Thursday, February 25, 2010

National Parks in a Nut Shell (and Other Adventures)

It has been a long time coming, but as we are about to embark on our next adventure, here is our journal from this summer's journey. It may be long and it may bore some of you, but for those of you who have any interest in exploring National Parks and such, check it out, some of our favorite activities from many parks are listed here (along with favorite hikes!)

Look for future posts from Costa Rica!

June 18, 2009

Hello Adventure! We began our trek across the country about a week and a half ago. We stayed a week at mom & dad Hall’s for a little over a week – partly due to our interagency pass not arriving – and partly because we were spoiled! We visited the [Iowa Great] lakes, Little Swan Lake Winery, drove to Minnesota, planted some apple trees, watered some trees, ran played disc golf and did some things around the house.

*And visited the St. Louis Arch on our drive to Iowa.

Now we’re on the road! We made it to Nebraska on Tuesday and paddled down the Niobrara yesterday. That was pretty adventurous as I am not very skilled at maneuvering a canoe. But we made it, I learned some things (like when I should paddle), we saw Smith Falls – which are Nebraska’s tallest waterfalls – and didn’t tip the canoe! What amazing scenery!

*Oh! Crazy storm last night! I thought we would blow away – were there tornadoes?

*Oh, and Niobrara [National Wildlife] Preserve: Coyote, Bison, Prairie Dogs, Golden Eagle, Deer

Today we trekked into South Dakota. We spent a better part of the day in the Badlands. AMAZING! I really can’t think of anything else to say and the pictures don’t do justice. But, it was one of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen. We climbed one spire and milled around others – all the while watching out for rattlesnakes, as directed.

Now we are at Wind Cave National Park. We’ve seen Mule Deer and Bison and heard a presentation on caving. We’ll see what the next couple of days bring our way. On the docket for tomorrow: Mt. Rushmore, Reptile Gardens, Whatever our heart desires!

So much better than just walking.

(I need to remember to write daily so things aren’t so scattered!)

Quote of the day: “They’re candy corn mountains!” – Chris, referring to the striations in the Badlands

June 20

OK – so this is really for yesterday, but we didn’t get home (read: to the tent) until just before midnight. Yesterday we made it to Mt. Rushmore just after it opened. It was already humming with people, but not nearly as many as was possible. We did a walking tour where we learned more about the history of the monument and then also listened to a talk about Borglum – the sculptor. It was pretty interesting, and it really is a phenomenal creation.

Then we headed to Reptile Gardens. They have a really cool collection of snakes and lizards. A lot of the snakes are rare, and are only at their location in the US or even the Western Hemisphere in some cases. While there we took in a gator show, a bird show and a snake show. They have a pretty amazing staff that appears to be passionate about what they do, and are therefore quite knowledgeable.

After our adventures there, we ventured to Storybook Island, one of the city’s free attractions. It is a park full of storybook characters – really quite cute! It’s amazing that the city is able to offer it for free through the support of local organizations and private donations.

The “free tour” continued at Jackson Park where we took in a round of disc golf. It was a really nice course, spread out, and rarely in the walking path – a nice little change from Fletcher and a nice surprise overall!

And imagine – the fun didn’t stop there! Our next stop was at the Chapel in the Hills. A beautiful replica of a Danish chapel – a nice little site to see.

Then we made our way to Dinosaur Park where we climbed on dinosaurs and took some fun photos. Really we just goofed around.

And so, 12 hours after starting our day at Mt. Rushmore we headed back for their lighting ceremony. There was a short presentation and a video and then the lights. The monument is beautiful all lit up at night. They also did a service member acknowledgement – but of course that doesn’t include AmeriCorps. Some day that will hopefully change.

And just when you think there couldn’t be more we went on a beautiful scenic drive. OK – so it was dark, but I imagine the views were incredible! So instead of getting home by 10:30 it was just before midnight – you live and you learn – and we learned what way was not the fastest back to camp!

Another bonus for the day – we picked up a climbing book! Yay for more adventures!

Now we’ll see what today brings!

June 20 – I know, again!

So we were getting ready to head out of camp today when a ranger came through saying that there were free cave tours today! Yay! It was cloudy so that is what we were planning on doing – what a blessing!

We went on the Natural Entrance Tour and once again had an amazing ranger. The cave was pretty cool and so we decided to go on another tour! However, we decided to try something different and so we went to Jewel Cave. Jewel Cave is the second longest cave in the world.

At Jewel Cave we decided to go on the lantern tour. This involved carrying lanterns while walking down very steep, narrow, and mostly uneven steps from the 30s! It was a little tricky at times and Chris’ lantern went out at a windy spot! Even though it was a little hard to see some of the finer details it was an amazing experience!

We came back to Wind Cave afterward and talked with a ranger for a while. It is starting to seem more and more like a suiting job. And this area has loads of parks and other opportunities. Hmmm… we’ll see how we feel in 3 years (and what the rest of this trip inspires), but I can picture myself as an interpretive ranger!

Tomorrow we’ll go to service at Mt. Rushmore and then make our climbing adventure happen.

Quote from today – paraphrased by me, from a ranger, from Gandalf in Lord of the Rings – “We can’t decide how much time we have, but we can decide what we do with that time.”

June 21… The Adventure Continues

Today we started our day by attending a non-denominational service at Mt. Rushmore. There are several locations in the National Parks System that hosts these services – we found out about them on their last day at Acadia last year. It will be nice to try and catch another one as our journey continues.

After a Father’s Day phone call we went in search of some rock climbing. The first location was scary (to me) just to approach – the whole walk was uphill on dead pine needles – therefore it was rather slippery. We didn’t find much of interest so we continued on our way. At our second stop we had some nice hiking, but didn’t find anything we could top rope. This stop was well justified though as we saw a mountain goat on our way back toward the road! What a nice surprise! It just moseyed along eating grass and trying to shed its winter fur. It allowed us to snap some photos, which was kind of it!

Next we went across the road and this time at least put our shoes on and bouldered some. Still didn’t find top roping so we decided to take in another cave tour.

After a quick stop for a nature hike to an overlook we went on the Fairgrounds Tour. This tour seemed quite different from yesterdays. There seemed to be more limestone – it’s amazing how different places in one cave can be, well, different. It’s amazing how nature works.

At camp at a reasonable hour for some down time before tonight’s ranger talk. Until tomorrow…

June 22

Today we drove to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Yesterday we decided to turn our trip into more of a National Parks tour for the first leg. Considering many of our parks are in existence because of T.R. it was only fitting to make the trip. We added a new park and a new state – and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into!

The park is beautiful! There are the rocky buttes and the prairies – and there are tons of trees and other types of vegetation. The contrast is amazing. This is another park that seems to have picture perfect views no matter where you point the camera.

Today we saw pronghorn, wild horses, prairie dogs, and bison. I love this wildlife! Tonight we went to a ranger talk on bison over the last 200 years. It was phenomenal. I truly enjoy hearing the passion for the land and all that lives in/on it come through in these talks. One thing of interest that we learned was that bison do not have reflective coating on their eyes. There is also not a protective fence for this campground like there was at Wind Cave. This means bison may come into camp tonight – and you really need to look for their massive bodies, not just eyes!

Tonight we are camping on the Little Missouri River. We’ve already seen bison drinking from it; maybe we’ll see even more animals in the morning!

What a wonderful change in plans! Tomorrow the adventure continues with another new state and another new National Park. Woo hoo!

June 23

Today we drove to Yellowstone National Park. This involved driving across Montana, and Montana is a big state! Thankfully we were able to add a nice little break by stumbling upon Pompey’s Pillar National Monument. Pompey’s was visited by William Clark on July 25, 1806 when he was on the return trip of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Pompey’s was a lookout for Natives, travelers and later railroad crews. It is a beautiful climb and overlooks the Yellowstone River.

Our travels progressed over Beartooth Pass, with a climb to 11,000 feet. The sight was majestic. Driving toward the Beartooth Range was enchanting – seeing the snowcapped peaks in the distance and watching them grow until we were on top of them. Looking around all you could see were mountains with the occasional lake or snowmelt stream. With wildflowers growing next to several feet of snow it is hard to keep your jaw from dropping.

The drive brought us to Yellowstone (after a traffic break due to construction) where animals are happily roaming and people are annoyingly always stopping to take their pictures. Yes, I want animal photos too, but I’ll wait for the next pull out so that I don’t cause a traffic jam.

We weren’t able to camp in the park because everything was full, but have happily set up camp in the National Forest for less money – and less people. Tomorrow we’ll start exploring the world’s first national park.

*Note: look up marmots and martins to figure out what we saw on Beartooth pass

**We saw yellow-bellied marmots while going over the pass. We came around a bend and saw what we thought was road kill. It turned out to be three marmots getting warm on the pavement – they quickly got up and ran out of the road as we approached. It was quite amusing!

June 24

What an adventure we had today. We toured the Old Fort Building at 8am and then we were off!

We stopped and saw some of the hot springs and hiked to Mystic Falls. What a beautiful waterfall! We had a nice overlook and then ventured onward.

Our next stop was Old Faithful for some lunch and a viewing of the geyser. Following a tip from one of our magazines, we watched from the back side and avoided most people. It was an amazing event – considering how long / how frequently it blows.

Next we made our way to Yellowstone Lake for more thermals and a hike to have better views of the landscape. All quite nice.

We ventured on to Upper and Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. All I have to say is WOW and I hope our photos can help us describe the beauty.

After a dinner surrounded by elk we took in a ranger talk on buffalo/bison. Another passionate ranger with a fantastic presentation. All in all it was quite a full day and it was speckled with wildlife sightings. It’s amazing what fits in 2.2 million acres!

Tomorrow we’ll start with a 7-hour ranger adventure hike up snow peak pass. Then we’ll follow our hearts desire!

June 25

Ranger walk – check! We had a great hike over Snow Pass today. Our ranger talked about bears and their diet, the history of the area, the importance of predators and fire, and some about geology. It was wonderful information and nice to be out hiking. We’ll definitely need to come back sometime and do some backcountry exploring.

After that we visited Tower Falls and Calcite Cliffs. Beautiful sights (kind of like everything here!) Then we did some driving in Lamar Canyon and saw some more bison and pronghorn.

Watched a movie on the history of Yellowstone, Chris went on the Yellowstone Fort tour, made some pancakes for dinner, looked at the hot springs, and went to a ranger talk on bears. Yes – another full day (which means I’m tired and not writing epic stories.)

Some quick elk encounters:

1.) Yesterday in front of the visitor center we were surrounded by cows and their fawns while eating dinner

2.) Today on our hike we walked through the middle of a nursing herd and they kept calling back and forth.

All very cool – tomorrow on to the Tetons.

June 26

Today we made it to the Tetons. What an amazing sight to see. The mountains are still snowcapped and quite magnificent.

We did a couple of short hikes, the second of which included a hailstorm. How lucky are we?! But regardless – magnificent views. We also came across a young mule deer buck at the end of our first hike – woo hoo!

After dinner in the car (in an effort to avoid the rain) we listened to a ranger talk on moose. We learned a couple of cool things like the velvet on their antlers is like a skin with blood vessels to carry nutrients and also that moose can dive down 20 feet into the water – wow!

We stopped at Oxbow to get some photos and await the arrival of animals at dusk. No big ones, but did see otter, beaver, fish jumping, and what we suspect was a bear – on the other side of the river.

All in all another good day of adventure! Some more exploring tomorrow morning and then on to Utah to see Julie for a couple of days.

June 28

Yesterday we arrived at Julie’s after a walk around the lake trail in the Tetons. We were looking for moose but didn’t see any. First thing in the morning we had stopped at Oxbow and saw a coyote hunting and also viewed a lot of pelicans. At least we’re seeing some wildlife!

Today we had a lazy morning. We finished getting all of our photos on the computer (nearly 1000!) and did some basic online stuff. We spent the afternoon in Logan Canyon. We walked around Tony Grove and then hiked up to White Pine Lake. It was beautiful hiking and northern Utah is nothing like what I picture when I think of Utah. I guess my thoughts are different now!

It has been a nice weekend and it has been wonderful to catch up with Julie and meet her family. However, all good things must come to an end and so tomorrow we’ll head to different good things! I figure if we bounce from good thing to good thing we won’t get sick of anyone or any place!

To Arches and beyond…

June 29

We made it to Arches early this afternoon and quickly started enjoying the sights. We have hiked about half of the trails that are easily accessible and we will make our way back one day to try some back country stuff.

We ended our day with a hike to Delicate Arch. It was beautiful. Of course all of the arches that we have seen have been great. The unique landscape here is wonderful. In the coming days we will explore Canyonlands and surrounding areas and hike our remaining roadside section in Arches.

For now we’ll see how much past quiet hours the noise will continue…

June 30

We spent most of today exploring Island in the Sky, the northern section of Canyonlands National Park. We hiked to the bottom of a canyon and back up again – just around 12 miles. It was amazing! As we changed elevation we went through different geological periods. We started in red rock, walked through some white rock as we hiked the middle canyon rim and then progressed to red again as we went deeper into the canyon. Incredible is all I have to say!

Then we moved on to Upheaval Dome, a phenomena completely different from the rest of the parks structures. There is a huge bowl with a dome in the middle. It’s really quite something.

After checking out some viewpoints we walked to an arch and made our way back to Arches.

This evening we did the primitive trail to check out the northern end of the park with a high concentration of arches. We also worked our way in and out of fins and up some slabs. It was a great little (6 mile) loop and we saw amazing things! It is shocking how different two arches can be based on their surroundings – and all of them are pretty great.

Tomorrow we’ll look at some petroglyphs and the southern part of Canyonlands. Then it’s off to Four Corners (which Julie’s dad said isn’t really at the four corners! Imagine that!)

July 1

Wow! Another month gone by! Tomorrow will mark two month since we started our summer adventure. We have done quite a bit and yet there is so much more that we could do.

Today we went to the Needles district in Canyonlands for a short bit. It has absolutely amazing formations. We will need to come back one day to do some backcountry exploration.

A big theme in today’s travels has been Native American history. We stopped at several petroglyph areas. It truly is amazing that these artifacts are still in existence. We met a man who is working to get one of the sites designated as a National Historic Site. I hope he succeeds as there is quite a bit of graffiti going on in some of the locations.

Our other location for Native history brought us to Hovenweep, a National Monument. There are ruins from Pueblo tribes – some dating to the late 1200s! Amazing.

We did not go to Four Corner, opting instead to go to Natural Bridges National Monument and Hovenweep. It was well worth it. Much nicer than a concrete slab in the middle of the desert.

Tomorrow we’re off for another day of adventure at Mesa Verde!

July 2

Today we went to Mesa Verde. It is an amazing place and it is so great that it has been preserved for us to see it.

Today we went on a self guided tour of Spruce Tree House. This is the park’s best preserved cliff dwelling. The structures are fantastic – what incredible architects the Puebloen were.

We also went on two ranger-guided tours. We went through the Palace and the Balcony House. There were ladders to climb and tunnels to crawl through – what more could you ask for!? We had great rangers once again, adding to the experience.

After that we made the trek up to Great Sand Dunes. We are camped just south of the entrance and tomorrow morning we’ll play in Nature’s Sandcastles before driving up to Rocky Mountain NP!

July 3

We started our morning by playing in the sand. It doesn’t get much better than that! We walked, ran, jumped, tumbled and so on. Chris even tried to slide on his belly down a dune – it didn’t work out very well.

Aside from the adventure the dunes were AMAZING! At the base of the mountains are 800-foot sand dunes. Where do they come from?? Just beautiful!

After that we made the journey up to Rocky Mountain. After worrying about finding a place to camp we heard there were still a couple of sites available in the park. We made the drive to the west side, seeing elk, a moose, and I think a mountain goat off in the distance. We found a site, ate dinner, and listened to a nice ranger talk on photography. I think we already had the basics, but its good to get a reminder!

Tomorrow – we explore!

July 4

Happy Independence Day! We celebrated by exploring the park, we started out with a mile long river walk on the West side and then moved on to the East side.

We took in about 9 miles of trail that led us past mountain lakes, near waterfalls and through boulder fields. And of course there was intermittent hail, thunder and rain. A beautiful day in the mountains!

We ate lunch on a boulder in Bear Lake and then progressed up to Dream Lake. During that trek we passed several people with bouldering pads who recommended Emerald Lake. Then we started up to Lake Hiayaya and we were told there was better bouldering there. Well, the lake is surrounded by a boulder field, so if things are dry in the morning we might head out there with the crash pad.

We took a one way road back to camp in hopes of seeing some big horn sheep – we only succeeded in seeing rain and snowmelt waterfalls. Oh well – it happens.

Now we’re in camp waiting for the ranger program and listening to our noisy drunk neighbors – what fun.

Hopefully things will quiet down in the next hour!

July 6

Yesterday we awoke to an elk licking our tent! Wow! We decided to get up then and head back to Coyote Valley in another attempt to see wildlife. We made it to the half mile mark with little more than beautiful landscapes and some birds. Then, as we were preparing for the return hike we spotted an elk. That elk was accompanied by two others and I took to watching them through my camera.

After a little while Chris called me back to the stream where a moose had appeared! As we watched, her calf also came out into the open and they ate breakfast while we took photos. The moose soon crossed over the water to a small island and ate some more. As we moved around to get better lighting for photos, the moose started crossing the river to where we were standing. We moved down the trail some and the moose disappeared in the woods without incident. What an amazing sight to see – a moose with her calf!

We hiked back to the car without further sightings and headed back to camp. We made a hot breakfast to make up for the previous night’s dinner of graham crackers and peanut butter – then we broke camp.

We spent the early afternoon back at Bear Lake Region. We started up to Lake Hiayaya with the bouldering pad, but it started spitting before we there. However, after we turned back the skies cleared a little and we decided to make the shorter hike to Emerald Lake.

Chris successfully completed two problems – I got one started and that was good for me! I scrambled the side of the boulder to meet Chris at the top.

We made it out of the woods just before the rain came pouring down and stopped at Sheep Lakes on our way out of the park. Unfortunately there were not any sheep to be seen – and they hadn’t been seen for a week, so I guess it just wasn’t meant to be!

We made it to Ogallala in 4 hours and stayed with the Coggins for the night. They have a beautiful straw bale house and Colby did the layout and everything on his own. It was simply gorgeous!

Today we have been seeing the sights as we drive across Nebraska. We stopped at Ash Hollow, which was an Oregon Trail stop. Then we stopped at Buffalo Bill’s Ranch and looked around. Our last stop was at a Pony Express stop. What History!!

Now we’re on our way to Crete where the adventure will continue.

July 15

Well, the past week and a half has just flown by. We stayed with Sarah in Crete through Friday morning and had a fabulous time. It was a nice relaxing break after non-stop excursions for 3 weeks.

On Tuesday we hung out and Sarah gave us a tour of the campus. Doane is nice and small and very beautiful. For dinner we went to Christina’s and I can see why Sarah has spent so much time there! Yummy!

Wednesday took us into Lincoln. We spent time wandering around the university – which is essentially the city. We had a fantastic lunch at Oso Burrito – one of the most filling burritos I’ve ever had. Our wandering also took us to a consignment shop where we found a NPS jacket for $15 – however that is not in our budget, so it went back on the rack. We had a great evening hanging out with Aaron. We had delicious pizza from Yia Yias and then watched the USA v Honduras game (we won 2-0!).

Thursday was another great day. We’ve had a lot of those this summer! We hung out at Sarah’s and then tried to figure out if Chris could order Rosetta Stone through the University. After about 5 stops, someone finally just said no and so we were on our way. Stupid AmeriCorps. We enjoyed some afternoon sunshine playing disc golf and then went over to Joe and Miriam’s for dinner.

We had an amazing zucchini dish for dinner followed by a walk to the park to try and rid Azalia of her bursting energy. She is an adorable little girl with loads of personality. We played at the park for a while and then went back to the house for some homemade peach cobbler – yum!

Friday had us traveling to again – this time to Vinton, IA. We were able to see the new NCCC campus and meet the director. It is a nice friendly environment.

We had a fabulous time hanging out with Alana, Jimmy and Audra. We had grilled pizza which was a new experience and oh so good. Later we went out for malts – another delicious treat! The evening was fabulous, just getting to catch up with old friends. It was also nice hang out with people our age.

*Played Killer Bunnies

Unfortunately I spent Saturday being sick and observing the day in and out of a sleepy stupor. I know Chris and Alana played more Killer Bunnies and watched a Chicago – Columbus MLS game.

On Sunday we drove to Chicago and began our Kim and Jeremy adventure. For dinner we had lentil soup and homegrown salad – yum! Kim experimented with nasturtiums and so we had flowers in our salad and it was pretty tasty. Later Kim took us to explore the neighborhood. It is full of murals and history – a pretty cool place.

On Monday, Chris and I went to the lake in hopes of doing some bouldering. We started out walking away from our potential bouldering site. We had some lunch, enjoyed the lakeshore and played some catch with the Frisbee. We walked back to climb and were thwarted by water and a gate. But we had a nice 6 or 7 mile walk and I got a nice sunburn! We had another yummy dinner of salmon and quinoa and had a good time catching up with Kim and Jeremy.

On Tuesday we had a relaxed day and played a little disc golf. The course was really woody and narrow so we didn’t finish it but we played a good 8 holes. We hung out with Kim for a while and then the neighbor [kid] came over and was bouncing around. It was a nice afternoon.

We ended the day with $6 movie night with free popcorn. We watched Up and it was wonderful. Pixar does a great job once again. We followed it up with dinner where everyone had sushi (except me as my stomach was still upset a little from Saturday).

Anyway, a lot of good times. It was nice spending time with people our age and catching up with friends that we haven’t seen in too long.

We’re now on our way to Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio.

July 25

And so a week and a half have passed just like that…

Our afternoon in Cuyahoga National Park was great. We spent most of our time talking to a ranger who wanted to learn more about the AT and what to expect next summer when he attempts it. We also had some general conversation about the park and are excited to go back with bikes one day.

We had hoped to camp in the park, but then discovered you had to make reservations prior to 5pm. Without a self-register we pushed on to NY.

We ended up spending a week with Aunt Beth and Uncle Brian. On Thursday, we hung out and then went to the lake to wander and we played some soccer with Hannah.

Friday was jam-packed. We went out to breakfast and then moved onto wine tasting along Seneca Lake. We went to 4 wineries and snacked along the way. There were some very yummy wines, but we only purchased 2 bottles from Courtney’s family’s winery.

On Saturday we went to the Farmers Market and Art Festival during the day. That night we went to a Rhino’s game at the new stadium. They tied 1-1 after a lateral game with a few missed opportunities.

Sunday was Gramma’s 75th birthday picnic. We went to Joe and Courtney’s new house and surprise, surprise – mom and dad were there! It was wonderful to see family and hang out and chat. A very nice day!

Monday (went running in the AM!) was gramma’s actual birthday so we went out for lunch. Chris spent the afternoon/evening teaching Hannah how to use Adobe Illustrator.

Tuesday, we played disc golf in the morning out in Naples. It was a nice course – maybe a little overgrown, but that’s OK J. We met up with Eryn in the afternoon and later went to Hannah’s soccer game. A satisfying day that ended with Abbotts – yum!

Wednesday had us packing up and preparing for Thursday. Aunt Beth & Uncle took us out for dinner (Mexican), but mostly it was a relaxed day. We looked at photos in the evening and then headed to bed.

We got up early Thursday to make breakfast for everyone and then took off for Burlington, VT.

Burlington is a nice little college town. We wandered for the most part during out 1.5 days there. Friday we did a little climbing in Ethan Allen Park and hung out with Alissa and some of her friends.

Today we drove to Maine. We setup behind the church and it feels so nice to be in a tent again! We spent the evening with Pastor Dave and Lisa, which was very nice. We looked at photos and talked about travels – what an evening!

Tomorrow we’re off to Acadia – YAY!

July 26

Wow! We had a wonderful nights sleep last night! It was great to be in the tent again and our space at the Church was just about perfect.

After service today, we were able to chat with a couple of people who were interested in what we’ve been doing. Ron showed us the chapel, it has come a long way since our work day this spring! We said our goodbyes and trekked up to Acadia.

It feels nice to be back in the park – after all the new ones this summer – this feels like home! Of course, with it comes Maine’s fantastic summer – overcast, rainy, and cool. Perfect hiking weather!

We climbed the Beehive and then checked out Otter Cliffs. Tomorrow, if it’s nice we’ll go to the cliffs in the morning and climb before it’s too crowded.

This evening we went to ranger program at the campground. Ranger Todd was wonderful. He presented on “The Sounds of Acadia,” and also performed with the guitar, singing creature related songs. He mentioned that he had done Peace Corps and so after the program he talked with us for about 45 minutes and gave us some pointers for applying for NPS jobs – Score!

More exploring tomorrow – hopefully the energy monster won’t zap me again so I can go, go, go!

July 27

This morning we laid in the tent listening to rain drops blowing from the trees. It was nice and relaxing! We read for a while and then made our way into the world of Acadia.

We stayed on the quiet side for the morning, as storms seemed to be lurking in the clouds. The thunder rolled, but we never got the storm that we anticipated!

We spent time around Beech Mountain, climbing the Cliffs Trail and later up the mountain to the fire tower. Beech Cliffs is such a nice trail – it gives you a little bit of everything with a rockslide, ladders, some level paths, and on a clear day, nice views.

After some lunch and contemplation, we drove to the east side to play on Norumbega. The Goat Trail is another one of those trails that gives you a little bit of everything – traverses, [exposed] rock slabs to walk up, some scrambling and a nice full-body workout!

We stopped in at the Bass Harbor lighthouse and then went back to the [Seawall] picnic spot for dinner. We ended the day checking out tide pools along the Seawall. A great day in Acadia – it’s nice to be here again!

July 28

Today we played in Acadia. The Precipice Trail opened this morning so we hopped on the chance to climb that again. We saw and heard some Peregrines, but thankfully were not attacked at their speed of 220 mph.

We hiked over Champlain and then climbed Dorr via Kurt Deidrichs trail and ate lunch at the summit. After that it was down the Gorge Trail and up to Cadillac.

At Cadillac Chris and I took different paths. He wanted to go down the West Face and I have no desire to descend that trail! So, I took the South Ridge Trail to the Pond Trail and we met up at Jordan Pond. I don’t think we had done the Pond Trail after our first or second visit and I had no idea what to expect – but, there was a rockslide, a waterfall, lots of rocks, some iron rungs, and one some stream crossings – another one of those trails that offers a complete experience. The final mile is pretty calm and it allowed me to pick up the pace.

We used the bus system to get back to our car – I think it was our smoothest bus experience to date. Then we made our way to Belfast for dinner in the park.

Now we’re settled at Rich and Marcia’s, tomorrow it’s off to Camden Hills.

July 29

Today we went to Camden Hills and climbed the Flake Out. It was nice to be out, but it sure has been a while. Chris made it up twice and I made it half way before my arms quit. It made for a nice mid-day activity.

After climbing we went to the Teen Center for a short while. It was nice to see familiar faces – both staff and kids. Later we walked around town for a while, taking in all of the changes that have taken place since April.

All in all a good day wrapped up with a fantastic dinner full of veggies!

July 30

We picked up my car today and promptly took it to the shot as my front brakes had gone. How exciting! With that taken care of we went out to the cottage and picked up our bikes.

After our transportation excitement we went into Camden and ate lunch at the Bagel where I was able to see Ken, Laurel, Liis, Kim, and Sara. What are the chances!? Anyway – very tasty sandwiches, as always.

We spend some more time at the Teen Center after lunch. It’s really nice to see the kids – and to have them be so excited about seeing us.

Rich and Marcia’s Boston plans changed and so we were able to see them again this evening. They took us to dinner at the Weathervane, which was delicious – and then we came back to the house and showed photos.

It has been a nice and relaxing couple of days. Tomorrow we head to Paul and Becky’s for a night or two – depending on the weather. Hopefully it will be sunny skies so we can do some climbing on Saturday.

It’s hard to believe we are starting to wrap up our trip. This summer has gone by so quickly – but I guess that is what happens when you never stop moving. Looking at photos this evening and thinking how recently we were in some places is quite odd. You don’t really realize the passing time when every moment is full of positive energy.

So here’s to a good couple of more days in Maine and a safe trip home – and then finding fun jobs.

Happy Summer!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Costa Rica is Knocking at Our Door

It's here, or almost here. Costa Rica. Wow, it seems like we have been waiting forever for the day to come, and here it is, sneaking up on us. On Tuesday of next week we will be flying to Costa Rica, but before that happens we are busy wrapping up our last minute preparations for the next two years of life.

We are in Iowa with Chris's family as we make our final preparations. We've set up a Drop Box account to conveniently share photos with friends and family (if you're interested let us know), printed off and filled out the necessary forms for loan deferment and staging registration, set up a Skype account to keep in touch with family and friends, updated our iTunes libraries, printed off photos, and purchased a chair. No lie, we bought a chair this past Saturday at the flea market (it was $10 and Chris's parents graciously agreed to keep it for us), it is lime green and we plan to turn it into a rocking chair in our future life (the one where we have our own home again)we will most likely reupholster it as well so it actually goes with our furniture that is being stored in NC). We also have the little details to take care of as well, laundry, packing, you know...squeezing our lives (minus that chair) into suitcases.

(The Hall Family)

This week has been crazy, but then so is life in general. The preparations for this next adventure began a long time ago, perhaps when we first started contemplating the application process for Peace Corps; but these past several months have been stuffed to capacity and trying to jam preparations in with work, spending time with family, playing Wii, studying spanish and running has been a bit overwhelming (playing Wii was really there to keep us from going insane). Thankfully in the midst of all of that we were able to spend some time with Ashley and Zack in January while Ash had a brief break from school, it was wonderful to see her one more time before leaving the country.

(The Hansen Family)

On Valentine's Day we took a trip to Chicago - OK, so it wasn't really a Valentine's trip as much as it was a Chicago is kind of on the way to Iowa and we have some pretty awesome friends that live there. We stayed with Jeremy and Kim for a couple of days and enjoyed the sights (i.e. food) of the city. On our last day in town we ate real (vegetarian) hot dogs and got incredible sushi from a local fish market. The sushi is important to note because 6 people ate for less than $50, when does that ever happen with sushi, and good sushi too!

(With the Howes) (Our Amazing Sushi Platter)

(With Our Hot Dogs)

So, I know it's not much, but it will have to do for now. We will have our lives stuffed into our backpacks and sweet Patagonia carry-ons come Saturday evening. Sunday we will fly to D.C. (and hopefully spend some time with a friend there), Monday we will have our staging event, and Tuesday we will fly to Costa Rica. Let the craziness continue!

Here's to a whole new adventure - life in Costa Rica!