Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

The Columbia River Gorge, in Northern Oregon, is a hiker’s paradise with breathtaking views, fairytale like forest scenes, and powerful waterfalls. The Columbia River, one of three rivers that connect the Columbia Mountain Range to the Pacific Ocean, formed this vast gorge in the mountains.  One of the more popular attractions of the area is the extremely impressive concentration of waterfalls. On the Oregon side alone there are over 90 waterfalls, including the 620ft Multnomah Falls. In 1986, United States Congress named the gorge a US National Scenic Area.

columbia river gorge oregon waterfalls

This area of the Pacific Northwest has seen human civilization dating back 13,000 years when travelers from present day Asia crossed the land bridge to this region. This area has also been home to Salmon-fishers for nearly 10,000 years. The gorge has also been a great provider of transport, dating back to use by the Native Americans, and then continued use by Europeans in the steamboat industry. Today, the riverside is home to railway tracks and the Columbia River Highway.

columbia river gorge

columbia river gorge oregon

HOW TO GET TO THE COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE

The Gorge, located near Oregon’s border with Washington state, is about 45 minutes outside of Portland. The easiest way to get to the Columbia River Gorge is by flying into Portland (Airport Code: PDX) and renting a car. There are two primary routes: the main highway or the more scenic Marine Highway. While it adds about 15-20 minuets to your drive, the Marine Highway route takes you right along the Columbia River providing scenic views throughout.

columbia river gorge oregon waterfall

TIPS ON VISITING THE COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE

Be sure to bring a raincoat! Oregon lives up to its reputation of being a rainy place, and when you are close to the waterfalls the spray is fairly intense. Wearing layers is helpful, as some parts of the hikes are strenuous- being able to strip outer layers is very refreshing. Hikers should bring a backpack to carry extra clothes, trail snacks, and water. Hiking shoes or boots are also better than sneakers because the trails could be muddy and traction is helpful.

columbia river gorge oregon waterfall

BEST TIME TO VISIT THE COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE

The Pacific Northwest is known for its moderate temperatures and frequent rainfall, however the rainfall is hardly incredibly heavy. The rainfall is most heavy in the winter months, so plan a visit in the summer. Summer months have an average high in the 60s and a low rainfall average of 1in. Near the waterfalls, temperatures are cooler around 50 degrees.

columbia river gorge oregon

columbia river gorge oregon waterfall

TOP TOURIST SITES IN OREGON

The waterfall loop at the Columbia River Gorge is about 7 miles from the bottom of Multnomah Falls, up to the top of the fall, around deeper into the forest, to the top of another large waterfall, and back down. Along the way you get incredible views of the gorge, the smaller waterfalls, and the hike itself is unbelievable.  If you are not a hiker, that’s ok! There are shorter and more manageable options, including just looking at the waterfalls and driving along the highway. There is a short trail in between the two main falls. While in Oregon, be sure to also spend a a couple days in the charming city of Portland, visit Crater National Park (the only National Park in Oregon), and relax on the the picturesque Cannon and Bandon beaches.

columbia river gorge, oregon

Thanks to guest blogger Marley, a student at Drew University, for sharing her travel tips on Oregon!
Thanks to guest blogger Marley, a student at Drew University, for sharing her travel tips on Oregon!

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua tree is famous for its whimsical tree like yuccas that have spiky leaves and are indigenous to the southwestern United States. There is no one central attraction in Joshua Tree National Park- it is a vast, wild, and unspoiled desert scene with spiky Joshua trees and big granite boulders for miles. It is also an amazing destination for stargazers.  Given the clear desert skies, the sunrises and sunsets are vibrant, and the starry sky looks magical at night.
Joshua tree 3
Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

BEST TIME TO VISIT JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

Temperatures for hiking at best in the spring and fall, with an average high/low of 85°F and 50°F (29 and 10°C) respectively. Summer, between May and September, is very hot – 90°F to 100°F degree highs during the day. Travelers can visit in the winter, but bring plenty of layers as the days are cooler -around 60°F (15°C) and temperatures dip below freezing at night. No matter which season, be prepared with lots of water on your hikes.

HOW TO GET TO JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

From Los Angeles (Airport code: LAX), Joshua Tree is a 2.5 hour drive. You can camp in the park, but during the winter, stay in a hotel in one of the nearby towns or use Airbnb to rent a refurbished homestead cabin. Although the cabin we rented felt remote, it was only a 10 minute drive from the village of Joshua Tree.  There is a small community made up of some great restaurants and mom n pop shops in the village of Joshua Tree.
Joshua Tree National Park

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT VISITING JOSHUA TREE

There are no hotels in the actual Joshua Tree National Park but there are places in the nearby village- both home rentals as well as hotels. To enter Joshua Tree National Park, there is a $20 entry fee per car, which is a 7 day permit for non commercial vehicles. To learn more specifics about camping and other park fees, visit the national parks website by clicking here. Bring plenty of water for your hikes, and layered clothing depending on the time of year you are visiting. Keys View is the most popular place to watch the sunset so try to beat the parking rush and get there early!

WHAT TO DO IN JOSHUA TREE

The 49 Palms Canyon Oasis hike is on the periphery of the national park, it has its own entrance, and is without a fee. It is a 4 mile hike with beautiful elevated views of the desert, and it ends at a desert oasis.
There are a multiple of short, flat, easy hikes to choose from that take you to dams and rock formations.  Some choose to hike different routes to see all the beautiful sites that the park has to offer. Others choose to post up at a campsite and rock climb in a certain area of the park all day. For intermediate hikers, Ryan Mountain is a 1.5 mi hike with a 1070 foot elevation gain.  At the very top, you stand 5,456′ above the desert and the views are incredible.  Looking down, it almost felt like I was surveying the ground of another planet. For sunset, visit Keys View because it is the highest point in Joshua Tree that you can drive to.
The sunset from Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park
The sunset from Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park
Everyone says that they have a moment in Joshua Tree where they experience a profound sense of self-awareness and appreciation for life.  I distinctly remember mine being when I was walking amongst the Joshua trees and the sky burned a pink I had never seen before. For travelers looking to escape it all, there is plenty of time for meditation and reflection while exploring this fantastic desert destination.
Joshua tree National Park
For nightlife near Joshua Tree – drive up to Pioneertown, a town that started as a live-in Old West motion-picture set in the 1940’s. The crowd is a fun mix of locals, LA visitors, and Joshua Tree campers. Travelers with more time can take a detour to Mecca Valley to walk the Painted Canyon trail (vibrant colors make up these canyons) and also visit Salvation Mountain, which has a massive folk art sculpture near the unique desert town of Slab City.
Thanks to Dr. Simi Singh for sharing her travel tips on Joshua Tree National Park!
Thanks to Dr. Simi Singh, a physician in New York City, for sharing her travel tips on Joshua Tree National Park!

Hike to Havasu Falls, Arizona

Havasu Falls is located 1.5 miles from the village of Supai in the Grand Canyon.  There is a 100-foot waterfall that drops into a striking blue-green pool.  The high calcium carbonate concentration is what creates the vivid color of the water.  This is the only place in America where mail is still carried out by mules because the nearest road is 8 miles away from Supai Village.  The Havasupai Tribe administers the region – this area lies outside the boundary and jurisdiction of Grand Canyon National Park.  If you show up without a reservation or pass, you may have to leave.  Havasu means “blue-green water” and pai means “people”.

Havasu falls 3

havasu 2
The blue green water of Havasu

Approximate driving time to Supai Village from Grand Canyon Village (South Rim) is 4 hours.  Supai village, located within Havasu Canyon, is not accessible by road.  The falls can only be reached by hiking, mule, or helicopter.  The hike to Havasu Falls is a moderate difficulty hike, and most people will camp 1 or 2 nights during their visit.  The easiest way to hike to the falls is to schedule with a tour company, so that they can arrange the permits needed, supplies, and a guide.  This is by far one of the most spectacular destinations in the Grand Canyon, and bucket list item for avid travelers.

 

Hanauma Bay, Hawaii

A day trip to this spectacular snorkel spot can be easily made from Waikiki.  Hanauma Bay on the island of Oahu is home to 400 species of fish.  It is known for having an abundance of green sea turtles and colorful parrotfish.  This is a protected state park, and it is against the law to mistreat the marine animals.  While snorkeling you should avoid touching or walking on coral heads.  These look like large rocks on the bottom of the ocean.   Additionally, having contact with certain marine life here carries the risk of cutting your skin which can then lead to an infection.  It is really expensive to rent snorkel equipment here- better off buying your own before visiting!  Your food options are limited near the snorkel area so consider bringing snacks and water with you.  The best time to visit is early in the day, as the sun goes behind the cove of the preserve in the afternoon.

Hanauma Bay

WHEN TO VISIT Hawaii:

November through March are considered Hawaii’s “rainy season.”  The rain, however, usually only lasts a few hours and the weather tends to be warm and pleasant in between.  Budget travelers may be interested in traveling during this time.  For a better chance at good weather and less crowds, visit slightly early in the summer months between May and June.  Late June into September is a popular time for families to travel to Hawaii so hotel and flight prices may be higher.  Hanauma Bay is specifically closed on Tuesdays.  Visit early in the day for the most sun!

WHAT TO Bring to Hanauma Bay:

Remember to bring a bathing suit, a change of clothes, a towel, sunscreen, snacks and snorkel gear.  There is a small entrance fee so bring some cash.

HOW TO GET TO Hanauma Bay:

Non stop flights to Honolulu are available from both JFK and Newark at the time of this post.  For those on a budget, one stop flights can be slightly cheaper, and usually stop in California.  Once in Honolulu, you can catch the #22 bus from Waikiki to get out here or rent a car.  There is a parking lot on site but it tends to fill up early in the morning, so plan accordingly.  Specific details regarding bus cost, shuttle options, entrance fee and parking can be found at the state park’s website.

 

Simi Bosnia
Thanks to guest blogger / travel enthusiast / doctor extraordinaire Simi for sharing her vacay hack with us!

 

 

Central Park, New York

Central Park is awesome.  I took my new camera to the Loeb Boathouse on Friday to test it out.  While taking some pics from the iconic Bow Bridge, a couple in a gondola came by.  Just as the guy began to propose, his friends (standing on the bridge beside me) jumped up screaming “Say Yes! Say Yes!”  So much fun to watch!

Say Yes

Yes, it is a little cheesy, but if you are a visitor to NYC or a native, renting a boat in Central Park is something to try at least once.  The gondola rides are on the pricier side – $45 per half hour – so if you are planning to propose, there is no time to be shy.  A more reasonable option is to rent one of the row boats- $15 per hour (cash only!) with a $20 cash deposit.  Each boat holds 4 people and the Loeb Boathouse provides life jackets.  Enter the park in the east 70s and rent a boat from 10 am to 6 pm (weather permitting) from April to November.

The Cloisters, New York City

A visit to the Cloisters in Fort Tyron Park in Upper Manhattan will transport you to Medieval Europe.  It has architecture from five different European abbeys that were disassembled, shipped to NYC and then reconstructed in the 1930s.  The gardens and abbeys here will make you feel like you have traveled in time and half way around the world.  But, the A train to 190 street gets you here in under an hour from midtown.

Sand Dunes in Michigan

This photo was taken in the underrated sand dunes of Northern and Western Michigan.  What so many travelers do not know is that Michigan’s landscape, particularly near Lake Michigan is anything but ordinary.  The dramatic sand dunes dive into the the enormous lake below.  Silver Lake Dunes is about a 3 hour drive from Detroit and will allow adventure enthusiasts to rent dune buggies.  Sleeping Bear Dunes is further from Detroit and more north but boasts close proximity to Traverse City which is a well known resort destination amongst Michigan residents.  You don’t need to head half way around the world to experience this landscape!