National Parks, Travel, USA

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park was the first national park on our road trip through the United States. It is situated in South Dakota and is easily accessible from the I90. We actually ended up driving through it along our road trip and spent most of an afternoon there. The park has hiking and camping options but most of it you are able to see from the road that runs through it. There are plenty of pullovers to stop for photos of this gorgeous scenery.

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Hiking in Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park has some impressive scenery. It is made up of a different layers of rock. These have eroded at different rates and this has led to the formation of all the canyons and spires. The park is also home to prairie dogs, big horn sheep and bison.

badlands national park



badlands national park badlands national park badlands national parkThere are a number of hiking options available in Badlands National Park. They range from easy hikes on paved boardwalks  to more strenuous hikes up rope ladders and along canyon walls. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend in the park so opted for the Notch Trail. It is a moderately strenuous hike that goes up a rope/log ladder before taking you to a spectacular view of the rest of the park. It is a 2.4km round trip, depending on where you parked your car. The footing is loose sand/rock in some areas and the rope ladder is a bit shaky, but overall it is not a difficult trail.

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America the Beautiful Pass

Badlands National Park was the first national park we had the pleasure of visiting in the USA. This is also where we bought our America the Beautiful Pass. The America the Beautiful pass is an absolute must if you plan on visiting more than 2 National Parks in the USA. It costs $80 and allows you entry into all the national parks in the USA. You can purchase the pass online (for a delivery and service fee) or from the entrance at any National Park. I would advise phoning ahead to make sure they have them in stock.

Have you visited any national parks in the USA? We have loved exploring 14 of them through our travels the past few months. One of our most memorable was visiting Yosemite National Park in California – undoubtedly one of America’s most popular parks!

chasingkm, National Parks, nature, travel, USA

Two days in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

With just a few weeks left in California before we start our road trip back east, we decided to squeeze in a quick trip to America’s most popular national park – Yosemite! We realize only a few days is not enough to explore Yosemite to its full potential. But, you can fill your days with enough to make you feel satisfied, tired, thrilled and awed by this grand valley!


Day 1

We left Tahoe at 4am and took a slow and scenic route through Mariposa and entered the park via Arch Rock entrance.  You are very soon in Yosemite valley and surrounded by granite cliffs, gorgeous meadows and waterfalls. We couldn’t help but stop right away to gawk at El Capitan – a massive granite cliff face that people have actually scaled – one guy with no ropes in 2015!!

el capitan, yosemite

Since we were staying in Housekeeping Camp in the valley, we went straight there to park the car and utilize the free shuttle. We took the shuttle to stop #7 (or E2 if you’re on the El Capitan shuttle that only runs in the summer months) and walked across the Swinging Bridge (to avoid taking the bus all the way around the valley to E7) to the start of the Four Mile Trail – our chosen hiking trail for the day.

hike, glacier point, yosemite

Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point

Despite this trails name, the one way distance to Glacier Point is in fact, 4.9miles (7,8km). Many people choose to take the shuttle up to the point and walk the trail back down. But, at 25$ per person for the bus this was not an option for us. We began the hike around 11am, not the most ideal time for a 17km hike. The trail begins with some steep switchbacks, straightens out and continues with quite a few more switchbacks. Most of the beginning of the trail is under tree cover which provide some welcome shade. The views become even more spectacular as you ascend. With the inviting Merced River, powerful Yosemite Falls and eventually Half Dome, you get to experience so much of the Yosemite valleys beauty in one hike. We took it slow, stopping for pictures, water breaks and snacks along the route. We arrived at the top of Glacier Point in just over 3 hours.

yosemite falls, tosemite yosemite valley

Our celebratory cool drink atop the peak was soon interrupted by a thunder storm rolling in so we started our descent pretty quickly just to get off the top of the mountain. By the time we got down to the valley again our knees and lower backs could feel each of those 17km! Thankfully, we could catch the El Capitan  shuttle back to E1 and then just walked the rest of the way back to Housekeeping Camp.

half dome, yosemite

Housekeeping Camp

After staying outside the park when we visited Yellowstone, and having to travel over 60kms each day into and out of the park we really wanted to stay inside the park this time. But – we had read and heard that bookings for campsites were rarely available. Bookings open up five months in advance and are fully booked during summer months often within the first few minutes of reservations opening up!! We really thought we had no chance seeing that our trip was such a last minute decision. Two days before our trip I was frantically searching for accommodation nearby, cheap enough and nice enough when I found myself on Yosemite’s website. I had just about given up hope and was checking every lodge and campsite within the park for our dates and was so surprised when housekeeping camp came up as available. I hadn’t even heard of Housekeeping Camp before!!

Turns out, housekeeping camp is a “campsite” that consists of three walled structures with a canvas roof and one canvas side. Each unit has a double bed, one set of bunk beds, a shelf and a mirror inside. Outside each unit is a little verandah area with a picnic table and a fire ring just outside out it. Exactly what we needed for just one night in the park (although I could have happily stayed there much longer). There are showers available at Housekeeping Camp. You get vouchers for these when you check in. (Keep them safe for the duration of your stay -they’re also valid for the hotel swimming pool!). Showing your shower pass gets you a free towel and the showers are supplied with shampoo and body wash!

Campfire Meals

After feeling clean and refreshed we were starving for dinner. We bought some charcoal for 10$ at the general store at the campsite and a lighter for 1$. We set a picnic blanket next to our fire pit and started a fire – of course we were going to braai for dinner! On went our pork steak and down went a couple of beers! Some roasted marshmallows were enjoyed and off to bed we went. After our 3:30am start, we were both so ready for sleep!

Quiet time is from 10pm and though the campsite was lively and full of families it was a super pleasant environment. We slept well, the beds were comfy and the bathrooms nearby. If we came back to Yosemite we would totally stay here again.

Day 2

We set our alarms for 8am and got some coffee from the general store. We were able to have breakfast and pack up at a leisurely pace before 9:30am to start our second day. Our second day included three smaller hikes around the valley. We planned to use the shuttle again on the second day and leave our car parked at Housekeeping Camp. From stop #12 the shuttle can often be pretty busy as it picks up all the visitors from the day parking area just before it. A few buses passed us by before we were finally able to catch one and head to our first hike of the day – Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake

A popular little hike only 3 miles (4,6km) round trip up to a lake. You can walk along a trail or along a paved road. The lake changes seasonally as it is all snow melt run off but is still a popular place to swim and hang out. We took off our shoes and waded through the water before going back. We hopped back on the bus only an hour or so after we started and headed to our next little “hike” for the day.

yosemite, mirror lake

Lower Yosemite Falls

At stop #6 you’ll find an entrance to this hike which makes an easy little loop trail. Only a mile long and all paved makes it a very accessible and highly popular trail. Stand on the bridge. Starie up at the lower part of the falls. Feel the spray of it in the breeze. AMAZING!! This is the 4th largest waterfall in the world and often stops running by mid summer to fall. This year however they expect it to run all year through as the snow melt has been so huge!

yosemite falls, yosemite

At this, we took the shuttle back to pick up our car. We headed off to our third and final trail of the day. This one was outside of the valley area toward an exit. It made sense to do it on our route out of the park.

Merced Grove

This one is another 3 miler – a quick drop down to a sequoia grove and a slower climb up. The information board suggests it takes 3 to 4 hours but I think that’s a large over estimation. We went down, gawked at the size of them and took a few pictures. We were back up at the car in an hour and 10 minutes. At the bottom there is a 1 mile loop to Twin Bridges if you want to extend your hike.

sequoia, yosemite

The trail starts on Big Oak Flat road at the B7 marker. There is a parking lot and a turn out space for a few more cars. There is a restroom at the start of the trail too! This was helpful as we were heading out the park from here and back to Tahoe.

Yosemite Fees

Yosemite entrance fees: $30 per non commercial vehicle

Interagency annual pass: $80 (this gets you into all national parks in the US for 12 months)

Housekeeping Camp: $98 per night (for up to four people)


Yosemite brings our total National Park tally to four in the USA so far.

Have you explored any and which has been your favourite? 

Fall, Korea, life in korea, National Parks, nature, seasons, South Korea, thelazyfisherman

Seoraksan National Park

Korea has an abundance of many things, mountains and National Parks are near the top of that list. What better place to show of your latest hiking gear in seasonal colors than hiking a mountain inside a national park? Or, if like us, you don’t have matching couples hiking gear and when you’re keen to head up a mountain you just wear whatever is handy and go. This often brings a few stares and questions like: are you going to be warm enough, cool enough and possibly some variations of are you seriously going up the mountain in that? Maybe they were just laughing at my skinny legs?

Seoraksan National Park

Seoraksan is one of the better known parks and boasts an impressive number of trails to suit all abilities as well as a cable car if you really just want some nice views and no effort. We have been to Seoraksan twice, once in Spring and once in Autumn. I feel like each time we went, we were visiting a different park. The park also obviously boasts a temple (can’t turn around in Korea without seeing one of these), the largest, (seated, bronze) Buddha in the world and some impressive grounds and statues before you even get to the actual hiking.


Seoraksan in the Fall

Our second visit to the park was during Autumn and the main reason was the see the foliage in all it’s splendor. We were not disappointed. This time around we chose a shorter hike up to a cave that housed a temple (of course) as well as a monk who lived up there! The hike started  off as a pleasant walk through the forest with lots of leaves to oooh and aaah at. Things get a bit more rough underfoot as the trail goes along a river, which was quite impressive, there had been a lot of rain and it was in full flow. The rushing water provided a great soundtrack to our hike. After this things got a bit more serious as we started to climb. The trail goes past Biseondae, a rock which has some Korean folklore attached to it. After this you head straight up to the cave housing the temple. The view from up here is breathtaking and on a quiet day the monk will even brew you a cup of tea.

Cable Car

This is very well managed and you can buy tickets ahead of time for a specific time that day. This means you don’t have to wait in line for ages. Once you reach the top there are a few look out points and another short trail that goes even further up. Take this trail. It’s worth it. The trail goes to the peak itself, which unlike most viewpoints in Korea has no railings or platforms. Most people just scramble up the steep mountain side to see how high they can get too take the most impressive photo. Unfortunately for us it had been a rainy weekend and there were lots of clouds about when we got to the top.

If you’re looking for a park to visit in Korea definitely add this one to your list. It is also very close to Sokcho which has nice beaches and is easily reached by public transport. When we visited in the Spring we took a bus from Busan to Sokcho (it was long and torturous). This time, however, we visited Seoraksan National Park on Day 2 of our trip with Enjoy Korea (on Day 1 we had visited The DMZ and the 4th infiltration tunnel).

We don’t often travel with tour groups, but for something this far and action packed, sometimes it’d just easier. How do you prefer to travel – group tours or on your own? 
Korea, life in korea, National Parks, nature, outdoors, seasons, South Korea, spring

Seoraksan in Spring

Hooray for public holidays and Buddha and his birthday… especially when you want to go somewhere far away in Korea and use public transport to get there! This day off in May was welcomed with open arms as it gave us the opportunity to make the seemingly endless bus trip from Busan to Sokcho on a Saturday morning. Giving us almost two full days in this seaside town.

Things started off a bit rocky though as we couldn’t book tickets for an overnight bus online while using the English website only to figure out too late that we needed to use the Korean site to make payments, by this time all the tickets were sold out. When we eventually got to Sokcho and wanted to check into our ‘confirmed’ guesthouse, only pay when you arrive no deposit needed, we were told our room had been given away as it was a long weekend and he had called our friend who made the booking and she hadn’t answered. We did eventually find a motel who agreed to house all 5 of us in single room with 4 beds. Was a bit squashed but manageable. (the owner/manager was also really friendly and gave us rice cakes)

Dinner that evening consisted of the famous, dakgangjeong (sweet and sour chicken). As for most famous things in Korea, this involved lining up in a queue at one of the many stores in the market, all selling the same style chicken! It was pretty damn good, though! This was followed by production line sandwich making for our hiking trip in the morning. We planned for an early start in the morning to head out to Seoraksan National Park (SNP).

The day started with a local bus to the park gates, we got there at about 7am. Surprisingly enough there were already lots of people!! We had scanned blogs, websites and brochures and decided on a hike up to Ulsanbawi rock for the morning. The 4km hike up takes roughly two hours to reach the peak. You can see a large amount of the park as well as all the way to the coast and the seaside town of Sokcho if it’s clear enough. This was quite a strenuous hike to the top and there were loads of stairs to climb up the rock face. The views at the top and the sense of achievement were well worth it though. This was also our first ‘real’ hike in Korea and we were very surprised at the amount of walkways, stairs and bathrooms along the way. As well as the beer/drinks/snacks for sale at the Buddhist temple halfway up and right at the top! Hiking in South Africa is very different.


After we made our way back down we needed some ice cream to recuperate and sort out the jelly legs!! Suitably refreshed we decided we hadn’t had enough for one day so we would attempt another hike, to Biryong Falls. A much less strenuous hike, but still scenic. It was quite an easy walk along a river running through the park and up to two waterfalls and back down again along the same route. Of course at the top we joined the rest of the hikers in taking off our shoes and socks and dipping our feet in the somewhat freezing pools. The scenery along the way was beautiful and I was constantly stopping to peer into the pools along the way to see how many fish I could spot.

After this we went and waited for our bus back to Sokcho and headed to the beach for a swim, the water was freezing though and we didn’t last very long even though the day had turned out quite warm. That evening we went for Shabu Shabu, which we felt we deserved after all the strenuous hiking. This was also our first introduction to SoMek (beer and soju mixed) which went down rather well.

Our bus back to Busan the next day was only in the afternoon so Kayley and I rented bicycles and rode around the Yeongnangho Lake for an hour or so. This is a naturally formed lake, with bicycle paths, walking bridges, sculptures, foot baths etc running just about all the way around the 7km perimeter. We were quite surprised to be stopped along the way by a Korean family who then handed us some juicy tomatoes to snack on. Since then we’ve experienced this kind of hospitality on countless occasions and find it to be a very endearing cultural trait!

The furtherest we had been away from “home” in Korea at this point. But what a great trip. WE have a little policy about not visiting a place more than once (only because there is just soooo much to see in this beautiful world) but we couldn’t get Seoraksan out of our heads, and had to try it again in the fall.

How do you feel about returning to places you’ve already been?