Thursday, May 30, 2013

Caught in a Bison Stampede in Salt Lake City, UT

Ever since I read Buffalo Brenda as a kid, bison have always intrigued me. I seriously considered (as all 9 year olds do) adopting a bison to raise as my school's mascot just like the characters in the book. After all, Ralphie is one of the most recognizable mascots of all time. Graceful giants like elephants and bison have always peaked my interest, because their quiet and unassuming demeanor is a stark contrast to their size. My obsession with elephants even triggered me to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee one spring break. As for bison, the closest I was able to see them was at the paddock in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

With plans to head to Yellowstone, I was excited to get my fix of bison crawling along the roads, grazing in fields and lounging by our campsite. I had no expectation of seeing them before then, in Utah of all places.

Spencer and I spent a sunny afternoon at Antelope Island State Park during our short stay in Salt Lake City. The park serves as a protective habitat for wildlife and is surrounded by Great Salt Lake. It is impeccably maintained and the natural landscape lends itself to beautiful photos. In my opinion, it tops some of the national parks we've seen on our journey. 

When we arrived at Antelope Island, I was planning to see antelope (duh!), which we almost did.

This is a pronghorn, which is technically not an antelope. No cigar. 
We also saw a primitive version of our fifth-wheel toy hauler. I'm not sure where the diesel goes, but I have a pretty good idea of the exhaust system.

The rustic approach to life on the road. 
A few birds graced us with their presence. I need to find a good bird-watching book, so I can become a novice ornithologist and impress friends at "cocktail" parties.

A coyote even crossed our path, looking wily as ever.

But what took me by surprise was the large bison population on the small island. We started to see a few scattered along the water. 

Then we came across the wildlife jackpot. A herd of bison clustered together alongside the road.

Looking majestic and intimidating, what seemed like hundreds of bison and their calves were just a few feet from the road. Then several started inching closer, a little closer, and soon it was clear what their intentions were.

How does a bison cross the road?

They did obey all traffic postings. 
Very timidly at first...

Then comes more confidence.

Suddenly, a stampede erupts and dozens of bison are running across the road! We're caught in the thick of it.

Ignore our silly commentary, but this is what we saw happen in several shifts:

Just as soon as it began, it was over. 

After a few hikes and trails around the park, we realized nothing could top our bison stampede experience. So we decided to make our own exit, but not before taking a leisurely dip in Great Salt Lake at sunset. 

It's no Dead Sea, but now I can say I've been in both! 
Before we left Salt Lake City to travel to Idaho, we decided to visit historic Temple Square to see the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon church. 

Although only Mormons may enter the church, the outside was quite beautifully constructed. 

Neither Spencer nor I had heard of the Family History Center, which is the largest genealogical library in the world and it's operated by the LDS church. We both took some time to look up records of our ancestors. Master copies of more than three million records are stored in a massive vault built into a mountainside outside of downtown Salt Lake City.

The library truly is a wonderful resource provided for free by the church, and much of the information can be accessed online, too. 

Our trip to Salt Lake City was short, but sweet. We made the most of our time to see some incredible wildlife and learn more about where we came from in order to figure out where we're headed.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Playing Dirty in Moab, UT

As we pack up after a month in Moab, UT, Spencer and I still wish we had more time to explore the town and surrounding areas. Between the two national parks (Arches and Canyonlands), Dead Horse State Park, Colorado River, and the boundless trails and hikes, Moab is a paradise for hikers, off-roaders and anyone who doesn't mind getting dirty.

Our time here was crammed with outdoor adventures, from kayaking the Colorado River, to hiking with Ellie the pup, to dirtbiking the trails. We loved exploring the natural beauty of the parks, too.

Arches has more than 2,000 natural stone arches, the greatest density in the world. The layers of rock tell the story of millions of years of deposition, erosion and other geological forces.
The most photographed structure in the park, Delicate Arch, is the unofficial symbol of Utah and it's just a peaceful, uphill hike to witness.

In fact, Delicate Arch inspired me to practice some rusty yoga postures. Doesn't my wheel pose fit in nicely with the backdrop?
Less than 30 miles away is another world: Canyonlands offers breathtaking vistas of canyons, mesas and the Colorado and Green rivers.
We even caught up with a family of fellow RVers, Newschool Nomads, to take in the sights.
After spending the winter with them in Breckenridge, it was so lovely to see Jenn, Brent and the kids again!

While Spencer flew back to San Francisco for a bachelor party, Ellie and I explored Dead Horse State Park, which is a dog-friendly park near Canyonlands.
Since she is full of energy, Ellie thoroughly enjoyed the 5-mile loop around the rim of the park. She slept soundly that night!
A kayaking trip down the Colorado River wrapped up our month in Moab.
The winds were brutal that afternoon making paddling even more challenging. But we survived our 7-mile trip, despite missing the beach where we parked our truck.
The inspirational lyrics to R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" allowed me to convince Spencer that we should try paddling upstream. Lesson learned: No matter how much you believe, paddling upstream against the rapids is impossible. Thanks for nothing, R.K. I bet you were never trapped in a closet, either.

Thankfully we were able to navigate the kayak over to the end of the beach and we carried it onshore. Our arms still feel like jelly, but we made it! 
From the dirt to the trails to the water, Moab is an adventurer's paradise. If you visit, be sure to add the delicious quesadillas at the best damn food truck in town, Quesadilla Mobilla, to your must eat list, too!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Our First Winter in Breckenridge, CO

Being a native Floridian, I always assumed that winter translated to seasonal sales and consumer pandemonium at Aventura Mall, an influx of French Canadians and Northeasterners to my sunny state, and bikinis on Fort Lauderdale Beach during Christmas. Instead of snow days, schoolchildren hope for a late hurricane warning to get a break from classes.

After three months freezing like a Popsicle in Breckenridge, CO (and fighting sub-zero temperatures in various locales since November), I feel justified to make a neon shirt saying "I survived winter in the Rockies...and I'm from Florida." A tank top, obviously.

With a snowboard season-ending Achilles injury for Spencer and countless bruises and scrapes for me, it was a struggle for both of us to make it to warmer weather. In many ways it was the winter that wouldn't end; in fact, we rushed to pack up our RV at the end of April to avoid the late snowstorm that blew in over a foot of powder on May 1.

But what we'll remember most isn't the frozen water lines (who needs daily showers?), frigid temperatures, or attempting to generate warmth with five+ heaters and propane. We'll remember making new friends, feeling apart of a neighborhood in our friendly RV park, snowboarding for an entire season, adopting our pup and being stationed somewhere long enough to truly call ourselves locals.

Some Most RVers thought we were crazy to spend the winter in Breckenridge. They were right. But we would be crazy not to try it once, right?

We may not have experienced the heat (or the sun-kissed tan) that I'm familiar with in the winter months, but we sure felt the warmth in our hearts for our adopted ski town. See you on the slopes next season, Breck?

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