Welcome to Saguaro heaven! For those of us visiting Scottsdale on a quick vacation, be sure to add the Quartz Ridge Trail to your itinerary for your fill of hiking and cacti.
The Quartz Ridge Trail (also known as trail #8A of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve) is a quick out and back hike totaling approximately 3.5 miles. The path starts wide and slow and becomes thinner and steeper as the trail goes on, with lots of switchbacks to make the elevation gain (705 feet) feel extremely manageable.
One of my girlfriends and I hiked the trail in a little over an hour, stopping along for lots of cactus pictures and views of the city down below. There’s excellent signage, and follow the markers for #8A. There are many other trails that intersect, so if you’d like to increase mileage that’s entirely possible.
Two weeks ago, I flew back to the east coast for a fun filled gals weekend. Before the bachelorette festivities and family gatherings began, I met up with my college roommate for a little adventure. We took a half (or really, two-thirds) day excursion out to the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike Humpback Rocks, and added a brewery lunch with a view and ice cream treat on the way back into town. It was a great way to catchup with one of my best friends and keep up with my Trailblaze Challenge training while traveling.
The Blue Ridge Parkway covers 469 miles along the southern Appalachians through Virginia and North Carolina and contains 360+ miles of hiking trails. From where we accessed the National Park, is about a 2-2.5 hour drive from DC. Google knows best, but we recommend taking I-66 W to US-29 S, then taking I-64 W to State Rte 610 in South River. We took a quick stop right outside the park at the Rockfish Gap Tourist Center to gear up with handfuls of maps, advice and bathrooms (helpful!). From there, you quickly enter the Blue Ridge Parkway and head to the Humpback Rocks parking lot in between mileposts 6 and 7.
The trailhead is conveniently right there. Once you’re on the trail (be sure to take the first trailhead entrance) the climb is full of shady steady switchbacks, and a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Cell service is spotty, so bring those old fashioned trail maps, a dowloaded version on your phone and follow the markings along the trees. The hike is definitely all levels, and good for experienced hikers and novices alike. A little more than 3/4 of the way through the loop, you’ll find yourself at a sign for Humpback Rocks. Take this scramble up and be prepared for the epic view. We thought we hit the jackpot of a view…
And it only got better!
From there, hang out and enjoy the view and take the path down. At first, it feels more like stairs and then widens to be more of a path versus a trail feel. If you’re pressed for time and just want to soak in the view, you can just go up and back from the parking lot, by using the second trailhead entrance. This will quickly present you with a “staircase” style hike up to Humpback Rocks and you’ll take the same path down.
Afterwards reward yourself with a gorgeous view, a burger and beer at Blue Mountain Brewery. We sat on the patio, looked at pictures from the hike and checked the traffic for our way back into the city. The last stop we made was at my all time favorite ice cream spot, Moo Thru! Well deserved after that hike, right?!
Visiting DC soon? Add this half day excursion for your fill of hiking, brews, views and handmade ice cream! And, as always, my quick and dirty review is below…
HUMPBACK ROCKS TRAIL ALONG THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
Location: Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virginia
Best Time of Year To Go: spring through fall (best foliage peeping is in October)
Hiking Distance: 4.2 miles (loop)
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Permits are not required and it was free to park.
This loop offers tons of shade and is dog friendly.
Pack a snack and picnic with friends — tables located at the start of the trailhead — or hit up a Charlottesville brewery or winery for lunch.
Plan on losing (or at least dropping) cell service on the way to and during the hike. Bringing paper maps and pre-downloading maps on your phone are the way to go.
From the parking lot there are two trailheads, one for the loop and one straight up. The .8 miles straight up path gets much more crowded and can be quite slippery after recent rain.
Is there a sign preventing you from entering the parking lot / trail? That means a bear was spotted! Good thing there are lots of other trails nearby.
See someone that looks and smells like they’ve been hiking a long time? They’re probably hiking the AT, and be sure to let them pass you. #trailetiquette.
Rating: Gorgeous view but tough following the trail at times (4 /5 stars)
This weekend was all about local eats and treats, ending with a bang on Sunday night. Friday, we snacked on Phil’s BBQ at the Padres Game. Saturday, we ate our way through the Junior League of San Diego’s Food & Wine Festival in La Jolla. Wrapping up our feast of a weekend, on Sunday we joined Cellar Door’s supper club for their Cinco De Mayo dinner series.
Cellar Door is a supper club in Normal Heights, San Diego that hosts exclusive dinner parties about once a month. The duo behind the club, Logan and Gary, create a unique theme for each event that inspires the menu and drink pairings. Themes, times and location are announced via their email lists, and you must sign up in advance. Typically the meal is 4-6 courses and is posted via Facebook a few hours before meal service. Competitive to say the least, this dinner club sells out lightening fast, and I was beyond pumped to snag spots for me and my husband.
This experience did not disappoint! Located in a funky hip dining room, with treats for the eyes everywhere you look (polar bear head, funny book titles, picture frames and more), we were two of ten guests at the last of four dinners occurring over the weekend. From this Cinco de Mayo themed dinner, our favorite courses were the pozole verde, a tangy spicy soup with chicken and hominy and the juiciest prawn taco I’ve ever had for the third course. We also loved their refreshing paloma and the dessert cocktail, Oporto Real, a blend of Mezcal, Tawny Port and Amaro Montenegro topped with a Luxardo Cherry.
We’ll definitely be back and are looking forward to more dinners this summer! Join Cellar Door’s email list here to be in the know — just promise not to take our spots! 🙂
Here are some insider tips for the best experience:
CELLAR DOOR SUPPER CLUB: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Cellar Door is hip, tasty and in demand; so spots at the table go fast! Be sure to respond ASAP after receiving their newsletter in order to secure your spot.
Bring your appetite and take a ride sharing service if you plan on drinking — our menu was 5 courses, each with a drink pairing.
This is a donation based dinner club, and $$ cash is king $$.
Chat with your fellow dinner guests! Meeting new people and chatting about food, travel and unique experiences is part of the fun.
Come with an open mind. Cellar Door often uses unique ingredients. Goat meat was featured this weekend and a friend mentioned she tried an exotic meat pâté in the past.
At this time, gluten free and vegetarian options don’t exist. But, if you have allergies notify them ASAP!
Couldn’t make the dinner? Check their Facebook page to drool over all the deliciousness from afar.
WANT MORE BUT DON’T LIVE IN SAN DIEGO?
Supper clubs range in menu focus, format and price. Google and Yelp will be your best resource in finding a supper club near you, otherwise you can try joining a Foodie group on Facebook or Meetup and ask around, because everyone knows foodies loooooove giving recommendations. 😉
Hope your weekend was just as delectable! Be sure to comment below if you love Cellar Door or have any other dinner club recommendations, as this is only our second in San Diego (we’ve been to Cow by Bear a few times for steak and shenanigans).
*Note: I was too busy enjoying myself to be on my phone taking pictures during the meal! Given that, some of the pictures in this post are from Cellar Door’s Facebook Page and have been marked accordingly in the captions.
In mid-march, my husband and our friends from San Diego headed out for a long weekend to Mexico City. Because nothing says, “Happy St Patty’s Day!” like a trip to Mexico, right? 😉 It was a first time visit for all four of us and we had all been prepped that we were going to love this sprawling city. But I honestly, I didn’t expect to fall so head over heels!
We arrived via a direct flight from Tijuana (thank you, border city!) and stayed at the W in Polanco. Over the next few days, we packed in a ton of sights and activities — Anthropology Museum, Pyramids, Lucha Libre — and ate our way through the town — everything from Pujol to street tacos. All in all, I was so thoroughly in love with the city, and can’t wait to come back in the summer or fall!
Check out my recommendations and insider tips below and be sure to add your favorite spots in the comments section. Viva la Mexico!
ADVENTUREAPPEAL’S FIRST TIMER’s GETAWAY GUIDE TO MEXICO CITY:
♦ Know Before you go
♦ Get Active
♦ View From Above
♦ Get Cultural
♦ How to Get There
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Be street smart. Mexico City upped their security measures drastically in the last couple of years, and you can tell this by the police presence and usage of cameras for surveillance. However, be smart about keeping an eye on your possessions and don’t wear anything too flashy.
Higher altitude and cloudless skies during dry season demand extra sunscreen and a hat. Bring yours or purchase at a pharmacy in the city.
Polanco, Condessa and Roma are hip neighborhoods and shorts and flip flops are not recommended.
Most museums are closed on Mondays, so that’s a great day to shop or head to the Teotihuacán Pyramids.
Cash is king. Restaurants, hotels and most stores take credit cards, but having small bills and coins on hand is essential for smooth transactions.
Reservations never hurt. Make yours online in advance for dinners out, or ask your hotel’s concierge to make them for you. The W was extremely helpful here for us!
Climb a Pyramid
For your first trip to Mexico City, do not miss a half day trip to the Teotihuacán Pyramids. Located about 90 minutes from Mexico City, the Pyramids are a pre-Aztec UNESCO World Heritage site and offer both a killer glutes workout and a big dose of history. The largest of the pyramids is the Pyramid of the Sun, and often times the line to the top wraps around the middle base.
Walk the Park
Mexico City has a plethora of parks and green spaces. The largest and most versatile is Chapultepec Park. There are endless paths, areas to go rent paddle boats and a series of museums (see Get Cultured section). Vendors are stashed along the routes with provisions — fried tasty items, waters, ice cream and agua frescas.
Pujol — What can I say? This changed mole for me forever and was my favorite meal of the trip! Pujol was credited for putting Mexico City on the map for fine dining, is ranked on the San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants in the World and was showcased in Netflix’s Chef’s Table series. Pujol features modern Mexican cuisine via a tasting menu and has cool, hip space with a view of their garden. Reservations in advance are a must. https://www.pujol.com.mx/en/
Rosetta — Mexican-Italian fusion for the perfect late lunch (this means 2:30p or after). Sip on some wine as you soak in the feeling of being in a European courtyard. We recommend ordering lots of the small plates to try everything. http://www.rosetta.com.mx/restaurante-en/rosetta.html
Lalo! — Hip breakfast / brunch / lunch spot in Condessa. They don’t take reservations, but you can put your name down and walk the cute streets nearby while you wait or order coffees and juice at their bar to pass the time. Our favorite was the green juice (cactus, celery and kiwi) and the huevos con chorizo. http://eat-lalo.com/
Maison Belen — Charming Mexican-French fusion for breakfast / brunch. Sit outside and enjoy the people watching while snacking on their divine pastries. https://www.instagram.com/maisonbelen/
Street Tacos — a must! There are dozens of recommendations food blogs have here, but our favorite was just on a corner in Condessa. They were so friendly and even comped us our first taco.
Pulque — Trying this spirit is a bit of an adventure. White and a little thick, this drink is made from fermented sap of the maguey agave plant, and spoils quickly (no shelf life, sorry!).
VIEW FROM ABOVE
There are two vantage points you cannot miss in Mexico City: the view from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacán (see Get Active section) and the cityscape seen from Castillo de Chapultepec.
The modern, hip W was the perfect hotel for our trip, and I couldn’t recommend it more. The whole staff, and especially the concierge, were so friendly and the modern vibe had us always in a good mood. We also loved the view from our rooms — a glimpse into the nearby Polanco. Location is everything and the W is a stones throw from dozens of cafes, galleries and places to grab a drink in Polanco. It also is within walking distance of Chapultepec Park, where you can visit museums, take a paddle boat out or tour the Castle. Couldn’t recommend it more! http://www.wmexicocity.com/
Museum of Anthropology: This museum is gorgeous inside and out. It covers an incredible amount of Mexican history, with floors dedicated to the indigenous peoples, their culture and customs, and most notably the many pre-Hispanic and even pre-Mayan and Aztec artifacts. http://www.mna.inah.gob.mx/
Casa Azul / The Museum of Frida Kahlo: Lovers, artists and revolutionaries, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera certainly made their mark on history. Frida Kahlo’s house, Casa Azul and monument are must-see stops for your first time in Mexico City. Insider tip: buy your tickets (boletos in Spanish) online in advance (times begin every half hour) to avoid wasting time standing on line. http://www.museofridakahlo.org.mx/
The Sanborns de los Azulejos, is a chain department store owned by Carlos Slim built in a historic building with beautiful architecture and old Mexican tile. Nice place to check out and grab a coffee on the way to Palacio de Bellas Artes.
Placio de Bellas Artes: – Beautiful architecture with another Diego Rivera mural and other exhibits. Insider tip: on the 8th floor of the art-deco Sears (across the street from the Palacio de Bellas Artes) you’ll find a small café with a balcony overlooking the Palacio and its lovely manicured gardens. http://www.palacio.bellasartes.gob.mx/
Lucha Libre: Masks, giant beers, crazy pumped crowds… what more could you ask for?! A night watching lucha libre at Arena Mexico is a must for any first timer to Mexico City. Root for the Técnicos (“good guys”) or the entertaining rudos (“bad guys”) and be prepared to be shocked, awed and in fits of laughter.
Mariachis: Plaza Garibaldi is near the historic center and has Mariachis out every night that can serenade you, for a fee. And who doesn’t love to be serenaded?!
HOW TO GET THERE (& BACK!)
Mexico City and it’s airports are massive. From San Diego, we crossed the border via CBX and took the tunnel directly to the Tijuana Airport. From there, we passed through security and headed to our gates. Then, it was a quick 3 hour flight and we touched down in Mexico City. Check out my full guide for crossing here.
We have so much left to explore in Mexico City — restaurants, neighborhoods and museums — and can’t wait to get back soon! Be sure to comment below with your favorite not to miss adventures in Mexico City!