Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Road trip (Page 1 of 2)

Gore Creek Campground

Monday was our last night of camping. When I booked a spot at the Gore Creek Campground I thought they had running water. Nope. Rookie mistake. I assumed when using Reservation.gov if the campground didn’t specifically say “no water” then water was available. Not the case. Always be sure to check that it says “water” as an amenity. Fortunately, it was our last night camping and the next night would be in a hotel.

Our campsite in the Aspen grove

Speaking of water, I purchased a solar shower before we left. Up until Monday morning I was super pleased with Dr. Prepare. And then I wasn’t. Sadira went to fill it up Monday morning and the hose disconnected from the bag. We tried to duct tape it. But, it just didn’t work. I don’t recommend the Dr. Prepare. It only last 4 days for us. That’s ridiculous.

Dr. Unprepared

After settling into our campsite, we decided to take a short hike. According to AllTrails, the trail was a 1.4 mile loop. We found the trail easily and set off. We hiked up and enjoyed the view as we climbed. A little over a mile in, we became concerned because we hadn’t looped around. When I checked AllTrails, no surprise. We were off the trail… again! We double backed and couldn’t find where the trail was supposed to turn. It looked liked it had been blocked. We continued back down the way we came and our 1.4 mile loop turned into a 2.5 out and back! Haha

Despite the extra distance hiked – the views of the mountains were beautiful.

Sunflowers and Aspen
A trail through Aspens
Almost clear skies
Happy hikers
We think this was some sort of mushroom.

After our hike, we prepped the tent one last time and Sadira made us quesadillas for dinner!

Campground sunset
Campground Chef

Tuesday morning we packed up for the last time. We headed to Denver for the day. We stayed close to the airport Tuesday night so I could fly home easily Wednesday. Tuesday we had lunch at Lowdown Brewery. We split a mushroom pizza and salad. Yummmmm!

One last selfie

It was a fun and relaxing camping trip. We had a few hiccups throughout the week… but, overall it was a success. As always, thanks for following along!

Crested Butte, CO

Sunday morning we were up early and packed up by 9am. We wanted to hike the Snodgrass Trail in Crested Butte. George and Juliana hiked this trail two summers ago and highly recommended it. Their directions to find it left us doubting we would. “Drive through town and follow the road until you see a parking lot with a port-a-potty.” Sounds sparse, right? Actually, they were spot on! we spotted the potty, found the trail we wanted to take and set off!

After reading AllTrails, the hike was 5.8 miles. We packed water and snacks and set out. Ironically, the AllTrails map took us to the top of Snodgrass Mountain. The trail Sadira is pointing to in the picture above is what we walked for about a mile before realizing we weren’t on the trail. Our 5.8 mile hike turned out to be 8 miles! The views were amazing! Wildflowers and Aspen and of course Crested Butte.

Sierra larkspur & Crested Butte
Aspen
Aspen and ferns
Flower Friends
Arrowleaf Balsamroot & Crested Butte
Lichen

Once we realized we weren’t on the summit trail, we turned around and started up the mountain. Everyone knows the reason you hike a mountain is for the panoramic view at the top. Hopefully. We hiked up about 1.2 miles in what seemed like straight and steep uphill. In the sun. Only to find the top was covered with pine trees that obstructed the view.

The view at the top
Taking a breathe break at the summit

Regardless, it was a great hike and a quick walk down. More Aspen, butterflies, and flowers.

Crested Butte on your head!
Callippe fritillary
Wood betony & Aspen
Crested Butte

After the hike, we hopped in the car and started the drive over to Redstone Campground. It was about a 2.5 hour drive. We had to go up & over the mountains using Keebler Pass. Little did we know the drive was mostly (40 miles) on a curvy gravel road. It was awful. Sadira was car sick by the time we got over it. We stopped at a little campground and had a snack while watching the hummingbirds until she was feeling better. Whew! What a drive!

