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Thanks for visiting.  I started this site to keep a running blog during a 30 day road trip I took in late August and early September 2009.  The picture above was taken in Bryce Canyon while trekking through Utah visiting National Parks.  Now that the road trip is over I'll continue my blog adding updates as life continues to throw curve balls my way.  Enjoy!

Thursday
Sep102009

Camping Near Canyonlands National Park (North), Utah

I have to be honest, camping has been a bit rough on my back.  I find myself waking a few times at night shifting from one side to another trying to get comfortable.  Even with an air mattress, roughing it has definitely found a new meaning with me.

Aside from tossing and turning last night, my experience camping at the Horsethief campgrounds just outside the south entrance to Canyonlands National Park was pretty awesome.  The weather was perfect - low 60s and the sunset was pretty sweet.  The amazing thing with camping out in the high desert is how clearly you can see stars and planets in the skies.  I was blown away.  Right before I turned in, I laid on my back on the picnic table, with all lights off and stared into the sky - clearly seeing the big and little dipper, north star and some bright planets.  All you could hear were crickets and the desert breeze blowing against my tent every so often.  It was quite an experience.

I woke up early this morning and had intentions of checking out both Canyonlands (south) and going for a short bike ride but only managed to fit in a few stops in Canyonlands before heading onto Capitol Reef N.P.  I checked out Mesa Arch - which officially became my favorite of all the arches I have seen (even including Arches N.P.).  Check out my pictures of Mesa Arch here.  Also included in that photo series are some pictures taken from the Green River Overlook which offers views of the canyon floor and the erosion the Colorado river has caused over millions of years. 

I highly recommend Canyonlands to anyone visiting that Southeast Utah....and of course mountain biking in Moab - that was epic!

 

Thursday
Sep102009

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park seems to be the most popular with those visiting the Moab area - but to be honest  if I had to choose between one National Park and had to choose between Arches and Canyonlands - I would pick Canyonlands.  Not that Arches is not impressive, because it is - but Canyonlands puts the visitor right at the canyon floor (at south entrance) and above the canyon at the north entrance.  It also offers very impressive expansive views of canyons as far as you can see - and arches to boot (Mesa Arch is my favorite)

As for Arches, I was able to see the major hot spots including Windows (North only), Turret Arch, Double Arch, Fiery Furnace, Devil's Playground, Pine Tree Arch, Tunnel Arch and of course Delicate arch.  I used my 150-500MM lens for the above photo of Delicate Arch as it was a 3 mile hike to get close to the arch. All the photos I took at Arches can be seen here.  Yesterday was a hot day and it felt like 100 degrees out.  I went through quite a bit of liquids and kept my hiking to short distances.

There were many more arches to check out if I was willing to hike.  I was trying to find Landscape Arch but never found it.

I would have to say that my visit to Canyonlands National Park (south entrance) kind of spoiled my visit to Arches since there are similar structures viewable at both parks.

Wednesday
Sep092009

Mountain Biking in Moab, Utah

So last night I jumped on the computer to see what mountain biking trails were close to Moab - and there were a ton listed.  I decided to hit the M.O.A.B. trail collection which is about 15 miles north of Moab.  At first I thought I would take it easy and do the less difficult 'Bar M' trail but about midway through I was looking for something a bit more challenging and took a sidetrip to 'Circle O' trail.  It was the most technical riding I have ever done and the most rewarding.  The entire ride was roughly 9-10 miles and the riding was a lot of fun.  Spectacular views into Arches National Park and surrounding red cliffs.

The above video was taken while on the 'Circle O' trail.  I would love to come back here one day and ride with a group to show them the way.  I only saw one other person while on the trail - very quiet today.

I'll be checking out Arches today then on to Canyonlands (North) to try and find a campsite for the night.  Bryce Canyon tomorrow, then Zion, then Grand Canyon and on to Vegas for a couple days.  Cell reception has been a bit erratic through Utah - so I may not be able to post again till this coming weekend.

Tuesday
Sep082009

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

My journey through Canyonlands National Park today was simply mind-blowing.  I was just telling Rachel tonight that Canyonlands now ranks first among National Parks that I've seen.  I know Arches, Bryce and Zion have a lot in store for me - but the scale of the rock formations at Canyonlands and the feeling you get as you drive by these enormous cliff faces with multi-colored rocks and boulders is beyond explanation.  You can clearly see the erosion that has taken place on the cliff faces and I actually felt as if huge boulders were on the verge of breaking lose from the cliffs - only to come crashing down on the road.

