Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Hiking Page 1 of 4

Hiking Oia to Fira

Today was our third official hike day. We had a transfer scheduled to pick us up at 9am at our hotel. Before we left, we enjoyed the breakfast at the hotel. It was delicious and had a little bit of everything. Including normal scrambled eggs, stuffed grape leaves, mushrooms and of course feta.


Our driver picked us up in his fancy Tesla. We chatted during the drive to Oia. Turns out, he is a former Greek Navy Seal (retired). He trained several times in San Diego. He was very nice and encouraged us on our hike. Oia was chaos. It was incredibly crowded with everyone wanting to get the perfect picture. Plus, there were multiple women doing photo shoots and clogging the paths. We honestly just wanted to snap our pictures and get on with our hike. Here are a few from Oia. It is beautiful and stunning. I just could do with out the crowds.

Here are my favorite doors from Oia.

Here was the crowd, waiting to get “the” shot of the three domes. Also, I took a picture of the lady who was causing the line. And then I photoshopped her out. It was a quick edit. I’m sure I can do better.

I would also like to share my pictures of the cats of Oia. So cute.

Most of the hike was along the top of the ridge. However, there were a lot of ups and downs. And lots of stepping on igneous rocks. They are so sharp and pointy. They really started to bother my feet towards the end. Here are a couple up pictures of the trail.

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned, we booked our trip through Macs Adventure. They have truly been amazing. All hotels, transfers and ferries have been prearranged. Also, they put everything on an app that is easy to access. The app includes maps of all your hikes. Here was our map for today.

Once you start hiking, it will track your journey and give you alerts for upcoming points of interest and way points. If you’re looking for a guided trip, we highly recommend. We would both consider booking another adventure. Ok, let’s continue. The east side of Santorini is so different from the west. Here are a few pictures looking down at the farm land on the east side.

I would also like to share my favorite bougainvillea pictures from the day. I’m so inspired, I want to plant one when I get home!

There were so many churches along the route. They are striking with the blue domes.

The buildings and flowers were beautiful. It was also incredibly peaceful walking above the caldera. We were so high up!!

Humor me with a couple more doors.

The middle section of the hike was through a bunch of fancy hotels. Most said no pictures and do not enter. The view remained incredible.

The highlight of any hike is the cold beer at the finish line. The finish line for this hike was conveniently our hotel. We came back and showered before our well earned beer. Cheers!

We picked a nice local spot for dinner. We watched the cruise ships boarding passengers as we dined.

As always, thanks for reading. We have our last adventure tomorrow. We are sailing on a catamaran in the caldera!

Hiking Kimolos Island

We started our day with a 6:30 taxi ride to the Pollina Marina to catch the 7:15 ferry to the island of Kimolos. Once we arrived we were hiking by 8:00am.

The first part of the 9.5 mile hike was around the fishing village of Goupa. Goupa is an old traditional fishing village. The old sea caves / cliffs have been converted into garages. In many places the waves were right up against the doors. The views were stunning in the morning sun. It truly feels like you’re walking through a time capsule. There are no vendors, stores, cafes or anything catering to tourists.

The trail did get a little tricky to follow. Fortunately, someone got tired of people coming into their yard and painted the way!

We continued along the water until it was time to start the climb! Whew! Was it ever a dusty climb!

A couple facts about the island of Kimolos. In the 2021 census, there were 810 residents. Only about 600 stay during non tourist season. Also, there are 80 churches and chapels on the island. We didn’t have time to see them all… but here are a few.

A few fun pictures and cats from the hike.

The goal of this part of the hike was to see Skiadi. Skiadi is a natural rock monument that resembles a giant mushroom. It is location high in the hills means there’s often strong winds, and the softer rock at the base erodes quicker than the harder rock above. Due to its size and shape, it’s catalogued in the Atlas of Geological Monuments of the Aegean. Without further delay I share with you Skiadi.


