Joined May 2016 Message
  • Day82

    Day 82 - Magical Zion

    November 28, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 0 °C

    Yep. Agreed. Magical.

    When we woke up there was plenty of snow around and it had stopped snowing at some point in the night. We went to get breakfast and made sure we were ready to tackle Zion.

    Our first walking trail was to see the Emerald Pools that seem to be named after their difficulty in getting to; lower, middle and upper. The trail winded around a mountainside and the higher we got the more we admired the wintry effect of snow resting on trees and ledges. The snow also begun to fall the higher we got and I suddenly felt like I was seeking enlightenment at the mountaintop from a wise man. The lower pool involved a cascading waterfall pooling a long distance below. We had to walk under it to progress up the mountain. The middle was next (of course) and I particularly liked this small pool that seemed to disappear over a cliff hedge. There was a large rock in the pool which perfectly accentuated the spiritual nature of the surroundings. The climb to the upper pool was harder as the walkway became more precarious and the snow increased with the ascent. The ice on the pathway added to the excitement and anticipation of the journey to the upper pool. Once reached it was definitely worth the trial. The upper pool was the most hidden of the three, with the pool facing away from the cliff side and against the mountain with a stream snaking its way past a few trees before finding its way to the cliff's edge. Looking inwards towards the large pool only added to the serenity and introspective nature of the area. The lack of tourists on our route up the mountain due to the time of year was another blessing. We soaked in the moment and the falling snow, telling each other what we already knew. This was another special moment of the trip.

    We worked our way back down the mountain and the snow began to peter out. We took a different route down at the halfway point, ensuring yet more photo opportunities. We returned to our cabin and turned both the fire and the kettle on. A cup of tea later and we decided to head out again as we were bound to get comfortable and stay in. Whilst in the cabin we spotted deer out of the window just wandering by and nibbling from trees here and there.

    We drove to another two walking trails. The first was Weeping Rock that was a short walk to an unusual rock formation where the rock face appeared to weep. The sun seemed to be coming out and so we proceeded to the next walk that was further away, the Riverside Walk. Bizarrely, as soon as we started on this trail the snow started again. It was also a lot harder than the snow seen earlier, even at upper pool. Luckily as it was a riverside walk and not a mountain climb we continued as the conditions worsened. Thirty minutes later we reached the end of the trail and saw some people wading around in the middle of the river barefooted. I repeat, it was snowing heavily. They seemed to be enjoying the experience but just looking at them made me feel colder. We turned around and hurried back as we realised we should get a move on in case the National Park decided to close the mountain road we travelled on to get there. Back in the car and the road was beginning to be layered in snow. Safe and sound back at the cabin, we had another tea before going to the restaurant in the park for dinner and talking over our eventful day.

    Song of the Day:
    Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell - Ain't No Mountain High Enough
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  • Day81

    Day 81 - The Vertical Desert

    November 27, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 1 °C

    Four hour drives are the norm and so that norm continued today.

    Not far from our starting point was a natural sight that had to be seen. Horseshoe Canyon is indeed a canyon in the shape of a horseshoe and after a ten minute walk to the precipice the scale of this sight is truly bewildering. Glancing down at the Colorado River as it hugs this hairpin corner is breathtaking. From this great height, a few parked cars can just about be made out on the river's edge, like a few ants by the side of a puddle as viewed from a standing height. It was worth the short detour to get here from our main route.

    Driving from Horseshoe Canyon to Zion National Park had a familiar air to the previous drives to National Parks, namely Yosemite and Yellowstone. After driving through a predominately flat terrain for a while the roads and scenery change dramatically. Before long we are dwarfed by huge mountains and stalled by people deciding to randomly stop in the middle of the road and get out and take photos. Zion on first impression has more in common with Yosemite than Yellowstone although the deep red layered slate looking stone here appeared unique as outcrops overhung various parts of the road. We arrived at our cabin just before the evening. The cabin was cosy as in it had a fire, not as in ridiculously small. No TV alert! We had found a haven from modern distractions in the middle of the mountains. The literature described Zion as a 'vertical desert' and 'magical' in the snow. We were to test both these descriptions as walking trails were planned for the next day and bang on cue, sleet began to fall. Would it be cold and dry enough to form? Would it snow so much the trails would be closed? Would we be snowed in and have to entertain ourselves without a TV? Has this unnecessarily suspenseful end to today's post ensured you will tune in tomorrow?

    Song of the Day:
    Lauryn Hill - Zion
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  • Day80

    Day 80 - The Sound Of Silence

    November 26, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    Our tour around Monument Valley was to start at 2:30pm and we had zero plans for the morning. I was pretty pleased to find that we had NBC Sports in our room and I could watch a Premier League game in bed. A great start to a promising day.

    We had a big lunch before heading off as the tour was scheduled to last for three hours. Yesterday it was warm in the sun and cold out of it. Today the sun was hiding behind a blanket of clouds which meant Alice and I ensured we were layered up as we assumed it would get cold. When the pick-up truck with seats, a roof and exposed sides pulled up to whisk us into the desert, we were pleased we had all those layers on. It was the drive to the Valley itself that was the coldest part because on entering the park, the gravelly road meant we weren't able to drive fast and therefore increase the chill factor.

    Our first stop was the visitor centre where we had a nice panoramic view of some of the most recognisable monuments here, including left mitten and right mitten. We had ten minutes to take photos and look around before we were back in the pick-up. Our tour guide was a local who was very informative throughout, doling out facts and trivia which were relayed to us in the back. He also had a wit that was as dry as the dirt around us and if it wasn't for his chuckle that followed each retort I dont think the others on the trip would have realised they were jokes. Only Alice and I seemed to appreciate the humour. The tour from this point on mainly involved driving for five minutes, letting us out of the back to take photos and then rounding us up and putting us back in again, each time getting further into the park. The tour guide pointed out interesting things to look at, like the monument that looked like snoopy on his back or the monument that looked like a sleeping dragon. It was a monument version of magic eye that once seen was both impressive and rewarding. The one that took me a while to get was near an area called Big Hogan. Here we were led into an exposed area of rock and we were asked to lean against a slanted layer of rock so that we were looking skywards at a hole in the exposed rock. The tour guide said if you look carefully you can see an eagles head, side profile on with the hole as the eye. A few furrowed brows later and there it was, as clear as... an image of something in the rock. It was fantastic to see and added a great deal of character to the various areas we visited.

    As part of the tour we were taken to a private part of the park where families lived in hogans which are house made from wood and layers of earth. We watched a woman spindle some yarn incredibly quick as we were informed about how rugs were made traditionally. The woman also braided the hair of a girl who was one of the tour group in a knot that was unique to her tribe. The tour guide explained that the warm hogan that we were in was made from wood timbers, layered with the bark of that wood on top of the timbers and then earth on top of that. There were no joins or gaps as we each inspected the interior and marvelled at its build. The cold hit us again as soon as we were out and back in the pick-up. A few more stop-off points later and it was beginning to get dark. One of the most interesting things that we saw before the darkness engulfed us were wall paintings that were from the Anasazi people who lived here a thousand years ago. They were mainly of antelope and the sun and the moon and they were pretty amazing. The drive back from our furthest point in the desert was noticeable for its lack of sound and increasing darkness. Our tour guide at one point said he would sing to us a tradition song of his people, and he begun singing jingle bells. A chuckle later and he started to sing a soft, slow chanting song that was fitting for the mood.

    On arrival back at the motel, Alice and I were exhausted even though we hadn't actually done much. Maybe it was all those trips in and out of the pick-up. We decided on an early one. Today was another fun and insightful day that will live long in the memory.

    Song of the Day:
    Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound Of Silence
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  • Day79

    Day 79 - The Searchers

    November 25, 2016 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 2 °C

    A landmark day today, passing the 10 000 mile mark (whoop whoop). A familiar four hour drive, this time heading straight into the desert.

    The mountains made way for hills, which made way for shrubs, which made way for dirt. It was fascinating to see the terrain change so quickly. There was one thing we wanted to see on the way and that was the Four Corners where New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah meet. It was a little off track from our route and when we got there we were disappointed to find that it was closed. We were not the only ones surprised that it was closed as other drivers were at the entrance double checking that it was indeed closed. We didn't think to check as it was Thanksgiving yesterday, but it turns out that it is Family Day today. Fair enough. We got back in the car and continued to our destination, Monument Valley.

    As we approached the familiar looking monuments they can't fail to impress. Out of a seemingly desolate environment, these huge monoliths have a great deal of character. Due to their size it seemed to take an age before we were near to them. The monuments themselves are in Navajo territory and today we passed them as near as we could. We would be getting a lot nearer tomorrow as we had a three hour tour planned.

    For the rest of day, we checked into our hotel room and put our feet up for a bit. We also had a balcony with a sublime view of the monuments that we ensured we admired. We then decided to stretch our legs and pop to a local store that seemed much closer than it actually was. It was good exercise and resulted in aquiring another memento from the trip. When we got back to the hotel I noticed a two dollar bill in my wallet! At first I thought I had been done by the oldest trick in the how to fool a tourist handbook. It looked genuine enough. A look online and it turned out they are legal tender with only about 1.5 million in circulation, thereby turning them into something of a party piece with many Americans unaware of their existence. I then got carried away thinking it was incredibly rare due to the year it was circulated but that turned out to be a misnomer and it is still worth a total of two dollars. Either way, a cool addition to the mementos and sorry America, you've only got 1,499,999 two dollar notes left. With all this excitement, a quiet evening ahead was needed.

    Song of the Day:
    The Proclaimers - 500 miles (closest to a song about 10 000 miles!)
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  • Day78

    Day 78 - Giving Thanks

    November 24, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 4 °C

    Happy Thanksgiving! More or less everything would be closed today and so we had very few plans outside of lunch.

    We woke up and started watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. With us being in a different time zone to the parade we got our timings mixed up and only caught the end. Handily, on another channel it was starting again with a time delay. There were lots of floats, including one with a sinister looking Ronald McDonald floating in a static crawling motion. The one thing more sinister than a huge leering Ronald McDonald was someone dressed as Ronald McDonald waving to the crowd in the back of a large red shoe. Yes, I find clowns sinister. I'd say my favourite float was the large turkey and Alice's was Pikachu. Then there were the floats with famous and maybe famous but I don't know them singers, all singing different songs as they pulled up outside Macy's with the word love prominently featuring in the lyrics. It looked cold but everyone was happy. Then there were the marching bands which I enjoyed the most. Dancing in the cold whilst playing and carrying a heavy brass instrument is no mean feat. I'm guessing. And just as we were getting into the parade, the TV station suddenly switched the feed to skijoring! No that's not a spelling mistake, skijoring is 'a winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog (or dogs) or a motor vehicle' (Wikipedia). We must have been watching the parade on a local TV station as the skijoring was taking place in Colorado. It looked pretty cool actually but the disappointment in not being able to watch the middle of the parade, as we had by now watched the end and the beginning was a shame. Ah well.

    On arrival at the motel yesterday it was suggested to us by the owner to walk to downtown by following the Animus River. We took them up on that suggestion and left with an hour to spare before lunch. It was a fantastic suggestion and we took our time taking photos and reading the small number of information boards along the way. The few people that we saw all greeted us with Happy Thanksgiving and we duly replied. We reached our lunch reservation with time to spare and of course, it was turkey. It was a buffet and Alice and I were both impressed with the selection on offer. We had the turkey and beef with all the trimmings. Alice really liked the cheesy mash, just regular mash for me. It was all really nice but the fresh cranberry sauce really stood out. So that's how good cranberry sauce can taste! We had one of the numerous desserts on offer whilst we continued to sip our seasonal wine which contained cinnamon and orange peel. Bursting at the seams, we left the restaurant and visited the only shop in downtown that was open before slowly making our way back along the river again. Back at the motel, we got into elasticated pants (not the same one btw) and gorged on Thanksgiving TV and Movies.

    Song of the Day:
    Boyz II Men - Thank You
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  • Day77

    Day 77 - Actually Really Good Day

    November 23, 2016 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 -1 °C

    Durango is a fairly small city and has a pleasant and relaxed feel to it. It is busy in the summer as temperatures are not too extreme and in the winter local skiing resorts ensure that as long as there's snow, there will be visitors. Our motel owners, Nigel and Tammy, were incredibly friendly and welcoming and told us all about the area in general and activities to do.

    We actually had plans for the morning and afternoon, and that involved getting on board a steam train. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway has run continuously since 1881 and although it is now a tourist and heritage line hauling passengers, it is one of the few places in the U.S. which has seen continuous use of steam locomotives. Enough with the facts, on with the journey. We left bang on time and the train slowly started to gain momentum as it pulled out of the station and made its way to the mountains. There was a number of families around us who in typically American fashion began conversing with each other in a matter of minutes and before long were swapping stories and histories. Alice and I were mainly spectators and joined in a few conversations but we were pleased to sit back and admire the view. The train progressed very slowly and the views on either side of the train increased in drama and beauty. At times we slowly crept over bridges where some passengers were too afraid to take photos. It took two hours to reach our destination, Cascade Canyon, which consisted of a cabin hidden in the mountains, surrounded by a river on one side and a mass of trees and a rising mountain side on the other. We had under an hour to wander around or eat our lunches in a covered area with a log fire. Alice and I had both ordered the sandwich box from the concession carriage which contained a sandwich, sweet potato chips, a cookie and an apple. A topic of conversation heading to the canyon was the incredible value of a refillable cup of soda for eight dollars and on the journey back our fellow passengers were initially skeptical about the unbranded chips, but there seemed to be a unanimous reversal of opinion as they were now deemed actually really good once eaten. Alice and I agreed on both these points but we didn't opt for the refillable drink.

    On the journey back some of us noticed an eccentric looking woman waving a stick of ribbons as we passed her near the lower ground after Canyon Creek. About twenty minutes later, there she was again, enthusiastically waving her stick of ribbons and we all began to laugh as we realised that she must have driven up ahead of us to wave again. Then one of the passengers spotted her again, this time in her car as she passed us on a parallel highway. Yet again further up the line there she was waving away with a wide smile on her face. She changed the side of the train on which to wave this time, adding some variety to the exercise at least. Some of us laughed in a head shaking kind of way, whilst others stuck their hands out of their window to clap at her dedication to the cause of waving at a steam train. I think she was spotted another two times until we reached Durango. And of course she was there at the platform on arrival. I'm sure she was disappointed that today's journey was at an end, although there is always the next day's service.

    The journey and experience of the whole trip was memorable. It was long as well and by the time we left the train station it was already late afternoon. We had a look at the shops around downtown and admired the picturesque setting of large mountains as the backdrop. We were getting tired by now and decided to head back to the motel, have a rest and then go for a quick and easy dinner. We went to Dennys which was just what we were after. A quiet diner setting at night with attentive staff and comforting food was another reminder that we were still in the U.S. Having been here for so long, it is easy to get complacent and forget how amazing this whole experience has been. With that in mind, we both relaxed in our booth seats and talked over our day's adventure.

    Song of the Day:
    Bob Marley and the Wailers - Stop That Train
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  • Day76

    Day 76 - Let it Snow

    November 22, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 3 °C

    There were remnants of snow on tops of cars and shaded areas as we awoke to a cold but not freezing morning. It wasn't raining and so we decided on visiting the Taos Pueblos. The Pueblos are considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States. We paid to enter the site and it was fascinating to walk around and explore. However it felt odd to be wandering around an area where people live whilst looking at their houses and taking photos as though in a fishbowl. It was a worthwhile visit although brief as we had to hit the road again.

    We were driving to Durango in Colorado and it was a four hour drive away. After an hour nothing remarkable occurred and then we had to cross the San Juan National Forest which involved a number of mountains. As we climbed the mountains and got higher and higher the snow on the ground became thicker and thicker. Before we knew it we were driving through pelting snow. It was like we had entered a mini winter wonderland at the mountain top as we drove up and down and round and round. There were hardly any cars around adding to the sense of isolation and it felt like we were on the dark side of the mountain, hiding from the rising sun. It required quite a lot of concentration to navigate the roads but whenever possible the snowy scenery had to be glanced at and admired. The car even warned us that the outside temperature was minus two. Ever since we've driven the car, all the messages appear in French with no apparent way to change the language and so Alice quickly translated the message with her phone and we were relived it wasn't alerting us to an emergency. As we descended, the snow stopped falling and the surrounding snow thinned out. It was a relief to not have to drive through those conditions for much longer, although the scenery was fantastic.

    The rest of the journey was fine and we reached our motel before the early evening. We went for an easy option for dinner, a pizza restaurant five minutes away. Apart from the long wait for the food (we were hungry and so time seemed to stop) we were very pleased with our huge and heavily topped meal. We finished our beers and made our way back to the motel.

    Song of the Day:
    Madonna - Frozen
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