Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam

I passed through Page, AZ, already twice during my travels, but so far I did not find time to stop there for longer than to take a few pictures. It is a pity as Lake Powell looks very inviting and it would definitely be cool to take a boat trip there, e.g. to the Rainbow Bridge, the world's largest natural bridge.

Glen Canyon Dam:

Habibi and Colorado River:

Damming the Colorado River caused the Glen Canyon, which lies to the north of the dam, to become flooded and has subsequently created the large reservoir called Lake Powell:

Monika and Lake Powell:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Monica (grape)

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there is a grape variety called "Monica", especially that I like its description and how it matches my personality ;)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

(pointed) update

  1. The Green Card is not as green as I thought it would be. And apparently it can transmit data wirelessly, which is a bit freaky.
  2. My husband's socks get wet when he washes dishes.
  3. It's gorgeous weather outside, but I can not enjoy it as I am feeling sick. Again.
  4. Both my husband and I are on the cabbage soup diet this week. It is tough, as we can not drink coffee. Next week we will switch to a high protein, low calories diet, which I plan to keep until I loose ~20 lbs.
  5. We reorganized our apartment and now it feels more like "ours" vs "mine".
  6. Learning Spanish goes well, we should be able find our way around, negotiate prices and get some food :)
  7. Christmas is here! The package with Christmas gifts that my parents sent to us from Poland already got here in a record time of 2.5 days. (My parents hurried with sending it as they wanted it to arrive before 14th of December... ) Thank you very much Polish Post Office (Poczta Polska) and USPS. Fedex, you suck. (Last time my parents sent me a letter by Fedex it got to me after 9 days... And it costed twice as much as sending 20 lbs by regular post that can get here in 2-3 days.)
  8. The last piece of equipment that we need to be ready for the Peru trip is 4-season tent. Well, it does not necessarily need to be 4-season, but it definitely should be able to withstand strong winds, heavy rainfall and snowfall. After a lot of research and looking at several different tents, we decided to buy REI Arete ASL.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Petrified Forest NP - Crystal Forest

I liked the Crystal Forest Trail much more than the supposedly prettier the Giant Logs Trail. As the name suggests the logs at Crystal Forest are full of crystals and, therefore, shine in the sun. All that due to the presence of silica, colored with oxides of iron and manganese, that permineralized the logs thousands of year ago...

The Crystal Forest Trail is only 0.75 mile long, it is paved and wheel-chair accessible, so it makes for a nice and easy hike. Even on an extremely hot day.

A few pics from the trail:

Petrified Forest NP - Painted Desert

Petrified wood can be found in many places in the world, so if it were only for it, the Petrified Forest NP would not be anything special. What makes this park special is its beautiful location in the Painted Desert.

As you can see on the photos below, the Painted Desert is full of badland hills, tepees, flat-topped mesas, and sculptured buttes, all in beautiful pastel colors. It unique beauty was attracting Route 66 travelers, who were happy to take a break at The Painted Desert Inn, the two-story inn located in the northern part of the park, on a high perch overlooking the nearby landscape. The Inn opened in 1924 and was nicknamed the "Stone Tree House" as it was built mostly from petrified wood.

In 1948 Painted Desert Inn was bought by the National Park Services and got converted to the Petrified Forest NP northern headquarters, featuring a shop and restaurant operated by the Fred Harvey Company (the same company that built and operated landmark hotels e.g. on the South Rim and the bottom of the Grand Canyon). Mary Colter, the company's architect and interior designer, was responsible for remodeling the Painted Desert Inn. She hired Fred Kabotie, a Hopi Indian artist, to paint murals in the lunch room and dining room. (Similarly, Mary Colter and Fred Kabotie team was responsible for the construction and murals, respectively, at the Watchtower located at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.) I am a big fan of their work, as they always took into account the historical context of the places they were designing.

Beautiful Painted Desert:

Painted Desert Inn:

The Buffalo Dance mural in the lunch room:

The Salt Lake mural:

Petrified Forest NP - Newspaper Rock

Aside from petrified wood and other fossils, the park is also known for having thousands of prehistoric petroglyphs and pictographs. One of the most famous and easily accessible places in the park is the Newspaper Rock.

Can the raven read?

The Newspaper Rock:

Petrified Forest NP - Giant Logs trail

From the Grand Canyon we drove to the Petrified Forest NP, which is located close to the border with New Mexico, on both sides of interstate I-40 that is a major west–east highway in the US.

As we were getting closer to the park, we could enjoy more and more motels/hotels/ranches/shops advertising themselves with huge dinosaurs and "petrified" tree logs... It felt like we got transferred to the land of kitsch :) Luckily, as soon as we crossed the gate leading to the park, the landscape changed completely. All of a sudden we found ourselves in the land of peace, quiet and pastel colors.

The first thing that we did in the park was to go to the visitor's center and then for a short walk (0.4 mile loop) on the Giant Logs Trail, located directly behind the visitor's center. The walk was a bit disappointing (even though on the park's webpage advertised as the one featuring "some of the largest and most colorful logs in the park.") and I would recommend skipping it in favor of hiking elsewhere in the park, e.g. on the Crystal Forrest Trail.

Petrified logs:

Not-petrified husband:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Angel Island - Mt Livermore hike

Today habibi and I went hiking on the Angel Island. There is no bridge leading to the island, so to get there one needs to take a ferry (or ask a friend with a motorboat or yacht to drop you there). We opted for taking ferry from Tiburon as parking there is easier than in San Francisco, and also ferries go more frequently between Tiburon and Angel Island (see schedule).

On the island I wanted to hike the Perimeter Trail, but as the vast majority of the ferry passengers was heading for that trail as well, we decided to hike to the top of Mt Livermore instead. That was an excellent choice as the views from there were absolutely superb.

At a leisurely speed it took us 2h to hike 4.5 miles (roundtrip) to the top of the mountain and back down. On the way up we took the North Ridge Trail, and on the way down the Sunset Trail. Both of them were equally pretty, though offering slightly different views. In its lower part, the North Ridge Trail offers great views of the East Bay and the Bay Bridge, whereas from the Sunset Trail one can see the Marine Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge. Once you get a bit higher up the mountain, you will not only be able to see all these places at once, but you will also get fantastic views of the San Francisco skyline. Yet another time we got reminded how fortune we are to live where we do.

Downtown San Francisco:

Oakland, Bay Bridge and Treasure Island:

Downtown SF and Alcatraz:

Habibi and the Golden Gate Bridge:

Marine Headlands:

San Francisco, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge:

Me, Bay Bridge, downtown San Francisco, and Alcatraz:

Treasure Island, Bay Bridge, downtown San Francisco, and Alcatraz:

Grand Canyon - Clear Creek Trail

One of the reasons we decided to go backpacking vs day hiking in the Grand Canyon was that we wanted to fully appreciate its beauty and grandeur and, therefore, we did not want to rush through it. That's why we decided to spend two nights at the Bright Angel Campground. It allowed us to have a full day to explore the bottom of the canyon, which we used to go hiking on the Clear Creek Trail.

The Clear Creek Trail is very beautiful and offers great views of the Colorado river, as well as of the lower part of the South Kaibab Trail that we hiked the day before:

Hiking on the Clear Creek Trail:

The six brave hikers: Anne-L, Sebastian, Anne-K, Carsten and his gf, and I:

The collard lizard that we met on our way:

And here is an amazing fossil that Anne-K found:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Peru, here we come!

I am super excited and feel like jumping up and down as we managed to book permits for a 4-day Inka Trail trek to Machu Picchu that will get us there on New Year's Day! Somehow that makes me feel very excited and special. And I just can not believe how fortune I am to have the opportunity to go to this magical place, on a such special day, with a person that I love above anything else in the world :)

Arriving in Machu Picchu on New Year's Day means spending the New Year's Eve at WiƱay Wayna campsite, 2h away from the ruins. I guess that means we won't be seeing any fireworks this year, except for the ones happening in our hearts :)

All in all we will spend slightly more than 2 weeks in Peru - we are leaving from SF on 14th of December and are coming back on 3rd of January. So far we do not have a detailed plan of what to do during this time, but likely we will go hiking in the Colca Canyon, to the top of Volcani Misti, we will sightsee Cuzco and Arequipa, see some islands on the Lake Titicaca, fly over Nazca lines, and maybe visit Amazon Rainforest. Whatever we will decide to do, I am sure we will have a fantastic time.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Road Trip 2008: Grand Canyon NP (North Rim)

[This is a long overdue report from my 2008 visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Only now that I started working on my honeymoon Grand Canyon posts I realized that I had never finished this particular post (and also a few others from my trip through Southwest with Agnieszka...) This post belongs to Grand Circle 2008 series of posts.]

After spending two days at Zion NP, Agnieszka and I drove to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon NP, where we spent the next two days and nights. For me it was already a second visit to the Grand Canyon, but first to the North Rim. I had close-to-traumatic experience during my visit to the South Rim year earlier, so I feared that this one would not be any better. Luckily, the North Rim is not as popular with tourist as the South Rim, and, thanks to that, we could enjoy the beauty of the canyon much more.

The first thing that we did upon arrival to the North Rim was to go for a scenic drive to Point Imperial and Cape Royal. Point Imperial, at 8,803 feet (2,683 meters), is the highest point on the North Rim. It overlooks the Painted Desert and the eastern end of the Grand Canyon. Cape Royal, on the other hand, offers sweeping views of the canyon and seemingly unlimited vistas in all directions. It is a perfect place to watch both sunrise and sunset. (We did watch one of the sunsets and one of the sunrises there and it was definitely unforgettable experience.)

The third viewpoint that we visited was Bright Angel Point that is accessible by a short paved (0.5 mile/0.8 km round trip) trail. It is also a popular sunset viewpoint, but not as impressive as Cape Royal. Still, from there I took the best photo of the Grand Canyon that is thus far in my collection. It is not because this viewpoint is more spectacular than others. We just got lucky to catch a storm, and a rainbow forming after it, on the South Rim!

Here is my favorite photo. If you enalarge it, you wil be able to see a storm and a rainbow on the other (southern) rim of the canyon:

On the second day of our stay at the North Rim we went for a hike to Roaring Springs. It was a fantastic hike that I absolutely loved and would like to repeat sometime soon. It was a part of the North Kaibab Trail that at the bottom of the Grand Canyon connects with the South Kaibab Trail to form a 21-mile long trail connecting both rims. Maybe, but just maybe, one day I will manage to convince my dearest husband to go on this rim-to-rim hike. Husband, if you are reading this, pretty please please please! :)

The are several reasons why I thought that this hike was amazing. First, I really loved how the colors of the canyon were changing the deeper we went. Second, only when you get below the rim you start to appreciate how full of life the canyon is. From up above it looks almost as if its walls are barren, but that's absolutely not true! There are plenty of plants and animals inhabiting the canyon. And last but not least, I liked how the perspective and scenery were changing with each turn of the trail. Hiking the South Rim is very different in this respect, but I will address this issue in a separate post.

However, before you set out for this hike, bare in mind though that this is a pretty strenuous full day hike during which you need to cover 9.4 miles/15 km with elevation loss (and then gain) of 3'050 feet/930 m.

Burnt trees on the way to the Grand Canyon:

Cape Royal:

Sunset at Point Imperial:

Suppai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail:

The North Kaibab Trail:

Bridge close to Roaring Springs:

The canyon is getting more and more red, the deeper you go:

Hiking back up is tough! Especially if there is hardly any shade...

Sunset at the Bright Angel Point:

The same place after sunset:

Early morning at the Point Imperial: