Myriad Botanical Gardens and Bricktown, Oklahoma City

Published on by Katya LaRoche in the category out and about | Leave a comment

When we’re in a bigger city for a few weeks we always try and hit up the local Japanese and Botanical gardens (usually when we’ve run out of nearby hikes). On a cold and boring Sunday in Oklahoma City, our second week in town, we found the Myriad Botanical Gardens right downtown where we could also walk around the historic Bricktown neighbourhood and get a bite to eat. 

Myriad Botanical Gardens

When we entered the garden, which to our surprise was inside a giant greenhouse, the smell of earth and pollen in the air was intense. We immediately found ourselves standing next to a multi-story waterfall in what seemed like a warm, muggy day, in the jungles of Coasta Rica. We had just come from a windy 45 degree day outside and were vastly overdressed for the high heat and humidity inside the greenhouse but were more than willing to strip off our coats and take a long slow walk through this virtual paradise. There was an orchid show going on and the work that went into it was no small feat. Orchids of all kinds hung from cables and walls, and clung as parasites to the sides of trees. Butterflies fluttered about, never seeming to land for more than a second, overwhelmed by the buffet of plant life and spacious bio dome sky. We took our time walking up and down stairs on either end, an elevated walkway on either side and through a courtyard at the bottom that featured a pond  and most of the other visitors. We left only when we were sure we had seen it all, and when we started to wish we had brought water and less clothes.

Bricktown Bewery

20140323_150023After the garden we headed towards Bricktown a few block away, a neighbourhood that, as you guessed it, is very bricky. We first went to the plaza and fountain area by the river where the fountain was still dyed neon green from the recent StPatrick’s Day celebrations a few days earlier. A couple blocks north of that, just past Flaming Lips Alley, was Bricktown Brewery, one of two breweries in the area that had a veggie burger for us. They let us customize our burgers and to our surprise they were 6 inches tall by time they reached us. Passing through the restaurant they prompted questions from other customers, which is at least some indication on how big they were. We both enjoyed a coffee stout with our giant blackbean burgers and were severely stuffed by the end.

I would suggest anyone visiting Oklahoma City check out Myriad Botanical Gardens and walk around nearby Bricktown! Especially on a lazy Sunday afternoon, it may be one of the only parts of town with anything going on at all.

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Nerds Back on the Road

Published on by Katya LaRoche in the category RV life | Leave a comment

So for the third winter (and probably one too many), we had decided to stay in a vacation cabin. This time near Durango, Colorado with the hope that we would ski every weekend and snowmobile every other weekend and that the snow would be deep enough for us to jump off the 2nd story deck unharmed. None of that happened.. and although we did enjoy the times we did get some snow, we found ourselves more often hiking and playing in mud-snow with our truck, than doing the winter sports we’d intended to.

After we were in the cabin for about a month, and it was yet to snow, Ross left for Seattle for his work and I got to witness the first and biggest storm of the year. At first the wind was strong which did almost no damage somehow, but then it snowed wet heavy snow for 2 days, the world began to crumble around me. Branches fell from every tree, large and small, entire aspen trees folded over and snapped and two rather enormous cottonwood trees lost all composure and dropped two tree-sized branches straight on top of our previous travel trailer. I watched helplessly as a huge crack and giant cloud of white snow covered the general area of the trailer. When the snow cleared from the air I saw the damage, which surprisingly left me with some hope. “Maybe the branches had merely fallen and then lightly settled on the side of the trailer?” I thought (yeah right). I couldn’t see any damage from the outside and I refused to go anywhere near it til the storm was over, every few seconds a new crack came from a nearby tree and I didn’t feel like getting a concussion. I sat in the cold cabin with the electricity out for most the day as well, hoping everything would just work itself out.

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Ross came back a couple days later and we both went out to assess the damage. The inside of the trailer had been cracked and mangled in more ways than one, and the wall on the side the branches hit was leaning outward now. We called it as totaled right away but the insurance company still insisted we tow it into town to hear the same news from an RV repair shop. Ross cut off the half detached awning and we pulled it the 10 miles downhill into town.

