Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Wild West

Since leaving the prairie of Oklahoma, we've spent eight days exploring the peaks and canyons of Colorado and Utah. The natural beauty of the West was our main motivation for the road trip, and it hasn't disappointed so far. The variety in landscapes has been striking. With a half a day of driving we went from snow-covered peaks to the Navajo desert filled with red mesas.

Another theme has been consistently great campsites. We spent much of the first leg of our journey staying with family and friends, which was great, but we're now in full out camping mode. We've had six camping nights already. A few of the sights had incredible views and peaceful solitude. And we've had lots of time to read at campsites.

Daisy made it to the rockies! Our first range was the Sangre de Cristo mountains, which are a perfect line of snow-capped peaks. We tried to take her up a Jeep trail in an effort to make it to the high alpine, but she didn't make it. 
Above 10,000 feet the snow was deep, but we were prepared! Nellie was sorry that she ever laughed at me for bringing the snowshoes.
After leaving the Sangre de Cristos we camped above Monarch Pass on the continental divide. We were totally alone with the incredible views .
The snowshoes were critical again. I climbed the peak in the background just after sunrise.
Post-faceplant on snowshoes. I tried to slide down like skiing, but tripped.  A heavy backpack makes for a hard faceplant
After three days/two nights in the mountains of Colorado, we set off for the red deserts of Utah. The transition was fast. All of a sudden it was eighty degrees!

Four corners was closed! Blast!
After several hours of driving through northern Arizona we snaked up into Utah to Zion National Park. Apparently May is already high season for the park (there were so many old people!), and several of the campsites were full. But we managed to grab a campsite along the river just outside the park.

The park has impressively tall canyons, but the real attraction is the Virgin River, which is a cold creek that supports a lush green valley. It is really soothing to see water in the desert.

Nellie wading in the narrows of the river. It was a great way to hike in the heat.
On our second day in the park we hiked away from the crowds to a smaller creek in the far corner of the park. We camped right next to the babbling brook, and spent most of the afternoon reading with our feet cooling in the water.

The creek, babbling and beautiful. It is a spring-fed river, and the water was cool but not cold.
Nell making lunch.
There is a famous arch on the side of the valley. It is big (the second-largest in the world) but kind of hard to get a good view of.
Nellie surveying the landscape.
After Zion we made our way toward Bryce Canyon National Park. We'll cover the park itself in the next post, but we rented mountain bikes on the way in and rode a fifteen mile loop in a place called Red Canyon. It was awesome! We had never mountain biked before, and were definitely in a little over our heads, but I can't imagine a prettier place to bike.

Zoom in to see Nellie on the ridge.
On top of a Hoodoo!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Road Trip USA

Well, we've been slacking on the posts, we admit. The primary reason is a true lack of reliable wi-fi over the last two+ addition to a slight blogging burnout. ANYways --


I think if you click the above link you can see where we've spent each night, marked by numbers. Way back when we decided that this road trip would have two themes: exploring the natural beauty of our own country, and spending time with people we love. So far, we're doing splendidly. We've had a great combination of car camping, backcountry camping, motels, and homes of friends and family. We've run the risk of packing too much into too little (both literally, i.e. Daisy is at her full capacity; and figuratively, i.e. "Louisville is only ten hours away without stopping, let's go!"), but we're having a fantastic time. We've had a good balance of highway and back roads, which has allowed us to take advantage of 75, or 80, mph speed limits, while also seeing smaller towns and communities.

Here's a summary play-by-play --

Boston, MA: found a summer sublet (here we come Harvard and Tufts!) and dined with amigos
New York, NY: more dining with amigos, plus a slumber party. And GREAT bagels.
Philadelphia, PA: lunch with cousin Julia!
Eastern Kentucky via West Virginia: WV is full of gorgeous, green, empty, rolling hills. We slept at a beautiful state park after crossing the border (fun fact: Lexington, KY has amazing bagels too).

On our way to Louisville, we drove through horse country, where many derby horses are bred, and saw some amazing properties. We spent the night with Geena (who has a gorgeous apartment with awesome balconies) and her mom (activities included watching G's slow pitch team kick ass).

Beautiful horse farm.
Mike is more interested in weather than softball apparently
A short drive the next day brought us to St. Louis, where we spent the weekend with Anna and Robert. Highlights included sitting in on Anna's seventh grade honors class and watching them read their essays, getting a personal tour of Schlafly's Brewery courtesy of Robert, some great homemade meals, and the City Musuem (a crazy weird jungle gym for adults).

City Museum. Gotta protect those knees.
I didn't have any other pictures of our hosts...Robert found red lentils!
The purdy arch
The Arch Museum...
A late night drive landed us in another pretty state park in southern Missouri. I should mention here that an amazing memory foam pad for the tent has revolutionized car camping for me. In the morning we stopped at another state park (State Parks are amazing! They are clean, beautiful, and empty) in Oklahoma where Mike promptly lost his sneakers aka left them on the roof.

I had this childhood memory of loving to pick up turtles that were crossing the road in order to "rescue" them. It's not quite as fun as I remembered...they just kinda sit there and looked pissed at you.
The next few days were spent in Oklahoma City at Mike's mom's house. Highlights here included relaxation, golfing, and an unbelievable trip with Marie Elise and Ross to the OKC Thunder vs LA Clippers playoff game 5. In our XXL t-shirts, we screamed until we couldn't hear anymore while the Thunder came back and won.

We are DIRECTLY to the left in this picture. He told us to quiet down and then sat there, unable to watch Westbrook's epic foul shots, in the background. We're working on getting him his wedding invite. 
Finally, we headed out the panhandle of Oklahoma into one of the most rural, and conservative, parts of the country. Mike was concerned that Oklahoma had too many trees (in the east) to be true Great Plains. The panhandle reassured us. It's really flat. And dry. We saw few people, two pronghorns, and an extremely informative roadside exhibit.

Flat. Dry. Pronghorns.
Now we know!
We also visited picture canyon in the National Grasslands, which was underwhelming, but sort of cool.
This drawing from probably a few hundred years ago would have been much cooler had there not been graffiti literally everywhere. Really too bad. Kind of ashamed of our country here.
What's next?? Mike will pick up from here. Check out the map above for a spoiler :)