Our Vacation Out West Part 3: Zion National Park, The Emerald Pools

On our vacation this year, Mike and I played the license plate game. We made a list of all 50 states and checked off all the license plates we saw on our drive out to Utah. The only state besides Hawaii we couldn’t collect was Rhode Island, and guess which state’s license plate we saw last night in the Buffalo Wild Wings parking lot around here?!

From New York to Utah, we saw 48 license plates, not including Hawaii and Rhode Island. (RI was our holy grail of license plates until last night). We also saw two Canadian plates and one from Mexico. It was fun and it was exciting and it passed the time. I wish I was back on that road trip, seeing sights that I have never seen before.

This post is about three weeks late, but it is fun to reminisce on the fun times we had. Hey, if you missed part 1 and part 2 of our vacation you can click on the links to view them.

This was probably the best time I have ever had…and I’m trying to find another vacation to compare, but I really can’t.

After about two and a half days of driving, Mike and I made it to our KOA in Cedar City, Utah. The campgrounds are about an hour away from Zion National Park. The tent sites were very close together and at first I didn’t like it at all but then I shook myself a bit. I was on vacation! Why was I complaining?

We got our tent up very quickly, and it was really all a matter of getting dinner for the night and going to bed.

We found a diner about two minutes down the road from the KOA, called “All American Diner.” Anytime Mike and I can find a great diner, with good, cheap food, we call it a special treat.

The next day we headed to Zion National Park. The first day, we hiked the emerald pools trail, which was about a 5 mile round trip. A good portion of it was climbing up hill; I wasn’t prepared to climb it in about 110 degree heat. We took plenty of water and had our snacks, but the heat, man.

When we got back to the car that first day, the car’s thermometer registered 117 degrees!But while hiking, you’re walking up sand that’s so hot you can feel the heat burn through your sneakers. The sun beats down on your hat covered head and you long for shade, like you long for cold water when your throat is dry and your tongue feels thick.

That’s also what makes the pools you see on this hike so special; it is like a small oasis in the middle of this desert climate, but the hike is more difficult the higher up you go.

The trail becomes steeper, narrower; the shade trees are a little bit more sparse. I was struggling to catch my breath in the heat and wondered if it was all worth it. And then you come around a bend in the trail and that view. That. View. For one delicious, corny second, you feel like you are the only person on earth, and this view was made just for you. Now, mind you, I am a very easily entertained person…so that might have something to do with it. But, seriously, guys. If you can’t appreciate a view like this and call it nothing less than phenomenal, there’s something wrong with you.

This is the second pool, about two-thirds of the way up the trail.

At the very top of the trail, were these squirrels that kept hanging around, hoping for some snacks or trail mix. It’s $100 fine to feed the animals in the park, but kids can’t resist…not very often you have wild animals hanging around near your feet, and trying to climb into your backpack.

And if you make it to the very top, there is a larger pool of water at the very top. It looks like a small beach in the middle of the mountains. If you were allowed to swim in it, if there weren’t so many people trying to catch their breath, it might have felt more magical. But by that time, I think the heat had really done Mike and I in.

Afterwards, we got food at the park and then headed back to our campsite. The further we got from Zion, thankfully, the cooler it became. A 99 degrees felt practically chilly compared to 110…kinda. Not really. But what fun we had!

Next day, we hiked the Narrows! And then after that, the Grand Canyon.

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Our Vacation Out West Part 2: The Desert

After driving through the Rocky Mountains, Mike and I watched the landscape turn dryer, the rocks and dirt became a burnt red and orange. Small bush-like trees grew across the desert. And if you looked towards the horizon, the land continued for miles and miles in every direction. Flat and sparse and rocky, shadowed by giant mesas, we were just accessories to an already finished masterpiece.

This was the Utah that first greeted us. We drove for miles with no one around, except for the sparse trailer or house dispersed across the barren landscape. We drove through a good portion of the Navajo reservation and much of the landscape was the same; houses dotted a flat landscape of orange, red and brown.

Whoever lives here must drive for an hour to reach the nearest grocery store, or a half an hour at best to reach the nearest gas station. Little huts which promised finely woven Navajo rugs and pottery and jewelry, started to pop up every couple of miles alongside the highway.

We felt awed by the difference of this landscape compared to what we were used to back home. Upstate New York is green, the mountains are gentle hills, breezes tease the trees and rainstorms nourish. Here in this desert landscape was a harshness and a palette of colors we had never encountered before.

