Tandem Paragliding with Parents

Tandem Paragliding with Parents

Mr. Fool’s parents came out from Pennsylvania to sunny California to visit, and he took them tandem paragliding.  For years, they watched Mr. Fool’s progress as he learn to paraglide and wondered what it would be like to fly. A few weeks ago, they finally got to find out.

Checkout Mr. Fool’s parents’ first tandem paragliding flights:

**Disclaimer: Paragliding is a dangerous sport that should only be done by qualified individuals with the proper training and licensing. If you happen to be in Southern California and want to take a tandem flight or sign up for paragliding lessons, we recommend you contact Atmosphere Paragliding.
June Lake Ice Climbing Trip + Video

June Lake Ice Climbing Trip + Video

The Ice Climbing Adventure Begins

After signing up for “An Introduction to Ice Climbing” through the Sierra Mountain Center, we packed our winter gear and headed to June Lake, CA. The drive was intense: our route led us into a raging blizzard with winds over 35 mph and an expected snowfall of up to 5 feet. There were moments of whiteout, and ice and snow all over the road. We got lucky just before our destination and followed a snowplow directly to our cabin.

The day started off clear, but we knew a storm was brewing ahead.
Sure enough, we hit the blizzard.
Happy to have survived the icy roads, we set about exploring the town.

Ice Climbing: Day 1

The next morning, at the crack of dawn (well, 6 AM), we dragged ourselves out of bed and met up with the rest of our group. The storm had dropped another foot of snow while we slept, but our instructor was optimistic that we would be able to reach our climbing destination.

Five feet of fresh powder.

At the trailhead, we parked the cars, grabbed our gear, and started to trudge though the deep snow. We hiked up a steep hill for about two hours before the snow became chest-deep, and we had to turn back down. Luckily, there was a backup climbing wall at a lower altitude that we could use for the day.

Hiking though the fresh powder.

Once we made it to the alternate location, the instructor set up some anchors, acquainted us with the gear, demonstrated proper climbing technique, and put us on the wall.

Mr. Fool climbing his way up the ice wall.
Mr. Fool topping out.

Mr. Fool’s first climb was hellish on his calves due to poor technique. He quickly adjusted his approach, and his subsequent climbs were much better. He made it to the top of the wall on all his turns.

Ms. Fool struggled on her first climb. Used to relying on rock climbing technique to make her way up walls, she struggled to remember proper ice climbing form. It took a few tries for her to top out.

Ms. Fool working her way up the ice wall.
Ms. Fool elated after topping out.

Wet and shivering after several hours of climbing, we called it a day.

Day 2:

The next morning, we attempted to reach our original ice wall destination, this time equipped with snow shoes and avalanche beacons. The hike was much more tolerable in slightly warmer conditions, but still rough. Halfway up, we passed a deer that was too exhausted to try and run from us. Its head hardly reached above the snow.

Mr. Fool ready to hike in his fancy snow shoes.

Around 11 am, we reached our destination but were disappointed to find the conditions unsafe for climbing. There was water moving behind the wall, deep snow, and some other issues.

We were supposed to learn how to lead climb. Instead, we spent most of the day studying snowpack and practicing avalanche rescue.

The ice wall we had hoped to climb.
Some drone footage of our hard earned path though the snow.

That day ended up being a little bit of a bust but still fun.

Check out the video below to see the highlights of our trip.

Video of our ice climbing trip to June Lake:

Tandem Paragliding with Friends

Tandem Paragliding with Friends

When friends are in town, I offer to take them up for a tandem paragliding flight. A longtime friend of mine was visiting from Canada and jumped at the chance. So we headed out to San Bernardino and soared around for a good 45 min. The weather was decent for the time of year, but we were not able to get much over a thousand feet above launch. Still a fun day!

Checkout the Tandem Flight

**Disclaimer: Paragliding is a dangerous sport that should only be done by qualified individuals with the proper training and licensing. If you happen to be in Southern California and want to take a tandem flight or sign up for paragliding lessons, we recommend you contact Atmosphere Paragliding.
How to Spend 4 Days in New Orleans

How to Spend 4 Days in New Orleans

Swinging a Big Easy Stopover

New Orleans has been on our bucket list for a while. We finally had the chance to visit after the winter holidays by arranging a detour on our way back to California from the East Coast. Read up on our 4 days in New Orleans to get our recommendations for where to go, what to see, and how to best stuff your face.

Note: our itinerary excludes day trips to popular attractions outside the city such as the bayous and plantations. The reasons were, respectively, because of the weather (unseasonably chilly weather meant fewer creatures would be near the water) and our primary mode of transportation (our feet). Knowing we wouldn’t have a car, we booked a cozy Airbnb along Canal Street, a few blocks north of the 10. A walk to the French Quarter was a pleasant 1.5 miles each way, and a good way to work off some of the rich foods we ate every day.

Day 1 Itinerary

We walked down Canal Street to the Riverwalk along the Mississippi River. After strolling along the breezy waterfront, we grabbed breakfast: biegnets and hot chocolate from Cafe Du Monde.

Cafe Du Monde

Because these are a New Orleans must, expect long lines. If you’re like us and don’t care about sitting in the restaurant, walk behind the building to the (usually) shorter takeout-only line. You can take your hot, sugary treats across the street to Jackson Square park. We ate them on a bench while listing to street musicians.

Loaded on sugar, we wandered Decatur Street, Chartres Street, and Royal Street in the French Quarter, taking in the architecture.

Houses in the French Quarter.
An old house in the French Quarter.
So much ironwork and hanging plants to be found.
Pink, blue and yellow houses.

For lunch, we ducked into Johnny’s Po-Boys for their acclaimed sandwiches: shrimp for Ms. Fool and blackened chicken with a side of fries for me.

Johnny’s Po-Boys

Then we walked over to The National WWII Museum a mile away. The museum’s free area, a large multi-story building with a number of vintage planes suspended from the ceiling, has a few exhibits and an ancestry lookup. We spent a few hours exploring and then headed back to our Airbnb to rest up a bit before dinner.

A cool building we passed while walking to the WWII museum.
Bomber in the WWII Museum.

After a quick nap, we called a ride to our final destination of the day: Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits, a wine bar with live music and a laidback vibe.

Delicious! Bacchus Chardonnay, mussels with tomato saffron broth, chargrilled broccoli, roasted cauliflower, bread & butter, confit chicken leg

We picked a bottle of wine after entering and made our way to the second floor, where we snagged a corner table just as the band was setting up. The wine flowed, music played, and lots and lots of food was piled in front of us. We fell into bed that night in a pleasant food coma.

Day 2 Itinerary

For our second day, we headed to the Garden District. We started at the corner of Felicity Street and Magazine Street. After four blocks of walking past quaint shops, we stopped at our brunch destination: Stein’s Market and Deli, a really good NY-style joint.

Stein’s Market and Deli

We grabbed a B.L.T. + avocado, a tuna melt, a matzah ball soup, and OJ. The sandwiches were good, but with the cold weather we were having, the soup took the cake for us. There was plenty of seating inside and a low wait time, so we were in and out in under an hour.

Directly next door was our dessert destination: District Donuts. Yes, we had dessert after brunch because vacation, ya know?

Chocolate raspberry and blueberry cheesecake donuts

Our donuts were really, really good: light and fluffy and not too sweet. District also serves donut sandwiches and breakfast tacos that are highly recommended by online eaters. We eyed the entrees around us longingly. If we hadn’t stuffed ourselves minutes earlier, we probably would have had a second breakfast.

After our donuts, we walked west along Magazine Street for a little over two miles to window shop and admire the architecture.

Slightly creepy garden decorations.
Love the colors.
Police station.
Car with matching building.

During our walk, we stumbled upon La Boulangerie, a French bakery. After seeing the strawberry tarts, we decided to pause for another sweet treat and some lemonade.

La Boulangerie

To cap off our afternoon, we walked to Lafayette Cemetery. We explored the old graves for a little while then exited for a self-guided walking tour in the area.

Graves in the Lafayette cemetery.
Graves in the Lafayette cemetery.
Beautiful old home.
The house that Disney’s Haunted Mansion was based on.

After finishing the walking tour, we returned to our Airbnb for a pre-dinner nap.

Then to start our evening, we returned to the French Quarter.

Skeletons tossing beads.

Our destination: 9 Rose Cafe, a well-reviewed Vietnamese restaurant. They have a really good “cheagen” (cheating + vegan) pho, so called because it contains no sliced animal protein but is beef broth-based. Alongside our “healthy” pho, we had braised pork belly steamed bun sliders, which we highly recommend, and spring rolls, which were pretty standard.

9 Rose Cafe

And you knew this was coming: dessert. Of course.

Off we went to Sucré for a box of decadent, handmade truffles.

Worth savoring every bite: 2 PB&J chocolates 2 red velvet, 1 raspberry cheesecake, 1 hot chocolate, 1 gingerbread, 1 dark chocolate

We took the chocolates to go and headed to Frenchmen Street. While many partiers love Bourbon Street due to the nightclub-like atmosphere, we prefer the dive bar scene. So Frenchmen Street was more our pace. Music spilled out of the lounges, jazz clubs, and bars as we wandered along. We stuck our heads into a few places until we found some music we liked. After listening to some music, we returned to our Airbnb to scarf down our chocolates.

Walking along Bourbon Street.

Day 3 Itinerary

We woke up and caught a Lyft to Dante’s Kitchen for a Southern-inspired brunch. It was one of the best meals we had during our trip.

Dante’s Kitchen

We shared their fluffy buttermilk biscuits and a mimosa. Ms. Fool went crazy for their shrimp and grits, and I wolfed down their banana pecan pancakes and duck fat hash browns.

To work off the meal, we strolled to to Audubon Park, where we checked out the Labyrinth, a circular stone walking path, and the Tree of Life, planted circa 1740.

Walking though Audubon park.
The Tree of Life, planted circa 1740.

We then headed back to the French Quarter to visit the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum. It was $5 each, and thank goodness – any more and we might have been disappointed. It’s a very small museum but has lots of small things to read and see.

New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum.
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum.
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum.

Next, we walked to the 1850 House Museum. It cost $2, and we think that’s a fair price for what you get. It gives you a tiny peek into what your living situation might have looked like back in the day. It’s not an entire house: it’s a series of preserved time capsule rooms.

Marching band passed us on the way to the 1850’s house.

There’s nothing like walking though a few museums to make your stomach scream, “Feed me!” So we popped into French Market Place, an open air market with food and clothing vendors. We grabbed a few smoothies and then retired to our Airbnb for a nap.

The French Market.

It was really hard to wake up and head back outside.  It was dark and cold, but we wanted to watch the fireworks over the Mississippi. The show marked the end of 3 Kings Day and the start of the Mardi Gras season.

Santa and his Alligators.
Fireworks on the Mississippi for 3 Kings Day.

And then it was time for dinner at Carmo, a restaurant that specializes in healthy cooking and locally-sourced ingredients. We ordered kottu roti, creole chicken, creole-seared avocado, vegetable soup, and passion fruit juice.

Carmo

The kottu roti was my (Mr. Fool’s) favorite food item. It’s a Sri Lankan street dish made with strips of Godhamba roti that are fried with shallots, garlic, and onion, and then covered with curry and Havarti cheese. Ms. Fool found her chicken good, but craved other textures and flavors halfway through her meal. The soup neither of us would order again.

Overall, it was a decent meal, but the service was a bit off. We had to wait despite our reservation, and the wait staff mixed up our order and billed incorrectly.

We rounded out the night with a quick stroll down Bourbon Street to see how raucous the nightlife would be once Mardi Gras season was underway. The street was packed with drunk and dancing people clambering for beads being tossed from the balconies. After five or six blocks, we called it a night.

Day 4 Itinerary

We started our last day in New Orleans by returning to where it all begin: Cafe Du Monde. We then returned to The National WWII Museum. We used the museum’s free bag check to keep our luggage, and then paid for day passes and tickets to Beyond All Boundaries, the museum’s 4-D movie experience.

Beyond All Boundaries is very well done. The screen is a huge and wraps around you, set pieces seamlessly appear and disappear, and different light and smoke effects really immerse you in the story.

The rest of the museum is well designed and deserving of the hype it receives in travel guides. It’s very interactive, and it has lots of interactive exhibits that bring the war experience to life. There were rooms that looked like bombed-out cites or freezing forests torn apart by war, and an area designed to feel like you were a lookout on a naval ship. We expected to just spend a few hours at the museum but spent closer to five.

The WWII Museum had amazing design work.
WWII Museum exhibit.
WWII Museum exhibit.

We finally stepped away for late lunch at Seed, which bills itself as a healthy eatery. We had blueberry pancakes, sweet corn polenta, fresh fruit, and a vanilla matcha smoothie.

Seed

Our food was okay: a little over priced but it served its purpose.

Afterward, we walked to the well-reviewed market Big Fishermen. After reading about it online, Ms. Fool wanted to try some of their seafood. We’d stopped in twice the previous days, and both times they were low on the day’s catch due to the cold weather. We figured we would give it one last chance, so we made the hike over.

The pickings were once again slim. But Ms. Fool ordered some fish and corn on the cob just for the sake of it.

Big Fishermen

We grabbed some food to-go (there’s no seating) and headed to our final food destination of our trip: Bakery Bar

Top: King cake. Bottom: Maple blueberry bacon cake bites

The King cake was good, but the fondant exterior was a bit too sweet for us. We felt similarly about the maple blueberry bacon cake bites.

After collecting our bags from the museum and eating the seafood sitting on a bench outdoors, we bid farewell to New Orleans.

 

Canyoneering Keyhole – Zion National Park

Canyoneering Keyhole – Zion National Park

Tackling A Classic Beginner Canyon: Keyhole Canyon

For our last adventure in Zion, we ran Keyhole Canyon. It was a little hard to get motivated after running The Subway and Pine Creek, respectively, the previous 2 days. Fortunately, Keyhole is arguably the easiest, shortest canyon in the park. So we didn’t feel like committing to doing it would be a mistake we would regret for long.

After picking up our permit, we drove to the start/end location for the canyon. (The path is a loop!) We put on our damp wetsuits and geared up. Because the canyon is short, and its rappels top out at around 20 feet, we packed super light, bringing a 40-foot rope and 60 feet of webbing.

We hiked along the road a few minutes and then turned and worked our way up the wash to the drop-in location.  It was 9:45 – a late start for us – and a chilly 54 degrees. But with so little gear, we were able to make quick progress and keep warm in the process.

The approach.
Keyhole had a few tree jambs to rappel from.
Ms. Fool depending into the darkness.
Dark enough that we needed headlamps.

The Most And Least Enjoyable Parts Of Keyhole Canyon

The water in Keyhole was terrible. A few of the potholes were ripe…really ripe. Standing in a pool, Ms. Fool said she felt like her skin would take ages to lose the stench of urine and decomposing plant matter.

Keyhole has some really scenic parts. The slot walls are very pretty, with multi-colored bands of stone and narrow passages. Larger people may struggle in some of the most narrow passages, which require lots of leaning and good footwork to make it through.

A man-made tunnel for drainage was part of the exit hike.

The last few pools were full of tadpoles in various stages of metamorphosis into frogs. We took some time to watch them swim around and exited just shy of 2 hours after we started. And, best of all, our car was right there waiting for us.

Checkout the video we slapped together for Keyhole – Zion National Park

Final Thoughts

Keyhole is an easy introductory canyon with some water, short rappels, and narrow passages. Just remember that “easy” does not mean accidents will not happen. People have died and broken bones in this canyon many times, and larger or claustrophobic canyoneers could may struggle in the narrow spaces. We never ran into other groups when we ran it. However, we have heard it can get quite crowded, which takes away from the experience.

**Disclaimer: Canyoneering comes with serious risks and should only be done if you have proper training or an experienced leader. The information above is not to be used to attempt the canyon and is purposely vague. For proper guidance, check with your local canyoneering experts.

