Part #6: Waking Up at the Crack of Dawn to See Dawn

Part 1: Road to Arches
Part 2: Arches Galore
Part 3: Delicate Arch
Part 4: Hiking Dead Horse Point
Part 5: Canyons For As Far As The Eye Can See

We were determined to see sunrise at least once on our Utah trip. Really, really determined.

So we set our alarms for 4 a.m. We snoozed once, cracked our eyes open, and groaned.

“Do you want to get up?” I mumbled.

“Whatever you want,” my sister mumbled back.

I contemplated closing my eyes and falling into an oh-so-tempting sleep. And then I thought of those magnificent pictures of Utah’s arches ablaze in the rising sun you see in every gift shop, and I said, “let’s go.”

Spoiler alert: My pictures do not look like the famous photos you see in National Geographic. Sigh. I think we misjudged exactly where the sun would be relative to the arches. That, and I’m not actually a professional photographer. But waking up at the crack of dawn is a good way to get pictures of Moab’s famous arches without a throng of tourists in the way.

IMG_4325

IMG_4337

IMG_4374

IMG_4400

You can see the moon!

IMG_4414

IMG_4418

IMG_4430

IMG_4438

In order to get a shot Turret Arch framed by the North Window, I had to do some tricky climbing to a spot behind the Windows. Probably not the smartest thing, but I survived in one piece.

IMG_4478

IMG_4491

IMG_4524

IMG_4526

And of course, goofy, I’m-exhausted-and-can’t-be-held-responsible-for-my-actions pictures.

IMG_4669

IMG_4633

Tagged , , , ,

Part #5: Canyons For As Far As the Eye Can See

Part 1: Road to Arches
Part 2: Arches Galore
Part 3: Delicate Arch
Part 4: Hiking Dead Horse Point

Canyonlands National Park is home to, well, canyons. It is much larger than Arches and much less populated. The park offers many hikes, mountain biking trails, and off-road routes. But we were dead tired after our hike around Dead Horse Point State Park, and all I really wanted to see was Mesa Arch. Mesa Arch is one of Utah’s famous arches, dressing the walls of many a Moab hotel (including our own).

You might be wondering, how many pictures can one person take of a single arch? Wonder no more. The answer is: A sh*t ton of pictures. That’s how many.

It’s a short quarter of a mile hike to the arch. Calling it a hike is a bit generous, but it is uphill. And then all of a sudden – bam – there it is. Miraculous and captivating. By mid-afternoon, the sky had turned a stormy grey/purple which made for a dramatic scene through the window of Mesa Arch.

***IMG_4136

***IMG_4166

***IMG_4213

**IMG_3985

**IMG_4152

**IMG_4175

**IMG_4247

After Mesa Arch, we made a short stop at Grand View Point Overlook before heading back to our hotel. I’ve seen a lot of canyons in my travels, and sometimes, they blur one into the next. But Grand View Point Overlook offers a unique view of Canyonlands. We were exhausted, but it was definitely worth the drive.

**IMG_4250

**IMG_4261

**IMG_4274

**IMG_4280

Tagged , , , , ,

Part #4: Hiking Dead Horse Point

Part 1: Road to Arches
Part 2: Arches Galore
Part 3: Delicate Arch

On our second day in Moab, we headed west of Arches National Park to Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park. Dead Horse Point State Park is a hidden gem. It’s not one of the major national parks advertised in all the magazines, but it’s beautiful and feral, and we had it all to ourselves.

Once we entered the park, we got a map from the visitor center and settled on a five-mile loop around the park. The hiking is easy to moderate at an altitude of 5,900 feet, but little elevation change. The most difficult part of the hike is the constant maneuvering from cairn to cairn, with the occasional rock scramble. As we hiked, we were rewarded with vast and stunning views of the Colorado River as it winds its way through never-ending canyons.

Dead Horse Map

As we set out, the first thing we noticed was the electric blue water in the distance. It looks supernatural, almost like an alien colony. Sadly, it’s not that exciting. The blue water is a potash mine. Miners pump water into the ground, bringing potash ore to the surface in a potassium-filled brine. As the water evaporates,  salt crystals form. The water is dyed a bright blue to speed up the evaporation process, which takes about 300 days. Dark water absorbs more sunlight and facilitates evaporation.

