Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Travel photography

I finally have most of my travel photos in one place: on Google+. If you want to skip reading the blog & just look at some photos of my travels, go to my Google + photo page. Comments are always welcome.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Day 3 & 4 - On the Colorado River - August 29 & 30

Another early morning and a group consisting of about 15 adults and 20 Boy Scouts embark on a rafting trip on the Colorado. Recent rains meant the river was higher than usual and the color of red clay. I was a bit apprehensive that I might find such a "float" boring or under stimulating, but there were some inflatable kayaks available, so I chose to kayak instead of riding the raft. I ended up having the least likely (for me) kayaking partner: a 30-something guy from south Texas who called me "ma'am" the entire time, who voted for Rick Perry every election, is a proud gun-owner and hunter, and has zero interest in technology (would never be on Facebook)-- sort of everything I wanted to escape when departing Texas!! However, I much preferred having him as a co-pilot to one of the 12-year-old boys (who had ongoing water fights throughout the trip) and he turned out to be a fantastic partner: noticed wildlife I missed, happily waited as I unpacked my camera from its waterproof container, and approached the rapids with a confidence I lacked. I heard about his upbringing in foster care and how this was his first vacation in nine years. He teased me about all my liberal views and I ranted about the politics of Texas. Altogether, a great match. We camped out on the river bank, and if they could have found a way to provide showers, I would have cheerfully kayaked the river for a week. The trip was more than I expected, with exhilarating rapids and amazing views if the sandstone cliffs.
Day 1 of river trip.
Evening camp:

Arches National Park - August 28, 2013

I met up with the group from the Moab Adventure Center T 7:15 a.m. (early for me, but I am ready to go) and we had a tour of the park for the next 4 & 1/2 hours. Below are some of he photos from hat excursion.
In the evening, our group went out for a "Hummer Sunset Safari" - a title suggesting to me a quiet ride in the desert where there would be opportunities to see the canyons & the river in the evening light. What I DID NOT EXPECT was a hair-raising Hummer drive up 60 degree angles on gigantic rocks followed by racing curves in the sand. Remember that high anxiety feeling of going up the steep incline of a huge roller coaster where your stomach sinks and you wonder what on earth ever gave you the crazy idea of getting on the "Devil's Backbone Coaster?" That is EXACTLY the thought and expressed reaction of myself and several of my trip mates (excepting all the young adolescent and adult males who thought the experience was totally exhilarating!). It was terrifying and I kept wondering if my health insurance would even cover injuries due to such insane activities. I definitely should have read the liability release more carefully. However, the sunset photos were magnificent & would have made the "adventure" worth the terror if only I had not ERASED the entire memory card accidentally. Note to self: don't try to edit images while still under the influence of an adrenalin rush. So the experience of that night will remain in memory, but without visual accompaniment.

On the road again....

Long time, no traveling. 2011 was the year I decided that I needed to get a divorce from Texas .... a difficult decision, but a long time coming. As I said in an earlier post, my experience on the Camino convinced me of the obvious truth that I only have one life, so I better make it the one that is right for me. So all of 2012 was spent planning & executing a move to Albuquerque & there was no time or interest in traveling. My trip for the year was the 14 hour drive from hell with two very unhappy cats, but we arrived safely in ABQ and 18 months later, I am "on the road again." I had planned originally to hike the Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland (which I still want to do), but the move to NM made a trip within the US much more viable and attractive. So this is my first American Car Trip, and I am exploring the National Parks of the west and southwest. Day 1: August 27, 2013 - Drive from ABQ to Moab, UT Not much to say about this day except it was longer than expected due to frequent Riad work requiring stops of 15 minutes or more. But I am on holiday, so what's the rush?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Reflections on the Camino 18 months later

May 4th, 2013
As I was walking along the Bosque trail tonight (6 miles @ 17 minutes/mile--still slow, but getting a bit faster) I thought about the fact that I am planning my first real trip since ending the Camino del Norte in September, 2011, and how that experience brought me to this moment in my life: a new city, new home, new life.  When I first heard about the Camino Francés, I was drawn to it for two reasons: it was a long walk I could do alone & I would have the chance to (perhaps) improve my Spanish.  As I always do, I plunged into the Camino literature (everything from Jack Hitt's book upon which the film "The Way" with Martin Sheen was based to "Walk in a Relaxed Manner," lessons learned from the Camino by a nun.)  I read all the suggestions on the Camino Forum, studied maps to determine how far I should walk & where to start, and obsessed about what I should bring with me (even going so far as weighing everything although I still brought WAY TOO MUCH!), but I gave no real thought to the psychological/spiritual elements of the walk.  This is a bit surprising since the Camino has always been a pilgrimage: people hundreds of years ago walked it to repent for their sins, and people from all over the world walk it today for spiritual guidance.  In fact, one cannot obtain the "compostela," the certificate of completion from the Catholic Church, unless it is walked for spiritual reasons (I said it was for meditation--which turned out to be true).

I returned from my shorter walk on the Camino del Norte in September of 2011, and by the beginning of October, I had decided to move to New Mexico.  I did not think that I was considering a move--in fact, I did not think I would ever leave Austin.  So what was it about the Camino experience that resulted in such a huge (from my point of view) life change?  First of all, I think that it convinced me that I could do whatever I set my mind on doing (see photos of my feet in Camino Part 1), and that I could do something that sort of "broke the rules:" it is okay to undergo a life upheaval when you are in your 30's, but it is not supposed to occur when one is in their 50's (one should wait to retire).  In spite of my agnostic stance toward religion, I also thought that I should not "roll the dice with my life" when I had been given so many wonderful things: friends; a great psychology practice; a home I loved, etc.  I thought that the Universe might find me full of hubris (remember all those Greek tragedies?) and not give me a second chance.  Yet the second Camino made it clear to me how important it was (at least at this point in my life) for me to be somewhere that afforded me moments of astonishment and breathtaking views in nature.  I also think that I was struggling on both Caminos with my need to bring too much stuff: that my wish to not lose things that I love (e.g. my house in Austin) was getting in the way of making more important decisions that would affect my life emotionally and psychologically.  I remember exactly the moment I decided to move: my brother was considering going to the International Balloon Festival in Albuquerque and it came to me almost like an epiphany: I thought "I can move!!"  And so, six months later, I had moved to New Mexico, and I have not had a moment of uncertainty about the decision.  I really hope that I get a chance to do the complete Camino someday (starting in the Pyrenees and walking all the way to Santiago de Compostela), but that may have to wait a while.  Fortunately, one of my Texas clients plans to walk the entire route this fall, so I will have the opportunity to experience it vicariously through her blog.

So I have been planning my first post-Camino adventure and have decided to do something I have never done: take a real American Road Trip.  Of course, my family did some of these (leaving me with have mixed memories), but I have never done one on my own.  Since I now have a car that will take me pretty much wherever I want to go, I am planning to do a tour of some of the National Parks.  Last fall, I saw this amazing program on "Nature" about Yellowstone National Park in the winter, and I was transfixed.  So I am planning to go to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and hope to perhaps see both Mesa Verde and one of the major parks in Utah.  So far, I have reservations for 6 nights in Yellowstone (4 in a hotel & 2 camping) in September.  And, of course, the only thing I like almost as much as adventure travel is the planning of an adventure.  So I have my maps, my guides to Yellowstone, etc., and I hope that I will have a great photographic/hiking adventure that will leave me with lots of great photos to post here & on Facebook. I feel like I am already on the next adventure.  Stay tuned.