We’re deep into summer and the winter wonderland photos below might be a bit jarring for those living in the Northern Hemisphere. But this post about a trip to Zion National Park is ready to go out into the world. It’s long overdue. Travel is often my inspiration for blog posts. This past year led me to a lot of closer-to-home discoveries in the natural world – but, also, the lack of motivation to write, as we have all struggled to sort out life in a new version of this dystopian world. But here it is: my first visit to Zion.
I love that my first memories of Zion National Park will always be shrouded in an icy haze. Arriving in a new place after dark – whether it’s a rainforest, a bustling South American city, or a natural cathedral carved through the desert over millions of years – always leaves me disoriented. And then it snowed through the night, covering roads and painting still-bare trees in white. The world felt pillow-soft as I stepped out of my cabin. I walked across the grounds of the lodge, and the fog shifted to give me my first glimpse of a canyon wall. I had no idea how far these walls rose up, but I could feel the ones I couldn’t see – in the stillness, and in that sense of being enclosed and protected.
I wanted to go to Dingle in 1992. I spent two months in Ireland, and mentioned it in my journal at least four or five times. Dingle, in 1992, didn’t quite have the reputation as a tourist destination that it does now – but I wanted to see the end of the Dingle Peninsula and look out across the Atlantic. I had ridden to the southern side of the peninsula, to Inch Beach. But that was the extent of my travel. Every day that we hoped to go, it rained, or something else came up. Continue reading →
We brought all of our rain gear. Jackets, pants, boots. A cover for my backpack. Those super-tough zip-lock bags for protecting odds and ends in case you get stuck in a deluge. The last thing I really expected when our flight landed at Shannon Airport on the 4th of July in the southwest of Ireland was sunshine and warm weather. That’s not the image of Ireland I had preserved in my memory.
Coming from Colorado, we were hoping for some cooler, wetter weather. Certainly, it was cooler, 75 F, not 95 F. From the moment I stepped off onto the tarmac (because Shannon airport is one of those places where you still have to walk across the tarmac) I could feel that coastal dampness that seeps into my pores every time I get near a body of water. My Colorado skin is like a dry sponge – greedy for moisture wherever it can find it. But the blue sky was a surprise.
Twisted limestone pavement of the Burren, in County Clare, western Ireland.
I was recently reminded how bears can turn ordinary people into a frantic band of smart-phone wielding paparazzi. Why are people so fascinated by bears? We imagine them as vicious killers (just google ‘Stephen Colbert’ and ‘bears’, and your will be reminded of how he often joked about them as ‘Godless killing machines’), but I think we also find them cute and cuddly. A bear with cubs at Yellowstone National Park will back up traffic for miles, as we discovered on a recent trip to the park.
Nature paparazzi, after the perfect shot of a small black bear along the side of the road.
People will leave their cars in the middle of the road, emergency lights flashing, tripods and cameras in hand, and RUN to a better view point. While people tend to keep the required distance of 100 yards from the bear, I think the road gives them a false sense of security. Surely, a bear won’t cross a road, will she?
I recently found myself walking on the toes of giants. It’s possible to lose your balance when you gaze up to look at them. They sway, drawing circles in the sky, even without wind. I’ve missed these trees.
The Napo River winds through rolling hills of the Upper Amazon.
This is a place where your sweat never dries. After a day or two, your clothes develop a smell that make you wonder what’s happening to your body. It will take a couple of washings back home to nullify – but you have only one set of clean clothes left. Better to save them for the flight home.
The wide, dusty trail is packed with people and mule trains and slides 1000 feet down from the rim of a crater to an emerald blue lake. We were warned the trail would be challenging. But I was seduced by those glassy waters that ripple with new colors as the sky shifts and turns from blue to grey.
The moody looking waters of Quilotoa shift from blue to green to grey, depending on what’s happening in the sky.
One of the ‘cascadas’, or waterfalls, along a hike through the cloudforest in Mindo.
For a cloud forest, it was unusually sunny. This is what happens when you visit in the dry season. There’s still plenty of water, you just won’t find your feet sliding so much on muddy trails. This is my first time in Mindo. I can imagine the wet season well enough, having traveled to other cloud forests, such as Podocarpus in Southern Ecuador and Monteverde in Costa Rica. Either way, these types of places, usually nestled in the shadows of rolling green mountains, make you feel as though you’ve stepped out of time. That’s one of the reasons Mindo was on our syllabus.
When I wake up to see tendrils of fog hanging from the streetlight, or rain-wet roads, I know we have arrived unequivocally in autumn. Apparently, September used to hold potential for the first snowfall as well, but that hasn’t happened in the past decade. These wetter mornings tend to punctuate strings of sunny blue autumn days – the kind of days that inspire you to plant bulbs and buy pumpkin-spice flavored things.
I had a longing to see the aspens this year. Leaf peeping is all the rage in September in the Rockies. In fact, it’s so much of a rage, that I have avoided going up into the mountains – especially into Rocky Mountain National Park – for years.
In the town of Crestone, CO you might see more new age crystal shops, long gray beards, and man-buns per capita than any place in Colorado (okay, you’re right…there’s Boulder – but let’s face it, Boulder is not what it used to be). With that going for it, the drum circles, and the ‘hey dude chill out’ attitude, I could almost be back in Santa Cruz.
Instead of sitting on the edge of an ocean, this town sits on the edge of the San Luis Valley – a wide-open, sandy plain dotted with sage and grasses. The town is nestled right up against the dramatic flank of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It’s well known for being a new age spiritual center – thus, all the hippies. The permanent population numbers at about 150, but summer can bring in thousands of people a day, visiting Buddhist shrines, attending yoga or meditation workshops, or just browsing the local art.
Looking across the ‘ocean’ of the San Luis Valley.