Arizona-Jan 2017

Arizona just blows my mind there is SO much to see, I think “nothing can top this” and then we get to another spot that leaves me speechless.  Around the border of Arizona and Utah you are spoiled for choice when it comes to scenic spots.

 

While in Page AZ, we visited Horseshoe Bend, Lower Antelope Canyon and Glen Canyon Rec Area and all of these places were incredible. Horseshoe bend was a place we have always wanted to visit and it did not disappoint. We were deliberating about Antelope Canyon as it is famous for its sunbeams during the summer months so we were not sure if it would be worth it at this time of year. We were assured that you only need a little bit of sunlight to see the beauty of the canyon and they were right. We went on a pretty cloudy day and there were only us and one other couple in the canyon so we each had our own guide. Our guide, Lilian was great, she had lots of stories and facts about the canyon and it really added to the experience. We had never been in a slot canyon like that before, I was absolutely giddy with awe, what an incredible place.

We camped at Lone Rock beach, within the Glen Canyon Rec Area, I think we can honestly say it had the best view of any campsite yet and we had the place to ourselves. At this point it had been two months since we left Ottawa and we were keen to get to warmer weather but visiting these “touristy” spots in January had its perks, more often than not we were by ourselves.

 

Click here to view our January Flickr album.

Utah-Jan 2017

The drive from Page AZ to Kanab UT was gorgeous.  The national monuments of  Grand Staircase Escalante and Vermillion Cliffs are stunning, we can see why we have heard time and time again that N. Arizona and S. Utah are a photographers dream come true. In Kanab we very luckily got a permit to visit Coyote Buttes North, an incredible sandstone formation which words cannot aptly describe so I will let our photos speak for themselves.
We spent the rest of January in Utah’s national parks.  We visited Grand Canyon NP back in 2002, on the same trip we also visited Zion and Capital Reef, looking back now, we both think that we did not fully appreciate the beauty of these two parks fifteen years ago. This time, being in the truck we had time to do some more exploring. We particularly liked the hike up Angels Landing in Zion and the drive into Capital Gorge in Capital Reef.
The weather was not great so we did not stop in Bryce NP but continued on to Arches NP.   The scenery was amazing, everywhere you look there are wonderful rock formations.  I was concerned that I would be hitting my “pretty rock saturation point” but it did not happen. Each park had its own unique landscape, with each new vista I was captivated. And then there was Canyonlands NP, we did not know what to expect with this park and WOW! I said previously that no other canyon that we have visited can compare to the Grand Canyon but Canyonlands comes really close. The Island in the Sky section of the park is more visited than the more remote Needles section but we can see why, although Needles is beautiful we preferred the landscape and views in Island in the Sky. And it is well worth getting out of bed early to catch sunrise at Mesa Arch.  Click here to view our January Flickr album.

New Mexico continued

Almost everywhere we drove in New Mexico was scenic, the journey as well as the destinations were a pleasure.  Can you believe, I still can’t, that someone said to us “You can skip New Mexico, there is nothing to see there.”  What ?! We were already blown away by the National Parks, Forests and Monuments and the great hiking but we just kept discovering more that we loved like the artsy, funky towns, and the ancient ruins.  I find it sad to think that anyone could say that about such a beautiful state with so much to offer.

We spent a few days in Santa Fe, as Christmas drew near I needed my Christmas fix and Santa Fe provided.  The Christmas lights around the historic plaza were lovely and just what I wanted.  During our stay in Santa Fe we visited Tent Rocks , which was fantastic, we loved the canyon trail.  The Wild Rivers area within the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument was highly recommended to us so we made that our next stop, enjoying the scenic high road to Taos on the way.  Rio Grande Del Norte was spectacular and we had the place all to ourselves.  We really liked it there, if we had had more time we would have happily stayed for several more days.  The hike down into the canyon from Little Arsenic campground was beautiful and each night we walked the rim trail to the La Junta overlook to enjoy the beautiful sunsets.

