Thank You to Our 2020 Team

Meet the Contributing Writers for Weekend Sherpa in 2020

Woman standing at Windy Hilly near Silicon Valley and watching the sun set.

Melissa Ozbek

Hands down, visiting Angel Island this summer was the most special outing this year. I had found out the ferry service was starting back up on the Fourth of July weekend and we made a day trip of it, packing homemade breakfast burritos and enjoying them at a bench overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

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Angel Island has so many gorgeous vistas. We had fun visiting one of the island’s hidden beaches as well as hiking to the top of Mount Livermore. On a clear day, you can’t beat it. It’s one of the best day trips from San Francisco, especially the ferry ride! {Editor’s Note: Melissa is pictured here with her husband, Onur. We greatly appreciate the friends and family who participate in so many of the adventures and photo shoots; they’re our honorary Weekend Sherpas.} Follow Melissa, @melissaozbek

Matt Pawlik

2020 has kept most of us at home for the entire year. As an Angeleno always looking toward his next travel experience, I found solace in local adventures to get out safely and responsibly. Whether my journey took me to the nearby San Gabriels in the Angeles National Forest, across the county to Santa Monica Mountains National Park or a city-hop to San Diego or Orange County preserves and parks, I have been looking toward my next SoCal adventure each week, not only for Weekend Sherpa but for my own personal happiness and mental health as well. Perhaps my favorite became a weekly routine for my girlfriend Vanessa (an honorary Weekend Sherpa!) and me.

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We picked up some fresh memberships to the LA County Arboretum and Huntington Library and Gardens and strolled, hiked, and worked (yes, we even found picnic tables with Wi-Fi access!) our way through every botanical bit and floral fragment of these two local treasures. While we still sought new trails around town each weekend, these nearby environmental wonderlands (shout out to number 3, Descanso Gardens, as well) provided us with immediate access to comfort and serenity, and a new surprise each visit.

Breonna Carter

There is one adventure that immediately came to mind as I tried to pinpoint my favorite California outdoor adventure of 2020: Yosemite’s Half Dome. This was my first trip to Yosemite; I was eager and excited. Driving into Yosemite was breathtaking. One moment I was driving on a road surrounded by trees, and the next, I was emerging from a tunnel, taking in all of the gigantic granite rock formations that Yosemite is known for. Along the hike I passed two waterfalls: Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. The size and magnitude of the falls made me stop and stare in awe.

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I eventually made my way to the Subdome, where I could see the famous Half Dome cables. As I was approaching, a hiker who had just descended gave me climbing gloves, which I was very grateful for. These gloves allowed for better traction as I slowly but surely pulled myself up the cables, watching my foot placement every step. Exhilarating is the only word that describes how I was feeling. I had never done a hike so exposed or any hiking that required such upper body strength. Once both of my feet were planted firmly on Half Dome, I looked back and was so proud of what I had accomplished. Follow Breonna, @mountainsquake

Michelle Luke

Here’s a photo of me and my son Ethan in our little magical spot. It’s Stern Grove in San Francisco. During the summertime it’s known for its weekend concerts, but the rest of the year it’s a ghost town and I have no idea why.

Woman and her child in Stern Grove in San Francisco

I love this place because it’s tranquil, wild, and gorgeous and brings into the city a sense of how grand everything is. There are towering eucalyptus and redwood trees in a quaint grove alongside a lovely reflection pond. In the summer there are blackberries. The rest of the year, the air is fresh with the scent of eucalyptus and nasturtiums, and daisies speckle the fields. Just up the hill, you’re back in the city, but it’s a magical getaway with enchanting stone steps and wild unkempt trails.

Brad Hyland

Since being in California, Carly (my wife and honorary Weekend Sherpa) and I have gone on many adventures. Whether hiking, backpacking, or paddling raging rivers, we always try to find some outdoor activity to entertain us after work or on the weekend. Looking back at this year, things have changed a bit and some of our typical outdoor adventures had to be a little closer to home and a little less frequent. 

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However, one stands out to both of us as our favorite…hitting the trails in Cache Creek’s Wilderness Area with my brother and his girlfriend just before the pandemic sidelined our spring plans. It was a quick two-night trip with freezing temperatures, but looking back, I am grateful that we were able to spend that time together exploring a new spot for us. Follow Brad, @bradhylandphotography

Julia Davila

My favorite California hike this year was the Waterfall Loop at Uvas Canyon County Park in Morgan Hill. Once my county was released from stay-at-home orders due to Covid-19, I remember it as a peaceful escape and a way for me to finally get outdoors in a safe manner.

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My sister and I hiked this trail a few days before we graduated from college, and even though it felt surreal not to be on campus at the time, I felt lucky that, while I may have been missing out on senior year celebrations, I could at least celebrate with my sister the way we knew best—outdoors. We were lucky to experience the gushing waterfalls after a heavy rain, which turned the moss-covered trees and bridges an even more vivid shade of green. {Editors Note: Julia is pictured with her sister, Patricia.} Follow Julia, @julia.d

Nicole Szanto

I’m a freelance writer and hot-springs enthusiast. I grew up backpacking and skiing in Tahoe. I’ve traveled to over 35 countries, but no matter where life brought me, Lake Tahoe always seemed to call me back.

Nicole Szanto author of Tahoe & Reno guidebook, holding up her book in front of Lake Tahoe.

This year I embarked on my favorite Tahoe adventure yet, writing a travel guidebook about it. After bagging all Tahoe’s peaks, snowshoeing its trails, and paddling its shores, I’m more in love with it than ever and thrilled to be able to share its wonder with others. {Editor’s Note: Travel Guides are great gifts and provide inspiration for the future. Your local bookstore can order this book, Tahoe & Reno by Moon Travel Guides, and you can find it online as well.} Follow Nicole, @nicoleeats

Ben Replogle

My favorite outing of 2020 was to Yosemite National Park way back in the pre-pandemic world of February. My wife and I took the trip to the park with a few friends to see the famous fire falls that can only be seen for two weeks out of the year, when the sunset illuminates Horsetail Fall in a way that makes it look as if it’s on fire. Due to the lack of rain that season Horsetail Fall was not, well, falling.

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I could have left there disappointed, but that day I couldn’t help but enjoy just being in the grandeur of Yosemite Valley, especially during a day when the park was practically empty. It was also the first National Park trip my wife and I had taken as husband and wife. Plus I stood up close to a sequoia tree for the first time in my life and truly experienced how massive those trees are; photos don’t do them justice. All in all, it’s my favorite adventure of 2020. {Editor’s Note: Ben is pictured with his wife, Cece.) Follow Ben, @big_mountain_moose

Natalie Bates

I loved hiking Sunset Peak. It’s around 7 miles (round-trip), but the grade is very moderate so it doesn’t really feel that long. The views are stunning throughout the entire trail, and when I was there we got really lucky and saw an amazing cloud inversion.

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It looked like a sea of clouds surrounding us, and it was truly breathtaking. The way the clouds swirled around the mountain felt like something out of a dream. Plus this trail is just a short drive from the city, so it’s a great quick escape! Follow Natalie, @thefreeboheme

Holly Kulak {Co-founder, Weekend Sherpa}

I was so happy to be able to spend time outdoors during 2020, and it’s hard to choose just one favorite California adventure, but I’ll go for Sonoma County and hiking the Kortum Trail in fall, on a crisp day with skies scrubbed clean by fog. I ended the day at Goat Rock for sunset.

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It was everything I needed to settle some nervous energy and just take in the pelicans coasting the Pacific drafts and taking flight by the hundreds as the sun quietly slipped into the sea-horizon and the clouds lit up in shades of pink that looked like a layer cake in the sky … from pastel to practically purple.

Brad Day {Co-founder, Weekend Sherpa}

California continues to amaze me. It’s such a huge and diverse state that’s packed with surprises (part of the reason I started Weekend Sherpa in the first place!). The northern Sierra Nevada is like a hidden gem. We went back to the Lakes Basin over the summer and I was reminded how much I love this part of the state: dozens of sparkling and inviting lakes, trails for hiking and biking all over, plenty of camping options, and that smell … I love that first smell of the pine trees and fresh mountain air after getting out of your car on a multi-hour drive.

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On our summer trip we hiked to two big peaks: the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout and Mount Elwell. We had clear days for both hikes and the view from the top of their summits was the best I had all year. Oh, and the camping. I still have our lakeside campsite as a screensaver on my phone.

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