Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Moab – April 18

So long Salt Lake City, you seemed nice, but we’re not here for the city, we’re here for the better stuff.

While planning this trip, all I kept hearing and reading was that it was going to be near impossible to get into Arches National Park….it was high season, it was Spring Break, it was the week leading up to Easter. So basically, don’t make any plans that hinged on getting into Arches. So we didn’t. But we did figure that since we’d be passing right by the entrance on the way into Moab, we’d take a look. And if the line wasn’t too bad, we’d go for it.

THERE WAS NO LINE!

In fact, people were streaming out of the park!

Neither of us really had any idea what to expect beyond arches in general. So we thought we’d wet our feet with a 2 mile out and back hike on the Park Avenue trail; and what a introduction to Arches! It was gorgeous, and lovely and so unlike any other place we’d ever been. Huge slabs of red rock and off in the distance snow-capped mountains.

Next Up: Balanced Rock. Yes I know you’ve seen billions of photos, big deal it’s a rock balanced on another rock. But A. it’s right off the road B. there’s a virtual geocache and really C. it is cool. I will say that even this early in the tour of National Parks, I ready to do some full body tackling of the jackasses who blatantly ignored the signs to stay off the damn rocks and stay on the trail.

Onward to Delicate Arch viewing area. It was HOT. And we weren’t sure how much else we’d be able to see – all those warnings about no place to park! – so we thought we’d check it out from afar first. But before that, a parking lot snack, on the sidewalk in front of the car while ravens eyeballed us and waited for us to spill. Also, time to switch to shorts.

After checking out Delicate Arch from afar, Chad suggested we head out to Landscape Arch instead of hiking out to Delicate Arch, since we had technically seen it. And you couldn’t see Landscape Arch unless you walked out to it.

So, just to let you know, walking on sand is terrible. And there is a lot of sand in Utah. A LOT. Anyway.

You wouldn’t think anything quite so large as Landscape Arch could visually sneak up on a person. You would be wrong! Or at least in my case, it snuck up on me. Behind the arch is a rock wall, so as we approached there wasn’t the telltale bit of sky or light coming through the arch, it was visually deceptive. Until it was extremely obviously just there!

What is even more crazy, is that until 1991 you could just pretty as you please walk right up to it and hang out under it. Which is what was going on when some folks thought they heard thunder…until they noticed some small rocks falling and then a huge slab broke free! Needless to say, you have to keep your distance a little bit now.

Because it was so long, it was really difficult to get a good photo, which is pretty much why we go see these things for ourselves. This was clearly a trip where the photos we took were going to be used to jog our memory, more than memorialize what we were seeing.

It was starting to approach dusk and honestly the last thing I wanted to do was to try to set up our ultra light tent, that was had not used since our trip to Colorado several years prior, at civil twilight. We’d booked a little campground in downtown Moab – yes, downtown by a creek – called Up The Creek Campground. It was quite nice and the price was right!

What we discovered as we unfurled the tent and set up camp, was that we’d clearly never cleaned the tent properly cleaned the tent post-Colorado. As if we needed a head start on the sand collection!

I see that I failed to mention one important thing about Moab and our timing. It was Easter Jeep Safari Week (not to be confused with Discount Lion Safari). Which for some reason had escaped my noticed when I went into vacation triage mode and arranged the logistics of this trip. It certainly makes sense about the accommodations being difficult to find and insanely expensive – please see our decision to camp in Moab.

There were literally Jeeps EVERYWHERE. All shapes, makes, models, sizes. Sock. Lifted. Modified. Crazy modified that you couldn’t really tell it had been a Jeep. Falling apart (pretty sure that Willys was a legit WWII relic and it looked in about the same condition as the one we saw in Cambodia). Brand New.

As if I wasn’t overstimulated enough having gotten into Arches at first go and now here I was surrounded by Jeeps. Be still my heart. 

Clickity click on the thumbnails to see more photos in big form!

chris on April 18th 2019 in Family, Geocaching, Travel

Salt Lake City – April 17

It’s weird starting vacation on Wednesday.

The 3:30am alarm, which thankfully Chad turned off before it made that terrible noise, was as usual, FAR TOO EARLY.

WE did manage to leave the house by 4am. Which got us to the car place with plenty of time to spare.

Hooray for airport bars that recognize sometimes you need at drink at 6am.

The flight was uneventful and short enough that I was awake when we passed over some spectacular mountains. Obviously this trip is to the desert, but a good mountain range always makes me happy. This one was quite lovely. 

We arrived into Salt Lake City, as did all our luggages thankfully, since we had crammed all our camping gear into checked bags. Headed to get the rental car and I was immediately, “Uh no. THAT is not what I reserved.” A Hyundai Kona? What in the world is that tiny little car? I specifically rented a small AWD vehicle because we were going to the middle of nowhere Utah. This thing has about zero clearance and only slightly more luggage space.

Chad turned to me and asked, “Do you want me to go back and get the minivan they tried to upgrade us to?”

No. I did not. And car rental agencies, stop trying to sell a minivan as an upgrade. No one wants your stupid minivan unless they have 401 babies, which we certainly do not. That’s why there are always extra minivans available.  At any rate, so much for doing any baby jeep trails in Moab in this thing.

We stopped at Red Iguana (from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives fame) for lunch. Looked SUPER sketchy on the outside. Totally yum and totally packed. Thank you, Google!

As we were leaving the restaurant, we caught sight of this….

Since it was far too early to check in to our hotel, we headed downtown Salt Lake City. The mountains were majestic. Rising up and ringing the City. Clearly my memory of here during the cross-country drive in a Ryder truck with Dad and Uncle Dan did not imprint on me that it was in a basin.

We took in the capitol – quite lovely – which left me wheezing and I was more than a little confused until Chad pointed out that we may be in a basic, but we were still quite a bit higher in elevation than at home. Ah.

It was lovely to see everything in bloom and nice and green. We walked around the giant block of Mormon, reading the historical markers which were everywhere. At least we now know what’s up with the beehive image all over the place.

Finally headed to the hotel for some much needed down time and an amazing sunset. Good job, Utah. We like you already! 

The rest of the photos here…..clickity click to embiggen! 

 

chris on April 17th 2019 in Family, Geocaching, Travel

Trossachs and Farewell – July 12

On Thursday morning, I hit the wall. I was tired of packing, unpacking, shuffling, repacking. I was cranky (maybe a little bit unhappy as our trip was coming to an end). It didn’t help that the room had been a million degrees and the shower kept randomly dripping through the night. You know what Scotland doesn’t have a lot of? Air conditioning!

Anyway, there I was cramming stuff into the suitcase for the next to the last time (Hooray!) so we could head back towards Edinburgh.

Chad thought that it would be nice to take a meandering drive through The Trossachs since the weather was iffy, instead of planning something that could be spoiled by rain. The carrot he dangled to captain grumpy here, was that we could get some geocaches along the way. There was one problem with that carrot – I didn’t have data on this trip. While I could download the caches, once we were in the car I didn’t have maps to help me to figure out where the caches actually were, all I could see was that they seemed to be right off the road.  Only there was no access point – turns out there was a long trail that we couldn’t see. So much for that idea!

The Trossachs were lovely. Although by this time I was tired and anxious to just be done with the driving portion of our day.

We did stop at Loch Cho for a geocache. At which time I was attached by midges.

It was awful! Loch Cho was quite nice, though.

Not long thereafter we found ourselves back in Edinburgh strolling along the Royal Mile to the Jolly Judge, which greatly improved my mood! Also, it was Cider Fest/Tap Take Over!

My mood was further improved by having some fancy gin drinks and dinner at Holyrood 9A before heading to our hotel to re-pack for the last time.

So long Scotland, you were lovely as always. We’ll be back. And next time we won’t move every night. For real this time. For real.

chris on July 12th 2018 in Travel

Eigg-o-rific – July 11

EIGG DAY 2

We awoke to the distinct sounds of rain on the skylight. It was early and bright – because that’s how it is here. I looked at Chad who had clearly been awake for a while. “I’m not hiking An Sgurr today.” He didn’t seem exactly disappointed.

The only thing we really had planned today was to meet Gabe, one of the Laig Bay brewers at the Brewery. We had no idea where it was. So, we put on our still damp clothes, packed up and biked down into town, seeking additional sustenance and hot beverages, plus directions to the Brewery.

Once fortified with fresh backed biscuits and other delicious things, we hopped on our bikes and headed out. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand where we were going and Chad who had gotten directions, was having a bit of a time navigating using the map on hand.

After a few misadventures we realized that A. we were going in the wrong direction but B. we were close to Massacre Cave – so we went to Massacre Cave.

The story is, the islanders would hole up in this cave in times of trouble. So, when another clan came to take vengeance, all 300 inhabitants of the island ran to their hide out. Unfortunately, the invaders knew of it and set a fire at the (quite small) mouth of the cave, effectively suffocating everyone. So, good stuff!

There was another couple just coming out of the cave when we arrived, they announced that it was dry once you got through the first bit. So in we went!

It was really neat, although I have a hard time imagining 300 people huddled inside.

Now, onward to the Brewery. I may have mentioned earlier that I haven’t really done much biking in years. Riding this bike UP and down hills, and over lumpy trails was rough. I was soaked with sweat. All I could think about was getting off the bike, drying off and putting on my jeans (those hiking pants were getting pretty ripe).

FINALLY at long last we were there. Oh sweet Jesus. And then we had to climb a gate. You’ve got to be kidding me.

Gabe was super nice and chatted with us for a while, sending us back with four bottles of beer. And here I thought I was going to lighten my pack by leaving him the beer we’d brought!

We still had plenty of time before the ferry arrived, so we struck out for the ruin of the township of Upper Grulin  which was settled probably between the 18th & mid-19th centuries and cleared in 1853 to make way for sheep.

To get there we pedaled through a sheep fold. The sheep were unimpressed with our biking, as was I to be honest. At the gate we abandoned our bikes and headed the rest of the way on foot. I was so happy to ditch that thing. Oh my gosh I am so out of biking shape!

We walked past an old bothy that was in the process of being renovated. We’d try to rent a similar one for our stay, but were out of luck.

The ruins were quite grown over, but still easily visible. Chad picked a little pinnacle and after settling in, I read about the area so we knew what we were seeing – aside from stone walls and a great view of An Sgurr.

Like just about every other spot we’d been on the island, it was beautiful and lovely and worth hanging around for a while. Which we did. (Not in small part because I did not want to have to get back on that bike any time soon.)

After returning to the port and finally turning our bikes in, we sat outside (with what was probably half the island) and had a Laig Bay Brewing beer (or maybe two) waiting for the ferry to come in.

Thank you, Eigg. It has been a true joy. With An Sgurr still to be climbed and quite a few places left unexplored we will most certainly be back!

 

chris on July 11th 2018 in Travel