Tag Archives: hiking

Cape Perpetua

Oregon’s Central Coast

Wow, what a day! The coastline here is spectacular. We ended up spending the entire day within about 10 miles of where we started this morning.



It began with complimentary breakfast at our hotel. We’ve eaten those standard, boring breakfasts many times, so it came as a shock to find a chef making personalized omelets, among other things . . . at a Best Western!



Once we got on the road, we came across a little place called Bob Creek Wayside, so we had to stop, of course.

It was a beautiful little beach, and it’s where Bob Creek emptied into the ocean.

Another short drive down the road took us to Cape Perpetua. What a place! It’s a feast for the senses. We ended up spending the rest of the day exploring this mile of coastline. Here’s an overview of what we saw:


From the visitor’s center (it’s the building just off the road in the middle of the picture), we hiked about a mile to what’s marked as “Devil’s Horn” on the photo. It’s actually called Spouting Horn, but I obviously had a mental lapse when I labeled the photo! ¬†It’s hard to see the trails in the picture, but it was quite a hike. We also spend some time watching Thor’s Well fill, over flow violently, then fill again. I’m going to add a video I took of the waves crashing up the 20-30 foot chasms in the rocks. The water rushed in and exploded upward when it hit the top of the chasms. This area is labeled in green on the photo.

Since it was still high tide, we headed over the Devil’s Churn. There, the chasm is bigger and the amount of water swirling into it is enormous. I don’t think any of my pictures adequately convey the enormity of it all.

Here are the picture that go with all these places:


A view of the tide pools from the trail that lead to Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well.


A view of the trail. It was like this from the visitor’s center to the tunnel under the roadway. After that, it was all coastal views.


The CCC did quite a bit of work in this area in the 1930s. This is the site of one of camps. It’s overgrown with trees and dense vegetation now, but back then it was a camp with many buildings. Here’s the foundation for one of the bunkhouses.


One of the chasms several chasms we saw along the way.


More of the trail.


Here’s what happens in the chasms at high tide–the waves rush in and explode upward when they hit the top.


Here, the wave is breaking agains the top of the chasm, but it is also flowing into a small cave under the water level and exploding upward through a hole in the rock. This is Spouting Horn.


Another view of Spouting Horn.


Some selfies work better than others. ūüôā


More of the trails that lead to all these various places. Many of them date back to the work of the CCC in the 1930s.


This is the entrance to Devil’s Churn, the biggest chasm.


An aerial view of Devil’s Churn. You can see the trail that leads down to it. It was pretty steep.

IMG_4619We also went to the view point at the top of the cliffs. At 800 feet above sea level, it’s the highest point on the Oregon coast. (It’s where I took the pictures with the arrows explaining where everything is.) There we found an old stone cabin left the by the CCC. While there, we looked down into the ocean and saw a gray whale and her calf. They looked so much tinier than I expected. Mama is usually about 45 feet long, and the calf was 20 feet when it was born. I’ll put up a video I took of them surfacing in the waves.

For lunch, we headed into Yachts (pronounced Ya-HOTS) and found the Driftwood Inn. I have to say, we’ve found some interesting food on this trip, including this lunch. I ordered Pad Thai and instead of the peanut-flavored goodness I expected, the flavoring was coconut based. It was so different and incredibly delicious.


The other night in Coos Bay we ate at the Blue Heron, a German restaurant that also specialize in seafood. Bob and I split the Beef Stroganoff and it was so refreshingly different. Normally that dish is pretty heavy, and so was this one, but it was flavored with lemon which made it lighter. Really, really good.

Okay, back to the day. After lunch we explored the tide pools. The rocks were very rough and difficult to walk on, so we didn’t get far. I hoped to see sea urchins and starfish, but we had to settle for tiny crabs, tadpoles, and lots of algae and sea weed.


It’s hard to see, but these rocks are killer to walk on. Too uneven and rough to find a foot hold.

Overall today, our Apple devices tell us we walked about 4.5 miles and the equivalent of 37 floors of climbing. We’ve been hitting our 10,000 steps almost every day of this vacation, so far.

Finally, it was time to head to our hotel for the night–the B&B at the lightkeeper’s cottage at Heceta Lighthouse. It was an interesting experience but I’ll tell you all about it in tomorrow’s post. ūüôā


Sea Lions, Elk, and Killer Hiking

Oregon’s Central Coast

Today was an interesting mix of large wild animals. We started at the ¬†Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area where we saw at least 45 elk–mostly males–enjoying breakfast in a meadow. At this time of year, the males and females are usually separated, probably because the females will give birth in June. ¬†We only saw a couple females, and those were at quite a distance from the males.

