huangshan part two.

day two: The night on the mountain was rainy and stormy so I was nervous hiking down would be dangerous. When we woke up (at 5 am) the weather was starting to clear up so we started exploring.
On our second day we wanted to see the Jade Scenic area. One of the scariest feelings standing over a cliff like that, but so worth it. If the water was a little cleaner I  might have swam...
If we've learned anything in China it's to take the "back roads". We walked along a path that not many other people were on and came to this... It was the steepest hill with stairs straight down. You had to take off your shoes because there was essentially a waterfall following down the stairs. 
We hiked for a long time after those stairs and realized it was only 8 am so we kept going. We wanted to see Lotus Peak but when we finally got there it was gated off. So we crawled under the gates, threw our bags over the fence, and snuck up the mountain!
^^The last few steps to the peak^^
When we got to the top we were shocked. A perfect 360 degree view of what felt like the world! Lotus Peak is the highest peak of all of the surrounding Huangshan mountains and 6,500 feet above sea level. It was crazy seeing how much ground we had covered just in 24 hours and even crazier that we were the only people on the mountain. 
The hike down was pretty scary. We took a different route than coming up and I was nervous we wouldn't be able to crawl "under the fence" again and not even sure it would take us to the right place. We would stop every now and then, look at our view, then realize just how lucky we were. It started getting foggy and I was nervous how isolated we were, but everything worked out.

We took a cable car down the mountain from Jade peak and made our way to hot springs to relax before our train left in the evening. More from the hot springs in the next post :)


huangshan mountains.

Last weekend we went to the Yellow Mountains in Huangshan, China. I can easily say this was  one of the most incredible experiences I've had! 

Day One: Our train left Suzhou at 10:30 pm to go straight to Huangshan city. The ride was 12 hours and we shared a bunk 'room' with 4 other people. We ended up making friends with two young Chinese adults and spent most of the weekend with them. We had an itinerary for this trip figured out, but ended up completely changing our plans (I'm not even sure why we changed our plans, but it couldn't have been more perfect). When we arrived in Huangshan we started making the ascent up the mountain. It was crazy difficult and extremely foggy, so we didn't see much for a couple of hours...
^^After about 2.5 hours of hiking straight up thousands of steps, the fog cleared and we caught a glimpse of what was around us.^^
When we got to the top of the mountain our new friends helped us get a hotel room. This place was the sickest place I've ever stayed in. Tate and I were in separate rooms that was shared with 12 other people. We were the only white people in this hotel, there were no showers, the toilets were covered in crap, but it was cheap (like 5 bucks cheap). We checked in then kept exploring. 
I didn't do much research on what was on the top of the mountain, but when I saw a map I knew I really wanted to see this view. It was a hard hike but the view was worth it. I've never seen anything like this before; I wish my camera could capture how incredible this moment was.
This area is called the "Sea of Clouds"
I've seen this bridge all over Pinterest and China Guides so seeing it in real life was so cool. The only thing keeping me from falling thousands of feet was this bridge! The English name for this place is called Fairy Bridge. 
Hiking in Huangshan was exhuasting but worth it; I would do it all again in a heart beat! We relaxed along this bridge for a while and then made the ascent back up the mountain to our 'hotel' for the night. Day one was so good!


year in review.

It's been a year! 365 days of awesome. Marrying Tate has been the best thing that has ever happened to me and I still get the heart flutters when he wakes me up with kisses in the morning. This first year has been a blast; we've been to four states, three different countries, two national parks, and one huge crazy adventure.

So. I thought I'd do a recap of what our first year together has looked like:
In April we got married (!!) and went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for our honeymoon. Ah, that vacation was so fun. 
In May we bought a Poler tent and camped at Bear Lake, UT. It was cold and stormy and rainy but we managed to have a really great time!
By June we had that camping thing down and went again to a random forest in the canyon. Keeping the vibes real! 
In July Tate graduated college! We also celebrated his birthday, and went to Wallace ID for the fourth of july.
In August we went to Moab, Utah for family vacation and visited Arches National Park and Canyonlands. When we got home, I convinced Tate to get us a cat. Our cat Mesa added so much love to our place! 
In September Tate and I finished our coffee table (with the help of my dad) and did an apartment tour. We loved our little place in Idaho!
In October we took the weekend off and went to Yellowstone National Park once last time before we moved. We were about the only ones there and it was totally awesome.
In November we found out we were accepted to teach English in China for six months. We didn't know where/when/how yet, but were overjoyed with the news! 
In December I graduated from college with a Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design! The next day we moved out of our apartment to Las Vegas, and flew to Canada with Tate's family for Christmas. Ice climbing and going to Lake Louise was the highlight of our trip!
In January we flew to Washington for a week to see my side of the family. Spending the weekend at my parents cabin was sooo relaxing.
In February we made the big move to China! We went to the Great Wall in Beijing, moved to Suzhou, and escaped to Shanghai for the weekend to see the markets and the Bund.
March was really, really busy. We hiked two sacred mountains, went to a flower festival, took the train to Shanghai for the weekend, had friends visit our city, and explored Suzhou.

And now it's april! What an awesome year. Needless to say Tate and I both agree that our "honeymoon phase" it's going to last many years to come. Can't wait to see what year two brings! 


weekend in nanjing.

For the weekend we took a short trip to Nanjing, China. We were originally supposed to move to Nanjing to teach, but ended up moving to Suzhou. Before coming to China we had a bucket list of places we wanted to see in Nanjing; and one of them was the Purple Mountain. We planned on spending only a few hours here but ending up being there for 8+ hours. There is so much to see here and all of it is so beautiful! So... a lot of photos in this post ;)
Every park/tomb/museum/mausoleum/garden in China has a fee. We didn't do too much research on what to see on the Purple Mountain so when we went we were just winging it. I was selective about what part of the mountain I wanted to enter because of the prices, but we lucked out. We splurged to see the Ming tomb (the tomb of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty) and it led us to a section of the park that was really beautiful.
We walked around the tomb for a while, but what we really wanted to see was a lake on the mountain. After a few random trails we found the lake. There were quite a few people walking around the lake but there was no one at this bridge. We're experts at the self timer, ha.
We sat at this bridge for about 30 minutes to rest feet and snapped instax photos. I've taken so many in China, I wish I had a scanner! I really wanted to hike to the top of the mountain, but we couldn't find a paved trail (which is how all trails are here). We found a steep steep dirt trail and started hiking up for what felt like forever.
It was a really special moment when we saw the view from the top. The view was amazing and we realized how high we actually hiked. But then we noticed if we climbed even farther up the mountain we could take a ski lift down. We've realized that the only moments we'll regret are the things we don't do... so we started hiking again (this motto might be the death of me!).
We made it to the top again and stumbled across this buddha by total chance. The only thing I really wanted to see on the Purple Mountain was this Buddha, but every time I asked where it was no one knew. I think it was a reward for what we had put ourselves through getting to the top of the mountain.
We also came across a spa overlooking the city where fish eat the dead skin off of your feet. If not now when, right? The feeling of fish sucking on your skin is so weird but I'm glad I've experienced it. It turns out the spa had opened only 2 hours earlier and we were their first customers. Woohoo!
We totally forgot about the time when we were at the "spa" and didn't realize that the ticket office had closed to get our tickets back down. Luckily, they made an exeption and gave us the last tickets. We took the lift down the mountain and watched the sunset as we talked and laughed about how awesome that day was. Our weekend in Nanjing couldn't have been more perfect!


field trip.

Friday was one of those "is this real life?!" moments. We had a field trip with our kindergarden at a tulip festival and there was a three hour 'free time' so Tate and I took off. We hiked random trails up the mountain for a while and then came across this lake...

I've never seen water this color before, no one was at this spot, the weather was perfect, and it was quiet. And when you see a lake this clean in China you have the urge to jump right in it. So that's what we did (or what Tate did). We had no intention of finding this lake or going swimming but that's what happened! And we both realized that this is why we came to China; to experience random moments like this that we'll laugh about later.


spring gardens.

^^I've never seen a tree like this before!^^
Yup, Spring is here in Suzhou! The other day Tate and I decided to take a scooter ride around town. We came across a wetland park and it was gorgeous! Every tree is in bloom and they were all so different from each other. Suzhou is known for their amazing gardens, and now I know why. We've been waiting to see some of them, and this is the week to go! Chinese gardens, here we come...