That’s a lot of science when I really mean to say, the views were amazing. The electric blue water contrasted brilliantly with the deep red canyons and the occasionally stormy clouds.

**IMG_3533

@IMG_3548

**IMG_3593

**IMG_3609

*IMG_3601

*IMG_3620

*IMG_3714

My love affair with Utah’s stark, half-dead trees continued. As did my sister’s teasing laughter.

**IMG_3686

**IMG_3689

A little less than halfway through the hike, we reached Dead Horse Point – the point where the Colorado River curves around the canyon. The sweeping views are breathtaking. (As an aside, “breathtaking” describes pretty much every single sight on our Utah trip to the point of being utterly trite.)

**IMG_3833

*IMG_3791

*@IMG_3901

A picture of our faithful cairns. There’s a very good chance we would have hiked straight into the canyon without our trusty cairns guiding us. They were not always easy to spot!

*IMG_3958

Dead Horse State Park is a short 37 minutes from Moab and on the way to Canyonlands National Park. If you’re looking for a strenuous calorie-burning hike, Dead Horse Point will fall short. But if you want to have a massive canyon to yourself while getting some moderate exercise, this park will hit the spot.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,

Spain, Here We Come

Finally.

I finally have a big trip booked and placed on the calendar. With the crazy election cycle this year, I haven’t taken a big trip since Vietnam in November. There was a short jaunt to southern Utah over Memorial Day weekend, and a few weekend trips planned to various U.S. cities revolving around work. But you know that adrenalin pumping, saliva watering sensation when you book the flights for a big trip? I finally have that feeling.

I asked M where he’d like to go and he picked Spain. Being the art aficionado that he is, that makes perfect sense. He’s dying to spend hours (if not days) in the Prado in Madrid. We are both fascinated by religious history and can’t wait to hit up Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, and Granada. And I can’t wait to see the crazy modern Gaudi houses in Barcelona.

We will start in Barcelona, make an oddly shaped U down to Andalucia, and end in Madrid. The map below shows our basic itinerary with potential side trips included.

I booked an amazing business class flight from Washington, D.C. to Barcelona on American Airlines. It costs 115,000 miles (57,500 per person) and a mere 11 dollars. Even better, we fly out of DCA – only 10 minutes from my apartment. There are no direct flights to Spain from DC (who knew?), so we have a short stopover in JFK.

M has never flown in business class so I am over the moon about sharing this experience with him. That American has an amazing business class product will make this trip that much sweeter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our flight home is less than ideal, but we were dealing with mileage constraints and limited award inventory since it’s Christmas week. I booked two economy seats on Lufthansa for 60,000 United miles and $142 via Frankfurt. Not the best flight, but pennies compared to what a ticket would cost.

And now comes the fun part – the planning. The hotels, the trains, the sights, the little off-the-beaten track stores and markets – I love the process of putting a trip together.

There are so many things we want to see and so many parts of Spain we had to leave off the list. We are not so young that we can hop from city to city every day, and we both like to travel at a more leisurely pace – getting to know the nooks and crannies of cities apart from the major tourist attractions. And so I crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and a ferry to Morocco off of our list, and M begrudgingly acknowledged that we probably won’t make it to Aragon. We will just have to come back a second time!

Tagged , , , , ,

Part 3: Delicate Arch

Part 1: Road to Arches
Part 2: Arches Galore

Delicate Arch is one of the most famous arches, if not the most famous, in Arches National Park. If you’re not hiker, or just plain lazy, you can catch a glimpse of this magnificent arch from below. Two short walks from the parking lot offer lower and upper viewpoints. But if you can muster the energy, skip the viewpoint, and huff and puff for three miles (round trip) to the base of Delicate Arch.

It is totally worth it.

The elevation gain is only 500 feet, but most of it is condensed into a short one mile. Bring plenty of water and just remember: There’s a beautiful arch at the end.

The hike starts out on a dirt path. As we walked past a log house, I thought, “this isn’t so hard.” I admired the exotic desert flowers and oddly shaped trees.

*IMG_3074

*IMG_3083

*IMG_3089

*IMG_3094

After a half a mile, the trail peters out into steep slick rock. Sporadic cairns to guide the way, but we simply followed the stream of hikers in front of us.

*IMG_3097

*IMG_3099

*IMG_3118

*IMG_3159

*IMG_3160

A small arch to tempt your appetite before you see the real thing.

*IMG_3175

One minute, I’m hiking, and the next minute…… I’m standing in awe. Mouth open, eyes bulging, drool trickling. For this, I would hike 10 miles if I had to.

**IMG_3211

**IMG_3422

In peak season, you’ll have to contend with a throng of other tourists taking photos under the arch, but people are pretty good about not hogging the spotlight. When my turn came, I eagerly inched my way underneath the gigantic miracle. Suddenly, it seemed overwhelmingly large. I felt like I was standing at the edge of the world. Maybe, because I was.

I am just a tiny spec in the pictures. You can barely see my goofy, triumphant grin. But rest assured, it is there.

@*IMG_3313

@IMG_3314

 

Tagged , , ,

Part 2: Arches Galore

Part 1: Road to Arches

Arches National Park is one of the country’s smaller national parks, with one main road running 18 miles from top to bottom. It’s possible to see the best sights in one day if you’re short on time. In the end, we spent two half days in the park, and managed to check off most of the key sights on our list.

Arches Map

As we drove through the long windy road past the entrance, we took it all in. Red, flaming rocks everywhere. It was glorious. Our first top was Park Avenue, so named because the towering rocks resemble Manhattan’s skyscrapers.

**IMG_2438

**IMG_2474

Can I just pause to compliment myself on the below shot? I love it.

**IMG_2540

We hopped back in the car and continued north towards our first hike of the day. Of course, we had to stop a couple of times along the way…

**IMG_2582

**IMG_2678

*IMG_2455

Here’s a gorgeous view of the Petrified Dunes with the Lasalle Mountains in the background.

*IMG_2595

Tada! Balanced Rock.

*IMG_2615

Shortly after admiring Balanced Rock, we turned right and headed toward the trail head for the Windows and Double Arch. We chose the 1 mile hike around the North and South Windows.

*IMG_2633

The view of Double Arch from the parking lot.

*IMG_2680

There are so many fascinating types of trees and flowers even in the desert

*IMG_2706

The view of one of the Windows with many tourists

*IMG_2737

As you face west away from the Windows, you have a wide open view of Turret Arch

*IMG_2738

Slightly tree obsessed

**IMG_2803

As we headed around to the back of the Windows we enjoyed some tourist-free views

**IMG_2826

A perfect arch

The trail map gives visitors two options at this point: To circle around Turret Arch and head back the way we came, or to take the “primitive trail” around the back of the Windows. We opted for the primitive trail – and it was rather primitive. We followed a series of random cairns, only getting lost once. On the plus side, we left the crowds behind. From this vantage point, we enjoyed clear, perfect views of both arches, unmarred by throngs of tourists.

*IMG_3054

*IMG_2777

**IMG_2914

**IMG_2919

**IMG_2986

**IMG_2990

**IMG_3040

*IMG_3058

@*IMG_3060

There really aren’t words to describe how weirdly beautiful the arches are. Even better, they are easily accessible. The Windows is just a mile long, with little elevation. In other words, you have no excuses!

Tagged , ,

Utah #1: The Road to Arches

Why on earth do I live on the east coast?

This is the question I was asking myself as my sister and I made our way to Moab, Utah. From the moment we left Grand Junction, Colorado we could not stop gasping and squealing in awe. The west is magnificent. As we rolled along Interstate 70 and then the Upper Colorado Scenic Byway, we left our stress behind and simply enjoyed the view. Perhaps, we stopped too many times for pictures, but what is too many times?

*IMG_2049

I made my sister take a picture of this truck.

P1020421

In a short while, we crossed over into Utah.

*IMG_2056

A fellow traveler pointed out this burrowed owl. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be excited about this.

*IMG_2095

I don’t know what this is, but I found it fascinating.

*IMG_2131

*IMG_2132

The open road turned along the Colorado River.

*IMG_2149

*IMG_2201

As Route 128 winds its way into Utah, it’s called the Upper Colorado Scenic Byway. With few other cars on the road, we had the luxury of taking silly shots like this one.

@*IMG_2351
And this one.

@**2016-05-25 01.33.53-2
**IMG_2259

**IMG_2280
The drive west took us deeper into canyon country, with gorgeous red cliffs rising around us. Sometimes I had to force myself not to stop or we’d never make it to Moab. 

*IMG_2226

**IMG_2240

*IMG_2275

Tagged , , , ,

Arches, Here We Come!

It’s been a very busy month, and I am a negligent and very out-of-shape blogger as a result. But that’s going to change soon (I hope). This Tuesday, I head to Utah to hike Arches and Canyonlands National Parks with my sister.

We planned this trip months ago – back in 2015 – and it turned out to be a very good thing. Nearly every hotel in Moab, Utah is sold out. Apparently, we are not the only ones who thought hiking Southern Utah over Memorial Day Weekend was a good idea.

Here’s how we planned our trip.

We are flying into Grand Junction Colorado Tuesday night, the closest airport to Moab, Utah, the hub of activity and lodging just outside Arches National Park. We found a cheap Courtyard Marriott near the airport for $125. We are renting a car from the airport and will drive the stunning one-and-a-half hour drive to Moab Wednesday morning. We are staying in Moab for four nights, our base to explore Arches and Canyonlands through Sunday evening. In Moab, we chose the Fairfield Inn and Suites because it is the closest hotel to the park and one of the nicer options. Even back in December 2015, the rooms at the Fairfield were going for $250 a night so I signed up for the Marriott Chase credit card and used 50,000 points to pay for my half of the nights (25,000 points a night). Sunday night, we will drive back to Grand Junction, where we will sleep in the same Courtyard Marriott before our crack-of-dawn flights Monday morning.

Tagged , , , , ,

A Local Explores D.C. Like a Tourist

M and I took a break from our insane work schedules to enjoy the pleasant spring weather and explore D.C. I’ve lived in the nation’s capital for seven years, but sometimes I forget what a great city D.C. is. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day slog of getting work done, going to the gym, collapsing in bed, etc. It was nice to set aside one day to push that all aside and just explore.

Our walk started with a visit to the Phillips Collection, a private art collection in Dupont Circle. I’ve dragged M to more than a handful of furniture stores, but I had not yet stepped foot inside an art museum — which is M’s version of happiness. It was time to change that.

**IMG_0683

Stunning flowers growing on the bark of a tree in Dupont Circle

**IMG_0751

A cool shot of the Indonesian embassy

*IMG_0764

A statue of Ghandi outside the Indian embassy, kitty-corner from the Phillips Collection

**IMG_0780

An eerie tree outside the Phillips Collection

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I’m not exactly an art expert. I can handle an hour or two in a museum, but I’m not one of those people who gets lost in meditation in front of a painting for 20 minutes, pondering the deeper meaning of whatever it is people ponder. It’s not that I don’t appreciate beautiful things. I am just too impatient, too distracted – in museums and in life. M tells me to slow down. I tell him to hurry up. We are a good team.

M, however, is an art critic by profession. So this trip was kind of like walking into his temple. He was a bit dismayed when I got too close to paintings with my camera and spoke too loudly – especially in the Rothko room. Museums are really meant for proper, quiet adults – and I am none of those things. For some reason, M is still dating me.

*IMG_0804

A new exhibit at the Phillips. Gotta be honest: I don’t get it.

**IMG_0830

I like this series

**IMG_0910

A moving sculpture

*IMG_0893

A Van Goh

*IMG_0837

Pretty stained glass window in the Phillips

@IMG_0865

M taking a picture

@IMG_0942

Yours truly

We left the Phillips and headed to my temple – Room and Board – one of my favorite furniture stores on 14th Street. I’m in the market for a new table and wanted to check out the wood options in person. On the way, we walked through pretty, residential neighborhoods.