Naturally the repair shop said it was totaled before even going inside, as did the man who came out from the insurance company to inspect it. Ultimately it worked out to our advantage though, the trailer had a higher insurance value than we paid for it and it gave some good years of travel.

After waiting on all the necessary steps to be rid of the ruined trailer, we still had to wait months before we could think about buying a new one. Towing it from anywhere to anywhere in a Rocky Mountain winter just wasn’t very wise. It felt strange not having a place of our own. We had to store all our things under the porch and around the house, making the cabin a lot less comfortable and way more crowded than intended.

Finding a New Home

When the time finally came to look for a new trailer, about a month or so before our 6 months at the cabin was up (too long!), we started to drive to nearby towns with RV dealerships and look around. We spent a day or so deciding on whether or not to get a 5th wheel (trailer that also goes over the truck bed) or a toy hauler (5th wheel with a garage) and ultimately decided that having reasonable room for my motorcycle and Ross’s future toy was ideal.
Unfortunately there’s a limited amount of decent toy haulers versus regular 5th wheels, so we only had a few models to choose from. After lots of research online by Ross, we finally found the one we wanted just outside Denver. We planned some time off work and made the 7 hour drive on a Sunday.

We visited a couple dealerships our first day in town, leaving either unimpressed or straight blown away by the prices and decided to just look at the toy hauler Ross had found online that looked the most promising (assuming it was still there). We walked around it in awe, a classy 2013 Torque in pretty much mint condition and about 2/3 the price of a new one. We were pretty much hooked and it was a relief to not have to spend every morning of our time there roaming lonesome rows of dealerships! 

Visions of comfort and standing desks danced in our heads. 

Steve at Century RV Taking our Deposit

Steve at Century RV Taking our Deposit

2013 Torque Toy Hauler! Ours!

2013 Torque Toy Hauler! Ours!

So, we had found our new home! Then, the less fun part began, getting approved for a loan, driving to Colorado Springs to get a check from our bank, spending hours at a garage waiting on a hitch install that never happened, spending another 2 days at camping world getting a hitch installed that DID happen, and a snow storm that prevented us from picking up our new home and leaving town. We ended up being in Denver for 9 days. I could tell the cats were starting to worry that the one window hotel room might be their new forever home.

We finally got out of town on a Monday night, just before a second storm was to hit town and headed south over Raton Pass in southern Colorado, then down around through Albuquerque and back up to Farmington to avoid the mountains. And there it sits til Friday afternoon when we’re officially “Nerds Back on the Road“!

Hooking up for the first time at Century RV in Longmont Colorado

Hooking up for the first time at Century RV in Longmont Colorado

Waking up in a Snow Storm

Trinidad Colorado – Waking up in a Snow Storm

Nerd’s Travel Shots Featured in Portland Magazine

Published on by Katya LaRoche in the category photography | Leave a comment

Late last year sometime, my friend Chad from Portland, Oregon contacted me about having some of my travel photos from last summer featured in an interesting new travel magazine. The magazine, called “Nowhere is more Important than Here” is a project that Chad and a friend have been collaborating on over the last few years.  Now on its second issues, the theme of the magazine is more about the trials, pains and beauty of travel than the locations themselves; Something I found really appropriate for our sometimes tumultuous travels.

I submitted 19 images from states all over the west, Montana, Utah, Colorado and Arizona, many of them curated by Chad from my flickr account, and within a few short weeks I was holding a copy in my hand. I was genuinely impressed when I opened the envelope at the post office. It’s a real magazine! Minus all the hundreds of pages of annoying advertisements and chock full of great, one of a kind, experiences!
I hate to admit that I thought it was going to be more like a zine, printed on newsprint and next to free, which would have been fine as well, but they really put a lot of work into it and it was still affordably priced at $10!
Nowhere is more Important than Here - Travel Magazine

I didn’t hear much about it for a week or two til I made some plans to visit my friend Ash in Portland for a week (with Ross playing cat sitter at the cabin). The day after I bought my plane ticket, Chad posted a copy of the mag on his facebook profile and announced that there would be a release party the day I had planned to return to Colorado!  Luckily I was able to change my flight for just $.40 and after several great days in Oregon, road tripping along the coast and visiting old haunts, me and Ash made the release party with time to spare.

The event was at a little bar in downtown Portland called Valentine’s. A hip yet affordable little place with infused vodkas and a great happy hour. There were at least 20 people there by the time Chad got up to speak about the magazine but unfortunately I was the only person featured in the magazine that had shown up. When the introduction to “Nowhere is more Important than Here” was done, only about 7 minutes had gone by and there was no one else to speak. Chad asked me if I wanted to say something, and I somehow mustered up the guts to do so.

I had no idea what to talk about, had made no plans and knew little about the magazine except what I had just heard from the mouth of its creators, so I pretty much forgot about the photos entirely and talked about life on the road. Mostly things like how long we’ve been doing it, and how we manage to do it at all. People were generally interested, someone even raised their hand a couple times, one girl laughed at everything I said like I was a stand up comedian but mostly everything went ok. I think it was easier not really knowing anyone there except Chad, and Ash, my best friend of 15 years. I wasn’t sure if they cared about RV travel, being all younger people, but we never thought about it ourselves much before we decided to start.

After I sat back down a couple people came up to me and asked me a few more questions about traveling in a travel trailer, and one girl blew my mind by saying she “can’t wait til ‘we’ take over the southwest and make it cool and accessible’. She made me realize how much I don’t want the southwest, or any rural place to change, I don’t want the entire west to become Portland. I like small dusty towns with quirky small town cultures just the way they are.

Here are a few of the photos featured in the magazine. I don’t have an online source for getting a hold of a copy yet but when I do, I’ll add a link here. The mag features dozens of stories from all over the world and tons of great street photography throughout! A great read for any travel lover indeed.

As always you can find many of these and other travel photos on my etsy site at: http://lostkatphotography.etsy.com

Wire Pass Slot Canyon, Utah

Wire Pass Slot Canyon, Utah

Dixie National Forest, Utah

Dixie National Forest, Utah

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Mars Surface, Arizona

Mars Surface, Arizona

High School Sweethearts - Montana

High School Sweethearts – Montana

Cairn, Buckskin Gulch

Cairn, Buckskin Gulch

Glacier Park Butterfly, Montana

Glacier Park Butterfly, Montana

Couple in Car - Arizona

Couple in Model T – Arizona

Yellow Jacket at Buckskin Gulch

Yellow Jacket at Buckskin Gulch

Teton National Forest

Teton National Forest

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

5 Dangerous Hiking Mistakes via Sierra Club

Published on by Katya LaRoche in the category Hiking | Leave a comment


Male hiker resting his hands on knees, exhausted
After this last summer hiking in the hot hot sun of southern Utah nearly every weekend, seeing in the paper articles of peoples dangerous hiking mistakes, it made us take our casual weekend hikes a lot more serious. I thought this article from Sierra Club was interesting in this regard. Although we learned a lot over the summer about safety, the experts have plenty of proven advice to give.

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Standing atop a hill after a long and grueling hike, it’s easy to feel invincible. You’ve pushed yourself to your limits, survived nature’s sometimes unpredictable conditions – what could stop you now?

Turns out, it could be a number of simple beginner mistakes or time-saving shortcuts that even experienced hikers are guilty of taking. Even the most trail-hardened can be caught unprepared. Lisa Hendy, Yosemite National Park emergency services program manager, and Todd Duncan, Sierra Club program safety manager, share some of the most frequent and preventable mistakes hikers make on the trail — and some tips for staying safe:

1. Underestimating the trail: This one is more common among beginners but can have disastrous consequences for anyone. Be honest with yourself. Think about how often you hit the gym and choose a trail that is realistic for your party’s ability level. There’s no shame in starting out easy and working your way up to more difficult hikes, but there may be a bit of embarrassment in turning around when you hit a wall on the first hill. So do your research: Many national park websites include handy guides to their trails that provide length, elevation, and difficulty ratings, and there are more hiking handbooks available for all skill levels than can be named in this blog post.

 

2. Failing to prepare: Both Hendy and Duncan agree, being unprepared is one of the most common missteps made by hikers of all skill levels. “One mistake can change the face of everything,” says Hendy. “For example, this time of year, heading out for a day hike with only a light jacket and a headlamp could be fine provided everything goes well. However, if you twist your ankle and are out overnight, that could be a miserable mistake.” Gather the 10 essentials, anticipate changes in weather or emergencies that might delay your trip, and pack accordingly.

3. Going alone: While a solo hike in itself isn’t automatically dangerous, Hendy says the most common mistake made by experienced hikers is taking off alone without notifying anyone. Be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back. Many experienced hikers recommend investing in or renting a personal locator beacon (PLB), which can help rescuers locate you in an emergency. But remember, just because you’re easier to find doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safer. Hikers carrying PLBs should still trek carefully and tell someone ahead of time where they’re going.

4. Traveling off-trail: Even if you have hiked these woods a thousand times, are a licensed cartographer, and were born on this very trail, a hiking trip is one time when it might be best to take the road more-traveled. Though many hikers safely practice off-trail hiking, most acknowledge the added dangers that come with it, as well as the specific preparation required to stray from the beaten path. Unless you’re prepared to hike off-trail, it can be a pretty reliable way to get lost or injured (or both).

5. Abandoning the plan: While turning back before you reach the end of the trail can be frustrating, it beats having to make camp unexpectedly. Hikers set turnaround times for a reason, and you don’t want to be caught unprepared as the sun goes down. Keep an eye on your watch, and determine when you’ll need to begin heading back to safely reach your car or campsite.

How can hikers of all skill levels ensure they’re taking all of the precautions necessary for their trip? Hendy has a few hard and fast rules for a safe hike: “Plan ahead and tell a friend the planl Tell your friend who to call if you do not return on time. Plan for something to go wrong and delay you. Always bring a headlamp, an extra small snack, and a layer of clothing that can keep you warm if you are delayed.”

— Image via iStockPhoto/Jan-Otto

Headshot_Julie_Blog Julie Eng is an editorial intern at Sierra. She studied literature and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and wrote for several publications before joining the Sierra team

 

Hiking Bryce Canyon’s Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail

Published on by Katya LaRoche in the category Hiking, National Forest, National Park | Leave a comment

Kanab is such a great, central little town if you want to visit the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, not to mention Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Kodachrome State Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument and numerous other sites of monumental beauty.

Bryce Canyon is about 70 miles from Kanab, past several cute little mormon communities (with more rock hound shops than you can imagine) and dozens of farms with animals like bison, elk and miniature horses, you eventually enter Dixie National Forest. As soon as you see the forest service sign you are immediately greeted by colorful Hoodoo’s and ancient looking trees. We stopped and had a picnic after a short hike across the road from the national forest sign then continued onward to Bruce for our planned hike down into the canyon – and the hardest part, back out again.

dixie national forest

 

The Trail:

Once you weave back and forth down the steep, constantly jack-knifing Wall Street Trail you can continue onto Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail, about 3.5 miles total. The hike features a terror on your knees at the beginning, all kinds of fun in the middle and lots of climbing out of the canyon at the end. Remember to take lots of water. Even though this trail had more shade than most the trails we’ve hiked this summer we still drank a lot, especially on the way out. We were surprised by how many people didn’t have any water with them at all, although some were just doing the Queens Garden trail, the climbing can really take it out of you. I, as usual, had trouble breathing on the way out but absolutely refused to let this one old couple pass us, so really pushed myself. No matter how much we hike my lungs never seem to improve but my tolerance for the pain of it has at least.

Wall Street Cliffs

Wall Street Cliffs

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ross trail bryce canyon

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chipmunk bryce canyon

A friend on our hike.

The Queen, Bryce Canyon

The Queen

 

 

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Once we got out of the canyon the views were amazing. We had pretty much headed straight for the trail and the drive through the park was to be the easy part of the trip. Every lookout along the drive offered amazing rock formations and a vast forest at the bottom of the canyon. A long trail goes through the middle of the canyon but we couldn’t see any campers on it. The skies must be amazing at a campsite like that.

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bryce cayony rainbow

bryce cayony

 

The “natural bridge” in Bryce Canyon is actually an arch (not sure what the significant difference is) and was one of the coolest roadside scenes, after Rainbow Point at the very end of course. Take your time, hike and love this National Park!

Bryce Canyon Arch

Bryce Canyon Arch

Discover Santa Cruz with Tenerife Car Hire

Published on by Katya LaRoche in the category Uncategorized | Leave a comment

tenerife (1)There are plenty of reasons to visit Tenerife. Its beaches, volcanic scenery and vibrant holiday resorts are reason enough, but for those who can’t get enough of the city, a trip to the island’s capital, Santa Cruz, makes a cracking day out.

 

Wherever you’re based, TenerifeCarHire.com advise hiring a car to make the most out of your trip, as this gives you the utmost flexibility. Enjoy a leisurely drive along the scenic roads en route, perhaps stopping to appreciate the many coastal towns and villages along the way, before parking up and enjoying the sights and sounds of the city.

 

As a lively port city, there’s plenty to explore. Lonely Planet describes the city centre as an evocative place with “brightly painted buildings, sophisticated and quirky shops and a tropical oasis of birdsong, fountains and greenery”. It’s a typically Spanish city, far removed from the tourist resorts on the south coast, so it makes a refreshing change and a fantastic insight into modern Spanish living.

 

Candelaria-CathedralMake a beeline for the city’s oldest church, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. The current structure was built in the 17th and 18th centuries but the original foundations were laid in the late 15th century. It has a superb bell tower and some impressive ceiling decor, along with a magnificent altar featuring the Holy Cross of the Conquest. This translates to the Santa Cruz de la Conquista, which gives the city its name.

 

The North Airport is less than half an hour’s drive from the city, but if you’re flying in to the South airport, it’s well worth hiring a car to reach the city. It generally takes around 45 minutes to 1 hour to drive from the south coast along the motorway to Santa Cruz, which makes it an easy and very worthwhile day trip.

tenerife

Philipsburg Montana Encourages Nerds to Move on in!

Published on by Katya LaRoche in the category work | Leave a comment

Pburg-StreetPhilipsburg is looking for a few good families. In an effort to shore-up its declining elementary school enrollment, the tiny Montana Silver Rush town (pop. 840) is putting out a formal call for its next wave of pioneers – this time the New Millennium kind. The local Rotary Club and other community leaders have launched a yearlong media campaign targeting the growing members of the new economy who can “telework” anyplace they choose. Those workers include dot-com employees, freelancers and sellers on sites like eBay. People who need only broadband, UPS and perhaps occasional trips through the nearby Missoula International Airport to make a living. The town believes its blue ribbon trout streams, a 9-to-1 student/teacher ratio in its schools, a low-traffic hospital, hiking, hunting, skiing, zero crime and a perfectly preserved jewel of a mining town are an unbeatable combination for young families seeking a more picturesque small town life. Men’s Journal recently named Philipsburg “America’s Coolest Town to Live in the Past” and many of the town’s residents, new and old, think it is a perfect place to live in the future. For more information, visit www.MovetoPburg.com.

Kevin Donlan, President of the Philipsburg Rotary Club (www.philipsburgrotary.org) and himself a 10-year Philipsburg transplant who raised a family here and logs nearly 50,000 air miles annually in his work as a pharmaceutical industry consultant said, “I moved here because I realized I could not only provide more for my business clients than I did from a base of a big city, but I could also do so without the associated big city distractions and stress.” He continued, “It’s really humorous, because when I explain to my typical clients (Fortune 500 Companies) why I moved here, their initial reaction is one of ‘I wish I could do that’. The universal follow up questions from these same people are how they might do the same. Minor logistics questions about travel, connectivity, production, etc., never about the rationale because the reasons are obvious to them. They just need to trust that they can take the leap as well and I always ask them – when have you ever heard of someone moving their family and business to a place of their dreams when they regretted it? Conversely, how many people do you know who regret raising a family in a crowded city who long for the dream that we have here in Philipsburg?”

Winninghoff-Park-RinkThe search for young families is especially key for Philipsburg at this time because dwindling school enrollment has become a threat to the community. The schools (Philipsburg Elementary and Granite High School) are ranked among the top 15% of Montana schools. “We offer a great educational approach,” said Mike Cutler, Philipsburg School Superintendent. “It’s akin to the charter school model that so many other cities are trying to create, with things like small class size, college-credit classes and creative approaches to broadening a child’s education in and out of the classroom. We want all prospective families to recognize the high-quality school experience available here in Philipsburg.”

The Philipsburg Rotary Club, which launched the outreach effort, prides itself on regularly tackling bold projects. It built an NHL-sized ice skating rink and activity center (complete with a Zamboni) funded entirely from donations, it annually hosts a summer concert series and is constantly seeking ways to improve and advance life in Philipsburg. Other Rotary Club board members spearheading the effort include Ed Lord, former President of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board responsible for the famous “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” campaign in 1986, and Jim Jenner, a former Montana State Senator and documentary filmmaker who has filmed around the globe, traveling as far away as China, but always returning to his Philipsburg home.

“All of us involved in the project have our own love of Philipsburg and the Granite County area and would like to share that with like-minded people,” said Ed Lord. “We’d love to see Philipsburg bloom into its full potential as a town and felt the time was right to embark on a strategic media campaign. We’re confident that out in America there are families who would love to join the Philipsburg community. Our job is to let America know how much this town is loved by its residents.”

“Doing business here gets easier and easier,” said Jim Jenner, who moved his documentary production company to Philipsburg in 2003. “With high speed broadband I can share film data with support people anywhere. If I need something delivered, it’s a day away by UPS and we ship our DVDs worldwide using the local post office. I just wish I’d been able to start my company here in the 1970′s instead of on the West Coast. I would have gotten a lot more fishing in!”

It’s evident that Philipsburg, already a tourist destination, has a great opportunity to attract new permanent residents thanks the explosion of telework as more companies recognize its efficiency in terms of both cost and employee satisfaction. It has been projected that by 2020, 30% of all employees will be hired and work online (http://gigaom.com/2012/03/27/elance-predicts-the-future-of-online-work).

One Telework P-Burg Pioneer is Sarah Brabender who moved with her husband and three young children to Philipsburg eight years ago and remotely manages a team of medical transcribers who all work in different cities around the country. “I’m grateful to live in an era that gives me the freedom to live exactly where we choose,” says Sarah. “And Philipsburg is where we have chosen to raise our family. It’s a great place for our kids. Just in terms of the school, the teachers are dedicated to their jobs and the small class sizes mean my kids get complete attention instead of being just another number on the rolls.”

Most recently, Philipsburg has been garnering national attention thanks to a popular blog, www.theminimalists.com, which chronicles the efforts of two friends who have given up their corporate lives, exited the rat race and relocated to P-Burg. CBS, ABC, NBC, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today and Forbes have all covered their quest for a simpler life and an embrace of the truer, more human values that life in Philipsburg and Montana nurtures.

Philipsburg has already dipped its toe into the online waters thanks to VoteSmart.org, a highly influential nonpartisan political open-information site (“It’s so good that even the federal government recommends it” – The New York Times) based there. After researching 15 sites in seven states, the P-Burg location was chosen, as the VoteSmart website explains, for three key criteria that had to be met:
* Top technical infrastructure required – 26 miles of fiber optic T-1 lines were laid to support it
* Year-round access required
* The environment (fishing, kayaking, skiing) needed to offer strong incentive for the hundreds of unpaid college interns. “The location’s uniqueness and the recreational opportunities it provided would be the only reward most of them would ever receive.”

Interestingly, for all the simple living the town embraces, Philipsburg has also received media attention for the other end of the spectrum as well. For instance the nearby Ranch at Rock Creek was singled out as the #1 “Most Expensive Hotel in the U.S.” and Amazon.com’s Senior Vice President for Ecommerce, Brian Valentine, maintains his $20 million Angel’s Nest Ranch near Philipsburg, a philanthropic effort to provide respite and vacations for ill and recovering individuals and their families.

Mr. Valentine also made a personal contribution to Philipsburg by donating a state-of-the-art computer lab to Philipsburg Elementary / Granite High School. It’s in fact the oldest school in Montana, established in 1896, and offers small class sizes, dedicated teachers and college credit classes, putting it on par with many urban charter schools, a reassuring, if not motivating, fact for parents considering Philipsburg.

In fact, Philipsburg’s “can-do attitude” has been featured twice on NBC’s “Today Show” during Bob Dotson’s “American Stories” segment. As Dotson explained, “Time and again I find entire towns confronting problems with patience, love and a leveling sense of humor… Philipsburg, Montana, is a working-class town that gets things done the pioneer way – together.” (http://www.today.com/id/45585751/site/todayshow/ns/today-today_news/t/pioneer-spirit-keeps-town-giving-ghost)

The Wave, Grand Staircase National Monument

Published on by Katya LaRoche in the category Hiking | Leave a comment

The Wave is one of a few places in the area that you need a pass to visit. All 20 daily tickets are given away by lottery, 10 to people around the world for which there is hundreds entered every day and you have to wait months to even enter (when I looked the nearest lottery we could even enter was in October) and 10 local lottery tickets, where there is also usually a long line of people waiting outside the Escalante National Monument info center first thing in the morning. Kanab is the closest town the The Wave so lots of tourists are staying here in part to visit it. One morning, just before we were going to leave to go on another hike at the same trail head as The Wave, the RV Park landlord came to our door and told us to run to the Escalante office quick and pick up a somehow leftover pass from the day before. We headed straight over and hoped they were still there.
I walked in smiling and hopeful and asked the guy at the counter if there were still passes left, he looked at me like I was the dumbest, most “incapable of hiking the wave” person on the planet and said “yes” in a way that only a person who wants to crush all the excitement in the room can do. His attitude was so incredibly horrible I just let Ross take over at the risk of getting mad enough at the guy as to lose the passes completely…he kept asking Ross about our hiking experience and hinting that we we might not be good enough, maybe because we don’t dress in the tourist’s hiking uniform, maybe because we look younger than we are, whatever the problem was, it was unreasonable to treat us like inexperienced hikers knowing nothing at all about us. If he was concerned about us he didn’t present the questions as such, he just sounded rude and judgmental. We have everything we need for a long hike in the hot desert, we know when to turn back and we prove physically nearly every weekend that we can do the work so I was a little more than annoyed.
The pain of dealing with the grumpiest man in Kanab was worth it though, we showed up at the trail about 10am the next day, the hike was to be about 3 miles each way and temperatures were already in the high 80s and rising. We took about 6 liters of water, a subway sandwich, my digital camera and my big heavy film camera (film photos coming later). There was a lot of climbing on the way there, the worst part just before the wave where a 150 foot hill of loose sand seems to drag you backwards. We arrived just as a couple big groups of people were leaving so aside from one guy who passed us on the way in, there was just one other woman there. The place was immediately a sensory overload of texture and color. We found a good place to sit, eat, drink and recuperate before exploring the area. I must have walked another mile just wandering above and around the wave taking photos and we hung around for about an hour before heading back, trying to beat some storm clouds back to the parking area. It rained on us a little on the walk back and although the clouds offered shade, the heat wasn’t much lower – but the advantage of not having direct sun on us made a big difference. We passed a couple pools of water on the way back from previous rains, one filled with tadpoles and eggs that were somehow surviving in the shallow water in the 100+ temps. We took our time after we realized the rain had already caught us. I looked for patterns in the sandstone, rough trees and small animals to photograph and we made it back to the parking lot just before 1pm.
It wasn’t a difficult hike but the heat is what gets people not the hike. Just a few days earlier an elderly couple had died trying to make the hike on a 100 degree day and mid July, a 27 year old woman died. It’s not about ability, it’s about preparedness and knowing when to turn back, when to stay put and when to not push yourself too hard. I’m always reminded of a marathon runner who died hiking into the Grand Canyon. Her boyfriend and her had taken only 3 liters of water on a 15 mile (one way) hike, again temps above 100. When they ran out of water, the boyfriend decided to stay put but the girl decided to try to make it back to the top of the canyon with no water. Not to say we won’t get ourselves into a bad situation one day but I think knowing how serious the heat is and not trying to prove something to ourselves or anyone else is important I think. I wondered recently if the Lottery system for the wave was a good idea or was actually making people take unnecessary risks. The younger girl and her partner had waited months for their passes and the 9 mile dirt road to the trail head takes a lot longer than people might expect, making their “early hike” a little later than planned. I doubt many people would opt to not do the hike after waiting so long for these rare passes and might make the poor decision of hiking, knowing they’ll be returning in dangerous heat. I wonder what it will take for them to reconsider the method. I appreciate that they don’t want people trampling all over the wave day and night, but there must be another way.

Here’s some pics from the day! When I get my film back I’ll post some more!

Amsterdam: Festivity and History All Rolled into One

Published on by Katya LaRoche in the category travel | Leave a comment

534460078_12973fd64f_oIt is a backpacker’s ultimate dream to be able to hop from country to the other just on a whim. One interesting reason to head off and grab the nearest RV, car, or book a flight would be traveling to Amsterdam. During the 13th Century, this place was considered as a fishing village since it progressed through a dam located on the Amstel River. Because of its geographical location, Amsterdam was once tagged as Amstelledamme which literally translates to “Dam on the Amstel.” As progression rapidly arose, the Netherlands’ capital even had the famed Amsterdam Schiphol Airport established along with its own convenient parking facilities. Due to the huge volume of tourist traffic on the said airstrip, services such as Meet and Greet Parking, Short Stay On-Airport Parking, Long Stay On-Airport Parking, and even Long Stay Off-Airport Parking are offered. These services can also be acquired through websites such as www.parking4less.com. Convenience and affordability are two of the factors that travelers consider when going to Amsterdam because it is notoriously known for having skyrocketing parking fees. That’s why specialized parking facilities are the usual choice of travelers.

Street scene. A romantic couple by an Amsterdam Channel. The Netherlands

Queensday_2011_Amsterdam_25Considered as one of Europe’s most liberated capitals, Amsterdam showcases a plethora of attractions and events worth looking forward to. With a treasure trove of festivities such as the Amsterdam Gay Pride, Amsterdam Dance Festival which is the largest clubbing celebration in the world, Crossing Border which is meant for poets and musicians, Museum Night which makes every gallery and museum open until the wee hours, Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), and Oudejaarsavond (New Year’s Eve) among others. The lattermost mentioned event is regarded as one of the merriest since people flood the streets and celebrate with overflowing drinks and food. For trivia fanatics, one can head off to Van Gogh’s museum or to the 17th Century house by the canal called Prinsengracht 263. This quaint apartment is flocked by millions of people every year since it is where the revered biographical wunderkind Anne Frank hid with her family during the Jewish persecution and where she wrote the famous diary.

Fourth of July 2013 in Kanab Utah

Published on by Katya LaRoche in the category out and about | Leave a comment

We found a flyer somewhere recently about the Fourth of July activities in Kanab and decided, since we usually miss out on or don’t go to things like that in towns we visit, that we would instead participate. Luckily the parade wasn’t too early in the morning (or too late with how hot it gets). It started at 10 am, so we showed up about 10:15 and parked a couple blocks away, walking to the intersection where the participants joined the queue and walking quickly past them so we could stand and watch them pass by. After we walked a few more blocks, stopping occasionally to see if anything interesting was at risk of passing us by, we noticed the parade was doing a loop and we hadn’t missed a thing if we just looked at the other side of the road.

Floats and ATV’s were throwing candy, men in Uncle Sam outfits were passing out bead necklaces to entirely clothed women, spectators pelted participants with water balloons and several fire department vehicles, new and old, were spraying willing on lookers with fire hoses. It was actually a pretty great, much to my surprise. When trying to attend parades in places like Portland it was usually just a fight to see anything at all.

After the parade we stuck around the area, exploring an old mining cave, finding a really great balancing rock and walking around some sandy desert roads. We poked our heads into Best Friends Animal Society on our way to Kanab Canyon, to find out more about their tours and possibly volunteering while we’re in the area, then headed towards Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park again but.. once again.. got distracted by the surrounding beauty and just ended up hiking around in the desert again.

We came back to the trailer and planned to BBQ but instead just cooked inside and watched part of  Treasure Island, a 2012 2 part TV movie version with Elijah Wood, Eddy Izzard and Donad Sutherland (not sure how I missed that one).  After, we hiked up the hill behind the campground,near the big K over the town and watched the fireworks. They had the display at the City Park, next to a huge canyon and cliff wall. The delay in the sound for each firework was around 5 seconds and the light lit up the entire canyon.

fireworks

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