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San Francisco

San Francisco

In 2014, Donovan and I took what still remains my favorite trip of ours. We flew to San Francisco and stayed with a family friend of his for a few days exploring the town. Then we rented a convertable and drove up Highway 101. We were introduced to the redwoods, beautiful rocky coastlines, and sea glass beached. Finally we ended with a few days in Portland before flying home.

This post has what we did while in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Park:

We could have honestly spent a ton more time here. I love parks, but here the few things we did do:

Japanese Tea Garden – We took advantage of their free morning entry on Mon, Wed, and Fri. The garden was very lovely and peaceful. The grounds are impeccably kept. I would recommend, especially if you get in for free.

     

Stow Lake – we walked around the lake after the Japanese Tea Garden. It was peaceful and lovely.

   

de Young Museum – there are beautiful 360 views from the top floor, Harmon Observation Tower, and entrance is free! We didn’t actually go in the museum.

    

Bison Paddock – We drove past the bison paddock and saw the herd from the street.

Ocean Beach State Park:

This was a quick stop for us to see the ocean. We didn’t spend much time here as we knew we’d see the ocean constantly on our road trip up 101. It was a nice pit stop and we ate dinner at Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant, which you could skip.

Haight & Ashbury:

This was another quick stop to see the historic corner. We popped into a few shops and had lunch at Street Taco on Haight. Interesting if you’re into the hippie movement and singers like Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin; otherwise it’s just a street corner.

Painted Ladies:

Row of Victorian houses, known for their appearance on Full House and other TV shows. The Full House house is a different color now. This was just a quick stop. It’s a must do because it’s so iconic, but it wasn’t really that thrilling.

Lombard Street:

Famous street for its 8 hairpin turns and pretty flowerbeds. The view is gorgeous from here, definitely worth doing.

  

Ferry Plaza:

We came here for the farmers market. It was enjoyable just walking around and we bought a few pieces of fruit for our upcoming road trip. We also ate lunch here. Easily the biggest farmers market I had seen. It was very very crowded.

   

   

From here we actually walked up the embarcadero to the piers and San Francisco Fishermans Wharf. It’s less than two miles, but it felt really really long. Probably wouldn’t recommend it.

Chinatown:

The streets are beautifully decorated with hanging lanterns and pennants. We wandered through shops and the streets; looking at street art. We ate lunch at Hang Ah Dim Sum, the first Dim Sum restaurant in the USA.

      

   

 

Golden Gate Bridge:

We stopped headed back into town from Muir Woods and found a spot to pull over at the northern Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point. Obviously a must do!

        

We took public transportation almost our whole time in San Francisco. The parking rate is very high. We rode on ferrys, buses, trolleys, and trains. We also did a ton of walking. The city is of course famously hilly, so look at where you’re going before hand.

There’s great street art in San Francisco, so I would look it up and seek it out while you’re there. We spent time walking around neighborhoods to find street art.

  

If we ever go back to San Francisco there are other places I’d like to see such as Presidio, Angel Island State Park, Alcatraz, the 16th Ave. Tiled Steps, Lands End Lookout, maybe a museum or the zoo. Several redwood preserves exist south of town that would be exciting to explore. There are so many things to do and we really enjoyed our time in San Francisco.

Places we ate:

Street Taco – a fun small restaurant with tacos and other Mexican street food on Haight St. It was good.
Hang Ah Dim Sum – the first Dim Sum Restaurant in the USA, opened in 1920, delicious and not too expensive
Bi-Rite Creamery – hand made ice cream. The line was around the block, but next door was a Bi-Rite Market and we bought ice cream out of their freezer section. Good ice cream, but I wouldn’t recommend standing in a long line for it.
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market – Farmers market that’s open Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays. There are tons of vendors with fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, meats etc. and different food vendors selling ready to eat foods.
Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant – a pricier option with ocean views from their floor to ceiling windows. The food was honestly just “eh”.

We also explored Fort Funston where we went hang gliding and Muir Woods, redwoods park about a 40 minute drive north from San Francisco.

After we were done in San Francisco we rented a convertible and road tripped up Highway 101.

Burden Falls

Burden Falls

Burden Falls Wilderness is in Pope County, in the North West corner of the Shawnee National Forest. Just a short drive from Bell Smith Springs and Jackson Falls. I would highly recommend combining this with one of these other hiking trails.

Burden Falls Wilderness is composed of hiking and horse trails, but why most people visit is the actual Burden Falls.

The top of the waterfall is located almost directly off the parking lot, making this ideal for someone who doesn’t want to hike far. When entering or exiting the tiny parking lot, you probably drove through Burden Creek that becomes the waterfall in a few feet.

The upper cascades is only a few feet tall, but very lovely to see the creek dropping over standstone ledges.

The path crosses Burden Creek after the first upper cascade. From the north you can see a side view of the main falls. Continuing down the rock wall will give you the best views from the bottom of the falls.

   

View of the falls as you’re coming down the side of the rock wall.

In dry summer weather, the falls are only a trickle. But if you manage to visit after a rainy period, you can really see it flowing. This is a great spot to visit in Spring, when it’s rainier and not as hot.

 

      

   

I hope you’re all blessed with friends who will dance under waterfalls with you.

  

View of the creek as it flowed away from the falls.

Disclaimer: Some of these were taken on a cell phone in 2016, so they aren’t up to my normal dslr quality.

Tennessee and Georgia Road Trip

Tennessee and Georgia Road Trip

I’ll take about any excuse I have to travel. When my childhood friend invited me to her wedding by Atlanta, Georgia, we decided to road trip down through Tennessee and Georgia. If I had it my way, we would have spent four days in the Smokey Mountains hiking and maybe doing some white water rafting. Donovan, however, was coming too and he loves exploring new cities. So we compromised, two days hiking, two days in the city.

Click on the links to read more about each adventure!

Day 1: Waterfall Chasing in Central Tennessee

We drove from Southern Illinois to an area just East of Nashville that features several waterfalls. You could easily spend a few days here. Not only are there several state parks featuring waterfalls, there are also several featuring caves and caverns! We spent our time at Cummins Falls State Park and Fall Creek Falls State Park.

The extra perk about hiking vacation days: all you have to pay for is a place to sleep, gas, and food. The entertainment is free!

Day 2: Smokey Mountains

This was our day actually in the Smokey Mountains. Although I had planned on going to Grotto Falls and Chimney Tops, the travel time took longer than we thought and we only did Chimney Tops. This trail, however, killed us, so it was really for the best. Chimney Trails is only 4 miles round trip, but it’s 2 miles straight up and 2 miles straight down. One of the more difficult trails I’ve done and our legs were burning the next day!

The views when you’re literally on top of a mountain are SO worth it. The last part of the trail, you are actually climbing the rocky summit and no longer on a trail. If heights scare you, don’t do this trail! I don’t think it would have been worth it without that final climb.

Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg were pretty much exactly as I imagined them, over priced and extremely touristy. Maybe if I had a week in the area, I’d come down from the mountains for a dinner show, but nature is definitely my priority. There was also an Apple Barn winery that looked delicious. Just gives us something to go back for!

Day 3: Helen, Georgia and Little Five Points, Atlanta

On our way to Atlanta, we stopped by Helen, Georgia. This city is a replica of a Bavarian alpine town. It was a little touristy and most of the other visitors were older couples, but a fun stop that wasn’t too far out of the way. We ate some German food, walked around, went into a fudge shop and a jerky shop (something for me… something for Donovan!). Donovan lived in Germany several years back, so he was a great tour guide. 🙂

We stayed in Roswell, Georgia where the wedding was going to be. It was a half hour drive to Downtown Atlanta, when you aren’t battling rush hour traffic.

Our first evening in Atlanta we explored the off-beat neighborhood Little Five Points and ate pierogies at Joystick Gamebar.

Day 4: Atlanta, Georgia

I really wanted to visit a farmers market, one of my favorite things to do in cities, but many of them were only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We did find the Atlanta State Farmers Market, which may have Farmers Market in the name, but was really more of a distribution center for farms across the state and nation! The Mexican restaurant, Don Burrito Grill, was very fresh and delicious.

We also explored Westside Provisions District, Oakland Cemetery, some local game/comic shops, ate dinner at the Fickle Pickle, Donovan played Magic the Gathering at a card shop in Atlanta. A great perk about exploring neighborhoods is you get a feel for the city, not just the touristy parts and window shopping is free!

Finally, we picked up my best friend Kathleen and her boyfriend Matt from the airport, and stuffed ourselves with cheese fries at The Varsity. It was a full day.

Day 5: Aquarium and High Museum, Atlanta

This was wedding day! But the ceremony didn’t start until 6 PM and it was Kathleen & Matt’s only day in Atlanta, so we made the most of it! The morning was spent at High Museum of Arts, lunch was served up at the Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market, and the afternoon was spent under the sea at the Georgia Aquarium!

Our evening was spent watching my wonderful friends, Olivia, marry her dream guy. It was a beautiful ceremony at the Founders Hall in Roswell, Georgia.

Day 6:

All too soon, we dropped Kathleen and Matt off at the airport, and made the 6.5 hour drive home. It was a great trip, but as always too short for me! I’m already planning our next adventures.

Ferne Clyffe Bork’s Falls

Ferne Clyffe Bork’s Falls

 “There is a hidden message in every waterfall. It says, if you are flexible, falling will not hurt you!”  – Mehmet Murat Ildan

Ferne Clyffe is a lot bigger state park than I originally thought. There are in fact 3 separate parts of Ferne Clyffe as shown on the map from the Department of Natural Resources website.

Ferne Clyffe Map

On previous trips (like here and here) I had always focused on the right section of Ferne Clyffe, as I think most visitors do. There’s not even a sign saying “Ferne Clyffe ->” for the middle section. But I was determined to go water fall hunting as all the snow was melting. After poking around online, I found some talk of Bork’s Falls, another waterfall in Ferne Clyffe located in the middle section.

It was not easy to get to. The melting snow made Regent Lane a hilly one lane road of mud and ice. Bork’s Falls actually flows straight across Regent Lane. I’m sure at times it’s much lower, but all the melting snow made it about half a foot deep in some sections. We parked on Regent Lane, on the East side of Bork’s Falls and rock hopped across the stream.

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After exploring on top of the waterfall for a little bit, we kept walking west on Regent Ln, in hopes of finding Trail 18, our original destination. If I had one piece of feedback for the Illinois DNR about Ferne Clyffe, it’s put up signs. If the trails on the map are numbered, put some numbers up on the trails! Basically nothing but the main area is labeled in the park and everywhere we go we say “I guess it’s this one.” So for this trip we are assuming we found Trail 18. The trail head is just around the curve on Regent Lane with signs talking about native trees and cleaning your boots before entering.
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The trail itself wasn’t a bad hike and it would be easy if not for the slick snow and mud. We walked down the trail for about quarter of a mile before it crosses a large opening. Instead of continuing across the side of the opening, which is heading away from the Falls, we double backed this time following the canyon floor and the river. After all, the point of our trip was waterfall hunting.

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The walk along the river was also pretty easy, until the trail we were following ended. Then we had to cross the river and pick up on the other side. More rock hopping! Luckily no one fell in.

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The trail on the east side of the river took us past some gorgeous frozen waterfalls. I love them just as much as I love flowing waterfalls.

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I heard the waterfall before I saw it again. Bork’s Falls is 30-40 feet high with a wading pool beneath it.

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Finally we crossed the river again and hiked up the side of the ridge to get out. It was a great hike! A perfect cure for my wonderlust that has been building over our snowy cold past few weeks. I can’t wait to go back when the trees have leaves.

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Ferne Clyffe Happy Hollow

Ferne Clyffe Happy Hollow

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Looks can be deceiving and maps can be hard to read. For our three-year anniversary, Donovan and I rented a cabin nearby Carbondale. It was “dog-friendly” but we wanted to tired Chiba out a bit before going there. We drove to nearby Ferne Clyffe and decided to try out some of the trails we’d never been on before.

Ferne Clyffe Wanted To Do blue

Here’s part of the Ferne Clyffe map. The red line is the trail I thought we were going to do, but it turns out that where the green circle is, the trails aren’t connected! So we ended up doing something more like the blue trail. This involved walking through the woods instead of on paths multiple times and several more miles and hours than we estimated. The trails we were on are called Happy Hollows trails and make up an 8 mile horse trail. We probably only did 6-7 of the 8 miles, thanks to some “short-cuts.” I wouldn’t recommend this during summer. Horse trails are awful for bugs! But the pine trees and mossy bluffs made the scenery interesting for a long winter hike.

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We hiked through a lot of forest and pine forest.

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Eventually coming to a gorgeous area with mossy bluffs and frozen water drippings.

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THEN! We stumbled upon the hidden Natural Bridge of Ferne Clyffe. It’s not actually hidden, but it’s in a very remote area of the park on the horse trail. I had read about it, but even the two blogs that brought it up, didn’t say where it was located in the park. Honestly, I can’t tell you where exactly either (we were super lost when we found it), but somewhere right around this yellow star on the map:

Ferne Clyffe Natural Bridge

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Right around the bridge is where we started to realize we were a lot more lost than originally realized and had gone a lot further than originally planned. Donovan turned google maps on his phone and it showed us WAY FAR AWAY from the Ferne Clyffe road. So we abandoned the trail and walked down hill toward the road. Eventually we found the other side of the trail loop and followed it almost back. Except google maps showed us right down the hill from the road back to our car, so we once again abandoned trail to take a short cut back.

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It wasn’t what we planned for our anniversary, but we spent time doing something we love with the people we love. I told Donovan he could be the map reader next time 😉