Sunset at La Junta lookout, Rio Grande Del Norte

Sunset at La Junta lookout, Rio Grande Del Norte

From the Capulin Volcano in North East New Mexico we crossed the border into Colorado.  We did the scenic drive from Walsenburg to Durango, which included Wolf Pass, in one heck of a snow storm but Joe and The Heffalump handled it beautifully.We decided to spend Christmas in Durango where we saw the Polar Express, which made me wish that I could be a kid again.  We also drove the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton and it was stunning, a beautiful Winter wonderland.  But enough with Winter!  We left Ottawa to leave the snow behind so we headed South back into New Mexico.

It was time to immerse ourselves in local history so we visited Mesa Verde-stunning!  Aztec Ruins and Chaco Canyon.  Amazing places to explore and to lose yourself in another time.  We rung in the New Year in a little known gem called, Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness WOW, its like Alberta’s Badlands plus super cool rock formations like the “cracked eggs” and even a petrified wood forest.  It was the perfect place to end 2016.  Please click here to view our December Flickr album.

December 2016-New Mexico

Last year we managed to spend a few days in New Mexico, we visited the Gila cliff dwellings and spent some time in the Gila National Forest, which we really enjoyed. We also visited White Sands National Monument which was really neat but we were disappointed that there was little opportunity to hike.

This December we spent a lot of our time in New Mexico’s National Monuments, of which there are many and Wow they all offer there own unique beauty.  We spent two days in El Morro, the petroglyphs were interesting and the hike to the top of the mesa was beautiful with fantastic views.

Trying to get that perfect shot at El Morro-it didn't work

Trying to get that perfect shot at El Morro, it didn’t work!

On our way to Albuquerque to get some provisions and gorge on wifi we stopped in El Malpais National Monument where there was a lot to see;  Lava Falls area, La Ventana natural arch, Sandstone Bluffs lookout and The Narrows, all beautiful spots.

Bridges formed by collapsed lava tubes

Bridges formed by collapsed lava tubes

 

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Taking in the view at Sandstone Bluffs

From Albuquerque we drove to Santa Fe, stopping in the funky, artsy town of Madrid.  I could not resist visiting the shops to enjoy the local arts and crafts, it is at times like this when I wish I had a house to decorate! Just outside Santa Fe we stopped at the BLM office, a must visit to get great advice and local knowledge.  Thanks to their friendly knowledgeable staff we planned out the next couple of weeks and we were really excited.

 

December 2016-going South

We left Ottawa late in November and immediately headed South for warmer temperatures.  We stopped in Mammoth Cave, which was interesting and very different from the other caves we have seen.  Carlsbad and Kartchner have spectacular formations while Mammoth felt more like a tunnel, a very different experience.  From there we started to head West and South and spent  two very pleasant days in Caprock Canyons State Park in northern Texas. We did the Upper Canyon-Haynes Ridge Overlook hike, which was a beautiful hike with great views and we even saw a bison on our way back.

Haynes Ridge Overlook, Caprocks Canyon

Haynes Ridge Overlook, Caprocks Canyon

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We almost walked right into this Bison in Caprock Canyons

From there we wanted to get within striking distance of the VLA in New Mexico.  The space geek in both of us was really excited to visit this site and we were not disappointed.  There is not much there but the museum has a great exhibit and the award winning film is certainly worth watching.  There is a short walking trail that takes you close to one of the antenna and while we visited the antennas were in the D formation, which means they were the furthest apart.  It was a great day and we were so glad we came, we also watched the movie Contact, which just added to the whole experience.  Please click here to view our December Flickr album.

Having fun at the VLA

Having fun at the VLA

 

An Anniversary & a Break Up

We started our nomadic life on November 4th 2014 and these past two years have given us both freedom and challenges.  Epiphanies and uncomfortable realizations.  I think it is the reaction to our vehicle that has surprised us the most.  We cannot put a dollar amount on what it is worth to have people honk and give us the thumbs up, or yell out their car windows “that is the coolest thing I have ever seen!”  Our truck is a conversation starter, it makes it so much easier to meet people.  And the people we have met have been nothing but kind, friendly, helpful and generous.

We get asked a lot what is the hardest part of living this way and initially I thought it was going to be the tiny space but that has been relatively easy.    Although, those little things that used to only slightly annoy me in a big house, get amplified in a tiny space.  No, the biggest challenge has been both of us being retired and spending 24-7 together.  I underestimated how much easier it was to be with someone when you both work and only spend about four hours a day together.  I now have a greater understanding of why some couples as they age start to take separate vacations and even sleep in separate bedrooms, everybody needs their personal space.  I believe marrying for life is perfectly natural and wonderful but spending 24 hours a day together, seven days a week?  NOT natural.  So, I do see this kind of lifestyle as a short term phase of our life.  We look forward to having a home again and being part of a community and most importantly spending time with the people we love.  I have come to realize just how important my relationships are to me.  We will always travel but at some point in the not too distant future we also want a home to come back to, one that does not have wheels!

Now for the Break Up, in October I entered the Civic Hospital in Ottawa to end a very toxic relationship with my Uterus.  Since the age of 14 my Uterus has given me nothing but problems starting with Endometriosis (very painful periods) and in the last two years Fibroids “in the worst possible place in your uterus” according to my Gynecologist.  I have almost fully recovered and I cannot express the freedom I have knowing that I will never menstruate again, think about this I never have to spend money on ‘feminine products” and the environmentally conscious part of me is jumping up and down for joy not having to consume all those”feminine products.”

In addition to all those benefits my Gyno informed me after the surgery that my uterus was 10x the normal size thanks to those Fibriods, 10x!!!  Instead of 40 grams it weighed 400, that is almost half a kilogram and that was after being on a drug for three months which had shrunk the Fiboids and my uterus.  My Gyno also told me that I will physically feel the difference of not having my uterus, maybe I can finally have that flat stomach I have always dreamt of but never been able to achieve!

 

A Tale of Two Companies

Vasque vs Ahnu: a Customer Service Story.

Joe and I left for Canada’s East Coast in May of 2015.  We had just purchased a new pair of Vasque hiking boots for Joe and within one month of leaving Ottawa and doing only a handful of hikes Joe noticed that the sole and mid sole had started to separate.  Once our pace had slowed and we had good wifi Joe fired off an email with photos of the boot and receipt of purchase.  Vasque replied quickly saying they would replace the boots free of charge.  A few more emails were sent to sort out the logistics of where to send them, with our nomadic lifestyle we told them to send them home to Ottawa and meanwhile Joe would keep using the pair he had and repair the sole as best he could.

On the other hand I had a pair of Ahnu hiking shoes that I wore regularly and within one year the seam came apart at my big toe and there was a hole in the material rendering them no longer waterproof.  I was disappointed needless to say because I used to put a lot of wear and tear on my running shoes and I had never had a pair of shoes start to fall apart so quickly.  I contacted Ahnu in early September 2016 with an email including a photo of the problem.  I did not have the receipt with me but I knew I had it in Ottawa.  Ahnu replied quickly asking me to fill out a form describing the shoes and the problem (in my initial email I had already described the issue with a photo).  Within one week Ahnu sent another email saying my case was being reviewed.  Five weeks pass and I finally send an email asking on progress of my case, Ahnu responds by explaining that since I did not have the receipt they would date the purchase at time of manufacture which put the shoes outside of their one year warranty.  We were back in Ottawa by now and I found the receipt, which confirmed that the shoes were still within the one year warranty so I sent an email with a photo of the receipt.  Ahnu responds by asking me to fill out the same form I filled in back in September, so I do and request my preferred color choice for a replacement pair of shoes.  I will end this quickly now but several more emails were sent back and forth, keep in mind this is now about replacing shoes within their warranty period.  They asked me for a US mailing address ?!  I live in Canada and I bought the shoes in Canada, ship them to Canada!  Then they were going to send me the wrong color, which I had specified in TWO previous emails and finally when the shoes arrived on Nov 17th, I had to pay import fees because THEY DID NOT SPECIFY ON THE PACKAGE THAT IT WAS A WARRANTY REPLACEMENT, luckily UPS came through and refunded most of the fee.  Why did I have to jump through so many hoops to replace a pair of shoes that started to fall apart within one year AND were still under warranty?!  No matter how much I like a company’s product, if their customer service is bad I will not support that company, PERIOD.  Case in point, I needed to buy a new pair of hiking boots…I bought Vasque even though six months ago I was planning on buying a pair from Ahnu.