Saturday was the only night we’re stayed at a KOA. Camping life in a KOA campground is much different than camping life in a National Forest. The perks of a KOA include showers, laundry and flushing toilets. Oh! And a dishwashing sink that ONLY has hot water. To enjoy those perks you pass up seclusion, privacy, and incredible views. Sunday night we were in Redstone Campground. It was appropriately named – there were red stones all around us! We had privacy, scenery and clean pit toilets!

I forgot to snap a picture of our meal. Sadira made us pimento grilled cheese and tomato soup. It was delicious. We took a dip in the creek and then had a solar shower… our last one, actually… more on that tomorrow-

Cheers!

Gunnison, CO

Our drive to Gunnison, CO on Saturday was about three hours. We had lunch on the road and arrived at the Gunnison KOA right at 2:00pm for check in. We were so late to the party planning this adventure this was the only campground I could find for Saturday night. Honestly, it wasn’t terrible. We had a real shower, flushing toilets, and laundry facilities. It was a good reset for the halfway point. From one perspective it looks like a KOA. From the opposite perspective it looks perfectly pleasant.

Campground Chef in a crowded KOA
It’s like we have the place to ourselves

After checking in, we went to Hartman Rocks for a short desert hike. We really pushed the Prius to its uphill limits. This area is filled with mountain bike trails and the road was super rutted. We decided not to push the limits too far and hiked around from the first parking lot.

Adventure awaits
Rocks
That view!
Lichen
Champion

We saw several great wildflowers over the past two days on our hikes. Here are my favorite.

Plains Prickly Pear
Spineless Horsebrush
Sego Lily
Arrowroot Balsamroot
Scarlet Gilia
Rocky Mountain Penstemon

The hike was hot with a nice breeze. We decided a short hike was best to keep us from a visit to the hydration station. We went back to the campground and enjoyed not having neighbors- until they arrived after we went to bed. Speaking of the campground, we decided this would be a great opportunity to rack up some license plates. As we walked around, we added an additional 5 plates to our collection. Bringing our total up to 43! #strongwork

Campground Chef – burritos

Elephant Rock, NM

Thursday morning Sadira and I beat feet to get out of Texas. Honestly, we couldn’t leave it fast enough. The beauty of the concave desert landscape is truly in the eye of the beholder. Of which we aren’t. The best part of TX, besides leaving, was spotting an Alaska license plate in the hotel parking lot.

Alaska!

We were so excited to cross into New Mexico and even more excited when we started seeing mountains on the horizon. Unfortunately, we didn’t heed the the last pit stop before we started across the NM desert and with no facilities available for 60+ miles, we had to use the facili-trees. Along the drive we saw lots of cute prairie dogs popping tall and welcoming us to NM. Our first stop was in Taos, NM. We enjoyed lunch at the Taos brewery. Delicious beer & pizza.

Lunch

Before heading to our campground, we drove out to the Rio Grande River Gorge. We bravely crossed the bridge on foot and held our breath when we looked down!

Rio Grande River Gorge
Windy Hair
Don’t look down…

Elephant Rock campground was smaller with perfectly acceptable pit toilets. Our neighbors felt the need to preach thereby encouraging us to plug in some tunes. The higher elevation was cool and optimum for star gazing.

Dinner was campground gourmet. Chili, cheese, canned wine and altitude puffy Fritos.

All in all – it was a first night of successful camping.

Amarillo, TX

This morning, my niece and I left Memphis and drove to Amarillo, TX. What started out as a joke to meet up with her parents on their adventures https://semisabbatical.com/ morphed into a trip to Colorado. We spent 12 hours in her parent’s Prius cruising west on I-40. The car is loaded with camping supplies, snacks, and wine. #winecamp That part of I-40 doesn’t have much to offer. Except windmills, Cracker Barrels, and Stinky Stella in Shamrock, TX.

To spice up the trip, Sadira downloaded the app Plate Spot to track how many different license plates we see. After 12 hours we were at 28 plates. #strongwork

We made Cadillac Ranch our destination for today. It was underwhelming, kind of like driving I-40 West from Memphis for 12 hours…

Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, TX
Obligated Selfie at Cadillac Ranch

Tomorrow we are driving to Taos, NM and then to our first camping spot. A much shorter drive day with an afternoon hike!

Moving Day

Today we traveled from Moab to Park City. As we drove over the first mountain there was a noticeable difference in vegetation as we transitioned out of the desert. Once we passed through SLC and went up and over the mountains again, there was even more noticeable difference. Ecosystems are amazing. On our way to Park City, we stopped at Sundance. It was beautiful. This picture was my favorite.

My Love at Sundance

Moving on, we stopped in Park City for lunch at Squatters Brewery. Dave had a lager and I enjoyed a “Juicy IPA”. We split the “New York Cheesesteak” – despite everything wrong with that name, it was delicious.

Squatters Brewery

After lunch, we goofed around Park City until it was time to check in. We are staying at the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley. It’s absolutely amazing. Our room is fantastic. Amazing views, full kitchen, two fireplaces, two bathrooms, amazing bed and did I mention the view. I was so excited about everything… and then the bellhop told me about the laundry room with complimentary detergent. I felt like I landed in vacation heaven. A comfortable bed AND free laundry after being in the desert for 3 days… yes, please!

Kitchen and den
Bedroom – views of the mountains
View out the back
Main bathroom
Den
Washer & Dryer. This Dwyer is HAPPY

Our elevation is about 8,500 feet. We are surrounded by green ski slopes, evergreens and aspens. Once we checked in, (started laundry) we walked around to enjoy the view.

These beautiful planters are Everywhere!
I took this picture around 4:30pm.

We finished up laundry, dealt with an A/C issue and were ready for dinner. Yes, at this point in the day the sun was blazing hot and shining into the room. The A/C was at 75 and only going up. The repair man was there in minutes and had it working in 15 minutes. Ironically, a storm was coming at the same time and it became super cold. However, the storm coming over the mountains was beautiful.

Around 6:30. Storm moving in!

We went to the Champions pub/ game room for dinner. Pizza & Salad. On our way there, we found the Clown Car. we were pleased to see he was tucked away for the next couple of days. The resort shuttle will take us to trails, dinner and anywhere else (in a 5 mile radius).

Good night everyone. I’m officially relaxing and on vacation…. Tomorrow is a new day with lots of trails to find!

View from the balcony
Deer friend from our balcony

Arches National Park

Today started early – even by Dwyer standards. I really wanted to see Delicate Arch at sunrise. The drive from our Airbnb to the Delicate Arch trail head is about 30 minutes. The hike to Delicate Arch is 1.5 miles mostly uphill. Sunrise was at 5:55am. I know it’s crazy… I set the alarm for 3:15am! On vacation… to chase sunrise! Before I share any pictures, I want to give a big shout out to Dave. He is always a good sport about my crazy ideas – especially, when on vacation and it involves a sunrise. When I tried to talk myself out of the whole thing last night, he encouraged me/us to go for it. He even woke up earlier than needed to turn on the coffee pot. Thank you, my love.

Us at Delicate Arch

We started hiking at 5am with our headlamps and flashlights. The trail was pretty easy to follow. It’s been well maintained because of all the visitors. I thought it would be more challenging to follow, especially in the dark, but it was pretty easy. We made it to the arch with time to spare and watch the early sun rays turn the clouds into cotton candy. It was beautiful.

First picture at the Arch
Cotton Candy Clouds at Sunrise
Sunrise

Surprisingly, we weren’t alone this early in the morning. There were quite a few early birds. Mostly photographers trying to catch the perfect shot.

This is my favorite shot of the clouds and Arch.

Ahhhh…. Sunrise!

We stayed for 10-15 minutes and watched as the sun continued to rise and it became more and more crowded. We realized it was time to head down and continue seeing the park. It was a quick walk back down especially because we could actually see what was around us!

I also want to take a minute and share navigational tips to hiking in the desert. Trails can often be difficult to follow because there are no natural trail markers like trees or vegetation. Instead, there are cairns or rock piles. They are the navigation points to walk towards while hiking. They are spaced apart and give you a visual line of where the trail leads.

Rock Cairn

We returned to the car and headed up to our next hike. We were going to hike to see Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch, and Tapestry Arch.

The light at Sand Dune Arch was beautiful.
Broken Arch – do you see the crack?
Broken Arch
Tapestry Arch

This trail was really sandy in several spots. We even saw this cute little beetle.

We reversed course after tapestry arch. And stopped for a few pictures of the other side of Broken Arch.

Our next destination was Devils Garden Trail head. We stepped it out to see Landscape Arch – the longest arch on the planet.

As we walked, we started seeing elephants in all of the rock formations. Elephant trunks and elephant butts. Look at landscape arch – it is actually two elephants on either side extending their trunks. The one on the left has a crown above his ear. The elephant on the right has his mouth open. Do you see it?

More elephants

Pine Arch – elephant
Pine Arch
Tunnel Arch – elephant

We decided to pass on Double O Arch. The trail was crowded and really windy. We didn’t feel like scaling the fins in the crowd and wind…. We took a picture from below.

As we drove back to the park entrance we decided to see if we could find a parking spot at The Windows. We were pleasantly surprised the crowds had thinned in that part of the park. We found a spot without an issue. We walked along the main trail and then took the primitive trail back to the parking lot. We had the place to ourselves on the primitive trail!

Windows
Turret Arch
Behind the North and South Windows
aka behind the scenes
Windows
Double Window Arch

After we finished with The Windows, we headed to the visitor center. It was after 11am and we were getting hot and tired. I had almost 26k steps and Dave had over 30k. I would call that a very successful day of chasing sunrise, hiking, and having fun!

We took this picture yesterday on our way to Canyonlands. We knew we would pass in the dark today. Seize the opportunity!

We were back to the Airbnb by 12:30. 8 hours of hiking and driving. That’s a full day even if we were done in a half day! After a nap and shower, we enjoyed dinner at a Mexican restaurant. It was delicious. I came for two things… a BiG margarita and sopaipilla. I first & last had sopaipillas when I went to New Mexico with my Mom in the 2008. They are sugary puffs of dough. Like a hollow doughnut. Just add honey! Both were delicious!

Hike long – drink a margarita!
Sopaipilla

Tomorrow we head to Park City. We plan to not set an alarm – check out isn’t until 10:00am!

Greetings From Moab

Welcome back! It’s been a while since I’ve shared a story. I’m super happy to be back – I’ve missed this. Long story short… Dave and I planned a summer vacation that had to fall under the rules of “somewhere we haven’t gone before.” We threw around a few ideas and picked Utah. Because Utah fit that rule easily! (I’ve only been to Four Corners) Here is our plan, we are spending three nights in Moab, four nights in Park City, and one night in Salt Lake City.

We flew out of Memphis early this morning and arrived in Salt Lake City by 10:30am. We picked up the TINY rental car & quickly named it “clown car” and hit the road for Moab.

The drive was beautiful. Lots of rocks and a couple train sightings.

SLC to Moab
A little freaked out about the speed limit. Our clown car didn’t really like going that fast!

We stopped about half way for a pit stop at a local brewery. CrossCut – It was a bust. The word brewery had a different meaning in this area. Funny story, I marked this as a spot to have lunch on our drive to Park City. It has been crossed off!

We made it to Moab around 4 pm. We are staying in a cute AirB&B in the center of Moab. We unpacked the clown car and set out on foot in search of a beer. Our destination was a mile down the road at the Moab Brewery. The beer was cold and apparently Johnny B’s IPA is number one in the state. The brewery had the fastest food service we’ve ever experienced. I forgot to snap pictures of our dinner – I’ll get back into the blogging habit soonest.

We made it! Pass the beer!

A few pictures of flowers blooming around town.

Tomorrow we are heading to Canyonlands National Park. I’ve mapped out our route. It’s full of overlooks and short hikes all to look at rocks in the desert. My nerdy science heart is so happy!

Izu Peninsula Roadtrip

Dave and I planned a road trip to the Izu Peninsula for Labor Day weekend. We left Friday afternoon and drove to Shimoda.

Friday night we stayed at the Shimoda Prince Hotel. The hotel came highly recommended by a couple friends. Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed with the overpriced dinner option and the dated accommodations. The room was plenty big for the two of us. The separate twin beds are pretty typical in Japanese hotel rooms. Fortunately, it was only for one night.

Saturday morning, we were hoping to catch the sunrise over the water. Unfortunately, rain and clouds prevented much of a view.

Originally, I planned for us to visit a near by nature reserve with 7 waterfalls. The rain made us rethink those plans. Instead, we decided to make our way to the other side of the peninsula where we would be spending Saturday and Sunday night. We kept our fingers crossed for sunnier skies on the other side.

We stopped at a marina along the way. The rain had let up a little and the view was lovely.

At the marina gift shop there were a lot of wasabi products. This area is known for growing wasabi. We purchase some wasabi, wasabi salt, and wasabi ginger dressing. In case you didn’t know what a wasabi plant looks like, I snapped a picture of the sample they had on display. The edible part is the root. The leaves resemble the leaves of elephant ears.

We finished our drive over to Dogashima and parked at our Ryokan. A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese Onsen (hot spring) Hotel. Ryokans are very popular in this area because of the thermal vents near Mt. Fuji. The view from the parking lot was spectacular! Plus, we managed to get away from the rain!

We arrived before our permitted check in time. This gave us time to grab lunch and do a little exploring. We opted for a sushi lunch. The squid was the best I have tasted!

At lunch, we noticed a poster we saw during our walk. We inquired about the Nishiizu Beach Candle Night. It was scheduled for Saturday evening. The restaurant owners said the event was about a 10 minute walk. However, it was weather dependent. We kept our fingers crossed for good weather!

After lunch, we walked around the town a little more and explored some of the cliffs. This area is considered one of the top three beautiful viewpoints in Japan. It was stunning and on a clear day, I’m sure it would be even more lovely.

After our walk, we made our way back to our Ryokan. We checked into our room. Dinner and breakfast were included for each night. We were asked to schedule a time for both. We selected 7 pm and 8 am. We were also allowed to schedule time at the larger private hotel onsen. We picked 8 pm for Saturday night and 4 pm for Sunday afternoon. After arranging our itinerary, we were then escorted to our room. It was clearly marked. The room was very spacious. The floors are covered with Tatami mats. No, I didn’t forget to take a picture of our bed. It wasn’t set up yet!

The room also had a small balcony with a private onsen. Our view was incredible.

At one point as I was taking pictures, my phone slipped from my hand and fell into the onsen!! I immediately grabbed it. And to my delight it still worked. Dave suggested I use the hair dryer to make sure the charger and headphone sockets were completely dry. I can’t believe my amazing luck!! Here was the last picture I took before I dropped it and the first picture I took after I turned it back on. Whew!

The weather seemed to be holding as sunset drew closer. Dave and I decided to walk down to se if the Beach Candle event was still going as scheduled. We were excited to see everything being set up!

Soon, numerous volunteers were lighting the many candles. As the sun faded, the glowing candles became even more beautiful.

We made our way back to the Ryokan for our dinner reservation at 7 pm. We walked into the dining room and found our table already set! I had never seen anything like the it! The spread was incredible. There had to be 15 different courses!

Several types of sushi (including lobster), a grill for steak and vegetables, salad, pickles, small appetizers, soups, rice and so much more!

The most shocking experience of the evening was the live abalone (sea snail) being cooked on the small grill in front of us. I honestly wasn’t prepared for this. I was grossed out and mesmerized watching it cook.

I did try it after it was completely cooked. It wasn’t my favorite. It was very chewy. Fortunately, they gave us a knife and fork so we could cut it into bite sized pieces and didn’t have to use chopsticks! Dave ate the remainder of what I couldn’t eat. This meal (and the three others) included many Japanese delicacies. We didn’t have an option of ordering food. The table was set and the food was prepared before we arrived. It was a culinary experience like nothing we’ve ever experienced. We were treated with wonderful hospitality. It was a wonderful opportunity and experience even if it pushed us outside our culinary comfort zone.

After dinner, we returned to our room. While we were at dinner, housekeeping setup our futons for us.

After our huge dinner and soak in the onsen, we were ready for a slumber. We did modify the futons a little bit. We brought our own pillows and placed a couple extra futons underneath us. Surprisingly, we slept pretty soundly.

I’ll share our Sunday adventures next time. More to follow tomorrow!

Suspension Bridges

During my Friday English class last week, one of my students told me about her visit to a clematis and sculpture garden near Mt. Fuji. From her description of her visit, I was interested in making a trip to the garden. As I looked around the Mishima area on my Google Maps app, I realized there was another place I had flagged to visit. I suggested to Katie we take our Tuesday adventures to the expressway and visit them both! Without difficulty, we were able to rent a car and leave before 8:00am Tuesday morning.

Side note: went traveling a far distance in a vehicle, I find it easier to rent a car for two reasons. 1. I only trust our Hooptie so much. 2. Driving on the expressway is expensive because of the high road tolls (¥8000 – $80 round trip to areas around Mt. Fuji). Toll vouchers are included with a rental car ($58 for a 1-day rental). This makes it actually cheaper to rent a car than to drive your own!

Now, back to our story. We arrived at our first stop, Mishima Skywalk around 9:30am. Before heading to the Skywalk, we stopped to use the restroom facilities. Just when I thought Japanese toilets couldn’t get any more amazing, we were greeted by a large banner advertising “luxury toilet.” The restroom was immaculate and complete with not just functional “thrones,” but also lounging ones – inside and outside the restroom! Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up!!

After our pit stop, we were ready to see Mt. Fuji and walk the Mishima Skywalk. The Mishima Skywalk is Japan’s largest suspension bridge. The bridge is 400m in length and connects Izu and Hakone. The bridge reaches a height of 70.6m as it stretches across the valley below. The width of the bridge footpath is 1.6m (wide enough to allow two wheelchairs to pass one another). Needless to say, the view was spectacular!

We were glad we arrived early. Mt. Fuji was starting to cloud over when we arrived. By the time we were leaving, it was mostly covered.

The walk across the bridge is not for the faint of heart. If you have a fear of heights, it might be best to skip this attraction.

Once we made it to the far side, we were greeted by the safety sign. I hope the Skywalk receives this award every year!!

On the north side of the bridge, is a natural area with a few trails and the flower drop. For ¥200, you’re invited to purchase a flower seed attached to a piece of wood. When you cross back over the bridge, you can toss the wood chip and make a wish. When your flower blooms, your wish will come true.

Also at the flower drop area were cute little forest eggs. Some were set along the trail and others where hiding behind a door on the trees. So, kawaii!

They were so cute!

From the construction and signs, Katie and I came to the conclusion the area would soon have a zip line attraction! Now that would be amazing!

During our walk back across, the wind really started to pick up. The bridge was really swaying! It was kindof fun to not hold on! Look, Mom! No hands!

One of the cafes was called the Sky Garden. Here we enjoyed a snack while sitting under the phenomenal hanging plants.

After our snack, we were ready to head to our next destination. We drove about 30 minutes before reaching the Clematis no Oka Garden. We parked in one of the parking lots furthest from the garden. This afforded us the opportunity to walk through the woods and transit across two more suspension bridges. They weren’t as long or as high, but still very enjoyable.

Once we arrived at the garden, we were treated to beautiful clematis and strange sculptures.

Here are just a few of the interesting sculptures. We were a little surprised with the sculptures because there were a lot of naked men. It seemed out of context with the garden. But, I guess art is art.

Anyways, let’s get back to the clematis. There were so many different varieties and colors. Here is about half of the clematis pictures I took!

The lower part of the garden was filled with roses. They were also in full bloom and stunning.

The roses were a special treat because I wasn’t expecting them. After enjoying time in the sunshine and the beautiful garden, we hopped back in the car and headed home. The drive home was easy. Each time I make a trip to Mt. Fuji, I become a little more familiar and at ease driving. I consider this a win after living here for almost two years! I’m so glad we took the opportunity to road trip. It was a wonderful day exploring an area around Mt. Fuji we hadn’t had a chance to visit yet.

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