Maui – Day 1

Our first time in Maui was in 2016 with mom and dad.  Due to the fact that they were with us, and dad had some medical issues at the time we really didn’t get to explore the island as much as we wanted to.  This time around I made sure we hit everything we wanted to see, specifically to hike the Pipiwai trail to see the bamboo forest.  We also finally got a chance to go whale watching for the first time.

As soon as we landed we decided to get some authentic Hawaiian food.  We ended up at Poi by the Pound that was within walking distance from our car rental company SIXT.  We actually didn’t realize it was within walking distance, and ended up driving around the block.

Joe and I shared the Hawaiian plate which consisted of kalua pork, lau lau, poi, chicken long rice, ahi poke, and salmon lomi.  This gave us a chance to taste all the various local dishes.  My favorite was the kalua pork, but due to it’s saltiness I ended up mixing it with poi, which by itself is rather bland.  However, the combo was actually pretty tasty.

Clockwise from top right: salmon lomi, Lau Lau, kalua pork, rice, salad, chicken long rice, poi, ahi poke.

After lunch we were on our way to our hotel – the Kaanapali Beach Hotel (the same one we stayed at 4 years ago).  I decided to stay at KBH due to it’s proximity to the Sheraton where the conference was being held.  The other reason why I picked KBH was that they do not charge a resort fee like all the other hotels.  Personally, I don’t like paying for resort fees as they really don’t add much value to my stay – I don’t need wifi and free local calls, as that’s was a personal cell phone is for.

Instead of driving clockwise from Kahului to Kaanapali like we did last time, we opted to drive counterclockwise to check out the part of the island we didn’t get to see last time.  The clockwise route is a major thoroughfare between Kahului and Lahaina, whereas the counterclockwise route is a one-way winding route that is slower, but much more scenic.


The cloud cover lifted as we continued on.


The one thing I love about Hawaii is how lush and green everything is, especially the windward side of the island.


The contrast of the green mountain and blue ocean.



Imagine living in a place like this.  Terribly inconvenient, but you’re in your own paradise.


One thing we’ve learned over the years, is that if you see a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road – stop, and check it out.  This is what we were awarded with after a 2-minute trek on the trail.


Getting closer to the ledge, at risk of getting blown over.


It was really windy the week we were there as you can see from the waves being picked up by the wind.


A closer look.


Interestingly, there are no signs along the road pointing out scenic vistas.  One of them being the Nakalele blowhole I’ve wanted to check out last time.  The only reason why we ended up at the blowhole this time was all thanks to the telltale sign of a huge gathering of rental cars.  We didn’t even know what we were stopping for until we saw this sign on the trail.


One other thing we’ve learned over time is to always heed warning signs.  So we steered way clear away from the blowhole – maybe we stayed a little too far.  The other reason for not hiking all the way down was due to the fact that I was wearing flip flop sandals, which was not the most appropriate footwear for the situation.


With all the stops along a narrow winding road, we finally reached the hotel some time after 4PM.  As soon as we dropped off our bags, we headed over to the Whalers Village to pick up one of my favorites – Honolulu Cookies, to bring back to the office after the trip.

Caught a rainbow on our way back to the hotel room.


For dinner, we opted for sushi since we hadn’t had sushi in years despite the fact that we live in California.  We opted for Miso Phat given that they get their fish same day off their own boat “Shiso Phat”, and let me tell you the fish is absolutely fresh and delicious, especially their hamachi.  I can’t remember the last time I had such good sushi other than back in 2009 at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.  In fact, it was so good that we ended up having dinner there 3 nights out of the 5 – we would’ve gone 4 had it not been for our 13-hour Hana highway trip that drained us by the time we got back to the hotel in the evening, and we opted to skip dinner all together.

If you ever end up at Miso Phat, make sure to order the Miso Phat roll, TNT roll, and spicy hamachi roll.  Also the joint doesn’t have a liquor license, so BYOB (there’s a deli next door that sells good Japanese beer and sake).



Mount San Jacinto

Lately I’ve felt the need to take a break every 3-4 weeks.  Working daily is mentally draining.  Call it burn out or compassion fatigue, either way I need a recharge.  I realized that I don’t necessarily need a long getaway to recharge, I simply need a day in nature to allow the weight to fall off my shoulders.  After the exhilaration and serotonin jolt I got from the Mt. Baldy hike, I quickly started to plan another hiking trip.

It’s amazing how little I’ve seen of SoCal after having been living here for the last 8 years.  Our lives have basically been confined to the 25 mile radius of our home.  On weekends we opt not to venture far from our home because we simply love staying in and near the area we live in.  Plus, the SoCal traffic is a huge deterrent to drive anywhere.  With that said, this year I’ve decided to take off a Friday every 3-4 weeks to explore SoCal.

To find another hiking trail, I consulted  He has detail information and turn-by-turns on his website.  It’s a wonderful resource.  I wanted something challenging in an alpine environment.  In order to find that in SoCal, one must go up in elevation.  Meaning at least 8000 ft above sea level.  The best part about hiking in such high elevation in the summer is the temperature.  It could be 100F in the desert floor, but a cool 50-60F up top.

One interesting trail is the PS Tramway to Mount San Jacinto peak located in the San Bernardino Mountains in Palm Springs, which is about a 2-hour drive from Laguna Beach.

You take the Palm Springs Tramway up 6000ft from 2000ft.  The cost of the ride is $25, which is a pretty good deal if it can shave off 6000ft of ascent.


The whole trip took 10 minutes, and the best part about the tram is that the floor rotates allowing you 360 degree view while you stand still in the tram.


A view down toward the desert floor.

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Once you get off the tram, you’re at 8000+ft and in alpine territory.




Our goal was to reach the summit at 10,834 ft, which meant we still had a good 2600 ft ascent and 5.5 miles ahead of us.  Our first goal was to reach Wellman’s Divide at 9100ft.


A view from Wellman’s Divide…


After a quick water and snack break, we headed for the summit 2 miles away.

Found a nice cutout in a tree for a photo-op…


Scenes along the way…


You can see the desert floor to the left.


There is still snow left at this elevation in June.



Near the summit, there’s a shelter with 2 bunk beds that you can stay at in case you’re caught in inclement weather.


Judging by the sign, we took the easy way up.  Some people actually hike from the desert floor in Idyllwild.


Luckily we brought hiking poles this time, because there was a patch of snow up the final push that made trekking tricky.

Finally made it up to the top after getting overtaken by a bunch of boy scouts…Ah youth…


I read that on a clear day you can see Catalina Island off the coast of California to the west and Mt. Charleston in Nevada to the east.  Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of haze while we were up top, and chose to face east for our lunch break.


After the half hour lunch break, we starting our hike back down…


There was no way to hike down this without the use of hiking poles.


The hike took us a total of 7.5 hours (plus the 1/2 hour break up at the summit).  It took 4 hours to go up and 3 hours down.  By the time we got back down to the desert floor, we were ready for some real food after a whole day of trail mixes.

When it comes to eating, it’s always Joe’s responsibility to find yummy food because it’s important to him.  After much researching prior to the hike, we decided on Workshop Palm Springs.

The restaurant has a very hip, minimalist, industrial feel.


The Palm Springer cocktail was yummy!


The octopus carpaccio was especially refreshing after a long day of hiking…

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and the mussels were to die for.  The broth was so good that we quickly accepted another round of buttered toasted bread in order to sop up the broth.  It would have been easier had they just offered us a straw each.


I opted for the saffron risotto because I needed the carb for my scheduled 10 mile run the following day.


Joe had the pork chop with amazing relish.


Finally, the pistachio mouse with passion fruit gelatin, which unfortunately overpowered the pistachio.


This hike was unique because of the tram, but not quite as interesting as Mount Baldy.  For now, we’re going to take a break from hiking as I think we got the hiking bug out of the system.  Luckily, we have a more sedate Vegas trip coming up in 3 weeks…

Mount Baldy

Hiking Mount Baldy was a last minute decision.  While at work on Friday, I was itching to go somewhere and do something over the Memorial Day Weekend.  Hiking is always fun, so I googled hiking trails in SoCal.  I didn’t want just any two-bit hiking trail like the ones we have in Laguna Beach.  I wanted something challenging, fun, and beautiful, which meant I had to look at higher elevation climbs.  Mount Baldy, AKA Mount San Antonio, fit the bill.

Mount Baldy is located in the Angeles National Forest, which is an hour and change north east of us.  Mount Baldy summit is the highest peak in LA county, topping out at 10,064ft.

After stopping off at the visitor center to pay for our $5 Adventure Pass we headed to Mankers Flat, the start of the trailhead.

There are 2 ways of getting up to the summit.  The Devil’s Backbone or the Baldy Bowl trail.  From Mankers Flat, we picked hiking up the paved road to Mount Baldy Resort, then hiking up the Devil’s Backbone Trail to the Summit.


One thing that caught us off guard was the snow.  It had rained the night before, and any precipitation above 8K ft translates to snow.  I think had we known there was going to be snow, we would have scrapped the hike because we were warned not to hike the trail when there is snow.

However, snow makes this place look like a wonderland.  It’s beautiful beyond description.


Some people opted to take the ski lift up to the resort before picking up the trail.


A view above the clouds before the Devil’s Backbone Trail.


Looking east towards the Mojave desert.


The start of the Devil’s Backbone trail.  Called the Devil’s Backbone trail because you have sheer drops on either side of the path.  When icy, this is where people fall off to their deaths.


Looking back at the hikers crossing the first section of the backbone.


Hiking up towards the second section.

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Never would I imagine this kind of view existed in Southern California.


Posing on the second section of the backbone.


Certain sections are narrower than others.


Immediately past the backbone, there was a narrow part that hugged the cliff wall.  Some of the snow had turned slushy and slippery, and at one point I thought I was going to fall off.  I think I would have been perfectly fine had there not been any snow on the ground.  This is when a set of hiking poles, and some crampons would come in handy.  I just remember digging my nails into the side of the wall to keep me from falling.

I had never been so scared in my life.  Even Joe said he’s never seen me so frightened.

At the bottom of the last summit.  This part was hard only for the fact that it was freezing and the wind was whipping at top speeds, and we had no where to hide.  This section was completely exposed.  Joe couldn’t feel his lips.  I just felt stinging on the right side of my face as the wind was coming from that direction.


As we were hiking, we both had the same thought about turning around (a group had turned around).  However, for me, the thought of having to go back to the narrow path where I thought I had almost fallen off made me push forward.

We finally made it.  Four and a half hours and 4000 ft from the parking lot, we made it to the summit.  The last section took us a good 40 minutes to hike up.


Thanks to the gale force wind, we chose not to linger at the top, and we made our way down the Baldy Bowl trail.




Can’t remember the last time we saw snow.  This was an impromptu thing Joe did.  He just plopped down to make a snow angel.


Luckily, the Baldy bowl trail was protected from the wind, and we decided to have our mid-day snack here while enjoying the view.


View along the trail at lower elevation.


Finally, at the end of the Baldy Bowl trail which connects to the paved road we had hiked up 7 hours ago.


I am so glad we did this impromptu hike.  Granted I almost died of a panic attack, but it was worth it.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely, but only after the snow has melted, and after investing in some good hiking poles.