Monday, June 28, 2010

Arches, Grand Canyon, and COMING HOME!!!!

Hello all!   We are in Amarillo, TX!!!  Almost home!

I am feeling 98% better than the last time I talked to you!  I say only 98%, because I still have a massive blister that still has not totally resolved itself from Zion- doesn't it seem like everything happened to me in my favorite park?  

Anyway- We went to Arches the morning after my last post, and I felt better- but I still was miserable.....

I had acquired a new ache, this time in my back, and it probably cam from me getting up 13 times to go to the bathroom and walking on asphalt with bare feet to get there- yes, I counted my bathroom trips, you never know what stuff a doctor might like to know.....

So, Arches is very very very beautiful, but I have to say a bit hot and crowded when we went.  I really didn't get to see the park to its fullest, because by 9am it was already 90 degrees and my body told me to sit down every 15 minutes or so!   

I did make it to the Landscape Arch, which is the super wide, expansive arch in the pics, the Delicate Arch, and the fallen Wall Arch.  The Delicate Arch is the one on the Utah license plate, and is one of the most famous arches in the world!  (that must be why all the Germans, French, name it, and that country was represented)

So we left Arches, me feeling miserable and Josh just ready to be home......BUT I WILL RETURN!!! possibly in March or April in some years down the line- it has to be cooler then!

That night we went to the KOA in Flagstaff, where I had a very restful night, aside from the BRIGHT moon, children screaming until 10:30pm, and frightful wind......


I got up at 1:30am to go to the bathroom.  Groggily, I waddled to the facilities, and I finished my business with mister toilet.  Upon leaving my stall, I was confronted with an animal.......a cat? skunk!   Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a skunk in the men's bathroom staring me in the face, waddling towards my stall.  I hopped back into the stall, got on the toilet, and watched as he circled the bathroom and left.  Thank goodness he left, because at that point, I almost had to use the bathroom again! 

I cautiously went outside, looked around, and saw nothing of him.  But, while I was, again, cautiously walking back to the tent site, I saw him digging through a RV's trash about 9 sites down from ours.   As far as I know, he stayed away from us, because we through our trash away before we go to bed.

The only reason he scared me so much was because, I was half asleep, in sandals that I can't run in, and just got off the toilet- so that's the story, and I am stickin' to it! 


So after Flagstaff, we headed to the Grand Canyon early this morning for a whirlwind tour of it.  The canyon is absolutely spectacular, especially in the early morning light (8:30am).  I wish that we could have stayed longer, but we really needed to be getting back.   I will come back here again with enough equipment to hike down to the bottom! 

After the Canyon, we headed for home!  I finally got to press the “Go Home” button on my GPS, and it felt good, I have to say.  A month is a long time to be away from a place that you really do love!

When I woke up this morning, I felt really good, and I am glad that feeling has continued throughout the day.  I actually ate a whole meal today, and I didn't feel like I was going to throw up!  I promise I will disinfect before I come home!  I am also thankful for the many prayers and "thinking about you's" that I got!  You guys make writing this a joy, and your feedback is so wonderful!  

A special thanks to Mrs. Cleis Jensen for all of her little e-mails along the way, with helpful hints and stories- You're a first-class lady and one of the finest humans I know (but you know dogs and cats don't talk back), keep it up!  (just joking about the cats and dogs)

Hope you enjoy the brief and belated pics: Picasa is broken at this juncture, but here are the FB links: HERE and HERE

Thanks for reading!  I hope to be really close to getting home tomorrow!  Hoping to get to Memphis tomorrow!  (and no, we will not be seeing Elvis- I can’t stand him…)


Friday, June 25, 2010

Best and Worst Days of My Life: Zion

Ok, so.....

As many of you know by now, I have an illness- I say it like that because I am not really sure what I have.  We have gone through food poisoning, heat exhaustion, and now we have decided that it is a stomach virus picked up somewhere in Zion National Park.

