oh hello! so i went to san antonio for a work conference, and i was pleasantly surprised with the area.
the place we stayed at was a resort, and a pretty nice one at that. good job, conference organizers
the weather. the weather! there was humidity. there was 80º+. there was perfect sitting by the pool weather. i got a slight sunburn. huzzah!
the allergens were a little intense. at this point, i’m waiting to see if it was actually allergens that affected me or if i have the beginning of a cold. i’m hoping NOT the cold, as my half marathon is 3.5 weeks out and i really slacked on the running while i was in TX.
we visited the missions. first, conquistadors in the guise of missionaries was pretty disgusting. but, the architecture of the missionaries is pretty awesome, and it’s held up over 300 years. it’s pretty awesome to think that san antonio was settled before some of my ancestors even thought to immigrate. (i say some because i think some of my mom’s peeps were here at that time.)
and the riverwalk alone was worth the trip! that was an especially pleasant surprise. a lot of food, a lot of people watching, a lot of chances to trip into the drink. but really, it was nice to walk outside in warm weather and enjoy the greenery. it makes me that much more excited to be home at the beginning of spring trying to burst forth!
this afternoon i sat down and scheduled my campsites for my state park visits. i had to pay money, so i guess i’m actually going to do this*!
at the end of the month, i’m heading down to rochester so i’ll pick up a few parks on the way. then i gotta get moving!
june 9 i’ll be camping in split rock creek, which is in the very southwest corner of the state. after the derry reunion, i’ll head north, camping at zippel bay on lake of the woods on july 24, then lake bemidji on july 25. august 11 i’ll be at jay cooke and the 12th up at judge magney.
that last one is the key. after reading “the end of night” i’ve become slightly obsessed with lighting and our night skies. according to a dark site finder, magney is in a dark spot with an expanse of darkness to the south (lake superior). i even checked my weather calendar to make sure the moon phase, moonrise, and moonset were appropriate for a dark sky.
this is PRIMO milky way viewing and photographing. I AM SO EXCITED. i am so obsessed with getting some good shots that i’ve got a weekend in september set aside in the horrible event of cloudy skies. so on top of visiting all the state parks this summer, i guess i’ve tacked on “photograph the milky way”.
i’ll have to do some star shooting beforehand to get back into the groove of that and make sure i remember how to do it. it’s a lot of rigamaroll to get a camera set up for star shooting, but the effort is worth it!
(oh, and i’m looking into upgrading my personal camera to a full frame. we’ll see what happens!)
*i will see SO MUCH of MN this summer. i may even pick up the four counties that i haven’t visited!
First state park lists, by way of visiting melissa:
Big Stone Lake
Lac Quii Parle
second list, on the way to visit liz:
John A Latsch
whitewater) (not in map!)
Great River Bluffs
home from liz:
nerstrand big woods
upper sioux agency
split rock creek
up the north shore:
mille lacs kathio
hill annex mine
then to finish up that north shore trip:
here’s the long haul trip:
then on any day whenever, i’ll drive 30 mins south of here to hit up lake maria.
that’s 66 state parks. i didn’t include the state recreation areas, but i have a tweet in to them to see if those need to be included to be a passport completer (i have a feeling you do need to visit them). i did include one recreation area because i want to see if it’s good training ground for ragnar: cayuna country up by brainerd.
i’ll need to camp during a couple of these! probably all of them except for the ones where i’m visiting people at the same time. depending on the time of year, i might have to plan ahead on some of these. the north shore state parks probably fill up quickly during the summer months.
but seriously, this is 5 trips, 2 of which revolve around visiting people, so only three trips to hit all the state parks? i can deal with that! and if the first one is too much, then i’ll split them up. but even if i take off a friday or monday and spend two nights camping, that works for me. i think i’ll have to find a less complicated tent to sleep in.
plans for all these? i don’t have to spend a lot of time at them, but i do want to get a photo of the entrance sign and need to get a stamp at the office. i’ll probably spend a little time at some of them and not a ton of time at others. all depends on the park!
