National Parks and Monuments, North Carolina mountains, North Carolina State Parks

Wild Hare Retreat

After RBG died, I decided that we really did have to get away. I had waffled until the last minute, but I found a place that we could afford that met our criteria during the week this week, an airBnB place called Wild Hare Historic Farmhouse Retreat right on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Sparta and Stone Mountain State Park, only about an hour and a half drive away. The first night we “glamped” in a 1968 Avion travel trailer parked on the property, and then we moved inside to a room with a private bathroom and a Jacuzzi tub. There is a creek with rapids and a small beach on the property, which was my main criteria. I wanted to get next to running water over rocks.

Now I am sitting at the dining room table of the BnB and the only other person in the house this week is one of the owners, Cara, who is very friendly.

Today is a rainy day, but other than being quite chilly the first night, the weather has been lovely.

On the way up here, we stopped at Stone Mountain State Park for a couple of hours, and I have to wonder why it is that we haven’t been up here in over twenty years. It is a pretty short drive and a really lovely park. We hiked a little and hung out beside a pretty creek with a little whirlpool at the top of the rapids.

Then we went into Sparta and ate inside (!!!!!) at a pizzeria but the tables were well spaced out and the staff and most of the customers were masked.

Then I got a major migraine and so I can’t give you a good description of staying in the travel trailer that night. I will say that the sleeping arrangements were comfortable and it was well equipped enough that we could have stayed in there for the week as we originally planned.

The next day I explored the property and the creek, and we drove to Galax, Virginia and had lunch (inside again!) at a combination antique store and cafe called Briar Patch Marketplace and Cafe on Main Street. The sandwiches and soup were very good (oh my God, that pimento cheese!!!) and they were doing all the covid precautions right. It was 2:15 p.m. by that time and there weren’t many people there.

We moseyed around the antique part and it was one of those consignment malls with a lot of different booths. I found a treasure trove of old books for very cheap that were amazing for the kind of collage that I do. I knew that I was in serious danger so I left after picking out three books in five minutes. I do NOT have room for more books. As it is I have started stacking them on the floor. Unfortunately when I went up to pay THAT person was not masked. I handed him my credit card and stepped back in a hurry. Then down the street the music store we wanted to go into had three guys without masks just inside the front door. So we headed back to Sparta.

We visited a local potter’s studio and then hit the Food Lion to get me some Allegra and some snacks. That night I don’t think Sandy ate anything but I munched on Goat Lady Dairy marinated goat cheese and crackers and was happy. We sat beside the fire pit and Cara joined us and brought marshmallows to roast under the stars. Then we enjoyed the Jacuzzi in our bathroom and it was a great one!

Wednesday was warm enough that I waded in the creek and collected a few rocks. Sandy started a drawing for a watercolor of the springhouse. I sat on the back porch listening to the water down below and lo and behold, my muse came back, finally! Next post.

That night we went early to a nice restaurant in Sparta called Crave, and our meals, chicken marsala and spaghetti with Italian sausage, were excellent. We both had desserts that were amazing – tiramisu and Italian cheesecake. We were going to visit the local brewery but had to waddle back to the car and so we came back and spent a quiet night reading and watching TV.

I would be content staying here at the retreat the whole time, actually. There is delicious water straight from the spring, cats, and chickens, flowers and herbs, the sound of water over rocks. I am more relaxed than I’ve been for a long time. I suspect that I will come back. They are not open all the time though, because they are heading to their other job as captains on a catamaran that hosts three couples in Florida! So Scott is already down there getting ready for that gig.

This morning I have been playing with collage. See the next post.

Tomorrow we go back to Greensboro.

National Parks and Monuments, New Mexico, Santa Fe

Bandelier National Monument

As much as I’d like to show some photos of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which was our first stop on Thursday morning, somehow there are no photos. My camera was dead and I know that Sandy and Cherie were clicking away. Hmmmm. Spirits interfering? Anyway, the camera worked outside the museum. As you might expect, seeing so many of her paintings in one place was very inspiring, and it made me want to reread the biography of her that I read several years ago.

Cherie dropped us off to get our rental car after this and said goodbye. We immediately drove out to Bandelier National Monument. If you haven’t been there in recent years, access has changed during the main tourist season. You park about 20 minutes away and a shuttle bus takes you down to the Visitor’s Center in the canyon. Nice ride, and allows you the leisure to view the walls of the canyon which are riddled with holes.

Once there, Sandy was finally able to do a hike up to see petroglyphs. I was not feeling well either. This particular trail was paved and easily accessible, with lots of benches along the way to stop, rest, and observe. Opportunities were there to climb ladders up into some of the cliff dwellings in some areas. We chose not to do those. Our walk back took us along the creek at the bottom of the canyon.

If you go to my photos on Flickr and open them on a large screen, you will likely see many petroglyphs. As we stood there looking at these walls, we kept finding more. The holes in straight lines indicate where the lodgepoles supported the roof of the rooms that were built in front of the cliff. Some holes were hollowed out and worked into rooms inside the rock. The walls of these pueblos were usually covered in plaster. The pictograph below was found behind some plaster and preserved against the elements.

Then we headed up high, high, high on the High Road to Taos, where our AirBNB apartment awaited us in Truchas. We were tired but we had to eat. So down the mountain roads we went to the Ranchos de Chimayo Restaurante, an award winning, friendly, and surprisingly inexpensive place with lots of charm. It was our 32nd wedding anniversary. Hard to imagine sometimes. We learned a lesson about drinking alcohol at high altitude – it packs a much larger punch.

It was chilly and the wind whistled around the house. Lorey had built a fire in the woodstove to warm the apartment. I could have easily holed up in this cozy place full of books and art and beautiful textiles and read for three days.

Chaco Culture National Park, National Parks and Monuments, New Mexico, UNESCO World Heritage sites

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

We got on the road early on Monday morning and headed for Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which is way down a washboard rutted dirt road surrounded by desert and the Navajo Nation. It is well worth the trip, but be prepared for sun and bring food if you need a meal because it is a long way to the nearest restaurant.

This is a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as a National Park. It was a major trade and ceremonial center for the Puebloan peoples who visited and lived here. Cherie and I headed up the cliff trail near the Visitor Center. Sandy was having altitude adjustment problems and sat below in the shadow of a ruin to take in the sights and photograph us from below. (By the way, this vertical foray kicked off my vertigo and I had to be very careful on the way around!)

Then we joined a ranger to explore and learn about the Pueblo Bonito, which was once a four-story structure. Actually, I guess it still is. The bottom two floors were filled back in after excavation to keep it stablized. So what you are looking at in these photos are the two upper floors!

There were more petroglyphs near the hole in the cliff that the ranger said lined up on the north/south axis with another across the canyon, but they were difficult to photograph in the sun. I noticed online that there were really great petroglyphs down a long trail where we had neither the time or energy to hike. Too bad. I love ancient art and the mysterious symbols. Maybe I will get to go there again one day.

Because it is so remote, this is an International Dark Sky Park. Wouldn’t it be great to camp here and look at the stars! May seems like a good time to visit because it wasn’t very crowded when we were there. Of course, it was a Monday, so not many families were there. Mostly a lot of seniors or near seniors with trekking poles, like us.

Then Cherie, heroic driver, drove us to Santa Fe through country that looked like Hollywood western movie territory. I could imagine cowboys and outlaws riding through the sage. We stayed at Santa Fe Sage Inn. It was a very nice hotel for the price, and they had a great hot buffet breakfast. We pretty much hit the bed and rested for the next day.

Aztec Ruins National Monument, National Parks and Monuments, New Mexico

Aztec Ruins National Monument

We stopped at Aztec Ruins National Monument on the afternoon of Sunday, May 12. This is an easily accessible, compact, 900 year old pueblo great house site. You can explore it in an hour with no climbing or hiking. Despite the name, this is NOT an Aztec site. It is one of the communities that branched out from the Chaco Canyon center. Because of this close connection, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

That night we stayed in a Super 8 in Bloomfield, New Mexico that was surprisingly nice! We ate Texas style BBQ and tacos across the street at Serious Texas BBQ. North Carolinians can be quite snooty about BBQ. I’ve never been a big fan, which makes me a heretic here, but I’m not fond of vinegary food. I ate a brisket BBQ taco and peach cobbler with ice cream. Delicious.

Next stop: Chaco Culture National Park

Fossil Butte National Monument, Idaho, Idaho-Wyoming trip, National Parks and Monuments, Utah, Wyoming

Fossil Butte National Monument, and going home

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There seemed to be historical markers about the Oregon Trail or California Trail or Mormon pioneers everywhere we went. I like the way Idaho paints its historical markers. Our metal ones might hold up to all kinds of abuse (and we saw one marker in Idaho that had been destroyed by a wildfire) but the metal ones with just type are so boring compared to Idaho’s artful markers.

We crossed back over the state line to see Fossil Butte National Monument, near Kemmerer, Wyoming. The visitor’s center was extremely interesting, with a timeline that led from the beginning of geological history up to the present, beginning as you drove up the road. The spatial aspect of it was mind-blowing. I am fascinated with geology but if I studied it for long my head would explode. Seriously. The fossils within were excellent too. A nice follow-up to our trips to four other fossil-related National Monuments in the last five years.

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We didn’t spend long here. We needed food and we had turned our thoughts to returning home. A side trip to Kemmerer filled our bellies at a sweet little diner on the main drag and then Sandy wanted to take the quickest way to Salt Lake City, so instead of the scenic route, we took Interstate 80, where the speed limit was 80 and every big truck in the area was zooming through. The wind was up and I can say that this was my least favorite part of the trip. I had a death grip on the wheel while Sandy napped, and then he awoke to watch me drive a long fast descent into Utah. There was a time when a drive like this would not have been possible for me due to panic attacks. I am a flatlander from the swamps of coastal Carolina. But I’ve gotten a lot of experience driving in the past ten years so I did not relinquish the wheel. I would not choose this route again if possible.

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We ate at a chain restaurant because no independent restaurants nearby were open on a Sunday night, and stayed at a chain hotel. Early in the morning, we returned the rental car. We drove around Salt Lake City airport three times – what a confusing place! Our plane stopped on the runway and returned to the gate because of an engine problem. One man insisted on getting off the plane. I think he was scared. But the engine was repaired and we made it to Phoenix in time to catch our connection. Southwest delayed its flights to give us a little more time, which was nice.

Flying into Raleigh Durham Airport, we didn’t know what to expect. Our car smelled dank, but it was fine. The pilot had said that the storm had moved to our west, but the drive home wasn’t bad. My friend had cooked us dinner. We had a great time, but we were glad to be home and see our kitties.

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Now where will we go next?