Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Peace Corps Nepal Reunion at the Lost Trail Lodge, Truckee, CA

The Lost Trail Lodge, Truckee, CA
Santa Clara, CA - Towards the end of September, Suwei and I were invited to join some friends for a Peace Corps Nepal reunion up near Truckee, CA.  No, neither Suwei nor I were ever in the Peace Corps in Nepal, but we have traveled there and I was in the Peace Corps and well.... it sounded fun.  Plus, our friend Jen W. from Colorado, who we almost never see, was going to be there. Plus, there were going to be a bunch of little ones coming for Keira to hang out with. Plus, there was going to be a Nepali pot luck on Saturday night. How could we say no?
Some Old Blog Posts From Nepal
8/12/07 - Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
9/06/07 - Trekking The Annapurna Circuit
9/09/07 - R&R in Pokhara, Nepal
9/19/07 - Rafting the Sun Kosi

The venue was The Lost Trail Lodge.  Julie and Elyah (who we met through Jen a few years ago) are from the area and had booked pretty much the entire lodge.  I really liked this place.  Very rustic, somewhat remote, and quite comfortable, albeit a bit pricey.  The lodge is about 4 miles up Coldstream Canyon from Donner Memorial State Park.  In summer this can be driven by a high clearance vehicle, but in winter you would need skis or snowshoes.  There are 5 rooms (cabins) and the place can hold up to 20 people.  Perfect for an event such as this.

Hanging out in the Lost Trail Lodge
Keira gearing up for the ski season

Anyway we had a great weekend.  We did a little day hiking, did a lot of hanging out with the babies, meet a bunch of new folks, and learned a bit more about Nepal (thanks Stephen for the slide show).  It was a perfect weekend for me as I was about a month and a half into my battle with Giardia.  I had been stuck at home for the last couple of weeks and although I still didn't have all that much energy, I was dying to get out and do something.  The only bummer was having to pass on the Nepali food and the tasty deserts and pretty much everything else in the kitchen but tea.

The Remains of the Nepali Potluck, The Lost Trail Lodge, Truckee, CA

Day Hiking

Thanks to everyone for including us!  Here is a link to the slide show with a few more photos.

Lost Trail Lodge Trip, Truckee, CA

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Baby's First Road Trip, Part 3, Colorado to California

On the Road in Petrified Forest National Park
Santa Clara, CA - This is confusing even to me.  I'm writing about a road trip we took last February from Colorado to California just a week and a half after getting back from yet another road trip from Colorado to California.  Yep, I keep mixing up the two trips in my head. 

In any case, this next set of photos are indeed all from our winter trip!  I'll start working on the 1500 or so photos I took on the fall trip, ummm... later.  Hopefully before spring.

In these photos Keira is now 2 months old.  We rent a U-Haul trailer and fill it full of stuff we think we might need in California.  We  decide to drive a southern route home, to avoid any potentially nasty snow storms.  We stick to our plan of seeing as many National Parks and visit as many friends as time and practicality allow.  We set out on the road again on February 15th, 2011.  Here is where we went...

Warning: Huge Post Ahead!

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado 

Sunset at Great Sand Dunes National Park
Distances seem just a little greater when traveling with a baby. We thought we got a fairly early start, but alas, we were rushing to make it to our first destination before the visitor center closed (got to get the book stamped!)

We made it, but there wasn't much time left before the sun began to set.  We thought about setting up camp and climbing the dunes in the morning, but the temps were rapidly falling and we weren't yet comfortable about exposing our newborn to that. So, we passed on the hike and chose instead to pick a great view of the dunes and wait for the sun to go down (turned out to be the right decision).

I'd like to head back to this park in the spring, when the river is flowing and climb some dunes before it gets too hot.  Keira loves the sand.

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

Cliff Dwellings
Upon our arrival at Bandelier National Monument we were sternly reprimanded for bringing the U-haul trailer down to the visitor center, even though the ranger at the entrance kiosk said it was alright. Turns out there was a bit of a miss-communication. The parking lot is very tiny, but there are a few large spots saved for buses. If it's mid-week and no buses are expected, I guess they sometimes let folks like us park down there. Well, the guy at the kiosk obviously didn't get the memo that a large school group was coming that day. In the end, the grumpy visitor center ranger let us stay anyway.

For our hike, we took the short nature trail past the Big Kiva, Tyuonyi Village and the Cliff Dwellings. Then we headed further down Frijoles Canyon and climbed the 140 feet of ladders to get up to the very impressive Alcove House.

I didn't realize it until I started working on this post, but pretty much all of Frijoles Canyon and about 60% of the National Monument was burned in the Los Conchas Fire (near Los Alamos) that swept through the area last June. The visitor center is gone. The Frijoles Canyon parking lot and picnic areas have been closed until just last month (October). Many of ruins including the Alcove house are still off limits. We feel pretty lucky that we got to see this beautiful park when we did. Although it would be interesting to return and see the effects of such a burn.

Cliff Dwellings and Temporary Dwellers, Bandelier National Monument

Alcove House, Bandelier National Monument
Phil and Juliet's Sweet Pad, Albuquerque, New Mexico 

Phil, Juliet and Family in Albuquerque, NM
Unfortunately the visitor's center at Phil and Juliet's place didn't have a cancellation stamp, but it was still well worth the stop. So nice to see those guys again and to meet their family. Phil and Juliet are friends of mine from Peace Corps Malawi and Phil was part of my group of urban growth managers (MUGers). It had been a long, long time since I'd seen them last.

Keira, however, was in rare form when we got there. She cried and cried and cried. It seemed she had had about enough of all the traveling and was letting us know... for about 3 hours, while we hung out and had dinner with Phil, Juliet and the kids. Those guys were great! They just shrugged off all the ruckus and we kept on chatting.

After that stop, however, Suwei and I re-worked our sleeping and feeding strategy. It turns out, at the time it was better to wake the little one up to eat more often, otherwise she'd get too hungry and fussy and then couldn't eat or sleep. Anyway, the new plan seemed to work for us and her.

Thanks to Phil and Juliet for hosting us with such grace. Next time we'll have to make more time and visit Rey and Robin as well.

Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico

Boca Negra Canyon, Petroglyph National Monument
We hit Petroglyph National Monument fairly early as it is pretty much right at the outskirts of Albuquerque. It made me think about Hill Valley in the Back to the Future movies. Just beyond the mass sprawl of Albuquerque's suburbia is this rocky desert outcrop. The park is is basically a 17 mile long volcanic escarpment that winds it's way through the neighborhood. On this escarpment there are over 24000 images etched into the rocks by the APP's (Ancient Pueblo Peoples).

We too a short 1 mile hike around Boca Negra Canyon where one can find one of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in the park and... get a great view of Albuquerque to boot.

Petroglyphs and Views at Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Wood at Blue Mesa
Much, much later that day, after a long day of driving, we stopped in at Petrified Forest National Park. Our visit to this park was so hurried and brief, it served as a major driving factor in the planning of our most recent road trip. In brief, we needed to slow down.

The problem we had here, was not realizing that the park closed at dusk. It seems the park has a bit of a problem with poachers taking the petrified wood. I'm not too sure what folks do with petrified wood, but it still goes missing. There is a 28 mile scenic road running north and south through the park connecting pretty much all the points of interest. We arrived at 4 pm, got our stamp, and quickly got on the road to try to do at least one hike before curfew. We picked Blue Mesa (sounded cool).

Turns out we only had like 15 minutes to hike. After 4:30 you're allowed to be in the park, but if you stop anywhere, you can be ticketed. I think we saw one piece of petrified wood, took a quick photo and high-tailed it back to the car. There just wasn't enough time. Which was a shame, as the light out there was fantastic at that time.

This fall we chose to take 11 days for the return to California.

Blue Mesa, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Wupatki National Monument, Arizona

Wupatki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument, Arizona
It was cold and cloudy when we woke up in Flagstaff the next morning. It looked and felt like it could snow at any minute. A perfect time to check out more National Parks!

The difficulty we had in Flagstaff was selecting just what parks we wanted to visit. There are loads of them there! To stay on schedule, we needed to make it to Las Vegas by that evening and that meant picking only one... or maybe two.

We went with two. Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument are so close they even share the same park map. Perfect! And as it turns out, they are very different parks. Even more perfect.

Wupatki National Monument protects a number of scattered settlements built by the Ancient Pueblo Peoples, including the massive, 100 room, Wupatki Pueblo. The reason there are so many settlements near Wupatki is thought to be the Sunset Crater Volcano nearby that erupted in the 11th century, spewing soil improving volcanic ash over the entire area.

In our short time there, Suwei, Keira and I visited the Box Canyon Dwellings, Lomaki Pueblo, and of course, Wupatki Pueblo.

Lomaki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument
Box Canyon Dwellings, Wupatki National Monument
Wupatki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument, Arizona

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Arizona

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is just a hop and skip from Wupatki. Actually, to get back to the highway you pretty much have to go through Sunset Crater VNM.

Even though the wind at this point was blowing quite hard and getting quite chilly, we decided to do the 1 mile Lava Flow Trail. I actually did it twice. Once with the camera and once with Keira and Suwei. Lava flows usually make wish I could have been around to seen the craziness happening, but they also make me feel quite glad I wasn't.
Sunset Crater & Fissure / View of the San Francisco Peaks from the Lava Flow Trail
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Arizona

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada

Hiking to Calico Tanks, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada
Bill, Jeanya, Eng-Shien, and Henry had rented a house for a weekend in Las Vegas to use as a sort of base camp for a climbing trip to Red Rock Canyon. Las Vegas was on our way home, so... we decided to crash the party. Unfortunately for the climbers, those clouds we were seeing in Arizona, dumped a little snow and rain on Red Rocks and the cold and the wind were sticking around.

Suwei, Bill and I decided to head into the park and do a hike up to Calico Tanks (2.5 miles round trip). As we made our way up to the saddle, things just kept getting windier and colder. Upon reaching the view out over Las Vegas, we took a very quick look and quickly retreated to the shelter of the rocks to get out of the wind and to feed Keira. It didn't take us too long to retreat the rest of the way down to the warmth of base camp and the hot tub.

Bill, Jeanya and Keira at Base Camp
Don & Cathy's Sweet Pad in Snelling, California
Sunrise along side the Merced River at Don & Cathy's Place, Snelling, CA
Again, no stamp, but great company. Don and Cathy were also friends from Peace Corps, Malawi and were kind enough to help me get settled into the central valley when I moved to Merced many years ago.

Unfortunately, Suwei and I arrived to their place much later than expected, so our time was short. (typical of this trip as we were still very much trying to figure out the baby's needs). Cathy however, cooked up a very nice meal and was even able to chat with us a bit before scooting off to bed.  She had needed to head out quite early the next morning, which is why I didn't manage to get any photos of her with Keira.

Don however, took good care of us in la maƱana. He even pointed us to his favorite roadside breakfast burrito, which by the way, was quite excellent. Thanks D & C!

Don & Keira / Morning Dew / Don Fetching the Morning Paper, Snelling, CA

A little more than 3 hours later (still slower than usual), we were back home at Arturo's house, thinking about what our next move would be.

Thanks for joining us, stay tuned for the photos from the fall road trip. I took tons!

Here is a link to the slide show. Lots more good stuff in there.

Baby's First Road Trip Part 3, Colorado to California