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Morning in Muir Woods

Light filtering through the trees at Muir Woods

Just outside the city of San Francisco lays a natural sanctuary waiting to be explored – Muir Woods National Monument. Nestled just a short drive away from the city, this verdant forest offered a peaceful retreat from the urban chaos. Join us on a morning hike through the towering redwoods and immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature.  On our recent trip to San Fransisco, we took one morning away from the city to immerse ourselves in the redwood forest.

As the first rays of sunlight peeked over the horizon, we began our journey to Muir Woods. The drive from San Fransisco was a bottleneck and I was worried we weren’t going to make it in time for our entry window into the park. Luckily we made it in time and we were able to relax, step out of the car, and fill our lungs with the crisp morning air, invigorating us for the adventure ahead.

Entering the towering redwoods, we were greeted by a symphony of bird songs and the gentle rustle of leaves. The sunlight filtered through the canopy, casting a soft glow on the forest floor. The scent of damp earth and pine needles enveloped us, transporting us to a world far removed from the city.

Looking up into the Redwoods at Muir Woods

We set off on the trail, following the winding path that meandered through the ancient forest. The towering redwood trees soared above us, their majestic presence a reminder of the passage of time. Each step brought us closer to the heart of the forest, where a sense of peace and tranquility reigned.

As we hiked deeper into the woods, the sounds of civilization faded away, replaced by the gentle murmur of a nearby stream. The cool, shaded trails offered respite from the morning sun, inviting us to slow down and savor the sights and sounds of nature.

Along the way, we encountered the remnants of a bygone era – fallen trees covered in moss, ferns flourishing in the damp undergrowth, and the occasional glimpse of wildlife darting through the foliage. These simple yet profound moments served as a reminder of the interconnectedness of all living things.

Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods

Cathedral Grove

Reaching the iconic Cathedral Grove, we paused to marvel at the sheer size and beauty of the ancient redwoods that surrounded us. Their massive trunks stretched towards the sky, their branches reaching out like fingers to touch the heavens. Standing in their presence, we were humbled by the grandeur of nature.

As we made our way back to the trailhead, our hearts were full, and our spirits rejuvenated. The morning hike in Muir Woods National Monument had been a journey of self-discovery, a moment of quiet reflection amidst the chaos of everyday life. We left the forest feeling grateful for the opportunity to experience its beauty and serenity.

In the end, Muir Woods National Monument was not just a destination; it was a sanctuary for the soul, a place to reconnect with the natural world and find peace in its embrace. So, next time you find yourself in San Francisco, make sure to set aside a morning to explore this magical forest – you won’t be disappointed.

Morning in Muir Woods

Thank you for joining us on this virtual hike through Muir Woods National Monument. Remember to take only pictures, leave only footprints, and always respect the beauty and serenity of nature.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Playa Negra

Visiting Vieques

Sunset from Playa Punta Arenas

After our time in Rincon was complete, we headed back across the island to catch the ferry to Vieques. Vieques is an island off the east coast of Puerto Rico and is popular with beachgoers and those looking to see the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. Vieques is accessible by ferry from Cieba, just south of Fajardo. We bought our $2 ferry tickets online about a month in advance so when we got to Cieba, we parked our car and waited for our time to board.

Wild Horses of ViequsThe ferry ride to Vieques was a little rough but it wasn’t long before we were docked on the island of Vieques. We booked a Jeep from Coqui Car Rental, which was a short walk from the ferry terminal. We picked up our vehicle that was ready for the rough roads the island is known for, dropped off our bags at our Airbnb, and went out to explore the island. We quickly discovered that maneuvering our big Jeep through the narrow roads of Isabel Segunda was a challenge, but we ended up needing the off-road capacity the Jeep provided later on in our exploration of the island. I was surprised by how many wild horses roam the island (left).

Playa Negra

We downloaded a Vieques History Audio Tour that helped get us acquainted with the island and its history. The tour took us from near the ferry terminal in Isabel Segunda to the sugar mill ruins, the breakwater, the lighthouse, and the black sand beach. The black sand beach on Vieques is unique because the island is not volcanic. If you have seen the black sand beaches in Hawaii (or in our case, the Azores), this is different because the beach is mostly normal beige sand with black streaks. Those streaks are tiny magnetic rocks (mostly magnetite). The brown sand gets pulled out to sea with the waves, but the black sand stays behind. It’s a very unique sight to behold. The black sand beach is accessible from the road by a trail that runs along a creek bed, so waterproof shoes are a good idea if you plan to make the trek. The beach is very rocky and not recommended for swimming.

One of the things we learned on the audio tour is that three-quarters of the island is inaccessible because for 60 years the U.S. Navy used it as a live-fire range and it is full of unexploded ordinances. In 1999 a local man was killed in an off-target bombing and the people of Vieques lobbied global human rights forums to end the bombing on the island. In the early 2000s, the weapons training area was shut down and the land was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which is working on cleaning up the residual bombs.

After exploring the island, I wanted to experience the sunset on the westernmost beach on the island, Playa Punta Arenas which is located in Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. We climbed in the Jeep and were jostled over the rough dirt roads in the park. Prepared for a lot of people jostling for the best sunset spot on the island on New Year’s Day, we parked and were shocked to find that there was no one else around except for hermit crabs on the beach. I still can’t believe how serene that experience was (top)!

If you are looking to have a pristine Caribbean beach all to yourself, consider a trip to Vieques. What it lacks in amenities, it makes up for natural beauty. Be sure to check back next week when I detail our experience in Vieques’ bioluminescent bay! Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our time in Puerto Rico, check out my Circle Tour of the Island. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Starfish

Starfish at Hole in the Wall

Wordless Wednesday: Wild Horses

Wild Horse of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Custer State Park

Path Around Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota is a large park on the scale of some of the most popular national parks. If there is some type of outdoor recreation you enjoy, I’m sure it can be found at Custer State Park. From hiking and camping to rock climbing and scenic drives, there is something for everyone at Custer.

Getting Ready for the Hay RideThe 71,000 acres of Custer State Park is home to a variety of wildlife. The best way to see the wildlife is to drive the Wildlife Loop Road. Bison, Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats, and Prairie Dogs can be seen along the road. For my birthday, we took the Hayride through the wildlife loop road (left) and it was fun because our guide slowed down in areas where the animals are likely to be found and talked to us about them. At the end of the tour, we had a chuckwagon cookout and sing along which was a lot of fun and the food was good too! If you’re in for an off-road experience, the Buffalo Safari Jeep tour looked fun too!

Needles Highway

Probably the most scenic drive in Custer State Park is the Needles Highway. The Needles Highway takes you through pine forests and the unique needles rock formations. The drive isn’t for the faint of heart or those with oversized vehicles because there are some hairpin turns and one-lane tunnels through the Needles. I have heard that the road can get pretty crowded in the summer but we found that driving in the late afternoon or early evening we were able to enjoy the drive without crowds. We enjoyed the drive so much that we did it several times while we were staying in the area.

There are several good lakes for paddling in the park but Sylvan Lake (top) is probably the most popular. The unique rock formations are fun to paddle around and explore. It is a landscape unlike I had ever seen before. The downside of Sylvan Lake is that is fairly small and we had gone around it twice in probably less than half an hour. We were going to check out the bigger Stockade Lake after but when we got there it was closed due to bacteria. Oh well, I guess that gives us a reason to return, right?

The Black Hills really surprised me. I didn’t expect the scenic beauty that can be found at Custer and the surrounding area. I would love to return and be able to explore deeper into the park. I would love to stay at one of the many campgrounds or lodges. If you are going to be in the Black Hills, be sure to check out Custer State Park. You will not be disappointed.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Prairie Dog

Prairie Dog

Laughing Whitefish Falls

During our Epic Michigan Road Trip a few years ago, we spent the day driving from Houghton to Munising exploring Northern Michigan’s waterfalls. I had heard about Laughing Whitefish Falls and wanted to check it out. We looked it up on Google Maps and headed out to see it. Google suggested a shortcut so we took it. After driving a little while the road we were driving on turned into a two-track. We figured if it’s on Google its got to be a legitimate road so we continued driving. After bouncing around for a while we came to a creek running across the road. At the time we were driving our Kia Soul which is not much of an off-road vehicle and we didn’t think would be a good idea to drive our car through water, so we turned around and headed back where we came from.

Ever since that day, I have seen pictures of these falls and I put them at the top of my list for things to see on a return trip to the UP. When planning this trip, I saw the drive from Fayette to the Porcupine Mountains as a perfect time to take a detour to Laughing Whitefish Falls. This time, we stuck to the main route and we made it!

Laughing Whitefish Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in Michigan and is really impressive to see in person. The trail from the parking area to the falls is about a mile long and ends at a viewing platform at the top of the falls. From there you can take the very large staircase to get you to the bottom of the approximately 100-foot tall waterfall. Make sure you bring water because it is a lot easier to go down all those stairs than it is to go up them!

Laughing Whitefish Falls is located off of M-94 between Munising and Marquette near the town of Chatham. Be sure to follow the signs to the park and not follow GPS guidance unless you are prepared to go off-roading!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our UP adventure, check out the Great Lakes, Great Summer Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit

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Wordless Wednesday: Cairn Shadow

Wordless Wednesday: Tree

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