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Sunday Hikes: Corona Arch

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It was 8 o’clock in the afternoon in beautiful Moab, Utah. We had spent the whole day hiking at Arches National Park but we hadn’t seen enough arches for one day! So we decided to go to Corona Arch, recommended to us by my sister’s friend. We had dinner and asked our waitress about the hike and she warned it is a difficult trail to follow but we figured it couldn’t be too hard to find a sixty foot arch in the middle of the desert. We pulled off the road that ran parallel to the Colorado River and into a gravel parking lot. The trail started off by going up a steepish hill and then across some rail road tracks with fences around it (presumably to keep bighorn sheep from getting hit by trains or to keep outlaws from tying people to the tracks for Roy Rogers to rescue). After the tracks the trail continues to walk along a small ridge overlooking the parking lot and the river but then takes a turn to the right and then hits a big step up and thats where the trail turns into looking for wear on the rock and keeping an eye out for cairns rather than just following the trail. At this point my sister and I were a good bit ahead of my dad and our two younger siblings, but instead of waiting around for the slow pokes we kept on trying to follow the trail. Pretty quickly you are at a large open area with no sights of the arch and we were somewhat confused about where to go until we heard people speaking french coming from the left of us so we went that-a ways. we turned a corner and ran into a nice french family that were on the way back. Just after we passed them we spotted approximately 12 billion cairns all together having some sort of party. We were so fascinated by the rocks that we didn’t even realize that we were in eyeshot of Corona Arch! When we spotted the arch we headed that way till we came to some chains and a ladder going up small inclines (a small taste of the ropes we would be holding onto with white knuckles a couple days later on Angel’s Landing). We followed the trail in a horseshoe pattern and then looked up to see Bowtie Arch just before Corona and were surprised that we didn’t know there were two arches on this hike. Corona is the much more impressive of the two however so we moved on. Pretty soon we were under the arch looking out across the way where we could see our small ant-sized family approaching the ropes and ladders. We went around the corner to stand on the edge of the cliff on the other side of the arch and to look out at the beautiful view of Corona arch with a storm going the other way in the distance. Standing on the edge of a cliff is a scary thing but it gets all the more terrifying when the storm you thought was going the other way violently hits you with sand and winds that blow you off your feet. Well thats what happened to my sister and I as we stood put taking in the view and waiting on our family. We began to crawl away from the edge and back towards the arches as the wind tried to blind us with sand and rip my glasses from my face. Eventually we got away from the edge and tried our best to run back to the car without tripping over cactus, rocks, and our own feet. Once we got back to where the trail is a real trail it had begun raining hard on our unprepared heads and we had seen no signs of our family yet. As we turned the corner we saw them hiding under a rock sticking out of the cliff waiting for us (Because I had the car keys). As we met up with our family my dad proceeded to whisper in my ear that the storm had literally scared the crap out of my younger brother. We ran back to the car and out of the rain (which stopped as soon as we got into the car). After that is was a nice drive back to the hotel to clean up and then go to Arches National Park to stare at the Milky Way for hours. Overall I’d say it was a great day and a great hike despite the sand in my eyes and I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

-Josh

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Anticipating Travel

     I am currently sitting outside of my work, sipping on some Guatemalan coffee between my second shift of the day. It is a cool 73 degrees outside and starting to feel like fall here in  Georgia. This weather is getting me increasingly excited for my two upcoming road trips! The first of which I leave for in less than two days now (Today is Thursday and we leave early Saturday morning). On that early Saturday morning my two traveling buddies (my sister and my girlfriend) and myself will depart for Columbus, Ohio to visit my Aunt and Uncle, after spending time in Columbus we will head for Cuyahoga Valley National Park to hike and enjoy learning the history of the park, our next stop is Toronto, Ontario (With a quick stop at Niagara Falls on the way of course), After spending two days in Toronto we will head into the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York to hike and relax in the woods (and hopefully see some moose), after the Adirondacks we have a short 8 hour drive to Shenandoah National Park to camp and hike, then we go home. I am stoked to spend so much time in the city to drink coffee, visit markets, and explore Columbus and Toronto. I am equally if not more stoked to camp in the woods and hike myself silly. The anticipation of an upcoming trip is one of my favorite feelings. Trying to decide what to pack and what not to pack, buying lots of peanut butter and ramen noodles, and just the knowledge that I will be in new places soon, experiencing things that I may not experience the rest of my life. I am excited to leave for our trip and I cannot wait to take pictures, write things down, and most of all just experience the joy that comes from traveling!

     I’m not sure what the point in writing this was other than to just get my excitement out in some sort of outlet but I hope my anticipation has encouraged whoever might read this to get out and get stoked to travel!

-Josh

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El Charro in Tucson AZ

One of the best parts of traveling to new places is eating the local cuisine.   I was excited to try El Charro in Tucson AZ.   El Charro is not only the oldest continuously operating family owned Mexican restaurant in the United States, but it is an absolute must to visit if you are in Tucson.  While they are known for inventing the chimichanga, the reason I was there was to try their famous Carne Seca Platter.   Carne Seca is prepared by marinating shredded lean angus beef and drying it in the Sonoran desert sun.   It is then grilled with green chiles, tomatoes & onions.

Sun dried beef……count me in!

It was served with fresh guacamole and tortillas.   They claim Gourmet Magazine called it a “taste explosion”.   That was pretty accurate.   I made a taco with the corn tortilla, carne seca and and guacamole.   It was so flavorful and delicious.   It was the most unique Mexican food I ever had.   I definitely recommend El Charro.   Five stars for both ambiance and taste!

rk

Sunday Hikes: South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails

The sky was vivid blue and clear.   I could feel a nip in the air as I was dressed lightly in anticipation of hotter temperatures in the day.   My son Josh and I were packed and ready to descend into the canyon.   Which canyon?… the Grand Canyon of course.   The first time I visited the Grand Canyon, I had wanted to go down to the Colorado River.   Josh shared that dream with me and so we booked plane tickets from Atlanta to Phoenix.   Since we were unable to get a permit to camp in the inner canyon, we planned to hike from top to bottom and back up again in one day.   This is highly discouraged by the National Park Service and I would never recommend it in the heat of the summer.

Our hike was scheduled for late April (2016).   Our plan was sound and we were prepared.   At 7am, we headed down from the South Kaibab trailhead.   It was 36*F.   We both had backpacks loaded down with an excessive amount of water, high protein granola bars, peanut butter crackers, trail mix and an unfortunately large bag of dried apricots.    I was a little nervous.  I was in pretty good shape for 43, but could I keep up with my 18 year old son and the 13 miles of switchbacks back up the Bright Angel Trail?   My excitement and the easy start to the descent quickly made me forget about any anxiousness I may have had.   We marveled at the colors of the rock walls and the amount of blooming flowers.   6 miles and 2 ½” hours later we arrived at the Colorado River.   It is a very dramatic entrance as you go through a tunnel blasted through the rock face and cross a bridge that is somehow affixed to the rock wall on the south side of the river and leads to the north side of the Colorado River.   Our packs were much lighter having constantly chugged water and munching on our snacks on the way down.

We refilled our water bottles there at the bottom knowing the hike back up would be much harder.  Along the trail running parallel to the river, we found a picnic table in the shade to rest and prepare lunch.   The temperature at the bottom was a scorching 91*F.   We finished up our lunch and I was surprised to see that I had eaten almost the entire bag of apricots on the way down.   I went ahead and finished it off.   After spending a brief 30-45 minutes soaking up the views and watching a very tame deer, we were ready to head back up.   The unknown was a little scary at this point.  I figured that it might start getting dark in the canyon by maybe 4 or 5pm as the sun was blocked by the canyon walls and I was unsure how long it would take to climb back up to the top.

The first part of the ascent of Bright Angel was pretty easy as it followed the river for a ways before taking a sharp turn up through a pass and leading us back up the cliff face.   As we proceeded, the apricots started to make themselves known in my gut.   I quickly realized my mistake in consuming the large bag of apricots and I was struggling with stomach cramps as we ascended the trail.   We passed a beautiful small waterfall but I couldn’t stop to enjoy it as the apricots were causing me severe discomfort.  I was in desperation mode when suddenly we turned a corner and found ourselves already at Indian Garden.   Indian Garden is natural oasis with running water, trees and most importantly, bathroom facilities.   Crude facilities to be sure, but I never was more happy to see a hole in the ground.   After a rest in the cool shade, we resumed our journey and the more steep inclines.   Several hours and many a stomach cramp later, we turned the last switchback and crested the top of the trail.   My legs were like jelly and I was exhausted.   Josh looked like he could do the trail again.   Ah, to be young and strong again.

I must say I was proud to have done the hike in the time we had completed it.   8 ½ hours to complete 15 ¾ miles with 8000 feet of elevation change and a lifetime of memories to share with my son.   I would recommend this hike for everyone…..just leave the dried apricots at home.

rk

 

Canyonlands National Park

I was able to spend a day in Canyonlands National Park near Moab UT recently (July 2016).   Canyonlands is a massive National Park split into 3 main sections:  Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze.   It would easily take a couple weeks to explore it all.  With limited time, I decided to take in the Island in the Sky portion of the park.

Island in the Sky is amazingly beautiful and filled with those iconic views you think of when considering the Southwestern United States.  Island in the Sky is a mesa overlooking 1000 foot drops in every direction surrounded by canyons and the Colorado and Green rivers.   You can get a great overhead view of the Needles portion of the park on the other side of the Colorado river.  Needles is full of colorful spires that reach into the sky beckoning you to come hike through.   The Maze portion is far off and remote.  The Maze is one of those places it takes a few days of backpacking to get to (no roads!).

When visiting Island in the Sky, make sure you leave your car and take the short hike to Mesa arch.  It is gorgeous.  I was able to catch it with the sun rising behind it.  The trails over at Upheaval Dome and Whale Rock are a bit longer but also great hikes.   Make sure you take in the overlooks at Grand Point and Green River.   Both have those views where you just don’t want to blink in case you miss anything.

When leaving Island in the Sky, stop off a Dead Horse Point State Park near the entrance to Island in the Sky.  It is an extra fee, but well worth it for the iconic view of the horseshoe curve in the Colorado River.  The picture of me with my daughter linked to this post is actually from there.   It looks more dangerous than it is!   I promise.

A return trip here for hiking in the Needles section is definitely on the bucket list.  I can’t wait to return.

rk

Five Favorite Things To Do In Nashville, Tennessee

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Nashville is one of my favorite places to visit. Only about three and a half hours from home in Atlanta, Nashville is great for weekend trips. Here is a list of things i like to do every time I visit Nashville.

  1. Attend a concert – Nashville is called music city for a reason. Hundreds of concerts take place in Nashville every year (not including the live music in bars every night) and artists ranging from Bob Dylan to Hayley Williams call the city home. It would almost be a crime to got to Nashville and not catch a show in some form whether it is just a honky-tonk bar gig, God Is An Astronaut playing at Exit/In or Coldplay at the Bridgestone Arena.
  2. Record/Coffee Shop Hop – Nashville has become quite the hip town and where abandoned railroads used to be there are now coffee shop and record stores galore. I love coffee, so naturally I go to as many coffee shops as I can while in Nashville. Some of my favorites are Crema, Steadfast, and Dose but there are loads more that serve great coffee. Being the music hub it is, Nashville host many record shops and you’re bound to find something great while digging through record crates. I once found an original pressing of CODA by Led Zeppelin in a Goodwill for 99 cents so don’t neglect the Goodwills either!
  3. See The Sights – There are plenty of awesome things to see in Nashville. The Parthenon is a must see for anyone new to the town and if you need to burn an hour just walk around the Gaylord Opryland Resort. There is also the country music hall of fame, the Johnny Cash museum, the Hermitage (Andrew Jackson’s home), the Grand Ole Opry, as well as the Frist Center for the Visual Arts (Built in the old city post office). Kind of like the way Bourbon Street is to New Orleans a trip to Nashville also isn’t complete without walking down music row to hear the hundreds of Freebird covers and see more boot shops in one place than you could ever imagine. Nashville is full of impressive attractions so go be a tourist and check them out!
  4. Eat Food – I love eating food and Nashville has some great eateries! For famous Nashville hot chicken check out Hattie B’s or Prince’s or if you want some great (and cheap) tacos go to San Antonio Taco Co. or if you’re in the mood for hot dogs served from a VW bus go to I Dream of Weenie. With all the great local food in Nashville don’t just settle for Chipotle or P.F. Chang’s, go out and get something you can’t have at home!
  5. Wander around – Almost anywhere I go I like to park my car somewhere and just walk. You get to experience your location in a way that is impossible from a vehicle. Nashville is no exception and even though you may be followed around by a homeless man telling you about how someone stole his phone it is all made worth it when you come across something that you will remember for the rest of your life.

 

-Josh

Bonus thing: I also find myself in guitar stores gawking at Martin acoustics and Fender telecasters while resisting every temptation to just buy every guitar that catches my fancy.

Picture of the Day – Space Needle from Chihuly Garden & Glass exhibit

This is a picture that I snapped with my iPhone from inside the Chihuly Garden & Glass exhibit with the Space Needle in the background.   Beautiful sunny day, about 92 degrees in Seattle.   Taken August 25, 2016.

rk

What makes a great trip?

For everyone that can be different I suppose.  But for most travel aficionados like myself, I think these 10 things are key to making a trip into an adventure.   As a matter of fact, let’s call this Ten for Tuesday.

  1. See the iconic sights.   For instance, my recent trip to Seattle wouldn’t have been complete without lunch at the Space Needle.   Yeah it is an overpriced tourist trap and all that, but hey that view on a clear day is hard to beat!
  2. Get local recommendations on where to eat.   I always ask pretty much any local who will talk to me where the best places to eat are.   Last time in Moab we took a recommendation and drove south of town to Susie’s Branding Iron.   Great meal and we got to visit with some wonderful people.
  3. Where to sleep?   It is always a balance between location and price.   I tend to lean towards location because of #4…….
  4. Explore and wander.   Almost always my favorite parts of the trip are the times when I go explore and wander.   My most distinct memory of my trip to Rome was when jet lagged I woke up at 4am local and proceeded to go explore the city.   It was the only time I had the city to myself.
  5. Find something under the radar……..for instance during my penchant for over planning and trip planning, I found out about a wave organ in San Francisco.   http://www.exploratorium.edu/visit/wave-organ.   Back then it didn’t have a website and was something that even locals didn’t always know about.
  6. Leave some time to be spontaneous.   Last year on a trip from home in Atlanta to the Grand Canyon…..that hour we on a whim spent out of the car looking at the lava fields in El Malpais National Monument was a highlight of the trip…..or maybe we were just loopy from 18 hours in the car the day before!
  7. Enjoy the journey—-whether that is trying to see the sights out the window of the plane or searching for that elusive last license plate on a road trip (where are you Rhode Island!).
  8. Take some pictures.   Not all selfies mind you. Get the scenery and all that is around you.   I often look back at a picture album and see a picture and that will bring back a wave of fond memories.
  9. Do something your travel partner wants to do.   Whether it’s one more hike at Zion or a Broadway show in NY.….make time for everyone on your trip to do something they want to do.   You’ll be surprised and happier for the experience.
  10. Get a momento.   Not something crazy…..I tend to grab a t-shirt or if at a National Park one of those cool coasters.

rk