Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And then there were pictures:

This morning we packed up our Grand Canyon campsite, waved goodbye, and headed south to Joshua Tree via Sedona. I will definitely miss Arizona and the GC especially.

Yesterday after we finished up our laundry, Kt and I hiked down South Kaibab Trail. It was such a beautiful and, at times, intimidating hike. We literally hiked into the canyon on a path that was at times no more than 3 feet wide without a rail. Due to some mapping issues, we miscalculated our distance and didn't go quite as far as planned, which was probably a good thing considering how steep the climb back up was. Remember that invincible feeling I mentioned? Imagine looking down and seeing birds flying below you. Make a little more sense now? The hike trumped our bike ride and was equally as intense, though I didn't urge Kt to leave me behind this time.

Last night as we lay in our tent waiting to fall asleep, we heard wailing that turned to howling and barking about 100 yds from our tent. Kt and I froze as we realized it was coyotes. Definitely gave us goosebumps (I had to hold Kt back from trying to get a picture). I got a little nervous because I hadn't planned on a coyote attack, but luckily they didn't come closer.

This afternoon after passing through the truly jaw dropping red rocks of Sedona we decided to head on to Prescott for lunch. Based on a recommendation from our friend Eddie, we stopped at the Prescott Brewing Company. By far, best meal yet. We also drove through the small mountain town of Jerome that sits on the top peak of a mountain. Though tiny (I guessed 35 people lived there, but I guess it's closer to 350) it houses multiple artists and wineries and was voted the "wickedest town of the west" in 1903.

From there, we drove out into the desert and into the 111 degree heat as we crossed California's state line. We are now tucked into our motel in Joshua Tree (ditched camping when we realized how hot it would be) and will check out the park tomorrow before we head to San Diego.

As promised, here is a sprinkling of pictures. Between the 4 cameras Kt and I have, these are only mine. Once we get more settled (or back home) we will try to consolidate, but for now, enjoy!

New Mexico Campsite KOA

Kt outside Carlsbad National Park after we went into the caverns.

The mouth of the caverns that we hiked into. We went 800 feet down.

In the Caverns

Leaving NM. Grabbed a map and some coffee.

The Indian Reservation we accidentally drove through.

Somewhere between NM and Arizona


First stop: Petrified Forest

Painted Desert=Beauty

Grand Canyon Site 148

The dog sized ravens attacked our water jug, pecked holes in it and drained it.

Kt cooking....or sitting by the stove.

First look of the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon at sunset

Psalm 68, Hermit's Rest (where we biked)

Kt hunting elk...

...found one.

Our bikes.

Hiking Kaibab. At the top.
Looking down Kaibab.

Made it to Ooh Aah Point.

Looking back up. I'm in red (the dot) in the middle of the picture.

Back at the top, feeling like champs.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Really Loooooong Post

Doing laundry at the Grand Canyon is far more fun than laundry in West Palm. As I sit and listen to the whir of the washing machines and the gentle hum of the driers I feel as if nothing can touch me. As we hoped, Sunday was a relaxing day. We grocery shopped, recharged, fixed the problem with the car chargers (2 blown fuses, who knew?) and backed into a car at the gas station. It's always an adventure, remember?

Once back at site 148 we made some dinner, situated ourselves and found an elk wandering through the woods behind our site. Turns out those huge deer I mentioned seeing on our way up the mountain were actually elk. That explains their girth. Kt LOVES all the animals we are seeing. She has chased down multiple ravens, elk, and squirrels for pictures who seem less than thrilled about their photo-ops. I'm exaggerating a little, I don't think she actually took a picture of the squirrel.

Later, we went to the rim of the canyon for a pink and orange sunset passing two more elk that were within 10 feet of the car. As we sat on the edge, feet dangling precariously close to the 300 foot drop, we quietly waited among people of all nations for the sun to fall below the rocks and drop the sky down to a lavender blue. Talk about feeling invincible.

As the sky dimmed from purple, to deep blue we attempted to go back to our campsite. I managed only to drive to the exit twice before finally finding the way back. This has become a normal occurrence for me as the signs here are less than par. Nonetheless, we did make it back and quickly started our fire, made s'mores and drank a Grand Canyon Ale. The neighbors we alienated the night before by hammering our tent stakes in at midnight, wandered over and managed to forgive us as we shared our fire. Ironically, they were also from Florida and one of them even frequents the Port St. Lucie Walmart where we made our first stop. They gave us some good tips for Yellowstone and even left us with a gift of their extra camping supplies (thanks Micheal and Alex!). They also gave us the suggestion of biking to Hermit's Rest, which is a trail restricted to shuttles, pedestrians and bicyclists.

We woke up refreshed Monday morning and rented bikes as suggested. After loading them onto the shuttle, we were dropped off at Hopi Point and began our 5 mile ride to the end at Hermit's Rest where we would be picked up. This really is one of the most amazing things I have ever done or seen. (Do I keep saying that?) The GC is bigger than any picture shows and dwarfs everything near it, including people, cars, rivers and rafts. Every point provides a different perspective that is equally impressive.

We made it safely to Hermit's Rest and hiked about a quarter mile down before turning around. Traveling into the canyon changes your perspective again as dots become trees and bushes, and rock formations seen from afar become ledges and turns in the trail. Once back to the top we decided to ride back to Hopi Point instead of waiting there. What we didn't realize was most of the ride had been downhill. Uphill is not as fun. We walked the bikes a few times and at one point I heard myself telling Kt to save herself, one of us needed to make it out alive. Turns out we both did.

We crawled into bed early last night and plan on hiking the Kaibab trail this afternoon. Tomorrow we pack up and head towards Joshua Tree. I think it will be hard to leave the beauty we found here, but I know there is more waiting for us.

***I know I keep promising pictures, but my internet signal is too weak to upload right now. Patience! Also a big congratulations to my sister who got engaged this past weekend. Congratulations!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Then things started to get tents...

Pun intended.

Lincoln National Forest

Yesterday Kt and I left Carlsbad around 9:30 hoping to arrive in the Grand Canyon before dark. We got some sparse directions from someone at the KOA who suggested we drive through Cloudcroft instead of Roswell for a prettier route. Her advice did not disappoint as each mile grew more beautiful. It's almost as if God was hearing our exclamations and saying, “Oh yeah? You think that's cool?” and then around the next curve something even more astounding would come over the horizon. While we were silenced into a reverent state by the natural beauty around us, we noticed far less natural things happening with the technology in front of us. We had lost service, lost the power to charge anything through the cigarette lighters, and were quickly losing charge. Directions were not existent, contact was lost and power was gone.

I had picked up a map of New Mexico at the KAO by chance (you taught me well mom) and had also grabbed a KAO guide that included basic maps of each state. Using a combination of the two we somehow managed to find our way. Yep, I am now a professional cartographer. I will not say we did not miss a few road signs or that we smiled beatifically the whole time, BUT we did make it to the GC safely. Albeit 14 hours later. To be fair, we drove blue highways and mountains and weren't afraid to stop for a picture or two. We drove through the smoky mountain-esque Lincoln National Forest, saw White Sands, past the Valley of Fire, the site of the first atomic bomb, the Malais Mountains, the village of Tularosa (twice), stopped at the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert State Park, onto the Coconino State Forest, through a few restricted Native American reservations (oops) and crossed into a new time zone (who knew Az (only parts mind you) didn't do day light savings time?).

We made it to Flagstaff around 9:30 and headed up more mountains and into Kaibab State Forest. Kt saw 4 deer (I only saw 3) one of which was a 6-8 point buck about to cross the road. I don't think we are in West Palm anymore. The higher we climbed, about 8,000 feet, the cooler it got. By the time we reached site 148 we were exhausted and ready for those KOA yellow shirts to greet us. Except we aren't staying in a KOA. As we set up the tent, things got increasingly tense. A word of advice to those who may follow our path: it's not the dark that makes putting the tent up hard, it's 14 hours on the road, dark, cold, and exhaustion that make it difficult. Though we alienated all of our camping neighbors, we did manage to finally set ourselves up and were giggling while we fell asleep. After all, we are in the Grand Canyon.

Today we are taking it slow and getting settled. We will be here four nights and could use a little relaxing. We had our first glimpse of the GC today deserves it's own post.

Pictures are coming, I promise!

***Special thanks and a note: Kt drove the ENTIRE way to the GC. I think she deserves a few woot woots (it's the farthest she's driven in one stretch!). Also, I still don't have service and we are having a hard time charging so the blogs may be few and far between as well as the phone calls.
2010-06-26 20.18.29.jpg
Desert by night. And by blur

Friday, June 25, 2010

Without Adequate Words, Without Adequate Service

"I have just been 800 feet underground....I have just gone through something that should not exist in relation to human beings. Something that is as remote as the galaxy, incomprehensible as a nightmare, and beautiful in spite of everything."-Ansel Adams after experiencing Carlsbad Caverns

Today Kt and I went to the Carlsbad Caverns and toured the natural entrance and Big Room. I cannot find words enough to explain the feelings that repeatedly washed over me as we experienced more and more miraculous things in the cave. Though we took what seemed to be 200 pictures, I know they will not do it justice, but will hopefully serve to remind us of how small we felt in such a grandiloquent place. Approaching the entrance was possibly one of the most wonderful things I have ever seen. It seems that almost out of nowhere a giant crater is revealed that appears bottomless. Looking back up at the entrance while we could still see the natural light was emotional in a way I can't explain. Perhaps I will try again tomorrow.

The KOA we are staying in is fabulous. Nice bathrooms, nice people, nice isolation and nice hairy tarantulas (I'm not making that up). Tomorrow we leave for the Grand Canyon and it almost seems incomprehensible to imagine that the beauty we will see will continue to awe and amaze us. While Kt's technological devices seem to be serviced nicely out here, mine remain off while they search for a signal they can't find. If a beacon of service returns on the road I will update with pictures.

6 states, 5 days. Tomorrow marks our 7th state.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Houston to San Antonio to Carlsbad

As it continues to rain, at least lightly now, we're heading out of Houston towards the Alamo which we have been repeatedly told is exceptionally anticlimactic. Nonetheless, we are headed Southwest to experience it for ourselves. Isn't that the whole point?

Last night we stayed with Kt's aunt and uncle who took us for delicious Tex-Mex at Cyclone Anaya's in midtown with one of her cousins and his wife. The food was fabulous (especially considering NOLA's meat centered cuisine and less than stellar veg options) and the company even better. After dinner we had a mini tour of Houston. Houston is HUGE and seems so much more spread out than other big cities. I guess it's true what they say about Texas.

Tonight we will be in Carlsbad and will be camping for the next two nights. We'll be exploring caverns and seeing the desert. I. Can't. Believe. It.

While I planned extensively for bear attacks flash flooding and mechanical failure, I did not plan for wild fires. Of course, there are now wildfires in Flagstaff. It sounds like the fires shouldn't affect our trip too much, who knows, maybe you'll see us on the news fighting fires. Smoky would be proud.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Guest Blogger: Kt

We left NOLA around 11:30 after grabbing another cafe au lait and headed towards I 10W. Our plan was to stop in Baton Rouge for lunch but it quickly changed and instead we headed for the riverfront where Kt promptly summed up Baton Rouge with one word: snore. As I continue driving west, Kt reflected on our trip thus far. Here are Kt's words:

My mind is full and seems to be leaking words. What do I expect to experience in the coming weeks? I’m not quite sure. I look forward to not knowing. Up next: Houston. Then, it’s off San Antonio to see the Alamo which will be followed by Carlsbad, New Mexico to see some of the most famed caverns in the world. Flagstaff, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon will be next… Day 3 and it seems like we’ve been gone a month and a day at the same time. It still doesn’t seem real. Light rain threatens our view of Louisiana’s heartland. It’s bare anyway.

More than anything I can’t wait to see the desert. I appreciate it’s wonder better than I did a few years back, but I know my knowledge of it will be nothing compared to what I’ll see with my own eyes in a few days. I’m overflowing with anticipation. Will it be what I expect? I have a feeling it’ll be infinitely more. It makes me smile with the excitement of a child taking his first trip to Disney World. Except I’ll see more sand and less creepy adults dressed like treasured cartoon characters.

New Orleans was magnificent. My favorite part was seeing the Mississippi. I think of it’s significance in time and in my life. It makes me feel small in a good way. My first impression was one of amazement. ”THAT is a river.” I dipped my toes in it. What else will my feet touch along this journey? The sands of the Painted Desert, the Pacific Ocean, the fallen leaves of the redwood forests…

Welcome to Texas!

We just crossed the state border and the rain has graduated to a watery blizzard. I’ve never been to Texas, have I? Childhood memories of a family trip to Oklahoma play hide-and-seek with my recollection. Either way, we just passed a livestock weigh station. Yep, we’re in Texas. See you in a couple hours, Uncle John!

In just a few weeks we’ll be home and this journey will be over. But in a way it’ll just be starting. My memories and reflections of this trip will last my whole life. Pictures I can only take in my mind are what I’ll hold dearest. Talks with old and new friends, strangers from our stops and with my own thoughts will serve as my tour guide along this path that I’ll likely only travel once. And that’ll be enough for me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

From SoFla to Nola

As promised, a few pictures. Tomorrow we leave for Houston via Baton Rouge. NOLA has been good to us. I like her quite a bit.

Waiting for the car to be finished in Walmart's shopping cart graveyard...

...still waiting.

Tallahassee and Kt's alma mater (I still think she went to school in Gainesville)

Alabama's finest

Kt's first Po'Boy

The view from our room. Maybe flowers would look nice there?

Cafe Au Lait and Beignets for breakfast

Powder sugar lips courtesy of Cafe Du Monde

Kt dipping her toes in Ole Miss

Near our hotel in the French Quarter

Beer sampler with lunch

Jackson Square

Dinner and jazz

NOLA by night