Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park

We drove to Bryce and found out that there was some BLM land that was open for free camping if we drove down a long dirt road that paralleled the National Park.  Turns out that this was the best camping find of the trip.  We drove along a creek that emptied into a reservoir, and the water created a fertile green valley amidst the dry rock and sand that dominated the landscape.  We camped on a grassy field punctuated only by a few fisherman coming to try their hand in the crystal clear waters of the meandering creek.

Utah appears to be prime hummingbird country.  This was the only picture of one that I could capture but they were buzzing all over the place at Zion.  They would fly right up to us, attracted by the colors of our clothing.

The next morning we packed up and headed over to explore Bryce Canyon.  The spires are called "hoo-doo's" and were pretty spectacular.  We spent the morning hiking down into the canyon and then hit the road that afternoon for Zion.

Along the way we discovered that the route took us right through Capitol Reef National Park.  Apparently there is a large "reef" called the Waterpocket Fold that stretches 100 miles from North to South.  See a cool picture of it here.  We didn't take time to explore it much but we did stop to see ancient pictographs etched into the rocks.  We also ate lunch in one of the public orchards that are located in a narrow valley that the road goes through.  Visitors are allowed to go in and pick fruit at their leisure in these very old orchards.  Nothing seemed to be ripe so we just picnicked under the trees :)


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Moab, Utah: Arches National Park and Negro Bill Canyon

After traversing the desolate sand dunes in Colorado, we traveled to Moab, Utah, which is right between Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.

Traveling in the Colorado Mountains:

We were going to try and get a backcountry permit in Canyonlands but because of a delay regarding the shipment of our stuff from Massachusetts to California, we weren't able to get there in time to get a permit.  Instead, we found the local Library where we posted a blog, sent a fax at the local grocery store, and went to the Moab Visitor's center where we learned about some primitive campsites along the Colorado River in a nearby canyon.  So we headed there and set up camp, determining to visit Arches National Park in the morning.

 Sunrise from our campsite

Our little Coracle

Arches National Park in the morning. (Note: From here on, I will put Barry's name under the picture if he was the one who took the photograph.  If there is no name, then I took it.  Barry started taking more pictures and I want to give him due credit :)

That afternoon, we hiked a canyon called Negro Bill's Canyon that was near our campsite.  It was a really cool hike in a narrow canyon with a perennial stream, which is quite rare in this part of the country.  At the end of the hike is the world's 5th longest arch: the Morning Glory Natural Bridge.

Barry was playing around with his filter settings and took this one.  I think it's cool :)

Arches National Park in the evening after a storm:


The next morning we were going to go to Canyonlands National Park but we had another delay at the library and we ran out of time.  We decided to head to Bryce Canyon National Park that afternoon and then head on to Zion National Park the next day.  We had heard that Zion was pretty amazing and we wanted to spend a maximum amount of time there.

Next up: Bryce Canyon National Park

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Great Sand Dunes National Park

 Sunrise on the dunes

There is still life in desolate places

Next stop: Arches National Park in Moab, Utah

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Travel - Day 12

July 18, 2010
Left at 5:45 am, 77° F
Average Miles per gallon: 35.34
Miles traveled today: 635 miles
Total miles traveled: 2,788 miles

We left campmeeting early Sunday morning after taking cool showers to refresh us from the hot, humid dawn.  Barry was especially excited to see that the speed limit on back roads was 65 mph!

We crossed the panhandle of Texas traveling on back roads and enjoying the scenery.

That's when we saw this sign... Needless to say, Barry was even more excited :)

Not only did we like the Colorado Welcome sign the best, but they also have the fastest speed limit for back roads!  Don't worry Moms, we're only going between 60 mph and 65 mph because we're taking good care of our little Coracle :)

We drove through a cool lightning storm in the plains of Colorado.  For most of it, we were able to drive in a clear patch that lay between two very dark storms.  The lightening was fantastic!

Approaching the Great Sand Dunes, where we spent the night. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Travel and a Sabbath Sojourn - Days 10 and 11


The humidity and heat of the night created near sauna-like conditions, and we awoke Friday morning with high hopes for a refreshing dip. Unfortunately, we discovered a wide ditch of reddish muddy ooze where we had expected to find an emerald tributary of the Green River. We were dismayed not merely for selfish reasons. The next stop on our travels was to be the Oklahoma camp meeting, where we planned to camp and fellowship with estimable Fisher clan. We could only imagine the stifling impact of our arrival! But there was nothing for it.

