Category Archives: travel

Adventures / surf / travel

Vida Baja en VidaSoul

July 18, 2017

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

VidaSoul Hotel East Cape

It had been four months since our last Mexican beer together; four months too long. I traveled north and Kaitlyn traveled south to reunite on the East Cape of Baja in the middle of the desert and the Sea of Cortez. The adventure began in a cube shaped rental car and a drive at dusk down a lonely desert road that was fringed with cacti, the sporadic cluster of skinny cows, and the random landmarks that we were told to look for in order to find our way. The harsh landscape inspired a feeling of lawlessness. It was time for that first Mexican beer. It became apparent upon initial observation that only the determined can survive here, and there is something inherently beautiful about that.

As the arid mountains devoured the last light, we turned left at our final landmark and shortly thereafter we pulled into VidaSoul, a beacon of life in an otherwise seemingly deserted human oasis of private homes. We walked into the bar to find tequila happy guests dancing their last song and a group of determined cows quenching their own thirst in the pool. Our bedroom overlooked the swell saturated sea and gratefully satiated desert souls that depend on the fresh water pool. The cows returned everyday. VidaSoul is an architectural marvel and luxurious haven in what felt like the middle of nowhere. We dropped off our board bags in our room, and then we found our own tequila happiness.

Sleep came easy and fast in our king-sized Tempur-Pedic bed with soft white linens and the lullaby of the Sea of Cortez drawn out into the balmy night. The eager anticipation of waves woke us up before daybreak though. By the time we had finished our first cup of coffee, we had already made friends with a group of surfers from San Diego who were heading out for their last surf. We tagged along and found the wave that we would surf for the entirety of our time on the East Cape. One was even so kind as to let me use his brand new board since mine had sustained some damage during transportation. He helped me to repair it though in time for our sunset surf.

He became part of our tribe for the next three days since he was staying longer than his friends. We met and befriended an inspiring collection of gypsy souls, adventurers, professional campers, cross continental drifters, and free spirited surfers who found what we had soon discovered about life in the desert by the sea. It was like everyone was meant to be there in that exact moment in time. Everyone whom we met possessed the same positivity, minimalist philosophy, and citizen of the world vibe. We became part of something before we even knew that it existed.

Our timing was impeccable. The waves superseded our wildest expectations. We were surfing overhead to double overhead flowy rights that peeled from a coral reef that was teeming with parrotfish and sergeant majors to an inside reef covered in sea urchins. If you caught the right wave in the right place, the dance between you and the sea lasted for hundreds of meters. It didn’t always line up though, which spaced out the thin crowd even more and gave everyone the chance to catch ample waves. Everyone in the water seemed to share the ideology that the waves belonged to no one and everyone. This is how it is supposed to be.

We refueled and recounted our waves over fish tacos for lunch and the most exquisite veggie pasta and margaritas every night for dinner. Antonio and Juan took exceptional care of us from dawn until after dusk. Antonio had a sweet stoic face and the gentlest demeanor. He looked at us like we were his daughters. He reminded us of an old boat captain that we had had a few years ago on a surf trip to Ollie’s Point; determined and sage-like. Juan wore a permanent smile on his face and made sure that we had everything we needed. They were our desert guardians.

It became impossible not to wonder how such a place as VidaSoul came to be all the way out here. How was construction and operation even possible with nothing but sand roads and not even so much as a small food store anywhere nearby? There hadn’t even been any measurable rain in the last six years. Then we met Joan. Joan is the owner of VidaSoul and her son is the visionary architect. While we didn’t have enough time with her to get the complete detailed story, we found out that the initial days of VidaSoul were quite eerie and only possible through impressive determination.

 

It was the middle of August in 2004. I was working out here alone and it was 100 degrees at night, so I had to sleep outside in a hammock. In those years, we didn’t have any storage so the boxes of beer were outside and the burros would come and eat the cardboard. On that night, I cleaned up the kitchen and then went outside to relax in my hammock. It was so hot that I couldn’t sleep. I returned to the kitchen for a snack and realized that the freezer had defrosted and it had fish juice coming out of it. I had to clean it up, but afterward realized that I was covered in the stinky smell of fish. The offensive and potent smell was everywhere. There was no escaping it.

