Back in June we set out for a six day family trip to Sedona, Arizona. We really wanted an outdoorsy, adventurous type of trip for our first long-distance family vacation and since the biggest chunk of time we get with Landon is during the summer, we opted to head west. Now, the desert in June can be questionnable, but we were totally up for it. That week however was the week of record breaking highs…just our luck! Though dry heat is different from the humidity we’re used to home in the South…113+ is just plain hot…there’s no getting around it. It didn’t stop us from doing everything we wanted to do though, and we had an amazing time – 19 weeks pregnant and all!
We flew into Phoenix and drove to our Airbnb in Sedona. It was centrally located to downtown Sedona and just a short 5 minute walk to Oak Creek which we LOVED. The first morning, we set out for the grocery store and then checked out Oak Creek. We knew that would be such a gem of a spot and we ended up spending a lot of time there…even getting take out from Wildflour one evening and eating beside the creek.
The rest of our time was spent hiking, off roading, hiking lots more, and we took a day trip to the Grand Canyon. Did you know that only 5% of people ever go below the canyon rim? We went on the 1 mile down and back hike to Ooh Aah Point and it. was. intense. I quickly realized that the statistic I’d seen needed to be rephrased…95% of people are smart enough to not hike below the canyon rim. Don’t get me wrong, it was such a wild experience…getting passed by caravans of pack mules a few times, seeing the canyon from a totally different perspective, and getting such an expansive view both east and west at Ooh Aah Point. But hiking below the rim with a clumbsy 10-year-old is absolutely terrifying. The trails are well maintained but they are far more narrow than I ever expected. Of course the hike itself is strenuous as well (as they like to say, “It’s optional to go down, but not to come back up,” and in the extreme heat Arizona was experiencing it was definitely an added challenge. But knowing something as simple as a stumble could send you over the edge of the canyon and gone forever had me terrified of having Landon with us nearly the entire time…ha! So much for enjoying it! And, mad props to my awesome husband for hiking down and back with that backpack full of water, a camera & tripod, and our lunch.
Aside from the sheer panic of that hike in particular though, our trip in its entirety was awesome. My parents had taken my brother and I on a roadtrip out west when we were kids so I had vague memories of the area, but experiencing it as an adult with my own family was so much fun. Below are photos from our various adventures, as well as a big mix of random iPhone photos at the bottom. And, of course I’ve included some of our favorite places and hikes from our trip…
Hideaway House: Probably our favorite dinner! Great views, and we all LOVED our meals. Dustin got a sub/sandwich type thing, I got a big salad, and Landon got a personal pizza
Oak Creek Canyon: Anywhere you can access the creek and get in for a dip, sit and enjoy the sounds, or just see it is beautiful!
Slide Rock State Park & Grasshopper Point: Two super popular attractions but definitely some of our favorite moments! There’s cliff jumping at both!
The Grand Canyon South Rim: We parked near the visitors center and went to Mather Point first, then we hopped on the orange line to Yaki Point where we hiked the trail down to Ooh Ahh Point, then we drove our car the 20 or so miles to Desert View to climb the watch tower. From there, we took Highway 89 toward Cameron to head back to Sedona
My Gal Sal’s: We stopped here on our way into Phoenix to get an early lunch before we got to the airport. It was one of our favorite meals! So, so good!
Earlier this summer, Dustin and I took a fun weekend couples trip to the famed city of Nashville, Tennessee. It was one of those places we’d all been wanting to get to at some point, so we plane-d, train-ed, and automobiled it (minus the train, two couples drove and one couple flew, but it sounded good haha) and convened at a modern little Airbnb in East Nashville for a long weekend.
I of course brought my film camera along to some of our daytime outings, but a lot of the time we relied on our handy dandy cell phones so that we could really be in the moment and enjoy ourselves. We did have a few plans but otherwise basically just winged it, and pretty much ate and drank our way through as much of the city as we could.
A few of our favorite spots were…
The Grand Ole Opry: We came a bit early and walked around the Gaylord, which was pretty epic, had dinner at a sports bar in the hotel (not thrilled with the service but the food was fine), and then enjoyed a showing of the Grand Ole Opry. It was super fun and although we were ready to head out by the end, we all agreed we were so glad we did it and checked it off our bucket list. Also make a mental note: parking is insane at the Opry.
The Slider House: We stumbled across this fun little bar and sandwich restaurant after visiting the Parthenon and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch here. It was maybe my favorite spot of the whole trip. Later that night we tried checking out some of the bars along Broadway, but it was way too crowded and overwhelming for us so we hopped in a cab and spent the rest of the night hanging out and listening to live music back at the Slider House. It was way more chill, less crowded, and really fun. And now after writing this, I’m craving a plate of sliders and sweet potato fries ha!
The Pharmacy: We tried to eat here the first night but the wait is always insane, so we came back on the last night ready to have a few drinks and wait. Turns out our wait for a table was shorter than they expected it to be, but service was still a little slow so we were here for a while. We ate on the back patio and really enjoyed the set up of their seating/lighting out there. We all had burgers and a few of us had floats, and overall it was really good! Definitely a lot of food.
Tenn Sixteen Food & Drink Co.: This is where we landed the first night after the Pharmacy didn’t pan out and we really liked it. I had chicken and waffles that was amazing. Since it was the first place we went it didn’t go down as super memorable (as we continued to eat and drink at a LOT of different places), but every time I think about that chicken and waffles dish I get a mean craving to go back here. Definitely good!
Hatch Show Print: I think letterpress is super fascinating and such a neat art form so this was really neat, but when they tell you you get a “free print” to take home, we didn’t know it’d be some super generic small print haha. Maybe we were just being greedy but it was still really interesting to see the print process and learn more about how long Hatch Show Print has been around and how they are such a big part of Nashville’s entertainment and music industry
We really enjoyed checking out the Parthenon, but it was incredibly hot so we didn’t stay too long, and there wasn’t a whole lot to it that deemed staying for long anyways. I’d pass on the hot chicken haha. Dustin and I hate spicy food so we didn’t even try it but the others who did said it was basically like eating gasoline. A month after our trip there was a hilarious article in Southern Living talking about it that perfectly summed up everyones reactions.
We really loved our Airbnb…it had a rooftop deck that was awesome for hanging out in the evenings and having a few beers. Uber was our jam for getting around almost everywhere. We only had one Uber driver we didn’t love but everyone else was awesome, and we used it almost twice a day for all 6 of us. One couple visited the Jack Daniels Distillery tour the day the rest of us were traveling in and they loved it and would definitely recommend making the drive out to tour. And one friend loved the Dreamsicle mason jar cocktail at The Stillery downtown.
While it was a quick trip, we had an awesome time and felt like we experienced a fair amount of the parts of Nashville…especially a lot of the food. We ate SO. MUCH. haha. I think if we were to go back we’d want to explore a bit more of the surrounding areas, maybe some hikes/lakes but overall we made some great memories and were glad for some time away with some of our favorite people!
Over the last year I’ve really challenged myself to stop and photograph the things around me that I find beautiful. I think when you become so focused on your business and your clients, its so easy to lose the pure pleasure in photographing everyday life or things you appreciate. Something I just LOVE about the South is the old fashioned painted signage. So one day I decided I was going to start documenting on film any and all old fashioned painted signs I stumbled across. This first batch of images are from lots of small towns not far from me, and I just love the feel that film lends.
Back in November, Dustin and I headed out west for a week of exploring Yosemite and the California coast. You can read much more and see my digital images here and here. I carted along my 35mm film camera just for fun, and was so excited to receive my scans in December. It really is so fun getting film back and remembering all over again what you shot. It’s a great surprise and as always, these images have some extra special meaning to me because I know the time and thought that went into pressing the shutter for each frame.
I’m back to share the second half (part one here) of images from our trip to California last week. After a fun few days in San Francisco, Sonoma, and Yosemite, we headed east to Monterey. First off the drive back to the coast was beautiful in and of itself. We drove through some of the coolest, giant rolling hills that made our jaws drop. Once we got close to Monterey, we drove in we passed some neat dunes that met the Monterey Bay, and then explored a bit around Cannary Street and had an early lunch. The rest of the day we spent hiking just south of Carmel before finding our hotel for the night and getting ready to actually hit the Pacific Coast Highway the next day.
That day driving from Monterey/Carmel to San Simeon was definitely one of our most favorites. The Pacific Coast Highway is insanely beautiful and scenic but just as scary and curvy as everyone says. I’m not a fan of heights so being thousands of feet above the Pacific Ocean on the side of a mountain really had me squirming at times. But there was just no denying how absolutely beautiful and awe-worthy every turn was. We were so grateful to have the most perfect weather, too, nearly the entire trip. That day was no exception, as you’ll often hear about the fog that can diminish the views. Fortunately we had nothing but sunshine and windows down temps! There are so many pull-off’s and vista points and we definitely stopped at our fair share.
After landing in the little town of San Simeon that evening (we passed on touring the Heart Castle, by the way, which is the most popular attraction in San Simeon), we spent our second to last day going from San Simeon to Thousand Oaks, Ca, and finally spent our last full day enjoying Malibu and Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles. Again, I’ve included some of our favorite spots and stops at the bottom of the post.
I know we will cherish these images for so long…it was pretty new for us to plan such an un-planned and flexible vacation, but I know we’ll look back at these images a few years down the road and remember how amazing it felt to be so carefree and adventurous (well adventurous for us haha!). Sometime in December I’ll share the film photos that I shot as well 🙂 And again, these are a mix of DSLR and iPhone photos.
Hard to tell but those little rock islands out there are covered entirely with sea lions! They were so loud…we could hear them as we hiked toward them from the other side of the mountain.
One of my favorite things is how much Dustin really wants to learn to use my camera on manual. I thought it was so cute how focused he was trying to take this that I had to take a picture of him taking it haha.
This was at the stop before Bixby Bridge…which was less exciting than I thought it would be, but still pretty remarkable to see a bridge up that high. Clearly he does not have the same fear of heights I do so he really enjoyed freaking me out as he’d stroll right up to the edge and look over. This giant rock/island thing looks tiny here but it was enormous in person. There’s several buildings and a lighthouse on it. It was insane to see this giant formation out there in the middle of all that pasture.
The berries on the left are from the Thousand Oaks farmers market (we bought raspberries and blackberries and they were so good!) and the drinks on the right are from lunch at Lucia Lodge.
We got to San Simeon about an hour before sunset, so we checked into our hotel and since there’s literally nothing to do there, we bought a bottle of wine and drove across the street to watch the sun set on the beach and drink our wine from our paper Quality Inn cups. Keeping it classy here, obviously.
This panorama is from a beach just north of San Simeon…one of the few places we were actually able to get to the actual beach. Pretty impossible to see in such a small photo, but on the right there are a dozen or so surfers down there in the ocean. From the top of Point Dume…
– Actually not a favorite but definitely worth noting, the 17 Mile Drive was was we felt the biggest waste of $10. Driving this part of Monterey takes you through the Pebble Beach area, home to “mansions” and “amazing views.” Well I’m sure there are plenty of mansions in the community but you can’t see any of them because these people have the biggest and most hardcore gates around their properties that we had ever seen lol. Don’t get me wrong, the gates are beautiful and very expensive I’m sure haha! But we were hoping to see huge houses and the amazing views they have. We ended up joking and calling it the 7 mile drive because it was probably one for the first few miles that we were excited and then it wore off as we kept hoping the next turn would have something better in store…but it only got less interesting. We stopped for pictures along the rocks and crashing ocean at the very start of the drive but the houses in this part are all smaller and older; nothing you can’t see elsewhere really. So we would not recommend taking the time to do this.
– Point Lobos State Natural Reserve: Just a few miles south of Carmel and such a fun place to hike. We saw a family of deer on the cliffs, lots of sea otters playing in the ocean, and hiked all the way around to a bigger area where an island full of sea lions were laid up and making all sorts of crazy sounds. One of our favorite and most fun hikes.
– Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park: We stopped here to hike the waterfall trail. The waterfall was smaller than we anticipated but still really beautiful. We also ended up hiking the valley view trail. Neither was exactly easy or one we thought we’d want to bring kids on (although we saw a few families and each time said they were stronger than us haha) but it was great exercise and the views at the top of the valley trail were so peaceful.
– Lucia Lodge Restaurant: The. Views. End of story. There aren’t many options for places to eat once you pass through Big Sur…which we didn’t know, as we happily cruised past those restaurants around 11-12ish. Quickling realizing we would be hungry soon but now understanding that we weren’t exactly in an area suitable for restaurants, we thought we were out of luck for a few hours, until we came to Lucia Lodge. So we basically stopped out of necessity but it ended up being one of the most relaxing places we ate. I felt like we were in the Caribbean. The view was just stunning. It helped we had perfect weather that day…sunny and just warm enough but with a great breeze. We ate on the deck overlooking the ocean and although two burgers, a beer, and a glass of wine at this place isn’t cheap, it was definitely one of my favorite spots. And really anywhere that has sweet potato fries is great in my book. Dustin referred to it as “the place with the $4 burger and $12 view” haha.
– McWay Falls: A quick stop to view a waterfall on the beach? Yes please. This is part of the Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park and the story about Julia and the house that once sat on the cliffs is pretty awesome. This was probably one of the most scenic spots. The water was unbelievably blue…amazing different shades of blue. And seeing a waterfall plunge to the beach is so neat.
– Piedras Blancas Elephant Seals: Another great highlight was watching these giant elephant seals spar with each other and then relax on the beach. There are a few different places to view the seals pretty close and fortunately we were at the less crowded end, but where there was also a FES volunteer who told us all about the elephant seals habits and lives. We watched them for probably 30 minutes…and laughed while they flopped all over one another, picked fights with random seals, used their little fingers to scratch themselves while they basked in the sun, and flipped dirt up on themselves. They also make the goofiest sounds.
– Sandy’s Deli & Bakery in Cambria: A quick stop for a smoothie, bagel, and cinnamon roll was perfect. Kind people and the cutest little historic, artsy town.
– Montana de Oro State Park: We stopped here in the morning on our drive through Morro Bay and it was rainy and chilly but we still wanted to explore as much as we can without getting soaked. We drove around and found a beach area where Dustin discovered a little cave he was so excited over. Then we followed some surfers as they hiked over these massive dunes and came upon one of the most surreal views. We stood at the top of an ENORMOUS dune and looked down at the ocean while about a dozen surfers caught waves in the ocean below. It was one of the most impossible things to describe because the dune was so gigantic and sat so high above the ocean.
– Point Dume Natural Preserve: Another one of the most gorgeous views. We hiked both down to the beach and up to the top of Point Dume. Then we even walked back around and hiked down to this (off limits, but others were doing it too!) giant rock over the ocean. Malibu is absolutely gorgeous.
– The Sunset Restaurant in Malibu: This is where we had lunch Friday and it was again one of my favorite places we ate. You sit and look right out at the ocean, and it was warm, and sunny, and the food was so good. I had the BBQ, coleslaw, and sweet potato fries. You just can’t lose when it comes to sweet potato fries.
– Fishbar in Manhattan Beach: We ate here on our last night and for being such a busy, eclectic spot the service was fast and good, and the food and drinks were great.
Dustin and I just returned from an amazing week on the West Coast. Rather than a full blown honyemoon after we were married 2 years ago, we went for just a long weekend at my parents condo in Cocoa Beach, Florida…a “minimoon” as we called it. Because our priority for the last few years has been our house renovation, we decided to slowly save up and plan a trip in a few years. After tossing around tons and tons of ideas and locations this year, we decided to head to California and drive the Pacific Coast Highway. Because we had a whole week to explore, we also spent time in Sonoma and drove east to Yosemite National Park before hitting the coast.
We had such a great trip and it was amazing spending so much quality time together seeing amazing new places we’d never seen. There is literally nothing better than exploring new places with your best friend. I decided to split our vacation pictures up into two posts, so these images below are from the day we arrived in San Francisco, the following day in Sonoma, and our time at Yosemite. These pictures are mostly from my DSLR but a few mixed in are from my iPhone. I also shot a few rolls of film but I won’t be able to share those images for a few weeks. For those who love to travel, I listed out our favorite stops at the bottom of the post. Check back Friday for the coastal part of our trip!
Can you see us in the picture on the right? We are so tiny in front of that gigantic Sequoia!
– Marin Headlands: This was our favorite spot to see the Golden Gate from. We were there at sunset and it was super crowded and really hard to find a parking spot (and cops were giving tickets to those parked illegally), but after driving pretty far up the hill we found a spot on the way down. The weather in San Francisco was perfect that day and we loved seeing the bridge soaked in the golden evening light. If we’d had more time, it would have been nice to have parked in a less crowded area and been able to hike some of the trails rather than being clumped all in with everyone else on the road.
– Sonoma Cheese Factory: We visited the cheese factory on Saturday morning before heading out to the wineries. We got some yummy cheese, crackers, and pickles and enjoyed them in the park right across the street. It was so good that we came back after wine tasting to get sandwiches and eat lunch in the park before heading to Yosemite. Sonoma was easily one of our favorite places…so quaint, charming, kind people, great shopping, and SO beautiful!
– Benziger Family Winery & Imagery Estate Winery: We did the biodynamic tram tour and tasting at Benziger and it was perfect! We learned so much about the process of wine making and how Benziger does things very differently…with a biodynamic approach. After the tour we got to taste 5 wines, and then got a complimentary tasting at their sister vineyard Imagery. The atmosphere was great for wine rookies like us haha…it was super comfortable and relaxed, and both vineyards were beautiful.
– The Giant Sequoia’s at Yosemite: We probably hiked 5-6 miles that day in the most beautiful weather, in total peace, only seeing a handful of people because we opted to take the longer more involved trails. The trees were mindblowingly big and so beautiful! This part of the park is pretty out of the way but so worth it.
– Bett’s Gold Coin Tavern: We stayed in Mariposa, about an hour outside of Yosemite. Both nights we were there we ate at Bett’s and it was wonderful. The food was great but the atmosphere and company was even better. Mariposa is a small little mountain town so this sports bar was filled with locals and the most personable bar staff. We were lucky there were football games on both nights, and the second night (Monday) they also had a raffle for prizes during the game. It was so fun and one of the highlights of our time in Yosemite.
And a big shout out to my mom. It’s not easy to leave home for an entire week when you have 2 dogs, 4 horses, and 5 chickens that need to be taken care of. My mom came from Maryland and stayed the whole week to take care of everyone and we are SO appreciative. We had a great time exchanging pictures all week, but I have to say this was my favorite. It made me wonder where on earth she was sleeping since this clearly was now the dog bed?
I’m a South Carolina and Georgia wedding and portrait photographer. I’m also a wife, bonus mom, animal lover, and passionate about creating real, timeless, and romantic images that tell a story and are full of life. I’m inspired by light, love, the outdoors, and adventures with my family