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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Day 24: Michigan City to Home!

We left at 8:10am CT but by 8:32am CT we were in Michigan and it was 9:32am EST.
By 3:30pm we had crossed at the Canadian border. It's hard to drive east when we wish we could be continuing westward on a longer vacation.
Well 6000+km and not an issue but we ran into a 2hr delay at Guelph Line due to an accident.
We broke out the chips and cookies and had a party.
At the beginning of this trip I talked about the sweet spot and it's true - this has been the easiest time we've had traveling since becoming parents. We also were told by our camping neighbours and a waitress at Sophia's House of Pancakes how polite our girls are. That is nice to hear.
Also we are definitely canyon and mountain lovers. We already miss Utah and those grand red rocks.

I'll end this segment of the travel blog with a magnet I bought at Dead Horse state park:

*****************
Advice from a CANYON:

Carve out a place for yourself;
Aspire to new plateaus;
Don't get boxed in;
It's OK to be a little off the wall;
Reach deep!
*********************

Day 24 stats:
Departing mileage: 19,999km at 8:10am CT
Crossing to Michigan: 9:32am EST
Fuel stop : 1:50pm EST, I-69, 20,400km
Stopping at Duty Free Port Huron: 2:00pm EST
Crossing to Ontario: 3:30pm EST
Arriving mileage: 7:58pm EST, 20,785km !!!!!

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Day 23: Michigan City, Indiana

Last night, after a yummy dinner of shrimp alfredo we went for a drive and found Bubbles Ice Cream shop. Indiana makes great ice cream. We went to scope out the shopping and found Sketchers and the girls got 2 pairs of shoes each. We also picked up some groceries including gourmet ice cream (ValpoVelvet.com ) made just here in Valparaiso Indiana.
Today was all about shopping. We stated at Sophia's House of pancakes for breakfast (Sophia had the Mickey Mouse pancakes and Jess had crepes; Tom and I had skillet breakfasts). By 8:58am we were at the Gap to start shopping. Between the outlets and Walmart the girls got all their school clothes and supplies. Tom and I did well too. Coach was my favourite and Tom made out good at Under Armor.
We fueled up at The Olive Garden for a late lunch and then back to the campground. It was like Christmas with the girls opting to open all of their new school supplies rather than go to the pool.
Later they watched a movie with their new friend Mara on her big screen, in their own tailgate party with cupcakes and popcorn! It's nice to see other couples camping and having fun with their kids too.
Tom and I had a nice fire and had the outside TV on for the first time this summer. With Chicago so close we got tons of high def channels off the air.
We have to come back here - as usual , 1 day was not enough. And the campground is so serene. Tom and Sophia fed the ducks with our old bread. There were some huge bugs and I screamed when Tom flicked a huge wasp off his sleeve right onto my skirt. Ack! The darker side of glamping.

It was a fun day and this was a good way to wind down the vacation.


Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Day 22: Greenwood NE to Michigan City, Indianna

We left at 6am CT. On the menu for breakfast were hot scrambled egg, cheese and ham tortilla wraps with Starbucks coffee and Tropicana OJ. We ate this after we got on the I-80 East. Great start to our day!
We crossed the Mormon Bridge over the Missouri at 6:45am CT into Iowa.
I bought Kindle books as the Wi-Fi was good at the campground (finally!) and now Jess is awake at 8:30am CT and engrossed in "The Elephant's Tale". She'll be done by breakfast! A fast way to spend $6 but it's worth it to see her love reading so much.
I bought Sophia 2 books: "Sophie the Daredevil" and "Sophie the Snoop".
These kids travel so well.

We crossed into Illinois at 11:32am CT across the Mississippi River off the I-280 bypass around the quad cities of Davenport, Rock Island, Bettendorf and Moline.

19714km fuel stop 12:24pm CT, Illinois

Entering Indiana at 2:53pm CT - very congested traffic; glad it wasn't closer to rush hour. Lots of stop and go. We took the toll road to be fast but it was slow at the end --waited 15 min to pay. What was nice was someone told us we had a compartment door open so I ran out to shut it. I'm glad it was just the water tank and we didn't have stuff flying out all over the freeway.
We finally pulled in around 3:45pmCT. The campground is lovely. Our neighbours are friendly and Sophia made friends with the 2 girls already.
It's not too hot or cold and the pool is calling.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Day 21: Colorado Springs, CO to Greenwood, NE

We left at 6:45am this morning and it's been a good driving day. We are about 15 miles from our destination. We crossed into Nebraska in the morning and then crossed time zones back into central time.  We did a couple of fuel stops.  The girls played multiplication dice games and then Sophia wanted to learn multiplication – she was quite disappointed that I only had brought math exercises for Jessica, so I had to make some up for her.  Jessica practiced rounding to thousands and hundreds and at first she was quite upset because she had forgotten (the phrase "there's no crying in math" comes to mind.) But I was patient and by the end she got it and was actually bored because it was so easy.   Looking forward to a relaxing night. Tom has been on the road 9 hours now with very little breaks – he's an awesome long distance driver.

 

Post script:  We saw a sign for Parker's Smokehouse – BBQ with Soul, about 3miles north, off our exit #420 from the I-80. After setting up we went for ribs, catfish, coleslaw, New York Fries, sweet potato fries, coleslaw and potato salad and caramel apple crumble and ice cream. We didn't make it to dessert but dinner was finger licking good. I think it's the best meal we've had on our vacation. Excellent place and we only saw locals there.  I made spaetzle for the kids and they love the ribs and catfish too.

 

Day 21 stats:

Departing Colorado Springs:  6:45am MT, 18,193km

Love's Fuel Stop I-76, 8:30am MT, 18,358km

Entering Nebraska 11:05am MT, 18,603km, 25C

Entering Central Time Zone:  11:47MT

TA Fuel Stop: I-80, 3:08pm CT, 18,865km

Arriving Pine Grove RV Park, Greenwood, NE:    5:17pm CT, 19,117km

Day 20: 14,110 ft at Pike’s Peak– Got Oxygen?

Up at 6am to meet the tour group at 7am at Pike's Peak MountainBiking shop. We are pumped!  We get up to Pike's Peak and it is 34F, 24F with the wind chill. The puddles are ice but it's a clear and beautiful morning. The view is incredible.  The drive up had so many switch backs and we could easily see where the tree line ends.   The road runner (bike leader) showed us where Devil's Playground is at the top.  There is so much iron in the rocks that the lightening just bounces around in this little valley. She said you could see from down below during a storm.  The power of this climate just dwarfs what we see back home in Ontario.

 

After some early morning shopping at the gift store (the girls got sweaters – they wanted them to say "Got Oxygen?"). Sophia especially liked this logo.   Later in the day she said that it would be an appropriate shirt to wear to a funeral since the person who was dead would not have any oxygen.   She constantly surprises us with how her mind processes things !

 

What can I say about the bike ride down a 14,000 ft elevation , 20 miles long and 7000 ft elevation descent, going at speeds of 20 mph?   It was a thrill from start to finish!!!!  I'm usually a goal oriented person.  But up on that mountain, flying down through 5 climate zones, seeing the world unfold as you round each switchback, feeling the majesty of the mountain and smelling the fresh pine scented air, feeling your body at one with the bicycle and the earth and air all at once…well it was as if time stopped.  And it was just pure joy.  Also an adrenaline rush to be going this fast out in the open air – a wipe out up there would have been fairly serious.  But it was a thrill to actually do it and see the confidence of the kids (and me) improve mile after mile. It was incredible how fast we rode through a  6 mile stretch.  At the top with the hairpin switchbacks I stayed back with Sophia and we switched off so that she was always on the "earth" side of the road and I biked on the edge that hung over the cliff. But when the trees started, it felt a little safer and Sophia got the hang of her first ever "gear" bike, she was off and riding as fast at Tom and Jessica were. Jessica was way up at the front of the group, leading at one point even.   Our kids were the youngest in the group. A few other families and one older couple (maybe in their seventies – good for them!).   I was still at the back of the group on my brakes pretty well the whole way down.  This was a memory of a lifetime.   What a great day.  You really do appreciate oxygen when you see you're so high that trees can't even grow.

 

On the drive back from the bottom our guide showed us the roads washed out by the flood – a huge chunk of the road had fallen away since Friday. There was so much mud – they had at least 4 dump trucks that I saw lined up to carry it away. Up at the top we easily saw the burn area that contributed to the flood – they said it was started by arsonists and now without those trees, the water just comes off the mountain into Manitou Springs which is at the bottom like a basin to catch it all.  This is a huge clean up job.

 

The tour company dropped us off at at a Greek restaurant – Jake and Telly's for a late lunch (it was 2pm by this point – I'm glad we had Twix bars and granola bars for snacks since breakfast was at 6am).  I had spanakopita , Tom had a gyro and the girls had grilled cheese pita. Delicious food that we devoured in about 10 min.   Then we headed back to the RV and I took the girls to the Trading Post at Garden of the Gods (established 1900) and then to the Visitor Centre to get their 6th Junior Ranger badge of the vacation.   We got back and went for a swim but only lated about 20 min before lightening started flashing and we had to get out.

 

Back at the RV we just had a ton of snacks and watched "The Tuxedo" with Jackie Chan and had a relaxing evening packing things up and getting ready for a driving day the next day.

Day 19: Bitter, Lily & Rosetta, Academy Riding Stables, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Jessica and I started this day with a little walk. We came across Academy Riding stable behind the RV park and before you knew it we were booked for a 1 hour ride through Garden of the Gods park.  They only had 3 available spots so I went with the 2 girls and Tom rode his bike through the park. I'd never been on a horse before so it was a new experience. The girls were very comfortable since they had some riding time from their camp. Jessica was so excited she was vibrating.   Jessica's horse was Bitter, Sophia's was Lily and I had Rosetta. Rosetta was a little wayward and walked me into a tree and a bush.  It was very picturesque with the red rock and lush green foliage.  We saw sleeping giant, kissing camel and rattlesnake rock. Our wrangler was very good and gave us some history of the park.  Riding the horse and moving with them as they walked, going up and down steps built into the sandy path was a little scary but also worked very well. It was like we were a team for a little while.

After this we came back for home made mini-burgers with guacamole and a rest. Then we headed up to Cave of the Winds – the girls wanted to try the "Bat-a-pult" but it was closed due to rain.  We came back and had a nap and tried again around 4:30pm when it was sunny. The girls loved it and Sophia wants to know "when next we'll be back here" so she can go again. They also did an aerial obstacle course called Wind Walker. These girls are totally happy when their feet are not on solid ground.

We had to get some parts at the auto shop and they recommended a Texas BBQ pit called Dickey's BBQ. Food and beer were delicious. We got chicken fingers , pulled pork, mac and cheese ribs, coleslaw, potato salad, honey ham, ribs and waffle fries.  My beer was from Texas and Tom's from Oregon. 

Now we're all packed for our trip up Pike's Peak tomorrow.  14,000 feet here we come.

 

Day 18: Cortez, CO to Colorado Springs, Co

We left at 6:45am and saw 3 deer as we left the campground. One deer was munching away in the lawn near us as we were hooking up the car.  We were on the highway by 7am. I made bagels for breakfast and we had our Starbuck's coffee traveler cups.  We had some time to talk before the girls were up. They got bagels and toast.   Later we hit construction and I used the time to make melted swiss & muenster ham /turkey sandwiches with tomato and onion for Tom & I. The girls got chicken fingers (baked in the convection microwave) with carrot sticks and strawberries.  The drive was very hilly changing altitude by 1000 ft several times. Once we got to the I-25 it was easy going and we pulled into Colorado Springs with cloudy skies.  The campground was very nice and we had the new "executive" pull-thru's.  We hooked up and it started to rain.  We saw flood warnings. Then heard lots of sirens; the road was closed; we saw news people taking footage of the stream in front of us.  Hail started to come down. It was crazy. We were OK in the end but learned later on the news that the SWAT team had evacuated the RV park down the road.   We went for dinner downtown.  Downtown had a lot of homeless people and seemed strangely desolate and empty.  I like the area we are in much better- Manitou Springs; I think the sub-urbs are better than the city here.  Despite the cool temperatures afterward Sophia went swimming around 8:30pm.  What a day !

 

Day 18 stats: 

Departing Mesa Verde NP:  6:45am MT

Crossed the Continental Divide at 9:16am MT, 17,815 km

Wolfcreek Pass:  10,875 ft altitude

Gas fill up – Monte Vista, ½ tank 10:30am MT, 17,894km

Arriving Colorado Springs, 18,189km

 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ranger Tour : Balcony House Pueblan proverb

Ranger John today ended his tour of Balcony House with this saying that he heard from a member of the Native Indian tribe who descended from the people that lived here 750 years ago.  I really liked it and wanted to post it to remember. It went something like this:

We do not inherit the earth from our parents. We borrow it from our children.

I really like that.

Day 17: Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, Colorado

It's the end of the day, almost bedtime for the munchkins.  I just asked Sophia what the best part of her day is.

This is her list.

#1:  Balcony House because she got to go through a tunnel and go into the house.
#2:  Climbing into a Kiva because it was interesting. It was interesting that it looked big on the outside but it was small once you climbed down the ladder.
#3:  Paper doll fashion show with Jessica.
#4:  Cliff Palace dwelling tour.
#5:  tie between -- seeing 2 baby deer, a mama deer and a teenager deer jumping across the road;   & getting her Junior Ranger badge; & getting gooey with S'Mores !!!

That's it. She couldn't pick just one best part. That's the best part of my day. ;-)


Balcony House was a pretty adventurous tour. I was a little nervous of that tunnel and then the ladders up the sheer cliff wall to get out. Cliff Palace was  easier to get to but it was not as interesting as you could not walk on the same floors as the ancient Pueblos did (Anasazi).  Climbing into the kiva was fun too -- it was a 100 ft descent down and then back up to the house site-- I was tired after that. Everything is harder when you have 20% less oxygen to deal with.

We started the tours at 9am and it was a one hour drive into the park from the RV camp - the park is that big. We didn't get back until 3pm.   Another go -go-go day.  But totally worth it.  Seeing the deer in the park was exciting - I had 6 deer sightings in total. 

There are meteor showers tonight - so we'll be looking for that. (if we can stay up).

Day 16: Moab Utah to Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, Colorado

Today was our Wedding Anniversary ! We had a big breakfast and then packed up and headed out. Since we only had a couple hours to drive we stopped at Arches for one last hike to the North and South Windows.  It was so crowded, I guess because it's Saturday. There are a a lot of French tourists here. Usually it's German or Japanese but in Moab the French are predominant.  I wouldn't have thought this was a popular French tourist destination but it is.

I will miss Arches ! I think it's one of the best, if not the best national park I've been to.

The drive to Cortez got interesting just across the Utah border. We had lightening for an hour then massive winds and driving drain. By the time we got the park, it was freezing.  We managed to get booked into 2 tours to the cliff dwellings -- Cliff Palace and Balcony House.

We quickly got setup and headed to the Metate Room for dinner. We had a great anniversary dinner - Tom had quail, elk tenderloin and boar sausage; I had chicken scallopini and we had a bottle of Two Rivers Merlot -- a winery we had toured earlier on this trip.  The girls behaved very well as this was a fairly fancy restaurant. The view was amazing - you could see for miles. Dessert was prickly pear creme brulee and a white chocolate mousse with blue berries. We were about 8000 ft up at this point -- about 1000 ft higher than our campsite.   We sat outside a bit when we got back but it was too cold - -I was wearing my wool hat !  WE saw 3 deer cross the road and later the Milky Way made its appearance.  

What a spectacular day.
After the girls went to bed, Tom and I watched half of Pretty Woman, one of my favourite movies. We drank the rest of our Two Rivers merlot, which the restaurant allowed us to cork and bring home.

Best anniversary ever !


Day 16 Stats:
Departure Time from Archview RV Park:  10:16am MT, 17,390km
Departure Time Arches NP:  12:40pm MT
Entering Colorado: 2:12pm MT, 17,826km
Arriving Mesa Verde - Morefield Campground - 4:22pm MT, 17,620km

Day 15: Sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands

Today we all got up before dawn to trek out to Mesa Arch, a 40 min drive then a 15 min hike. The girls were tired but wanted to see the sun rise.  It was 17 deg so I dressed them warm. As we drove up we saw a few mice and a coyote; he stopped on the road and then in the brush to look at us. His eyes glowed in the dark ! Cool.  Once we  parked and started hiking to Mesa Arch is was already light but we were still on the look out for any more coyotes. Dawn was at 6:28am but it was really about 7:00am that the sunlight caught the underside of the arch and fired it up.  The sun rose just behind the La Sal mountains it was a spectacular sunrise; the first one the girls have ever seen. That moment that the sun crests the horizon is magical.  We got some great pictures.  Jessica was a little tired and Sophia was fully energized, climbing rocks and jumping around. That girl is the energizer bunny.

After that we headed to Dead Horse State Park to have breakfast (Cheerios, Special K) on the balcony outside the visitor centre. We had the most amazing view of the valleys. A chipmunk came by looking for any handouts but we know better than the feed the wildlife.   Then Tom went for a mountain bike ride. Sophia tried it but it was too strenuous. We hiked instead and saw mule deer hoof prints. After that we went to the visitor centre to look at the artist displays, gift shop and museum. The kids did puzzles and another junior ranger program.

After this we got back to the RV around 12pm -- it had been  7 hours !  We just chilled out then went into Moab around 4:30pm for dinner, some groceries, a car wash and Sophia got a pink cowboy had that lit up with LED's -- very chic.

Again , another great day but we sure did pack a lot in. This is NOT a fly and flop vacation but we wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day 14: Dawn at Dead Horse State Park

I woke up at 5:30am today and headed up to Dead Horse State Park with my bike. Tom and the girls were sleeping when I left. I got there about 6:30am and parked at the visitor centre. It was totally deserted and I did eventually see one other car.  The views of the Colorado river and the basin are stunning. The sunrise was very low key with all the cloud cover. Although there were a few rain drops, it didn't rain. This is a very small park but I see why it's the most scenic one in Utah.   I did a bit of hiking on the east and west rim trails, and then I headed over to the Intrepid Bike Trail.  It said easy biking but I found it challenging -- lots of rocks and branches. I made it to the Pyramid Canyon Overlook . There are no fences on the overlook - you have to be careful. The view goes on for miles, and so many varied features. It's easy to see where it's raining and where it's not over the landscape.  You can also see many of  the rock layers - Kayenta , Wingate, Chinle, Moenkopi and Cutler sandstone were evident in the cliff walls. There is also a bright blue potash solar evaporation pond in the basin that reflects the cliffs. Very pretty, even if it's fertilizer that comes out by the end.
I saw 3 cotton tail rabbits and on the way back there were mule deer tracks along the path  that weren't there when I started out.  At the visitor centre I saw chipmunks and a hummingbird.  The temperature was about 17 to 19 degrees so perfect for hiking and biking.
I had a great morning and on the way back had one of the most scenic drives I've ever been on back to the US191. I listened to Bob Marley (3 Little  Birds, One Love) and Nina Simone (Sinnerman) and at the end of the road, a gorgeous view of Arches NP just appeared like icing on the cake.
Now it's 10:30am here.  What to do with the rest of the day? :-)   I'll need to see if I can rouse the girls from watching movies -- they had a sleep-in morning and don't even want breakfast yet. I think it's going to be brunch for them.

Day 7 – Day 13: Moab, Utah

It's been 7 days since the last blog post.  This is now 7 days of blogging all in one go. In writing all of this, I realize how much we've done in a short time. It feels like I've lived a decade in the last 7 days; many happy memories; many adventures, many "take your breath away moments."   I'm grateful for these opportunities to embrace the world we live in. I realized on this trip that in years past we wanted our vacations to be in the Caribbean enjoying the  beach. But that was when we wanted to escape life and get a break. Now I want to step into life; not escape it. I want to meet it head on and savour all of its moments.  This trip is about living in the moment and really, really living.  If it's the moments in life that count, we've had more in the last 7 days than in many years of our lives when we were focused on "getting ahead".   Abundance is all around. It's in the stars above when the milky way if visible to the eye, it's in the power of the water to carve these canyons and the power of the earth to raise up these sandstone structures, it's in the age of the rocks and dinosaur tracks that puts our small lifetimes in perspective, it's in the adaptability of the animals and plants that live here and it's in the warmth of the people we've met--- in their passion for outdoor living.   Utah's motto is "Life Elevated" and it's very true for our trip here.

 

Day 7 (Aug 1) Grand Junction to Arches NP, Broken Arch Hike

Our site (#33) at Devil's Campground was amazing. Our backyard view was great. Sophia and Jessica had a big rock there which they named S&J Rock. They spent a lot of time there.  We went for a hike off the campground and saw a few arches up close. Broken Arch really had a lot of fallen stones at the base.  We did get lost on the way back and had to hike out to the highway and double around. This hike was to be 2 km but likely was 7 km or more and took us 4 hours !!!!

 

Day 8 (Aug 2) Arches NP, Devil's Garden

Tom got up early and headed out to Double O arch.  The girls and I got up later and we met up with him on the path and saw Landscape Arch.   Great trail and fabulous hike.  We had to walk our bikes home as the hill was so steep and we were wiped from the walking in the heat.

 

Day 9 (Aug 3) Arches NP, Fiery Furnace

9am – 2pm we hiked the Fiery Furnace. It's called this because at some parts of the year, at sunset it looks like it's on fire. It was actually quite cool inside with all the shade. Like a different eco system in there.  This was a strenuous hike, requiring jumps over cracks, crab walking down two walls, shuffling sideways, waking up on ledges with drop offs and a lot of climbing up and down.  It was 2 miles but with the ascents/descents, more like 5 miles. We saw many plants; our National Park ranger guide was so knowledgeable too. The girls loved going through Crawl-Through Arch (they crawled through it) and walk through arch ( more my style).  At the end we got to see Surprise Arch and it was a great surprise.  What a great experience and only $30 for all 4 of us --- more than worth it.

 

Day 10 (Aug 4) Arches NP to Archview RV, Exploring Moab, UT

After checking out, we stopped at the Visitor Centre so the girls could get their Junior Ranger badges.  I laid on the couch and just watched the most amazing scenery float by.   Archview lives up to it's name and we can see North and South Windows from our RV spot.  The views all around are magnificent. WE did some swimming and relaxing and went into Moab for dinner and some shopping.

 

 

Day 11 (Aug 5) Archview RV, Canyonlands

Today we headed up to Canyonlands, Island in the Sky district. Another feast for the senses !   We hiked Upheaval Dome.  Jessica thinks it was created by a meteor and Sophia votes for slow-moving salt dome.   It was a hard hike, lots of climbing and very very hot.  This time we had the right shoes, and lots of water. We had a picnic lunch by Grand View, with views of the Green river below.  At the end we stopped at the Visitor Centre and the girls handed in their work for another Junior Ranger badge each.   I headed into town for groceries and didn't see any rain. Meanwhile Tom and the girls had a crazy windy rain storm.  Not really understanding how these things worked, we went for an after dinner drive to see some dino tracks but it was a 2 mile gravel /dirt road off the I-191.  It was flowing water over the washes in some bits from the rain storm and we almost got stuck ! Tom spun us out but my CRV is encrusted with mud . The girls loved it and laughed their heads off everything a big mud splash came up. In the end the road was too soft and we turned back. We tried another dino trail but same thing.

 

 

Day 12 (Aug 6) Archview RV, Hummer Tour with Highpoint Hummer

Overcast skies in the distance over Arches and the LaSal mountains.   I can see the fingers of rain coming down.  Utah is amazing in that you can look out and see different weather just by turning your head – over there it's raining and lightening, then in one area is overcast and yet another part of the sky is blue and brilliant with sunshine.   The span that your eye can take in is beyond anything at home.

 

Today we were up and early in Moab by 7:35am for our tour with Highpoint Hummer. There was a mix up and though we planned for canyoneering/repelling  we ended up doing the Hummer tour with Dusty, ex-paramedic,  from Oklahoma in an old-school red Hummer. We went out to the  Sand Flats recreation area to take it up the Hell's Revenge trail.  Dusty was a great guide and asked Jessica and Sophia if they prefer the "easy" route or the "hard" route. We had the whole hummer to ourselves and those two replied from their perches at the back that the difficult road was optimal.  So our trip started with Dusty ignoring the road tracks and instead climbing over some rocks to start us on the trail.  We had wheels off the ground a few times, he sped up to get squeals out of the girls (and me too) and even drove up an impossibly steep stone fin backwards.  I admit that my sense of self preservation was going a little "what the heck are you doing" but my head was saying "relax, he's done this before and killing the tourists is bad for business."  This was especially true after Dusty showed us a crashed Toyota 4Runner that is so wedged between the rocks they can't pull it out.  The drivers did survive, but with broken backs and wrists. Apparently there is a YouTube Video of their stupidity out there somewhere.    But for us (with a trained and professional driver), it was a great experience.  We got out and hiked up hills, saw dino tracks, a hidden canyon that is filled with waterfalls after a rain storm and so many panoramic views.  It redefines "middle of nowhere" because I sure felt like we were part of something bigger, grander and more meaningful than I've ever felt in any city.

We had lunch at the Kinsmen Park. They had a really cool musical playground with xylophones and drums , etc made for the outdoors that the kids could play on.   We did some more shopping ( we made our own T-shirts!) , going to Moab Brewery for dinner ( I had yummy fish tacos) .  In between I had a hot rock massage at Spa Moab. How divine !   We came home with another growler of IPA. Yum !

 

Day 13 (Aug 7) Archview RV, Canyoneering with Highpoint Hummer

We've taken 1666 photos and videos so far.   Many of those were from today. I've read that memories are laid down differently when adrenaline is pumping through your body.  For me there were many adrenaline filled moments. Seeing Jessica and Sophia walk over a cliff edge and putting on a confident demeanor when I felt like shouting " that's my baby – don't go there!" was the start of it. Then my turn.  Whoa.!! I was so scared. I'm leaning back , walking sideways, off a cliff edge that I daren't look down, trusting my right hand to feed the brake rope, trusting my legs to steer me the right way and trusting that my left hand really has no job at all as I dangle in space.  It's very disconcerting.   The crazy part is the first 40 feet puts you into a knee deep pothole of water, which you have to walk through then walk off a 2nd cliff edge and start running right away to avoid slamming into the solid rock. I didn't get the "walk off a cliff edge and start running with the rope" bit,  and had a bit of a first encounter with the sandstone (as the scrape on my right forearm will attest to).  After this is becomes easy as you see the earth finally nearing you.  A very short walk from this is the 2nd repel, 33% higher (120 ft) and so spectacular.  The first part is some walking down a sheer cliff but once you're off the overhang you just sit and lower yourself taking in a view of Morning Glory Arch and this lush valley (Negro Bill) with spring bubbling out of the mountain. It was something out of a movie, but it was real life. I will admit I was terrified. More terrified than when I rolled the Ford Explorer because there was time. Lots of it. Excruciatingly a lot of time.  But the memories, the emotions that alternated from fear and joy are the memories of a lifetime. They are forever imprinted now in super high definition in my mind.  Kyler said that some people sing to take their mind off it , so I started singing "My Favourite Things" from Sound of Music.  It did help actually.  I still screamed when my feet left the wall and I was forced to look down and see how high up I was. 

 

What an amazing day.  I am so proud of Jessica and Sophia for doing this. We told them this is courage: to feel the fear and go through it to the other side.   They were both very nervous at first but by the second repel they had were pros.   Our guide, Kyler was so experienced. His hands could tell you that.  We had Howard as well in our party; he is an anestheleologist from Kauai and he was very friendly. We're going to share video with him from Tom's GoPro Camera.

 

After the 2nd repel we had a 2 ¼ mile hike out along Bill Negro canyon crossing the stream many times. Our feet were soaked in runners and socks and did not make for comfortable hiking.  The canyon was very pretty with many wildflowers and patches of prickly pear cactus.   After the tour we headed straight to Pasta Jays for a later lunch/early dinner.   Service was a bit off, but the food was good. On the way home we drove down Potash Road to see petroglyphs on the rocks right along the road.   There were many many of them and some of big horn sheep and people. We also saw dino tracks from afar but didn't' want to hike it since all our shoes are wet.   Back at the ranch (RV) we all laid low; I gave myself a pedicure in the evening and now we're all cozy while a windy rain storm with lightening is raging outside.

 

Facts we have learned:

  • Prickly pear can be eaten and is made into ice cream. Some animals can digest it with the spines ! 
  • Mormon Tea has ephedrine and will give you a little buzz.
  • The yucca plant's root can be made into soap, the tips into needles, the ends chewed into paint brushes and the leaves taken apart and woven into rope – a very useful plant !
  • Wild rhubarb grows in the spring and again later in the year.
  • Water seeps into the rocks and comes out at the bottom as a spring. The rock is that porous.
  • Cryptobiotic soil, or "biological soil crust" has 200 bacteria types that hold the sand in place from blowing away and also retains water; this can take 200 years to grow ! ; it is what allows many of the plants to grow.
  • The rock has many layers. Today in sandflats we saw the Navajo Layer. At Fiery Furnace we saw the Entrada and Caramel layers.
  • Arches NP has 2400 arches; to be an arch 3 criteria must be satisfied – the arch must be 3 feet in any direction, light must pass through and it must be naturally made.
  • Only about 9 inces of rain fall in the year; right now is monsoon season so lots of flash floods happen. Many of the washes turn into running water.
  • NASA is conducting training for a future Mars mission near Moab.  The rocks and terrain are expected to be similar to some of the areas nearby.

Stats

Day 5 (July 30) Stats: 

Elevation: 10,400ft 11:18am MT Loveland Pass

Elevation: 11,158ft 11:24am MT

Fuel Stop: De Beque, CO, 2:37pm MT 17,093km

 

Day 7 (Aug 1) Stats: 

Departing James M Robb Island Acres, 11:24am MT, 17,119km

Entering Utah 12:18pm MT, 17,197km, 17°C

Mileage at Arches NP Destination:  17, 293km

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Day 6: Grand Junction, CO / Island Acres state park

Today we started with red velvet cupcakes for Tom. The girls iced them this morning and we baked them last night.
After a leisurely breakfast of bacon and eggs we headed into Grand Junction. ( No bear visit or sightings despite enticing smells of baking and bacon)

We spent most of the day at Colorado National Monument. Hiked to Devil's Kitchen. Climbed many rocks and some anxst to get down one of them at the top. Jess, Soph and I were all scared but we made it. It was so hot, we had a fairly steep climb, and we didn't bring enough water, but the experience was amazing none the less. Saw a collared gecko. So colourful. The girls both got junior ranger badges. What a great way to spend a day.

Later we stopped by a winery - Two Rivers, and then Safeway for supplies as Arches is tomorrow and we have no connections there.

When we got back to the RV, we opened a growler of X-Hop IPA from Denver Beer Co. Draught beer at the RV. Nice!

We finished the day by taking the girls to the swimming hole and then watched movies as we are all wiped out from the big hike. We'll be dreaming of the canyons. Driving the rim was a bit nerve racking I have to say.

Lessons learned: 1L of water per person next time.
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