Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Honeymoon #2

The purpose, and inspiration for our second big trip in 2015 was to hit a number of state high points (given that we’re now on a mission to reach the highest point in each of the 50 states of the United States of America).  I was hoping that we would knock off another 11 state high points, including all of the more difficult state high points, and the highest of the state high points in the west and southwest.  However, we met with weather issues for our very first expected high point, Utah’s Kings Peak.  And we had more weather issues, and wound up rearranging our trip several times to get in *any* high points, let alone the high ones.  We finally started to get some traction after taking a little “vacation” in Rocky Mountain National Park on the advice of a friend.  We then had a weather window to climb Colorado’s highest, Mt. Elbert.  After more storms, and more visiting, we decided to get some easier ones in Oklahoma and Kansas, and then Texas – went back to New Mexico, and then, suddenly, had extra time.  I plugged a whole bunch of high points around the states into my planning program, and discovered that if we *just* hit the high points, and didn’t visit anyone, we could knock out quite a few – and we did – we wound up visiting a total of 20 state high points this trip, bringing our total high points visits up to 39, with only 9 northeastern states, Hawaii, and Mt. Rainier to do!!!  (While we’ve both done Mt. Rainier a number of times, we have to do it, again, together, for this 50-state project. . .)

Here’s our state high point collage:

For some reason, this seems to be the year of the turtle.  We were seeing them all over!  On this trip, we sighted our first, a box turtle, in Missouri, and then, in Michigan, we saw a snapper laying eggs, and then a couple of painted turtles, a couple red eared sliders, and another snapper.   All the eggs had been raided by some predator or another.  Here is a collage of most of the animals that we saw on the trip:

In order of the photos in the collage –
Row 1, Picture 1: we managed to see the lizard that a sign told us to look for while we were checking out the Valley of Fire State Park in New Mexico [not to be confused with what appears to be a more famous Valley of Fire in Nevada].  Alas, I can’t remember the type of lizard. . .
Row 1, Picture 2: we saw this tiny little fellow in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Row 1, Picture 3: bighorn sheep in the Taos Ski area of New Mexico.
Row 1, Picture 4: a bear in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina.
Row 1, Picture 5: longhorn cow and her calf in Mount Rogers National Recreational Area
Row 2, Picture 1: another longhorn cow and her calf in Mount Rogers National Recreational Area
Row 2, Picture 2: one of the many wild ponies that we saw in Grayson Highlands State Park, which is part of the Mount Rogers National Recreational Area.  It seems that most of the visitors we saw were trying to get a glimpse of the wild ponies.
Row 2, Picture 3: box turtle in Taum Sauk Mountain State Park in Missouri
Row 2, Picture 4: Canada geese with their brood, commanding the secondary highway in southern Wisconsin.
Row 2, Picture 5: snapping turtle in Stony Creek State Park, Michigan
Row 3, Pictures 1 and 2: painted turtle in Stony Creek State Park, Michigan
Row 3, Picture 3: crawdad in Stony Creek State Park, Michigan
Row 3, Pictures 4 and 5: 2 different red eared slider turtles in Stony Creek State Park, Michigan
Row 4, Picture 1: Moose running through our campsite at the trailhead for Gannett Peak, Wyoming
Row 4, Picture 2: Some of the horses that we saw packing in (with mules) both people and supplies to Big Meadow in Bridger National Forest near Gannett Peak, Wyoming
Row 4, Picture 3: some bucks hanging out on Froze-to-Death Plateau on the way to Granite Peak, Montana
Row 4, Picture 4: goat at our campsite near Tempest Mountain on the way to Granite Peak, Montana
Row 4, Picture 5: pika near Mystic Lake, Montana

Not pictured were all of the wild turkeys that we saw in the Blue Ridge mountains, the cave swallows swirling around the entrance to Carlsbad Cavern before dusk, and the many bats swirling out of it, as soon as dusk actually arrived.

With a two month trip, and so many fabulous sights, I could probably give about 10 slide shows.  For this, though, I’ve chosen about 20 different things that I thought were interesting to share.

Here’s a sample of us getting ready for a climb:

In this particular case, we were at the trailhead for the Mt. Elbert climb in Colorado.  We had this HUGE tarp that we were able to put everything onto, and still have room to have an area for sorting gear, another area for packing up what we were taking, and enough tarp to cover everything during the night while we slept in the back of the truck.

We were pleasantly surprised that we could get as high as we did on Mt. Elbert (I think that we got to around 10000ft in the truck, and were amazed that there wasn’t much snow around) before we had to go on foot.  By about 12000ft, we had to don snowshoes, though, so you’ll see that I have them on in the picture.  At the tops of all of these mountains (especially for these state high points), I’ve been flying the Cure JM (Juvenile Myositis) banner:

I liked this picture because it clearly shows the snowshoes, and has such a wonderful, wonderful view of the surrounding mountains.  The Cure JM Foundation wrote up a nice article about this endeavor (see the 2nd article at this link).

Somehow, I’m always struck by the oil pumps – these were in eastern Colorado:

There were sooooo many.  Ultimately, they feed the truck. . .

After taking in Mt. Sunflower in Kansas, we headed down to the SW corner of the state, where there are some National Grasslands.  When I was trying to touch every state a couple of years ago, I stayed in these same Grasslands, only in a different spot.  Our camp in this one was simply excellent, and not another soul around:

We planned on seeing Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico) as part of the trip, since I’d heard so much about them (all bad) and we were going to be so near them when going to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  I continued to receive more “it’s not worth it” opinions from anyone I told.  Well, the ruse worked!  We were pleasantly surprised – we got there in time to see the “bat show” – the thousands of bats exiting the Caverns at dusk, swirling out, and the next day, we went back and walked all around the parts we could go without being in a tour group.  The caverns were amazing – in form, and in size:

With the above picture, I tried to give some idea of just how huge this thing was – the one cavern (and they’re all connected to one another) was over a ½ mile long.  Really, really impressive.  And the curtains, stalactites, and stalagmites were all really, really impressive.  So, go there, but expect it to be a waste of your time, and then you’ll be pleasantly surprised, as were we!

We also stopped at Three Rivers Petroglyph National Site (New Mexico), where there are thousands of Petroglyphs (or as some people call it, old time graffiti).  Below is just a sampling – the place was  absolutely littered with them:

In Texas, from the top of Guadalupe Peak, we looked down on this – it looks like a carving, to me:

I was impressed with some of the artwork, I have to admit – this saguaro cactus imitation just struck my fancy:

Barbed wire!!!  And it looked sooooooo good!

Jay was trying to capture sunsets, especially from my travel buddy, Ed’s back deck.  He snapped this one and no, it is NOT photo-shopped!!!!

The mountain providing the backdrop is the Sandia Mountain, east of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Can you see me in the middle of this photo, climbing up Wheeler, in New Mexico?

Oh, and while in the Taos area, we had to check out the “earthships” - off-the-grid houses built into the ground using various materials (for example, old tires):

In nearby (ha, ha) Louisiana, we saw many of these very, very long sheds/barns.  We never did figure out what they housed –I’m hoping that one of you will know. Maybe mushrooms?

Going in to climb Kings Peak (13,528ft) in Utah had us going through a huge basin with mountains all around.  The basin, itself, was at 9,000 to 10,000 feet:

And, yes, that’s me, hiking along. . .

This next one is from our campsite, looking toward the mountain that we would be hiking up the next day.  Kings Peak is in the middle, with snow on it, although the top is not quite visible.  And, while we did descend by going through the chute between the other two peaks, we went up by going around the peak on the left.

And, by going around that peak, we saw another basin, with more mountains all around it:

After having climbed both Kings and Gannett Peaks, we drove on to meet up in Montana with our climbing friends for Granite Peak.  On the way, we took a really fast tour through Grand Teton National Park and saw the Grand Teton:
It was a rainy/cloudy day, so we were lucky to have seen it!

We then took a fast tour through Yellowstone (we got to see Old Faithful!), and saw little fountains like this one:

Both Gannett and Granite deserve their own little slide shows – both very spectacular, however, I thought I’d leave you with a couple of shots from the Michigan wedding reception.  I wore the same flowery t-shirt that you can see in some of the easy high point pictures and jeans, disappointing many, I’m sure.  However, I had a plan. . .  my friend, Rebecca, while we were visiting her place on the west side of Michigan, had shown me this nice Bavarian dress that she’d purchased years ago in Germany.  It happens that the restaurant where the reception was taking place was a Bavarian restaurant, so, in the middle of the reception, I slipped out, and put it on, and now, none of you can ever truthfully say that you’ve never seen me in a dress:

(Rebecca is the one who is half-shown, laughing, in the background.) 

And for the final picture, since, this was, after all, a honeymoon – is of the two of us, from that Michigan reception:

I do feel as though I’m inside a fairytale. . .


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