Yangmingshan // hiking Mount Zhugao

I spent the month of November writing my face off [along with reaching my 50,000 word goal and raising over $250 for the Malala Fund] and did not get nearly enough time outdoors. so today, we're taking a trip to the mountains.

Mount Zhugao is a short hike in Yangmingshan National Park, north of Taipei, that can be accessed from the "buffalo meadows" Qingtiangang Grasslands area. back in October, I met some of my Hsinchu friends on a sunny but windy day to make the climb.

the trail to Mt Zhugao is a branch off the Qingtiangang circular trail. simply walk to the south across the flat meadow then up the stairs to reach it. or if you're up for a longer journey, you can walk around the circular trail to the north and east first.

side note: to get into Qingtiangang area on a weekend or holiday, you may have to wait up to an hour to get a parking spot. they still let the buses in though, so you could park elsewhere and hop the 108 or small 15, OR park at Lengshuikeng and hike over across the suspension bridge [though parking was a bit backed up there too.]

Mount Zhugao is far from the highest peak in Yangmingshan, but it offers some amazing 360 views of the park for a pretty easy climb. Mt Qixing and its multiple peaks dominate the horizon, but the shorter Shamao is also visible, and on a clear enough day you can even spot Taipei 101.

we got into the parking lot about noon, and it took us around 45 minutes to get to the peak. however, we were slow to start and did a lot of stopping and standing. I think half an hour would be a more accurate time. combined with the circular trail, you could do the whole thing in an hour and a half easily.

I'd recommend a trip up Mount Zhugao if you need an escape from the crowds in the grasslands, or simply if you're craving some mountain views.

also: I'm totally starting the #mountainhairdontcare hashtag if it's not already a thing. I've never been the picture-perfectly-put-together kind of blogger. especially when hiking or battling mountaintop winds. but to me, memories are more important than the perception of perfection. so expect more crazy hair to come, especially with all the mountains in New Zealand...


help me support the Malala Fund with #NaNoWriMo and #TheMightyPens

hi friends! today's post will be a little different, as I'm dedicating most of my time this month to my manuscript instead of travel blogging. but the topic is important to me -- so I hope you'll read on.

[though if you'd rather, you can skip right to my donations page!]


I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was planning to participate in NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month] again this year to help me get back into the writing habit, and hopefully complete my first draft. a week into things -- I've already made it over 15,000 words! that puts me about 3,000 words ahead of schedule, and a target of just under 1,500 words per day to complete the goal of 50,000 this month.

part of the reason I've been ahead of pace for NaNoWriMo is that I'm reworking my existing storyline. just a few days before November, I decided to fundamentally change the rules of my universe. it definitely has made things challenging, but I believe the story will be better off for it.

about my book

so what exactly is this story I'm writing? well. my main character is a female hematologist who finds herself accidentally turned into a vampire. despite her initial disbelief, scientific curiosity wins out and she begins to adapt. her reluctant mentor -- a British aristocrat from the early 1800's -- enlists her help in solving the rash of murders that have been plaguing Chicago. the vampire population has been dying out, and they can't afford to lose many more of their number.

things become more complicated as the government gets involved -- or at least the alarmingly increasing number of special law enforcement who are aware of the existence of vampires. everyone seems to be keeping secrets from each other. there's a little romance, and a lot of weird science. and also a cat named Charles.

the mighty pens + malala fund

this Novemeber I've joined up with a group called The Mighty Pens. authors Susan and Kat have put together a writing group that will fundraise for the Malala Fund with every word. over the past week, we have already managed to collectively raise nearly $5,000!

if you aren't familiar with the Malala Fund: it was founded in 2013 by Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai to advocate for and support the rights of girls everywhere to receive an education. efforts are focused in areas where girls are commonly discouraged or even prevented by force from continuing their attendance in school. it is my personal belief that a better education for all, especially girls and young women, will lead to a better future for our world.

how you can help

if you are willing and able, please consider contributing to the Malala Fund on my donations page. otherwise, spreading the word about the plight of girls' education and/or offering words of encouragement to your favorite NaNo author this month would also be appreciated. 😊

if you can support financially: feel free to make a flat donation, or to pledge a certain amount once I reach a specific word count goal. for example, pledging $25 if I reach 25,000 words. you could leave a pledge in the comments below, or email me at jamiethewalker at gmail.com. the more money we raise, the more girls we can help! [and as a bonus -- I could earn awesome prizes like critiques by agents and authors when I reach certain goals.]

thank you so much for your time and support, and your patience with this somewhat off-topic post. I'll share an update at the end of the month to let you all know how the writing [and the fundraising] end up. if you like, you can also track my progress on my NaNoWriMo page.



Travel Guide // Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary

America's Pacific Northwest. those three words conjure up images of misty mountains and mossy forests full of waterfalls. or maybe lighthouses on rocky beaches, or ferry boats sailing through a pod of whales. tall pine trees and bright blue oceans, or cities full of hipsters drinking microbrews and coffee shops on every corner.

I'm here to tell you: the Pacific Northwest has all that and more.

in April and May this year, I took a 17 day road trip through Washington State and Oregon with my parents and brother. our itinerary was scheduled around the fact my dad was running two marathons on our trip - one in Tacoma and one in Eugene - but you could easily adapt our route to fit your own needs.

about our itinerary

we flew in and out of Seattle, renting a car for the entire trip. we stayed mostly in airbnb apartments and homes, with a few hotels where needed. we packed picnic lunches nearly every day, and tried to cook at our airbnb when possible [both for budgetary and allergy reasons.] the places we ate at that I would recommend are listed and linked below.

my dad gets the credit for doing most of the planning. I definitely made some activity suggestions, and my mom found us some great airbnbs [and my brother found us some great breweries.] but my dad put it all together. however: one thing to keep in mind about our trip is that when my dad plans, he tries to pack in as much as humanly possible. we did a LOT every day. writing up this itinerary has reminded me just how much!

while we spent some time in cities, the major draw for us was the nature. [or at least it was for me.] we are all in decent shape and did quite a bit of hiking, but as I write up each hike I'll be sure to list what I thought the difficulty level was for reference.

similar to what I did with our New Zealand itinerary, I'll come back to add links for relevant posts as they are published.

day 0: arrive in seattle

I flew in direct from Taipei, while my parents arrived from Detroit. our flights both got in around 8pm so we did not accomplish much this night. we made a trip to Target for snacks and travel necessities, then crashed at a hotel near SeaTac airport.

day 1: seattle to san juan island

we all woke up early [thanks jetlag] and got on the road after stopping for groceries. we drove up to Anacortes where we had a tasty lunch at Gere-a-Deli and boarded a car ferry for Friday Harbor. the weather was colder than I had anticipated, but clear and sunny. after we settled into our tiny airbnb apartment and had dinner, I chugged some coffee before heading out to Lime Kiln Point for sunset.

posts: sunset at Lime Kiln Point
lighthouse total: 1

day 2: san juan island

we only had one full day to explore San Juan Island, so we battled jet lag to make the most of it. we started down at the American Camp - where we hiked to the oddly named Grandma's Cove. our next stop was the Cattle Point Light. the light itself was nothing much, but we ran into a researcher who was staring out into the water. he loaned me his binoculars and we were able to watch a pod of orca whales swim by!

once the whales disappeared from sight, we drove to San Juan County Park for a picnic lunch. our sandwiches fueled us all the way to the top of Young Hill at the English Camp. the views from the top were amazing, and I finally felt warm for the first time since leaving Taiwan, thanks to the exertion from the hike. our last stop of the day was Limestone Point. the wind out here was intense, and the weather was getting colder, so we didn't stay very long. our day ended with a much needed feast at Van Go's Pizza and an early bedtime.

lighthouse total: 2

day 3: across the olympic peninsula

we took the early morning ferry back from Friday Harbor to Anacortes, and this time drove down Whidbey Island to board another ferry. along the way we made a few stops. the first was the instagram-famous Deception Pass, where my mom and I lost my dad for a terrifying 15 minutes. we found him eventually, and got back on the road to Fort Casey. we had enough time to visit the Admiralty Head Lighthouse before boarding our [extremely windy and choppy] ferry to Port Townsend. we made a quick stop at Point Wilson [and another lighthouse] before continuing on across the Olympic Peninsula.

at some point during the drive, we entered Olympic National Park. it's so huge that it's almost impossible not to. we decided to break up the drive by stopping at the Storm King Ranger Station on Lake Crescent. by that time I was dying to get out of the car and take some pictures of the scenery... and to stretch my legs. we took a short hike from there up to Marymere Falls - the first waterfall of the trip but definitely not the last - and then continued on to Forks.

lighthouse total: 4
waterfall total: 1

day 4: hoh rainforest + olympic beaches

from our airbnb in Forks [yes, the same Forks from Twilight] we drove out to the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Park. we hiked both the Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Trail in the rain before heading out to the coast. at Ruby Beach, however, disaster struck. not only did my camera battery die 5 minutes after arriving, but I slipped on a driftwood tree and wound up with bruises from ankle to knee [not to mention salty slime on all my clothes.] this unfortunate incident required a detour back into Forks for a change of clothes and a charge of batteries.

clean and powered up, our next stop was Second Beach in LaPush. [yes, also from Twilight.] you have to hike out to the beach from a parking lot, but it is SO worth it. we were lucky enough to have the beach to ourselves. despite the bruises, I decided the only thing to do was get back on the driftwood - so I did. after, we also stopped by First Beach and Rialto Beach. both were nice, but Second Beach was certainly the best we saw that day.

day 5: across the Olympic Peninsula, again

this day was one of our longest drives - all the way from Forks to Tacoma. but along the way we stopped at what might be my favorite hike from the whole trip: the Sol Duc Waterfall trail in Olympic National Park. the main falls were impressive, but I was in love with the long and babbling stream we found in the middle of the trail. that night my brother arrived, and we stayed at an airbnb in Tacoma. [since that's where the marathon was. most people would choose to be based out of Seattle, though I think Tacoma may be more affordable.]

lighthouse total: 4
waterfall total: 3

day 6: seattle

we started our morning with a visit to the Columbia Center viewing deck. it was half under construction, and the weather was not excellent. however, it was cool to see all the ferries going across the harbor and the mountains in the distance. next we made our way past the Space Needle and into the Chihuly Glass Garden. the colorful artwork was lovely for brightening up a dreary day, and made a contrast to our stop at the Freemont Troll. then it was time to visit a few breweries on my brother's list: Holy Mountain and Urban Family. [for reference, my brother is really into sour beers right now and so most places we visited specialized in those.]

day 6.5: tacoma

I'm not counting this as an itinerary day, since the morning was taken up with marathon happenings and in the afternoon we only visited the Tacoma Museum of Glass. it was interesting, but I wouldn't call it a "must see" item.

day 7: seattle

our second day in Seattle kicked off with a visit to the infamous Pike Place Market. we didn't go into the Starbucks, but my family ate some amazing looking pastries from the Polish Piroshky Piroshky Bakery. we wandered through the stores while it rained, stopped by the gum wall, and grabbed a drink at Rachel's Ginger Beer. for lunch we drove up to Brouwer's Cafe [another great place for beers.] our afternoon activity was also quite delicious: a tour at Theo Chocolate! and yes, we got to eat a TON of chocolate.

posts: the colors of pike place market

day 8: tacoma to cannon beach

the Pacific Northwest is known for being rainy, but this was the first day of our trip that the weather was bad enough to impact our plans. our first stop was Cape Disappointment State Park, still in Washington. our hike to North Head Lighthouse was just that - a disappointment. the structure was wrapped up in construction barriers and the trail was a muddy mess. further south in the park, we hiked past Dead Man's Cove and out to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. had the weather been nice, it would have been stunning I think. but it was raining so hard I couldn't keep my camera lens dry, and eventually gave up on shooting photos. we made a brief stop at Fort Clatsop in the Lewis and Clark National Histrical Park, then gave up on the weather clearing and drove to our hotel in Cannon Beach.

lighthouse total: 6
waterfall total: 3

day 9: cannon beach to portland

we woke with hopes for better weather, and were greeted by a massive bank of fog. since we could not even see the ocean from the shore, let alone Haystack Rock, we skipped Ecola State Park and headed south along the coast. we took a brief detour for a hike to the small but tall Munson Creek Falls. the fog still persisted. stopping at the Tillamook Factory to drown our sorrows in cheese and ice cream helped - and it seemed the weather was starting to clear. we took a chance and drove out to Cape Meares. the fog rolled back just enough that we could see the coastline from the tiny Cape Meares Light. [at that point, something was better than nothing!] we ended the day with one of my favorite meals of the trip at Great Notion Brewing and Barrel House in Portland.

lighthouse total: 7
waterfall total: 4

day 10: columbia river gorge

we lucked out with a clear and warm forecast, so decided this would be our day our in the Columbia River Gorge. our first stop was Crown Point Vista House. the views from here were incredible. it's definitely worth a stop, but don't stay too long because there is so much more to see! the next few hours we spent stopping at increasingly scenic waterfalls: Latourell Falls [tall and skinny] then Bridal Veil Falls [worth the short hike] and stopping for lunch at Wahkeena Falls [much-needed cooling mist.]

