Sunday, October 25, 2015

Page, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend.It’s been months now since our summer vacation, but here is the lost continuation. Page was the next destination of our big southwest road trip after Grand Canyon National Park. Out of all our stops this was the only place where Alёna and I haven’t been to previously. And I can easily say that it was my favorite part of the whole trip. So many interesting things to see and do.

Our Best Western.By the time we arrived we were quite hungry. Before going to our hotel and checking in we made a mistake of stopping at a nice Mexican place and eating our lunch. The food was great. As a side note — TripAdvisor app is great for finding good places to eat. We use it extensively during vacations, including this one.

Glen Canyon Dam.Our mistake at eating first and going to the hotel later was in us not realizing how long the line and the wait at the hotel will be.

Bridge by the dam.It all started with the Best Western that we had a reservation in closed for a massive renovation. They sent us to another Best Western across the street to check-in into the one which had massive construction going on.

Turbine with Arosha on it.The one across a street had a long line of people waiting to check-in as well. When our turn arrived they told us that they decided to place us in the hotel where we were in, which was fine with us, but we had to wait a couple of hours for our room to get ready.

Our hotel's pool.We decided to spend this time by visiting a nearby Glen Canyon Dam. It was only 10 or so minutes away and it turned out to be pretty interesting. The dam blocked off Colorado River which ended up flooding the whole Glen Canyon itself and forming Lake Powell — second largest man made lake in the country. The largest one was Mead Lake which was formed by Hover Dam near Las Vegas on the same Colorado River.

On the edge by Horseshoe Bend.The dam had a nice visitor center with several official NPS stamps. It also led visitors to a great view of the dam, the lake and the river below. There was also a turbine on display which Arosha promptly climbed into. At one point he managed to actually slide down into the center of it and started asking to pull him out. The problem was that it was too far for us to reach to pull him out. Luckily he managed to climb back out by himself.

Under the rocks.After we checked out the dam we returned to our hotel where we were given a room with a view of the whole valley below — the hotel was on a hill — including a view of the dam and the lake. The hotel also had a great pool with a hot-tub also overlooking the same valley.

Anna riding Alёna.Another side note — all the places that we visited were filled with Europeans. A lot of French and German people. We also met people from Belgium, Netherlands and other countries. At first we weren’t sure if French speaking people were Canadian or not, and god forbid you ask them that — but people from Netherlands told us that they can tell the accents apart and everyone is definitely French.

BBQ.As far as our dinner and lunches went — we visited a nice BBQ place with huge steam-train looking grills, pizza places, burger places and even managed to go into a sushi place.

Sushi place. Dinner.Even though we weren’t quite sure about eating raw fish in a desert it went without incidents and Arosha was very happy — he loves sushi. All places were found via TripAdvisor app.

By Horseshoe Bend.On our first full day we went to see the Horseshoe Bend. It’s a 1.5 mile round trip hike over a top of a somewhat steep hill. Arosha did really well. When he saw a bunch of people near the edge he knew where he needs to walk and did it without complaining of any kind unlike our Grand Canyon hikes were.

Climbing as always.I’ve seen this place on multiple pictures all over the internet, but I did not expect how big it would be in the real life. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The view was breathtaking.

Waiting for our Antelope Canyon tour to start.I held Arosha firmly by hand and we stood on the edge in amazement. The river was far below us and we could see white specks which were tour boats cruising on the river.

Antelope Canyon.After a short while Arosha spotted some rocks and some mini-cave under them which Anna and him proceeded to occupy. While I was trying to do some photography they were climbing and playing around while Alёna watched over them. Alёna, by the way, carried Anna everywhere.

Yoga inside Antelope Canyon.In the evening we had another special thing planned. Our second reason (Horseshoe Bend was first) why we wanted to visit Page was to see the famous Antelope Canyon. We decided not to plan anything in advance and just wing it. I was honestly thinking that we’ll probably skip it altogether because of our laziness. But we asked at the front desk at our hotel and they booked a tour for us.

Antelope Canyon.Both of the canyons are located on Navajo lands and the only way to see those canyons is to book a tour. Most popular time is usually during the middle of the day, but we decided to go in the evening at around 5. Even though the sun wouldn’t shine beautifully into the canyon we wanted to avoid the crowds and the mid-day heat. Overall it worked out well, although it wasn’t cheap.

Another mega climb.We were told to arrive to a certain location 30 minutes before the tour start. But I think we ended up leaving 30 minutes after the designated time. And somehow we were given the very last car. I guess that might be because we had little kids with us and they didn’t have any car seats. So instead of taking a normal route via highway our guide drove through the desert over some crazy hills.

Us by Antelope Canyon's entrance.The guide was not much of a guide. He just kept grabbing cameras from everybody and switching settings around. I gave him my camera just out of curiosity of what he would do. He cranked up contrast and screwed up the white-balance to make everything appear more warm. Of course that has no effect on RAW images, but I guess that’s beyond his area of expertise. Anyhow, I set everything back to the way it was and kindly declined any further adjustments.

Our tour guide and ride.The canyon itself was quite cool and dark at 5 o’clock. But it was still a very beautiful and unusual sight to see. I did manage to take several good shots by pressing the camera against the wall for stability to take multiple-exposure bursts. We also managed to take a good number of nice shots with our iPhones. Overall we were very happy that we decided to pay the money and do the tour. It was definitely a worthy place to see.

Lake Powell.On our second day we drove out to the beach on Lake Powell itself. We didn’t spend a lot of time there but it was nice to take a swim in this famous lake. The beach was kind of small and not very sandy, but all of us enjoyed the experience.

Our Anna.And in the evening of the same day we decided to repeat our hike to Horseshoe Bend to see the sunset. We didn’t quite make it. Our timing was less than perfect and toward the end of our hike poor Aroshka miss-stepped of a stone and face planted into hard rock. I felt horrible. I think I might’ve been rushing a bit too much to take some pictures before the sun went down and I should’ve paid more attention to him.

In the lake.When he calmed down we took some pictures and decided to climb a nearby mountain that he really wanted to scale as a consolation prize. By the time we were done it was quite dark outside. Some starts started to appear. I have an app on my phone that identifies each star and it turned out that the brightest spots were Venus and Jupiter. We decided to head back to the car before it has gotten pitch black, so I still didn’t have a chance to actually show Arosha a night sky. He won’t believe how many stars there actually are.

Horseshoe Bend at sunset.And that’s how we spent our days in Page. After page we set course north, to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.
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Monday, September 14, 2015

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon.For the second part of our trip we drove out to Grand Canyon National Park. We were staying in Yavapai Lodge right inside the park. Alёna and I haven’t been to Grand Canyon since 2005 — 10 years. I was looking forward to seeing it again. When we finally did, even though it was still impressive I remembered well enough what to expect, so I wasn’t smitten as the first two times.

Rocks!And it’s really hard to figure out what Arosha is really feeling since he might look at a thing for 20 seconds and get distracted by some big rocks that he can jump around — which is what happened with us.

Yavapai Lodge.We had two full days at Grand Canyon and it seems that it was our least favorite part of the trip. The big lesson that we learned was that a hotel better has a pool. Otherwise there are large portions of the day when kids don’t have anything to do and they start whining from boredom.

Rim trail.We couldn’t do a lot of hiking either since it was very hot and there was very little shade around. So it was hard on the little ones.

Bright Angel trail down into the canyon.We did take a small portion of the trail down. And then we did a whole bunch of hiking around the rim. At some points Anna was driving us crazy with her stroller. She didn’t want to sit in it and she insisted on pushing it around herself. And she would bump into everything and we would practically be stuck at one place.

One of the many visitor centers.When we tried to put her into the stroller or one of us tried to just carry the stroller she would throw a massive feat. I was really close to throwing the damn stroller down the canyon on multiple occasions.

Love of the climbing.The lodge itself was nice and clean. But as I mentioned it had one downside — it didn’t have a pool.

One of visitors who doesn't seem to like his life much.It was surrounded by shallow woods — lots of spread out short trees. I was trying to do my exercise goals so I tried walking to the edge of the canyon through those woods. And even though it would probably take me about 15 minutes or so to get to the edge half way in all the directions started looking the same. So I decided to turn back while I still knew where “back” was.

