Hello, Sequoia.

A Weekend in Sequoia National Park

Earlier this month, my friend Brian sent me a text.

“Hey, my friend Nick and I are thinking about going to Sequoia. Want to come?”

Immediately, I said yes.

video on my youtube channel

We were in the park for less than a full day, but it gave me a moment to forget about school and work and my responsibilities. I just enjoyed being present.

We stayed in a small town outside of the park called Tulare, which was about a two hour drive from Sequoia National Park. On Saturday morning, we woke up at 6am, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and hit the road.

Because it was the first day of National Park Week, we got free entrance into the park. Normally it costs around $30 for the day, but we were able to drive right in.

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view from the road to the top of sequoia national park

We slowly got further into the mountains. When we first crossed the entrance to the park, there were blooming flowers and looming trees, and the soft cast of sunlight from above tipped the temperature into a pleasant warmth. A family of deer greeted us, and the cars steadily slowed to allow them to pass across the road.

We took a winding path up and through the mountains and as time passed, the terrain suddenly began to change. There were less flowers, and the trees began to get wider and taller. The temperature gradually dropped, and soon we could see the sequoias.

Our first stop: Moro Rock.

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hiking to the top of moro rock
photo credit: brian wu

We climbed up a set of stairs built into the rock formation, and eventually reached the top. The drop from the top of the rock was 10,000 feet, and it was steep. But the view was breathtaking. We could see where we were driving up the mountain just an hour or two prior.

The trail to the bottom of the rock took us about 40 minutes to reach, and it was a concrete path that normally allowed cars to drive on it during the warmer months. It was a relatively easy hike but with a great reward.

Afterwards, we decided to grab some lunch and head onto our next hike.

The night before when planning our day, the boys had decided to be ambitious and take on a bigger hike. We were planning to take Wolverton trail to one of the lakes in the park. It was a total of four miles.

What we didn’t anticipate was the entire trail being covered in snow. Our only indication we were on the right path were the trail markers on the trees. Paired with our lack of proper attire and shoes, it was difficult. And then once we hear thunder, we knew we weren’t going to make it to the lake.

We still had fun, and it was mind-blowing that we were able to go from the sunshine to the snow in such a short amount of time. Soon after this hike, we headed back to SLO and left the park.

But I think we all left with a sense of having accomplished something we didn’t know we could pull off, having decided to take this trip on a last-minute’s notice. I left wanting to come back and fully explore the park. We had barely scratched the surface. There was much more to see, and that doesn’t count the whole other park, King’s Canyon, that lies adjacent to Sequoia.

Ever since I came to the realization that my second year of college is quickly coming to an end, I’ve actively tried to embrace the mentality that I will never get this time back. I want to pursue what makes me feel happy and healthy and just good, and that means shifting my focus away from simply going through the motions of my day-to-day routine. It means going out of my way to be intentional about how I choose to spend my time.

When I look back I want to have moments and experiences where I remember making spontaneous decisions to go on trips across the state, or go out with friends, or even just little things like taking the time to watch the sun go down before I have to go back to studying. Those memories are the ones that truly matter in the end, and I’ve come to understand that those are the ones I want to be intentionally pursuing. I highly recommend checking out Sequoia if you’ve never been before!

A Look Back at Fall Quarter

This past quarter has been full of new experiences, new people, and new challenges. Whether it be taking on new leadership positions, spending time with friends, or just getting to know SLO a little better, I have had a lot of great experiences these past three months. With finals week coming to an end, I thought sharing some of my highlights from this quarter would be a good way to reflect.

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mustang news team that covered the elections last month

1. WORKING FOR MUSTANG NEWS

earning “superstar of the week” for my work with the social media team

Since the beginning of the year I have been a Social Media Editor with Mustang News, Cal Poly’s student-run newspaper. I work on a team with four other members and have specialized in sports this past quarter, creating social-native content for our social media platforms in order to drive traffic to the website.

My position with the newspaper has been one of the greatest learning experiences for me since coming to college with the support of my manager, Lauren, as well as the other girls on our team. I have gained an immense amount of knowledge about posting on social media, creating content with programs like Premiere and Illustrator, and simply what it means to work on a team that makes an impact on its local community.

2. HIKING WITH FRIENDS

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reaching the top of cerro san luis (madonna mountain)

When someone asks what there is to do in San Luis Obispo, the usual answer is hiking.

While SLO is a bit of a sleepy town, what I love about it is there are limitless options if you want to spend some time outdoors. Last year, I took advantage of all the free time I had and was able to see a lot of what the town has to offer. From elevated views of the town at spots like Perfumo Canyon and Terrace Hill to hidden gems like Oso Flaco Lake, I have been fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of some of SLO’s best views.

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sunrise hike in architecture graveyard

Unfortunately, this quarter I have been spending a lot of time caught up in work and school. Taking days off to get outdoors has been a rare occurrence, but the couple of times I was able to get out with friends were highlights of this quarter.

Early on in the quarter, a friend and I spontaneously decided to wake up early and explore Architecture Graveyard to catch a view of the sunrise. It was underwhelming at first, but as the sun started to peek above the hills, we got so excited and ran to get a better view. It was one of the few times this quarter I felt carefree and relaxed, sitting at the top of a small hill behind campus and enjoying the warmth of the sun.

Last week, a couple of friends and I decided to hike to the top of Cerro San Luis, more commonly known as Madonna Mountain. For the month of December, the county puts up a tree made up of string lights at the summit. The view was amazing and I was happy to spend some time with friends. It really gave me a newfound appreciation for SLO.

3. CONCERTS AT FREMONT THEATER

If you’re a Cal Poly student, you’re probably familiar with Fremont Theater. It’s a movie theater, which becomes dreadfully obvious when you’re trying to enjoy the music and end up bumping into a seat behind you, but it’s the main venue in SLO for concerts. I was able to see a couple of artists there this quarter.

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My favorite concert was seeing the alternative R&B band called The Internet on Halloween.

They just released a new album called Hive Mind and came to SLO for their latest tour. Everyone at the concert was very relaxed, and it was obvious people were there simply to enjoy the music. It was a different from the usual energetic environment from other concerts I had been to in the past, but it allowed me to really enjoy the music.

I am a huge fan of Syd, the lead vocalist, and the way she was able to connect with the audience was amazing.

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alpha kappa psi – pi rho at our annual friendsgiving event

4. CONTINUING WITH ALPHA KAPPA PSI

I’ve shared some of my experiences with AKPsi in the past, but it has been a huge part of my college experience this past fall. I have made a lot of amazing friends through the fraternity and have been able to find comfort in being part of a group on campus I thoroughly enjoy.

I have gained a lot from my time with the Alpha Sigma pledge class and simply being a member of the fraternity. I’ve learned what it means to take advantage of my time as a student at Cal Poly and how to take steps towards figuring out what kind of professional aspirations I want to pursue in the future.

I helped with running the social media platforms last spring, and continued my role into this year with the start of our fall recruitment. I also recently ran for a position to be on the board for the fraternity and will be transitioning into the Vice President of Communications position soon. I am excited about the future of the fraternity and everyone I will be working with this coming year.

5. COFFEE SHOPS!!

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a rainy, early morning breakfast

Anyone that knows me personally is probably aware of how much time (and money) I spend at coffee shops around town. If SLO has anything, it’s good coffee.

My recent obsession with lattes combined with an eagerness to grasp any opportunity to get off campus has resulted in a lot of trips to coffee shops.

Last year during spring quarter I only had class two days a week. I spent a lot of time taking the bus to spots off-campus and exploring downtown. I have tried most of the coffee shops in the area, from the diner-themed Lucy’s Coffee Co. to the small neighborhood Linnaea’s Cafe.

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studying at kreuzberg with friends

But my favorite coffee shop of all-time is Kreuzberg California, a hangout spot in downtown SLO. It’s an open space with a lot of comfy places to sit. Their coffee is good and they have a full menu of food. They’re open until 10PM most days and even have concerts on some nights.

From study sessions, meetings, and alone-time, I have found that I prefer to be in coffee shops rather than in spots at Cal Poly. It is always nice to be in a different environment and change up my regular routine of making circles on-campus. Which honestly isn’t great for my wallet. But I love it.

These are just a couple of highlights from this year so far. I am so excited for what’s to come in the next two quarters. I hope you will continue to follow my blog and come with me as I navigate the rest of my second year of college!! 🙂

The Time I (Almost) Became a Child Actress

It was midnight. The faded, worn-out tiger stuffed animal that I had been clutching for five hours was forgotten on the floor of a now empty classroom, once filled with dozens of children, a production crew, and equipment. It was just a prop, but one that was the defining piece of my role on the set of Entourage at the age of seven.

Season 4, Episode 7: “The Day Fuckers.” In this particular scene, the classroom was supposed to be a backdrop for Jeremy Piven, who would burst into the room greeted by the mess caused by dozens of unruly children. I was surprised by the amount of work and attention to detail that was dedicated to shooting a single scene of a TV show. Each and every element was important in creating organized chaos. Bright lights in every window to create the illusion of daylight, cameras positioned at different angles, and crew members scattered across the set. I was supposed to be chasing my brother who was running across the room, throwing the tiger stuffed animal at his back. It seemed like a simple task at first. But then I did it for five hours straight.

This was one of my only jobs during my time dabbling in the entertainment industry as a child. A year prior, I had been discovered in a mall when a woman with an aggressiveness, masked by a fervid smile, handed me a flier and requested to speak to my parents. In my parents’ eyes, it was a unique opportunity to explore a potential career as an actress. My immediate distaste at the idea of acting was evident the next day as I shoved the flier at the bottom of our trash can. But after some back-and-forth with my parents, I found myself in front of a camera two hours later, reciting the lines to a Reese’s Pieces commercial. 

From there, I worked with my management to book a couple of odd jobs. I had head shots taken and a website set up, and started taking acting classes. My mom would drive me to Los Angeles on Wednesdays, toting me in the back of our minivan as I worked on my homework. My management was located on the same lot where shows like Wizards of Waverly Place and Suite Life on Deck were filmed. I remember running into David Henrie and David Deluise on my way to the office one day, completely starstruck after having just spent the weekend on my couch watching the show.

Besides Entourage, I booked a job with the show Heroes. Season 2, Episode 1: “Four Months Later.” In the scene, Hiro, played by Masi Oka, was trying to convince Kensei, played by David Anders, to save a village that was burned down. As extras, we were supposed to be villagers, and spent the day walking in a huge circle around the actors to create the illusion of a long line of people walking behind them. I vividly remember loving my experience in hair and wardrobe, getting dark makeup smeared across my face and my hair thrown into a messy ponytail. As a kid, I loved sitting in the trailer, staring into the mirror and watching the quick transformation into a different person.

I booked these jobs around 2007. I was only seven years old. Sometimes these experiences feel like so long ago that I forget to appreciate them, but it’s surreal to watch the episodes and catch glimpses of myself as a kid. While I *don’t* think acting is for me anymore, it will always be something to look back on.

How I Survive School: Staying Organized

Today is the first day of fall quarter this year at Cal Poly. Being back in San Luis Obispo brings me a sense of comfort now that the town is familiar and is considered my second home away from San Diego, where I am originally from. But it’s always difficult to get back into the routine of school after coming back from a long break. What has helped me ease the transition back to school is being organized.

Anyone that knows me personally is familiar with how crazy I am about organization. From my daily to-do lists and calendars to my colorful Google calendar, I like to have my priorities written down on multiple mediums to ensure I do not forget what I need to complete on any given day.

But being this detailed doesn’t work for everyone. I like the idea of having a structured schedule for each day. Organization can definitely be a little intimidating; it’s all about finding what works best for you in terms of staying on top of your responsibilities. However, I truly believe that implementing a couple of different habits in your daily routine can set you up for success in all academic, social, and personal aspects of your life. Take what you find valuable from this post and give each idea a try. It takes a bit of trial and error but you’ll find what works for you.

#1: DAILY TO-DO LIST AND SCHEDULE

Every morning, I write down my schedule and to-do list. What’s important about this is that it holds me accountable for everything I want to accomplish on any given day. It keeps me on top of classes I have to attend, appointments I need to go to, and any tasks I should be working on. At the end of each day, I try to have each box next to the items in my to-do list checked off. If not, I mark it so I remember to add it to my list the following day.

I used to write it on my computer, but I have found that I prefer to carry around a physical notebook because I can add to it throughout the day if I prefer not to carry my computer around. Pictured below is how it looks in my notebook and how that would also look in the Notes app on my Macbook.

#2: GOOGLE CALENDAR

I never utilized Google calendar until I came to college, but since then it has become a lifesaver. I use it for academic, social, and personal events, but I use a different calendar for each one and assign them their own colors, as seen below.

To the left I have attached an image that shows each of the calendars and their corresponding colors. To the right, it shows what two days look like in my schedule this week. All my classes are in the lime green color, which is shown by the two that I have to attend today. My personal events are in pink and it shows that I am planning to go to the gym after class. My work events are in purple; I know that on Friday I have work from 12-2PM.

I like doing it this way because I can isolate certain events. For example, if I only want to look at my classes schedule then I’ll hide every single calendar except for “Classes,” which is shown in the lime green. What’s nice about Google calendar is that it can be as simple or as detailed as you wish.

#3: DAILY PLANNER FOR SCHOOL

In my opinion, the first two items are the most essential. They are the most cost-effective and the easiest to start. I would implement those as these next two are things I like to have, but that are probably unnecessary.

I also carry around a daily planner specifically for my school assignments. I usually pick up a cheap one from Target. It’s a similar idea to my daily to-do list and schedule (#1), but I use bulletpoints for any school assignments I need to complete that day and then asterisks for any school assignments or projects that I should be thinking about but aren’t due immediately.

I find this helpful because it keeps my school obligations separate from everything else. I am a student first, so this helps me prioritize my assignments and stay on top of my grades.

#4: WALL CALENDAR

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The last item that I use is a dry-erase calendar that hangs on the wall in my dorm. I usually don’t update this very often; it only has important dates on it. I would use this to keep track of exam days, birthdays, and bigger events. On a day-to-day basis, I usually take a quick glance at it to see what’s coming up during the month.

I like it because it’s a constant reminder of important dates that I want to keep track of during the year.

Those are the four methods that I use to stay organized during the school year. Usually during the summers or long breaks I don’t use any of this, but it is helpful to me during school because my schedule can get very busy.

Again, only take from this what you feel is helpful to you. Keeping track of my schedule and my to-do list lets me take a better look at how I’m balancing different aspects of my life and is a great reference if I need to look in the past and see when certain events took place. It has helped me be successful in my daily life and is the best way for me to hold myself accountable for my responsibilities, and it can be that way for you too if you take small steps to become more organized.

 

 

The City That Never Sleeps

When I was in the first grade, I did a presentation about the one place in the entire world that I wanted to visit: New York City.  My mom took me the summer afterwards, and ever since then I have always felt a pull towards New York. There’s this unexplainable energy that I get whenever I am among the bustling crowds, seemingly endless skyscrapers, diverse foods and people, and energetic pace of the city. This past month, I went back to see my family. I had a lot of fun visiting some tourist spots in the area and wanted to share them.

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view from the one wtc

The first day my family spent in New York City, we had arrived early in the morning on a redeye flight from San Diego. Our first stop: Chelsea. Located in the lower westside of Manhattan, Chelsea is home to the High Line Park, Chelsea Market, Whitney Museum, and lots of cute shops and restaurants.

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I wanted to highlight the Whitney because it’s a spot that I had never visited prior to this trip and I loved all the exhibits that were open. The museum features thousands of modern pieces from the 20th and 21st centuries, and represents a variety of art. My favorite exhibit was called “David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake At Night.” Wojnarowciz never stuck to one medium, with the Whitney’s website describing his art as “adopting a wide variety of techniques with an attitude of radical possibility.” He was queer and later diagnosed HIV-positive, and focused on the idea of the outsider for his subject. He became a huge advocate for people with AIDs, and his work demonstrates the difficulties of the late ’80s and ’90s with the AIDs crisis and culture wars.
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view from the whitney

The hotel we stayed at was called The Empire Hotel, an upscale spot across the street from Lincoln Center. It was only a couple blocks away from the famous Central Park, and we decided to spend a day riding bikes on the six-mile path that goes around the entire park. It was an easy, hassle-free process; we rented bikes from a spot right outside the park and even got them to match the price of a cheaper place down the road.

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view of central park facing the south side

It was a fairly overcast day, but it was humid. And the bike path is not easy. There are lots of turns, steep hills, and foot traffic on the path so it was difficult to navigate at times, but it was a lot of fun and was a great way to see the park. We stopped by the Strawberry Fields, which is an area that is dedicated to former Beatle John Lennon, and other spots like Sheep’s Meadow as well as the Bethesda Terrace.

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‘imagine’ mosaic in the strawberry fields

Having visited New York in the past, I saw the One WTC when they finished the water memorials that mark where the Twin Towers previously stood and when they built the museum underground as a memorial for 9/11. But I hadn’t seen the observation deck, so we decided to visit it on a relaxed day spent wandering around the city. It was expensive at around $30-40 per person, but was definitely worth it for the view.

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view from the one wtc observation deck

After stopping by the One WTC, my family and I decided to go to Brooklyn since it was nearby. After a 10-minute walk to the beginning of Brooklyn Bridge, we did what the typical tourist would and walked across. There were tons of other people so it was a little overwhelming but definitely a cool experience with the view of the Williamsburg Bridge to the left and the hustling car traffic underneath. The walk across took about 10-15 minutes.

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the brooklyn bridge

After making it to Brooklyn, we went to the famous Grimaldi’s per recommendation of my relative for some classic New York pizza. It was really good. There was a line outside of the door and a bouncer ushering people inside when space opened up. But just down the street was Juliana’s, and we were curious about it so we searched it up. Apparently there is a huge debate in the area about which one is better. Juliana’s has 1,000+ reviews on Yelp with an average rating of 4.5 stars, while Grimaldi’s has 4,000+ reviews and 3.5 stars… so next time we’re in Brooklyn I need to try out Juliana’s and make the decision for myself!

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one of the pizzas we ordered from grimaldi’s

On one of our last days in the city we visited the Met, also known as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We had visited the museum in the past, but it is HUGE. There are all kinds of exhibits and thousands of pieces that you can’t see everything in one day. And the museum knows it, so the ticket gives you admission for three days. I didn’t take many pictures here, but I wanted to the include the one below. We were walking around the sculpture by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux called “Ugolino and His Sons.” It’s a beautiful marble sculpture from the early 19th century. There was an older man sitting on a stool sketching it from a side view with charcoal. It was fascinating to watch and it was clear he was talented.

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These are some of the highlights from my New York trip last week. It’s my favorite place to visit and if you haven’t been already, I definitely recommend checking it out! There is a lot more to the city than what I’ve mentioned and it’s great because you get to encounter so many different walks of life by simply wandering around. I’ve still got New York on my mind…

Check out my NYC Instagram story highlight HERE to see more photos from my trip!

Eight Days in Estonia

Before spending eight days with my family in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, I had never heard of the country. It has a population of just over one million people, but I quickly discovered a love for the quaint town and its mix of modern and historical architecture, national parks, and good food.

Estonia is half-covered in forests and its terrain is relatively flat. It’s a largely innovative country with a fast-growing economy, and it has the highest number of startups per capita and has a program called e-residency, which is a digital ID that can be issued to non-Estonians. Citizens of Estonia have access to universal health care, free education, and the longest paid maternity leave in the OECD. They do their taxes and they vote online.

Tallinn’s Old Town is a well-preserved historical site, listed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1997 as an example of “a medieval northern European trading city.” We spent the majority of our time here and had the opportunity to get to know the area intimately.

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On of our last days in town we went to the top of St. Olaf’s Church, the city’s biggest medieval structure. We had to climb hundreds of small stone steps, but the view was well worth it. There was a small platform surrounded by fence that allowed you walk all the way around the tower.

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One of the best parts about Tallinn is how clean the food is in town. Everything is locally sourced and organic, and almost all restaurants make everything from scratch including their bread and butter. Rataskaevu 16 was my favorite restaurant. I had chicken breast and some peppermint tea with some of their homemade sunflower bread, and it was delicious.

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While the heart of the city is Old Town, Tallinn has a lot more to offer further along the coast. During the first week we were there we took a bike tour and saw Kadriorg Park, which is about a 20 minute walk outside the city. It is filled with museums, gardens, and palaces.

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But even further outside of Tallinn is Lahemaa National Park, characterized by its bog walking and small fishing towns. We were able to walk on Viru bog and it was one of my favorite parts of the day that we spent in the park. The platform was the width of two small wood planks.

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We visited two small fishing towns: Käsmu and Altja. In Käsmu we climbed a tower at the edge of the water and had a home-cooked meal with salmon, potatoes, and bread. Some Estonians live quiet lives in these small coastal towns complete with preserved fishing net sheds and farms.

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These are some of the highlights of my time to Estonia. The country has so much more to offer than what I have mentioned and it has a fascinating history, but I wanted to share some of my favorite bits from the trip. If you are ever in Europe, I highly encourage you to check out Tallinn! ♥