{mount rainier national park}

{This one's a long one—I tried to keep the writing short because I wanted this post to contain mostly photos, but I couldn't help myself, heh. Click the smaller photos to enlarge for a fuller view of the photo.}

One of my favorite parts about vacationing is experiencing the marvelous wonders of nature, from lounging by a beach with the clearest water to hiking up to a breathtaking view. While I do love walking through the streets of unknown cities and meandering into cute shops or devouring the local cuisine, I've begun to cultivate a love for the outdoors. Spending weeks during previous summers camping out by Seven Lakes in Upstate New York don't do any of the sights any justice whatsoever.

Before embarking on our journey to Mount Rainier, we stopped by The Bair Bistro in the tiny, beautiful town of Steilacoom. The living museum and restaurant does a fantastic job of preserving the 1900s, with antique items ranging from old milkshake mixers to ancient medicines lining their shelves. Peering at the shelves was a great way to pass the time as we waited for our food, which was also quite delicious. Highly recommend the biscuits and gravy if you ever find yourself in Steilacoom.

The drive to the national park was a beauty in itself—the winding roads, magnificent trees, crisp air, and the peeks of Mount Rainier took my breath away. I couldn't shut up about the trees. When you're in the presence of these mighty trees after spending most of your life surrounded by skyscrapers and stumpy East Coast trees, you can't help but stick your head out of the window in pure amazement at these wonders. 

If I were to pick a favorite part of my week-long excursion in Washington, it would be this day we spent hiking Mount Rainier. I'm already itching to go back so I can explore the park even further for those breathtaking views of fog and the mountain itself. Unfortunately, we arrived after the fog rolled through the park, so all views of grand Mount Rainier were already hidden away.

However, this was hardly a problem; the fogged up views were exactly what I had hoped for. Watching the wisps of fog slipping through the tall trees and rolling through the hills and valleys of the trail felt surreal, as if I was partaking in one of nature's own private shows. An eerie but beautiful stillness started to envelop the areas around us while the fog seemed to dance around us, appearing as quickly as it disappeared.

{Photo by  Christina .}

{Photo by Christina.}

Let me also add that this hike was not a walk in the park. The inclines were incredibly difficult for someone who does relatively little to no exercise. I could feel the blood rushing to my face as my heart raced and legs screamed in pain. Lawd, my legs just spazzed just thinking about the pain.

At one point of the hike, we were met with what seemed like a giant wall of white nothingness on the left side of the trail. I almost felt like I was in one of those completely white rooms from the movies that seem to go on forever with all but one or two other things in them. The most amazing part of this was being able to hear the wind howling somewhere behind this white wall of nothingness, this thick, thick accumulation of fog. Coupled with the howling wind, you could almost see the fog moving (or maybe my eyes were deceiving me). It was one of the most incredible moments during the hike, probably the highlight of the trip for me. Mind you, it wasn't a gradual foggy lead into the white abyss of nothing; it was simply a solid white wall of fog. The feeling was similar to when I watched Interstellar in IMAX 3-D, that feeling of insignificance and feeling like such a minuscule dot in this big world.

We continued onward with the hopes of maybe, just maybe, if we climbed a little ways further, we would be able to see some blue skies and the top of the hidden Mount Rainier. Several strenuous hills and countless "leg breaks" later, we gave up and started our trek down.

Walking down was also an incredible experience. It was as if we were emerging from a cloud and slowly floating down to normal altitudes. The transition from thick fog to seeing pockets of blue skies and sunlight on the trees had us stopping every few steps in attempts to capture the picturesque landscapes.

Also a little fun science thing: I had a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos (surprise, surprise) in the car. Because we were at a much higher altitude, the bag had puffed up like a balloon. I took a moment to enjoy the science tidbit before I ripped the bag open and devoured the contents.

Tips for your trip to Mount Rainier National Park:

  • Go earlier in the day to see the peak before the fog rolls in. But also be prepared to not see the peak because weather permitting, you may or may not be able to see anything but fog, fog, and more fog.
  • Bring pleeeeeenty of water (and some snacks) because if you're in as bad shape as I am, it will be the nectar of the hiking gods for you during your climb up.
  • Hiking shoes are not mandatory because the trails are pretty flat (photos for reference above). Regular ol' running shoes would do the trick.

I seriously cannot wait to go back to see more of this park. Looking at geotags from the park now shows people hitting the slopes and walking through a snowy park. I definitely want to see the park in all this wintery, snowy glory. Now taking donations for a return trip to Washington. Anyone?

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{2015 december playlist}

Completely forgot about posting last month's playlist because things got to busy on my end, so apologies for that! Here's this month's playlist. I'll continue to add tracks as the month goes on as usual.

Um, is it really already December!? I can't believe 2016 is literally around the corner now. Super excited to be spending some time away at the end of the year with my family. Hope everyone is having an amazing end of the year, whether you're celebrating with friends or family. May your gatherings be filled with much laughter and lots and lots of food! More posts on the backburner that I will hopefully be able to churn out. Stay tuned!

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{on food reviews & food authorities}

{Disclaimer: This post is in no way intended to offend anyone in the food industry. Opinions are entirely my own. Please read to the bottom of the post. Thank you!}

How do you decide where you're going to eat next? Google search "romantic evening date restaurants" or "where to go for the best french fries"? When I meet with friends, they ask me where I find places to eat. And of course, the first thing they ask is if I use Yelp to find these hidden gems and sweet spots to eat (spoiler: hell no). 

This post has been a long time coming for me because I have some strong opinions (all my own) about food reviews and ratings. I'll go through some of the sites or apps that I like to use and the sites with reviews that I take with a grain of salt and the sites that are the reasons I have #trustissues, all complete with real life experiences that have brought me to my conclusions.

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