National Parks Vacation Continued

It seems like a long time has passed since my last post, yet it’s been less than two weeks. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster, with good, bad and everything in between.

From Needles NP, we headed to Northern Canyondlands and Arches NP. Staying again in a great BLM area, we found lots of excellent back country hiking as well as the chance to tour the National Parks. Arches was magnificent, while Island in the Sky Canyonlands was a bit of a dud – it’s all along a grassy mesa top with the occasional glimpse into the canyons below. I bet that if you are hiking in or have ATV/4×4 it would be a different experience. The car tour was nada so impressive. From there, we’ve come into the Salt Lake area, staying at a State Park right near Sundance.

Sadly, we got news that my cousin Steve Tilley, who has been battling leukemia for the past two years, passed away. His was a fierce and courageous battle against cancer and it is heartbreaking that cancer won. He is the third of my cousins to be taken by this horrible disease. His funeral was yesterday, and my thoughts have been with his wife Nancy, their kids, and my family as they gathered in Toronto to celebrate his life. Sadness continued this week as we also heard that Dan’s cousin, Shawn, had passed away as well. It is a terrible sad thing to say goodbye to your family, and to experience two in a week has left us a bit buffeted.

Unfortunately, my cold took a turn for the worse while camping, and I am writing this post from the health clinic, which I’m visiting for the second time this week. I was diagnosed with bronchitis, and after a run of antibiotics I’m still not running smooth. It seems a bit epidemic, as the doctor the other day said practically every other person is coming in with it in the past few weeks. At least I’ve got company. Am guessing I’ll be on another round of antibiotics before I’ll be up and running again.

Not all times can be good times, but I’m very grateful to be with Dan, and have Jesse with us. To be together and to support each other during tough times and the good means the world to me, and I count my blessings every day.

On to a happier note, our tenants have decided to continue to rent the property, so we are going to look at renting something in CA, but perhaps in location a bit out of the way. I have a vision of a little cabin on a mountain somewhere… We’ll see where we land, but it’s fun to be coming back to CA and feel like the adventures are continuing. We’ll be in the Tahoe area in a couple of weeks, then on to family 4th of July celebrations and to see friends in Santa Cruz area. Looking forward to spending time with friends and family!

My spot for contemplation and reflection in the morning

My spot for contemplation and reflection in the morning

 

Bridal Veil Falls trail

Bridal Veil Falls trail

National Parks: Mesa Verde and Canyonlands Needles

This is our first official vacation together in several years; either I’ve being going somewhere while Dan stays with Jesse, or vice versa. Now, we’ve booked a week off of work, and are exploring the Internet-limited areas of National Parks, as we make our way through Colorodo and Utah.

My last entry left off after our first week in Albuquerque. After less than stellar weather, but most excellent company for the weekend, I caught a flight to San Jose for a week of meetings and design sessions in Mountain View. I also managed to squeeze in my first Giants game (in a suite, no less!) and got to see my favorite Santa Cruz posse briefly for dinner. By the time I caught my flight back to ABQ, I was tired and managed to pick up a nasty cold. But… vacation awaits!

Three years ago we coined the idea of ‘not the National Park tour’, where we’d travel to NP areas, but would spend much of our time in BLM land or National Forest, and then car tour through the NP, which are generally pretty dog-unfriendly. We found we could experience awesome lands (that don’t stop at the park entrance) without the crowds and usually having Jesse off leash in back country. It was time for part two of the adventure.

We got on the road Sat morning and headed to Mesa Verde, CO, which has some incredibly preserved ancient Indian cave dwellings. We were also impressed that a National Park actually had a dog-friendly hiking trail; two, in fact, for a total of about 6 miles of trail! Great fun to be able to explore by foot in the NP, and am grateful to the park for allowing this, as it’s a new development for them. Hope this is a trend.

Today, we are settled in at Needles Outpost in lower Canyonlands in BLM land. It is just outside of the NP boundary, so we are able to hike leash-free on the trails. Needles itself is a beautiful park, and we enjoyed our car tour of the various overlooks. Unfortunately, this NP isn’t quite as dog-friendly as Mesa Verde, but that was more to be expected. I loved my walks over the stone hills and into the lands below, which are all open range – kept my eyes out for cows, in case Jesse got any big ideas about getting a job.

We also discovered a great ‘make your own route’ hike at the end of Indian Creek, recommended by a woman I met. One of those great, “go four miles down the road at the unmarked dirt road, go four miles down the dirt road until you hit creek, park and start hiking” suggestions that ends up being gold. We explored the canyon and then headed up the cliffs. Lucky for me, Jesse and Dan had a good sense of direction to get us back out. So far, it’s been the highlight adventure of the week!

Cave dwellings in Mesa Verde NP

Cave dwellings in Mesa Verde NP

Excited to be flying East to my hunz, dog and vacation!

Excited to be flying East to my hunz, dog and vacation!

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Mesa Verde Cliffs

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I was enchanted by the strip of green velvet grass on the valley floor below

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Indian Creek, you can just see Jesse cooling off, and the mighty Green Bean Flying Machine in the background, taking us to the end of another road in America.

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Cooling off after a big hike through the back canyons. Spectacular!

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Over the hill and around the bend… hiking straight back from the campsite into BLM lands.

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View from our camp spot, Needles Outpost, Canyonlands, UT

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Dan by the waterfall at Indian Creek.

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We’ve dodged a lot of weather on this trip! Getting lucky again as we skirt around this storm.

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Sarcasm or irony?

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Home sweet home at Mesa Verde, CO, where we staying in the NP campground.

Albuquerque, NM, Week 1

We arrived at the campsite that is situated along the Turquoise Trail (scenic byway) in the Sandia Mountain National Forest. Great hiking, though Dan has had more chance to explore the trails than me, as I had to head off on Monday to LA for DrupalCon, a three-day conference. I decided to head back to NM and spend the weekend with Dan rather than head straight out to Mountain View, where I have four days of meetings next week.

It’s nice to get ‘home’ and we had fun exploring the area today, despite unusual weather. By unusual, I mean three (3!!!) hailstorms, downpours of rain that turned clay trails into mudbaths, thunder and lightning, and to top it off, snow. That was today. You’d think we’d have the sense to curl up in the camper and hunker down, but instead we got on so many layers of weather gear that we looked like a couple of snowmen. Jesse had her rain jacket to try and keep her from freezing.

I’m glad that we headed out, as we got to check out the Tinkertown Museum, which TipAdvisor ranks as one of the top 10 small museums in the US. It was created by one man, and it an amazing testament to the creative mind. It was inspiring and overwhelming in it’s vision. One quote that stuck with me was that he built it $1 at a time, and that anyone can do the same, no matter the project. I thought that was great advice. Another great piece of advice, “As you wander keep your sense of wonder.” I was full of wonder today, and the quote resonated, after all of our many miles and places we’ve been. Today, as much as in our first weeks, I’m still awed with this beautiful country.

We headed up highway 14, the Turquoise Trail, to Madrid, which was hosting a Crawdaddy festival, and to Cerrillos Hills State Park for some good hiking. We’d hit the National Forest yesterday for an after-work hike, and I wish I had more time to hit those trails. We are definitely back in NM, with steep mountains and high altitude. It was a little slow going today, and I couldn’t just blame it on the weather 😉

Tomorrow, I fly out to Mountain View. I managed to unpack my bag, do a laundry and repack for my week in CA. On a very happy note, at the end of the week and flight home, we’re heading on vacation for a week+, and will be touring eastern Utah, with the plan to include Mesa Verde NP (OK, in CO, but practically on the four-corners), Canyonlands, Moab, Arches, and sooooo much more. Looking forward to the next adventure!

Great advice from the Tinkertown Museum!

Great advice from the Tinkertown Museum!

Along the trail on today's hike, during a brief break in the weather. Look, blue sky!

Along the trail on today’s hike, during a brief break in the weather. Look, blue sky!

Love these abandoned wagons that we found along a trail by the campsite. You can see the muddy clay that I ended up hiking through this morning.

Love these abandoned wagons that we found along a trail by the campsite. You can see the muddy clay that I ended up hiking through this morning.

Another abandoned car. This still has old 60's paper along the table edge.

Another abandoned car. This still has old 60’s paper along the table edge. What is the story behind these cars? How did they end up here? So curious!

Valley of Fires, NM

Lava. Lots of black lava, for a good 45 miles. The park includes a two mile trail that goes through the lava fields, and from there you can hike out onto the flows, which sounds a lot easier than it is. After about 50 yards of rugged, ankle-twisting on glass-sharp lava, that trail looks pretty good!

We met some really nice people, including a vet who gave us all kinds of good advice for Jesse, and a couple who had the same old Toyota RV as our putt-putt and who sent Jesse off with a very cool, schwirly, glowy dog-ball, and the fabulous Ms. Betty. I also chatted with a man who had seen a mountain lion mama and her two cubs in the campground, not once but twice (validated by the camp host), and I’m happy to report that all I found was the track. Phew!

The wind was howling for the entire week, and it was hard to sit outside. My face is so wind-chapped just from hiking! The surrounding towns are really interesting, and we had a chance to visit White Oaks, which was a ghost town, but now has 15 permanent residents, including the delightful Barry and Dawnna, who we met up with twice. Lincoln is famous for Billy the Kid’s last jailing and subsequent escape, where he killed two deputies. We saw the grave of one of the deputies in White Oaks, which is a good 40 miles away. Carazizzo, just a few miles up the road from the campground, has a great gallery and art scene, and we really enjoyed wandering the streets and investigating the galleries.

More pictures to come, as they come off the big camera. All in all, a really enjoyable week before heading to Albuquerque, where just like last year, I arrive and then promptly fly out the next morning – this time to LA and then the following week to Mountain View.

Jesse traversing the lava like a pro.

Jesse traversing the lava like a pro.

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Selfie on the rocks

The mighty Beastie looking up from the trail.

The mighty Beastie looking up from the trail.

Mountain lion track in the mud after rains.

Mountain lion track in the mud after rains. (I think, this one is from my own tracking skills, but I did get shown the tracks earlier in the week). Feel free to confirm or deny 😉

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Nice… little deer enjoying the tender leaves until getting chased out by molten lava. This rivals the Ronald McDonald spaceship mural from Roswell for pure weirdness.









Return to New Mexico

Back again in my beloved desert, I feel like I can breathe deep again. After so many years away from the east, my body forgot how to deal with humidity. We’ve camped in over 60 locations at this point, and here, at Bottomless Lakes SP, I am amongst my favorites. It is an oasis in the desert, with a series of eight lakes that are really giant sinkholes, feeding the waters of the Pecos river through the gypsum until the rock gives way. I am steps away from paddle boarding in this clear lake surrounded by the red rock cliffs that are ever-changing in the New Mexico light. An outflow creek passes by our campsite that pushes about 5000 gallons of water per day into the wetlands. That’s right, wetlands in the desert! There are all kinds of ducks, geese and other birds, rabbits jumping past, and raccoons. Happily, so far, I haven’t seen any snakes (though am still skittish after almost stepping on a rattler while in Texas, but that’s another story). Could this get any better? Well, there is Roswell just 20 miles away, where we got to explore the International UFO museum (and research center). This area is so dog-friendly, Jesse was even allowed in the museum! She wasn’t over-impressed with aliens, though, and probably would have preferred to walk the streets of the town. We can finally walk off-leash again, so she’s a happy camper.

We’ll head south from here for a bit, then off to Albuquerque, which will close the loop on this trip. A year ago last week we were in Santa Fe. Hard to believe we’ve been on the road so long, and yet it feels like it’s gone by in a flash. I’m glad to have this blog to look back at all the different places we’ve been, faces we’ve seen, and roads that we’ve wandered.

"All along the watchtower..." love this tower and all the detail in it.

“All along the watchtower…” love this tower and all the detail in it.

A canopy of trees provide shade along the hot trail.

A canopy of trees provide shade along the hot trail.

Desert blooms

Desert blooms

Jesse lounging on the beach at Lea Lake. She's really taken to the paddleboarding here with me.

Jesse lounging on the beach at Lea Lake. She’s really taken to the paddleboarding here with me.

Self-portrait in the desert at moonrise.

Self-portrait in the desert at moonrise.

There is the creek running by the camper.

There is the creek running by the camper.

 

 

There are lots of great murals in Roswell, but this this took the cake. So this explains where Ronald McDonald comes from!

… All others park on the street.

Dan and Jesse heading into the museum (and UFO research center!)

Dan and Jesse heading into the museum (and UFO research center!)

here are lots of great murals in Roswell, but this this took the cake. So this explains where Ronald McDonald comes from!

There are lots of great murals in Roswell, but this this took the cake. So this explains where Ronald McDonald comes from!

 

Ropesville, Texas

On our way to New Mexico, we stopped in the roaring metropolis of Ropesville, TX, current population 450, where Dan’s grandfather was raised. For such a tiny dot on the map, it’s funny that this is the second time I’ve visited; the first time with my mother-in-law Cheryl when we drove through but couldn’t find the cemetery. With a little guidance from Cheryl and Google maps to assist, we found the cemetery this time and Dan got to see the gravestones of his family. From the streets of Manhattan to the fields of Texas, Cheryl has given us some fun genealogy-tracking trips along the way.

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Austin, City Limits

We’ve had the chance to spend two great weeks outside of Austin, in Georgetown, just about 30 min from cousin Jake’s house. We’ve had lots of chances to hang out with Jake and Jamie, both around the campfire at the campsite and at Jake’s house. We managed to pack in a few adventures, of course, including a day in San Antonio where we checked out the Alamo and Riverwalk. I also went to Town Lake, and explored the trails in that area, too. And there were many evenings just hanging at Jake’s house enjoying the good company.

The hiking around Lake Georgetown includes about 30 miles of trails around the lake and then smaller trails and the lakeshore itself. With limestone rock that is full of holes and shale around the lake, it makes for a difficult hiking path, but one that I loved. Until. I came around a large boulder on the path along the lake and almost stepped on a rattlesnake; with my foot poised in the air to come down upon it, it raised itself up and rattled at me. I can’t even remember moving, but I was instantly way down the beach and had Jesse with me. Then, looking around at all of the rock and boulders and a million places for snakes to lie, I did the sensible thing and called Dan to rescue me 🙂 I’ve stayed to the main hiking trails since then…

In acknowledgement of being another year older, I also managed to throw out my back this week. It was with great luck that I was able to get in to see an excellent chiropractor, and had several appointments to get me back up and running. Ah, age…

Dan and I celebrated our joint birthday with dinner at Jake’s house on my birthday, and then a wonderful meal in Georgetown for Dan’s. Low-key, but lovely, both days, and included nice talks with family and friends. I got spoiled with spa time, while Dan got a boy’s day out with Jake (no dog, no wife, he must have been terribly lonely ;).

Campsite at Lake Georgetown

Campsite at Lake Georgetown

Beautiful lake, until you see a snake.

Beautiful lake, until you see a snake. Then it just looks snaky…

Jake, Jamie, Dan and I (with Jesse and Sith) hike in Austin.

Cousin Jake, Jamie, Dan and I (with Jesse and Sith) hike in Austin.

At the Alamo. Fun day in San Antonio!

At the Alamo. Fun day in San Antonio!

River walk in San Antonio

River walk in San Antonio

Kay and Jesse explore Town Lake, with downtown Austin in the background

Kay and Jesse explore Town Lake, with downtown Austin in the background

New Orleans – Week 1

We’ve been packing in the sights on our off-hours this week. I’ve been getting up with Jesse and touring the French Quarter in the mornings, and then Dan takes her to a great 4.5 acre dog park at lunch, followed by adventures in Louis Armstrong park late afternoon, and then walking tour of the area. Phew, we’ve covered some miles this week! We also lucked into being in town for St Patrick’s Day, so got to see a full-on parade, bead madness (I even got a garter 😉 ) and a whole lot of drunk people wearing green. Once again I was surprised by the things that Jesse-dog counts as fun, but walking in a parade is on.

Kimbo and Jesse after the St Patrick's Day Parade

Kay and Jesse after the St Patrick’s Day Parade

One of the highlights was meeting up with my brother Dave, who happens to also be in town this week, competing in a national bridge tournament. We met up for dinner and cocktails afterward, with him, his bridge partner and friends. He also showed us around the tournament setup, and we got to see how real bridge is played. Impressive!

We spent today touring around the Garden District. Because none of the tour companies will allow dogs, we figured out self-guided walking tours and have been consulting our phones as we cruise around different historic areas. This walking tour worked out pretty well!

Welcome to the Garden District!

Welcome to the Garden District!

A dog-friendly mansion... Welcome to the garden district!

A dog-friendly mansion… Welcome to the garden district!

Author Anne Rice's home and the setting for the Mayfair Witches books

Author Anne Rice’s home and the setting for the Mayfair Witches books

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Touring through Lafayette Cemetary

I will write a poem about this shoe.

I will write a poem about this shoe.

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Tiptoe through the clover… the grass is always greener… so many tacky options for this caption 😉

 

Whirlwind Drive to New Orleans

We traveled through four states in a day… what a whirlwind! And Sunday night we landing in New Orleans!

Hello Ala-Missi-Lou!

Hello Ala-Missi-Lou!

We’re staying put for two weeks, and have found an awesome location just a couple of blocks off of the French Quarter. It’s very strange; right next to St Louis Cemetary #1, at the end of a dark alley, is a quite nice RV park (minus the giant billboard in the center). Great services, excellent security and as you can see here, most convenient freeway access 😉 We have our own patch of grass, a cobblestone parking area, and full hookups. Jesse and I tour the quarter every morning before work (and right after the street cleaners have been through), and have made lots of local friends. She loves it; what an urban girl! Here are some shots of our first hours in the city.

We are here!

We are here!

Dan and Jesse whooping it up on Bourbon St.

Dan and Jesse whooping it up on Bourbon St.

Parades everywhere!

Parades everywhere!

Cafe du Monde... Home of the world's greatest chicory coffee and beignets! I even brought one back for Dan to try.

Cafe du Monde… Home of the world’s greatest chicory coffee and beignets! I even brought one back for Dan to try.

Goodbye Pensacola

We had a great week in Big Lagoon SP, just outside of Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle. Our good friend Gary D just moved to Atlanta, and he drove down on the weekend with his love, Susan, to spend time with us. The weather held out for fun bonfires, and Gary and I have spent so many years (decades?) hanging around the campfire that it felt like old times. The weather held out for us, as there were huge storms all around us, but managed to miss us by miles. Good times with great friends, and the perfect way to say goodbye to Florida!

Gary, Susan and Otis at camp

Gary, Susan and Otis at camp

Gary and Dan

Gary and Dan

Gary and Kimbo

Gary and Kimbo