A Mirror of Reflections

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe it’s September already.  Our summer flew by, and although our travels didn’t exactly go as planned, we are not complaining.  Actually, we couldn’t have planned our summer any better.  Sometimes winging it can turn into an amazing adventure.

Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park

The travel God’s smiled on us regularly as we changed directions on a whim.  I mean literally from one second to another we were changing our minds on where we should go and pulling into campgrounds without reservations…. not ideal in the peak of tourist season.  One minute we were in crisis mode pointing the RV in an easterly direction, and the next, with the crisis averted, we found ourselves turning around and heading north; traveling with no real rhyme or reason other than some impending obligations.

Jackson Lake, Wyoming
Jackson Lake, Wyoming

The flexibility and freedom of traveling in a RV can be liberating, exciting, stressful, wonderful, scary, perplexing, and of course, relaxing …… it’s kind of like a rollercoaster of emotions, but minus the word relaxing.  As much as I love a good rollercoaster ride, I’ve never found one to be relaxing – exhilarating yes, relaxing no!  And RVing can be an exhilarating journey.

Jackson Lake, Wyoming
Jackson Lake, Wyoming

Along with seeing spectacular scenery this summer, we met some wonderful people.  More than once we were referred to as “seasoned”.  On July 1st, we entered our fourth year of full-time RV living.  Our one to two year intention of living in the RV full-time has since turned into year four.  I’m not sure when we progressed from “newbie” RV’er to “seasoned” RV’er, but here we are,  still enjoying the journey, and willing to share our school of hard knocks knowledge with any “RV newbie” who asks.

Grand Junction, Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado

I’ll admit, three years ago as a relative ‘newbie’, I would never have handled the winging it style of travel we embarked on this summer.  I’ve always been a planner and usually have a game plan laid out weeks in advance, and most times, months in advance.  I think, over time, we’ve developed a level of RVing confidence. We have confidence in knowing we’ll always manage to find a place to overnight, even if it’s just a parking lot.

Loved visiting the ducks at Schbacher Landing, Grand Tetons, Wyoming
Loved visiting the ducks at Schwabacher Landing, Grand Tetons, Wyoming

There are days I do miss a home base.  A place to go back to and regroup, but I still haven’t found that spot I’d like to call home.  So the search shall continue.  I do know it won’t be Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Although amazingly beautiful, and I look forward to returning, my blood is too thin to tackle that weather.  More than once we awoke to temperatures in the 30 degree Fahrenheit range along with a fresh dusting of snow on the peaks and this was in mid July …. beautiful BUT brrrr!

I don't think I'd ever tire of this view, but I couldn't live here - too cold...brrrr!
I don’t think I’d ever tire of this view, but I couldn’t live here – too cold…brrrr!

The moment I realized this weeks photo challenge was mirror, I knew I had to share some images from our summer excursion ….. photographs depicting reflections.  I’m still struggling with my computer issues, thus my lack of blogosphere presence may continue, but now that we’ve decided to slow our travels down a tad and spend the next two months hanging in Prescott, Arizona, I’m hoping to finally upgrade this dinosaur of a laptop.

Yellowstone Bear World, Idaho
Yellowstone Bear World, Idaho

Once I bring home that new laptop, I’ll start writing about our interesting travel stops.  Not only do these photographs depict reflections, as I review them, I reflect on our memories, on our journey, on the adventure.

Grand Junction, Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado
Slate River Road, Crested Butte, Colorado
Slate River Road, Crested Butte, Colorado

My biggest dilemma was narrowing down the photographs to just a few, which was not an easy task for me.  We managed to visit some stunningly beautiful places during the past few months.  We started in Arizona last April then ventured into Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and now, five months later, have returned to Arizona.

I was excited to see a Pelican fly by - Pelicans in Wyoming?
I was excited to see a Pelican fly by – Pelicans in Wyoming?
Lots of ducks
Lots of ducks
Mountains and Wildlife - love it!
Mountains and Wildlife – love it!

Yep, we had one heck of a rollercoaster ride this summer ….. wouldn’t change a moment….. not the highs, the lows, or the upside downs.  Stay tuned for all the stories!

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Hoodoo You See?

When it comes to traveling, one of my greatest joys is immersing myself in a new place.  It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a city or some remote wilderness that I’m visiting for the first time, setting off on foot allows me to discover things up close.

I see the face of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Do you?
I see the face of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. What face do you see?

Whether I’m hiking, walking, strolling, meandering, or whatever pace I’m keeping at the moment, I love allowing my legs to transport me to exciting new visual delights .

hiking Red Canyon was a delight
hiking Red Canyon

Years ago, my son and I visited my parents in the Chicago suburbs and took the train into the city for a day of sightseeing.  We walked, and walked, and walked some more…. no cab rides for us.  According to my dad (who knows the city of Chicago like the back of his hand), Logan and I must have walked at least ten miles.  By doing so, he and Bryce Canyon National ParkI observed so many unique details in this bustling city – from architecture, to art, to the beautiful parks and shops, to the sounds and smells. It was a memorial day spent with my son along with discovering the city’s special character.

My week spent in Bryce Canyon Country was equally memorable and just like that day in Chicago, I knew I had to get out on foot to immerse myself in this mesmerizing landscape.

Each overlook is breathtaking!
Each overlook is breathtaking!

I started off my Bryce Canyon National Park visit by stopping at every single overlook and getting a feel for the lay of the land.

I see you!
This hoodoo sees you!

Seeing Mother Nature’s work of art from the rim of the canyon is breathtaking, but hiking in the depths of her creation left me awe-struck and speechless.  Around every corner was another perplexing sculpture.  So many of the rocks seem to have faces and personalities.   Then there are rocks that resemble people, things, or even a queen – Queen Victoria to be exact.Bryce Canyon

And now we know why the trail is called the Queen’s Garden Trail.  It took me a moment to grasp the resemblance, and of course, the aid of a sign was helpful.

Can you spot the Queen?
Can you spot the Queen?  Can you also see the hiking trail? Yep, I was down in there!

The Queen’s Garden trail is a fantastic hike that put me in the center of some of the most bizarre and interesting terrain that I’ve ever seen.  It’s obvious why it’s the parks most popular trail.  We saw hikers of all ages and ability on the trail, although I will say the 600 foot elevation climb back out of the canyon seemed to be a challenge for some, especially for those not accustomed to the 8,000 plus foot altitude.  Note the pointy hoodoo in the photos below.  The trailhead is high above that hoodoo.

We had to climb out of the valley above the pointy hoodoo
We had to climb out of the valley above the pointy hoodoo seen on the left.

Bryce Canyon

Al and I enjoyed this hike so much so that we actually hiked it twice.  On our first day, we started the hike at the Navajo Loop trailhead which will eventually meet up with the Queens Garden trail.  The term “loop” is a bit of a misnomer because the return part of the Navajo trail loop has been damaged and eroded to the point it had to be closed off for safety reasons. Thus, no hiking loop at the time of this writing.Bryce Canyon

This land never rests due to weather and erosion.   These statuesque limestone rock formations called hoodoos are caused by the extreme weather changes… from snow and ice melt, to soaring heat.  The constant contraction and expansion causes cracks, collapses, and further sculpting. You won’t find any rock climbers around here considering the rock is soft, unstable, and ever-changing.  Because of this instability, its vital hikers stay on the trails and wear proper footwear for traction.

Evidence of instability are easily seen. I wonder how deep that crack is?
Evidence of instability are easily seen. I wonder how deep that crack is?

Starting off at Sunset Point, we headed down the Navajo trail into the canyon floor via a series of switchbacks, and found ourselves hiking in a pine forest.  The crisp fresh air scented with pine made for a very pleasurable hike.

hiking with pines
hiking with pines

 

Hikers will find several tunnels along the trail
Hikers will find several tunnels along the trail

Once we veered onto the Queens Garden trail, we exited the pine forest and the terrain became more stark and barren, but those hoodoos were up close and personal.

The next day, Al and I hiked the trail in reverse; starting at the Queens Garden trailhead and exiting at the Navajo trailhead.  Is one way better than the other?  No!  Regardless of the starting and ending point, the scenery is out of this world and I can’t recommend this hike enough.  The first day it took us a little over two hours to complete the hike because someone kept stopping to take photos 😉  The second go around took us less than two hours to hike, even though an equal amount of photos were taken!

hikers can be seen on the Queens Garden Trail
hikers can be seen on the Queens Garden Trail

BUT, if you’d like to start out with a couple of super easy hikes that are still beautiful, but won’t have the elevation change……

hoodoo you see?
hoodoo you see?

On highway 12 just east of highway 89 is the Red Canyon Visitor Center.   There’s a series of short trails that interconnect allowing one to hike the short interpretative trail only or add a little more distance by continuing onto the Pink Ledges trail and/or the Birds Eye trail.

Red Canyon
Red Canyon

The scenery here is beautiful and worth the stop.  Since we were camped just a few miles down the road, I found myself meandering around here a couple of times.  It’s amazing the new sights I saw each time I hiked the same trail.  The more I looked at the rocks, the more faces I saw.

Red Canyon
Red Canyon

 

Red Canyon
Red Canyon

Continuing east on Highway 12 past the turn off to Bryce Canyon National Park are more hiking trails.  Year’s ago (I’m talking more than twenty plus), Al and I traveled Highway 12 through this part of Utah.  It’s a stretch of road I’ve longed to revisit, but alas the weather this day would not cooperate.

Mossy Cave and Waterfall trail
Mossy Cave and Waterfall trail

I stopped in at the great visitor center in the town of Cannonville and picked up some local information then returned to the truck in a steady stream of rain.  Feeling somewhat disappointed, I decided to head home.  My exploration of Highway 12 will need to wait for another visit.

Highway 12
Highway 12
Mossy Cave and Waterfall Trail
Mossy Cave and Waterfall Trail

However, on my way home, the weather cleared just long enough for me to take a quick one mile (out and back) hike.  Any disappointment I may have felt was quickly lifted after a brisk walk in this beautiful setting.  The Mossy Cave Waterfall Trail was definitely a worthwhile hike in between rain clouds.Bryce Canyon

So that about wraps up my fabulous week spent in Bryce Canyon Country.  Oh, we can’t forget the beautiful faces of wildlife……

Pronghorn aka antelope
Pronghorn aka antelope

Chipmunk

Bryce CanyonFYI… the trails around here can get slick, gooey, and dangerous.  Proper hiking shoes are a must.  The weather can fluctuate to extremes and change rapidly.  A 40 degree (Fahrenheit) change throughout the day is not unusual.  Dressing in layers is a good idea.  Bring plenty of water and expect high winds.  Being prepared, allowed us to have a fantastic and memorable visit.

Fairyland trail will need to wait for my next visit!
Fairyland trail will need to wait for my next visit – a more challenging trail that I can’t wait to tackle!
The many faces of Bryce Canyon
The many faces of Bryce Canyon

I’ll be back! 

Beautifully Ornate

I remember that trip as if it were yesterday.  I was sixteen years old traveling by myself to a foreign country. I boarded a plan in Chicago bound for Frankfurt, Germany, where relatives I barely knew picked me up at the airport.  That summer was an enlightening adventure beyond my expectations and was also responsible for piquing my interest in architecture.

Photo-Cologne Tourism
Photo-Cologne Tourism

The sight of the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) in Köln, Germany, had my jaw dropping in awe.  Viewing photos of this magnificent structure continues to have the same awe-inspiring effect on me to this day.  It seems, I continue to be drawn to beautiful and ornate churches, and can’t pass up an opportunity to photograph these architectural marvels.

Although, I haven’t seen anything as ornate and stunning as the Kölner Dom, I have encountered other unique structures, that are equally beautiful in their own right.

Last winter while visiting Tucson, Arizona, I found myself stopping by Mission San Xavier del Bac several times.  With each visit, I discovered more unique and ornate details.

Mission San Xavier del Bac
Mission San Xavier del Bac
 intricate and ornate
intricate and ornate

Last summer while hanging around Denver, Colorado, I made several visits to the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.  The moment we drove by this structure, I knew I had to stop and explore.

Cathedral Basilica, Denver, Colorado
Cathedral Basilica, Denver, Colorado
Inside Cathedral Basilica
Inside Cathedral Basilica

But there was one church on my bucket list that I just had to see.  Perhaps it’s the home builder in me or my spiritual beliefs ….. regardless, the Loretta Chapel and its Miraculous staircase was a must see for me during a Santa Fe, New Mexico visit.

Inside the Loretta Chapel - miraculous staircase
Inside the Loretta Chapel and the miraculous staircase
Loretta Chapel
Loretta Chapel
Loretta Chapel
Loretta Chapel

I’m sure as we continue to travel, my ongoing quest to seek out these spiritual and architectural beauties will continue 🙂

This post was written in response to the WordPress Photo Challenge – Ornate.

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