Zion Narrows - I Know how to Save a Life

Suddenly floating

Down the river goes my wife

Someone grab her hat!

It was a beautiful morning in Zion National Park, we were up early to get to the outfitters to rent our waders/dry suits for the hike in the Zion Narrows. This is a hike we have wanted to do since 2009 when we brought the kids with us to Zion. It was worth the wait and is definitely in my top 10 list of hikes.

The water temperature was 56 degrees and the river was flowing at 46 cubic feet per minute. So it was not too high, but it was rapid enough that a lot of the time we really needed our poles to stabilize ourselves. I was under the impression that the entire hike was in the river. Thank God it was not. A lot of the hike involves zig zagging back and forth to get to dry land to walk on a trail for a short distance before going to the other side to do the same.

I felt like an explorer as you could not see very far ahead, so at every turn there was another turn just up ahead and you never knew what was coming up next.

Our goal was to make it to the split and then walk a little further upstream to “Wall Street” where things get even more narrow. Which we did, we also explored a path to a waterfall. But that was not too productive, as there was a mini waterfall and boulder in our way. So we headed back.

When we arrived at the deepest crossing that also had a very strong current that was when things went awry. I was walking just ahead of Jane when I saw her start to float by! She had stumbled and done a slow fall into the deeper water. I was able to grab on to her and get her upright but not before a bunch of very cold water had gone over the top of her dry suit bibs! Her hat started to float downstream but luckily some nice young person was there to stop it. When we got out of the water on the other bank we looked back to find that Ann had stumbled in the water as well.

The dry suit did an excellent job of keeping out the water for most of the trip, and now it was doing an equally good job of keeping the water in! Which meant that every time jane got into a little deeper water the pressure on the suit forced the cold water inside the suit to squeeze up! Not comfortable. At this point our hike became a march to get back to the trailhead as quickly as we could to get the women out of their wet clothes. Unfortunately Ann fell one more time in the water and then took a tumble on some rocks on the land and bruised her elbow and banged up her knee.

Despite it all we still enjoyed some awesome scenery along the way. When we arrived at the trailhead it was quite a process to remove all of our wet gear. I pulled open the cuff on Jane’s dry suit and a gallon of water came pouring out. We still had a one mile hike to get back to the busses which was just about enough time for their wet clothes to dry out.

We were all amazed and surprised at the casual nature of the outfitters in town. Here is some stuff, try it on and let me know if you need a different size. Signing the waiver of liability was totally on the honor system, and paying seemed to be an honor system thing as well. How they knew what we had taken or paid for, or even returned is a mystery. I guess a dry suit is not something you are likely to steal, but it felt nice and refreshing to not have to sign and number and carefully check in and out each piece of gear!

This is a hike we would definitely repeat with our family if we ever get back here again.

We arrived safely back at our campsite where we packed up some drinks and our swimsuits and headed to the east side of the park. We needed to get inside the geofence area to get in the daily lottery for a chance to hike the Wave. They only allow 64 people a day into the Wave so it takes some luck. After driving even further than we wanted to we finally got enough cell signal to enter. It was kind of funny with four of us and four different generations of iPhones each with different signal strength trying to get the app to work with only a single bar of LTE signal!

After finally succeeding in getting two of us in the lottery we gave up and headed over to Ann and Jerry’s hotel to use the hot tub! That felt great. Jerry offered to buy us all dinner if we could go to a sports bar where he could attempt to turn us into Phoenix Suns fans.

Winter Wonderland at White Sands

I was looking down at my phone or something inside the car when we made the transition. I looked up and saw this sight!

Plowed Roads!

It looked like we had suddenly been transported to Wisconsin in the middle of January! Instead we were at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Not far from the Missile Range and the test site for the Manhattan Project.

We did some messing around on the dunes, enjoying the beautiful contrast between the white sand and the clear blue sky!

From White Sands we went back to our campsite at Leasburg Dam and hooked up to head further west. We had opted for a KOA in Wilcox AZ for the night so we could have all our tanks clean and empty for the final drive to Indio.

Little did we know that Wilcox is some kind of wine Mecca for the state of Arizona. Who ever heard of an Arizona wine anyway? We had to give them a try so after making camp and doing a little work with the good WiFi. We headed to the Coronado Winery to test a few wines and enjoy some of their food. The wine was actually really good, I ended up buying a bottle of their Rose to take with me and Jane bought a bottle of the Sangiovese.

Its been an incredible trip and all we have left is about six hours of driving on I-10 tomorrow! Depending on how early we get on the road we will be in Indio by early to mid-afternoon. Lots to look forward to there, and looking forward to reconnecting with all of our Indio friends, golfing partners and pickleball players!

Big Bend National Park

After a beautiful night at Seminole Canyon, we were on our way to Big Bend National Park. This is a good time to see this park as Big Bend is definitely not on the way to anywhere. The park is huge, and very remote. It borders the Rio Grande and has some spectacular hiking.

Getting into our “pull through” site was our first adventure. It was on the wrong side of the road for our camper so first we had to drive down the road the wrong way. The site is on a hill and half of the site is very sloped so we had to pull up to the level area and leave the pickup blocking the road until we were leveled and unhooked. Thankfully the rangers around here are very friendly and understanding. One even told us that he would block traffic for us when we left if he was around to make it easy for us to go the wrong way. I love a friendly rule breaker!

After some sandwiches for lunch I worked a bit and read with the idea that we would do the hike to the Window sometime after 4:00. This turned out to be a great decision as we ended up in shade for most of the hike and on the way back we had just beautiful light on the mountains. This hike was downhill from the start and uphill all the way back!

This was the end of the hike where we could see the plains below the window from our valley!

On the way back we had several opportunities to enjoy the beautiful lighting! This one is my favorite, I really love the reflection of the mountains beyond in this tiny pool.

I also loved the contrast in the lighting, from the shadow we were walking in to the canyon walls still in bright, late afternoon sunlight!

We didn’t get back from the hike until after 7:00 so after a drink and a bit of rest it was dark by the time I started the griddle for supper. We had decided on fried burgers. I haven’t made a burger on a flat top in forever, but let me tell you, it was great! Nicely browned on the outside and we toasted some buttered buns right next to the burgers! It took me right back to my childhood having burgers at the Cafe in Storden Minnesota with my grandma Sundahl.

This morning we were up and waiting for the sun to clear the canyon wall so we could position the solar panels for the day before we took off on our sightseeing tour. It was great.

We followed the Ross Maxwell road (an early park super) and it was beautiful! The highlight of the trip was the view of “the notch” No! not the one on the iPhone or the new macbook pro, but a gigantic notch between the mountains carved out by the Rio Grande! This was our first view of it from about 10 miles away!

When we got closer it was great to get out and walk into the canyon. The drought is so bad that the Rio Grande is very low .

So low, in fact, that we were definitely in Mexico for a few minutes!

End of the Line - Riding the Delta

Yesterday was the official end of my Mississippi River ride. I rode way out on the delta to Venice, or the southernmost strip of land in the state of Louisiana. A few parts of the ride were scenic but a lot of it was still just along the highway. Thankfully the traffic heading out that direction is pretty light, so even though it was a four lane road I could have one lane to myself.

I got off to a bit of a rocky start as I thought I was just going to follow the highway, but a mile into the ride I checked the map only to discover I was off track. So I did a U-turn and headed back to my missed turn onto a nice side road. After a mile or so on the side road I could see a bridge ahead and the dreaded orange highway signs. The bridge was out! My only option was to go back to the highway I had left and continue as I thought! The highway bridge

The Gulf and the River Meet!

Miles later, and just a couple miles short of the end I could see our pickup sitting beside the road. Jane was waiting for me to give me the news that the road ahead was under water. Not deep, but definitely not bikeable.

So we put my bike in the bed of the pickup, and fittingly drove the last two miles to the southernmost point in Louisiana where I did pose for my final photo op.

To recap, Jane and I covered 2,550 miles from the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca to this pretty un-flashy finish line. I didn’t ride every mile of that but I rode the majority of it for sure. I learned a lot about the limitations of my body and the day after day grind of riding a long distance.

The drive back to our campground outside of New Orleans was pretty uneventful. We had to take a ferry across the river at the cost of $1.00. It runs every 30 minutes and appears to take about a dozen cars each trip. Definitely not a money maker when you consider the crew of three!

View from the ferry

We really enjoyed looking at all of the large houses up on stilts! We even saw two entire high school buildings built on stilts! Very new, so we were guessing these schools were built with money from FEMA after Katrina. Here is a nice example of one of the fine houses we saw.

As I write this we are about an hour away from our campground in San Antonio! We have covered more miles today than we would do in a week while I was biking! We left early this morning under the cover of darkness and its been quite a trip. The severe weather that is affecting the entire country made no exception for our day of travel. We had to pull over to a rest stop outside of Beaumont Texas to wait out a severe thunderstorm. It was an early lunch but it worked nicely to park in between an 18 wheeler and a fifth-wheel camper.

We enjoyed 3 fun nights in New Orleans which I will cover in a separate post! We have about a week of travel left before we arrive in Indio with more adventures yet to come. We are looking forward to a visit to the Alamo tomorrow and some of the great national parks in the state of Texas.

Google Maps — You. are. Fired.

Due to my back pain I rode with Jane today from the Mississippi River state park to Lake Chicot state park. I’m not too sad as it was 80 miles of highway riding through flat (and mostly harvested) cotton fields was not so appealing.

After crossing the river into Arkansas we were ready to get to our campground. Google maps wanted us to turn right, so of course we did. The road sign for the state park said to go straight but hey, what do they know. A hundred yards later we were screwed…. We were on the North Levee road with no way to turn around. Think Gravel, dust, and steep grades on both sides of the narrow gravel road.

Crap! 7.2 miles and then we are supposed to turn left onto Audubon Trail. Which then goes to our campsite. What else can we do except take it nice and slow, raise as little dust as possible, and hope that nobody comes from the other direction!

Well, 7.2 miles later we get to our turn for the Audubon trail and that is exactly what it is! A trail! The road goes left but at the bottom of the levee is a gate, chained closed. I hop out to investigate and see if it is locked and what is on the other side of the gate. Well it isn’t locked but the other side of the gate has not seen any traffic in a very very long time. We would be driving in a pasture, with a barely discernible path. 100% something you would never pull a camper on!!

At this point our only option is to curse Google in the most colorful language possible, and try to very carefully turn the camper around by backing into the turnoff. Jane very skillfully backs the camper onto the ramp and then begins to pull to go back the other way. The wheels begin to spin. No way!! stop and go and spin, stop and go and…. the traction catches and we are turned around. Now all we have to do is drive another 7.2 miles back the other way on the same dusty gravel.

By the time we get back to the main road, the truck is beige instead of nearly black. The camper is covered in dust, and neither of us is in a very good mood. We follow the signs toward the state park and I thoughtfully suggest deleting the Google maps application from Jane’s phone. This way is about 17 miles longer than Google’s way but it is much better and we arrive safely. The ranger gives me a knowing chuckle when I suggest that maybe the park should have a notice to ignore Google maps when trying to get to the campground. We are not the first! Nor will we be the last I suspect.

We will follow the instructions to try to get Google to make a correction.

In the meantime for the search engine side of google here are some key words that may help the next unsuspecting traveller.

Arkansas Chicot State Park, directions, Audubon trail, north levee road, ignore google!! Audubon trail is NOT a road!!

Zooming to Tennessee

My back felt better this morning, and with 52 miles on the schedule it felt very doable. Especially with all my new ointments to soothe my muscles and keep my rear end happy.

The challenge for the day was that in addition to riding, and needing to move to the next campground, I was also supposed to participate in the Concordia College October board meeting. What to do? Most of the morning was scheduled as committee meetings and the student learning committee had no important votes to make today, so I decided I would ride during that meeting and attempt to participate via zoom as I rode. It mostly worked fine! I was able to listen to 90% of the meeting as I had at least two bars of Verizon LTE for the majority of the ride!

The only part I could not participate in was during opening introductions when I happened to be down in a very pretty valley — I guess they call them hollers down here in Kentucky? In any case I didn’t have service for a while.

I’m going to claim that this is the first time ever that a Concordia regent has participated in a board meeting, virtually, while riding 52 miles.

Tonight we are camped out at Reel Foot Lake State Park. We have a beautiful spot right on the lake.

Getting into this spot was quite the trick! First we had to back down a lane and then make a sharp turn around a tree, while avoiding another tree with the pickup! Thankfully I married a pro backer upper, and with my expert hand signals 👉👈 we were settled in no time!

A relatively early arrival allowed me to participate in the afternoon session from the comfort of our couch, and thankfully we have a good signal at this campground!

West Memphis to Mississippi River State Park

This is one of the most beautiful state parks with really nice campsites.

After riding nearly 60 miles today, my back was so sore that I knew my long distance riding days were numbered. The rest of the way will be finding some shorter, more scenic/nicer routes to ride to fulfill the spirit of this trip.

The truth is that riding 100 miles on the edge of a highway through flat farmland lost its appeal. This really is the part of the ride where things get kind of flat and boring. I’m looking forward to that last days ride to the Gulf.

Beautiful Fall Day at Mississippi River SP

Meanwhile we had a nice campfire and enjoyed a really beautiful night in the park.

Our campsite

Using the night mode on my iPhone

A Dogged Ride to Fort Pillow

Today I saw fields of cotton ready for harvest for the first time in my life. What a sight! Acres of white “flowers” against a backdrop of green.

After breaking camp at lake Reel Foot and riding for a while with Jane I got on my bike for the last 52 miles into our destination of Fort Pillow. Less than 100 yards from starting my ride I was chased by two dogs. Of course this was going to happen as I had just commented to Jane that of all the things so far the last couple of weeks I was glad that I hadn’t had to cope with dogs! These two were just a dramatic foreshadowing of my day to come. Following the MRT took me through lots of pockets of rural houses on very lightly traveled roads. But every house had at least one dog and all of them wanted to greet me in some way. None of them attacked, but when you are on a bike it is never fun to have dogs running beside you or in front of you, you just don’t know what they will do.

In addition to the cotton fields I also saw a lot of Kudzu forests. Kudzu is an invasive plant species introduced from Japan. It can grow a foot a day and loves to cover the native trees giving the forests that have been taken over by the Kudzu quite an interesting look!

Kudzu forestMore Kudzu!

Today’s ride was also super hilly! The final few miles up to the campground at Fort Pillow almost did me in! I’m very happy that this should be one of the last hilly rides, the rest of the way to Louisiana should be pretty flat.

I’ve read quite a bit about the civil war but had never heard of a general Pillow. Turns out he didn’t last long and neither did the fort. Less than a year from completion the fort was abandoned by the confederacy. It was a very nice campground, and it was a beautiful Fall night. A good chance to have a campfire and enjoy some well earned steaks after a hard ride!

Tomorrow Jane and I plan to do an easy ride on a bike path on the way to Memphis, then I’m planning to take a couple days off as we rest up and take in a few of the sites in Memphis. Hopefully some BBQ on Beale street is in my future.

Trail of Tears State Park

From Fort Kaskaskia we drove to the Trail of Tears State Park. This park marks the spot where thousands of Cherokee were driven across the Mississippi river in a forced relocation to reservations in the west. Over ¼ of the Cherokee died on the trip. A shameful part of our past.

The campground here is small and remote, except for the railroad tracks that run right next to the campground and river. For some reason the engineers feel it necessary to blow their whistles in the middle of the night for the tiny trail that crosses the tracks from the campground to the river. Needless to say this was not our best nights sleep.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We were only about 10 miles from Cape Girardeau a beautiful river town, with murals on the cement flood wall that tell the story of the town. On our way into town we stopped at the Cape Bicycle shop to stock up on some supplies. I had a great chat with one of the guys in the store (owner maybe). He gave me some good riding advice, and some recommendations on where we could get a good pizza and some local brew. Minglewood brewery was the place. We were able to hang out, enjoy some beer, tater-tot nachos, and pizza while watching the US Mens national team. I would recommend both Minglewood and the cycle shop if you are passing through.

After a pretty bad nights sleep, my back was hurting, so I just did a short ride around on the park roads.

Jane had taken off with the truck to do a hike and I had left my helmet in the truck. So I didn’t want to go on the highway and I didn’t want to go far or fast anyway, so a gentle ride to stretch my muscles was all I wanted. Jane’s hike was like a trip through the jungle, she had to use her walking sticks to clear away the spider webs!

One of the things the guys in the bike shop told me, which of course Jane already knew, was not to ride across this bridge!!

Do NOT ride or walk your bike over this very narrow bridge.

Since it was a day to ride in the truck, I did not! Instead we rode together to Columbus Belmont state park. After setting up camp I had just enough signal to participate in the afternoon plenary session of the Concordia board meeting.

Our campground host was very welcoming, and was willing to deliver a nice load of wood for just $5. This was great as we made some pork satays over an open fire along with couscous and chickpeas.

Hannibal / Hamberg to Pere Marquette

I awoke with heavy legs this morning! The plan was for Jane to drive me back across the river, retracing part of my ride from yesterday. Then, to drop me off so I could ride to the State Park. Sometimes things don’t go quite as planned.

A mile or two into the ride, maybe even less I noticed that I had a flat. Not so bad, I haven’t had any flat tires for quite a while now. So I pulled over to make the change only to discover that I had left my pump in the camper! Thankfully Jane was only a few miles down the road, and I had cell service. She came back with the pump and another tire and a bit later I was changed and on my way.

Less than a mile down the road I was flat again. Grrr… Maybe it was the tired legs, or the heat, or whatever but that was the last straw for me. On the phone again to Jane. “I guess I was not meant to ride today.” So back she came again. As I was waiting I took the whole tire off and once again felt inch by inch to see if I could find something. Finally I found a tiny sharp spine that had somehow worked its way through. I had missed it the first time around but not now. Still, when Jane got back I put the bike on the rack and hopped in the truck.

I sat there stewing and angry about flat tires for quite a few miles before I finally decided that maybe it was time to pull off, fix the tire and ride the rest of the way.

Fixing a flat

The first part of the abbreviated ride was from Hamberg, which was on some beautiful country roads. Here I am as Jane decided to follow me for a few miles just to be sure.

The second part of the ride was along a pretty busy Illinois Hwy 100. Not so great, but here I am crossing the Illinois river about 15 miles short of Pere Marquette State Park.

We put the Instant Pot to work to make some ribs which we finished over our campfire and some cheesy rice. Tomorrow is scheduled to be a day of rest.

Nauvoo to Hannibal

Today was a total washout. I woke up and looked at the forecast and radar only to see a huge patch of rain heading our way. Strangely from east to west. I guess we are in the south now? I just had time to get the bike on the rack and get them covered up before the rain started. So we had a nice breakfast and watched the radar. Clearly an all day thing. I am not into riding all day in the rain so today became a day off. When the rain finally did let up, we did a short hike at Wildcat Den State Park and then drove to Nauvoo.

Here is what it looks like when you are the only camper in the campground!

Lonely Campground

Nauvoo, home to the grave of Joseph Smith and one really big Mormon temple looked like a pretty sleepy little town as we pulled in. The town turned out to be larger than we thought, but it was still pretty quiet. After setting up camp we took a short walk to the oldest winery in Illinois. We keep trying to convince ourselves that we will find a good wine somewhere along the Mississippi. 🤣

The morning came and the sun was out, a great day to ride to ride. the first part of the day was beautiful, following the river right at river level.

As the day wore on I got further away from the river and more into farmland as well as higher temperatures and a bit of a southern breeze. A different kind of scenery but it was fun to see the harvest in progress.

Fall Harvest in Illinois

Heading into Hannibal I rode across the Mississippi on I72 - the only stretch of Interstate in Illinois where bikes are allowed. At this point I was getting pretty tired of riding into the wind and I was low on water, so thankfully I was getting close. After the bridge it was all downhill into Hannibal. Unfortunately our campground was not in downtown, it was outside of Hannibal on the other side of a hill!

One shower and a gallon of water later I was ready to head back into town. We decided, unsurprisingly, on a pizza/pasta place called the brick oven. We were lucky I was ready for an early supper as by the time we left there was a very long waiting list.

Of course when in town you have to stop and help Tom Sawyer whitewash a fence.

I thought I was cleverly hiding my leftovers while whitewashing…

On the way back to camp we stopped at Lovers Leap where we had a beautiful view of the river and Hannibal.

The Mississippi and Hannibal MO near sunset

I did manage to stay awake until 10, even knowing that I had another 80 miles on the schedule for the next day.

Pike’s Peak to Dubuque

After a wonderful weekend in Decorah for our 35 year class reunion, we arrived at Pike’s Peak state park just after dark. This was to be our first time of setting up cam in the dark, but we were not too worried, until we saw a pickup in our spot. Nobody was around and it was just sitting there taking up space. I hopped out of the truck and knocked on the door of the fifth-wheel next door. No answer. Same with the popup on the other side. Grrrr! Suddenly a nice man came quickly down the road. “Sorry, Sorry, I thought this was vacant for tonight and I wanted to recharge a few things. Our spot is not electric!” OK, no problem he moved his truck and we were all good. Time to get a good nights sleep to prepare for the ride.

Ready to Ride

Yesterday was the start of the final push of this journey. Iowa to the Gulf of Mexico! And what a ride it was, 58 miles with lots and lots of climbing. At times I was cruising along high above the river with great views and other times it was just me and my friends.

Ummmm.... Cows

Mostly the roads were good and the motorists were all very courteous. I had a good shoulder to ride on most of the time. I could definitely tell that I had not been doing enough climbing as my back was a little sore and my neck muscles were too by the time I finished the ride for the day.

After arriving at the campground in Dubuque Jane was just setting up camp, so I helped finish that task and then did some stretching. We had plans to have dinner with Rachel’s parents (Greg and Peggy Miller) and it turned out to be a wonderful evening. I had some great pasta (Carbs!!) at L May in downtown Dubuque.

This is going to be a great trip. We will see if we settle into a rhythm, but its kind of nice to wake up, have a few hours to work, answer emails, etc. before jumping on the bike again.

02 Bemidji to Brainerd — My First Century

02 Bemidji to Brainerd - My First Century

Yesterday the ride from Itasca to Bemidji turned out to be shorter than expected by 10 miles. Today’s ride turned out to be longer than expected by a good 10 miles. Yesterday started out with a flat tire after only 10 miles. But after the flat the ride was easy and interesting. I crossed the Mississippi “river” several times.

The Mississippi in its not so mighty phase

Today began bright and early with a 6:40AM departure from our campsite at Lake Bemidji State Park. The temps were cool, and a stiff breeze out of the south kept me feeling good. Later I would come to appreciate that breeze less and less and the temperatures rose and my legs got more tired. Early in the ride you cross the Mississippi as it exits from Lake Bemidji.

The mississippi coming out of Lake Bemidji

After that, the Paul Bunyan trail does not cross the mississippi like the Mississippi River Trail, but is an official alternate for the MRT, almost all of is on abandoned rail beds and is pretty flat. Everything was very pretty with the morning light.

Little Valley

except for one section around Walker (about 50 miles in) that was not very flat, and came at exactly the wrong time in my ride.

At the 79 mile mark Jane was waiting for me with Lunch! It was about 20 miles further than I was ready for it, but that is part of what this first leg of the journey is about. Figuring things out, learning what gear we need and what my limits are.

After lunch my legs were still feeling tired, and the wind kept getting stronger and stronger out of the south. Also less of the trail was tree lined so that made the breeze and the sun both stronger.

I made it to the 100 mile mark!

100 Miles! My first Century!  Still 20 miles to go.

Unfortunately after making 100 it was clear that I still had at least 20 miles left to go. At that point I knew I could make it to Brainerd, but I was probably not going to make it to our campsite south of Brainerd for the night. That is why we have the truck!

Now I’m sitting in the camper writing this post and encouraging my legs to recover their strength for tomorrow. Tomorrow and Thursday are much shorter 68 miles tomorrow and 58 miles on Thursday. Should be a piece of cake!

Prelude (Day 0) Mississippi Headwaters

Standing at the headwaters.  I remember wading here when I was much younger.

We had a lovely 20 mile ride around Lake Itasca planned for today with a stop at the headwaters of the Mississippi. As the sign says, 2552 miles! That is roughly the length of our journey, in three parts — Its a long way, but at least it is downhill! For those who don’t know what I’m going on about, here is the story.

Sometime earlier this year I said it would be fun to ride the Mississippi from start to finish. It turns out there is a popular route known as the Mississippi River Trail. Its not a bike path but an established route of trails and roads leading from Itasca State Park in Minnesota all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. I’ll be riding my bike and Jane will be riding a bit, pulling the camper, hiking and providing support.

Part I is the ride from Itasca to Minneapolis. This will take place Monday through Thursday this week. It features my first 100+ mile day from Bemidji to Brainerd on the Paul Bunyan trail.

Part II is the ride from Minneapolis to Lansing Iowa. This will be three days starting Labor Day. We’ll end up camping in Decorah prior to Josh and Rachel’s much delayed wedding celebration with friends and family. All fully vaccinated, we hope.

Part III will be from Lansing to the Gulf starting October 4th. We will be back at Luther for our 35 year class Reunion and when that is over we will take off down the river. Most days will be 60 - 70 miles but as we get further south and the route gets flatter I’ll have a few 100+ days.

Trying to catch up to Jane — riding her new eBike!Our campsite, right on the bike trail.

Our ride today was not what we expected since the wilderness road was closed due to downed trees and a high fire forrest fire risk 🌲 🔥. So we ended up doing more of the ride on the wonderful state park trails.

Tomorrow I’ll rest my legs for a day and then Monday I will take off for Bemidji.

Three Days in Chelan

Well, I think it is time to head East. When we started making our egg scramble for breakfast this morning the sausage had mold on it, and so did one of our bags of shredded cheese! Its nothing that a stop at a grocery store won’t fix, but we are both ready anyway. We’ve been on the road with the camper for 20 days, and it has been quite a trip.

The last few days have been really wonderful. We got to park the camper at Lake Chelan State Park and hang out with our friends Jim and Karen for three days! Jim and Karen are experts on the Chelan and Leavenworth areas having both lived in the area before, so they had lots of great outings planned for us.

Day One, we met at the Wal-mart parking lot to leave the camper until check-in time and headed out for a wine tasting and lunch! We found a great location at Benson’s who also served a great local wood fired pizza. Check out this amazing view of Lake Chelan from our lunch stop!

Wine and lunch at Benson’s winery

That pretty much captures the area in a nutshell. Everywhere you go you are treated to amazing views of the lake. By the time we finished lunch and our tasting it was late enough to move the camper to the campground.

Beautiful campsite at Lake Chelan State Park

With the camper situated, we were able to explore the south side of the lake and see the Holden guest house that Jim helped build many years ago. We had another pre-dinner wine tasting at the Tsillan (pronounced Chelan) winery. The weather was HOT 95+ degrees. The wine was also really good. I’m bringing home bottles of Rosé and Pinot Grigio. Dinner was in downtown Chelan at Campbells, followed by a campfire back at our site. There were two big RV’s next door to us, each with a gaggle of kids and their bikes. The kids were riding their bikes back and forth, no hands, getting as close as they could to Jim and Karen’s car parked in front of our camper! This was making both Jim and Karen very nervous, and they were ready to make the drive back to their place anyway, so they left. Meanwhile the biking and the squeaky bike brakes continued long after dark! We laughed that we are edging ever closer to those old people that yell “get off my lawn!”

Tuesday morning, Jim and I headed out for a ride up the lake. It was perfect weather and a great morning for a ride. My fat tire had to work hard to keep up with Jim’s road bike.

Trying to Keep up with Jim

We had bratwurst for lunch at the campground, and then Jim and Karen took off to take care of some family things. We were also awaiting the arrival of Jane’s aunt Joanne and uncle Dale. Her cousin David drove them up from Yakima to see us. This is Jane’s last remaining aunt and uncle and we haven’t seen them in years so it was great to see them and have a chance to chat.

Wednesday, the plan was to head to Leavenworth, where Karen’s parents and cousins live. Karen had a favorite hike for us to do, and Jane’s cousin runs Visconti’s restaurant there. Leavenworth has been remodeled to resemble a Bavarian mountain village and is a charming little town. We enjoyed a lunch at a local Mexican restaurant (Yes, I know, not very Bavarian, but we just had brats for lunch on Tuesday). We visited the local fair trade store that was owned by Karen’s parents as well as the hat shop and toy shop owned by her uncle.

Downtown Leavenworth

Downtown was really hot, so we headed up the mountain to take a hike along the Icicle river. The snow melt is fast and furious in the mountains so the rivers are really flowing.

Wild Rapids

Great to visit friends in Washington!

Not a selfie!

Although the water was very cold and the temperatures up on the mountain were much cooler we were still all pretty hot and tired after the hike. So we showed up for our reservation an hour early. No problem we enjoyed some more local wine and eventually ordered our meal.

Karen was going to spend a couple of days with her parents, helping out around the house, so we dropped her off before making the hour long trek back to the campground. By then we were tired so we just spent some time picking up the campsite and preparing for our morning departure.

The campsite was very tight, and in addition, there was a car parked right across from our site, making our exit very narrow. after getting the trailer hooked up Jane nearly had us out of the site except for the large rock blocking the corner of our site. I had tried to move it earlier in the morning in preparation for our exit but couldn’t move it. Luckily there was a burly young man doing his dishes at the water faucet on the edge of our site who said “I can move that rock for you”. together we rolled it over and we were able to get the camper out. Our next move was to wake up the tenters that owned the parked car and ask them to move it. Thankfully that was not needed.

Snowy Adventure

The North Cascades (America’s Alps) is a beautiful stop on our journey. Not to mention the warmest temperatures (72 degrees) since Indio! It is also Memorial Day weekend, and the place is a zoo! Cars are everywhere, people are everywhere. Its almost as if friends and families have been freed from a pandemic and are now happily gathering together again after more than a year of quarantine and social distance.

Case in point, our camping neighbors, with double the allowable tents on their campsite, two dogs (Luna and Lance) and countless children. My guess from looking at all of them on the trail is that they are all young tech workers who have made the trek to the National Park to enjoy a holiday together. I really wanted to poll everyone who passed us on the trail “Computer Science degree?”

After arriving and getting the camper situated we decided to hike the Thunder Knob Trail. The info Jane had on the trail said it was 425 feet of elevation gain. The park brochure said 625 feet, but my feet and legs were claiming even more! We had about a quarter of the trek up left to go when a pair of young girls skipped past us and announced “You have a LONG way to go to get to the top!”. Thanks for killing my spirit I muttered. It would not be a proper vacation without at least one hiking turning out to be way more challenging than you thought.

Nevertheless it was a spectacular view of Diablo Lake. The kind of place you could just sit and contemplate the beauty of nature, and remind yourself that there is a lot of good in our country.

It was a perfect night for a campfire🔥 unfortunately we were lacking 🪵 🪵 The National Park prohibits gathering 🪵 as well as the sale of 🪵. We should have bought 🪵 in Marblemount from one of the friendly people on the side of the road! We made due with what our predecessors had left us in the fire ring and a little bit of kindling that was laying next to the 🔥 pit. The leftovers consisted of three large 🪵 that refused to really burn. Jane did her best to whittle down the 🪵 into smaller chunks but really only made more kindling. We managed to enjoy it all for a couple of hours anyway.

Jane making some Firewood

This morning we had many options! Jane had a very long list of hikes we could do. We decided to head for the furthest one called Blue Lake. Alas when we arrived at the trailhead the lot was still under many feet of snow. We hiked through the lot and attempted to find the trail itself, which did not look at all inviting.

The Blue Lake Lot is closed

OK, for plan B we drove back toward camp thinking we would stop at Rainy Lake. It looked snowy as well, but the sheet we got from the ranger said that it was “A wheelchair-accessible paved trail to a mountain lake” How hard could it be? Our first clue should have been the couple and their dogs on skis! It turns out that when a wheelchair-accessible trail is under anywhere from 5 to 20 feet of snow it makes for a lot of ups and downs! Lots of slippery climbs and feet sinking six inches into the snow! In short, it was a snowy adventure (in shorts!) just trying to figure out where the trail was.

Works for me...

Is this the trail??

This is a good sign!

If Jane hadn’t downloaded the trail on her All-Trails app we would never have found the lake! We would trek a ways forward then stop and consult the map. inevitably we were off to one side or the other of the official trail. We were completely by ourselves, and I immediately thought about the warnings that there were bears and rattlesnakes about. Well, I was not worried about rattlesnakes! I wasn’t really worried about 🐻 either but the thought did cross my mind.

After all of our work to get to the lake it was definitely worth it, all the more so because there were only a few people there. A real contrast to the campground!

By the time we finished the hike Jane’s feet were soaked! We were both way more worn out than anyone would ever imagine after a simple two mile hike on a wheelchair-accessible trail 😂 On the way back to the campground we discussed our options. Jane had made a second reservation for tonight at Pearrygin State Park, in case it was too cold in the National Park. Its not cold, but we decided that we might as well make another 60 miles of progress this afternoon as another hike was not in the cards. Who knows how busy this campground will be but we might as well find out.

It turned out great! We have a great site right next to the lake, and it was a beautiful night to grill some steaks and enjoy a campfire. This time we stopped and supported the “neighborhood kids” outside of Winthrop by purchasing several bundles of 🪵 for our upcoming 🔥.

Jane Can not Control the Weather

This morning we woke up to a bit of broken sunshine at our campground. The water was as smooth as glass. A bit of rain left over from last night was dripping down on the top of the camper. We got packed up and headed out to Port Townsend to catch the ferry to Whidbey Island. When we arrived the man working the booth warned us that due to high winds and the tides today there was a pretty strong chance that our ferry would not run as scheduled. A quick check of the weather app confirmed that the high winds were due to get worse as the day progressed. Sure enough as the time to board came closer the announcement came that the ferry would not run. A quick consultation with the man working the booth advised us that Kingston was not having any of these problems and that we should head there as the next ferry was also likely to be cancelled.

So, here we are at the Kingston Ferry waiting our turn to load. As we wait I noticed a ferry worker measuring the clearance of all of the campers. Jane had read that at low tide there can be an issue with getting on and off the ferry if you don’t have enough clearance. But, we are safely on the ferry now ready for the trip across. When we arrive in Edmonds we will take advantage of our new drive to stop at REI to exchange my defective hiking boots, then hit Costco to refill the tank and finally head to our campground. What should have been just an 80 mile day is turning into 160 mile day. The campsite was a bit of a challenge to get into and get the camper level, but we are getting quite good at it now.

Level up!

For dinner we had a real treat! We met Jane’s cousin Jeff and his wife Barb, whom we met a few years ago in Seattle, and another cousin David and wife Mary for supper tonight at Nell Thorn’s Waterfront Bistro in the nearby town of La Conner. Yum!

The Waterfront in La Conner

I had a delicious crab pasta, but my favorite was the crispy polenta with gorgonzola sauce! It might be the richest thing I’ve had to eat in a year. We had a wonderful dinner and great conversation. We also learned that another of Jane’s cousins owns a restaurant in Leavenworth called Viscontis. I hope we get the chance to try it as the reviews and food look very good!

On the way back we were treated to a bit of rain and a beautiful sunset.

Rainy sunset through the window

More Photos from today and 1986

This morning we went through all the weather in about 30 minutes! We started out at our Salt Creek campsite, where the forecast was for 60 and overcast most of the day. But as we climbed toward Hurricane Ridge we got into the low clouds and rain. The temperature was dropping quickly as we went up, but then we emerged from the cloud into beautiful bright blue sunshine and we had the joy of looking down at the top of the clouds!

Looking down on the clouds

In our fun quest to retrace our steps were trying to find the place where we took a couple of pictures on Hurricane Ridge. I apologize for the short shorts! It was the 80’s after all.

Hurricane Ridge 1986

Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center 1986

Here are today’s photos:

A little cooler in May 2021 than June 1986

We should’a sat down

We did a little more hiking to enjoy the spectacular views!

Hurricane Ridge

Then we were off to find Marymere falls!

I’m not sure who took the photo in 1986, but they managed to make it a little blurry. This time it was very sweet. We were getting ready to do a selfie at the falls when the young couple behind us asked if we wanted them to take our picture. Sure, I said, we are trying to recreate this photo from 35 years ago I said. It is from our honeymoon, Jane added. This young couple had just gotten engaged. So they took our picture and added that 35 years was a long time and certainly something to aspire to. Oh my.

Marymere Falls 2021 — Good luck to the young couple that took our picture!

As we were headed back down the trail, I noticed that the bridge we had just crossed looked pretty familiar. It is the bridge below.

With my darker clothes it was impossible to even see me, when zoomed out. So here is a slightly zoomed in version of the same picture.

And last but not least, here is Jane crawling through the tree. As John Carlis used to say, never let the facts get in the way of a good story, so we are going to say that this is the exact same tree, with 35 years of growth and reshaping of the hole!

Tree Crawling

The opening has changed, but Jane’s sense of adventure is still the same as it always has been!

Ok, here ends the nostalgic photos from 1986. We have had a blast the last two days trying to find the right spot and angle. It is amazing how similar some things are and how much some things have changed! Ruby Beach is nearly identical to what it looked like 35 years ago. The moss covered log at Marymere is nearly identical! Yet the branch that was sticking out and up is gone with no sign of it.

Tomorrow we leave the peninsula and take a ferry to Whidbey Island!

The Avenue of the Giants

8:00 This morning we are getting an early start and I’ve decided to record this in real time, or at least near real time. We have another 50 miles on Highway 1, so more slow going on twisty winding roads. I’m writing this as we go today. We have left the coast and are amongst the redwoods. The road is super narrow but lined with trees, its just beautiful the way the sunlight filters through creating shadows all around us. There are few turnouts , so no real opportunities for taking photos.

9:25 still a few more miles to go before we get to the 101.

9:39 Just saw our first advertisement for the “Drive Through Tree”! We will not fit, but hopefully we will see it.

9:45 We are on the 101, but a sign advises us that there are sharp curves for the next 9 miles and we are advised to slow down. 😜. Lots of tourist traps for “tree houses” and Confusion Hill House, and the “one log cabin!” An entire log house made out of a single log. It looks like more of a hobbit house or a culvert with a door, but whatever.

9:52 We are on the freeway, at least for a short time…

10:03 - the legend of bigfoot! complete with three highway patrol officers with their lights flashing. I guess we will not stop to buy any bigfoot souveniers.

10:20 We are now on the Avenue of the Giants. We are heading for Founders Grove to make a stop and enjoy the Redwoods for a bit. Some of the Redwoods in founders grove are over 350 feet tall!

Lots of pictures looking straight up today!

11:08 Just finished the nature walk at the visitor center. Amazing! There is no way our pictures are going to capture the size and beauty of these trees!

12:00 Just finished our walk at Founders Grove! Amazing, Amazing, Amazing. The Founders tree is 349 feet tall! More than a soccer pitch! The diameter is over 12 feet and the circumference just over 40

12:10 pull over by some big trees for a picnic lunch along side the road. A most picturesque lunch spot!

Roadside lunch stop

12:24 back on the road — 2:17 minutes left to our destination. The rest of the day will be on Hwy 101.

1:30 Gas stop in Eureka! Last stop before our campsite…

2:25 Arrived - Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

2:45 We have determined that our campsite and our camper are incompatible. The site is steep and it is impossible to get our camper anywhere near level. Jane seeks out the Ranger to see if there are any cancellations.

3:00 they have two possibilities for us. After a little walk around the campground we determine that one is super small, and level, but there would be no room for the truck. Luckily the other will work great for one night. Its a bit exposed with the slide hanging right out to the road. But most sites near us are already occupied so we don’t expect much traffic.

3:45 we are finally in our campsite with the trailer leveled up and the solar panels plugged in.

4:00 we take off for a hike, having abandoned the idea of a 20 mile bike ride.

4:20 we arrive at Fern Canyon for our hike. It is for the best that we didn’t try to ride our bikes here after all. Its a steep one lane road with the barest of turnouts for when you meet someone. Thankfully the hike makes it all worth while. Fern canyon is a coastal bluff left behind by the retreating oceans years ago. The steep walls of the bluffs are covered with ferns, and the little steam running down the middle makes for a beautiful hike. Again the pictures surely do not do it justice.

5:25 depart Fern Canyon for Lady Bird Johnson Grove. This is completely different than Founders Grove as it is higher in elevation, on a ridge top where the winds challenge the trees all the time. Its great that this is named after Lady Bird Johnson, who fell in love with this grove when she came to dedicate Redwoods National Park in 1968, but it is pretty humbling to consider that when many of these trees have been here for 1,000 years!

7:00 Back at the campsite! Time to make some dinner and relax. Tomorrow we head to Crater Lake where we will stay for two nights.

AI in the Dominican Republic

This all started a year ago when the government posted a travel warning for the Playa area of Mexico where we had booked a week at an all inclusive resort. Not wanting to take any chances we decided to switch to a cruise at the last minute and book a different resort. This resulted in us booking at the Cofresi Palms in Puerto Plata.

However, coming on the heels of two very long vacations I needed to make this something of a working vacation to make sure the materials for the AC201 course were as good as possible.

The Good

A couple of mornings I worked in our room, which was a really nice two bedroom suite with wonderful views of the beach. But then we discovered these covered beds right on the beach, big enough for all of us to hang out together and in the shade, with good enough WiFi for everything except video conferencing. So I switched — can you blame me?

My office

Traveling with our friends Brian and Holly is always super relaxing. Whether its hanging at the pool bar or playing cards at the beach we always have a great time. We planned absolutely no activities for this week so it was really all about reading, and lounging, which made it easy for me to mix in some work too.

This was our first ever experience at an all inclusive resort, so we had very little in the way of expectations. And mostly they were met.

A few things were a nice surprise. Our room, a “penthouse suite” was very nice. We had a living and kitchen area on the first floor with a fridge full of water, soda and beer. We also really liked the coffee pot in the room. The bedrooms upstairs were huge, each with its own deck and spectacular view of the resort and ocean. Our bathroom was fine, but in serious need of updating and new grout.

The Mexican and the Indian restaurant. We should have eaten all our meals at these two.

The Bad

We had read about the “men in the hats” before we arrived. A small army of high pressure sales people that will try anything to get you into a sales pitch situation, and invest in the timeshare. “Tours”, better breakfasts, free golf cart rides, tokens for upgrades your next time back… They really try to get you the first day, and then came at us again hard towards the end. Dodging them became a kind of sport for us.

The bands. Everyone has to wear a wristband. These identify you and your level. Lots of places are for VIPs only, so if you don’t have the right colored band you are not welcome. We were not VIPs. See the previous paragraph for another part of their sales tactics.

The cups. All of our drinks came in these tiny plastic cups. Brian referred to the beers that came in them as “beer shots”. There was one kind of beer - El Presidenté, All of the drinks were watered down, but hey what they lack in quality they made up for in quantity.

The service. I feel bad writing such negative stuff, but the staff at the restaurants was really apathetic. Sometimes we were so rushed that we could hardly enjoy our food. Other times the service was so slow that we mostly had lost interest by the time it was served. We did learn that a $1 tip could get you a lot of good will and even a smile.

The smell. Running through the middle of the resort is a cement canal with a big sewage pipe suspended in the canal. The pipe leaked. The smell permeated everything downwind, which included one of the largest pool areas in the complex.

But we still had fun

Although I’ve listed a lot of negatives, and that may be because I’m a snob. But in the end we still had a lot of fun, and spent some great time reading and relaxing. I would do an all inclusive again sometime, maybe, but it won’t be this one, and I think I have a lot of other places and things on my list.

