Thanksgiving in Big Bend, Pt. 2

Culture, Photography, Travel

Though day one of our Big Bend vacation was one of our trip highlights, days two and three certainly did not disappoint.

On our second day, after a foggy, relaxed morning at the campsite drinking coffee and eating pumpkin pie, we headed down the mountain to explore the valley below on our first ever desert hike.

A moderate hike to a series of prominent volcanic dike formations, the Chimneys Trail is well-known for Indian rock art marks at the base of its iconic, chimney pinnacles. Surrounded by various types of cacti and other short, brushy desert plants we were unfamiliar with, the first bit of this hike was interesting, but in all honestly, I was over this hike halfway before it was done. Once we made it to chimneys and explored the petroglyphs and evidence of camp settlements, we high tailed it back to our car and ventured on to the more exciting part of our day.

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From the desert we headed along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive for more beautiful views and a visit to the Santa Elena Canyon. Towering 1,500 feet over the Rio Grande, the Santa Elena Canyon is one of the most dramatic canyons in the park, and was a breathtaking site to see. We’d originally planned to take a rafting trip down the river through the canyon, but not wanting to jam pack our schedule, we decided to save that trip for our next visit. Now after seeing just a glimpse of the canyon’s beauty, that’s a rafting trip I can hardly wait to take.

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On our third and final full day in the park, we woke before the sun and set off for one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes I have ever done. The South Rim Trail,  a strenuous 14.5 mile loop along the south rim of the Chisos Mountains, was well worth the 2,000 foot elevation gain, steep and never-ending switchbacks, and a nerve-racking bear encounter.

Starting off brushy and dry in the basin of the Chisos, the hike soon turned green as we quickly ascended a couple thousand feet into the mountains. Next to cacti we saw Pines, as well as Firs, Aspens, and Maples. The first couple of hours our feet saw red dirt, and then suddenly the bright colors of Fall.

Finally, when we thought our knees could no longer take it,  we made it to the mountain ridge where we were rewarded with panoramic views of the mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert. Fighting with the fog, we took our time on this part of hike, resting and eating lunch, and peeking through the clouds into the world below. Then, just before we descended the mountain, the sun finally won, offering us front row seats to Big Bend’s most stunning vistas.

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Though the second half of the hike was just as pretty as the first, I barely remember it as I was just ready to get off the mountain. With a bad knee, hiking downhill is much worse than going up, and if we’re being totally honest, we both just couldn’t wait for a burger and an icy cold beer.

The last mile of the hike I felt exhausted, yet energized, as I powered my way back to the car proud of what I had just accomplished. After a visit to our campsite and a quick decision that we were too tired to cook, we headed to the Chisos Mountain Lodge and ended our adventure with that well deserved burger and beer.

We went to bed that night exhausted and sore, and woke the next day surprisingly rested. Trying to extend our trip just a little bit longer, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of pancakes and bacon, and then eventually, knowing we had to go home, packed up camp and made our way back to Austin.

Though I was tired on Monday and still a little sore from our hikes, our short trip to Big Bend was well worth it. Each year our Thanksgiving celebrations seem to get a little more unique, and I am totally okay with that. A plate of turkey and stuffing is just as good in the great outdoors, if not even just a little bit better…

 

 

 

 

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Escape to the Cape

Boston, Culture, Photography, Travel

IMG_0566As a child, I never had any trouble locating Massachusetts on a map. Just like I could always identify Italy as the country shaped like a boot, I always knew Massachusetts as the state with the flexing arm.

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Ever since we moved to Boston, I’ve wanted to visit the tip of the cape, or as I would have said as a child, the fist of Massachusetts. We’ve been to the Cape three times now. Our first visit was during the fall, right after we moved to Boston. My parents came to visit and we headed to Chatham, where we had the chilly beach all to ourselves. It was very serene; like a scene straight from a painting.

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Our second trip, taken last summer, came with lots of crowds and traffic. The beach was rocky and we paid a fortune to park. It wasn’t my favorite day by the ocean, but we still had a nice time.

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Our third trip, taken over the weekend, was by far my favorite. We had planned to take this trip weeks ago, but thanks to mother nature, it was rained out. Rain threatened to ruin our fun once again, but we went anyway, deciding to make the best of it, rain or shine. We left on a rainy Saturday morning, and two hours later, we were greeted by glorious sunshine. One minute it was cloudy, and the next, the sun was shining brightly.

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We set up camp and headed to town, exploring the streets of Provincetown. We enjoyed a lobster roll on the harbor, scoped out the tip of the cape, and saw the sight where the pilgrims first landed. I found Provincetown to be a cute and quirky little place. The people were friendly, the food was great, and the views were breathtaking. It’s no wonder why it’s a world-renowned destination.

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Our time in town was grand, but it was on the beach where I found myself the happiest. Our campsite was just half a mile away from one of the best stretches of the Cape Cod National Seashore. As no fires were allowed on the campgrounds, we spent our evening on the beach and cooked our dinner next to the waves. I’ve always wanted to have a fire on the beach. Now I can say that I have. The hubs sat where he is happiest, next to a campfire, while I gallivanted about the beach, entertained by the surfers and seals.

IMG_0532That’s right. I said seals… 🙂

sealsWe ended the night with a glorious sunset, a crackling fire, and good conversation. We munched on homemade chocolate bark and sipped on a summer brew. Before we knew it, the stars were twinkling and it was time for bed. We still had a full day of exploring ahead of us.

IMG_0691IMG_0732We woke early on Sunday morning and headed straight back to the beach. We enjoyed our breakfast barefoot on the sand, dipping our toes in the chilly Atlantic.

IMG_0896We spent the rest of our afternoon biking through miles of rolling dunes and luscious forests, all while taking in sweeping ocean views. After 10 strenuous miles we rewarded ourselves with a local brew before returning our bikes and heading back home. We ended the day with a stop at a seaside shack where we enjoyed fresh scallops and round number two.

-2We watched the waves roll and listened to the birds sing as we savored the last moments of our mini getaway. We sipped our beer slowly, reflecting on the beauty in front of us. Sad to leave, we hit the road. Back to reality, away from Cape Cod.

Vermont Getaway

Photography, Travel

Well friends, I hate to say it, but nature wasn’t so kind to us this weekend. Our much anticipated leaf peeping getaway turned into something more closely related to one of those “what else could possibly go wrong” episodes from your favorite sitcom, than it did a relaxing, peaceful weekend away.

We started our trip in Waterbury, up in Northern Vermont. Well, we knew that the leaves might have already had their show, seeing as leaves peak pretty early in the Northern parts. Sure enough, show over. We were greeted by some pretty sullen leaves. So, we decided to head south. Only after a visit to Cold Hollow Cider Mill of course…

My spirits were still pretty high at this point as the Vermont tourism website was promising peak conditions just about an hour south. Plus, it probably didn’t hurt that I was full of hot apple cider and cider donuts—Yum! So, we drove. We drove north, almost to Canada, which put me in even higher spirits as it encouraged me to break out into song singing “Oh Canada,” which was actually an awful combination of “Oh Canada” plus “God Save the Queen,” (how was I supposed to know?), and we moved on. Well, it wasn’t long until my flame died. Campsite after campsite kept telling us the same thing “The leaves have died. Head further south.” So we did. After another three hours of driving, we gave up. We ate up our whole day driving. Not what I had in mind. So, about the time that we found a place to settle in, in rolled the clouds, down dropped the temperature, and gone was our day.

We ended up settling in for the night at a campsite right on the Battenkill River. Not a bad place to end up. The Battenkill, famous for its fly fishing, is somewhere Jacob has been anxious to visit. So, not all was lost. At least we would be able to spend Sunday doing some fishing. Well, thanks to a big rainstorm that hit that night, the fish stayed away and we were left with only one fish to show for it.

 

Oh, and that’s my fish, by the way! I caught it while Jacob was gone getting firewood. I managed to quickly get a picture before getting it back in the water. Jacob might not have believed me otherwise!

Even though the weekend didn’t turn out how I would have liked, we still walked away with some pretty great memories. We got to see some beautiful scenery along the way, enjoyed a few spontaneous stops, and most importantly, just enjoyed each other’s company. That’s what road trips are all about, right?