Overall, the elk were spectacular and it only go better when a bus load of about 60 third-graders arrived. They were so excited, it was contagious.

From there, we headed to the Umpaqua Lighthouse State Park, which was kind of a bust. It has a whale watching station, but at this time of year, only about two are spotted every hour. Not much to see.

Our next stop was the Oregon Dunes Overlook. The sand dunes are enormous, sometimes drifting to 600 feet. They are the result of the erosion of the Cascade Mountains.  The cover miles of coastline in this area of Oregon.

We found a mile-long trail that led from the forest, over the sand dunes, and through the shoreline forest, ending on the beach. It was a killer. The sand was so soft and each step was work! Add in the elevation change and the ever-present mosquitoes, and you have two very tired hikers! The whole way to the beach I couldn’t get the song out of my head–“I keep on hopin’ there’ll be cake by the ocean. Aye yi yi¬†yi yi yi!” There wasn’t, but the view made up for it. ūüôā

We ended our day at the Sea Lion Cave. It’s the largest natural sea cave in the US and its the permanent home to hundreds of sea lions. They are enormous (females weigh 700 pounds, males can be a ton, and the babies are 50 pounds when they’re born!) and they are stinky! ¬†We were several hundred yards away but he stench hung in the air.

They were also incredibly noisy. They sounded like the creatures in a Star Wars movie. Sort of a cross between a Wookie, a tauntaun . . . and extreme intestinal distress. I’ll add a video so you can hear for yourself! In the mean time, here are the pictures:


These are Roosevelt Elk and they’re Oregon’s biggest land animal.


We counted 45 in the meadow. The brochure indicated there are at least 140 in the heard. Since most of these were males, that’s probable true!


I took this from the view platform above the Oregon Sand Dunes. We walked down the cliff side, across the dune you see here, through the forest in the distance, and finally found the beach. In this picture, you can see the waves breaking.


I found this lonely foxglove along the way. It was the only one I saw all day.


Here’s Bob heading down the side of the cliff. This is where we were just starting to find sand on the trail. Believe me, we found PLENTY!


It’s deceptive how big the sandy section is. It’s at least 200 yards. The hardest part was going over the swells. Uphill was brutal.


We finally made it to the beach! Almost no one else was there–big surprise, considering how hard it was to get there. It was beautiful, pristine, and incredibly noisy. The wind and waves were thunderous.


Again, the picture us deceptive. This was a steep hill down to the beach. Going down was slippery, going up in that soft sand was a challenge.


Lots of enormous drift wood on the beach.



The viewing platform where we started is just to the left of the top of the sand. This was taken at the top of the sand hill that lead to the beach. It gives you an idea of how far we had to go back.


Here are a couple shots to show the trail along the way. In places the sand was so soft it was like walking in snow.



Sea Lions! Look closely, there are tons of them.





The coast is also a rookery for many sea birds. Here are some black cormorants. (They’re the black dots on the white rocks.)


We took an elevator down 20 floors, through solid rock, to the sea cave. This is one of the views out of that cave–Heceta Lighthouse is in the distance.


Another view of the coastline.


Toketee Falls

Along the way from Crater Lake to the Oregon Coast, we stopped for a short hike to Toketee Falls. The falls were great, but the half mile hike to the Falls was my favorite part.

To begin with, there was an old irrigation project that consisted of a pipeline made entirely of redwood. It ran right through the parking lot like a giant caterpillar. It was completed in 1949 and still carries water to generators that produce electricity for more than 50,000 homes. It was pretty cool looking.

Once we left the parking area and stepped onto the trail, it was like entering a different world. The vegetation was lush and full of ferns and giant plants. It felt¬†medieval. Also, the trees were enormous! ¬†I took a short video to try and show the height of the trees and if I can figure out how, I’ll post it.

Another wonderful thing about the trail is it was full of steps. Some were carved into the rock, other were dirt, still others were man-made. The entire trail went up and down, up and down, so you never knew if the next section was a climb up or a descent. It drove Bob nuts that the number of steps up weren’t equal to the number of steps down. ūüôā ¬†all i know is it made the hike interesting, fun, and really scenic.

Here are some of the pictures:



One of the man-made stairs.


The trees were enormous.


Here’s an idea of how big they were around.


The fuzzy caterpillar of an¬†aqueduct.¬†It’s made of redwood and it’s about 25 feet in diameter.


Saw this at the ranger station.


Carmel to Big Sur

We spent several days in a B&B in Carmel by the Sea, just south of the Monterey Peninsula. ¬†It’s a charming place, full of cottages and gardens in idyllic nooks and crannies. The beach was fabulous, and dogs accompanied almost every local everywhere they went. We loved walking on the beach in the morning and watching all the local pooches run, chase each other, and literally frolic in the surf. You’d be hard pressed to find happier dogs. Life is good.

However, I won’t miss the oppressive traffic everywhere we went, the difficult parking and the lack of sidewalks which make walking hazardous.

Despite all that, the scenery is spectacular and well worth a visit. We drove from Carmel to Big Sur, about 30 miles to the south. We stopped many times along the way, including at Point Lobos State Reserve. There’s no way to describe the beauty, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. I took dozens, and I had a very hard time paring it down to the ones below. ¬†I blame it on the abundance of wildflowers : )

We’ll start with Point Lobos. It’s a relatively small area, but it has several trails and Bob and I covered most of them over a couple of days. I probably walked about ten miles all over this park.


Point Lobos is on a small peninsula, so three sides jut into the ocean. Here you can see the fog (not smoke!) rolling off the land and out to see.


Anther view of the small bay.


The wildflowers were stunning. Yellow seemed the dominant color, but there were also purples, oranges, pinks, and reds.


If you look closely, you’ll see a number of harbor seals.



More of the fog.


And a close up.




Here we are ūüôā



More from Point Lobos.


Remember those happy California Cows from the commercials? Here’s where they live. On the Big Sur coast!


There were several places to stop and explore the coastline on the drive to Big Sur. Here’s an idea of what some of it looked like. The problem was always the parking. We often parked a quarter to half a mile away on the side of the highway. The walking was treacherous, but there were tons of people doing it and the traffic could only move about 25 mph.


Here are some of those orange wildflowers.



The coastline was stunning.


So were the wildflowers!


This is us at Julie’s wedding ūüôā


Here we are with the Garcia’s and the father of the bride!


These next pictures are from the second day we spent at Point Lobos. Some of the rocks have the craziest patterns in them.


This whole bay intrigued us. The rock and the erosion made us feel like we were in an amphitheater honoring the ocean. In the crevices were tide pools full of interesting critters.


Maybe I’m dense, but I’ve never thought about where blackberries come from. Here’s the life cycle of a blackberry in a single photo!


I love the color! It makes me crave apricots. ūüôā



This is a bit of an illusion. The seagull is on the mainland, the nesting birds in the background are on Bird Island.


Us again!


I loved these strange little red-stalked things. Kinda felt like they were alien plants.


Look close! There are at least ten harbor seals on that little island!


We’re finally home in Las Vegas, but I have to finish catching you up on the rest of our trip. ¬†The hotel in Madrid had horrendous wifi (pronounced weefee in Spain) and it was much easier to just go to the Starbucks down the street. ¬†However, even that had its limitations. ¬†Sorry for the delay!

On our last day in Barcelona, we traveled to Montserrat, a 1000 year old monastery with quite a history.  Currently, monks still live there and they run a school for musically gifted boys between ages 9 and 14.  The boys choir there rivals the one in Vienna and its about 700 years old!  We got to hear them practice and they were adorable.

We also enjoyed the beautiful, peaceful setting. ¬†Even though it was overrun with tourists, the monastery maintained a tranquil air that was so soothing. ¬†We’d been traveling so long, the peace was very welcome.

When we arrived, the lower half of the mountain was covered by clouds.  Not only was it beautiful, but it made me feel like we were hovering above the Earth, just hanging in space.  It added a lot to the peaceful atmosphere.  As always, pictures are the best way to see it.


See what I mean? ¬†I took these from the deck of the visitor’s center.


This is the view of the monastery itself.  I took it from the same spot as the first photo.




Some more of the scenery.



Here we are!  In the second photo, you can see the funicular that run to the top of the mountain.  There is another that goes all the way down to the town at the bottom.


This is the dormitory where the monks and the school kids live. ¬†From what I understand, the school is all-year-round and the boys often travel the world for their signing engagements. ¬†In addition to singing, each student has to become proficient playing the piano and one other instrument while he’s here.


This is the church. ¬†It’s been rebuilt and renovated over the centuries. ¬†Currently, it is the home of the world-famous “Black Madonna” which is a wooden madonna that is mostly covered in gold. ¬†She’s called the Black Madonna because her face and hands were the only exposed wood. ¬†Sometime before the 15th century, they put something on the exposed wood to preserve it and it turned them black. ¬†So, she’s the Black Madonna. ¬†We could have waited in line about an hour to walk past and touch part of her, but we decided not to. ¬†There were too many other things to see.



This is what the buildings look like.  It was very neat, clean, and well kept.


One of the things we did was follow the trail around the mountain for a ways.  It was well-developed and very pretty.


See that building in distance behind and just to the right of the one with the red roof? ¬†That’s the visitor center where I took the first pictures I showed you, above.


We found St. Francis on the way.



The clouds finally burned off in the early afternoon so we could see the valley floor.


It’s hard to see, but there’s a sculpture in front of the building.


When I zoomed in, we could see the people climbing it.  : )


One last view before we left. ¬†I should mention there was a farmer’s market going on so we bought some nuts, cheese and sweet bread which we ate for dinner with our left-over wine for dinner. ¬†Yum!



On the way home, we stopped at Codorniu where they make cava, the Spanish version of champagne. ¬†I was surprised at how complicated a process it is. ¬†It involves yeast, added sugar, and fermenting in concrete and steel barrels that can hold hundreds of gallons of wine. At some point, the wine is bottled and allowed to ferment again. ¬†To remove all the yeast and sediments, they let it all settle into the neck of the bottle where it’s flash frozen and removed. ¬†Then the sparkling wine is ready to sell. ¬†Since it’s not made in the Champagne region of France, they can’t call it champagne. ¬†Instead, the Spanish version is collectively called “cava.”


An interesting thing about Codorniu is it’s the oldest continually run family business in Spain and the 17th oldest in the world. ¬†This family has been making wine and/or cava since the 1500s. ¬†The family is now about 500 members and none of them live on the winery anymore. ¬†However, about 100 years ago, an ancestor hired architects trained by Gaudi to design some new buildings and the results are really beautiful. ¬†Above is the inside and outside of the main guest receiving building.


This is the house some of the family lived in until the 1980s.  Everything is very well maintained and the landscaping was beautiful.



This is one of the older fermenting buildings. ¬†It’s no longer used for making wine, now its the museum and a popular place to have formal affairs like weddings. ¬†The squares on top of the building are full of stained glass windows made from broken wine bottles.


Of course, there was some tasting, as well!

Here’s my original post:

AAARRRGGHH! No internet in Madrid, so I can’t update the blog. ¬†But I promise as soon as we’re home in Vegas, probably on Tuesday or Wednesday, I’ll bring everything up to date. That includes our time spent in Madrid, which is a beautiful city, by the way. ¬†I like it very much. ¬†I think I like it even more than many of the cities in Italy. ¬†Today we spent a rainy afternoon at the Prado and it was wonderful. ¬†Tonight, we’re meeting Abby for dinner at 9 p.m. which is on the early side for dinner in Spain. ¬†Yesterday when we were walking around the neighborhood with her, she mentioned that everything was a little busy right then (7 p.m.) because school had just gotten out!!! More later, I promise!!! Angie

Pompeii and Vesuvius

Today was the whirlwind tour of Pompeii and Vesuvius. ¬†I’ve wanted to visit Pompeii since I was a kid, so I was excited about this tour. ¬†Unfortunately, it was a little disappointing because I didn’t know that most of the relics and elaborate wall frescoes found in the homes and public buildings were moved to a museum in Naples. ¬†I wish the museum had been near the Pompeii site so we could have visited both. ¬†So, a word of advice, if you’re interested in visiting Pompeii, plan some time in Naples to visit the museum, too.

Pompeii was a port city of about 18,000 people when Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. Many people escaped the city when the mountain started erupting, but not all. ¬†Most of those who died were asphyxiated by the gasses from the volcano. ¬†Many people were overcome in their homes or on the street trying to escape. ¬†When they died, they were quickly covered by falling ash (about 14 feet of the stuff fell in a matter of hours, with much more to come). ¬†Over time, their bodies deteriorated naturally, but the original space they occupied was preserved by the ash. ¬†Archeologists poured plaster into these holes and made casts of each person’s original shape. ¬†Some are quite moving and I have several pictures below.

As for the city itself today, there are parts that are very well preserved, especially the wall frescoes and the floor decorations.  Most of the buildings are just walls with no roof, but many, many clues exist to tell us quite a bit about the lives of the people who lived here.

For example, there were 13 different laundries and there were over 100 fast food restaurants. ¬†Apparently, Pompeii was a big “take away” city. ¬†This was probably because of all the soldiers in port and the fact that many of the poorer homes didn’t have kitchen facilities. ¬†There are also signs supporting candidates for the upcoming election and, my favorite, the “Cave Canem” sign: ¬†Beware of Dog.

As for Vesuvius, its a volcano. ¬†We’ve seen several over the years, and while they sound really interesting, the crater of a volcano is pretty boring. ¬†However, climbing to the top was quite an adventure and the views were spectacular. ¬†I’m pretty sure the entrance to the trail was run by the mafia. ¬†Take a look at the pictures below and I’ll tell you the story.


This is a view of Naples from the beginning of the trail leading to the top of Vesuvius.


The mountain has erupted many times and was actually 3 times taller in 79 A.D. when the eruption that ended Pompeii happened.  It is an unpredictable volcano because sometimes when it erupts, it is mostly ash, like when Pompeii was destroyed.  Other times, it spews lava.  No one knows what to expect.

In the picture above, you can see that trail to the top is actually inside the crater of an older eruption.  The jagged peaks in the distance are really the craggy rim of the crater.  The part that looks like a landing strip at the foot of those crags is an old lava flow.



The trail up was probably about ¬ĺ a mile, but it was very steep. ¬†I needed many stops to catch my breath. ¬†I had to admire the couple above who braved the climb with their portable oxygen.

DSC00697 DSC00705

See what I mean?  The crater of a volcano is surprisingly boring.  Little to no vegetation, no interesting colors, not usually any interesting shape.  Kinda boring.  In this case, the sheer cliff walls were a little interesting.  Unfortunately, it was so windy at the top, it was hard to even stand.


Okay, here’s the ticket booth. ¬†It’s a terrible picture, but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. ¬†The entrance to the trail to the top was blocked and all traffic was diverted through this little shack. ¬†Inside was a guy in really nice clothes sitting at a picnic table. In front of him were large stacks of Euros just piled on the table. ¬†He didn’t have a cash register and there were no receipts or tickets. Beside him were two really big, middle-aged, enforcer types who never said a word and looked sullen and intimidating. ¬†It was like these guys threw up some flimsy barricades and just took over the trail entrance and demanded payment.

We asked the tour guide about it later and she said we were right, it is mafia run, but at least they have a “license” from the government to do so. ¬†However, the license doesn’t require them to pay any of the proceeds back to the government and it doesn’t require them to improve the property in any way. ¬†It’s 100% profit. Hmmm . . .


I included this picture because we’ve seen a few stray cats and dogs everywhere we’ve visited. ¬†This guy was enjoying a good nap. ¬†I asked Aldo about it yesterday and he said the strays are looked after by everyone and treated with affection. ¬†I have to say, they all looked pretty healthy and happy to me.


Here’s another picture I included to remind me of something. ¬†Here, the ticket taker is smoking a cigarette while he does his job. ¬†As a rule, there are smokers all over Italy, especially among the young people. ¬†It was almost impossible to avoid the smoke walking the streets of Rome. ¬†Also, in keeping with the Italian’s attitude toward rules, people completely ignored the no smoking signs in the train station in Rome.


Okay, now we’re in Pompeii. ¬†This is a public courtyard that served as the main entrance to two theaters, one bigger and one smaller. ¬†About 20 years before Vesuvius erupted there was an earthquake that damaged the place where the gladiators lived, so they moved here. ¬†This is where they lived and practiced their art. ¬†Archeologists found lots of their paraphernalia during the excavations.



These are the two theaters behind the courtyard. ¬†The larger one has been updated and seats about 6000 people. ¬†It’s still used for performances today and is scheduled for a run of Mama Mia in a couple of weeks. ¬†I would love to see that!


The streets of Pompeii all run downhill because the city got lots of rainfall.  This design allowed them to drain.  The larger stones across the road allowed people to cross when they were flooded and they acted as speed bumps.  You can see the groves made by the chariot wheels between the stones.


This is one of the frescoes in the entrance to the house of a very rich family.  Directly behind the entrance room is the courtyard below.


All around this courtyard is the colonnade and behind the columns are the rooms the family lived in.  These include bedrooms and a dining room.


This is the room in the back corner.  It still has quite a bit of color on the walls.  Also, several people were found in this room and their bones have been preserved here.



This isn’t what you might think. ¬†It’s a 2000 year-old McDonalds. ¬†The rims are the tops of amphoras (you can see the side of one in the break in the wall in the second picture). ¬†The amphoras were filled with water and a fire was lit under them. ¬†A bowl was placed inside the rim and the food was placed in the bowl where it cooked over the hot water. ¬†As I said above, there were many of these fast food places in Pompeii.


In Rome, and other places, like here in Pompeii,¬†there are public fountains with drinking water. ¬†When I first heard that the water fountains of Rome contained drinkable water, I thought they must be nuts. ¬†But they weren’t talking about the decorative fountains. ¬†They were talking about the fountains that look something like the one above. ¬†In Rome, there were no spigots, they ran freely because they were often natural springs. ¬†Also, the water was ice cold. ¬†We refilled our bottles several times on the day we visited the Colosseum and that cold water was really refreshing. Above, Bob refills our bottle.


The state of many of the buildings in Pompeii is a lot like this.



If you have a low threshold for the randier side of life, don’t look too closely at the pictures above. ¬†These were taken in the brothel and the frescoes were meant to be sort of a picture menu of the available services. ¬†Below the frescoes were tiny little rooms with a stone “bed” in which the deals were sealed.


Again, don’t look too closely if you’re easily offended! ¬†This carving was on the street and it “directed” the sailors who were walking into town from the port in the right direction for the “services” they were seeking.


Here are some of the artifacts found in Pompeii.


And now we get to the plaster casts.  Above is a dog in clear agony.  The dog was chained so that is mostly the reason for his position.  But asphyxiation is a slow and horrifying way to die and this dog proves that.


Another heartbreaking story with this young man. ¬†They believe he’s about 14 years old. ¬†He must have sat for a moment to catch his breath during his escape and he never got up again.



Here’s the front of the city, the part that would have faced the sea. ¬†In fact, much of the vegetation in front of the wall would have been under water. ¬†Today, mostly because of earthquakes in the area, the shoreline is several miles away.

Smoky Mountains

4,800 miles so far!

The last couple of days have been lots of driving and hiking.  We’ve gone from one end of the Smoky Mountains to the other.  On Saturday, it was cold, blustery and raining.  What a difference a day makes!  Easter Sunday dawned bright and clear and the park just came alive.  You can see my pictures here.

It’s still on the early side of Spring here.  Some of the trees are blooming, but most don’t have leaves yet, especially in the higher elevations.  However, with sunshine, the park really is beautiful.  Its beauty grows on you and I can see why so many people come back or even move to this area.  It has great appeal.

I even like Gatlingerg, Tennessee, where we spent Saturday night.  The guide book describes it as Heidi meets Hillbilly:  vaguely Bavarian meets hick mountains.  It was cool, with great energy.  I have a picture or two in the photos.

Easter Mass wasn’t so easy in Gatlinberg, however.  We located the Catholic church near our hotel and drove by on Saturday night.  The Mass times were posted and nothing indicated they changed for Easter.  Bob checked the church’s website: same thing.  We even checked with the front desk of the hotel and that guy also confirmed the Mass times.  But when we got there nice and early, we found a brand new sign announcing Mass started an hour earlier.  People were streaming in from all directions on foot because there were several hotels in the areal.  All of them, along with us, were shocked to find Mass was moved back an hour.  It seems when we travel over Easter, Mass always gets screwed up.

Today I crossed an item off my bucket list.  I walked on the Appalachian Trail.  I have to say, it’s pretty rough; like you could easily break your neck rough.  We walked about a quarter mile along the trail which follows the NC/TN state line in this area.  See the pictures, because its rough.

We also climbed to the top of Clingmans Dome, one of the tallest mountains in the park.  There was a nicely paved road to follow, but the incline was insane.  Thank goodness the views were all worth it.  I saved you the climb and put the pictures in the photo gallery.  : )  I know I’m going to be sore tomorrow.

By late afternoon, we were ready to sit for awhile.  We did lots of hiking today.  So, we hit the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the sights. I have some pictures here.  We only went about 85 miles, as far as Asheville, NC, and we ended up staying in the same hotel we were in on Friday night.

Tomorrow, we’re really looking forward to the Biltmore Estate.  I’ve always wanted to see it and I’d kick myself if I let the steep entrance fees stop us.  So, that’s the plan!

Acoma Pueblo

Acoma Pueblo is a very interesting place.¬† In the picture above, it’s hard to see the village, but it is sitting on top of the bluff.¬† It is inhabited by the Acoma people (pronounced √Ā-cŇć-ma).¬† In fact, the peublo has been continuously inhabited for about 1,500 years, making it the oldest city in the United States.¬† It even survived sieges by the Spanish in the 1500‚Äôs.

The Pueblo rises 350 feet above the desert floor and there wasn’t a road to the top until the 1960’s.  Before that, only 5 staircases (and I use that term lightly) accessed the top.  These stairs are so completely hidden from view (probably because they barely exist) that the Spanish never found them when they layed siege to the Peueblo.  Interestingly, they (and many other Indian tribes in the area) are matrilineal, with the youngest daughter in the family inheriting the family’s house on the Pueblo.

The only way to see Sky City (another name for the Acoma Pueblo), is by guided tour.  On the tour we were assaulted by little bugs (that luckily didn’t bite) that just wanted to land on us and hang on.  I’m not sure what they were, but they were about 1/4 inch long and very tanacious.  Whenever we would pause in the tour for the guide to point something out, Bob and I felt like monkeys picking nits off each other.  It was ridiculous!  The guide has lived on the Pueblo his  entire life and he said he’s never seen the bugs before.  Maybe they are the result of the really mild winter.

Only about 15 families currently live on the Pueblo.  There is no electricity or plumbing on the Pueblo so we saw many Port-A-Potties and outhouses.  Many more families routinely use their homes on the Pueblo during ceremonies and other special occasions.  Many occupy their homes during the day but have homes elsewhere for the night.

Pottery is a big thing for them and they have many very talented potters.  We saw some incredibly decorated pottery that took quite an artist to create.  Traditionally, the pottery from this area is white with black, intricate markings.  Fragments of this pottery have been found as far away as Maine.  The trade routes of the ancient indians were quite extensive.  On the Pueblo, they have found macaw feathers from South America and shells from the coast of Baja.  This is true throughout the region.

At the end of the tour, the guide offered to let us walk down one of the ancient staircases, or we could drive back down with him.¬† Bob and I decided to walk.¬† The guide explained that the stairs had been ‚Äúimproved‚ÄĚ for use by the public, but that the stairs were much like they have been for over a thousand years.¬† Before the 1960‚Äôs, this particular staircase was the only route for anything the Indians needed in the Pueblo. Everything had to be hand carried up and down the stairs The guide warned that it was a quick 3 second descent should we fall.

Oh, My, Goodness, the ‚Äústair‚ÄĚ was GROSSLY overexaggerated.¬† It was barely more than a suggestion in the rock.¬† It was quite a challenge and gave us a whole new appreciation for how agile the peole who lived her must have been.¬† If you ever visit Acoma Pueblo, don‚Äôt miss the chance to go down those steps, but be warned!¬† Bob and I were the first of our group to go down and we were followed by a family from Paris.¬† The mom and dad were very slow and the kids got ahead of them so we ended up helping the two kids down.¬† Of course, the boy (about 10 years old)¬† LOVED it!¬† It was quite an adventure (and thank God Bob could speak enough French to communicte with them!) Then again, the tone of voice used by a parent to convey danger and caution is universally understood.

Take a look at all our photos here. 

The Catwalk

After a morning of cliff dwellings, we traveled to a very different part of the Gila National Forest. In Whitewater Canyon is a trail called the Catwalk. It’s a place where the river canyon narrows, sometimes to only 20 feet wide, and a catwalk about 1/4 mile long has been welded about half way up the canyon wall. Bob thought it was kind of ho hum, but I loved it. It was different, weird, and such an interesting kind of experience.

Spring is a perfect time to be out in nature and it was just beautiful.  Enjoy the pictures, it was really awesome.  By the way, the catwalk, and many of the stairs, bridges and other access points to the things we saw throughout our trip, were built by the CCC in the 1930’s.

After all the exercise, we decided we were entitled to some pie in Pie Town, NM.  We started to head in that direction, but after consulting Fodor’s, we discovered the pie places were already closed for the day and there wasn’t really any place to stay the night.  So, we diverted to Albuquerque for the night.