Jan/Feb/Mar 2019 travel

After the stay in California, I didn’t do a load of travel in the first three months of 2019, mostly due to being staffed in Chicago & spending some time there. Also, there isn’t a lot of easily accessible hiking in winter!

This post covers what I was up to for the first three months of the year, and is mostly about Chicago.


Early weather

Chicago in winter is a level of cold that I’m not well acquainted with 🥶

I drove up from Cincinnati, and was blessed with a snow storm the night before my drive:

I guess it was a sign of things to come - a fortnight later was the 2019 polar vortex, which shut down most of the city for a couple of days. It was the only time I saw the river completely frozen over:

I was staying a very short distance from work and decided to walk during the cold weather, which was an experience. My face was completely covered, except for my eyes, which watered. Of course the water from my struggling eyes froze, along with the tiny bit of hair that was exposed and water condensing in my nose (producing a satisfying crunch when I pinched my nostrils).

Field Museum

I went full tourist in Chicago and purchased a CityPASS, good for entry into 5 attractions. The first I visited was the Field Museum. For some reason I don’t have loads of photos here, but the main things I remember are

Art Institute of Chicago

I’m not normally one for art museums, but The Art Institute has a great collection, including a number of paintings by van Gogh, Picasso, Pollock, Warhol and more. The Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor (an ongoing exhibit) was another highlight, and I was amazed at the detail in the 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms.

Skydeck Chicago

I’ve been told by locals that under no circumstances am I to refer to the Sears Tower by it’s new name, The Willis Tower. Regardless of the name, the views from the The Skydeck are spectacular:

Museum of Science and Industry

I think the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is my new favourite museum, with the Deutsches Museum in Munich a close second.

It’s absolutely huge, I could easily spend far more than a day there. A few highlights, in no particular order:

Avalanche simulation in the Science Storms exhibit.
Mirror maze in Numbers in Nature exhibit.

The mirror maze was oddly peaceful for the few seconds I was in there alone! For the rest of the time I was just trying to avoid running into the kids that were barrelling though.

Tornado simulation in the Science Storms exhibit.
U-505 submarine, captured during World War II.

St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day in Chicago was an experience … I knew it was a huge event, but I didn’t expect the streets to be packed from 7:30 AM.

The Chicago River is dyed a vibrant green on St Patrick's day.

… Spring?

I’ve been warned that March warm weather in Chicago only lulls you into a false sense of security. As I’m writing this it’s closer to the end of April & I’m hopeful the worst of the cold weather is finished. As a reference, here’s a recent photo of Maggie Daley Park & Grant Park - it looks a little more inviting than the photo earlier in this post!

LA & Spartan Race

I visited LA briefly in December on a trip to go hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, but most of the time in LA itself was spent sitting in traffic.

I went back in January to do the Spartan SoCal Sprint just outside of LA, and had a chance to see a little more of LA itself.

Griffith Observatory is definitely worth a visit, for the exhibits as well as the views of LA.

On Saturday we spent some time in Venice Beach area, including the Venice Canals and a ride along the boardwalk and ocean front walk. It was a nice change from the winter in Chicago!


I had planned a trip to Chicago the weekend after the polar vortex hit Chicago, but my flight out was cancelled due to the weather. I still made it out of Chicago the next day, but that made for a fairly short trip, so I changed my plans to spend the time in Seattle itself and ditched the hiking I was planning in Mt Rainier National Park.

I stayed right near Pike Place Market which turned out to be a great spot.

Some notable places:

  • Piroshky Piroshky bakery: I may have returned here more than once, fodder was delicious but not entirely compatible with my desire to be somewhat healthy 🤣
  • The Gum Wall: one of the most germ ridden attractions in existence
  • The original Starbucks
  • Underground tour: it was interesting hearing about how Seattle was built, it is honestly a miracle they didn’t just give up. Wikipedia has some info on the underground.
  • Seattle Center: I’d like to go back here, there is loads to do. It was the site of the 1962 World’s Fair. The Space Needle, MoPOP and the Chihuly Garden and Glass are apparently all worth a visit, but I just walked around the area without going in.

South Lake Tahoe

My first trip in March was to South Lake Tahoe for a weekend of skiing. There was a little more snow there than I’ve seen in Australia before 😂.

The base of the resort is at 1,907 m and the top is 3,068 m, so it isn’t super high but its location near the lake means lots of snow (the peak of Mount Kosciuszko is 2,228 m, so most of the Thredbo resort in Australia is less than 2,000 m).


The second trip for March was to Toronto, again a short trip so I really only had time to explore part of Old Toronto near where I was staying:

  • St. Lawrence Market
  • Distillery District
  • Yonge-Dundas Square
  • CF Toronto Eaton Centre
  • Kensington Market


I’ve been fortunate to spend some time in The Golden State in November and December. I haven’t made it over here much, as it’s a long way from where I have been based in the east of the states.

Part 1 - San Francisco

After working most of Friday from the ThoughtWorks office in the SoMa (South of Market) area, we took a walk through Chinatown to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, where I got my first views of the bay.

Despite being very hilly, SF is a walkable city. We continued down to Fisherman’s Wharf and on to the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marine District. I didn’t get many photos, but it’s an interesting place originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

We rented bikes on Saturday, and rode from North Beach across the Golden Gate Bridge, back to Sutro Heights and through the Presidio on the way back. Lots of great views, the photos below don’t really do it justice!

I think this might have been the first time I’ve seen the sun setting over an ocean … I’ve always lived near eastern coasts so sunrise over the ocean feels more normal! 😂

Part 2 - Los Angeles and Joshua Tree National Park

In early December I was in LA for a couple of days before flying back to Australia for the Christmas break. We did a bit of hiking, and saw a little of LA as well.

The first hike was the Mount Zion Loop - Sturtevant to Winter Creek Trail

For the second day we drove to Joshua Tree National Park and did the Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail.

I managed to sneak in a visit to The Getty:

And to Griffith Observatory to get the obligatory selfie with the Hollywood sign before flying out on Sunday:

Part 3 - Drive from LA → SF

After landing in LA on Boxing Day morning, I took a couple of days to drive up to San Francisco, mostly along California State Route 1 (a.k.a. the Pacific Coast Highway). It’s a lovely drive, a few highlights include:

Beautiful beaches along the way:

Elephant seals:

The Buzzards Roost trail in Big Sur State Park:


And finally Monterey:

Part 4 - San Francisco (again)

I spent the last four days of 2018 running, walking and hiking my way primarily through SF, in an effort to work of combined Thanksgiving/holiday party/Christmas calories 😂

The only visits outside SF were to Sausalito and a hike in the Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve in Berkeley. Some select photos:

Pawleys Island

For Thanksgiving this year I stayed with some friends at a house in Pawleys Island, a town and island in Georgetown County, South Carolina.

It was a relaxing time, with lots of walks on the beach and way too much food.

We were also there for a king tide, which produced some minor flooring and had us worried for out rental car. It was amazing to me how many of these places are so close to the ocean, you could see the dunes getting washed away during the higher tides.

Acadia National Park

My fourth trip in what has turned into a very busy October was to Acadia National Park in Maine, the easternmost state of the US. I flew into Boston, drove up to Acadia & stayed in Airbnbs nearby.

Acadia National Park is beautiful, and is the first coastal park I’ve visited (other than the Everglades NP, it’s nice in a different way).

The first hike I did there was up Cadillac Mountain along the South Ridge Trail. Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard (though it’s still not very high at 466 meters).

The weather wasn’t great to start, but the views were still worth the effort.

Some pretty strong winds had the clouds blown away in no time!

The last part of the loop went down part of the A. Murray Young Path which had amazing fall colours on display.

The second hike for the day was The Beehive Loop Trail, plus a little of the Champlain North Ridge Trail.

The clouds had been well and truly blown away by this point!

Sunset at the The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse was a great finish to the day.

Salt Lake City

Last weekend I was able to do some hiking near Salt Lake City in Utah. There were some stunning views of Great Salt Lake from the flight. The Lucin Cutoff causes differences in salinity in three parts of the lake. The corresponding difference in algae growth is visible in the photo below.

The first hike we did on Friday was the Mount Olympus trail:

It was a long, steep climb but the views from the top were worth it!

The group I was with continued on to Lake Tahoe on Saturday, but I stayed in the area to do a couple more hikes. First up was the Lake Blanche Trail:

After Lake Blanche was Bells Canyon Trail:

This trail started out looking very different to the snow that was at Lake Blanche, but there was lots of snow on the trail by the top.

I’m happy anywhere aspen leaves are shaking in the wind!