Maui: The South Rim Road to Hana and Pīpīwai Trail at Haleakalā National Park

SOUTH ROAD TO HANA

After taking in the view and monarch tree at Sun Yat-Sen Park, Sam and I continued our drive along the Pilani Highway towards Hana. The seascapes were immaculate as we ascended the south rim of Maui. We were one of the few cars driving the highway (and the only car going east, towards Hana, instead of away from Hana), but there were plenty of horses walking alongside the road. We let the ocean breeze blow through the windows as we tried taking in the scope of this place. This isolation and tropical paradise felt like a dream.

Driving the South Rim of the Road to Hana

We started coming back down from the rolling foothills of the volcano, easing closer to the shoreline. There was a scenic overlook on the edge of the road with an overlook, and we were shocked that no one else was stopped there. A fierce, gusting wind kept us back from the edge, reminding me that the spirit of this place is a living, powerful force still present today. I could have bathed in the colors of this scene for hours and never get sick of it.

Driving the South Rim Road to Hana - Ocean OverlookSouth Road to Hana - Ocean Overlook PanoramicSouth Road to Hana - Ocean Overlook View

We continued eastward. Our goal was to reach the Haleakalā National Park on the south shoreline. It would be the fifth National Park we’d visit in 2016, and we wanted to add it to our list. The Park occupies a massive 33,000 acres on Maui, stretching from the summit of the dormant volcano on the inner part of the island all the way to the south coast.

From our hotel in Kihei, the drive to Halaeakalā’s Visitor Center near Kaupo was estimated to take two hours. There was one rule that kept appearing over and over again as we researched the Road to Hana: make sure you’re off the route before the sun sets. We left Kihei shortly after noon and the sunset was scheduled for 6 pm. Based on the open road and expansive vistas we’d seen from higher up the mountain, we were confident we’d have an hour or two to explore the park once we arrived.

Little did we know what we were in for as we cruised along towards Kaupo.
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Grand Teton National Park: Signal Mountain and Camping Adventures

Grand Teton National Park- Signal Mountain Hike

Psst: looking for part one of this trip

We left Jackson with all our camping maps, making our way up to Moran Junction, far northeast of the popular Jenny Lake area of Grand Teton National Park. Per the US National Forest rangers, we drove east away from the park. A curvy road free from cars and filled greeted us with stunning views of the Blackrock Creek valley. Just when we were certain we took a wrong turn, we saw a sign indicating the Turpin Meadow campground was a mile ahead of us.

Turpin Meadow campground in Bridger-Teton National Forest near Grand Teton National Park

Instant relief overtook us when we saw a few open spots at this 18-site campground. We claimed a spot with plenty of shade, a fire pit (a huge relief: any fires outside pits were banned due to severe drought in the region), a sturdy picnic table, and a large bear locker for food. All smiles and joy, we unpacked everything and set up our beloved 2-person tent. The campsite was quiet enough to feel secluded from the masses in the National Park but there were enough people near us that we didn’t feel alone in the wilderness. This was a particularly important balance to me, as the presence of grizzlies made me feel queasy every time I thought about those big furry bears stalking around the woods. I tried to shake off my lingering bear anxiety and focus on how happy I was to have a campsite with other campers nearby.

Paul, the full-time campsite host at Turpin Meadow along with his wife Judy, greeted us and gave us the lowdown. He was frank about the presence of a grizzly in the area but said the bear never bothered anyone. Sam and I nodded, and I pretended to be ok with this information. We thanked Paul for the info and took off for our first hike in Grand Teton National Park.

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Westward Road Trip: Our Journey Begins

WESTWARD ROAD TRIP- OUR JOURNEY BEGINS from Denver to Grand Teton National Park for the Total Solar Eclipse

The 3:45 am alarm wasn’t as shocking as I anticipated, since I actually awoke at 3:15 am. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I lay in bed thinking about the adventure ahead of us.

When we landed in Denver at 7:40 am MDT, the sleep deprivation caught up with me. Hard. I left my library book on the plane and couldn’t process a coherent thought during the train ride into Denver from the airport. Sam was being patient, as always, as we lugged our bags through downtown to get our rental car. I finally begged Sam to hop on the free bus towards the rental car agency, even though we were only five blocks away.

Denver Street Art near the Central MarketExploring the streets of Denver

An hour later, we had our car, a table at the Denver Central Market, and caffeine. I only drink coffee a few times a year because caffeine takes a serious toll on my body. Luckily, this was one of those instances when I needed it to take its toll and bring me to life. I chugged my almond milk cappuccino in about three minutes and lost myself in a DELISH breakfast burrito from Izzio bakery. Our friend Hannah recommended the Central Market—and joined us for our meal—and we slowly began to feel more settled and revived.

Enjoying coffee at the Denver Central MarketFresh treats at Innis Bakery in DevnerThe perfect almond cappucino at the Denver Central Market

Denver was filled with errands: pick up a cooler and some chairs from our friend Andrew’s house; go grocery shopping for at least a week’s worth of food in case everything near the eclipse path of totality was out of stock; organize our cooler with said groceries and sort out the other foods; drive to the flagship REI for some last-minute supplies (we had to drag ourselves away before losing ourselves in its outdoorsy glory).

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Hinterland Music Festival Video and Life Updates

So…it’s been a while, eh?

This summer has been crazy-busy with a bunch of awesome stuff. Sam and I are diligently squeezing in a lot of adventures into our free time and weekends. We’ve traveled up north to Traverse City, down to the Smoky Mountains, around the Chicago area, and I was lucky enough to take a whirlwind work trip to Charleston, SC a few weeks back. Our big trip is slated to start on Wednesday, when we head off to Denver for a Southwest road trip through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah: plus Total Solar Eclipse views in the path of totality! 

I landed a new job at Inventables! It takes up more of my time, but I love the challenges and work I do now. I’m in a position to focus on my career, and I’m making the most of the opportunity. Plus, I’m mentally preparing myself to go back to school in a month (?!). Needless to say, I’m been so busy living my life that I’ve not had a chance to share it. That’s ok with me. 

Still, I wanted to share something on my blog so I don’t feel like I’m completely neglecting this space. Two weekends ago, Sam and I attended the Hinterland Music Festival just outside Des Moines, IA. Sam’s been to Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, but this was my first music festival. It was absolutely awesome. Rather than a full write-up, I made a short video from our long weekend at Hinterland (set to The Head and The Heart’s “Rivers and Roads”).

Hinterland was, in a word, awesome. It’s incredibly intimate, so it’s possible to see some of your favorite folk, rock, bluegrass, and alt-country bands up close and personal. I still can’t believe Sam and I were in the front row for The Head and the Heart and alt-j. Both bands were playing at Lollapalooza, too, but there’s no way we could have experienced their music there like we did at Hinterland.

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Day Trip to the Ocean State: 12 Hours in Rhode Island

Daytrip to Rhode Island - Adventures in the Ocean State-01

For Christmas this past year, my brother gave us a scratch-off map of the United States. The idea is to scratch off all the places we’ve visited together until we clear the entire US map. When we were planning our trip to Massachusetts for Ragnar, Sam pointed out the close proximity of Rhode Island—a state we haven’t visited as individuals or a couple, and also a state we probably wouldn’t plan to visit. I found some decently priced Amtrak tickets during our planning and we planned a day trip to Providence because we didn’t know what else to do.

Some of our Ragnar teammates were from Rhode Island. When they heard we were going to Providence, they shook their heads and told us to cancel those plans and head to Newport, RI instead. They gave us a lot of great pointers for things to do in Newport and really talked it up, so Sam and I shifted our plans. We couldn’t cancel the Amtrak tickets to Providence, but we could rent a car in Providence for the day and drive to Newport instead. Now that we actually had a plan for some things to do, we were excited!

Psst: want the quick synopsis? Check out this 3-minute video of our trip:

We woke up early on Tuesday morning and made our way to South Station to catch our train. In no time at all, we were walking out into a blue-skied day in Providence. The Rhode Island State House, located right outside the train station, drew us in and welcomed us to the smallest state in the USA. There wasn’t a soul around, so we walked right up the State House steps and took in the view. While it helped that it was a gorgeous day outside, we were already pretty psyched about being in Rhode Island (and I’ll be the first to admit that I never thought I’d say that).

DSC_0558DSC_0561DSC_0560

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Exploring Boston: Day One

Boston Exploring - Things to do if you only have one day in Boston

We arrived in Boston mid-morning on Thursday, the day before our Ragnar Cape Cod race. Lucky for us, we scheduled our visit so that we could maximize our time in the city, meaning we had almost a full day to check out Boston before our Ragnar race started.

The T subway system put us in an instant state of confusion, but one of the station workers at the airport helped us get where we needed to be. Our friend from Chicago, John, was running Ragnar with us over the weekend and used to live in Boston. He told us where to meet him downtown and gave us a brief walking tour around the city.

Things to do in Boston - Navigating the T Rail SystemThings to do in Boston - Boston Public Garden Statues

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Hiking in the Land of the Pine: Memorial Day Weekend Adventure

Hiking in the Land of the Pine - A long weekend in eastern Tennessee and Asheville, NC

Just like that, we’re off again! After a travel hiatus (we’ve not gone anywhere since Maui last October), Sam and I are hitting the road tonight and heading down south to Tennessee and North Carolina for an extended Memorial Day weekend. 

We’re packing up our little car for a doozy of a road trip. It’s a little over nine hours to reach our friends Blane and Lisa—our hosts for the weekend—in eastern Tennessee. Their location in Greeneville is the perfect hub for reaching the Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What better way to spend the weekend than hiking in the mountains with good friends? It’s pretty much the only thing I want to do all the time.

That said, we won’t be hiking non-stop all weekend: Saturday will be spent in Asheville, NC at various breweries and distilleries. I’m not a fan of beer, but you’ll find me taste-testing many a whiskey and moonshine this trip. Everyone I’ve talked to about Asheville raves about it, so I’m hoping it lives up to my (very high) expectations. Let’s hope we can remember Asheville when we wake up on Sunday!

As usual, I’m always open to suggestions for things to do and places to visit! If you have any recommendations for hikes and restaurants in eastern Tennessee or Asheville (or a good pit-stop between Chicago and Tennessee), please let me know in the comments. I hope everyone has a safe, fun, and sunny holiday weekend!

Ragnar Cape Cod: A Long Recap of a Really, Really, Really Long Race

Ragnar Cape Cod - We Survived!

We did it! We shoved ourselves into a minivan with strangers (whom soon became friends), ran three times in less than 20 hours, and traversed the length of Cape Cod as RAGNARians. It was a whirlwind of an adventure, and one I hope to do again someday.

It’s hard to describe RAGNAR with words and photos. The entire aura of RAGNAR is unlike anything I’ve ever felt, whether at a race or at any other event. Our team—one of the 500 teams taking place in this epic logistics whirlwind—was split between two vans with six runners in each van, but we competed as a whole unit. While I strived to do my best as an individual runner, I was equally invested in cheering each of my van-mates at the start and finish of their runs. It’s a team event, but so much of my time was focused on preparing myself for my solo runs because I never knew exactly when I’d be running again. It’s more mental than physical, and that was a challenge for me.

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Boston Bound and Ragnar Ready

Boston Bound and Ragnar Ready - Mo Stych Travel Blog

The time has come! This Friday, we depart in our van with four other people and begin our RAGNAR adventure. We’ve spent the last four or five months training (with a half marathon squeezed in there, too) and at last, we are heading to Boston.

Am I nervous? Absolutely. In fact, I am incredibly nervous. I’ve never really run at night before and my second run is likely to start around 11 pm EST. The good news is I’ve run in the dark plenty of times–as a die-hard morning person, those 5 a.m. marathon training runs were some of my favorites–but my body happily starts shutting down around 9 p.m. Instead, I’ve got to convince my body to run five miles after running eight miles a mere 12-ish hours before that. I guess it does take a bit of crazy to want to compete in this sport.

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Truth and Consequences in Portugal

Truth and Consequences in Portugal - Mo Stych Blog

A few weeks back, I entered the World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship contest.

Even though I wasn’t one of the three winners selected from 8,000+ entries, I’m still happy I entered the contest. Of course, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take a free trip to the Balkans (because DUH), but more importantly, I’ve never entered a writing contest like this before. It was a great challenge for me, as it required me to hone my travel story into 2,500 carefully selected words. Plus, I researched the Balkans region a lot before submitting my entry and this part of the world is now high on my list of places to visit someday.

Since I’ve not had the chance to blog in a while, I wanted to share my entry here. You can also find it on the World Nomads site (and read some other submissions, too). I hope you enjoy it! (Note: the photos were not part of the submission, but I like them.)

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We’re standing on (what feels like) the hundredth hairpin curve, halfway to the Pena National Palace in Sintra, and my husband is ignoring me. Gasping for air, sweat soaking through our shirts, the tension between us is as palpable as the sweltering humidity. The shade from the tall trees does little to cool our overheated bodies and tempers. As we silently fume, another air-conditioned bus filled with happy tourists drones past us towards the apex.

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