Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and more

No midweek adventures this past week, but the weekend’s adventures took me to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and several stops in between.

Friday night started off the adventures with seeing some improv in Albuquerque. I saw “The Show” at The Box Theater, and it was a wonderful short form show with a lot packed in to it. The cast was great, and the show moved very quickly and stayed funny throughout. I didn’t snap any pictures at the show, but Albuquerque did have some cool buildings that I took some pictures of.

Saturday morning, I went to the Petroglyph National Monument. I only had about 2 hours at the park in order to make it to my next stop, so I did the Boca Negra area trail. The 3 trails in the Boca Negra area took about an hour and a half total to complete, and I saw a few hundred petroglyphs in that time. Unlike other places where I had seen petroglyphs before, these petroglyphs were pretty concentrated and were very close to the trails. The trail was described as mostly paved, but it really seemed like they just added a little bit of paving between the rocks going up the hill and was still very rough. I was a little surprised as well by the lack of surveillance or security in the area. Unlike El Morro where the inscriptions were all under surveillance to try to prevent vandalism, most of the petroglyph area appeared unwatched. There were definitely some areas where people had carved things on the rocks much more recently, and there were even signs about how those carvings were not really removable, but the actual enforcement seemed to be much more on the honor system. Parking at the Boca Negra area is $1 everyday but Saturday, and $2 on Saturday, or included in the National Parks pass. It was definitely neat to get to see so many petroglyphs close up, and the informational markers along the trail definitely helped make sure you were looking in the right places.

My second stop on Saturday was Pecos National Historical Park. I signed up to go on a Civil War sites van tour with a ranger at 1:30, and I was told when I signed up to be at the visitor’s center around 1 to check in. I arrived at the park around 12:30 because I didn’t want to be late. Because I was so early, I got to check out some other areas of the park before the tour. The Pecos area is right in the middle of the Glorieta Pass which made it a geographically important area for several different groups. There is a walking trail behind the visitor’s center that is about 1.5 miles long, and has an option to make it shorter half way through. The trail goes through Pueblo ruins, and an old Spanish church. The Pecos ruins were interesting and unique from other Pueblo ruins I have been to because you can see where the town physically divided in response to the Spanish arrival and the spread of the church. There was space between the ruins in the South and the North, and it is thought that those who lived in the North maintained their traditional beliefs, while those that lived in the South were sympathetic to the Spanish and were converting to Christianity. The Santa Fe trail also passed right by the same area, but the ruins hadn’t been discovered yet at the time the Santa Fe trail passed through. It was really interesting to think about that people from several different time periods had passed through the same area, but they had no idea of the people or cities that were there before them.

The civil war van tour was very neat. I ended up being the only one who had signed up to go, so it was just me and the park ranger on the tour. I didn’t take hardly any pictures along the tour, but I definitely learned a lot. The tour went over some important sites for the Battle of Glorieta Pass, which pretty much was the Civil War in the West. The first stop on the tour was the Forked Lightning Ranch. This was the Union hospital after the battle, and was right across the road from the area where the Union soldiers had camped before the battle. The ranch was later owned by Tex Austin, and then by Greer Garson. After the ranch house, we drove to where the battle had actually taken place. The battle area is full of trees now, but it was still pretty easy to tell where soldiers would have been and why different approaches were taken. The Union thought they had the path blocked from the Confederates advancing, but the Confederates actually ended up on the North side of the battlefield past the Union troops. The Union ended up winning the battle thanks to help from a Native American. The Confederate hospital after the battle was Pigeon’s Ranch that seemed to be situated in the middle of the battlefield. The last stop of the tour was the monuments to the fallen soldiers. It was definitely interesting to see the difference in language on the 2 monuments and the different way that the different sides described the battle. It was a really neat experience getting to go on a 1 on 1 tour with a park ranger, and I definitely feel like I learned a lot more than I ever could have on my own. The park entry fee at Pecos was currently being waived, so it was free to enter. The van tour was also free to go on, but there is a max of 5 people per van tour, so it is advised to call ahead to make sure you get a spot. The park does offer 2 different van tours depending on which day you go. The other van tour is of the Forked Lightning Ranch property (the civil war tour stops just at the entrance to the ranch and doesn’t explore back on the ranch).

I ended Saturday evening going to MeowWolf. MeowWolf is like one part children’s museum, one part art museum, one part haunted house/ mystery game. It was definitely a cool experience. The space is put together and maintained by an art collective, and it is described as an immersive experience in non-linear story telling. There were lots of areas to explore, and every section seemed new and different. Not only was there stuff to look at, but there were audio and lighting elements used throughout as well. They encouraged interacting and picking up or touching pretty much anything in the space which was really cool. I mostly just explored and tried to take everything in. There is a mystery to solve that seemed like it would have been cool to try if I visited again. The clues were a little hard to follow if you hadn’t explored at least a little bit first, and there was only one copy of the clue at each spot, so you have to wait a little while to even read some of the beginning clues let alone start figuring out what they meant. I gave up pretty quickly because I wanted to spend more time exploring and seeing the space than reading through all of the clues and papers. The cost for entry is $20, and I wish I would have had more time to spend to try and figure out the mystery or explore some more. The space is definitely a sensory overload, and it probably would have been hard to spend a whole lot longer in it without taking a break.

Sunday morning, I went to the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Getting there was an adventure of its own. The quickest way to the preserve from Santa Fe is through Los Alamos. Since there is the National Laboratory in Los Alamos, the road through Los Alamos is blocked with booths that look like toll booths all the way across. When I got there, only 1 booth was open, and I almost missed seeing it. The booths are not toll booths, they are stops for ID checks since the road is so close to the labs. It was pretty cool getting to drive by the labs and all of the different testing areas. After getting through Los Alamos, the road climbs along the side of the mountains, which I was not a huge fan of. The turnoff in to the park turns to a mixed dirt and gravel road, and it leads to what looks like it is a small house, but is actually the visitor’s center for the preserve. When I got to the visitor’s center I asked what the best things to see or do at the preserve were, and I was told elk viewing at sunrise or sunset were their popular activities. This was a little strange since the park is only open from 8-6, so the park is not actually open for sunrise or sunset. There are several overlooks of the park that are not actually within the park that I guess would be where to view the elk from. Since I didn’t know about the elk viewing until after the time had passed, I did not get to see any of the elk. There aren’t really any trails or things to do near the visitor’s center, and so I decided I would go ahead and get a backcountry vehicle permit and do some exploring in the park. The road through the backcountry is all dirt and gravel, and there were some spots that were a bit muddy from the rain. The road was definitely a little rough in parts, but the park itself was beautiful. It is such a large area that it was really easy to get lost in the natural beauty and not see another person in any direction. I did occasionally pass other visitors who were fishing or biking in the park, but most of the time in the park was pretty solitary. The scenery and landscape throughout the park was just stunning, and it was really neat to be so aware of how big and vast natural beauty can be. There was definitely far less to do for human visitors to the preserve than many of the other parks I have been to, but it was also really neat to see how much more of what the preserve is doing is about the animals and plants that call it home and not about the people who come to visit. The entry fee at Valles Caldera is currently waived, and the backcountry permit was also free. Backcountry permits are said to be limited to 35 a day, so it is advised to get there early. It looked like there were also several guided tour options that probably would have been neat, but I didn’t see the sign for them until after I was leaving.

My last stop of the weekend was at Bandelier National Monument. The monument is another set of Pueblo ruins, but there are also some cliff dwellings at the site. The rock faces on the edge of the canyon were much softer and full of holes than many other places, and this made it easy to create cliff dwellings. There is a large section of ruins that looks like many of the other ruins I have seen and is not attached to the cliffs, but then there are several other structures and dwelling along the cliffs as well. Some of these were just holes for posts as they built the structures out from the walls, and some were actual rooms in the walls. There were even some ceremonial chambers in the walls as well. There is a large dwelling that is near the top of the cliff that took 4 ladders to get to. it was pretty neat getting to climb up and see not only where people had lived, but also get to look out over the valley. The valley had a small stream that runs through it that normally stays pretty small, but flooded pretty badly several years ago. It was really neat to get to see the evidence of the old flood and the huge trees that had been carried down to the valley by the waters. It was really neat to get to see the great effort and triumph of the city created by the Pueblos and the evidence of the destructive powers of nature next to each other. The entry fee for Bandelier is $20 for a vehicle. The road to the visitor’s center is also only accessible by shuttle bus from 9-3. Parking was not difficult and was very close to the shuttle bus stop. The shuttles arrived quickly, and they continue to take visitors returning to their cars until 5, so you don’t have to rush to finish by 3 if you arrive after lunch.

I loved getting to see and do so many things this past weekend. The variety of cultural, historical, natural, and beautiful things I got to see was really neat. Every place still has something new and exciting to learn. Even places that are all ruins from the same people groups are all so unique and different from each other that it is absolutely amazing to get to learn so many new things from each one of them. Gallup also gave be an awesome sunset on the way back .

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Enjoy the Journey,

Sarah

 

 

Grand Adventures

The Grand Canyon was this week’s big adventure, but before we get there, I did go on a smaller adventure earlier in the week.

It was one of the travelling doctor’s last week at the clinic this week, and she wanted to go a hike before she left. A group from the clinic went together and we hiked to the belly button. I was not a big fan of the hike (most of it was right along the edge). I did manage to get most of the way) to the top with some encouragement from some coworkers, and the view was beautiful. The hike was definitely difficult for me, but I am really glad I decided to do it. It was really neat from the top because the view overlooked the hospital and was a different perspective than you get driving in or from right next to the hospital.

On Saturday, my adventures at the Grand Canyon began. I spent all of Saturday on the South Rim. I drove to the park from Flagstaff on Saturday morning. I left the hotel before 8am to try and have as much time in the park as I could. I got to the parking wasn’t too bad. Once in the park though, I didn’t try to drive anywhere; I used the free shuttle or walked between stops. I took the shuttle all the way to the West most stop on the South Rim, Hermit’s Rest. It took about 2 hours from the time I left flagstaff to arriving at Hermit’s rest. From Hermit’s Rest I walked and caught the shuttle between different overlooks on the way back towards Grand Canyon Village. I probably should have gotten off at some of the overlooks on the way out to Hermit’s Rest, because the bus does not stop at all of the overlooks on the way back to the village from Hermit’s rest. The rim trail from the village to Hermit’s rest is 7.9 miles long. I walked close to 4 miles of the trail, but still missed 3 of the overlooks.

It was a pretty cool and cloudy day, and it did rain for a while. I ate lunch, and got out of the rain in the Yavapai Lodge. The food was surprisingly not outrageous in price. I had looked at the menu at the restaurant in the Bright Angel Lodge as well before deciding where I was going to eat, and prices there were definitely more expensive, and selection was not as good. The Yavapai Lodge definitely had a variety of choices and was a nice casual option for lunch. I had packed a cooler, but I left the cooler in my car thinking that I would be able to stop back by at a reasonable time. It definitely took way longer to get from one place to another inside the park, so putting an insulated lunch bag in my backpack probably would have been a better idea.

In the afternoon, I decided to go for a hike below the rim. I chose to go for the South Kaibab trail instead of the Bright Angel trail because the reviews all said that the view opened up more on the South Kaibab even though the trail itself was maybe a little more difficult. I hiked to Ooh Aah point which is about 1 mile down (and then back up again), and the view was spectacular. The trail was definitely steep, and the gravel was a little loose and slippery from the rain at parts. It was a little bit difficult, and definitely required me to pay attention to exactly what I was doing the whole time. There is no water or shade on the trail, but it was a little overcast and it wasn’t too bad having to take water just for Ooh Aah point. The trail is also a mule trail, but I didn’t cross paths with any on my afternoon hike.

After the hike, I stopped by the Visitor’s Center, which was much more crowded and had far longer waits for information than any other park I have been to. The visitor’s center doesn’t have a ton of exhibits or displays. I did not make it to the Geology museum, but I would guess that more of the exhibits and displays that are often at the visitor’s centers, would have been there. I also stopped at Mather Point overlook. Mather Point was the busiest overlook that I went to, and it was definitely hard to get pictures or get a good spot along the railing because there were so many people. Up until Mather Point, I was always aware that there were tons of other people on the South Rim, but it wasn’t too difficult to find a spot without people.

On Saturday evening, I spent sunset at Yaki Point. I did go a little bit off from the official overlook, and found my spot about an hour before sunset. A family joined me about 45 minutes before sunset and were very nice and we both let each other have turns taking pictures. Another couple came to our spot about 15 minutes before sunset, and they were not nearly as respectful. The sat right in front of us without even saying a word to us just because we had not sat all the way up on the edge. The fabulous picture of strangers is them. The sunset was gorgeous, and the moonrise was neat to see as well. The moon was close to full, so it was really bright and beautiful. It was really cool to see the shadows as they moved across the canyon. At first it was hard to see a lot of the formations that were further away in the canyon because of the glare, but as the sun go lower the shadows overtook the whole canyon and the formations became visible again. I had been a little nervous that the sunset wasn’t really going to be visible because of how rainy and cloudy it had been all day, but the clouds mostly cleared a few hours before sunset, and it ended up being amazing.

On Sunday, I went to the North Rim. The drive to the North Rim was really beautiful, and it was so different than the South Rim. It took about 4 hours to get from Flagstaff to the North Rim, and a lot of it was winding roads. There were several neat rock formations along the way to the North Rim, as well as several badland looking areas that reminded me a little of Petrified Forest. It was really neat to see how a lot of the geology and features of the land continued from one area to another outside of the national parks. The drive to the North Rim also goes through the Kaibab National Forest, and it was really cool to see all the trees for miles and miles. There were also several sections that had been affected by wildfires, and it was breathtaking to see how much destruction and regrowth there had been in those areas. It was really neat to see how nature heals and repairs itself and keeps going regardless.

When I got to the park, the entrance gate was definitely less crowded. The road inside the park after the entrance station to the Visitor’s Center was way longer than I had anticipated. The North Rim has a super nice camping area with log cabins and rocking chairs, and I definitely think that it would be way better for camping than the South. There were also several trails in the forest and around the area, but there is not a rim trail like there is on the South side. There is a full service gas station inside the park on the North Rim, which I was very grateful for because there are not a ton of places to stop on the way in, and driving is pretty much required to see anything on the North Rim. There are a few overlooks near the lodge on the North Rim, but the really unique and cool parts of the North Rim require a bit of a drive.

The road to the overlooks on the North Rim is about 26 miles from the Visitor’s Center. The road forks about 10 miles in and there are 2 main overlooks, with several smaller stops along the way to each. The first overlook is Cape Royal. Cape Royal is on top of one of the arches in the park. The road to get there is winding and I was not a huge fan, but the overlooks are definitely worth it. There are a few stops where you can really see the arch as you are going up, and then the view from the top is actually on top of the arch. It was also really neat because the trees continue almost all the way to the overlooks, so you really get to take it in all at once when you clear the edge of the trees.

The second main overlook is Point Imperial. Point Imperial is the highest elevation point in the park, and the views and nothing like the views on the South Rim. It almost feels like the canyon stretches out longer from Imperial point. It was definitely a really neat stop, and it again felt like the forest just opened up at the edge of the canyon.

The North Rim definitely had fewer visitors total than the South Rim, but I actually had more difficulty taking pictures and getting away from crowds on the North Rim. There are way fewer points where you can see the canyon, so everyone ends up at the same spots on the North Rim, whereas the South Rim has a really long rim trail that lets people spread out more. The North Rim overlooks are also much rougher and natural ground than the South Rim. There are still safety fences on the North Rim, but much more of the rock has been left natural, whereas the South Rim does have several paved overlooks and more accessible overlooks. The North Rim definitely had more to offer as far as camping and wildlife and the forest. The North Rim also allowed for a little more independence in getting from place to place in your own vehicle. Both rims had spectacular views that were unique and breathtaking. Overall, I would say the South Rim had more to do, was more accessible, and was easier to avoid crowds once in the park. If you get there early in the day to get through the entrance and get parking, the South Rim is definitely my recommendation.

On the way back from the North Rim, I made a few stops. The first was in a place called cliff dwellers. It was right along the highway, and it had all of these little ruins and rock formations that were really cool. It was a quick little stop, but was definitely interesting to see just along the side of the highway.

I also stopped at the Colorado River. The bridge was really cool, and it was neat to get to see the river. It was strange to see how far down the river was, and how much of a canyon it had made. Next to the bridge there is also some interesting historic information on the Lees ferry crash and the building of the bridge.

My last few stops were to take some pictures of the sky. The sun looked really cool behind the clouds just before sunset, and a little later on the moon was spectacular. Sunsets out here have not been nearly as great as I was hoping, but the moon and the night sky have absolutely blown me away. I find myself looking up at the night sky and how beautiful it is regularly. The moon was very close to full this week, and it was just magnificent.

This week’s adventures were a ton of fun, and it’s hard to believe I only have 1 month left here. I still have so many things I want to see and do before I leave.

Adventure is calling,

Sarah

 

Monument Valley and more

This weekend was packed full of adventures including 2 US national parks, and 1 Navajo nation park.

Saturday’s travels were to the monument valley area. I started out my trip to monument valley at Goulding’s Lodge. It used to be the home of Harry and Mike Goulding as well as a trading post. It has since been converted into a museum, but a lot of the history of it being a trading post and living quarters has been preserved. On the first floor, the first room still looks like a trading post, and there are original visitors logs with artwork and signatures from John Wayne and John Ford and many others from the same time. There are 3 other exhibit rooms on the first floor. One has all kinds of history and memorabilia from films made in monument valley, and even has a layout of where different films were shot in the area. Another room has all kinds of local artwork and photography from monument valley, and the third room has native clothing, jewelry, and tools from the area. The second floor has been preserved as the living quarters and has lots of the original furniture and accessories from when the Goulding’s lived there. Outside of the museum there were a few wagons and stagecoaches as well as a spectacular view of monument valley from a distance. The museum was free, and was a really neat look back at some of the history of how monument valley came to be so symbolic of the west and such a prominent part of film culture in the US. There is also a gift shop, restaurant, and hotel at Goulding’s, and I think they offer tours into monument valley as well. The line for the bathroom at monument valley was super long, so if you stop at Goulding’s before heading over I would advise stopping at the bathroom before leaving.

After Goulding’s, I went to the monument valley park. I decided to hike the wildcat trail first. It was very hot, and while the trail is advertised as 3.2 miles, it was probably much closer to 4 miles. There were some pretty great views of formations that are not along the drive through the park, and I definitely enjoyed going. It was incredibly hot, and had it not been slightly cloudy the trail would have been closed due to the heat. I definitely felt more exhausted and hot after this hike than I did even after the Palo Duro hike that was 6 miles. The hike it pretty smooth, but there is no shade and the altitude may have played a role as well in tiring faster. The visitors center has a nice small exhibit with some Navajo art and traditional dress as well as information on some Navajo customs and beliefs which was neat. There is also a large gift shop and restaurant at the visitor’s center. Seeing the park can be done a few different ways, through guided tours (jeep, horse, etc) or on your own on the park drive. Guided tours general run $50-100, and offer views and access to roads that aren’t on the main park drive. Driving on your own lets you have more freedom in how long to stop where, but does mean you have to take your own vehicle on the park drive. I chose to drive on my own, because I did not want to pay and I wanted to be able to stop for as long as I wanted. The drive through the park was beautiful. It was definitely a VERY rough drive, and while I saw all kinds of vehicles making their way through the park, there were parts of the road that I’m not sure should even be called a road. It’s also important to note that while the park road is one way, guided tours can do whatever they want and are often going the wrong way on the one ways or going down roads that the general public does not have access to. I definitely think that a guided tour would have been worth it after driving through on my own, (to not have to deal with driving and to get to see more of the park) but I am still very happy with my decision to drive myself and with all the views I did get to see. The park is run by the Navajo nation, so national parks passes are not accepted. Entrance was $20, and definitely worth it.

On Sunday morning, the adventures continued with a trip to El Malpais National Park/ conservation area. I was pretty excited based on the little bit that I had read ahead of time about the park, but ended up a little disappointed after visiting. The park is VERY spread out, and most of the stops really only have one thing to do. I stopped at the visitor’s center first, and got some advice on things to do in the park. The visitors center is 4 miles from either road that goes (sort of) through the park. I started on the road along the East edge of the park and drove 30 miles down to my first stop, the Lava Falls trail. From the main road, it was another mile on a gravel access road to the trail head. The trail was neat and was across a large area of lava with a distant view of one of the craters in the area. While it was neat getting to see lots of different lava types, and the ground literally was all lava, there were lots of places that you could see lava (maybe not as many types) right off the highway without having to drive the 30 miles. The next stop was probably 10 miles park towards the highway, and was Ventana arch. The trail to get to Ventana arch is about 0.7 miles and not too difficult, but at the end of the trail you can’t even see sky behind the arch. While it was still cool to see, it was a little disappointing not to be able to see through the arch. After the arch, it is another 10 miles, and a 1.5 mile gravel access road to the Sandstone Bluffs overlook. There were some pretty great views of the area from the overlook, and it was really nice, but again was the only thing to do at the stop. After the Sandstone Bluffs area, it was time to go down the West park road (so another 10 miles to the highway, 8 miles on the highway, and 15 miles to the first stop on the West road later). The stop on the west road actually had several things to do; however, it would have been a 3 mile hike to get to most of them. I had gotten a cave permit for Junction Cave to try and see some of the lava tubes and more of what the park was known for. When I got to the cave, I very quickly realized I was extremely unprepared and was not going to be able to do much. The cave has been left completely natural with the exception of reflectors to guide the way. The entrance was large rocks that had sort of just collapsed in a pile, and this rough large rock surface made up the entire floor of the cave. I went into the cave about 10 feet, and then turned around because it was way outside of my ability to do by myself. There was one other road in to park that led to some more caves, but I was told that it was a rough dirt road that was likely impassable due to rain, so I did not attempt it. Overall, it took about 3-4 hours at Malpais, and it really didn’t feel like there was much to do at all. I think if I had been with a large group and had been prepared to go caving, it could have been a lot of fun, but other than caving there did not seem to be a whole lot at Malpais. It was free entry, and cave permits are free so that was at least a plus.

Because I was so disappointed that I hadn’t really gotten to see any caves or do much at Malpais, I decided to take a chance on the Ice Caves. I was hesitant because the highway signs are pretty cheesy, and it seemed like a tourist trap kinda place, but it ended up being SO worth it. The Ice Caves and Bandera Volcano are a privately owned area sort of still in the Malpais park. The gift shop/ welcome center used to be an old saloon, and the people inside were friendly and had interesting stories about the history of the building and area. The path to the bandera volcano overlook was maybe ½ mile long and was wide and had small lava stones acting as a sort of gravel surface. The bandera volcano overlook was really neat, and along the trail on the way up you can see several other volcanoes. The trail had markers along it to point out interesting other lava features, twisted wood, and lightning struck trees as well. The path to the ice cave was maybe .25 miles. The entrance to the ice cave was wooden steps with platforms. The steps were pretty steep near the bottom, but definitely still nice with railing on both sides. The ice at the bottom of the cave was a green color and it was really neat to feel the temperature difference as I went down the stairs. The bottom of the cave stays below freezing all year, so there is always ice in the cave, and the ice is apparently close to 20 feet thick. The Ice Cave cost $12 for adults and $6 for kids (6-12) and free for kids under 6. It was definitely well maintained and worth the price. I am SO glad I decided to stop and check it out.

My final stop of Sunday was at El Morro national monument. I really wasn’t sure what to expect at El Morro, I had read about it being inscriptions, but wasn’t quite sure how that could be a whole monument. It was threatening to storm when I got to El Morro, so I wasn’t able to see everything in the park, but I was still pretty impressed by the part of the trail I did go on. There are sort of 2 trails at El Morro that somewhat overlap with each other. There is a 2 mile trail that goes on top of the bluff and goes through some ruins, and there is a 0.5 mile trail along the inscribed wall of the bluff. The inscription trail is a part of the 2 miles over the top, but does have a turn of for some views of the bluff on the way back if you aren’t going over the top. With the storm, I did not go over the top, but I did go a little past the inscription trail. The inscription trail has markers along the way pointing out influential or interesting inscriptions along the bluff. It was very interesting to see the early petroglyphs along the wall alongside inscriptions from the 1700s and earlier. Many of the inscriptions from the 1700s were still completely legible and didn’t seem to have faded at all which was really cool to see. The trail also passed by the pool of water that used to provide for people who lived in the area, and the trail guide provided insight into why people would have left the area and when the pool (that currently had water in it) would have dried up from droughts. I went a little beyond the end of the inscription trail, and at the edge of the bluff there is a formation called woodpecker rock. It was a really neat feature to see, and was visible just past the end of the inscriptions. El Morro was also free, and I really enjoyed getting to look back and see how long people had been coming to the area.

I was a little disappointed that I spent so long at El Malpais, and didn’t get to do the whole trail at El Morro or visit the nearby wolf sanctuary, but overall, I did get to see and do a lot this weekend. I really enjoyed my time at monument valley; I was pleasantly surprised by the Ice Cave, and I was fascinated by getting to step back in time at El Morro. Not every place is going to be great, but you’ll never know until you go.

Stay curious,

Sarah

California Adventures

This weekend’s adventures were mostly business related. I am applying for a California nursing license, and I decided it would be better to get my fingerprints done in state than mail a hard card. The closest fingerprint location was still about a 9 hour drive, so another weekend full of lots of driving, but hopefully it will be well worth it.

I stayed a little over an hour outside of LA, and ended up spending most of the morning working on license stuff, so I had half a day to spend exploring and sight seeing. I decided to only do a few things and not try to squeeze too many things in so that I could enjoy myself and not feel rushed.

My first stop for exploring was the Santa Monica Pier and the beach. I spent some time walking along the beach and enjoying the pier. I have now been to the Pacific and Atlantic in the US, which was neat to experience. The beach and pier were both decently crowded, but there was still plenty of space to enjoy it without feeling too close to everyone else. There were plenty of spots around to pier to look out and enjoy the view of the ocean and the shore. The beach was pretty full close to the shore, but there was plenty of space to have set up a little further away and enjoyed the ocean. Since I was travelling solo and was short on time, I mostly just walked along the shore and enjoyed the view.

After the beach I headed in to LA. I had thought about doing one of the museums in the area, but I didn’t want to mess up my evening plans by getting stuck in traffic afterwards. I wanted to see some improv in LA, and I decided on iO West as the theater I was going to see a show or two at. iO West is on Hollywood Blvd, so I decided I would spend the rest of the afternoon there. I walked and looked at stars along the Walk of Fame, but mostly I just enjoyed being in the city. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the energy and potential of being so close to so many other people and places. While I am definitely still enjoying my time on the rez, I was reminded this weekend of how amazing being in a city can be too.

I finished off the night by seeing 2 shows at iO West. First, I saw a student showcase in the Del Close Theater. This was very different than what I expected. The theater felt more like a practice space, and there were exactly 2 of us in the audience. The show was free, and it was a fun show with an experimental form, but not exactly what I was thinking or expecting. The second show I saw was the Armando show on the mainstage. The theater was cozy, but I definitely enjoyed the show. The show and running times were definitely different than I have seen other places, but I still really enjoyed myself a lot.

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Here’s to the ones who dream,

Sarah

OKC Improv

This weeks adventures were not quite as exciting. I had to go back to Norman to get my car fixed (again). It’s a long story as to why I had to take it back to Norman to get fixed instead of getting it fixed out here, and I won’t bore you with those details now. Hopefully I won’t have anymore problems with my car now, but that did mean that most of the time this weekend was spent driving back and forth.

It was nice to get to see my family and cat, even if it was just for an afternoon. The highlight of the weekend was getting to go to a couple of OKC Improv shows though.

I went to both the 7:30 and 9:30 shows on Saturday, and they were both wonderful. It was great getting to see friends from the improv retreat in their home space. It’s a nice little theater with some really awesome improv happening. Tickets were $10 a show or $15 if you went to both shows for the night, and definitely worth the price. The shows were both wonderful, and it was really cool to see some great local improv.

Sometimes travel plans don’t work out so well, and car difficulties have definitely gotten in the way this week, but I am so glad that I got to catch up with friends and see them perform at OKC Improv. It was an unexpected delight that was absolutely the highlight of this weekend.

Until next week,

Sarah

Happy 4th

This week was the 4th of July, so it was a short work week. On Monday I went to the lake with a friend and her daughter, and it was pretty fun. You couldn’t swim in the lake, and we didn’t have fishing poles so we pretty much just spent some time throwing rocks and seeing if we could skip them. The lake itself was pretty, and it was definitely a change from the rest of the scenery close by that’s all very dry.

I didn’t really do much on the 4th, but it was nice to have a day just to relax. I went over to a friends house for dinner and we watched a movie, but other than that it was pretty much just a day of relaxing.

On Friday I went to the rodeo with a couple of friends, and it was not at all what I was expecting. It was cold and rainy while we were there which probably didn’t help things. We had gotten there a little bit late, but we were still in the front row of the second section. It was a bull riding competition, but all I really could see was a bunch of bulls running around with no people riding them. We stayed for about an hour, and as we were leaving we finally saw a guy ride for 6 seconds, but I still don’t think we could have seen him from our seats. It was an interesting experience, and I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it wasn’t raining.

On Saturday I did some local exploring. I visited the Navajo Nation Zoo and Museum. The zoo was really cool. The animals were mostly rescues and endangered animals. It was really hot, so a lot of the animals were hiding, but it was still really cool because it addition to some of the facts about the animals, there was also information on how the different animals fit into Navajo tradition and storytelling. It was really neat getting to read about the animals and see how much the Navajo respect and revere so many of the animals. The Nanajo museum was alright. It is a pretty small museum, and had one exhibit hall open. The museum is a combination of art and history and tradition, but the layout was a little mixed. It was hard to get a flow walking through. There were several pieces that were really powerful and cool to see, but no photography is allowed.

Sunday was the bigger day this week. I spent about 7 hours at Petrified Forest National Park. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The park has a 26 mile road going through it with visitors centers on both ends and various overlooks and short trails along the road. I started in the South end and did (almost) all of the trails and overlooks, and the whole trip was amazing and gorgeous. The South end of the park features a lot petrified wood, and the outlooks are not as close together as the North end. The South end also features most of the easy walking trails. The trail that I missed was the Giant Logs trail which is right behind the Rainbow Forest Museum. You can see a lot of the logs through the window of the museum, but I didn’t realize there was a whole trail through until I had already left and was at a different stop. There are 2 other trails near the museum that I did do, The Long Logs and Agate House trails. These 2 trails share a common .4 mile access trail, and then each trail is about 1 mile. The Long Logs trail is a loop through an area where there was a log jam in a river and the wood has now petrified, so it features a lot of petrified wood and it’s pretty neat that you can see the history of what used to be a river a long long time ago. The Agate house is an out and back trail to a reconstructed house made of petrified wood. It is the only resconstruction in the park, but the signs say they have found evidence of other houses similar to it, but that reconstructions aren’t generally done anymore as more can be learned from leaving sites undisturbed. The access trail is fully paved, and the Agate House and Long Logs trails both have some areas of more loosely packed gravel, but both are pretty well defined and easy to walk. I chose to do these 2 trails and then visit the Rainbow Forest Museum to cool off after. The Museum is pretty small, but has a ton of information on the fossils and ancient plant and animal life in the area. It also had some really neat comparisons and insights into how researchers know what they are looking at. It was also really neat to see how recent many of the discoveries were and to know that research is ongoing in the park and new things are found all the time.

The next outlook and trail are the Crystal Forest. From the parking lot you can see a decent amount of petrified wood, and it’s a pretty good view of the area around as well. The trail is about .8 miles and is a loop through the area to see more of the petrified wood. There are also points along the trail that provide really nice views of the surrounding area. The whole Crystal Forest trail is paved, and for the most part it is pretty flat. There are some small hills, but for the most part it’s a very easy trail.

After the Crystal Forest there are 2 more outlooks that have decent concentrations of petrified wood, the Jasper Forest and the Agate Bridge. Jasper Forest is pretty neat because it used to be the first point of entry and sighting of petrified wood for travellers. It is the closest large concentration of wood to the railroad tracks, and historically used to serve as the greeting and entry into the area. There were several photo comparisons at this site and throughout the park that show how little things have changed in the past 120 years or so which was also really interesting to see. The Agate Bridge is a quick look at a spot where a large tree fell down and was then petrified before water eroded a large passage underneath. The bridge spans 110 feet long and the tree has been supported by concrete since 1917. There are spots where the concrete is wearing away, and the Agate Bridge serves as a neat reminder that nature and water can be more powerful than human intervention sometimes.

The scenery changes in the middle of the park as you enter the badlands. The first major area in the badlands is the Blue Mesa and Blue Forest trail. The Blue Mesa area is a 3.5 mile driving loop with several overlooks along the loop that provide awesome views of the badlands. The Blue Forest trail is a 1 mile trail that goes down into the badlands and provides some amazing views from below. The whole trail is paved, but there is a section that is very step that hairpins several times along the edge. After getting down, the trail is a loop that provides beautiful views from multiple angles in the badlands. Because of the steep incline, this trail was probably the most difficult in the park, but it also provided views that weren’t like any of the other views in the park so it was well worth it to me. There are a few more stops to get views of the badlands called the tepees, though they are more like pull offs than actual outlooks. The did provide some cool wide views of the badlands, and were easy, quick stops to make.

After the badlands there are a few stops that show more recent history of the Pueblo people who lived in the area. The first stop is Newspaper Rock and features a Petroglyph. I had some difficulty seeing the different petroglyphs on the rocks because they were pretty far away from the actual overlook. I also don’t know that I was necessarily patient enough to get a good view. There were several view finders, but I ran into more people at this overlook than any other and didn’t want to wait around too long. The next stop is Puerco Pueblo which is a small set of Pueblo ruins. It is also the first stop with a bathroom after the Rainbow Forest Museum, and pretty much the only bathroom in the middle of the park. The Puerco Pueblo stop has a .3 mile trail that walks you through the village and points out different aspects along the way. It was neat to see how similar the building styles and techniques were to the other Pueblo ruins I have seen. Even though they are hundreds of miles apart, the spread of ideas, techniques, and important symbols spread throughout the whole area. Puerco Pueblo is sort of the last stop in the Southern end of the park.

The first stop in the Northern part of the park is historic route 66. The original route 66 is marked by old telephone poles, and the spot where it crosses the current park road has a bench and an old Studebaker to commemorate the spot. After the route 66 stop, there are 3 spectacular overlooks of the painted desert, Lacey Point, Whipple Point, and Nizhoni Point. All 3 provided amazing views, and I kept thinking that it couldn’t get more amazing or beautiful, and I always seemed to be wrong. It was amazing to see how vast and expansive the area was.

The next 2 overlooks were Pintado Point and Chinde Point. Both of these outlooks provided a little bit more of a rim look over the painted desert. It felt like I could see the painted desert going on for miles and miles in the distance. Chinde Point also has a nice large picnic area and looks like it would be a nice meeting area for large groups.

The next stop was the Painted Desert Inn. It was really neat to get to see human interaction with the park throughout time. The Inn underwent remodeling and major changes in the early 1900s, but has remained pretty similar since then. The upstairs area is still set up like it would have been years ago and features several pieces of art by a native artist that were beautiful. Downstairs they have turned the old bar into a a fountain and ice cream shop. The Inn also has an overlook behind it and marks one end of the rim trail. The Rim Trail is a .5 mile trail that connects the Inn and Tawa Point. The trail is the only completely unpaved trail in the park, and was a little harder to follow than the other trails, but the views along the way were awesome. Every time the trail came upon a new overlook of the desert it was amazing to just look out and see the beauty. The trail also had several informational signs about the animals, plants, and history of the area. I walked from the Inn to Tawa Point along the trail, but ended up walking back along the road because of the paved surface. It was a pretty easy hike with amazing views the whole time.

The last stop in the park is Tiponi Point. Tiponi Point provides more of a length wise look down the painted desert. While most of the other outlooks provided more expansive, wide looks over the desert, Tiponi provides a narrower look, but it is still amazing. It also provides a great opportunity for a last or first look at the desert depending on which direction you travel through the park. I finished my visit ans the Painted Desert Visitor Center. Unlike the Rainbow Forest Museum, the Painted Desert Visitor Center doesn’t feature any exhibits. It does however screen the 2 park videos and have a gift shop. The videos were neat in that they showed the connection and importance of Petrified Forest National ark in so many different fields of research today. It was also nice and cool in the Visitor Center and provided a great place to relax for a few minutes before ending my day at the park.

Entry at Petrified Forest is $20 per car (or included with the annual pass) and well worth the money. The views and history are so rich that it’s a definite must do for the area. Overall this weeks adventures turned out to be more than I was expecting. I saw so much and learned so much just from visiting the places near me.

Earn your mark,

Sarah

 

Unexpected Adventures

It’s been 3 weeks since I came out to Arizona, and so far it’s been a pretty fun adventure. This week had a lot of smaller adventures, as well as some unexpected surprises.

This week started the Olympics at work, and the first event was a volleyball tournament. We won our first game, and ended up taking 4th overall in the tournament. It was a lot of fun getting to play again, and it was really great getting to spend time with more people at lunch.

I also managed to find the window rock this week that I had tried to find the first week. I went with one of my friends after work, and she led the way. I will say though, we were not really following a trail and there definitely weren’t signs, so I don’t think I would have been able to find it without her. It was neat getting to see the view from the window rock, and the hike was much shorter than the one I had attempted trying to find it the first week.

Over the weekend I went to Amarillo to get my car back (I had been using my mom’s the first few weeks). Since I was in Amarillo, I decided to visit Palo Duro Canyon. I hiked the lighthouse trail inside the canyon that is a 2.7 mile hike on the trail, followed by maybe another .25 miles off the trail to get up to the lighthouse rock. The trail is an out and back trail, so in total it was about a six mile hike. The canyon is beautiful, and the trail was a pretty flat well defined walk along the bottom with every .1 mile marked, so I got to see a lot of the canyon while on the hike. The lighthouse rock is the feature that the canyon is best known for, and it looked like the only way to see it was to do the hike, there were no overlooks that would allow you to see it. From the end of the trail up to the lighthouse was definitely a more difficult climb. It was pretty much straight up, and I had to take several breaks along the way. From the end of the trail, you can’t actually see the lighthouse, so unless you climb up, the last view of the lighthouse is at about the 2.5 mile mark. Overall it took about 3 hours to complete the hike, and the views near the lighthouse rock were absolutely spectacular. The park cost $5 for a day pass, and I probably could have seen more than just the lighthouse trail, but I was pretty worn out from the hike and short on time. The hike and views were still amazing and definitely worth the $5 for just the lighthouse trail and stopping at a few overlooks on the way out.

While I was in Amarillo, I also stopped at Cadillac Ranch because I had not been before. It was a nice quick stop, and I was ready to drive back to Arizona, but some unexpected adventures happened.

After Cadillac Ranch, my car wouldn’t start. I finally got it to start, but had to head back to Amarillo to get it checked out before starting my drive back to Arizona. Luckily, it was just that the battery cables needed to be tightened, so I was able to get on my way pretty quickly. My temperature gauge had been running a little high, but I was planning on waiting until I got to Arizona to get that checked out because it wasn’t causing any problems that morning. On the drive, the temperature gauge stayed a little high, and the AC would not come on because of it, so it was a pretty hot drive. I stopped for gas at a small station that did not even have bathrooms, and when I went to turn my car back on, the temperature gauge was all the way on high so I pulled to the side and was just going to wait it out. A kind stranger with Oklahoma State plates came over and offered to help. He checked a few things, and got my car working again. With the temp gauge back where it was supposed to be and the AC working again, I hit the road again.

It started to get a little bit windy, and the sky was looking pretty dark once I got driving again, but I didn’t think much of it until I saw a sign saying that the highway was closed ahead. I pulled of in Santa Rosa to see if I could wait it out. With all of the delays I had already had and looking at the weather, I decided to stay the night in Santa Rosa. I had to try 3 different hotels before I found one with a room, but it was well worth the rest after the long day I had had.

Sunday brought better luck. I left Santa Rosa and drove back to Arizona without any troubles. On Sunday evening, I went to the carnival that is in town. I ate some carnival food, and won a prize at one of the games. I had forgotten how expensive carnivals are, but it was still pretty fun getting to go for a little while.

Even with the unexpected turns this week, I still really enjoyed the adventures I got to go on this week.

Life is an adventure,

Sarah