Zion National Park

Zion National Park in Utah is my favorite of the national parks in the USA. This is a bold statement when we consider Yosemite, Yellowstone, Badlands and hundreds more. The contrasting look Zion has is the most astounding in my experience.

If you’re planning a trip to Zion, check out the video below. I tried to make it interesting for those planning their trip.

Zion National Park Camping

Finding official camping in Zion National Park is expensive and there is a very low inventory with a lot of demand. Making a reservation through the Federal Government’s reservation website is also a painfully slow process.

Zion National Park Camping

It drops queries all the time and I couldn’t find a single opening this year. Also, I think it’s kind of a bad deal to spend $30 to go camping. The good news is that this doesn’t matter.

It’s 100% legal to camp on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. The government calls it dispersed camping and you can learn about the specifics of the regulation here. The area around Zion in Utah is full of BLM land.

Camping Near Zion National Park
The Yellow Overlay Signifies BLM land, which you can camp on for free.

BLM Land SignsWhen you’re getting close to the park. You can pull off the main road and drive down a road with less traffic. From that road, you can pull off to a dirt road. Many of these dirt roads have signs like the one pictured to the right. If you find these, you’re in good shape and can camp there legally.

We did our backcountry camping about 15 minutes outside of Zion for free. It was quiet, we heard coyotes and owls and in the morning we drove into the park and were able to go to the Narrows and Angel’s Landing.

That makes for a really good trip.

Zion National Park Images

Angels Landing Hike - Zion National Park Tossing a stick in the narrows - Zion National Park Springdale just outside Zion National Park From Angels Landing Zion National Park Zion National Park Virgin River - Zion National Park On the way to Angels Landing in Zion National Park

 

Zion National Park Hikes

I’ve only done two hikes at Zion National Park, but they were both two of the best hikes of my life. Here’s my breakdown of both.

Narrows

To do the Narrows you need to go to the last stop on the shuttle. To get to Narrows you take the Riverwalk, which is a lovely walk alongside the river. Narrows is a river hike so be prepared as you will get your feet wet. You can rent shoes at the park which are specifically for trekking through water, get your own sneakers wet, or do what we did and go barefoot! It’s beautiful and it’s alot of fun. We hiked deep into the canyon, just beyond the first fork in the river.

If you watch the video above, we mention the specifics here.

Angel’s Landing

When hiking to Angel’s Landing you’ll experience a very fast change in elevation. The reports say it’s a 1,488-foot (454 m) climb. It’s a very well trodden path so there is little to no chance of getting lost or going the wrong way. Even though there are some REALLY scary spots because of how tall the cliffs are, there are no places where you need to be an expert climber.

There are chains on the last .5 miles, along all the portions that are more dangerous, but I don’t think I ever actually needed them. You can easily walk the whole thing without using the chains.

That said, it is scary, especially if you’re afraid of heights. V was a bit freaked out up at the top of the landing, being that we were standing on a ginormous rock nearly 1,500 feet high and overlooking the entire valley.

Zion National Park Shuttle

The shuttle is actually really great. There is an audio recording telling the history of the park so you get to learn while riding. The shuttles run so frequently that you never wait more than 10 minutes to get on one. It’s an excellent system and it takes away all the hard parts of driving your own car around and parking. Honestly, I would take the shuttle over driving from place to place. The shuttles are actually the only mode of transport to get to each trail during high season, so this makes things really easy.

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016 - Maya

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016 is a lot of fun. It’s honestly one of my favorite festivals in the world now, topped only by Burning Man.

Sonkran is a celebration of the Thai New Year. It happens in April and we went in 2016. You can learn from the organizers at the Songkran website.

During the 3 days, Chiang Mai becomes a city that is experiencing the most intense water fighting on earth. You will not be able to walk down the streets without getting very wet. Plan accordingly.

Water Fights and Songkran

Why water fights? This is a holy day right?

The traditional thing to do is to go to temples and pour water on holy statues. My guess is that a little water pouring turned into someone splashing someone a little bit for fun. That evolved into a full on water fight over the past 100 years. Inexpensive plastics and water gun entrepreneurs have created a situation that can only be explained as unbridled war.

I’m being over dramatic. The event is a blast and you don’t actually feel anything other than glee during the whole thing. It’s not really a fight. It’s just a lot of fun.

Golden Guns

Water guns are available everywhere during the festival. Most look like toys. You can purchase gold spray paint and make your guns look like they are made of blocks of gold. This will get you a lot more attention, which might not actually be good. I’m confident we became targets more often because of our golden guns. If you think it’s fun to get attacked in a water fight, then the gold guns are helpful.

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016 - Family Water Fight

Party Plans

We didn’t plan anything specific for Songkran Chiang Mai 2016. All we did was get geared up and walk down the street.

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016 - Girls

If you need a plan, here’s a good one:

  • Start at Maya – There is a big cool party happening out front of the mall. It’s fun.
  • Walk down main road headed towards the Old City – There are lots of cool parties happening here. The walk is crazy, but you’ll enjoy it.
  • Old City – This place is great. Feel free to wander around. If you need specific spots, you can check the map, but I suggest wandering

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016 - Walking Map

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016 – Be Careful

Make sure to drink lots of water and stop to eat in a restaurant where people aren’t throwing water at you. There are a lot of people drinking so make sure you’re being defensive with where you’re walking.

Also, don’t drink too much. You’ll find beer for sale everywhere and lots of people just give beer to you as you’re walking around. So don’t go crazy. Remember you’ve got to be smart. This is a very free place. The only person who can ensure your safety is you.

Chiang Mai Songkran 2016 - Skill Barber

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Similan Islands Scuba Diving

Similan Islands SCUBA Diving is some of the best in the world. We’ve done a lot of diving in the Great Barrier Reef and in the Carribbean. The GBR is still the best in my book, but the Similian Islands is a close second.

In this video, we go for a 3 day live-aboard dive trip with Wicked Diving: http://wickeddiving.com/

Wicked Diving is a great organization. The purpose of this video is to show the style of the way they do live aboard trips. As part of the trip, we spend a bit of time cleaning up a beach in the national park. That’s great. Also they do a great job of drawing maps of the dive plans and telling the story of the sea life we will see while on the dive.
For more information about diving the Similan Islands, check out wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Similan_Islands

Be sure to subscribe to our channel:

https://www.youtube.com/user/irobinson1984

Want another SCUBA diving video set in Thailand? Check out this video where we went diving off the coast of Koh Lanta =

Music By Hurley Mower. It’s a song called Gem =
https://soundcloud.com/nedmowermusic/gems

Touring the Family I’ve never met in Connecticut

Visiting Hoskins Cottage

In July of 2015 Veronica and I traveled around Connecticut to visit the family that I never knew.

My grandfather was from Connecticut, but he moved to the west coast when my mother was a young child. My entire immediate family is almost exclusively living on the west coast, either in Nevada or California. So it was very strange to be in a place that feels so foreign and talking to family. It was strange, but really great. Definitely worth the trip from New York City.

Worth it

I’m really happy that we took a few days to make this journey. We met my cousin Jason in Redding. He took us for a walk near one of the lakes near his house.

Visiting Family in Connecticut

Family

Learning more about family is a really powerful experience. The video you see above is designed to be fun to watch, but it doesn’t capture the real value of this trip.

To be honest, I don’t know if I could even make a video that expresses that feeling. Honestly, it’s probably best that I travel to meet family more often. That’s the only way I can think of to really get it.

The Hoskins Family Tree

Long Canyon Cliff Dwelling – Sedona, AZ | 2016

I didn’t even know this place existed…

We met Miles and Melanie on the Nomad Cruise, but when they asked us to come visit Sedona, AZ – we had no idea what that actually meant.

After deciding to attend App Academy in November, rather than Hack Reactor in September, it became clear that we had a few months of free time before I do the immersive coding thing.

Miles and Melanie told us a lot about how beautiful Sedona, AZ was… but I never really thought much else about it. I thought, “Ok then. I trust these guys. If they say that they live in a beautiful place, well we can just go there.”

It wasn’t until we were actually driving south of Flagstaff, AZ that I realized that this would turn out to be time spent in a very special place.

The beautiful stretch of road to Sedona, AZ

Lessons from Sedona

Appreciation for the Earth’s natural beauty is a common thread for most people I know and trust. This places exhibits that beauty like I’ve never seen before.

natural bridge of Sedona, az

Sometimes adding strange action to still frames causes them to be far more interesting. In this shot below, Miles, Melanie and V do a good job of levitating stones. As you can see, all three where able to levitate the rocks in this ancient cliff dwelling.

Girls levitate rocks in Sedona AZ

Again, Miles shows his prowess at levitating stones.

Miles Levitates Rocks, Sedona AZ

There is an abundance of beautiful flora in these canyons, this one was particularly interesting.

Flora of Sedona, AZ

Planning a Visit?

It’s quite easy to just go to Sedona and go on hikes. Our friends live here so we didn’t have to plan our accommodation. If they didn’t live here, planning accommodation would have been our only requirement. There are lots of hikes all around and if you’re confident with hiking, you don’t even know a guide.

The great thing is that the whole place is beautiful. You drive to the gas station and it’s stunning. So just go and have fun.

Update on New Vortex Video

We collaborated on a second video as well. This one is for Melanie’s channel specifically.

You can watch it on YouTube here: