Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Karla's Visit/Niagara Falls/Labor Day/Santa Fe/Hawaii

Well, I suppose it's about time to catch up after 6 months of not posting... We had a busy summer, Karla came to visit in June and it was great to see her...

 I went to Cleveland for work in July and drove to Ontario and Niagara Falls on my day off. On the left is the American Falls and the right is the Canadian Falls.

It was really cool to see, kind of weird by myself but I had fun.

On Labor Day weekend Eric, Katie, and Colin came down to visit and Colin took his first airplane ride. He wasn't quite sure what to think!

Uncle Scott and Aunt Renee.

We're going to try and do an annual get together, this is the fist group photo, year 1.

I went to Santa Fe with a friend at the end of September, we had great fall weather and it was nice to get out of humid, hot San Antonio for a weekend. This is the Loretto Chapel staircase, which was featured on "Unsolved Mysteries." It's an architectural mystery because there are two 360 degree turns and no center support. Additionally, there were no nails used in its construction, just wooden pegs. The carpenter is a mystery, some think he was actually St. Joseph. It's a fully functional staircase that's still in use today. It's a pretty interesting story and worth googling.

Me and my friend Natalie. The funny thing about this picture is there was a homeless person's bed right behind us.

Santa Fe National Forest. We went just at the right time for fall, it was beautiful!

Random picture of Bailey looking miserable in her harness. She HATES her harness and doesn't even get excited for walks because she hates having to put in on. She's even missed out on walks a few times because sometimes she runs when I try to put it on her and I WILL NOT chase a beagle around the yard so I can do her the favor of taking her for a walk..

At the end of October/beginning of November we went to Hawaii for 10 days. It was amazing, pictures don't really do it justice. Our first stop was Oahu to see Pearl Harbor.

Waikiki Beach at sunset.

Pearl Harbor.

The submarine the USS Bowfin. We took an audio tour of the whole thing. I don't really have claustrophobia too much but the living/working conditions were very claustrophobic. On the audio tour they had interviews and quotes from the men who had served on the sub and it was really neat to get that part of the story instead of just reading signs or something.

The USS Arizona Memorial. The memorial itself isn't resting on the ship, it's over it and you can look down and still see parts of the ship, which is now a reef. It's also the burial site for hundreds of people who died when it sank, and even some survivors who died decades later have had their ashes interred with their former mates. Even after 70 years the ship is still leaking oil.  It was sobering to see it in real life and not just in a documentary or book. 

After Pearl Harbor we drove around Oahu and stopped at Waimea Valley, which is botanical gardens. A path led through the botanical area to the waterfall. It was beautiful, very quiet and peaceful. You can swim by the waterfall, and some people were, but we didn't.
We saw a couple of peacocks, they just roamed wild and didn't seem scared of people at all.

 From Oahu we flew to Hawaii, also known as Big Island. There was a cruise ship docked when we were driving from the airport.

View from the lanai.

Our first night on Big Island we evacuated for the tsunami. No one made us, but we obviously don't have enough experience with tsunamis to make a judgment call on our own and the sirens were going off so we left. We just drove up the hill and stopped at a scenic lookout with about 100 other people and waited to see what would happen. Once the waves started hitting and they were only like a foot high we went back. This is the view from the lookout back to where the resort was, which was right on the water.

The next morning we drove north along the north shore of the island to Volcanoes National Park. We stopped at a roadside farm for lunch and got a chilled coconut. The food was amazing, made from fresh fruit and vegetables they grew there themselves. The coconut didn't taste like a coconut though, more like water with a weird taste.

Volcanoes Naitonal Park. We did a lot of hiking throughout the trip and had packed accordingly, but the day pack we had brought for water, rain jackets, granola bars, etc. didn't fit Scott's shoulders so I had to be the mule.

The entrance to a lava tube. We actually got to walk through it to the other side, very cool.

You could see the lava at night whereas during the day it looked like it was just smoking. We didn't get to see it flowing.

Sunset at Volcanoes National Park.

The next day we went to Punalu'u, which is the black sand beach.

The water was super clear and cold.

There were more in the water but we really lucked out getting to see this guy, we thought it would be too late in the year to see any turtles. He's huge, and was just sitting there sleeping!

Next we flew to Kaua'i, known as "The Garden Isle" for all the flowers and vegetation. This is where we really planned to swim and spend some time on the beach.
View from the lanai.

We went hiking on the Napali coast, which was so beautiful it almost looked fake! We got there in the morning before the fog rolled in and it was only about 65 degrees on the mountain, perfect for hiking.

It's hard to see in this picture but on the horizon is the island of Niihau "the forbidden island", which is closed to most visitors. It has what is supposed to be the largest colony of Hawaiians (about 200+) left in the islands. Much of the Hawaiian heritage is kept alive and they speak Hawaiian as their primary language. 

The Waimea Canyon.

We went to a luau Wednesday night, which was really cool. Authentic Hawaiian food and the show was awesome, although it really got going after dark and my pictures didn't turn out that great. Scott got me a real flower lei too which was really soft and smelled sooooo good!

We went swimming near Hanalei Bay on the north shore of the island, and were able to walk a little bit and pretty much had a little area to ourselves.

Friday morning we went on a deep sea fishing charter and didn't get one bite. But we got to enjoy the sunrise on the water.

Kaua'i is full of wild chickens. They are under cars in parking lots, on the side of highways, in parks, in trees, all over. Apparently it's only been in the past 20 years that they've had all of these wild chickens all over the place and it's thought that Hurricane Iniki in 1992 caused damage to some chicken pens in some farms and they got out and spread. They're hilarious to see them roosting in trees and hear their cockle-doodle-doos!

Sunset on the pier at Hanalei Bay.

We also went snorkeling on the beach outside our resort but didn't think to get underwater cases for our phones so no pictures. We did find Nemo though, and all kinds of other brightly colored tropical fish. They were so close I'd try to reach out and touch them but I think the goggles made them closer than they really were because I never even got one. We had a really great time and feel so,so blessed we were able to enjoy such paradise!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Big Bend

I've been falling off the wagon lately with blogging, I'll try to get back on track :-) We went to Big Bend
National Park for a long weekend about a week ago. It's a very remote, scenic, middle-of-nowhere area by the Mexico border about 7 hours west of San Antonio and a few hours east of El Paso. It was really nice to just get away for a few days, and with no cell service it was great to be completely disconnected.
We stopped in Marathon, TX the first night, which is about 90 miles north of Big Bend. It's also very remote but has a little tourist scene since it's the last stop on the way to the park. 
Sunset in Marathon. 

The next morning at breakfast Scott was inspired by his coffee and has deemed this "art." Enjoy...

Coming in to Big Bend.

Poor animals...

Mexican nationals from the town of Boquillas leave little handmade crafts for hikers to buy along the trail. You're not supposed to buy any although no one ever searched us or anything. They also take donations.

Boquillas, Mexico.

Walking sticks, little handmade scorpions, and painted rocks. You leave your money in the coffee creamer bottle.

Most likely the canoe of the person selling the crafts at this particular location. Although in a lot of places, the river is narrow and shallow enough to just walk across.

A spring. It was an obvious oasis in the middle of the desert, as was the river.

 The trail to Hot Springs.

Hot Springs sounds cool in theory. If it were winter and not 105 degrees, and there was no one else there and you had your own little natural hot tub to yourself in the middle of this beautiful scenery, it would be perfect. However, the air was 105 degrees, the water was even warmer, and although there weren't a lot of people there, there were these two and they weren't leaving.

The river at Hot Springs.

We stayed a couple of nights at a place called "Upstairs at the Mansion" in Terlingua Ghost Town. Nothing was haunted or anything, it's just what the town is called. (Their sign says, and I meant to get a picture but didn't, "Birthplace to all Chili Cook-Offs Worldwide." Now that is a bold statement but apparently they have an annual chili cook-off that brings in over 10,000 people who tent-camp in a field since there is really nowhere to stay except this place and one other hotel.) There were a couple of bars and restaurants in town and a small hotel and that's about it. I don't know that anyone lives there, there may have been a couple houses but it was hard to tell. We checked out pictures online and thought this place looked like a really cool, unique place to stay. And it was, but when you first get there it takes a little bit to wrap your head around it. Most of it doesn't have a roof, but the liveable portion where we stayed had an upstairs room, a downstairs room, a shared bathroom, and a kitchen. Luckily the two bedrooms were air conditioned. We had the upstairs room and as it turns out, our roommates downstairs were an older couple, Chester and Cynthia, also from San Antonio. Luckily they weren't crazy (they voiced the same relief about us) and although we didn't end up crossing paths with them much they were really nice people. No doors locked from the outside, and Cynthia summed it up best the first night when she said, "so I guess we're on the honor system, huh?" We never saw the owner or hostess, and were instructed to leave cash or a check in the guestbook for payment. There was some cash in there from back in January so it didn't seem like they keep real good track. It was a really cool experience and we're glad we went for it instead of staying at the more traditional hotel. The room was really comfortable and it was nice to meet some new people in such a weird way.
I did instragram on some of these pictures, hence the black bars. Not that the scenery needed it but the pictures really didn't do it justice either.

 Scott trying to wrap his head around it when we first got there.

On the porch, still processing everything...
There was a cat there we named Felix, and our roommates said when the girl who cleans the rooms came she said she didn't know there was a cat. And this cat was all over the porch acting like he owned the place, on the table, in chairs, chasing birds...this particular squatter cat sounded like a more active version of Scooter.

Sunset from the porch at the mansion. The mountains are the Chisos Mountains in the middle of the park.

Sunset from the porch to the west. We were fortunate to see some really beautiful sunsets, I don't know if that's typical out there or what but they were amazing.

The next day we hiked in the Santa Elena Canyon. The right cliff is Texas and the left is Mexico. Really beautiful.

Scott wading to Mexico. The Mexico side at this point in the river is also a national park. The mountains are a natural barrier.

Scott in Mexico.

Renee in Mexico.

Back in the park, there are a couple cliffs called "Mule's Ears."

We went for the obvious joke.

 Beautiful, scenic vista. Looked like it may have been one of the highest points in the park.

Inside the Chisos Mountain Basin looking west to Terlingua.

The Santa Elena Canyon from a distance.

 From inside the canyon looking east to the Chisos Mountains.

We took the highway along the river west to Presidio, TX. It was one of the most scenic drives we've ever taken.
Madera Canyon.

Rest stop on the way to Madera Canyon.

Road to Presidio.

Desert flower.

Presidio itself is somewhat less scenic. This is the Ojinaga/Presidio border crossing. It looked like a vehicle fire on the Mexico side. 

Santa Elena Canyon again. These pictures are out of order and our version of Internet Explorer, our computer, or both is making it hard for me to move them.

Middle-of-nowhere near Marathon, TX.

  Sunset over Madera Canyon. We pulled off to the side of the road and caught it just in time. The picture really does not do it justice. There was no one else there, no cars going by, nothing. Very peaceful.

 After seeing the sunset over Madera Canyon, we were in a hurry to get back to Terlingua because the highway is pretty curvy and we didn't want to have to drive it in the dark. On a straightaway, the following
incident took place:
Scott: Hey, do you think I can get up enough speed to coast to the top of that hill?
Renee: I don't know, probably.
Scott: Let's find out....
Scott floors it for a few seconds
Scott: Okay...and neutral...
Several seconds elapse while we try to gage if it's going to work, and then...
In unison: Aaaahhhhhh! Burros!!!!!!

A herd (?) of burros was crossing the road. We stopped in time and were able to get a shot of this guy before they went over the hill. Lucky for everyone involved because they do not move very fast.

 Sunrise from the porch at the mansion. 

Sunrise coming through Big Bend on our way home.

The bridge over the San Pecos river on the way home.

We'd like to go back sometime in winter when the temperatures are more reasonable and do some of the longer trails. It would be nice if it was more accessible but at the same time, we went hours without seeing anyone and that's part of the appeal :-)