Tag Archives: 2013

Road Trip Diaries: Hello Denver

After our overnight trip to the Blue Lakes of Mount Sneffels, Joy and I made our way towards Denver. I had an old friend to visit, and a shower to take. We had been on our road trip for about a week and a half by this point, and I was getting pretty filthy. Bathing in the green Colorado River and various alpine lakes can only get you so clean.

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On the road to Denver

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Road Trip Diaries: Hellooooo Colorful Colorado – and Mesa Verde National Park

I’m sad to say that It’s been about four years since I last updated this blog. Grad school and working life has taken its toll. However…it’s back!

So, going back to July of 2013 – after our weeklong travels through the Big 5 of Utah, we made our way to the southwest corner of Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park. The weather, while still very warm, was noticeably cooler than what we experienced in Utah. After showering about two times during that hot, dry and sweaty week however, this was exactly what we needed.

 

 

Colorado, the “colorful” state, greeted us with this sign against a plain golden backdrop…

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The Last of Utah (for Now): Canyonlands National Park

Damn. What a year! I’m a bit sad that I haven’t progressed on my goal to finish writing about our awesome National Parks Road Trip from the summer of 2013. Since then I’ve been completely side-tracked by grad school, summer jobs, and other adult life-related activities. Note to all the young people out there: Don’t grow up, it’s horrible (I’m only partially kidding).

Anyway, back to the story:

After finishing a pleasant half-day at Arches National Park, we made our way out of Moab and went back west towards our last stop in Utah: Canyonlands. Of course, most people these days know about Canyonlands due to that whole story about a guy that got his arm caught between some rocks…but we definitely aren’t that hardcore.

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Canyonlands can’t be fully appreciated in just a day’s time, although you can certainly experience some great short hikes and amazing vistas (ABOVE). To truly enjoy Canyonlands, you need a 4WD vehicle, a GPS device, plenty of food and water, and a personal guide who really knows how to navigate the land – that’s how you get to see all the really sketchy and amazing stuff. But we weren’t there to visit the Maze section of the park. Nor the Needles for that matter, since we didn’t have much time. Most causal visitors like us take a day trip through the Island in the Sky.

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But before we could begin our trip to Canyonlands, we first had to find a new place to stay for the night. We tried to find a site at the famous Dead Horse Point State Park — however, we soon found that EVERY site had been taken (the place is quite popular by both families and photographers alike). The ranger at the visitor’s booth was really nice however, and gave us directions to a great little campground down the road.

Little did we know that we’d be staying at one of the most gorgeous (and obscure) little campsites in Utah…

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More Best of Utah: Arches National Park

Man, grad school is NO JOKE. UC Berkeley is especially no joke. I thought I would have a little bit more time in between papers and classes to record all our journeys from our best ever 2013 “Left Coast” National Parks Road Trip…but it was not meant to be. The travel journal will have to be finished in the summer of 2014. It’s Friday night and I should be doing homework right now, but fuck it.

Anyway. Back to the story.

Moab campsite

Joy and I woke up just about the same time that the sun started to rise above the rocks and peak into our tents. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this campsite is the BUSINESS…

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Utah Diaries: From Escalante State Park to Burgers in Boulder

We were pretty beat as we drove away from Bryce Canyon National Park. After an all day hike amongst the hoodoos, we had to drive a few hours to our next stop: Escalante. Actually – to be honest – we didn’t really know what our next stop would be. I guess that’s the beauty of going on a road trip! A month ago when we were planning our trip, I saw a picture of some gorgeous slot canyons/land formations in a Utah tourist magazine, and decided that we had to go and check out that area. It was in Escalante, but we really didn’t know what that meant. Escalante National Monument? Escalante State Park and Petrified Forest? Escalante city? We had no idea.

As we drove on, we passed by buffalo farms on the roadsides, and miles and miles of the most beautiful landscape ever. No wonder this highway (Highway 12, I believe?) has been designated as one of the “Top Most Scenic Highways of America”. I honestly thought they were lying at first. But then it just kept getting better and better:

Jumping for joy

Jumping for joy

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Mountains of red and tan rock as far as the eyes can see. Check out the highway on the bottom right.

Unfortunately, when we rolled into the town of Escalante, the visitor center had already closed (it was already past 5 pm). Joy was still sick and pretty tired, so while there were many places we could have camped at, I made an executive decision to stop and stay at Escalante State Park (and Petrified Forest – it was so cute). It also had a lake/reservoir nearby, and it was getting late. Joy likes water. I thought it might be a good match for us…

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Part II: Machu Picchu: Realizations from New Years Day 2013

Okay, let me back up this story a lil bit.

To give a little context to our trek: the Inca Trail – or “el Camino Inka” – was a religious and ceremonial pilgrimage conducted by the Inca to honor the land and the mountains on the way to Machu Picchu. Along the trail, they built different fortresses or sites along the way for various purposes, that also allowed them to send fire signals (in a domino effect) from one site to another to sound an alarm during invasions or external threats.

Nuria and Natalia by one of the Incan sites on Day 3

Nuria and Natalia by one of the Incan sites on Day 3

So while our journey was historically a very spiritual one, I have to admit looking back that as visitors and tourists to the region, we could have done more (I’ll get onto that point much later).

* * * * *

Anyway, back to Day 3: The 10 Mile Hike to the Gates

Our mist-covered valley camp for night 2

Our mist-covered valley camp for night 2

Even as groggy as I was on the morning of the third day, I realized that I did feel HELLLLAA better. My flu-like symptoms (probably altitude sickness) had subsided quite a bit, and even though I was tired and felt weak, it was able to hike. I must say that someone, some god, or some spirit out there must have taken pity on me, because I have no idea how my health improved so quickly. Or maybe it was the drug cocktails I was taking the day before.

It was probably both.

At 6 am we were off again, starting our trip with two miles of steep rocky steps (it actually ended up not being too bad) where we stopped halfway at one of the Incan sites to learn about the history and the purpose from Victor.

More stair hiking at the beginning of Day 3

More stair hiking at the beginning of Day 3

The hardest part about Day 3 is that for most of the hike, you’re going down extremely steep stone stairs. While it is downhill travel, it’s a killer for anyone with bad knees or ankles (like myself), plus the steps are often wet from stream runoff. Tread carefully.

After lunch, we finally had a chance to meet all of the porters that had the incredibly hard task of carrying the group’s gear (camping and cooking equipment) on their back for the entire trip. In all we had about eleven men that helped us, from a young 22 year old guy to a 54 year old man. We also had to introduce ourselves and say our name, where we were from, our age, and whether or not we were single (!)

Dark group photo

Dark group photo

After lunch, we continued on for another five miles to our final camp. It was lush and green, scenic but still rainy, and warm at different times along the trail.

After dinner that night, we said goodbye to the porters, and gave them thanks for all their help. Since we had to get up at 3:30 am the next day, we all did our best to get rest before the 4 mile hike the next day.

Day 4: A Lesson in Life, Death, and Spirituality

Day 4 was all about waking up and packing up quickly at 3:30 am, eating breakfast, and standing in line at the gates to start the hike to Machu Picchu, the culmination of our trip.

The smallest orchids in the world, on route to Machu Picchu, day 4

The smallest orchids in the world, on route to Machu Picchu, day 4

As the clock hit 5:30 am, the gates opened and we were all up and hiking. There were a few other groups in front of ours and a few groups behind us, but as we’ve been the slow group for the past few days, some of us straggled behind while everyone else barreled ahead. I stayed behind to hang out with Jennifer, who was limping so badly that we weren’t sure how she was going to hike for 4 miles. Jessica and I tried to brace her knee while I gave her 600 mg of ibuprofen for the extreme pain that she was in. She started to feel a bit better after that.

Me and Jen

Me and Jen

As we slowly hiked up the trail – taking pictures and limping along the way – we heard someone tell us:

“Someone fell off the trail, be careful as you hike! Stay close to the mountain and stay away from the edge!”

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