Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Very Patagonia Honeymoon Part 2 - Torres Del Paine

"Keep close to nature's heart and break clear away once in awhile, climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean" - John Muir

Day 4 - Puerto Natales to Torres Del Paine National Park - Nov. 12th

With a two hour drive into Torres Del Paine, we got a 6:30am start to beat the rush into the park. We were sad to have only stayed one evening at Hostal Morocha, however very glad we did. The breakfast that morning was delicious! Fresh farm eggs, yogurt, granola, ham and delicious cafe latte. The breakfast area was common space for all the guests staying at the hostel. We met a lovely older couple from Spain also going into the park, as well as a nice Canadian guy around our age who were both traveling in South America for a month. Wish we could stay that length of time as well! Only if we had the vacation time!

The drive into Torres Del Paine was long, scenic with the last 45 minute stretch on very rocky roads. Many photo opportunities on the way in! Going into the park everyone is required to stop in the park office to purchase a park pass. Around $38 and good for 3 consecutive days in the park, it well worth the price. Arriving in the morning, there were many other people entering the park as well due to the fact that many buses depart from Puerto Natales at 8:00am and arrive around 10:00am. Lucky as we are, we had just dodged the rush into the park office when two other buses pulled in.

Photo opp on a rock in TDP

Driving into Los Torres Trailhead

Our hike to the base of Torres Del Paine, Los Torres Trail started around 10:30am. This trail, part of the famous W Circuit is about a 3 to 4 day trek in total, however we were only doing a long day hike instead. The initial hike was very easy going  however increased in difficulty as we trekked on. The scenery through the hike reminded myself of the terrain seen at Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park back home. The wind was quite brutal, throwing us around from time to time and pelting us with dirt and pebbles. All a part of the experience right? It was around two hours of switchbacks, bridge crossings and ascents, we finally made it to our lunch and resting point at the refuggio. The refuggio offers backpackers a place to stay overnight if needed, a cafe where a nice warm meal could be purchased but most importantly a resting stop for many along the trail. Nice to warm our feet, eat a nice meal from our packs and to get out of the howling wind.

 Photo of one of the many bride crossings
 Mountains everywhere!
The refuggio in the distance

The hike to the base took nearly 5 hours. The last hour of the hike was a straight ascent through boulders and jagged rocks. Once to the top, the view was absolutely breathtaking. Instantly we forgot about our aching joints and tired minds. We were incredibly lucky to have a clear day, a clear view of the peaks. The views were like none we had seen before. Clear glacier blue waters and the peaks perfectly carved from the years of wind and rock erosion. We took the next 30 minutes taking in the scenery, snapping photos and taking plenty advantage of the view. See for yourself below! A long, more difficult hike but a promise that this hike is one no one should pass up! We were very thankful to have mostly descents on the way down and completed it in about half the time at 2 hours. The entire hike was around a 7 to 8 hours trip. 

First hike as husband and wife!

Ascending Los Torres

We made it!

Base of Los Torres. Breathtaking! Wow!

We ended our evening checking into our third hotel on this trip. A place back in Puerto Natales called Weskar Lodge. A very warm and inviting place to stay. Quite the treat for ourselves on our honeymoon and our home for the next three days! Not the most affordable but well worth the cost! We were greeted with the nicest front desk people, a complimentary welcome drink at the bar and a list of recommended restaurants to try in town. When we were brought to our room, our jaws dropped. The view of the sea and mountains from every angle of the room, including inside the waterfall shower. They even gave us a small bottle of champagne and chocolates for our honeymoon arrival. How nice! And with the remaining energy left within us from the days' hike, we decided to stay and eat at the restaurant within the lodge. A bit pricey, but worth it. Freshly baked bread and fresh ceviche. Tim ordered the fresh guanaca dish (yes, he ate llama and liked it) and I ordered the risotto. One of the best things in life is a fresh hot meal after a long day hike. To all the hikers out there, you know what I am referring too! Tomorrow is another new day, a new day back in Torres Del Paine.

Weskar Lodge

Our suite

View from the restaurant

Sunset view from our room

A Patagonia Honeymoon Part 1 - Chile

"Where there is love there is life" - Mahatma Gandhi

It was almost a year ago when my fiance', now husband decided to book our honeymoon tickets to Patagonia. After reading countless backpacker magazines, watching the beautifully shot 180 South and hearing stories from friends who have travelled to the remote South American regions of Patagonia, we knew this would be the perfect place to travel for our honeymoon. On Christmas Day 2013, we booked our tickets and didn't turn back.

Planning for a backpacking trip is never easy when also planning for a wedding. It was a difficult decision to decide this time around we were not going to rough it by tent, camp stove, permits and our mountain meals, but to plan an itinerary that allowed us to bounce around by staying in hostels and hotels instead. Good to alleviate and minimize stress. Our destinations in Patagonia took a bit of research on Trip Advisor and asking around, however we eventually set our path on starting in Chile through Santiago and Puerto Natales, then Argentina through El Calafate and the small mountain town of El Chalten.

Day 1 and 2 - Dallas, Texas to Santiago Chile - Nov. 9th and Nov.10
After our lovely wedding and a day of recuperating, we caught a red-eye flight from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport that took off at 9:30pm and landed in Santiago just shortly before 10:00am the next morning. Gotta love direct flight and red-eyes! The flight went smoothly, however a little sleep deprived due to the uncomfortable seating, horrible neck pillow purchase of mine and humming of the plane. Even with our circadian rhythms a little off, we were completely excited to finally begin our journey through South America. After grabbing our bags and purchasing our Transvip bus tickets to our hotel, we were off! Arrived at our hotel safely but the Transvip driver was insane on the road, probably on a time constraint to drop off 6 other passengers. Altura Suites was a lovely place, apartment style hotels located in residential towers in city center.

 View from Altura Suites

Not bad for under $70 a night

Walked around and explorered in search of good eats. Stumbled upon a cute French inspired cafe, Cafe Viernes. Great almond coffee and croque sandwhich. We then walked across town a good 30 minute to San Cristobal. We took a trolley up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, a beautiful overlook of the entire city of Santiago. Clear day, check out that view!!! Worth the walk and ride up!

My favorite part of Santiago was the food! With our limited time there, we decided to spend the first night of our honeymoon eating our hearts content. Stumbled upon a cute street that reminded me as if it would be in the streets of Europe. Charming, architecturely inspiring and streets lined with cafes and outdoor seating, we ended up at Cafe Nolita. The best seafood we have had in awhile dawned with cute greenery and courtyyard seating, Cafe Nolita was quite impressive. Must get the splendid seafood ceviche, shrimp and crab bisque and local stew paired with Kunatmann Cerveza locally brewed in Chile. Ended our evening with a gelato while walking back after a great warm day. Next stop to El Calafate.

 Los Condes Neigborhood, Santiago 

Delicious ceviche at Cafe' Nolita

Day 3 - Santiago, Chile to Puerto Natales, Chile - Nov. 11th 
Woke up at first light to catch a cab back to the airport to catch our Sky Airlines flight to Punta Arenas, then to take a bus Puerto Natales. Make sure to book the inner-country flight early as they do fill up and there are only limited flight times per day. The food was awful on the plane, dried bread and ham, held out for a chilean hot dog later. We had a layover in Punta Arenas to pick up additional passengers but was excited to arrive in Puerto Natales about 30 minutes early. The airport in Natales was much nicer than expected and a good one to be at while we were waiting on our Bus to Puerto Natales. The company Bus Fernadez picks up directly from the airport to Puerto Natales. Make sure you book the tickets upon arrival, try to get your hotel or hostel to book them since booking them online through email is complicated.

The views of the countryside on the way to Natales were gorgeous and it finally hit us that we had actually arrived in Patagonia! We were finally away from any loud city traffic, concrete jungle and breathing in the fresh crip Patagonian air. We had difficult time finding Hertz rental car and our hostal. We rented a car because we were driving into Torres Del Paine National Park for a couple of days. Always enjoy being on our own schedule, instead of a buses.

We decided to check into our hostal prior to grabbing dinner. We stayed at Hostal Morocha for our first evening, a quaint and cute renovated home in a neighborhood less than a ten minute walk to the center of town. Jaqueline, one of the owners of the hostel was just wonderful! She spends her time between Switzerland and Patagonia. Jealous! Jaqueline recommended places to eat and was even the one who purchased our bus ticket to get down Natales. Love the traveling spirit!

After walking around town for a bit, we realized shops close early around 7pm in Natales so we decided to grab some dinner. Mesita Grande should be on your list for a nice cozy family style dinner. Fire roasted pizza, locally breweed Bagauales Beer and fresh salad made from greens in their organic garden. The best pizza you will have in the Southern Hemisphere! Ended a crisp and cold evening walk back to the hostal by stopping at the supermercado to stock up snacks and water for our big hike in Torres Del Paine. Went back to the hostal and kicked back in the common area with the warmest fire. Let's just say, the first few days here in South America have been very detoxifying to our souls...

Mesita Grande Pizza

The beauty of Patagonia

Friday, May 23, 2014

Into The Blue

"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its nets of wonder forever." Spoken and uplifting words from the Father of Scuba diving himself, Jacques Cousteau. Inspiring many others like myself to never stop exploring and to dig deeper to find the meaning of life. I am filled with gratitude to have experienced the depths of the sea at an early age. I become a PADI certified Rescue Diver with over 45 logged dives by the age of 14. Thankful to further appreciate the everlasting beauty of our oceans, I was given the opportunity to live aboard a catamaran for two consecutive Summers in my high school years with Odyssey Expedition. One Summer in the British Virgin Islands, as well as the next in the St Vincent and Grenadine Islands to St. Lucia. Undoubtedly spoiled of my inaugural dives in luminous waters, the bar was set high. This would be the beginning of my new relationship with the sea. With many hopes to be adventurous and explore in pristine waters! 

Between my time from adolescence to adulthood, I was able to catch only a single dive. The life of a student called with high school passing before my eyes, college responsibilities, plentiful of obligations, and the limited discretionary income I had for travel. It was not until near the end of my college days I finally had enough waiting. I was reminiscing on the deep blue sea, the schools of tropical fish and the serene feeling of losing all sense of time, island time. A reward to all the hard work that I had achieved through what seem liked endless years of education, a celebration was in order and not to mention my 21st birthday. It was the Spring of 2010 with a few months remaining of my undergraduate studies in Austin, my best friend Aless and I booked a trip for a celebratory cruise and belated birthday festivities aboard a cruise ship. After a refresher dive course at a local dive shop back home, I was finally able to break the streak of putting off any diving by going on a drift dive off Anthony's Key in Roatan, Honduras. 

The year rapidly passing and a flash before my eyes, I am sitting here in my 24th year of life.  To make up for that missed composition on my dive in Honduras (Helen of Travel didn't exist at the time), I finally told myself, I wanted to share a dive experience through this blog. I want to share my latest entry that covers my most recent dive in Cozumel. A vacation taken on a holiday cruise out of Galvestion, TX on Royal Caribbean with close friends of mine and my fiance Tim. Even though I am not a huge fan of cruises, they are wonderful for allowing you to see multiple places in one trip, eating as much food as your body can handle, some much needed forced relaxation and in my case, forcing me back into the water. My next dive trip would bring me to the lucent waters of Cozumel.

The dives in Cozumel were pretty spectacular. My travel companion, Tim and soon-to-be-husband is also a certified diver. He would join me on a two-tank dive aboard a locally operated diving company. I'm a lucky girl to have found someone who shares so many similar interests and most importantly in this case, a dive certification! Once gathering up our dive gear and climbing aboard an unstable and aging dive boat, we were on our way to what they called the Cozumel National Marine Park, a protected underwater environment in Cozumel covering over 29,000 acres of ocean. Our first dive, Chankanaab Bolones brought us to depths around 60 to 70 feet. As we were descending, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a wreck or perhaps an operating tourist submarine as you notice in the photo below. Our dive boat, separated into two groups, 2 dive masters and 20 other divers. During our descent, we were briefly separated from our dive group and joined the other group. The least of my worries, since my mind was focused on the plentiful of marine animals, as well as large coral heads scattered around. However not as colorful as I would have hope for, the sensation of being in the water overcame anything else on my mind. With a clear visibility and the warm water touching my skin, my soul was happy again, happy to be back in the water where I belong. Here is a video that will give you a better idea of what to expect on the dive. Not a personal video, but one that will allow you to get a sense of what the dive was like.