Grand Canyon. Many many people.We ate our lunch and dinners at the lodges inside the park and at our local general store. And for breakfast we would buy something that didn’t need a lot of cooking — yogurts, cup noodles soups and stuff like that.

Evening hike.Overall it was nice, but we didn’t really get to experience the serenity that I was looking for and I remembered. I guess the main reason was the fact that we were visiting during the peak season as opposed to our previous trip in October and it was quite crowded everywhere.

Illusion of the edge.We did have nice quite hikes during the evenings when the crowds would subside.

Entering the park.And we also did get to see a new place on our way out to Page — Desert View Watchtower which was built at the begging of the last century. It was nice to climb up to the top, but all the windows had glass on them which typically ruins good pictures.

Desert View Tower.When we asked Arosha which place he liked the most from the vacation he starts listing everything and leaves out Grand Canyon, which is kind of funny.

View from the top of the tower.Anna though kept calling all further canyons that she saw “gan cayon”. We kept trying to convince her that we left Grand Canyon behind and she was looking at a different one, to which she would agree, but then would revert to “gan cayon” three minutes later.

The Rest


After Grand Canyon we traveled to a little town of Page with a lot of wonders and see. And later on we went to Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park and Las Vegas. But that part of the story is not ready yet.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sedona

Grand Canyon.Well, it’s been more than two months since our mega vacation trhough the southwestern canyons has started and we haven’t posted a thing yet beside our large photo stream that was going throughout our trip. Overall everything went well. It was a bit harder in the beginning, but our schedule settled in pretty quickly and we enjoyed exploring the southwest.

Road to Sedona. Saguaro forests.The hard parts pretty much consisted of Anna throwing up on the plane, Arosha had an accident in bed during the first night from being overtired — it really hasn’t happened to him in years now, Anna throwing up in the car — we think it was from motion sickness and Arosha throwing up during the night — we have no idea why, but he was fine in the morning. All that happened pretty much in the first 2 days, but everything went well afterwards.

Our hotel at Sedona.The flight went OK. Anna even took a nap. Having two large suite cases, two car seats and a stroller appeared to be challenging beforehand. But we basically had to just get it to a cab, from the cab to checked baggage and from there into our rental car. And vice versa on the way back. Not too bad at all. Costco seats are pretty crappy, but they are also very light. They served us just fine throughout the trip.

Arizona capitol building in Phoenix.As far as the car rentals go — it’s always a rip off and always ends up being much more expensive than you expect. To begin with our rental company Sixt didn’t have any cars that we reserved that would work for us. So they pawned us off to Payless which agreed to honor the same price. But then adding a different driver, adding an extra hour (our flight was leaving later in the day) and so on added up to a hefty sum.

Sedona from the top.Adding a second driver was not really needed. Alёna drove for all of 30 minutes or so during the trip. I thought that should would enjoy the open roads, but she was afraid to drive at 75MPH speed limit, and was a nervous wreak. Also our VW Passat seemed all kinds of wobbly. I was hoping for a Chrysler 300, but that wasn’t available either. VW was really bland and unexciting in every way possible but it did get us where we needed to go without any issues.

Looking up at Montezuma Castle.On our first day we started with a short stop at Arizona capitol complex at Phoenix. This time we actually managed to get inside for the first time ever — our 3rd trip there — and got ourselves an official capitol stamp. Otherwise it wasn’t anything special inside. And it was very very hot outside in the sun. Our kids expired very quickly and we decided to proceed.

To Sedona


Entering Sedona.Our main objective for the day was to reach Sedona. But since everyone was really hungry after the flight we decided to get a bite before heading out of Phoenix. We couldn’t really find any place to eat for some while. I guess the main highway runs through shady parts of town and nothing looked appealing. Kids were getting really tired by the time we ran upon some nice Greek place. Of course after we did eat every next exit had plenty of eateries.

Montezuma Castle.Also on our way to Sedona we made a stop by Montezuma Castle. The light was much better this time around for a better photograph and there was plenty of shade for a nice hike. What interested Arosha the most though was a lizard that he spotted. Lizards, you see, are much more exciting than some 900 year old building in a side of a cliff.

