When Jon and I left Zion National Park headed to Grand Canyon, we misjudged the distance to our particular campsite within the park. 5 hours later, we rolled into our campsite at Grand Canyon National Park, starving and disgruntled.
After a crappy turkey sandwich that Jon ate hangrily in the Yavapai Tavern, a particularly un-scenic fast food style cafeteria, we were ready to do some hiking along the rim of the canyon.
It truly is a breathtaking sight to stand near the edge of this abyss and look out into thousands of years of geologic history. That being said, I was somewhat ready at this point for beers and snacks by the campfire. 4 hours of Jonathan’s picture taking later, the sun had set and we were headed back to our site.
As crowded as the sunset was with people taking pictures, videos, selfies, snapchats and all this other nonsense, thats how absolutely barren the walkways were the minute the sunset ended. The bus system in Grand Canyon National Park is bigger than some small cities in the US, and rather than wait and transfer to get back to our site, we decided to walk (Jon!).
I know this is absurd, but I’m afraid of the dark. Sorry, Im from NYC, I dont go outside at night anywhere that is actually dark, and I rarely walk through the woods. I love nature, I love the outdoors and I love camping but that doesnt mean Im not scared of it. The park brochure listed wildlife in the park, including mountain lions, so of course that is what I decided was stalking us on our two mile twilight hike back to camp. Mountain lions will eat you! There are rattlesnakes in this park, and we also saw some very aggressive looking elk on the same exact path on our way into the woods.
1 mile of my whimpering later, with Jon’s hand clutched tightly in mine, we approached two figures on the path heading towards us. As we neared, we saw it was two elderly ladies, one walking with a cane. Neither had a flashlight and both seemed at ease and were en route to a nature talk happening at the parks ampitheater. After passing these fearless grannies, Jon and I burst into laughter at the absurdity of my level of scaredy cat. I guess I chilled out a little for the rest of that walk, but I won’t pretend I wasn’t relieved to get back to our campsite. I guess I’ll always have a little NYC in me, no matter where I am.
We might be moving to Santa Fe. Its so nice there. I know everyone says that after they go to Santa Fe. Our NYTimes 36 hours guidebook lists a realtors office for the moment on your trip when you think Lets move here! Well start a new, better life!
Anyways, we already picked out our house. Its currently being used as a photo gallery, but no matter. There are literally 100s of galleries in Santa Fe. Canyon Road is a mile of galleries, sprouting off onto little streets to the left and right of the main drag. The galleries are all beautiful and housed in actual former homes. Some of them are little adobe style clay buildings with those great domed fireplaces. Some are older looking wooden slatted structures with creaky floors and screened porches. Theyre all unique and beautiful, and so was the art. Tons of sculptures and installations lined the streets there, not just on the gallery road but throughout the city. Huge metal horses, bears, pigs, rabbits, goats and tons of other wild life overlook the city from their pedestals in front of stores and churches. One gallery boasts one of the largest collections of medieval Spanish art in the United States.
In our favorite gallery, a tan gentleman approached us and asked where we were from and what we were doing there. He seemed to me a happy bachelor whod made his home down by the creek and practiced the dont-worry-be-happy approach to life. He was so friendly and genuine that I enjoyed talking to him, which I cant often say of small talk with strangers. As we chatted about travel and life, he advised that we try not to worry so much. His sweet sincerity almost made me cry, especially as someone who tends to worry about everything. I vowed to take his advice to heart and try to relax, enjoy life and realize that its all good. I also noted that I really liked his shirt and vowed to find a similar one for Jon on this trip. Never a moment of philosophical introspection without a moment of total materialism.
Zion National Park is freakin awesome. This place looks like the set of Jurassic Park. Did they film that movie in here? It seriously looks like dinosaur land. And it sort of is; reading about the rock formations taught us that some of the layers of rock contain dinosaur footprints. So dinosaurs really did roam this land, and it shows.
We loved Zion. Got our cute campsite right by the dumpsters and bathrooms (convenient! we said). Explored the park doing some easy hikes the first afternoon, because the second day was reserved for Angels Landing, the death march that Jon has been talking about since we left NYC.
Angels Landing is a 6 mile round trip hike that takes between 4-6 hours to complete. Its listed as “challenging” in the park brochure, mainly due to the extreme drop offs on either side of the hiking trail, which climbs 1,500 feet in elevation. The final .7 miles of the hike is a narrow path (2 feet wide at narrowest point) with vertical drops on either side. A metal chain lines the path for petrified amateur hikers to cling to.
Since 2004, only 6 people have fallen to their deaths from this hike. That sounded like pretty good odds to me that we’d be fine, but numbers and rationality don’t always acquiesce my obsessive imagination and honed worrying skills. The night before the hike, I imagined both of our fateful, fatal steps and picked the outfit I wanted my body to be found in at the bottom of the canyon.
On the day of the hike, we drank a ton of water and agreed we’d either do the hike together or not at all. Jon was calm as usual and seemed unphased by our impending doom. I made him eat a healthy breakfast AND lunch, and for once he agreed. Was this a bad sign? Maybe he was scared after all.
Once we started the hike, I felt a little less anxious. Then we got to the actual beginning of the craziness. We were already high up in the mountains and had worked up a good sweat getting there. But now stretched ahead of us was .7 miles of what looked like a 75 degree, knife-edged cliff. I looked up at this monster and realized my knees were quite literally shaking. I’m such a cliché.
I could go on about the details of this hike, but let’s just say we freakin did it. I was terrified the whole way up and I think I might’ve had a little fun on the way down. I was really scared, and I did it anyways. I wanted to turn back more than once, but I didn’t. And once we were back on solid ground, I’ve never felt more of a personal sense of accomplishment. Zion, we will see you again one day!
Austin is the capital of Texas. I didn’t realize this when we went there, probably because the only state capital I know is New York (NYC, duh) and also because I don’t know where any states are (although I’m begrudgingly learning since I’ve been looking at an atlas for 17 days. I still don’t know where Oklahoma is.).
The capitol building in Austin is the biggest in the country – bigger than the U.S. capitol building in DC! That’s because everything is bigger in Texas. It’s true! And it’s fun.
Nothing really funny or crazy happened while we were here, but we had a really good, chill time just exploring the city, eating some really fantastic food and buying some fun souvenirs. Here’s some pictures of where we went and what we ate!
Above: Bangers. This great spot on Rainey street was our first stop in Austin and it was ideal. Inside was a long bar with tons of different local beers on tap. Outside were picnic tables lining a huge backyard. It was a Monday night, but it felt like Friday there. People were milling around, chatting, having their beers and intermittently ordering food. A few kids jumped around on the benches and the weather was a perfect 65 degrees. We ate a bison sausage with spicy mustard and jalapeno mac ‘n cheese. Maybe we should move here?
Above: East Side King. Paul Qui’s food truck replaced my restaurant reservation at Qui on this visit. Austin just seemed like a place to eat and snack around, not sit through a 7-course tasting menu. You can see why this guy is doing so – well the food is perfectly snacky, the exact mish mosh of Asian fusion that you want when you just want to grub out. We had the fried chicken thighs with mint and lemongrass, the fried kimchee, and the pork buns. Fatty!
Above: Mickelwaiths Barbecue. Best barbecued brisket either of us has ever eaten. Barbecue really is better in the south, it must be the air and the woodchips, I don’t know, but it’s just better. The crust of this brisket was insanely crunchy, seasoned and delicious. The meat had a perfect pink smoke ring and the fat slowly dissolved in your mouth like the a smoky lardo. The meat was tender and buttery…I gotta stop talking about it, it was so rich and good it makes me both hungry and nauseous at the same time. I loved the ribs also, and how they served everything with bread and butter pickles and raw red onions. Delightful!
Above: Veracruz All Natural Tacos. These al pastor tacos were incredible. I bet all tacos in Austin are pretty great. Another food item that I believe just doesn’t compare in NYC – Mexican. Literally no taco I’ve had in New York even approaches this taco truck. The actual tacos were soft and a little thicker than usual which appeals to my carbo bread addiction. I also am big on all the sauces (authentic, unauthentic, don’t care, I want a variety of spicy and creamy sauces to adorn my tacos) and they had them.
Above: Mckinney Falls State Park. We stayed in a great campground about 15 minutes from downtown Austin, in McKinney Falls State Park. They had great campsites and nice, easy hiking trails that circled the whole park. There were also an upper and lower waterfalls there, where we spent some early morning and twilight hours putting our feet in the water and taking pictures.]]>