Monday, May 2, 2016

Chiricahua Crest Trail

The first adventure of the summer was a backpacking trip in southeastern Arizona. I sent out an open invite to a handful of friends who had mentioned they'd be interested in going sometime, and my friend Alli (Sketch) from camp and Daniel from Cronkite both said they wanted to come!

We set out on a Friday afternoon and drove from Phoenix to Chiricahua National Monument where we camped the first night. Initially, we were going to spend two nights in the wilderness, but when I realized how far away Chiricahua was, I booked a campsite and decided we'd be sleeping there one night.

Alli and I hung our hammocks on two trees at our campsite, and Daniel used my two person tent. It was our first time sleeping in hammocks for a whole night, and it was relatively warm for a while--but once we got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, our cocoons lost their temperature and we shivered through the rest of the night.

In the morning, we were awoken by a park ranger who said we needed to take our hammocks down before we got cited. Funny, there were no signs saying we couldn't have hammocks...

But I digress. We packed up the campsite and headed out for an hour drive up a steep, twisty dirt road to the trail head.

I was following directions to the trail (Chiricahua Crest) from a book my uncle wrote, but what I didn't expect was how high we had to drive to get there. When we parked at the trailhead, it was clear we were at a much higher altitude than expected, and we would be climbing higher still.

The trees along the trail were burned to a crisp but were also showing signs of growth. A campsite was located at the trailhead, but it was closed until further notice from fire damage. I'm going to take a wild guess and say the area we were hiking in was affected by the Horseshoe Two Fire in 2011.

It made for a less green and more brown view, but it was still gorgeous. It felt great getting buried by the trees. 

We hiked somewhere around 4 miles from the trailhead and ended up at a clearing in a saddle between two peaks. We set up camp and hung our hammocks while Daniel pitched the tent beside a rock to protect it from the wind.

I didn't know it while we were setting up camp, but we were in an area described as a "sky island"--an area of land so high, it's surrounded by nothing but air at its altitude. This made for a very, very cold afternoon and evening.

Alli and I bundled up in her doublenest hammock while Daniel used my single hammock, and we napped/listened to music/read books and chilled for the afternoon. 

At some point, I got out of my cocoon and found Alli and Daniel by the tent where they had started a small campfire. We hung out there, made dinner, and talked about life. 

The sun soon set and we climbed to the top of the rock behind which the tent was pitched. From the top of the rock, we saw city lights. 

I was honestly a little disappointed by this. Even in the middle of nowhere on a sky island, I couldn't escape civilization. I really just wanted to be away from people and totally immersed in nature, but clearly that wasn't happening on this trip.

But when it comes to escaping civilization for a while, I'll take what I can get. 

That night, we ultimately ended up with the three of us in the two person tent. It was too cold to sleep in our hammocks, so we squeezed like sardines into the tent and fell asleep after I read an excerpt of A Sand County Almanac to Alli and Daniel.

Daniel chose "February" as the chapter, which was a very applicable choice. While we were hiking up the mountain, I had noticed a few trees that had been cut down. I admired their rings and thought of all they had lived through before being singed in the fire or cut down to clear way for the trail. 

The "February" chapter starts with the narrator telling the story of a grand tree that had lived for hundreds of years until it was struck by lightning. As he saws it down, he tells the stories of the rings in the tree's core and how it withstood human conflict, tough weather, and societal change.

Reading about trees and their lives while surrounded by many tall, healthy trees (we were out of the charred zone) made for a lovely moment on this trip.

We all awoke the next morning, ate breakfast and packed out. The drive back to Phoenix was a bit longer than anticipated, but we stopped in Wilcox to explore abandoned buildings, and stopped in Tucson to eat tamales and look at a book store.

All in all, it was a great weekend getaway from the beginning of Phoenix's summer heat, and I hope to go backpacking with these two (and perhaps some others) again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


I spend all day staring at a computer screen for my job, and I've tried to be more intentional with my other blog lately as well--which has totally led to neglecting this blog.

But I'm back! And eventually I'll tell you about my January trip to Dallas, New Years' trip to Vegas, and...yeah. I think that's all the traveling I've done this year, sadly.

First-time travel partner!
Well, I also went to the Salton Sea the weekend before Easter.

My friend Jackie and I were roommates during my junior (her sophomore) year of college. We didn't know each other at all when I found out I'd be living with her. I signed up to live in the ASU downtown dorms two days after the cutoff, and anxiously waited to learn who my roommate would be (praying she wouldn't be absolutely crazy/messy and would somehow be telepathic and know exactly what I was thinking).

As soon as I found out Jackie was my roommate, I Facebook stalked her and found her and messaged her and said "Hey, I think we're going to be roommates!" One thing led to another and BOOM, we were talking about and exchanging links to Vice pieces about the Salton Sea.

It was somewhere we'd both been intrigued by and interested in visiting, and we tossed around the idea of taking a trip. Two and a half years later, we actually did it.

We left Phoenix on a Friday evening and drove to Brawley, California, where we stayed at a hotel that gave us a bar of chocolate and a hand written note thanking us for staying with them. We also walked to a doughnut shop after Jackie asked me "how safe is this city?" and I gave her the crime report statistics because that's actually something I totally looked into before deciding we were staying there for the night.

For the record, Brawley is slightly safer than Phoenix. It just looks kinda sketchy at night when you're walking past an alley way to get to the 24-hour doughnut shop that also sells Conchas next to the Von's grocery store.

A video posted by A M A N D A (@mandalyn93) on

In the morning we packed up shop and left the hotel. Our first major stop was Salvation Mountain, located in Niland, California.

For starters, I don't know many people* who are willing to leave Phoenix for a trip to California that will involve dead fish, a putrid lake, a beach made of fish bones and a man-made mountain of hay, tires, dirt and latex paint constructed entirely as a testament to God's love...but Jackie is one of those people, and I'm so grateful for that.

*actually, I know a lot of people who would be willing to do this, but they all live in Portland.

Welcome to Salvation Mountain. It's bright and happy, and surrounded by absolutely nothing. When you climb to the top (which you can do) all you can see is dirt, concrete slabs, and the occasional RV occupied by someone who is either ATV-ing for the weekend or trying to escape real life out here, in the desert of California.

I'm stoked we got to see Salvation Mountain for a few reasons. One, a ton of my friends (read: the ones who live in Portland now) have visited multiple times and have always told me to go. Two, my favorite National Geographer photographer and his son frequently visit and photograph the area, which makes me super happy. Three, I love the story of Leonard Knight, the artist who created Salvation Mountain. I'm bummed I'll never be able to meet him, though, as he passed away a few years ago.

I hope my future grandchildren find this someday and think "Damn, my grandma was a badass." 
I didn't find anything particularly noteworthy--just some graffiti, some dirty clothing and an old computer monitor.

Our next stop was about thirty minutes away--Bombay Beach. Jackie pegged the location as "what she thinks of when she thinks of the Salton Sea," and I knew relatively little about it.

When the Salton Sea was first created (by a complete fluke of nature), it flooded a basin in southern California and paved the way for waterfront vacation properties to pop up. Long story short, the sea had no outflow, so the salinity rose and everything died--including the waterfront towns.

Bombay Beach currently has about six square blocks of actual, living residents as well as the rickety bones and sunken foundations of former buildings.

This may have been a crane once upon a time.

We explored the shoreline and saw everything from old, metal school desk chairs scattered in the water off the beach to a camper/trailer completely sunk into sand up to its roof. Had it not been for a crowd of Good Samaritans preparing to tow a car ahead of us, we would have also accidentally driven into some loose gravelly sand and been stuck.

After nearly driving into the quicksand (which it was not, but for story's sake, let's call it that) we decided we'd had enough of the barren beach and wanted shade, rest and lunch.

It was time to head to the campground.

A video posted by Jackie Cotton (@jackiebcotton) on

When I first told Jackie I wanted to camp, I think she was apprehensive--but she handled it like a pro. If you click the video above, you'll notice we set up the tent in our dresses, because #femalesarestrongashell. We spent the entire afternoon sitting behind her car/in her car/eating salami/reading books/talking about adulthood and what life is like after graduation.

Thank you for always taking my photo, Jackie.
Come sunset, we went down to the beach (which we could see from our campsite) and took a ton of photos. We both enjoy photography and definitely took advantage of the different settings we experienced throughout the day. Also, why else would we have stayed in our dresses? Gotta get those #liveauthentic pics.

After photos, we opened a bottle of wine (if you know us, you know we pretend to be wine connoisseurs) and cooked cans of soup over a nifty propane burner I bought not too long ago!

We soon went to sleep--the sun sucked the life from us that day, and gave me a nice burn too.

I slept like a rock and woke up at 7:30 to Jackie swearing at the yapping birds, calling them "procreating fiends."

Her word choice is one of the reasons she's one of my three closest friends. 

Granted, we'll never know what kind of birds they were--2/3 of the types of birds found in the United States can be found at the Salton Sea, on account of it being one of the only water sources available for miles and miles on the migratory route.

That's the funny thing about the Salton Sea--it's a great irony. A superb juxtaposition. It was never meant to exist. It's a product of an accident that drew life to it, and then quickly began to expel all living things. But through the years of its existence, the sea has become both a life sustainer and a life taker.

The birds wouldn't be able to survive without it, but its salty and toxic nature ultimately takes a few bird lives every year.

There's something beautiful in that deadly juxtaposition, and we got to encounter it on our weekend trip to a very dreary and gorgeous place in southern California.

Look how stinking cute we are! And how sunburned my arm is!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dallas, TX || Moving Hannah

This is a literal copy-and-paste of a post from my other, more-often-updated blog.

I spent a weekend in January with my best friend Hannah. We were glued at the hip for hours and hours--and I don't know when I'll see her next.

A photo posted by 🌵 A M A N D A 🌵 (@mandalyn93) on

Together we embarked on a 14-16 hour drive that left her in Texas and left me bawling my eyes out at the airport.

She accepted a job with Geico which meant she needed to move from Arizona to Texas, the land of the oil fields and smelly flatlands.

I was (obviously) super bummed to be leaving her in a different state. She's my oldest and closest friend, and also the fifth or sixth of my friends to move out of state in the past two years. Arizona is starting to feel pretty lonely.

But, on the flip side of the loneliness, it was really cool to help her move and be a part of that life event. She even let me decorate her wall <3

Helping Hannah move made me even more excited to move. I got to think about how I'll decorate my room and get an idea of how little stuff I actually need in my new apartment (hello, minimal chic?) It was definitely a bummer leaving her in Texas (even the TSA agent sympathized with me while I was bawling at the security checkpoint) but I got a sweet, simple taste of moving.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Las Vegas || New Years' Celebration

Flix, Waters, Me, Pox and Paddles. Gotta love camp nicknames.

I went to Las Vegas for New Years.

Before you start freaking out, though, you should know who I went with--two of my camp friends who are 19. And we stayed with another camp friend who is 19, and her then boyfriend* (also a camp friend) who may have been 20.

At 22, I was the oldest--and also on some crazy cough meds because I had a case of bronchitis that led to two cracked ribs. So there was absolutely no cliche Vegas-style partying.

And cough meds meant I didn't have to drive! At all! Pox and Waters did all of the driving while I just sat in the passenger's seat, playing DJ and jamming out to Switchfoot and Kendrick Lamar and eating Sonic and reveling in how much I missed my camp friends.

When we got to Vegas, we immediately started celebrating. We took of our road trip clothes and changed into cute night-on-the-town clothes, and then went to get sushi.

"Look Ma, I'm a walrus!" // Pox is my camp roommate and a ray of sunshine.

Sushi is kind of my go-to whenever I visit Flix in Vegas. I met up with her when I was in Vegas in September, and we had sushi then--so, of course, we had sushi now too. It was delicious and perfect and so so so much fun.

Camp friends are awesome because our friendships sprouted in a time when we had z e r o cares in the world--we just had to wake up, go to a breakfast meeting, eat food, and do our jobs. And our jobs were hanging out with kids all day--so we're all basically glorified children with responsibilities, which means whenever you throw a group of us together, we're still glorified children with responsibilities. But we're not afraid to be totally ridiculous.


The rest of our New Years Eve was spent at Dutch Brothers (le duh, DB is a HUGE deal for camp kids), WalMart and then back at Flix's dad's house where we poured some Martinelli's and toasted the new year! Then we ran outside and popped party poppers to our hearts content.

Night #2 was actually spent walking around The Strip, because it's really not a trip to Vegas without doing that. It's always fun to see how different people interact with and react on the strip. All of us camp kids took it chill and enjoyed the lengthy walk, the bright lights, and the crazy people.

I'm pretty sure there's nobody else I'd rather explore Las Vegas with. I love how lowkey New Years was with this crew, and I'd gladly travel with them again.

*the timestamp on this is January 2016, but I'm definitely writing it on March 31, 2016

Monday, December 28, 2015

That September "Family" Road Trip

Ok, it's now the final week of 2015 so I'm finishing and posting this bleeping blog post.

I'm now a college graduate.
Let that sink in.

Even more, I have a job--but more on that later.

The adventure that started it all took place more than four years ago, and I'm ready to embark on a new adventure: the work world.

So before all that happens, my parents and I decided to go on one final hoorah--a three week family vacation.

Only, the three week vacation turned in to a two week vacation after I fell and broke my knee. The Industrial Commission only allows Workers Comp recipients to leave the state for 14 days max, and since I broke my knee while I was on the clock...the vacation got cut short.

Which was ultimately okay.

The vacation also didn't end up being a family vacation because my mom got sick the morning she and I were supposed to leave for Las Vegas.

This vacation was also, like, two months ago.*

Mom's sick face.
So, when Mom realized she wasn't going to make it from Phoenix to Vegas to Sacramento, we enlisted my (now ex) boyfriend to help me drive to Vegas and Sacramento. So at 6 pm (way later than intended) Joel and I said goodbye to Phoenix and hello to the road.

We made it to Vegas at 11:30 pm, promptly dropped our bags off at the hotel room, and hit the strip--because there's no better time to see the Las Vegas strip than at midnight.

We slept in incredibly late, explored the strip during the day, went out for coffee and sushi and record shopping with a friend from camp who lives in Vegas, and went to bed relatively early that night with Mike's Hard Lemonade and HGTV because Vegas bars are gross and expensive.

Surprisingly, Vegas has cool architecture.
The following morning we ate breakfast burritos (and said farewell to Mexican food for the next few days, because the Pacific North West doesn't really have Mexican food) and headed out on the road.

We stopped a lot. This is the first road trip I've been on where we frequently stopped along the side of the road, because Joel is a photographer and loves capturing things on the side of the road, and I really enjoyed it. We got to explore an old abandoned road-side store as well as something called South Tufa at Mono Lake.

There were a ton of tall rock pillars that looked very supernatural. Unfortunately, we didn't get to explore them very much because we were a) hungry, and b) trying to get to Sacramento by that night. But they were gorgeous, and somewhere I really want to visit again.


Mono Lake

Our route went through Nevada into California, which meant we got to drive on the CA 120. It was gorgeous--we drove up and through the mountains, and I got to see an amazing alpenglow during sunset.

The goal, however, was to be in Sacramento by 9 pm to pick dad up from his flight. We ended up being at the airport a little closer to 10, but dad was fine with it. We were on an adventure, after all.

After picking him up from the airport, we went and checked in at the Delta King, an old riverboat converted into a floating hotel. The staff was alright. Not incredibly helpful or accommodating, but we were a few hours later than we expected to be. Ultimately, we got our room and got to sleep.

Our reservations with the Delta King included breakfast (hallelujah) and we appreciated that very much. The meal was served in the restaurant, which overlooked the river.

This happened in September, and I'm now picking this post back up in the end of December* so I'm just going to summarize the rest of this.

We took my (ex) boyfriend to the airport that day, and then met with one of my former professors (who is also the former editor of the Sacramento Bee and an all around great person) for lunch, and caught up on life.

We stayed one more night in Sacramento, then we headed north to Portland, stopping in Redding, Calif. so I could visit my friends Heidi and Shane (whom I met in Eva's wedding) and my friend Sarah from camp.

In Portland, dad and I just chilled a lot. It was almost overwhelming, the whole being in Portland thing. Initially, mom was supposed to join us and I had planned that she and dad were going to spend time together reading or whatever, and I was going to go explore Portland more, but since mom didn't come, Dad and I spent a lot of time together, which was great, but I felt kind of bad leaving him alone to go hang out with friends a bit.

But that doesn't mean I left him alone all the time. We went out for dinner with my friends Andie and Liz one night, and checked out Olympic Provision co. We ate meats and cheeses and olives and goodies like that, and it was lovely.

I also saw Brenna a lot, who was her usual sassy self, and Rhea. It was so so good to see Rhea and her little baby Lucy (who is now a year old.)

The Redwoods are huuuuge and I'd like to live in the forest.
After lunch with Rhea on the last day in Portland, dad and I headed to Tillamook and then coasted down the coast. We saw redwoods, we saw ocean, we drove and we drove and we drove.

Battery Spencer, we shall meet again.
We tried really hard to see the Golden Gate Bridge, but the fog was horrendous from Battery Spencer for the most part. When we drove over the bridge, I got to see some of it, but I also got to explore the creepy and freaky and abandoned Battery Spencer, which was rad.

And at some point after seeing the Bixby Bridge, we decided we didn't want to see anymore sights. We were driving alongside the ocean as the sun was setting, and realized that we wouldn't see any more ocean until the sun rose the next morning. We'd had enough ocean. We wanted to go home, to the desert and to see mom, so we drove through the night and ended up in Phoenix right after sunrise and surprised mom and ended our road trip in the same speedy haze it began.

My dad is probably my favorite person to travel with.
I think I had a hard time writing about this because it's a difficult time to look back on. I'm not in the relationship that kicked off the start of the trip, I was still recovering from a broken knee, and my mom was unable to join us on what was supossed to be a family vacation. The trip itself didn't go as planned, and it was absolutely amazing to spend time with dad, but the trip is still a lot to process. I still haven't gone through all the digital photos from it, and I still have a roll of undeveloped film. I also feel like this was my last large Portland adventure for a while. The city just felt...fake. I remember getting doughntus at Pip's and seeing potted cacti and cliche-cute western decor everywhere and wanting to vomit. Tiny cacti don't belong in Portland, they belong in Phoenix--and so do I.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Questival

A photo posted by Amanda (@mandalyn93) on

My friends Jackie and Dillon are currently participating in a 24-hour scavenger hunt with me! So far, we've climbed a tall, netted thing in Mesa; hiked to Hole In The Rock at Papago; ridden a snake slide at McDowell Mountain Regional Park area; and now we're finally going to go eat spaghetti. Because we're hungry. And we need to act out Lady and the Tramp ❤️