Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Snow Shoeing at Rocky NP 3/27/11

We are hosted by Dan and his husky Nala in Boulder. Dan co-owns a successful spice store that is recognized for its green efforts. Ten years ago Dan served with the Peace Corps in Russia, so it was great to talk about his experiences. Dan was headed out of town for the weekend, but trusted Greg and I to stay at his house with Nala. He was also hosting another surfer, Gary, who is moving up here to go to Rolfing school. One great thing about couch surfing is all the people you met and things you learn. Did you know huskies hair and skin are self cleaning, which makes them hypoallergenic? In her seven years, Nala has never had a bath.

On Sunday, we met a group from and headed to Rocky National Park for the some back country skiing. I went via snowshoes since i only skied once and was not great at it. I wish I skied though, would have been fun coming down the mt.

The group was ahead of me, as I am still adjusting to this darn high attitude. we started at 9,700 ft. And snow shoeing up a steep hill ain't so much fun. On my way up, a skier behind me joined me. We had a nice chat about places we lived and religion. I did not even catch the skier's name but he was missing a hand. Man, am I a wuss with me and my snowshoes!

Going down was a little slippery but much quicker. I hurried to the warming hut as my fingers were freezing with gloves and mittens on! One guy in our group, Ira, is into Canyoning and is off to Nepal this Friday. I swear people in CO are so active. On the way back to Boulder we stopped at Oskar Blues Brew Pub in Lyons for an awesome selection of mighty strong beer and food. A quirky bar with interesting decor. I had a 10.5% AVB Imperial Stout!

Later that night we went to another huge, quirky bar called Dark Horse to join the Boulder couchsurfing weekly meet up. Wish I had my camera. Lots of college kids in this town but pretty mature and we had great conversations. All in all a good day and night! Pix here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Off to Boulder- Red Rocks Amphitheatre & Eldorado Canyon State Park

Before we headed to Boulder, we stopped at the infamous Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which is a beautiful  natural setting to see a live band during the summer and I hear they play movies in the Fall. We did the Trading Post Trail, 1.4 miles, and goes through spectacular rock formations, valleys and a natural meadow. The trail is 6,280 feet above sea level and was not too steep, nice to have an easy trail break!

Then we drove up to Eldorado Canyon State Park and hiked on Rattlesnake Gulch. 1.4 miles (one way) with spectacular views of the canyon. The trail continues as a .8 mile loop as it travels to a view of the Continental Divide and the railroad tracks, 1,200 feet above the trailhead. Probably the closest I ever been to a train tunnel. As we descended, we saw a freight train move through. In the park there were lots of rock climbers, pretty amazing to see people as tiny specs on such great, beautiful rocks.  Pix here. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kickin it in Denver

We stayed in the Highlands part of Denver for 5 nights. Denver proudly nicknames itself as "mile high" b/c it is a mile high above sea level about 5,280 ft! U need a lot of sunscreen, lotion, water, and chap stick here. After applying cap stick, my lips still feel awful. But after a few days I am adjusting. It's about 50 deg but with the clear sky and bright sun, it looks and can feel like 70.

We went to the city 2x and walked all day to check out the neat hoods, bldgs, parks, and bars. Lots of parks and dogs. Also noticed a lot of not just pizza places, but NYC style pizza and tons of Mexican restaurants. CO also has a lot of micro brews, but bars still have cheap PBRs. Denver and CO for that matter does have many similar PDX/Oregon qualities except for the weather :) One horrible thing I have noticed in CO is the heavy use of styrofoam for leftovers. Need to remember to carry tupperware when I eat out. Click here for lots of city pix.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Takin it Off

In less then a month, I've been in a cave, on top of a sand dune, visited an awesome hot springs, hiked a few times, been to I don't even know how many states (at least 12), so what's next for this adventurer? Well I've been talking about shaving my head to make road life a little easier and if u know me, I don't just twalk :) On Tues night after a few drinks with Annie and Ian, Annie gave me a mohawk!

Annie started it all by telling Ian that he needed a haircut, then he requested a mohawk. Then I jumped on board. Luckily, I have shaved my head before when I was 20 so I know I have a good shaped head. But I never did the mohawk thing so figured I should give it a go before it all comes off. Annie did a great job. I figure not only does this save me money in terms of hair supplies, less time to get ready, but I also use less water now in the shower. What better way to celebrate World Water Day! I know I had nice hair and donating it to Locks of Love. It's just hair and will grow back; not sure how long i will keep the hawk. I

Greg took some pix, check 'em out here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And up we go!

On Monday, the guys decided to climb another mt, this time a 13 footer as they say. I drove them to the start of the climb which was at 10,000 ft!!!! Then Aya and I headed to Boulder to do a 3 hr hike at Mt. Sanitas. Click here for pix.

There were tons of dogs on the trail. It was steep and high altitude, which i am still adjusting too. It was about 75 deg so pretty warm day. After the hike we did not have much time to check out Boulder, but I will be headed there next week. We drove 1.5 hrs back to the mt to get the guys. They were 30 mins off their return time, but glad they had no issues.

I dropped Aya and Steve at Golden, where Steve's brother lives. They leave CO on Tues. It was great to see them and who knows when we will see them again, perhaps Japan gets added to the SE Asia trip!

Greg and I headed to Denver to couchsurf for a few days with Annie and Ian, who both work for Habitat for Humanity. Annie is an AmeriCorps Vista. They moved here in Aug from Baltimore. They are easy to talk to and generous hosts; being with them reminds me of Portland - eating healthy, organic, recycling, funky art and photos in their apt. I picked a winner host for sure!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Soak, Sand Dunes and Garden of the Gods

From Colorado Springs Aya and I camped two nights at Valley View Hot Springs near the Great Sand Dunes NP. About 2.5-3 hr drive in the middle of nowhere.  It was my first time camping at a hot springs. It was also my first time going nude. It was such a beautiful natural setting with nice people and not crowded on the weekend at this time. Aya has been to many hot springs around the world and said this was the best one in terms of setting and set up. In the summer there are bat tours as bats come from New Mexico and you can watch them come in and out at night as they hunt for insects. I guess I will have to come back :)

The pools were not so hot, but were so natural w/ soil and trees right against the pools; surround by rocks and deer mules. We can see the valley and mts from the top pools. The sauna was also excellent; it had a cool small pool in it, which was refreshing while heating up in a 160deg room.

The next day we drove an hour south to the dunes. We hiked 1.5 miles to one of the top dunes, which took 1.5 hrs up and 30 min down. I went bare foot as my new hiking boots started hurting me (was wearing thin socks and need to break those boots in). It was so windy during the whole hike and even more so when we summited the dune.  We were so tired from the windy, sunny hike, good thing we decided to camp another night at the hot springs rather than the original plan of camping at the dunes.

We also had the full moon closest to the earth in 19 yrs, we were told. After soaking, we sat in the jeep and snacked while staring up at the moon. The best drive in movie for sure! Even the hot springs area was windy. So far I am finding CO awesome but windy and dry.

Sunday afternoon we stopped by Buena Vista on the way back to CO Springs and met the guys for a quick run around the Garden of the Gods, which is an excellent place for rock climbers. Click here for photos.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Scramble in Little roack and off to CO

Kyle, our host, took us on a scramble hike to Pinnacles mt near Little Rock at 1,000 ft. It was steep and had to use some arm muscles to pull meself up time to time. But we made it to the top and saw 4 hawks flying. Later that day car shop told us we have to stay another night in AR. I uploaded new pix in the Little Rock photo album.

Next day got out at 8am and got to Colorado Springs by midnight, passing thru boring Oklahoma hwy 40, then northern Texas which was a bit ore scenic with farm lands. Pit stop at a bbq shack then to New Mexico and finally to CO. Probably the most I ever drove (remember I am a Manhattan girl) and don't drive much at night. Not a fan and hopefully we won't find ourselves in this situation again.

Greg got to meet up with the guys to do a mt climb this weekend. And Aya and I are off to the hot springs and Great Sand Dunes National Park to camp for the weekend. Click here for pix on the road to CO.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Little Rock - an unexpected 2 nite stay

Well the Vagabonding book said not to over plan and have a schedule while traveling for months b/c u won't be able to stick to it :) It's funny how "plans" gives us an illusion of control. And so here I am in Little Rock, AR for 2 nights. Not a scheduled stop on the trip.

Yesterday, we were driving from Memphis to Oklahoma City, made a pit stop in Little Rock to pick up some groceries and there goes the tire. The11 yr old jeep is heavy and while making a hard turn in the rain, the tire came off and the axle broke hitting a median thingy.

Luckily, we were fine and hit nothing/no one else. We have AAA and I got on to couchsurfing website to post an emergency host request. Kyle, a 24 yr Air force pilot, had the day off and picked us up at the shop and put us up for 2 nights. He has a sweet black 12 yr old lab, Ruddy. We went to an Irish pub with some of Kyle's friends and then parties some more at his house. Nite two, Kyle took me to a skeptic at the pub event with the Arkansas Society of Free Thinkers. Nice people, mostly science type peeps. My first event like this, glad i went. When we got home, we helped Kyle bottle his homemade wine. Other first, who knew AR offered so much! Click here for pix.

So lesson learned on week 2 of this trip - take it easy :) We are making the best of this event. People are really nice here and I am thankful things worked out as it could have been worse.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Crawling in Caves in KY

Sat, we arrived at Mamonth Cave around 1pm. Did a few easy, kinda boring, trails by the visiting center. We did our first camping and it was a nice clear night to see some stars and the moon. The next day, we were ready to start a 6.5 hr cave tour, which entailed some rock canyoning, crawling and hands and feet, and laying on our tummies to drag our bodies through some tight spots and holes. I'm so glad I am little as it was a little nerve wrecking. Greg said I did well as a spider monkey. We saw two tiny bats, the length of my index finger. They were sleeping. Apparently not all bats stay in colonies.

This cave is the longest in the world with 392 miles, not in a straight shot of course, and spread amoung levels. We crawled/hike 5.5 miles. We saw some minerals and crystals, but nothing amazing. There were some 150 ft high domes that were cool to see from below. We also turned our headlights off and stayed quiet twice, which was neat to experience in a cave.

Showered quickly, left by 5pm and arrived in Memphis by 10pm and surfed with a new friend, Johnathan. Stayed up for a few hrs catching up on computer work and chatted about food health, consumerism, etc.  Did not get to check out Memphis as we head to CO by 3/17. Click here for cave pix.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nashville - Music, Pork, BBQ & Sun

I did not mention this last time but while I was in Asheville on Wed, Greg drove home to Greenville, SC for a scheduled ear surgery as other treatments were not working. A few weeks ago, he was told he has a cyst in his ear causing hearing problems. The cat scan showed that the cyst is located on a bone that requires a specialist to remove. So hopefully we can find a specialist next week while we are in CO.

Thurs afternoon, we were able to drive through the middle of Smoky NP, so I got to see it technically. It was rainy, snowy, and cold; no hiking or camping for us. Got to Nashville in the evening (5ish hr drive) and was hosted by a new friend, Todd, via It was a last minute plan to stay in Nashville and Todd was nice enough to host us for 2 nights. Todd has a cute loft cottage on the east side. And he is pet sitting, Cosmo, a 5 week old pup! I fell in love instantly.

Greg is sick now so it's been mellow nights. Fri, we had our first sunny day and walked all over city for about 6 hrs. Took random fun city pix. And I can't believe how many churches we saw in one block, many Baptists churches and Christian billboards, signs, ads, stores, etc. Jebus, it is strange. We made it out to a bar with a foosball table, of course I played well, but too smokey to stay long. Have not been in a smokey bar in years. I guess another new thing to get use to.

Today, we are off to KY to hike some trails at Mammoth Cave NP, KY. Sun we booked a 6.5 hr cave tour!  And, today marks me being on the road for one full week and I still have no clue what I am doing :) Click here for Smoky NP and Nashville, TN pix.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

South We Go: VA & NC

Nice sunny but long drive (7.5 hr) from VA to Boone, NC to see one of my best mates, Kelly. I met Kelly in Italy on a HS trip when we were 16 and we've been pen pals ever since On the way we saw the Foamhenge. This is my first time in NC. Blue ridge drive was nice, but Shenadoah NP was closed due to snow :(

Got to spend 2 nites in one place finally. But learning that organizing photos, making captions and blogging takes a few hours. I feel terrible that I don't get to chill with my friends in this short time we have.

We did a nice 4 mile hike and take some great Mt shots. Also got to see some Confederate flags, random huge crosses posted in hills. Kelly made a great chicken parm dinner with veggies and quinoa. At dinner, I learned that only 5 yrs ago NC allowed lottery gambling. I also learned that tattoos were illegal in SC till recently. Oh and that one can get insurance for body parts such as actresses doing so for the butts or models for their legs. So much I did not know :)

Wed 3/9 headed to Asheville. Got to stay with a girl I met over 3 years ago who stayed with me in PDX. She is a free spirited. It was a rainy day so we chilled with some of her friends talking about road trips. Due to weather, today, we decided to go to Nashville, TN for 2 nights and skip over Smokey Mts :( To view VA & NC pix, click here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

First 2 Days on the road: Learning the Ropes

Left NYC last Sat to DC. Only got to stay in DC for 1 night and a day. Have not been here since i was 17 and wanted to get a feel for the city. But it was a rainy day so we hit the National Gallery and National Air and Space Museum; most of which are free! The images taken in space of other planets were so amazing. I could not believe those were true images. So amazed, I did not take a photo of it :( I did experience that getting in, around, and out of DC is a nightmare via car. We stayed with my Kelly's friend Tiffany who I have not see since we met in FL 4 yrs ago. Was great to see her and appreciated her showing us around. Wish we had more time to stay but need to be in CO by 3.17 to meet up with some friends.

We took a nap in the jeep and tested out Greg's platform that he made. It works, just very crapped. Drove to Fredericksburg, VA (1 hr S. Of DC) to crash with college friend Tamika, who is in the air force and moved here from NJ 3 months ago. A quick visit, but good to see friends. Click here for DC pix.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Farewell NYC - hello Road Trip

Spent a full day in AC w/ dad (kind of a tradition) and my college friend Todd came with. Left at 6am, was back by midnight. Dad did well w/ roulette; even I walked away w/ $150 which is rare. Todd & I enjoyed some sun and cold wind on the boardwalk; had a nice conversation w/ an older kinda bum-like guy about how we waste food and should have a homeless food recycling program. There's also a cat project on the beach to spay/neuter strays..

I didn't mention this before but on my 2nd day in NYC, my dad's car was hit in NJ while he was at a stop sign. Dad walked away just fine, but totaled his Cadillac, which he got a good deal so he was not happy about this. So it was nice for him to have a good day in AC.

After AC, we drove to Philly as it is kind of on the way, to see my brother's house in progress. He's been fixing his first home for 2 yrs and it is a huge project. We went to a nice seafood/steak place called Captiol Grill. Awesome lobster bisque. We played Wii bowling while dad napped. Wish we could have stayed in Philly longer.

This week, I feel like i am all over the place juggling so many schedules; this will be a new lifestyle to adjust to. I got on my family's cell phone plan to save $$$, but miss the iphone and internet :( Greg, my travel partner, arrived on Mon from SC. We have not seen each other since Thanksgiving. We  discussed travel plans and tour around the cold, windy, sunny city.

My old job, AGPA, happened to have their huge conference this week here so not only did I see my former supervisors but a few members as well. I've been walking a few miles a day it seems taking pix of bldgs and even bldgs we use to live in. So many memories have been coming back, so much I have lived for 27 yrs here. But it's been sad seeing all the garbage blowing on the sidewalks. I've also noticed so many shopping stores. It's all we do here, such a high consumption city. But is that really keeping people happy?
Friday night was my farewelll party with all sorts of friends in attendance starting in midtown at my parent's apt. Was awesome seeing people coming from PA, VA, CT, etc. Sat morning we went to DC/VA area for 2 nights then continue to NC to see Kelly (friend from HS) in Boone and Spyce in Asheville. Click here for pix, Greg took some good ones from the party that I need to grab.