We disembarked the Coracle and sailed down 65 south into Nashville Tennessee. It felt a bit odd to be within easy striking distance of Southern Adventist University, but at Nashville we struck West on I-40.

We were now deep into our trip, more tangibly beyond the point of no return than ever.
Then we crossed the Mississippi and entered Arkansas. We saw a fantastic pyramid as we crossed the bridge. An undisclosed number of brownie points to the first person who explains what this pyramid is all about.

Arkansas passed without fanfare. I think we would have noticed more if we hadn’t been listening the final chapters of Around the World in 80 Days. Perhaps we were just too enthralled by the story—I’m not sure—but for whatever reason, we missed the Oklahoma welcome sign. Well we sort of got it…

The final miles through Oklahoma were exhausting, in large part because of the oppressive heat. Strange to say, the Fisher’s warm welcome was exactly what we needed, despite the heat:). We showered quickly and soon joined into the camp meeting activities.

There were two notable things I remember about our Sabbath in Oklahoma: the tremendous heat and the mind boggling size of the wonderful Fisher clan. Aunts, Uncles, 3rd cousins, great aunts and ever other imaginable relation sprouted from everywhere. I met so many relatives that I privately concluded that approximately 50% of all camp-meeting attendants were relatives of the Fishers.

On Sabbath evening we repacked the coracle with great application of scientific reason and brute force, and hit the sack around 10:30pm, ready to reengage our voyage early in the morning.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Travel – Day 9

July 15, 2010
Total miles traveled: 608 (plus a bunch of running around at the end which added probably another 40 miles or so….  See following explanation)
Left at 7:39 am, 75° F
Arrived at: unknown (see following explanation)
Average gas mileage: 34.58

Today was the first day that actually felt as if we were really beginning our CA roadtrip.  We left Uncle Ted and Aunt Beth’s house about an hour and a half late.  For some reason, my cell phone alarm decided to take a day off and we slept in until 6:15 – the time which we had planned to have left by.  Because we knew that bathing opportunities in the near future would be questionable, we took time to shower and get clean.  We also had a few internet activities that had to be done before we could leave and so we got off to a rather late start.  Ansley’s homemade blueberry muffins spurred us on though and we started off in good cheer.

Our goal was to travel from Hagerstown, Maryland to Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky, Google said it would take us 10 hours, and she was pretty accurate. 

This was right after our speedometer passed 1,000 miles.  We had hoped to take a cool video but we missed it.  Stay tuned for our cool video marking 2,000 miles!

Travel curiosities included Lexington, Kentucky, the thoroughbred capital of the world.  I grew up reading books about horses and racing.  I used to dream and dream about one day owning a horse.  But since my parents said “no”, I had to satisfy myself with reading about them.  I had always read glorious tales of the wavy fields of “bluegrass” that were so green and lush that they looked blue.  As we neared Lexington, I peered intently out the window to see if the tales were really true.  I even took off my sunglasses and squinted against the glare.  Maybe it was just the drought, but neither Barry or I thought that the grass looked very blue.

As we exited the highway towards Lexington, I saw a homeless man alongside the road.  “Hungry, willing to work”, his sign read.  I have been studying Isaiah 58 lately.  It has some radical, yet quite simple things to say.

Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free,
And break every yoke?

Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry,
And bring the homeless poor into the house
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

When I saw him, I started to think of those verses.  Here was someone that obviously fit the description, he was hungry and in need.  What would I do? 

But what could I do?  We certainly didn’t have money to give him; and besides, who knows what he would do with it anyway.  But God nudged me and put a thought in my head You don’t have money.  But what do you have? … Blueberry muffins!  I have blueberry muffins!  Earlier that morning, Aunt Beth had encouraged me to take some more muffins.  I politely declined, not wanting to be greedy and take more then our share.  But she went over to the cupboard and got out an extra bag anyway.  Later I decided to go ahead and take a few extra so I packed them away in our stuff and forgot about them.

I blurted it out to Barry “We could give him a blueberry muffin!?”  “What?” said Barry, who had been completely absorbed in watching the traffic.  And as I began to explain about the man, who Barry hadn’t seen, we pulled away into traffic.  Oh no, I thought, I really wanted to give him a blueberry muffin.  We pulled over for gas about a minute later, and we decided to go back to give the man a muffin.  The muffin that was still out from our breakfast was rather crushed and messy so Barry suggested we give him the other bag that Aunt Beth had given us.  I quickly agreed, and we gave the man 4 freshly-baked blueberry muffins.  He was very grateful and, as we walked away, I saw a few others in cars begin to talk to him and hand him things.  Maybe our blueberry muffins had inspired others as well!

Continuing on, I was super excited to pass right by Keeneland Race Course, home of the Kentucky Derby.  I was so excited to see it that I failed to take any pictures.  I saw the edge of the racecourse from the highway and am pretty sure I saw part of the starting gate as well!  Nor did I take any pictures of the immaculately groomed paddocks of the prestigious farms on either side of the race course.  The expansive green fields (that I’m sure look blue when there is more rain) were lined with pristine white fences that crisscrossed the lawns to make individual large paddocks for the horses. Delicately boned thoroughbreds grazed calmly in the huge pastures, which were far too big for the number of horses but sure made it look impressive.  I bet I was looking at former and future racehorse champions!  I was super stoked!! :)

The only picture of a horse that I got from Kentucky was this one, taken at a stoplight in the heart of Lexington.

The rest of our trip was spent in relative ease while we listened to “Around the World in 80 Days” to get our travel groove on.

The fun started when we got to Mammoth Cave National Park.  Following the signs to the Visitor’s Center, we drove quite a ways into the park.  Arriving at the center, we realized that a large cave tour must have just gotten out and so we only stayed inside long enough to grab a park map.  Seeing 3 camping spots on it, we decided on the 2nd, which was not too far away but further away then the one near the visitor’s center.  We were hoping for a more remote spot without having to hike anywhere. 
We were surprised to see this sign as we were traveling down the road to the campground.  What did that mean???

We soon found out: a 2 car ferry lay at the bottom of a steep decline down to a not-large-at-all river.  (In fact, Barry and I are still trying to figure out why they don’t just build a bridge)  We dubiously crept down the steep ramp and pulled aboard the ferry.  Probably 45 seconds later (honestly, it was that short!), we pulled off the other side.  It was quite a lovely evening, except for the heat, and we were having a nice drive when we happened upon the campground that had a large sign next to it “Group Campground: By Reservation Only”.  Oh dear…  The campground was perfectly good and perfectly empty, but the information board next to the entrance told us that you had to pay a hefty group fee to camp in this “reservation only” campground.  We certainly didn’t want to do that so we dejectedly made our way back down the road.  We rather sheepishly recrossed the ferry and tried not to make eye contact with the ferry driver.

Now what to do?  We now had 2 options, the crowded, loud campground next to the visitor’s center, or one much farther away next to a creek.  We decided that the latter seemed much more appealing so off we went.  We had to exit the park via a side road and reenter it after going through a small town.  The drive was nice though, and it took us about 20 minutes to get there.  We were just coming down to another ferry when we saw the entrance to the campground… …with a large sawhorse across it with a sign that read “Campground closed”.  What!?  No!  We got out to look around and saw two ladies with their backpacks out, eating supper at a picnic table.  They kindly informed us that they were camping in the backcountry and had gotten free permits at the Visitor’s center.  However, the man issuing them had told them that he was going to stop giving them out at 6:15.  It was now approaching 6:30.  We were half inclined (OK, maybe more then half) to just pitch our tent and stay there anyway, but our fear of getting in trouble and setting up tent in front of these law-abiding citizens kept us from doing it.  So we drove away, even more dejected.  Why was it so hard to find a place for our little two man tent?  We just needed a few feet of space; nothing spectacular!  It was so hard passing up these perfectly good places. 
So back we went, to that crowded, rather loud campground next to the visitor’s center.  Even worse, we had to cough up a hefty sum of $17 for it.  Apparently our National Parks Pass only waives entrance fees, not camping fees.  However, we cheered up by anticipating our pasta supper and the fact that we were still living life on the cheap by avoiding hotels.  Lesson learned: next time, we would get a back country permit and just hike a little ways in to camp.

We finished off the day with supper and worship, settling onto our comfy sleeping pads (it was too hot and sticky for anything else) to sleep the night away, and making plans to find a creek in the morning to bathe in.

(It is currently Sabbath evening and we are sitting in the Cafe' at Wewoka Woods, Oklahoma's SDA summer camp and campmeeting location.  We're heading out to Colorado early tomorrow and will spend the rest of next week in National Parks.  Hopefully we'll be able to get internet at some point to update you on our travels.  Until then, Godspeed!)