As you drive deeper into the park (South Entrance) you start to see 'needle' formations, 'spires' and distant canyons that seem to go on forever.

Every time I jumped out of my car to snap some photos I was shocked when I touched my car.  There were heavy clouds over the park and it rained every now and then.  The static electricity could explain why my camera (Nikon D90) started to act up midway through the park.  It still is not back to normal and the good news is that I have figured out how to take pictures still (in manual mode - no auto focus).

I grabbed a few decent photos even with my camera freaking out.

Tuesday
Sep082009

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

When I told my friend Tony that I was headed straight through to Canyonlands National Park in Utah from his house in Durango, CO - he strongly recommended that I stop by Mesa Verde National Park.  I'm glad I took his recommendation as Mesa Verde was really an intersting find.

Pictured above is the largest cliff dwelling in the park, consisting of 150 identified rooms and 23 Kivas - or spiritual rooms/spaces.  Since I still had a bit of a drive ahead of me into Utah, I wasn't able to view all the sites featuring different dwelling ruins and pueblo architecture.

I did however grab a few photos throughout the park which are pretty interesting.  I highly recommend this National Park to anyone traveling near the 'four-corners' area.

Tuesday
Sep082009

Welcome to Aztec, New Mexico!

It may have been cheating a bit but in an effort to add one more state to my tour - I snuck over the border from Colorado into New Mexico to check it out and attempted to visit the Aztec Ruins National Monument.  Let's just say that I plan on re-visiting New Mexico (Albuquerque or Santa Fe) and will then call it my 'first time'.  Aztec, New Mexico just didn't roll out the welcome mat for me.  After I was unable to find a breakfast place - I settled for purchasing ice and using the Wells Fargo ATM at the Safeway in town.  

The Aztec Ruins were closed when I arrived (7:45 AM) - so I just set the navigation to head towards Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado and scooted out of town.

I came across the above sign posted at the entrance to someone's driveway in rural Aztec New Mexico - enroute back to Colorado.  One side had the above message posted about President Obama and the other side had a message about good ole' ex-governor Sarah Palin.  See what they wrote in this fine collection of New Mexico photos!

Tuesday
Sep082009

Touring Durango, CO

As mentioned in the previous post, my friend Tony Gieda showed me around Durango and we drove up to Molas Pass Summit.  Here is a random collection of photos I took yesterday.

Tuesday
Sep082009

Drive from Denver to Durango, CO

This drive was probably my longest so far on the road trip but one of the most scenic (photos).  I was on the road for nearly 7 hours and it would have probably been shorter had it not been for the amazing mountain, valley and sunset views I came across while winding my way through Colorado.  The drive was very scenic, going over two mountain passes, driving through cattle ranches and quaint mountain towns.  It rained, it was sunny - I drove through both warm and cool climates. 

My friend Tony Gieda and his wife Heather live in Durango, CO - and that was the reason for including it on my itinerary.  Tony was a great host - greeting me with a burger and beers after my long drive.

The next day Tony took me on a tour of Durango, CO and we drove up to Molas Pass Summit at 10,910 feet.  The views were amazing - every where you turned.  The Aspens were just starting to turn yellow and from what Tony tells me - they'll continue to go through dramatic colorful change by the end of September.

Big thanks to Tony for accommodating me for two days in Durango - I had a great time meeting his dogs and catching up with him and his wife while I was there.

Tuesday
Sep082009

Taking a Hot Air Balloon Ride - Boulder, CO

Rachel and I thought it would be fun to try something we've never done - go for a ride in a hot air balloon.  This past Sunday we woke up around 5:00 AM in our hotel in Denver and took a short drive out to Boulder, CO where the 'Fair Winds - Hot Air Balloon Flights' company was getting ready to launch us into the skies over Boulder, CO.  To be honest, since both Rachel and I have gone skydiving together I didn't think much about going up in a balloon a few thousand feet off the ground.

The main issue I had when we were up in the skies was the height of the basket railing that we were in - which was just below my waist.  I've always had this fear that when I get close to the edge of the roof of a building - someone may come right up and push me over.  I found myself crouching down a bit to feel more comfortable.  Rachel on the other hand was practically doing jumping jacks in the basket - she didn't seem to have any fear whatsoever.

Our ride lasted just a hair over an hour and we went about 5,400 feet up in the air at a max speed of 15 MPH.  Coming back to the Earth was pretty fun as people kept coming out of their houses, staring up at us and waving.  Dogs on the other hand were not so thrilled by our presence over their backyards and you could hear them barking during the entire flight.  We had a great pilot with a great sense of humor and he managed to drop us right into a narrow field behind a house.  As we were coming down to land, our pilot Dave was not sure what town we were above so Rachel asked a lady who was standing in her backyard looking up at us and she yelled "Louisville".  As we landed, there were several residents of Louisville that jumped right in to help us bring down the balloon.

All in all - it was a great experience and one that Rachel and I will never forget.  I posted some photos of our flight.

Tuesday
Sep082009

Hiking in Golden, Colorado

This past Saturday, Rachel and I went on a hike in Golden, Colorado in Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  We were looking for a somewhat challenging trail and found it with the Burro trail.  The hike included a side trip to Windy Peak trail which provided a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and downtown Denver.  Total mileage for the hike was 6.4 miles and both Rachel and I were pretty exhausted after reaching the bottom.  Since we are both not acclimated to the altitude, we made a lot of pit stops to catch our breath and drink fluids.  Our goal while together in Denver was to do something active and get out of downtown Denver and this hike provided just that.  It was great to spend time with Rachel and do something we both enjoy but don't do often enough - hike in the mountains.  I posted some photos.

Saturday
Sep052009

Fly Fishing in Frisco, CO

 

I had a brief but fulfilling trip out to Frisco, CO (near Breckenridge) to visit with Zeke Hersh, my brother-in-law yesterday (9/4).  Although he was tied up most of the day (since it was a work day) - he did manage to teach me how to fly fish and help me land my first fish (brown trout) in short order.  We went to a nearby river in Frisco and after he showed me some of the mechanics of casting, mending and hooking - I gave it a shot and within 10-15 minutes I landed a small Brown Trout.  It was definitely a great experience - much different from regular fishing because of the skill/art involved.  I'm definitely going to invest in a rod/reel and fly fish again when I get back to the Bay Area.  Big thanks again to Zeke!

Saturday
Sep052009

Meeting Rachel in Denver

Highlight so far of the trip is seeing Rachel in Denver this past Thursday at the airport.  The toughest part of this trip is being solo and wishing she was with me to share in all the great experiences I've had.  Today, Saturday 9/5 we're planning to do something outdoors and are still trying to figure out what that may be.  Skydiving, Hot Air Ballooning, Hiking, Rafting or rattlesnake wrangling - still not sure.  Looking forward to a great day with Rachel and tomorrow as well, then I'm off to Durango, CO to visit a childhood friend - Tony Gieda and his wife.

Thursday
Sep032009

New Belgium Brewing Company - Bryan Kittle

Had a great time yesterday visiting my friend Bryan Kittle at his place of work - New Belgium Brewing Company, the brewers of one of my favorite beers - Fat Tire.  Bryan treated me to a healthy sampling of several brews on tap in the tasting room and showed me around the brewery and plant where all the packaging takes place.  I took a lot of photos and some video as well that I will post later after I piece it all together.

We grabbed some dinner and drinks after the brewery tour and played some shuffleboard - it was great to catch up with Bryan since it's been a long while since I last saw him.

Very excited today as I'll be picking up my wife Rachel at the Denver airport!

Wednesday
Sep022009

Shout Out to Ford

I'm not getting paid by Ford to say this or anything but I have to tell you that this Ford Focus SE has performed brilliantly on this road trip so far.  I have been forced to take it on some pretty torn up roads (gravel, loose dirt, rocks) due to road construction and it has not skipped a beat.  It's a solid car and has renewed my appreciation for American made cars.  Of all the U.S. automakers, I've always liked Ford the most and like the fact that they did not take any bailout money to right their ship.  The Ford commercial is now over - thanks for listening! 

Wednesday
Sep022009

The Clouds of Wyoming

In short, Wyoming surprised me big time on this trip.  It has the most incredible terrain - from Yellowstone to the Grand Tetons and even the surrounding area as you drive south towards Rawlins, WY.  Although the terrain was incredible to look at - the clouds blew me away just the same.  Maybe I'm deprived of clouds living in San Francisco - since we usually have to stare at fog most of the year - I'm not sure.  The clouds were a welcome sight and I ended up snapping over 100 shots of just clouds alone.  I drove on some pretty desolate roads and included some pics of those roads in this photo deck.

Wednesday
Sep022009

Grand Teton National Park, WY

Just as I was blown away when entering Glacier National Park, the same happened as I rounded a corner through thick forest and first saw the Grand Teton mountain range.  When I drove in, there were a lot of clouds and thunderheads forming over the mountains so I didn't get the best photos - but that was OK.

I headed straight to Colter Bay for a shower and some breakfast - and it was a great breakfast buffet!  I forget the name of the restaurant but they had an Enchilada breakfast caserole of sorts that was pretty tasty.  Eggs, potatoes, enchilada sauce, cheese and corn tortilla made lasagne style.  I hit up the general store for my daily ice/postcard purchase and then continued on to check in at the Jenny Lake campground.  This campground is for tent camping only and has 50 campsites.  I was lucky to grab the one of the last 6 sites that were available at 10:30 AM.

After setting up my camp and hanging up my rainfly to dry out (it rained the night before in Yellowstone) - I put my bike together and explored the surrounding area.  I hiked a little bit with my bike - although I was unable to ride it - not very many bike friendly trails in our National Parks.  Thunderstorms moved in pretty quickly and drenched me - only to dry off about 30 minutes later.  I eventually headed back to the campground and took a boat ride across Jenny Lake to hike up to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point which provided a great view of the lake.

After the hike, I headed to my campsite to start a fire and make some dinner.  All of the sudden a deer came over the hill from behind my campsite and started to feed on a downed pine tree directly behind my campsite - about 10 feet from where I was standing.  I took a lot of great pictures that you can see from the link below as well as some video.  The deer ended up coming back later that evening - since I guess the pine tree was pretty tasty.  I had no idea that they ate pine trees. 

The next morning I woke up pretty early, jumped on the bike and headed off towards the southern entrance to the park.  I grabbed some great photos of the Teton range - since there were no clouds.  I ended up getting a flat tire at the farthest point on my ride - but luckily I was well prepared with patch kit and pump to fix it.  I jumped back on my bike - and came across some wildlife on the way (Pronghorn and some birds I could not identify) and the way back to camp.

I jumped in the car and headed off towards Jackson, WY to check out the town and grab some breakfast.

Photos of my stay at Grand Teton National Park can be found here

Tuesday
Sep012009

Yellowstone National Park, WY

This past Saturday I left the hotel I was staying at in Gallatin Gateway and made the short trek down to Yellowstone National Park.  I first checked into the campsite that I had reserved which was called Rainbow Point Campground.  This was probably the worst campground of the three I had stayed at up until last week.  There were tons of mosquitoes - which was really annoying.  It was also a fairly long drive from the entrance to Yellowstone.  I only stayed there one night and ended up camping within Yellowstone on Sunday night.

To be honest, I kind of hit a road trip wall of sorts last Saturday and although I did see some wildlife (mostly Elk) the geothermal flats and geysers just didn't excite me enough to carry enough energy past a few hours of driving through the park.  After a night's rest however, day two at Yellowstone was a much better experience and I accomplished so much.  I got off to a really early start and immediately came across Elk and then the first wild Bison that I've seen (other than in Golden Gate Park).  I checked into the Grant campground which was a really well run campground with a general store, hot showers, laundry and more.  I highly recommend this campground. 

I headed north through the park, around Yellowstone Lake and through Hayden Meadow towards Canyon.  I wasn't expecting to see what I saw when I got out of the car to the lookout area over the Canyon falls.   The Canyon area at Yellowstone is as advertised - the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  It was an amazing site and the lookout points are not for those that are scared of heights - you really feel how high you are when you peer into the Canyon.

After hitting several lookout points for the Canyon, I ventured north again and headed towards Mount Washburn.  My goal was to hike the mountain but after finding out it was about a 4 mile hike each way,  I knew I didn't have enough time to do the hike and get back in time to make dinner, etc before dark.  I hiked up about half way and took a ton of photos. 

From Mount Washburn, which offered great views of Yellowstone, I headed back south to find a biking trail where I could turn the mountain bike loose off-road.  I found a trail with a 'bicycles allowed' marker and decided to give it a shot.  I was on the trail for maybe a mile and a half and was greeted by a 'road closed' sign that warned of an active bear area.  Deciding not to risk it - and because I was alone, I headed back towards the car and went across the street to cruise around Yellowstone Lake for a few miles.

Headed back to camp, opened a bottle of Cline Zinfandel and made a Top Chef worthy dinner of angel hair pasta with sausage and bell pepper tomato sauce (Classico).  I later called Rachel to brag of my camping cuisine prowess and also bragged about the killer campfire I built.