**IMG_0926

A beautiful lamp post on Swann Street. I love the fire. I love the reflection in the glass. Basically, I love everything about it.

*IMG_0939

Memorial bricks at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History

After Room and Board, we headed down T Street to the Shaw neighborhood, a gritty area that is in the process of modernizing. Dilapidated storefronts mix with brand new condos and hip restaurants. There is a palpable tension between old and new.

**IMG_0983

Right next to the historic Howard Theater, I found a sprawling mural on the side of an ethnic restaurant. I can’t resist good street art.

**IMG_0998

A new, modern restaurant with a very interesting logo (and name)

**IMG_1011

Here’s lookin’ at you… A door on a ramshackle storefront on 7th Street

*IMG_1004

A Liz Taylor mural overlooking Dacha Beer Garden at 7th and Q Streets

*IMG_1043

As we headed through Chinatown, I stopped to photograph this church. I love the way the street lights cast a glow on the brick facade.

**IMG_1087

The Greater New Hope Baptist Church

Our last stop of the day was CityCenterDC, a new development in downtown DC. A mix of apartments, retail shops, restaurants and a public park, CityCenterDC is a great place for this camera-crazed girl.

*IMG_1115

An up-close shot of water jumping out of the ground

**IMG_1137

These colorful lanterns line the narrow alleyways of CityCenter and reflect on the windows of high-end stores and office buildings

**IMG_1170

Pretty

**IMG_1172

One day, I will bring a tripod. Then, I can really have some fun.

I love traveling the world, but days like this remind me that I’m lucky to live in a beautiful, historic, and thriving city, filled with old and new surprises. I’m a local getting to know D.C. like a tourist, and I’m okay with that. 









Tagged , , , ,

Running While Carrying (My Camera) Take 2

It was a cold, blustery day – the kind of day meant for sitting on the couch and ignoring the call of my running shoes. I am very good at both of those things. But amazingly, the call of my camera was stronger, so I laced up my sneakers and took the camera out for another spin.

I headed south down 23rd street toward the Lincoln Memorial like I always do. I had plans to check out a stunning painted church in Southwest DC, but never made it there due to a disease I like to called “obsessive photography.”

I started snapping at the John Ericsson National Memorial, dedicated to the man who invented the screw propeller.

*2016-04-06 04.49.28

*2016-04-06 04.55.02

I headed east toward the FDR Memorial, a sprawling celebration of FDR’s four presidential terms.

*2016-04-06 05.03.34

*2016-04-06 05.06.45

The memorial hosts a recreation of the depressed bread line – men waiting on line for a scrap of bread during the Great Depression.

*2016-04-06 05.12.12

A collage of bronze panels, called Social Programs, features the 54 social programs President Roosevelt initiated under his presidency. It makes for beautiful photography.

*2016-04-06 05.17.55

*2016-04-06 05.19.46

*2016-04-06 05.23.49

This wall is dedicated to FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a work relief program that existed from 1933 to 1942.

*2016-04-06 05.27.03

I love the way the light peaks through the trees and shines down on the grey stone.

*2016-04-06 05.36.53-2

Here, I zoomed in on a statue of FDR. The statue was somewhat controversial because the designers chose not to depict FDR in his wheelchair. The wall in the background reads: “They who seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers… call this a New Order. It is not new and it is not order.”

*2016-04-06 05.38.01

As I left the FDR Memorial, I cam across this tree and stopped suddenly. I can’t get over how much this tree looks like a face.

*2016-04-06 05.30.29

Beautiful trees. Enough said.

*2016-04-06 05.41.42

*2016-04-06 05.46.05-2

I looped around to the Jefferson Memorial before heading home. A bride sat on the marble steps, taking a pause in the cold to touch up her makeup.

*2016-04-06 05.56.17CROPPED

Conclusion: Running with my dSLR makes running bearable, even in cold, blustery weather.

Tagged , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: