Friday, July 25, 2008

Coming Home

On Wednesday, Jeremy and I played in our last softball game. It was a nail-biter of a game. Jeremy had a great hit past the left center fielder. I had two of my more solid hits in awhile. The final score was 11-9; we WON!!! Our record is 7-3. The team has one more game on Monday night before tournaments begin. Hopefully, they will do well. We have been busy, busy, busy this past week. On Monday night, we had softball. On Tuesday, we were with my cousins til 8:30pm. On Wednesday night, we had softball. On Thursday night, we had a volunteer going away party with La Puente til 9pm. Tonight, we have a little party with Jeremy's boss, Mike. So, hopefully, by tomorrow at noon we can have everything packed up, in the car, and be on our way to Arches National Park. We are almost packed up, but we have a few more things that need done. I am sure it will get done. Needless to say, we will not be blogging for awhile. I would like to start again when we get back to Ohio, but it may be mid-August before it happens. Here is itinerary if you would like to know where we will be when...

Saturday (7/26) - Arches National Park, Utah
Sunday (7/27) - Salt Lake City; Idaho Falls, ID
Monday (7/28) - Grand Tetons National Park, WY
Tuesday (7/29) - Yellowstone National Park, WY
Wednesday (7/30) - Yellowstone National Park, WY
Thursday (7/31) - Buffalo, WY
Friday (8/1) - Devil's Tower, WY; Custer, SD
Saturday (8/2) - Custer, SD
Sunday (8/3) - Wall Drug, SD; Corn Palace, SD; Mountain Lake, MN
Monday (8/4) - Dyersville, IA (Field of Dreams); Chicago area, IL
Tuesday (8/5) - Goshen, IN; HOME in OHIO!!!!

Thanks for your prayers and support.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

American Basin

On Tuesday, we took our last day off work. (I know it is our last week, and this does seem a bit strange.) My cousin (Kristin) and her family were on their annual camping trip in Colorado. They have been camping near Lake City, Colorado for the past 10 years or so. We decided that we would drive to go see them and hang out for a day. (I usually tried to visit about once a year their place in Kansas City, so this would get in my yearly visit.) We left about 7:30am; it is about a three hour trip from our place. We met them in the quaint little town of Lake City about 11am. We hopped back in the car to head to the American Basin - one of the most beautiful places in the San Juan Mountain Range. It is a four wheel drive road there through the mountains. It had lots of snowmelt waterfalls cascading down the mountainsides. There were huge towering rockies all around us. It was beautiful. The road opens up into a basin with a river running through it. There are lots and lots of wildflowers! I obviously don't really know any of the names. I included some pictures though. I did not get a picture of the state flower of Colorado, the Columbine, that was all over the basin. The sky started clouding up as we were making lunch - mini raviolis and sauce, yum! I think my pictures would have turned out better had there been more blue skies. We hiked only a little ways because 1) Jeremy and I could hardly walk, and 2) time was growing short because we wanted to leave by 4ish. The picture on the right is my cousins family by one of the waterfalls we saw on our hike. On the way back down the four wheel drive road, we started noticing the mountains ahead of us looked like they were getting snow - in JULY! Then, we started seeing it where we were driving! Actually, it was hail and lots of it! Check out the picture to the left.... looks like a winter wonderland, huh? We actually got out of there about 5pm, a little later than we expected, but okay.

On the way back we stopped at the North Clear Creek Falls, which Jeremy has been wanting to see. It was pretty neat. I included a photo to the right. We were starving, so we stopped at Boogie's Restaurant in Del Norte. They were excellent burgers! and they were fast with our food, which is always good when you are starving. :) We made it home by 8:30pm; I did our chores for the week - lots of sweeping and mopping. Then, I headed to bed. One night behind on packing stuff, but I am sure we will catch up at some point - after the softball game or the going away party or supper with Mike and Gigi.... we'll see.

Blanca Peak

Blanca Peak.... Jeremy and I have two different stories; I don't know if he'll have time to put his story in print or not. Mine is much more bleak. I wanted to hike Blanca when we first arrived in the Valley last August. But, of course, you can't just go hike a 14er. You need to adjust to the altitude and prepare a bit. By the time we had done that, the small window of opportunity was gone. The weather can be brutal up there in the wind, winter, and colder fall nights. So, we waited unitl next summer. Unfortunately, by this July, I didn't really care if I hiked it or not. I have done a lot of things during my time here in Colorado, and I didn't really feel like I would be missing much if I didn't do this. However, David and Emmy, Jeff, Kendra, and Jeremy were all going. Claire was waiting on my decision because she was as enthusiastic as I was. Because Jeremy was going, I felt I needed to go - you know, not be the loser who won't try something in our relationship. :) Jeremy told me to just stay home if I didn't want to go, but I didn't listen. So, on Saturday, July 19 at 9am, we started our journey from La Jara toward the mountain. We had to stop to get gas, change backpacks, and some other miscellaneous stuff. We finally arrived at the parking spot at 11am. We (Jeremy, me, Kendra, Claire, and Taylor) rolled out of the car and placed our 25-30 pound backpacks on our backs - yuck! You follow "the most difficult 4-wheel drive road in Colorado" for the first day's hike. It was horrible. This road would take us to Lake Como where we would camp that night. The road was rocky, steep, and never-ending. I hated every step of it. Poor Jeremy was with three reluctant - and not always very encouraging - hikers. Each hiker we passed gave us bad news - "Still a long ways to go", "After the stream, you have 1100 feet of elevation to go. It steep and bad." Until finally, we sat down a rock to rest thinking we could go no further, and a hiker coming down said, "Don't stop now. You only have about 15 more minutes!" We slowly rose from our resting positions and continued on our way. Claire let out a scream for joy when we finally saw the lake at 5pm - almost 6 hours and 6 miles after the beginning of the trek. We set up tents, laid on the grass, fly fished, ate freeze dried (and very yummy) suppers, and enjoyed the view. It was beautiful at Lake Como. Jeremy caught his first trout (see pic to the left). We crawled into our sleeping bags and waited for the 5:30am wake up call.
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At 5:30am, Will (volunteer at La Puente), Jeremy, Claire, Taylor, Emmy, and I emerged from our tents, wiped the sleep from our eyes, tried to eat some breakfast, filtered water, and then began part two of our trek to Blanca. We started walking without the really heavy bags and discovered what a gift losing about 25 pounds can be! This part of the hike was beautiful. We passed three more lakes and hiked on the rolling trail. We thought this was going to be easy until we arrived at the boulder field. This was no normal boulder field. This was the whole side of Blanca. It lead to Blanca Peak, Ellingwood Peak, and Little Bear - All 14ers! We slowly picked our way up the side of the mountain. Will - our fearless leader - was like a mountain goat and went straight up. I freaked out a bit and started trying to follow the cairns. This gave me little goals and helped keep my mind and stomach settled. We arrived at the high point of the saddle between Ellingwood and Blanca. You can see the crew (minus me who is taking the pic) on the saddle - note drop off on the backside of us! The other picture is of the ridge to Ellingwood Peak and then the backbone of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains behind it. The view into the valley was awesome. It was lush and green. I am not really sure that my camera captured it, but I tried. The San Luis Valley was flat and went on forever! Jeremy summited Blanca after resting awhile. I decided that maybe I didn't want to walk along the ridge (you can see the Blanca ridge behind us in the group photo) and would consider the saddle my summit. Claire and I hung out there and waited for the remainder to summit and return to the saddle - about 40 minutes round-trip.
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When the group returned, we headed back - destination: the car! The hike from the lake to the summit was 3.2 miles one way. The boulder field was surprisingly easier on the way down because we could follow the "trail" down. We continued hiking, refilled our water up at the first lake, and continued hiking. We finally made it back to the campsite (total hiking for the day: 6.4 miles) about 2pm. We tossed off our small bags and flopped down on our sleeping bags. I was exhausted! We laid down for about 10 minutes before packing up camp. We left about 3pm for the final leg down the dreaded Jeep road. My feet hurt, the pads of my big toes were rubbed raw, between my shoulder blades was going numb with pain, and I was miserable. The road never seemed to end. When we finally hit treeline we should have been relieved; however, this was the exact moment the thunder started and the rain began falling. We continued hiking. The rain turned to small pellets of hail. The thunder cracked; the lightning flashed. Most of us took cover for a bit. The storm did not let up; we decided to keep going; we were already wet anyway. Finally, after 30 minutes the storm let up, but the cold breeze continued. We were miserable and dragging our feet, trying not to trip on the rocks. We arrived to the car - such a pretty sight - but I had no energy to even be excited. We ordered pizza, which we were too exhausted to eat, watched a re-run of Seinfeld, took some Advil, and went to bed.
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I will never again hike Blanca Peak. I guess I would recommend it for the views after/at Lake Como. I am still working on being able to say that I am proud to accomplished such a feat. I am just happy - three days later - to finally be able to walk without limping, although there is still pain that shoots through my tired calf muscles. Jeremy, of course, may paint a little better picture (as would one or two others in our group), but this is my account of Blanca Peak.

Softball

We Won!!! It was a fun game on Monday night. We won 14-2, which may have helped. But really, the team was just fun to play. They would compliment good plays by us, and we would reciprocate. Our record is now 6-3. We have two more games left before tournaments start. We will only be here for Wednesday nights game and not for tournaments at all. We will have to find out how our team is doing when we return to Ohio.

Jeremy and I are headed to Lake City, Colorado, which is about three hours from here. My cousin, Kristin, and her family are camping there and we thought it would be our only chance to see them for another year. It will be fun. I think I may have time tonight to blog about our hike up Mt. Blanca. So, check back tomorrow. Have a great Tuesday.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Countdown

Week update: We lost our softball game in a tough one on Wednesday night. We had started with the lead and somehow couldn't hold on. Our record is now 5-3. Work finished on Friday, as always. We were really, really slow at the food bank for some strange reason. We only had 4 people in the three hours we were open. It gave me a lot of time to chat with Brit, and that was good.

Weekend: I will blog specifically about the weekend later. We hike Mt. Blanca. It is the fourth highest mountain in Colorado; it towers above the Valley at 14,345feet. Let me just say it was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life! I will tell you why later.

Countdown: We leave here in 5-1/2 days. I only have about a minute to write, so I can't tell you what is running through my head. But we have a lot to do before then.

Hope all is well. We'll (hopefully) get a few more posts in before Saturday.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Work Week

The week has started and is already halfway done. I worked at Rainbow's End on Monday instead of the Boutique. It is a much busier place. I think I only read one article from the magazines I had brought! It is also a bit different clientele there, but they are sometimes more talkative. Monday night we had our softball game. It was a much better game than last Wednesday. Monday we felt like a team again. We were connecting better and playing better. As a result, we won 8-4. So, our record is 5-2; yea! We play again tonight. I'll update you later. Jeremy has been busy trying to wrap things up at work. I know there is an upcoming meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers to talk about some of the things he and Mike have been working on.

Tuesday, Jeremy and I went to our last lunch with Alice, our local coordinator. She is such an amazing person. It was also probably our last lunch at Mei-Wah's, Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant. It is a delicious and reasonably priced place to eat lunch. You get an entree, soup, egg roll, crab rangoon, and fortune cookie for $5! That's about it. If you could keep us in your prayers, that would be great. Some end of term and moving stress is setting in a bit, and we want to be able to just enjoy the last week or so while we are here. Thanks so much.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Weekend

This weekend was extremely relaxing. Friday night we watched Atonement. It was not quite the movie I expected, and I really don't know if I would actually recommend it. Saturday, I did nothing. I cleaned the living room, then just bummed around all day - watched Racing Stripes and Shall We Dance?. What else???? Oh, I also watched a little of the men's beach volleyball on TV. On Sunday, Jeremy and I woke up to go fishing. There was a lake Jeremy wanted to hike up to. So, we packed the gear and hopped in the car. The hike was marked moderate to easy. It definitely started out moderate - I thought my lungs were going to explode! We couldn't stop hiking or else we would be swarmed by mosquitos - absolutely swarmed!!! We sprayed on the OFF and kept on hiking. We passed a number of ponds and stopped when we reached the end of the trail. It was a pretty area. In the photo to the left you can see snow that has yet to melt, as well as a tiny Jeremy fishing on the bank. Later he put on his waders and was toward the middle of the lake. While Jermey fished, I laid on a blanket and read a book I had brought along. We headed back after Jeremy caught this beautiful White Sucker fish. It had great big kissable lips, which is why Jeremy is puckering up in this picture. Our hike back was definitely long enough. It was about a 2 hour hike in and 1-1/2 hour back. (Side note: We realized when we got back to the car that we maybe didn't make it to Duck Lake, but a small lake about 5 minutes before it. What a bummer. Jeremy said it was okay though.)
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When we got back to the house we had our second to last house meeting. This is the one thing I will not miss about group living. The meeting was short and quick. We went to Andy and Alice's house for dinner. Alice is our local leadership person. She and her husband are amazing people. They are both incredibly supportive. We have them over one week to eat supper; they have us over the next. It has been great. They make fantastic meals! On Sunday, we had boneless ribs (grilled) with roasted vegetables and blue cornbread. YUM! They leave on Friday for a visit to Ethiopia. I think it sounds very exciting. So this was our last meal with them before we leave, and that is sad. This is the only picture we have with them.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lake Powell

On Monday (7/7), Jeremy and I woke up early and headed to Lake Powell by 8am. The rest of the group stayed in Zion to hike the Narrows (the river walk I talked about in a previous blog). I didn't really want to hike in the water all day, and Jeremy's knee was really hurting him. So, we headed the 2 hours to Lake Powell/Glen Canyon Dam area to kayak for a few hours. The picture of the dam is one we took while driving out to Zion on Thursday. We stopped at the visitor center as our bathroom break. It is pretty huge! We arrived about 9am (Arizona time.. they don't do daylight savings). We rented two sea kayaks (the ones you sit on top) for the day. We slathered on a generous amount of sunscreen before boarding our kayaks. We decided to go see Ice Cream Canyon on of the fingers of the lake. It was about a 1-1/2 hour or more kayak trip past Lone Rock to the small inlet. We had lunch on the way to Ice Cream Canyon. We pulled off at a small area, ate our sandwiches, slathered on more sunscreen, and got back on the kayak. When we sat down for lunch, Jeremy went to sat down. As he placed his hands on the ground to lower himself, he acquired a lot of burrs that left small thorns in his hand. This is him grimacing a smile for the camera as he picks them out. This is Jeremy in the green kayak paddling past Lone Rock. You can see how massive it looks. The Ice Cream Canyon area would have been a great place to explore, if my arms weren't already feeling the workout I was giving them. We made our way back to the Marina at Wahweap in about 2 hours or more. It was cooler on the lake than on land, but still hot. You can see me resting in the picture. We headed back to the campsite and arrived there around 7pm - just in time to join everyone for milkshakes at Blondie's. Afterward, we went to our last Ranger Program titled Oh, you animal. It was about the hidden animals of the park - cougar, badger, skunk, wolf, fox, and more. The Ranger was really good. We also were able to feel the pelts of all of the animals he talked about. We climbed in our tent one last time.

We woke up and headed for La Jara by 8am on Tuesday morning. It was a long, but good trip back. We got home by 6:30pm and had an evening to relax before heading back to work today (Wednesday). Make sure you read the blogs below this one; I had posted about three in one night. Enjoy the pictures!

Grand Canyon

On Sunday (7/6), we climbed back in the van for about a 3 hour drive south to the Grand Canyon's North Rim. It is the less visited rim. Most people go to the South Rim, and that is also where most of the pictures are taken. I have never been to the Grand Canyon; Jeremy had hiked the South Rim to the river and back, but had not been to the North Rim. The North Rim is very forested, at a higher altitude, and more green in general. We took a 4 mile round trip hike to the tunnel. This way we had hiked into the Canyon. This, to the left, is Jeremy at one of the views on the hike down. It was a very sandy trail covered in parts with mule manure. (Side note: They use mules to take people down the canyon because mules, unlike horses, don't drink water while they travel.) Going down is always easy and the unique thing about the Grand Canyon, or Bryce, is that you start by going down and end with the tough part - going up. Claire and I made it to the tunnel; that's us in the tunnel to the right. (Jeremy, Emmy, and David just wanted a short hike and went not much further than the first lookout.) It was breezy and cool in the shade of the tunnel, which was a good break before heading up. The way up was hot, hot, hot. We were sweating profusely and really working to get up. We made it up in about the same time as it took to go down. I think the reason is because we didn't really stop for pictures or wait for those taking pictures. We met this 60 year old man who for the last six years has met his daughter at the Grand Canyon for a rim to rim to rim trip. On day one, they hike from the south rim to the north rim - 24 miles! Then, day two, they would relax at a campsite on the north rim. On day three, they hike back from the north to the south rim - another 24 miles! Crazy if you ask me, but very impressive! We took David and Emmy to the lodge, and the rest of us headed to Cape Royal by car. It was about a 45 minute car ride to the lookout point. When we got there, it was threatening to rain. So, we jumped out of the van and walked very fast to the look out point. When we got there, we stood on the edge of the rock looking out over the canyon and the menacing sky (see pic to the left). That is when we realized that all of our hair was standing on end due to the static electricity in the air from the lightning. Yikes! So, we quickly made our exit off the rock and away from the view. We climbed into van and headed to the lodge. This last picture to the right is taken just outside the lodge. You can, from an area near the lodge, across the canyon. You can even see the two trails going down the canyon wall to the river. Pretty cool. We had our supper in the lodge before heading back to the campsite in Zion.

Bryce National Park

On Saturday (7/5), we headed to Bryce National Park. Some of you may know of Bryce because of Aaron Ralston, the hiker that got his arm trapped and almost died. That didn't happen to us. We drove about 2 hours northeast to get to Bryce. When we arrived, it was raining and cold. To pass time, we drove the entirety of the park to look at all the lookout points. The picture to the above is of us freezing at one of the look out points. Notice Emmy in the pinic tablecloth poncho - very stylish. There is no room for pride when you are cold, and it is raining. It is a really cool park. It is like Wheeler Geologic Area on steriods... and red. They have lots of hoodoos that are such cool formations. I think this was my favorite park to look at that we visited this trip. Our first stop gave us a great view over a lot of hoodoos (see right). Then, we viewed the Natural Bridge, which we later learned is not a bridge, but an arch. A natural bridge is created by water carving away at the rock. This area had no water flowing through it. Nonetheless, it was a pretty cool formation. We at our packed lunches in the lobby of the hotel just outside the park gates. After lunch the rain let up, and we could take "arguably one of the best 3 mile hikes" according to the park's radio station. It was a really cool hike. The first part of it, we hiked through an area called Wall Street. It had towering walls, switchbacks, and such a cool red. It was gorgeous! The picture to the left is looking back at some of the switchbacks of Wall Street. The picture below shows a very tiny Claire, Emmy, and me in between the red walls at the bottom of Wall Street. Then we followed the bottom of the canyon on Queen's Trail before preceding back up to complete our circle. We saw a rock I dubbed "ET"; check it out below, and see if you can see ET .. it is the white rock in the background. The walk across the bottom is much more sandy than Wall Street. Apparently, this is an ancient lake bed. I really like the very bottom picture with the horses/mules because it is such a contrast to the other sandstone rock. The trees look like they are hanging on for dear life. I liked this hike. It was the only one we did in the park, but it was definitely worth the wait. We headed back to Zion (our permenant camp location) to have supper. We had hamburgers with fried potatoes and green beans. Not too bad. After supper, we went on a short hike to Emerald Pools in Zion. I am pretty sure this would have been a more intriguing spot in the daylight. By the time we went, it was pretty dark, and we couldn't see the emerald color of the pools. It is one of the only areas of the park where the water drips over the rocks and makes an oasis of sorts. We caught the tail end of the the Ranger Program, Water: Friend or Foe? It was talking about flash floods; quite a scary thing if you ask me! We headed to bed, once again waiting for the cool breeze to relieve us from the heat of the tent.

Zion National Park

On Thursday (7/3) morning, we loaded up the last of our bags and headed out by 7am for our 11 hour drive to southwest Utah. We went on Hwy 160 through South Fork, Durango, Cortez, and then down into Arizona, then back up to into Utah. We reached our final destination, Zion National Park, about 6:15pm. (The picture to the right is a picture of the Virgin River and Zion that we took on Friday morning.) We unloaded the bogged down van - we had 7 adults, a loaded back, and our car topper! We set up four tents on two sites before heading to dinner in nearby Springdale. Zion has a great shuttle system that takes you to pretty much any trailhead in the main park, as well as into Springdale. It really cuts down on traffic, pollution, and car headaches. Before we left for supper, a woman from another campsite came to ask if we wanted any salmon with mango salsa that had been cooked over the fire; apparently, her teenage group did not like salmon. We took it and devoured it in about 10 minutes! We then went to Springdale to eat supper at Blondie's. It was a great restaurant. I had grilled shrimp with a dinner salad. Jeremy had the mini burgers with fries. (The best meal was purchased by David: oreo shake and apple pie!) After our meals, we tucked ourselves into our really hot tents!!! The temperature during the day was 107F, and it didn't really cool down until midnight or later when the winds picked up.

Friday morning we woke up to cool weather and breeze. We ate our breakfast of fruit, bagels, and cream cheese before packing our lunches for the day of hiking that was ahead of us. We stayed in Zion to enjoy the beauty of the canyon and see what it offered. We decided to hike Angel's Landing. I was not too keen on it because the desription said "long drop-offs, do not attempt if you are scared of heights." Well, I like hiking, and I don't mind being up high, but I am scared of ledges while being up high. We did the hike anyway. The first picture on the upper left is our group at the beginning of the trail. We hiked up, up, up, then turned and climbed up switchbacks named Walter's Wiggles that were pretty cool. You can see Claire, Emmy, and I tiered up the switchbacks of Walter's Wiggles. At the top of that, I worked really hard to kinda scale (with the aid of a chain) one section of the trail. When we popped out at the end of this, I said, "There is no way I am doing that", and I didn't. See the "walkway" up to Angel's Landing in the picture to the right. But all the other six people in the unit went on ahead. They got some great pictures (that is Jeremy at the very top in the picture below), and I enjoyed the scenery from under the one tree on the rocky top. Jeremy said it was pretty scary in some places and narrow - like a few feet across with drop-offs on both sides. Yikes! Zion is a beautiful place, so sitting on top of a canyon wall is not a bad place to be. After hiking down, Jeremy and I went on the Riverside Hike. It is mostly shaded and follows the Virgin River back into the canyon. It was hot (104F), and the shade felt great. The river is beautiful. The canyon walls are a great red (like the dirt in Oklahoma, if you've ever been there) and just soar above you. The picture to the right shows the end of the Riverside Hike. You can continue to hike up river into what they call The Narrows. The rest of our group did that hike on Monday; Jeremy and I went to Lake Powell (more on that later). That night for supper we had hot dogs and chips. In the evening, we went to the Ranger presentation titled Bats: Friend or Foe? I think we deteremined they are friends, except for the 3 (of 11oo) species that are actually blood-lickers and can prey on livestock. It was a great presentation, with incredible pictures and many new facts. We headed to bed on another hot night, waiting for the nightly breeze to come and cool us down.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Finally, a blog

I guess I didn't blog soon as I had said I would last Saturday. I will say that on Monday we lost our softball game, but we came back and won on Wednesday night! The team won without us on Monday night. Now, our record is 4-1; how cool is that!

We just got back to La Jara after our big trip out West with the unit. We went to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Lake Powell/Glen Canyon Dam. I will post about each one individually so that I can add pictures. Unfortunately, I am not going to start that tonight... I have been in a car for about 11 hours, and have a bit of a headache. I will post the picture of Jeremy on the horse... he has been really busy at work and unable to post. Hopefully, he will get a chance at some point to actually tell you about the day on horseback, but some were asking for the pic, so here it is...