Spring Vacation #2, Part Three

     After our last night in Spearfish, we checked out and began working our way towards home. Spearfish was getting smacked with more snow, but the roads were ok as we traveled to Rapid City.

     With two days of vacation left, we had more than though time to stop and check out a variety of places. I had booked a room for us in Pierre, so we’d be able to check out new places and take a different route home. Our first stop was at Reptile Gardens, a interesting wildlife spot in Rapid City. Donara and I had been here last year, and while William was a little apprehensive at encountering snakes, we went anyway.

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     We attended the bird and snake shows that they put on there. The handlers always have interesting things to say and the kids are riveted the entire time. Some time I’ll have to bring em there during high season and we can see the alligator show too. We walked around and checked out the exhibits and left.

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    We grabbed lunch before leaving Rapid City, drove back to Wall Drug so the kids could buy some junk. They did, and it was kinda fun being back there for a bit. After that, we began the long journey to Pierre. The terrain was sometimes rolling, sometimes prairie. I’ve enjoyed walking across grasslands this year, and I wished there had a been a place that wasn’t fenced up ranching land, so I could just stroll out into the wide open spaces. But it was ok just moving on.

      After checking in at our motel in Pierre, we went out and checked out the town some. It was pretty cool. We headed up the Missouri to the Oahe Dam, since I’ve been digging that sorta thing lately. It is really fascinating the way they make these giant reservoirs out west. I’ll have to tour some dams on future trips. The Glen Canyon and Flaming Gorge dams would be good options, even though I’m not sure you can check out the latter.

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     It was windy and rainy at the dam, and back in town, so we went out for supper. After eating, it had stopped raining and we drove out to an island on the Missouri to hike. A half mile into our hike it started raining a bit, which turned into snow, and by the time we got near the car had to deal with a quarter mile of heavy wind blasting hail into our faces. That was interesting, to say the least.

      We went back, and I let the kids swim until the pool closing time. It was a fine time, and it’s been really great watching Donara get better at swimming, she’s made huge improvements since last summer, from just trying to figure out how in motel pools. William has gotten quite good himself, but I barely remember the early days of that. I vaguely remember trying to help him be ok with jumping in, which he totally likes doing now.

      The next day, we just drove back. It was nice traveling back a new way. There wasn’t a lot to do on the way home, but there really isn’t the normal way anyway. There were a few oddities that we checked out though, like a strange land bridge, some weird peace sign shaped manmade body of water, and the real life homes that the Little House on the Prairie book series were about.

      The drive home was mostly uneventful. There was a long stretch of slushy road that wasn’t fun to drive. We stopped for Mexican food for lunch, and it was better than I normally find on the road. The kids both tried the hot sauce and it was hilarious as they panted and tried to put out the fire. We also stopped at a waterfall in Redwood Falls, and that was pretty sweet as well.

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     I guess that’s about it. We got home as darkness fell, and all in all drove a mere 1988 miles on this trip, low for me but not bad at all. I enjoy the road plenty, but cutting back on the driving wasn’t so bad.

     It was a good trip. I’m glad I was able to give both the kids a trip during the school year, and I obviously had a great time exploring some and getting kickass photos. Life is pretty sweet right now. I’m determined to not let being back bring me down this time. I’ll be leaving again in a few weeks, and in the meantime hope I can maintain the confidence I’m feeling and the warm glow of recent travel.

Spring Vacation 2016 #2, Part Two

     After a nice and relaxing night at our motel, we slept in a bit and began our loop through the Black Hills. We drove highway 14A, the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. The night before I’d looked that way as we drove through town, and knew we were in for a treat. It was far better than I could have imagined.

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    Other than the nice clean road, everything was covered in a couple inches of fresh snow. It made the towering canyon walls and endless trees look just amazing. While I’ve done nothing but cool shit over the last three years (everything before 2012 has ceased to exist and I didn’t have my act together enough to travel until March 2013), I’d have to put this morning’s drive in my top five drives ever. The prime conditions having continued into the second day of this trip was an exhilarating way to start the day. I stopped at Bridalveil Falls and photographed Donara in roughly the same spot, a year apart and with a wildly different backdrop.

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    Next year, I’ll presumably try and take the same shot again. It was damn cold, so I didn’t spend a ton of time trying to get it exact. I regret that a wee bit, but oh well.

      We continued our drive. I’d found a trail we could hike to a waterfall called Roughlock Falls, and again the snow made for a wonderful experience. The trail wasn’t bad, and the kids and I enjoyed our hike. My camera jammed up at the falls and I missed a great shot of the kids by one second, which sucked a bit.

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     After our hike, we drove up into the Black Hills. I had a vague idea of going to Wind Cave National Park for a cave tour, but didn’t know what time the tours were, and really hadn’t given the day much thought. I set in a course for the park and decided to just head that way and see what would happen.

      The drive was scenic in a variety of ways. We ran into a large earthen dam and the reservoir it made, both named Pactola, and having recently driven over a similar dam in northern New Mexico, I stopped and investigated. These massive west and southwest infrastructure projects have really captivated me lately, and I’m planning on continuing to check out similar areas on future trips.

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    We left the main drag and drove around the reservoir partway, getting info for future trips and exploring a bit. The side roads were barely passable, and after I drove down a very steep and icy road to a lakeside picnic area had to do some interesting driving to escape. It was all worth it, though. Very beautiful, and someday I’ll camp, hike, or kayak there (or all three).

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    From there we continued south. We stopped for lunch in Custer, and then went to Wind Cave. We were able to get tickets for the 3pm tour, and with a hundred minutes to burn drove down to Hot Springs, where we took a tour of the Mammoth Site.

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     The kids are into fossils and that stuff, so it was a fun place to burn some time. There certainly is an impressive collection of bones there, in such a small area.

     We drove back up to Wind Cave, arriving a few minutes before the tour. We’ve done a variety of cave tours in various states, and this one was a lot of fun and really interesting. I took pictures, but cave photos always suck, so screw it.

      From there we worked our way towards Rapid City, where we planned on eating dinner. We stopped and checked out a few places, and I took the slightly longer drive to loop around near Mount Rushmore…

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     ….and when we got to Rapid City, we stopped and ate at the Golden Corral there. The kids are a huge fan of that, as am I, and they ate an assortment of odd foods. I had a steak, which as I ate realized that I’ve had like one other steak in the last several years. It was good. I don’t know why exactly I’m blogging about steak.

     Then we drove back to Spearfish. The sun was setting, and it was very pretty. It was kind of glowing rather than burning, and I wish there’d been a good spot to photograph it. I was also in an extremely good mood. I was a bit more “into” this trip then the last, and I’d already settled into the usual zone where time slows down and it felt like we’d been gone weeks rather than two days. And I continued to feel the strange but welcome confidence that seems to be currently infusing me. Still feels like something spectacular is about to happen.

      I write this as the kids play in the pool, same as last night. It’s been a really solid trip. I’m glad things are going so well and that the kids are having a fun and well-rounded vacation. I’m proud of that. I still never see single dads taking their kids out to all these places I travel to. I’m ok being an anomaly in that respect, if still looking forward to having a love interest (with whatever offspring she may possess) along on future adventures. For now, I’m more than cool with this. It’s a rewarding challenge and a hell of a good time.

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P.S. Apparently I took a phone picture of the kids at Roughlock Falls, which I just discovered now.

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Spring Vacation 2016 #2, Part One

      Around a year ago, I went on a vacation and finally was able to make it to California. I’d asked for eleven days off, a few days more than our company max of seven (I’ve gotten eight a few times) and I’d recently spent a couple months helping out at another store, and figured since I never ask for more money my boss’s boss would make an exception and let me go for longer.

     I was wrong. Fuck her. But it ended up ok. Rather than the long trip I wanted, I got pissed off and took several trips in a short interval. I managed to get around nine days for my California run, and I took the leftover extra time to get a vacation over Easter break for just Donara and myself. William wasn’t able to go, but Donara and me had a great time. I had four days off, and we left early on the first and spent our time out in South Dakota and Wyoming. It was very windy the entire time but that wasn’t enough to deter our fun. All in all, I ended up with like twenty days off out of thirty that spring, and that was pretty sweet.

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One of my favorite pictures I've taken of Donara, when she was six on our spring trip

      So this year, I decided to do it again. I saved a couple vacation days for that, and was able to bring both kids this time around. Going to South Dakota and eastern Wyoming again seemed to be a good plan. I took off earlier the day before, so we could get a good jump on things. I had to work hella long hours the days before to make up for that, but my kids waking up a few miles from the Badlands on our first day off was worth the few harder days.

      A winter storm was roaring down on the Midwest, and we were heading right towards it, so I wasn’t sure what to expect as we went west. But it held off, and the 640 mile drive to Wall went rather smoothly for all concerned. We arrived at the small cabin we rented for the night around 10:20 mountain time, and the kids crashed quickly. I produced a podcast, and went to bed, waiting to see what kind of snowfall would occur during the night.

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     We slept well. The wind howled through the night as the cabin was battered by the storm. We awoke to the world covered in two inches of ice. We packed up and went to legendary Wall Drug for breakfast and some shopping, then proceeded into Badlands National Park.

     The road to the park was absolutely terrible. Fortunately the NPS had plowed the scenic drive a bit, so while I had to be extremely cautious, I was able to relax and enjoy the scenery. It was really something special. It’s always a worthy sight to see there, but the fresh winter activity made everything stunning. It was extremely cold and insanely windy, so we didn’t hike very much. The trails were so damn icy, I didn’t feel the kids would be into it much. We went to the visitor center and watched a twenty minute video, and on our way out of the east side of the park stopped and hiked a bit.

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     From there we began the three or so hour drive to Devil’s Tower, the far point of this trip. After stopping for lunch in Rapid City, we began climbing out of South Dakota. Everything around was covered in snow, the mountaintops were obscured my foggy darkness, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that drive anywhere near that beautiful.

     We arrived at Devil’s Tower National Monument mid afternoon. I was extremely excited as we approached, assuming I’d have amazing conditions for good photos, and as we rounded the corner and finally saw it, I was thrilled at what lay before us.

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    It was stunning. Everything was icy, every tree was frosted up, and the tower itself just looked so damn cool like that. We ended up hiking the entire trail around the top, ice and all. The kids had a great time, and I took dozens of excellent photos as we circled.

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      I’d enjoyed my time here at midnight in fall 2014 a ton, as I took one timed exposure after another, but this was better, and it was great to share the experience with the kids. After our hike, we drove back into South Dakota and stopped for a delicious pizza at a small local joint. Now, the kids are swimming and I’m sitting in the hot tub sweating and writing this. It was a good day. We have fun things planned the next couple as well, duh 😉

     I’m currently in a really good mood. Life is good, I’m doing what I do best right now, and for some reason it feels like something is changing and more great things are just down the horizon. Not sure what, but I feel it coming. It’s a good feeling, and I’m determined to not let it escape once I return.

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Spring Vacation 2016 #1, Part Four

      I slept terrific in Durango. It was exactly what I needed, and it was nice to have vetted a new place to sleep in a area that is likely be useful in the future. My plan for the morning was to set out on my longest hike of the trip, so I drove back into New Mexico to the Alien Run mountain biking trailhead, and began my hike.

      The trail itself was typical southwest terrain, starting out above the canyon to my right, and wasn’t in itself anything special. But it did lead to the crash site of the Aztec/Hart Canyon UFO incident of 1948, one of the seminal events in that field, so it was well worth the over nine mile long hike that it took to get there and back. The crash site itself was just a large area where there weren’t trees growing, and it definitely looked very different from the area I’d been hiking thru, which was filled with scraggly desert flora.

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    There was a marker there talking about the incident, and someone had made a large alien face out of rocks. It was a cool experience and well worth my time. Here’s some info on the Aztec incident…
http://www.ufoevidence.org/cases/case879.htm
      It was a nice cool morning for the hike. Leaving early in the morning made it so I was able to stay at a nice temp for the whole time. After I finished the hike, I drove back into Colorado and continued my journey north. I had plans around five with a friend that I’d met a couple months prior when I drove a car out west for her, but I still had plenty of time to check stuff out along the route to Grand Junction.

      I stopped in Durango to see if my computer, which hadn’t worked the night before, could be repaired, but the guy talked me out of putting any money into it. I’d paid three hundo for it seven years ago, and had got my money’s worth out of it, so it wasn’t the end of the world.

      I gave a hitchhiker a ride to a weird hot spring rock thing about fifteen miles north of Durango, and tried getting to a trailhead to hike to a mountain lake. Unfortunately, the road wasn’t plowed enough to be Prius drivable, so I pressed on.

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     The drive from Durango to Grand Junction along US 550 was just completely stellar in early March. Driving thru several snow covered passes was exhilarating and the perfect choice after many days in the desert. I stopped a bit south of Ouray and hiked for a little while on a steep mountain trail, but had to turn back due to the dangerous ice and steep drop offs, and I couldn’t safely proceed. It was still a fun hike and one I’ll likely do in the fall someday.

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     After driving off the beaten path and exploring a bit, I reached Grand Junction. I met my friend and we hiked for awhile, then I continued east. I booked a room in Glenwood Springs, at the same place I go with the kids every summer, and I had enough time to have dinner, buy a new computer and get my shit installed, and use the sauna before bed.

     The next morning, I left early and began the journey home. I stopped near Frisco and hiked for an hour or so near Dillon Reservoir, since I figured I wouldn’t make it home that night and I may as well take advantage of the location and hike some. It was a nice sunny day, which made for a comfortably warm hike while still in snowy conditions.

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     And then, I just drove back. I made it to northern Iowa that night, think I stopped around midnight, and the next morning drove the last four hours.

     It was a good week. I did a wide variety of activities and obtained a fair amount of solid information I’ll be able to use on future trips with the kids, future solo trips, and someday when I have a signficant other, I found a few places worth sharing with that lucky female. Getting home was jarring, and I’ve had a bit of trouble adjusting to the lesser parts of where I live.

     Fortunately, I’ll be leaving again on the next trip on Tuesday the 22nd 🙂

Spring Vacation 2016 #1, Part Three

      I’ll continue to share links to prior posts, as Facebook swallows up posts and surrounds them with foolish political lameness. If you wish to peruse them, here they are…
Part One http://wp.me/p3unAq-a8
Part Two http://wp.me/p3unAq-ae

     After my chilly night, I continued upon my journey. I hadn’t hiked too much the day before and was determined to rectify that quickly, and I set out for a slot canyon, a rarity for this state. Using a hiking guide I brought I was able to find where I needed to go, and after a hour long thirteen mile drive thru more wild and crazy gravel roads, I parked and began my hike. The drive along the Rio Chama was surprisingly scenic. At one point someone presumably coming from the monastery at the end of the road almost ran me off the road, which was briefly terrifying, and I’m sure it was for him as well. When you drive on roads that are essentially one lane wide, don’t drive fast around blind corners, especially when you’re several hundred feet up. Seriously, dude 🙂 The monastery itself, Christ in the Desert Monastery, was pretty close to where I hiked in. Organized religion isn’t my thing, but I gotta say that were I Catholic, this place woulda totally worked for me.

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(Not my photo)

     The trail I was planning on hiking wasn’t really a trail, nor was it signed and there was no trailhead. The book I had was outdated and the info it provided didn’t match the current reality, so I just parked where I could, and set off into the desert canyon in the direction I thought I was supposed to go. My instincts were correct, and the wash I was following let directly to the slot I was looking for, Chavez Canyon Slot, and I enjoyed traveling a little ways into it. Being alone in a place way way off the beaten path that nobody in the world knew I was in, I wasn’t able to climb as deep into the slot as I would have liked, but it was still neat and good practice for future canyoneering.

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     I hiked back to the car and continued to move through central northwest New Mexico. A few miles along my route I ran into a small federal site called Echo Amphitheater, and hiked the short distance to the sweet formation, and of course I yelled at it a bunch and enjoyed the sweet echoing of my voice. After that, I started working my way towards southwest Colorado, where I’d decided to stay for the night. I’d wanted to camp again, but I was pretty wore out after two less than stellar nights, so I booked a room for the night in Durango, and pressed on.

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Echo Amphitheater

      When I stopped for fuel at a town on the Apache reservation, a local guy came up to me and gave me a ton of information on Archuleta Mesa, a local UFO hot spot. The stories he told me were super cool, and after we were done talking I drove up near the mesa, on yet another barely maintained gravel road. I wasn’t able to get anywhere to close to it, since I was on a reservation and there were restrictions on where I could go, but it still was a neat time. Here is some of the local UFO lore on the site…
http://www.openminds.tv/amazing-first-hand-ufo-testimonials-from-dulce-new-mexico-families/35382

      I was there only a couple days before a UFO symposium, which I’d have loved to go to but it didn’t work out with my schedule. Maybe some other year. It’s an interesting area and if the people there are as nice and welcoming as the Apache man who talked with me about cool stuff for awhile, it wouldn’t be a bad place to hang out for a few days, at all. I’m sure I’d even be able to find a guide to take me to the mesa itself. Fortunately my southwest travels are a common occurrence, and anything I dream of doing there is likely to become reality.

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Archuleta Mesa

     I continued west. I was working my way towards Aztec, New Mexico, and saw on the map that the area had an interesting looking body of water called Navajo Lake, so I adjusted my route to go through there, and found a trail to hike close by. Navajo Dam and the reservoir created by it were extremely sweet. The overlooks above it were incredibly scenic, and I was able to drive over and down the dam.

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    I drove another ten minutes or so and looped back up the river, and began the hike up to the Simon Canyon Ruin. The temperate finally was getting warmer, and the hike was sunny. The ruin itself was completely different than other ruins I’d been to, this one being perched on top of a twenty foot high boulder, overlooking the canyon below. I can’t even imagine the effort it took hundreds of years ago to get all the material to build the small ruin up the sheer rock walls, but I hope that for the intrepid Navajo that built it, that it proved to be worth it.

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    After the completion of that hike I drove to Aztec and took a tour of the National Monument there. The site features remarkably well preserved ruins, and I enjoyed the time I spent there. It’s always something to see structures like that and how they’ve stood the test of time. The day continued to be really nice, and I regretted having booked a room already, because camping at that temperature woulda been almost perfect, but I was ok with it.

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     I continued north towards Durango. A few miles near the border, I left the highway and drove down rough oil and gas roads and worked my way to another place to hike, a short unmarked hike to an arch on BLM land, Cox Canyon Arch. There was a couple camping near the “trailhead” and I was amused by their giant dogs coming out and howling at me. It wasn’t a long hike, but at a couple points I had to go up some steep rock ledges. I don’t mind that, but coming down is not something I enjoy.

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     The Arch itself was around forty feet high, and well defined. The sun was starting to work it’s way down, so I didn’t stick around terribly long. I took a few pics from a variety of angles, and then went back down the rock ledges and from there I drove up to Durango. I arrived at the motel right before dark.

The motel was significantly better than the one in Albuquerque. I had a nice, multi room suite, and it felt really good to relax after the big day I had. I ordered some pizza, and I lucked out because it was extremely good. I ate half and gave the other half to the chicks at the front desk, and then spent thirty minutes in the amazing sauna. It was a busy day, but it was a very good one. I’d done a ton of fun shit, and were really enjoying my trip at this point.

Spring Vacation 2016 #1, Part Two

     If you missed part one, here is a link 🙂
             http://wp.me/p3unAq-a8

      After my terribly unpleasant and noisy night in Albuquerque, I set out for the location of Walt’s house, got my photo, and then began my journey north.

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    If one is inclined to hear more detail of my Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul experiences, the first thirty minutes of our podcast cover that well.
http://stvdpodcast.podbean.com/e/serious-tv-drama-podcast-112-better-call-saul-2×05-rebecca/

     I stopped at one final location in between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and then laid in a course for Pecos National Historical Park, not super far from the latter. Pecos is the site of an ancient village that the Spanish had settled near as they did their usual conquest/forced religion thang, and while I’m definitely no fan of THAT, there is still something admirable in the work they did building these giant mission churches.

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     After that I worked my way towards Taos and that general area. I’d never been there before, and had always envisioned it as being the kind of place I’d be able to take someone to a mountain cabin for a couple nights there, and while I haven’t the someone for such romance, the area itself was definitely worthy of that and I’ll make use of that particular feature someday. I grabbed some delicious New Mexican food in Taos, and then I made the long scenic drive from Taos around Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico, and whenever I saw anything of interest I stopped and checked it out. It was a very interesting area, and the drive itself is known as the Enchanted Circle.

      I didn’t really have a plan for what I’d do that day, or where I’d sleep, but I didn’t really care. It was just nice to sorta roam. The drive was very nice, including the snowstorm that I ran into as it blew off the northeast side of the mountain range. I drove almost the entire loop around Wheeler Peak, and then set off towards Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, another new site. I followed the GPS, and while it led me into the monument, the road it took me on was a terribly rutted gravel road with many one lane sections and steep mountainous dropoffs. I made it a long way before a series of switchbacks were so risky that I chose to turn back, and while I didn’t reach my destination the drive itself was exciting and stressful in a fun way.

      I worked my way back towards the beaten path and continued west from the general Taos area, and quickly ended up at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, a location I wasn’t aware of. I’d been to several of the highest bridges in the country, and I believe this was is the fourth highest I’ve been on, at 565 feet above the river. It was an incredible experience walking across it, and also very freaky. That’s a long way down. After I went back to my car I drove across the bridge and went to the rest area/trailhead on the west rim and hiked down aways to get a good shot of the bridge.

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     From there, I drove south and down into the gorge. While the road was again really wild and required plenty of concentration to keep the Prius from getting stuck, it was more manageable than the road climbing out of the north side and I was able to get down to the river with no problems.

      The gorge was cool, and there wasn’t shit for people down there in the chilly offseason. After some deliberation I decided to tent camp at a primitive campground, and selected a nice site under a grove of trees. I made camp as the sun fell, earlier than normal due to my being down in a canyon, but I was easily able to take care of business before dark.

      It had been a good day. Even though I would have rained death upon dozens of obviously loud scumbags at the motel the night before, the fun I’d had doing my Breaking Bad type stuff and the really great experience hiking at Valles Caldera the day before had been enough to break thru the tail end of my cold and thru the slight bitterness I felt at doing another week alone, and things went well.

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      Camping was very cold that night, with temperatures reaching the low twenties. Fortunately I had my minus ten degree winter sleeping bag with, so while it was a cool night, I was still relatively comfortable. I rose early and broke camp by 5:30, and continued upon my journey.

Spring Vacation 2016 #1, Part One

     (Yes, it’s winter, but heck with that, it’s spring anyway)
     After a winter that was weak and uninspiring but also uneventful, the first of three vacations drew near. I planned this one as my usual southwest jaunt, and chose to focus on northern New Mexico this time. I hadn’t spent much time in that area for quite awhile, and rather than split my time between there and central Arizona, an area unknown to me, I decided to stay confined to a smaller area.

      I worked until eleven a.m. on Saturday the 5th, and began my journey then. I’d been fighting off an unpleasant cold, with a kaleidoscope of shitty symptoms, but fortunately was mostly healed by the time I left. Rather than take the unpleasant shorter route down thru Kansas and Texas and all that, stuck to my tried and true solo traveller way, and went across Nebraska. I stopped for the night at my usual spot, the rest area in Sterling, Colorado, and the next morning pretty much went straight down thru rural eastern Colorado, instead of being slowed down by the Denver and Colorado Springs traffic.

       There wasn’t much to see in that part of the state, but it was a nice morning and I sorta enjoyed the wide open spaces and the big skies.

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     Eventually I crossed over to I-25 and from there entered New Mexico. The terrain instantly became more of what I’d been craving, that beautiful combination of rock and tree. I set out for my first destination, Capulin Volcano National Monument. I drove up to the crater, and did the loop hike around the rim, and down into the cinder cone. It was a very scenic hike, but it was high in elevation and steep, and my sickness caught up with me and made the hike less than pleasant.

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    After that I worked my way towards Santa Fe. I stopped at Fort Union National Monument, which was a large hub of commerce and all that back in the nineteenth century, and started feeling better as I explored the ruins there.

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       I stopped at a Blake’s Lotaburger in Las Vegas and got a spicy and delicious green chile cheeseburger, a New Mexican staple. I arrived in Santa Fe a bit before sunset, and checked into my room. That night was the only night of the trip where’d I’d made accommodations, preferring to let the rest of the week be unscripted. In the past that has not always worked out well, but I’ve gotten quite good at finding accommodations or campsites as needed, so I enjoy just letting the trip flow as it will.

      The motel was nice enough. It was old but well maintained, and fortunately was quiet and comfortable. I had a good talk with the desk clerk about various travels, and while I usually don’t speak much on my trips, this time chose to try and be a bit more social. I’d had a nice talk with a Texan back at Fort Union about different ruins, and rather than avoid people this time I ended up with a bunch of nice conversations.

      I called and ordered myself a pizza and watched some Downton Abbey. By the time the pizza arrived I started feeling poorly again, and neither food nor entertainment was very satisfying. I took it easy and drew myself a bath, but nothing really did much for me. In my weakened state my defenses lowered and I chafed against the fact that yet again I was traveling alone and frustration that I couldn’t find what I was looking for, but luckily that was the only time the entire trip where that particular vulnerability affected me.

      The next morning, I got up early and headed up to Bandelier National Monument. I had been there before, but not for a long time, and enjoyed being there early enough to examine the various ruins and cliff dwellings in almost total silence. It was a chilly morning, but not bad hiking weather.

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    From Bandelier I continued my looping around towards Albuquerque.
I stopped at a newly formed national monument, Valles Caldera, a place I hadn’t considered going but saw on the map.

       I had a wonderful time at Valles Caldera. It covers an area where a massive supervolcano had erupted over a million years ago, and the odd mostly flat plains were really different and cool. The park was new enough where there weren’t really any trails yet, so I just roamed around. I climbed up a hill near the visitor center, and from there down and into the plains of Valles Grande. I had to jump over a creek winding thru the grasses many times, and it was a lot of fun crossing such an odd area. My time in this park was one of the favorite things I did the whole week. I got several pictures I was extremely happy with.

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     I had an interesting chat with the ranger at the visitor center about all the trials of trying to develop this new federal site, and then continued on my way. As I wound my way thru the Jemez Mountains I stopped for another hike along an icy river, and then went straight to Albuquerque.

       As I investigated my options for the different Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul shooting locations I had wanted to visit, I learned that for this season of Saul that an Albuquerque brewery was having watch parties for the new episodes on Monday nights, and I decided that I probably would enjoy doing that, so I booked a room a couple blocks from there. I checked in, and then began a hectic path as I crossed back and forth across town hitting many of the iconic locations from the two beloved series. I didn’t take photos at Walt’s house, due to the owners being home, but I ended up having a terrific time bouncing across town taking pictures of these sweet places.

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     I ended up grabbing supper at a hot dog stand that was in Breaking Bad, and then worked my way back to the motel and relaxed until it was time to go to the party.

      The party was at a taproom, a kind of business that I’d never been to before but was right up my alley, and enjoyed the atmosphere and the stronger than usual hard ciders. There was a good crowd there, and all sorts of fun things happened there that related to the series. I got to crawl around one of the RV’s that is made up to look like a meth lab and gives location tours, and had fun hanging out with like-minded people. Watching the episode in a group was fun, but had a bit of a negative effect as I was really reminded of how out of place I feel back home, where a group of craft beer fans getting together to watch top-notch television is something that just will not happen in the lame ass backwater I currently inhabit. 

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      I went back to the motel, and unfortunately had an awful night as people were loud as fuck all night and the walls were paper thin. The location was great, a fifth of a mile from the brewery, and walking there and back was easy, but I’ll never stay in that motel again.

      There is the first three days of my trip. I’ve decided to split the trip up into multiple posts, so this will be continued soon. I’ll be recording a podcast tomorrow and will go into great detail on my experiences in Albuquerque, so if you want to hear about that, it’ll show up on my Facebook page on Tuesday.