An action packed weekend in San Francisco – with the van parked in Oakland and in the midst of a great academic conference hum, we maximized our public transit experience with buses, subways, street & cable cars, and connected with friends, food culture, and nature in the condensed exquisite forms an urban center provides.
Rather than last year’s missed visit to this popular park on July 4th, we lucked out with the Tioga Road pass still open in mid November and a late fall Wednesday spent in the park and camping at Upper Pines. Stunning all the way through from ice above Tuolumne Meadows to the perfectly framed view from Glacier Point. At other times of year there would be more water over the falls – and more people everywhere.
In 10 days of great weather in Sedona we fit in hikes at Carroll Canyon, Chimney Rock Pass & the Buddhist Stupa, a scramble up Bell Rock, Allen’s Bend, and particularly loved Seven Sacred Pools, Boynton Vista, and the mesa top wander around the top of Doe Mountain.
What an impressive basin with surprisingly attractive and colorful dry canyons. We started a cold morning above Las Vegas on Mt Charleston at 8500ft, dropped down to the southern entrance to the park at Shoshone and the day had started warming up by the time we hiked at Badwater and Natural Bridge Canyon. To avoid the hottest of the day (still only 80s) we drove up to Dante’s View 5500ft directly above Badwater, then returned to Golden Canyon for a sunset hike and a full moon night at Furnace Creek, 30,000ft of elevation change for the day.
We drove from Wisconsin to Arkansas on The Great River Byway along the Mississippi River. While a scenic wander through the floodplain midwest, the river itself was often out of sight (the section in central Wisconsin is somewhat more river-focused), but when we camped by the water it was worth it.
A late summer interlude trip is about halfway in our driving for the year, lots of time on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior visiting good friends all along the way. Somehow most of the places we encounter are new to us even as we run into people we know but didn’t make plans to see.
Back in June we drove the Blue Ridge Parkway from its start in Virginia to Asheville, NC on our way home. The Blue Ridge Music Center with locals playing casual live bluegrass most days is worth a mention and a visit.
Retracing paths from earlier this summer, we left the corner of Texas’ panhandle at Texline and meandered through northern New Mexico to Taos, finding our first fall colors of the year – golden cottonwoods in the canyons and aspens in the passes.
In Taos we toured living ancient culture (Pueblo continuously occupied for 1000 years), and modern sustainable off-grid housing inspired by the same (Earthship community).
Santa Fe surprised us with great museums (International Folk Art) and our first Audubon Center (hiking with borrowed birding binoculars in piñon-juniper hills). Grandparents came to visit and snow flurried for most of a day.
On our way to Chaco Culture NHP we passed through Los Alamos and Calles Valdera National Preserve (elk far across the valley).
We were only supposed to spend one night in Arkansas (and it was nice, on Greers Ferry Lake at an ACE campground), then visit Hot Springs and head on over the Talimena Scenic Byway into Oklahoma. Van trouble delayed us to see some more art, architecture, and gardens; long enough to take a rental car side trip down to Texas. The Hot Springs Public Library is a wonderful space of play and sharing, represents all the things libraries strive for, a standout for the trip. Ultimately we got back on track, and not far off schedule.
The year of roadtrips began to the east, and off to a quiet beautiful start in NC’s Outer Banks on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore a few weeks before Memorial Day. Ferries between barrier island towns, long stretches of wildlife refuge, and lighthouses. The desolate dunes and campgrounds nestled up within them remind me more of Washington’s Pacific coast than any other part of the Atlantic so far.