Friday, December 1, 2017

Do you have the ability to self rescue?

Well, I did it again. I went camping. This makes three times, and apparently the third time IS a charm because I must admit, I enjoyed it a bit more,  I am slowly (very slowly) starting to understand why people enjoy this thing called camping.

This camping experience was VERY different from my previous two trips.

1. It was only Ryan and me. Henry stayed home with Ryan's parents.
2. It was literally only Ryan and me. We did not go to a "normal" campground, where campsites are right next to each other, people are all around. We were the only two people at this camping location, literally in the middle of nowhere, beautiful nowhere, but middle of nowhere.
3. We would be going to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Our campsite was called Devil's Kitchen (does that make you feel warm and cozy?) accessible only by Elephant Hill Road (where do they come up with these names?).

Ryan knew this experience was going to be very different, and he knew he needed to make it the best experience possible. He carefully informed me the campsite had no "facilities" which means no toilets, showers or running water. What!?!? I always bring a ton of water, and I never shower when we go camping, but no toilets, No, not going to happen, this is not going to work out. Ryan went to trusty REI and purchased the nicest camping toilet I have ever seen (I don't have many, or any camping toilets to compare, but I have to assume it's the best). We had our own private bathroom for this camping trip, and I must admit, after experiencing some of the less than pleasant campground toilets, I am all for bringing our own toilet for future camping trips.

So Ryan successfully managed to get me on board with the camping toilet. Then he decided to let me know the other bit of news, the only way to access this campground was on a Jeep "road"." I say road, but it wasn't. It was a "Virginia Lee is worried that we are going to get stuck, break the Jeep, and since we are in the middle of nowhere, we will not be found and we will be stranded" road. At one point in the drive, there was a sign stating, "stay on the designated road" REALLY?!?! Thanks for the reminder, but I saw no designated road, the entire drive! Also, we had no cell phone service the entire time!

Gourmet camping meals ✔
Personal toilet ✔
Camping confidence ✔

I was ready for this camping experience. We said goodbye to Henry. Drove to Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Arrived at the rangers station to check in for our camping trip. Met a very nice Ranger. Told her what camp site we would be staying at. She asked what kind of vehicle we had. Asked Ryan a ton of questions I did not understand regarding his Jeep's capability. And then she asked one question that caused me to stop breathing, "Do you have the ability to self rescue?" My first thought, self rescue?, what, like if we break down and no one finds us, yes, we have food that will last three days. Ryan, obviously correctly understood the question because he responded, "Yes, we have a winch." Apparently that was the correct response because the Ranger smiled, and said "good."

Do we really have the ability to self rescue? Am I really ready for this? Why did that Ranger smile at me like she did? Is there something I don't know? Let the camping experience begin. I was nervous beyond belief.

We continued to drive into the park, following the Ranger's directions, and came to a large parking  lot. I started feeling a bit better, this looks good, there's a parking lot, so we can't be too far out in the middle of nowhere. By this time, the cell phone service was gone. Ryan kinda laughed when I expressed that I was feeling better since there were so many cars around, and then he pointed to the back of the parking lot. It appeared to be a rocky mountain. He said "that's the road we are going to take to our campground." Excuse me? I see no road.

So thankful for this clearly designated road. 

We successfully made it to our campsite. BEAR did an awesome job. Ryan did an awesome job. I could relax, until I started thinking we had to drive the same road to get out, but that would happen in a few days. I may as well enjoy the time in this beautiful area.

Our bathroom. 

Our bedroom. 

View of our campsite. We had our own caves. 

Exploring our campsite area. That's me way up there. 

View from our campsite. 

Ryan named this rock, Cupcake Rock. I agreed, it was the perfect name. 

Our full day in Canyonlands National Park was spent hiking. We hiked over 15 miles that day. The goal was to see Druid Arch. It was a beautiful hike, plenty to look at, and a portion of the hike was in an old, dry riverbed. It was pretty neat to think how the area must have looked when water was still flowing. The Arch was the perfect spot for a hiking lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The return hike to our campground took us through some really tight areas. After such a long hike, I was thankful Ryan brought his camping shower, and had even purchased a camping shower enclosure. Ryan was pretty proud, I showered during our camping trip. But after hiking all day, one has no other option.

We decided this Needle got tired, and fell over. 

Thankful for all the cairns to mark our way.
This cairn was in the dry river bed we were hiking through. 

Druid Arch. 

Some tight squeeze hiking on our way back to our campsite. 

To be so far out in the middle of nowhere, without anyone else around, the quietness was incredible. The stars were so bright, absolutely unbelievable. We've all seen stars before, but until you see them without any light pollution at all, it is an entirely new experience. This whole spending time in nature is a pretty cool thing. There are some incredibly beautiful areas of our country and I am thankful I am getting to experience them.

And just to let you know, we obviously, safely made it out of the campground. The drive was just as scary, I was nervous. And when I get nervous on Jeep roads, I tend to take lots of pictures to distract myself from what is actually happening. So, feel free to check out all the pictures from our Jeep driving, camping, and hiking in the beautiful, Needles District,  Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Bear successfully made it out. 

Check out the rest of our pictures:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A little boy's dream come true...

Locals have become deaf to it, even I may miss the sound, but if Henry is near, the train horn never goes unnoticed. Upon arriving in Durango (maybe even the first day) the train, train tracks, train museum, everything involving the train quickly became Henry's obsession. We waited for the right opportunity to actually have Henry ride the train. Even with his obsession, he was still a bit uneasy when he was extremely close to the train engine. The perfect opportunity fell into place. The train was hosting its annual Pumpkin Train, and Henry's Meemaw and Grandpa (Ryan's' parents) were coming for a visit. The time was now, a little boy's dream come true.....

No surprise here, Henry's Halloween costume was a train engineer. The costume started to come together this summer. First with the purchase of his train hat in Durango, and second, with the purchase of his trusty train whistle in Silverton. I decided to complete the costume with a few more purchases, and all in all, it was a success. Henry loved it.

All aboard....

Super happy and excited to be on the train. 

Loved watching everything go by. 

The train took you from the train station in Durango, to an area outside of town. They had set up a Charlie Brown themed village. 

He found the pumpkin he wanted. 


In true Durango fashion, a hike is always a great idea. A day Henry was in school, we decided to take Dave and Jayn on a hike along the southern portion of the Colorado Trail to Gudy's Rest, a look out point with amazing views.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Merry Christmas, Ryan...

It will sound backwards to you (and it should). Ryan bought ME a mountain bike last week, and he said, "This is your Christmas present to me." My response, " What?!?! YOU bought ME a mountain bike and it is YOUR Christmas present?!?!" Yes. Words cannot explain how excited Ryan was to take me mountain biking. I finally said I would go. When in Durango......

Last Monday, Ryan and I went mountain biking together.  I was a bit nervous, actually very nervous......for my face. I had this image of me flying over the front of my handle bars and catching my fall, with my face. We decided to rent a bike for me, to see if I actually liked it. I know everyone says, don't try a new sport/activity with your spouse. Ryan was beyond supportive and patient during our entire ride. I could really tell he wanted me to enjoy the ride.  Well, well, well, I ended up really enjoying the ride. It's hard, such a harder work out than anything I do in the gym. Durango is not flat, the climbs are long, and it's a serious workout. And this was even on an "easy" ride.

After the ride, Ryan and I went back to the bike shop to return the rental, and you guessed it, Ryan bought me a bike. Good motivation to continue riding, no longer paying for a rental, and now I have an awesome bike to hit the trails with. No one needs to know I have no idea what I am doing, but I am out there trying my best.

Two days later, a friend, Ashley, took our friend Sarah and me out on the trails again. It was going to be my second ride, and Sarah's first ride. Ashley is a rockstar on the trails, but was super supportive of Sarah and me. By the end of the ride, Sarah decided she liked mountain biking too! We are building our little group of mountain bikers! :)
Photo credit, Ashley. Documenting Sarah and I making the final climb to the top. 

Three awesome mountain biking ladies.  

So, the next morning, wanting to make the most of her bike rental. Sarah and I went back to the trails. Sarah rocked her second day of biking. After my third day of mountain biking in four days, my beginner mountain biking legs were feeling it. Even with the tired legs, it was so much fun getting outside and exploring new areas of Durango.

Sarah and I documenting our next day hitting the trails. 

I guess is turns out, Ryan and I are a Jeeping, mountain biking family. ;) Merry Christmas, Ryan. Your wife owns (and hits the trails with) a mountain bike.
His and her mountain bikes.
Now it's just a matter of time until we add a mountain bike for Henry. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Highland Mary Lakes

We first attempted this hike in June, shortly after we moved to Durango. I would say we made it about a mile or two into the hike, and then decided to turn around. The snow was too deep. I was not the most pleasant of hike partners during that first attempt at Highland Mary Lakes. I did not plan to hike through snow, some areas still knee deep. Ryan decided our second attempt would happen in August, the snow would be melted. We had friends join us as well. It was the perfect Sunday afternoon. And no snow!

Taking a dip in one of the lakes. 

Sarah, Caroline, Cameron, and their dog Beasley. 

The rest of our photos from the hike can be found in the photo album: