Thursday, July 19, 2007


People talk about dry heat like it's no big deal. That it's not that bad & that a person can stand 20 more degrees in dry heat than in humidity. This has always seemed a bit crazy & being out west didn't seal the deal. However ... returning to the humidity puts everything in perspective!

At Andy & Tammy's (Betsy's brother & sister-in-law's house) in Des Moines Iowa, I went out to the car to pack my bags for the flight (the exploded trunk & back car seat just wasn't gonna cut it for the plane, I was sure of it!) at, oh, 8 in the morning. It was probably 80 or so degrees (I remind you, I've been in 100+ weather for a couple weeks so it didn't feel at all bad) & I about died!! I was still sweating after I returned inside - in fact, Betsy made a funny comment about how soaked I still was 10 minutes after I'd been in air conditioning!

Every day for the last 6 weeks I've done some sort of travel by foot, so this morning I thought I'd start out my first day back in Virginia with a walk/jog (the impetus for this little entry) & I about died (notice a theme?)! So I've got some adjusting to do to the weather. Either that, or my friends and family in Virginia are gonna have to get used to me being a bit stinky :)

Anyway. What did we (Betsy & I) do in the humidified portion of our trip?
  • Well, first of all, we used the air conditioning in the car more than any other time out west!
  • We visited/crashed of the futons of some of her amazing friends and family.
  • Hung out with some adorable & feisty children.
  • Ate a veggie burger in southern Minnesota (sorry, no nasty picture this time, just evidence of being back in Minnesota).
  • Saw some corn.
  • Okay, a LOT of corn.
  • Went to a Twins game & this sweet hippyish t-shirt/bumper sticker store in Minneapolis called Northern Sun.

Without the flash (so you can actually tell ... kinda ... that we're actually at the stadium)

With the flash (so you can see our lovely faces & Twins get-up)

And ended it all with a trip to the airport where I learned an incredible lesson: don't mix airlines - do the layover thing all you want, but don't switch airlines. Especially, of all places, in Chicago, because getting my butt from one terminal to the opposite side of the airport in Chicago is one ridiculous thing, but expecting people who don't care about my luggage to get my luggage from one side of the airport to the other in Chicago is a whole nuther thing. (Good usage of "nuther", eh?)

So that's that! There's LOTS we both learned about ourselves & each other - for me about (maybe) what I'd like to do with my life, about how life ought to be (& ought NOT to be), about who I am when life isn't forcing down stress & obligations. Okay, when I'M not forcing stress & obligations on myself. All amazing lessons! We've got lots ... & lots ... & lots of pictures to show & stories to tell. Betsy's getting ordained in a week! (Holy crap, I know! How amazing is that?) And we've got all kinds of catching up to do with you all. Thanks for following us along in this journey. It's been a blast!

Betsy ... any last thoughts? Any interest in putting ordination pics on this little blog here?

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Before we began the long trek home Beth and I decided to stop at one last National Park - Rocky Mountain National Park! Yesterday we headed from Grand Junction up through Granby, Colorado and into the park. We did the Trail Ridge Road. For those who don't know Trail Ridge is the longest continuous highway above the tree line in the U.S. It is 11 miles long and absolutely beautiful. We had a nice drive even with some bad weather and road construction. Road construction on switchbacks with no guard rails is creepy - that's all I have to say!

Once we came down from Trail Ridge we headed into Estes Park to find a place to stay for the night. Strangely, all the campgrounds were filled but not the hostel right in the center of town. Perhaps the hostels availability on a Saturday in the summer should have been a clue to us about the hostel's hospitality. Needless to say, we were spoiled by the hostel in San Francisco but had a good time in Estes Park even though the hostel there was a bit shady.

This morning we got up and with our new friend Emily that we made at the hostel. We headed back up into RMNP to go on a 4 mile hike past three beautiful lakes. The pictures below show some of the beauty! After the hike we headed on the road for the wilds (haha) of Nebraska!!

you're in the wrong state, honey!

A real sign in Nebraska. Really!

Anyway ... rather than setting up a tent for the last time in the pouring rain & lightening, then packing it up wet (it's humid in Nebraska!), flying it to Virginia & cleaning a been-wet-for-four-days tent that's borrowed to begin with, we copped out & opted for a super cheap, but super nice motel room in Kearne, Nebraska. Call us wimps, wusses, whatever you like - we need a good night's sleep & food that's not cooked from the back of the car. It turns out, camp food does wear on a person!

So we asked the woman at the desk of this little independently owned motel where a good place to grab dinner would be & she thought for a second before Beth said "oh, & I'm a vegetarian." The look on her face was priceless - as in "you're a vege-what?" Then she ACTUALLY SAID: "You're in the wrong state for that!" And THEN ... she recommended a STEAK HOUSE because they might have a salad bar!!!

We went for pizza. And it was delicious!

And we'll be leaving Nebraska tomorrow ASAP ... right after we sleep in!

One redeeming fact about Nebraska: apparently, it's the home of Arbor Day!

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Moab, Utah. Not only a place for free, plush internet ... but also where there are apparently "real live Mormans" (you'll have to ask Betsy)! Between visiting Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, we bummed around 2 places in Moab: this amazing pizza place called Zak's & the T-Shirt Shop.

At Zak's, we discovered Chasing Tail beer. Incredible. Really.

At the T-Shirt Shop, we met this hysterical & incredibly confident 19-year old, Kyra, who thought we were 19 & 20. So flattering ... thanks, Kyra! The T-Shirt Shop is one of these places you either bring your own shirt in or buy one there & they print cool designs on it for pretty cheap. Exhibit A:

So then on to Arches! Arches National Park is one of those places like Sequoia, where the natural wonder is so strange it's hard to capture in picture. The creation of an arch goes well beyond my ability to comprehend. Why don't they just fall in? How does the middle fall out before the top erodes? And on and on.

And the pictures:

This first one is Delicate Arch &, while you can see it from an overlook, the 1 1/5 mile or so hike there is totally worth it. See how tiny we are!

And from a different perspective, now Betsy is a giant! (We had some super nice folks from New Jersey teach us this optical illusion trick. Gotta love people from the East Coast!)

This was my (Beth's) favorite arch - no, it wasn't called tree arch, but Landscape Arch. In 91 or 95, a huge piece broke off from underneath - back when the trail led underneath the arch. Now, they discourage that. Go figure!

McDonald's Arches. Where they don't sell amazing Veggie Burgers! Have we mentioned this phenomenon to you yet? Turns out in my couple years of vegesaurusism, I hadn't been introduced to the BK Veggie Burger. Thanks to Betsy, now I have, & now I'm in trouble!

Mmm ... browned lettuce, just the way fast food should be!

These are called double arch, because ... well, you can see through both at the same time.

And this is Balanced Rock. Anyone need me to explain what's going on here?

Last night we crashed with a friend of Robert's (Betsy's boyfriend) in Grand Junction, CO. Not only was dinner great & the roof over our heads a godsend, the company was fantastic! Thanks, Brandon!

So today begins the drive back to Minnesota. (Single tear.) Tonight we'll stay in Rocky Mountain National Park (where there are trees!!), tomorrow in Nebraska ... somewhere ... and Monday night with Betsy's brother in Iowa. In Minneapolis, we'll pay a visit to REI (of course) & Potbelly for some sandwiches, crash in a cheap hotel & off I go to DC Wednesday morning. So strange that the trip is nearly over ... although no worries, I'm sure we have more blogging to do! It's never a dull moment, really!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

One long blog ...

Moab, Utah. Where most of the adventure companies rent ATVs rather than hiking boots & pro wrestling is playing on the TV in the lounge we're stealing interweb on. Yup - that's right ... we've upgraded from parking lot interweb theft! We're bold enough to walk right in with our computers (although, of COURSE we asked first).

Let's see ... where have we been? Canyonlands mostly, along with some on-the-road time. Here are some pictures

First (guess who's writing this blog), some trees!

This is an aspen. Quaking aspen, actually, but not the leaves, just a cool branch that looks like a zebra. Aspens had me fooled at first because they look like birches from far away, but they're not! I'm sure I'll have more aspen pics from Colorado (where we're heading tomorrow).

There were 2 trees at our campsite last night: the Pinyan & the Utah Juniper. Both very cool (of course). Here are pics of them ... do you know which is which?

And finally, a close-up of a yucca (can't remember what kind & my tree book is in the car). These are short shrubby things - actually, they look like little spikey spider plants with huge 6-foot shoots coming out of them with these fruit-like things on the end. Very descriptive, I know!

OK - so here are some other general pics ...

Crazy rock lines & holes near Capital Reef NP

Thunderstorms in the desert!

Betsy on jumping on a cool rock in Canyonlands NP.

Yellow flowers for my momma!

And Mesa Arch in Canyonlands NP. How cool!