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Canyoneering Pine Creek – Zion National Park

Canyoneering Pine Creek – Zion National Park

Heading To Pine Creek

The day after we ran The Subway, we dropped into Pine Creek, another iconic Zion National Park canyon.

We finished The Subway after the Visitor Center was closed, so we had to wait until the next morning to grab our Pine Creek permit. That was fine by us. We did not mind sleeping in a little to recover from the previous 10-mile day.

At 9 am, we parked our car at the entry point for Pine Creek, snagging the last open parking space. (Sweet!) But the next step was putting on our still damp wetsuits in the nippy morning air. (Not sweet. At all.)

The Fun Begins

Shivering slightly, we began the short downhill scramble to the first rappel.

Walking to the first rappel.

Pine Creek is a beautiful canyon with lots of narrow, high walls and pools of water. No other groups were in front or behind us, so we took plenty of time to admire the canyon.

About to get wet.

The 3rd rappel is called The Cathedral, and it’s one of the most beautiful rappels I have ever done. No pictures I captured on my GoPro do it justice. You can’t quite see what lies below the start of the rappel. Once you are safely hooked into the anchor and begin the descent, you’re quickly surrounded by soaring multi-colored walls. The small shafts of light from above bounce around as you rappel into a pool of water. It’s very dark and very cold, but the visuals are worth it.

GoPro footage does not do the cathedral ceiling justice. Its really amazing to see in person.
Working our way though the canyon.
Ms. Fool rappeling on the second to last rappel.

We decided to finish the canyon on an alternate (read non-standard) rappel. We dropped past more towering canyon walls into another pool.

The beta recommended a down climb to finish the canyon, but after judging the drop, we set up a cairn anchor instead.

The alternate rappel that drops you inside a large open area.

Once safely out of the canyon, we cleaned up in one of the large pools before entering the long boulder field that separated us from the road back to our car.

A Tricky Trek

The hike is very tricky: no real trails, lots of guessing, and seemingly endless scrambling up, down, and around boulders. There’s plenty of potential for a twisted ankle.

When you’re physically and mentally exhausted, it’s best to take it slow, which we definitely did. We stopped beside a picturesque pool of water for a much-needed leisurely lunch break.

Lunchtime.
Hiking out as the sun starts to set.

The Most Irritating Part Of The Day

You end at one of the many overlooks along the side of the main road, well below where you started. Walking back to your car isn’t practical. So I made myself as presentable as I could, and hitched a ride back to our car with some friendly sightseers.

Pine Creek beta estimates canyoneers will spend 2-6 hours navigating the canyon. We spent a little over 7 hours, including the time it took to exit.

Check out the video of our trip though Pine Creek – Zion National Park

Final Thoughts

Pine Creek should be on any canyoneer’s bucket list. It is a beautiful canyon well worth seeing. Plan on spending some extra time admiring it as you work your way through.

**Disclaimer: Canyoneering comes with serious risks and should only be done if you have proper training or an experienced leader. The information above is not to be used to attempt the canyon and is purposely vague. For proper guidance, check with your local canyoneering experts.
Canyoneering The Subway (Russell Gulch) – Zion National Park

Canyoneering The Subway (Russell Gulch) – Zion National Park

A Long Weekend In Zion

Ms. Fool and I decided to take a long weekend to run some classic Zion National Park canyons. First up was The Subway via Russell Gulch. We packed up all of our gear, picked up a friend at LAX, then headed north, arriving in Zion at around 1 pm.  After retrieving our canyoneering permits from the wilderness permit desk, we decided to make the most of the daylight by hiking Angels Landing.

Angels Landing is an iconic Zion hike. With a trail roughly 2.4 miles long, the peak rises 1,488 feet above the valley floor and tops out at an altitude of 5,790 feet.

In the cool weather, we made quick progress on the switchbacks to the top. Both Ms. Fool and I gave completed the hike, but our friend had not. So while she accompanied him along the remaining ridgeline,  I dozed at a lookout point.

Finishing up the switchback section of Angels Landing.
View from the top of Angels Landing of Zion National Park below.

Entering The Subway

If you’ve looked up pictures of Zion, you’ve probably seen pictures of The Subway. The canyon looks remarkably like a subway tunnel. It’s so popular that it requires an advance lottery to see it during peak tourist season. While the lower portion can be done as a rappel-free day hike, it’s much more fun and scenic to descend from the top. It’s also more exhausting: the canyon is rated 3B III (3B IV with the Russell Gulch approach) and takes 5-12 hours to complete the 9.5 mile trek.

We woke up at 5:30 am and left our little hotel room in the town Hurricane, stopping for some coffee along the way. Our reserved shuttle picked us up and dropped us at the start of the hike. By 7:45, we were on the move.

Unloading the car to catch the shuttle for our drop-off point to run The Subway.
The sun took its time rising as we hiked.

The hike in was not too bad – mostly flat or downhill. We watched the sun chase away the shadows.

With three 100-foot rappels, the Russell Gulch approach is nice way to enter the canyon – especially since all the rappels in The Subway are less than 30 feet. We changed into wetsuits at the first 100 foot rappel, expecting to land in water at the bottom. However, once down, I was able to lock off and swing to the side, completely avoiding the water. I was pleased with myself. In long canyons, it’s nice to stay warm and dry for as long as possible.

Expecting to end up in the water, we changed into our wetsuits.

But by the time we reached the third 100-foot rappel, we were wishing we had gone in the water. We were so hot, sweat was dripping out our wetsuits sleeves, and our socks and shoes were sweat-soaked.

The last rappel in Russell Gulch.

We took a short breather just before reaching the official start of The Subway.

Reaching The Tunnel

We hiked and swam for several hours, enjoying the cool fall weather and foliage.

Hiking though some steep wall sections of the canyon.
Swimming though the fallen leaves was extra fun.

After around 5 hours, we finally reached the section The Subway is known for. We took a snack and photo break while we drank in the view. Little did we know what lay ahead.

The fallen log. We’re getting close.
Really pretty view upstream.
The Subway! The iconic section did not disappoint.
Enjoying a quick rest and snack before moving on.

The Struggle Was Real

The exit hike proved to be brutal. Slippy water and stones mixed with sandy dry areas and uneven terrain and heavy wet backpacks made it slow going. By the time we reached the exit climb, a zigzag of switchbacks filled with loose rocks, we were exhausted. It was at that point we regretted hiking Angels Landing the day before.

Almost finished ascending the final leg of the hike out.

Bats flew overhead as we finally made it to the car at 7:15 pm, 11 hours and 30 min after we started.

Check out our video for The Subway (Russell Gulch) – Zion National Park

Final Thoughts

It was awesome to do such an iconic canyon, but I don’t think I ever need to do it again. I really prefer longer rappels and less hiking.

**Disclaimer: Canyoneering comes with serious risks and should only be done if you have proper training or an experienced leader. The information above is not to be used to attempt the canyon and is purposely vague. For proper guidance, check with your local canyoneering experts.

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Canyoneering Gear

Canyoneering Gear

While preparing for our next canyoneering trip, we put together a list of our main gear. It’s a lot of stuff once you see it spread out on the floor. You might not think it, but we fit everything we need in our 2 backpacks.

Canyoneering Gear List

Black Diamond:
Carabiners
Figure 8
Harness
Headlamp
Sling

Canyon Fire:
200 Meeter Ropes

Canyon Works:
Critr 2

DexShell:
Socks

Five Ten:
Approach Shoes

Fox40:
Whistle

Gregory:
Water Bladders

Hyperflex:
Neoprene Gloves
5/4 Wetsuits

Imlay Canyon:
Spry Hybrid 28/33 Liter Backpack
Rope Bags
Scuttlebutt

MadRocks:
Carabiners

NeoSport:
Neoprene Booties

NRS:
Pilot River Knifes
Neoprene Gloves
PDFs (Personal Flotation Device)
Rescue Rope

Osprey:
Dry Bag

Outdoor:
Drybag

Petzl:
Belay Gloves
Carabiners
Headlamp
Helmets
Prana Belay

Quest:
Dry Bag

REI:
Whistle

Rodcle Equipment:
Zaino Racer 45 Liter Backpack

Canyoneering the Seven Teacups/Kern River

Canyoneering the Seven Teacups/Kern River

Mr. Fools Meets Seven Teacups, His First Swift Water Canyon!**

I, Mr. Fool, have been training hard to run swift water canyons. It’s taken a lot of work to get to this point. I’m relatively new to canyoneering. My more experienced counterpart, Ms. Fool, introduced me to the sport last year, and she has been teaching me increasingly difficult technical know-how.

Ms. Fool and I share the goal of tackling plenty of swift water canyons. These are some of the most dangerous types of canyons there are. Swift water makes canyoneering  – already a dangerous sport – more challenging and risky. There can be strong rapids, hidden underwater traps, and (of course) chilly temperatures. But often these canyons allow you to experience beautiful places up close and in new ways.

We picked Seven Teacups as our first swift water canyon together. Many canyoneers use it as a training ground for more difficult swift water canyons. Plus, Ms. Fool had completed it before.

To prepare, we ran some beginner-friendly dry canyons. Then we moved into canyons with a little water. After that, we flew to Las Vegas for a swift water canyoneering lecture taught by Rich Carlson. Finally, one day when the conditions were deemed manageable, we pressed “go.”

Check out the video of our escapade, and then read about it below!

Trekking To The Teacups

We wanted to get an early start, so we drove up the night before and camped. Early the next morning, we ate a light breakfast, navigated to the trailhead, and started hiking. The weather was perfect. The temperature highs for the day were forecast in the low 70’s.

Hiking to Seven Teacups.
Lots of wildflowers blooming along the way.

When we reached water, we suited up (wetsuit-ed up, that is), and made our way downstream. The water was chilly. Thankfully, we were equipped with Merino wool base layers, wool socks, and neoprene gloves.

Jumping into the cold water.

Going For It

Once we reached the start of Seven Teacups, we were able to confirm that the water level was safe. The night before, we looked at data from various reporting stations. Everything looked good. But overnight there was lots of lightning. So we weren’t sure if any rain upstream had made the canyon too dangerous to complete.

The water indicators looked good. So we jumped in. Well, I did. Ms. Fool had me do the first swim. I fully submerged myself beneath a stone arch while building our first anchor.

Swimming under the arch to set our anchor.

The water flow was strong. But we are both solid swimmers. So our first rappels/jumps were fun and easy for us. However…

It’s Not All Smooth Sailing (Er, Swimming)

The transition from the 3rd to the 4th teacup was a little hard and took some teamwork to get safely past. The water funneled over a narrow lip into a waterfall, and the current was swift. Ms. Fool is light, so she couldn’t get close enough to the anchors without almost being sucked over. (Finally, a reason for her to eat more junk food!) I was able to straddle the lip, set the rope, and descend first.

A good 6-7 seconds passed as I rappelled down the waterfall. I couldn’t breath, see, or hear anything but the water pelting me on all sides. It was the most risky part of the canyon. Definitely not place you would want to get hung-up.

Setting up the anchor for the 3rd to 4th teacup transition.
Taking a deep breath before vanishing into the waterfall.
A sigh of relief as I finish the waterfall rappel.
Ms. Fool about to vanish into the pummeling water.

The Adventure Continues

Other than feeling a bit chilly, it was smooth sailing after that. We jumped some of the teacups, rappelled some, and even skipped a few. (Hey, we were cold, okay?) By the last rappel, we were both exhausted.

Too tired to rappel? Why not jump?
Nothing but waterfalls.
Almost at the end.

The Adventure Comes To An End

We crossed the Kern easily and hiked the long way back to the cars. We saved ourselves some walking by floating down the gentlest parts of the river.

Hiking back along the Kern River.
The bridge that brings you home.

Final Thoughts

It was a great first experience for me. I’m glad I put in the work doing smaller, less exciting canyons, and making sure I was equipped with the right gear and knowledge. With the water levels as high as they were, it could have quickly gone from fun to scary. Knowing what to do, researching thoroughly beforehand, and learning emergency safety measures is crucial.

**Disclaimer: Canyoneering comes with serious risks and should only be done if you have proper training or an experienced leader. The information above is not to be used to attempt the canyon and is purposely vague. For proper guidance, check with your local canyoneering experts.
The Fools’ Guide to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The Fools’ Guide to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Jetting Down To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

After spotting a too-cheap-to-pass-up hotel-and-flight deal, we booked a 5-night trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Many water sports enthusiasts head to Puerto Vallarta for kitesurfing or scuba diving. We, however, had no particular goals or plans – a rarity for the couple who usually has at minimum a list of sights and an eatery or two to visit. (Heck, we even managed to turn a 12-hour layover in Switzerland into a whirlwind day trip.) But sometimes there’s pleasure in not having an agenda. So, with a come-what-may attitude in mind, we headed south of the border.

How We Did It

View from our hotel window

This was our first international trip using Southwest Airlines. If you fly out of LAX, as we did, note that you have to check in at a domestic terminal and then catch a shuttle to the international terminal. So plan to arrive early.

We stayed at the Sheraton Buganvilias Resort. For the most part, it was nice: clean with a beautiful pool and accommodating staff. However, multiple floors were under construction. So we sometimes had hammering or sawing interrupt afternoon naps or wake us up before we planned.

No car rental. Aside from taxis to and from the airport, we walked. For better or for worse, Puerto Vallarta caters to tourists. So we never once felt unsafe.

What We Did

Sand art along the Paseo Díaz Ordaz boardwalk.

Lots and lots of walking. Paseo Díaz Ordaz. Malecon boardwalk. Over the Río Cuale to Los Muertos Beach. Again, we were in this trip primarily to take it easy. So there were no fabulous day trips planned. Just lots of sun on the beach, nights reading while lightning flashed outside our window, and plenty of eating – though not at our hotel. After one meal there, we decided to eat elsewhere. Not only was the food overpriced, but it was also rather bland.

South view along the Paseo Díaz Ordaz boardwalk.
One of the many statues along the Paseo Díaz Ordaz boardwalk.
Facing south off the pier on Los Muertos Beach.
Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church.
Thunder and lighting storm outside our hotel window.

Where We Ate

Map of Puerto Vallarta

  1. 100% Natural. The breakfasts were really tasty and healthy, although a little overpriced. Lots of vegetarian options and some organic, which is why we visited. While we are generally open to eating anything at least once, we try not to stray too far from our primarily-vegetable diet for more than a few days at a time.
  2. Mariscos Cuetos. We had a really good dinner of large shrimp and chicken fajitas. They’re a bit pricy compared to other seafood eateries in the area. But their food is high quality. Bonus points for the band that plays while you dine.
  3. Layla’s. Our top pick. This was the priciest place dined at, but the food and service were really great. Beautiful ambiance on the balcony. The owner and waiter even shared a drink with us.
  4. Pan & Cué. Pretty standard Italian fare. Really can’t go wrong with anything here.
  5. La Bodeguita Del Medio. We wanted some Cuban food, so we came here. We thought it was not nearly as flavorful as it should have been. Also, we’ve had much better Cuban food in California.
  6. Natureza. Great smoothies and crepes. Again, lots of healthy options.

We also ate lots of ice cream, crepes, and street tacos at various stands. Flavor-wise, the ice cream can be hit or miss. But it’s cheap enough that you can’t complain.

Breakfast at 100% Natural Restaurant.
Breakfast at 100% Natural Restaurant.
Desert at La Bodeguita Del Medio.
Chocolate crepe from Natureza.

Some Travel Tips

  1. If you have USD: exchange some of your currency for peso, but also make sure to keep some USD 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s. Then, when paying, ask the cost in both peso and USD, and use the cheaper option.
  2. Exchange money via an ATM and not at currency exchanges or money exchange machines. You often get a much better rate with ATMs. Remember to check with your bank on ATM fees.
  3. To save money on airport transportation, skip the white airport taxis and walk to the main road. Hail a yellow taxi. The airport taxis cost about $20 USD, while yellow street taxis cost around $10 USD. (At the time of this post, the exchange rate was 1 USD = 18.12 MXN. So, following our advice in tip 1, we chose to pay with peso, a cost of ~$5.51 USD).
  4. Use a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees.