After our day in Arches National Park, we decided to push our luck with our five-year-old daughter by spending another day hiking in the heat and admiring rocks. Canyonlands is a huge national park, so we only saw a small section of it, called the Island in the Sky. Below is the view as you enter the Island in the Sky – spectacular!
We enjoyed a short hike to Mesa Arch, admiring the blooming prickly pear cacti along the way. Mesa Arch may very well be one of the most amazing natural sights I’ve ever seen. A huge arch like this, formed along the edge of such a canyon, can only be described as incredible.
We also went on a slightly longer hike to overlook Upheaval Dome, a meteorite impact crater. It is difficult to appreciate the scale and scope of many of the views at Canyonlands through photos; Upheaval Dome is about 5 km in diameter.
After the Upheaval Dome hike, our daughter was just about done with hikes to see more rocks. We stopped to enjoy a few more amazing views along the road, and then headed to Moab for some well-earned shave ice.
We visited Arches National Park at the beginning of June. It was rather hot, surprisingly uncrowded, and of course, spectacular.
We spent the longest time climbing around and enjoying Double Arch.
We also spent quite a while enjoying Sand Dune Arch. Our daughter loved playing in the sand and exploring the hiding spots between the rocks.
Delicate Arch, the most famous of the arches, looked pretty amazing from a distance, but required a significant hike that we did not have the time or energy for. Maybe next time!
After concluding our work in Quito, we traveled by bus for a brief tourist visit to the Cotopaxi area. Much of the two hour drive was on a rough cobblestone road, through beautiful farm country.
We stayed at The Secret Garden Cotopaxi, a truly unique hostel/paradise overlooking several volcanoes. Gorgeous flowers and adorable llamas abound. When we arrived, we learned that a baby llama had been born there just that day!
After settling in and having a delicious chickpea and rice lunch, most of our group headed out for a guided waterfall hike. We divided into two groups: the “fun/hard” hike (mostly hiking through a small river to the waterfalls) and the “easy” hike (mostly hiking on land to the waterfalls). I of course opted for the “easy” hike, which honestly wasn’t that easy for me. We still had to hike through part of the river, and there was some steep and slippery hiking on land. With the altitude, all of this was rather challenging for me, but the experience was awesome.
All meals are included when you stay at the Secret Garden, and nearly everything is vegetarian and grown in their substantial gardens. I failed to take any photos of my delicious meals and snacks, but the Secret Garden folks did an amazing job accommodating my vegan and gluten-free dietary restrictions.
I spent about a week in Quito, Ecuador in May. It was a work trip, so we only had a little time to explore the city, but I loved what I saw. At an elevation of 9,350 feet above sea level, it may be a surprise to some that much of the city is in a valley, nearly surrounded by volcanoes and mountains. The photos below are from my hotel and near my work site.
We had a chance to explore Old Town Quito one night. The beautiful historic center of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with some buildings dating back to the 16th century!
We also had a brief stop at a tourist market. As we left Quito for our next adventure, we got a great overview of the sprawling city.
I had some concerns about finding vegan, gluten-free food I could eat in Ecuador, but I ended up really enjoying most of my food options. Below are photos from my lunches at work, and I also really enjoyed a Korean restaurant near the hotel for dinner one night.
There were also many unique fruits and juices available. Apparently, because of the many microclimates in Ecuador, you can find a huge variety of produce from different locations. We found the tamarillo, or tree tomato, served in different ways in a number of our meals.
We went to St. Vrain State Park on a sunny morning in mid-April. The Pelican Pond Nature Trail loop was a perfect low-key walk for our group. The beautiful old trees were just beginning to get their leaves, and we enjoyed the panoramic views of the mountains, and some bird watching.
This park seems to be immensely popular for RV camping and fishing as well.
We visited the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado on a warmish January afternoon. It was amazing to see the lions, tigers, coyotes, wolves, bears, and other animals roaming freely in their large habitats.
It was a pleasant surprise to see two bald eagles visiting the sanctuary as well.
Bright Nights in Springfield, MA is a great holiday activity for a cold night. Since we went a few days after Christmas, it wasn’t super busy – we arrived about five minutes before it opened for the evening and only had a few cars ahead of us waiting to get in. The last time we came to Bright Nights was about three years ago, and it seemed to have grown considerably since then. We were able to drive steadily at our own pace, and spent about 30 minutes enjoying the many detailed light displays.
If it hadn’t been such a brutally cold night, it would have been nice to take advantage of the place to park, get out of the car, and ride a carousel and enjoy warm drinks. Maybe next year!
On a cold winter New England day, a warm, humid butterfly house is just the place for me.
The Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens, in South Deerfield MA, is a great change of scenery and climate during the winter. You’ll find yourself immersed in beautiful flowers and greenery, with butterflies flitting all around you (and sometimes even landing on you).
In the main butterfly room you’ll also see uncaged birds (including a hummingbird and parrot), a tortoise in a large open pen, and a small koi pond. An adjoining room contains numerous terrariums housing many species of amphibians, reptiles, and insects.