Sunday, June 29, 2014

Santa Fe with the Woods ... and Mountains

Road Trip USA! | My new trip on!

May 31-June 11

As you can see (again, spoiler alert), Mike and I have finally finished our travels and are happily back in Boston. We can't believe it's over! We admittedly got pretty behind on the postings, but we plan on finishing them up, if only to have the documentation for ourselves in 10 years :)

After a couple of days in Durango, CO, we drove down to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where my parents had rented a house for week. All of the Wood siblings joined in on the fun! We spent six nights there, which was much more than we were planning on, but it was just so fun and relaxing, that the time flew by without so much as a thought of leaving. Santa Fe is extremely dry and sunny, but the adobe house we were staying in stayed cool and lovely. Almost every house in Santa Fe is made from adobe, and now I see why. Much of the week was spent just relaxing together and eating great meals, but we also went golfing, played tennis, browsed incredible art galleries along Canyon Road (just minutes from our rental house), and even went on a family hike around the local ski mountain. Once we got some elevation, the temperature cooled down to perfection, and the aspen forests made for a blissful setting. There was even some snow! Perhaps the most time consuming activity of the week, however, was playing (and teaching ourselves) bridge. We got sort of obsessed.

Our rental house. It was up on a hill with an amazing view from the back patio. Look at those license plates!
Home-made margaritas and bridge. Yum. Note computer and tablet with bidding conventions.

Everybody at the end of the hike! Mr. Wilbur the dog especially enjoyed belly flopping in as many streams as possible.
This probably isn't what you imagine when you think of Santa Fe!
Happy 22nd Birthday Tessa!
This is one of my favorite pictures so far. A one-try selfie, no less.

After Santa Fe, we headed back into the San Juan range in SoCo for one last tryst with the mountains. We were based out of Silverton, an old mining town at 9300 feet that is definitely the most "cowboy" we've seen so far. It sits in this open valley with few trees, and the houses are brightly colored. A coal-powered train chugs around the perimeter. When you're looking down on it from the mountain pass, it looks exactly like a model train set. There are only two roads to Silverton: a mountain pass or a mountain pass on which you are likely to die. As a hitchhiker told us, "oh, they don't have guardrails because the avalanches will just knock them out anyways." Oh, ok, great.

Silverton, CO. Population, 600.
With my feet finally healed, we were ready to go for one more longer backpack. We spent four days and three nights in the Weminuche Wilderness Area, and saw a grand total of zero people until the last hour of the hike on the last day, when we saw two people. One of the reasons we probably didn't see anyone was because the weather was pretty shitty and highly unpredictable. Nevertheless, we had some incredible views and finally summited a "13er."

Note: the pictures below are in chronological order. Seriously. So weird.

We started the hike in a beautiful valley (we missed you, trees!) and then on the second day, went off-trail for awhile to cut a corner. Hence the map and the face.

Our view from campsite #2. Above tree line. Good idea? "But that's how you get a good view!" The night was calm and windless.
The next day, 11:22 am. That's hail on the ground. Those are really dark clouds. We got caught in a lightning was very scary. 

The view off the other side of the ridge. 11:36 am. "Thank goodness that storm passed!" 
12:58 pm. This is right after we decided we should find a new campsite for the third night. I guess we should have acted more quickly. I preferred snow and wind to lightning, though. 
2:36 pm. What the...sun!
3:50 pm. The wind was wicked cold. 
Our first 13,000 foot peak in the US!
5:24 pm. After a surprisingly beautiful hike, we were incredibly relieved to get back below tree line and even set up camp before this rain started.  Or is it rain?
6:32 am, the next morning. June 9th snow!!!! 
It got seriously hot as we climbed back down to 9000 feet. 
We made it! That lightning storm really was one of the more scary moments of our trip for me. Lesson learned. At least we learned the importance of a good stake job on the tent.

At this point, we finally said goodbye to the mountains and started our trek east. The first stop was Denver, to visit friends James and Maureen. We had a BBQ, which Mike and I had been craving ever since we realized, in the middle of our June 8th snowstorm, that it was perfect summer weather in New England.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Mountain West fun siblings!

May 21-31:

Post-mountain biking through Red Canyon, we were about ready to collapse. We ate some pie and went to bed at a nearby campsite. We decided to save nearby Bryce Canyon for the next day so that we could really appreciate it. Unfortunately, when we woke up it was freezing and raining (for the first time in awhile), so we opted for an old person style drive-by tour along the 17 mile road through the canyon.  

Mike's general state throughout the morning. It was still beautiful despite the snow and freezing fog.
After a scenic drive through the heart of southern Utah, we arrived in Heber City, in the mountains just outside of Salt Lake City. The next day we golfed nine holes and then drove up Bald Mountain Pass in the Uinta Mountains, which are the highest in Utah. We camped near the pass in our classic style: drive to altitude, snowshoe a short distance, and camp in a spectacular place that looks hard to get to. The approach maximizes the vista to effort ratio and avoids aggravating Nellie's many foot problems. Snow hiking and camping is so great because you can pretty much go wherever you want; plus, there are no people around. 

Mike made a fantastic fire in the snow! We had some wind problems the next morning - the price we pay for the view.
Someone brilliant fashioned seats out of stones on this summit. It felt like the roof of the world. Can't imagine a better place to sit back with a good book.
On Sunday afternoon we excitedly headed to Salt Lake City to pick up Libby and Billy. On the way we went to REI and splurged on awesome backpack-ready camp chairs. At this point Mike designed a crude but crafty bungie-and-rope roof rack system in order to accommodate all the additional stuff and people that would soon be arriving. It was pretty hilarious watching him work alongside another dude in the parking lot who was putting on a brand new car rack from the store at the same time.

Airport! The bags never fell off...
The next four days were jam-packed with a slew of awesome adventures. It was so much fun having two more companions! Activities included: Arches National Park, watching the Thunder-Spurs basketball games, car camping, white water kayaking down the Colorado River, and a snow-shoe hike/overnight in Colorado's San Juan Mountains. See pictures below!

The sibbies gazing out at the top of Double-O Arch.
The whole team!
Brothers conquering mountains...
And puddles. Billy face-planted the landing.
Glorious campsite along the Colorado. 
I guess I have to mention here that I, um, locked the keys in the car again. Also our food, phones, etc...which we realized at like 7 am (trying the beat the heat). We had to trust young Billy to go on a solo rescue mission into town with some nice camper neighbors. Luckily he returned with Trusty Dusty from AAA an hour later.
Since we don't have any photos from kayaking, I'll just mention here that it was SO FUN! The rapids were exhilarating. The non-rapids still carried you down the river at a good clip, and were smooth enough that I actually fell asleep in my big inflatable kayak for awhile. The sun was warm and bright, the canyon walls were towering, and it was all together pretty darn idyllic. 

After two days in the desert of Utah we drove about four hours to the mountains of southern Colorado. It was quite the change in scenery. 

The team again!
Beautiful spring growth peaking up

Billy looking good on the way up. He is exhausted (12,000+ feet of elevation), but is hiding it well.
Another amazing snow campsite. Really prime 270 degree views.

After we dropped Libby and Billy off at the Durango airport on Thursday, we were pooped. We spent two more nights in Durango, but didn't really do much of anything (camped, played tennis, ordered in Chinese food and watched basketball). Oh, and accidentally threw out all five of our Sporks. Oops. 

One of the unique parts of a trip this long is that, despite being in an incredibly novel and stimulating part of the country, and despite being fairly hyperactive people, we still have enough time to happily spend a morning lying in a park reading, sipping coffee in a local coffee shop (can't get enough. yum), and shopping for new Sporks.