’t ask me what that truly means). The park did not have good direction towards this trail head, and we wandered around twice before finding the entrance – go us. However, when we actually got on the right path… we saw the clouds lifting and we were able to catch some cool breezes. Descriptions of the trail say it’s a quick loop or whatnot, but we stopped at countless places to admire all that Maine had to offer, and we easily spent 2+ hours there. Overall worth doing if you have the time and can catch a good day at Sand Beach (connected to the trail).

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  • Bubble Pond Trail (1 mile) – this is the epitome of low effort, extremely high reward. This was our last hike of the trip, and it was the easiest of them all. We were given tips to head North vs. South for ‘better views’ and looking back, I don’t think we even finished the summit because we were so in awe of the views we’d already seen. Nevertheless, it’s worth going for down time and proximity to places you’ll already be in.

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Food (all in Bar Harbor)

  • Thirsty Whale – this restaurant came up on both Beth and my research, so it naturally had to be the first restaurant in Bar Harbor we’d try. Beth really wanted to test if she were allergic to lobster, and I just wanted food? Historically, I’ve not been a fan of fried fish, but I saw ‘Famous Fried Haddock Sandwich’ on the menu and I may have caved. In addition to the sandwich, I added on a cup of New England Clam Chowder, which I can never resist. Service was friendly, food came out fast, and we weren’t allergic to anything we ordered. Fabulous. Would recommend.
  • Thrive – the new thing nowadays is smoothie acai bowls and salad bars, and this was one of its kind in the town. Post yet another hike, we cooled down with vegan muffins and peanut butter cocoa smoothie bowls. Very filling, semi expensive, worth the try.
  • McKay Public House – Beth found this while I was napping one day and the selling point was cheap wines, cute patio, and decent appetizers. Truth for all three points. I find this place worth it if you’re not super hungry and just want a nibbler + wine. Extremely date-like location and not fully in downtown.

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  • Finback Alehouse – this was our last night in Acadia and we just wanted some Thai food or comfort food (which is one in the same). A great selection of beer, signature pulled pork, and walking distance to the harbor sold me on this place. Since it was the Sunday before the 4th, there was a 30-minute wait (oh no), but we were able to walk around for sunset and we were promptly seated. Very recommended if you plan on getting a food coma.
  • Mount Desert Ice Cream – many odd flavors and very large servings should be two solid reasons to point you to an ice cream shop. Thankfully, the servers respected my many indecisions of trying spicy chocolate along with 6 other flavors before deciding on cookies & cream (how original). Walking distance to the square and semi hidden from the main street, so go for the mid-day treat in the midst of souvenir shopping.

Scenic Points

  • Otter Cliff – came here twice: once on a drive around Park Loop Rd and second time on a Milky Way stargazing adventure. We saw people laying out and picnicking during the day, but I’m pretty sure we were the only ones out there at 2am. One of two life changing moments.

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  • Cadillac Mountain – some pamphlet said that this was the most visited summit? Highest summit? Again, we came here twice: once on a foggy afternoon and second time at 4:40am on our last day. We were maybe ¾ up the mountain before we pulled over, but this was two of two life changing moments.

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  • Jordan Pond – I just realized that we did Otter Cliff at 2am, Cadillac Mountain at 4am, and Jordan Pond at 5am… Nevertheless, this came up on my research multiple times and naturally, we waited till the last morning to go see it. It’s not much of a walk, but it’s definitely a photo opportunity and potential hammock spot.

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Key Recommendations

  • Stay on Mount Desert Island – it’ll make your life a lot easier. We stayed in Seal Harbor (South), and it was 15 minutes from Bar Harbor and 15 minutes from the park itself. That being said, plan early! We booked ~4 months ahead.
  • Prepare for 0 cell signal throughout the park – it’s not easy to get directions or meet up with people, but you’ll find a few bars on the top of summit or in Bar Harbor.
  • Catch all the sunrises, sunsets, and stars you can – Acadia is perfect. That’s all.

