Winter Wonderland

If you’re at a standstill wondering if you should go on a ski trip or be practical, stay home, work, and not go on the ski trip, I’m here to tell you that you should most definitely go on the ski trip. Even if you just got back from Mexico City and are leaving three days later for another continent, just go on the ski trip.

I was invited to go skiing with a group of friends last month, and I immediately wanted to go, because Mammoth, of course, and what a dream it was to be there last year. As the trip got closer, I started having doubts because 1.) all this travel means I haven’t really been working (ie. earning money) that much, and 2.) I was feeling wildly disorganized by the lack of time between trips. I couldn’t make up my mind about going, but I guessed that it had been made up for me since we’d already purchased lift tickets and booked the Airbnb.

June Mountain

Then, sort of miraculously, a * normal * person from Craigslist decided to sublet my room for the month. She came on the last day of February—she was the only one I showed the room to and mine was the only room she looked at, but we were both ready and it seemed like a good fit (and still does). Around the same time, I got an offer for a new freelance writing job to bring in a little side income while I flutter around teaching yoga for two hours a day. Two loads off my shoulders. Whew!

(I’m sure many of you who read this wonder how I can afford to do the things I do, and the answer is somewhere between my grandma giving us an early inheritance along with my being a bit reckless and very resourceful when opportunities for adventure present themselves.)

So all that could’ve fallen into place did, and the ski trip was happening. We drove the 5 hour trek up to the snowy mountains (not a problem for Suzie’s Suburu Impreza) , checked into the very 80’s ski condo, and sipped some cocktails, because, well, of course. There were four of us in the first car, waiting until later in the night when the rest of the group would arrive. Once the second car made it to the condo area, they got stuck at the bottom of the hill, and we had a bit of an exciting time putting chains on their tires (ie. me holding my phone flashlight while the guys did the work).

The first day of skiing was hampered by the biggest blizzard I’ve seen in a while, so many of the lifts were closed. We drank Irish coffees in the lodge and almost called it quits, but as we were about to pack it in, we found an open chair with great conditions and did laps there for the rest of the afternoon.

Mammoth Mountain

On Sunday, we decided to avoid the crowds and possible windy conditions and opted to check out June Mountain, which is still as much of a gem as the first time I saw it. What a perfect day!

Anyway, the moral of this story is to stop all of your non-skiing nonsense, expect everything to fall into place, and go on the ski trip.

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Notes from the Road (Pt. III)

Just kidding; there's not really a Part Three since the last day of the drive only took 4 hours. I just passed through a bunch of Star Wars desert, then there were some mountains where it started raining, and then I was in Los Angeles. 

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California Cori. That’s me now. I suppose I’ve read enough about spirituality to know that the place in which you live doesn’t have much to do with who you actually are, but I would like to think that I’m made up mostly of sun and sea. I hope I could be a little bit of succulents and fruit trees. And I’ll be damned if I’m not at least partly avocados and In-N-Out Burger.

I live here, and it feels like I’m wandering in a dream. It's been raining-- it rains here, who knew-- which was not ideal for unpacking a fully loaded car, but which could be symbolic of my renewal and rebirth. I'll take it.

The house is a testament to putting full faith in Craigslist findings. I had only seen it and met the roommates via FaceTime before driving out here, but so far everything seems to be surpassing my expectations. I had wished for down-to-earth people, in-home laundry, and an included parking spot. I arrived to find that the room is bigger than it looked in the photos. The whole house is brighter. Outside there is a patio, a garden box, and a lemon tree. The backsplash in the bathroom makes it look like a hotel and makes me feel like my toiletries aren’t nice enough to be there. The roommates have a friendly dog and cat that kept me company while I hung up clothes and shifted boxes.

On the first full day, I went out for breakfast with my new roommates. There was vegan cheese, avocado toast, and $7 lattes, and it felt like I had officially woken up here. Later, I ran to the park, past a man screaming at the top of his lungs in the street.