Yellowstone pictures can be found here.

The next morning I woke up to rain, packed up and headed out towards Grand Teton National Park.

 

Friday
Aug282009

Mountain Biking Right Into a Brown Bear and Her Cub

Given all the warning signs about bears at Glacier National Park, I have to say that I was a bit intrigued and tried my best to catch a glimpse of one.  Even after a four hour hike this past Thursday I still had yet to come across a single bear.  I even came across paw prints, hair and bear droppings (I think). 

The one warning about getting close to bears that for some reason I've never forgotten is that you never want to find yourself between a mother bear and her cub...

So, Thursday night I decided to take a bike ride along the main road to see if I could spot one from the road and upon my return I suddenly heard the cracking of a branch just above where I was riding on an incline leading up into a densely forested area.  I stopped my bike took a look up and spotted a little black bear cub walking about 35 feet above where I was.  Through my head flashes that warning that I'll never forget and I'm starting to scan for the cub's mother.  Within a few seconds I spot her walking behind her cub - not yet noticing me.  I grabbed my video camera and started shooting.  The footage is a bit shaky since it was hard for me to actually see the screen on my Flip.

At the :07 mark you will see a Brown bear walking near the top of the video and at the :43 mark you should see the black cub cruising along.  Look closely at the 1:01 mark and you can see mama spotting me and quickly dropping down to a defensive stance with her two front paws.  It happens really quickly.  What you can't hear is her snorting through her nose at the same time she does that.  Not really knowing what she was going to do next, I decided to take off instead of becoming the poster boy for what can happen to you when you bother bears in their natural habitat. 

It was pretty neat to see the bear and her cub (bonus point) - and by the way it was about 10 minutes from our campground.  I had a couple dreams about bears coming into my tent that night.

Friday
Aug282009

Glacier National Park, MT

Wow - there is so much to say about this National Park which still has me in awe after spending just two days there.  The more you drive and explore - the more jaw dropping moments you have from the dramatic mountain ranges to the lake and river views.  The hiking (over 700 miles worth) is pretty incredible.  I could have chosen 100 different photos to post at the top of this piece but the sunset pics I took last night of Lake McDonald and the surrounding mountain range were just too good not to post.  I ended up sitting by the lake watching the sunset and grabbing pics as the sky changed colors.  Aside from the occasional car driving by on the road, you could almost hear a pin drop.  Actually, you could hear the fish feeding on the insects landing on the surface of the water, but that's about it. 

I camped at Avalanche campground the first night and Sprague Creek the second.  Both great campsites but Sprague offered lake front access (Lake McDonald) with spectacular views.  I squeezed in so much activity on Thursday, 8/27 - it was so much fun.  I woke up before dawn and took about 300 pictures around the park driving along "Going To The Sun" road towards the eastern side of the park.  I set up camp at Sprague Creek, went for a bike ride and hiked along the Sperry Trailhead - in search of bears!  There are so many warning signs about the bears (Grizzly and Brown) in Glacier that I felt really good about seeing one.  I'll leave my bear story for the next blog post.

I did grab some great pics of the park and a white tailed deer that was feeding.  Most of these pics are geotagged however for the life of me I can't figure out how to get Flickr to translate the geotag info with a map!

 

Wednesday
Aug262009

Heyburn State Park, ID

I was a little unsure about making this State Park my first stop in Idaho but boy am I glad I stayed here.  After driving through the wheat fields of south eastern Washington it was nice to see some tall Ponderosa Pines entering Idaho.  Heyburn State Park is the oldest state Park in the Pacific Northwest.  It offers a lot for someone looking for recreation - canoeing, mountain biking, fishing, camping, hiking and more.  There is also a great biking trail called The Coeur d'Alene Trail which is a 72 mile paved bike trail that winds through the park.

This morning I woke up and went down to the boat dock shown above and tried my luck at a little fishing but with no success.  Seeing the sun come up over lake Benewah however made up for the fish I didn't catch.  I awoke this morning to hooting owls over my tent calling out to eachother - it went on for quite a while but I can't say that I was bothered by it.  As a side note - the showers here are pretty incredible for a campground -  perfect temperature and plenty of space to get ready which was nice. 

Right now I'm typing this from Couer D'Alene on my way to Glacier National Park, MT.  There's 3G in this town, so I'm taking advantage and catching up on stuff.