I returned to my hammock and now I couldn’t sleep because I was covered in fish juice. However, I eventually drifted off, but the sleep didn’t last long. I woke up to a very startling sound. I could hear beer bottle rattling and then I saw the burros running away. This was quite curious to me, so I got my flashlight and walked around my camper. I encountered an animal  that was as dark as night standing next to my generator. I shined the light on it, but it didn’t as much as move a hair.

I ran the light down its body and discovered that it had a long tail like a lion. It still never even flinched. I just stood there ten feet away trying to decide what one should do in this type of situation. I slowly backed away from the large cat. Eventually, it slowly sauntered off into the night, but as it did it would occasionally glance back and my light would catch its yellow demon-like eyes glaring back toward me. I finally returned to my hammock. Even though I reeked of fish and might seem like a tempting feast for the wild cat, it was just too hot to go inside of the camper. I then realized that the initial noise that woke me was actually the roaring cry of the cat. It was terrifying.

In the following years, I saw this same cat or a relative of this animal walking up my fence line and then jumping over into the neighbor’s yard on a prowl for a meal or just a drink of water. There was one that even came inside of the building that is now the restaurant before we were occupied and had any doors. The smell of fish must have been initially too inviting to resist, but I am still here to tell the tale.

 

We ended up having to seek refuge on the Pacific coast near Todos Santos from a two day wind storm. It was strange being back in civilization. We surfed a sketchy and sharky feeling point break that was far bigger than it appeared from the shore. The water was cold and a single local was out who told us that we picked a hell of a day to paddle out. We drank warm beers on the beach to warm up after a heart-pounding exit through a heavy and seething backwash shore break as the sun was setting. The call of the East Cape was too strong though and we returned as soon as the wind broke.

Our tribe had dispersed and it was just the two of us now. Our final days at VidaSoul were blissful and every moment, past and present, honored great gratitude. Our journey came to a close as were we driving for one final last surf check. We encountered a lone desert burro walking up the road. We got out of our car and he walked right up to us. His sweetness was the embodiment of this place. He seemed to have relished in the encounter as much as we did. We had our final words and loving contact, and then he turned and walked back into the desert as we turned and left the desert.

Huge Thanks to VidaSoul Hotel for having us

Bikinis & Shorts by  Salvaje Swimwear—use our promo code for 15% off OCEANANDOAKF&F

Writing by Jenn Parker

Photos by Kaitlyn Shea

Photo 10 by Deb Crowell

Photo 11 by Nathan Weldon

 

 

Adventures / travel

Maui and all it’s wonder

May 4, 2017

costa rica photographer

photographer costa rica

costa rica photographer

costa rica photographer

costa rica photographer

costa rica photographer

costa rica photographer

costa rica photographer

costa rica photographer

costa rica photographer

costa rica photographer

costa rica photographer

costa rica photographer

I have been to Maui many times and every time I go back, there is a certain sense of newness. The island itself is incredible with its fields of lava, crystal clear turquoise water, the monstrously huge crator, and hidden waterfalls seemingly everywhere. The feeling of Maui, its spirit, is just as beautiful as the landscape. My mom always says, “If you want to see life with clarity, Maui is the place that it will happen for you”.

We spend our days cruising around the island while stopping to admire each and every view. We take pictures and swims. We race to catch sunsets, laze around on the beach to catch rays, sample new types of poke, and carry around several bikinis in our bags at all times so that we always have a dry one to put on. Life on Maui is pretty simple, and we don’t resist it’s perfect simplicity.

Photos & writing by: Kaitlyn Shea

Clothing (in order of appearance): Wilfred, Eau Paix Vie, Billabong

Adventures / surf / travel

A week on Oahu with the Poke Squad.

December 1, 2015

ocean and oak hawaii

ocean and oak hawaii

ocean and oak hawaii

ocean and oak hawaii

ocean and oak hawaii

ocean and oak hawaii

ocean and oak hawaii

One of my great friends moved away from Costa Rica this past April. It was a little bit sad, as it meant I wouldn’t be able to see her and surf with her as frequently. The only saving grace that enabled me to see past the aspect of losing a very cherished local girlfriend was that she was moving to Hawaii, an island paradise with tropical weather and beautiful waves.

My recent visit to Oahu was the ideal version of a brief week long vacation. We surfed every morning, hiked most afternoons, and ate fresh poke and açai bowls in between. Niki lives in Honolulu, so we hungout and caught waves in the city for the first couple of days before heading up to the North Shore. Winter swells had not yet arrived so all of the waves were fairly playful and perfect everywhere we went. This being said we still managed to break two boards.

One morning we took a boat trip with Hawaii Shark Encounters to swim with Galapagos and sand sharks. It was so cool to observe these creatures in crystal clear water right off the coast. I had never seen sharks up close and personal, so it was a definitely a highlight for me that morning to watch them swim so gracefully.

After a week of surfing peeling reef breaks, swimming with sharks, and eating my favorite Hawaiian foods, I said seeya later to island life and gave Niki a huge seeya later hug. Mahalo Niki & Oahu for a dreamy week of island bliss!

Writing & Photos by: Kaitlyn Shea

 

Adventures / stay / travel

Unwinding in Ucluelet

October 21, 2015

 

Reef Point Cottages, Ucluelet

photographer in Tamarindo

photographer in Tamarindo

photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Reef Point Cottages, Ucluelet

Reef Point Cottages, Ucluelet

Photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

For the past year, Kaitlyn had been telling me about this magical island off the coast of British Columbia. She shared with me her past experiences of camping, exploring, and surfing the rugged northwest coast. She described a place of such beauty and mysticism. She planted the seed that took over both of our minds until we finally decided to meet there in the middle of September. What she would share with me, and ultimately, what we would share together was something special and for the books. After almost two months apart, Vancouver Island became the perfect meeting place.

Kaitlyn, Nugget, and I met in Vancouver after all crossing vast distances to get to each other. We caught the ferry to Vancouver Island early the next morning. This is when months of anticipation became a reality. The morning was cool and misty, and the air felt heavy with salt and sleepiness. The adventure had truly begun as we said goodbye to the mainland and hello to island life for the next eight days.

We drove northwest for three hours to the town of Ucluelet. The entire drive was picturesque. The road was winding and lonely. Ancient sky high pines induced vertigo and an optical illusion like a flip book. A deep yearning for running barefoot on the top of the moistened moss floor captured the imagination and the nostalgic voice of childhood. We drove with the windows down, and the pristine cool air swirled happily in our nostrils. We were lost in a peaceful trance as we found our way to Ucluelet.

We pulled up to Reef Point Cottages in the early foggy afternoon where we were greeted warmly by the receptionist and the icy blue eyed office cat. Our cottage was outfitted with a private hot tub on a wooden deck, a grill, a well stocked kitchen, and a big enveloping bed. There was even a little doggie set up for Nugget when we arrived: bones, doggy bags, and towels just for him. You know a place is amazing when it is this dog friendly. It is easy to imagine living in a place like this.

The next two days were filled with simple pleasures like long beach walks through thick dancing fog, exploring tidal rocks that were breathing with purple and orange starfish, black and brown mussels, and neon green sea anemones, and warming our souls with dirty chai lattes from Barkley Cafe. Since the wind was onshore and the sea was stormy those first two days, we spent a lot of time in the protective embrace of the rainforest. We hiked by way of mist soggy wooden plank paths into the heart and sacred wisdom of sage old, moss covered primary forest. There is something about being in the presence of such beautiful giants that aligns one’s prospective. The trees shared their breath with us, and the effect was cleansing and rejuvenating. We felt like the little girl versions of ourselves, and it was magical.

On the way back to our cottage, we stopped at Fishfull Thinking and bought fresh, island caught wild salmon. Kaitlyn prepared the fish using her father’s recipe of sriracha mayo, and capers, and put it on the grill. The taste was exquisite! The salmon was rich and melted in our mouths. As I am sitting here writing this now on the other side of the world, I am craving that taste. All salmon, and for that matter, all fish should be wild and hand caught. The island struggles to keep out farm fisheries, which are highly destructive to the environment and native fish populations.

Between the hours spent walking the beaches and forests of Ucluelet, eating the freshest seafood, and relaxing at the end of the day in the hot tub, we slept deeply and woke both mornings feeling on top of the world. This place has a kind of special power. We were sad to leave Reef Point, but totally revived and ready to continue our adventure. We packed up the car, gave the left over salmon (washed off, of course) to one of the Reef Point kitties that visited us the night before, and headed off with the windows down and the music up to Tofino.

Song of the trip: Lose Your Mind by So many Wizards.

Thank you so very much for having us at your adorable cottages Reef Point Cottages!

Photos by: Kaitlyn Shea

Writing and Photo #9 by: Jenn Parker

stay / travel

Peace, Love, and the Harmony Hotel

Harmony hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

Harmony hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

DSC_1601

Harmony Hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

Harmony hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

A quick, mid-week escape leads us to the Harmony Hotel in Nosara, Costa Rica. The road south is winding, dirt, and canopied by green giants. There is a Zen-filled breeze rolling off of the sea, as we pull into the driveway of the hotel, after two hours on the move. The next twenty-four hours are heavenly. The Harmony Hotel instantly feels like the sanctuary one craves to find in the midst of everyday life. This is exactly where we belong in this moment.

The hotel is complete with perfectly landscaped grounds, a juice bar, a restaurant with delicious and locally sourced Costa Rican fusion fare, a healing center, a yoga ashram, a deep dipping pool, a small bookstore bursting with books chosen by an impressive literate with a great taste in authors, and also stocked with artsy and surf-related necessities, and a private beach path that leads out onto the expansive and wave-riddled Playa Guiones. There is almost no reason to leave the premises, other than to go to the beach.

The Harmony Hotel is environmentally conscious, and actively participates in the conservation of the area. They grow quite a bit of their own produce on the hotel’s farm, locally source the seafood and poultry, make their own juices for cocktails, and even use bamboo straws instead of plastic ones. We feel like one with Mother Earth here, and that she appreciates the efforts that are being made to protect her. We breathe in the peace we feel at this retreat, and decide to take a very long stroll on the beach before the sun goes down to rest. We happily walk for over two hours.

In the mezzo of the rainy season, the most spectacular storm hits the moment we sit down at the bar for a tropical sangria after we had watched the sunset from the beach. The black clouds rolling in from the east met the vibrant pink clouds of the setting sun from the west, and a burst of cool air foreshadowed the monsoon. The Earth drinks in the rain all night long and lets our roars of thunder and electric light, as we enjoy a decadent dinner and each other’s company. The soundest sleep follows in our king-sized bed in our bungalow, as the rain continues to play music on our rooftop until right before dawn breaks.

We wake up at first light, and take a cup of coffee down to the beach to watch the sun light up the world. The air is cool and smells of new life, as the last raindrops drip from the tips of leaves. We spend the rest of the morning walking the beach, looking for sea glass and shells, and taking sporadic dips in the lively salty sea. This is the way all mornings should begin.

This beach and our bungalow feel like home almost immediately. It is hard to leave. We fill up on an exquisite breakfast of pouched eggs, homemade whole grain toast, kale, heirloom tomatoes, and avocado, and set out on our next adventure, while looking forward to the day we can return to the Harmony Hotel, for a longer stay.

Big thanks to the Harmony Hotel for having us!

Written by: Jenn Parker

Photos by: Kaitlyn Shea