Saturday, July 05, 2014
We enjoyed Great Sand Dunes National Park. We walked on the sand dunes one day, but MAN! Walking UPhill on sand at 8,000 feet is not my idea of fun! We made it 2/3 of the way up to the top and called it quits. The next day we did a GLORIOUS hike up to Mosca Pass. It was 7 miles round trip and passed a babbling brook, through alpine meadows with lots of wildflowers in bloom. Glorious! The altitude gain was 1,400 feet (from 8200 to 9600) but it was gradual and we took our time. Pictures NEVER do reality justice, but here are a few photos:
We stayed at San Luis State Park, which was 8 miles directly south of the National Park -- you could see the dunes and mountains in the distance. The afternoon weather changes dramatically every day! Amazingly beautiful!
Now we are at Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado. This is one of the few World Heritage and Cultural sites in the United States.
For an unknown reason, in about 1100-1250 AD the indigenous people moved from living on the top of the mesa to living in the "alcoves" below the surface. They built villages and dwellings there. They are very difficult to get to, and must have been even MORE difficult back then, so the thought is that they moved below the surface for protection.
There are over 1400 such sites in the park but obviously only a few are open to the public. We took a ranger-led tour of Balcony House, which entailed going down about 300 steps and then climbing UP a 32-foot ladder and crawling through a 12-foot long, 18" wide tunnel:
Pictures of the cliff dwellings:
Up the ladder!
Leave it to TC to get a picture of my @ss!!
We are trying to hike every day but it has been really hot here -- close to 90 degrees every day. That, plus the thin air really makes it hard. Today we are going to another National Monument (Hovenweep) and hope to walk the trails there. That's why we'll get there when they open at 8:00 am!
Hope everyone had a wonderful fourth of July!
Saturday, June 28, 2014
I was going to write a blog about the last two weeks in Rocky Mountain National Park, and upload some pictures, but my heart is heavy. I'm sorry this blog will be a downer.
My father died on May 11, 2013 from cancer that invaded the nerves in his face.
My former sister-in-law, married to my brother for 15 years, died of skin cancer on August 13, 2013 at the age of 51.
Yesterday my mother was positively diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer. She never smoked a cigarette in her 80 years on the planet.
She's been told it is incurable but treatable, but the "treatment" is the same that my dad got: chemo and radiation. It added possibly 6 months to my dad's life but they were miserable months. He was disfigured by the radiation, went blind, eating was an ordeal, and he even couldn't talk without pain. He wouldn't go to church and rarely left the house because of the way he looked.
So now this.
My mom has already hinted that she might not agree to treatment because of what my dad went through, and the cancer isn't curable. She worries that she doesn't have anyone to give her the 24/7 care that she gave my dad.
Of course, we are in early stages. Mom had an MRI and PET scan a few days ago but the "team" hasn't had time to put together a treatment plan yet.
As for me, this trip is quickly losing its luster, but there's nothing I can do right now, even if we were to go home to Arkansas. I've offered to go back to Michigan to stay with her when/if it becomes apparent she needs someone. Right now she says NO, she's doing fine, and the two siblings who still live in Michigan are taking time off work to ferry her to appointments. Mom is very independent and I'm betting she'll go into a hospice facility before she'll "inconvenience" any of us to keep her in her home.
Also up in the air is our huge and expensive trip to Nepal and India in October/November.
My head is just swirling, and it's hard to wrap my mind around the whole thing.
AND, here's a weird coincidence. My dad was told on January 15, 2013 that his cancer had recurred and he decided not to pursue further treatment. My granddaughter was born 10 days later. It was so hard to be both happy and sad at the same time.
But guess what? After I got the email from my sister yesterday outlining mom's condition, my daughter called to say she was pregnant with her second child!
A bittersweet day, to be sure.
Monday, June 16, 2014
Well, I found out that DT isn't a volcanic extrusion it is an igneous INTRUSION. Ha! Who knew?
I thought it was going to be kind of lame, just a big rock sticking out of the ground! But I was wrong -- it is beauiful! You can see it 15 miles away!
We first took the Red Beds trail (3.5 miles) and then were able to take the paved Tower Trail (1.3 miles around the Tower) with a park ranger who was from the Lakota Tribe. He was EXCELLENT and explained so much about his culture and the deep respect the Lakota have for nature and the earth. He told several stories to explain the existence of Devils Tower, the extinction of the dinosaurs, the origin of the Lakota people that have been handed down by untold generations of his people. It was enchanting! There was a school group about 20 ten-year-olds that were taking the guided hikewith us and they were interested and respectful. Great!
We then found a shady bench facing the Tower and ate our packed lunch. Why does ordinary food taste so good when it is eaten in a beautiful setting?
Then we decided to take the Red Beds trail again, this time going in the opposite direction. I wish I had more pictures to share, but we accidently deleted most of them -- when I got home there were only 20 pictures on the camera instead of the 80-100 we took!
I also found out that the ban on climbing during June -- because of the summer solstice which is sacred to the Lakota -- is only voluntary. And yes, there were two people climbing it today, which sort of made me feel ashamed. We could learn a lot from the Lakota.
The wild flowers were beautiful!
Monday, June 16, 2014
Today we are off to see Devils Tower in Moorcroft, Wyoming. My husband is a big geology fan so passing up a volcanic extrusion just wasn't going to happen! It also is a national monument so I can get my National Parks passport stamped, which is the highlight for me! Love looking through that book, seeing all the national parks, monuments, and historic sites we've been to.
Of course we'll hike today also! We are hoping to do all 7 miles of trails around the tower. We will NOT be climbing up. In June they don't allow climbing as a gesture of respect to Native Americans who believe it is sacred site. Ha, if we were REALLY respectful climbing wouldn't be allowed at all!
Tomorrow we are off to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Ten days of NO electricity, NO water, NO shower houses and of course, NO internet. So I'll be out of touch....
We have a half marathon in Estes Park on Sunday, and we plan to do a lot of scenic drives and hiking while we are there. Later, Sparkfriends!
Monday, June 09, 2014
We went to Mt. Rushmore today. I hate to admit it, but it PALED compared to Crazy Horse. It's just so...small!
But we enjoyed the video and the visitor's center and the president's walk, and then we came back to the campground and decided on a 5.5 mile hike.
I packed our lunches and we started on the loop. We got about 1/2 mile and saw....places in the grass that were all matted down (buffalo resting). Lots of hoof prints on the path. Lots of buffalo dung/scat/droppings/pies. We kept going but we got to French Creek and it was running too fast and too deep to cross without getting VERY wet so we went back.
We got back to the trailhead/parking lot and decided to take the loop the opposite way. After about 10 minutes, TC said, "I think I see a buffalo." I squinted, looked through the trees and sure enough, I saw it too. So we started back. After a minute or two I turned around and SHRIEKED -- they were following us on the same path! There wasn't just one, there was at least a half dozen!!
There was NO PLACE else for us to go -- on the left was a bluff too steep to climb and on the right was the sheer drop to the river.
I didn't know if we should run or not, but I thought not. But we definitely picked up the pace! The bison seemed to be "ambling" but they are HUGE animals and definitely walk WAy faster than us!
Here are some pictures that I took once we made it back to the parking lot and the safety of our truck! The buffalo continued on ...
OK, so after THAT aborted hike, we decided to do another one that goes along the French Creek. This was the first crossing.
After this crossing, we ran into a guy (who had on water shoes, smart fellow) who said there were 17 crossings in the 3+ miles. So...we were done with that hike too!
To salvage the hiking portion of our day, we decided to take the 2-mile asphalted walk from the campground to the visitor's center. After the day we'd had, we just wanted a nice, safe, easy, boring walk!!!
But -- tomorrow is another day!!!
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