Elephant Mountain

I've been back in America for a few weeks now -- just long enough to start missing my adopted home of Taiwan. [or, at least my favorite parts of it: husband, friends, mountains, dumplings, etc.] so today I'm sharing a collection of photos from one of my favorite views in Formosa: Elephant Mountain.

of all the easy-access hikes I've explored in Taipei, Elephant Mountain is the one I return to again and again. it offers the most bang for your buck - or really, view for your climb - and can be done in under an hour if you only go so far. the trails go back quite a ways and loop with other mountains, so it's up to you how far to climb. pro tip: the further you go, the better the views and the thinner the crowds.

the first time I climbed Elephant Mountain, it was about 95F and I was wearing flip flops and jean shorts. that's not what I recommend - but it is doable. since then I've been back in all kinds of weather [and outfits] but usually with more suitable footwear.

the trail is paved, but the steps are made from stone and can be a bit uneven. they are definitely not uniform. sneakers or gym shoes are best for this hike, but if you can climb stairs in your gear then you can climb Elephant Mountain.

the main draws of this hike are its proximity to the MRT, and the views. I visited with Anna on a misty November afternoon. the visibility wasn't great, but we could still see Taipei 101 and Xinyi.

a week later I climbed with my sister-in-law and the skies were almost opposite. the air was so clear I could see a whole new layer of mountains I'd never spotted before. while it would be great to see so far every time, I still think it's worth the climb in the mist or a little bit of rain.

the day I took my parents to Elephant Mountain was pretty polluted. the sky was almost white and the city just faded off into the horizon. not ideal. but. even on hazy days, the climb can still be enjoyable. if you continue past the famous rocks [after possibly stopping for a photo on top] the trail goes on to another observation deck before winding back through shaded jungle.

we all know sunset light is magic. and sunset views from Elephant Mountain are no exception. the evening I climbed in January [with Geneva] there was a crowd around the rocks, a line 15 people deep to take photos with 101 in the background, and a dark streak across the sunset sky.

it turns out there was a fire at a tire factory in Taoyuan. not a good thing for the factory or the environment, but it made for some dramatic skies.

the point of this post [other than to say I miss Taiwan maybe a little] is that Elephant Mountain makes a great hike, no matter the weather.


sunset at Lime Kiln Point

Lime Kiln Light on San Juan Island is not just a great place to watch for orcas, but a beautiful sunset viewpoint.
on the first day of our Pacific Northwest road trip, we drove north from Seattle and hopped a ferry from Anacortes out to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. my parents were fighting a 3 time zone change, while my jetlag was a difference of 15 hours. we were all tired, but we only had 2 nights on the island. so when we realized the weather would give us a beautiful sunset... I had another cup of coffee and we drove out to Lime Kiln Point.

Lime Kiln State Park is situated on the western coast. which means: stunning sunsets. across the water you can see the Olympic Peninsula to the south and Canada [Vancouver Island] to the west. but the real reason we picked this spot for sunset? the lighthouse.

Lime Kiln Light may be small, but I thought it was adorable. we also gave it bonus points because it was built the same year my mom's mom was born. [I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that my love of lighthouses is genetic - at one point we had a lighthouse themed bathroom at my house.]

between the reflective water, craggy rocks, and cute little lighthouse - we were all in photo heaven.

Lime Kiln is known for being a prime orca watching spot. we didn't see any that night [though there was a promising shadow that turned out to be seaweed.] it was still a lovely spot to spend an hour or two.

our trip is coming to an end now. even though we've been traveling for 17 days - and have seen several gorgeous sunsets and many many lighthouses - we all agreed that this was our favorite.


life lesson #32: you can't pack everything

greetings from the beautiful Pacific Northwest! I'm currently road tripping through Washington and Oregon with my parents and brother, but popping in because it's become a bit of a birthday tradition to post something around this date. while this blog is turning 5 years old next week [holy cow has it really been that long?] I myself am turning 32 today [I'm not sure how that one happened either.]

I always end up posting something wierd. like musings on vintage poems I found in my Grandma's old diary, blurry selfies and gummy bear photos from Taroko, announcing I need a blog break, or just making a list because that's what Jamies do best.

through the process of getting ready to head back to America for summer [and now that I'm on a 3 week road trip] I've been thinking a lot about packing and pre-travel anxiety, and about the things we have to leave behind. for almost 5 years I've been doing this strange split life. making a home in Taiwan, then leaving for a month or two each summer. trying to spend the school year sorting out what it is I want to do with my time, making a list of what I want to accomplish... and then panicking each year before I leave at all that is left undone.

this year, my to-do list that did-not is longer than ever. I spent last March through May adjusting to new food restrictions, then June and July traveling Europe and Asia. August through October I was wretchedly ill and trying to figure out why, and November through March were all about recovering and rebuilding. and now... it's already April and I'm another year older. some days it feels like a wasted year.

but as much as I fear that might be true, I know that it isn't. the work I've done this year was not what I planned, but that doesn't make it worthless. the things that I left undone, maybe weren't meant for me to finish.

a few weeks ago Lauren shared a quote on instagram that has been rattling around in my mind:

"maybe the journey isn't so much about becoming anything. maybe it's about unbecoming everything that isn't really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place."

to me - that means sometimes there are things we have to leave behind. as we ramble along in this life, we bump into things. sometimes they are hard things, and it hurts. sometimes it breaks off a little piece of who are are - and we have to let go of it to move forward. as much as you may sometimes want to, you can't take it with you. there's not room to carry it all.

both litererally and metaphorically: you can't pack everything.

sometimes you write out your packing list months in advance. you consult friends and online packing guides. you update and edit as the departure draws near, shifting your list for the weather and planned activities. you text your BFF asking for advice. you color coordinate everything to work together. and then you neatly fold it all and set it in your suitcase a week in advance.

and still, 5 minutes before the car arrives to take you to the airport, you find yourself chucking things out because you're over weight and out of space.

it doesn't matter where you're going or how long you'll be there. it happens to me every single time, no mater what. the realization that: you can't pack everything.

your husband tries to reassure you that he can bring anything you need later, or you can just buy it when you get there. [little does he know that the nearest Target to SeaTac will be extremely picked over, and your dad has an itinerary to stick to - which does not involve detouring to a mall - so you'll go 3 days without being able to find any warm leggings and freeze your bum off in the meantime.]

but at least said husband will make sure you bring your hat, even though you don't want to, because it will save you from frostbite. and at least said dad will let you make two stops in sporting stores when driving from Port Townsend to Forks, until you find some pants appropriate for 40 degree weather. and you'll end up wearing both of them pretty much non stop, because the Olympic Peninsula is gorgeous but freezing [at least compared to Taiwan.]

sometimes, to shed our skin and grow, we have to encounter something rough. I'm pretty sure that when I slipped on some driftwood and banged up my shin from knee to ankle the other day, I left a significant piece of myself on Ruby Beach. not to mention the photos I missed out on when my camera battery died 2 seconds later because my [fully charged] spare was sitting a 30 minute drive away in our airbnb.

but. despite the bruises and the battery, an hour later I was climbing back on the driftwood of another beach, smiling and taking photos of scenery just as beautiful.

I could lie and tell you that at 32, I've got it all figured out and my life lessons learned. but I don't. to be completely honest - I doubt that will ever happen. but I can say that I feel at least a little bit wiser, and the whole not knowing thing bothers me less than it used to.

and I suppose if the last year has taught me anything [or even just the last week] it would be this: you can't pack everything, but sometimes what you leave behind... isn't really necessary.


walking Prague

I fell in love with Prague the moment I watched the sun set over the steeples of Náměstí Míru, after a long day of physically and emotionally draining travel. the sky was filled with pinks and purples and oranges and I... just leaned out the window and watched.

last summer, we spent a week staying with friends in Prague. one of the smartest things we did was to take a walking tour of the city early in our trip. [we did the free tour with Sandeman's and then the paid Prague Castle tour - and no, this isn't a sponsored post though I would recommend their tours.] while it was fun to learn about the history of the city, the main benefit was learning how to navigate our way through Prague on foot.

the tour began in Old Town - the square and surrounding streets are full of historic structures that draw crowds of visitors. I could give you the google guidebook version of the info on these buildings... but let's just enjoy ourselves a photo essay today. [honestly, with skies so blue and buildings so lovely, I missed half the things our guide said.]

several charming alleys and whimsical doorway details later, we found ourselves at the river. we had a lunch break [and a selfie break] and then we were off for castles, cathedrals, and sweeping city views.

[the free tour conveniently ends right where the castle tour begins. you travel across the river on the tramway, and up to the castle.]

these pictures make my heart pitter-patter. Prague oozes character and charm, but it also has a "vibe" that feels distinctly Czech. it's the kind of place you imagine yourself living in, hoping you'll come back to. our tour showed us the city, and the rest of our trip we were free to explore while still feeling like we knew where we were going.

which was ideal - since Prague is a perfect city for wandering the streets for endless hours with no particular destination, just because the walk is so beautiful.
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