SE Road Trip – Congaree & Atlanta

The tangle of the Congaree Swamp
The tangle of the Congaree Swamp

Congaree National Park was our last major destination for the trip.  One of the newest National Parks, it’s basically just one big swamp best explored by canoe or kayak.  We didn’t have time to rent one so we were going to be limited to the few hiking trails but it was supposed to be a unique and interesting park so we were excited.  After arriving to the park we discovered that there was just one campground open however it was not only free but completely unoccupied.  We walked through the sites and found a pretty great site with plenty of space and in the middle of pretty trees.  We really wanted s’mores and a fire so we drove into the nearest ‘town’ to get some food, s’more supplies and firewood.  This turned out to be a difficult task but after some effort we found s’more supplies and decided we’d forge for firewood.  Back at camp we made awesome caprese sandwiches, built a campfire, made s’mores, listened to music and relaxed.  At some point in the evening we heard someone setting up camp nearby and they built a fire.  After we went to bed we woke up, it sounded like the forest was on fire.  Eric went to check it out and saw their campfire was just a tree they chopped down and lit on fire.  Of course it went on longer than they wanted to stay up so they went to bed with it completely ablaze.  Crossing our fingers they didn’t really start a forest fire we went back to sleep.

A nice campground all to ourselves.
A nice campground all to ourselves.
That's what I like to see in a mosquito meter.  In the Everglades it was a 5.  Yuck.
That’s what I like to see in a mosquito meter. In the Everglades it was a 5. Yuck.

In the morning we chatted with a ranger and made our plan for the day (really only one actual hike in the park so it didn’t take long.)  We drove to the visitor center, checked the mosquito meter (all clear thank goodness) and started the walk.  The walk wasn’t long but very pretty and interesting.  The trees and plants have developed very unique methods for surviving in the swamp and there were many types of flowers we didn’t have in the PNW to look at it.  After a few hours we had seen what we could in the park so we headed back to the car.  Congaree is worth a visit but you should definitely rent a canoe and camp on the river (in spring before the mosquitos come.)  We packed up and drove to Atlanta.

Free camping in Congaree was nice.  Daniel sporting the headlamp for the photo.
Free camping in Congaree was nice. Daniel sporting the headlamp for the photo.

Atlanta was a city we had been wanting to visit so we chose it as our city to fly home from.  We had found a hotel in Midtown to stay at and checked in with Taylor’s cousins to find spots to eat and things to do.  After checking in we relaxed for a bit and Eric discovered the hotel (part of the Georgia Tech Campus) had the fastest internet he’d seen so we started downloaded dozens of movies and TV series to stock up on things to watch during our 2 years in the Peace Corps.  For dinner we had enormous burgers at a place called Vortex and then walked around for a bit.  Unfortunately we learned that most of Atlanta is not great for walking around and without a great plan of things to see we were a little bored.  We went back to the hotel to use the pool before crashing for the night.

The next morning we had a huge Southern breakfast at Mary Mac’s Tea Room.  It was awesome.  Not knowing what else to do we went back to our Miami plan and looked up the best coffee shop in Atlanta.  It worked again.  Not only was it an awesome place but in a really neighborhood where MLK Jr. used to live.  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore the area but we took note of the spot and will definitely explore it more if we make it back to Atlanta.

That’s it, our 6 weeks of exploring America was over.  We said goodbye to Daniel (who promises to visit us in Kyrgyzstan) and sat in the airport.  The trip was amazing.  Between the two trips, we had been driving nearly 40 days and seen some of the best America has to offer.  We visited 12 National Parks and 14 states.  Had amazing food and drinks.  Saw some beautiful places and some odd things.  We were able to say goodbye to a lot of family. I don’t think we could have planned things out any better.  America has been seen, Kyrgyzstan, here we come.

SE Road Trip – St Augustine

We headed to St Augustine mainly because it lay between Cape Canaveral and Congaree National Park.  One of Daniel’s friends suggested it was the only place worth exploring and without alternate plans, that’s where we decided to go.  We arrived pretty late and elected to head into town to see what it looked like at night.  It was quiet.  And a little boring.  We decided to head back the next day and see if things were better.  The next day we drove back into the Old Town area and walked around.  We decided first to go see the National Monument, Castillo de San Marcos, an old fort.  It was pretty interesting because its history dates back far.  St Augustine is actually the oldest continually-occupied city in the US.  The ranger who led a tour was great and we learned many interesting facts.

These hills were built around the fort to prevent anyone from getting a good shot at it and to allow fort guns to have more time to mow down the enemy.
These hills were built around the fort to prevent anyone from getting a good shot at it and to allow fort guns to have more time to mow down the enemy.

After the fort we went to get some lunch from a New Orleans restaurant which was delicious (one last po’ boy for Eric.)  From there everything went downhill. We went to a pirate museum that was really cheesy and we suspected had fake artifacts.  We drove to another museum about the Fountain of Youth but it looked like a total tourist trap.  Nothing left to do in the town we drove towards Congaree National Park.  If you go to St Augustine, see the old fort and leave.

SE Road Trip – Rocket Launches & Manatees at Cape Canaveral

Leaving Miami we drove North on the coast towards Cape Canaveral.  We checked into yet another crummy Florida hotel in the lovely sounding but disappointing, Cocoa Beach.  In the evening we walked down to the beach for a bit and saw a sunset.  In true Florida style we used our campstove to boil some corn outside of our motel room door.  We went to bed a little early to rest up for our big day tomorrow, visiting Kennedy Space Center and seeing a rocket launch.

Eric was really excited in the morning, he’d been wanting to go to Kennedy Space Center for 25 years.  The museum is amazing and whether or not you have an interest in space or aircraft it’s definitely worth visiting.  The amount of incredible historical pieces, fascinating videos and mind-blowing information would keep anyone entertained.  From the moment you walk onto the grounds, you spot the ‘Rocket Garden’, a collection of old rockets from the many programs NASA has had.  From there you can visit the new Space Shuttle Pavilion and see the actual Space Shuttle Atlantis alongside the entire space shuttle program history.  A bus will take you to our favorite part, the Apollo program/Saturn V rocket center.  As you exit the bus you enter the actual Apollo Mission Control Center.  Not a replica but the real Center which has been extended to allow for an audience to watch the screens come to life and recreate an Apollo launch – very cool.

 

The actual, original mission control for the Apollo missions was turned into this re-enactment
The actual, original mission control for the Apollo missions was turned into this re-enactment

We learned on our bus ride out to the Apollo Center we had the rare chance to watch the Space X rocket launch from the Apollo Center lawn.  This spot was usually reserved for VIPs but they were opening it to the public.  After exploring the area we bought some food and beer and took a front row spot along the fence.  We felt like we were right back in the 60s.  Drinking beer, eating a cheeseburger and waiting for a rocket launch surrounded by all these buildings we had seen in old movies.  After about an hour we were jolted back to the modern day when a tweet alerted us that the launch was cancelled to do a helium leak.  Disappointing but it was still a great day.  We sucked down our beers and tried to beat the line to get back to the buses to take us to our car.

 

Our next destination was St Augustine Florida but first we wanted to drive through the Cape Canaveral National Seashore.  As we entered the protected area we saw a large gator and pulled over so Daniel could see one for the first time.  Tempting fate he tried to pet the alligator, luckily the gator decided to hiss and walk away instead of eating him.  That could have been a bummer.  We kept driving through keeping an eye on the sky, it looked like the sunset was going to be great.  While searching Google Maps for a spot to park and watching the sunset, we spotted a place called ‘manatee dock’ right in front of us.  We’d missed manatees in all the places we were told they often were spotted but we thought we’d give it one more spot.  It was a good choice because pulling up to the dock we saw at least 5 manatees rolling around in the water.  Pretty cool way to end the day.  We took some photos of the sunset and drove to our hotel in St Augustine.

SE Road Trip – Biscayne NP & Miami

The NPS boat fleet at Biscayne National Park
The NPS boat fleet at Biscayne National Park

In the morning we left the Keys and headed towards Miami and Biscayne National Park.  We weren’t sure what to expect of the park, it’s almost entirely underwater, unique because it’s a beautiful reef to dive but when you surface you see downtown Miami.  However we didn’t have time to dive and the boat operators working with the park had gone out of business so we didn’t have a way to get out on the water.  We stopped by the visitor center which was mildly interesting and walked on the dock.  Unfortunately there was little to do.  I guess it’s not a fair comparison given the issues with the concessionaires but it was the most disappointing park we’ve been to.

 

This complex hosts several cool galleries and a cafe
This complex hosts several cool galleries and a cafe
For several blocks, every building is covered in this art
For several blocks, every building is covered in this art

We drove from Biscayne into Miami while trying to find a hotel for cheap.  We had given up on Florida campgrounds, spending an extra $5 for a real bed and shower was much better than dealing with the mosquitos, drunk rednecks and the terrible facilities we’d surely find.  Heading into Miami we had zero plans so before going to the motel we went to check out a coffee shop that Daniel had heard was great.  It was in the Wynwood/Design District of Miami which we hadn’t heard about before but it turned out to be very cool, nearly every building was covered in large, beautiful murals.  The coffee shop was packed but fun once we were able to find a place to sit.  Daniel, in his never-ending quest to talk to every stranger he met struck up a conversation with the girl next to him.  She suggested we stick around for the art show in the neighborhood that evening so our plans were made.

 

We had to try the Cuban street food
We had to try the Cuban street food

After the coffee shop we dropped checked into the hotel and head back to the Design District.  We got there early so we could easily find parking and saw where the food trucks were arriving.  Once it got darker things livened up and we had a blast.  Amazing street food, tons of galleries with unique and cool art plus perfect weather.  We stayed and walked around for a couple hours before making the mistake of heading to South Beach.  South Beach is terrible.  We finally chose a place to eat dinner because the food prices looked reasonable and they were offering 2 for 1 drinks.  Well, the food was mediocre and 2 for 1 drinks is not a good deal when they are $26 DOLLARS EACH!  Yuck.  Went back to the art show and saw some more cool stuff.

 

A couple times a month this street festival happens, lucky for us it was the night we were there
A couple times a month this street festival happens, lucky for us it was the night we were there

On the way out of Miami we stopped at Versailles, the most famous Cuban restaurant in the world they claim. It was delicious, highly recommended.  We finished and got in the car, heading towards Cape Canaveral.  If you go to Miami, avoid South Beach, go to Wynwood.

Delicious Cuban food
Delicious Cuban food

SE Road Trip – New Orleans

(We intended to keep as detailed blog posts as we did with the West Coast Road trip however we ran out of time.  We did want to show some photos and stories from our highlights. Hope you enjoy this series of belated entries.) With only a day at home to unpack from the West Coast, clean some of our gear and clothes and re-pack for warm weather we were in a huge hurry.  Early the next morning we flew to our first stop, New Orleans.  New Orleans was really high on our ‘List of Cities We Need to Visit’ and we couldn’t wait to see it.  Because of the time change we were due to arrive in the afternoon.  We planned on getting our rental car, head to the hotel to take a nap and maybe explore the city in the afternoon.  Our hotel was located on the edge of the French Quarter and as we drove into town we immediately decided there was no time to nap, we needed to explore the city a bit. We had three goals for our roadtrips; Eat as much food as we could, see many parts of America we hadn’t seen yet and see family.  New Orleans was not only a new city for us but happens to have some pretty amazing cuisine.  Not 2 minutes outside of our hotel was Acme Oyster, home of the ‘Dozen Dozen Oysters’ eating challenge.  This was our first stop.  We skipped the challenge but definitely wanted some seafood.  A dozen oysters with an oyster & shrimp po’ boy was the perfect start to our trip.  We walked around the city for a bit but running on fumes we decided to take a nap before finding dinner and seeing the city at night.