Sedona cliffs.Along the way we were driving through mountains covered by saguaro cacti. Very unusual landscape. By the time we started approaching Sedona landscape becomes even more unusual in a different way. Gray mountains turned into red cliffs of peculiar shapes. Sun was setting and everything looked very beautiful.

Arosha at one of the many souvenir shops in Sedona.We were all pretty tired by the time we arrived, but when the kids discovered a pool at our hotel they got second wind. We spent the rest of the evening swimming and chilling out in cool waters of the hotel pool on a hot day. Later in the evening Arosha and I picked up some Mexican food at a nearby place while Alёna put Anna to sleep. That was the end of our day.

View of Sedona from the local airport.In the morning we drove up to the local airport which is located above the mountains and has a spectacular view of the town down below. Sedona really is a beautiful place and if you’re going to be driving through from Phoenix to Grand Canyon it really is worth it to make a small detour to see it.
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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sedona

Sedona under heavy rain clouds.It’s been almost 6 months since our southwest trip, but there is one place that we still haven’t said a word about — Sedona, Arizona. And I’d like to try to remember some things about it and write these memories down before they completely fade away.

Sedona is a town located in the heart of Arizona, surrounded by beautiful red mountains. It’s a very touristy town with a lot of shops, restaurants and swarms of visitors. At the same it seems very cozy with its small streets, uplifting colors and architecture.

One of cozy Sedona streets.For Alena and I this was not our first time here, so originally I didn’t even want to repeat the trip. We’ve been here on our Arizona trip in October 2005 and liked it a lot. But after driving through most of Utah, New Mexico and Arizona I thought it would be boring to revisit. On the other hand we had nothing to do and papa and mama haven’t been there, so off we went.

A simple BBQ place located at one of the back streets.It turned out to be a good decision. Papa and mama liked it very much and I found it, as I said, much cozier than I remembered. It was nice to remember some of the places in this town. We even managed to find a cheap BBQ place where we all ordered pulled pork sandwiches, just like we did with Alena in 2005.

Toozigoot National Monument and papa on top of it.On our way to Sedona we drove by Tuzigoot National Monument and got our mandatory stamps there. The monument itself wasn’t all that interesting — just some old dwellings that mostly fell apart.

And after Sedona we managed to get our stamps at Montezuma Castle National Monument. It consists of 2 distinct parts — the well and the castle. We were on time at the well, but castle was 10 minutes away and it was almost 5pm on the clock — that’s when they close it down.

Castle at Montezuma Castle National Monument.So we flew by the ranger right into the gate of the 2nd part, managed to get our stamps there as well and even had the time to run to the castle. On our way back I was worried that the ranger was going to be pissed at us for doing this, but when he saw us again he actually started smiling and waving. I guess he understood why we were seriously speeding.

And that’s pretty much all of the trip that I remember.
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Phoenix

Phoenix. We had a picture of this building from our first trip as well, so it stood out.В Фениксе, столице штата Аризона, мы с Даней побывали второй раз, а его родители увидели город впервые. В нашу поездку в 2005 году мы практически пробежались по городу, и он оставил какое-то смазанное и тусклое впечатление. В этот раз Феникс мне показался намного приятнее, и кроме кактусов, поразивших нас раньше, я заметила опрятные домики построенные в каком-то южном испанском стиле, оливковые и апельсиновые деревья, современные небоскрёбы даунтауна, разномастные пальмы…

Rare rainy day in Scottsdale.Останавливались мы не в самом Фениксе, а в Скотсдейле — городке, прилегающем к Фениксу, который считается более фешенебельным районом в этой местности.

Homewood Suites. Our hotel in Scottsdale.Гостиница Homewood Suites оказалась очень уютной, и нам даже удалось снять 3-х комнатный номер впервые за всё путешествие (в остальных гостиницах мы просто брали отдельные номера). Мне однозначно больше нравится жить в таких номерах с двумя спальнями — веселее и как-то уютно-спокойнее. )

Us in front of Arizona State Capitol building in Phoenix.Приехали мы в Феникс в среду вечером, а весь четверг посвятили изучению города. Мы прогулялись по площади возле местного капитолия — чистенькое, но очень безлюдное место. Statue of Novajo Code Talker in front of Capitol.Мне запомнился памятник индейскому радисту из племени Навахо — во время второй мировой войны индейцы успешно использовали свой язык в качестве кода, который японцы так и не смогли расшифровать.

Когда мы гуляли по городу, солнце то выглядывало, то пропадало за тучами. Надо было видеть в какое уныние невозможность сделать красивые фотографии вгоняла Даньку, и как он радовался и бегал от одного красивого места к другому, когда солнышко являло нам свой улыбающийся лик.

Alena attempting to eat Phoenix oranges. They turned out to be extremely bitter.Мы случайно забрели на выставку автомобилей и потратили там часа 1.5-2 нашего времени. Ну что можно сказать — выставка как выставка, ничего особенного. )

Стоит заметить, что в тот день страна отмечала День Благодарения, и мы пораскатывали губы на специальный праздничный ужин в каком-нибудь из многочисленный ресторанов в районе нашей гостиницы. Каково же оказалось наше разочарование, когда мы поняли, что закрыто было буквально ВСЁ! Phoenix City Hall and the post with names of sister cities.Магазины, рестораны, даже room service в нашей гостинице не работали в связи с праздником. Мы уже смирились с мыслью, что придётся нам довольствоваться 4-мя маленькими кусочками пиццы, оставшимися с прошлого ужина, но на нашу удачу мы увидели одно место над которым висел большой банер с надписью “Открыто”. В этот-то итальянский ресторан мы и пошли вкушать наш праздничный ужин. Индюшки у них не оказалось, но всё что мы заказали было очень вкусным. )
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cacti of Arizona

Sunset near Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.I always have been drawn to cacti in a certain way. It might be from the fact that it was nowhere to be found in Uzbekistan in the wild, or maybe because we were always told from early age that everyone should keep a cactus by the monitor to absorb some of the radiation — mind you, nobody knew what an LCD was back then.

Southwest of this great country and Arizona in particular is home to many different kinds of cacti. But now I’d like to talk about the two kinds that stand out the most — Saguaro and Organ Pipe.


House on the hill of the mountain covered in Saguaros. Outskirts of Tucson.On early Tuesday morning we drove drove through a couple of historic places of Las Cruces and left New Mexico shorty after, setting the course to Tucson, Arizona. Our main objective of the day was to visit at least one of the two parts of Saguaro National Park that is located on the outskirts of Tucson itself.

Saguaro National Park.I really had no idea what Saguaro stood for, but it turned out that it was actually the name of the cactus that I wanted to see so much. Papa and one of the bigger Saguaros at Saguaro National Park.Because of that I had no idea what to expect of the park, but to our surprise we were greeted by what I was expecting to see in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument a day later.

The closer we were getting to the park the more obvious it was becoming — we were in the middle of an actual forest made up of huge cacti — Saguaros. Some were standing as lone huge poles, some sprung out a couple of arms and some had up to ten of them. All kinds of shapes and forms. Some were going up, some were going down. Most of them had holes in them, probably created by woodpeckers, but sadly we didn’t see any of the inhabitants of those homes.

Dead Saguaro.We got a bit unlucky with the weather, as all of the sky was covered in thick gray clouds and sun was nowhere to be seen. But that didn’t stop us from being amazed by the unusual landscape that was surrounding us. A real cacti forest, or as my dad called it — the kingdom of cacti.

Two Cacti — Alena and Teddy Bear.We made a whole lot of scenic stops, took a lot of pictures and hiked one of the trails in the park. I, as everyone else, was just amazed by the size and the forms of some of these. They could easily run from 2 to 5 heights of me.

Saguaro forest at dusk.When we were done with the park we were pretty tired and the the sun has actually sat down — it was dark outside already. We went and found our hotel in Tucson (Google actually had it in the wrong location on their maps), ate a very good dinner in the hotel diner type of restaurant, took a walk around our neighborhood, jumped into the jacuzzi we had in our room and retired for the night.


Alena hugging Organ Pipe Cactus. Really. No Photoshop.Wednesday was even better. By the morning the sky cleared up and the 2nd part of the park was right on our way out of Tucson. But before leaving we drove to downtown, and again set out for a short walk.

Fallen Saguaro. Organ Pipe Cactus NM.We stopped by a visitor center where a lady tried to talk us out of going to Organ Pipe Cactus NM. I think she almost managed to convince some of us that it was a bad idea to go. Her arguments were that it was really remote and pretty dangerous place, being so close to Mexican border.

Papa, mama and I at Desert Museum on outskirts of Tucson.However I was 100% set on going. This was one of the main destination of this trip. I remember looking at the map multiple times, on that square near the Mexican border, thinking how I would love to visit this place which is so far away from everything. And that’s exactly what we did, but I’ll get to that later.

As planned we went out to the 2nd district of Saguaro National Park and took a lot of pictures on our way there and in the park. The landscapes were amazing, but I think it’s pretty much impossible to capture with the camera.

Fox at Desert Museum Zoo.On our way we stopped by Desert Museum, which we expected to be quite a bit more exciting than it was. We were promised to see a lot of animals, but there were very few. However we’re glad we did it, because otherwise we’d be left wondering if we missed something really good.

Mega Saguaro at Organ Pipe Cactus NM.But on to the main destination of the day — Organ Pipe Cactus NM. The road that was supposed to be bad turned out to be as good as at any other place. We thought that it might be going through the mountains, so it would be slow, but it actually turned out to be going through the valleys of more cactus forests and was pretty straight. We did see a LOT of border patrol cars all over the place though.

While we were driving the sky was getting darker and darker. Eventually we started to see huge streaks of rain ahead and on the left — where the park was supposed to be. We drove into it and the weather was so bad that you couldn’t see 10 meters ahead. However to our luck we drove right through the storm to some more blue skies right by the time it was time to turn south, into the park. The weather got beautiful again.

Entrance of Organ Pipe Cactus NM. Bad photo, but the only one we have.Turns out Organ Pipe Cactus is a different type of cactus and that’s what Organ Pipe Cactus NM has a lot of (weird, I know). o.O It also does have a lot of Saguaros. I think my best memories are from this day. Standing in front of the sign at the entrance to the park — it was hard to believe that we’re actually on that spot on the map that I looked so many times at.

We asked for a good hiking trail at the visitor center, Organ Pipe Cactus.and we were giving great destination. The 2 mile trail lead us through the forest of Organ Pipe, Saguaro and many other cacti. It went through one of the mountain peaks which gave us a great view of the whole valley. And there was not a single soul there but 4 of us, under blue sky, surrounded by a magnitude of different cacti. Amazing memories.

And after that we drove through the towns of Why and Ajo all the way to Phoenix. Scottsdale actually. That’s where our last hotel was, where we were going to spend the last 3 nights of our great trip.
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Saturday, December 6, 2008

White Sands

Dunes of White Sands National Monument.Даня уже писал о Карлсбадских пещерах, а мне хочется добавить еще пару слов о своих впечатлениях. Лет 8 назад мы с Кузей посещали подобное чудо природы – Крымские мраморные пещеры – но мои воспоминания о них очень расплывчаты и отрывочны.

Карлсбаские пещеры произвели на меня довольно сильное впечатление. Мне то казалось, что я попала в какой-то сказочный дворец на бал, и свисающие с потолков резные люстры вот-вот зажгутся и осветят пространство мягким мерцающим светом; то возникало ощущение что я иду по какому-то морскому царству, и мокрые скользкие обитатели его величественно возлегают тут и там и думают о чем-то своём, глубокофилософском, не обращая на нас, мягкотелых ахающих людишек, никакого внимания.

Carlsbad Caverns.Переговаривались друг с другом мы приглушёнными голосами — этому способствовало не только то, что работник парка предупредил нас о прекрасной акустике пещер и попросил уважать других посетителей природного музея, но и сама атмосфера вокруг — полутьма, таинственность, мягкие звуки шлепающих о камни капель воды. Кстати, я ожидала, что в пещерах будет намного прохладнее (довольно низкая температура запомнилась мне из предыдущего посещения пещер), но не очень тёплой кофты оказалось достаточно для того чтобы чувствовать себя комфортно.


Главной целью следующего дня было посещение национального монумента под названием “Белые Пески” (White Sands National Monument). Признаться честно, я не ожидала очень многого от этого места, но фантастический ландшафт снеждно-белых дюн просто поразил моё воображение. Но начнём по-порядку.

Overlooking Tularosa Basin. Lincoln National Forest.Проснувшись с утра пораньше (как мы старались делать во все дни нашего отпуска) и позавтракав яичницей в китайском буфете, мы отрпавились в дорогу. Гостиница наша находилась в Артезии — небольшом городке, не насчитывающем даже 15,000 душ. Путь наш пролегал через Lincoln National Forest — хвойный лес, напомнивший мне пейзажи Колорадо. Мы сделали пару остановок — в деревеньках Mayhill и Cloudcroft, а так же в солнечной обсерватории, расположенной на одном из пиков Sacremento Mountains.

Solar observatory at Sunspot.Как же хорошо дышалось чистым и душистым из-за окружающих елей и сосен воздухом возле солнечной обсерватории! Сами здания обсерватории меня немного разочаровали — почему-то я ожидала, что нам дадут посмотреть в телескоп на небо… Но, конечно, разрешили нам только гляднуть через стекло на старую модель телескопа, и побродить возле современной модели, окруженной целой кучей компьютеров.

White sand flowing out of Alena's hands.Следующей нашей остановкой были белые дюны. Сначала мне показалось, что мы попали в зиму — занеженная дорога, грязноватые комки снега по обочинам, чахленькие пучки по-зимнему бурой травы, выглядывающие то тут, то там из сугробов… Ан нет — обман зрения! ) Снег оказался вовсе не снегом, а сыпучим и прохладным гипсовым песком.

Us at White Sands.На многие киллометры протянулись белоснежные поля, испещрённые характерными ребристыми узорами оставленными непоседой-ветром, а также следами лапок жителей этого необычного мирка. Конечно, на территории доступной туристам, мы видели и множество отпечатков подошв самых разных размеров.

Mama in White Sand Dunes.Бродить по песчаным дюнам было интересно, но мы старались не отходить слишком далеко от машины, потому что потерять ориентацию в этом белом царстве очень легко.

Road through the White Sands National Monument.Многие люди приносили специальные доски, на которых можно было скатываться со склонов барханов, и мне тоже захотелось слететь вниз и почувствовать восторг от скорости и адреналина. За неимением специальной экипировки, я решила воспользоваться тем, что мне предоставила природа — собственным задом. Увы, я не слетела, а скорее сползла с горы, причём в ход пошла на только пятая точка, но и ноги с руками, послужившие толкательными рычагами.

Papa near one of the few plants he liked in White Sands.Даниному папе очень понравилась растительность бело-песчаных дюн. Представители местной флоры должны были приспособиться к двигающимся пескам или погибнуть. Мы видели столбы песка, держащиеся только за счёт корней растений, спрятанных в их глубине, — довольно интерсное зрелище.
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Friday, December 5, 2008

Carlsbad Caverns

One of the caves in Carlsbad Caverns.Our second day started out very early. After eating the breakfast at our hotel and driving through the downtown we left El Paso and set out to the east, towards the Carlsbad Caverns National Park through Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. These were our two main objectives for the day.

Papa and mama along the route 180 in Texas.As soon as we left the city we were greeted by an always familiar yet different southwestern landscape that I’ve come to love so much over the past years. Huge flats, tall distant mountains, what might seem to be scarce vegetation of unusual to us composition — cacti and yuccas, and the never ending road. Road that I might say is always great no matter how distant of a place it runs through.

Alena and I on salt flats in Texas along route 180.Our first find was a big white field that was absolutely flat. Finally, the salt flats that I’ve heard so much about. I guess the water evaporated not so long ago, or it was raining recently. The salt was not rock hard, but soft and slightly soggy. I imagine during the summer it feels more like concrete.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park.In Gaudalupe Mountains NP we got a whole bunch of new stamps for our passports (4 official and one bonus). The park consists completely of hiking trails. We took a rather short one going through different plants with plaques attached to most of them. But we didn’t spend much time here as we didn’t want to be late to our next park.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park.We got to Carlsbad Caverns NP at about 1:30pm. The natural entrance to the caverns closes at 2pm and the elevator down closes at 3:30. After talking to the park rangers we decided that we’ll take the elevator right away, since the natural entrance adds an hour to the hike and you don’t really get to the interesting part until you reach the point where elevator would put us anyhow.

One of the caves in Carlsbad Caverns. Look at the guardrails around the trail to get a sense of scale.The elevator took us 750 feet down (that’s more than half of Empire State Building). I’ve never been in any cave or cavern before so for me this was a new experience. First of all the whole thing is HUGE. The farther we went the more space opened up. There were bleak lights installed behind some rocks, but you had to watch carefully where you were going because it was still pretty dark.

Hall of Giants. Carlsbad Caverns.The formations of different stalactites, stalagmites, columns and other things I do not know the names for were magnificent. Underground lakes and springs, the constant sound of water drops. My dad was the “luckiest” of us all with respect to water drops landing on his head. At one point he started worrying about growing a stalagmite. )

Carlsbad Caverns.I managed to take a good number of pictures and most of them came out well thanks to my micro-tripod and a remote control combo. The only thing that is hard to capture is the size of the whole thing. On some photos you will notice the trail itself with guardrails around it. Those were from 1 to 1.5 meters in height and should give you some sense of scale.

Alena with a nice prickly pear cactus in Carlsbad Caverns NP.After that we drove through a tiny town of Carlsbad itself to our final destination of the day — another tiny town in New Mexico — Artesia. We ended up having our 2nd anniversary dinner right in the hotel Chinese Buffet. But it’s not the food that matters, but the company, and the day itself was great.
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Monday, December 1, 2008

First Day in El Paso

Visitor center of Chamizal National Memorial.The vacation was great and it was awesome as ever. It’s always nice to be home however. Now I’m sifting through the photos and great memories. We haven’t been writing anything down, but we’ll try to put some thoughts together on the blog, so memories don’t fade away.

Everything started with Alena setting an alarm for 3:30am. The plan was to get up, get dressed, maybe eat some breakfast and pretty much get ready for the cab that will be picking us up at 4:30am to go to LaGuardia airport. I woke up at 4:29am from the call from my dad asking if we were ready. O.o shock

Mexican border. Road to Juárez, Mexico.The alarm didn’t go off. Alena changed her work day alarm to 3:30. The only problem was that it only works on weekdays. ) We ran out like crazy and were at the airport well ahead of the flight. We got an extra hour of sleep though. )

Our first day was dedicated to exploring El Paso. We went to Chamizal National Memorial — the place where U.S. border with Mexico used to pass until Rio Grande changed its path. We also were about 100 meters from the actual Mexico border.

Museum in downtown El Paso.Everyone in the town obviously speaks Spanish. We also tried to visit a famous military base, Fort Bliss. But they called military police on us for taking pictures of the gates which was really uncalled for. So we decided we don’t need that and just left.

The town center has a bunch of museums, but it was dead quite on the weekend. Nothing really special and I don’t think this is the place I’d like to live at. The day passed quickly and we turned in early since we were very tired.
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Monday, September 29, 2008

Southwest Road Trip

Southwest Road TripWe have booked yet another one of our mega road trips yesterday. Planning and booking1 this kind of trip took us 5 hours of labor and that’s considering that we had a good idea of the route2 already. I want to do a full write up of the current plan as I did the last time for future references.

On the early morning of Saturday, November 22nd, we fly3 out to El Paso, Texas. We rent a car4 at the airport and proceed to check out the city and the local parks. We spend our first night5 here.

On Sunday morning we drive out east in the direction of Carlsbad, New Mexico. We’re staying in a hotel located in a near by town of Artesia, New Mexico for the next night6. On our way we plan Continue Reading

  1. This time we’ve booked 2 rooms at every hotel. All of them come with a king size bed and full breakfast. []
  2. Full size diagram of the trip can be viewed at Google Maps. Blue pins are for hotels and green pins are for places we plan to visit. Full driving map is also available at Google Maps. []
  3. United Airlines, $505 per person, round trip. []
  4. Dollar Rent a Car, estimated at $508. []
  5. Embassy Suites El Paso, $102 per night, per room. []
  6. Best Western Pecos Inn, $90 per room, per night. []
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