Blackish to Brackish: The Beauty of the Bull Rush

This is a spring called Three Sisters in Crystal River. Springs are fed from rain water that is filtered through the ground and as the pressure builds up it gets pushed back to the surface. That is one way that nature filters water until its clean.

So the locals organized and preserved the property from development. In 1994 Jacque Cousteau filmed “Forgotten Mermaids” here, and now the  Dept. of the Interior owns it. Pretty cool.

We rode this trolley that was made decades ago out of cast iron and merry-go-round parts to get out to this refuge so we could walk around and learn something.

My parents were interested in taking us to see Manatees on the Three Sisters Springs, but it was not the right time of year for that.

So I’m guessing that there were at least ten of these diesel-spewing monsters made.

I think Dad’s having a nice time but his mouth doesn’t know it.

We got a guide that was retired from the Dept. of the Interior, who volunteers a couple times a week to talk about the local wetlands project. We walked around the newly created wetland, which is a successful experiment in cleaning the nutrients out of runoff water.

Here is what water looks like when you and I are done with it. This is the water that comes into this very small wetland for cleaning.

The Bull Rushes were hand planted a year ago. They’re thriving.

The birds came almost immediately afterward.

Blue swamp iris. That’s wild.

The birds eat the Apple snails that are plentiful here.

Remember, this is just over a year old.

This is a Lantana. Also wild.


A reminder of Scotland for Lindsay.

Towards the end of the small wetland the water ran clear.

This is Northwest Florida, called the nature coast. It’s hasn’t been developed with condos like the rest of the State.

One of the springs. I’m told the manatees love the steady temperatures here in the winter. Me too.

Nobody there could identify this orange stringy plant.

We’re coming back next year when the gulf is colder so we can swim with manatees!

The Good and Bad Parts About Visiting our Nation’s Capital


The good: Monumental reminders of our great founding fathers. Fantastic!

The bad: The horrible photos people take. Here’s our homage to bad tourist pics. 

Taking pictures of a monument with  people in the foreground. Surprising. 

Cutting out part of the monument in their photo. Disappointing. 


Badly thought out composition: the Narwhal. 

Jets flying overhead every 15 minutes. Unexpected. 

And the next one. 

Selfies in front of non-descript federal buildings on the tour bus. Funny. 

It was a nice day that afternoon. Lots of sunshine. 


Not paying attention to all the details. 

Strange lighting without explanation. 

Tour buses with their engines running. Noisy. 

Another great shot of the Jefferson memorial! Maybe not. 

Cars honking at each other at the traffic lights. Uncool. 

The cherry blossoms were pretty. Why are we here again?

Selfies with shadows on their faces. Unbelievable. 

The gift shop tent. Delightful. 


Lunch at the memorial. 

Lincoln Memorial Potties

Or cherry blossom potties?


Lack of focus: the Jefferson Monument. 

Did I mention the jets?


A tourist impressing his family with a paddle boat ride and picking a cherry blossom-sized booger out of his nose right when I took a picture. So awesome I cropped it. 

Trying to take selfie and getting a tourist in the background. Brilliant I’m a Narwhal #2.

This is as close as we got to the White House. 


But there’s always time at the end of the day for a bad attempt at food photography. 

Absolutely Nauseating!

Just south of Page, AZ and the slot canyons, just a short walk off to the side of highway 89 is a must-stop point along many travelers’ roadtrips – horseshoe bend in the Colorado River.

In spite of lots of signs warning everyone not to get too close to the edge, as you don’t really know what you’re standing on… many people just wandered straight up to the precipice… of course, not me! I got as close as I could…. TOTALLY AMAZING, BUT ABSOLUTELY NAUSEATING!

Highway 98 Just Outside Page, AZ
Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River, Glen Canyon
Tadd
Clearly Tadd’s Not as Scared of Heights as I am!
Glen Canyon to Grand Canyon
Continuing Down 89 Towards the Grand Canyon Portion of The Colorado River
Canyonlands, AZ
Canyonlands
Grand Canyon
My First View of the Canyon… and It’s Certainly Grand!

Entering the Grand Canyon National Park from the south eastern end (sadly the north rim was closed already for the winter) the inevitable, but impressive first stop is at the Desert View Watchtower, designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter who is often referred to as the architect of the southwest. She traveled throughout the southwest to find inspiration and authenticity for her buildings. The architecture of the ancestral Puebloan people of the Colorado Plateau served as her model. This particular tower was patterned after those found at Hovenweep and the Round Tower of Mesa Verde. Ms. Colter indicated that it was not a copy of any that she had seen, but rather modeled from several.

The Watchtower, South Rim, Grand Canyon
The Watchtower, South Rim, Grand Canyon
Native-Inspired Interior Decoration of the Watchtower
Grand Canyon
First of Quite a Few Amazing Views…
Grand Canyon
Stunning!
WOW!
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More Canyon
Canyon
Bored Yet?
Grand Canyon
A Few Clouds Begin to Approach from the South
Canyon
Something is Definitely Approaching
Grand Canyon
Building
Canyon
The Light was Changing by the Second
Grand Canyon
Luckily We Arrived by the East End
It’s Raining Somewhere
Canyon
Fun with Filters
Grand Canyon
No Avoiding the Rain Now
Elk, Grand Canyon Desert View Road
A Local Guide Said the Rain Brings the Wildlife to the Roadside… no Kidding!

The Arch March

Heading west from Colorado makes travel planning rather hard… too many National Parks to choose from in Utah!

We narrowed it down to the most unique for us and headed north to Arches National Park. Small for the national parks, it had everything we wanted: unusual landscapes, a challenging hike (for us) and a campground… sold!

We arrived late morning, with everything on schedule… until we noticed the sign at the entrance “Campground Full.” Hmmm… really?! We asked just to be sure, and were assured that it had been booked up for 6 months!

We completely failed to notice that as we had been heading west the weather had been getting warmer, which meant that even though it was out of season in the parks of Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota… it was very much prime time in Utah. Oh well, we’d do the hike and work out our night’s accommodation later.

We had been building up the hiking gradually… getting older and being out of hiking practice, it was a wise decision. But we felt ready for the 7+ mile hike Tadd had planned for the Arches, “primitive trail” and all…

 

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell  Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

It was definitely the most grueling thing we had done so far in the trip. We realized we needed more water containers if we were going to carry on with the hiking thing. And it was totally amazing walking up and down and around the truly alien landscapes of the park, scrambling along rock walls and clambering around mud pits… fantastic!

All that was left at the end of the day, was to work out where to sleep. Moab, the nearby town only offered RV parks right on the side of the main highway… definitely not our thing… so a quick bit of reasearch turned up a national forest campground about 30 miles south. We drove through the darkness, passing all the 18 wheelers careening the opposite direction and then off into the darkness (thank goodness for the newly purchased GPS). We really had no idea where we were until the next morning… not too shabby!

 

 

Hunter Canyon Campground, Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

 Moab, Utah ©Lindsay Carswell

 

 

On The Edge

In spite of what a life-long obsession with flying might seem to indicate, I am actually scared of heights! For some reason the man-made wonders of hot air balloons, airplanes, and the mere presence of a steel barrier embolden me, and give me the freedom to enjoy amazing perspectives of the planet, looking out from above.

However, the likes of cliff edges, tiny mountain trails and winding roads with sheer drop-offs, turn my legs to jelly and induce a yucky, nausea in me. It’s something I hate, but which pushes me more to literally go out on the a ledge sometimes… well, if it’s worth it! And the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings were definitely one of those places.

Mesa Verde 1
Spruce Tree House

Some time around the 10th century the natives began moving down from living on the top of the plateau and began the precarious life on the edge. They scuttled up and down ladders, from ridge top field to the next and routinely wandered around next to a huge drop off!

Mesa Verde 2
We had been warned that the entry way to Balcony House was not for the weak-hearted
Mesa Verde 3
Up We Go! (there was the real drop off just below down into the depths of the canyon)
Mesa Verde 4
Self-Named Crazy Ranger Dave
Mesa Verde 5
For Tadd this was a doddle… no mind on the the potential plummet backwards
Mesa Verde 6
Location, location, location… was true even back then
Mesa Verde 7
Little Cliff-top Home
Mesa Verde 8
All kinds of building materials were used… this was pine fronds between stone and wood and morter
Mesa verde 9
The natural color of the rocks is amazing
Mesa Verde 10
The Front Door! (these people were tiny)
Mesa Verde 11
Rock
Mesa verde 12
Grinding Tools
Mesa verde 13
Looks like good security
Mesa Verde 14
Luckily I’m not claustrophobic too!
Mesa Verde 15
Their communities were dotted all across the cliff tops for miles and miles
Mesa Verde 16
We had hoped to hike down to Square Tower House, but alas no… or thank goodness I didn’t have to scramble over rocks etc
Mesa Verde 17
Amazing they could build this complex a house on the side of a cliff

 

Million Dollar Moments

After a cosy night in our cabin, we drove down into Boulder to catch up with friends… once again we were having too much fun to remember to take any photos 🙁

We could easily see why the Trimmers decided to move there from Chicago…. we will definitely be back to visit again soon!

Just Wandering Through The Neighbourhood
Just Wandering Through The Neighbourhood

We drove through some amazing highlands in Colorado, with vast pasture surrounded by the picturesque peaks of the Rockies. The clouds came down as we went over the passes.

Rainy Roads of the Highlands
Rainy Roads of the Highlands

 

We had done our research and were headed southwest from Boulder. A night soggy night in the Curacanti National Recreation Area let us enjoy a short hike in the morning with some signs of autumn and views of the Blue Mesa Reservoir.

sm_Curacanti 2
Sunset Over Winnie
sm_curacanti sunset
We’ve Been So Lucky With The Weather, So A Night of Rain Was Fine
sm_curacanti sunset 3
Morning Light On The Blue Mesa Reservoir
sm_curacanti sunrise
Wonderful Light
sm_curacanti sunset 2
The Colours Just Kept Changing
sm_Curacanti np
Blue Mesa – Colorado’s Largest Lake
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Cool Rock Formations – Pinnacles of the Mesa
sm_curacanti fall foliage
Finally Some Signs of Fall

Such an amazing and unexpected location, but we were on a mission that day… and we didn’t yet realize how time-sensitive it was. We drove on to Montrose, CO and stopped in for some free WIFI in the parking lot of the McDonalds just to check our directions (our less-than-useless wifi hotspot had failed to provide us with up-to-the-moment navigation, and we had not yet given in to getting a GPS).

But just as we were about to to get on the road to the Million Dollar Highway, we discovered that it was closed!!! We couldn’t believe it… just because it was a weekday… they were doing road works. There was just one chance… if we could make it to Ouray in the next hour, we would be able to catch the lunchtime window (the road workers are literally eating their lunch at the side of the drop-off).

An exciting sprint south and we made it in perfect time… if not, we would have had to spend the day in Ouray (at least they have hot springs!) and wait until the end of the workday, to get through at 5pm… dusk and descending clouds be damned.

It was nothing short of amazing…

The Rockies

Tadd has decided that Colorado is now his favorite state (bad luck Montana!) and I am inclined to agree… we haven’t been able to find an ugly or boring part of it yet!

After a cozy night in our loaner cabin in Estes Park, CO, we woke up to see a small group of Elk crossing the stream behind the cabin. And so it was time to go explore some more of this Elk territory – off to the Rocky Mountain National Park.

As the whole world seemed to be headed up to Bear Lake for the view, we decided to turn back and find our own space… which we did pretty well; not seeing more than a few others on the trail we found along the south side of the Moraine Park.

sm_Rocky Mtn Nat Park_0422
Autumn in the Rockies

And autumn means Elk mating season….

sm_Rocky Mtn Nat Park_0424
In The Middle There’s a Male Elk “Singing” for All His Worth

 

sm_Rocky Mtn Nat Park_0425
Views and More Views

 

sm_Rocky Mtn Nat Park_0427
I Seem To Find Thistles The World Around

 

sm_Rocky Mtn Nat Park_0429
More Amazing Contrast

 

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Mountains!

 

sm_Rocky Mtn Nat Park_0432
Headed Over The Pass and Down to Boulder

 

sm_Rocky Mtn Nat Park_0434
Last Glimpse

We have fallen in love with the mountains!

The Lows and The Highs

Having left behind the marvels of nature in the Grand Tetons, we headed south then west towards Colorado. We had planned to stop for the night at another wonderfully remote campsite on a hillside… I had even heard there was a possibility of spotting wild horses in the area. However, we changed plans at the the last minute in order to try to catch up with friends back up in the Rockies. So, we found another, less-picturesque spot…

 

We Weren't The Only Ones There
We Weren’t The Only Ones There

We made good time and shortened our drive for the next day so that we could spend time our friends… but the best laid plans and all that…

Rawlins
Not What We Had Planned for the Day 🙁

At least things worked out better than we initially thought: the very nice tow truck guy, Mr Brown from Jamaica, started out saying that as it was Friday, and Rawlins has 10 times more mechanic work than mechanics, no-one was willing to look at the RV that day… and we had the prospect of spending the WEEKEND in Rawlins, WY… certainly not a destination we had added to our Google Map when we researched the trip!

Luckily Tadd is rather persuasive… and convinced one of the crazily, overworked mechanics in town to have a look at it… it was only electrics after-all. I still wasn’t at all happy, but at least there was free WIFI from the “by-the-hour” motel next to us.

Rawlins 2

We lost 4 hours of our day, and limped away with a temporary fix… which meant by the time we got going again, there was no way to make our date in the mountains. But, our friend Kim was kind enough to let us stay in the cabin she wasn’t using that night, so we had a welcoming place ahead of us for the night. This was a particularly good thing, what with all the rain along the way.

 

Rainy Colorado Highlands
Rainy Colorado Highlands

 

sm_estes park elk
The Weather Didn’t Bother The Wildlife

 

sm_Estes Park - Idlewild by the river_0417
The Sun Came Back Out The Next Day, Estes Park, CO

 

sm_Estes Park - Idlewild by the river_0418
Idlewild by the River, Estes Park, Co

We enjoyed a lovely night with hot showers (as much water as we wanted), TV, unlimited internet and a queen-size bed…. gorgeous!