All geared up!

My forever dive buddy!

Descending in Chankannab Bolognes

Prior to our second dive, an unfortunate accident took place for one of the elderly dive couples that was aboard our dive boat. As we ascended and reached the surface, it was clear that our dive boat was no where to be found. As everyone looked around, our heads bobbing like a buoy in the water, there wasn't our boat in sight. As our divemaster yelled at another local dive company for their attention, the persistency eventually worked and we were aboard another boat, without our possessions: our bags, cruise cards, clothing or even money. As the current boat radioed to find out what was the cause of us being left in open water, I thought to myself, this was all apart of the adventure right? Thirty minutes passed, we were finally reunited with out boat and come to find out a terrible situation had taken place. A frightening medical emergency had taken place while we were underwater. The wife of the elderly couple mentioned earlier had gone into cardiac arrest underwater and was brought immediately up to the surface, she was unresponsive. She was transported quickly to the closest resort and picked up my an emergency vehicle. We never heard what happened after that, however my thoughts are with her.

From that incident, a few of the other divers aboard the boat were turned off by the accident and decided to leave the boat as we were refiling our takes at a nearby marina. Our dive boat of 20 dwindled down to 14. Our next dive, brought us to Paradise Reef. Situated South of the Puerto Maya Cruise Ship port, it is one of the most visited and popular dive sites in the area and a beautiful one indeed. With a current running south to north, a start from the entrance of Caleta, we drifted North. A drift dive with an abundance of coral ridges, assortment of sea sponges to every kind of fish imaginable. A few of my favorite sea animals included, a spotted manta ray, moray eels, barracudas, and groupers. Considered a novice dive with depth ratings of 30 to 45 feet, our total bottom time was approximately 45 minutes. I was pleased with this second dive. It was by far an improvement of the previous one. I highly encourage checking out this dive if you are in this area. It offers endless visibility and vibrant colors. I was indeed ecstatic to log two more dives in my waterproof log book by the end of our day in Cozumel. Now I was officially on dive number 48. Finishing 2 dives before noon and sipping on a pina colada right after, I couldn't be happier! As for the next dive, perhaps somewhere in the Great Barrier Reef or Bali!

Scuba diving, the closest feeling you can imagine to an astronaut in zero gravity. It's an adventure sport that can expose you to an extraordinary world. I truly am a person that believes life begins when you begin to explore, not only exploring for yourself but sharing those explorations with others. Many people have wondered or asked my main motive for writing this blog. Even for my inconsistent entries and lack of time to write, I want to be able to compile my thoughts in one place so one day I can share my most memorable adventures with my children and to people that I meet along the way. We can only dream of the many places we have yet to travel, but we can share with others the places someday we hope they can see and experienced as we have.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Day Trip to Possom Kingdom State Park

"For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.” - Jacques Cousteau

A reservoir off Brazos County lies a state park in the heart of Palo Pinto County in Caddo, Texas. Known for a lake with some of the clearest waters within Texas, you might have heard of Possum Kingdom Lake. Wildfires had went through this area in 2011 due to drought, however the beauty and terrain of the area are slowly being restored and visitors are slowly beginning to trickle in once again. The state park is taking steps to improve the area and adding new trails. Amongst beautiful terrain, a fish farm that grossed me out and winding rounds, this state park was tucked away, away from the city which undoubtedly was music to my ears.  A manageable drive of three hours from Dallas, it is a potential option for a day or weekend trip for any parties looking for a few nice hikes and a relaxing departure away from the city.

Even with the scolding temperatures of the Summer, we cinched up our daypacks, filled a camelback or two of water and grabbed a few Kind bars (which were sure to melt) for the 6 mile trek. A great moderate to difficult trail we had planned to hike up the top of Johnson Peak, the highest point in the area. I only say challenging because it was nearly 100 degrees and not a cloud or tree to provide a sliver of shade. My companions and compadres along this journey included my Fiance' Tim and our dear friend Jordan. We didn't see another single soul besides ourselves on our hike up to the top. Perhaps we were the only ones crazy enough to partake in sauna like temperatures.  

With a few rest points and lookouts along the way, they were named after the major Texas Universities. Not to be biased, or to be biased, the Texas Longhorns had the best lookout! Johnson Peak is a 350 foot hill above the lake with beautiful landscaped views of the entire lake. You can see my panoramic photo from my iPhone below from the hike up to the top. It is a nice lunch spot with plenty of shade and benches to accomdate. Despite the heat, it was a clear as day throughout Caddo. With clouds as fluffy as the freshest cotton candy, this was a day trip and carnival of heat worth the climb all in great company.

At the top of Johnson Peak Trail

No matter when you have the time to get out into the realms of Mother Nature, it's almost a natural remedy for all of life's curve balls. The best moments in life are when you refresh and share experiences with friends and love ones on the open trail even when it is close to home. Even though we might have skipped out on the relaxing "beach" portion post hike, almost running out of gas on the ride home and stopped at quite possibly the most horrible farmers market I have dawned upon, moments like these...I would never change.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Weekend to Wichita Mountains

Beautiful sunrise at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

The REI tent I had purchased a year ago at the members only garage sale was slowly accumulating a layer of dust bunnies in the corner. As I pound on my keyboard and heavily glaring at the unread emails in my inbox a twitch hit me. This was the type of twitch that always seemed to occur every two months or so. Indescribable and a common occurrence and only curable with a dosage of Mother Nature.  Thinking about that poor tent and lonely camping gear slowly melting in the attic from the blazing oven of Texas heat, it dawned on me that a camping trip was needed. Not really keeping in consideration it was already the end of June and the triple digits creeping around the corner, my traveling companion and I decided a camping trip to the Wichita Mountains was a must. On our list of "close" hiking and mountains from the Dallas area, for a weekend getaway it seemed like the best option. Desert in the summer. What a great idea!

Not much planning involved for this trip. A trip to REI to grab a new pair of trail shoes (awesome and amazingly comfortable Brooks) and a new camping pad for Tim (purchased the Big Agnes). I would be lying if I didn't say we made a trip to REI three times in the past week. REI is my home away from home. This time headed Northwest of Dallas, there is a town three hours away known as Lawton Oklahoma. Just North of Lawton lies the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Covering over 59,020 acres and located next to Fort Sill Army Base, the refuge is a conservation area for many prairie animals ranging from bison, longhorn, white-tailed deer to prairie dogs. Interesting fact...The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge played a very important part in saving the extinction of the American Buffalo

Bison at the refuge.

Although having the option of doing some backcountry camping due to a short weekend. Tim and I decided to stay at the Doris Campground. Only $10.00 a night, this was a sure bargain! Sleeping under the stars is good for the soul. The campground is a first-come first-serve basis. We arrived on a Saturday morning around 9:30am and luckily there were plenty of camping spots available. We claimed and pitched our tent in a spot right by a small lake. Originally I had pictured dessert grassland like environments for the Wichita Mountains area, however was pleasantly surprised the abundance of lush greens, wildflower and the plentiful amount of trees giving our campsite a shadowy escape from the heat.

Our campsite at Doris Campground!

Excited to get on our first trail, a visit to the visitors center led us to purchase a topography map (which we were thankful to have later on). It was impossible to beat the heat since we decided to begin our hike around 10 and decided to hike through midday, which in terms translates to a bit of craziness. Having water was crucial that day. We each had a 3 liter camelback full of water. Our mission of the trip was to climb and boulder up to the top of Elk Mountain. The trailhead begins at Sunset Creek. There are two bridges that have trailheads, make sure to take the bride or the left past the restrooms. The hike up to Elk Mountain is not well marked and some parts a bit overgrown. If you do not follow a map or instructions, going off-trail is very easy to do (which we did). The hike begins through a lush forest-like area with overgrown grass and hitchhikers. Make sure to wear bug spray!

As the hike heads towards the creek make sure to veer left up a slight incline to where a trail is hidden. We wished we were told about this trail earlier. Our hike took a two hour detour off an unmarked trail. We ended up taking a trail just Southwest of the Elk Mountain trail and diverted back onto the proper trail a few hours later. Our unmarked and unnamed trail we had aimlessly walked on provided us a great change of terrain and gave us a perimeter view of the mountains. The hike was moderate, however at some points difficult due to the sweltering midday heat. Worth the trek and heavy sweat.

At one point on the Elk Mountain Trail we came upon the Valley of Boulders. This section, full of granite and large boulders led us to utilize our hopping skills and endurance to climb our way through. My adrenaline satisfaction was undoubtedly fulfilled. After roughly four hours through brush, rocks and small abrupt ascents and descents and the pounding of rocks on our feet, I spoke in my mind, I was sure going to sleep like a rock tonight. 

Valley of Boulders 
View from the side of Elk Mountain
Our lunch break.

The trip was a getaway needed to fix that twitch in my system and was exactly the proper remedy. After settling down for the day, it was already time for a nice hearty dinner. Tim had the brilliant of all brilliant ideas to pack fajita meat from la michoacana meat market. We grilled up delicious fajita tacos on a skillet over a camp stove. After dinner, we decided to make the twenty minute drive to catch a sunset at Mt. Scott. Beautiful yet windy!  The sunset was unfortunately blocked by a group of clouds, but I can imagine how beautiful this place must be on a clear day! Some of the highlights of our evening was watching from afar a speed trap cop pulling people over and a tarantula scurrying across the rocks.

Top of Mt. Scott
Watching a sunset at Mt. Scott.

That evening we purchased firewood from the campsite check-in office and gathered twigs for kindling. As we were relaxing and talking about the lovely things in life while lounging in our camp chairs, we hear our nearby camping neighbors slowly strum a guitar.  We were listening to Blind Pilot play from our portable I-Pod dock and decided to hit the off button as we heard the slow strum of a guitar turned to an acoustic and private session filled from tunes of country to Ray La Montagne. It was perfect on all levels. Ending the night with s'mores by the fire and entertaining ourselves with clever word games. It was a hot as hell night with an annoying bird chirping over our tent while trying to fall asleep but still a good one. The Wichita Moutains offered a retreat to lead us to forget about the city's monotony. Nature always leads me to wake up right as the morning sun breaks the horizon. After enjoying a nice light breakfast, we ended our weekend on a thirty minute stroll on the Longhorn Trail off of French Lake. This isnt Yosemite or Glacier National Park, but any chance to get away is worth every minute. Another adventure to add to this timeless journey...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Beavers Bend State Park

The adventures needed to be written down are abundant, however time seems to have escaped me the last six months due to a move cross country back to my hometown of Dallas, TX. Why the re-location back to my roots? For love, family, a new business venture and another pit stop in my journey to another stepping stone that I needed take in this soul-searching expedition. In the time that I was away, there have been many missed hike posts, mini-adventures and even an epic trip to Kauai that consisted of conquering the relentless Kalalau Trail. It will be up soon for your viewing pleasures! To make it a habit of writing down our thoughts before the finer details escape our memories in my opinion are the hardest habits to retain and something I am striving to fine tune.

Nature is calling!

Moving to Texas has been quite the adjustment and slowly replacing my adventurous needs has become a challenge, however a challenge of creative collaboration. From checking out the great indoors, yes I said "indoor"...from rock climbing gyms, boxing classes to ripping out my cruiser skateboard on the concrete jungle has been rather indescribable. Truly indescribable with a mix of heartache from missing the West Coast. I decided that the only way to get my fix of greenery, terrain and climbing had to be done in a road-trip format at an average of three to five hours outside of the city. This brings me to Beaver's Bend State Park in Oklahoma.

Photo by Rachel Nielsen!

Growing up in the North Dallas area, my idea of Oklahoma never included a picturesque view off cascading trees and tributaries. Roughly three hours Northeast of Dallas, Texas nestles a tranquil weekend getaway. Beavers Bend State Park was recommended by some of my boyfriends' classmates from PT school. The trip was a last minute decision on our part, but the greatest idea since Tim and I were itching to get away from the city. Our good friends Joanna and Jacob from Austin were able to join us.

Prior to our trek up to Oklahoma, we were able to find a site that recommended a scenic route and bypassed the major freeway. I jump at any chance to escape to scenic! Here is the website that provides the scenic route directions, as well as the cabins we had reserved for our weekend getaway Cabins in Broken Bow. Pulling into our cabin deep into the woods of Beavers Bend nestles the most adorable cabins I have ever laid my eyes on. Each cabin and accommodation had a pleasant name. Our cabin, Steph's Secret was a rustic studio space that accommodates four with full kitchen, king bed, pullout couch, fireplace and hot tub. Always up for a fusion of extravagance and ruggedness.

Cabins in Broken Bow, OK

What a cute cabin!

The state park had a warm and welcoming visitor and nature center with a gallery and museum with intriguing information on the Broken Bow area. The hike we all had in mind was upon a bluff overlooking the river. The day was beautiful yet windy and somewhere around mid 70's. Wanting something moderately challenging, a combination of a few trails were necessary. Asking the park ranger was indeed great idea. The combination of the trails, Beaver Creek, Deer Crossing to Cedar Bluff are apart of the David Boren Trail. Two cars are needed for the trail considering the trail is not a loop. We dropped off a car at the south entrance trail head of Skyline Trail across from the Dogwood Campground and another at the nature center where we began the trail.

 The entrance of the trail head is to the right of the firewood shed at the nature center. The total distance of the the combined trails were roughly 6 miles or so. The trail is well marked and have trail markers along the way. Total walking time at a leisurely pace set the time at or around three hours. At a few points where you ascend, warning a sweat may be broken. We were quicly shedding our layers. With plenty of greenery everywhere and change in terrain and a few small stream crossing, I was pleasantly surprised at the beauty around in these woods. Highly recommend for hikers looking for something different than the trail offerings in North Texas!  The bluff was absolutely beautiful with a few points to overlook with steep dropoffs down to the river.  I give the trail an overall moderate rating with only a few steep climbs. We ended the hike on the bluff with our packed lunches overlooking the beautiful river below. I felt ecstatic knowing that nature was calling at me once again...

Part of the group.

Jacob & Joanna on the trail.

Gorgeous Views of the Cedar Bluff

Lunch on the bluff

Yes, dogs are allowed on leash!

We ended the weekend at another recommended outing at a place roughly five miles outside the park. Girls Gone Wine, a cute boutique and wine tasting shop. They brew and bottle their own wine in house and offer a great variety. The wine tasting was completely free!  I recommend the frozen bellinis, however a warning that they do cost a hefty ten buckaroos which none of us were expecting in OK, perhaps a bar in uptown! We ended up purchasing a glass of wine and sitting on the patio. Luckily they had warmers and blankets outside since it was a bit chilly that day, which is clearly unheard of in May. Just our luck and our hunger striking us, a man was grilling around the corner and offered us free hot dogs. Hot dogs and wine, what a great combination of epic proportions.

The remainder of the weekend was tranquil getaway from the city. A crisp and delightful weekend of board games from our childhood nostalgia, roasting marshmallows, meeting new friends, laughing with great friends to consuming perhaps the best chili and rolls ever (made with love by the Turner's) was exactly what I needed! A hand of hot tea and stories to share, weekends away from the hustle and bustle are indeed the best! Being able to share great memories and anniversaries with others are unparalleled. For all the Texans looking for a retreat away from the lights and a night under the stars, I highly recommend a weekend away at Beavers Bend State Park. Worth the drive guaranteed! Forgetting to hit the reset button once in a while from all the structures in our life is very common and shouldn't be forgotten.

Tim and I celebrating our one year!