25 Things I've Learned at 25 (plus where we celebrated, what we did, and what we ate)
Yup, I turned 25! If you're following us on social media, you probably saw some pictures from our Mammoth/ Yosemite trip last month to celebrate. We've been so busy since we got back that I've barely had time to sort through pictures, let alone get together a post or even absorb the fact that somehow another year has gone by already. I'm almost 30! Okay, maybe not almost but it feels like that. 25 is definitely the first birthday that made me feel like I was aging - I'm midway through my twenties? When the hell did that happen? But it was a really great trip and we had a ton of fun and ate way too much good food. And now that I've got time to reflect, I thought I'd share a few things I've learned and hope to learn, and some of the photos and stories from our trip. Let's just dive right in!
We hopped in the car with Maddie early Sunday morning and made our way up to Lake Mary Campground. We sent up camp the first night, hiked around a bit with Maddie to stretch out our legs, and had a DELICIOUS dinner our first night of Beyond Meat meatballs in ariabatta sauce over pasta with a healthy sprinkling of nutritional yeast. My birthday wasn't until the 1st (Tuesday), so we headed to bed early so we could get up and hike the next morning.
On day two, we hiked and ate and hiked and ate and hiked...and ate! Seriously, it was a great day full of exercise, experimenting with fun camp meals in the JetBoil, hanging with the dog, bonding with my guy + spying some of the best views Mammoth Lakes has to offer. We cooked up a few dehydrated meals we had picked up at REI + were not disappointed. I particularly liked the Moroccan Bazaar meal from Made in Nature!
Day three was finally my 25th BIRTHDAY! I woke up to a chilly morning and a sweet snuggle from Alex + Madds. We layered up and hopped in the car first thing to drive into downtown Mammoth Lakes for a visit to our favorite, extremely-vegan-friendly café, Stellar Brew. As you can see in the picture below, we've made quite a few trips down to Stellar Brew over our visits (sometimes you just want food not cooked over a campfire, ya know?) and they some incredible food. Some of our favorites on the menu are the Golden Nectar smoothie (top left), the Ginger Tempeh sandwich with Lemon Tahini spread (top right), and the vegan breakfast burrito stuffed with tempeh & roasted veggies like kale and sweet potato in spinach wrap (bottom left). They also regularly sell vegan + GF baked goods and have CSA in the store. Its a really rad little place and totally captures the feeling of being in Mammoth; totally relaxed and friendly, but also really really good at what they do.
On the day we were driving up it was early and we had been packing late so I was totally scatter-brained when we were leaving. Alex had bought me cupcakes to eat on (or before, whatever) my birthday, but I left them on top of the car and we drove away and didn't notice until about an hour later. So yeah. Graceful, I know. Luckily I called Stellar Brew on our drive up and after explaining what happened, they offered to prepare a dozen vegan, GF chocolate cupcakes for me + Alex to eat and celebrate with. Which was amazing not only because it was SUPER short notice, but also because they definitely didn't overcharge us and they were quite delicious cupcakes. It really made my whole birthday feel like a birthday, so a HUGE thank you to them for saving the day! You can check out the cupcakes and my thankful/ excited-to-pig-out-face below.
After that, we drove up to Yosemite National Park, about an hour drive, and spent the day exploring streams, beaches, lakes, forests, meadows, the almost completely diminished Bridal Veil Falls, the bridges carved into the mountains over Yosemite Valley, the world famous Ahwahnee Hotel, and the the views to over Half Dome. We also saw a baby bear our exploring in the wild! We didn't see his mama, so we kept moving, but we did get a quick picture of the little guy!
After spending most of the day driving and hanging our in Yosemite we headed back to camp to snack on a cupcake and change into some warmer layers for an evening hike. It was my birthday and I wanted to soak up every bit of the day as possible! And Alex + Maddie were very obliging. We took the short hike up to McCleod Lake, which is mayyyybe my favorite place in California, and walked around the lake, letting Maddie play and snapping photos. It was a really fantastic way to finish up my birthday. The sun was setting just as we hiked back so were watching for emerging bears on the hike back but didn't see any activity besides ourselves. We had a really great dinner of rice, beans, and veggies prepared in the JetBoil with a side of Food Should Taste Good's blue corn tortilla chips. More cupcakes for dessert!
On our last morning we woke up early, packed up camp, and started the 5 hour drive back down the 395 for home. We stopped at a really great little juice shop in Bishop called Eastside Juice for acai bowls with lots of fruit + chia seeds. They were SO GOOD and the whole place was just such a great find. They had plenty of raw, vegan + GF homemade or locally-made snacks for sale and a bunch od cute t-shirts featuring slogans related to completing the challenging 220 mile John Muir Trail that ends after summiting nearby Mt. Whitney. Alex and I are hoping to do the JMT next year and would LOVE to stop here for our first real meal back! After hearing it was my birthday the day before, they even generously gifted us a piece of REALLY good raw cheesecake for the road. It was the perfect end to a great birthday weekend! So what have I learned now that I'm 25 and wiser than ever? You'll just have to keep scrolling for that!
Okay, I've given a bit of thought 'cause 25 feels like a big year for me. I got a COOKBOOK DEAL this year! Its exciting. Here are 25 things I've learned after 25 years of fumbling through life:
1. You really are in charge of your destiny. Work your ass off for what you want.
2. Never count on or hope for handouts - you and your work ethic are better off without them.
3. But don't be afraid to take help when you need it. And ask before you get to the breakdown-and-cry-from-stress stage, because you'll be way less embarrassed asking for help when you don't have mascara streaming down your cheeks.
4. Crying isn't a weakness, but respect yourself enough to know when it is a waste of time.
5. Everyone in your life that sucks is optional.
6. Don't be afraid to say NO. Also, don't be afraid to say YES. Whatever the answer is, it needs to be right for YOU.
7. Happiness is the ultimate goal. But to borrow a line from Christopher McCandless, 'Happiness only real when shared' - so don't be afraid to be happy with someone, too.
8. Try anything you want, you're the only one that cares if you fail or look stupid doing it.
9. Don't do things to impress other people, its a really great way to start hating who you've become.
10. Love your body and learn to appreciate each part of it. We all hate our thighs sometimes, so why stress about it? Confidence will affect your appearance more than changing the way it looks.
11. Treat other people the way you want to be treated, even if they don't always deserve it.
12. Be a good role model for kids and be nice to animals. That's just common sense.
13. Your body, your diet, your happiness: don't worry about other people judging what you eat. Having a good relationship with food can be hard, but really all that matters is how it makes YOU feel.
14. Fuck that boy in high school who slept with your frenemy. The second you leave high school and start to exist in the real world, you realize that you can choose to be around way better people than that and that real relationships should never involve being treated so disrespectfully.
15. Work your ass off in real life so you can go to your high school reunion and just be a straight up badass.
16. If you travel, do what the locals do. You'll have a way better experience not being a tourist.
17. Eat good food, and always try new food. Let other peoples recipes inspire you to create dishes you'll LOVE eating.
18. When you find someone who gets you - like just really gets you- let them know. And then spend as much time with them as you can.
19. People always say they wish they'd started saving younger. I'm 25 now and barely have a savings. I wish I'd started younger, too. SAVE!
20. But also spend money on travel. Life experience in priceless and will make you a better person.
21. Respect other people cultures, views, opinions, and rights. No one deserves any less.
22. Stop giving a fuck about things that don't matter. Let the small stuff slide and don't do anything you don't wanna do.
23. Someday you'll realize your parents aren't perfect, and they're just sometimes crappy human beings like the rest of us. Don't fault them for that.
24. Maintain relationships you appreciate, and don't bother with the ones that feel like work. True friends are hard to come by and well worth investing in.
25. Just do you. Be who you want to be, love who you want to love, and make yourself as ridiculously happy as you can, 'cause thats really all there is.
That's all the wisdom I've got. At least until 26. Thanks for recapping my birthday with me! If you're over 25- you probably know all this stuff already. If you're NOT, trust me. Alright, I've gotta get back in the kitchen. I have a cookbook to work on!
Last weekend Alex and I had the pleasure of taking our first trip together up Mammoth Lakes. About 5 hours north of us, Alex has been fishing and camping at Lake Mary and the other Mammoth Lakes since he was a little one, but this was my very first time visiting. I grew up in Maine, so my draw to the wilderness is strong, and I love camping. We picked up a new tent, packed up our headlamps, chess board, blankets + pillows headed up the 395. We only stopped twice- both times for bathroom breaks- on the way up, but as soon as we started climbing elevation, I started getting antsy. As soon as we hit the cozy little town of Mammoth at the relative 'base' of the mountain (we were already like 8,000 ft up), we were ready to get out and explore. The picture above is the very first lookout we found to pull off at once we started up the mountain. The view is of Twin Lakes, with a waterfall in the very far distance. I have awful vision, and I was convinced there was no waterfall there. I was wrong. And it was gorgeous! After our little pit stop, we made our way up to the Lake Mary Campground to find our site and get set up for the evening. (NOTE: This post is a little picture heavy. Oh well!)
We were lucky because this early in the season, there was only one other group of campers nearby and the bugs were nearly non-existent. Plus, Maddie got to come with! While dogs do need to be leashed at all times in the campground and in most places on the mountain, she was able to hang with us and come hiking, which made us all happy. Definitely worth bringing your pup! Our first night was lovely. We explored, set up our simple camp, and started on dinner. For our first night, we enjoyed some grilled vegan hot dogs from Field Roast on buns with mustard, roasted onions, and a side of potato chips. Maddie wasn't much interested in her own food that evening (lots of new sounds and smells), but she was definitely interested in ours!
The ground was hard and we didn't sleep great, but we were so stoked to get up and get hiking that we really didn't care. We each grabbed a banana and packed a sandwich and granola bar for the morning, then headed out. Our first stop was a short, easy hike to McLeod Lake, which may be the most gorgeous place I've ever seen in real life. There was still a bit of snow peppered around the lake in patches, but with the sun out and the elevation making our breathing a little shallower than usual, we were plenty warm. The water was crystal clear and the rocky backdrop was gorgeous, reflecting into the water and making the whole place seem endless. Maddie had way too much fun traipsing through the snow and catching snow balls, and it was the perfect place to start the morning. Plenty of bear tracks, but the only other animals we saw were a cute puppy and his owner at the other side of the lake.
After plenty of photo-ops with a very patient pitbull, we hiked around various trails, taking plenty of time to explore little rock formations and tiny caves we found along the way. We saw some really amazing sights, like the root system below. The tree had fallen and was hollow, so someone laid tall pieces of wood along the outer sides to make it into a little dwelling on the beach. It was pretty rad.
After noshing all the food we brought on the trail, we were ready for a lunch break. We walked back to our campsite, hopped in the car, and drove about 5 minutes back down the mountain to Mammoth's little downtown area. There are a couple great options for vegans in the area, but we stopped at Stellar Brew and were super impressed. Not only did they offer a FIVE non-dairy milks for any of their delicious coffee or tea drinks, they make GF + vegan baked goods to sell at the counter, have a full smoothie and smoothie bowl menu, sell organic produce by the pound, AND make the legit breakfast burrito pictured above. It was packed with ginger marinated tempeh, sautéed veggies and potatoes, and was wrapped in a hearty spinach tortilla. Perfect post-trail fuel! Alex and I split one, but could probably each have eaten our own. We also got a almond flour-based chocolate chip cookie to split for later. Also, the gals behind the counter were super friendly. We'll definitely come back here! If that's not your style, Mammoth also offers a Z Pizza, a vegetarian restaurant called Green V located in the main lodge at the ski mountain, and a place called Garden of Eat'n, which is right off of Old Mammoth Rd.
After lunch we took our time going back up Old Mammoth Rd, the original road built up the mountain after miners settled the area in the late 1800s. We found a marker telling where the old mining encampment had been set up, and a weirdly placed old grave (above) that looked like it had been made of wood and held a picture frame at the bottom. Now it was surrounded and presumably held up by cement with a small fence around it, though people seem to still leave things here regularly. I wonder who she was, and why there were no other graves around though. As we worked our way up the mountain the vista became more and more breathtaking, and we tried to get as many shots as possible. Once we got back to camp we took a power nap, chugged some water (you get dehydrated really easily in high elevations like this!), and headed back out to hike and explore some more.
Our afternoon hike took up to the top of the waterfall that feeds into Twin Lakes, the waterfall that in the very first picture in this post I was convinced couldn't be real. It was AMAZING! The tallest waterfall I've seen in person, for sure. In fact, this trip took me to about 10,000 ft., which is higher than I've EVER been on solid ground!
Next stop was Horseshoe Lake. Alex remembered camping here when he was little, and a guy at the marina had warned us that water level had receded but we couldn't have prepared ourselves for the devastation. For those people who still think Global Warming isn't real, or Californians that can't quite grasp the drought: the ENTIRE area up to the trees in the picture below used to be water. ALL OF IT. Now, all that's left is a much smaller body of water (pond sized) and a lot of sandy ground. The next picture is when we walked right up to the edge to see the water more clearly. It is SO alarming that this is all that's left of it. I'm turing this paragraph into a PSA: CONSERVE WATER, dammit!
After being totally saddened by the state of Horseshoe Lake, we hiked the 2 or so miles back to camp, admiring the gorgeous, stand-alone Crystal Crag, pictured below. There were a lot of people fishing on this lake, but still not many campers, so it was really nice to take advantage of the peace and quiet on the walk home. We were getting pretty tired though, and Maddie had gotten a splinter in her paw and was starting to limp so we took a few more pictures and headed back to camp to get a fire going and make dinner.
Back at camp, we chopped up some onions, peppers & tomatoes from our garden, and some Beyond Meat Beast Burger patties and made a...scramble? Fajita fillings? Stir fry? I don't know what to call it, but it tasted great and a hot meal really hit the spot after a long day of hiking. After dinner we walked a bit more with Madds, hung out by the fire, and enjoyed the frogs calls from the nearby marsh. It was the best way I can think of to spend a weekend and I can't wait to go back! We don't like to cook every meal over the fire, so here are a few of our favorite recipes to pre-make and take along camping:
They're easy to make, easy to carry, and even easier to eat! For more info on camping + hiking at Mammoth, check out VisitMammoth.com. And remember- always do you best to make the smallest impact on the environment you're camping in. Don't litter + don't feed the bears!