3 National Parks in 3 Days

Dan and I had a plan to visit 3 of California’s most beautiful national parks in 3 days. The plan was an ambitious one as March in the Sierra Nevada can mean unpredictable weather and an unknown amount of snow. Two of the parks, Sequoia National Forest and Inyo National Park were within this mountain range. As always though, we were determined.

I was on a business trip in Las Vegas for the week. Dan flew in on Wednesday and rented a GMC Yukon, which would not only serve as our transportation but our shelter for the next three days as well.

We had basic gear for the trip since we weren’t primitive camping this time. We made a nest in the back of the Yukon that was comprised of our inflatable pillows, sleeping mats and sleeping bags. The temperature the first night was going to get down to 30 degrees, so we were sure to pack our 0 degree bags.

It was a six hour car drive from Las Vegas to Camp Nelson which was home to our campground – Belknap. The drive through the mountains at night was eerie as their huge looming shapes were outlined by the night sky. When we arrived at our campsite we saw glimpses in the headlights of red majesty that awaited us in the morning – giants.

Sequoia National Park

  • Campsite: Belknap Campground
  • Time at Park: 11 Hours
  • Total Hikes: 2

Hikes:

The Nelson Trail | 7.7 Miles | Climbing 1780 ft

Nelson wasn’t a tough trail it had beautiful views of groves and rushing springs. We were the only ones at the campsite and on the trail. So visiting in March definitely has it’s benefits. We only hiked directly to the grove which is actually about 2.2 miles.

The Bear Creek Trail | 5.5 Miles | Climbing 2220 Ft

The 5.5 mile Redwood Grove Trail starts between two cabins just upstream of a big log bridge near the Belknap campsite. The trail is a little overgrown and hard to see although someone recently put a sign up to better mark the trail. The initial start of the trail is covered in a few fallen trees but then clears off. The trail is very steep and requires a ton of endurance – frequent breaks may be required based on your skill level.

Once the trail leveled off we were shrouded in forest and our trail turned to snow. We were surrounded by a small grove of sequoias. This grove has sense of seclusion and mystery which makes it stand out and feel remote from other groves.

We descended Bear Creek and headed back to the truck (not before I tried to get a quick drone shot of the beautiful log bridge and dropped it in the river – bye Dronie boo boo!). Our next destination, Inyo National Forest was just under five hours away.

Inyo National Forest

  • Campsite: Red Roof Inn (I’ll explain below).
  • Time at Park: 7 Hours
  • Total Hikes: 1

When we finally arrived it was after dark and we were anxious to park at our campsite and get some rest. However, there was one problem. A bulldozer was blocking the entrance to the park with a sign saying road closed. There would be no camping; instead we had to make a reservation at the nearest town, Bishop. Luckily the Red Roof Inn had a bed available.

The next morning we headed back into the mountains and anticipated hiking from the entrance to the trail which would add an additional 2 miles to our 6 mile hike. When we arrived we were met with 15 police and firefighters who were volunteering for a mountain search and rescue drill. They said the locals had closed the road, due to ice.

Hikes:

Big Pine Lakes Trail | 13.5 Miles | Climbing 3356 ft

The trail was partially covered with snow at the lowest elevation. Due the difficulty of this trail and length an early start in winter conditions is absolutely necessary. Being the end of March the trail can really be a hit or miss when it comes to snow depth. This trail features mountain views, and five lakes. We only planned on hiking the first six miles of the trail to the first lake.

After the first couple of miles trekking steep inclines the trail became completely covered in snow. We were dependent on previous hiker’s footprints for navigation. We had no cell phone service and there were no topography maps available, the map we did have made it difficult to scale the actual distance. The snow also disguised many of the trail markers.

We had a clear sunny day around 40 degrees fahrenheit. The top layer of the four feet deep snow began to soften and this meant sinking down 2-3 feet with every step. Snow shoes would have been nice. The sun was also contributing to another issue we had not anticipated – our faces were melting off from sunburn/snowburn.