we then attempted to hike over to Multnomah Falls... but the trail we wanted to take was quite overgrown. we detoured up to Lemmon's Lookout instead. from there we could have taken a longer route [like, 3 hours hiking] but instead we went back down and took the trail by the road [past one tiny falls.] once we made it to the base of Multnomah, however, the hike to the top was steep and long. but when you are at Oregon's most famous waterfall, you make the climb.

on our way down a storm rolled in, so it was time to head back to Portland for dinner. we hit up Reverend Nat's Cidery for a well-earned drink or two, and indulged in slices at Sizzle Pie. this was one of my favorite days of the trip, though I wish we could have seen more of the gorge. there was so much that we never made it to... if we had an extra day or two to spend I would have loved to explore more of the trails and make it up to Mt Hood.

lighthouse total: 7
waterfall total: 9

day 11: portland

we started our day in Portland with coffee and doughnuts. or rather, the infamous combination of Stumptown Coffee and Voodoo Doughnuts. the weather was iffy so we spent a few hours getting lost in Powell's Bookstore before heading to Robo Taco for lunch, and Cascade Brewing Co for drinks. our last stop of the day was the International Rose Test Garden.

day 11.5: portland to eugene

I'm skipping this as an official itinerary day - since we spent our time driving to Eugene, arguing with the people at T mobile, and picking up dad's race packet for the marathon the next day.

day 12: eugene to yachats

Mom and I made it down to Hayward Field just in time to watch Dad cross the finish line, then it was a race to get checked out of our hotel. we drove back out to the Oregon coast, stopping at Heceta Head to explore tide pools and hike to the lighthouse. [in my mind, I keep thinking of this place as Hecate - totally different.] the lighthouse was beautiful and the views of the coast were just stunning. we stopped at a lookout just south of the light, and discovered hundreds of sea lions barking on the beach below.

we made it to our arbnb cottage in Yachats in time for sunset. since we were staying right on the ocean, of course this meant going for a walk [and taking photos.]

lighthouse total: 8
waterfall total: 9

day 13: the oregon coast

this day we saw some of the most stunning shoreline of our trip. we started off at Cape Perpetua - watching the waves gush over Thor's Well, hiking up to the outlook, and picnicking near Devil's Churn. the blues and greens on the coast were insane.

that afternoon we drove out to the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. and... it was certainly outstanding. we added one last lighthouse to our tally, walked tidepools and were smiled at by seals. for dinner the stopped at the Drift Inn in Yachats for some surprisingly good dinner and live music.

posts: Yaquina Head Light + Natural Area
lighthouse total: 9
waterfall total: 9

day 14: back to the airport

we drove from Yachats to Olympia [which took a looooong 5 hours.] we stayed in a hotel and departed from SeaTac the next day. in theory, you could take the shorter drive and fly out of Portland.

and there you have it! though we spent an actual total of 17 days, this itinerary would work for a two week trip [or you could also stretch it out longer.] if I had more time to add, I would spend an extra day each on San Juan Island, in Olympic National Park, and at Columbia Gorge.

going through our itinerary has reminded me just HOW MUCH I still have to share about this trip. expect to see some hiking trails, pacific beaches, and lots of waterfalls in the near future. if you have any questions about our trip or requests for posts you'd like to see first, let me know in the comments below.

and with Adventures of a London Kiwi, SilverSpoon London, Follow Your Sunshine and Eppie for the monthly travel link up on "journeys."

travel guide to the Pacific Northwest: a detailed two week itinerary for a road trip through one of the most stunning corners of America. explore misty forests, hike through gorges and past waterfalls, visit lighthouses and rocky beaches, watch whales on remote islands, and sip coffee and beers in the hip cities of Seattle and Portland.
travel guide to the Pacific Northwest: a detailed two week itinerary for a road trip through one of the most stunning corners of America. explore misty forests, hike through gorges and past waterfalls, visit lighthouses and rocky beaches, watch whales on remote islands, and sip coffee and beers in the hip cities of Seattle and Portland.

a detailed itinerary for a two week road trip through America's Pacific Northwest -- complete with misty mountains and mossy forests full of waterfalls, lighthouses on rocky beaches, ferry boats sailing through whale pods, tall pine trees and bright blue oceans, and cities full of hipsters drinking microbrews and hand drip coffees.>
a detailed itinerary for a two week road trip through America's Pacific Northwest -- complete with misty mountains and mossy forests full of waterfalls, lighthouses on rocky beaches, ferry boats sailing through whale pods, tall pine trees and bright blue oceans, and cities full of hipsters drinking microbrews and hand drip coffees.

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