out & about | Tennessee Valley Trail

Tennessee Valley Trail | Neely Wang Photography

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and new year! For two weeks, I decided to do nothing but spend time with family and friends and try my best to “stay in the moment.” No sitting behind my computer editing photos, no writing blog posts, no watching photography classes. Yes, my phone came out, and I did check my Facebook and instagram every now and then (sometimes I wish I could just throw my phone out the window, which my husband would love), but for the most part, I stayed away from the computer and social media.

Tennessee Valley Trail | Neely Wang Photography

Our days were spent enjoying the season, eating, hiking, going on bike rides and just playing. It was nice to step away and get refreshed. One of my favorite things we did was go on a hike through the Marin Headlands at Tennessee Valley in Mill Valley, California. We had never been on this trail, but some friends had invited us, and I can never say no to a hike!

Tennessee Valley Trail | Neely Wang Photography

Tennessee Valley Trail | Neely Wang Photography

The Tennessee Valley Trail is most well-known for it’s straight-shot 2-mile level hike to the beach, which you can see in the picture above — easy for families and kids. But our hiker friend had other plans and took us on a trail which felt like a mile incline, then along the coast and down steep cliffs (which ironically had this “sign” on it when we finally reached the other side – oops!).

Tennessee Valley Trail | Neely Wang Photography

I love how you can see right past the beautiful rolling hills to San Francisco across the water with the Transamerica Pyramid peeking out between the hills.

Marin Headlands Hiking | Neely Wang Photography

For those of you who live near or have visited the coast, you know that the weather is very iffy and can be really warm one minute, and freezing cold the next, depending on how close you are to the ocean.  Let’s just say I was sorely overdressed, and as a result have been searching for convertible hiking pants ever since (anyone have any recommendations?), as well as a new camera bag for hiking (this has nothing to do with how hot I was feeling, but as I’m constantly explaining to my husband, different situations require different bags, right??). I’m currently looking into this photo sport bag as well as this camera strap because of all the hiking I’ve been doing. Anyone have any experience with these?

Tennessee Valley Trail | Neely Wang Photography

Tennessee Valley Trail | Neely Wang Photography

Tennessee Valley Beach Trail | Neely Wang Photography

Anyways, it was a beautiful hike and so much fun with good company! Our ten-year old even enjoyed it, and although you could tell there were a couple of points where he probably left permanent nail imprints into my husband’s arms while holding on for dear life, he had lots of fun, and we were very proud of this normally non-adventurous little soul.

Pacific Coast Trail | Neely Wang Photography

Marin Headlands Trail | Neely Wang Photography

The steep trail we went on eventually loops around to the beach with glorious views of the ocean and sand below.

Marin Headlands | Neely Wang Photography

Tennessee Valley Beach | Neely Wang Photography

People often ask if we would ever move back to Chicago. Considering that the midwest and east coast have just undergone their coldest temperatures in decades due to the so-called Polar Vortex, it’s hard to want to move back, plus the fact that I’ve grown to simply love the coast… the mountains… the water… the weather. Let’s just say it’s all good :).

Tennessee Valley Trail | Neely Wang Photography

Tennessee Valley Beach | Neely Wang Photography


  1. I find that people can simply follow the fad of being in the moment by noticing what they are doing. Every thing and every thought is always passing through now.

    • I feel that as I get older and older, I’m less and less in the moment. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re so inundated with social media that often we’re living in someone else’s moment more than our own, or life just seems to moving so much faster now. Simply, I just don’t want to let life to pass me by without truly experiencing it, loving what I’m doing and loving the people around me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Elisa!

  2. What a great blog post, Neely. I’m happy you went on a sort of “digital diet”…I’ve been trying to do the same! And yes, do tell your husband that one can never have enough bags! ;)

  3. Breathtaking views, Neely. I’d love to live in a coastal area!
    I’m with you on the camera bag thing; specialized camera bags for different activities can make a big difference.

    • Yes, it’s really beautiful on the coast, Karen — we’re not sure how long we’ll live out here, but in the meanwhile, we’ll make the most of it!

      That camera bag is becoming more and more tempting now :)

    • Thanks, Ron! Yes, I’m glad I brought my camera this time — usually I don’t want to be carrying a big d-slr when I’m hiking, but I had a feeling the views would be great, and they definitely were!

  4. I like the Lowepro camera backpacks. The straps are very confortable as well as the padded back side. I use the smaller one that has two big compartments, one for the camera at the bottom of the backpack with space for an extra lens and 2 little pockets for camera cards; at the other one at the top of the backpack you can keep your wallet and other small things, it has compatments for cell phone, pens, and something else. This backpack also have two smaller zipper pockets at the front, and at one of its sides you can keep a water bottle too.There are also other sizes of backpacks according to your necessities.
    Kind greetings,

    • Thank you so much for sharing your experience with this bag, Marianne! I still have yet to buy it, because I’m always hoping to buy the “perfect” bag instead of always needing a new one, but I guess that’s easier said than done! :)…I do like the idea that you can keep water with it and that there are lots of compartments. Thanks again!

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