The snow was slowing us down considerably. After five hours we finally arrived at one of the map markers – Lon Chaney Cabin. With the additional mileage we had to hike from the entrance to the park this put us at about 5 miles. With the trail only being hiked 2.5 miles. It was 3pm, we were not going to be able to hike the additional 2.5 miles to the first lake.

At this point we had to turn around to make it back before sundown. If we would have kept going the search and rescue drill would have turned into a real life rescue. We had no regrets though, the hike was challenging and offered panoramic views of snow covered pines and towering mountains. The glistening snow was beautiful, although it fried our faces off (#1 lesson learned wear sunscreen, especially in snow). The descent was much easier and even kind of fun as we tried to slide down some of the mountain side, it was actually more like tumbling/falling. We departed Inyo and headed two hours south to our next destination.

Death Valley National Park

  • Campsite: Darwin Falls
  • Time at Park: All Day
  • Total Hikes: 2

We visited forests and snow covered mountains, now it was time for a warm up, where better than the hottest place on earth? We headed into the desert and camped in the parking lot of Darwin Falls in Death Valley. We spent the evening star gazing.

Hikes:

Darwin Falls Trail | 1.9 Miles | Climbing 226 ft

This is a nice and easy, flat trail. The trail offers excellent canyon views. The way the sunlight danced around the canyon walls illuminating their peaks, waking them up to an explosion of color was breathtaking.

The trail ends at the skinny falls which today is still used for local drinking water. The falls creates a small oasis blending the canyon’s orange and reds with bursts of greenery. Gorgeous.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes | Free Roam

The Mesquite Flats are a surprising landscape change offering Sahara like dunes. The dunes require a source of sand, prevailing winds to move the sand, and a place for the sand to collect to exist.

If you are planning to wonder amongst the dunes prepare to bring plenty of sunscreen and water – it’s hot. You may spot a sidewinder rattlesnake slithering sideways through the sands, so watch your step.

Death Valley offers plenty of dynamic landscapes to explore – however, a lot hiking wasn’t necessary to experience them. We also toured and walked around the salt flats of Badwater Basin, the lowest place in North America. We then were able to drive up to the Artist’s Palette; pastel mountains of pink, green, and blue. The colors are produced by the oxidation of the metals and elements found in the ground.

The rainbow mountains were our last stop giving us plenty of time to return to Vegas to recuperate in an Airbnb and catch our flights home in the morning. While this seems like a lot of driving and limited
timing, we did not feel rushed or like we missed out on any experiences. The trip felt well balanced and fulfilling.

Recap:

  • 3 Days
  • 3 National Parks
  • 5 Hikes
  • 800 Miles Driven
  • 8 Dehydrated Meals
  • 2 Sunburns
  • 62 Combined Miles Walked
  • 121,870 Combined Steps

How to See Sequoias in March

I was going to be spending a week in Vegas for business and I convinced Dan to fly out and meet me for the weekend. When we were planning ideas on what to do, a lot of options came up. At first we thought the Grand Canyon, but Dan had already been there. We then thought about Joshua Tree National Park, but it was too far. When I pulled up the map – it hit me,
I remembered reading about the largest trees in the world in elementary school with a dream to one day see them.

We had to see the Sequoia’s, but should we visit Sequoia National Forest or Sequoia National Park? March can be a real hit or miss based on elevations, closures, and snowfall. We were immediately able to see via Google Maps that there were many road closures in the area due to snow.

We first looked into Sequoia National Park. The National Park Service website provided some insight and had a link to check current conditions. The alerts stated for March that tire chains may be required, however, below the alert it stated that they were required. The site also stated that road closures were possible but did not provide the roads that were actually closed. When we contacted the park the ranger informed us there was no way to see the Sequoias – even a southern grove in Sequoia National Forest, all roads were inaccessible.

The news from the park ranger wasn’t going to work for us, with the varying elevations and weather we knew there had to be other options. We started to research Sequoia National Forest. The USDA Forest Service had updates on current conditions as well, and even a webcam – but it was down for construction so again, not helpful. We contacted the National Forest supervisors office (559.784.1500), who finally gave us some clear insight.

While many of the roads were closed there was a more southern grove that was open, Belknap Grove in Camp Nelson. On the website the season is identified as April-November, however it was still open in March. Belknap is a southern grove at a lower elevation of 5,000 feet, however the trail was still spotted with snow; the higher you hike the higher the snow. The grove is just under 5,000 acres.

We drove six hours from Vegas to the forest. We camped in the back of the Yukon rental that was comprised of our inflatable pillows, sleeping mats and sleeping bags. The temperature the first night was going to get down to 30 degrees, so we were sure to pack our 0 degree bags.

After a few hours of sleep morning light flickered through the truck’s windows. We stepped out into views that can only be described as other worldly. I instantly became emotional and tears started streaming down my cheeks . Dan asked what wrong – the answer was nothing. I felt a powerful connection to creation here, to our natural world. It was overwhelming. Don’t let March get in your way of seeing this magnificence – you won’t want to miss it.

Looking for more tips on Sequoia? Check out our blog post, 3 National Parks In 3 Days for tips on hiking in the area.



Is Egypt Safe?

Last spring I did a tour of Israel, Jordan, and Egypt – alone. When I returned home the question, “is Egypt safe?” was a constant topic. While planning this trip I had many close friends and family inform me of the dangers of Egypt, from terrorist attacks to sex trafficking; but misled perceptions weren’t going to keep me from my dream of visiting the pyramids. As with any trip, careful planning and general common sense is required. So is Egypt Safe? Let’s unpack my personal experience in Egypt as a gay solo traveler.

Let’s first point out that much like city’s in the U.S. there are areas in Egypt that are not safe (ie: the Sinai Peninsula). Also, Egypt is still considered one of the most dangerous countries to be a sexual minority. Although in Egypt it’s not necessarily illegal to be LGBTQ, many LGBTQ Egyptians live in fear and are persecuted by local authorities who loosely enforce a “law against debauchery.” As a single gay traveler I kept my conversation mostly conservative.

After visiting Jordan I took an overnight private bus to Cairo via a local travel agency. The bus ride was 10 hours overnight. The bus consisted of myself, a driver who only spoke Arabic, and an Egyptian woman named Janet. The bus had AC and was very comfortable. I spent some of my time speaking to Janet about her country. We shared headphones and swapped our favorite songs. Then I went to sleep.

I woke up to the sound of the bus door slamming open. My heavy eyelids shot open to the sight of an Egyptian military officer with a machine gun strapped across his chest. Janet said “show him your passport.” I jumped up and dug through my bag and presented the passport. He looked me up and down, compared the picture, then stepped off the bus, he gave the bus two slaps to move on. Not the most comforting sight to wake up too.

Throughout the trip, we were stopped 12 more times, each time I was woken up, and greeted with a machine gun. I’m not sure why they didn’t think I needed my beauty rest? How could they expect me to look like that picture in the passport when they keep ruining my naps! Still I didn’t feel unsafe, just uncomfortable. Janet reassured me that these precautions and checkpoints were necessary to keep the country and us safe.

When we finally arrived in Cairo around 7am I was greeted by my private tour guide, Mohamed. Mohamed was an Arabic man who had been giving tours of Egypt for over 10 years. He was very pleasant and only cared about providing me with the very best Egypt experience. He also wanted to reassure me that Egypt was a safe destination. He explained how tourism has suffered due to the media’s portrayal of Muslims. Mohamed spent time with me debunking the western perception of Muslims and distinguishing the difference between the evils of radical Islam and his religion – which he says is rooted in love.

Mohamed asked me introduce myself as Canadian when speaking to guides and guards, he said this was because Americans get asked too many security questions and it would slow down our visits. I’m not entirely sure that this was a direct answer, but I didn’t question it. None of them believed him anyways, they usually laughed and let me right in. Egypt can definitely be a culture shock, but any destination can be where you become the minority.

You don’t need an extended stay to tour the major attractions, just a couple of days. I was able to explore the Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, and the Nile all in this timeframe.

The short answer is yes, I felt the areas I visited in Egypt were safe. However, due to the language barrier and human rights concerns I would not have felt safe without a guide. I stuck to a pre-planned itinerary and did not leave my room to explore the streets alone at night. Do your due diligence. Check with FCO or DOS before traveling, and again, use common sense.

Growing Up in the Gorge

I always get comments from people on how much they love the tattoo on my leg.  The question usually comes up, “where did you get the inspiration?”  My inspiration came directly from my childhood; hiking and exploring every inch of Red River Gorge

Red River Gorge is a vast forest located in east-central Kentucky inside the Daniel Boone National Forest.  Winding roads stretch all throughout this area that lead to some of the best hiking and rock climbing in the country.  The gorge is made up of an intricate canyon system that features an abundance of high sandstone cliffs, rock shelters, waterfalls, and natural bridges.  There are too many hidden gems to count. 

From a very early age, I remember my Dad taking me hiking and camping in the gorge.  I remember looking out over the awe inspiring mountains and feeling absolutely at peace.  This is a time in my life when none of the outside worldly clamors mattered.  It was just me, my family, and nature.  During these camping trips I learned about the different species of trees, plants, and animals.  I also learned how to prepare for anything and everything that could occur. This is probably one of the reasons that a career as an emergency nurse looked so attractive;  because let me tell you, when I’m at work I’m prepared for anything! 

As I got older I remember having birthday parties in the gorge; My 13th birthday in particular stands out. My mom rented out a cabin for me and all of my friends.  It was a blast!  We spent the days hiking and adventuring over naturally formed rock bridges, swimming in roaring waterfalls (if you want to head down an amazing trail off the beaten path that leads to a beautiful waterfall, don’t miss Copperas Creek), and swinging off of rope swings into creeks. Our nights were spent around campfires, trying to scare the hell out of each other.

As a teenager, I began to take trips to the gorge with a new purpose in mind.  At this point I had hiked and seen many of the awesome features that the gorge provides, I was also exposed to an activity in the gorge that has always peaked my interest, rock climbing. I had spent my childhood admiring climbers – the courage, the exhilaration, it was inspiring; this is where I learned to repel and rock climb.

People come from all over to experience the excellent climbing spots in the gorge.  Most of my climbing was spent in the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP).  This area is owned and maintained by the Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition.  There’s an array of different climbing routes and climbers, from all different experience levels.  My climbing though, well, that’s something to be admired from a distance. 

My days in the gorge now are spent with my man, Matt.  I love showing him my favorite spots and sharing the nostalgia that it brings.  Even after all these years of exploring Red River Gorge, Matt has still found a way to surprise me with trails and hidden gems that I have never seen.  Our last camping trip landed us at the top of Cloud Splitter; one of the most beautiful camping spots I’ve ever seen. 

My black tattoo on my left shin starts about 3 inches above my ankle with a dark black solid line.  This leads into an outline of a forest made up evergreen trees that extend up my leg with slight shades of green.  My inspiration for this tattoo came from my deep love of the outdoors in places like the gorge.  This tattoo is way to keep me grounded to what is important in life.  To let go of all of the unimportant daily grind that consumes us.  It serves as a reminder to always be myself and to love what God has put in my life.  It reminds me of my time spent in the gorge.   

Need Extra Travel Cash? Airbnb Can Help

Airbnb partnered with a travel enthusiast is a match made in heaven. Airbnb allows you to share your home and meet travelers from all corners of the globe, all while supplying a robust stream of income on assets you already own; when managed correctly. I currently manage two Airbnb properties, one full-time and one part-time. Airbnb currently funds all my mortgages, and has provided a major bump to my savings. Below are my tips on creating a lucrative business as a new Airbnb host.

Step 1: Create a Descriptive Listing

Create a unique, detailed description of your space. Outline what makes it special, along with what you have to offer. Is it a secluded cabin with vaulted ceilings? Or a modern city apartment, with bold industrial design? Think about what separates your space from the competition and why people would want to choose it.

Creating a listing is free, so don’t be nervous if you’re not getting bookings – you won’t be out any cash. Speaking of cash make sure you set a competitive rate, Airbnb will recommend a rate based on your market, however, I would encourage you to do your own research. Search your location as a guest, and compare similar homes. Make sure you adjust rates based on peak times, holidays, and local events as well.

Entire Space vs. Shared Space

An entire space is much more attractive to potential guests. People really do appreciate privacy. Many people are hesitant to share their home with total strangers, and this is understandable. I honestly was the same way. I started off posting my cabin as a shared space. This lasted for the first booking. When my guests arrived I instantly felt intrusive. These people were here for a romantic getaway and here I was hulled up in my room not sure if I should come out or not. It just felt weird.

That being said, I still didn’t want guests in my personal space; my bedroom or bathroom. Depending on your floor plan this may not be an option, however if it is and you do not want guests in a particular area, put that in your listing. I purchased a smartlock for my bedroom (which is connected to my bathroom) to restrict that area to guests. This still allows the guests to use all the common areas, and the guest bedroom and bath. I also prefer this because it speeds up the cleaning process, and provides a safe area for storage.

Step 2: Get Your Space Ready

Establish functionality in your home – what do you look for when you travel or stay in a hotel? Do you have a luggage rack, towels, sheets, hairdryer, soap, shampoo? Airbnb requires some of these essentials (including safety items) so make sure you hit all the necessities.

De-clutter your space, I use the KonMari Method of tidying to ensure my locations are organized and streamlined. Ditch all the personal belongings. I highly recommend removing the family photos and personal knick knacks. Guests don’t want to see photos of Grandma’s 90th birthday party.

Ensure your space is clean. Dust blinds, clean baseboards, organize cabinets, dust, mop, and deep clean the shower (I literally shine an LED flashlight around the shower to ensure there are no hairs). I use a Roomba in both homes, and it’s a lifesaver if you hate vacuuming. You can check out my must have Airbnb start-up essentials here.

Step 3: Photos & Guidebook

You now have a description, and a clean space. It’s time for pictures, this includes capturing those special offerings (ie: coffee bar, amenities, unique architecture/art). Quality of your photos is vital, sometimes a picture is all a potential guest will look at. The iPhone camera is the most used camera for Airbnb photos, so you definitively don’t need a professional. Make sure you have plenty of natural light and take horizontal shots.

Now its time to incorporate some of those great shots into a guidebook along with your favorite restaurants, and attractions in your area. This is also a good area (along with in your listing) to provide your house rules, cleaning expectations, restricted areas, and safety items. A nice touch is to also include the nearest gas station, grocery store and movie theater.

Step 4: Welcome Your Guests

This can be done a few different ways. Some hosts like to greet their guests in person to provide an overview of the home and exchange the keys. I prefer to use a lock-box and communicate via the Airbnb app. I always contact my guests two days before the arrival date to go over the key pad code, directions, communication expectations and answer any questions. Make sure you reply quickly to guest messages and requests.

Step 5: Collect & Reset

Airbnb handles all the money for you. They can send your hard earned money through Paypal or direct deposit – after they take out the 3% service fee. Hosts are usually paid 24 hours after check-in

Now that you’ve been paid and your guests have checked out, it’s time to clean and reset your space for the next guest. Make sure you set a reasonable cleaning fee. My personal rule of thumb is $20.00 per 500 square feet of used space.

Consistency Is Key

In any business, maintaining and constant improvement is key. Don’t get defensive if you receive feedback from guests. If they see a need for improvement it’s likely someone else would spot it as well. Feedback is a gift, and is very valuable in the Airbnb world.

Continue to build relationships with guests and establish credibility by tactfully soliciting reviews. Once you complete 10 reservations and maintain a 4.8/5 rating, you may be eligible for superhost status which has an array of benefits including better search results. Check out the full list the eligibility requirements here.

Airbnb can be a lucrative business if you continue to learn, establish relationships, and maintain your space. These steps really helped guide my business strategy and have contributed to my overall success.

What do you think, are you ready to give Airbnb a shot?