As the we drove into higher elevations and then drove back down, we kept our eyes out for eagles, and looked for big-horned sheep. We saw a few horses, and the occasional grouping of cattle, which chewed on the brown-yellow grass.

During our journey, I’m thinking about Star Wars, about a lonely teenager longing for adventure his desert home doesn’t provide. I’m thinking about science fiction stories of life on Mars, or a desert planet much like this one.

I fell in love with the desert’s stark beauty in a harsh and unforgiving landscape. Of dirt, and hot wind and a sun that blazes so hot and bright, it makes the sand burn underfoot.

I’m already in awe and we haven’t even made it to Zion National Park yet…and as we soon discovered, it’s always beautiful in Zion.

Our Vacation Out West Part 1: The Rocky Mountains

I haven’t been MIA on purpose…this month has been crazy. Started a new job that has a lot more responsibility than I’m used to and just yesterday, Mike and I just got back from a beautiful, ten-day vacation.

This year, we camped and went to Zion National park and then, the Grand Canyon. Our trip started in New York and then we cut across country; through a small bit of Pennsylvania, then Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, and then down into Utah.

The first night, we stayed over in a hotel in Morris, Illinois. That first day of driving was stressful. Between tolls and getting stuck in traffic in Columbus,Ohio, and the insane traffic in Chicago; we were ready for bed.

The next day, it was endless cornfields in Iowa. How many times a day did I say: “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa!”

Too many times!

If there is a purgatory, I imagine it looks something like Iowa. Flat, and sunny and endless. Miles and miles of cornfields with puffy white clouds and blue skies, and a road that cuts through it that goes straight and never ends. It is beautiful, and timeless and repetitive.

That second night was another rough one. This is only because it was pride weekend in Denver, Colorado, which was a bit of bad luck on our part, as many of the hotels we tried to get rooms in were sold out. Finally, we found one and spent too much money in a Comfort Inn and Suites.

(Note the blurry squished bugs on the windshield, bahaha. We hit a ton of them!)

The view the next morning, however, more than made up for it. We woke up and headed down the highway, and I got my first view of the Rocky Mountains.

They quite frankly, took my breath away. And I know that’s cliché, but I’m totally going with it. I probably took about two-hundred pictures of these mountains alone.

I grew up in upstate, New York, but our mountains are hills in comparison. In the Colorado Rockies, there isn’t just one shade of green. The mountains are capped with snow and then there’s the smell of pine trees and a sky so blue, it could be a mountain lake.

Barreling down a mountain at seventy-five miles per hour surrounded by traffic is both exhilarating and terrifying; and Colorado is such a strange combination of tree-hugging hippies and republicans.

Note how you can see my reflection in the side mirror taking the picture, as I bravely put the window down to get at least one glare-less photo.

I fell in love completely and would go back in a heartbeat. But this was only just the beginning of our vacation!

Fantastic Beasts Post: What would you have in your suitcase?

wp-image-726289597jpg.jpgSo, I was having a thought the other day about the new movie by J.K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, Fantastic Beasts is about Newt Scamander, a self-proclaimed Magizoologist, or a person who loves and is enthusiastic about the care and protection of magical creatures.

Awkward Newt Scamander seems to get a long with creatures better than with people, and on a trip to New York City to help one of said creatures, he finds himself on an adventure of a life time.

During his trip, he carries a suitcase, but he doesn’t have clothes in his suitcase like every other no-mag (American term for a person who doesn’t have magic), instead, his suitcase acts as his own work space, and is where he keeps the rare creatures that he cares for.

Step into Newt’s suitcase and you’ll descend stairs and find yourself in a work-shop of sorts; full of what Newt needs to care for his creatures: extra boots and gloves, medicine for ailments, food for the animals, etc. And beyond that…his suitcase is basically a zoo, really, complete with climate and wide open plains for various creatures. Because, you know, why not?

Anything is possible with magic!

My question is this: If you could have your own suitcase like Newt’s magical suitcase, what would be in yours?

Mine would hold my office, a library, a reader’s nook, kitchenette and bathroom complete with Jacuzzi tub.

Beyond that, you would find yourself on a beach, where the air is warm and the sound of waves wash over you as you step along in the soft, soft, sand.

Follow the boardwalk and you’ll find yourself in a park, which leads to a huge, green forest with miles of walking trails, up and over hills and ravines and to a lake.

Back on the beach if you walk the other way down the boardwalk, you’ll find yourself in a food court with the option to try all different types of foods of the world.

Maybe tucked in somewhere, there will be a pool next to the office and a great patio, etc.

A dream place to go, to relax, to create and to be myself.

I’ve told you mine, now its your turn! What would you have in your suitcase?

Vacation in the Outer Banks, NC

I haven’t posted much for a few days, but I’ve been on vacation!

img_20160610_162157167.jpgThought I would post what I remember from the trip here since I have a terrible memory and want some kind of record of it.

***Be warned, this will be a long post!

(But don’t worry, there will be a lot of pictures, too, so you can always scroll down and just look at them. :P)

13453095_10154174176120610_1622201492_oDestination: Frisco, NC on Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks. (Cape Hatteras National Seashore!)

Length of Stay: 2 Nights. Leaving a few days for travel, etc. So…4 days.

I did not expect all the cornfields. There’s a lot of farm land driving on down from Virginia to the Outer banks, and its a great combination of rural landscape and the ocean in the background.

We arrived at Frisco Campgrounds in the afternoon on Friday, and the ranger, who’s grey-haired and a bit stooped and brown from the sun, hands us a campground map and says in that laid-back southern way:

“Well, here’s how it works: you go around and pick out two or three sites that look good to you and then you come back to me and tell me which one you want. Some look like they are empty, but they’re not, so you got to pay attention.”

13453479_10154174165540610_1034518977_oThe first site we picked out, I got stung by a hornet as soon as we went to move the picnic table. (Looks like they were building a nest, and we were not allowed to help!)

At the second, while setting up our tent, I stepped on one of the small cactus plants which were scattered amidst the grass and sand like prickly, evil minefields. Oh, and did I forget to mention the fire-ants? (although, they didn’t really bother us.) And the mosquitoes? And the wind that nearly blew our tent away the second night?

But despite mother nature getting the better of us, we were able to get our tent set up and got to see this view:

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img_20160612_091725798.jpgThe beaches were mostly empty as they were used primarily by the campground and there weren’t that many people staying that weekend.

img_20160610_171635529.jpgThis might also be due to the fact that the board walks used for access to the beach were flooded from the recent tropical storm. See all that water there in between the dunes and the shrub-like trees?

Yeah. That’s not supposed to be there.

img_20160610_171639339.jpgMost of the campsites had some pools of water tucked into the corner somewhere. In one campsite, the picnic table was surrounded by a nice lake of water, and one of the bathrooms and showers was also surrounded (this also added to the mosquito problems) but despite this, we still had a good time.

Imagine all the colors possible in mother nature…let them fill your mind and breathe them in and hold them close to your heart, like a feeling that you’ve stumbled upon an accidental paradise; and even though, it’s not perfect, it feels like it is because of the way the sights and the sounds and the smells assault your senses.

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Walking through it, the water was like the color of cherry juice with a hint of rusty-brown at the edges. But glancing out over the flooded land, the sky made it look the bluest of blues, as the grass and sea oats swayed in the breeze and the water rippled, caught by the wind.

Large, black tadpoles swirled around your ankles as you walked through the water on the boardwalk. There’s the gurgle and splash of the water as you step through and the sun is bright and makes everything sparkle.

At the end of the boardwalk there’s the climb through soft deep, warm sand to the top of the dunes, and then there’s the intake of breath and this view:

img_20160610_171705896.jpgNothing to see but ocean and no one around for miles, but for a few people. Here on the beach if you have ORV, feel free to drive them down by the water, which I thought was kind of neat.

For dinner that night we went to Dirty Dick’s Crab house (no lie, that was its name!) and got this platter for two:

13410720_10154174173440610_660206797_o(1)It was full of crab, shrimp, clams, potatoes and corn. So, so good!

That night it was star-gazing and listening to the chorus of frogs and insects hum and croak and drone through the campground…the noise was really quite impressive.

13467543_10154174166340610_1375642821_oThe next day, we climbed the lighthouse at Cape Point, and got these views:

13446092_10154174166020610_915295096_o 13445900_10154174165830610_11397569_oSee this water here in the above picture? Yeah, that’s not supposed to be there either…it was the campground we were first supposed to stay at, which got flooded from the storm.

13441739_10154174165900610_29198612_oMike, the other half was quite funny when he was taking these pictures…he had a hard time getting close to the railing as he was afraid of heights! Meanwhile, I’m hanging my head over the side like a loon, but I did get dizzy walking back down the swirly stairs.

13441863_10154174165780610_2062672348_oIt’s the tallest lighthouse in North America and pretty impressive.

I got all sorts of sun burnt that day, though, and that night we had problems with the wind blowing at our tent, so the next day it was packing and the drive back home.

We got stuck in traffic for a few hours on 95 coming through Virginia somewhere around Richmond. It was 100 degrees at some point, so thank God for AC!

On our way to find food and a bathroom in Williamsburg, VA, we accidentally drove through historical WIlliamsburg, which was a treat.

Passing through Maryland, we saw a car on fire on the side of the highway and then driving through Pennsylvania on 81, I got car-sick.

But I have to remember these little oddities and that’s what makes a vacation as special as it is sometimes:

13446312_10154174176320610_2080884460_o 13460763_10154174176370610_1774136575_oSeeing some of the annual kite festival as we were driving through Kitty Hawk on Friday.

13442010_10154174165530610_394978242_oThis adorable little deer which hung around our campsite for some time that last night, and only ran away because our tent flapping in the wind scared him.

img_20160610_182449115.jpgSea turtle nesting sites…

img_20160610_155745190.jpgWalking in the surf…

img_20160610_202107193.jpgAnd a good sunset to end a busy day.

I’m ready for our next beach time adventure! (I do have a new beach umbrella and kite to try out!)img_20160613_120439217.jpgI didn’t go too crazy on the souvenirs as we really didn’t have the money, but I did get me a new key-chain to add to my collection. And anyway, a picture is already worth a thousand words.

Now there’s the question:  Where to next?

Happy Writing!  (And Traveling!)

Ah, Summer…

Well, May passed by in a blur! Can’t believe that it is June already! But, as I am a June baby (my birthday is next week, June 7th! Yeah, baby!) I love that Summer is just about here and all the things that come with it!

I love the heat, the lightning bugs, the sound of a screen door slamming shut; the hum and croak of bull frogs in the pond next to my house, the crickets singing in the grass.

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Pine Cradle lake. A camping trip a few years ago…

Ah, Summer

I love that it is the time of flip-flops and tank tops and shorts and sun-glasses. A time where sweaty socks are forgotten and tucked in the back of an underwear drawer somewhere, and you can slap, slap, slap, your way through cold, air-conditioned super markets. There’s something satisfying about the feel of feet slapping across a smooth, solid floor…

I love the food of summer time: hotdogs, and jello, and pasta salads; pies and watermelon, strawberry short-cake, ice cream, s’mores and iced tea.

And with all these delicious foods come the outings: picnics, cookouts and camping and trips next to the lake…

My girls! ❤

Nights out on the town with girlfriends in the sweltering summer heat, drinking rum-and-coke, and moving with a freedom that doesn’t happen in winter. Your body is like liquid and moves where you want it to, finally released from the burden of bulky winter clothes…a summer breeze that caresses bare shoulders, like a soft blanket…

Everything is life, life, life and the world is humming, waiting to be explored!

Summer is exciting! I love it when everything comes back to life again and myself with it! Although I have been rather busy with work lately, I look forward to the time spent with friends and the mini-vacations that we have planned! (Still need to post updates on past trips!) Exciting days ahead! 🙂

Went to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon with one of my girlfriends memorial day weekend! :) So Beautiful!

Went to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon with one of my girlfriends memorial day weekend! 🙂 So Beautiful!

My goal is to post here at least once a month, although I certainly want to post more with pictures of trips and adventures and such! Hope everyone is enjoying the warmer weather! Got any exciting plans?

Happy Summer y’all!

Vacationing in Tampa, Florida!

So I meant to post early this week to say that the reason I’ve been MIA for awhile is that I’ll be vacationing in Tampa, Florida for a week! I am here visiting some friends until Monday February 4th. Last week, I was ice skating on the pond next to my house and it was 10 degrees outside and the following week I am here in Tampa, Florida where it was at least 70 degrees today! Just wanted to share some quick photos that I thought were amusing.

Here’s the BEFORE:

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     And AFTER….100_1392Haha! I am having a very good time. Happy vacationing for those who’ve decided to escape to warmer weather for a while! It has been fantastic!! 🙂