So two night ago I started having some pain and discomfort in my stomach right after we ate dinner.  As the night went on, it started to get worse and worse.  Anyway, I was in extreme turmoil for most of the night that night and I only got 1 1/2 hours of sleep and a lot of exercise going back and forth to the bathroom.

After that night, we were headed to Bryce Canyon.  Well, that didn't work out because I was falling asleep in the car and half dehydrated from the previous night's adventure.  So we moved on past Bryce and spent the night in a small Utah town.  I am so disappointed that we couldn't go to Bryce, but I don't see how I could have enjoyed it at all!  

I am telling y'all, that was the worst I have ever felt.  I am still very weak from the experience, but I can say that I am getting better.  Thank heavens I am getting better.  I keep drinking fluids and eating small amounts, and resting.

I could go into more details about this illness, but seeing how Josh reacts to my frankness, I probably shouldn't tell all of you!  (you will thank me for it)


Zion National Park is my favorite park so far!!!  It is so competent and the most environmentally friendly park been been at yet.  Basically, you park your car at the visitor's center or your campground and a shuttle takes you throughout the entire park!  This is amazing, considering how much gas we have wasted trying to find things in other parks (Yellowstone).

I never knew ho beautiful Zion was, but I guess it was called Zion for a reason.  Besides the awesome, propane fueled transportation shuttle in the park, they also have limited plastic bottle usage.  They only sell bottled water at a few places, but if you have a reusable bottle, like a Nalgene, then you can have FREE Zion spring water!  And it tastes delicious! There are filling stations throughout the park.

So, on our first day there we decided to hike the Narrows.  This trail, or should I say waterway, is almost completely within the Virgin River and is about 5 miles one way.  We started off the trek at about 11am, and ended up in the Narrows at about 2.

So hiking in a river is a TON of fun, and besides that the river keeps you cool when you are out in 98 degree heat.   But, there is one thing about this hike that could concern many people- you sometimes have to hike in water that is chest-deep to over your head deep, with a strong-ish current running by you.  Everyone in the river that day- and there were hundreds- said that it was so cold, but I actually loved the cool water and didn't mind wading chest-deep in it.

The best thing about the hike is getting to see the Narrows themselves.  This is where Zion Canyon comes together, and the two sides of the canyon almost touch.  My pictures do not do it justice, and there are not a lot pics, because I was hiking in water with an expensive camera- it was in a dry bag most of the way!  

The smooth sandstone walls really are awe-inspiring when you get to see them on the scale of real-life! So many soft curves and colors!  On a side note, this trip has really peaked my interest in Geology!  Seeing the American landscape change has been an incredible experience all by itself.

Ok- Second and last day in Zion-

We went around to all of the other sights to see in the park, and we hiked the Angel's Landing Trail.  This is a tough trail with a 3,000 ft elevation change going up to a portion that you have to hold on to a chain to keep from falling.  Just so you know, I didn't go all the way- I some of that chain part, but I got scared and came back!  Is it just me, or do I not want to fall 3,000 feet to the jagged rocks below?

So after that, we rode the shuttle to the other areas of the park and finally came back to camp very tired.  And then the unpleasantness happened......

So there is my past couple of days....

We are in Moab, UT right now, and we are going to Arches tomorrow- or should I say Josh is going tomorrow if Eric doesn't feel well enough.    So you will be getting pictures from Arches, but they might come from Josh.

Here are in the Picasa link: HERE

Facebook also has pics up!

Prayers for a very speedy recovery are welcome!!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Yosemite and Death Valley: a story about evaporative cooling!

Hello all!

Good to be with you all again, this time from the great state of Utah!  I really do love this state, but it is a little hot.  When we first arrived here, the scenery was soo amazing, and I knew immediately that Zion is going to be absolutely amazing!

Ok, let's start with Yosemite-

So, Yosemite is an absolutely beautiful park, but there is one BIG problem- people!  Too many people come to this park to make it worth your while.  If you want to spend your day dodging the Korean tour buses, the hordes of RVs, and the many huge trucks that people bring up from Fresno. Me and Josh both agreed that this park needs to institute some kind of lottery system to let people into the park.

I think it is kind of ridiculous to call it a national park, when you can't even enjoy being there.  We toured Yosemite Valley early in the morning, and by 9 am the roads had started to get bad, with all of the campers and day trippers.  Also, we had to fight to get a campsite in the park, only to get the furthest campground from all of the sites, and we had to reserve this site in MARCH!!!    So we stressed over getting this campsite, only to get a campsite whose restrooms were not clean, at all!  (I will not go into details about this, you don't really want them anyway!)  Needless to say that we cut our stay from 4 nights down to 2.....

All that being said, Yosemite is a beautiful park, and it would be worth it to go, but not in summer- go in winter when you can pay $69 a night to stay at the lodge!  So that is what I will be doing next time, if there is a next time.  I have the pictures forever, so that is how I would like to remember it!

Onto Death Valley-

Death Valley was actually a vast improvement over Yosemite!  The colors of the rocks and the heat was actually invigorating- until we got to the bottom of the valley.  It was 106 F when we got down to the valley floor, and only went up.  The highest it got up to was 111 F and it was 6pm!

And, I know it sounds stupid, but we camped at the Furnace Creek Campground.  I have to say that it was not the most comfortable night I have ever had- but it wasn't the worst!  It was still 95 at midnight, and it only got down to 85 the whole night.

At the ranger's suggestion, we went to go cool off at the resort pool a couple hundred feet down the road.  (Yes there are resorts, with all the amenities, but they cost a lot!)  So, we went swimming in Death Valley, and it was so amazing!  The pool was fed by a warm spring, and it recycled the water to the golf course- the fact that there was a golf course there made me gag, if you know me well, you know why!  (Death to the Grass!)

So, we came back to the campsite after the nice pool dip and subsequent shower, and we tried to go to sleep.  We got to sleep somewhat, but then we woke up to go look at the stars.  For those of you who don't know, Death Valley is one of the darkest places in the US, and it is a great place to view stars!  We got up at 2 am and saw the spectacular Milky Way!

I think it is hard to look at the night sky and not appreciate how beautiful it is, or how complex it is! It is a very sad fact that most people will never see the Milky Way, but with so much light pollution in the world, it is a fact of life for most of us.  I really reccomend visiting Death Valley for this oppurtunity- but you can also go to Western NC- I saw the Milky Way from a place called Iron Bridge in Highlands, NC- AMAZING!   Josh was the only one to get pictures of this because I need a way better lens to get the quality of pictures that I would want.

Oh and I almost forgot!  GERMANS!! EVERYWHERE!  These are the real visitors to Death Valley, believe it or not.  Everywhere we went we were the only Americans there, all of the rest were German and a small percentage were French and Dutch.  But still, a lot of foreign people!  And you can tell it at the pool- poor choices in swimwear.......

I just want to take this opportunity to say that Dixie Damrel, you were completely right about the Germans, and that your advice was invaluable!  Thanks!!

Ok here are the links for the pics:  YOSEMITE

On a side note, we went to Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam too!  Both were so amazing, but I don't think that Vegas is for me- too much excess, ick!  The only thing that I am disappointed with is the fact that you have to pay to get into the Hoover Dam visitor's center! That is just outrageous! Something that the US gov't built!  $8 dollars is not going to leave my wallet to see displays showing how the dam was built, especially when I can turn on the History Channel or Google it and find out the same info!

Las Vegas was very nice, but as I said before, a lot of excess!  A lot of money wasted, and a lot of money made.  I didn't do any gambling-just not that into it, but I was confronted with many opportunities to do it- Vegas makes it easy.

But anyway, here is the link to the Vegas and Hoover Dam pics- HERE 


We have decided to go to all the parks we had planned to go to, except for Mesa Verde.  So we are going to the Grand Canyon, but we will not be going down in the canyon.   We will be driving by and stopping, so I am a little relieved to have that decision made!

Thanks for reading and for giving me your guidance last week!!!


Thursday, June 17, 2010

We have a problem, a big problem......

Ok folks, I need you to help me decide something!

(The title of this sub-blog post makes it sound more serious than it actually is, but trust me, we have been debating this sooo much recently!)

As many of you know, we are coming up on the last leg of the trip.  That part includes Death Valley, Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Mesa Verde, and the Grand Canyon.  The problem is that we think that we aren't going to get to all of those- actually we know we are not getting to Mesa Verde.

We need someone with a clear mind to tell us what to do!

In my opinion, we just just cut out the Grand Canyon (even though I know it is spectacular and all that mess) and go to all the rest.  If you look at the pictures below of the route that we are currently on, you will how convoluted it has become.  It is like doubling back on ourselves, and basically spending a lot more money.....

I have heard from most people that Arches, Zion, and Bryce are really amazing parks- and easily seen within the span of a few days.   We met some people from Greenville while we were in Sequoia, and they said that we shouldn't miss out on Arches.  Everyone has said that Arches is the place to go- it is apparently the favorite among all the smaller parks.

I know my opinion, but I want to hear your's!  So send me an e-mail ( or write on my FB wall- just get in touch with me and let me know what you think we should do!

Here are the screen shots from the current route- so that you can see how convoluted things are:

This is the whole trip back home from Death Valley, the other pics are just zoomed in shots from this map.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Huge trees, Beautiful flowers, and Heat!

Hello all!

Long time, no see!  I have been in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park for the last few days, and I have to say that it was the best park we have been to so far.  This is in part because we got to enjoy it without any rain, and partly because the park is set up very well!

The park has only two main roads, and one goes through the entire park.  This road also ends in the park.  So, we went to the end of the road, and we saw the attractions in the park from that end down- partly because we didn't want to drive up that windy road more than we had to already!

The road was the worst part about the park, and it will destroy brakes if you don't use lower gears- and we saw a LOT of people using their brakes all the way down the canyon!

The first day we were in Kings Canyon NP, we stayed in a campground called Canyon View, and in the morning, we went to hike a trail called Yucca Point.  This trail was THE HARDEST I have ever hiked, including the one up to Table Rock in SC!!  I think it was a combination of the heat, the steepness of the canyon, and the elevation.  The elevation has been kicking our butts for the whole trip, and it seems like we will never get used to it, but then again, we also stay in the parks only a short while and don't get a chance to adjust.   Needless to say, at the end of the day, we were soooo tired, and we collapsed into our tents.

That night we went to a campground called Sunset, and it had an EXCELLENT sunset!  My pictures made it to the picture gallery in my facebook and picasa albums. Links to come at the end of the post!

We were on the move again the next day, going to the General Grant Tree and some other HUGE trees!!  It was really nice to be among the giants, but I have to say that they look fake.  I mean, something that huge is so hard to imagine, and then you see it before you in an amazing forest setting.  You would come around a bend, and this massive tree would just appear like it had materialized from nothing, but it had been there all along.

Anywhos, (shout out to Grandma Musco!! Love you Lisa, stay Golden!), we went to another campground, and, unfortunately, it was all full- so we had to do everything we had planned to do over the next two days in one.  It was good that all of the attractions of park are very close to one another, and that they are easily accessible by foot!

We saw all the Giants, including General Sherman- The Largest Tree in the World (by mass)- and the Senate, the House, and the President.  We also saw Pine Martens, many different kinds of birds, Marmots, and even a BEAR!  We actually stumbled upon the bear while not really caring about the trail we were on.

We saw some people stopped dead in the path, and we were walking by them until they stopped us.  They looked at us and said, "Look!"  I was like, "OH HOLY CRAP! A bear right there, not 100 ft. from me!"  You can see him in the pics to come!

From there we moved to the foothills- it was the most desert-like area I had ever been in!  So dry, but it had lots of live oaks and sooo many wildflowers! Those are also in the photos- and I am very sorry for those of you who have to endure the gratuitous plant and flower photos, but remember this is my the plant nerds following this get it!

The campground we stayed at was called Potwisha- no kidding that is the name, and you said it correctly- it was a Moro Indian name, those were the people who inhabited the area until we came along and killed them......

So, we really didn't do much down in the foothills- we were too hot, and way way too tired to move by the second day we were there! Something hit us yesterday, and we became so tired that the we could hardly hold our heads up!  So, we spent the whole sleeping- or sweating to death in our tents.

All in all, it was my favorite park so far, and I can't wait for Yosemite!

Here is the link to the Picasa public album:  HERE

All of you that have Facebook, go to my photos and look for the Sequoia album- I am tired of linked to that....sorry!

See you all sometime after we get out of Yosemite!


Saturday, June 12, 2010

San Francisco: The Saga....

Hello again!

I am in a hotel in Tracy, Ca, getting ready to head to Sequoia National Park.  We have decided to go to the park early because we need a break- in other words we just need to stay in one place for more than a day.

So, we went into San Fran yesterday, and it was an amazing day to go into the city!  Amazing weather, very clear.

We went to Golden Gate Park and went to the Conservatory of Flowers and the Japanese Tea Garden- Both were very amazing!!!  So many flowers!

I have made a picasa web album, just in case some of you don't like facebook, and here you can download some of the photos that you like the best!  This the link to the picasa page: HERE

If you still want to go to Facebook click: HERE

After we got out of golden gate park, we went into Chinatown for lunch, and ate at an amazing restaurant called House of Nanking!  It came with very high praise from the likes of Rachel Ray, Jamie Oliver, and Tyler Florence!

I had the Sesame Chicken- OK I really didn't try anything different- but this Sesame Chicken was soooo different than any I had ever had before!  It was sooo crispy, with a hint of spice, and it had fried sweet potatoes with it!   The sauce was so good and it coated everything, needless to say this was the best part of the day!

I wish that we could have stayed longer, but sitting on a freeway for 2 hours and not moving more than 2 miles is kinda ridiculous.  'nough said!   The traffic here is horrendous, and it is slowly becoming apparent that everywhere in CA has outrageous traffic!

So, I have to go!  We are leaving for the park soon.

Go look at the pics, enjoy them, and I will be back soon to tell you about the big trees!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

In N Out Burgers!

So, I think I am begun the initial phase of Californication!  Some of you don't really know what this means, but to some you are saying, "well, it was bound to happen sometime!"  I might become a hippy and bike everywhere like they do out here- Seriously I have never seen so many bicyclists in my life in the number that they congregate in SF!

I am like a kid in a candy store out here with all the Whole Foods, Jamba Juices, and In N Out Burgers! That sentence basically describes my time spent out of the car here in San Fran so far......We went to Whole Foods to get groceries- cause it was nearest, can you believe that!- and right beside that was a Jamba Juice, that I might stop in tomorrow and have a breakfast shake or something, and we ate at an In N Out Burger!!!

Folks, many of you know that I am a HARDCORE Rush's Hamburger Fan, but these people almost have them beat......I thought I never would think those words in my life.  Right now, I am fully contented on a diet of FRESH, OMG FRESH Cali cherries and a In N Out burger with fries!  

Life couldn't get better, the freshest fruit, the best produce, simply the best life here in Cali!   If only they had grits and my family-  sorry Cali, but I don't think I will call you home- love to visit, not to stay.  

The major downside to living in Cali is the traffic.  I know we are in the city right now, but people over here act like the drive badly on purpose- me and Josh noticed this several times today.  And we probably got our fair share of California Howdies, if you know what I mean.....

So, in conclusion, I will be having another or three In N Out burgers before we leave Cali, that is a definite, but I will leave with fond memories and the promise of seeing my family!