A Bride’s Last Ride (LA to San Fransisco)

My older sister, Malissa, got married on June 24, 2017!

However, before the big day, we went on a road trip along the Californian coast to not only celebrate her last days of being single but to spend time together before she entered a new and exciting chapter in her life! Malissa was indecisive in determining where she wanted to celebrate her bachelorette and suggested multiple places…so I eventually proposed the idea of a road trip. Exploration and adventure were the priority and so a road trip from Los Angeles to San Fransisco became the plan!

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Day 1: Los Angeles

We were joined by our younger sister, May, and friends, Tiffany and Kristine (“Tin”). We all arrived by plane to Los Angeles and met at the rental car company before driving to our first hotel. We stayed one night at the Baymount Inn Hotel where I accidentally reserved a smoking room. Not a great start to the trip…but the excitement of the upcoming road trip kept us in good spirits.

LA was just a starting point for us and we didn’t plan to explore it as a group. However, I was glad Malissa and Tin arrived a few days earlier to enjoy the numerous activities and sights LA had to offer. I was fortunate enough to visit LA a couple of times last year…you can read more about it here (Santa Monica/ Little Tokyo), here (Downtown LA), here (Staple Center/Lakers Game) and here (Adele Concert).

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Day 2: Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo

We began our road trip with some coffee and made an early start toward Santa Barbara on Highway 101 North. May May was our fearless driver for the trip!

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Since we ate breakfast at the hotel, we didn’t stop to eat and drove straight to the Santa Barbara Courthouse Tower which had an incredible panoramic view of the city!

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Santa Barabara is a beautiful small town. From the red-tile clay roofs to the street names, this town is heavily influenced by the Spanish. At the tower, we bumped into a couple who just got married. I have to admit, this place would be a gorgeous place to have a court wedding; there is a lot of great places to take photos inside and out.

We spent a little longer than planned at the tower, but we enjoyed our time exploring the halls of the Santa Barbara Courthouse – it’s definitely a must-see if you come to visit!

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After Santa Barbara, we continued on Highway 101 North to Highway 154 West toward the next town on our list, Solvang!

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Solvang is a quaint little Dutch-inspired town with a unique feel and cute architecture. It felt like Disney’s Snow White inspired village. We wondered the streets eating pastries, drinking wine and exploring antique shops!

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From a lovely Spanish town to a cute Dutch village, you won’t believe where we ended up next! As we drove to our next destination we passed by an Ostrich Farm which is also known as Ostrich Land! This spontaneous stop was definitely the highlight of the day for me!

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The farm had not only ostriches but emus as well! There was a $5 entry fee into the farm. May tried feeding the ostriches with her hands…which didn’t go so well. The ostrich ended up biting her fingers instead! Apparently, we weren’t supposed to feed them with our hands. Oopsies!

Tiffany also got a chance to pet an emu! But, it just so happened that touching the birds weren’t allowed too.  All our excitement led us to break all the rules, which we clearly didn’t read.

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The emus were making a certain noise that reminded me of dinosaurs…and for a second, I felt like I was in Jurassic Park. The experience was a bit surreal…it’s not every day you see massive birds like emus!

After all that fun at Ostrich Land, we continued north on Highway 101 North toward our next destination – San Luis Obispo!

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We booked a room at the most interesting and unique hotel resort in the area, the Madonna Inn. Each room had its own theme and we stayed in the China Flower room! We loved the whimsical decor!

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Before settling into our rooms, we made our way to Avila Beach to watch the sunset. From the sound of the crashing waves, the feeling of sand under our feet and the pastel colors that covered the sky…it was a perfect ending to our long adventurous day!

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After the beach, we ended the day with some drinks, cake, and food at the Madonna Inn.

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Day 3: San Luis Obispo to Big Sur

We got up early to catch a tour at the infamous Hearst Castle located in San Simeon. Unfortunately, the air in our tires was low and we had to take an unexpected pit stop. We arrived at the visitor center of Hearst Castle just as our bus left! It was sad that we missed our tour, but we continued our roadtrip toward Piers Blancas which had a beach full of Elephant Seals!

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With the northern section of Highway 1 closed due to damages from heavy rains and mud slides, we took a detour onto Highway 101. As we turned off Highway 1, we drove through a lush green valley – it was a very pretty sight.

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Along the way to Big Sur, we stopped by the quaint town near Monterey called Carmel By the Sea and ate dinner at Porta Bella, a Mediterranian restaurant. Delicious food and great service! They even gave us free dessert!

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Caramel By the Sea at sundown had a fairy tale vibe. It was very pretty and dreamlike. As we drove past the town on Highway 1 toward Big Sur, we were fortunate enough to drive along the coast right before sunset, which made for a gorgeous ride to Big Sur.

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We stayed in a nice cabin near the river. It had a full kitchen, one bathroom, and two bedrooms. It was a pretty spectacular cabin…and this campground is a great place for families to enjoy the wilderness and unplug.

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The first thing we did when we arrived at the cabin was light a fire…or at least attempted to light one. Our success was a bit spotty but May and Tin’s determination didn’t yield and they eventually made the cabin warmer. After a long day of driving, we spent the evening sipping wine and chatting the night away.

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Day 4: Big Sur to San Fransisco

We made an early start the next morning and drove up north toward San Fransisco. We made stops along the way to enjoy the sights including the Bixby Creek Bridge.

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We were welcomed by traffic as soon as we made it to the city.

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First things first…we were hungry and Tiffany had suggested a Filipino fusion food truck called Senor Sisig! It took longer than expected to find it, but we were able to find one just in the knick of time…we were their last customers for the day.

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The fusion burrito definitely hit the spot! So delicious. After eating we headed straight to the movie theater to watch Beauty and the Beast, which was awesome.

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After checking into our AirBnB apartment near the wharf,  we spent our first night at a karaoke bar! We reserved a small private room at the Playground where we ordered soju and Korean dishes! The food and drinks were even delivered to our room! It was an extremely fun night drunkenly singing popular 90’s music and eating delicious food. I wished it had last longer!

Day 5: San Fransisco to Napa Valley

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Being hungover from the night before, we made a late start to Napa Valley. However, before heading to Napa we stopped at our cousin Janette’s house and carpooled with her to Castello di Amarosa, a beautiful chateau tucked in the hills of Napa Valley.

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The castle was surrounded by a moat! How cool is that?!

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Janette definitely hooked it up with her membership discount…the place was gorgeous.

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After trying out the different wines at the wine tasting room, it was time to head back for the grand finale of the trip.

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That night we went clubbing at Temple. We had our own booth and danced the night away!

Day 6: The End of the Road Trip

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To help ease the hangovers, we went to a little ramen spot for some miso ramen!

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We spent the time we had left in the city sightseeing. We visited the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street and the house featured on the TV show, Full House.

Reflecting back it was a pretty epic trip and I’m so glad we were able to make it happen…and with good company! My sisters and I all live in different states and this type of trip was long over due. It was fun meeting and getting to know Tiffany and Tin…and this trip wouldn’t have been the same without them.

Until next time!

A Miso Phat Date

Most times Toni and I have opposite working schedules; he works on the weekends when I’m off, and I work on the weekdays when he has days off. Although we may live together, it often feels like we don’t see each other! With the craze of being involved in several weddings this year now over, we came to realized that we should have made more time to go out on dates. Last year we spent most of our weekends exploring and discovering new trails and waterfalls…we need to continue our adventurous outings! With that said, we agreed to make time each month to go out on little dates! This time around, we plan to try out new restaurants and food around Maui.

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Toni heard of Miso Phat Sushi last year through a friend, but we never took the time to check it out. Genki, which is like the “fast-food” option for sushi, is our go-to restaurant for sushi. With it being a new year, he decided it was time to try something new and we drove to Kihei for some Miso Phat Sushi.

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We arrived around 7 pm on a Friday and the wait was only 10 minutes! The restaurant is located next to Island Art Party in the Azeka Shopping Center along South Kihei Road. Parking was pretty easy to find.

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Guy from the Food Network was here! (see tag on the wall in the photo above)

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The first thing we ordered was a passionfruit hard cider called Rekorderlig (which I can’t pronounce). In short, it was amazing! It was light, refreshing, and pleasantly sweet. It tasted more like a soda than any cider I’ve tried. It was so addicting, I started wondering if they sold it in stores on Maui. Where can I get more?!

Decisions, decisions…

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We have been watching the TV show, Anthony Bordain: Part Unknown, on Netflix. In one of the Japan episodes, Bordain said that “uni” was his favorite and Toni was determined to try some. Uni is Japanese for the edible part of a sea urchin…more specifically the sea urchin’s gonads. So, yes…we ate the gonads of an urchin and it was quite delicious! (See photo above). The taste reminded us of the inside of a crab’s body (not the leg meat). The creaminess and texture were similar to a crab’s inside as well. This was our first time eating uni and we would definitely order more in the future.

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We also ordered the unagi roll (front) and Miso Phat roll (back). Both rolls were awesome. We are a fan of unagi (eel) as you can see in the photo above. I can’t say we were “wowed” by these choices, but they definitely made our tummies happy.

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Toni also ordered the Dynamite roll which is a California roll topped with scallops and mayo. The roll was baked and served warm, which we didn’t expect. It was good, but we definitely prefer the fresh rolls. The Dynamite roll was our least favorite of the evening, but we still ate it all!

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Plates were all clean at the end of our dinner.

Overall, it was a nice evening. Service was good and sushi was yummy. We probably will continue to go to Genki whenever we are craving sushi, but I can see us coming here again. It is much pricier than Genki. We usually spend about $30 at Genki and would leave satisfied…we spent over $70 at Miso Phat with the same satisfaction. Maybe we should have tried their TNT roll and lilikoi ice cream, which seem to be their standout dishes according to Food Network…Until next time!

 

Home for the Holidays

This is post numero dos of my “late post” series! I recently found out that my coworker is going on an Alaskan cruise with her family next week and learning about her excursions made me miss Alaskan summers! But, if I had to choose to visit Alaska during the summer or during the holidays…spending the holidays with my Alaskan fam bam always wins! With that said, I was fortunate enough to make it back home 6 months ago…

There is nothing like waking up to a sheet of white fresh snow on Christmas Day and spending the holidays with a buffet of Filipino food and a house full of loud family members! I love my Alaska familia!

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It has been a few years since I came up to Alaska and I knew it was long overdue. Toni couldn’t come up for Christmas, but he was able to fly up for New Years! To my surprise, he secretly flew up to propose to me before the New Year! You can read more about it here. Anywho, since it was my first time back in so long I wanted to do something special for our annual Christmas photos. With the help of my sisters, we set up some drapes, umbrella lights and Christmas lights for the backdrop. It turned out great and I was really pleased with how the photos turned out!

On Christmas Eve, it is our tradition to stay up and open our gifts at midnight. We ate, drank, sang karaoke and hung out all night! It was really good to see and catch up with my Juneau fam and I really missed everybody. I also can’t get over the fact how fast all my baby cousins are growing!

For the rest of our trip, we went rock climbing and ice skating; hung out with friends; visited familiar places for some sightseeing; and ate…a lot!

DSC05467It is always a must to see these two!

IMG_1247.JPGRock Climbing with the see-stars!

DSC05771.jpgBeers after rock climbing and celebratory drinks for the newly engaged!

DSC05493A little XtraTuf reunion!

DSC05544.jpgVisiting Sandy Beach and taking graduation photos with Cente.

DSC05641.jpgMay May and a gorgeous backdrop…May May is gorgeous too!

DSC05796.jpgButt buddies.

DSC05776.jpgThere is a story behind this fire pit. On the day I arrived in Juneau, I went to an ugly sweater party at a bar with friends and family. I was in the middle of buying shots for everyone when they called out my raffle number for the grand prize! Say what!?!? It was my first day in Juneau and I won an amazing Alaskan Brewing Co. fire pit! I guess being drunk and generous that night brought some good karma.

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On our last day together, my immediate family members and I visited Mendenhall Glacier which was absolutely beautiful. It was a winter wonderland!

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It was truly an amazing trip filled with family, lots of laughter, and love. As I reflect back on these memories, it is becoming clear how fast time flies by as an adult. Years and months seemed so much longer in grade school! It’s crazy! These thoughts are a nice reminder of how important it is to me to have a loving family, and I feel incredibly blessed to have them. Can’t wait for our next reunion! …on Maui?! (wink wink)

 

Backyard Firework Show

Happy Birthday, ‘Murica!

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I hope you all had a nice 4th of July!

We typically are not the festive type when it comes to Independence Day, but Toni decided to dress up this year and wore an American flag shirt…even at work. Like most holidays, we celebrated it with the Ong Family. We arrived just before dark and lit some small fireworks to kill some time. It was fun watching the little ones, Sophie and Trace, excite over the fireworks!

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Sophie’s reactions to the fireworks were very animated…it was easy to tell she was excited. Trace, on the other hand, was somewhat hard to impress…he often had a more serious and curious look on his face. However, when the better fireworks were lit – he was in awe.

We spent the evening lighting up small ground fireworks and spinners while the beef and steak cooked on the grill. Sounds of firecrackers could be heard throughout the neighborhood along with the occasional aerial firework (which is illegal here). As it grew darker, the breeze started to pick up causing the neighbor’s’ aerial fireworks to pop right above the house! We ended up having our own mini firework show in the backyard and watched the remaining aerials lit by nearby neighbors later in the night.

Here are some of our favorite shots from the evening:

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Trace does his zombie walk back for more fireworks!

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Like mother, like daughter.

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…and like son!

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Light more fireworks!

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The finale.

 

We Are Engaged!

I’m a bit embarrassed to be posting this so late…but better late than never.

Toni and I are ENGAGED!

With all the events and trips that took place in the past months, it has been difficult finding time to blog or create any new videos. With the chaos now over, I am back from my hiatus! Now let’s go back to December 28, 2016.

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I was in Alaska to spend the holidays with my family and Toni stayed on Maui because his request for leave didn’t get approved. Toni led me to believe he couldn’t make the trip at all and I left Maui thinking we would spend both Christmas and New Years apart. Little did I know…

On a cold crisp morning, I woke up to my younger sister, May, telling me that everybody was downstairs waiting for me to come down for breakfast. When I finally agreed to get up, May commented how bad my hair looked and started combing it with her fingers. I was like “why does it matter?!”. She didn’t have much luck with my hair, but in hindsight, I really appreciated that she tried to make it look presentable! I made my way to the dining table half asleep…then the doorbell rang. I didn’t want to open the door because of my bed hair and Christmas jammies, but I was the closest to the door and lost the fight to everyone. I was expecting to open the door to relatives stopping by to drop off gifts, but was pleasantly surprised to see Toni! I was so happy to see him and excited of that thought of spending New Years together with my Juneau Family! I honestly thought his surprise trip to Alaska was my Christmas present. I turned around for one second to share the excitement with my family and then found him on one knee when I turned back. Overwhelmed with happiness and excitement I teared up and nodded my head when he asked me to marry him. Who would have guessed our marriage proposal would take place at the front door of my childhood home. What a sweet ending to 2016 and beginning of 2017. 2016 was definitely one to remember and I couldn’t imagine a better way to end it!

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Flash forward to today – we have been incredibly busy these past months with weddings and family related events which will be shared in separate posts. Feels good to be blogging again after so long! Hopefully, I’ll be more consistent this time around.

 

Maui: Lahaina Pali Trail Sunrise

We finally did a sunrise hike!!

I’ve been wanting to do a sunrise hike on the Lahaina Pali Trail for some time now. I was also very proud that I was able to convince Toni to do it with me (which wasn’t easy). We were pretty miserable the last time we hiked the Pali trail, so we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy climb and planned to take about 1.5 hours to get to the top.

We woke up at 4:00 am and grabbed some snacks at Long’s before starting the hike at 5:30 am. Toni took some pretty rad night photos. Here is one when a plane flew past us!

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It was pitch dark at the trailhead, so we brought a headlamp (200 lumens) and a $1 flashlight (which didn’t do much, so we only had the headlamp to light the path).

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The stars were shining brightly that night and we often stopped to take a moment to look up at the sky. It was amazing. As the sky started to get brighter, we were reminded that we were running out of time – so we hustled up the mountain.