Notes From the Road (Pt. II)

(6:50am)

It’s 24 degrees when I start the car. I tiptoed around the ski cabin, careful not to wake anyone since we started drinking yesterday around 2pm when the ski area handed out free PBR’s after the races. Most of us didn’t stop until about 10pm.

Hour 1- I’m tired. Possibly too tired for an 11 hour drive. At least the visions of mountains are enough to entertain my mind.

Hour 2- The sun rises over the mountains. I breathe deeply. Everything’s going to be fine.

Hour 3- I stop at Chick fil A for breakfast. Starbucks and Panera are right next door, but Chick fil A is my road trip food and I think this is the only one I will see.

Hour 4- Why have I done this to myself?

Hour 5- I call my dad to tell him how we went skiing one day and hiking the next. He says maybe I should be moving to New Mexico instead. I tell him New Mexico might be too weird for me. He says Austin is weird, California is weird. I say Yeah, but New Mexico is weird in a trailer park with meth head neighbors way. He has been here. He agrees.

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Hour 6- Two of my best friends now live in NM. They’re from Texas and Tennessee, and I think they are reconnecting with their southern roots. Everyone I met was from Texas or Oklahoma and I said I was from New York, but not in the proud way like I sometimes say it. I said it in the way where I quickly follow up with, “Upstate, not the city” like when I want the listener to know that I’ve gone fishing and ridden four wheelers through the woods.

Hour 7- 468 miles of I-40. Dear God.

Hour 8- I call my grandma. She is excited that I’m going to stay with her brother tonight. I haven’t seen him in about 20 years. She asks what if I have so much fun that I want to stay another night and postpone my drive to LA. We’ll see.

Hour 9- There is another Chick fil A in Flagstaff. Soon I will be moving in with two vegetarian girls and will probably become a vegetarian, so what’s one last chicken sandwich? I ask my great aunt for their address and discover that they live another hour past Vegas.

Hours 10 & 11- @#*/>!

Hour 12- My car climbs the mountains over Las Vegas. My grandma calls again and tells me about her visit here and says I have to visit Death Valley. Later, her brother tells me that they ran out of time to take her to Death Valley. I’m not sure who to believe.

I’m in Pahrump, NV. It’s 74 degrees.

Notes From the Road (Pt. I)

(6:20am)

Today is the day where I leave Austin and I don’t come back. I don’t have plans to come back. I drew the Cloak of Christ card from my roommate’s Rumi deck. I held my hands up to the barely lit sky asking for universal protection on this journey. It’s the longest I’ve ever driven on my own.

Hour 1- I listen to 102.3 The Beat radio station to see how far it goes. I cry, not in a heaving, debilitating way, but in a gentle, nostalgic way that comes with an accepted goodbye. Austin deserves a good cry.

Hour 2- 102.3 The Beat makes it farther than I was expecting-- all the way north of Austin where there’s nothing left but churches and cattle fields, and probably much less interest in urban hip-hop radio stations.

Hour 3- I have to pee already, but can’t let myself since it’s only been two hours. My friend Brianne calls me from Argentina. We’ve lived far apart for 8 years but she continues to get me.

Hour 4- I stop to pee and get coffee. I try to leave it black like a healthy person who is bothered by all the nasty stuff in Coffee-Mate, but I see they have pumpkin spice and I pump away.

Hour 5- I listen to Radiohead and the new Khruangbin. I’m dance-driving.

Hour 6- I stop at Torchy’s Tacos in Lubbock, TX and the line from the counter out the door takes my breath away. It’s my last Torchy’s though, so I have to stay. I sit at the bar, but it takes a while for anyone to come for my order. I go back to the line. It moves quickly and soon my tacos and I are back at the wheel.

Hours 7 & 8- Lots of windmills. Very flat. I decide to definitely go to see the Cadillac Ranch art installation outside of Amarillo.

Hour 9- The terrain gets more exciting. The dirt turns red and starts forming into mounds and swirls. I see the car art.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX
Cadillac Ranch Amarillo TX

Hour 10- The terrain turns back to flat nothingness.

Hour 11- I call my grandma. She tells me she went to her first chair yoga class so she would feel connected to me. She asks if I will get together with my aunt and cousin when they’re in LA next month. I say yes. She asks me again ten minutes later.

