What if I travel to…San Diego, California? ($50/day)

I have had the pleasure of spending several vacations in San Diego and the neighboring city of Poway. An easy stop off on a road trip, San Diego is expensive but has a lot to offer, from hiking to lounging and everything in between.

  • Wear sunscreen.
    • Seriously. I have gotten so sunburned at  Beach that my skin looked bruised and that was on a cloudy day
  • Hydrate if you plan to hike.
    • I have seen people stagger and get confused from dehydration hiking in the area, there is NO shade on most hikes and the ground just emits heat all day long as well as the sun. Temperatures in the summer will exceed 100 F or 38 C often during the summer

Hikes:

  • Ramona dam
    • A great hike with a view overlooking the surrounding hillside, city, and avocado orchards. Its roughly 7 miles round trip and very dusty but easy
  • Iron Mountain
    • Follow another dusty trail over 8+ miles to enjoy a slightly different view of sand, scrub, and desolation. Worth the trek
  • Potato Chip Rock
    • An extremely popular hike due largely to the potato chip shaped rock at the top that you can stand on and appear to be ready to drop off at any second, an easy but iconic hike with some shale but pretty much just scrub and dust

Beaches

  • Del Mar/Torrey Pines
    • For easy accessibility, long stretches of beach and plenty of room to boogie board or skim, this section of sand is located north of San Diego and offers great views of the city
  • Black’s Beach
    • former clothing optional beach that still has some gray areas, I have never been but a close friend is from the area and insists it is worth the excursion
  • Other beaches – no use re-writing an article by someone with additional local experience

Other Activities:

  • Climb or explore Joshua Tree
    • People fly in from around the country for the chance to get at the routes here for decades, and even those who do not enjoy climbing can enjoy hiking or biking in the park. Driving from central San Diego is roughly 3.5 hours
  • Watch a Padres game
    • The American past time at ticket prices that won’t break the bank and where it isn’t so likely to be over crowded
  • Tijuana, Mexico
    • Just a few hours drive south, the city is an easy day trip into Mexico. Just be prepared for occasional border traffic and bring lots of water. Also keep in mind the city is not always the safest, so do not go alone or wander late at night
  • Eat at In-N-Out Burger
    • It is a thing that people do as tourist, the food is not especially better than any other fast food place but it is very popular. Students in SW Washington attempt an “In-N-Out Challenge” a few times a year in which they leave right after class and drive the 8 hours to the nearest location and then bring it 8 hours back to eat for breakfast at school the next day before class begins
  • Head up to Anaheim, LA, or Hollywood
    • A short stint up the coast can get you into Disneyland, the land of stars, or a major traffic jam
  • Hit up Solid Rock Gym in Poway
    • Bouldering, TR, lead, slacklines, and a sick adjustable crack column make this gym a fun day spot if the weather is too hot to get in the crag. The ground is pea gravel though, be sure to move the crash pad
  • Lose big at a Tribal Casino
    • Casinos are all over the surrounding area, many of which are first nations owned and therefore you can smoke inside and play slots. If visiting from out of the country, expect to see a large middle age plus crowd glued to the screen for hours in a bizarre ritual of despair. Go in having a limit and knowing that if you win it is a fluke, just have fun and enjoy the free concerts and secondhand smoke
  • Drive up the 101
    • I have driven the length from Howe Sound in British Columbia down the 99, to I-5 and out to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington before driving down Oregon coast and long the cliffs of California. There are plenty of camping destinations, a chance to visit the Redwoods, and beaches galore with one sunset over the ocean after another

Where to sleep:

  • Out of money
    • sleep in your car at a Wal-mart or any rest area on the interstate
    • couch surf
  • Limited money
    • tent camp at one of the dozens of surrounding parks. Just be sure to bring in water
  • Some cash
    • hostelworld if alone. Most place start around $30/night
    • Airbnb if there are several people, decent places can be found for $80 to $100 and up
  • I’m rich
    • this is probably the wrong travel blog for you

What if I travel… to Spokane, WA ($20-30/day)

I will start by saying that Spokane is not a must-visit location in Washington by any means. Ideally the next decade will see the city join the friendly, eco-loving, and not-so conservative rest of the PNW, but until then be prepared to hear a lot of bigotry and conservative radio damning the 90% of the world who is not meeting the WASP standard. But if for some reason you do end up in the eastern part of the state, there are some serious good finds hidden among the abyss that make it worth the trip.

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Warming up on the boulders at Minnehaha

Climbing (Outdoor)

General note: Watch your gear and car wherever you choose to go in Spokane, locals complained of broken windows and Park Rangers said theft is common

  • Minnehaha – Located at John C Shields park and not at Minnehaha park that is down the street, there are 100+ boulders and dozens of trad/TR routes. The sport climbing is limited and you need several long slings to rig a safe anchor no matter what you climb, but it is easy to have a fun day out here and its only 15 minutes from downtown.
  • McLellan – Multiple locals mentioned this as a top notch spot to skip the crowds and get some good climbing in, sadly we didn’t have time to add it to our weekend but its on the must for the next time back
  • Mountainproject includes 8 more locations and since they already list them, I won’t bother considering I have no firsthand experience in the area

Climbing (Indoor)

  • Bloc Yard – Similar to the Circuit we have here in Portland area, and set by a former Circuit setter, Bloc Yard is a great bouldering gym to crush a few great problems and get kombucha on tap. Complete with a parking lot just 10 minutes from downtown, be sure to check out Groupon for regular deals before jumping on a route or two (we got our day pass for two with shoes for $21)
  • Wild Walls – My friend has a regular membership and we did a quick tour after our pump at Bloc Yard. Sitting right on the edge of downtown, Wild Walls has some great rope options and a nice mezzanine workout area. The walls are at least 40 feet high, there is a sick crack, and a small bouldering cove. There is a yoga studio on the ground floor and the staff were quite friendly. They even host events like black out climbing (climbers just using headlamps) and it looks like they are in the works of further developing the space (they moved into an existing, shared building). Again check out Groupon for rotating deals (Last week there was $16 one week of climbing, rentals, yoga, and a basic climbing class)

Where to Crash

  • We camped at Bowl & Pitcher for $20/night. From the campsite we were 20 minutes from 5 of the climbing sites, both gyms, downtown, and a 2 minute walk from the suspension bridge/hiking trails
  • The nearest free camping is in the National Forest is just over an hour away

Watering Holes

  • The Nyne Bar & Bistro had a great Halloween party, with live music, cheap beer ($3.50) and a line out the door. Bartenders were friendly and the atmosphere was worth a revisit for sure
  • Revolver is a a dive popular with college students that offers $1 domestic beers on Thursday nights just a few minutes from downtown
  • Check out Brew Brothers for a cozy and friendly coffee shop downtown, but also be ready for the homeless to gather on the couches and discuss conservative politics while you want to enjoy your coffee racism free

Food

Don’t want to eat the standard American food crap? Don’t worry, I got you covered.

  • My Fresh Basket has you covered for health foods, not the cheapest but its centrally located and has a good variety
  • The Main Market Coop is another great option for healthy eats and paleo treats, with tons of local options

What if I travel to… Bellingham, WA ($10-$20)

Home of Western Washington University (my alma mater), Bellingham is one of the biggest cities in Washington and home to a culture all it’s own. There are more types of recycling than colors in the rainbow and locals spend twice as much to buy products that are locally sourced.

  • Visit the Coop for local foods and vegan/vegetarian options
  • AB Crepes is one of the best local eats, opened by two former WWU students, it is affordable and stays open as late as there are customers
  • Boomers Drive – In is a great local burger joint
  • Vital Climbing Gym is a 24/7 bouldering gym with a great environment and one of the best communities I have ever had the privilege being part of. They always have dogs inside and you can add your own music to the playlist while climbing, training, or on the slackline
  • Tour Western for a gorgeous campus full of interactive art and a view of Bellingham bay
  • Hike or climb in the Arboretum, the large forested hill in the center of town, with miles of trails past a few pot smoking hippies and plenty of families out enjoying the weather, rain or shine
  • Take the Boltbus up to Vancouver or down to Seattle or Portland for the weekend
  • Drive up the pass to Mt. Baker for some great skiing and snowboarding
  • Go sailing in Bellingham Bay for stunning views and perfect winds

What if I travel to… the Olympic Peninsula, WA ($-$$)

 

Take a trip up scenic hwy 101 to local Bigfoot country and enjoy the Olympic National Forest! There are miles and miles of trees and trails to explore, Mt. Olympus to hike, and a great string of little towns to visit. An unbelievable amount of people came through the area and up to Forks to see where the Twilight book series and films were shot. Not my cup of tea but hey, do what you love. For the majority of the drive the ocean and greenery is all that is visible, but there are many locations to camp and catch a glimpse of local wildlife if you pay attention.

star wars

  • Stop in Aberdeen at Sucher & Sons Star Wars Shop for an amazing collection of memorabilia and the owner is great, he sports a massive Carrie Fisher tattoo complete with her actual autograph. The shop can be spotted alongside 101 by a giant Star Wars mural

Lake-Quinault-Lodge-Back

  • Just north of there lies the beautiful lake Quinault, home of the Quinault Indian Nation, and a wonderful spot to relax. Stay at Lake Quinault Lodge for a night or camp nearby
  • Visit the Olympic Game Farm in Sequim to get within arms reach of bears, pet buffalo, feed zebras, and walk among the water fowl
  • KOA has several campground locations around the area or you can stay for free in the national forest itself, just be sure to stop be a local ranger station for a map of acceptable areas and up to date wildlife warnings

What if I travel to… Smith Rock, OR ($10/Day)

A great weekend trip from Portland, Smith Rock is the birthplace of modern sport climbing. Thousands of climbers every year come here to climb the famous Monkey Face and explore the hundreds of other routes. Bouldering is largely overlooked and quite difficult here, though there were a few good problems to toy with.

17757334_1438259396206127_3564481360448431716_n – Arrive early in the morning to lock in a good route

-dogs are welcome but be sure to bring doggie bags

-drive past the park and park along the road for free parking

-scramble over the break in the cliffs for quicker access to the backside of the park

-bring a bicycle to quickly get from one face to the next

-bring lots of water, even in winter the park heats up quick and the car is a long trek away 17620339_1438259079539492_411989548720032281_o

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What if I travel to…Leavenworth, WA ($10/day)

overlook

Icicle Creek Canyon – November, 2013

Easily one of the most gorgeous destinations in Washington, Leavenworth boasts a Bavarian style town surrounded by mountains and timber. Cheap eats, decent beer, and lots of free camp spots scattered about. Snowboarders and skiers can head north up hwy 2 to Stevens Pass and rafting gurus can get a good dip in 30 minutes south in Wenatchee. But the real paradise is for climbers and hikers in the canyons. Here the whole world seems to go silent and one can just exist as part of the landscape. I have climbed here in the rain, snow, burning sun, and all hours of the day/night, with not one bad experience yet over the years.

  • Icicle Creek Canyon contains the best boulder fields and camping, with a locals deep water solo on Muscle Beach and plenty of great free solos around Barney’s Rubble. If you enjoy a scramble and chimney climbs, feel free to head straight up Domestic Dome towards the canyon peaks, but watch out for loose rocks and ice
  • Castle Rock and Snow Creek Wall include great multi-pitch routes with walk offs available even several hundred feet up
  • Peshastin Pinnacles contain crumbly rock but is a beautiful hiking destination
  • Camp at 8 Mile Campground in the off season for free camping and for cheap spots during the peak
  • Use Mountain Project to find additional climbs and be sure to ask locals for recommendations

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What if I travel to…Portland, OR ($ – $$$)

screenshot9520170625-222144.jpgPortland may very well be the hipster capital of the US. It is full of a wild and weird mix of people. We have the biggest World Naked Bike Ride, (image on the left is me, riding means being open to some unflattering camera shots and media), great food, and try to be eco-friendly. Not a pro-Trump city.