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We stopped more often than we planned, but we constantly looked back at Haleakala to get an idea of how much time we had left. About a quarter of a mile to the windmills, Toni knew the sun was going to peek up behind Haleakala and I ran and climbed up on top of a huge rock to set the camera and start the timelapse. I literally finished setting up the camera just in the knick of time! It was crazy how close I almost missed recording the beginning of the sunrise.

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Our photos and video don’t do it justice but it was definitely my favorite sunrise on Maui. The sunrise at Haleakala is still Toni’s favorite, but this for me was my favorite for these reasons: 1) It wasn’t freezing cold unlike Haleakala (the temp was perfect); 2) we had the view all to ourselves (no selfie sticks blocking our way and it was so peaceful!); 3) Even though it was hazy that morning, the hard climb up was worth the sunrise (because the moment felt so magical); and 4) it was like watching Maui turn from night to day.

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We decided to finish the hike to the top and continued up to the windmills.

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After a few photos and resting at the top, we headed back down the same way since we only brought one car. If you want to hike the entire trail, you would have to park a car at both ends of the trail…unless you wanted to hike the trail twice (which would be a 10-mile round-trip hike in the heat…yikes!). We hiked this entire trail in the heat, which was pretty miserable – check it out here!

Anywho, we need to do more sunrise hikes. period. Until next time!

Maui: Waihee Ridge Trail

We revisited one our favorite hiking trails on Maui…the Waihee Ridge Trail. This is probably our fifth time hiking this trail in the past few years, but the views never get old! This time around we didn’t plan to hike the entire trail. Our intent was to play around with our mirrorless camera and practice our photography skills! It was also cloudy and gloomy out with a high chance of rain – so we didn’t want to stay too long.

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The trail begins with a 200-foot cement road that is much steeper than it looks. It will have you huffing and puffing before reaching the top – but don’t worry, the rest of the trail won’t be as steep.

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While walking up the cement road don’t forget to look back at the view of the ocean and the cattle grazing in the distance.

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At the top of the cement road, we reached the trailhead sign and a stack of walking sticks underneath it. We didn’t take any of the walking sticks – but they would’ve been useful trekking through the slippery and muddy path that lied ahead of us!

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The trail was super wet and very muddy at the beginning of the forest path. It definitely required a lot of concentration and balance to get through without falling. Did I mention it starting pouring right before we made it to the forest?

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As we continued deeper into the forest, the path became narrower and steeper.

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About three-quarters of a mile, we reached a lovely view of the Makamakaole Falls. With all the rain that morning, the falls were raging!

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This is only a sneak peak of the amazing views you will be rewarded with as you continue up higher. The trail will continue along the ridge shown on the left of the above photo.

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Beautiful view of Wailuku/Kahului and Haleakala out in the distance. You can even see a little bit of Kihei/Makena from this point too (see upper right-hand corner of the photo above)!  Everything is so lush and green.

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Admiring the view.

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Further up the path you will be rewarded with a better view of Iao Valley. You can even hear the stream from up here!

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Huge spiders dwell within the plants.

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Wild orchids can be found on the trail as well!

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We only planned to hike up the first “hill” on this trip (shown on the right). If you plan to hike the entire trail, continue on to the second “hill” covered by the clouds on the left of the above photo.

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Parts of the trail were still very muddy! So bust out your walking sticks or prepare to have wet feet if you visit on a rainy day! We wore hiking boots, so we managed to make it through without getting water in our shoes!

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Again, don’t forget to look back once in a while to admire the view!

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Can you see the people on the ridge?

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Made it to the bottom of the stairs!

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We made it to the top of the steps and snacked on some beef sticks before heading back down. The gloomy clouds were moving our way so it gave us more reason to turn around at that point.

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Obligatory shaka hiking photo.

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One last look at this view.

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Into the dark woods.

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This was the hard part of the trail…walking through the slippery and muddy path downhill without falling. We made it through the forest slipping numerous times – but not falling on our butts! Anywho, it was a nice day hike and a successful photography day for us! I hope you all enjoyed our hiking photos. Aloha!

Oahu: Last Day with the Crew

I feel so lucky to have friends that I cherish so much. It is crazy to think how fast time flies! Even though I am thousands of miles from Lou and Judy, I still consider them my most dearest friends; they are basically like family to me. I can’t wait for our next reunion! Until next time you two!

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