The Hollywood Vine

Blade Runner 2049 Review

What a brilliant, mind-blowing dystopian fantasy the Blade Runner series has offered us.  With a fantastic cast and supreme effects, it’s no surprise that this film got attention, though not as much as anticipated.

Compared to its older 1982 brother, 2049 is a huge upgrade in terms of visual appeal and futuristic ideas.  As expected, many elements of the first film still remain including the flying cars, flashing lights and neon billboard overload.

I have to say, the cast was phenomenal, starting with Ryan Gosling and Jared Leto.  These two present both sides of the haunting tale of Replicants and their place in society during year 2049.  Another favorite, Robin Wright, graces us with her presence as the LAPD lead.  She’s always in charge, isn’t she?

We are also introduced to breakout actress and beautiful villain Sylvia Hoeks, who we can’t quite read but only make frightening assumptions about for most of the film.  Mackenzie Davis, another breakout star, doesn’t let us forget her role as she pops up here and there.  First as a Pleasure Model, then something more patriotic later.

Most of all, the return of Harrison Ford is always a pleasure.  Watching the 1982 predecessor and following it up with 2049, he’s aged like whiskey.  Rough around the edges but the same smooth, delectable actor we’ve come to know and love.

Overall, Blade Runner 2049 was a captivating and satisfying film.  Curiosity brought me to see what could come out over 30 years later and I was pleasantly surprised.  The only question now is, will there be another Blade Runner?  If so, who?

What Are You Watching?

This year has been pretty good so far when it comes to streaming services and new season releases.  From Amazon and Netflix to Showtime and HBO, there’s no shortage of entertainment available if you have an internet connection and a pulse! Here’s what I’ve been watching in 2017:

House of Cards – Season 5

For someone who isn’t into politics, I’m pretty invested in this one.  Maybe it’s the dangerously corrupted Kevin Spacey Robin Wright combination or awkward love stories between most of the characters.  It’s probably the fact that this show is so discombobulating and suspenseful it’s worth binge watching.  Either way, Frank Underwood has graduated from his days of pushing girls in front of trains and after the last moments of the finale, we all want more of the new President.

Narcos – Season 3

Despite the absence of everyones favorite cartel leader, Escobar, business is as usual in the new season of Narcos.  Season 3 follows the Gentlemen of Cali, or the Cali Cartel, as they rise through the ashes of Escobar and negotiate a surrender that leaves them free and ultimately extremely wealthy.  Although the series follows the history of Colombian cartels, there’s a surprise in every episode.  As always, nothing goes as planned and guns, lots of guns.

Ozark – Season 1

I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t too excited about a Jason Bateman led streaming series, but he really surprised me.  Ozark follows Marty Byrd and his family as they navigate the trials and tribulations of being cartel money launderers.  This whole situation lands them in the Lake of the Ozarks where they think all their problems are solved.  Plot twist, middle of nowhere Missouri is not where you go to run away from your problems.  Watch and see why it never, ever works like that.

Twin Peaks: The Return

This cult classic has finally returned after being cancelled over 25 years ago.  Taking place 25 years later, we meet many familiar faces again and some newbies as well.  Kyle MacLachlan and David Lynch put out quite a performance in this one, but I can’t make any promises that any of your questions from 1990 will be answered.  Either way, it’s a must-watch to get up to speed on what’s been going on in the wild world of Twin Peaks, Washington.

Oh and, did you know Stranger Things returns on October 27?  Prepare yourself.

Week Eight on the Pacific Crest Trail

What a magnificent experience it is to hike this well known trail.  First, you get to meet people from around the world.  Then, the locals treat you like celebrities!  I agree, we deserve some love for at least every 100 miles we do between towns!  Trail angels deserve some love as well, especially Phoenix, our Burney trail angel and host for one night.

First stop after resupply at the Burney Safeway is Burney Falls State Park. By the way, you never know how much you relish a larger grocery store when your only resupply option is the small mini mart in town! We’ve left behind Burney Mountain Guest Ranch and the total eclipse, and it’s time to get to Shasta.

These days have been full of excitement due to the fact that we’ve never visited the mountains north of Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Now that my partner got his trusty Adidas trail runners back and we’re decked out in new gear and food, nothing can stop us!

The Shasta-Trinity National Forest does not disappoint as we travel through the tall trees and between creeks and springs aplenty.  An exciting part of this section is the chance to see Mount Shasta in all her glory!  While we don’t get the opportunity to hike on the mountain at all, it is a pleasure to circle the Cascades largest volcano.

Another week of hiking leads us to and beyond the lovely McCloud River, and into the small town of Castella.  Unfortunately I’m feeling under the weather, and we find ourselves utilizing some IHG points at the nearest Holiday Inn.  A couple days of domestic relaxation and we’re off, again!  Until next time, happy trails!

Awesome Albums of 2017

I know it’s not the end of the year but I’ve heard so many great albums this year and I needed to share!  Between travel, road trips and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I’ve had more than enough time to listen to all the tunes.  Here’s what’s been tickling my fancy:

Dr. Dog – Abandoned Mansion

I’ve been a big fan of Dr. Dog for quite some time and any new music is welcomed with open ears.  This is their 10th album and it delivers, as always!  Following Psychedelic Swamp, an album of abstract songs recorded before their very first album, this collection tells real-life stories in their signature style.  Don’t blame me if you get a particularly persistent ear worm stuck in your head after Abandoned Mansion.

Arcade Fire – Everything Now

You know an album is good when it forces you to give another listen to the artist’s entire discography again.  Everything Now starts with a bang and takes you on a journey through all that makes this band Arcade Fire.  My personal favorite track is “Peter Pan,” with it’s fairytale lyrics and deep bass undertones.  I don’t think any music fan needs convincing to give this one a listen!

The Shins – Heartworms

I never really thought I would revisit The Shins after their Garden State hit, but I’m really glad I did!  Heartworms is a fantastic album from beginning to end.  I remember listening to the first two tracks and thinking, “Damn, this album is amazing and we’ve only just begun!”  Self produced and recorded, and despite Pitchfork’s opposing statement, I believe Heartworms conjures the magic that The Shins showed us over 10 years ago.

Fleet Foxes – Crack Up

I have to admit, I didn’t quite get the draw of their new album by simply listening on my iPhone.  However, on a surround sound system, the Foxes will once again draw you right into their narrative. The band’s third album is their most complex and compelling to date with free flowing harmonic and textural gifts that will embrace you until the very last note.

Los Angeles Getaway: Lake Tahoe

There is a lot to say about this magnificent dual state lake in Northern California.  Not only does Tahoe have unlimited amounts of activities, it’s also breathtaking from all angles!  Luckily for me, the Pacific Crest Trail walks right by it, so I had the pleasure of visiting and enjoying just a fraction of what it has to offer!

Hiking

Besides the PCT, Lake Tahoe has its own long distance trail, the Tahoe Rim Trail!  165 miles around a high elevation lake through both Nevada and California?  Count me in!  Not to mention that there is so much land surrounding the lake that you can get yourself into all kinds of ecosystems and trails short or long.

Boat Rides

I’m sure there’s an option in every destination around the lake, but there’s a few I’d recommend.  First, a tour of Emerald Bay, a spectacular and secluded area of the lake.  There’s Tahoe Gal, a cute paddle boat out of Tahoe City.  If on the south side, hop in a Zephyr Cruise out of South Lake Tahoe.  Like I said, beautiful from any viewpoint, especially in the water.

Food

Is your mouth watering for adventure?  Try thinking about all the edible opportunities in the area.  One establishment I enjoyed visiting was Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co in Tahoe City.  Can’t go wrong with a lakeside brewery!  Though I saw that most cuisines are available. There’s something for everyone here!

Nearby Destinations

Besides serious beauty and magnificence, Lake Tahoe is surrounded by some lovely day trip destinations. There’s Truckee and the Truckee River up the road where you can grab a float and enjoy a lazy river ride.  Just an hour east you can find yourself in Reno doing virtually anything!  On the contrary, an hour west gets you to our state capital and sweet city, Sacramento.

With a lake this big the opportunities are endless!  Take a long weekend because she’s far away but most of all, enjoy!

Week Seven on the Pacific Crest Trail

I seriously enjoy hiking the Pacific Crest Trail! I am slightly disappointed that we took so much time off, then fondly remember the month spent at De La Cour Ranch, and feel whole again. In the present, nature is glowing wild with color, bursting with life, dazzling.

While it is true that I have the desire to flip at the border, I know the easiest and most pleasurable option is to just keep walking. It is also true that the trail has a deadline for everyone. Some are forced by injury, others naturally make it and the rest stop short due to snow. The question for everyone is which will it be? We all have a best case scenario but the nature of the trail is to curve unexpectedly.

No matter where we are, every day is a surprise!  First, the lovely town of Quincy where we resupplied.  It’s complete with a Round Table Pizza buffet, natural foods store and of course, tons of hikers.  We don’t spend much time in town, though.  We’ve been looking forward to entering Lassen National Forest and Lassen Volcanic National Park for some time now and are treated with volcanic views almost immediately after leaving Belden Town resort.

Our next stop is Drakesbad Guest Ranch, a hot springs resort and B&B in the park. This place is amazing, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets to hikers at a discounted price that includes a swim in the hot springs pool! Best part is, on the way back into town we spotted the most beautiful cinnamon bear, my first bear sighting, ever!

As with every other day, we’ve been stuffing our faces full of Annies Mac n Cheese, Snickers Bars and Soylent. Can you think of anything better? Until next week!

Los Angeles Getaway: Lone Pine

Mountain views, hiking and camping galore is the best way to describe this Eastern Sierra destination.  Just a seemingly short and scenic three hour drive from LA and you’re in the wild west town of Lone Pine!  Retrace the footsteps of over 700 filmmakers who utilized these wondrous lands for over 100 years of filmmaking.

There’s no surprise that artists and hikers alike have flocked to this area for years.  Set right below the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range, Lone Pine is the gateway to the Sierra, and one of the first towns you’ll hit on any Eastern Sierra road trip.

First, you have numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation including camping, hiking and rock climbing among the Alabama Hills to the Inyo National Forest.  If feeling adventurous, grab a permit from the Forest Service and hike one of California’s 14ers!  Lone Pine is a great launching point to get to Mammoth or Yosemite, if you have the time.

Another amazing must visit location, just 9 miles outside of town is De La Cour Ranch.  I personally spent a month there this summer doing work/trade during lovely lavender season and wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.  De La Cour features an organic eco farm complete with horses, chickens, sheep and of course, the most adorable ranch dogs.  The best part about De La Cour is that you don’t have to leave!  Options for lodging include one of three cabins on the property, or camping on Carroll Creek.  Perfect for all, from children to adults looking to work, stay, or just visit for the day.

All in all, Lone Pine is a one stop shop for close by mountain adventures.  Stop at Elevation for any last minute gear needs and visit the Film History Museum.  Take in the sights and sounds of a true wild west town and breathe the mountain air.  You won’t be disappointed, enjoy!

Week Six on the Pacific Crest Trail

After over a month off picking lavender, hiking in the sierra, wandering around Reno and floating in the Truckee river with my parents, we’re back on trail. Skipping ahead to I-80 we are still poised to make it to Canada before the snow but our sights are simply set on fun and adventure.

Embarking on the rest of our thru hike starting in the Tahoe National Forest, we are delighted. Neither my partner nor I have visited these parts, aside from a few footsteps on the PCT in Lassen Volcanic National Park. We can tell we haven’t been on trail for a while, mostly in the tendons of our feet. I already have hiker hunger and could eat anything, blame it on the altitude!

Speaking of food, theres been some upgrades. I decided to start supplementing my breakfasts with Soylent as I’ve been having a hard time choking down anything in the morning. Don’t worry, it’s not people (Soylent Green, anyone?), it’s more like really nutritious cereal milk! I also recently discovered my new favorite soup from Knorr, a tomato based mix with noodles and tons of calories. To top it all off, we were able to pick up some Primal Vegan Jerky, a welcome addition to the snack bag.

Since our time off, we upgraded a few items in our hiking repertoire as well as our resupplies. Both of us are sporting new trail runners, Brooks Cascadias for me and Vasque Trailbenders for my partner. The reviews are good but you can only really tell once shoes have hiked at least 100 miles with a pack on. I also picked up a new Patagonia sun shirt from the outlet in Reno which will undoubtably serve my skin well.

For now, we hike up and down and through Tahoe and Plumas National Forests. Every day we are treated with shimmering lake views among wildflowers and the occasional afternoon thunderstorm. No matter how much my feet hurt, there’s nothing better than getting up and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail!

Top Pacific Crest Trail Packs

One of the most important parts of a thru hike is your backpack. Part of what is considered the big three of backpacking, your shelter, pack and sleep system can truly make or break a long distance hike! So far we’ve seen all types of packs on the PCT, some more popular than others. Here’s what’s on the backs of hikers this year:

ULA Circuit

When I was deciding on my PCT pack, this model was top on my list. Available in a variety of colors, the Circuit has the capacity and accessories needed to complete a thru hike. Ultralight and ultra stylish, it’s no wonder this is the most popular pack of PCT Class of 2017

Mountain Laurel Designs

Another big favorite, MLD produces a plethora of options for every ultralight backpacker. Complete with or without a hipbelt and frame, I’ve seen plenty of hikers toting all types of models around in their various colors. Again, another contender in my search for the perfect PCT pack.

Gossamer Gear

Speaking of perfect PCT pack, Gossamer Gear has created a wonderful line of packs and is also my first and top choice. Currently I’m sporting the 60 liter Mariposa, but I’ve seen hikers carrying anything from their 35 liter Kumo, all the way up. These are well thought out pieces of gear for all types of use, especially long distance hiking!

Granite Gear

Not the ultralightest or the most common, but when I’m not seeing any of the above, it’s almost always a Granite Gear! What I love about this company is the diversity in packs. Some ultralight and minimal, others burly and tough. There’s something for everyone when it comes to Granite Gear.

What it all comes down to at the end of each mile heavy day is that you are comfortable and happy with your pack.  It should fit properly and match your sparkling personality, all while carrying your load of gear!  Happy Trails!

Week Five on the Pacific Crest Trail

Finally, we’re in the mountains where the air is crisp and the views are familiar. Hiking through the San Gabriel Mountains was something I’ve been looking forward to since I moved out of Los Angeles. First, Wrightwood, Mount Baden Powell, Little Jimmy Camp, then to explore beyond any hikes I had done in these magnificent mountains.

My Adidas are still going strong, and I’ve switched out my 10 degree Enlightened Equipment quilt for a 20 degree. Between that and the mountain air, I can finally sleep in my quilt without sweltering. I am supremely satisfied with my Darn Tough Socks that have lasted beyond what I expected. Best part is, when they develop a hole, the company replaces them through a lifetime guarantee!

Mentally and physically I feel better than I have in a while. I am confident in my decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and I quickly recovered from my ankle injury a few weeks back. Truthfully, I would highly recommend a thru hike to anyone with an interest in backpacking and taking some time off.

 

Between stunning vistas and plenty of amazing human beings, a long distance hike allows you become one with nature. You are your own boss, deciding when and where you will eat, sleep, rest and resupply. The rest is just noise, and we all deserve to find the quiet that hiking provides.

Anyway, we’re on the cusp of a major heatwave and considering skipping the next section.  Our options are, hang out in Los Angeles or head to the Eastern Sierra area and fish for some trout.  Check in next post to see what we decide!