Hour 12- I make it out of Texas. The time changes. I call my dad, my mom, my sister. The Torchy’s and the Cadillacs and the peeing have set me back 2 hours. I don’t mind.

Hour 13- I listen to mp3s from my life coaching course. I see that the sunset is putting on a show for me right as mountains appear on the horizon. Perfect timing. I am thankful.

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Hour 14- It’s dark and the road is winding through the mountains. I discover that I can make a cool buzzing sound if I bend my tongue in a certain way and hum behind my teeth.

I arrive in Red River at 7:20pm. That wasn’t so bad.

Nurtured by Nature

Sometimes when you’re lucky enough to find yourself on a long vacation, you notice that similar things keep happening to you over and over again and, because of them, your vacation tends to take on a certain theme. On our latest road trip adventure, that theme turned out to be the power of Nature to make or break our plans.

We discovered that when we drove along, flying by the seats of our pants, without forcing or timing anything, we would end up seeing unexpected, mesmerizing stuff like this:

Somewhere in Utah...
Lake Powell, AZ

Lake Powell, AZ

Beginnings of the Grand Canyon

Beginnings of the Grand Canyon

And whenever we planned, plotted, and Yelped our way into a city, Nature would remind us of her right to step in and throw us a different agenda. We realized this when we were forced to sprint through the second half of our Sedona vortex hike as threatening storm clouds rolled in. And when the list of hip bars and restaurants to visit in Phoenix was cut short when we stepped out the door into the dust storm/thunder/lightning filled night. The next day, flash flooding on the interstate interrupted our quest for the best sopapillas in Albuquerque and kept us pulled over until after the restaurant had closed. And I already told y’all about the forest fires.

Storms in Sedona

Storms in Sedona

During our time in the campgrounds, our bodies learned to adjust to the schedule of the sun. We woke up early, stayed outside all day, started our fire as the sun dipped down, and went to sleep once the cinders settled into ash. We didn’t need much more than the excitement of the changing flames to keep us entertained until bedtime. When we traveled to the bigger cities, we tried to fight this newfound rhythm and go against the flow of things, but Nature had different plans for us. However, she had already let us graciously cool off in our campsite river after a 102 degree day in Zion and given us so many other lovely gifts on the trip, so we weren’t too upset about our updated schedules. Plus we still ate other sopapillas in Albuquerque and our trip to Phoenix was saved by a bomb-a** breakfast at Matt's Big Breakfast. Thanks Matt! (Asterisks because I'm pretty sure my mom and her friends make up 90% of the readers of this blog).

Sunrise outside Albuquerque

Sunrise outside Albuquerque

So, Nature, we dedicate our trip to You. We are feeling more grateful than ever for the constant reminders of your power and our own efforts to bow to you as we sit back and appreciate the way things are meant to be.

Utah, Part III

Summertime camping at popular national parks means the excitement waking up well before you want to, sometimes driving to multiple campgrounds, circling loops of tents, and asking around to find out who is leaving and when. Arriving at the right place at the right time means you'll be able to secure your spot for the night. Luckily most campers are friendly and they'll let you stake your claim to their site while they pack up, or they are park rangers and will let you know which sites have already opened or are about to. We felt very fortunate to be able to camp where we wanted every night without having to wait in huge lines or battle anyone for a section.

We followed B's family's recommendation to enter Zion from the East, which turned out to be excellent advice since you drive from not-Zion into a tunnel, and when you pop out, you're in Zion. It looks a lot like this:

Entering Zion National Park
Zion National Park

We seemed to be having even more "right place, right time" success because we soon saw a man pulled over taking pictures of bighorn sheep. B had recovered from my moose/branch and bear/deer confusion in Yellowstone, so he agreed to pull over too. I'd finally found the animal that I'd waited the whole trip to see:

Zion National Park

We saw another one about 2 minutes later, but it was so still and so close to the road that I thought it was a statue and didn't take any pictures. Note that if you see a very life-like animal in a national park, it's probably not a statue!

Zion was also the first place that I've ever been afraid of heights. Like paralyzed with fear, turn around, I'm not going levels of afraid. We had decided on a hike to Angel's Landing since we found it in a book of the most beautiful hikes in the world. On the way, there were signs reminding us to bring a lot of water and telling people who are afraid of heights that they should reconsider. It was 102 degrees and we are not afraid of heights, so we were more worried about death from dehydration than any height-related nervousness.

No problem. The majority of the hike was like this:

Angel's Landing Trail at Zion National Park

And B was wearing his "Vacation Dad" outfit so I felt very secure.

We got to what we thought was the last segment and it seemed a little scary, mostly because there were a lot of people on the trail headed in opposite directions, but we didn't think at all of turning around or not going to the top. We even took this photo saying, "Ha! Too bad for all those people who are afraid of heights. They don't know what they're missing."

Angel's Landing Zion National Park

Thennn we got over that hump and saw the real Angel's Landing summit, which features a 2-foot wide ridge trail with 1,000+ foot drop offs on both sides and looks like this:

Angel's Landing at Zion National Park

So I made us turn around and go back down! (Sorry B!) I don't regret it now since we later read that Angel's Landing is one of the deadliest hikes in the world and fit, reasonable people die there just from stumbling or missing a step. Maybe I'm getting old, but when we hiked another of the deadliest hikes (Huayna Picchu), it did not give me the same feelings of terror that this one did. I only took this one photo of the view in my frenzied fearful state:

Angel's Landing Zion National Park

We descended, avoiding the feisty rock squirrels, to do some more tourism, and I felt ok about it. But if you are a normal, athletic, confident person who wants to do it, Angel's Landing does look pretty cool and you should do it! Otherwise, Zion is a breathtaking place where you can find many other ways to entertain yourself. 

Zion National Park the Watchman

Utah, Part II

Utah's national parks are a world of dreams and magic.

Bryce Canyon Fairyland Loop
Bryce Canyon Fairyland Loop
Bryce Canyon Fairyland Loop

We hiked the Fairyland Loop trail in Bryce Canyon to get a view of the canyons from all angles, and I can't recommend it highly enough. We spent the whole day in a constant state of amazement, and when I walked out of the tent at night to head to the bathroom (squat down at the edge of our campsite), I saw the biggest shooting star of my life. Thank you Utah for your incredible skies and scenery!

Bryce Canyon sunrise

Utah, Part I

I didn't have many expectations about visiting Salt Lake City for the first time since I hadn't heard much about it, but the name implied that there would be a lake... probably a salty one, bordering or surrounded by a city. When I dreamt of going there, I imagined taking walks near the lake, watching the sunset over the lake, or maybe even doing a few lake-related activities besides swimming because the stinging of the Dead Sea taught me better than that.

Silly me. We had an Iceland situation on our hands. 

From our pre-trip research, which tended to occur in the last hour of driving before reaching any of our destinations, we learned that the lake is 30-60 minutes outside the city and that people don't go there. Allegedly it's hot, smelly, and full of flies. So we changed our plans and instead climbed up to fancy Park City to eat delicious sandwiches, take pictures with animal statues, and watch the sky turn pink.

Salt Lake City sunset

Then we went back down to take pictures of LDS buildings and sleep, since a city full of Mormons doesn't offer much in the way of nightlife. On to the next!

Salt Lake City Utah

WOW-oming!

Phase 3 of the trip brought us to a new state for me and a new phenomenon for both of us: forest fires!

As we crossed into Wyoming, we began to notice a lot of smoke in the air and started to hear gas station gossip about nearby towns being evacuated due to wildfires in the area. We had a "wouldn't it be cool if...?" moment* and, about 10 minutes later, the universe provided. 

Wyoming wildfire
Wyoming Wildfire

 

*"Wouldn't it be cool if we could see a wildfire up close while we're conveniently protected by our car and far enough away that it won't impact our lives or our travel plans so we can go to Idaho and eat square-shaped ice cream in peace?" It was pretty sobering to see rows of homes about to be eaten by the flames and the firefighters who were in the air spraying water from helicopters or on the ground trying to push the fire back from the road. We felt guilty taking pictures while so many people's lives were being uprooted, but once-in-a-lifetime experiences sometimes call for photos and so we summoned the war photographers in us and proceeded.

