Monday, October 30, 2023

Birthday Pickleball

Joola Scorpeus
Saturday was my birthday, and what beautiful weather we had for it! Jim got me the Collin Johns version of the Joola Scorpeus pickleball paddle as my gift. I feel a connection to Collin since he stayed with us several days a couple years ago while in town for a tournament. But also I love the way he plays, handling the right-hand side of the court while his brother Ben dominates the left-hand side. Collin has such a nice touch at the net, and I feel that is my strength in the game as well. Not that I am anywhere close to his caliber of play, of course. So far the paddle is working well for me.

Sports Connection, a local pickleball facility, was offering Cosmic Pickleball this weekend, and I told Jim that is what I wanted to do for my birthday. So we rented a court and invited two other couples to join us for pickleball under the blacklights. I had always wanted to try it, and believe it is an event we could have here in our community for the pickleball club. It was a blast! And what a great way to usher in my 68th year.

Cosmic Pickleball

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Grand Canyon National Park

Having left Colorado, we arrived at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona after dark. We had chosen to stay two nights inside the park for easy access to sunrise and sunset photos in the park, plus the ability to just park our car and leave it while using the bus service within the park.

We had not been to this park since 2006, when I took Jim there for his birthday. Our daughter had never been. It is certainly a national treasure and one that all Americans should strive to see. There is nothing else like it, though I suppose Canyonlands comes closest.

We got up early the next morning for the sunrise before grabbing some breakfast. We spent the day on the park shuttles, getting off at each stop for photos. In the evening we went back out for sunset pictures.

Grand Canyon National Park
The next morning we took off to our final stop before heading home. We drove to the Hoover Dam, and took the Guided Dam Tour. This tour takes you on the original elevator down to historic tunnels along with a guided powerplant tour. It was very interesting to learn about why the dam was built and how it operates.

Hoover Dam

 Las Vegas is a short drive from the Hoover Dam, and we spent our last night together at Harrah's on the Vegas strip. It is not one of my favorite places, but it is certainly entertaining to walk there at night. Jim says it is like the bar scene from Star Wars, and that is pretty on point. 

Las Vegas
In summary, we put over 2,000 miles on the rental car, traveled through four states, and visited seven national parks and two national monuments in addition to a few other things. We recognized the vast diversity of landscape in this country, and found ourselves wondering why we travel so often out of the country when the United States has so much to offer. It was wonderful to spend this time with our daughter, and I'm confident more national park trips are in our future.

Friday, October 27, 2023

More National Parks

Following our stops at the Grand Staircase-Escalade and Capitol Reef, we arrived in Moab, Utah just after dark. For the first time on the trip, we stayed in one location for three nights. Our two bedroom townhome was equipped with a washer and dryer, which was perfect halfway through the agenda as we had all brought just carryon luggage and it was time to do laundry.

The unit was located very near Arches National Park and was also convenient to Canyonlands National Park. We spent Thursday, September 21st at Arches, going back in the evening to catch a sunset there. Arches was the only place we visited that required us to purchase a timed ticket ahead of time. While you did need to arrive within the hour time slot on the ticket, you could come back later in the day if you wanted.

There are over 2,000 natural stone arches in the park. What mostly impacts the rocks today is erosion from water. It's a spectacular landscape.

Arches National Park

Friday we left our unit early to drive to Canyonlands. This was another great park for hiking and sightseeing. The area was formed again by erosion, this time by the Colorado and Green Rivers.

Canyonlands National Park
Saturday morning we had a four hour drive to Mesa Verde to visit the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Along the way we stopped at Hovenweep National Monument. It was established as a national monument in 1923, and archeologists consider it to have the finest examples of ancestral Puebloan masonry found anywhere. The ruins were very fascinating.
Hovenweep National Monument
We arrived in Mesa Verde in time to check in and then enter the park for a short hike. We wanted to capture the sunset in the park, and though it was a little overcast we still saw some stunning skies.
Mesa Verde National Park sunset
The next morning we went back to Mesa Verde National Park to see the archeological sites in the park. We also had purchased tickets for a ranger-led talk about the Cliff Dwellings. That is the only way you can hike down to the actual site. The hike involved steep ladders and narrow stairs, but was so worth the effort it took to get down and back up. It is fascinating how these structures were built so many years ago in such a harsh landscape.
Mesa Verde National Park
When we finished with the tour and our drive through the park, we took off for the Grand Canyon, which is about a four hour drive. More on Grand Canyon National Park in the next post.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Heading to Moab

On the way to Moab from Bryce Canyon we decided to stop and see the Grand Staircase-Escalante National monument. We hiked part of the area, hoping to be able to go through some of the narrow passageways. Unfortunately the water was a little high, so we couldn't go as far as we would have liked. It was still a beautiful walk.

Grand Staircase-Escalante
From there we drove to Capitol Reef National Park. Known for its long wrinkle in the earth called a Waterpocket Fold, the park has canyons and striking rock formations. Due to time constraints we ended up just driving through the park. We saw a beautiful sunset on our way to Moab.
Capitol Reef National Park

Monday, October 23, 2023

Mount Holly Lantern Parade

Imagery and 101 Dalmatians
(photo by Bob Leverone Photography)
I'll get back to my national parks trip postings later, but Saturday night was the Sixth Annual Mount Holly Lantern Parade. For the third year our Imagery community has entered the group category in the parade. This year's theme was Heroes and Villains, and we decided when we heard the theme last October that we would do 101 Dalmatians as our entry. It has wonderful villains in Cruella and the Badun brothers, and super heroes with Pongo and Perdita coming to the rescue of the puppies.

We began the lanterns in earnest in June, and many, many hands participated in making our dream a reality. Cruella reached a whopping 8'6" height, and Pongo and Perdita were built to the size of actual Dalmatians. The remaining puppies were much smaller in scale so we didn't need 101 walkers in the parade.

We put puppies on stars, on poles and on hula hoops to make it all come together. All told we had 42 walkers on Saturday night, and enough people dressed as puppies with painted faces and lit up ears that we ended up with 101 Dalmatians.

The entry was a hit with the crowds as well as the parade organizers. For the third straight year we took first place in our category. That puts a lot of pressure on us for next year, the theme of which has not yet been announced. But I'm sure we are up for the challenge!

Mount Holly Lantern Parade

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Seeing our National Parks

flying to Vegas
Last month we did some domestic traveling. We flew into Las Vegas to meet up with our daughter before heading out on a national parks adventure. Lots of discussion and planning among the three of us took place before we decided that we could visit six of the national parks, primarily in Utah, within our twelve day timetable.

We picked up a rental car and spent the night in Vegas. As none of us are particularly fans of the area, I selected a hotel on the north side of town to give us a head start on our three hour drive to Washington, Utah. Here we spent two nights so that we could visit Zion National Park. 

We hiked the park the first day. It is quite beautiful, but it was incredibly packed with tourists. We did not expect the crowds considering that it was mid-September.

Zion National Park
We drove though the park the next day. They do not warn you that once you do the drive and exit the park, you will be in no man's land with limited cell service. We considered turning around, but the line to reenter the park at this back entrance was easily a couple of miles long. And there was only one attendant at the gate. We ended up about two hours away from our hotel, which was only a 20 minute drive to the main park entrance. We made lemonade out of lemons, however, and found an interesting cave to visit as well as a cool spot to go for a hike.

Kanab, Utah
The next park on our itinerary was Bryce Canyon, which was a couple of hours away from our previous hotel. We did some wonderful hiking in this park. The landscape is very unique from other parks we have been to visit.
Bryce Canyon
The next morning we went back into Bryce to see the sunrise. It was worth getting up early to experience it. We did a small hike before going back to our lodge to pack up for the next leg of the trip. I'll cover Moab in the next post.
sunrise at Bryce

Monday, October 16, 2023

Beauty out Back


Mountain Island Lake sunset
The other night I was blessed to see this beautiful sky behind our house as the sun was going down. It is hard to imagine all the ugliness and cruelty going on in the world right now when I'm surrounded by such incredible scenes on a daily basis. Just in the last few days I have spotted an eagle on the lake, a lizard making himself at home on our porch, a praying mantis, and some of our perennials bursting with color despite the date and the cooler temperatures. We are truly blessed to be here.

Mother Nature at her finest