Archive for the ‘whimsy’ category

Canyonlands National Park

April 21st, 2010

Part two of our Spring Break adventure had us heading west from Arches to Canyonlands National Park.  We spent two days in this park in two if it’s three distinctly different areas.  We visited the Needles district first, which is in the south eastern area of the park.  The Needles is an interesting area, and I’m somewhat at a loss to describe the landscape there.  It’s almost as though the consistency of the rock was changed to hot wax, and then dribbled out to form columns, blobs and mushroom-like formations.  We even camped under our own large mushroom of a rock that night, which somewhat cut down on the wind (yes, there was MORE wind).

After we arrived at the park and set up camp, we decided to go for a hike.  We decided on the Chesler Park Trail, which twists and turns through towering spires of striped red, orange and cream colored rock.  We climbed over large rock blobs, down through slot canyons, and between towers of rocks much much taller than our house.  The trail leads to an awe inspiring amphitheater of rock towers all lined up in a row.  It looks like a fossilized cityscape dropped off in the desert.  Fascinating.   (yes, I know I’m going a bit overboard with the superlatives.  Deal.)

The next day, we left the Needles area, and headed up north to the Island in the Sky area.  I thought the NPS had gone a bit overboard with the name, until I saw the place.  This section of the park is located on the top of a giant mesa, and from the edge, you look out over the different levels of sub-mesa, all the way down to the valley floor where the Green River meets the Colorado, thousands of feet below.  The views were a bit ridiculous. We also visited Mesa Arch, which while interesting, was very crowded.  The arch has a killer view down into the valley and of the snow-capped peaks beyond, and the drop off is immediate.  There were many families with small children who were being not so attentive.  We got out of there quickly because I kept getting more and more scared for other people’s children!

We decided to do a short backpack that night, since the campground was full, and we wanted a bit more solitute.  Since this national park is not heavily visited, there aren’t really backpacker campsites exactly, they have “backpacking zones”.  There was a one party limit in our zone, so we were it.  Sweet.  We hiked out onto a slender finger of mesa poking out into the void and really felt the immensity of all. that. space.  It was quite humbling really.  We had our dinner on an outcropping of rock near the brim while we watched the sun go down and make the desert landscape burn even more orange.  We also packed the kindle in, so that we could read to each other.  You may laugh, but we’ve often been known to bring books or games when we backpack.  Tom even carried the hardback version of the sixth Harry Potter on a three day trip on Lake Chelan a few summers ago.  Trust me, the kindle is an improvement.

Now, I am somewhat paranoid, especially when we’re backpacking out in the middle of nowhere; I’m conviced every rustle of a branch is a cougar coming to eat us, or that scorpions and rattlesnakes are going to take up residence in my boots and backpack.  This trip was no exception.  Luckily the night wasn’t too windy (!), so I made it through alright, and even slept pretty well.

The next morning, we did a few short walks around the park to see some of the different areas and vistas we hadn’t seen yet.  We did a two mile trip out to a different finger of mesa where we got a rare great shot of the two of us together!  The thing that surprised me most about trails in this park was the total lack of railings.  Now, I’m not a huge proponent of making things feel safer than they actually are and giving people a false sense of security, but we’re talking about drops of thousands of feet here!  While it was fascinating seeing that kind of exposure, it was a bit heady for me. I’m pretty sure my dad would have either passed out or refused to get out of the car.  The views were totally worth it though.

Arches National Park

April 18th, 2010

Last week was my Spring Break.  WHEE!!  Spring Break is such a magical time.  This year, Tom and I decided to head wherever was cheapest, and fun…est.  We also wanted to try to include some National Parks, as we are still on our quest to visit all of the NPs in the country.  We ended up deciding on Utah, and specifically visiting Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks.  We started off in Arches, which is just outside Moab, Utah.  We arrived late on Sunday night and camped at a DNR campground just outside the park, next to the Colorado River.  The forecast called for a cold, windy night, but it was windy beyond belief.  Like, I thought the tent might collapse kind of windy.  Sweet.

So after not too much sleep, we headed into the park the next morning. Many areas of middle to southern Utah are made up of these gorgeous red-rock mesas, gorges, and arches, and this park is no different.  Soaring walls of stark reddish orange towered over us as we snaked through the park to arrive at Balanced Rock. Basically, the “rock” is there because it is made up of a more durable (less susceptible to erosion) type of rock, while the rock underneath is much softer, making it erode more quickly, giving it the “balancing” look.  Eventually the base will wear away completely, and the “Balanced Rock” will collapse to the ground.  The light was a bit tricky early in the day, so our photos here aren’t super fabulous, but the feature was really interesting.


Next we traveled deeper into the park to an area called Devil’s Garden.  By this point, it was afternoon, and we still hadn’t seen any of the park’s namesakes!  I wanted to see some arches!  We found them here though. The first one we visited was Landscape Arch, a delicate, impressive span that looks almost impossibly long.  We were unable to venture under it, as I believe the park service is worried about parts breaking off and landing on tourists!

After that we ventured up the “primitive trail” to Partition Arch, which is visible in some of our photos of Landscape Arch.  Up here the wind started kicking up, as in gusting probably 30ish mph.  With sand.  Right.  Partition Arch was amazing, as it overlooked the entire valley; we could see for probably a hundred miles. Amazing.

Leaving this area of Devil’s Garden, the wind started blowing in earnest.  We kept having to stop and turn our backs to the gusts and hide our eyes.  The sand stung our skin and was burning our faces.  This was when I realized I am not really cut out for desert travel.  Clearly something I needed to learn the hard way.  We did stop by Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch on the way out, but spent very little time there due to sandblasting.

We decided to risk one other area of the park to visit Double Arch, which, as the name implies, is where to arches were formed from the same part of rock, but span in two different directions.  Yay erosion!  I have a feeling the wind had something to do with this as well.  After taking about a gazillion more photos, we retreated back to the car.  It took very little work to “convince”  Tom that we needed to spend the night in a hotel that night rather than camping in the 40+ mph winds again.  And there was a shower. Whee!  The Super 8 cost 55.00 with our AAA membership, which meant we got a room and a tub.  No closet or, strangely, trash can, but hey, I wasn’t complaining.  There was no wind.

The next morning, before we headed over to Canyonlands, we went back into the park to check out Delicate Arch.  This is THE arch.  Like, the one Utah deemed worthy of putting on it’s license plate.  In the morning light with some spectacular clouds, the scene was striking indeed.  It was quite cold, and guess what, windy!  The arch was exquisite though, and quite fun to photograph.   Arches was a wonderful way to start out our trip to this very unique part of the country.

Penguin Photo Phun

February 3rd, 2010

So a few days ago, my Mom, who runs Millwood School, had a request for me.  Apparently one of the first grade classes at her school is studying penguins.  Now, we like penguins around here, me specifically.  I think they’re kind of silly, weird and wonderful.  My mom knows this about me, so when she talked to the first graders about their penguins she mentioned that I had a very special penguin. One that wore clothes.  Apparently the students were fascinated by this, and Mom asked if I would take some pictures of the beloved stuffed animal and email them to the class.  Of course I was happy to oblige.  Here is the email I sent to the class, with the accompanying pictures.

Dear Mrs. Bs Class,
I hear that you are studying penguins!  I love penguins and have a small collection of penguin stuffed animals.  For my birthday, my husband’s mom gave me a new penguin stuffed animal.  He is the kind that has beans in his bottom so that he sits up by himself, and has wires in his flippers so that they can be moved.  His name is The Emperor.  Can you guess why?  He has a collection of sweaters that he wears for all of the major holidays.  He l
oves to be well dressed.  Here are a few pictures of The Emperor in his Valentine’s Sweater.  I hope you have enjoyed all the recent snow!

Sincerely,
Amy