Wyoming wildfires

While we were busy looking back at that (^), we didn't notice that these were slowly sneaking up on our right:

The Tetons!

The Tetons!

The Tetons gave us shelter and an unbelievable view for the night while we entertained ourselves with long hikes in inappropriate footwear. B showed off his fire-building mastery and I cooked dinner on my brand new Coleman 2-burner camp stove, which I would regrettably end up breaking on the second night of camping, but which would be fine since I'm afraid of gas explosions anyway.

Next, we went to Yellowstone and decided to do everything in one day, a decision that was exhausting but one that we still stand by. The stones were really yellow, Old Faithful erupted while we were in the parking lot, and I learned that branches often look like moose antlers and your driving partner can get upset if you call out too many animal photo opps that are actually not.

The Earth was full of hot springs and gurgling pools and was feeling very alive! WOW-oming certainly lived up to B's nickname for it since I don't think we said any words other than amazing, incredible, beautiful, awesome, and long breathless wowww's for most of this phase of the trip. We would have loved some more time to explore, but Utah (and showers) beckoned.

Chipmunk at Grand Teton National Park

Colors of Colorado

In case you haven't been paying attention, Colorado has been busy making all the other states jealous by having just about EVERYTHING to offer. The whole time we were there, it felt like nature was performing a personal show for us, and she was certainly pulling out all the stops. Making up for all the hours of flatness and windmills of the Northwest Texas drive, we crossed the NM-CO border during this sunset: 

Colorado sunset

And made our way to Denver to spend a few days with B's sister, Kelsey, who should sign up for AirBnB a.s.a.p. because she is an incredible hostess who makes us feel better than at home every time we visit. Thank you Kelsey! She took us all over the city, and of course, to Red Rocks, the concert venue of all concert venues.

Red Rocks provides enough entertainment in itself that I would see anyone play there, but lucky for us one of the most musical geniuses of all musical geniuses, Sufjan Stevens, came through to knock our socks right off.

Sufjan Stevens at Red Rocks

Among the red rocks, Father Sky and Mother Earth continued their dazzling dance by giving us this (these) rainbow(s):

Red Rocks double rainbow

After our short stay in the Mile-High City, we headed over to the Higher-Than-Mile City to find out what summer in a ski town is like. I'm sorry to break it to Killington, Mount Snow, Smuggler's Notch, and all of the other East Coast resorts of my youth, but Steamboat Springs is the real deal. Much like the rest of the Colorado, I can really only describe it using superlatives! It was the first time in my life that I wished for summer to immediately turn to winter.

Steamboat Mountain Colorado
Steamboat Resort Colorado

We spent the rest of the week hiking, tubing, eating, and shopping our way around town while enjoying some uninterrupted family time and our 2,000 sq. ft. porch! There were so many more sunsets, more rainbows, and more unforgettable views that we sometimes had to laugh in disbelief.

If you're still not convinced about Colorado's beauty, here is what the backyard of a regular old Chipotle restaurant looks like there:

Colorado Springs

We were sad to leave on Sunday (and even sadder that our alarms were set for 5 a.m.), but we packed up the car and rolled onwards to see what the rest of the Wild West had waiting for us.

A Wandering Whirlwind

We made it through Colorful Colorado, Wild Wyoming, I-Don't-Know Idaho, Utopic Utah, Astounding Arizona, Not-so-bad New Mexico, and now we're back in TOO BIG Texas! I had my first square ice cream and we learned that dust storms are a real thing to watch out for.

Square ice cream in Idaho

I imagined The Road having a lot more internet than it actually did, so I've got a backlog of adventures to tell you about. To start off, here are some signs from some states:

Hope your Monday was even half as good as an unemployed yogi's spent buried in loads of laundry, grocery goods, and car crumbs!

Namaste.

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming