My Mountains Monday Memoirs: Healing Holidays Days 10 to 16

Well after starting NaBloMoPo15 yesterday with a mantra to write more meaningful and deeper posts I have lost my way already!  But it is Monday….so I will finish off My Mountains Monday Memoirs post from last week.  You won’t find anything deep in this post – just a recount of my healing holiday part 2 😉

(If you missed part 1, you can read about our first 9 days here)

Day 10.  Albuquerque (NM).  We thought we would be in Albuquerque as the worlds biggest hot air balloon festival would be going on because we found it difficult to find a campsite for that night.  But in reality we arrived about 2 hours too late.  The festival was over.  Booooo. Anyway, we headed off to the Petroglyph National Park (A petroglyph is a rock carved drawing) for a mini adventure.  We took a hike and viewed some incredible old rock carvings.  We tried to imagine what people were expressing when they carved them into the rock hundreds of years ago.  Here is one that looks like a stork carrying a baby – although it is actually a frog…but apparently the whole image may represent thankfulness for fertility or water.  Because, you know, these things are so similar (!??!! the sign told us this, I didn’t just make it up!).

The stork and the baby story originates from Europe so we know that this is meant to be a frog!

The stork and the baby story originates from Europe so we know that this is probably actually a frog!

We decided not to head into Albuquerque city centre but rather spend more time getting outdoors instead – at the petrified forest.

Day 11.  Petrified Forest, AZ.  We took a spectacular hike into the wilderness – i.e. there was no path.  You had to ask the park ranger for the ‘special’ instructions to do this hike.  So armed with the ‘map’, instructions and a compass (my iPhone because we forgot to bring ours!) we headed out into the wilderness to look for a giant petrified log that crossed a wash (a temporary river when it rains).

A 'wash' in the petrified forest wilderness

A ‘wash’ in the petrified forest wilderness – no paths to follow here!

I felt in my element here.  I was sooo happy.  No one else around.  No sounds of vehicles, very little wildlife except for lizards and ravens.

A lizard on a piece of petrified wood

A lizard on a piece of petrified wood

The petrified logs were incredible.  I had never seen anything like it.

Petrified wood in a valley

Petrified wood in a valley

It is very tempting to just pick up a piece of petrified wood and put it in your pocket, but of course that is illegal so we didn’t!

The different colours are caused by different minerals the wood absorbed a few million years ago

The different colours are caused by different minerals the wood absorbed a few million years ago

There was so much wood lying around, especially from the giant logs I could really imagine what the forest would once have looked millions of years ago when the dinosaurs roamed.  Now just a desert.  Apparently this is the most ‘driven’ through National Park in the US.  If you ever head this way, don’t just drive through it….get out and see it!  There are many natural surprises that lay hidden throughout the park.

Day 12.  Grand Canyon, South Rim, AZ.  This time around we had planned to arrive in the Grand Canyon in style by taking the Grand Canyon train!  Although, this did mean we only had 3 hours actually at the Canyon.  We managed just 3 miles of hiking, the canyon was cruelly teasing us.  BUT! this time we got to see the canyon in its finest.  Not a cloud in sight.  Once we escaped the crowds I was a happy bunny.

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For the return trip on the train we bought luxury parlour class tickets – it was fantastic!  A bit of a treat to ourselves because quite honestly it is a bit of a frivolity.  Our tickets gave us full roaming of the train, including the back porch of the train.  It was very cool being able to stand outside as the train was clickety-clacking along through the national park with the sunsetting.  By the way, at no point do you get to see the canyon from the train (the pictures on the website are totally misleading), but it was still a wonderful journey.  Our train was ‘robbed’ on the way back by cowboys – quite an amusing little bit of entertainment.

A wild west train robbery in action

A wild west train robbery in action – apparently a pretty casual affair.

To end the day we went back to our campsite to finish off with a little bit of relaxing Jacuzzi action.  Spoilt rotten.

Day 13.  Lake Mead and Hoover Dam (NV & AZ).  Mostly a day for driving, but at the end of the day we ended up at the Hoover dam.  Wow, I learned a lot about this dam!  We took the ‘full works’ tour of the dam and got to go inside the actual concrete dam itself.  An incredible piece of engineering.  I can understand why it is one of the seven engineering wonders of the world.

Hoover Dam - One of the 7 engineering wonders of the world

Hoover Dam – One of the 7 engineering wonders of the world

We ended up at Lake mead RV park with an amazing lakeside view.  Sadly this was our last night in Trippy 😦

Lake Mead Camping

Lake Mead Camping

Day 14 & 15.  Las Vegas baby! (NV).  We handed Trippy back first thing in the morning and took a taxi to our hotel, the SLS.  I had some Hilton points to use that I have collected over the last year so this was definitely a treat of a hotel.  By the way, it was sooooo good to be in a real bed!!!

We gambled a little on the slot machines and learned how to play ultimate poker (where you play poker against the dealer only).  We didn’t win big.  But Chris did win 2 half dollar coins with 2 flushes, which we will keep and not be spending!!  Half dollar coins are not commonly used any more, but it is possible to get half dollar coins to collect.  Unfortunately, neither of them were the Kennedy half dollar coins that are worth something.  But hey, it’s a novelty!

Our total sum winnings in Vegas...2 half dollar coins

Our total sum winnings in Vegas…2 half dollar coins

We decided to be a bit different and went to the mob museum…you could even buy a beer to take around the exhibits with you!  This was followed by a seafood buffet at the Freemont Casino.  It was totally over-the-top with Vegas cheese, but we decided to go cheap rather than fancy because we thought it would be a waste of money spending money on a buffet when we are not big eaters.  Chris was surprised at how much food I actually did pack away!  We were both ill with funny tummies almost immediately afterwards, not because of food poisoning, just from the sheer amount we ate!  We are clearly not well trained in buffet eating.

We treated ourselves to a dinner and show package.  We chose to see ‘Absinthe’ at Caesars Palace – a variety show in a small intimate circus tent (there were only 10 rows of people!).  It was comedy mixed with erotica, show dance girls and circus acts.  There was something for everyone!  It was excellent entertainment– not for the faint hearted or the straight laced!  There was absolutely no political correctness here!

All in all, Vegas was highly entertaining, but I don’t think I could spend more than 2 nights there.

Day 16.  Time to fly home.  Reflecting upon our epic adventure, it made me realise that there is definitely a whole lot of America we have yet to see and experience.  But most importantly, I came home refreshed and ready for whatever life wants to throw at me back in the real ‘non-vacay’ world.

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Bye Bye Grand Canyon! ’til we meet again…

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My Mountains Monday Memoirs: Healing Holidays Days 1 to 9

This is actually a very recent memory!  But there there were lots of mountains in this holiday and we pretty much remained at altitude as we spent the majority of it on the Colarado Plateau. So here we go….!

This holiday was never meant to be a healing holiday.  We had been planning this road trip for almost a year, we even delayed it from May to October because of the infertility treatment.  But we decided to bite the bullet and book it for whatever stage we were at.  We were cautious and kept things less adventurous and a little more comfortable just in case I was anywhere up to 5 months pregnant.  We didn’t imagine that we would be leaving for this holiday with a cloud of sadness over our heads.  But yet despite the sadness, this holiday came at a great time.  It has been a chance to reset and refocus.  I know not everyone can afford to take the time off work or even have the money to travel afar, but I highly recommend getting away somewhere, switching the phones off and avoiding the rest of the world to help heal the mind.

This road trip was always planned to be epic.  And it sure was!  Here is a brief run down of our adventure:

Day 1: Excitement sets in (NV).  Finished work early (Friday)!  Fly to Las Vegas, arrived late and stayed at nearby airport hotel.  Teased by the sights and sounds of Vegas!!!  There are even slot machines in the airport baggage terminal.  Do people really get that addicted?

Day 2: Trippy & Valley of Fire State Park (AZ).  Picked up our rental campervan – AKA Trippy!  Can you guess why we called her Trippy??!

This was our 'cosy' home for the last two weeks - AKA Trippy.

This was our ‘cosy’ home for our holiday AKA Trippy.

We were upgraded from the small campervan we originally booked – woohoo! When I say upgrade – I mean we got an extra two feet of storage space!  Which we were grateful for.  Trippy had a table and chairs in the back that converted into a queen size bed and took up the whole width of the van.  Cosy.  In the boot (trunk), Trippy had a sink, mini refrigerator and gas burner.  All that was left to do was sign our lives away on a dotted line and Trippy was ours for 13 days.  We were off to our first stop – the Valley of Fire.  It truly was like the valley had been set on fire, the rock was a beautiful orange/red in the midst of a green flat plateau.

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Over looking the valley of fire

Day 3:  Zion National Park (UT).  Change of time zone.  Travelling five states in 2 weeks that are in different time zones soon became confusing!

We hiked up Angel’s Landing – a challenging climb if you were to have vertigo.

We hiked and scrambled to the top of Angel's landing

We hiked and scrambled to the top of Angel’s landing

Some people turned around as their fear got the better of them.  Chris and I on the other hand love this kind of hike/scramble.  It is easy to tell why this park was called Zion.

If you have vertigo this is not a great hike for you!

If you have vertigo this is not a great hike for you!

The view from the top of Angel's landing

The view from the top of Angel’s landing

Day 4: Bryce Canyon (UT).  The weather turned and the rain came in.  Our first disappointment came when we got the phone call from the horse riding tour company that they had to cancel the pony trek.  We were gutted because this is something on our bucket list!  It is also not a good idea to be in the lower rim of the canyon due to the high risk of flash floods, so we didn’t hike too far down into the canyon either.

Bryce canyon and the Hoo Doos

Bryce canyon and the Hoo Doos

According to the native Americans the ‘hoodoos’ formed when a tribe who did bad things were turned into stone by Coyote.  We don’t know the exact story because the story can only be told during winter time (according to tradition – the park upholds this out of respect for the tradition) – we will just have to go back some day in the winter to find out!  Despite the disappointments it was one of the most unique and spectacular places I have ever been to.

Day 5: Grand Canyon North Rim (AZ).  The rain followed us, and the clouds too.  Our first sneak peak of the Grand Canyon was somewhat disappointing.

A view of Angel's point on the North Rim - it was pretty cloudy. There was a whole canyon hiding behind this!

A view of Angel’s point on the North Rim – it was pretty cloudy. There was a whole canyon hiding behind this!

We were teased by little breaks in the clouds, but we could not get an impression of its greatness.  We waited for three hours at one of the view points for the clouds to break.  All of a sudden there was sunshine and we ran to the view point!  It wasn’t completely clear, but we could see a bit further down in to the canyon.

Chris got a great shot with the canyon in the clouds

Chris got a great shot with the canyon in the clouds

So we gave up and checked into the campsite.  This was when I got the phone call from my clinic telling me I should be having weekly blood tests.  I felt a bit emotional after this call because it was the first time in days that I had really thought about what the future 9 months wasn’t going to be.

As there was a bar at the Canyon lodge we decided to hike the 1.5 miles from the campsite to the bar just as the sun was setting.  As we reached the lodge, we were blessed with the most incredible sunset as the clouds dissipated!  It was truly magical – great things come to those who wait came into mind!

Finally! This is what the Grand Canyon looks like!

Finally! This is what the Grand Canyon looks like!

After our first alcoholic beverage of the holiday – and my first drink in months we hiked in the dark back to Trippy.  Chris took some wonderful starlight photos from across the canyon.   Just as we made it back it started to tip it down with rain.  What an incredible day – full of highs and lows in emotions.

Day 6.  Horse Shoe Bend & the Antelope Slot Canyons (AZ).  Wow.  The drive from the Grand Canyon to Page, Arizona, was spectacular!  Along the way we stopped at the Colorado River Horse Shoe Bend.  It was busy with tourists, but we were able to sit down for about 30 minutes whilst we waited for the shadows to move out for Chris’s photoshoot he wanted to get.  We sat and people watched.  So many people literally took a picture and headed back to their car.  It made me sad that this amazing feat of nature was not really taken in for all it’s incredible glory.  But hey.  We can’t all be nature lovers right?!

Horse Shoe Bend in all its glorious colours

Horse Shoe Bend in all its glorious colours

Following the incredible drive we arrived at Page where we had booked a Native American tour guide into the Antelope Canyons.  The canyon itself was impressive.  We were hearded through quickly like sheep.  Our tour guide was informative, but the crowds made me sick.  Apparently there are many other slot canyons like this in the Native American reservations but this was only one of two open to the public…and it is incredibly popular, apparently over the last year or so business has been booming because of the internet.  It’s great that so many people want to appreciate it, but I worry about the conservation of it.

Chris took some beautiful shots of the formations

Chris took some beautiful shots of the formations

it's a guitar....

it’s a guitar….

Day 7.  Four Corners and Monument Valley (AZ, UT, CO & NM).  We spent most of the day on the road, but managed to stop at the four corners monument…

One limb in each of the four states - CO, UT, NM & AZ

One limb in each of the four states – CO, UT, NM & AZ

…put all four limbs in each state all at the same time!   We also visited Monument Valley which is where a lot of wild west movies have been filmed.  It was truly an outstanding park.

Monument valley - everything image you had of a wild western was shaped by this landscape

Monument valley – everything image you had of a wild western was shaped by this landscape

Sadly there was not enough time to do a hike to one of the ‘monument rocks’ and we couldn’t drive.

Day 8.  Mesa Verde National Park (CO).  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.  We managed to shake off the crowds, Mesa Verde was a lot quieter, there were no coach tours bugging me (I am completely selfish when it comes to enjoying nature – I want to enjoy it in peace and quiet without Japanese and Korean tourists shouting and selfy-ing everywhere I looked).  A lot of Mesa Verde had closed for the season, but we did get a tour round one of the more ‘adventurously located’ settlements of the cliff dwellers.  What struck me as really odd was that what we were looking at were rock dwellings that seemed to be from thousands of years ago.  But in reality, they were only 800 years old…it was amazing to compare the dwellings in Europe at that time and how different life was for the Puebloans (what I mean is how undeveloped they seemed compared to Europe).

Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde

Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde

Our tour around one cliff dwelling was a little 'adventurous' I was super impressed to see an 87 yr old lady climb this ladder successfully! Go Girl!

Our tour around one cliff dwelling was a little ‘adventurous’ I was super impressed to see an 87 yr old lady climb this ladder successfully! Go Girl!

We hung around the park to have dinner in our campervan and watched the sunset over the mountains.  Chris took some more amazing starlight pics.

Trippy under the star light at Mesa Verde

Trippy under the star light at Mesa Verde

Day 9.  Santa Fe (NM).  We weren’t really sure what there was to do in Santa Fe, we had a walking tour planned and knew we wanted to try some New Mexico cuisine.  We were surprised at the incredible art galleries here.  We also saw America’s ‘oldest church and building’ (considering we had just come from mesa Verde I am not sure they could claim the oldest building title).  I chose a mexican restaurant and was excited to be eating Mexican food that was actually spicy!  Where we live in Virginia the Mexican food has little spice to it and is covered in cheese – more Tex-Mex than Mexican.  So it was a real treat, and poor Chris ate it despite his ‘sweating’ from the spice.

America's oldest Bell in the Oldest Church - with whole bunch of Milagros (representing miracles) pinned into the wood

America’s oldest Bell in the Oldest Church – with whole bunch of Milagros (representing miracles) pinned into the wood

How lucky are we? Just 9 days in and it was already epic!   Days 10-16 to come next  week!

Mountain Lesson #8: Enjoy the journey.  Sure the infertility journey can be a long one, but sometimes you need to take a little diversionary break to feel the power of mother nature and help lift your mood to higher states of happiness.  Take a breath, take a rest, soak up the sun – let the beauty of the mountains reset you.

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Home Sweet Home!

The cats are alive and well.  The house survived the storms and is generally still in one piece (apart from a few gross piles of hairball vomit and one chewed up oven mitt).  The suitcases are unpacked.  We are surrounded by piles of stinky washing.  But there is nothing better than the feeling of climbing into your own bed after two weeks of being on the dusty road, cramped up, sleeping in a camper van!! (Albeit a wickedly amazing campervan)

This was our 'cosy' home for the last two weeks - AKA Trippy.

This was our ‘cosy’ home for the last two weeks – AKA Trippy.

Home sweet home feels great right now!!

Our 2200 mile road trip is sadly over and I have much catching up to do.  Apparently a lot happens in 2 weeks when one has stepped away from the internet and phones!

I am absolutely stoked to be back blogging again after my long 2 week break.  I have had a lot of thoughts running around my head because, well, I have had a lot of time to think!  Most days we were hiking somewhere, occasionally in the ‘wilderness’, so there was plenty of opportunity to go off into my thoughts in the deep, dark, corners of my brain…and of course there was also ample opportunity for Chris and I to talk about some of the deeper and meaningful things in life.

There was the odd occasion when it was just the two of us for miles alone.

There was the odd occasion when it was just the two of us for miles alone.

So with all that time ‘alone’, I have some future blog posts in mind I will be writing over the next few weeks…

1. A discovery – How far Chris and I are both willing to go with fertility treatment

2.  The future size of our family

3. Pregnancy and Infant loss awareness month & the wave of light (I missed the wave on the 15th October as we were camped out somewhere in the desert, but Chris and I had a long discussion about it) 😦

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4. Recognising the signs and symptoms of depression

5. What are we gambling? (inspired by our stay in Las Vegas!)

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Our grand total winnings from the Ultimate Poker Table – 2 x Half Dollar Coins

6.  An introduction to Dib Dab – our traveling cat

Dib Dab at Bryce Canyon

Dib Dab at Bryce Canyon

Dib Dab at Mesa Verde

Dib Dab at Mesa Verde

Our holiday was just what the doctor ordered (Well not what my doctor ordered, who actually wanted me back at home for weekly beta blood tests!! Ha!).

Tomorrow I am back in the thick of work, as well as hopefully my last beta blood test (fingers crossed it is 0 now) 🙂  Also there is some catching up to do on reading some other wonderful blogs!  I’m hoping to read some good news !!!