Airbnb Start-Up Essentials

I currently manage two Airbnbs and I’ve found the below products to be the most efficient and effective when starting up. I am a bit of an Amazon junkie – which you will quickly notice below. Products are affiliate links, but have all been tested by myself and have proven to be staple in my business. Products are organized by room/category to make your search easier.

Cleaning

Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

Are you a paper towel hog? Save money and product by converting to these microfiber cloths. After I’m done with them I wash them during my next cleaning. They pick up way more than paper towels, are great for dusting, and provide a deeper clean.

Rubbermaid Cleaning Caddy

Keep your cleaning supplies organized and in one place. This cleaning caddy makes cleaning a lot simpler and it’s easy for you to gauge when you are low on supplies. I also store my microfiber cleaning cloths in the caddy for easy access.

Roomba Vacuum Cleaner

Ok, this is a game changer. I have never, ever used a vacuum in either one of my properties. The iRobot 890 Robot Vacuum Cleaner with wi-fi connectivity makes it easy to schedule cleanings via the app, or activate it to start cleaning from anywhere. I have it start vacuuming as soon as my guests leave the house. My floors, are spotless (carpet and hardwood).

Bathroom

Shower Curtain & Liner

What makes this shower curtain special is the easy snap-in, snap-out liner. You don’t need to take the entire shower curtain down to wash it. Also if you need a new liner you can buy one separately.

Eco Amenities – Shampoo & Soap

These are an absolute must have! Shipped in bulk, these 200 count hotel sized shampoo and soaps will not go to waste. They are each individually wrapped and offer a pleasant subtle scent.

Conair Travel Hairdryer

A hairdryer is necessary if you plan on hosting anyone with hair. This hairdryer is compact, has a fold in handle and retractable cord. For the purpose of space and atheistic (ie: no sloppy cord wrapped around it) it’s a no brainer.

First Aid Kit

This 299 piece first aid kit comes complete with a condensed soft case. It’s easy to keep in a bathroom drawer where it can be easily accessible for guests. Don’t forget to include the location of your first aid kit in your guestbook/welcome packet.

Bedroom

Zinus Memory Foam Mattress

If there is one thing my guest’s rave about, it’s this mattress. Guests are shocked at the price tag – and not in a bad way. This 12 inch queen mattress comes shipped (prime delivery) to your door for a total of $279.00! I have this mattress in both my homes and recently converted my personal $1200 mattress to one was well. It’s that good. No boxspring required.

AmazonBasics Alternative Down Pillows

A two pack of soft, affordable, snuggly goodness. Not much else I can say.

Casual Home Luggage Rack

A luggage rack is a necessity for any Airbnb bedroom. I like Casual Home’s luggage rack mainly because of the fold out shelf below. This gives travelers additional storage space. They also have a few different color options which is useful to match decor.

Kitchen

Over the Cabinet Storage Organizer

Most of us store all kinds of things in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, from plastic grocery bags, to cleaning supplies, it’s usually a mess. Now that you have all of your cleaning supplies in the above mentioned cleaning caddy, it’s time to tidy up the rest of this area.

17 Piece Utensil & Gadget Set

If your cutlery drawer is filled with mismatched accessories, different colored ladles and 3 types of the same spatula, it may be time to consider a uniformed approach. This utensil set offers all the necessities and then some; the measuring cups will also be a great addition of guests who love to cook.

YouCopia 30 Bottle Spice Organizer

Get your spices organized and in one location. This organizer allows you to pull out drawers of spices and lower them to eye level so you know exactly what you are working with. This organizer stores 30 different spices!

Living Room

Roku Smart TV

If you already have an Apple TV or Firestick this may not be for you. Guests want to be able to stream their favorite shows and movies, in today’s world web based streaming applications are non-negotiable. The Roku TV offers all these options without having any outside hardware, after all it’s a smart TV. Also, there’s something about having just one remote.

A Day In Pisgah National Forest, NC

Asheville, North Carolina is a destination for wandering backpackers, barefoot hipsters, and art lovers. Trust us, Asheville and the Biltmore aren’t the only attractions in the area. You’ll quickly see on a map that Asheville is tucked between the Blue Ridge Mountains and two National Forests; Cherokee National Forest and Pisgah National Forest.

We were “glamping” in an Airbnb near Pisgah National Forest, in the small town of Candler, 20 minutes from downtown Asheville. Our campsite was fully equipped with an outdoor shower, grill, firepit, and electricity. A bamboo forest lies a short walk from the tent, a small path in the forest offers rushing river views. This place was only $54.00 a night, and the hosts (living next door) gave us complete privacy. One night I had a nightmare and woke up screaming at the top of my lungs, and no one came to check to see if I was being murdered. That’s privacy!

We headed out to Pisgah around 9:00am. I was really eager to get into the woods so when Dan asked to stop for gas, I urged him to keep on going. With all the mountain driving it quickly became apparent that not filling up was a bad idea. Dan instantly got nervous and gave me a little smack down for not letting him get gas, but fear not! I own a Chevy Volt, electric hybrid, luckily this car has a mountain feature that allows the car to retain electric miles when going down major inclines. The forest and earth thanks us, for not being gas guzzlers.

Our first stop for some hiking was a short .9 mile, easy trail called Skinny Dip Falls. Since we love skinny dipping anyways we figured this would be a good place to start. The short trail ends at a gorgeous swimming hole with stout, scenic falls. We recommend hitting this trail early on before it heats up and gets to crowded. If you get there and the initial pool is too crowded, continuing hiking up the falls for seclusion.

We headed to Sliding Rock next. We usually aren’t big on heavily trafficked tourist areas, but we were in the area, so why not? Sliding Rock is exactly what it sounds like, this natural water slide has 11,000 gallons rushing of water down it per minute! Parking near the trail head is nearly impossible, cars are lined up and down the road, so be prepared to walk a bit.

There is a $3.00 entrance fee (cash or credit) to the slide. A line awaited us with people of all ages waiting to slide down 60 foot boulder in icy water (50-60 degrees). The line moves quickly, so be patient. There are plenty of boulders and even a natural pool to lounge and wait.

After about a 15 minute wait we arrived to the top of the water slide. Even though the boulder is a smooth surface, it still can be a little intimidating. I planned my path to avoid my junk hitting an uneven surface. This area is regulated by lifeguards, so you have to wait for their go ahead before sliding. Once I was clear I started to slide. It was a quick, unique experience, there are a ton of lookout points so you definitely will have an audience. Everyone saw my wedgie.

Tip: Sliding Rock closes for high water or lightning. Check their Twitter feed for updates on closures. Another swimming hole, Looking Glass Waterfall is a few miles down the road from the slide. This is also a highly trafficked area. The falls are beautiful but the swimming area is busy.

Our final and most scenic stop was tubing in Deep Creek which actually flows out of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and into the Tuckasegee River, which borders Pisgah National Forest. There are plenty of places to rent tubes along the side of the road on the way to Deep Creek, we chose Deep Creek Tube Center & Campground.

For two tubes it costs us $12.00 this included them tying it on to the top of our car. They gave us directions to the trail head, and we were off. It’s a short drive to the parking area of the trail head, and about another 10 minute hike to the entry point of the river. There are two entry points depending on how long you want to tube for. Dan and I kept ramming each other with the tubes on the trail trying to knock the other over. Love.

When we arrived at the entry point we jumped in and let the water take us away. The river was the perfect temperature. The water paired along with the sun coming in through the trees made for a relaxing trip. There were a couple white water areas, but nothing too rough.

It took about 35 minutes before we landed at the exit area. You can keep going up and down as many times as you want, but it was time for us to head back. We returned our tubes and went behind the rental building to feed the baby goats to close out our evening.

There is definitely a lot to do in Pisgah, however, you want to use your time wisely and plan accordingly as the forest spans over 500,000 acres. With this type of expanse it’s important to outline your hikes and routes beforehand. Your accommodation and trip duration will help you judge this as well. However, if you are planning a day trip this itinerary is a great starting point!