Thursday, June 27, 2013

It's June and I still suck.

Well I'm back.  Maybe.  The layout is a little strange...  I got messed up somewhere and got frustrated fixing it.  At least I'm posting!

My computer is down and out for the count so I'm using G's.  Hopefully, I'll be getting my own this summer - but we'll see.  We have so many ambitions right now...

We are back in Yellowstone for the summer.  G is driving for the Total Yellowstone Package - a week long tour that our friend J.P. is narrating (with some help from G).  I'm a mostly step-on-guide.  Basically when big tour groups come into the park, I'll hop on their bus and hang out for the day - giving some info about the park along the way.  It's a pretty sweet gig.

G watching bats fly out of Congress Ave. Bridge.

On our way out here this spring we visited a number of southwestern national parks and some good friends.  Our official road trip began after visiting the families, which we drove to as well.  The first stop was Austin, TX.  Our real intention there was to visit Mandy & Kaleb and Josiah.  However, we did some sightseeing as well.  At first, we just headed into Austin with high hopes of finding stuff to do - rather unsuccessfully.  So we went back to the hotel room (thanks Kathy!) and did some research.  We rushed to the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch and smell the millions of bats fly out of their day home to catch millions of bugs during the night.  Since we barely made it in time to even witness the event, there was no way we were making it to a good photography spot.  It was still really neat to witness.  The next day we took off with a full itenaray - visiting a couple of museums, the University of Texas campus and the Cathedral of Junk. 

Cathedral of Junk, Austin, TX
After visiting with our friends, we headed out to the Chihuahuan Desert and Big Bend N.P.  As we headed west across the giant state of Texas, we began to feel the heat seeping into the truck.  Josiah had us super excited about Big Bend - and also worried about the tarantulas that we expected to see crawling across the road and over our tent.  (We both woke up a couple of times thinking that one was near our heads!)  Thankfully, we never saw any!  We did see some Javalinas (sort of like pigs but not), quite a few deer and a persistent Mexican Blue Jay.  We camped out in the Chisos Mountains and climbed Emory Peak.  Since it was so hot, we started our day early to get to our campsite around lunch, napped through the hottest part of the day, then climbed/scrambled up Emory (7,825 ft).  G was a little crabby when he woke up sweating, but the evening hike in the cool breeze chilled him out.  The next morning, we woke up to hike out (again early before the heat).  Big Bend was beautiful desert with all sorts of blooms and little critters running around.  However, it is also a big area and I feel like only saw one section - missing the Rio Grande entirely. 

Moonrise in Big Bend N.P.
We saw the green dot of a N.P. calling our name out in New Mexico - Carlsbad Cavern.  It was so cool!  We wanted to do an adventure tour down into one of the lower parts of the cave with a hard hat and miner's light on top - but they were all sold out for the day we were there.  So instead, we ended up doing a candle lantern tour that was a really interesting way to see the caves.  It was how the original discoverers of the cave saw them.  Near the end of the tour, we all blew out our candles and listened to total silence in the total darkness.  It was a very strange sensation.  Then the ranger told us about two early photographers who were down in the caves when the electricity went out and slowly made their way back to the surface with one pack of matches.  One gentleman would light and match and the other would run to the end of the light - and by repeating this process they made it out.   After the tour, we went back up to the surface so we could walk down the cave and through the big room.  The formations within the cave were amazing - it's a place I would recommend anyone to visit who has the chance.

Formations inside of Carlsbad Caverns.
Saguaro N.P. was the next place we visited and it's somewhere I've wanted to go for a long time.  And I loved it! 

Blooming Prickly Pear Cactus.

G hugging a giant Saguaro Cactus.
We had gotten our junior ranger badges at Carlsbad and decided to keep the tradition going - and it was a lot of work here at Saguaro.  However, we did learn about everything that we witnessed, which was really cool to have a better understanding of what was around us.  Saguaro NP is a little strange in that the city of Tuscan, AZ is smack dab in the middle of the park.  So when we rolled in, we toured around Saguaro East, but there was no camping near here so we drove through Tuscan to camp right beside Saguaro West.  We picked up some delicious food and wine to enjoy at our campsite and made a lovely evening of it.  The next day, we explored Saguaro West. It was a little strange that the giant Saguaro cactus were blooming in West, but not East.  They were beautiful - little half dollar coin size white flowers stuck on the crown of the giant, friendly cactus.

Saguaro Bloom.
From Saguaro, we began heading north.  We visited with some dear friends of mine from Chicago who have resently transported to Scottsdale, AZ.  They have a lemon tree in their backyard and their neighbors have orange and grapefruit trees! The Grand Canyon was the next National Park that was on our way.  It was one that we were really excited for - the Grand Canyon.  This was the big one - the must see on everyone's lists.  And I have to admit that it didn't really do it for us. I can see the beauty, history, and awe - but there was just something missing. We got there late the first evening and just set up camp.  G meandered to the grocery for some lunch the next day and brought back Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream because he's a good man.  The next morning, we went in search of a friend from Yellowstone and made plans for dinner that evening.  We happened upon the edge of the canyon - and, if you're not prepared, I could see just stepping off the edge!  It just drops down from nowhere into the inner core that makes up the Colorado Plateau and 2 million years of our planet's history.  We spent the day wandering down the south rim, saw a 5ft long gopher snake, a family of squirrels, got our junior ranger badges and had dinner with a lovely lady.
5 ft long Bull Snake at Grand Canyon.
I was up early (and I  mean early - 4:30 a.m. because Arizona doesn't observe daylight savings, unless you're on an Indian Reservation!) to watch the sunrise.  I went out to a lovely little point near a museum.  There were already two guys out there setting up their tripods - and the didn't want me there!  They made rude comments about how I could find a different spot on the canyon to set up my tripod (in broken English).  I continued on to a spot a little further up the trail with amazing views.  I could still see these two and the couple of bus loads of people that moved into their spot while I enjoyed the sunrise in peace and calm.  We left that morning and had to take a super long detour on our route up to Zion NP due to a road being washed out. 
When we finally made it to Zion, we entered the East Entrance, thinking it was the South Entrance.  We were supposed to be meeting a friend there and ended up driving through the Zion Canyon a few times before figuring out where we were.  It was such a beautiful drive that we didn't mind seeing it more than once.  We finally met Zack, whom we crashed with during the week.  It was his weekend from his job of tour guiding and canyoneering guiding.  So he took us out canyoneering in Pine Creek Canyon.  Oh my goodness!  It was so awesome!  We repeled down various depths - the heighest being 100 ft.  It was such an exhilirating feeling to be hanging by a rope and trusting something like that with my life.  We would lower down into 40ish degree water and have to swim to the other end of the pot hole.  G was in a wet suit and I was in a dry suit, with sweats on underneath, and still shivering occassionally.  We went down the Grand Cathedral. The canyon was so beautiful - like waves of rock that we could move through.  An absolutely wonderful experience!  The next day, we hiked up a hike that I can't remember the name of.  It wasn't Angel's Landing but another one that was slightly higher and more than slightly less populated.  That evening we went and watched the Rainbow Girls perform at a small venue.  
Canyoneering Photos by Zack Pennington.

From there we headed up to Park City, UT to visit Eric and Nadia.  We went GoKarting and LaserTagging.  It was a nice end to the road trip.  Although, I'll admit that I've never been that excited to unpacking the truck as I was after this road trip.  We brought up stuff to decorate our cabin with - for the first time ever our room looks like a home.  We've been hiking and canoing and all sorts of fun stuff so far this summer that (hopefully) I'll update with soon.  Lots of love.  LT

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