Thanksgiving in Scottsdale

Maryanne and her husband welcomed me into their home for Thanksgiving again this year. I’m so delighted that this has become a tradition and that I get to be Aunty Beth to their two children in addition to my three nephews. <3

There was lots of Sprocket bossing around by a two year old:

A few baby cuddles, although he really wasn’t too sure about that stranger in his house.

There was lots of food and a sweet sunset hike.

People used to mistake Maryanne and I for sisters, and I suppose with sunglasses on, they still might.

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. ­čÖé

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┬áthe 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.

 

Thanksgiving 2014: Connecticut Peak Bagging

Thanksgiving morning I headed for the airport bright and early. After grabbing a spot in the second to the last row of the economy parking, I watched the sunrise from inside the DIA terminal and let myself feel a little bit sad that I wouldn’t be watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with some coffee and Bailey’s. All things considered, I was super excited to be headed to see Lucy and Franz get married and have a bit of an adventure.

DIA sunrise

Adventure? In Connecticut?

Yeah, I’d decided since I was spending all the money on a plane ticket and rental car that I might as well create a bit of a challenge for myself. I decided that I would try to hit all eight Connecticut pseudo-county highpoints along with the wedding in the 48 hours I’d be in the state. (They’re pseudo-counties because Connecticut dissolved them as governing bodies in 1960.)

After landing at Bradley, I got my rental car and immediately headed for South Johnson Hill, the highpoint of Hartford county. I arrived at the trailhead around 6pm, donned my headlamp, put on my snowpants, and headed out for a dark and snowy walk. The quiet and peacefulness was really appreciated after a long day of travel. (Seriously, this post can be summarized as “snowy selfies.”)

Summit of South Johnson Hill

I’d been pretty lucky with my travel plans as the state had gotten pretty hammered with a big winter storm the day before. The storm had left a lot of people without power as trees lost branches. As I walked back to my car, I saw flashing lights near the trailhead. Initially, I was pretty sure that I was going to be ticketed for parking at the end of the road even though it was clearly plowed out as a trailhead parking area. Turns out it was just a power company truck fixing some lines.

As I drove towards the trailhead for Mt. Frissell, I started looking for food. At about 7pm on Thanksgiving night in rural Connecticut (and Massachusetts) I wasn’t really sure what I would find. Fortunately, I located a Dunkin’ Donuts and snacked on a bagel and cream cheese as I continued out to the trailhead. It occurred to me that there was a good chance that the snow would be more than I wanted to tackle without boots or snowshoes but I put the decision off until morning. Once I arrived at the trailhead, I crawled into the back of my rental car and got to sleep.

 

Car sleeping

In the morning, I got out of the car to investigate the conditions. It was a really hard decision to make but faced with four mile postholing hike without appropriate footwear when I had a wedding that promised a fair amount of awesome dancing coming up that night I decided it was best if I put aside my adventure goals to be sure I was more fresh for the real point of the trip: the wedding.

Deep snow

 

I headed out for the next high point in Fairfield County. The drive took me into New York State and was absolutely gorgeous. It was a bright, bluebird winter day and cruising around and seeing the small towns was making me so happy.

Welcome to New York?

Winter driving The Fairfield County Highpoint:

Fairfield County Highpoint

From there it was off to the Southwest Lindsley Peak Hills of New Haven County:

Southwest Lindsley Peak Hills

 

After that quick jaunt, I decided I had time to squeeze in Middlesex County’s Bald Hill Range. It created a little backtracking for the next day but I was worried about time before catching my plane. I’m so glad I did. Friday had better weather than Saturday and it was a gorgeous walk through the woods!

Trail to Bald Hill Range

Bald Hill Range

Then it was wedding time! After a quick sponge bath in a McDonalds bathroom (seriously, I guess I’m still a dirtbag at heart), I made myself presentable and headed out to celebrate with my friends. Congratulations you two. You’re an adorable, awesome couple. And you threw one heck of a dance party.

Franz & Lucy Wedding

I got a late start the next morning. Since I’d already blown the goal of hitting all the highpoints for the weekend, I figured it was way more important to spend some more time relaxing at Lucy’s parents with the newlyweds and their families. After a leisurely morning, I drove off to Gates Hill, a rather unimpressive roadside stop:

Gates Hill

I reasoned I had time for one last stop, Windham County’s Snow ┬áHill. I wasn’t sure what the snow conditions would be like and if I’d be able to drive my rental car up near the summit. As it turned out I had to park near the highway and hike a mile each way. I start to get antsy on days that I’m flying about getting to the airport on time and it was reaching that point. I started up the rutted icy road fretting a bit about making this happen. I decided that my mood would be drastically improved if I turned it into a bit of a run. I was wearing my TurboDown so I’m sure that my plane-mates for the rest of the day didn’t really appreciate it but sometimes you just need to go for it!

Snow Hill

All in all, I made it to the wedding, danced my face off, and got 6 of 8 county highpoints. I’ll be back for that slope point on Mt. Frissell and also for little Burley Hill!

Team 3Up Thanksgiving

It was just F, Sprocket and I for Thanksgiving this year. I decided to cook a chicken rather than a turkey because it was a lot more manageable and I wasn’t really sure how fast we could go through leftovers.

I cooked up dinner rolls, the chicken, stuffing, yams, and mashed potatoes with gravy. I bought the fixings for salad but it didn’t make it to the table. We (well, just myself) sipped on Camel Road pinot noir and enjoyed our meal that was capped off by pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream.

Thanksgiving Snow

After a few days of food and family over the Thanksgiving weekend Forrest and I headed for the mountains. We headed out for the southern Washington Cascades. Our plan was to head south along the western side of Mt. Adams, perhaps exploring the northeastern side of the mountains if conditions allowed, then returning to the west side and popping out in Trout Lake.

After filling up in Packwood (by the way, I don’t recommend the rest stop just south of town on Highway 12…very very cold stainless steel toilet seats), we headed up towards Wallupt Lake (Johnson Creek Rd aka Rd 21). I was pretty aware this was an ambitious plan but I knew Dad had hunted up in that area in mid-November. Unfortunately, it had rained the day before and the snow was a slushy, slushy mess. We made it to about 3,200 feet before we manged to get stuck in about eight inches of snow. After digging out it was apparent that continuing up that road wasn’t going to be possible. We headed back down towards Randle and tried to go over Road 25…which just happened to be closed. We jumped over to Rd 23 and I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic about our chances of making it up and over to the other side but making something of what had been a pretty dismal weekend was at the top of my priority list.

We manged to keep chugging up the hill, winching ourselves out once, and eventually we made it to the junction with the road to Takhlakh Lake. There were tracks leading up the road so we figured we could probably make it up to check it out. Once up at the lake, we met up with a group of friends who’d been camping at Takhlakh every Thanksgiving weekend for about ten years. They were very welcoming and we sat around the campfire drinking beer with them before crawling into the Jeep for a good night’s sleep.

The next morning we woke up and Mt. Adams made a lovely appearance over the lake. After some breakfast, we headed out and hoped to continue over the road to Trout Lake. We made it over Babyshoe Pass thanks to the trail broken by our new friends but once we got beyond their help the going was slow. It wasn’t long before we realized that making it over the next pass was not really a possibility so we turned around and headed for Cougar.

Our trip hadn’t turned out quite as well as we liked so we settled for some pretty darn good Chinese food in Camas with Forrest’s mom and headed home.

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.