As always, thanks for reading! I'd add more pictures, but my computer is angry & running out of juice (the battery meter has a red X over it). So ... buh-bye!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Grand Old Canyon

Well, we left Zion on Monday morning in search of the Grand Canyon. We didn't have to look to hard considering it is the GRAND Canyon. I don't really think anything can prepare you though for just how large a canyon it really is. Beth and I have seen some pretty awesome things on this trip but there is nothing like driving through what feels like an alpine forest and all of a sudden coming to the edge of a great chasm that drops nearly 6000 feet and reaches 15 miles wide!! It really is quite amazing; if the Grand Canyon Lodge was not in the way, you could actually drive right over the edge. Beth and I had a nice touristy walk along the edge, snapping pictures and marveling at the sight. We did not have much time to give the great canyon though so basically we took some pictures, bought some postcards and stickers and then got in the car and drove away. Although we didn't spend too much time at this natural wonder, it was still pretty cool to see!! Here are some pictures!!

Hats & Hoodoos

According to Ebenezer Bryce (the dude Bryce Canyon is named after), the canyon is "a hell of a place to lose a cow." Why that'd be the first thing he'd think of or what would make it onto one of those tourist information boards at an overlook, we don't know - but it's darn funny!

Why is it "a hell of a place to lose a cow?" Because there are so many hoodoos, of course! What's a hoodoo? That's coming ...

After a 4 or so mile round trip hike into the canyon and out to visit the Hat Shop ...

Not these kind of hats:

(yup, that's a katamari hat)

But these:

we FINALLY took some rest time! Beth took a nap in her hammock & Betsy read & caught up on some conversations.

Then, we did the tourist "thing" & saw the Natural Bridge (that's really an arch & the little information sign says so, but for some reason it's still called a bridge) & some other nice views. A hoodoo, by the way, is what's left when rain, ice and snow break apart the mesa or plateau. Harder rock sometimes guards the layers underneath a small area & the small area is left standing in these weird, crazy looking structures called hoodoos! (That's the not-so-exact version of what happens ... Wikipedia might be a good start for a real explanation.)

But there were ultimately two highlights of the day:

1. The sunrise from right near our campsite. OK, not the sunrise (we were still in our tent), but just after:

2. The "issue" Utah has with bears. Turns out, when we were in Yellowstone there was an unfortunate black bear incident near Salt Lake City. Since then the state and all the parks have put up bear warnings (even if there isn't a real concern with bears). They don't tell you what to do when you see one, or how to store your food or cook. Instead, they're very clear about not stealing the bear signs! (If you can't read the sign, I think it might get bigger if you click on it.) This entertained us a great deal!

And a quote to live by (also on one of those little tourist placard things):

For the Gate is Narrow, and the Road is Hard that Leads to Life...

How else could we introduce our post on Zion National Park but by quoting the Bible. (Quick History Lesson!!) Some of the first Europeans who entered the area now known as Zion were Methodists who proceeded to name many of the natural formations after Biblical people and themes. There is the Virgin River, the Patriarchs, and Angel Landing. Because Beth and I only had one day is this crazy fantastic park we decided to take a hike up the Virgin River into what is known as the Narrows. Most of Zion Park is one big canyon that you can drive up, admiring the scenery on the way. At some point though, the canyon gets to narrow and the road ends - the Narrows begin here. The Narrows are basically the continuation of the canyon and the only way to hike them is by hiking through the Virgin River.

Beth and I had been excited about this hike since we read about it in Backpacker Magazine. What we were not prepared for was the number of other people who thought hiking the narrows would be a good idea. The lower part of the narrows is therefore more like a natural waterpark then it is any sort of hike. People in every sort of scantly clad swim wear are in the river, with and without shoes and sandals. It is ever amazing to us as to what people think is ok to wear while hiking. One man we saw wore nothing but a speedo (or underwear, we didn't look too close) while another women was dressed from head to toe in black athletic wear. She really truly honestly looked just like a ninja! What you begin to realize when you are on the road for so long is that people are absolutely amazing in their uniqueness.

Anyways, we hiked for about 2 hours and although we never really got away from all the people, the numbers thinned out and we saw some of the most amazing scenery ever. The canyon walls were sheer at most places and the rock was decorated with swirls and gouges of different color and size. The water was never above mid thigh and so the whole experience was just really awesome. I am not eloquent enough to describe the beauty of the entire thing but I will say that if you are ever remotely close to Zion, you must do this hike!!! Check out the pictures below to see what I cannot put in words!!

Morning Glories along side the road.

The patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Betsy in the Narrows.

Holy cow that cavern is big!!

This part of the Narrows is called the Subways. If you look close you can see a person sitting in the shadows of the overhang!