The Wonder of Acadia National Park

Where the Mountains Meet the Sea

(Beehive Trail — Acadia National Park)

Holiday vacations never used to be my thing. Whenever long weekends like Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, etc. came around, I was typically bucketed in the “Not quite sure what I’m doing yet” group whenever someone asked me what my plans were.

When it comes to those long weekends, there are usually two types of people— The people who planned trips in advance to take advantage of the time off and the people who are just plain excited to have an extra day off of work.

This year, to my surprise, I was in the former group. I had pre-planned a trip with my boyfriend to camp in Acadia National Park, located off the coast of Maine.


Growing up, my parents didn’t take me on too many big trips. I developed a passion for traveling, hiking, and camping a little later on in life. It wasn’t until age twenty when I was first exposed to a breathtaking view of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. After that, I was officially convinced that the West was a much more beautiful place to be.

Being born and raised in New Jersey, I wasn’t acclimated to seeing such tall mountains. I had never visited the four corner states, but once I did, I strongly felt that it was the most beautiful part of the country.

In a matter of only three years, I made countless trips to Colorado, Arizona, and Utah. The reason being — I was fortunate enough to have people to visit out there during that time frame. Sadly, it wasn’t long until they all left.

So, I figured that it was about time to stay local and start exploring my home base. I wanted to give the East Coast a chance to prove its beauty (Plus, it would save me the pricey plane ticket expenses).


For Independence Day this year, I spent four days and three nights in Acadia National Park during the Independence Day break.

We didn’t plan this quite far enough in advance, so all of the public campgrounds were already reserved. Instead, we reserved a spot at one of the private campgrounds that was recommended within the “Camping” sectionof the Acadia National Park website.

We stayed at Smuggler’s Den Campground, located in Southwest Harbor, just outside of Bar Harbor. We weren’t exactly “roughing it”, but it was a great spot to be.

The staff was very friendly and the campgrounds were was very accommodating, with running water, bathrooms with showers, and electricity — if that’s the type of campground you are looking for.

With tremendous thanks to the Island Explorer shuttle bus, we were able to get to any part of the park without ever moving our car. The best perk of the shuttle bus is that it’s free— And you’re being environmentally sound by doing ride-share.

My favorite part of utilizing public transportation was getting to meet and talk to other people, especially the locals. Some of the best tips that we received came from the Maine locals who frequently visited the park and knew exactly where to go and where to avoid the major tourist areas.

Lo and behold, here is a breakdown of the trip —


Day One (July 4, 2018)— Echo Lake and Beech Mountain

(Beech Mountain Trail — Acadia National Park)

Echo Lake —Maybe it was because of the holiday, but this was a bit of a bust. Not because it wasn’t beautiful to look at, but because this area was more family-oriented. For me and my boyfriend, we were hoping to be somewhere more remote.

We quickly dodged this after seeing how crowded it was. Instead, we took a bit of a detour and hiked a nearby trail.

Beech Mountain (Beach Mountain Trail)  An unexpectedly fun hike, this was exactly the warm-up we needed for the next few days. Filled with steel ladders and a few stints of uphill climbs, it was a short and sweet trail that allowed us to get a feel for the park.


Day Two (July 5, 2018)— Beehive Trail, The Bowl, Ocean Path, and Otter Cliffs

(Beehive Trail — Acadia National Park)

Beehive Trail —This trail was recommended to me by a friend, so I made it a point to make sure that we hiked this one.

It was a challenging hike which was also filled with stints of uphill climb and iron rungs to ensure extra grip. Once at the top, we had a remarkable view of Sand Beach, another more touristy shore area filled with families.

The Bowl —This was one of the tips that we received from a local while on the shuttle bus. The Bowl is located where Beehive trail meets the other trails. It’s a smaller lake area that you are able to swim in and it’s a little less crowded, so you can get a bit more privacy.

(The Bowl — Acadia National Park)

Ocean Path —As a cool-down from the Beehive trail, we decided to take the Ocean Path to Otter Cliffs (This did not disappoint). It was a scenic, leisurely trek along the coast with multiple places to stop and take in a view of the ocean (Note: If you stop earlier on, you’ll avoid the crowds towards the end, approaching Otter Cliffs).

(Ocean Path — Acadia National Park)

Otter Cliffs —This was another viewpoint that we were recommended to see. As you reach the end of the Ocean Path, you are able to sit and look out at the shore to see how far you’ve traveled from Beehive Trail and Sand Beach. Another beautiful sight full of ocean views.

(Otter Cliffs — Acadia National Park)


Day Three (July 6, 2018) — Jordan Pond, Sargent Mountain, Sargent Pond, and Jordan Cliffs

(Sargent Mountain — Acadia National Park)

Jordan Pond —A lakeside view with a relatively easy trail that winds around the perimeter of the lake, Jordan Pond is another popular destination. And don’t be fooled by the lake alone, there are more trails beyond this. At the halfway point, you’ll see signs for additional trails leading up the mountain.

Sargent Mountain (Sargent Mountain Trail) — For a majority of the trip, I had been comparing Acadia to Zion National Park in Utah, which is a camping trip my boyfriend and I did last year. Sargent Mountain put my comparison to rest.

It was an extremely challenging hike and not for the faint of heart. Despite thinking that I was in great physical shape, I was still breathing heavy, but the climb was absolutely worth it.

Sargent Mountain is the second tallest mountain in Acadia, just a few hundred feet shy of the tallest mountain, Cadillac Mountain. Though it isn’t the tallest, it sure felt like it. And again, it was another less crowded hike where we were able to truly take in the views while avoiding the crowd.

(Summit of Sargent Mountain — Acadia National Park)

Sargent Pond — A small body of water located just a few climbs down from the summit of Sargent Mountain, this was a hidden gem which was also given to us as a tip from a local.

(Sargent Pond — Acadia National Park)

Jordan Cliffs (Jordan Cliffs Trail)— Unfortunately, we didn’t actually get to hike this because it was closed due to falcon nesting. (Note: Some trails such as this one are closed during certain months due to falcon nesting. Make sure to check the website for updates.)

I have to put this on the list though because if it weren’t for attempting this hike, we would have been on time for catching the last shuttle bus from Jordan Pond to Village Green, where we needed to be in order to get back to our campground.

We missed the last free shuttle bus from Jordan Pond to Village green by a mere five minutes. (Another note: The shuttle bus drivers are extremely punctual, so don’t be late! They won’t wait for you!)


Day Four (July 7, 2018)— Portland, ME

(Portland, ME)

Ironically enough, Portland, Oregon has been a top city on my list to visit. I had even signed up for the Portland Marathon to truly experience the city, but to my disappointment, the marathon was cancelled, therefore the trip as well. Little did I know I’d still get to visit Portland this year, only on a different coast.

Bike Rentals — We rented bikes once we got to Portland so that we could give ourselves a break from walking and explore the town on wheels. The place we rented our bikes gave us a bike route map and brewery map which made for the best tour of the city.

Bissell Brothers Brewery —We somehow managed to sneak in a beer with only an hour and a half left to return our bikes. Stopping at this local brewery was so much fun and totally worth the ride over.

(Bissell Brothers Brewery — Portland, ME)

High Roller Lobster Co. Being our last night in Maine, we couldn’t miss stopping to get lobster rolls in Portland (even though we had already eaten lobster rolls the night before).

(High Roller Lobster Co — Portland, ME)

High Roller Lobster Co. was an awesome, funky lobster joint with a great atmosphere and beer on tap. Coincidentally, one of the co-owners happened to be the founder of Bissell Brothers, which is the brewery that we had gone to.


After only a few days in the beautiful state of Maine, I’m now convinced that the West is not the only place you can find beauty in the United States.

I was in complete awe and wonder at the sights that Maine had to offer. And the thing that I absolutely loved most about this gorgeous, lush state is that it’s a place where the mountains meet the sea.

You truly get the best of both worlds.

 

Experiencing Zion National Park in Two and a Half Days

Last weekend, I did something I have never done before – I camped overnight with my boyfriend in Zion National Park, located in Southern Utah. After spending only two nights, and two and a half days in Zion, it was nothing short of majestic, incredible, and completely awe-inspiring.

Though it was a bit of a last minute trip, every second of it worked out perfectly in our favor. Him and I were able to gain the full experience that we were hoping for, despite the short time frame. And that was mainly because we did our research, made smart decisions, and came prepared.

To give some context, my boyfriend lives in Northern Arizona and we’ve been in a 2,500 mile long-distance relationship for nearly a year, so we’ve been used to traveling back and forth to see each other.

We had been talking about doing some sort of trip together instead of just taking turns to visit each other in the states we live in. Eventually, we decided on a camping trip. This trip had only been in the works for about a month, so as we were coming down to the wire, we really had to nail down the logistics of the trip.

The one main concern was where to stay. Since this was so last minute, we narrowed it down to a few different campgrounds that didn’t require reservations ahead of time and finally chose South Campground, which is located near the South Entrance of the park.

We initially planned on driving out early Sunday morning, but it really turned out to be late Saturday night. We were in Sedona, AZ on Saturday night and didn’t arrive back to his place in Flagstaff, AZ until around 11:30PM. Once we got back, we packed everything ahead of time so that it would be ready to go once we left the apartment.

DAY ONE: Getting to South Campground and Hiking Angels Landing

We left Flagstaff around 1:30AM and finally arrived in the park around 6AM. It was still pitch black and the park rangers weren’t even there yet to collect entrance fees as we were driving in. The drive through the park to get to our campground was about 10-15 minutes. As we pulled up to the parking lot for South Campground, there were already 15 cars ahead of us. We weren’t assigned our campground until about 8:30AM. Once we pitched our tent, we took a quick nap and woke up around 10:00AM.

From there, we had to decide on what we would do that day. We headed to the Visitor Center to ask for recommendations and were initially deterred from doing Angels Landing that day since it was already late morning and the sun would be at its peak. We did it anyways.

We took the shuttle bus from the Visitor Center and arrived at the trail leading to Angels Landing around noon. The woman at the Visitor Center was right in the sense that it was blistering hot, but it was completely worth it. The entire hike took us around 5 hours, as we stopped several times and took our time up and back. We went to the very top of Angels Landing.

IMG_7506

What I can say about this hike is that it was truly strenuous, as listed on the brochure. Even as a long distance runner, this was still a challenge for me. At a certain point of the hike, you are holding onto links of chains in order to climb up to top and it hardly ever plateaus, so you are continuously going up hill with very little footing surrounding you. It’s especially hard when it’s crowded because people are constantly going up and down and you have to navigate your way around them. However, as long as you are cognizant of your movements, you’ll be fine. If you are deathly afraid of heights, this will be a huge challenge for you, but it’s certainly not impossible.

After we got to the bottom of the Angels Landing trail, where we began, we dipped our feet in the Virgin River and got a little taste of what to expect for the next day.

DAY 2: The Narrows

We woke up around 7:30AM and had planned on meeting up to hike The Narrows with two new friends that we had met along the way while hiking Angels Landing. The trail that led to The Narrows is the very last stop on the shuttle bus from the Visitor Center. We arrived at the entrance of The Narrows around 10AM and finally started our journey around 10:30AM. The very first step that we took was already up to my calves in water. We started out slow and the water levels only got higher as we continued through.

Our mission was to get to the point of The Narrows where there was a fork in the trail. Someone had recommended this to us and we had to go quite far until we arrived at that point. If you are afraid of deep water or can’t swim, I’d first be wary to recommend this hike. But, if you are adventurous, want to get away from the crowds, and don’t mind doing some climbing, then I’d recommend going all the way until the point that we hiked to.

It took an army to climb over certain areas. We were with our two new friends, a married couple, and a family of four when we were getting through some of the obstacles that we had to surpass. What I can say is that it was definitely not for the faint of heart, but it’s truly an unreal experience.

We didn’t get back to the beginning of the trail until around 4:30PM – That’s about six full hours doing this hike.

Fortunately, you can turn around at any point, but again, if you want the full experience, I’d dedicate an entire day to doing this.

DAY 3: Winding down and heading out

After two very strenuous hikes, we decided to keep our third day fairly open. We still wanted to get another trail under our belts, but we wanted to do an easier, shorter one, so we decided on the Lower Emerald Pool trail. This trail was definitely more for beginners, families, or those who are interested in a beautiful walk through nature. Though it was listed as an easy trail, there are still points that are slightly uphill, but that’s to be expected for any of the trails in Zion.

Once we finished this trail, we grabbed lunch at the Zion Lodge and laid out on the grass with other tourists who were also enjoying the scenery.

We left Zion around 1:30PM and arrived back in Flagstaff a little before 6PM. The views driving through Utah were gorgeous enough to make the drive go by very quickly.

Overall, this trip was truly unforgettable and one that I would absolutely do again with more time blocked out. I’d highly recommend putting Zion National Park on the top of your list of National Parks or even just as a vacation idea if you enjoy sightseeing, hiking, and camping.

4 Days Spent in Barcelona

A little over 24 hours ago, I arrived back in New York City after spending 4 days in Barcelona, Spain. It was my very first time traveling to Europe, and most certainly not my last. In the short amount of time that I was there, I can say that Barcelona has risen to my list of top favorite cities that I have traveled to thus far. With it’s vibrant culture, rich history, and wonderful experiences, I am in awe of how much this city has to offer.

I traveled with two of my best friends from high school. We departed for Barcelona from JFK airport on Tuesday, February 23rd around 5pm. We took Aer Lingus where we had one stop in Dublin, Ireland both ways there and back for only $667 round-trip. The flight was seamless and extremely prompt. Our planes were clean, the staff was great, and the food was actually pretty tasty. My overall rating for this airline was 5/5.

We arrived in Barcelona around 10:00AM on Wednesday, February 24th and had no trouble getting our luggage after we got off the plane. We were out of the airport and in a taxi on our way to our Airbnb which was right across the street from la Sagrada Familia. The Airbnb was perfect. It was clean, cozy, and most importantly, it was in an amazing location which was around the corner from the L2 metro.

Day 1:

The first thing we did on the day one was getting most of our shopping done. We took the metro to the Passeig de Gracia stop where all of the high-end stores were located which reminded me of SoHo in Manhattan. We spent hours walking up and down the street and visiting the different stores. In between shopping, we took a break and ate at TapaTapa restaurant where we, of course, ordered multiple tapas and a pitcher of Sangria. After we finished shopping, we stopped and got a close look at Casa Battlo without going inside. We then walked over to the Arc de Triomf which reminded me of Washington Square Park in Manhattan. It’s crazy how many parallels I can make for Barcelona and New York City.

Day 2:

On Day 2, we ventured to the Gothic Quarter which was Barcelona’s version of Old City, and my personal favorite part of the trip. There, we visited the Picasso Museum, took a look around the flea market, and ate a late lunch near the water. This part of Barcelona had the most beautiful architecture and such a strong sense of history, met with modern restaurants and cafes. Later in the evening, we went out to a bar near the water where we had our lunch which was surprisingly quiet for a Thursday evening which is typically a big night to go out here in New York City.

Day 3:

Time flew by quick and all of a sudden it was already Friday. On Friday, we woke early to visit Parc Guell which was one of our most anticipated sight-seeing experiences. We walked throughout the entire park and avoided paying the fee to go inside of the area where the mosaic architecture resided. In Parc Guell, we enjoyed the beautiful view overlooking the city and experienced hearing some authentic Spanish music where musicians would play for the huge crowds of tourists. After a long day of walking, we went back home to rest before our real night of going out where we headed to Opium night club which was the most recommended place we heard about. It was definitely a touristy club which didn’t get actually crowded until around 1:30AM. We ended the night there and were exhasted by morning.

Day 4:

On our very last full day in Barcelona, we finally went inside of la Sagrada Familia. (My recommendation is to buy the tickets online first to avoid the lines, especially on a weekend to avoid the crowds. This was a tip we actually received from another American tourist we met while at Parc Guell.) The church was absolutely astonishing and completely worth paying to go inside. After nearly an hour inside of the church, we headed to Camp Nou to see none other than the amazing field that FB Barcelona plays. The field was amazing, and unfortunately, we didn’t get to catch a game (but they actually played on the same day that we left Barcelona). On the last night, we had dinner at a local restaurant near our Airbnb and packed up our suitcases and mentally prepared to leave our perfect trip.

Overall, we were able to do so much in only 4 days. There was still so much to see, but we enjoyed every minute of every hour that we experienced. Not a second was wasted and we took advantage of every opportunity despite how tired we may have been.

It was an unforgettable trip and I would go back in a heartbeat.

 

 

Two Weeks Until the Philippines

Recently, I’ve been very silent with using this personal blog to disclose my recent experiences and emotions. Instead, I’ve tried expanding my horizons to other Publishing platforms such as Medium, LinkedIn and EliteDaily. However, I can’t fully neglect the base for which I started my writing journey.

So, here I am providing one very large update. Although much has happened in the time since my last real entry, the largest piece of news that I have to offer is this:

I am leaving for my second-ever International trip to my parent’s home country of the Philippines in two weeks.

If you are familiar with my most recent travels, I went to Australia (my very first International trip) last August and it had opened my eyes to the wonders of traveling to a foreign country and being introduced to a different culture.

Personally, this trip to the Philippines is going to mean so much more than just being introduced to a different culture. In fact, it’s not quite different for me at all.

Being raised in a dual-culture environment was a crucial factor towards the person that I’ve become. As a child, it’s difficult to fully commit to one culture or the other, especially if you are a minority. You cannot hide your physical features no matter how hard you try. I’m a Filipino-American, and I was raised in a predominantly Filipino household. However, I more strongly identify myself with being American.

My parents would speak to me in their native language, however, I’d foolishly refuse to learn how to speak. I understood the language, but I chose English instead. It wasn’t until I grew older did I realize how important that part of me is.

I don’t want to say that I regret the choices I’ve made in the past, but I will say that I wish I had made a greater effort to learn my parent’s native tongue and be more immersed in my heritage.

Millions of people came to the United States to pursue the “American dream” Many of whom made this decision for their children; to provide them with opportunities that they could not have had in their home country.

I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am to my parents for coming here. I know that they made this decision for my sister and I. I also know that I will never be able to repay them for the sacrifices that they’ve made for us. However, I do realize all of the things that they left behind for us and I cannot say that it was in vain.

My family isn’t wealthy. We aren’t even on par with the majority of the Middle Class. However, we are happy with what we do have and what we have is something that most people strive for; a loving and supportive family.

Going to the Philippines will be an eye-opener for me. It will show me the bigger picture of where my parents came from, who and what they left behind, and why they are the way they are. I have a feeling that this trip will impact me in many ways and I couldn’t be more excited. There’s just something about going to your place of lineage and discovering your roots.

For many years, I was beginning to doubt if it would ever happen due to financial circumstance, but miracles can and do happen. Things only seem impossible until they are done.

Again, this trip wouldn’t be possible without the help of my parents. They came to America from the Philippines and now they are taking me and my sister back with them.

It’s going to be an amazing journey and I can’t wait to soak up as much as I can -Stay tuned for more