18 Miles on Mount Vernon Trail

HITTING THE TRAIL...

Another DC bucket list item complete! This weekend, Dani and I (finally) biked the Mount Vernon Trail, an 18-mile paved stretch between Rosslyn, Va. and George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate. Winding alongside the Potomac River, the trail offers runners, cyclists, and exercise novices alike a scenic escape from hectic city life. Although, on a nice day, we quickly learned the trail can get pretty crowded too.

[VIDEO] ONE MINUTE, EIGHTEEN MILES

Thanks to a little GoPro magic, check out a small glimpse of the awesome scenery along the trail.

Situated in Northern Virginia, the multi-use recreational trail is easily accessible by car or metro. There are some worthy stops along the way, including Old Town Alexandria, Arlington National Cemetery, Gravelly Point, and of course, Mount Vernon Estate, a must see.

BIKE TO MOUNT VERNON

Don't have your own bike or just visiting? No problem, you can rent one from Bike and Roll in Old Town Alexandria and enjoy a scenic ten mile ride on the Mount Vernon Trail. And if the 20 mile round trip is a little too much, you can book a one-way bike trip and return to Alexandria on the Potomac Riverboat Company’s Miss Christin. I think that's next up on the DC bucket list!

Big Bend National Park

A HIDDEN TREASURE

One of the least visited and most remote national parks, Big Bend seems to be one of the few places in the country where you can literally get away from it all. From an elevation of less than 1,800 feet along the Rio Grande to nearly 8,000 feet in the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend includes massive canyons, vast desert expanses, forested mountains, and an ever-changing river.

Getting There (1,943 MILES)

  • Flight: DC > Dallas-Fort Worth > San Antonio (4 hours)
  • San Antonio > Marathon, Texas (5 hours)
  • Marathon, Texas > Terlingua, Texas (2 hours)
  • Terlingua, Texas > River Road East, Big Bend National Park (1 hour)

A DAY ON THE RIO GRANDE

Adam and I opted for a river tour of the Rio Grande with Big Bend River Tours. There are several tours to choose from, both full and half day, although a lot depends on the water level, which has been particularly low the past several years.

Our group of six set out from the small, but charming town of Terlingua (more on it later) at 8:00 a.m. for a full day canoe trip through Hot Springs Canyon. Our guide, David, was full of knowledge about the park and shared harrowing and hilarious stories of fellow travelers.

The Rio Grande creates a distinct environment in Big Bend National Park and serves as part of the natural border between the U.S. and Mexico. As the tour went on, the river became more and more scenic. Think wild horses drinking from the bank, tall canyon walls towering overhead, and majestic mountains in the distance. Truly the stuff postcards are made of.

Hot Springs Trail

This trip floats through scenic canyons, with easy paddling and no rapids. However, there are a few tricky spots, that took some extra coaching from our guide, but we finally got the hang of it. Stops along the way reveal hidden hot springs, ancient ruins, and incredible views of Mexico's Sierra del Carmen.

We stopped for lunch near Hot Springs Trail and explored the area before a long soak. Heated by geothermal processes and emerging at 105° F., the water carries dissolved mineral salts reputed to have healing powers.

TRIP TIPS

  1. Sunscreen. Trust me. Weeks later Adam is still peeling.
  2. Pack light. We were given waterproof bags, so we simply stored our small backpack inside and attached it to the boat.
  3. Hydrate. It's can be difficult to gauge how tired you've become from paddling and navigating. Drink, refill, and drink some more.
  4. Take all the pictures. We used a GoPro Hero 4 Silver and an iPhone 6s, both in their own water-proof cases, to capture the stunning views from the canoe.
  5. Teamwork. After surviving some rough waters early on, Adam and I settled into a nice rhythm and were cruising downstream.
Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.
— Gustave Flaubert

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West Texas Road Trip: Gage Hotel

GAGE HOTEL: RURAL + REFINED

After leaving Marfa kicking and screaming (I seriously could have spent a week there) it was on to Marathon. Of all of our stops, I was most looking forward to staying at the acclaimed Gage Hotel, and it certainly did not disappoint. Built in 1927 by architect, Henry Trost, the 45-room hotel offers its guests authentic laid-back luxury unlike anywhere we had stayed before. It was also the perfect home base for our day trip to Big Bend National Park, two hours south.

ACCOMMODATIONS

In addition to the beautifully restored mission-style historic hotel, where we stayed, the property also includes several pueblo-style adobe brick rooms and casitas. Everywhere you look the decor is impeccable, and the intimate common spaces throughout charming and inviting.

Amenities include the stunning 27-acre Gage Gardens, full service spa, swimming pool, fitness center, bicycle rentals, and the coolest game lot.

Where to Eat

Enjoy a five-star dining experience at the renowned 12-Gage Restaurant (reservations recommended) and drinks at the White Buffalo Bar. Named one of Texas’ ”Best Hotel Bars” by Texas Monthly Magazine, this legendary watering hole features delicious signature cocktails and the famous White Buffalo Burger. Coffee and a light continental breakfast are served in the lobby.

There is also a small grocery, just past some of the adorable shops and galleries along the main stretch of Marathon. We stopped here to pick up a few items the night before our trek to Big Bend.

Star Gazing in MARATHON

Designated a Class I dark sky, this area is one of the best for star gazing in the country. The stargazing site, located near the Marathon Motel, is equipped with a 24” Dobsonian telescope donated by the McDonald Observatory, which we had visited for a star party the night before.

The vastness of the West Texas night sky is awe-inspiring and we had fun trying to capture it with some GoPro night lapse. Can you spot the Big Dipper?


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Marfa, Marfa, Marfa!

I can't even begin to explain the magic that is Marfa. Located between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park, this West Texas city is an actual trek to get to, but it's authenticity and artsy vibe is so worth the visit. The only Texas destination to make the New York Times52 Places To Go in 2016” list, it's charm and practical romance will leave you inspired.

Ah, EL COSMICO

For a town with a population of just 2,000 residents, there is no shortage of awesome places to stay. We opted for a little glamping at El Cosmico. The 21-acre property is home to trailers, safari tents, yurts and the most adorable tepees you ever have seen. We rented the battleship airstream, and it was love at first sight. Next door was a heavenly hammock grove and outdoor kitchen and dining area. The campground also boasts a not-to-be missed gift shop and lobby, complete with wifi and coffee. 

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In keeping with El Cosmico's mission that life should be a balance of adventure and do-nothingness, we enjoyed a relaxing evening in the hammock grove, before heading an hour north to the McDonald Observatory for our Star Party tour. The pictures just don't do this West Texas night sky justice (although Ethan Tweedie's photography comes pretty close). The sheer vastness and canopy of stars is remarkable and made for the perfect backdrop to our first night in Texas.

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McDonald Observatory   amphitheater |  Ethan Tweedie Photography

McDonald Observatory amphitheater | Ethan Tweedie Photography

Battleship #24

I was so excited the battleship was available for our night in Marfa. One of the largest and newest airstreams at El Cosmico, it was by far my favorite. Check out the inside and video tour below!

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360° Tour INSIDE + OUT

MARFA MAGIC

Founded in the late 19th century as a railroad stop, Marfa's sparse and minimalist downtown was a welcomed change of pace from DC. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Squeeze Marfa before walking around to some of the way cool local shops.

Good Eats

As we found with most things in Marfa, restaurants are small and open when they want to be, so you'll want to be sure to do a little pre-planning. With that said, we didn't have a bad meal. Below are some tried and true Marfa favorites.

Breakfast + Dinner + Late Night

Food Trucks

PRADA MARFA

If you didn't get a picture in front of Prada, did you even go to Marfa? This iconic art installation, with a nod to consumerism, is 30 minutes outside of Marfa in the middle of the West Texas desert. We took it all in before heading back to Marfa for toast (get the cinnamon sugar!) at Do Your Thing Coffee, and then on to the neighboring town of Marathon, Texas.

Marfa is absolutely unlike any place we had been before. It's eclectic charm and unapologetic landscape already have me wanting to go back. Until next time...


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A Peek Bloom Proposal

WE'RE ENGAGED!

The past seven years have been filled with countless memories, trips, new jobs, new cities, and a whole lot of love. I am so very thankful for this memorable moment and blessed to have such incredibly supportive family and friends who couldn't be more excited for Adam and I. Also a huge thank you to Suzanne Tylander for helping Adam secretly capturing this special moment.

THE PROPOSAL

If you live in the DC area, you know the cherry blossoms are a big deal—and it seems all of Washington hits pause and descends on the Tidal Basin to snap the perfect peek-bloom pic. We too have enjoyed this annual spring tradition since moving to DC in 2011.

Not unlike years past, Adam coaxed me out of bed early one Saturday to beat the rush of tourists. Little did I know he had been planning for months for the perfect proposal (which apparently is a tough task when the peak bloom dates change three times!). Wearing my late grandfather's jacket and his grandmother's ring in hand, Adam proposed under a canopy of cherry blossoms. Not only was it perfect and so us, but I was completely surprised and said, "of course!"

Adam's thoughtfulness and unconditional love continue to amaze me. Always up for one of my adventures, his lighthearted and generous spirit is the perfect compliment to mine—and I'm not sure there is anyone in the world that makes me laugh more than he does. I am so very blessed to share a life with Adam (and Jozy Kitty) and can't wait to continue this adventure together.

Impromptu Engagement Session

With the monuments and the cherry blossoms as your backdrop it's hard to take a bad picture. Also, Suzanne is a serious rock star with the camera. A handful of my favorites are below!

THE MOMENTS BETWEEN THE MILESTONES

If you know me, which clearly Adam does, you know there isn't much I love more, except maybe cats, than a good picture of Adam and I. I'm a huge proponent of capturing the moments between the milestones, and have so enjoyed planning our "non-engagement" family photos over the past few years. My most recent favorites include a very cold photo shoot in the middle of superstorm Jonas (maybe not one of my better ideas, but the pictures and photographer were awesome) and a campus session at mine and Adam's alma mater, where we met in 2007!

I'm so elated to have these engagement pictures to add to the collection and know we will so enjoy looking back on them for years to come. Below are some of my favorite Adam + Dani pictures through the years.