Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stop 4: Canyon de Chelly

I'm not even sure where to begin with my Canyon de Chelly (pronounced d'Shay) post. Located in Chile, Arizona, it really is the middle of nowhere. We drove from the Four Corners Monument into Chinle though miles and miles of nothing. We'd come upon a turn off and gas station and realize that had been one of the small towns on our map. While not the most beautiful part of the trip, there is still something beautiful about seeing nothing for miles and being the only car on the road. 
Canyon de Chelly is simply amazing. That's all there is to it. It's a breathtaking canyon, and there to be explored practically by yourself. There were a few other cars driving through the canyon, and stopping in the overlooks, but this National Monument is very under-visited with its bigger cousin, the Grand Canyon, getting all the attention. You can't beat the Grand Canyon for its grandeur, but if you've been before, consider visiting this canyon next time.
This canyon has numerous ruins, and since it's on Navajo land, you need to view from the overlooks, or hire a guide to take you into the canyon. There is one exception, White Ruins.   

We took that hike down into the canyon and were totally alone with the ruins. It was incredible. The cliff faces are so sheer, streaked with colors and these cliff dwellings are there at the bottom. Just gorgeous.

Also in Canyon de Chelly is an overlook to gorgeous Spider Rock. This place is sacred to the Navajo because they believe this was the place where the Holy Spider Woman, the deity who taught the people how to weave, was born. As a weaver, I love the idea that the skill of weaving was held in such high regard that it was taught by a deity. (The middle two rocks in the bottom of this photo is Spider Rock.)
Navajo people still live in this canyon. You see small hogans scattered along the floor of the canyon where some Navajo still herd sheep. Along the rim are many houses and small neighborhoods where people also live. It was such a unique place, and so special for having it practically to ourselves.

We stayed one night in Chinle, but went back to the Canyon the next morning because we wanted more time there in morning light. 
From here, we got back into the car and drove to the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, and then on to Winslow, Arizona where we spent our last night. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Stop 3.5: Four Corners Monument

After leaving Colorado, we headed back into Arizona to visit the northeast of the state. On the way, we couldn't resist stopping at the Four Corners Monument for some geo-geeky photos. Despite there being nothing near it for miles, if you're doing a similar route, I definitely recommend stopping.
 A lot of people take silly photos of themselves in all states at once. Rather than look like I was playing Twister, I opted to hold a plank in all four states.

From here we continued on to Canyon de Chelly in Chinle, Arizona.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stop 3: Mesa Verde National Park

Next stop on our road trip through the southwest was into Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park. I love Colorado, so it was nice to see the Rocky Mountains again. I missed them! We drove straight from Moab into the National Park. The visitor center is 18 miles from the park entrance on a windy road up into the mountains. It felt so familiar, I loved it.

Mesa Verde was the first national park declared a park to preserve the work of humans. It contains over 600 cliff dwellings. We decided to do one guided tour of Balcony House for the chance to be inside one of the cliff dwellings. I highly recommend this, it was incredible to be inside one of these ancient spaces, and park rangers are great at telling the history of the spaces.

I was fascinated by this place, and also by some of the similarities we recognized from our time in Ecuador. In particular these corn grinders. These were part of the display at Mesa Verde.
Here was one being demonstrated in Ecuador. I remember that she told us a woman would be judged by a potential mother-in-law by how well she ground her corn, which made me glad I'll never be judged on any of my skills in the kitchen.
These tours definitely are not for those with major fear of heights, there were lots of ladders and scrambling to get into the dwellings. They definitely made it sound scarier than it actually was though.
Our tour ended just about dusk, when the park was closing, so we were surprised when cars were all stopped and backed up as we were exiting. They were all taking photos of these guys snacking by the side of the road.
Mesa Verde is a small park, so we tried to make the most of our afternoon since we were only staying one night. The next morning we were heading back to Arizona, with a stop at the 4 Corners Monument, to see Canyon de Chelly. More on that in the next post.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Stop 2: Arches National Park

After leaving Monument Valley, we drove north to Moab. Leaving Monument Valley and driving north, gazing out the window at the gorgeous scenery, we came up a small hill and noticed people standing in the middle of the road. At first we were wondering why these people were in such a bad spot. Then David looked in the rear view mirror and said, "Oh, I see why, we're pulling over." 

After standing in the middle of the road and gawking, we continued north. Our first stop was Goosenecks State Park in southern Utah. One of the world's best examples of an entrenched meander, D put together this panoramic to give a better sense of what it was really like.

From Goosenecks we hit the road and went straight to Moab, and Arches National Park. We spent 2 nights in Moab, so we'd have plenty of time to spend in Arches. We drove through the whole park, and did a lot of hikes to visit some of the arches. The first night we did the hike to see see Delicate Arch at sunset. This is something I highly recommend for any visitor. It's quite an experience, people come to watch the sunset on this arch like they'd go to a drive in movie. Just spectacular.

Some other highlights in Arches included Double Arch, Landscape and the ranger guided hike through the Fiery Furnace.

After 2 nights in Moab, and a delicious dinner at the Desert Bistro, we hit the road and drove into Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park. More on that later!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stop 1: Monument Valley

Our road trip through the Four Corners region of the American Southwest was incredible. It was filled with so much natural beauty, our eyes were in overload. We drove through many changing landscapes that our ride was never boring, a road trip was the perfect way to see this part of the country.
After one night in Phoenix, visiting some old friends, we hit the road and drove north to Monument Valley. The drive there was our longest leg of our road trip, but we were so excited that it went by very quickly. We drove out of Phoenix along a highway dotted with saguaros, and then the scenery changed to pines near Flagstaff, and then as we got further north it opened up to beautiful rock formations, such as these Elephant Feet rocks right along the highway.
Driving into Monument Valley was like driving onto a movie set. The iconic scenery, which has appeared in many westerns, just took our breath away. This is why I love travel. You may think you're familiar with some of these things you've seen in photos and movies, but nothing prepares you for seeing it with your own eyes. The sheer scale of Monument Valley blew me away. This was pretty much our first view, just after we pulled into the parking lot of the visitor center.
We spent 2 nights in Monument Valley at The View Hotel, right inside the park. I'm glad we decided for 2 nights since we could be unhurried in seeing everything there. We did the entire drive through the valley on the only road that's open to the public, and we also did a hike around one of the mittens.
We also booked a guided tour which took us into areas that the public can't go to without a guide.
We also had plenty of time to relax on our balcony and gaze at the view. Both nights we watched the sun set and the full moon rise. D set up his camera during the night to take some star shots (which were a challenge because of the full moon, but still interesting).

From Monument Valley we drove north to Moab, with a stop along the way at Goosenecks State Park in southern Utah. More on that tomorrow!

Monday, October 15, 2012

SW Road Trip Journal

It's always hard to know where to begin when I get home from a trip. There's always the feeling of overload, and I never know which amazing thing to talk about first. While I process all the natural beauty and grandeur of nature, I'll just start with my journal. 

My journal worked perfectly for this trip. The pocket the on the back to store things was a good touch, and it was handy to be able to make pockets to store things throughout the journal as I went along. The only negative is that the larger size made it a little cumbersome. I found I wasn't using it as much for jotting things down in places I wanted to be more discreet (like wine notes during dinner). Still, the point of it being larger was to fit all the National Parks maps, and for that it was perfect. In the end, I don't think the size kept me from doing much. This wasn't a fine dining kind of trip anyway. 
One of my favorite details of this journal was that I thought ahead and included travel times between stops. Neither of us have a smart phone, we didn't have a GPS, and we both like to unplug on trips as much as possible. It was great to quickly look up what was ahead of us, a perfect road trip detail.
I'll confess that before I watched the Ken Burns documentary about the National Parks, I didn't know about their passport stamps. Admittedly, I usually am the only adult at the stamp station, but I have to stamp my journal. I just love passports, and I think it's such a great idea to have a serious for the National Park system. 
It's no surprise that D and I are both pretty geeky when it comes to maps and geography. I had fun recording our mileage at the end of each day to see what we drove. This was the total. We hadn't done a road trip like this before, and we loved it. It was a different kind of trip, and the perfect way to see this part of the country. Of course, on our way to the airport we were feeling sad about returning our car, and tossing around ideas of where our next one should be. Yellowstone? California Coast? Too many options...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Hitting the road!

Tomorrow D and I are hitting the open road! We don't usually take a vacation this time of year, but D is having a big birthday, and we feel like celebrating. We'll be visiting places that we've always wanted to see, and driving a big loop through the Colorado Plateau.
We'll be flying in and out of Phoenix, and then heading north. Highlights will include Monument Valley, Arches National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Canyon de Chelly, Petrified Forest National Park and the meteor crater! My eyes are so ready for a completely different color palette and wide open spaces. We've even got a tour scheduled through Monument Valley that includes a weaving demonstration. I can't wait! I need a rush of inspiration.
While we failed miserably at our creative challenge, we're both excited to have a trip that will include time to sit and soak it all in and allow for some creative time. I've got a new journal ready to go. This one is a little bigger than usual, but since this is a National Park heavy trip, I wanted it to be big enough to carry all the park maps neatly. I especially like the little folder I put on the back cover to store paper and envelopes that I can glue in where I need them.
This week, as we've been busy doing last minute prep, I've been feeling a wee bit under the weather and trying to go easy and get better. Last night we were remembering our history of travel illness. The worst was definitely D coming home with bronchitis from Barcelona. Mixed in, there were also a couple of airplane sickness episodes and in 2010 I got so sick in Ecuador that we still use it as a baseline. For example, "I felt bad, but it was nothing like Quito." We laughed, because despite it all, it would never stop us for even a second from continuing to travel and planning our next trip. I've heard people tell me about a bad flight delay that made them never want to travel again, and we've had way worse and can never get enough.
It reminded me of a passage from Eat, Pray, Love. I read it when we were in Kauai back in 2008 and wrote this passage in my journal at the time. It rings true, but hopefully not too true on this trip!
"Traveling is the great true love of my life. I have always felt ... that to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless newborn baby - I just don't care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it's mine. Because it looks exactly like me. It can barf all over me if it wants to - I just don't care."      
Pictures to follow when we return!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Creative Challenge

This fall D is turning 40 and we'll be celebrating with a road trip through the southwest. We will fly in and out of Phoenix and do a big loop from there. The highlights will be Monument Valley, Arches National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Canyon de Chelley, the Petrified Forest and that huge meteor crater. We're so excited!

To get ready for the trip, we've tasked ourselves with a creative challenge. D has been wanting to get to know his new camera better, and I want to to spend time on this trip using my small watercolor set, attempting to capture the gorgeous southwest landscape in my journal. My problem? I'm not particularly good at drawing or painting (kind of a big problem), yet I always want to include sketches and small paintings in my travel journals.
So, our challenge is to spend 15 minutes each day focused on practicing these skills. For D it's mostly refreshing his memory on photography techniques he hasn't used in a while, plus learning how to do these things on his new camera. For me, it's more learning techniques and practicing them a lot.

Today we went outside to our small, urban garden (which is solely the hard work of our neighbors, I'll take no credit). We each picked something we were going to focus on and spent 15 minutes working. For me, I did some exercises in holding my brush and making lines, and also using negative space to make a shape. 15 minutes went by in a flash and we're feeling a little more inspired. Hopefully we keep it up! (If I blog about it, I'll be held more accountable.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

New Crewel

Thursday night I took a crewel embroidery class at Craftland. For my entire life, my grandmother has had a chair in her living room upholstered with crewel, and the texture of it is so specific. Nothing else feels quite like crewel. While a lot of the embroidery stitches are the same as other forms of embroidery, crewel is done with wool thread, on linen. That's what makes it crewel. 

When we were contacted by Katherine Shaughnessy, from Wool and Hoop, about stopping at Craftland on her book tour promoting her New Crewel book, I jumped at the chance. I was excited to take the class and thrilled that my mom decided to come up and join me. My grandmother just sold her house, and for some reason it seemed like an appropriate time to learn this skill.  We both had a relaxing and fun class learning the basics of crewel embroidery. Hopefully I'll have more projects to follow. I highly recommend checking out the book if you're interested in crewel. 

Conveniently, Craftland now carries copies of the book, as well as some of the crewel kits and embroidery hoops, so you can get started right away. Here is what my little sampler looked like at the end of the class.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Anniversary Presents!

A few weeks ago D said to me, "I think I should tell you what I'm thinking of getting you for our anniversary, because I think you might be getting me the same thing." I guess we know each other well! We decided to buy the set of East Maui prints by Everything is Jake for our kitchen. We already have the Kauai set, which we love, but we've been loving the East Maui ones too. We decided we can have both, and rotate our kitchen art every 6 months.
We have such a soft spot for Maui, and East Maui especially. We visited all three of these places and loved every one! The first print is of the Road to Hana. We did the famous drive and spent three nights in the tiny town of Hana and felt like we were experiencing an untouched Hawaii. 

The second print is of Kipahulu Bamboo Forest. We hiked through this on a gorgeous hike that finished at a waterfall where we went swimming. 
The last print is of sunrise at Haleakala. This was an amazing experience. We drove up the dark, windy road in the middle of the night and then stood out in the cold to see the sun rise. 

I love that the Haleakala print also includes a mention of the silversword, a plant that only grows on Haleakala.
And while D was smart enough to check before buying these (because I had contemplated it) I had already bought him a present. At Craftland, I bought this screenprint from Sibling Design. I see a theme. Think we like to travel? 
Another highlight of celebrating was reaching into the cellar for some fancy bubbly. We felt pretty bad ass drinking Cristal. You can read our review of it here. What better thing to sip while planning our next place to visit?