Hiking Rattlesnake Ledge // Washington

Rattlesnake Ledge is a relatively moderate hike in Washington’s Central Cascade Mountains. A popular trail, especially in the summertime, hikers are rewarded with stunning views and Instagram-worthy panoramas at the top.

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The trail starts at a family-friendly park by Rattlesnake Lake. When we went, the lake was very low, but when it’s been a good winter it’s supposed to be suitable for swimming and kayaking. The park makes it a great option for families and groups; folks who don’t want to do the hike can hang out by the lake.

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Less than an hour from Seattle, Rattlesnake Ledge is a great day trip. The trail winds through beautiful forest, with a few lookouts over Rattlesnake Lake as you ascend, and is nice and wide and well-maintained.

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This was one of the first hikes we took Aspen on when adopted her. She’s a great hiker, and–as we discovered–apparently a really great rock scrambler!

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Go early if you want to avoid the crowds, and watch your little ones and dogs at the ledge(s) when you reach the top–there are some sheer cliffs.

NITTY GRITTY

Distance: 4.0 miles, roundtrip (6.4 km.)

Elevation: 3,481 ft. (1,061 m) // 1,160 ft. gain (353.5 m.)

Terrain: Dirt; not too steep; includes many switchbacks; well-maintained

Difficulty Level: Moderate, suitable for most ages

Dog-friendly: Yes

Entrance Fee: No


Written by Stephanie
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Kayaking Mercer Slough // Bellevue, WA

Just minutes from where we live, Mercer Slough Nature Park is the largest freshwater wetland of Lake Washington. More than 320 acres of wildlife habitat, agriculture, and freshwater wetland make up one of Bellevue’s largest parks, which also includes a canoe/kayak launch and unique trail through the slough.

These photos were all taken with an iPhone, since I didn’t want to bring my DSLR along for this wet activity!

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We rented a tandem kayak and paddled our way through the trail in under two hours. This is a really unique kayaking experience if you’re used to ocean or lake kayaking. Once you pass under the I-90 bridge, you enter another world. With lush foliage all around, lilies growing at the water’s edge, and only the sound of the paddle slicing through the water you feel like a true explorer.

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This is a great spot for birdwatching as well. We saw great blue herons, ducks, and geese, as well as others we couldn’t name.

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If you’re looking for a low-key adventure in the Seattle/Bellevue area, we highly recommend checking out Mercer Slough Nature Park. Even if you’re not a big kayaker, there are many trails, a visitor’s center, environmental education center, picnic areas, waterfront, and a blueberry farm, which sells fresh seasonal produce!

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www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/mercer_slough.htm


Written by Stephanie

Exploring Oahu

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We had the awesome opportunity to visit Oahu for a week for our honeymoon. While we got in plenty of relaxation–a must after the busyness of planning a wedding–we also managed to squeeze in lots of adventure.

Where We Stayed

We stayed in a condo owned by family friends on the western shore of Oahu, near Honokai Hale. We loved this location, because it was away from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu and Waikiki in a quiet, peaceful area–but it was also just 40 minutes out of Honolulu and about a half hour from the North Shore. We liked having a kitchen to make breakfast (and an occasional dinner in) AND a washer and dryer!

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The view from the lanai of our condo.

Where We Ate

There are LOTS of yummy places to eat on Oahu. We didn’t eat out a lot, since we did have the luxury of a kitchen (and we like to cook!) plus a somewhat active itinerary. But we did hit a few spots worth mentioning.

Teddy’s Bigger Burgers

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Teddy’s Bigger Burgers was the first thing we did when we arrived in Honolulu after leaving the airport. We were starving, and the restaurant came recommended to us. We were NOT disappointed. They really are bigger, and stacked tall with fresh ingredients. We both had ours with pineapple and jalapeño–plus a side of delicious umami fries. It wasn’t just our hunger that made this place so good…we ended up hitting up another location later in the week for round two!

www.teddysbb.com

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck

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We were actually trying to go to a different food truck and somehow missed it, but then we found Giovanni’s and realized it was meant to be! We stopped at the location on Kamehameha Highway in Kahuku. Food trucks are everywhere on the island and actually stay in one place, just like a regular restaurant! We shared a plate of the lemon butter shrimp.

www.giovannisshrimptruck.com

Matsumoto Shave Ice

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We didn’t really understand why shave ice is such a big deal in Hawaii until we had some for ourselves. I thought it would be like a snow cone, but there’s definitely more to it than that! We had our first shave ice experience at Matsumoto’s in historic Haleiwa on the North Shore. Matsumoto’s is supposed to be a big deal…but we actually liked the ice better at Island Snow in Kailua, which also doubles as a sporting goods store. They are nowhere near each other, but if you find yourself on the southeastern shore of Oahu, definitely pay a visit to Island Snow.

matsumotoshaveice.com // www.facebook.com/islandsnowhawaii

What We Did

Oahu, especially the part of the island where we stayed, provided the perfect combination of rest and relaxation, with plenty of opportunity for sightseeing and exploring.

Dole Plantation

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Touted as Hawaii’s “Complete Pineapple Experience,” Dole Plantation offers several activities, including the Pineapple Express, a two-mile train ride tour through the working plantation. We were told by some folks that the train wasn’t worth it, but we wanted to hear the story about pineapple pioneer James Drummond Dole. We did it and enjoyed it, but probably wouldn’t need to ride it again if we ever go back.

www.dole-plantation.com

Polynesian Cultural Center

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The Polynesian Cultural Center was low on our list of priorities. We received mixed reviews/recommendations on whether or not to visit, but we ended up with a pretty free afternoon and were in the area–plus we had American Express gift cards to spend–so we decided to check it out. We didn’t do any of the luau or dining options and chose to just explore the island villages, which we enjoyed and found both entertaining and educational. We capped off our visit with a delicious fresh coconut and shopping at the shops surrounding the center.

www.polynesia.com

Green World Coffee Farm

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The Carbajals love coffee, so naturally we had to check out Green World Coffee Farm on the North Shore. Green World has a small espresso bar with a wide variety of drink options, a great gift ship with so many coffee bean choices, and a fun coffee garden. Green World actually sells their beans through their website below, so if you’re in the mood for some real Hawaiian coffee, check it out!

www.greenworldcoffeefarm.com

Hiking

We did several hikes during our week on Oahu, including Manoa Falls, a relatively easy 1.5 mile hike, although the trail can be muddy–and watch out for tree roots! This was a fun jungle-esque hike that ends at a gorgeous 150-foot waterfall.

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The Lanikai Pillbox Hike (also known the Kaiwa Ridge Trail) was another secret gem on Oahu. Very picturesque, this intermediate hike is short but steep from the start of the trailhead. We just went to check out the first pillbox, but you can continue on the trail to explore a few more.

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We also did these hikes:

Oahu was an amazing vacation and honeymoon spot for us. From snorkeling and beach wandering to hiking and eating to just driving around the island and experiencing Pearl Harbor, it was a week of memories.

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Written by Stephanie

Hiking Diamond Head // Oahu

Diamond Head is easily one of Hawaii’s most recognizable landmarks. Known for its historic trail, beautiful coastal views, and military history, the state monument encompasses more than 745 acres, including the entire crater.

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We had plans to try to get to Diamond Head earlier in the week, but our schedule ended up not allowing for it. That’s how we found ourselves getting up early the day our plane left to squeeze this hike in as our farewell to Oahu.

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Although this is a relatively moderate hike, it is steep and uneven in areas, and the last 1/10 of a mile is ALL stairs. Hawaii’s Division of State Parks recommends allowing 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the hike. If you’re an avid hiker and on a time-crunch, like us, you can do it less. We were up and down within 45-50 minutes.

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The Fire Control Station at the summit, built in 1911, directed artillery fire from batteries in Waikiki and Fort Ruger outside Diamond Head crater. Also at the summit are bunkers and a huge navigational lighthouse built in 1917. Diamond Head offers beautiful 360-degree views.

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Even though it  meant getting up early, practically sprinting up the trail and back down, and rushing “home” to shower and take care of last-minute packing before our flight back to SoCal, we’re really glad we decided to squeeze this in.

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NITTY GRITTY

Distance: 1.5 miles, roundtrip (2.4 km.)

Elevation: 560 ft. gain (52 m.) // 762 ft. total (70 m.)

Terrain: Somewhat steep; includes many switchbacks, a steep staircase, and a lighted tunnel

Difficulty Level: Moderate, suitable for most ages


Written by Stephanie

Exploring Pearl Harbor // Oahu

IMG_1188We didn’t arrive on Oahu with an itinerary in hand. After months of wedding planning and seemingly endless to-do lists we were looking forward to a relaxing, tropical vacation. Visiting Pearl Harbor was pretty much the only “touristy” must-do activity we wanted to be sure to fit in on our weeklong stay on the island.

We set aside a half-day for visiting Pearl Harbor, which was enough time for us; however, if you’re a true history buff or aviation enthusiast, you could easily spend more time there. We bought the Passport to Pearl Harbor combo tour, which allowed us to check out the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, the U.S.S. Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island.

Note that admission to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial is free, but it is also first-come, first-serve, even if it is part of a combo like ours. After we got our Passport deal we still had to go get the time-stamped tickets for the Arizona tour. Do so right away…it’s a popular tourist site on the island, and the wait time can be a couple hours long. We visited the U.S.S. Bowfin while we waited for our departure to the Arizona.

U.S.S. Bowfin Museum and Park

IMG_1204The U.S.S. Bowfin is a WWII-era submarine that sank 44 enemy ships during World War II. Today it is a National Historic Landmark and museum that offers a peek into what it was like to live and work aboard a sub at that time. We actually didn’t get a chance to go into the museum, but read that it contains more than 4,000 submarine-related artifacts.

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U.S.S. Arizona Memorial

IMG_1219 (2016-02-06T07_45_29.963)Touring the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial includes a short documentary on the history of Pearl Harbor before a short boat ride to the memorial. We recommend doing the narrated tour, which provides a headset and control to punch in the number posted at various places at the memorial. This was definitely the most sobering and introspective part of our Pearl Harbor excursion as we remembered the many lives lost while we literally stood above their watery grave.

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Battleship U.S.S. Missouri Memorial

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We hopped on the shuttle bus to Ford Island to check out the other two sites that were part of our tour. The U.S.S. Missouri was the last American battleship built, as well as the last to be decommissioned. The surrender of the Japanese on her deck brought World War II to an end. There are a variety of tour options available here–we chose to do a self-guided tour, which was a lot of fun, because there weren’t many people on board at the same time as us. We almost felt like we had the entire ship to ourselves!

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Pacific Aviation Museum

IMG_1227The Pacific Aviation Museum consists of two World War II hangars, which still bear marks and bullet holes in the windows from the attacks on Pearl Harbor. This is a great museum for aviation enthusiasts, as it includes not just World War II-era planes (Japanese Zero, Stearman N2S-3), but also other vintage aircraft, including a Cobra attack helicopter, a Soviet-designed MiG-15 and “MiG Alley Exhibit,” an F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, P-40 Warhawk, “Flying Tigers” Exhibit, and more.

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We’re so glad to have had the opportunity to visit this historic site where World War II began for the United States. It is definitely a must-do experience for any visitor to Oahu, no matter your nationality.


Written by Stephanie