Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Travel Tips

This is way overdue, but these are just some general tips I've picked up and learned from trial and error.

  • Spend at least 2 nights everywhere you go. It's easy to want to see everything, but you'll just feel rushed and stressed and not see a lot in the places you go.
  • Do plan ahead. Try not to just show up somewhere and go to the Tourist Office. I've done this a lot, and it's fine, but you just end up wasting valuable time and getting confused. Especially if you're with other people. I like guidebooks, because everything's in one place (try libraries so you don't have to buy them!). Googling and reading forums is also helpful, but can be overwhelming. There are some good free travel guides too for a lot of cities.
  • But be flexible. Things change, that place you want to see might be closed, or you may want to stay longer in one place and skip another. Talk to people at your hostels or hotels for suggestions.
  • Research your transportation options. Trains in Italy were cheap and last minute tickets cost the same. Germany's expensive but if you plan ahead and find discount options it's okay. Buses are usually cheaper and not much slower. Look for other passes if you'll be there a while - like Germany's 5 days in 2 weeks passes for young adults.
  • Bring you student ID.
  • HostelBookers and HostelWorld are great. Trust the reviews and the rating system. I can put up with a lot, but it's nice to know what to expect. Sometimes booking directly on the hostel's website can save you a couple dollars.
    • best hostel country: Portugal 
    • worst: Italy 
    • most expensive: Germany
    • cheapest: eastern Europe, Turkey
  • Try couch surfing and ride sharing, especially in expensive Scandinavia and western European countries.
  • Don't be afraid to travel alone! It's less stressful, you can do what you want, and you'll be more likely to meet people! Sometimes I picked hostels just because they were deemed good places to meet people, and the comments were always right! I had my best and most fun experiences traveling alone, and I'm bad at meeting people. Plus, you feel pretty awesome navigating transportation and everything in a different language.
  • Shop at grocery stores. A lot of hostels have kitchens, but even if they don't you can get things like bread, cheese, yogurt, fruit, etc. Picnics are great and cheap. Plus, I love grocery stores so exploring them is as good as sight seeing in my eyes.
  • Either embrace to selfie or get people to take pictures of you if you're alone. Yes, it's awkward but it's worth it to have those memories documented (or just make friends with other travelers. They understand.)
  • Get out of your comfort zone every day. Whether that's trying a new food, going to a random club till 6am the day after you ran a half marathon and didn't sleep with people you just met 10 minutes ago, or going on a difficult hike. These are the experience you'll value forever.
  • Balance culture and fun. Museums, tours (check out, night life, physical activity. 
    • I love going for runs in new cities. You get to see it before the tourists are out, you understand the layout of the city better, and often stumble upon hidden gems tucked away next to the famous stuff.
  • Choose what's important to pay for.
    • If you take the time and effort to plan, you'll be less likely to waste money! Eat a couple special restaurant meals, but it's easy to eat cheap with street food and grocery stores. This may mean that you will be eating gelato for lunch, but hey, you're in Italy.
  • most of all, HAVE FUN! Don't let little things stress you out. Almost everyone is more than willing to help you out, so use common sense and make the most of your trip!

Tuck and Robin Lakes

Kate reminded me I basically had 4 days off over Labor Day weekend, so I decided to do an overnight hike. I ended up going to Tuck and Robin Lakes.

I parked at the trailhead, which was full although only two trail start there. I have no idea where all those people were. I didn't start until 2:00pm because it was very important to go to the Goodwill sale first. It wasn't too hard to find, but the last 14 miles were on a terrible forrest road filled with potholes and rocks. Those last 14 miles took me over 1 1/2 hours.

It starts on the trail for Deception Pass and is pretty flat past Lake Hyas. I only saw a few people. Then, it goes up switchbacks for a couple of miles until you hit the fork for Tuck and Robin Lakes. And then it climbs. It's pretty much straight up, but that means the views get good really fast. Cathedral Rock, Mt. Daniel covered in snow and a glacier with lots of waterfalls streaming down. Supposedly, Mt. Ranier should be visible but I never saw it. There were so distant clouds in that direction though.

I got to Tuck Lake just before 5pm, and decided I should swim. It was quite frigid. As in, I swam to an island maybe 25m away, and my butt was numb by the time I got there. I warmed up and walked around the rocks once, but then swam back because I knew I had at least an hour left once I found the trail. It actually was easier than I thought, because I knew to keep Tuck Pot on my right and the lake on my left, and then I started seeing cairns. Thank goodness for those cairns. Again, it just climbed straight up. This part was even steeper. It's only a mile, but I definitely used my hands a lot, especially with a backpack. At one point I was following a path and realized I hadn't seen a cairn in a couple minutes (there should always be one in sight.) I realized I must be on a mountain goat trail, which didn't worry e that much because I know they go up to the lakes too. But then I saw the real trail right below. I had to do some legit rock climbing. It was only sideways, but I had to get to where the slope caught up to me so it started pretty high. Then I trampled a bunch of vegetation and probably caused years of damage side stepping on the precarious slope until I was on the just as precarious, but more sturdy, trail. The last push to the top is just on granite with cairns to lead you. The view was magnificent, although there were some clouds moving fast. I finally made it to the lakes, and found a spot to camp!

I ate dinner on the ridge between the lakes, and saw another tent across the small lake. A mountain goat passed the two people sitting on the rocks next to the tent, and then checked out my camp. He looked at me a few times. Apparently they like to lick where people have I made sure to do that far away from my tent. The clouds moved in fast and soon I was engulfed, which meant I missed the sunset too.

The next morning I was still deep in the depths of a cloud, so I stayed in my tent a while. I also watched a couple goats playing and a mama and her kid, who came right up to me.
Eventually I started climbing up the ridge. I wasn't sure how worth it it would be, but it seemed like the higher I climbed, the clearer it got. I was above the clouds for a while, and then the sun came out and they cleared. The view was amazing! I got to the top and could see over the other side too, but I couldn't figure out how to get to Granite Mountain and it was getting late so I just went down.

I packed up and started down, and it took me almost as long as coming up because it was so steep. It was amazing! I hope to be able to do more overnight trips!