i love going on trips. i love coming home. but i’m always sad about coming home, even if i love it at the same time. it makes me realize that i should go more places and see more things, but i just don’t have the time or money to do so. i know we only have this one life and we should grasp it as much as possible. but what does it say that every time i’m in some place new, a part of me just wants to be in the black hills on vacation instead? and is it that makes me think that i’m more than content just sitting on my patio on a warm june evening, watching the sun set with a fire crackling?
time moves much more quickly than one thinks, and i think vacations are the real proving point to that. our daily routines are just a way to make us a little more complacent about time and how it moves. if every day is similar and falls into patterns, we aren’t aware of how much time has passed. but seeing how quickly our time away from routine goes, it’s a little terrifying. i’ve been planning my trip for months – almost 9 months in advance. and it crept up quickly and happened so fast. i have my memories and momentos, but the moment’s past.
and so we keep chugging away at our routines, aware but unaware of how time is chipping away at our lives, one second at a time.
GUESS WHAT. mesa verde was open this morning. so yes, let’s add another 1.5 hours of driving onto the already long 6.5 hours! i didn’t care. this has been a bucket list item for too long to not check it out while here.
during the summer, you can do an actual tour of the ruins. i checked out the “requirements” at the visitors center, and the ladder was sufficiently not rickety and the crawlspace just fit my junky trunk (literally scraping the edges) so that if we DO come back during the summer (a real possibility since there is some pretty awesome lodging near the top of the mesa), i could go on a tour.
i’m glad we actually took the time to check it out!
then we booked it across new mexico. new mexico has some interesting rock formations that pop up out of nowhere.
UGH look at my four chins. i swear i gained 20 lbs so far on this trip. blargh!
so we drove and drove, drove some more. we stopped to get some gas and snacks, but otherwise it was flatland city. but then we saw a sign for the petrified forest national park. at first we both said “next time”. but then i said i needed to use the bathroom. and nate was really excited about visiting, so we went. talk about adding more time to our drive! but we got to eat a navajo taco, ha! worth it?
the petrified forest includes the painted desert and the only national park that includes a portion of route 66.
there are NO remnants of route 66 – no concrete, asphalt, etc. was it removed? did it just get grown over? i’m going to have to find a documentary on it.
the petrified wood is really cool, and the whole area reminds me of the badlands, as you can see from the pics above. and it was actually a very south dakota-esque drive from there on out. we entered the tonto national forest after that; i smelled PINE TREES and it was glorious. it was almost exactly like driving through the hills except for taller hills. the towns we drove through were picturesque, and there were a couple campgrounds and lodges i would definitely stay at.
THEN we drove through the mountains as the sun was setting and it was sooo lovely! reminded me of when jane and i were driving back to LA from sequoia.
now nate and i are in our crazy huge hotel room in phoenix. tomorrow we fly out at 1:30 – we’re a short drive from the airport. and we’ll be flying back into snow. how exciting.
as an aside, nate and i went to 7 national parks/monuments and monument valley (glen canyon map is missing)!! totally worth the annual pass.
this morning felt like such a heading west kind of morning. nate and i left before 8 a.m. the sun was just peeking over the horizon, we were loading luggage into the car in a hotel parking lot, and the road was waiting. the only thing throwing me off was that we were heading east instead of west.
today was a longer driving day than the others, but we hit up a few spots. northern arizona is a pretty spectacular looking place to drive, even if the road is a little monotonous. our first stop was monument valley. you know monument valley! it was REALLY cool and i recommend it to everyone. we drove up to the visitors center and drove into the valley a bit. i hope my entrance fees goes toward the “pave the road” fund.
you may know monument valley from john ford/john wayne collaborative movies such as “the searchers.”
i called my dad while we were driving though, and he called me a snotnose!
then we hitched it across the bottom of utah through towns like mexican hat. (and hat rock.)
nate got a stuffed goat that became our driving mascot.
we drove the trail of the ancients to cortez, which went through the valley of the gods, some other great rock formations, and general geological wonderments.
as we drove closer to cortez and into colorado, i saw this giant rock thing – kind of like devil’s tower but way more sinister looking. it’s shiprock! we’ll drive past it tomorrow.
then came the big disappointment of the day. the reason nate and i drove to cortez was to see mesa verde. i have wanted to see mesa verde for a long time – since i was a teenager. so after eating lunch and checking in, we headed out there. and because of the super high winds and minimal snow yesterday, the roads were closed unless you had a 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive vehicle. i hoped for a “minnesota driver” exception, but no such luck. all that way to visit the visitors center and that was it 🙁
i did get a pic of the “table” (mesa).
tomorrow before we leave i’m going to call and see if the roads are open. i got the direct number, so here’s hoping the roads are clear and the tour’s quick.
tomorrow is back to phoenix and the last travel day – it’s a big one. 6.5 hours of driving to get back to phoenix. but we’re driving through new mexico, so that makes this a 4-state trip and adds two states to my repertoire!
the morning was a little chilly. i woke up and was out to the edge of the canyon before 8:00 and was greeted with a dreary sky and a solemn looking hole in the ground. i was on the hunt for some stamps, so i ducked into the gift shop (to no avail – i had to go to el tovar), and when i came out, the sun was peeking through the clouds in spots, making bluffs in the canyon bright spots.
after getting my stamps and postcards mailed, nate and i headed out, driving in some nasty wind and minimal snow pellets. (this was after i checked out at the front desk and listened to a lady talking about the “big storm” coming for about 5 minutes).
so, here’s some info about nate. he likes to drive EXACTLY the speed limit. it doesn’t matter if he has a line of people behind him. so we made no headway from driving fast. but we sure did have a tailwind! we got great mileage. we made it into page around lunchtime and had lunch at dennys (i know; i know). since we still had a few hours til hotel checkin or our tour, we went to the lake powell/glen canyon dam visitors center, where we learned a lot about how the CO river powers a LOT of states (even nebraska, for crying out loud).
checked out lake powell through the visitors windows and then we drove out to horseshoe bend, where i hiked the .4 miles to look at it and nate took a snooze in the car.
(this does it no justice. i didn’t want to get close to the edge, and i didn’t want to swap out my lenses in the middle of the SAND STORM that was happening on the top of this shot. so just imagine that the river loops around the bottom.)
let me take a moment to tell you how COLD i was all day. it made no sense. i was mystified. sure, i started off the day outside in 25º, but i had on my fleece, three layers, hat, mittens, and scarf. i sat in the car on a heated seat with my heat vent set to 79. still cold. booked it to the various scenic overlooks. still cold (note to those slow, huddling-in-the-cold tourists: half of staying warm is making sure you move quickly and a lot). put on two more layers for my canyon tour; still cold. i only warmed up after spending 20 minutes in a super hot jacuzzi tub.
see? i was definitely dressed for the 45º it was. i felt like i was representing minnesota absolutely miserably.
after checking out the sketchy travelodge i had a reservation at, nate and i both decided it would be prudent to get a different hotel, and i called up comfort inn to find a jacuzzi suite for only $90. and the bed is super comfy.
after hotel checkin, nate and i headed to the antelope canyon tour. i made a big mistake of not taking dramamine before the ride to the canyon, but i managed to ward away motion sickness. was it my not looking at the scenery? the pressure point in my thumb? the slow deep breaths? who knows! but it worked.
antelope canyon is a great tour; even nate enjoyed it, despite the weirdo people on the tour. i got some great pics, and the ride back was equally free of motion sickness. win win!
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and i ended the day with some warming-up jacuzzi time and pizza hut . *eyeroll* hopefully better food tomorrow – maybe some authentic mexican or something.
tomorrow is a long day – driving 4.5 hours to cortez, CO by way of monument valley, and hopefully getting out to mesa verde once we’re in cortez.
vacay is almost over! 😭
today i learned that nate loves me so much, he was willing to park in touristy sedona and go into four shops with me on our way out of town. and he even bought a HAT.
it was a hazy morning in sedona on the way out, but i got some shots of the red rocks. and the drive up to flagstaff from sedona was gorgeous. it gave way to forest land and mountains, and we drove up switchbacks and through pine trees. we stopped at a scenic overlook at about 6000 feet altitude, then went on our way.
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drove through flagstaff and stopped for gas, then got on the highway through flat grassland and shrubbery to the GC.
as we approached the last little nothing town before GC, there were increasing RVs and trailers out in the middle of the flatlands. i can’t imagine there was electric or sewer run out there, so it just baffles my mind. do they live off the grid? do they have generators? how do they get their water? it was like a shantytown.
that’s something that i noticed here. i don’t know if it’s because i’m just not used to desert or what, but homes look dirty here, unless they’re actual pueblo style. if the homes were dropped on a grass lawn with some trees instead of sand and shrubs, would they look better?
home aesthetic contemplation aside, nate and i got the GC and battled some minimal traffic, considering, to get to our hotel, then we headed out to the rim. our hotel has a partial view, but it just doesn’t compare to seeing it up close!
it’s true what they say: pictures do it no justice. i mean, i still took a buttload of pics, but there’s no way it can show the immensity of it; it completely envelopes your vision.
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for supper, i had a reservation at el tovar, the fancy hotel here in the village. we definitely had some fancy food! had a couple drinks, an italian mozzarella appetizer, nate had duck – which was delicious-, i had a salmon tostada and should have had the ribeye, and then i had lemon cheesecake and nate flourless chocolate cake for dessert.
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and now it’s getting cold and SUPER windy (gusts up to 75 mph tomorrow). it’s supposed to snow tomorrow on our way to page, and it’ll be 45º during our canyon tour. i might have to wear all my clothes.
after waking up to a perfect morning (of course) and sitting on the balcony a bit, nate and i packed up our junk and took off for sedona.
on the way out of town, we stopped at in-n-out. so when jane and i were in california, we stopped at in-n-out and were NOT impressed. i was a little more impressed this time around; we did get fries animal style. i ate a few fries sans animal sauce, and they were still more boring than 5 guys, but they weren’t like styrofoam wiht potato flavor. i don’t know if jane and i just stopped at some weird one or what. but this time wasn’t a bad experience.
on the way out of the valley.
since we bought the annual NPS pass, we stopped at two national monuments on the way: the motezuma castle and montezuma well. the american indian tribes that lived there were cliff dwellers, which boggles my mind. we saw some that were in cliffs up high and then also in cliffs that went below ground level (that was the well). they must’ve used ladders of some sort, but it still makes me do a double-take. well, i guess if that’s what you know.
then we hauled it up to sedona, which is pretty darn scenic, but OMG the traffic is insane. nate and i went to a mexican place and it took us half an hour to find a parking spot. and that wasn’t even the touristy part of town! the mexican was delicious. i had tacos and nate had a torta. then we did a quick (“quick”) drive through sedona and got angry at all the traffic, but the red rocks looked great in the sunset.
now we’re sitting back in the hotel – which we rate more highly than the place we stayed at the past couple nights! – drinking margaritas. MMMMMM. maybe later on we’ll head to the outdoor hot tub. YOU NEVER KNOW.
tomorrow is GRAND CANYON.
so i know this is late, but i had a late night wedding day, and then all day today nate and i were traveling. so i’ll do a quick recap of wedding, then another post for today’s travel.
wedding was great! ceremony was short, setting was pretty, susnset was GREAT, food was awesome, and liz and i danced almost all night. here’s a couple pics, including my favorite one i took.
if you follow me on facebook, you can see the whole album here: https://www.facebook.com/katewallace1979/media_set?set=a.10102902480158851.1073741849.56002659&type=3