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The Circus Trip: Revealed

I have said before that this blog has been my happy place for the last several years.  I love travel, history, and wine, and I love sharing my adventures with all of you.  Yet they say change is the one constant, and that holds true in my own life too.

As a result of recent life changes, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection, and a lot of way-finding.  As this directional adjustment is going to include travel, and likely quite a bit of wine, it only makes sense to me that I include you on my journey here.  It is guaranteed to be a lot bumpier and more raw than some of my other journeys, but the rest is basically unknown territory.

As is to be expected, I have felt a bit lost after my divorce.  I know a lot of people do.  My divorce wasn’t easy or amicable and I found that the man I thought I had married wasn’t at all the man I had thought he was.  I don’t want to dwell on this or relive it, but it certainly contributed to my feelings of loss recently, as have some other events.  They have damaged my ability to trust, and I am still healing.  It’s pretty amazing how a few people and their actions can make you question your self-worth so thoroughly, even when you are a confident, intelligent, capable person.

As one of my employees is fond of saying, “What fresh fuckery is this?”  I feel like I have experienced more than my fair share of fuckery lately, and I need to let it go.  There are a whole lot of circus animals out there that just aren’t mine to care about anymore…  And therein lies the title of this post…

Often though, in the face of adversity, there is opportunity.  I have decided to do something huge, just for me; I am quitting my job to travel the U.S. for a few months.  Just me and my car, whom I have named Viaje.   I need to find myself again.

I never thought that I would be a person who would just hit the road without much of an itinerary or a timeline; that world is for hippier, more free-spirited people than me.  But I think something more extreme is what I need to get out of the rut I find myself stuck in.  I need to figure out again that I am strong and capable, and that I am enough.  I need to relearn that there is purpose in this life.  I need to know that there are kind people in this world, even if I know I will run into some unkind ones too.  Hopefully the kind ones will outnumber the jerks.  I need to figure out how to make it alone.  I need to see and feel peace again.  I need to heal.

I am on a budget, unless one of you wants to be my anonymous benefactor, so I’ll be doing it with a combination of car camping and couch-surfing, with perhaps the occasional hotel night thrown in if I am really itching for a good, hot shower and some TV (I can’t let that happen too often though – darned budget).  If any friends and family, both well-known and little known, are interested in sharing some time, or inviting me for a brief stay to connect or reconnect and find some laughter and human connection, I would welcome that!

I won’t be going everywhere, but if you would like to get together, and/or are willing to put up with me for a night or two (or more, but that would be completely up to you and my itinerary), let me know here and we’ll see if I will be in your area.

The next few months of blog posts are likely to deal more with my emotional experience than I have revealed here in the past, but I decided that my process of healing needs to include that level of openness.  Maybe someone else can benefit from my trials.  Other antics may include freezing my butt off, sweating to death, not being able to get the camp stove working, singeing my hair in a campfire, spraying bug spray in my eye, turning into one giant, itchy mosquito welt (they love me) and being bitten by (hopefully not) ticks.  The trip is also bound to include some gorgeous sunsets, great hikes, fantastic historical sites, and wine consumed from either a mug or a melamine cup…  There might even be smores!

They say what doesn’t kill you…??? To that end, I will still be posting here, and as I still have a ton of previous trip stuff to catch up on (including a trip to London that I arrived home from early this morning!!!), this blog will be a combination of past and present posts.  I will likely be posting less frequently though, as I will have to find a place for the night each night…  Priorities…  You will be more likely to find current updates on Instagram or Twitter (my username on both platforms is @wineandhistory), so I hope you will follow along there as well.

I hope you will follow along on this crazy adventure of mine!

 

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Mi Vida Loca Photo Series, 7

Life has a way of catching up with you sometimes, and getting crazy busy and a bit overwhelming. So while I devote some attention to it over the next few weeks, I am going to share a few photos of the adventures over the last several months that I haven’t had a chance to post about.

 

 

Wine on the porch of the National Park Inn, Girl’s Weekend, Mount Rainier, February 2018

Mi Vida Loca Photo Series, 6

Life has a way of catching up with you sometimes, and getting crazy busy and a bit overwhelming. So while I devote some attention to it over the next few weeks, I am going to share a few photos of the adventures over the last several months that I haven’t had a chance to post about.

National Park Inn, Girl’s Weekend, Mount Rainier, February 2018

Mi Vida Loca Photo Series, 3

Life has a way of catching up with you sometimes, and getting crazy busy and a bit overwhelming. So while I devote some attention to it over the next few weeks, I am going to share a few photos of the adventures over the last several months that I haven’t had a chance to post about.

In no particular order…

Snowshoeing, Longmire Cabin, Girl’s Weekend, Mount Rainier, February 2018

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: Dee Wright Observatory and Balancing Rocks

Day 11, Thursday, August 3, 2017

We didn’t have a need to get up really early this morning, so I took a brief walk, had breakfast, and hit the pool. It was so hot out that it was already warm enough for swimming!  I loved spending some more time in the pool!

Me at the Pool

Once we got going, we headed out and went to the Dee Wright Observatory.  It is an observation structure at the summit of McKenzie Pass in the Cascade Mountains near Sisters.  The road up to the summit of McKenzie pass is the route of an 1860 wagon route on the Oregon Trail.  The pioneers actually had to build the road in order to get the wagons across the lava – and you think your commute is bad!

The road leading to Dee Wright

The observatory is a 5,187 feet in elevation, and offers panoramic views of the nearby mountains.  The area around the observatory consists of 65 square miles of black lava rock.  It was built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and was named for the foreman of the project to build the observatory, who died before the project reached its completion.

Dee Wright Observatory

When it is clear, you can see Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson, South, North and Middle Sister, Mount Hood and many more.  Unfortunately, the day we were there, the area was covered in a thick haze of smoke from the wildfires up in Canada.  We could see the closer mountains, but not as well as I would have liked, and the mountains further away were not visible at all. I will have to visit again.

The observatory structure is very cool because it has multiple windows built into the stone structure where you can see the various mountains framed in stone – and they are all labeled so you can tell which mountain you are looking at.  We checked out all the windows, and took photos.

 

We also did the nature trail walk, which explained the volcanic eruptions that occurred in the area, the different types of lava flow and how plants and animals returned to an area after the landscape is changed by volcanic eruptions.  There were small trees and shrubs growing, and there were hundreds of monarch butterflies!

 

After we went to the Dee Wright Observatory, we went into downtown Sisters to get lunch; burgers and fries that were good, but nothing to get all excited about.  We wandered around town for a bit and poked around in some shops before we got on the road for our next destination.

Our next stop was the Oregon Balancing Rocks.  If you hadn’t heard of them, never fear – I hadn’t either.  Apparently, years ago, my brother and sister in law saw a documentary on the Oregon Public Broadcasting Station about the Balancing Rocks.  They visited many years ago, and wanted to see them again with the kids.

The Balancing Rocks in Oregon are similar to the more famous balancing rocks in Arches National Park in Utah.  The harder stone above is held up by softer stone underneath.  The softer stone erodes away more quickly, leaving these mushroom-shaped capped stones.  The Oregon Balancing Rocks are not nearly as exciting as the rocks in Arches though – the colors are more brown than red, and they aren’t nearly as pretty.  There were lizards there though!

I have no idea where these rocks really were, besides about 30 miles north of Sisters down a gravel forest service road, somewhere overlooking Billy Chinook Lake and the Metolius River (how’s that for vague?).  There is an unmarked small gravel parking lot at the trail head, but no services.  The quarter mile trail is well maintained gravel though – and the kids enjoyed running down it with abandon.  Which they probably shouldn’t, because I am sure this area has rattlesnakes – but hey, I’m the aunt…

We checked out the rocks, and checked out the view, which was hazy because of the wildfire smoke, and took some pictures of the lizards, but really, there isn’t a whole lot to see out there in the middle of nowhere.  Like I said, they aren’t as exciting as their more famous cousins in Utah…

 

After the Balancing Rocks, we started the long drive home.  The wildfires made the sun bright red and the sky really hazy.  We even got out of the car for a minute to take photos of the sun because it was so unusual.  We got home to my brother’s house about 8 pm, unpacked the car and discovered a house that was about 87 degrees upstairs – Yikes!  Home sweet home!  The air conditioning and some fans did manage to cool it down to 85 by the time we got into bed – that certainly isn’t much though!

The wildfire sun and haze

Distance for the Day: Sisters, Oregon – Dee Wright Observatory, Sisters, OR – Balancing Rocks, OR – Portland, OR (4 hours, 15 minutes; 185 miles – this is a guess, because Google Maps is being fickle and wouldn’t let me map some of these because the roads are still closed for the winter)
Fees: None
Lodging: Back home at my brother’s house

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: Craters of the Moon NM

Day 9, Tuesday, August 1, 2017

We got up around 6 am and got on the road at about 7:15, since we had a long day ahead of us!  Trying to keep 3 kids quiet while you are packing up tents, brushing teeth, and getting ready to go is tough!  Today was the day we were going to see Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve!  Craters of the Moon NM is a relatively little known monument in kind of the middle of nowhere Idaho.  It is really cool though!

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

Craters protects the site of lava fields and lava tubes that were created by previous volcanic eruptions; it compass three major lava fields and about 400 square miles of sagebrush steppe grasslands. The is 53,571 acres in size.  The three lava fields in the monument are along the Great Rift of Idaho, and have open rift cracks, including the deepest rift crack known on Earth.  It is 800 feet deep! There are examples of almost every kind of basaltic lava, as well as tree molds, (where a cavity is left by a lava-incinerated tree), lava tube caves, and many other volcanic features.  Craters is also known for its excellent wildlife habitat, as many animals survive on the sagebrush grasslands.  This post, however, will not contact much wildlife because it was about 95 degrees on the day of our visit!

Pahoehoe Lava and a Cinder Cone

We went out into the lava fields to hike some of the lava tubes – remember to bring a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water – it was really hot the day we were there!  The above ground hike is 1.6 miles, if you walk to the entrances of each of the lava tubes.  You can also go inside!  Remember, if you want to go into the lava tubes, you have to have a free cave permit; just stop by the Visitor’s Center before you head out, and they will give you one, hassle free.

Me at Craters

Our first lava tube was Indian Tunnel – this is a fairly long lava tube, but has sections where the roof of the tube has collapsed, so part of it is exposed to the sky.  It is really cool!  The cooling lava and the later collapses of the roof left huge lava boulders on the floor of the cave, so you have to scramble over them in order to make it through.  The kids loved it, and even the 5 year could easily do it.  There were lots of pigeons in the shady upper reaches, and we found a lot of chipmunk and other rodent bones in the cave as well.  We left them for the next people to enjoy.

 

 

We also hiked into Beauty Cave and Dewdrop Cave.  Dewdrop Cave is the smallest; it is really just a recess back into the ground, but there is a tucked away section that is pretty dark.  Beauty Cave is relatively short, but completely dark (bring a flashlight). Beauty Cave is suitable for most people, as long as you can enter the cave, you will find that the floor of the cave is smooth and easy to walk on; it doesn’t have all the boulders that are present in the other caves.

My niece and nephew climbing into Dewdrop Cave

Boy Scout Cave is the most challenging of the lava tubes.  It requires crawling and squeezing through tight spots; we debated, but ultimately decided to leave Boy Scout Cave for another trip, and settled for a quick peek at its entrance.

 

The entrance to Boy Scout Cave. We passed

After the caves, we planned on a picnic at one of the picnic tables in the shade.  Where we quickly realized why no one else had snagged the shady spot on such a hot day.  As soon as we got out of the van, we were SWARMED by hornets!  And I mean SWARMED – they were everywhere!  It was so bad that my brother got back in the van to drive it away, while the rest of us followed on foot in hopes that we could lose the hornets and not let any of them into the van.  It was crazy!  Our tactic worked, and we did manage to escape without anyone getting stung.  There was a huge meltdown in the van a little bit later after we discovered a small bug that needed to be let out.  No photos of this hornet cyclone – sorry!

The hornet escapade did prevent us from doing another hike that we had planned on, the Devil’s Orchard Nature Trail, because the trail head had some hornets hanging around the cars, and the kids absolutely refused to get out of the car.  I’m not sure I blame them – perhaps the hornets are why it is called Devil’s Orchard.

 

Me again!

Instead we went to see the Spatter Cones.  There are two miniature volcanoes here, and a third called Snow Cone, just a short walk away.  These cones were created when the volcano spewed blobs of hot lava into the air, mounding into the form of a cone about 2,100 years ago.  These spatter cones are mere babies in the life of geology!  Snow Cone was fascinating, because its crater is so narrow and deep that snow from the winter lasts all year long!  We got to peer down into it and see the remaining snow – on the first of August on a 95 degree day!  We also found a chipmunk enjoying the cooler temperatures of the crater.

 

We headed back to the Visitor’s Center and listened to the Ranger Talk on types of lava.  She explained the differences between cinder cones and spatter cones, as well as black lava versus pahoehoe lava (which gets its name from the Hawai’ian lava flows).  She let us hold lava rocks; some are really heavy and others are way lighter, depending on how dense the rock is – it was a great talk, and everybody enjoyed it.  Of course we got Junior Ranger badges too!

Our stop for the night was at a Sleep Inn in Nampa, Idaho.  It was our first hotel of the trip!  We had talked it over and decided that camping in 90+ degree weather just didn’t sound very appealing, and setting up after our long day of driving seemed like a chore too (who knew Idaho was so wide?). The shower was amazing though!

 

Distance for the Day: Victor, ID – Craters of the Moon NM – Nampa, ID (5 hours, 51 minutes; 341 miles)
Craters of the Moon Entrance Fee: $15 per vehicle for 7 days, free with a National Parks Pass
Sleep Inn: Nampa, ID: $107 per room (includes tax) – free breakfast!

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: Springs and Falls

Day 7, Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday was our last full day in Yellowstone, so we tried to see some of the sights that we hadn’t yet made it to.  We started out by driving over the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which is not far from the Canyon Campground where we were staying.  We stopped for a short hike at the Brink of the Upper Falls – you can hike down to the viewpoint and watch the waterfall cascade over the brink.

The Yellowstone River at the Brink of the Upper Falls

 

Me at the Brink of the Upper Falls

 

Our next stop was Artist Point.  Artist Point is just that – a viewpoint with amazing opportunities for beautiful paintings and photography of the Lower Falls.  Interestingly, its name was a mistake.  F. Jay Haynes, Yellowstone photographer in the 1890s, thought that this was the place where Thomas Moran painted his famous paintings of the Lower Falls in 1872.  It wasn’t – that distinction belongs to Moran Point on the north rim – which is now called Lookout Point.  Despite the confusion – go – it is beautiful!

Me with the Lower Falls

 

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

We stopped at the Gibbon Meadows picnic area for lunch.  It is right along the Gibbon River, which quietly meanders along at that point.  The kids played on the banks of the river for a little while we got lunch ready; peanut butter wrap sandwiches.  Super-FANCY!

Next up after lunch was the Midway Geyser Basin; we went to Grand Prismatic Spring.  I had been there the year before with my mom, so it was neat to go again!  I do have to admit that it was pretty nerve-wracking following my nieces and nephew around on that boardwalk crowded with people and the hot, hot, water right there!  It is probably not considered acceptable to have 10, 8 and 5 year olds on leashes?  There is a new trail that leads up to an overlook above Grand Prismatic Spring; it is about a mile long.  We were going to hike up that trail to get a different perspective, but we weren’t able to find it!  Granted, we didn’t look that hard either.  So the overlook above Grand Prismatic Spring remains on the list of things to do next time I am in Yellowstone!

Grand Prismatic Spring

We visited Gibbon Falls; the signs explain that Gibbon Falls in right on the edge of the caldera that was created with the volcanic eruption 640,000 years ago.  If you go south from Gibbon Falls, you travel into the caldera.  If you go north, you move out of the caldera.  Even though you can’t see the caldera, it was interesting to ponder driving through a giant volcanic crater.  I walked down to get a view of the falls, where it promptly started to hail!  Yep, that’s right, it seemed we weren’t going to get away from the terrible rain on this trip!  By the time we got back to the car, all of us were soaked – right down to sloshy shoes.  We all took our shoes and socks off even – except my poor brother, who was driving.

Gibbon Falls

On our drive back to camp, we went up north through the Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower areas of the park once again.  The wildlife spotting was amazing!  In just a short period of time, driving on the road, we saw two Sandhill cranes, a coyote, and believe or not, two mules.  Of course, the mules were obviously domestic animals who escaped, but they managed to get away without their halters. I can only hope that they were caught soon enough.

Back at camp, we saw a giant bull elk hanging out.  He was injured, so he likely sought refuge in the relative safety of a campground – wolves and bears likely stay further away than the middle of camp.  He was eating and relaxing, and hopefully it was just a temporary injury.

Dinner that evening was spaghetti and meatballs with my aunt and uncle, and my sister-in-law’s mom, sister, niece and nephew.  Why do we not have better familial names for our in-laws’ families? I digress. We hung out around the campfire, and had birthday donuts in honor of my niece’s birthday.  What a fun day!

 

Distance for the Day: Driving within park
Canyon Campground, Yellowstone National Park: $30 per night for a tent site