Saturday, September 15, 2012

Angles Landing

Today we hiked Angles Landing.  It started off very steep with countless switch backs.  I didn't think it could get any harder until we saw a sign 0.5 miles to the summit.  Here is where the real work began.  The rest of the climb was straight up over the ridge with the ground 1400 ft or so below.  We held on to chains staked into the ground to help with ascent.  There is only one way up and down, so we had to pull over numerous times to let people going down pass us by.  The view of the valley was spectacular once we got to the top.  Tomorrow we plan to do a run in the valley (ie. flat!) before heading to Knab, where we will meet up on Monday morning for our REI Grand Canyon trip.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Narrows

We hiked the Narrows, a slot canyon, today.  It was wet and now I'm tired.  I'm glad to have both my ankles intact.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Zion Day Two

Zion Day 2.  After sleeping in until 8 AM, we began the day with one of the hardest hikes in the park, Observation Point.  With over 2100 ft in elevation gain over the 3.5 to 4 miles to the top, this was one steep hike.  It wasn't as steep as the hike up Guadalupe Peak in TX, but it was pretty hard.  It took us just under 2 hours and 10 minutes to reach the top.  I huffed and puffed the whole way.  The Best Man kept making me take breaks because apparently, not only did I feel like I was going to pass out, I looked like it too.  We finally reached the top and enjoyed the view during lunch.  Had a quick phone interview, then made our way down. 

On the way down it was The Best Man (and our knees) turn to complain, "Where's my icecream?!"  We finally made it to the bottom, did a quick 0.4 mile round trip hike to see Weeping Rock (seep springs which make a hanging garden on the rock face), then made our way to ice cream.  Soft serve.  Plain vanilla for The Best Man and Swirl for me.  So good.  We did a few more shorter (and thankfully flatter) hikes before making our way back to camp.  After showering we had some really good Thai food followed by more icecream. 

Tomorrow we explore "The Narrows" which are some slot canyons, much of the hike will be wading through water. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Valleys and Canyons

Yesterday we went through the Valley of the Gods and then Monument Valley.  Valley of the Gods, appears to be the less known or at least less visited of the two.  We went "off roading" on a cinder path through the valley.  The enormous orange and red structures jutted out of the ground haphazardly.  It was neat for the first 3-4 miles.  It was a 17 mile journey.  We stopped half way and had lunch then bounced and rolled out of there. 

Monument Valley was a complete and utter zoo.  There were hundreds of tourists, most of them foreign.  It was funny to see how different cultures pose for pictures.  Though I'm sure The Best Man's handstands and my jumping for pictures were amusing to them.  One of the tourists tried to cut in front of everyone in the bathroom line.  When it was my turn.  This did not go over well with me.  I told her there was a line and she apologized in broken English.  I'm going to assume this was a cultural difference and not that she meant to cut in front of 5 women in line.  We got our pictures at the viewing spot and left because we didn't want to deal with another 1-2 hour drive over a dirt road.  And this time with more people.

Then we ended the day in Bryce Canyon.  We didn't have time for a several hour hike, so we opted to go out as far as we were comfortable before turning back.  Looking down from along the rim provided the best view of the canyon, though it was interesting to see the "hoodoos" up close as we made our way to the bottom of the canyon. 

The next morning we started our day with a run along the rim trail.  We logged in just over 3.3 miles and got many stares from old travelers huffing and puffing as the leisurely strolled along.  Next stop, Zion.

Though it is only a 2-2.5 hour drive between Bryce and Zion the weather changed drastically.  We were so cold over the night and had to keep moving to stay warm during our morning run.  When we arrived in Zion, I couldn't change into less clothing fast enough.  First, we found a campsite, The Best Man set up the tent while I made lunch.  After eating we did a 3 mile hike that included some waterfalls (minimal water, but tall in height).  We just had a gourmet dinner of Chef Boardi Ravioli.  Such is camping life.  We have several more days to explore Zion.  Then it's off to the Grand Canyon before heading to California! 

Please note, the first part of this post was written yesterday.  I do not have the battery power nor patience to correct the wording. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cliff dwellings and fauna sightings

We spent the afternoon exploring Mesa Verde, a National Park with hundreds of ancient dwellings ranging from pit houses to cliff dwellings.  We were taken back in time as we explored these small villages that cling to alcoves in the rock face.  We got to climb huge ladders and even crawl through a tunnel (The Best Man barely made it through!). There are many mysteries and holes in the knowledge about these cliff dwelling people.  However, they are able to date many of the dwellings, tell what they ate, how they built their homes and much more from the archealogical work they do in the park.  It was really interesting to hear about this culture and the communities this area of the country.

This is where we had our best spotting of wild life.  Shortly after entering the park, we spied a mama bear and her two cubs crossing the road.  We were able to stop and frantically snap a few pictures before they scampered off.  Perfect way to spot a bear if you ask me.  From the car!  We saw about 7 deer in total throughout the day, as well as 4-5 turkey, many bunnies and birds.  Tomorrow we are taking a winding route through the 4 corners, Monument Valley and maybe Antelope Canyon.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cinders and Aspens

Today was my favorite part of the trip thus far.  It was a great way to end our first of three weeks galavanting around the southwest.  I awed and oohed over the caverns and enjoyed the view from Guadalupe Peak.  However, today's train ride quickly rose to the top of the list for best of this trip.  We arrived in Durango yesterday, pleased again to have even colder weather.

We woke up early today to catch our train from Durango, CO to Silverton, CO 45 miles north.  The train has been running this route since the early 1880's (I'm not sure if it was 1881 or 1882).  The built the track in 9 months, including building the steepest part in the dead of winter.  The owner apparently burned the records of the cost (and lives lost) to keep the outrageous number from his investors, so the story goes. The Best Man and I opted for the open air car. We were able to enjoy the weather (and flying cinders and smoke) and take unobscured pictures.

The views were absolutely stunning.  We sat on the right side of the car after reading tips suggesting to do so.  The tracks followed the Animas River up the mountain, with the river to the right for much of the trip.   The river waters were greenish-blue, which is a nice contrast to the brown rivers we were used to in Fort Worth and in Richmond.  While we were still leaving town we saw a doe and a buck running along side the tracks.  We weren't quick enough to snap a picture.

As the little train began to climb higher and higher into the mountains we noticed the famed aspen trees were starting to turn yellow.  The higher in elevation we went, the more yellow aspen trees we saw.  It was beautiful.  I can only imagine what it will look like in 2-3 weeks time.

Once in Silverton, we had lunch and walked around the shops.  The town has around 600 residents, only 200 of which stay for the winter. Silverton was once a mining town.  Silver and gold mining were the reason the town existed.  With the mining over, the town now relies on tourism.

Instead of taking the (slow 3.5 hour) train back to Durango, we opted for the bus tour (1.5 hours).  Our guide, Lester, told of the towns history and showed us landmarks.  The views were again breathtaking on the ride down the mountain.  I saw three doe just as we started down the mountain on the bus.  I was on the look out for other wildlife, however we didn't see anything other than birds and marmot (is the plural marmots?).

Overall, despite the cinders in my hair and my now sooty running shoes, I had a wonderful day and now have a love affair with Colorado.  Too bad The Best Man says it gets too cold to ever live here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Carlsbad to Truth or Consequences.

Yesterday we drove from Carlsbad, NM to Truth or Consequences, NM.  The Best Man and I stopped at The White Sands National Monument along the way.  We were too hot and hungry to enjoy it much.  We had a picnic in the car then continued our drive.  We enjoyed the hot springs several times during our stay.  The best was soaking in the tub at night while star gazing.  I'm still not used to being able to clearly see the Milky Way.  It's breath taking.  After soaking this morning we got on the road to Arizona.  On the way we stopped to see The Very Large Array or VLA as it's called.  It was crazy to see just how big these satelites are and read about all the research going on in the area.

We stopped on a corner in Winslow, AZ for some pictures, then made our way just to Flagstaff.  Thankfully on the way here I spied a sign for a KOA, so we ended up here instead of a hotel (money saved = smores!). The weather has definitely cooled off quite a bit.  The Best Man and I are both excited to be going to sleep when it's cold instead of blazing hot.  On the road again tomorrow to Durango, CO for a few days.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Guadalupe Peak and more Carlsbad Caverns

The Best Man and I celebrated Labor Day by hiking the highest peak in Texas: Guadalupe Peak.  The elevation gain was over 3,000 ft with the highest point measuring around 8,750 ft.  The total mileage was 8.4 which makes this one steep climb.  It was hard to say the least, however the views made it worthwhile.  It was amazing to look down and see how high we had climbed once we reached the top.  There was one small mountain range close by, otherwise it was extremely flat from our vantage point at The Top of Texas.

After the hike we managed to find ESPN on our motel t.v. and were able to watch the VT season opener vs. Georgia Tech.  VT was up (10 to 7) near the middle of the 4th quarter so we muted the game to do some trip planning.

I skimmed my notes on New Mexico and noted there were some hot springs in the general vicinity of our travels.  After looking into it we decided to book a small room at an inn in Truth or Consequences, NM.  Yes, that's the name of the city.  Definitely curious as to the history of this city's name.  After the inn was booked we glanced back at the t.v.

Overtime?!  14-14 with VT about to punt.  The kick was good and VT won their first game of the season.  Barely.

Today we headed back to the Caverns for two guided tours.  The first of which was a lantern tour where explored the cave on dirt trails with only the light of our lanterns.  We learned a lot about the history of the caves and how the first visitors must have felt venturing in the darkness with an oil lamp or candle.

After briefly surfacing for lunch, we walked down into the cave from The Natural Entrance to meet up with our tour of The King's Palace.  These chambers are the most decorated of these caves and are truly stunning to see up close.  My little camera couldn't do it justice.  The Best Man's camera however was able to capture a lot of the detail my pictures left lacking.  Even with The Best Man's Cannon, external flash and multiple lenses, it is so hard to get an idea of just how enormous these caves really are.  All I can do is recommend you make the trip and see for yourself.  You won't regret it.

After emerging from the caves for our final time we headed to Carlsbad KOA for the night.  We ended up with tent site with electrity.  We soon had a visitor- a bunny! It wasn't very shy, which leads me to believe it was hoping we'd toss it some food.  This KOA has a spectacular bbq dinner.  We split a beef bbq sandwich and 1/2 rack of ribs.  The sauce was fantastic!  I love vinegar!

Next stop: Truth or Consequences, NM for the hot springs.  We are both looking forward to relaxing and recharging.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Texas to New Mexico

The first day of our road trip brought The Best Man and me to Monahans Sandhills State Park. We made camp nestled between sand dunes, leaving the rain fly off the tent in hopes of feeling the breeze all night. We both tossed and turned for hours, unable to get comfortable in the sticky heat of the desert sand. Eventually, the night grew cool. Then, we battled the need to stay warm and the want to remain in the relative safety of our tent. Around 4:30 AM the desire for warmth drew us to our cars for jackets and a blanket. We spied several nocturnal creatures. One was very close to crawling into The Best Man's shoes. It looked like an enormous ant. It had 3 body segments, 6 legs, 2 antennae. However, it was 2 inches long. We snapped a quick picture in order to figure out it was in the morning (and by morning I mean when the morning starts for me...which is hopefully AFTER the sun is up- any time before that is still the night in my world). Upon returning to the tent we noticed a large toad perched under the edge of the tent. He quickly hopped away after we got inside. We were finally able to get a couple of hours of sleep until sunrise.

After taking plenty of pictures on the sand dunes as the sun rose we planned to clean up and get on the road. At this point, we had had our fill of the desert's creatures and sand which seemed to stick to everything. The ranger, Arturo, pulled up at this time. He asked if we had reservations/had paid and then gave us a short (by Texas standards) history of the sand dunes, the park, Indians and some creatures. He tried to excuse himself sevearl times, yet kept on talking. After an hour he went on his way and we finally got to freshen up.

The bathroom was crowded when I got out of the shower, so I headed to the car to finish getting ready. I turned on the radio in the car, but didn't turn on the engine in an attempt to save gas. . . this then lead to a dead battery, which was a quick fix. Lesson learned. Burning gas saves your battery. I know, I know. I should know these things.

Next we went to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico where we explored the caves and later saw the bats flight. The caves were enormous. I felt like I was in The Lord of The Rings, down in caves of Moria. Yes, I'm a nerd (to the point that some friends and I once watched all 3 movies- extended versions- in one day). Seriously overwhelmingly huge place. Loved it, but felt a bit of self imposed time crunch because we hadn't mastered the whole time zone thing. Cut us some slack though because we were relying on our phones which got horrible reception. Which reminds me, I need to find my watch. . .

Tomorrow we plan to hike Guadalupe Peak, which is the highest point in Texas.

Everything's Bigger in Texas

So, we lived in Texas for almost 8 months.  The basic run down is as follows:
- Loved the food (I really can't believe I ever liked the "Mexican" food I've eaten in Virginia all my life), co-workers, and job (until it got too busy)
- Lived in Downtown Fort Worth, hardly used the car except to go to work or travel out of town.
- Got back into running, ran several 10ks, a couple 5ks, and two 1/2 marathons.  I am now planning to run my first full marathon this spring in California.  More on that another time.
- Actually started catching up on my scrap booking.  Be on the look out for some extra pictures in the mail soon.  Okay, not soon, but maybe sometime this year.  

Run down on Texans:
- Very Texas-centric- to the point that most couldn't understand why I would ever leave.  Here's a (not very well kept) secret: there are 49 other states in this beautiful country.  I want to see them all. You should too. Many of the locals and some transplants from states close by think certain thoughts, trends or what have you are normal and the rest of the country MUST do/think the same.  For example, chicken tenders are served with gravy.  Now, I've never been a fan of gravy, but coming from Virginia, it makes sense to me to have biscuits with gravy.  But chicken tenders?  With gravy?  Why?  To me, the only thing I eat with chicken tenders is honey mustard. Just because I prefer chicken tenders with honey mustard does not mean I emphatically believe everyone else must agree.  For example, The Best Man would prefer BBQ or ranch with his tenders.  In Texas, no one can comprehend that the rest of the country may eat chicken tenders with a different condiment.  In contrast, several co-workers didn't believe that the large chain Texas Roadhouse could be anywhere other than in Texas. 
- Friendly, talkative.
- Many carry guns.  It was unnerving the number of times we ran across signs that read "We don't call 911" with a gun hanging below. Sick sense of humor if you ask me.

Overall, we really enjoyed Texas and all the wonderful people we met while there.  But, we could not delay our quest to reach the West Coast any longer.  We are in the process of moving to Southern California.

For the next 3 weeks we will be slowly making our way from Texas to California.  Stay tuned for more posts and pictures to come.