18. National Park Road Trip…April/May/June 2016

day 58…6.17
So, by now you know my plans morph & change like the weather.  Jill was heading back to Dallas todayhopefully to start feeling better & I thought I might follow March Fourth to another festival up north, then go by Rocky Mountain National Park & then Ft. Collins for some beer, then Denver for a day or two, then home.  The last day or so Id wondered if this was really what I wanted to do.  I knew the hiking at RMNP would be kept to low elevation hikes& I was just there & did all those hikes last September.  I know the free camping, once you get into cities like Ft. Collins & Denver, is pretty hard to find. And Id been reading about the Street Faire in Louisville: that a lot of the towns people are irritated by it & now there are shuttles & its kind of a mess.  So, given all those factors, I laid awake in the middle of the night, wondering what I should do & where I should go tomorrow.  

I decided to go home.  Id be arriving 5 or 6 days earlier than originally planned, but Id get to spend the weekend with Danny, including Fathers Day (maybe a good thing since it kind of sucks when youre kids live far away & you dont get to see any of them on these holidays’).  I was going to try & surprise him.  Then I went to sleep.

Jill & I had a breakfast at the hotel, then checked out, re-packed our bulging cars, hugged, said good bye & hugged again.  I gassed up & headed east, then north, the E A S T for the long haul drive through one of my least favorite states.  Right off the bat I hit construction (three pilot cars) but then just west of Hays, KS was stopped along I-70 as they had a shut down for about 45 minutes.  I was in the midst of a severe thunderstorm…big winds, hail, rain & lightening.  Evidently, a big rig with two empty trailers was blown over & slid sideways about 100 yards down the highway, landing across all the lanes.  Amazingly no one else was hurt but I think the driver had minor injuries.  So, we all just sat there (except for the few who took off through the wet median & headed back west).  I was not going to make it in time to surprise Danny for his usual Friday night dinner out with friends.  However, I found out later, he wasn’t planning on ‘his usual’ anyway.  When we talked at 6:45pm, I told him I was headed back home.  I drove out of the storm & made good time & we met at the Burger Stand—our reg Friday night hangout—for a late night dinner.  It was great to see him!

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spoils of war…I mean “of a road trip”….
the beer…was Danny happier to see the beer than me?  (there was more…but some didn’t make it all the way home)

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the stuff….

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the gifts... can’t show pics in case Danny’s Mom or Claire is reading this website (Claire may be only 17 months old, but have I mentioned she’s not only adorable, she’s brilliant!)

 National Parks….
I visited 16 National Parks in 5 different states!
1. Great Sand Dunes (CO)It was super nice being in this park practically alone.
2. Mesa Verde (CO)…Balcony House hike & tour was so much fun!
3. Bryce Canyon (UT)Enjoyed my hike here a lot …feels so other-worldly hiking in the hoo-doos!
4. Zion (UT)Even if I didnt get to do my favorite hikes this time, I LOVE this park!
5. Yosemite (CA)Such a magnificent park with so much breathtaking scenery!  If you ever get the chance to be here…do it!  And, if you enjoy reading, pick up any of John Muir’s books that he wrote about living here & the park’s history.  It’s an incredible place!
6. King’s Canyon (CA)If you don’t like “edgy’ drives, don’t drive into the canyon…but if you do, start with a full tank of gas.
7. Sequoia (CA)I love these giant trees!  And I loved climbing the rock too.
8. Pinnacle (CA)I’m not sure I would make a special trip out of the way to re-visit this park, but I was so STOKED to see all the Condors…so, maybe I would go again.
9. Point Reyes (CA)I will always go out of my way to come back to this fantastic place along the coast!
10. Redwood (CA)Never, ever, ever get tired of seeing these fabulous tall tall tall really tall trees! (& the banana slugs are kinda cute too.)
11. Crater Lake (OR)Someday I will be in this park when there is no snow on the ground & I can drive around the rim & hike its trails.  But, I have no regrets about seeing the pure white snow against the deep blue waters…it’s such a beautiful little park.
12. Great Basin (NV)Id visit this park again if coming from the Utah side & if it was the time of year to hike to see the Pine Cone Bristle trees…but I’d pass on the cave tour…guess I’m just not a cave person.
13. Canyonlands (UT)My heart was bursting with joy at getting to hike with Sara, Kevin & Claire!  Sara was a beast of a hiker with Claire & all their stuff & would try anything.  Once again, Im in awe of my daughter & her super powers!
14. Arches (UT)More hiking with Claire…Have I mentioned how much I loved this part of my trip?!   And the Fiery Furnace was SUPER SPECTACULAR!   (PS to Sara:  If you & Kevin get another chance in the next few years to hike the Fiery Furnace, Im permanently volunteering to come out to watch Claireactually, Im available to watch Claire on any trip you takeno matter when or where.  Just FYI).
15. Capital Reef (UT)Such a small but wonderful little park.  I loved the hike I did in the wash this time.   
16. Black Canyon (CO)Not much big hiking here, but the many views are pretty cool.  If you stop here, you should read the history of the two guys that first floated the riverits a harrowing adventure read! 

I also visited Natural Bridges National Monument & Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

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Condors.Yes!  I finally saw them & even though I would never call them pretty birds, I think theyre amazing!
Bald Eagles
I am always awestruck when I see them flyingmagical!
.incredible every time I see one…mind-blowing!
Elk..loved seeing the baby by our camp!
Bear…saw 5 total, but the ones along Gothic 
road were such a surprise!  Not sure if I want to see them again when hiking though!
so damn cute whenever & wherever I see them!

Visiting Lagunitas Brewery then onto Russian River was like night & day.  This was my second time to visit both places; I love most of Lagunita’s beer & Pliney, Blind Pig & Consecration from RR.  BUT, Lagunitas is ten times more fun to visit.  As a matter of fact, I’d go back to Russian River to BUY beer on site, but probably not to drink it there.  The ‘bouncer’s’ at Russian River make you feel likes it’s a super-duper “privilege’ to be ‘let in’ the front door.  Lagunita’s just throws open it’s arm’s wide & yell’s ‘come on in, enjoy our beer & have fun!” 

I will dream of Crux Fermentation’s  Imperial stout…that’s after I finish the bottle I brought home to share with Danny.  It’s one of my top 6 Imperial Stouts…Y U M M E E ! !

Southern Utah has amazing scenery & hiking….but their beer stinks.  Important Rule to follow:  always, always bring your own beer from some other states when visiting Utah…well, it’s my rule anyway.

SWINGS!  Why don’t more bars & breweries have these rather than barstools?

cheesy selfies….

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the stats….

I drove a little over 8,500 miles (eek!) but gas was about $1 cheaper per gallon this year over last year (some good news, right?)

I visited 5 states in 58 daysnot including Kansas (I dont visit here…better leave it at that)

4,715 photos taken

Three nights in a bed (one hostel, one resort & one hotel); 8 nights on two different couches (the boys house & one night couch surfing); 9 nights in my tent; leaving 37 nights in my 4Runner…or something close to that. I can sleep...or not sleep anywhere.

random reflections….

I feel so very very grateful to have taken another long trip & to have seen so much of our beautiful & magnificent country!  

And, this trip was super extra special with a Claire-cherry on top because I got to see Peter, Luke, Sara, Kevin & CLAIRE!  And to be able to hike with Sara & Claire was a dream come true!  The only regret was that Danny wasnt there to share it with all of us.

If you plan on ever traveling out of your city & expect to have cell service, dont sign up with Sprint as your carrier.

 As always, I loved being back in Big Sur, one of my very, very favorite spots on Earth! (Id love to spend my birthday here sometime, in a little AirBNBjust me, the mist & the condors (which Id like to really see, someday, while in Big Sur.)  

Antelope Canyon is truly amazing!  Im not a fan of Page, AZ, but the canyon & tour was fantastic!

Bend was such a wonderful new stop for meI was surprised the town wasnt very big, but so much fun to be had & so much beer to drink hereI will definitely be going back!  The Ale Trail was a quest& I persevered!

Glass Beach in Ft. Bragg is so awesomebut how have I missed Bowling Ball beach..twice?  Next time for sure.

Holly Yashi jewelry is so super cool.  To see it in the stores, you can tell its beautiful; but when you take the tour & see how its ACTUALLY madeit will blow your mind.  I cant wait to wear my new earrings!

I REALLY REALLY LOVED watching Luke & Pete play soccer together again!

I REALLY REALLY DONT LIKE driving through snowstorms!

Only use Sprint as your carrier if you plan on leaving your phone at home when you travel.  Im sure it will work well sitting on your kitchen table.

Wild Horse Slot Canyon was such a surprise & a super fun adventurous hike& free!

Bug bites, stings, lumps & swollen lymph nodes…yes I had them all….thanks to Southern Utah.  Not sure if the lump on the back of my head & swollen lymph node on my neck was due to the sting on the side of my face or the dozen or so bug bites I had on my head.  I felt fine, so I wasn’t worried, but grew a teenie tiny concerned when the lymph node on my neck stuck out like a large adams apple…only on the side of my neck.  I called the best ER doc on the planet & launched an inquiry.  "Don’t worry" was the response…& so I didn’t.  Awesome!

CRESTED BUTTE…I could go on & on about how much I love this place!  So good to be back!

Want to travel off the grid?  Sign up with Sprint for your cell carrier…it will be just like the old days—paper maps, pay phones, phone books (good luck finding those two things), surprise weather…live life in the dark…sign up with Sprint!

How can one PERMANENT library card in Paradise make one old lady so happy?

Six or Seven times while in CB I’d be walking down the street or headed somewhere and I’d hear “Vicki!”…I’d turn around with a bursting heart of joy to see one of my CB friends waving me down to visit, say hi or have a beer.  I know I might have mentioned how magnificent the scenery, hiking & camping is here, but have I said how fantastic the people are?  I FIT HERE!!!  

It’s so much fun to travel with Jill & especially when she comes to Crested Butte.  She was a trooper this time though…the altitude was a piece of cake compared to how sick she was with her allergies.  We’ve never had a trip together when she’s been sick, but we still managed to have some fun times!  We’re planning on redeeming the experience though by planning another trip again…very very soon!

One of my first errands when back home, is to go visit the VERIZON store…is there any affordable way I can be your customer?

last words…
Ive been home less than 24 hours but had a great nights sleep which included my little kitty cat Sammy, next to me…forgiving me more quickly each time I come back…evidently just glad I’m not dead (really, Danny takes super great care of her while I’m gone).

Ive unpacked, washed, hung out, cleaned out, sorted out, put away the beer & updated the website.  I donhave to put the camp stuff away, just in a corner in my roomIll be repacking it soon, leaving to go back to Crested Butte mid July for three weeks for hopefully some big hiking.  Danny will join me for the last week & Im so happy about that.HE IS MY FAVORITE HIKING PARTNER EVER!

And, in the meantime, we have a four day trip planned to see our WONDERFUL AWESOME AMAZING CLAIRE!  That’s just fantastic & we can’t wait!

On a serious note, life’s tragedies follow all of us where ever we go.  Danny phoned me on the Sunday morning following the Pulse Club shooting in Orlando to fill me in on this horrible event…which was taking place in Sara’s now home town & at the hospital where she is an ER Doctor.  We both knew Sara was supposed to have the weekend off & flying to Atlanta.  A quick text to her verified that she was still in Atlanta, watching the horrors unfold from afar.  A couple of days later, we heard of the nightmare death of a two year child drowned by an alligator at Disney World…supposed to be a place of magic & where dreams come true & where Sara & her family go often.  Sometimes on the road, you can feel like you’re in LA LA Land…seeing so many special places, quiet & perfect, meeting new friends, & leaving the everyday mundane tasks & routines behind.  But awful tragedies like this pierce your heart-- for the dead, for those left with the loss of people they loved, for those affected—forever- in some way--- & they don’t leave your mind…& they shouldn’t…some things should never be forgotten.

I’m such a lucky girl to wander the country as I do.  Only those that have been bitten by the travel bug or actually, bitten, chewed & swallowed will understand the pull of the open road…& with that said…my mind is moving forward to trips yet to be taken, roads yet to be driven, scenery yet to be photographed, & people yet to be met!

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