Welcome Back to Minneapolis

Well it was bound to happen, and as we like to say, it could have been worse. Landed at MSP just before 9:00 this morning. It was 1 degree Fahrenheit (-17 C) and the snow was just starting to Fall.

The Galapagos cruise was unlike any other we have been on. High on the active scale, high on the learning new things every day scale, and with the small ship very high on the meet interesting people scale. As the hotel manager John Flynn told us, they are very well aware that this cruise is a bucket list trip for most passengers, and they really do their best to make it memorable. And that was just one component of this trip!

  • Amazon Rainforest

  • Machu Picchu and Inca trail hike

  • Cusco and the Sacred Valley

  • The Galápagos Islands

Jane and I have had so many interesting experiences on this trip that it seems like we have been gone for months, not just the three weeks.

We left Quito early this morning (12:30AM) and arrived in Atlanta by 5:30. Getting through customs and making the transfer to the domestic gates was a breeze thanks to our Global Entry passes. But neither of us ended up sleeping on that flight and we just dozed a little on the flight to Minneapolis, so we were both beat by the time we got out of the Uber in downtown Minneapolis.

In an attempt to wake up a bit, I went down to use the elliptical in our workout room. As the minutes ticked away I watched the Wells Fargo building and IDS Tower disappear into the increasingly heavy snowfall. We are supposed to get more than four inches today, and you can see that even this afternoon it is still coming down pretty heavily.

As with all good trips, we learned a lot, came to appreciate new cultures, old histories, and new parts of the globe. It’s great to get away and get a new perspective on the business of everyday life, and to evaluate one’s priorities. But as the saying goes, there is no place like home. We are happy to be back, and already looking forward to an exciting weekend of activities including a play at the Guthrie and a broadway series performance!

Darwin Research Center

We started our day today with a visit to the Darwin Research Center. One of the main projects at this center is the preservation of the many different species of tortoises on the islands. Many of which were hunted to near extinction by whalers or pushed out of their habitat by goats, dogs and cats. The tortoise in the image below is a saddle back! A close genetic relative of “Lonesome George” that last true Saddleback that died a few years back. You can see that they have very long necks which is an adaptation for eating the cacti on the desert islands of the Galapagos.

And of course we saw many of the Galapagos Tortoise both at the Darwin center and later on in the wild.

Another highlight of the day was our chance to participate in Celebrity Cruise Lines reforestation project. Many of the native Escalesa trees were choked out by the blackberries that were imported by the settlers on the islands. With a lot of work the blackberries have been culled, but now Celebrity is working to replant many many acres of forrest with native Escalesa trees. To date Celebrity and their guests have planted nearly 40,000 trees, and I’m happy that we got to participate.

As an added bonus we all got to wear the super stylish rubber boots!

I 💙 Boobies

By this time of the trip the routine was well established. Breakfast in the morning, then off to the zodiacs for an adventure / hike on shore. Back to the ship for lunch and a rest during the worst heat of the day, then a late afternoon zodiac to another destination for another hike. This is definitely an adventure not a vacation! This afternoons hike was billed as the most difficult of the trip, because it involved a little rock scrabbling! As usual a few people joined that really shouldn’t have, you would think people would learn their limitations by this time. Anyway, after the rock scrabbling we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the beach.

Along the way we saw a lot of Blue Footed Boobies, we had to leave the trail to keep our distance from them several times as they just sit in the middle of the path looking at us. It was definitely worthwhile as this is probably one of my favorite photos of this whole adventure!

The blue footed boobies take turns on the nest, if you can call it that. It’s barely even a hole in the ground. Further, they don’t really even sit on the eggs, they kind of cradle them with their feet. Here’s a picture of the “changing of the guard”

The reds are not nearly as interesting as the blues. They are arboreal and so you rarely see them on the ground. Their feet are red, but not bright red like the bright blue.

On the beach where we landed to start the hike was a small colony of sea lions.

Galápagos Day 4 — Santa Cruz

The activity of the morning was a “long” walk around Dragon hill on Santa Cruz. The main objective was to see the Land Iguanas. These creatures have been restored to the island after they were endangered by feral dogs and goats that humans brought to the island. Santa Cruz is one of the few islands that is actually inhabited.

The cover picture for this post is actually of a marine iguana that was near the shore by a brackish pool.

green marine

You can see a very clear difference in coloration and shape between the marine variety — which can swim using their tails for propulsion — and the land iguanas pictured below.

At one point they moved many of the Land Iguanas to an alternative island without any human habitation for them to come back, while they started a program to eradicate all of the goats and feral dogs. We actually saw a goat along the way, and the guides, who are also park rangers when they are on land, had to call it in so that the goat could be tracked down and captured.

the walk started at 8:00 and already it was really hot. We began the walk on the beach and quickly passed by this beautiful brackish water pool.

The path was very muddy from rain the previous night, and a few people from the group ahead of us called it quits and headed back to the beach. But we kept going, eyes peeled for our first siteing. The first Land Iguana we met was pretty hard to miss as he was right on the trail!

Once we spotted the first one we started to see quite a few of them. Some close to the path, some sitting right outside their burrows, some “lounge lizards” hanging out on a log.

The scenery on the island was also very beautiful and couldn’t have been more different than our hike up the volcano from the day before.

Afternoon Snorkel

In the afternoon we had a beach snorkeling stop. The water was pretty wavy and as a result the visibility was not very good. I was right next to a big sea turtle and I could easily have grabbed onto the shell to go for a ride. But you don’t touch the wild animals so I just followed it and admired it s grace.

The real highlight of the snorkeling trip was the Pelicans. After coming back to shore there were about 3 brown pelicans that decided it was feeding time. They are “shallow plungers” so they swoop up into the air about 15 to 20 feet and then plunge awkwardly into the water to capture a fish! They were definitely not deterred by all of the humans in the water as several swooped right next to people! The pelicans were fine, but the people were a bit shocked!

Galápagos Day 3 — Pinnacle Rock

If you google Galápagos Islands you will almost certainly see this picture:

You will likely see even better photos than the one above as we were there at the wrong time of day for optimal photo lighting.

The hike was mostly just climbing the 366 old wooden stairs and many boardwalks to the top of the volcano where there is a great viewing and picture taking spot. Along the way we stopped to learn a bit about volcanology, spatter cones, calderas, and craters.

The naturalists on board are all great and really knowledgeable. Most, if not all, of them were born on the islands and you can tell they all really love it.