Our first night I got my favorite photo of the trip of this couple deciding on a whim to dance to the amazing live music of the streets of New Orleans
Our first night I got my favorite photo of the trip of this couple deciding on a whim to dance to the amazing live music of the streets of New Orleans

Continue reading “SE Road Trip – New Orleans”

West Coast Road Trip – Days 17 & 18 – Time to go home

3/28/14 to 3/30/14 Time to go home

Leaving Capitol Reef, we settled in for the long drive to Salt Lake City.  We didn’t know much about the city, but we’d heard it was nice.  We arrived in the city after 4 or 5 hours and plugged in the address of the AirBNB we were staying at. The place sounded fun, advertised as an urban farm with ducks, chickens, fresh eggs, and good company.  We arrived not quite sure what to make of it. We must have been in the worst neighborhood in SLC (who knew they had those?)  We walked in with the code given to us and were pointed to our room.  It reminded us a bit o of being back in college (ok a lot) with handmade ‘furniture’ and clutter all over.  Our room was clean and quiet enough, plus it was just one night, so we unpacked and went to find dinner.

On our 2nd to last night, we decided to celebrate with a perfect bottle of wine
On our 2nd to last night, we decided to celebrate with a perfect bottle of wine

At dinner we texted Kyle Dempster, the climber who made the video about his bike/climbing trip he took to Kyrgyzstan (Link to video) and lived in SLC, to see if he could meet that evening or tomorrow morning.  He was available to meet the next morning, and we met him at Higher Ground, the coffee shop he co-owned.  Kyle was the first person we met who had actually been to Kyrgyzstan, and it was awesome talking him and learning what his experience was like.  He had great info for us and he also mentioned he would be returning to Kyrgyzstan later in September, perhaps we’d meet again.

After coffee we drove to Boise to stay with Eric’s longtime family friends, Larry and Sandi.  We had last stayed with them on a previous road trip, and we knew it would be a nice evening (likely involving wine.)  Sandi cooked us a nice meal, Eric enviously examined Larry’s new Corvette, and much wine was enjoyed.  We’ve been so fortunate to have friends and family we’ve been able to stay with.  Not only is it fun to have a bit of a farewell tour saying goodbye to people we won’t see for a couple years, but it’s great to get out of the hotel/camping routine and stay in a home.

At the SLC AirBNB place, this cat decided Taylor's shirt was a perfect pillow
At the SLC AirBNB place, this cat decided Taylor’s shirt was a perfect pillow

We had a delicious breakfast the next morning and settled in for the drive home.  We hoped to stop by the Tri-Cities to see a friend of Eric’s, but we were running low on time and had a growing list of items we had to take care of back home.  We pressed on and made it home safe and sound.  It was an awesome vacation. It was a bit crazy to think this was just the first half.

 

Stats:

Miles Driven –

  • Miles Walked, hiked and climbed – 134
  • States Visited – 8
  • National Parks visited – 9
  • Speeding Tickets – 0!

 

West Coast Road Trip – Days 15 & 16 – Capitol Reef NP

3/27/14 to 3/28/14  Capitol Reef

Petroglyphs in Capitol Reef
Petroglyphs in Capitol Reef

Our first priority in the morning was to decide where to spend the night.  The weather forecast for Capitol Reef was the same windy and chilly weather that there currently was in Moab and camping didn’t sound like fun.  We found a Days Inn near the park that was more expensive than camping but seemed much more appealing, so we booked a room and headed out.  The drive out was another beautiful one, and about four hours later we arrived in the park.  After talking to the ranger in the visitor center we learned that this was another park we weren’t quite prepared for. We needed off-road capability for some trails and water shoes to wade through puddles in others.  There still was plenty to do so we drove south towards a series of washes.

We had to walk around numerous pools in the canyon
We had to walk around numerous pools in the canyon
There was an odd pattern laced through the walls of the canyon
There was an odd pattern laced through the walls of the canyon

Capitol Reef is fairly unique among the parks because there aren’t a great deal of established trails. Instead, many of the trails originate in washes that flood out during storms and end in slot canyons.  Because of conditions, we went to Cottonwood Wash and we were the only car there when we arrived.  The hike starts out for about a mile through a winding empty creek bed, but after that the dirt walls give way to rock where the water has created amazing formations.  It was interesting hiking but not quite the slot canyon we were expecting.  This changed another ½ mile in and it became a classic slot canyon after that.  The canyon was really fun to hike through. Sometimes it was a sandy bottom, other times you had to scramble over rock to avoid deep, muddy puddles.  We soon reached an impasse – a narrow slot canyon still had a deep puddle from a storm several days earlier.  We tried to climb around it, but we couldn’t find a way and hiked back towards the car.  As the sun was getting lower in the sky, the walls of the canyons came alive! We could see why people referred to the rock walls in the canyon as a rainbow of color.

Cottonwood wash in Capitol Reef NP
Cottonwood wash in Capitol Reef NP
This is the pool that stopped us in Capitol Reef, wrong shoes!
This is the pool that stopped us in Capitol Reef, wrong shoes!

Next we drove to Panorama Point to watch the sunset.  From here, we hiked to Goosenecks overlook, where we sat and waited for the sun to go down.  We met a father and daughter from Portland and discussed whether the sun was going to peak through the clouds at sunset or stay hidden.  We saw some color in the clouds, but not a ton; was other pleasant end to the evening, though.  On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at a café just outside the park for dinner and beer which was quite good.

We tried to find a way around the pool of water but couldn't see a route
We tried to find a way around the pool of water but couldn’t see a route
Just a sampling of the crazy rock colors in Capitol Reef.  Go Huskies!
Just a sampling of the crazy rock colors in Capitol Reef. Go Huskies!

The next morning we ate, checked out of the hotel, and drove back to the park for a couple more hikes.  The first began in Grand Wash – the largest of the many washes in the park – and then climbed the canyon walls before ending at Cassidy Arch.  Cassidy Arch, named after Butch Cassidy who allegedly hid out in the canyon below, is a cool find – hidden from view until you are nearly on top of it.  After getting back down we drove to Cohab Canyon.  The hike starts out climbing steeply for about 800’ up switchbacks until you arrive to a narrow canyon elevated above the surrounding area.  We hiked to two viewpoints, eating lunch at the second.  The view was great.  Capitol Reef has the best visibility in the contiguous US, often reaching 150 miles.

The sun lights the cliffs opposite the valley from Capitol Reef
The sun lights the cliffs opposite the valley from Capitol Reef

On our way out of the park we stopped to take photos at the park entrance sign.  This was the last park for the trip. Unfortunately, our West Coast trip was nearing the end.  But it wasn’t quite over; we had two nights remaining and quite a bit of driving to do.

Waiting for the sunset at Capitol Reef
Waiting for the sunset at Capitol Reef
Cassidy arch, named after Butch Cassidy
Cassidy arch, named after Butch Cassidy

 

West Coast Road Trip – Day 14 – Canyonlands NP

3/26/14  Canyonlands

This is part of a 100 mile off-road loop in Canyonlands
This is part of a 100 mile off-road loop in Canyonlands

The next morning we ate a quick breakfast and drove an hour into Canyonlands National Park.  Canyonlands is divided into three sections.  Island in the Sky and the Needles districts are both easily accessible by car but a long drive from each other, while the Maze district is more remote and accessible by long hikes or off-roading.  We chose to go to the Island in the Sky for its accessibility from Moab and expansive views for sunsets.  When we reached the visitor center the weather seemed perfect for hiking – a bit cool, keeping the crowds away.  We drove to Mesa Arch, named for the great view of the mesa as you look through the arch, and attempted to get a photo of us sitting on it without a crowd around (we had to settle for stitching several photos together.)

Us sitting on top of Mesa Arch
Us sitting on top of Mesa Arch
The wind was so strong Taylor sat down during the hike
The wind was so strong Taylor sat down during the hike

Leaving the arch, we drove down to Green River Outlook while Eric played with a sunset app on his phone. We were trying to figure out the best spot to watch the sunset this evening.  The outlook was beautiful with views of the Maze and several canyons below.  We continued to the end of the road to the parking area for Upheaval Dome, one of the largest mysteries in the park.  During the 2-mile hike we learned about the various theories for how it came to be, while we battled increasingly windy weather.  The wind got so strong on the way back that Taylor had to sit down since nothing was around to brace herself.  We made it back to the car, ate, and headed to our next stop.

Canyonlands
Canyonlands
The expanse of Canyonlands NP
The expanse of Canyonlands NP

The downside of the Island in the Sky district is the lack of many long hiking trails, so we found another short trail to a great overlook named Murphy’s Point.  The trail was flat but 4 miles round trip so a little bit of a chance to stretch our legs.  The second we arrived back at the trailhead rain began to fall, perfect timing!  We drove to our last stop, Grand View Point Overlook, and when the rain let up we walked out to the viewpoint.  The view was the best we had seen in the park – with Needles in front of us, the Maze to our right, and the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers in the distance.  We decided this was the spot to watch the sunset, hoping that the stormy weather would provide for a spectacular show, but we still had a couple hours of daylight left.

No, Eric isn't about to jump to his doom, the wind was so strong in Canyonlands you had to lean into it to stay in place
No, Eric isn’t about to jump to his doom, the wind was so strong in Canyonlands you had to lean into it to stay in place

Having done most of what we could in this section of the park, we rested in the car for a bit as sunset got closer.  As the sun set we had the overlook to ourselves. It’s pretty awesome when you get to experience the parks in such solitude.  The sunset didn’t quite live up to our expectations, but it was still a nice finish to another great day.  We went back to town for our final night and got ready to head to Capitol Reef.

Eric found a perfect (and perfectly safe seat) in Canyonlands
Eric found a perfect (and perfectly safe seat) in Canyonlands

West Coast Road Trip – Days 12-13 – Arches National Park

3/24/14 to 3/25/14  Arches

Looking backwards from Delicate Arch we could see the sun setting
Looking backwards from Delicate Arch we could see the sun setting

It was another long but easy drive to Moab. We arrived too early to check in to the B&B we would be spending the next three nights in, so we decided to find a brewery to have lunch in.  Driving into town we were pretty disappointed; we had expected to find a fun little town similar to Bend, OR with great restaurants and beer, but instead we found a little stop along the highway that just happened to be conveniently located near beautiful parks.  Luckily, we did find the one brewery in town, where we got a little primer on the state’s liquor laws (which probably explained the lack of any decent brewery in town.)  We ate lunch and sampled their beer before heading back to the house to check in and get settled.  We met our host, Erin, who had some tips on where to go in the area – we decided to make our way to Delicate Arch in Arches NP (the arch in the Utah license plate) for sunset.

A large crowd gathers each night to watch the sun set at Delicate Arch
A large crowd gathers each night to watch the sun set at Delicate Arch
Sun sets behind delicate arch
Sun sets behind delicate arch

Along the way into the park, we stopped by the visitor center to find out if there were openings available for a tour into the Fiery Furnace.  Although they were booked a month out, they had just gotten a cancellation in the past ten minutes for the following morning’s tour – perfect!  The Delicate Arch trailhead is a short way into the park, and we pulled into the parking lot to find that everyone in the park that evening had also decided this was the place to go to watch the sunset.  It’s a short 1 mile hike up a slick rock ramp to the arch ‘amphitheater.’ We settled into where Eric thought a nice spot would be.  As sunset approached, many people were posing under the arch and several of the 30-40 photographers began yelling at them to move (we had heard this sometimes gets physical), and amazingly people responded to the photographer’s shouts and got out of the way as the ideal lighting conditions came.  After sunset, we decided to stay around until the stars came out. It became very peaceful as the crowd of 200 or so dwindled to just over a dozen.  A few more photos with the stars and we headed back down to the car and into town.

Delicate Arch under the stars
Posing in front of Landscape Arch, the longest free-standing arch in the world
Posing in front of Landscape Arch, the longest free-standing arch in the world

The following day we had an ambitious plan to get up early and hike to Landscape Arch before meeting for the 10am tour we had signed up for.  Landscape Arch was amazing – at over 300’ long it’s the largest free standing arch in the world.  Unfortunately, you are no longer permitted to hike under it since a couple of decades ago several massive sections broke off while people picnicked underneath (luckily no one was hurt.)  We saw several other arches on the short loop and drove to the Fiery Furnace.  This is a very cool section of the park that requires you to either reserve a permit in advance or sign up for a guided tour.  The narrow slot canyons are very confusing and there are a lot of fragile plants inside the area, so they limit the number of people who can be in at any time.  We definitely recommend signing up for a tour well in advance of visiting Arches.

Taylor squeezing through a tight space in the Fiery Furnace
Taylor squeezing through a tight space in the Fiery Furnace

Fiery Furnace was awesome! We loved scrambling around and learning about the history and ecology of the area from the excellent ranger leading the tour.  At the end of the tour, you come across Surprise Arch which was our favorite arch in the entire park.  The group all shared what brought them to Arches, and after Taylor shared our story we learned that the woman next to us had been in the Peace Corps working as a ranger in a Thailand National Park (we were so jealous!) Her husband was from Burma, a country that we hope to visit soon, but it’s difficult to research, so it’s great we now have a resource who can help us.  After the Fiery Furnace we went back to Moab to have lunch and rest before heading back to the park for the evening.

Standing in one of the many canyons in the Fiery Furnace
Standing in one of the many canyons in the Fiery Furnace

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Our group walking along the 'trail' in the Fiery Furnace
Our group walking along the ‘trail’ in the Fiery Furnace

 

We wanted to catch one more sunset and decided to head to Windows Arch, but first we made stops at Park Avenue and Double Arch.  Both were great, but Double Arch is especially cool; it was fun climbing up the western side to look out across the park from inside the arch.  From Double Arch we walked across the look to Windows Arches as the sunset neared for our final arch in the park, Turret Arch.  It offers a great view across the park from inside the arch, and Eric found another fun thing to climb.  As the sunlight faded away we debated staying for more star shots, but we were hungry so we made our way back into Moab to eat and rest up for Canyonlands the next morning.

Sunset in Arches as seen from Turret Arch
Sunset in Arches as seen from Turret Arch

West Coast Road Trip – Days 10-12 – Antelope Canyon, Mesa Verde & Black Canyon of the Gunnison NPs

3/21/14 through 3/24/14 : Antelope Canyon, Mesa Verde National Park and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Taylor coming down the stairs to lower Antelope Canyon
Taylor coming down the stairs to lower Antelope Canyon

After leaving the Grand Canyon, Eric was really excited because we finished the hike early enough to make a stop at Antelope Canyon, a dream location for any photographer.  It took several hours to make the drive and it looked like we only had time to make it to Lower Antelope Canyon.  The canyon is split into two parts, Upper & Lower. The upper section is the more photographed section, but the lower supposedly has the advantage of being able to walk around and photograph at your leisure.  Unfortunately the stop started out on a negative note as they refused to sell Eric a photographer’s permit because they were closing in about 90 minutes (Eric was willing to pay for the 2 hour permit despite that.)  This meant he wasn’t able to bring a tripod into the canyon, and we had to stay with a group. We decided we had driven all the way there, so we’d make the best of it.

Eric & Taylor in Antelope Canyon
Eric & Taylor in Antelope Canyon

The slot canyon is amazing and we really enjoyed exploring it. There were some more frustrating aspects, though.  It’s on Navajo land – best we can tell all the operators are locals and they hire only people from the reservation.  This is great but they seem to have a minimum number of people they need to employ and the result is a lot of employees standing around.  Our ‘guide’ seemed to think his job was to grab your camera and take a mediocre photo, or tell you to be careful – we were expecting a little bit of history or geology info.  We continued to take photos until it was too dark to keep going, climbed up and out of the slot canyon, and finished our drive into Cortez, CO.

Continue reading “West Coast Road Trip – Days 10-12 – Antelope Canyon, Mesa Verde & Black Canyon of the Gunnison NPs”