Sunday, January 18, 2015

Random photos

For no good reason, I felt like taking the kids' photos today, with the intent to make a square crop.

I ended up with two to three good photos each for Ian and Leah.  I picked my favorites to share here.  I'm sure these will end up in next year's calendar, somewhere.

Nothing terribly new here, just enjoying the long weekend.  Have a great day everybody!



Monday, January 5, 2015

Big Bend National Park

We stayed at a beautiful farm/inn at Albuquerque (Los Poblanos) that was a real treat after the hotel just outside of the Grand Canyon.  The room was comfortable, complete with a real fireplace, and the breakfast we had the next day was just awesome.

We knew we had another long day in the car to get to Ft. Davis, TX.  As soon as we finished breakfast, we loaded up and hit the road.  We were going to go to Carlsbad Caverns National Park on our way through, but due to icy road conditions, the park was closed (good thing I checked).  Instead, we made a short stop at White Sands National Monument on our way through, and then proceeded on to Ft. Davis.

We got in around 9:30 pm, with the last few miles slowing us down due to icy roads, but nothing major.  That would not be true the next day, when we drove the two hours south to Big Bend National Park.  We had to pass through Alpine, TX.  Apparently winter can hit this place hard, as the roads were nightmarish, and stayed that way for a good 30-40 miles past Alpine.  Interestingly enough, we took a different route home from Big Bend to Alpine, and the roads were pristine clear until literally we turned a corner into Alpine, and the freakish icy roads returned.

Big Bend National Park, itself, was pretty spread out.  The Chisos Mountains had a band of frosty/icy conditions on the plants, but shortly after lunch that quickly melted away.  We even found a place where some flowers were blooming.

I had wanted to see Santa Elena canyon (to the left), where the Rio Grande exits a narrow canyon.  I think it is more of a sunrise place, but still pretty, nonetheless.

From there, we made our drive back to Ft. Davis, and eventually survived the trip home.  I forgot to mention that gas was sold out in Alpine, so we had to wait until Ft. Stockton; even then, the first place we went to was also out of gas.  That was not a good feeling - though luckily the next exit had gas (and was doing brisk business).

Well, back to the books for me.  Cheers!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Grand Canyon to Petrified Forest National Parks

Like I said in my previous post, we had a good time while we were at the Grand Canyon.  It was cold, and extremely busy (apparently Christmas/New Years is in the top 2 or 3 busiest weeks of the year!), but fun.  While Catherine and the kids were waiting for me to get all set up for a family photo, they had fun with an iPhone selfie.

Which of course, the kids and I had fun with selfies, too.

I got up early on our last morning to catch a cold (7 F - yes, that's seven) and windy sunrise.  I lucked out with a few low clouds to catch the early morning color on the horizon.  I didn't stay too long since I knew we had to get on the road.

From the Grand Canyon, we drove to Albuquerque, passing through Petrified Forest National Park on our way past.  The kids LOVED Petrified Forest!  The petrified trees were quite beautiful.

And the kids had a great time completing their Junior Ranger badge requirements.  There were dinosaur fossils to analyze, petrified trees to discover, and ancient petroglyphs to explore.  Here they are, getting sworn in by a Park Ranger.

 Have a great day!



Saturday, January 3, 2015

Monument Valley to Grand Canyon

With the time zone change, we got up pretty early.  Early enough, in fact, for everyone to watch a spectacular sunrise.  I'm told that we were lucky, that clouds for sunrise (or sunset, for that matter) are pretty rare.  This is actually three photos smushed into one.  The car taillights slashing through the bottom third happened the night before (someone headed home), and I used a later photograph of the mesas for a touch of light, otherwise they would be pure silhouettes.  I don't think I like my treatment, but I like it enough to post it and move on to something else.

After a warm breakfast, we loaded up and drove a short ways into Utah to snap a photo of this road leading into a mesa.

We continued on and took another photo from the other side.  Sorry for the super-saturated look, I'm playing around with a different photo editor (I kind of like it, but the skies are a bit too much for me).

From there, we moved on to Grand Canyon National Park.  The kids were suitably impressed the first time, but the novelty wore off as I made almost every stop along the way on the eastern portion of the South Rim.

The weather was cold (frigid when the wind kicked up at the edge of the rim!), but dry.  They had 4-8 inches of snow the day after we left.  I would really have liked to see Grand Canyon under some snow, but I wouldn't want to drive in it until a good bit had melted off.  That definitely wasn't going to happen anytime this vacation.

We spent two days at the Canyon, where the kids earned their Junior Ranger badges.  We did some mini-hikes along the South Rim, and enjoyed some hot coffee/chai latte/hot chocolates in the afternoons.  Overall, a good time.



Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year!!!

We're baaaack!

After a super long drive through the ice-covered roads of south Texas (yes, it was a white-knuckle death-grip for most of the ride) in which we saw turned-over semi-trucks, got routed off the closed interstate (due to said turned-over semi-trucks), and watched a vehicle in front of us veer off an exit, we made it home!

I have tons of photos to go through, so expect some rehashed photos as I go through and make some "improvements".

Our vacation started the day after Christmas, and we headed west towards Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It was a 12-hour marathon, but we made it, even navigating the remains of a Christmas day winter storm in the mountains surrounding Santa Fe.  Catherine found us a beautiful hotel just north of Santa Fe, The Inn at the Delta in Espanola, where we stayed in an old adobe-style home that was spacious and comfortable.  Since I brought all my photo stuff, I set up the flash and grabbed a photo of all of us.

The next day we loaded up and continued west, this time towards Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, packed with mesas made famous by movies and TV shows.  Just like the drive today, this drive started off with some white-knuckle death-grip driving through snow.  Since it was on the way (sort of) to Grand Canyon National Park, we made the stop.

The photo above is of the kids standing on the balcony from our hotel room overlooking the valley.  The only other accommodations near the park are camping sites, which is fine since the hotel commands an impressive view of the valley.  Amazingly enough, some Navajo indians still live down in the valley, with no running water or electricity, like the way they did in the past.

The Navajos have a pretty neat self-guided drive through the park, and this photo above is from the last pull-off before you start to leave the valley.

That's it for now.  We are glad to be home, safe and sound.  I will post more tomorrow, probably with some auto posts as I need to dig back in to school stuff.  Hope you enjoy the stories and photos.  Happy New Year!