Alaska 2018

Last July, I went to Alaska with Keya and my family. We had a family reunion on an Alaskan Cruise. While the cruise was certainly nice, I much preferred being off ship. The majority of photos are taken when Keya and I did some exploring, camping, and hiking during the stops.

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Fjallraven Classic USA 2018

Well, we did it. Thirty miles in three days on the Colorado trail. Beau already did a great writeup of last year’s Fjallraven Classic USA. Definitely give it a read if you are interested.
Some notes from my experience:

  • I packed light opting for the (not super comfy) bivy sack instead of a tent. Because we didn’t have to carry much water (thank you again, Grayl) I wish I had just brought my tent.
  • I won’t start with as much water next time. The Grayl is a beautiful device. I never needed to carry more than a liter at a time.
  • The Therm-a-rest Z Seat was a wonderful last minute purchase. I strapped it to the outside of my bag and used it every time we stopped. It also doubled as a place to stand when I was at camp and changing.
  • The altitude is no joke. 80+ people came rolling in suuuuper late on day two where we did the 3000+ feet altitude gain. Some were extremely sick or shaky. Please keep altitude in mind before heading on a trip like this.
  • We were advised by some pros to hike 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break. On the break, drop the pack, have a seat, and just chill. This was a great was to set a pace and stay strong. We also got to just enjoy some nice views and hang with some people from all over the world. Definitely adding to my hiking arsenal.


We started out as a group of three. Here’s our crew as we finished the trek:

It was so great to hike with all of you. See you next year!
Here’s a video I made out of the Live Photos that helps capture the experience a bit more than the pictures alone do:

Under the ledge

Last weekend we headed down into the Canyonlands in Utah. It is one of my very favorite places to be and one of the most pristine environments I have experienced. Where we went is definitely the road less traveled. In fact, it’s impossible to get to for most vehicles. Usually, it’s super photogenic, but it was cloudy the majority of the time. I still took a ton of photos, but I thought I’d try making them black and white. I did save some good color photos for the end, though (and a couple crazy videos).


And here are some of the color photos that were just too good to desaturate.

Here’s a video of our last camp sight. It was quite a doozy. (And we had to be super cautious at night.)

The last video is me riding on the bumper of the Jeep while Keya tried to give me a few mud showers.

This trip was intense, but equally fun. We had to bring our own food, water, and poop bags. We were roughly 40 (very slow very hard) miles from the ranger station and around 100 to the nearest gas station.
I would be happy to answer any questions you have about doing a trip like this (except the location). I also could be convinced to join expedition trips like this. Let me know what you think about the trip or the photos!

Highlights: Colorado Springs, Buena Vista, UFO Watchtower

Colorado Springs


Keya, Zag, and I headed down to Colorado Springs to visit my sister, Kristen. She took us on a hike in the Red Rock Canyon Open space. It’s a beautiful meandering set of loops that can be extended if your group is up for it. It looks like the open space would be a pretty fun place for beginner mountain bikers or climbers as well.

After the hike, we saw some flyers in the dirt near the Jeep for a place called Pub Dog that supposedly lets dogs hang out “inside” while you eat. Of course we had to go there! That kind of thing is rare. I think they got around the city rules stating dogs can’t be inside restaurants. Basically, they have the “main” restaurant area with no dogs allowed and the “indoor patio” area technically outside of the main restaurant where dogs are allowed. Both are indoors with full AC. Outside, there was more patio seating and a dog play area. They also had pretty dang good food for dogs and people as well as good beer! A+

Buena Vista

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After the hikes, we headed south toward Ojo Caliente. We stopped for dinner at House Rock Kitchen on the way. I have no pictures of the burger or place, but I assure you the burgers were spot on.

The UFO Watchtower


We ran out of light so we made the call to stop at the UFO Watchtower and camp. If you missed my previous post on it, the UFO Watchtower is one of my favorite places in Colorado and also has a camping area. We were there with a few other believers, but unfortunately we arrived past their bedtime. After some brief stargazing we crashed.
We couldn’t see much from the tower in the morning due to the low hanging smoke from various nearby forest fires so we packed up and headed out. Ojo Caliente, here we come!

Buckskin Gulch

About a month ago, Keya and I hopped into my Jeep and headed down to Buckskin Gulch. Buckskin Gulch is the longest slot canyon in the USA and runs into the Paria river. It’s located on the border of Utah and Arizona. Getting to it can be done in any vehicle since most of the roads are really well maintained dirt roads.
We had an initial plan of dropping our bikes at the middle exit and riding back to the Jeep. When we went to check out the middle exit, we found out the entire road to it is super soft sand. We tried riding it, but ended up doing some pretty hilarious crashing mostly. We bailed on that idea and decided to do an out and back starting at Wire Pass.
We camped out close to the Wire Pass entrance near some unusually friendly jack rabbits. They kept us company in the evening and morning. The next day we headed into the canyon. It was intoxicating. Every turn yielded more spectacular canyon scenery occasionally opening up into massive open areas with trees and grass. It was wanderlust heaven. We hiked about ten miles in before turning around. We didn’t want to be caught in there after dark.


The next day, we decided to head to Lake Powell to do some kayaking! We found a kayak to rent and headed out toward Lone Rock and all the little canyons surrounding it. The water was super cold, but great for quick refreshing dips.

Then, we drove through Monument Valley to get to our camp site in the Valley of the Gods. Both are amazing places often seen in old westerns. The next day we did some off roading to get to some Native American ruins.


This was a great weekend trip. I highly recommend getting some fry bread and getting lost in the canyons in the area. Thanks for the fun, Buckskin!

Photos by Keya Lea Horiuchi and Michael Arestad

The Maze

Last weekend, Keya and I went on a bit of an expedition down into the Maze District in the Canyonlands. It was unbelievable. If you’re thinking about going, you’ll probably want a pretty high clearance vehicle, as much water as you can carry, a few good maps, and maybe some extra gas. It’s pretty dang remote in there. I think the closest gas station to our camp site was 99 miles away and there aren’t any rangers around to help you out. Enjoy the photos. 🙂

Down the west coast – part 2

Okay. It’s time to continue from where I left off in part 1 post Damascus, OR.

Cannon Beach to North Bend

I drove up from Damascus to Cannon beach to get some lunch and wander further down the coastal highway.


I ended up stopping and camping near the Oregon dunes. It was a bit rainy so I opted for sleeping inside by Jeep via my hammock.

North Bend to San Francisco

I got up pretty early the next day to hang out near the water and then continued my journey south. I ran through all kinds of bizarre weather on the coast all the way to SF. It was amazing.

San Francisco, CA

I stayed with a my good friend Hugo for a week or so in SF and he showed me around. I also got a chance to actually work at Automattic’s office. So much fun!

Yosemite National Park

After wandering around SF and Oakland for a few weeks, I headed to Yosemite. I had been wanting to check this park out for some time. It is a surreal place. I ended up staying at Camp 5 overnight and then hiking the Vernal and Nevada Falls trail the next day.

San Francisco to Big Sur to Ventura

I drove from Yosemite back to SF and continued down the coast through some of the most amazing scenery of my trip so far. I highly recommend this drive.

Ventura

Unfortunately, I took no photos here! It was amazing weather and so nice I just plain forgot! I spent a few days with my friends and coworkers, Erick, Chris, and Konstantin. Tacos. Great warm summer weather. Beer. I was so dang close to just staying there. <3

San Diego

I met up with some coworkers in San Diego. They are on another team and happened to be there at the perfect time. They had an extra room so I joined them for some fun weekend projects and the usual Automattic shenanigans.

Down the west coast – part one

Earlier this year I drove from Tofino on Vancouver Island all the way down the coast to San Diego. I took the coastal highways most of the way going back and forth between the 101 and the 1. I tried to stay as close to the coast as possible from Canon Beach all the way down. I only just now realized that I hadn’t posted a single thing about it. So here we go!

Vancouver and Squamish, BC

After my company meetup in Whistler, Stephane, Dean, and I made a quick stop near Squamish for a few photos of the crazy people who took the hard way to the meetup.
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Then, Stephane and I headed to Lighthouse Park in Vancouver to do a bit of wandering, climbing, and swimming.


 
After, we wandered back up north of Squamish where we found a great camp site for the night. We also ended up making damper (mostly) successfully for the first time!

Then it was time for Stephane to go our separate ways. He headed back all the way across Canada to Montreal to see his family and his pups.
After some hugs and tears, I went on to meet my friends and coworkers Sheri and Chris in Squamish. Sheri, Chris, Kelly (not there this time), and I tend to randomly hike or bike with each other all over the world. No planning involved. We ended up doing a short hike on the Chief. We hit a pretty good brewery after. Such a cool place!

Tofino, BC

After Squamish, I had a few days to kill so I headed up to Tofino. Check out my post on surfing in Tofino.

Bowen Island, BC

Post Tofino, I stayed with a good friend and coworker, Enej and his family on Bowen Island. Getting there from Tofino wasn’t the easiest and required two ferries. Both were filled with stunning scenery. When I got there, I was met with one heck of a surreal sunset.


I coworked with Enej the few days I was there out of his house, on a beach, and in some coffee shops. We even did some work with a few deer right next to us. We took time to hike around the island fairly often since there was such good weather.

Bowen Island is an inspiring place. I got a ton of work done along with a nifty side project Enej and I built out in a couple evenings.

Vancouver, BC

I didn’t spend too much time in Vancouver, but I did get to see two of my favorite people, Kirk and Joey. We worked out of a space called Hive (I think). After a couple days there, I head back to the US after about a month of wandering some amazing parts of Canada. ❤️
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Seattle, WA

I ended up staying with my family while I was there initially. We ended up going on a few hikes and visiting some of my favorite spots. We took the monorail to the EMP (rock and roll, scifi, and horror museum), Pike’s, and Fry’s (there’s no Fry’s in Denver, so it’s awesome to check out).