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Costa Rica | December 2016

Happy forecasted 6-10″ snow day in Boston! Hence, the best time to recap on my most recent trip to Costa Rica. I went with my family and two other families from LA.

Below is a detailed version of our itinerary, for any of you wanting to plan a trip soon:

Day 1: San Jose, Costa Rica

  • Direct flight from Houston via Southwest – 3 hours 30 min, easy
  • Reserved a car from Hertz ahead of time via Priceline
  • Checked into our hotel for the night at Hotel La Riviera – a little bit southeast of the airport in a quaint neighborhood

Day 2: San Jose –> La Fortuna

  • Picked up 3 cases of water, fruit, and miscellaneous supplies for the three families at Walmart in Alajuela before heading out to La Fortuna
  • Windy drive & fog made it a 2:45 hour drive of 44 miles to our Hotel Vagabondo
  • Lunch @ Chifa La Familia Feliz ($ – Peruvian/Chinese Fusion)
    • Found out later it was the #1 Restaurant in the area, cha-ching!
    • Chef himself made a curated menu for us with Peruvian Ceviche (appetizer), Calamari/Shrimp (appetizer), Curry Chicken & Potato w/ Rice, and Surf & Turf
  • Spent 4:30pm-8:30pm at Baldi Hot Springs enjoying powerful waterfalls and 8+ pools of varying temperatures
    • HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; I think Dad wished we stayed at that resort…
    • the buffet portion isn’t really worth it, so I’d say eat at the restaurant or eat beforehand
    • $6 locker rental + $10 towel deposit

Day 3: La Fortuna

  • Booked a Mistico Hanging Bridges tour (~2 hours) for the morning – great for families with kids and a different way to take a walk in nature
  • Hiked to the 1992 Lava Flow (1.5 hr RT)
  • Accidently skipped lunch, oops.
  • Coffee tasting at North Fields Cafe ($) – with the intention of doing a coffee tour, but it was going to be $30 PP for 2 hours and with the amount of time we had, we didn’t see its ROI.
  • Christmas Eve dinner @ Restaurante Mi Casa ($$ – Typical Costa Rican food)
    • Guaro Sour x2
    • Ceviche
    • Rib-Eye Steak for Dad
    • Churrasco Steak for me
    • Sea Bass w/ Avocado Sauce for Mom

Day 4: La Fortuna –> Santa Elena/Monteverde

  • 10am-noon: After packing up, we went to the Rainforest Chocolate Factory Tour ($25 PP):
    • Extremely informative tour and we got to walk through the cacao tree plantation before we sat down to unpeel cacao fruit –> taste the seeds –> roast the seeds –> taste them again –> drinking chocolate tasting –> melted chocolate tasting
      • Spoon 1: plain sea salt
      • Spoon 2: hibiscus flakes + orange extract + sea salt
      • Spoon 3: almond flakes + almond extract
  • Drove a rough, car-sick filled 4 hours to our lodge Hotel el Atardecer
  • Spent the afternoon settling in and checking out potential excursions
  • Ate dinner at Treehouse Restaurant & Cafe
    • by this time, everyone was craving pizza…so the table ordered 3 pizzas in addition to Costa Rican plates
  • Booked our excursions for the next day at the Tourism Center downtown

Day 5: Santa Elena/Monteverde

  • 8-11am: Started the morning with the most intense ziplining I’ve done in my life at 100% Aventura, home of the longest zipline in Latin America
  • Really worth the $50 per person ~ we had about 30 people on our tour, but it never felt like it because the guides were so efficient and the lines were long enough to not get clogged before/after
  • Had lunch at Taco Taco Taqueria ($), which we were all disappointed that we didn’t have tacos until this point…but it was great.
    • Order everything one size down of what you think you’d consume…I normally eat 3 street-sized tacos, but ordering 3 was a mistake.
  • It’s safe to say everyone passed out for 2 hours afterwards – well-deserved, really.
  • 3-6pm: Embarked a 2 hour horseback sunset tour ($35 PP)
    • Best valued horseback tour I’ve been on
    • Really captured the movie-esque sunset scenes of Central America
  • Had dinner at Trio Restaurante ($$) in Downtown Santa Elena
    • Empanadas + Ribs for Appetizers
    • Sea Bass + Coconut Chicken for Entree
    • Rice Pudding + Mango Trio for Dessert

Day 6: Santa Elena/Monteverde –> San Jose

  • Drove another 4 hours on rugged roads to San Jose (by then, I was so over the terrible road conditions)
  • Had an extremely late lunch at Tenedor Argentino ($$)
    • White Sangria (MUCH NEEDED)
    • Spinach Empanada
    • Beef Tenedor Milanese (essentially a giant chicken-fried steak, Argentinian style, with a fried egg + salad, and you bet I ate it all)
  • Walked around Downtown San Jose (extremely 3rd world) and drove back to our Hotel La Riviera for the night, where we stayed the first night.
  • We took an UBER! After we returned our car at Hertz, we needed some way to get back…and here we are, a $5.27 uber with the Zeng family.
  • No dinner necessary thx to the giant Milanese steak.

There you have it, our itinerary in detail. Now see below for overall recap…

Pros:

  • Easy & cheap, non-stop/direct flights from Houston to San Jose
  • Relatively low-cost
    • accommodations
    • meals/alcohol (and huge portions)
    • tours/excursions
  • Mild-climate year-round, with dry season Feb-July and wet season Aug-Jan
  • Full of nature: Arenal volcano, beach parks, rainforest, mountains…etc.

Cons:

  • Extremely rough road conditions – prepared to take 3 hours to drive 60 miles and get really carsick
  • Expensive car rental (due to above) & necessary full-coverage insurance + third party coverage = ~$550 for mid-sized SUV for 5 days

Overall: If you can survive a week of low-maintenance living, enjoy adrenaline-packed activities, and can stomach some rough roading… Costa Rica can be a cheap and easy vacation. Just make sure you mentally plan enough time for travels between towns, if you choose to explore more than one area.

158 days, 3792 hours, or 227,520 minutes

That’s how long it’s been since I moved from Fayetteville, Arkansas to Boston, Massachusetts. I told myself I’d reflect about my move to Boston at some point – what made sense, a month? 3 months? 6 months? Nevertheless, you’re getting a 5.5 month recap. For those who know my background, I moved around a ton growing up – mainly every few years along the southern states. I went to one elementary school in China and three elementary schools in the US, and thankfully just one middle school and one high school within the same school district thereafter. I don’t remember the moving aspect being hard, mainly because my parents are my best friends and we just went through the changes together.

I admitted that college was a hard move. I share (a lot) that Arkansas was one of the easiest moves. I’m about to divulge that Boston is the most emotionally raw and scarring move I’ve made.

Rewind to February/March 2016, when the first thoughts of moving to the northeast starting brewing in my head, I was curious. I was excited. I’d never lived anywhere north of Northwest Arkansas, and I figured I should explore different areas of the US while I’m young, single, and unattached. I played around with the idea of moving to San Francisco in my late college years, I even tossed around with the idea of Seattle. When the decision came around the last Thursday of April, I started mentally preparing my journey ahead.

Come first week of June, I was shifting in my seat, getting ready to leave Arkansas. Slowly, as the days crept to June 17, I realized I didn’t want to leave the Natural State. With some coaxing and reassuring by my dear friends, I somehow boarded the two flights and found myself at Boston Logan Airport on a cool, summer Friday night. All of a sudden, I didn’t know what to do. Other than the fact that my apartment was furnished and the concierge kindly showed me the ropes, I was with 2 luggage bags in hand, first hungry, then lonely.

I’ll separate the next couple of milestones to give you the best idea of how the last ~150 days played out.

First month: truly a blur. I was getting settled in my new role, and we had pre-planned travels that needed to happen, from Neenah to Schenectady, I was scrambling to get acquainted with my new team, my new office, and my new customer. I barely had time to eat, let alone think and reflect.

Second month, more exactly, week six: WOW I HATE BOSTON. I finally let myself come up for a breath and never had I felt more lonely, frustrated, stressed, and tired in my life. I frantically called old co-workers, mentors, and friends, asking them why I felt this way and pointedly told them the northeast is not for me, and I’m moving back to the south the first chance I get. My new small group (from church) probably thought to themselves, who is this crazy southern girl that can’t stand the new city? I couldn’t handle it either. It wasn’t until a new friend did not hesitate to reprimand me that I was making the judgment way too quickly and needed to give Boston a chance. Not sure if it was the alcohol and oyster happy hour talking, or if he was just being an honest brother in Christ. I listened.

~September: After a few days in the White Mountains with my parents, a few days in Austin for on-campus recruiting, finishing my first planning meeting with the customer, and a long weekend in Minneapolis with my best gal pal… I oddly felt happy to be back in Boston. I missed my small group. I missed my apartment. I missed cannoli and pasta. Wait, am I starting to feel at home? What?

October: I wish I wrote down the specific days that I felt really good about my new life. Because they were so instrumental to my growth. I spent every weekend of October in a different city, and that alone probably gave me enough room to give Boston a true reflection. That was it. I had multiple birthday plans (yes, that’s one measurement I use), I had options on the weekends, and I was being invited to social outings other than bachata socials. I looked forward to seeing individuals and I was opening up about my struggles (the true ones, not the I wish I had more sleep ones). This was it. Month four was a transformative one.

November: Still riding on the wave of October, I’m realizing that I like Boston. (gasp, you didn’t see this coming a few paragraphs ago, right?) I had two sets of friends visit, I had a weekend to myself, and I’m writing this as I’m on my way home to Houston for the week. I love where I live, I love the friends I’ve made, and I love the church I go to, love on, and serve in. I went to a Friendsgiving event where a friend from church hosted 60+ people in her house. At the bottom of it all, it’s about the people. It always has been. The cannoli I consume are just bonus.

It took five whole months. Five long months for me to put down shallow roots, probably a couple more months to let them flourish and hopefully not die in the snow. At the end of it all, I was just so impatient with myself. I relied on my past experiences and my ‘adaptability’ (yes, that is a strength I refer to often). I thought I was so set because I’d moved X number of times growing up. I completely forgot that God was the provider of it all – He gave me the community I had in college, in Arkansas, and the community I go home to every time in Houston for support. I relied on God more than ever in these trying months – there were days I’d come home from a 10-hour day at work, making dinner, catching on my shows, and truly wondered…why did I move here?

There were many factors I couldn’t control – the timing of the move, the unfortunate loss of Fitz, and how the new role came to me, but I could control my judgment of the city, the people, and the daily choice to try to love Boston. Quite a few people will tell you that they worried for me, because they’d never see me so low/upset in a consistent time frame, but I also closed myself off from old friends. It was all to protect myself from having to explain why I hated the city and it was easier just to deal with it alone.

In the past couple weeks, certain individuals have asked me how long I think I’ll be in Boston for and where the next destination is. For the first time, I don’t know, and I don’t have a plan (shocking!!!). I will say I’ve become less Type A since moving here (a few of you will say your hallelujahs), and that’s totally okay for me. I’ll see if I survive my first true winter – apparently 3 snow flurries in Arkansas didn’t count. I love my job. That hasn’t changed. I’m in the process of bringing home a cat. I’m dying for you all to meet him. At the end of the day, I’m so grateful for the process, and I will always stand by the statement that I will never regret this move. Here’s a first dab at Thanksgiving vibes for ya.

It’s not about the destination; it’s about the adventure.

Earlier this week, Alex and Beth tossed around the idea of camping overnight at Richland Creek Wilderness. What started out as a lunch conversation in the KC kitchen turned into reality on Saturday morning…

Six of us: Beth, Alex, Rob, Mandee, Tyler, and myself ventured out of Fayetteville bright and early at 10:30am to head to Witts Springs, AR. Each car mapped the destination for ‘Richland Creek Campgrounds’ and decided to meet there, at a rough ETA of 1:15pm. 2 hours and 15 minutes later, we drive through familiar roads of AR-412, AR-21, and Ar-74, and head down this little dirt path. Halfway through, we see a few trucks parked along the road and find out that there is a set of waterfalls waiting for us.

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A few minutes later, our other half of the crew pulls up, and we spend 10-15 minutes exploring – getting our feet wet, checking out the cave area underneath, and enjoying the natural state.

Another 30 minute drive on the dirt path later, we arrived at Richland Creek Campgrounds, where we parked our lovely Ford Fusions and a few of us ventured to find the trailhead while the others stayed behind and practiced Frisbee throwing.

At 2:24pm, we set off to our adventures – not before taking a group photo, though. This captures our happy spirits, slight ignorance, and excitement.

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-25 minutes later- we come back out from going south (vs. going northwest) on what seemed to be the wrong trailhead. Thankfully, Mandee never closed out his Google Maps, and we could see the little gray dotted line of hope that would be the correct Richland Creek trailhead.

With hope, we venture off into the wilderness again, and this time, with a little more faith, we cross a tree bridge with our tents and 45-liter packs.

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-another 15 minutes pass- we were traveling along the creek, rather than on the trail above the creek, so with a few life/death moments and teamwork, we scaled the side of a mini cliff (literally) and made it up to the actual trail. Once again, we were hopeful, and we hiked a good 1/2 mile before stopping at a flat, white rock for a water + wind break.

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Surprisingly, throughout the trail, we meet different group of people that had gone to where we were wanting to go : Richland Falls. Just to give everyone an idea – this trail is not paved, it involved a lot of elevation changes; uphill, downhill, slippery sand, fallen tree trunks that one would have to step over, and giant pieces of rocks made it a lot harder to smoothly hike. Oh, oh, the trail also involved taking off one’s shoes to hike through the creek, such as this:

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What felt like an eternity later, after much exploring and decision-making, it seems that we’ve reached Richland Falls. Beth ventures to see the path, Tyler ventures, and Rob/Alex make the final exploratory trip before deciding whether we’d camp by the falls or go back to a place we’d passed. The last leg of the trip was probably the most life-threatening: most of the path was 2-feet wide, one little misstep would cause you and your 45-liter backpack to fall off the little cliff and into the creek. Thankfully, the only thing that did its tumble was Mandee’s Yeti mug (which Tyler rescued and it ended up not denting at all).

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AND WE’RE HERE!!! Quickly, we set up our tents, hammocks, and gathered fire wood. Not before taking a nice, team selfie…

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Hard to say, but we’d probably spent the last 2-3 hours of sunlight lounging around in our hammocks, taking photos on the waterfall, exploring nearby caves, and eating. Eating PB&Js that Beth had put together and chowing down on snacks. Rule was BYOH: bring your own hammock.

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Next thing you know, it was nightfall, and we’re sitting around the fire that the guys built and sharing our life stories (kidding, but not really). By that time, our entire bodies started hurting…

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Homegirl (me) went to sleep at 8:30pm like a grandma, and woke up at 8:20am feeling sore, tired, yet refreshed. From what I was told, the rest of the homies stayed up a little bit listening to Beth’s ghost stories.

The morning hike back was a lot easier than the afternoon prior, thanks to our expanded knowledge and revived spirits. This time around, we got to tell other groups that they weren’t far from the falls and ‘good luck’ 🙂

After another break on our trusty white rock, we made it back to the campgrounds (our cars) in a nice 2-hour time frame. Tossed our trash, cleaned off our skin with some flushable cleansing cloths, and mapped our way back to civilization. Overall, very rewarding trip, and I’m so happy our group came here. Finished off our trip with some BBQ, grilled mac and cheese sandwiches, and plenty of Coke.

1/3 Checkpoint of #NWAfor1year

A little overview for those of you who don’t know the backstory for my little hashtag: #NWAfor1year…when I signed my offer with Kimberly-Clark exactly one year ago today (Nov. 11), I committed to doing my CDA (Customer Development Associate) year in Northwest Arkansas. Whether I’m staying in this office past this year is another unknown, but until then, I decided to keep track of my adventures via Instagram through an easily remembered hashtag.

