The Deep Ellum Wine Walk is the Best Cardio

In celebration of the Deep Ellum Wine Walk this evening, it’s time to share my love of this event. I’m always looking for local Dallas happenings, so I was excited to find out about a Deep Ellum one seeing as that’s about five minutes from my house. That it involves drinking wine is even better!

The idea of the wine walk is that you pay ten dollars for a local artist-designed glass and then you head out to certain shops along Main Street that fill your glass with wine while you browse their store. The theory is to get out and explore the locally owned shops of your neighborhood, all with the incentive of wine.

After making a habit of this three times, I can definitely say I’m a fan. Sure the wine and the buzz alone might be a good enough reason for walking around downtown, but the truth is it’s such a great experience. You meet people, talk to the faces behind the businesses, and find yourself on a journey with other adventurous types.

The usual stops along the wine route include an art gallery, handmade jewelry shop, home goods store, realtor, burlesque school, sex shop, and an old fashioned soda pop shop. Some I like looking at the accessories, some I get a little out of my comfort zone, and some I get drunk at and buy twenty dollars worth of candy. All around, a good time.

I could go on and on about how great the wine walk is – but this time I’m just going to leave you with some pictures. And maybe if you happen to make it for one you’ll see me around!

Arbor Hills Nature Preserve

I was very excited about this local hike. I’d seen one of my friends frequent it and it looked a bit woodsy and very spacious. It was a bit further north of Dallas in the city of Plano, so I invited my friend Lola for a morning hike since she was on the way.

After a quick coffee stop (of course) we headed out there. When we first got there it seemed everything was paved and well done – quite a fancy park. We didn’t see too helpful of a map, so we just decided to pick one of the cement paths and see what we could find.

Very quickly, we found an offshoot dirt path. I don’t mind nice parks, but I was very glad to see dirt trails and what seemed like a lot of mileage. Afterward, I discovered there is equally three miles of paved trails and three miles of unpaved trails.

The two of us were a bit chatty this morning, but I was glad to find only a couple of other people were out on the trails because of the cooler weather and the weekday. Lola and I weren’t sure where we were headed because we essentially had no map so we just decided to pick directions randomly. (This is normally so unsafe but I knew it was all one big loop so there’d be no real way to get lost if we stuck to the trail – we just might end up hiking more miles than we’d planned.)

The trails were mostly pretty flat, so very easy, but interspersed with a lot of interesting trail additions like ledges and bridges. The nature aspect was also pretty great. At times there were woods, fields, creeks, and even a lake!

We passed a very nice, big pavilion, found the restrooms, and knew we were close to the car. Around this area, we finally discovered a big map, but having not kept track it was too hard to know where we’d gone exactly.

At this point, me and Lola were pretty cold so we decided since we’d stumbled upon the parking lot, it was time to head out. On our way out on the last little trail, we spotted a few cardinals playing in the trees. It was so great!

I know I will definitely be back because of all the rural trails I’ve yet to explore. I’m especially excited to check it out again now that it’s getting warmer. Warmer weather means more enjoyable hikes – and also more wildlife!

Long Glance at the Edge of the World

Canyonlands National Park is very big. We put ourselves on a time crunch through Arches because we weren’t sure we’d make it to The Canyonlands visitor center before it closed. From tip to tip, it would take about three hours to cross. And we’d never even heard of it before this!

The best place to start seemed to head for the section called “Island in the Sky” because it was the north edge we were closest to and a few other sections were closed for the winter season. Plus, Island in the Sky is a pretty cool name, so we figured we’d be in for a treat.

Surprisingly, it turned out every section of Canyonlands had its own visitor center, so after about an hour’s drive, we had our stamp and could stop stressing about making it through the whole drive in time. Now, we could relax and enjoy the Park at our leisure. Directly across from the Island center there was a lookout where we decided to sit for a bit. It was the biggest canyon I’ve ever seen.

On a ridiculous side note, this was also the Park where I made my first friend. Well, maybe just got my first obsession. In the parking lot I’d spotted the biggest crow I’d ever seen in my life! He was large and very vocal. I wanted to take him home with me. (Ha!) Instead, I filled my phone with at least a hundred pictures of him. I guess I sort of have him forever now?

Driving a bit further into the Park, we decided to check out the Mesa Arch trail because it was average difficultly and we’d already spent the whole morning hiking. Plus, we were really into all the natural arches Utah was showing us. It was a very easy hike, not strenuous or long at all. The path was lined the traditional way with stones stacked upon each other. We only ran into one family on their way out from the trail and then had the place to ourselves!

Even after starting with a great big canyon view, I was still awestruck by the sight of another massive canyon, but this time at its edge was a nature-made arch. There was something about these views which made me and my friends pretty quiet. Normally a pretty chatty person, I kept to myself at this Park and just stared out at the lands and colors for awhile without saying anything. It was extremely peaceful and humbling.

Tired from our day of hiking and fast approaching sunset, we decided to head back to Moab to grab dinner and explore the little adventure town. It’s so funny to me how every new town I go to, I can imagine the life I’d make there. I don’t know if it’s my wandering heart, but I often feel like I could be happy anywhere. The highlights of Moab were great beer, cute boutiques full of handmade goods, an adorable independent bookshop, and great coffee. What’s not to be happy about?

Walking lazily around the main strip, I could tell there was a certain sadness in the group that this was our last night, but also I could tell we were so tired from our adventures that we were all a bit ready to be back in our own beds. We stayed in an (Airbnb) cabin at the edge of Colorado for the night, knowing we had a full day of driving left to get back home.

I was glad though, thinking over all the new sights I’d seen. Honestly, I’d never given Utah much thought before. Now, I couldn’t wait to plan another trip out there. There was so much variance to the landscape from Monument Valley to Arches to Canyonlands, I knew I’d only scratched the surface of what Utah had to offer. All in all, this was a great last trip for the year of 2017, the first year I embarked on this National Park journey.

A Desert Wonder to Explore

Usually I’m into a lot of greenery, but my visit to Arches changed something in me and somehow Arches National Park became my favorite Park yet. There was something magical about waking up in the Park and being able to race time to catch the perfect spot for the sunrise.

We had to fit the visitor center into our plan seeing as we hadn’t made it before close the day before. We also needed to do a bit of cleaning up in the public bathroom since we were going on about forty-eight hours with no showers. As soon as the visitor center opened, we were inside to collect our stamps and get our trail maps.

After talking to a ranger, we knew right away we wouldn’t have enough time (probably not even enough for half the Park) but we had to decide what we could do. The most iconic arch is the Delicate Arch, but requires a mild two-to-three hour hike. Even though this would eat up most of our time, we knew we had to do it. My goal was to manage it under two hours. If we were able to succeed, we would get to add another short hike to our day and get to see other arches.

So we got our gear together and started our hike. It was basically off season and pretty early in the day, but we still passed quite a few people. The hike started nicely with only a slight incline, and then suddenly jutted steeply. It was basically hiking on a massive steep rock. The trail was marked every now and then with wooden posts and it was hard to know exactly what we’d see by the time we reached the top.

The elevation had slightly winded us, but everything was so beautiful with such a massive open sky it was hard to be upset about the effort. Finally after reaching the top, the trail wound its way through a couple of cliffs, the crater between being very rocky. After a bit more ascent, and a wide ark around the side of the cliff, we popped out on what was the top. And then we came upon the Delicate Arch.

Everything was so alien. Truly beautiful, but so different from the type of landscapes I was used to seeing. Everything was shades of oranges and reds, intersplicing a brilliant pale matte grey.

Even with about a half hour of picture taking at the top, we still made it back to the car in less than two hours. We had hustled the trail, knew we’d really be feeling it later, but now had time for another arch! There was a very quick trail, so we decided to make our way to the Double Arches.

This trail was very, very short. Honestly, took us about the same amount of time to park as to hike. That allowed us more time to explore these massive arches. Even though the Delicate Arch is more iconic, there’s something about the double arches that I really enjoy. I like that you can hike up under the archway, that there’s lots of big rock formations to climb, and that the arch phenomenon has coincidentally happened twice right next to each other.

I talk a lot about wanting to make the most of my time and scheduling in a way that packs my day full of new experiences. This trip to Arches was supposed to be very easy-going and allow us lots of time to just enjoy the Park. But even with all that extra time, I still felt like as we were leaving, I wished we had one more day. I guess I’ll definitely have to make it back to Arches at some point!

Vastness of Cliffs, Depth of the Valley

One day was left of our jam-packed National Park New Mexico road trip, so I woke up right at opening for the Aztec Ruins. Turns out they were not actual Aztecs, they were just Native Americans called that by the white settlers who found their settlement ruins. Not having too much time, we powered through a a few buildings and then hit the vantage point which showcased the whole layout of buildings.

Down the path, I heard commotion and actually caught a picture of the fleeing rabbit! When heading back through the visitor center, the rangers there told us they’d seen a bobcat chasing after something – the rabbit we’d seen! Day two and already off to a wild start.

New Mexico is such a scenic drive, I had a nice time heading to Chaco Culture National Historic Park. We spent more than hour on a big dirt road with no signs, and free-range sheep and cattle right in the middle of the road! The cliffs were so impressive and big; there wasn’t a bad sight in any direction.

Most of the Chaco Park was about taking the long winding drive, so funnily enough by the time we made it, we’d already been experiencing what it had to offer.

As always, we spent more time than we’d thought so we knew we’d need to hurry to Pecos National Park if we were also going to make it to our last stop. Pecos was an adorable little town, but the Park reminded me a lot of the Aztec Ruins. There was a lot of pottery left behind that was very beautiful and allowed them to recreate what it would look like when it was new.

Our final stop was back towards Los Alamos with the security checkpoint. Instead of turning left toward Bandelier, we turned right and made our way to Valles Caldera. It was massive. I was expecting a small valley, but the vastness of everything was truly impressive on this trip. It was fall so the valley wasn’t really in bloom, but it’s golden expanse was still breathtaking.

Finally not in a rush for the first time that day, we took our time exploring the nature in the valley and the surrounding Jemez Mountains. I searched for a small hiking trail that allowed the dog with us to be on it, and we climbed a bit and stretched our legs. It was truly a day of seeing new parts of the world. I was the pictures I took could do it justice, but I’ll always have my memory!

The Good of Roadtrips, the Bad of Car Camping

I’ve been on lots of road trips growing up.

My family and I traveled a lot to take my brother to hockey tournaments in lots of different states. Because of this, I have nostalgic memories of being woken up before the sun rose, wrapping myself in my comforter, and bringing a bag of books to the backseat. And when the sun was up, I loved watching the sky, inspecting little pass-through towns, and having long quiet talks with whoever was awake. (Of course, there was lots of fighting with my brother too.)

There are a couple of “rules” I like to follow on a road trip. One of them is to never head back. If you miss something or a specific food involves a U-turn to get back to, it’s out. You have a destination to get to, you should never go back. Another rule is to check out anything crazy. I leave time specifically in my travels just for random billboard advertising or weird American landmarks. I want any exotic zoo, haunted graveyard, 100 foot ball of yarn.

With my goal being to frequently do weekend road trips I knew I wanted to make my car a perfect long-distance vehicle. Originally, I had saved the mattress pads from my futon to make pillows (slight hoarder alert) but after a bit of trimming they ended up being the perfect addition to my backseats. My car is a mini-SUV (Kia Sportage) so the seats lie flat. I now had a bed! Better yet, because of the two pieces and the way the seats go down separately, I had an option between a twin-sized or a full-sized bed.

This mostly came in handy for long drives where me and the passenger could trade off turns driving and not have to stop and waste time at a hotel. On the trip to CO with my dad, he had also tried to use the air mattress but that ended up being a major fail in a car – way too bouncy. The other great part about cheap weekend road trips – even if we were at our destination we had no need for an Airbnb! I basically had a small RV.

Yeah, so there’s no bathroom or shower. The shower thing I’ve previously mentioned about how you can pay for cheap clean showers at truck stops (always get a locking door!) but we’re camping here! It’s not all going to be fresh as a daisy. And usually I will park the car for the night near a gas station so they have 24/7 bathrooms.

It’s not all glamorous. On the New Mexico National Park road trip, we stopped near the Aztec Ruins, in front of a handmade Native American storefront and decided to use nature as our bathroom for the night. It had gotten very cold for the night and I woke up just before sunrise about ready to pee my pants.

I had kept my sandals in the front seat, but between shuffling the dog and all our stuff in the tight space, I decided to just go barefoot. I usually would’ve crawled through to get out the front seat, but I couldn’t hold it any longer and decided getting out through the backseat would be fine. I stepped out onto the cold rocks and took quick steps forward into the field to find a more secluded place to do my business.

And then those two feet were standing on several grass burrs. It hurt like hell, so I was thinking if I fell back enough to get back to the rocks, I could pull the sticker burrs from my feet. Well, landing on my butt was easy, but I didn’t exactly miss the burrs. Once more got in my butt, I slammed my hand down automatically to get off the ground and got even more stuck in me. So then my feet hurt, my hand hurt, and my butt hurt.

I was half lying in pain in just panties and a t-shirt in the middle of nowhere as the sun was rising. And then a car drove by on the nearby deserted road (of course it did). An ok man drove by, made eye contact with me, a crazed half naked woman lying in the cold, and he kept on his merry way luckily.

Even though everything hurt, I began the process of hurriedly picking out stickers from my feet and butt so I could at least get back to the car. After clearing out most of it (my hand that I slammed was in the worst shape) I got into the front seat to warm up and clean off the bit of blood. Then I grabbed my sandals and headed back out.

This was my lesson to never venture into the wild without any kind of shoes. There’s good and bad to car camping, hell even some ugly, but for he most part it’s been such a fun experience! And the more I save here and there – the more weekend trips I can make happen!

Timing is Everything

There are a ton of National Park spots in New Mexico (basically double the amount in Texas). Not having a lot of vacation to burn, I decided to try my hand at a jam-packed weekend trip that included eight Parks. We left at midnight after our last work day and raced the sun for 48 hours, making it back home only hours before it was time for work again. Spoiler alert: we got all 8 spots!

Our first sunrise found us at Capulin Volcano National Monument. Though it’s been inactive for quite a long time, it was still pretty majestic as we made our approach. The trail was easygoing and led us straight into the middle of my first volcano!

It was amazing to stretch my legs after driving for so long, and I was glad to be treated to such a beautiful sight first thing. At the rim of the volcano, it was super windy and cold, but also offered another great view of the landscape. I almost didn’t want to leave, but I’m a stickler for a schedule (and I didn’t want to miss anything else planned for the day).

Next up was Fort Union, and while not the biggest fan of forts and battle sites, the fact that the Santa Fe Trail crosses right through it was cool to me. The buildings still standing after so many years were impressive too, especially since they were made with adobe. Also I ran into a snake right on the trail! Very cool any time I run into the wild.

Back to the car it was, and then on our way to Los Alamos, which is home to one of the major Manhattan Project sites. This park is also run by the Department of Energy. I went in thinking this wasn’t of much interest to me since massive destructive weapons aren’t really my thing, but the old Park ranger was delightful. He told us the town was built to house the scientists and their families who were apart of the Manhattan Project.

He pointed at a little empty field outside the window of the visitor center and told us that’s where the original site was. We would pass the new scientific building on our way to the next Park, Bandelier National Monument. We passed the National Laboratory responsible for working on the next rover being sent to Mars and cancer cures.

Immediately past security checkpoint gates, I was driving into the woods. The road was secluded, empty, and gorgeous. It was such a nice scenic woods drive, with just a little bit of drizzle to give the end of our day a dreamy feel. We didn’t have much time at Bandelier, but the trails couldn’t allow dogs anyway. The drive alone – funny considering we’d spent hours driving this far – felt completely worth it.

On our way out of the Monument, we spotted several deer in the trees too! There were the most is ever seen out in the wild, and were weirdly close to the road. The sun was setting and we idled on the side to watch a family of deer lazily pick their way through the woods. Then Jenna’s dog, Florence, started barking like crazy after spotting them and they fled. It was great!

It was a tough goal, but this trip taught me a lot on how to plan an efficient road trip (for the first time I put gas and food stops into the schedule). I also learned that no matter how much beforehand research I do, it’s hard to really know what will catch my interest when I’m there. Some of the places I’d planned to spend little time at, I’d wished I had longer and vice versa.

As always in life, it seems there’s never enough time to see and do it all! I’m glad to be using my own time wisely!