Sunday, September 2, 2012


Hello All! I apologize that there haven't been any posts, but being a teacher, my ability to travel right now is a little lacking. HOWEVER, I do have a few things in the works that I am trying to put together and get moving in the right direction. You can never let a job get in the way of traveling, even if it's just for a weekend or whatever...

So, since my best friend Jen, whom I have been visiting Portland with in the fall of the past two years, is now in PT school and busy as hell, I've got to decide if I want to find some other sucker to experience Portland with me. My hope is to go at the end of October, just for a long weekend.

If Portland doesn't work out, I may look into something like Boston, somewhere I've never been. Seems like it would be great in the fall and realistic in 2-3 days, just to get the overview and the feel.

With the holidays coming up, I would also like to get out and ski somewhere good, possibly over New Year's...I coach basketball, so that limits my days during winter break, but I'm determined to make the most of it somehow!

Spring Break is still up in the air. There are infinite possibilities, but it also depends on my new MIBA program and when they want to start classes. BOO! But it's just as important to keep educating we shall see what I can work around:) Nothing stops me completely!

Next summer. This all depends on how things go at work this year and if I decide to make the big move to "elsewhere-ville". I've been talking about moving for a couple of years now and I'm getting my finances and everything in order to be able to do so. Obviously, I still want to take a big trip this summer, which I will budget for either way, but it also may be a one-way ticket to Europe with a couple of suitcases and my dog...who knows?!

With all of that in mind, I will be updating when trips come about, I promise!! And if any of you have suggestions on places to go, I'm based out of Chicago for distance reference, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE comment and give me your suggestions and recommendations!

Thank you for reading and staying with me!! Take care and travel much!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Colorful Colorado

I love Colorado! I spend as much time as I can out here each year, visiting at least 2 or 3 different times. I spend most of my time in Divide, which is west on I-24 outside of Colorado Springs, where my dad now lives. Although I’ve been out here dozens of times, the beauty of this state always amazes me and we always find new things to do. One of my ongoing goals is to climb all 54 of the 14ers in Colorado. I’m not very far along, but even if I can only get one or two per summer, I’m moving in the right direction. This particular week is my last trip of the summer. My dad came to visit back home in Chicago for a week, so I had someone to drive back to Colorado with, and we have had a fun week of hiking!

I spent most of the first day acclimating and resting. It’s been a busy summer, so it was nice to just be in the fresh air and able to do a whole lot of nothing! It’s also hard to get going right away because my dad lives at 9,300ft elevation, so acclimation is a must if you want to be able to breath! I was able to say hi to the dogs and the horses and enjoy the sunshine while it lasted, and of course, I watched tons of Olympic coverage!!

The next day we headed down to Woodland Park for breakfast and to see what was going on. Since the fires, namely the Springer and Waldo Canyon fires, Woodland Park and other small towns going up Ute Pass, have been struggling to get people to come back and spend their money. The fire did not damage WP, however, now that monsoon season is in full effect, there are storms (rain, thunder, lightening, and sometimes hail) everyday, usually sometime after 2:00pm, which can last a few minutes or through the night. These storms are also causing mudslides along the burn scar, which then blocks and closes down I-24 to and from the springs. It’s a pain, but they get is cleared fairly quickly each time and the state is in the process of mitigating the situation before it becomes a bigger one.

The burn scar from the Waldo Canyon fire is sad. For anyone who has spent time out this way, you know how beautiful this area is, and how green it normally is this time of year. The fire covered a lot of ground and Waldo Canyon is actually closed for the next two years. That was heartbreaking for me to hear because that was always a hike that I did at least once a year, sometimes more. So even though the fires are gone, they will be remembered for years to come.

View from the Crags
After breakfast, we decided to head to the Crags, which is a 4-5 mile round trip hike that shares a trailhead with Pikes Peak, from the backside. This trailhead is located near the Crags campground, just outside of Divide. The more well-known and trafficked path up Pikes Peak (one of the 14ers at 14,110ft) is the Barr Trail which starts in Manitou Springs.

Rock Formations
The Crags is a great hike to get acclimated because it’s fairly straight-forward with most of the uphill hiking coming right at the end. The elevation gain isn’t enormous, maybe 1,500ft max. I was sucking wind a little bit, as you end up at about 11,000 feet of elevation, but man is it worth the climb! And it’s a great way to acclimate. The views from the Crags are awesome though! You can see Woodland Park and Divide from above, as well as many of the surrounding mountain ranges in the west and southwest of Colorado. We started from the “newer” trailhead, which adds another mile or so to the hike and adds a lot of tough uphill hiking. However, we came back through the campground, cutting off the newer trailhead, and walking down the road back to the car. Either way works, but if you get a chance to check out this hike, do it!

Climb to the summit of Raspberry Mtn
The following day, we decided to climb Raspberry Mountain. This was a new hike for me, but it begins near the Crags trailhead, so it’s convenient to get to. We decided to take three of the dogs to get them some exercise. This hike was scheduled to take about 3 hours round-trip, although I’m not sure of the exact distance. It was a tough hike though! Holy crap! This hike was uphill and then back down, and up again. It’s the type of hike I like to call a “mind-fuck”. Maybe not the best description, but very true. Just when you think you are making headway and going uphill, the darn thing goes back down and beats up all the work that you just put in. Either way, we made it to the top in decent time.
The Crags from Raspberry Mountain
Dad with Kaj and Thai

The only one that we were worried about getting up was Cheyenne, one of the yellow labs. She’s a big girl these days, so she was taking her time, actually hiking behind me at times…but she made it to the top to get her drink and treat. On the way down, she would walk ahead a bit and lay down in the shade until we caught up and made her keep moving. It was entertaining if nothing else! Kaj (border collie) and Thai (cattledog) made it with ease, as they are younger and have a ton of energy. They were ready for a nap when we got back though.
Divide from Raspberry Mountain

The views from the top are much like the Crags, but great. You can actually see the Crags behind you from this position. Once again we were just below 11,000 feet, so we could see everything in nearby mountain ranges, as well as the storm heading towards the area.

We went to Lake George Pizza for dinner that night. It’s a place that I had never been, but had seen many times before driving to and from the back range and Buena Vista. Dad and I shared a chicken ranch pizza, and headed home before the storm got too bad. The lightening was wicked, but it was kind of cool to watch at the same time.

The next day was a rest day. Dad had some things to deal with for football, which he still coaches, even though he is retired from education. We watched Olympics, took care of the animals, and made a great dinner before the next day, on which we planned to climb a 14er.

Dad on the Summit--
Mt. Sherman, 14,036 f
Wednesday was our climbing day, so we were up at 4:00am to head towards Fairplay and Mt. Sherman. We got on the trail just before 6am and headed to the top of the mountain. Mt. Sherman is a 14er that takes you as high at 14,036 feet. The hike starts above 12,000ft and tree line, so we started out climb as the sun was coming up, but it was cold and because we were starting at such a high altitude, I was out of breath before we even got out of the car! Oh well…here we go!

Old Mine
Leadville form the summit
There are a few old mines along the trail, which give the trail character and something to look at while you hike. It’s wasn’t a tough hike for the first couple of miles, but the altitude definitely made it more difficult! When you really start hiking upward, you are on rocks, so you have to watch where you are going with every step or you could easily twist an ankle or just trip yourself (which I’m really good at!). So enjoying the scenery doesn’t really happen unless you stop or get to the saddle to see where you are.  It was a beautiful clear morning, so there were great pictures to be had!

As we neared the summit, we passed the only group ahead of us, so we were the first to summit that morning, right at 2 hours of hiking. It was a great feeling. From the top you can see Leadville in one direction and Fairplay in the other. It definitely gives you a different perspective when you are standing over 14,000 feet in the air. Dad was pointing out some of the other 14ers, but he points at a mountain and I see four out in front of me…I guess it’s worth trying to figure out?!

The spine to the summit
I kept my camera out on the way down the mountain, to get some nice shots of the area. We decided to take a different trail down, which ended up being mostly dirt and some loose gravel, and was steep enough that we had to slide sideways for quite a ways down. It is a new trail that people can take up to the saddle and skip the switchbacks, but it’s a steep one! I can’t imagine how bad your legs would be burning if you wanted to hike up it!

We made it down and cut off over a mile of the hike down, took a few pictures of the old mines, and headed back to the car. There were quite a few groups heading up at this point, and I’m hoping that they all made it up in good time!

The trail we slid down...
Leadville from the saddle
[When hiking 14ers, one of the general rules is that you want to be off of the summit by noon. Knowing that the storms come in the early afternoon, you want to try to get to tree-line before then, so that you aren’t caught in any lightening in the rocky areas at the top.]

After the hike, we headed into Fairplay to grab a quick bite to eat at the Brown Burro. I had huevos rancheros, which were awesome! Fairplay is a small town, in Southpark County, mostly known for it’s older area of town, which the animated cartoon “Southpark” is modeled after. You can walk or drive through this part of town. There’s not a whole lot going on there, but something to see!

The following day, we headed down into Colorado Springs to run some errands. We stopped at Costco and Barnes and Noble. I needed to get to the bookstore for some research material for a trip I’m planning for next summer. (I’ll tell you where I’m going once it’s confirmed! But I’m very excited about it!!)
Lizard Rock

Cheyenne taking a break
Lizard Rock
The next day we checked out a hike back in the Tarryall area, which was a new hiking area even for dad. We took the hike to Lizard Rock. It’s a rock area that looks like an iguana laying across the top. Overall, it was probably 4-5 miles round trip. The hike wasn’t too difficult, but it was good just to get some distance under my feet and seem some more beautiful scenery. It was also an opportunity to get the dogs exercised again. It was a similar scene for Cheyenne, but the other two had a great time chasing chipmunks and running through the open fields. They also had a chance to swim in the river on the way back. 

Cheyenne and Kaj swimming
Tarryall area
That afternoon, we went back down to the Springs so that dad could look for some new hiking boots, and we checked out Nico’s (my step-brother) new work area. After finding his boots, and grabbing a cute shirt and skirt, whose proceeds benefit the rebuilding of Waldo Canyon, we stopped at Johnny’s Navajo Hogan. This is an old, but famous bar in Colorado Springs. It is actually a National Historic Site and is built around an old native Indian Hogan. It was pretty cool, lots of beer to choose from, and actually served me my first beer in this trip! Pretty good for me! Ha!

Tarryall Area
Tarryall Area
What dad named "Butt Crack Rock"
Top of the hike
From there we dropped Nico off to grab his car and we made a stop at Trinity Brewing. This is a great brewery off of Garden of the Gods Road. We had a few appetizers and beers, even getting a chance to be some of the first to try their new pilsner that they tapped while we were sitting there. Lucky us! As it was getting later, dad and I headed back up the pass and stopped at Bier Works in Woodland Park for one last beverage. It had been a good and productive day, but it had also been long and busy, so it was time to head back, watch some Olympics and get to bed!

For the last day, we just decided to relax and putz around Woodland Park. They were having a wine festival, which we chose to bypass for the Mountain Arts Festival. It was a nice day to just walk around, enjoy the fresh air and see what people had to offer. We also had brunch at the Crystola, which is a great bar just east of Woodland Park. Usually we have prime rib at the Crystola and listen to great live music on Friday nights, but with everything else going on, we opted for a mimosa and brunch. There is never a bad time to go to the Crystola!

I’m sad that I have to leave. It’s always hard to leave this great state and all of what it has to offer. Dad and I have had a lot of fun this week running around hiking, shopping, and whatnot. It’s been relaxing and a great break. I can’t wait to come back! (Hopefully for some winter skiing!)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The 5 Day Adventure

I just returned from five days on the road with my friend Katie. Last year, Katie and I went to Iowa for a few days to do a mini wine tour. She is not much of the road trip/driving type, but is willing to try anything and wants to visit new places. All I need is someone to go with and I'm willing to go anywhere! The thing about Katie, is that she's willing to try almost anything once, and she's willing to do things just because, and will talk to just about anyone if it means having a good time...and she likes to drink. (No, neither of us having a drinking problem...we just like to have a good time and make memories!) This year, she suggested Frankenmuth, MI...but wanted to stretch it out for four or five days, which is what lead us to Niagara Falls, Canada, and so on. So here it is...

Day 1: Frankenmuth, Michigan
Downtown Frankenmuth, MI
We drove from Chicago to Frankenmuth, which is known as "Little Bavaria". It is also known for Brommer's, the largest Christmas store in America. We arrived in Frankenmuth around 11am, checked into the hotel, and headed out for some trouble. Besides just the traveling, Katie and I like to go to wineries and frankly, but wine cabinet is empty right now! So we started with St. Julian's Winery. They have multiple locations in Michigan...and they have good wine at great prices! We did our tasting and then each bought a few bottles.

From there we headed to Brommer's to check out this Christmas madness. And it was just that...madness! Anything you couldn't possible think you need and ornaments for any fetish, this place was insane. I really thought that I was going to have a complex walking through there with everything making noise and twinkling lights, yikes! We each grabbed a couple of ornaments and after taking over an hour to see the whole store, we escaped into the heat of the day.

Brommer's Christmas World
We then walked around the small shopping centers, cheese shops, and finally made our way to a boat ride/river tour. They had wine here as well, so we did a wine and chocolate pairing, grabbed a bottle and headed to the boat. We had an hour long ride and shared it with a couple from Kentucky. It was a nice break in the day, but man was it hot! We were all stuck to the seats at the end and practically sweated through our clothes by then end. I felt bad for the kid driving the boat too, because I'm sure that there were many things that he wanted to tell us about along the river...but our conversation was so much more important at that point! Hot and sweaty, with no more wine...we hit up a couple more shots and then headed back to the hotel.

Our hotel had a happy hour with free drinks and hot food. Beyond fighting through the crowd of big hungry people, we ate and our fill and headed to the hot tub. It wasn't the most exciting thing to do, but for a Monday night in a small town, it would do.  Overall, it was a successful first day!

Day 2: Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Hello Canada!
We drove into Canada today, which Katie had never done. Always fun with firsts. Getting through customs was no big deal and we headed towards the falls. We didn't have much of a plan, but as we got closer, we noticed that there were a lot of signs for wineries popping up. We stopped at a welcome center to get some information and learned that there were over 70 wineries in the Niagara region. That's a lot...even for us! So as we drove along, getting closer to the falls, we stopped at 4 different places. They were all very unique, some of them very beautiful...but their wine was a little pricier than what we were looking for. So we paced ourselves, and eventually just knew that it was time to head towards town!
Colaneri Estate Winery
Cheateau des Charmes

Niagara Horseshoe Falls
Our hotel was sketchy, but it was cheap...not always a great thing, but it had a pool and the hotel was full, so it couldn't be that bad! We dropped our stuff and headed to the Falls. Niagara Falls is amazing. I've been there before, but it's something great to see again and again, like the Grand Canyon. (For those of you who are looking for something similar...check out Iguazu Falls in Argentina/Brazil....I can't even explain how breath taking they are. I can't wait to get back!) We took some pictures of the falls and then headed down to ride the Maid of the Mist, which is the boat that takes you into the horseshoe and the mist of the falls.
Niagara Falls

Maid of the Mist Ride
Everyone is in blue ponchos, that are sticking to you because it's so hot...and they cram you on pretty good...but riding into the falls is a bit bumpy, yet amazing. I didn't ride the Maid of the Mist the first time that I was there, but this was something that I think everyone should do at least once. It's almost funny to watch people and I got some cool pictures.

After the boat ride, we grabbed some average italian food and then walked around downtown Niagara. It reminded us both of the Wisconsin Dells, a little run down with shit-shops on every corner and tons of attractions that have nothing to do with anything. Oh well, it was for a night and seeing the falls was worth the drive! We sat by the pool that evening and drank a bottle of wine...talking and relaxing, it was nice.
Horseshoe Falls from the boat
Day 3: Erie, Pa...NOPE! Hershey, Pennsylvania
We didn't really know where we wanted to go the next day. We knew that we didn't have to be home until Friday and it was only Wednesday. So we headed towards Erie initially...and when we stopped at a gas station, we decided to go the opposite direction and head to Hershey, PA. We didn't know what to expect except for chocolate. Oh well, it was an adventure and we didn't have anything set in stone, so here we go!

The drive was brutal. Simply because it was all back roads in PA, through small towns with changing speed limits, but we made it. And we found a great hotel at a great price. We checked in and headed to Hershey World...or Chocolate World, I guess...either way, we took a short ride to learn about how they make Hershey's candy, and then had the chance to buy anything and everything Hershey. Just what I needed!

From there we went to the Hollywood Casino, because frankly, there wasn't much else to do. Neither of us are really gamblers, but $20 in the slot machine wastes an hour and you never know if you'll win. It's worth a shot! It was a nice casino too, so a great detour.

The ceiling on the bar!
We were hoping to find a place to go hang out and see what happened...but there wasn't much to choose from. So we ended up at the Holiday Inn Express Bar, where they were having Wednesday Wing Night. This was going to be interesting. What it turned in to, was a bunch of country line dancing, and plenty of men with few teeth trying to hit on us. We kept our distance for a while, had a few beers and some wings..and eventually sat down at the bar. Shortly after, I started feeling drops on my arm and realized that the ceiling above me was leaking. On the down side, I was getting dripped on...on the up side, I was getting free drinking because this was happening. So I made a deal with the bartender, until the ceiling collapsed. Yes, three or four of the ceiling tiles came down right onto the bar! At this point, we had to move. It was getting late, so we were trying to finish our last drinks anyways...and then came defaults. I'm not going to really explain that...but Katie and I both had a great time at the bar and made it back to our hotel safe:)

Day 4: Cleveland, OH
Greendance Winery
We wanted to pick a place that would get us approximately half way home, and only leave a reasonable drive for Friday morning. Cleveland was the ticket. On the drive to Cleveland, we stopped at a couple wineries, which were both super cute. In PA, we stopped at Greendance, outside of Pittsburgh and had lunch. They have a berry farm there as well, but grounds and gardens big enough to host events or just have lunch with your friends. We then stopped at Candlelight in Ohio. This place was definitely off the beaten path, but also had a great outdoor area where they had light shows and family events. (Plus their wine was pretty good!).

Nothing crazy was planning for the night in Cleveland...just getting to the hotel, possibly going to the pool (but it was rainy),, and having a good meal. We did just that. Relaxed, had a good meal, and enjoyed the evening. Nothing fancy...but lots of driving will do that to you!

Day 5: Chicago, IL
We were heading home today, so nothing too exciting was happening, but we did stop at a winery in Indiana on the way home. We stopped at Satek Winery, which was a great find. The people there were so friendly and definitely loved their jobs! It was a nice break in the drive and Katie was able to fill her case of wine for the trip...I was a little beyond a case...but hey, this is wine to last me for the next year!

We finished the drive successfully and without incident. Another successful trip and we both saw things that we hadn't before. We didn't drive a really far distance, but there are some great things within a reasonable distance that everyone should see! Looking forward to the next.

End of the Road...for now

Jen and I drove from Laramie, WY home to Chicago the next day. It was a 15 hour drive, but we switched drivers every 150-200 miles and took our time. We arrived at her house in Chicago around 1:30am and I made it home around 2am. It was nice to be home instead of making one more stop, because I needed that extra time to regroup before my next adventure.

We had an amazing adventure, saw some remarkable sights, hiked strenuous trails, and just had fun. I couldn't have had a better time with my best friend, than I had on this trip. Each city was amazing in it's own way and I think we made the best use of our time possible. I can't wait for the next trip!!!

Traveling is what I love to do and what motivates me to work hard so that I can afford to see all of these amazing things. There is so much to do and see in the United States that most people don't take the time to realize that getting out on the road is sometimes the best thing to do.

Please, please, please comment or ask questions about any of the places or things that I have written about...I have some great restaurant and hotel recommendations, and as far as hiking goes, I can give you some advice or tell you what the brochures don't!

Have fun, get out and TRAVEL!!!

Road Trip Day 15: Laramie, WY

The last stop on our journey was in Laramie, Wyoming. We had initially anticipated going all of the way to Cheyenne, but we found a good deal on a hotel in Laramie, so why not? We had no idea what to expect, but we knew that the University of Wyoming was there, so something else had to be...

The drive across Utah and Wyoming was beautiful. Both of these states are full of mountains and rolling hills. Utah is very lush and green through the mountains, whereas Wyoming is still rolling hills, but dry and colorful rock. I've driven most of Wyoming before, but had never been in the far southwest area. We passed the Flaming Gorge, which is amazing. I visited there a few years ago, and the colors in the gorge are just unbelievable.

Scenery by the hotel in Laramie
We arrived in Laramie in the late afternoon and didn't waste much time at the hotel. We headed into town to check out Altitude Chophouse and Brewery. They had a huge lineup on tap with some very unique beer choices. As usual, we went through the sampler and chatted up some of the locals. At one point, the brewer was sitting next to us, so we got some great information, but it was brief. They were preparing for a beer festival that was taking place two days from then. We were sad that we would miss it because it sounded like a lot of fun, but one night in Laramie was probably plenty!

From there we headed to The Library, which across the street from the campus of the University of Wyoming. It was a sports bar themed like a library, giant tv's everywhere and tons of sports on. We grabbed a couple more beers and had a filling dinner. There wasn't a lot going on, especially since it was a week night and school isn't in session, but this is probably a really popular place during the school year!

On the way back to the hotel, we took a drive through the campus, which was really nice and then headed back. We hung out at the hotel for the rest of the night, had a couple drinks, read...relaxed and went to sleep. Not overly exciting...but we'd had a long couple of weeks and we had a 15 hour drive the next day.

Road Trip Day 14: Salt Lake City, UT

Another long drive today. We knew that if we headed all of the way out to San Diego, it was going to mean some long days in the car on the way home. We had stayed in Carson City the night before and now we had to drive across Nevada and into Utah to make our next stop in Salt Lake City.

It was about an 8 hour day, but there was some landscapes to see? Maybe? Nevada is pretty flat and desert...but there were some hills and things. All of the towns along I-80 had their initial in a large letter on the side of hills, which was interesting. But there wasn't much going on.

As soon as we crossed the border into Utah, the land became a huge salt flat. It was so interesting how we literally drive between two giant rocks on the border and the whole landscape changes. This has been one of the most interesting things that I've noticed driving through all of these states across the country. So driving across Utah was interesting because the sun glittered off the road and made you see things. There was nothing there but a lot of flat salt, but it was almost mesmerizing. They also had signs up along the highway that said "No Drowsy Driving". This made us chuckle because New Mexico was very adamant about DWI's and keeping drunk drivers off the road (which is good), and Nevada was adamant about No Meth (also good)...and then we get to Utah, and they are focused on no drowsy driving. Better safe than sorry in all aspects I guess!

The Great Salt Lake
Arriving in Salt Lake, it was getting to be evening time, but we had a couple of stops that we wanted to make, because yes, there is beer in Utah...despite what you may think. Our first stop was at Desert Edge brewery, where we shared a sampler and learned about the crazy liquor laws in Utah. Maybe crazy is the wrong word...but they are very different from everywhere else that we had been. They had a nice restaurant there, but after our stop at Taco Time in Nevada, we were both still stuffed!

Beer at Red Rock Brew Pub
We then headed to Squatter's Pub, where we had another great sampler and met a new friend from Canada. He was taking a road trip by himself and just meeting up with friends along the way. So we sat there and chatted with him for a while and then headed to our last stop, Red Rock Brew Pub, where we planned on grabbing dinner.  Red Rock has great food and average beer...but was a fun place to people watch and enjoy the night. From there it was time for bed, with another long drive ahead...

Salt Lake City is a nice town. I've been there a few times before, spring and had a beautiful setting, basically surrounded by mountains, with the Great Salt Lake on the west side. It's a small city, so it's easy to get around, and the night life is better than what you would imagine. Definitely someplace for everyone to visit, especially if you take time to hike, bike, or ski. Check it out!

Road Trip Day 13: Yosemite National Park--Half Dome

Today is the day. We are hiking Half Dome. Half Dome is one of the most popular hikes at Yosemite National Park, so much so, that you have to get a permit to actually hike up the last mile or so of the trail, from Subdome on up. They give out about 100 permits to backpackers, and 300 more via lottery before the hiking season begins. They also do a daily lottery, which you have to enter two days before you hike, to hand out the remaining permits. We were lucky enough to get permits, so it was on from there. You can't turn them down!

Vernal Falls
We got up at 4:30am, cleared our campsite quickly and headed to the trail head which took us about 45 minutes to reach. We hit the trail shortly before 6am and began our climb. This hike is known to take 10-12 hours and is supposedly 14-18 miles round trip, depending on which turns in the trail you choose. The first mile is rough. It's uphill, switch backs that never end. The reward though, is a fresh water filling station at the top. From there you ascend close to 1,000 stairs that climb upwards next to Vernal Falls. Slow and steady...we just keep going. You then walk a short distance until you get to the bottom of Nevada Falls. You then ascend another 1,000 stairs, give or take, to get to the top of the falls. We passed a few people who were on their way back from Half Dome, but who had backpacked and camped  that night. They said that it was worth the reward at the top, so that was encouraging...

Nevada Falls
At the top of Nevada Falls, you are only about 2.5 miles in. The next mile or two was winding, slight uphill, but mostly flat hiking. It was a good break from the constant uphill, so we trekked on, making good time and passing many groups. The number of hikers also thinned out at this point, which was nice and made things a little easier. The next section of the trek was back into the trees, switch-backing uphill. It was starting to get warmer out, but we were drinking regularly and taking short breaks when needed. And just when you thought that you were making headway, there was a sign that read 2 miles to Half Dome. Awesome...

Hiking towards Half Dome
That was a little deflating, but we pushed on, just getting excited about getting to Subdome and beginning the final climb. We finally reached this point and realized that Subdome was another 1,000 stairs built into the rock and there was no shade cover in the now blistering hot sun. As we neared the top, a man called "Mr. Half Dome" passed us on his way up to the top for the 100th time. WOW! I was pushing myself to make it once, I couldn't even fathom hiking this 100 times! We also heard that there was a rattle snake waiting for hikers in the saddle between Subdome and Half Dome. Wonderful!
Hike up Subdome

Cables on Half Dome
After making it to the top of SubDome, you could clearly see the cables that help hikes safely make it to the top of Half Dome. In all of my research and fantastical thinking, I thought that the cables were a steady incline up and over the rounded side of Half Dome. I was wrong. And now, I was scared! I had the proper footwear, and I had my biking gloves...but I was not expecting such a steep climb in which there were railroad ties to steady you on the smooth granite surface of this cliff side. We studied from below for a few minutes and decided it was now or never. Gloves on and boots tied tight, we got on the cables and started the ascent. It was an upper-body workout if I've ever had one! It took a solid 25 minutes to ascend the cables, maneuvering around people coming down from the top and trying to hold on to the cables for dear life! What a climb!

El Cap from Half Dome
Once up top, the view was magnificent. You had a 360* view of Yosemite National Park. Blue skies above and gorgeous landscapes below. It was worth the climb and was definitely a success in my book.

Top of Half Dome
Now for the climb down. We were quickly running out of water and the sun was getting hotter...we needed to head back ASAP. The climb down was vicious. The only traction you have on the rock was the railroad ties, and those are only every 10-15 feet or so. With so many people coming up Half Dome,  you only had the one cable to really work with. By this point, my fingers were starting to blister from the cables. I took a stance of sliding down sideways, slowing, making my way from board to board. About half way down, my arms were getting tired...and I slipped. People have died on Half Dome (mostly because they tried hiking up without cables or in high winds or rainy weather) when I slipped the first time, I grabbed onto the cable with everything I had and slid my way to the next board. I took a short break and continued down. It was getting harder with more people coming upwards, but I managed to slip two more times, one time swinging outside of the cables and a guy coming up grabbed my backpack and pulled me back in. At the time, I didn't think too much of it, but looking back, I could have been seriously injured or worse. Needless to say, we made it down alive, but my hands looked like they were dying. Final count, 14 blisters that were all ripped wide open. YUM!

On top of Subdome
Top of Half Dome
We decided to get a head start on our drive for the next day and head towards Carsen City, NV so that we could get some decent food and sleep in a hotel. We needed showers and comfy beds BAD! After approximately 18 miles of hiking, we deserved it!
That was the hard part, so we started the hike back down Subdome and finally back down the trail. Within an hour, we were out of water and the temperature was over 90*. It was a long hike back down. We stopped a few times to rest in the shade, but this is not someplace you want to be without water. A few hours later, we finally got back to the watering station and drank like camels! We willed up all of our water bottles and camelbacks, and made the last mile of hiking down the trail.

The damage from the cables, GROSS!
By the time we got back to the car, we had met the 12 hour hiking time and felt dead to the world! Half Dome is feat and is not to be taken lightly. Not only the cables to the top, but the whole round-trip hike it tough. I had 4 liters or water, and that wasn't enough. You also need heavy-duty gloves for the cables. I would also recommend a harness for the cables, especially if you are afraid of heights.