Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 Races

2022 has come to a close and I tackled nine races this year. Although it may be fewer than pre-pandemic, I'm still proud of what I was able to accomplish - especially seeing as one of the races was my FIRST 100-MILER! In case you missed any of the recaps when they first went up, I've linked them below so you can read them now (or for a second or third time ;)). 

Old West Trails 50K

Run with the Burros Trail Marathon

Leona Divide 50K 

Bishop High Sierra Ultras 53K

Nanny Goat 12-Hour Race

Yeti 100-Mile Washington Endurance Race

Lake Hodges Trail Fest 50K

TCS NYC Marathon

California International Marathon

The breakdown of my official races is: three marathons (two road and one trail), three 50Ks, one 53K, one 12-Hour and one 100-Miler. I'm stoked, especially seeing as after the first race of the year I was injured and had to go to physical therapy for MONTHS (walking the majority of my miles when training for my 100-miler). With that said, most of the races were either rescheduled races from COVID or events I was using as training runs while getting ready for longer races. But, hey, I'm thrilled for any and all races where I'm healthy enough to make it to the start (and finish) line! Here's to 2023!

How many races did you tackle in 2022?

Friday, December 30, 2022

December Books

Can you believe that reading wasn't my jam growing up?! Clif Notes were my best friends in high school - I'd "read enough" to get by for a paper or test, but other than that I did not enjoy the act of reading so never did it... like ever. Maybe I wasn't reading things that held my interest or maybe it was because it was "required" so I didn't find it enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I challenged myself to add the goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (which turned into 88 books in 201777 books in 201867 books in 201966 books in 2020 and 67 books in 2021). In the last year or so, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks since I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books (not to mention I walk to work and walk on my lunch break so have two-ish hours a day I can listen to something). Even still, holding a physical book is the bomb diggity and I hope to get back to adding more reading vs listening. Just like in years past, writing a monthly recap of the books I get through is a great way for me to both record what I'm reading and to stay accountable. So here are the books I finished in December:

  • Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw - Did you know there was a sequel to The Nightmare Before Christmas?! I had no idea, but when I was scrolling through my Hoopla app I came across it and decided to download it. (I know, I know, Halloween was a few weeks ago, but a dear friend of mine was having spine/ brain surgery and Halloween is her favorite holiday, so it made perfect sense!) It was a quick listen (6ish hours total, so about 3.5 because I listen to it at 1.75X speed) and pretty fun. I wouldn't say it is one I will buy the physical copy of for my home library, but it kept me entertained and smiling. I would say it's definitely a little slow at points, but I appreciate that the author focuses on Sally and more of her backstory (as well as her being the voice and the heroine of the story). I also really enjoyed visiting some of the other holiday towns. If you enjoy The Nightmare Before Christmas I'm sure you will like this one too. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • How Y'all Doing? by Leslie Jordan - The world was saddened by the recent passing of actor and comedian Leslie Jordan. When I saw one of his books available on my Hoopla app I knew I wanted to give it a listen. I love that he is not only the author but also the one who read the book (hearing it in his voice just makes it hit a little differently). I wouldn't say there are any amazing insights gleaned from his book (although there are plenty of little life lessons he shares), but it kept me smiling so I think it did its job ;) It was a quick listen (I finished it on my walk commute to work and then on my lunch break) and it's like a sneak peak into some of his life experiences. It was funny but genuine. He doesn't shy away from the negative parts of his life, but also reminds readers that happiness is a choice and we must continually work at it. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan - It seemed like it was time to grab a YA book, so I scrolled through the genre on my Hoopla app and saw this one. It had high ratings, but I didn't read much about it before downloading it to my phone. Rukhsana is a high school senior who comes from a very strict Muslim family. The story is about her life as she comes out to her parents (not her choice of the timing or situation of her coming out) and the chaos/ trauma that ensues. At times I was shaking my head, thinking "something like this would NOT happen... right?!", but deep down I knew (and know) that there are situations like this occurring all over the world (and in our backyard). I don't want to give any of the story away, but I am glad that eventually there was a little more hope than heartache, because, golly gee, this one tears at your heartstrings! The end seemed rushed, but overall I was wrapped up in the storyline from the jump. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • How To Be You by Jeffrey Marsh - I follow Jeffrey on IG and have wanted their book for a while. Shortly after my birthday I ordered it and just got around to reading it. I read half on my flight home from CIM and the rest on the flight to Mexico for Christmas (I'd love to have more time to read physical books, but it hasn't been a priority recently, so audiobooks have been my go-to). Although I love following Jeffrey on social, I was a bit disappointed in the book. Don't get me wrong, it's all good, but I felt it might have been written for a younger demographic. I was probably not the target market for the book, which might be why it missed the mark for me. I was really hoping to either learn more about Jeffrey or take away more life lessons, but it felt like it wasn't enough of either for me. Don't worry, I will still follow them on IG, but I think I'll pass this book along in hopes that someone else may be able to glean a bit more from it than I did. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho - A friend read this book and offered to pass it on to someone who would be interested in reading it and my hand shot up. I follow Emmanuel's YouTube account (where the idea of this book sprouted from), so I knew I wanted to dig deeper and give this one a read. Similar to How To Be You, I had this physical book on my shelf for a while because audiobooks have been more convenient lately, but I grabbed it to read on our Mexican Christmas vacation. I really respect Emmanuel for putting this work into the world. I hope this doesn't come across wrong, but this book was a little surfacey in the way that it will open the door for more people to be able to hear and understand what he is trying to say (I appreciate that he also included additional resources if folks wanted to "dig deeper" on any of the subjects at the end of the chapters). He is very upfront in the fact that he does not speak for all black people and has had a different experience than many others (since he is a son of Nigerian immigrant parents) - but hopefully by now most people know that we are all individuals and live life differently. Sure, generalizations can be helpful, but they are not the end all, be all - the most important thing is to LISTEN TO OTHERS AND BELIEVE THEIR EXPERIENCES! As I mentioned, this is more of a surface level discussion (and that's really how the book reads, more as a discussion amongst friends), but a great read if you're looking for conversation starters or a broad overview of race and racism. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • A Million Quiet Revolutions by Robin Gow - My final book of the year (book #41) was, of course, a young adult audiobook. It was recommended to me by my Hoopla app because it's similar to a few I had "borrowed" in the past. This is actually written in verse and I find books like this are really awesome to listen to instead of reading it myself. (Sometimes poetry can be hard to follow, but this is beautifully written {and I thought very accessible and understandable} and I wouldn't let that deter you from grabbing this title.) The story is a modern love story between two teenaged trans boys learning about themselves in the background of the Revolutionary War. Although this is a story of first love, there are also very serious topics discussed. There were a few things I didn't love about the book (the subplot of Aaron's brother didn't seem to fit and I don't know that the sex scene was 'needed'), but I still enjoyed it overall. I truly believe that representation matters, so I appreciate that more books are featuring often marginalized groups as their main characters.  I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, December (and 2022) has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I hope it never stops. If you have suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my "must read" list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What's the best book you've read lately? 

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Walt Wednesday

Some people do a "Wordless Wednesday" post, where they simply share a photo or image, but I thought I'd make a little series out of my Wednesdays. And since I love alliteration so much, why not go with Walt Wednesdays (obviously everyone can use a little break from the seriousness, scariness and sassiness of life - and what better way to help put a smile on your face than with a cute wiener dog picture, am I right?!)... So, without further ado...


When life gets overwhelming, how do you de-stress?

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Workout Recap - Week 52

Sunday, December 18th – Rest Day

Monday, December 19th – Rest Day

Tuesday, December 20th – Rest Day

Wednesday, December 21st – Rest Day

Thursday, December 22nd – Rest Day

Friday, December 23rd  Rest Day

Saturday, December 24th – Rest Day

After my #40MeaningfulMiles (and then heading to Mexico for a family Christmas vacation), I decided to take the end of the year "off". I didn't want to try and force runs or workouts while we were out of town (especially being somewhere I was unfamiliar with), not to mention, I currently don't have any races or adventures on the books (I'm tossing around a couple ideas in my mind, but haven't pulled the trigger and made anything official yet), so I figured I'd give my body some much needed (and deserved) rest. My numbers for 2022 may not be what I wanted (I actually stopped tracking my mileage once I had to start walking the majority of my miles when I was injured), but I am hoping to end the year happy and healthy.

How were your workouts this past week?

Thursday, December 22, 2022

#40MeaningfulMiles Recap

This past weekend I ran #40MeaningfulMiles around North County San Diego to raise funds and awareness for The Trevor Project (an amazing non-profit organization that provides lifesaving and life-affirming services to LGBTQ youth).


A month or so ago, I saw a post from The Trevor Project that mentioned their research shows that having one accepting adult in their lives can decrease the risk of an LGBTQ young person attempting suicide by 40%. They were challenging folks to tackle #40MeaningfulMiles in the month of December. I thought that although I might not be 'trained' to run 40 miles, why not give it a go and do all of the mileage at once?! Not only did I plan to cover the distance, I also wanted to use what little platform and influence I have to try and raise money for the amazing work that The Trevor Project does.

Source: The Trevor Project's Facebook Page

I looked at the calendar and decided that this past Saturday was going to be the best day to tackle the challenge. I had Friday and Saturday off from work (I normally work Monday through Friday, but was working Sunday through Thursday for two weeks because of the holidays and having to do physical inventory one weekend), which meant I could rest the legs on Friday and get to bed at a decent hour before hitting the streets before the buttcrack of dawn come Saturday morn ;) 

I'm probably strange, but I love the peacefulness of pre-dawn running!

Before going to bed on Friday night I made sure to lay everything out that I would need. Normally during races you have aid stations that you can rely on for some of your fuel, hydration refills, etc, but since this was going to be self-supported [meaning it was just me and whatever I could carry], I needed to make sure I thought through the 40 miles a little closer.

Although I would've LOVED to run in just my tank, the weather was going to be a little nippy so I threw on a long sleeve over my tank and a light jacket (the long sleeve was black and because I'd be running before the sun came up I wanted some reflective features - which my jacket had). I was all ready to go [bundled up] and out the front door by 4:30am.

Let's get this party started!

My game plan was just to enjoy the morning. I planned to stop for character stops along the way, take in the sights and sounds of North County San Diego and hopefully finish with a smile on my face. As you probably saw in the first picture, I attached a cardboard sign to the back of my hydration pack hoping it would strike up some conversations so I could share what I was doing throughout the morning with others. [I also made some instagram story graphics with information about The Trevor Project, what they do and some of their research to share between my photo/ video updates along my run.]

The first character stop I came across was SANTA! I KNOW HIM! I snapped a quick picture with him around Mile 3.

He knows when you are running, he sees when you lift weights...
And apparently I must have been SO EXCITED I couldn't keep the camera still ;)

Around Mile 6 I had a little uphill so decided it was the perfect time to take my first PROBAR chews (and walk break). 

That flash can be BRIGHT... 

I was really hoping that I could come across some awesomely decorated yards, but it seems like most people turn off their lights and inflatables after about midnight, so I was mostly just chugging along on the dark roads till the sun started to rise.

Sunsets might get most of the love... but I prefer a sunrise!

Surprisingly the body was feeling pretty good. As you may remember, I was really only training for the marathon distance (I ran the TCS NYC Marathon in the beginning of November and CIM at the beginning of December), so I was going to ask my body to go 14ish miles more than I had "trained" it to go. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't breaking any records - I was taking walk breaks when I needed and stopping for photo ops whenever they arose - but the body was still feeling dandy. 

Just a few of the different North County neighborhoods I was lucky enough to run through on my journey

Gotta take the character stops wherever you can find 'em ;)

I was able to chat with a few folks about my sign (a pair of runners who I played leapfrog with [when I passed them, stopped for a photo, they passed me and then when I started again I passed them again], a couple bikers who cheered me on after seeing the "40-miler" and a friendly person watering the plants in the rock garden I stopped to admire).

I always love checking out this ever growing rock garden in Encinitas when I run by.

Around Mile 24 or so I could tell my body was feeling a bit beat. I didn't know if it was my lower back making my quads feel tight or my quads making my lower back feel tight, but whatever the case I knew I probably would need to walk the majority of the rest of my run. Normally I might have gotten bummed about this, but I had to remind myself A) I wasn't actually trained for 40 miles and B) this wasn't about me - like in the slightest! I listened to my body and knew I'd finish. 

My running views don't suck and I hope I never take them for granted!

My phone is an older iPhone 8, so let's just say the battery life isn't what it used to be. I had to turn my brightness down as low as I could and put it on airplane mode to conserve as much life as possible so I would be able to call the hubby when I was done since he was picking me up. With that said, I don't have a ton of pictures for the last portion of the 40 miles. 

Who's BRIGHT idea was it to run 40 miles at once?! Oh yeah, mine...

And, just in case you were wondering, I am still picking up trash on my runs! #3PieceChallenge

I love when folks decorate public areas (as long as it's cared for afterwards and
doesn't end up as litter or in the oceans for our sea friends to eat/ choke on)

Instead of doing a straight out and back (where I would start at one point, run 20 miles out, turn around and run back to the same spot), I switched it up slightly. I decided to start from our house and then finish at the North County LGBTQ Resource Center near our house. They're closed on the weekends (although it would've been awesome if I could've gone in and chatted with them once I finished), so I just had to take photos outside when I wrapped up the 40.40 miles. 

I am hoping after the first of the year I can start volunteering with some of their amazing projects!

We are furtunate enough to have an LGBTQ Resource Center within a few miles of our house, but not everyone is that lucky, which is why national organizations like The Trevor Project are so important. There may not have been an official finish line, a medal or cheering spectators, but this 40-miler wasn’t about any of that, it wasn’t about me at all! My feet may have covered the distance, but the true champions are those fighting for the overlooked, the discarded, the marginalized. 

My hope is that I can be a changemaker, a beacon of light to others in this often dark world. 

As of this post going live I have helped to raise over $1,500 for The Trevor Project. If you would like to donate so this organization can continue to help LGBTQ youth, please check out my fundraiser (I have extended the window through the end of the year to give more folks the opportunity to donate if they feel led). Your donation will literally help to save lives!

Click HERE if you're interested in donating

Do you have any LGBTQ resources near where you live?

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Walt Wednesday

Some people do a "Wordless Wednesday" post, where they simply share a photo or image, but I thought I'd make a little series out of my Wednesdays. And since I love alliteration so much, why not go with Walt Wednesdays (obviously everyone can use a little break from the seriousness, scariness and sassiness of life - and what better way to help put a smile on your face than with a cute wiener dog picture, am I right?!)... So, without further ado...


When life gets overwhelming, how do you de-stress?

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Death Valley National Park for 48 Hours

The hubby and I love to #OptOutside around the Thanksgiving holiday. As you may or may not know, we're both from Michigan and our families still live there. The extra day or two we get off work isn't a ton of time to let us to fly back to the Midwest, so we've had a tradition of camping for the long weekend. In most recent years we've turned the trip into a Friendsgiving, but this year our friends had things going on so we were on our own to explore. At the beginning of 2021 we were supposed to go to Death Valley with the hubby's dad but a COVID resurgence forced us to cancel the trip. Since we had never been and had it on radar for a while, we figured this would be the perfect time to hit up the desert and see what it had to offer. As like with all my recaps, I'll share what we did (and whether we'd recommend others do the same) - but take it with a grain of salt sand {get it, since it's the desert ;)} because what works for us may or may not be your jam. 

We decided to leave after I got off work on Tuesday (both of us had Wednesday through Sunday off). Our campground reservation in Death Valley wasn't until Wednesday, so Tuesday night we were planning to stay at a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campground. We had a bit more traffic than we were expecting (we were hoping we would beat the travel rush that we assumed would be driving on Wednesday), but we were still able to make it to Fossil Falls at a decent hour. 

Obviously this picture was taking on Wednesday morning after we woke up - it was pitch dark when we rolled in on Tuesday night ;)

As far as we could tell, we had the area to ourselves. There wasn't much to the campground - a few fire rings, a pit toilet, but views for as far as the eyes could see ;) This isn't a destination type location, but it was perfect for what we needed. 

Not too shabby, eh?

Wednesday morning we woke up, made breakfast and hit the road so we could explore Death Valley National Park

The hubby likes playing around with the panoramic feature. He was thrilled he captured me (twice), his shadow and the truck.

As with most of our trips, we had done a fair amount of research beforehand. We set up a little itinerary of what we wanted to see and in which order we should tackle things (so we were doing the ones in the same vicinity and cutting down drive time). Since this was our first time to Death Valley we weren't sure how long each of our stops would take, but tried to leave plenty of wiggle room in case we came across things that weren't on our list that looked interesting. #FlexibilityIsKey


In case you didn't know, Death Valley National Park is touted as the hottest, driest and lowest National Park. It is also HUGE with almost 3.4 MILLION ACRES of federally designated wilderness in its boundaries! It's the largest National Park outside of the state of Alaska (and the fifth largest overall). As I'm sure you can imagine, we barely even skimmed the surface while we were visiting, but we did try to hit as many of the must-see (highly recommended) locations as possible.


Our first stop on the way to our campground was something we MUST do at all parks we go to - take a picture at the sign!

I appreciate they included the Timbisha Shoshone, who have been keepers and protectors of this land for hundreds of years, on the sign.

After the hubby snapped my picture (there were no cars as far as we could see and we didn't have a tripod of any sort, so we didn't get a shot of us together, but the hubby's good with Photoshop so could always make one if we need/ want it in the future ;)), we made our way to next stop - Star Wars Canyon. I was really hoping that it was called that because they filmed some of movies there, but alas that was not the case. It earned the nickname Star Wars Canyon (its real name is Rainbow Canyon) due to the technical flight maneuvers done there. This section of the park is actually one of the largest military aircraft training areas in the United States. [The hubby was bummed we didn't see any planes fly through.]

The lighting wasn't the best, but I could see where it gets the name Rainbow Canyon.

Next up we were headed to our first hike of the trip - Darwin Falls. The hike was only about two miles round trip, but it was pretty awesome because you wouldn't expect there to be a waterfall in the middle of this huge desert! It was this little oasis tucked away from the rest of the park and you totally could have driven by if you didn't know it was there. 

There was even a bit of fall color on the hike - SCORE!

(Note: Most pet owners probably are well aware of this fact, but National Parks are not pet friendly... We were able to bring Walt on the trip because the temps were cool enough that he could chillax in the trailer while we went to explore.)

At this point it was getting later in the day so we figured we'd head to our campsite. On the way we did stop by the Harmony Borax Works loop. It is a short walk around one of Death Valley's first borax operation. (Borax, called "white gold of the desert", ranked as one of the valley's most profitable minerals.) The mining site is where 20-Mule Team wagons began their grueling 165-mile journey to the Mojave Railroad Depot. (I would've skipped this, but the hubby enjoyed it.) 

The hubby loves reading all of the signs ;)

After getting our learn on, it was time to hit up our campsite. We stayed at Furnace Creek and liked the grounds well enough. There isn't a ton of privacy (it reminded us more of an RV park than a campground because it was more or less just a large parking lot), but we weren't planning on spending a ton of time there so it worked fine for a couple nights.

Walt was stoked to get out of the truck and lay in the sun for a bit.

Like I mentioned, the National Parks don't want your pets out and about, but thankfully they are welcomed with open arms (well, as long as they are on leashes and picked up after of course) at the campgrounds. We still had to get in our doggy mile walk (Walt's on a streak of at least one mile per day for almost 100 days now {he was almost to 1,000 but we had to reset it when he got a ding a few months back}). We explored the Furnace Creek area and checked out the resort grounds next door. There was even a cool little walk-through area where you could learn about some of the old mining machinery.

Look at how GIANT this wheel is!

Let's just say that when the sun goes down (which happens so early these days) it gets COLD in the desert. We made some ramen for dinner, sat by the campfire for a while and then climbed into our nice warm sleeping bags for the night.

With so much of California under fire restrictions when we normally
go camping, it was nice to be able to have an actual campfire again.

Ry was playing with his phone's nighttime camera option... 

Thursday morning we woke up to a beautiful (albeit chilly) morning and were excited to tackle a day full of exploring. Up first was a hiking the Mosaic Canyon Trail. In total it ended up being a little over four miles (although, with the canyon walls, my GPS might have been a little off). It's an out and back hike through polished marble narrows that have some pretty unique color patterns. I wouldn't call them slot canyons, but some of the paths got fairly narrow and we did have to do some rock scrambling once we got further into the canyon. I thought it was a great way to start the day!

The trail was easy to follow, but if we were ever in doubt there were "markers" {like the cairns or rock arrows} for us to follow.

In the shade of the canyon walls it was still rather chilly.

Most of the trail was pretty easy and groomed.

After hiking about the canyons we were off to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. I'll be honest, sand dunes don't thrill me... Maybe it's because we live by the beach and see sand all the time, maybe it's because walking in the sand is hard, maybe it's because sand gets everywhere, maybe I was hangry, but whatever the reason I wasn't too excited about this stop. 

The hubby found it fascinating though... The things we do for those we love ;)

I wasn't expecting much from our next pit stop, the Devil's Golf Course, but I thought it was one of the cooler stops of the day. It was named after a line in the 1934 National Park Service guide book which said “Only the devil could play golf” on its surface, due to a rough texture from the large salt crystal formations. I told the hubby it reminded me of the dirty snow that plows push to the side of the road (although that's probably a midwest description that some of you might not get ;)). 

See what I mean about looking like dirty snow left over on the side of the road or pushed in piles in a parking lot?!

Although it was cool to look at it was VERY hard, sharp and pokey so you had to be careful.

It was like coral made of salt. Pretty cool if you ask me!

Next up on the docket was heading to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America - 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. (It is also the start of Badwater - "the world's toughest footrace".) I'll be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed. There are pictures of the salt flats with super awesome polygon patterns, but when we got there they were all pretty trampled over. 

It's pretty wild to know that 135 miles away is the HIGHEST point in the continental US (Mount Whitney)

This stop was more something to cross off the list, not something that was super awesome in our opinions...

Badwater Basin was the end of the road (there were many roads or areas of the park that were closed, so depending on when you travel to Death Valley this may not be the case), so we chucked a U'ey and made our way back towards the campground. On the way we checked out the Artist Drive, which is a nine mile scenic loop. We jumped out of the truck for a quick look at the Artist Palette, multi-hued hills caused by metal oxidation. (I'm sure the time of day, sky conditions, etc all impact how bright and vivid the colors on the rocks are.) It was cool to see, but I wouldn't drive out of my way for it. 

The different colors are due to different metals deposited from the volcanoes in the area.

The last stop of the afternoon was Dante's View. This viewpoint is 5,475 feet above Death Valley and gives you a glimpse of how expansive the area is. Just like with most things, my crappy iPhone 8 photo does not do the view justice. (I would also say being there for sunrise or sunset would probably be pretty magical as well... maybe next time ;))

Often times when you hear "desert" you think sand, flat and boring, but this area is anything but that!

We really jammed a lot into the day (and, even still, never felt like we were rushing around or jumping from thing to thing too quickly), so called it quits and made our way back to the campground to rest up and get our grub on. The day before I had grabbed some postcards to send to family and friends, so once we parked the truck and got Walt suited up for his doggy mile we walked over to the nearby post office so I could get them on their merry little way. #SnailMailIsTheBest

Letter writing is a dying art but I love to do it as frequently as possible!

Dinner was veggie bratwursts with a side of campfire and canned margaritas (Cutwater actually has some yummy ones).

There was a golf course next to the campground, hence all the palm trees ;) 
The hubby said it looked like I was choking Walt... but he was actually
cuddling with me, the picture just looks like I'm forcing him to like me ;)

Originally our game plan was to stay in Death Valley until Saturday morning (which was how long our campsite was reserved for), but we had talked it over and decided that if we could fit everything in (without feeling rushed or like we were missing anything along the way), we would leave on Friday. The main reason for this might seem silly to some of y'all, but the Michigan vs Ohio State game was Saturday morning at 9am. The drive home from Death Valley was probably going to take about 5-6 hours (depending on traffic) so if we wanted to watch the game (DUH) we would've needed to leave super early. We thought that if we crossed off everything we wanted to do by Friday morning we could hit the road Friday afternoon and be home (sleeping in our own bed) Friday night and be ready for the game come Saturday morning. 


Friday morning we woke up with a few last things on our itinerary and the first was a hike around Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch (after breakfast of course ;)). Friday was supposed to be the warmest day of our trip (in the low 70s by midday), so we wanted to get this one done first so that Walt would still be in comfortable and cool temps in the truck (FYI - When I say "in the truck" he is actually in the pop-up trailer portion in the back, just without the lid popped. He has water, a bed, blankets and normally burrows himself in our pillows the whole time we're gone.). This hike was definitely not an "easy" one (there were some very steep ups and downs), but it ended up being my favorite. The Golden Canyon portion is a 3ish mile out and back hike, but we added in the Gower Gulch loop and it made the hike closer to about 5 miles total. The photos might not look like much, but I thought it was a pretty magical place of awesome rocks, canyons and crevices.

Left: Red Cathedrals || Right: We hiked up to the top of the point (and the path is very steep and close to the ledge - EEKS!)

I find the terrain so interesting... but maybe that's just me...
We even found a cave for me to live in if I wanted to stay ;)

The last "hike" we had on our list was to the Natural Bridge. Technically the hike (more of an easy stroll) was about a mile, but the bridge itself is probably only a quarter mile from the parking lot, so we opted to walk to the bridge, check it out and turn back. This was another spot that I thought was just 'ok' (we've seen some "better" bridges and arches on our adventures {how snuddy did that comment sound - yuck!}, but since this wasn't out of the way or a long trek it was fine).

It wasn't hot out yet, but we still do bring water with us on all of our hikes - no matter the distance.

I normally "scold" the hubby for looking at the screen instead of looking
at the camera, so he thought he'd be funny in this one... What a goofball!
We caught some people right at the right time and it looked like we were there alone...
which was NOT the case. It was actually a fairly busy area because it's a quick little hike.

After our morning hikes our final destination to check out was Zabriskie Point. Similar to Dante's View, it's a pretty spectacular spot to check out the badlands below. I'd say that the views were awesome, but it was crowded. It felt like where all of the tour buses stop, let out folks so they can check off "Death Valley" from their list and get back in their traveling city. (Note: I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this type of "exploring", it's just that the hubby and I prefer a little more of the "off the beaten path" type locations, rather than the touristy spots and that's sort of what this felt like.)

The land masses are so fascinating! Hopefully this recap reminds you all that deserts are not just flat spaces of sand!

Once we crossed everything off of our itinerary (there were a few other things we would've liked to see, but were quite the drive to get there, so we opted out of visiting them this go-around), we made lunch in the back of the truck before hitting the road. We were hoping we'd beat some of the holiday traffic, coming home on Friday rather than Saturday or Sunday, but if you've driven from Las Vegas to SoCal, you know that drive ALWAYS has plenty of slow moving cars... Even still we were able to pull into the driveaway and unpack before jumping in the shower and climbing into our nice, warm bed.  

Ignore the Taco Bell packets in the cupholder and just focus on 
how cute Walt is when he's trying to soak up all the sunshine ;)

Although our trip was originally scheduled for a day or so longer, we felt as though we adequately saw everything we wanted within those first 48 hours. Sure, we could've stayed longer (and still enjoyed ourselves, since we love being out in nature), but if all you have is 48 hours to spare, I think you can get in a mighty fine visit to Death Valley National Park.

Have you ever been to Death Valley?