I also took the opportunity to work out of our Automattic Seattle office a couple of the days with Brooke and Beau. Both are awesome to work with.
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View from the Automattic Seattle office

Portland, OR

I headed down to Portland for a few days to wander around the city a bit with Meg and Carlos. I was too distracted by all the food and drink to take any photos. Shame on me. I did stop in at Powell’s book store and holy heck is that place massive. It could also use some serious wayfinding design improvements. It was extremely difficult to navigate.

Damascus, OR

I met a coworker of mine in Damascus. Derek and Heather graciously let me stay with them on their farm and meet the goats, the dog pack, and the flock of chickens. They even have a greenhouse filled with unbelievable carnivorous plants! It’s a fantastic place.

Whew!

Okay. Breaking this up into two parts. Here’s part 2!!!

My best photos from 2016

Here are my favorite photos from my travels this year. Not all are the best, but I think I caught a few gems. I recommend opening the gallery and just scrolling through. They should all have a comment and location. Let me know what you think!


 

Surfing in Tofino

A few weeks ago, I made the journey up to Vancouver Island. I had heard some great things about Tofino, a small surf town with legendary tacos.
With no prep and on a whim I departed. Google said it would take me around five hours to get from where I was staying near Squamish to get to Tofino and that supposedly included the ferry ride. Deal! What I didn’t know is that the ferry included a several hour wait.
When I arrived at the ferry, I paid for a ticket and got in line. I was about an hour and a half early for the ferry, but nonetheless, I didn’t make it on that one. There were quite a few vehicles ahead of me, apparently. It was a few hours until the next ferry. For those of you heading to or from Vancouver Island, you can actually make a reservation on the ferry to save potentially hours of waiting. The waiting wasn’t too bad since there was a bit of a town nearby with plenty of restaurants and coffee shops. I found one with wifi and wrote a blog post in the meantime.

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In line for the ferry to Vancouver Island.

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When I wandered back over to my Jeep about thirty minutes before the ferry left I started up a conversation with the folks in front of me. Apparently they make this trip regularly and they informed me about the reservation system. They also explained that the drive to Tofino might be a bit dangerous in the dark because it’s a remote highway through the mountains. I noted that and decided if it was too dark, I would just camp near one of the towns. Thankfully, I made good enough time, I didn’t have to.
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The ferry ride itself was uneventful, but filled with stunning scenery the entire time. The grey skies and constant drizzle only added to the beauty. There weren’t many people willing to brave the deck, which made it feel like I was the only one on the massive ferry. It was surreal. I took way too many photos and videos:

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To Vancouver Island

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Leaving the mainland.

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On a boat

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After the ferry, I had a pretty fun drive all the way to Tofino. I was about through the mountains when it got dark. There’s really just one road into Tofino and I saw some hitchhikers heading there. I decided “why the heck not?” and picked them up. They turned out to be super friendly skaters from Ontario. I picked up on the accent right away after hanging out with my friend Stephane for a few weeks. I brought them into town where we shared some drinks at the skate park. Then we ventured way the heck down the beach to camp for the night. In the morning I realized it was probably not the most legal thing as there was a no camping sign about 100 yards from our camp site. Whoops! 🙁 We packed up when we saw that and left no trace. Then we went our separate ways. They wanted to skate and I wanted to try surfing.
I made my way to a recommended surf shop. I ended up getting a lesson from Westside Surf School because I had never surfed before and grew up in a land-locked state. I had no prior surf knowledge at all. They hooked me up with a wetsuit (also totally new to me), which I had my doubts about considering how dang cold that water was when I waded into it that morning. They also gave me a gigantic foam board. It wasn’t nearly as cool looking as the ones we saw the pros using, but I didn’t mind. I had no preconceived notions that I was going to be looking cool by the end of the day.
Once our group gathered up at the launch time, we headed to the beach. The instructor walked us through several exercises on the beach to get us used to standing up on the board. After that, we walked into the ocean. The wetsuit went from this stiff uncomfortable thing to a super well-fitting warm beautiful thing. It was amazing! We started out paddling into and riding the tail end of the waves on our knees. The waves were between ten and fifteen feet high. There was no way we were going to catch them where the skilled surfers were. I did above average for the group and ended up standing about five times. Really only one of those times did I ride it all the way in (the last wave).
I have to say, it was absolutely a blast. Even though I spent most of the time flailing around and falling in new cool ways, the few times I stood were enough to get me hooked. I would definitely go again.
After surfing, I hit up the famous Tacofino food truck for some absolutely legendary tacos. Then, I went to one of the two or three places to drink in town, the Tofino Brewing Company. There, I met some fellow travelers. They had a kickass vanagon with a lift and all sorts of upgrades. The two were doing what I did and spending the weekend in Tofino on a whim and for some reason brought their friend’s dog.
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At Tacofino. Arguably the best tacos I have ever had.

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After the tacos, I headed back down to the beach to just relax a bit and enjoy the “sunset” even though it was cloudy and drizzling. It was beautiful anyway.
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My night before heading to the brewery.

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I needed a shower after all that beach time, so I got a room at a decently priced motel in town that night. Worth it. the next day, I had some breakfast at a great little coffee shop. I hit the beach for a bit and then started the journey to get to Bowen Island. This turned out to be just as rough as my previous experience, but I’ll get into that when I post about Bowen Island.