We were a slightly underwhelmed. But made up for it by taking silly pictures. We sat in shade and ate our snacks before heading back down. The little lizard wanted to be friends.

The views of the sea were breathtaking.

If you decide to take this hike. Do the first part and have someone drive you up to the trail for Skiadi. You can skip the climb and it would be about 1.5 hour round trip. You won’t miss much….

Nonetheless, we had fun. We walked through the heart of town and enjoyed ice cream. And then finally the finish line beer! Well earned!

We boarded the 4:30 ferry back to Milos. We enjoyed dinner at a spot recommended by our driver Yiannis. It was delicious. Snapper and Grouper.

A few last shots of the marina. Check out the ink draining from the octopus!!

Yiannis picked us up and asked if we had time to stop at Sarakiniko Beach. Sure! Wow! Talk about a lunar landscape. According to Wikipedia, this is the most photographed beach in the Aegean Sea. Definitely not hard to see why!

Thanks for reading. We had a full day! Tomorrow we take a break from hiking and go sailing!

Crested Butte, CO

Sunday morning we were up early and packed up by 9am. We wanted to hike the Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte. George and Juliana hiked this trail two summers ago and highly recommended it. Their directions to find it left us doubting we would. “Drive through town and follow the road until you see a parking lot with a port-a-potty.” Sounds sparse, right? Actually, they were spot on! we spotted the potty, found the trail we wanted to take and set off!

After reading AllTrails, the hike was 5.8 miles. We packed water and snacks and set out. Ironically, the AllTrails map took us to the top of Snodgrass Mountain. The trail Sadira is pointing to in the picture above is what we walked for about a mile before realizing we weren’t on the trail. Our 5.8 mile hike turned out to be 8 miles! The views were amazing! Wildflowers and Aspen and of course Crested Butte.

Sierra larkspur & Crested Butte
Aspen and ferns
Flower Friends
Arrowleaf Balsamroot & Crested Butte

Once we realized we weren’t on the summit trail, we turned around and started up the mountain. Everyone knows the reason you hike a mountain is for the panoramic view at the top. Hopefully. We hiked up about 1.2 miles in what seemed like straight and steep uphill. In the sun. Only to find the top was covered with pine trees that obstructed the view.

The view at the top
Taking a breathe break at the summit

Regardless, it was a great hike and a quick walk down. More Aspen, butterflies, and flowers.

Crested Butte on your head!
Callippe fritillary
Wood betony & Aspen
Crested Butte

After the hike, we hopped in the car and started the drive over to Redstone Campground. It was about a 2.5 hour drive. We had to go up & over the mountains using Keebler Pass. Little did we know the drive was mostly (40 miles) on a curvy gravel road. It was awful. Sadira was car sick by the time we got over it. We stopped at a little campground and had a snack while watching the hummingbirds until she was feeling better. Whew! What a drive!

Saturday was the only night we’re stayed at a KOA. Camping life in a KOA campground is much different than camping life in a National Forest. The perks of a KOA include showers, laundry and flushing toilets. Oh! And a dishwashing sink that ONLY has hot water. To enjoy those perks you pass up seclusion, privacy, and incredible views. Sunday night we were in Redstone Campground. It was appropriately named – there were red stones all around us! We had privacy, scenery and clean pit toilets!

I forgot to snap a picture of our meal. Sadira made us pimento grilled cheese and tomato soup. It was delicious. We took a dip in the creek and then had a solar shower… our last one, actually… more on that tomorrow-


Gunnison, CO

Our drive to Gunnison, CO on Saturday was about three hours. We had lunch on the road and arrived at the Gunnison KOA right at 2:00pm for check in. We were so late to the party planning this adventure this was the only campground I could find for Saturday night. Honestly, it wasn’t terrible. We had a real shower, flushing toilets, and laundry facilities. It was a good reset for the halfway point. From one perspective it looks like a KOA. From the opposite perspective it looks perfectly pleasant.

Campground Chef in a crowded KOA
It’s like we have the place to ourselves

After checking in, we went to Hartman Rocks for a short desert hike. We really pushed the Prius to its uphill limits. This area is filled with mountain bike trails and the road was super rutted. We decided not to push the limits too far and hiked around from the first parking lot.

Adventure awaits
That view!

We saw several great wildflowers over the past two days on our hikes. Here are my favorite.

Plains Prickly Pear
Spineless Horsebrush
Sego Lily
Arrowroot Balsamroot
Scarlet Gilia
Rocky Mountain Penstemon

The hike was hot with a nice breeze. We decided a short hike was best to keep us from a visit to the hydration station. We went back to the campground and enjoyed not having neighbors- until they arrived after we went to bed. Speaking of the campground, we decided this would be a great opportunity to rack up some license plates. As we walked around, we added an additional 5 plates to our collection. Bringing our total up to 43! #strongwork

Campground Chef – burritos

Taos Take 2 & Elk Creek

Friday morning we drove back to Taos for a very important mission… Fun Rings! As we drove down the mountain, we got stuck behind the line marking truck. Painfully slow trip down most of the mountain!!

We made it to Taos, finally. After a quick stop at the Walmart for fizzy water, ice, and pimento cheese, we walked through the Taos plaza on our ring hunt. The second store was a huge success. A fun silver and turquoise ring for each! The lady who helped was super nice and warned us of bears while hiking. She suggested we carry a knife. ??‍♀️

Fun Rings!

A few of my favorite pictures from our walk around Taos.

Friendly reminder in Taos, NM
Catching fish

We fixed pimento cheese sandwiches for lunch and were back on the road. Our next destination was Elk Creek Campground near Antonito, CO.

Elk Creek

We had no cell service in the campground. It was kind of fun to fall off the grid. We decided to take a hike. The skies were overcast and the temperature was in the low 70s. We thought it might rain while we were hiking. Luckily, the rain held off and danced around us. The hike was lovely.

Cool Tree
Rain Clouds
Hiking in Aspen

After our hike, we set up camp and made a gourmet dinner of tortellini and sauce. We also had a chance to try out the portable shower. It was cool and refreshing. We had to layer up because the mosquitoes were really bad. But, with cool dry nights in the upper 40s layers were good!

The next morning, we relaxed and didn’t leave camp until 10ish because we needed to stop at the visitor center to use their wifi to get directions. As we were sitting there, the nice host – who told us about the hike the day before politely ease-dropped on our conversation. When I said we needed to head back to Antonio, he replied, “That’s cute. It’s Atonito.” We had a good laugh. Me especially, because I’m notorious for mispronouncing places.

Saturday morning camping vibes

With another bag of ice for the cooler, we were off for Gunnison, CO.

Yin & Yang

According to Ancient Chinese Philosophy, Yin and Yang is a concept of dualism. It describes how two very different things can be complementary to one another. I realized today that my Yin & Yang are Palm trees and Aspen trees. Neither can be found in the same place and both are in places I want to be! Also, when I’m around one, I’m super happy and can get really excited to talk about seeing the other. We had one last hike in Park City today. I knew I just wanted to Forest Bathe or as I learned in Japan, “Shinrin-Yoku”, in an Aspen Grove. That meant we went back up the Ontario Trail (longer side) of the Bald Mountain. As we shinrin-yoku, I was in hiking nirvana.

At the top, we snagged a selfie #favoritehikingpartner and stayed a minute in the best chairs in Deer Valley. Just enjoyed a chance to look out at the future together.

While we were hiking, I also sorted out why open chair lifts stress me out. I grew up loving the thrill of the first drop of a roller coaster. And chair lifts seem to trigger that same reaction…. Oh, crap! I’m gonna drop and I don’t have a harness! But they don’t drop fast. Nonetheless, I grab tight to the closest person… sorry, Dave! Thanks for hanging on to me!

View from the first drop

One more Aspen picture to close this out…

Peace, love and trees!

Double Hike Thursday

This morning we hiked up to the top of Bald Mountain using the Sliver Lake Trail. This trail was steeper than yesterday’s and a little shorter. It wrapped around the mountain and gave incredible views of Sliver Lake.

Glimpses of the lake
Appropriately named Silver Lake

One area we hiked through looked like there had been an avalanche at some point. Many trees were down and cut up to help clear the trail.

Downed trees

Along the way, I was able to spot a few more wildflowers to add to my collection. Please enjoy the pictures!

Creeping Yellowcress
Jacob’s Ladder
Aspen Fleabane
Stream bank Wild Holyhock
Star Chickweed
Red Baneberry
Common Yarrow
Hawk’s Beard
Parsnipflower Buckwheat
Sulfur Flower
Orange Agoseris – Mountain Dandelion
Tall fringed Bluebells
Yellow Salsify
Wavyleaf Thistle
Black eyed Susan
At the top!

We were to the top by 9:45. The chair lift didn’t open until 10. So, we sat for a spell and enjoyed the view. That’s what is nice about this part of the vacation. We don’t have to be on a schedule.

Top of Bald Mountain

Confession- open chairlifts stress me out. Don’t look down! Especially, at the start.

Heading down on the chairlift

We enjoyed lunch at the resort. In the afternoon we hiked the Sultan Out and Back. It was actually a loop. It’s a trail that’s available to hikers and horseback riding. It should have been named Horse Poop Trail. There were Horse Pies everywhere. I didn’t take pictures of the poo – you just have to trust me on that one. The trail stayed low on the mountain and had several nice views.

Silver Lake
The turnaround point put us on a road uphill.

We saw these new wildflowers on our afternoon hike.

Yellow Salsify – going to seed

And these butterflies were EVERYWHERE! Several would fly along with us as week hiked. I used an app called PictureInsect to identify it.

Mormon Fritillary

It was a beautiful day. We finished with dinner at the resort with a former shipmate of Dave’s. The dinner and company were excellent.

Canyonlands National Park

We were up early and out the door before sunrise. Because that how the Dwyer’s roll. And because I wanted to catch Mesa Arch around sunrise. Also, we had a full day planned at Canyonlands aka “Candyland” and wanted to beat the heat and crowds.

Driving towards Canyonlands
Monitor & Merrimack
Clown Car & Moon Set

After our first obligatory shot at the entrance, we stopped at Mesa Arch. The sun angle was perfect!!

After walking the Mesa Arch Loop, we continued on the drive with our tour guide Alfred. Oh! I totally forgot to mention Alfred. Before we left, our friends Bill and Allison just returned from a trip to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. They recommended the app: GyPSy Guide. It is a narration about where you are driving. I purchased the Arches & Canyonlands tour. I’m so happy I did. We named our narrator Alfred. He’s great. He makes jokes, tells stories, talks about science and gives recommendations and mandatory stopping points. If you have a road trip planned to a National Park, check it out! Back on the road… our next stop was Buck Canyon

We stopped a few more times and then we hiked along the Grand View Rim Trail. Grand View is an understatement!

We double backed and had a mid morning snack before heading to the Green River Overlook. Again, beautiful.

Picnic Spot
Green River

If the Mesa Arch was the primary thing to see, Upheaval Dome was the second. Upheaval Dome is a geological wonder. Was it caused by distillation of salt that caused it to collapse OR a meteorite? We just don’t know… what I do know. It was beautiful to see, really cool and a fun hike!

Step it up!
Hiking Partners for Life!

One of the things Alfred told us about was how desert animals will burrow during the day to keep cool. Dave was lucky enough to find a “bird” burrowing to escape the heat.

Very rare bird burrowing

On our drive back to Moab, we stopped in Dead Horse Point State Park. It was where the classic scene in Thelma and Louise was filmed – where they drive off the cliff. No, it wasn’t the Grand Canyon. It was Dead Horse State Park. It was beautiful and they had running water… nice to use a real toilet and actually WASH our hands! *side note. I had no issue with the cleanliness of the CNP pit toilets. I brought this travel sized sunscreen that was super thick and greasy. After reapplying before our last hike our hands were gross.* (yes, I brought wipes and hand sanitizer – it was like zinc oxide)

It was a FULL day. We left the Airbnb by 5:45 and were back home by 1:45. It was definitely beer:30. We accomplished all the goals and had a blast. Lots of short hikes (1-2 miles) to see different stuff. We were out of the park before it was too hot or crowded. The line to get in was about a mile long when we were leaving! We enjoyed an early dinner and tiramisu for dessert in the desert.

I will always say “yes” to tiramisu!

Tomorrow is another early morning. Arches National Park… Delicate Arch at sunrise.

Sunrise at the Summit

Please grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine and settle in for the yarn I’m about to spin. It’s a pretty epic tale.

Thursday morning, I picked up our rental car at 7am. After that, I met up with Marianne and her son, Anthony. We were on the road to the Fuji Hokuroku Parking lot by 7:30am. We arrived just before 10am. So far, everything was going according to our plans. We were all a little bothered by the clouds as we approached, but choose not to acknowledge them. Before catching the bus, we changed into our climbing gear, bought our round trip bus tickets to the 5th station, and had a small lunch snack. Please notice the clouds covering Mt. Fuji in the background.

We boarded the bus by 10:30 and we were leaving 5th station to begin our ascent by 11:30. Thirty minutes ahead of our estimated schedule.

All was looking good. Until about 15 minutes into our hike, it started to rain. By the time we reached the 6th (45 minutes later) we decided we should donn our rain gear.

And so it began. The ascent to Fujisan Hotel a 4-5 hour climb in the rain. Oh, wait. I forgot to mention the wind. The wind was ridiculous. Several times I thought one of us was going to be blown off the mountain. It was intense.

The rain created another problem, too. Several of the lower stations would not stamp hiking sticks when it was raining. Talk about insult to injury! We were really bummed at the first couple stations. Fortunately, the rain let up a little and the number of hikers thinned and the stations further up would take the time to dry our sticks before stamping them. This picture was at the first station that would stamp our sticks. We were so happy!

As we climbed, the weather remained our enemy. There were several times when we were all ready to quit. We were cold, wet, and exhausted. Personally, I had to have some serious internal conversations with myself to “be cool” and “you got this” and push through step by step. I felt so badly for Marianne and Anthony. They were so excited for the climb. It’s hard to remain positives down motivated when you’re walking through clouds.

Finally, we made it to the Fujisan Hotel. We were all at a breaking point. But, there was no time for that. It was time for dinner. Curry and rice. I’m not sure I’ll ever eat Japanese curry again and not think of that meal.

After dinner, we were given instructions on where to change our clothes and then escorted to our beds. Our beds were interesting. It was like a huge slumber party with 100+ people we had never meet. But, it’s also Japan, so it was really quiet. The three of us decided to crawl into our bunks to warm up (the hut wasn’t heated). I realize now, I forgot to take pictures of the set up. Forgive me, I was in survival mode. The three of us were snuggled together with another group of hikers on either sides. We were on the lower bunk of a huge room with bunk beds on either side. There were no dividing lines between your bunk and your neighbors. Each person had a sleeping bag, heavy blanket and pillow. It was up to each individual to be respectful of your neighbor’s personal space. Marianne and I made an Anthony sandwich. My biggest surprise was how much and well I actually slept. I attribute it to the exhaustion, cold and nightcap. Marianne and I enjoyed a beer and discussed the day’s harrowing adventures before turning in. Before heading back to our bunks, we went out to check the weather. The wind was still blowing and gusting as strong as ever, but it had stopped raining!

Knowing we had a 2am wake up, we were falling asleep by 7pm. I woke up once and Anthony and I used the toilet. Oh, I haven’t mentioned this yet. The toilet is outside and adjacent to the hut. Plus, you have to pay ¥200 ($2.00) per person each time you use the toilet even with reservations! And did they ever stink! Ugh. What an experience. Anyways, I did wake several times during the night to someone snoring or talking, but each time I fell back to sleep quickly. Fortunately, I didn’t hear the person puking from altitude sickness – Marianne told me about that in the morning! By 1:30am I was awake and ready to go and so was Marianne. We began our preparations to finish the ascent to the top! Breakfast was awful. Cold rice with mystery meat. I opted instead for the yummy pancake I brought with me.

We were on our way to the summit by 2:30ish. It was not raining just very very windy. Horribly windy. I honestly thought I was going to blow away a couple times. I found myself grabbing onto the rocks for support!

But, we made it. And so, without further ado, here are my favorite sunrise pictures from the summit of Mt. Fuji. I think you’ll agree, they were worth the wait and effort.

After sunrise, I was ready to begin descending the mountain. I was yet again in survival mode and just wanted to get out of the wind. As the sun continued to come up, the day became more and more beautiful. The trek down the mountain was breathtaking.

Thursday we couldn’t even see where we were going to climb. I took this picture looking up at the trail Friday morning. From this perspective, Mt. Fuji looks pretty flat. Trust me, it’s not!

Just so we are clear on the difference between the two days. I took the same pictures on each day. Please notice the difference in weather.

Day 1

Parking Lot

Station 6

Day 2

Parking Lot

Station 6

I did suggest to Marianne and Anthony that we should walk back to the 5th station, refuel and then hike it again. Since the weather was good… they gave me a “hard” NO!

This was my third and yes, final Mt. Fuji climb. Our hiking sticks are full of stamps, I’ve climbed through all kinds of weather, with a wonderful husband and great friends. Now that I have seen sunrise from the summit, I can officially say I have no unfinished business with Mt. Fuji. This trek up Mt. Fuji was a lesson in patience, persistence and perseverance.

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” -Sir Edmund Hillary

From Fiji To Fuji

It’s true. From the Fiji Islands to the Mt. Fuji summit, this land was made for me to see.

I’m climbing Mt. Fuji for a third time tomorrow (Thursday). This time, I’m climbing it with my friend, Marianne, and her son, Anthony. To prepare, I read my post from the previous two years. Here is the link from when Dave and I climbed in 2016. Also, the link from when Sonia and I climbed in 2017. I’m glad I took the time to read through both posts again. I’m mentally preparing for rain. My fingers remain crossed for sunny skies. I also find it funny that in both posts I talk about not hiking it again. Famous last words.

Perhaps you’re thinking, why would you climb it again, Julia?!? Excellent question. I’m a sucker for a sunrise photo opportunity. I really wanted the chance to see sunrise from the summit. In order to do that, we need to climb during the day and spend the night at the Fujisan Hotel. The Fujisan Hotel is located at the original 8th Station (3360m). The summit is 3776m and about an 80 minute climb from the original 8th Station.

Here is a clear picture of the map for reference.

This could be considered the ultimate Julia Tour. We rented a car and I’m going to drive us to the base of Mt. Fuji. At the base, we have to park the car and take a bus to the 5th Station where we will start our trek. I think it should only take us about 4-5 hours to climb to the Fujisan Hotel. At the hotel, we will receive dinner and then sleep on a mat in a large room with many other climbers. From what I read, we will start hiking to the summit at 2am Friday morning! If all goes as planned, we will see a breathtaking sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji. (Fingers crossed)

I managed to squeeze all the essentials into my day pack. My hiking stick has no more room for stamps, so I’m going to carry Dave’s. Having your stick stamped is a fun part of the climb.

I’ll let you know how things go once I’m home Friday night. Please keep your fingers crossed for sunny skies! Because I’m definitely not climbing Mt. Fuji next summer!!

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