Trip Log: Photo Album, part nine.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I promised more words and fewer photos this time, and I meant it.

At this point in my trip, I had been camping outside Island In The Sky district for nearly a week. I was actually starting to get a little burnt out on this part of my trip, mostly because I’d reached a place where everything was reminding me of my family and how much fun we’d had doing family vacation road trips like this, and how much I wanted to share this experience with them by having them there, and how much better everything would be if they were with me.

In short, I was ready to move on to something new and distracting.

But before I did that, there was one overlook in Island In The Sky that I hadn’t been to yet:

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I have to admit, seeing this really made me want to be on that river, having an Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire experience of my own…

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Finally I headed out for good. I was so glad to be on the road again, that I very nearly didn’t want to stop for anything. However, I knew I couldn’t just pass somewhere as incredible as Mesa Verde without at least a peek at the famous cliff-dwellings.

There’s just one photo I really want to share of that; mostly it’s a you-gotta-be-there kind of place. There’s so many sites with so much information — honestly I just kept thinking of how much my Mum needed to come there.

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I continued on to New Mexico, camping overnight before reaching Santa Fe, heading down to see Billy The Kid’s grave, and finally stopping for a couple days in Roswell. Those last two were primarily to make my sister envious; in her words — Billy the Kid and aliens = so her. Someday, she and I will have to road trip in New Mexico together.

I had pretty much stopped taking photos for this part of the trip. I was getting exhausted, honestly, and I just wanted to take a break. I was putting in long days of driving broken up with days of doing pretty much nothing. I was focused on the goal of this entire trip: reaching Fort Worth in time to meet up and stay with a Twitter-Friend, and go to a Renaissance Festival with her. Not doing a lot of exploring of the places I was passing through meant I was actually ahead of schedule and had a few extra days before I had to be there — hence my last-minute addition of Roswell, and Carlsbad Caverns, to my trip plans.

I had grown up in a place that lacked natural cavern systems, but I had read about them and dreamed about exploring them since I was a little kid, and one of my favorite things about living in Hawaii was getting to explore lava tubes. I love being underground, in caves and caverns. When I get in them, I want to never leave. There’s something so peaceful and reassuring and exciting and right about being surrounded by total darkness and utter quiet stillness. I feel safe there, embraced and welcomed by earth. I never get claustrophobia or even a little bit nervous or scare, even when I’m squeezing through a tiny space in a lava tube or in complete pitch black. It’s probably weird, but I always feel totally fine when I’m underground.

All that said, when I checked out my road map and figured out timing, I realized I had plenty of time to take a detour to Carlsbad. Obviously, there was NO. WAY. I was going to miss this chance. A day exploring a famous huge cavern system? That sounded like a perfect way to relax and recover, something just for me.

Next Time on Geek Girl Travels, see part one of the approximately 60 photos of being in caves that I’ve narrowed down from probably over a hundred I took.

Love,

GeGi.

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Trip Log: Photo Album, part eight.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Here are the over-twenty photos of my quick drive through Needles District, Canyonlands National Park. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I hope you have a fast internet connection. I also hope you really like Utah landscape pictures, because that’s literally all I got for you this post.)

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Someday, I’ll come back here and explore more. Possibly by hot air balloon and/or river rafting.

Next post I’ll have more words and fewer photos. Promise.

Love,

GeGi.

Trip Log: Photo Album, part seven.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I’m getting this post ready ahead of time to publish later, so I can try and actually meet my goal of finishing the trip photos before I take my next trip…

As promised in the last post, the next day I drove down to Needles Overlook. This isn’t actually in the Canyonlands Park itself; the Needles district is beautiful but mostly only accessible for back-country desert hiking or river rafting. Needles Overlook, which is on BLM land, gives you a chance to see the amazing landscape from a distance and a nice high vantage point. Unfortunately, zoom = pretty hazy here, but you can get an idea still.

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It was also a good place for a couple people to launch their quadcopter, presumably getting some incredible footage of the National Park.

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And, of course, I made another lizard friend. Because it’s me, and it’s a desert, and OBVIOUSLY. Handsome fellow, wasn’t he?

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After that, I headed back down the dirt road to the highway, and towards the entrance of Canyonlands Needle District. On the way there, I stopped at extremely interesting Newspaper Rock Archaeological Site.

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It was especially entertaining to listen to various silly-just-for-fun theories that the other tourists were coming up with as to what the different petroglyphs meant.

After that, I finally headed into Needles District proper. There’s just little bit that you can get to via paved road, so it was a quick trip as I didn’t feel like hiking in the hot desert of lower elevation (big surprise, I’m sure, to those who are familiar with my utter dislike of getting overheated). But there were a lot of pull-out points where I could hop out of the car and take a ridiculous amount of photos… which, since selecting photos to post is the longest hardest part of this process and therefore in the name of being productive and expedient means I’m going to post ALL of them, I’ll be posting as a separate entry on the blog.

Until next time!

Love,

GeGi.

Trip Log: Photo Album, part four.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Ready for more? Here’s the over-40 photos from my hike out to Grand View Point Overlook in the Island In The Sky area of Canyonlands National Park (elevation is just over 6k).

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I didn't notice until I took this photo, but...

I didn’t notice until I took this photo, but…

that rock totally looked like a sphinx.

that rock totally looked like a sphinx.

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It was a short hike that took ages because every couple feet I’d stop and take at least a few pictures. It was one of the more gorgeous and artistically inspiring places I’ve been, and it was really hard to get the photos down to just these!

This week will be our first with guests at The Ranch, so I’m not sure what my time off is going to look like yet. I’ve still got a whole lot more photos to post, though, so I’ll be working on that whenever I get the chance. Happy last day of May, and I hope you all have a great start to your summer/winter (wherever you are)!

Love,

GeGi.

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Trip Log: Catching Up… So Much Catching Up.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Clearly, I overestimated my updating frequency while on the road. This will be the “words” post; later I will do the “photos” post. This is because 1) I’m too lazy to go get the cable for my camera right now; B) It’ll be faster to update those things seperately; Cat) This is my blog and I do what I want.

[Note: thanks to my favorite community Snark Squad for both the unique and fun counting system, and the motto I’ve borrowed at the end of the list.]

Moving on…

When last I left you, I was spending a day relaxing in Colorado with a friend before heading out to the Canyonlands. Thanks to said friend, I took a couple detours when I hit the road again. First, I drove through the Colorado National Monument, occasionally stopping to photograph the stunning views each new corner and turn revealed along the edge of the mesa. Next, I abandoned the freeway again to drive a twisty-turny highway that followed part of the Colorado River — again, every new bend showed landscape even more beautiful than the last. This is about the time I also started noticing a lot of classic cars on the road.

When I reached the town of Moab that afternoon, I soon realized why I was seeing so many classic cars: there was a car show in town for the weekend. Needless to say, the place was super packed and there were no campsites or rooms left anywhere. Clearly, I rock at planning.

Long story short, this is how I ended up spending the weekend camping in the small town of Green River, about an hour north of my intended destination. It actually worked out just fine; I got to test out my camping setup for the first time, while in a place I could get supplies close by, and I even got a free upgrade to sleep in a cabin the second night. It gave me a much-needed day of doing nothing, and I could drive down to Arches National Park and spend some time exploring. That day, I drove to the end of the road in Arches, and hiked out to Landscape Arch, then took the “primitive trail” all the way out through Devil’s Garden to Black Angel and back. It was about seven miles, I think, and completely gorgeous.

On Monday I figured things had probably calmed down a bit back in Moab. I packed up my campsite, and headed south. I ended up renting a pretty nice site in Horse Thief Campground, part of the way up the road towards the Island In the Sky entrance to Canyonlands National Park. It actually worked out much to my advantage — the higher elevation meant cooler temperatures, and being on the edge of the mesa meant there was usually a refreshing breeze. This was all to the good, because the weather had finally cleared up, and it was SUNNY in the desert, and getting hotter every day. Have I mentioned I’m not good at handling the heat? I get pretty tired and cranky very quickly…which makes me think I must have failed a sanity check when I decided a trip to the Southwest would be a great idea. Again, I really got this whole “planning” thing down, right?

Anyway, with my new campsite set up, and no intention of leaving for the rest of the week, I was free to explore the surrounding area at my leisure. I attended a couple very interesting ranger talks at Island In The Sky, took a hike out past the Grand Overlook to the very edge of the mesa, poked around in Arches a bit more, drove out to the Needles Overlook area, saw Newspaper Rock, and drove through the Needles district of Canyonlands. There’s lots of photos, and I totally fell in love with a lot of the areas, but especially towards the end of the week I just couldn’t stop thinking how much I wished my family — and in particular my Mum — were there too, and how much more fun it would have been to be exploring together. I had a lot of wistful remembering about the family camping trips we used to have, and the road trips Mum and I took.

Eventually the time came to move on again. I headed out to New Mexico, by way of Mesa Verde. It was as fascinating as I’d imagined to see the cliff-dwellings there, though I didn’t spend much time in the park. Northern New Mexico reminded me a surprising amount of the Inland Northwest, except everything was smaller (trees, hills, etc). I ended up spending the night in Carson National Park, at a campsite next to a natural amphitheater.

The next day I headed into Santa Fe, where I was impressed by the number of people who showed up at the exact time the library was supposed to open, and waited the ten-to-fifteen minutes it took before the librarians actually unlocked the doors. I’ve been using libraries the whole trip for their free wi-fi, their clean bathrooms, and their book-sales. Books and audio-cds have pretty much been the one “souvenir” type things I’ve been getting on this trip — library sales are awesome that way, and super affordable. Plus the audio-cds make long driving days go by much faster.

After the library, I wandered about the streets of Santa Fe for a little while, but after a week of being in one place I was still antsy to hit the road more. I drove through some neighborhoods on my way out of town, and between those two things I saw enough of Santa Fe to make me want to go back someday. It is BEAUTIFUL there, and I adore the architecture style.

After that, I headed down to Fort Sumner to see Billy The Kid’s grave and museum. This is because when I was first planning my trip, I noticed it on a map and mentioned it jokingly to my sister, and she was so excited and jealous it became something I HAD to do. Obviously.

It was actually very cool to be there, and kind of heart-touchingly sad — the headstone is for Billy and two of his ‘pals’ (as it says on the engraving), and all three are buried side-by-side. The “unofficial” museum in Fort Sumner was also worth checking out; they have a lot of historical artifacts from various eras, not just Billy The Kid stuff, but they also have some very cool Billy stuff that you wouldn’t see elsewhere — like his gun, and a photo of him playing croquet with some friends. The video about the Lincoln County War and Billy’s life was really interesting, too. I sent my sister a lot of pictures.

After that, I kept heading south. Destination: Roswell, NM. This was another “for my sister” thing, really. As she texted me at one point, “Aliens and Cowboys – New Mexico sounds perfect for me!” (this statement is entirely accurate). I camped outside of Roswell for a couple nights at Bottomless Lakes State Park —┬áif there were any aliens around, they failed to abduct me or even show up — and wandered through the town a bit. I couldn’t help thinking how much more fun it would be to explore it with my sister. Plus, the weather and the location were conspiring to be very desert-like with the whole hot-and-sunny thing, and I’ve mentioned already what a fan of that I am.

When I moved on, I headed down to Carlsbad Caverns. I spend pretty much the entire day deep underground, which is one of my happy-places. Seriously, every time I’m in a cavern/cave/lava tube, I want to just live there. Without all the other people. Anyway, there was a storm warning in effect that day, so only two parts of the cavern were open in case of flooding. There will be lots of photos from here.

While in the caverns, I ended up conversing with another traveler/seasonal-worker — she was also heading to Colorado for the summer, though to a different place — and we ended up deciding to split a motel room since neither of us felt like camping in the rain. It turned out to be pretty fun, and of course the lure of a real bed and a hot shower (and a hot-tub! And we split a pizza for dinner!) was quite the siren-song to begin with. We went our separate ways in the morning; I headed into Texas.

Now, given that the ENTIRE REGION was apparently covered by this particular storm, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the most typical of Texas experiences, weather-wise. Anyway, due to the rain and the being spoiled by sleeping a bed again, I spent the night in a motel again, and then the next day, I finally, at long last, reached my ultimate destination/reason/excuse for this whole trip: my twitter friend’s home in Fort Worth, she of the Renaissance Faire and homemade cheesecake temptations.

It was fantastic getting to meet her for the first time, finally getting to put face and voice and mannerisms to the person I’d been friends with for so long. The first night we went to a Girl’s Night at one of her local comic book stores, which was super fun, of course. I got to read through much of her comics collection (with regular updates via twitter to a mutual friend and fellow comic book enthusiast in France). There was, indeed, a cheesecake to be eaten. And, as if all that wasn’t reason enough to visit and have an amazing time, there was the Scarborough Renaissance Festival itself.

I had bought a weekend pass prior to leaving Montana, so that helped take the pressure off of trying to see everything in one day. The weather was pretty cooperative the first day, alternating clouds and sun, and we wandered about and watched performances and poked in various shops. I bought a longbow so I can start practicing my archery again this summer. We ate funnel cake (my first time with that particular treat). I drooled over all the pretty clothes and weapons. We went home exhausted from a full day of fun.

The next day, the weather was less cooperative, alternating darker clouds with occasional downpours. There were far fewer patrons to the faire, which meant a lot of personal attention from everyone working and trying to sell stuff. But it also meant we always got great seats to the shows! I bought a leather wrist cuff, and we split a turkey leg (which was rumored to actually be an emu leg) for lunch. The shows were great, but ultimately the faire ended up closing an hour or two early due to possible tornado/severe downpour warnings. Despite that, I still have a great day, and was marginally less exhausted (though I did end up falling asleep in the car).

I took an extra day in Fort Worth to just recover and regroup, before heading out early yesterday. I decided I was ready to call it good on the camping front, and on the driving-every-day front, so I spent the entire day on the road to make it all the way up to a great-sounding hostel in Fort Collins, CO for my last days of freedom before I go back to work.

At this point in my tale, I have to pause to give a shout-out to K/Cathy and Trevor, a couple of very kind random strangers I met at a random Rest Stop. The reason for this is because I had an extremely embarrassing and panic-inducing “oh shit” moment, where I locked my keys in my car. After the first wave of denial (“No way did I just do that”) and freaking out (“I’ll break into it somehow!”), I got my rational brain back in gear and flagged down passing said random strangers to ask if I could use their phone. Never have I been happier to have good triple-A coverage. C/Kathy and Trevor not only let me use their phone, but invited me to wait with them in their RV. They even fed me, and were totally cool about having a total stranger hanging out with them for the hour-long wait.

Anyway, my car finally got unlocked (for free! Sort of. Yay for having coverage, anyway.), and I got back on the road. I arrived at the hostel late last night, and immediately went to bed after that far-too-long drive. By the way, this particular hostel has tempur-pedic mattresses on their beds, and tropical-plant-filled covered courtyard in the middle of the house, and waffles for breakfast, and wi-fi everywhere. So I’ll be spending the next couple days here.

On Friday I’ll head out for my last three hours on the road, to go back to my summer guest ranch and begin pre-season work. It’ll be nice to have some money coming in again — though amazingly, I think I’ve managed to stay under-budget this trip! — , and to finally unpack and organize all the stuff in my car, but I’m wondering how hard it’ll be to adjust to staying in one place for months. This road trip has been, at the heart, some real fantasy-fulfillment for me; the ultimate dream of being able to just jump in the car and take off whenever I feel like it, to where-ever I feel like, never having to backtrack or be anywhere at a certain time, never having to stop when I still feel like driving, never having to be answerable to other people…

On the other hand, transient life can wear you down after a while. Taking a break from it, like with most things, will give it meaning and a specialness when I start traveling again. And a guest ranch really isn’t that bad of a place to spend a summer, after all.

Safe travels, everyone.

Love,

GeGi.