I moved in July 11 and started work on July 20, and these past four months have flown by beyond my belief. I’ve decided to categorize my experiences for organizational purposes (heh):

Places I’ve Been:

  • Neenah, Wisconsin (for the pleasure of 4 separate times in July, August, October, and November): this is the home of Kimberly-Clark’s Consumer Headquarters in the Fox Cities (Appleton/Neenah/Oshkosh/Menasha) and each time I’ve come up here, it’s been layover on layover thanks to flying from regional to another regional airport. These were my first and only four times in the state of Wisconsin and I’ve been brainwashed by cheese curds and hotel heaters that don’t kick-in unless it is < 42 degrees outside.
  • Ponca, Arkansas (also 4 is the magic number…) from a group cabin trip to a 7-mile solo hike to the world-famous Hawksbill Crag/Whitaker’s Point, Ponca has been one of my favorite places in Arkansas. The drive there from my apartment is an easy 60-65 miles, painted by trees and windy roads, and it’s easy to say that this little town of population: 13 will house some of my best memories.
  • Climax Springs, Missouri : a good friend here has a lake house up in the Lake of the Ozarks, roughly a 4 hour drive from Fayetteville. A group of friends drove up there after work on a September Friday and spent the weekend over homecooked food, boat rides, and minnow shots (yes, you read correctly). First time in Missouri, first time eating a live fish.
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  • Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, and Houston: I’ve had the pleasure of being able to go back to UT to recruit, home to Houston to see my parents, and meet up friends in Oklahoma City and Dallas. I’m slowly understanding the ease of living “in the middle of everywhere” minus the expensive flights out of XNA…
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Top Restaurants I’ve Eaten At:

  • Hammontree’s: three times, actually. My goal is to try every single grilled cheese they have here within my time in NWA, and I think I’ll add some weight in that process. Bacon. Gouda. Fries. I shall say no more!
  • Arsaga’s: if you want hipster waiters and delightful crepes paired with some on-point coffee…and be ok with the train blaring in your ear if you sit in the patio area, this is my favorite place for brunch in Fayetteville.
  • La Carreta: we lovingly refer to this as ‘the buggy’ in our office, and it’s this tiny little white truck off Bloomington St. in Lowell, AR (where a lot of the logistics/transportation companies are housed). The dine-in population is 90% men and I often feel much overdressed, but nothing can beat authentic $1.50 tacos and I will admit quickly that I’ve become a taco snob since living in Texas.
  • Eleven: housed inside the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art – one gets to sit in a little beetle-shaped bubble and admire the lake, nature, and architecture. I was really pleasantly surprised by the quality of food and would highly recommend it for a Sunday brunch (11am-2pm)
  • China Cafe Bistrothe only authentic place I’ve been to here and it is my lifesaver for first time living in a town with very, very little asian influence.

Hikes I’ve Done:

Everyone who knows me well knows that I love, love, love (and need) hiking around the place I live in.

  • Hawksbill Crag (Ponca, AR | 3 miles R/T): this hike got really famous after it landed on a bunch of Facebook and Pinterest pages, and understandably so, one of the most breathtaking hikes I’ve done in the United States. A group of 7 of us met up in the morning after a 2 hour drive (granted, the last 6 miles was all off roading and I cried for my Ford Fusion’s life) and spent a portion of our Saturday engulfed in nature and perfect fall weather. Photos actually do it justice!
  • Centerpoint to Big Bluff (Ponca, AR | 7 miles R/T): I really needed some time to think/breathe early October and decided to go on this hike by myself without telling a lot of people…worth it. It was the perfect 65-75 degrees that day and I packed an apple, some pretzels, and 2 bottles of water for this personal adventure and was rewarded with a cloudless, sunny, peaceful view of the bluffs.
  • Yellow Rock (2x) (Devil’s Den State Park | 3 miles R/T): a classic, easy hike for anyone who wants a view and a breath of fresh air. Nothing challenging, but it’s a good way to spend an afternoon without having to drive more than 30 miles from Fayetteville! Though, I will have to mention that Beth and I did this hike on the hottest day of the year (according to Weather.com) in August, and it was brutal.
  • Pigeon Roost (2x) (Hobbs State Park | 8.2 miles R/T): both times I’ve done this hike, I’ve never done the full 8.2 miles. I usually get to the scenic point where it overlooks a strip of Beaver Lake and I sit on the rocks in peace for a while. The first time I hiked it, I got stung by a giant wasp through my sports bra and through my drawstring bag – very ambitious wasp. The second time, it was very much into fall and the leaves were falling, etc etc etc, but easily a hike for a simple morning.
  • Shaddox Hollow: Nothing memorable…it was the thing we did before hitting up Rogers Oktoberfest that one time.

Miscellaneous:

  • Ziplining in the Ozarks (Eureka Springs): this was my first time ziplining in the US and I was very much not disappointed. I decided to take one of my friends here when he visited and it was one of the best decisions to take advantage of the foliage, fall weather, and Eureka Springs. This place houses the longest line, highest line, and the fastest line in Arkansas!
  • Scarpino’s: when I moved here, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to dance whenever I wanted to but I found this great place in Fayetteville where now I sometimes help teach the Friday night workshop classes ^_^
  • Benton County Fair: I heard the advertisement on the radio the day before it was over and texted Beth real quick to plan this spontaneous saturdate…and we still talk about the scary ferris wheel and church pew live music to this day.
  • Gentry Wilderness Drive Thru: if you’re a fan of animals sneaking up to your car looking for lettuce…this is the place to go. ~45 minutes northwest of Fayetteville out on a giant couple hundred acres is a 4-mile drive through where one can observe zebras, emus, bison, you name it.
  • Fayetteville Farmer’s Market: not surprised that this is the nation’s #1 farmers market – all the vendors are set up around the square and you can get your week’s worth of fresh groceries (for $$$) or enjoy a coffee and breakfast taco while people watching
  • Concerts: at this rate, my friends and I are averaging one concert per month – from Bryan Adams to Corey Smith to Eli Young Band – it’s awesome to think that artists are starting to come to Northwest Arkansas. Another perk – KC has box seats at the Walmart Amp and raffles away 2 sets of tickets per concert 🙂
  • Galas/Charity Events: another reason why I love this area – everyone is so involved in organizations and attends annual events that educate people about the cause and it’s so humbling to be at an event where record donations are made, people’s lives are changed, and the whole community comes together

At the end of my first 4 months, I can gladly say I’ve taken full advantage of my time here so far and already am so thankful for the friendships, lessons, and life experiences. I leave with you with a few of my favorite places (Lake Fayetteville, Beaver Lake, Crystal Bridges Museum, and Sassafras Winery):

What have you done with all your time off?

As I’m relaxing the evening before I start the full-time work life, I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve spent the wonderful seven months I had between graduation and work.

The absolute honest truth is that January and February were brutal. I am so used to being busy, on my feet, and constantly out and about. After finishing up ‘winter break’ with my friends and working Houston Salsa Congress, I quickly became lonely and restless. Most of my close friends were still in school, and when it came down to it, I just had to learn to be still and appreciate where God had put me for the time being.

Since travels hadn’t kicked off yet, I had some time at home…

  • Woke up 10:00 am (on average) everyday
  • Achieved Starbucks gold card status while I journaled, doodled, and did my afternoon readings
  • Experimented with Pinterest food recipes, which most succeeded (honey sesame chicken, sticky chicken wings, coconut chicken, pad see ew, pizza pasta casserole, penne pasta bake, sesame noodles, and enchiladas)

February 28: I took the GMAT. It was definitely something I knew I needed to do and it’ll be nice for the future!

