Running Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural BridgesYes, I know, running is not the first thing you think of when you think of Natural Bridges. When I passed by the entrance sign on my way home after exploring the Henry Mountains a bit and checking out Bluebell Knoll I figured with Sprocket nursing his broken nail it was as good a time as any to check it out. I didn’t want to leave him in the car alone too long so instead of doing what I really wanted to, hike under all the bridges through the canyon, I ran down from the road below each bridge and then back up.

Visitor Center Natural Bridges

Sipapu from above

Well, ran up is a gross exaggeration but I did mostly run down! The first bridge, Sipapu, was my favorite hike but I think Katchina was the coolest looking bridge. I even tossed in the short run to the Horse Collar Ruin overlook.

Sipapu

Sprocket stayed nice and cool thanks to a stiff breeze on the rim above the canyon that was blowing through the open Jeep windows. I, on the other hand, spent the entire afternoon a sweaty mess: sports bra running forever.

Not flashing gang signs, just proud of finishing bridge 2 of 3..
Not flashing gang signs, just proud of finishing bridge 2 of 3..

The hikes are all pretty short (the longest is 3/4 mile, I think) so it didn’t amount to much but it was a fun challenge. I briefly felt guilty for “rushing through” the highlights of the park but it sure beats just looking from the overlooks and driving on!

All three complete!
All three complete!

Summer Kickoff Roadtrip

I rolled into Ridgway just long enough to cheers summer starting at Colorado Boy and then I headed out for a little roadtrip around Colorado. The sun was out and there is little that is better than cruising around listening to good music with a pup drooling on my shoulder.

Monarch Pass

We cruised through Cripple Creek, taking a little walk down the strip of casinos and then headed down the road to Victor.

Cripple Creek

From Victor Pass, we got a beautiful view of Pikes Peak (our destination for the next day!).

Victor Pass

Finding a place to camp turned out to be way harder than I’d expected: I always forget there are so many more people out towards the Front Range! Eventually we found a place to sleep although it wasn’t quite as remote and restful as many places we’ve camped!

Adventure Is Embracing The Unexpected: People

After I summited Two Buttes, I pushed north towards the Phillips County Highpoint. The wind that I’d experienced on the hike didn’t seem to abate. When I approached Lamar, I saw a sign notifying me that US 40 was closed from Kit Carson to Limon. I began to realize that the dark clouds and wind might be a little bit more than just a small storm.

In Kit Carson, I tried to take Colorado 59 north but it, too, was closed. Not really willing to hunker down in the Jeep before noon to endure what at that point were just windy conditions with all of the trucks waiting to go westbound so I turned east towards Cheyenne Wells. There, I found US 385 open to the north so I just kept on towards the goal; wind and some non-sticking sideways falling snow aside. In Burlington, I navigated through town, only to find that my northbound route was closed… and I-70 westbound was closed.

image

I drove around town looking for a restaurant or a bar that I could hole up in, hoping against hope for somewhere that might look like it might have wifi. I spotted Essential Foods and headed inside. The space was simple but the lunch menu they handed me looked delicious. I’d already eaten on the road but they happily let me just sit and drink coffee for hours, understanding that I was just seeking refuge from the DOT and its road closures. Outside, the snow started, but it wasn’t sticking and I was frustrated. Time ticked by and it became clear that Denver was a mess and I probably shouldn’t expect any roads to be opening any time soon.

As I worked on my computer and the snow finally started to stick to the roads a little instead of just blowing sideways, a man walked up to me and asked if I’d found a place to stay. He had offered his vacant, for sale house to a couple also holed up in the restaurant and wanted to extend the offer to me as well. James, the homeowner, drove us over to the house to show us around the house that turned out to be a gorgeous 1919 Craftsman. James fretted about the lack of furniture, turned the heat up for us, insisted on opening the blinds so it didn’t feel like a cave, and offered to go to the grocery store for some toilet paper. Simply feeling grateful to have a warm place to stay, all I could do was reassure my host that it didn’t matter that there was no furniture, that I had toilet paper in the jeep, and that I couldn’t ask for anything more for the night.

Back at the restaurant, I got to know my housemates for the night better: Bart and Leigh (along with their dog Boone) run Be Hippy, a grassroots lifestyle brand. We chatted about social media, traveling, and marveled a little bit about the goodness of people opening their homes to us. The staff at Essential Foods continued to take good care of us stranded travelers and eventually we drifted off to our warm home for the night.

Be Hippy

I’d started off the blizzard delay so frustrated and annoyed with DOT for being overly cautious but in the end, I was filled with the warm fuzzies of making friends, being reminded of the kindness of strangers, and the absolute importance of being open to adventure. Thank you James, Bart, and Leigh for making my day and being part of a weather event that added so much adventure to my plains highpointing.

Exploring: Salida, Colorado

After our exploration of St. Elmo, Sprocket and I headed out past Mt. Princton Hot Springs back to the highway and headed south to Salida, enjoying the views of the southern Sawatch Mountains the whole way.

Sawatch

US 285

In Salida, I realized that I’d left my laptop at home which severely cramped my plans to do some grading and blogging but I made do with some #hikerchat and just relaxed with coffee and quiche at Brown Dog Coffee.

Brown Dog Coffee, Salida

Since I couldn’t get much work done, Sprocket and I took full advantage and wandered around town enjoying the sunshine. Spring was out in full force!

Beth and Sprocket

We walked through the shops and down the main streets:

Salida, Colorado

We wandered around by the Arkansas River:

Arkansas River Arkansas River

I made Sprocket pose with historic railroad equipment:

Denver & Rio Grand Caboose with Sprocket

We creeped on a Wagoneer driving through town:

Wagoneer; Salida, CO

Finally, after we’d seen what there was to see in town, we headed to Poncha Springs where we were going to meet Mike and then head to the trailhead.

Poncha Springs

We had some time to kill so Sprocket and I revived our living on the road skills and made ourselves at home in the rest area.

Poncha Springs Visitors Center

Sprocket Poncha Springs

It was a really rough life, hanging out in the sunshine, reading, and enjoying the views.

Sprocket with the Sawatchs

The breeze kicked up as the sun sank on the horizon and we crawled into the jeep to stay a little bit warmer. I think #jeeplife suits us well, don’t you think?

Beth and Sprocket

Arizona: Southward Bound!

One of the bonuses of being a teacher is that a lot of school districts seem to have gone to week long Thanksgiving Breaks! This actually makes a lot of sense considering the number of families that travel for the holiday and missed some school anyway. Last year I took advantage of the break by spending some time in Denver and then flying to Connecticut to celebrate Lucy and Franz’s wedding. This year, I decided to return to an infant holiday tradition and go to Arizona to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with a dear friend from high school who had been kind enough to invite me to Thanksgiving in 2012 and 2013. I think she’s stuck with me now. 🙂

Thursday after school, Sprocket and I hopped in Ruth, made a quick stop at the gas station and headed out of town. I decided to take advantage of the long stretch of driving to run a fuel mileage test at about 55 mph so we weren’t making great time but I wasn’t worried about it at all; we were cruising down the highway listening to podcasts and simply enjoying the freedom of the open road.

XJ Selfie

I’d hoped to make it all the way down to Kayenta that night but I’d gotten a start about an hour later than I’d hoped plus it’s amazing what a difference driving 55mph for 200 miles compared to 70mph makes. (I think I drove about 40 from Monticello to Blanding…holy deer everywhere on the side of the road!) We made camp along the San Juan River knowing that it would be more difficult to find a good place to camp once we crossed the bridge onto the Navajo Reservation.

Camp near Bluff, UT

In the morning, we got our start just before the sun crested over the buttes to the east. It was lovely to cruise along watching the desert become fully light.

Originally, I’d planned to take the standard route to Flagstaff via Kayenta but, seizing the luxury of traveling alone with no real schedule, I decided to take US-191 south to Chinle and visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument. I’d passed right by the monument in 2013 but it just so happened to be during the government shutdown so even though the park is run as a partnership with the Navajo Nation it was no dice on visiting.

Roadtrips are my absolute favorite. I almost didn’t take this one to try and save some money but I am so glad I did and I’m excited to share stories of the adventure with you all.

 

San Juan Islands, Part 2: Orcas Island and Mt. Constitution

As we were making plans for our weekend in the San Juans, my only request was that we hiked Mt. Constitution. I didn’t care where we stayed, what we ate and drank, but I really wanted to grab that county highpoint. Fortunately for me, Liz and Lauren were totally on board with the plan and we were all excited to check out Orcas Island. I think Liz was regretting her agreement to the plan when a 5am wake-up was planned to make the two ferry hop to Orcas. However, by the end of the day, I don’t think any of us were upset about getting up early because everything was glorious.

Washington State Ferries

The man taking this photo was very concerned with how small we were (and he was also probably a bit surprised at the young lady bouncing all over the boat handing her phone to him requesting a picture).

Ferry rides

Ferry Rides

When we arrived in Eastsound, we were all starving an indulged in second breakfast at Brown Bear Baking. We spent a little bit of time debating which three treats to get and someone brilliantly suggested we actually get four. A gentleman waiting in line with us leaned over and stage whispered, “The answer is always more” so we listened and ordered ourselves a slew of treats. Everything about this was a major yes and we made short work of everything. Brown Bear Baking, you deserve all the thumbs up.

Brown Bear Baking

After breakfast it was time to get started on our hike. The maps clearly showed a meandering hike along Mountain Lake before the trail began climbing much steeper to the summit. We rambled alongside the super clear lake exclaiming all the while about how beautiful it was and how it was still so early. (I mean, it was standard hiking time but it just felt like we’d accomplished so much already for a vacation day…)

Mountain Lake

Mountain Lake

The forest was classic northwest gorgeousness with the sun filtering down through the very green trees as we walked along the cushion-y path. (Seriously, no where else in the country has trails as pleasant for the feet as Washington and Oregon.)

Mount Constitution Trail

Mount Constitution Trail

Mount Constitution Trail

It was a little jarring to emerge from the woods onto a road for the final jaunt to the summit. After seeing just a couple of parties, the sheer number of people that had driven up was kind of overwhelming but the CCC-built observation tower was pretty cool.

Mount Constitution

Tower on Mt. Constitution

The view was absolutely astounding. Sadly there were some distant clouds on the Cascades and the Olympics but it was really cool to get a perspective on Puget Sound from 2,000′ up and from much more northerly perspective than I’d ever been.

Mount Constitution Panorama

Summit Selfie

Mt. Constitution Views

After the hike, we headed to Island Hoppin’ Brewery to have a sampler. Their brewery dog has a life that Sprocket definitely envies: living surrounded by water at a brewery…

Island Hoppin' Brewery

Brewery dog

After our beers, we hustled down to the ferry landing to make sure that we made our ferry. We were plenty early so we relaxed in Orcas Village while waiting for our boat.

Orcas Island

Orcas Village Ferry dock

Rose

Ferry dock

It was hard to object to the gorgeous weather on the ferry ride back to Anacortes.

Ferry Ride

Ferry ride

Once we were back on Guemes Island, while Lauren and Liz prepped dinner, I headed out for a run/hike to the highest point on the island. (The peakbagger in me gets the best of me sometimes.) I had such a great time traveling with these girls. I felt super fortunate to have a chance to check out the “other San Juans” (the Island type as opposed to my Colorado mountains), go for a hike, and mostly spend some time with people I feel totally myself around.

San Juan Islands, Part 1: Guemes Island

Friday morning, after getting a some what delayed start, we headed to the International District for dim sum (why have I not ever had this before??!?) and some great conversation. After $10 in food for each of us, we were all stuffed and headed to the car rental location and headed north for Anacortes.

Dim Sum

Despite growing up in Washington, I’d never been to the San Juan Islands (commonly known in Washington as the “San Juans” or just “the Islands”) and I was excited do do some exploring! After a little grocery shopping in Anacortes, we moved on to the next order of business: ice cream before the ferry at Mad Hatter where I sampled some Lopez Island Creamery and Edallen Dairy ice cream options.

Mad Hatter Ice Cream

We missed our intended ferry to Guemes by three cars but since it’s a pretty short round trip, we didn’t despair and instead soaked in some gorgeous Washington waterfront scenery.

Liz and Lauren

Lauren on Guemes Island Ferry

We couldn’t have been happier with the AirBnB we found. Nestled in the trees in the middle of the island, it was super quiet and a great home base for the weekend. (As much as I loved it, I’ll definitely get a place on the state ferry system next time.)

AirBnB Guemes Island

AirBnB, Guemes Island

Since we’d arrived fairly early in the day, we had time to drive around the island a bit (it’s not large so it didn’t take very long). We hung out on this beach at Guemes Island Resort for quite awhile staring at the water and the mountains in the distance.

Guemes Island

Guemes Island

When we stopped to check out the General Store, we found that they had a small bar (that was hopping for happy hour!) so we grabbed some beers and headed out to the deck where we enjoyed watching the ferry sail back and forth to Anacortes while the smell of lavender mixed with the salty air (that sounds so cheesy but it’s the absolute truth).

Guemes Island General Store

We continued our drive, giving a ride to a woman walking back to her daughter’s from the ferry, and then made our way back to the house. Just as the sun was setting, I stole a page from my friend Jenn, and we headed out for a sunset wine walk:

Wine Walk

Seattle and Friends: Summer 2015

After a few days in Tacoma, I hopped on the Sounder train and headed for Seattle. I’ve taken the bus between Seattle and Tacoma many many times but this was my first time on the Sounder. I had power outlets and I learned that if I choose my car better I could have wi-fi next time. It only cost me $1.25 more than the bus which was totally worth it.

Sounder Train

Once in Seattle, I booked it from King Street Station up to Seattle Coffee Works where I finally got to meet Lauren of Better In Real Life! Lauren and I have been internet pals for a long time but we haven’t ever actually gotten to meet up; she was super supportive of me while I fought against sexism in Idaho. She was absolutely wonderful and we had a great time chatting while waiting for another internet pal, also named Lauren. She had flown in from Boston to spend the weekend with Liz and I and then got to meet the other Lauren as a bonus!

Lauren, Lauren, and Beth
Photo borrowed from Lauren (Better In Real Life‘s Instagram!).

Lauren and I set out in search of food in Pikes Place Market but soon decided that ice cream was what we really wanted. Sadly, we discovered that Bluebird Ice Cream was closed but that Molly Moon’s was open. My vanilla bean and honey lavender scoops were so good that I devoured them before I grabbed a photo. Lauren and I headed to Elliot Bay Book Company to kill some time before wandering over to Taylor Shellfish. I’d been craving oysters so we got a bottle of pinot gris (a bottle that was both affordable and had won awards for pairing well with oysters) while we waited for Liz to get off work.

Pikes Place Market

Ice cream

Once Liz arrived, we ordered a spread of oysters and we toasted to the kick off of a great weekend. Anyone sitting at tables around us would never believe that the three of us had never physically been in the same place at the same time before. As we enjoyed our oysters (a nice selection of Fanny Bay, Kusshi, Kumamoto, Shigoku, and Olympia oysters if you’re curious).

Oysters, Taylor Shellfish

Apres oysters, we bused back to Liz’s place where she made us some scrumptious tacos and then we headed to Percy’s & Co. for some cocktails. My cilantro gimlet was delicious but the highlight was getting to meet Liz’s bestie Siiri who I feel like I know without ever having actually met. Our next stop was Conor Byrne where we watched Liz and Siiri’s friend Tom sing.

Tom Eddy

 

Liz had to work the next morning, so after Tom’s set we headed back to her house and bedded down for the night. I’d had such a fun day “meeting” people that I felt like I already knew and I could hardly believe the weekend was going to get better when Liz, Lauren, and I headed for the San Juan Islands.

Spring Break in Mexico, Part 5

After we left the observatory, we descended the mountain to just west of Rancho Meling, then turned to the north. The road was in great shape the few miles to Rancho El Coyote and then after that, it got … rough.

Road to San Felipe

Road to San Felipe

Not too long after we passed the ranch and had been dealing with some woops and ruts we ran into a military group in a wash. We asked the way to Mike’s Sky Ranch and then they proceeded to point us in the direction opposite the one I thought we’d take. Fortunately, my map showed both forks eventually meeting up again and continuing towards Mike’s.

The road eventually crested a pass although at points along the way, the road was pretty rough. Somehow photos of rough roads never really do them justice:

Following Baja 500 tracks

After the pass, we cruised along a plateau before dropping steeply into Mike’s Sky Ranch. Did I mention we did our mild rock crawling on these tires?:

Bald tires

Once we left Mike’s (where it appeared no one was around), it didn’t take us long to reach Mexico Highway 3. We made a brief stop at a convenience store to get a drink and some snacks to tide us over until we reached San Felipe. Embracing adventure, when a hitchhiker waved at us, we pulled over and gave him a ride to the junction with Mexico Highway 5 where he continued north to Mexicali and we turned south to San Felipe. Although he didn’t speak much English and we didn’t speak Spanish, we were able to communicate that we’d just gone hiking (he asked us if we were “scouts” and it took awhile to figure out that he was thinking along the lines of Boy Scouts) and that he was a heavy equipment mechanic.

Driving down the coast, I found myself staring longingly up at Picacho del Diablo. I hate not reaching goals and this one had stymied me for the time being. I can’t wait to get down and try again.

In town, we sought out a hotel so we could get a shower (nothing like $70 hotels on the beach!) and then set out in search of food. And pineapple drinks. And food. And strawberry daiquiris.

Pineapple drinks

Tacos, San Felipe

It felt really good to be on the water. I got a touch of food poisoning (ha, a touch) but I will never quit eating street food. It’s too good. (In fact, I didn’t even really slow down on eating it for the duration of the trip. Just kept trying to throw down the calories!).

The next morning, we continued to Algodones where we availed ourselves of the affordable dental checkups, grabbed some more street food, stayed in the nicest $50 hotel room I’ve ever seen and drank margaritas in its courtyard as the sun went down to savor the last of the southern warmth.

Rather than immediately cross back into the States, we drove east on Mexican Highway 2 towards Sonoita. I had my first real Mexican burrito from a vendor in San Louis Rio Colorado and before I knew it, we were in Sonoita crossing the border into Lukeville.

Colorado River near Los Algodones, Mexcio

Border Fence

After a quick stop in Ajo to say hello to old friends, we drove all the way to Kayenta, Arizona before calling it a night.

Each and every time I go to another country, I savor the experience and this was no exception. One of the amazing things about living in the southwest is that Mexico just isn’t that far away. I look forward to more adventures!

Spring Break to Mexico, Part 4: Picacho del Diablo

After consuming way too much pollo in San Telmo (we accidentally got two plates of chicken instead of one… probably should learn Spanish to prevent incidents like that…), we turned east towards Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Martir. I was really excited about making this drive all the way from the ocean to our trailhead at about 8,000′.

San Telmo turnoff to Parque San Pedro de Martir

At the lowest elevations, the vegetation was decidedly desert like. I oggled some new cactus species along the way although I didn’t grab a lot of photos for some new cactus of the week photos. (I’ll try harder next trip!) As we climbed, my excitement for the hike kept building!

Road to MX National Park

Road to National Park

Eventually we reached pine trees! Big, beautiful pine trees surrounded by gorgeous exposed rocks! It was an astounding change to be in this environment and is definitely not anything I’d have expected to see in Mexico before researching this trip.

Road to National Park

The signage for the park made me so happy. It was totally reminiscent of US national park signs but it was still … different.

Entering National Park

National Park Entrance

National Park map

Watch for deer

After passing through this meadow that totally reminded me of Yellowstone, we turned south on a dirt road to our trailhead.

Parque Sierra de San Pedro Martir

Although a day ahead of schedule, we loaded up our packs to head for our first camp. After a few miles we realized that something wasn’t quite right. I powered up my phone to check the GPS and we realized we’d walked down an old road instead of following the trail. We decided to return to the car (especially since my hiking partner realize that the drivers side door might not have gotten locked!), spend the night, and begin all over according to plan.

The morning was cool and made for great hiking weather. We set out towards Blue Bottle Pass. We didn’t make great time but we really enjoyed taking in everything:

hiking

hiking

hiking

As we reached the Pass, we finally got a look at Picacho del Diablo. Holy cow: that mountain is intimidating looking!

Picacho Del Diablo

Crossing over onto the northeast face of Cerro Botella Azul, we also found some snow!

Snow in Mexico!

Then it was time for the descent into the canyon towards Campo Noche. Unfortunately, following the trail here was really difficult. Most trip reports emphasized the need to traverse as far as possible towards the saddle between Picaho and Cerro Botella Azul and … we didn’t. Quite a ways down the canyon, we realized we’d been cliffed out since we were in the wrong chute. We tried to traverse to the east but were faced with more cliffs that we didn’t feel comfortable negotiating with full packs. Sadly, we realized that going down the wrong way was pretty much the end of our adventure. We’d have to climb back to the saddle, then down the tough terrain, then up the mountain, then up to the saddle again. I took next to no photos of that descent or of our reascent–it was a real butt kicker! (I’ll be back. Who’s with me?) This is the one photo I have of the canyon:

Scrambling near Picacho Del Diablo

Camp at the pass was beautiful though. The wind was blowing pretty hard but we had a nice windbreak. Since we were shortening our hike we at all the food, drank some hot chocolate, and enjoyed the light on the rocks around us.

Sunset

Sunset

Camp

The next morning, we made quick work of our hike back out to the car and decided to run up and check out the observatory before heading to San Felipe.

Pine forest

View of Picacho from the observatory:

Picahco from the observatory