Travelers from all over come to us for rich, green wilderness, and the plethora of terrain. The beach, mountains, and desert can be driven though all in the same day with enough time left over to find a good book at Powell’s City of Books and ride a bike to the Rose Garden.

path

HIKING

The Columbia River Gorge was listed as one of National Geographics’s top 6 hiking destinations in the world, and despite recent forest fires, it will remain an amazing place. Best hikes within an hour of downtown:

  • Munra Point – my favorite, a short distance/difficult scramble offering a panoramic view from the top at round 1500 ft, fatalities have occurred, 3 hours round trip
  • Angel’s Rest – popular running spot, easy, tourist/locals, clear day can see downtown Portland from top
  • Multnomah Falls – PNW #1 tourist stop, incredible free fall waterfall, easy access, short hike
  • Siouxon Creek Falls – less traveled hike 2 hours north, follow a series of waterfalls and swimming holes to a massive waterfall you can swim up to, 8 miles round trip, dogs welcome, free parking & camping

CLIMBING

The local community has several solid climbing populations and local gyms. Both sides of the Gorge have great climbing and several hours north and south lie even better locals (check out Leavenworth & Smith Rock)

  • Be sure to use mountain project for a quick guide to local crags
  • Rocky Butte is quick and dirty TR destination located in Portland, be aware of condoms/needles/homeless camps
  • Ozone is located across the river outside of Washougal, some great clean climbs here for all styles of climbing
  • The Source is my personal favorite gym located in Vancouver, WA. As a founding member myself I have some bias but the staff are fantastic and down to earth people who will chat with and help you any time
  • Portland Rock Gym, The Circuit (no ropes, 3 locations), & Planet Granite are all in Portland metro area

EATS

I could write a whole blog on this alone but those exist so let’s hit the quick top 5

  • Sizzle Pie/Quality Bar – great pizza by the slice for cheap, meat/gluten free/vegan/veg all available, great happy hour, open until 4 am, Pearl/NE
  • Ruby Jewel – best ice cream around, great staff, Pearl/Mississippi/Hawthorne
  • Por que No – #1 bean bowls ever. period. Try Bryan’s Bowl for no regrets, Mississippi/Hawthorne
  • Ground Kontrol – a local gamers’ favorite bar, with old arcade games around 50 cents a play
  • Thirsty Sasquatch – live music, great whiskey specials and beer/cider/kombucha, very friendly staff, no food but you can bring anything in you want, Downtown Vancouver
  • McMenamins – dozens of locations from Bothell to Roseburg, with the highest concentration in Portland Metro, great food, okay beer, fun atmosphere w/ live bands & pool, go to every location and get a stamp for free hotel nights, concerts, unlimited happy hour, and other free gear!

ADDITIONAL FUN

  • Pop over to the Deschutes River for white water rafting
  • Mississippi and Alberta districts offer great nightlife with lots of locations within walking distance
  • Visit Wunderland nickel arcades for a cheap retro game night
  • Book a segway  tour of Portland on Groupon
  • Visit Oregon Zoo to see lots of animals in a family friendly setting
  • Go to OMSI After Dark to drink beer and play with tons of hands on science experiments and exhibits
  • Drive two hours north to climb Mount St.Helens and see the land post-1980s eruption as it slowly comes back to life
  • Stay at the Society Hotel downtown if visiting for just one night, otherwise look at Airbnb for cheap accommodations