Most of you who follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat will remember that I bombarded all of you with #sherrysglobetrot…23 flight segments later, here are all the places I visited:

  • New Mexico (Roswell, White Sands National Monument, and Carlsbad Caverns)
  • Tahiti (Papeete + Moorea)
  • New Zealand (Auckland, Rotorua, Christchurch, Omarama, Lake Tekapo, Wanaka, Mount Aspiring, Mount Cook, Queenstown, Oamaru, Akaroa)
  • Northwest Arkansas
  • State College, Pennsylvania
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Los Cabos San Lucas
  • Chicago, Illinois

When I was not across oceans or in different time zones, I spent ample time in Waco, Austin, and Houston.

While waiting for flights or simply relaxing before bed time, I got to watch TV on Netflix. A LOT OF IT.

  • All 10 Seasons of Friends.
  • All 9 Seasons of The Office
  • All 4 Seasons of Scandal (within one month!!)
  • All 3 Seasons of Sherlock
  • All 1 Season of Outsourced (thanks Christopher + roommates for this adventure!)
  • FINALLY watched The Lord of the Rings Trilogy before my trip to New Zealand…#WORTHIT

Random other little things:

  • Went camping for the first time in February
  • Got to see John Legend at the Houston Rodeo
  • Adopted myself a cat (thanks Sarah!)
  • Cut 13″ inches off my hair
  • Played with stingrays and a bubble fish for the first time

Now? I’ve traded the 5-lane freeways for 2-becoming-3-lanes, the home where I spent middle school-end of college for a quaint, one-bedroom apartment, and 12 hours from now, I’ll be sitting at my desk for my first day of work.

Below, you’ll find some photos of my apartment and my surroundings!

 

Day 10 | Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

This has got to be one of my top 3 favorite/most memorable days on this trip. As I commented before, instead of following our original itinerary (which would’ve put us in Day 16 for Mount Cook), we decided to chase the good weather. We were supposed to be headed to Wanaka (southwest of our destination) by now, but we decided to go northeast again just to get another good hike in.

Of course, heading in, we had to pull over for scenic stops…

 

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park; Hooker Valley Track

We originally wanted to do the Mueller Hut track, but it required booking in advance during the months of November-April, and not everyone in our party was equipped to do such a strenuous hike. After looking through our options at the visitor center in the village, we decided on Hooker Valley Track, which put us at a good 3-hour turn around time, in time to make it to Wanaka by mid afternoon.

The track itself had little elevation change, but it had A W E S O M E lookout points including the Mueller Lake one. I see so many movies and advertisements with snow capped mountains and turquoise lakes, thinking, oh they’re just green screened or photoshopped, no way they could be real. THIS IS THE REAL DEAL, FRIENDS.

Unfortunately, shortly after, we had to cross a suspension bridge…which…I…extremely…dislike…if you remember from my post about the Blue Pools. It was windy and once again had a maximum of 10 people at a time. Everything between the first and second suspension bridge was full of twisty elevation changes and flat lands. Once we got off the second bridge, we got to a little shack aka “rest stop” for people to take a breather, go to the bathroom, or just enjoy the open window view. From our understanding, that was a mark of 2/3 of the way. Being completely transparent, I was ready to turn around and go back at that point.

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…and so we did, about 10 minutes later. I wasn’t feeling too great, and we were all getting pretty hungry, and we were told that there wasn’t a “must-see” view later on in the route. (I know, there wasn’t the satisfaction of finishing the hike, but our bellies were calling) plus the weather was already making a turn for the worse at the time.

Hill Country Salmon Farm

We had passed by this farm several times now, first time from our first Christchurch->Omarama drive, then the day in Lake Tekapo, then now we’ve all made up our minds to get some salmon sashimi for lunch. The farm had salmon feeding, sashimi, and pre-packaged salmon to cook later. After reading so many great reviews on TripAdvisor, I’m not sure that I was quite as impressed. It was “ok” sashimi, and I feel like we’ve had better in Auckland and definitely better now that we’ve eaten another 3 pounds in Akaroa.

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Wanaka

We AirBnB-ed a holiday lake house from this lady and it was a huge home! There were 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a giant kitchen, and wonderful lake views from the balcony. As always, we like to cook a meal at home, so we used all the necessary items – oven, electric wok, pots, and pans to make mac and cheese and lamb bake.

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