Children Without Screen Run Wild

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I stood quietly behind Sand Dunes Arch, listening to the impending arrival of a brood of children. The pounding of their feet could be felt rather than seen, the fine grain sand softening the frantic blows their legs threw blindly to the earth.

“Where can I put this?” the oldest boy called to himself as he appeared underneath the arch, running directly towards the only Do Not Enter sign in the area. He scurried ahead a few steps, then backtracked to his mother.

“Can you hold this?” he asked as he thrust his jacket upon her. In the five-minute walk from the parking lot to the arch she had become a living coat rack, holding three jackets and a couple of two-liter canteens.

Free from the weight of his jacket, the boy joined his younger brothers and baby sister in a race through the arch. The boys were dressed in matching button-down shirts and slacks. The little girl wore a purple ankle length dress that matched her mother’s. The children were red-faced and gasping for breath.

The father appeared last, the sound of his discipline nipping at their heels. The children exited the arch as quickly as they entered. Dutifully, the father waited to walk with the mother, though he could not help but pull ahead to make sure the children could hear his lasso.

~Arches National Park, Moab, UT

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Top 5 Travel Tips from a Wayfaring Aficionado

My nephew, Riley, is getting ready to take his first international trip.  He is part of a team going to Rwanda to study biodiversity.  He’s a 20-year-old sophomore at Case Western University.  Yeah, he’s pretty smart.

As Riley prepares for his trip, I began thinking about some of the experiences I have had traveling over the last few years.  I wanted to tell him about some things I have learned on the road, but not in a way that seemed condescending because he can probably school me on most things.  And, I don’t want to make my trip his trip.  So, hey there Riley, this one is for you.  Have your own trip, but maybe read this first.

Top 5 Travel Tips from a Wayfaring Aficionado

1.  You never have to give your passport to anyone. Hoteliers will often tell you that they must hold your passport during your stay.  Um, no, they do not, and I strongly advise you not to give it to them.   They may give it to their uncle, who will take it to his house which is “many kilometers away”,to put in his “safe”, and then not be able to return it to you when you must leave because your train out of town departs in 30 minutes.  Obviously, I speak from experience (Goa, India).

The hotelier wants your passport in case you do not pay for your stay.  Offer your hotelier cash accompanied by a photocopy of your passport.  This course of action has worked for me every time.  It has not worked on the first offer, but in the end, I have a 100% success rate with this method.

Car and scooter rental shops also expect your passport as a rental deposit.  In Thailand, I watched a couple get charged three times the amount of their one-day scooter rental for “damages” to their vehicle that they adamantly claimed they did not create.  The next day, I watched a family of four go through the same scam.  Unfortunately, everyone gave the company their passport, and everyone had to pay to get them back.

Vehicle rental shops can be tough.  A photocopy of your passport accompanied by an expired credit card usually does the trick.  Pay cash for the rental.

International Driving Permits are great documents to secure before you go abroad.  If you do not feel comfortable using a photocopy of your passport, get this document.  Leave it behind if there is a dispute.  You can get one for $15 at AAA office nationwide.  You need two passport photos for each license.  You may want to get a few.

2.  Scan important documents into Google Docs.  Important documents include: a copy of your passport, immunization records and travel itinerary.   You may also want to upload a copy of your bank statement and credit card statement (with account numbers blacked out).  If there is any problem with your visa, you need to extend your visa, or you decide to visit another country that requires a visa, you may need to have financial statements that prove you have access to a set amount of money.

3.  If you get sick, try to be your own doctor.  The degree to which you must be your own doctor depends on where you are traveling.  If you have access to a hygienic clinic with medical supplies, kudos.  If not, you might find it easier to access Google.  When my boyfriend and I got horrendously sick while visiting a remote village in India, it seemed like a good idea to get online and try to figure out what was wrong with us ourselves.  In most countries, you can go to the pharmacy and get what you need without a prescription   Seriously, know thyself.  If you need medical attention, go for it.  Just be aware of the type of service you might receive.  Remember how you wanted to “have an adventure”?  Well, this is part of it.  Don’t lose your head.  Even if you feel like you are going to die, you are going to be fine.

If you have health insurance in the States, you may want to fill all those scripts your doctor will write you before you go.  If you do not, make a concise list of what you need, and purchase it at the pharmacy when you arrive.

4.  Watch out for the creeps.  I am woman.  I carry a vagina.  I might garner a little more attention than those who let it dangle.  I’m not sure, but I can tell you that I have been followed in Italy, Greece, India, Croatia, Slovenia, Argentina and various places in the United States.  I mostly suppose that people are just curious.  However, I also do not want to find out.

If you are in a city, glance into storefront windows, and look at your reflection to monitor the people behind you.  If you think you are being followed duck into a shop.

If everyone carries a machete where you are traveling, you may want one too.  It will make you feel better.

5.  If you get new gear for your trip, put all of it on and roll in the mud for a while.  Do not put a Canadian flag on your backpack.  Your fellow Americans do not need all of the cool American backpackers being taken for Canadians.  We need you to be one of us.

 

 

Synchronicity with a Side of Alphabet Soup; Indian Creek; Utah

B Climbing B Climbing 2 B Saggy Tape Glove C climbing Iphone pics 11-26-12 218 C climbing

“Kaci , I’m headed to Indian Creek today.  Call me if you are close.” –Text from C

No way!  I am headed to Indian Creek today!  I haven’t spoken with C for a couple of months, yet here we are going to the same place on the same day.  I call C.  We briefly discuss logistics since there is no cell service in Indian Creek.

Indian Creek is a Mecca for crack climbers.  C & her partner, B, are avid rock climbers who love this area.  It is a lovely experience to watch either of them talk about Indian Creek.  Their stoke is wild, free and highly contagious.

After a short game of note passing on the message board at Bridger Jacks, the four of us connect.  E is with C & B.  I’ve never met E before.  She no longer lives in Estes Park, but her memory does.  I’ve heard several fondly told stories of her general coolness.  E does not disappoint.  After a few minutes, I easily fall into a quiet appreciation for her presence.   As we talk, E’s two dogs lean their warm bodies against my cold legs.

After we exchange hellos and hugs, we throw chairs, beers and a hatchet into the back of B’s truck.  We hop in and ride to their campsite a mile away.  When we arrive, C jumps out of the truck and wanders over to the fire pit.  She shreds dried juniper bark and starts the tiniest fire I have ever seen.  C patiently shreds bark and adds it to the fire.  Fifteen minutes later, we pile on logs and the fire roars to life.

Once coals have formed, E sports vice grips like Edward Scissorhands to make veggie stir-fry over the fire.  We have a homegrown happy hour and then J and I walk back to our camp.

In the morning, E heads to Estes Park and the rest of us go climbing.  B leads the way up a 5.11+.  He shrugs off the tape gloves most wear here and cruises up the route.  C helps me tape on J’s gloves and then zips up the route after B.  I’m next.  I’m not much of a climber.  I get 1/3 of the way up the route.  I come down panting and pumped.  J climbs up next, liebacking his way up the thinnest part of the crack.

We hang out at the crag for a few more hours.  At the end of the day, B and C have to head back to their newfound home in Durango.  We hug and wish each other well.

Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Edward Abbey said it best when he described Canyonlands National Park as, “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth.  Here are some photos of my visit to the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park:

Syncline Loop Trail Syncline Loop Trail:  Descending Syncline Loop Trail:  Canyon ViewSyncline Loop Trail:  Antique RainSyncline Loop Trail:  Over and Through CanyonsSyncline Loop Trail:  Mushroom RockSyncline Loop Trail:  Climbing out of the CanyonSyncline Loop TrailSyncline Loop Trail:  Chasing the SunSyncline Loop Trail:  CairnSyncline Loop Trail:  Keep Your Eyes OpenSyncline Loop Trail:  Rough Trail Out of the CanyonSyncline Loop Trail:  View of the Way Out of the CanyonSyncline Loop Trail:  Climbing Over, Under and ThroughSyncline Loop Trail:  Northside Syncline Loop Trail:  BeautySyncline Loop Trail:  Fall Colors

Mesa Arch is gorgeous and accessible by walking a short trail.  Here is a pic of my eyes trying to drink it all in and photos of the arch as well as the mountains and canyons beyond:

Mesa Arch:  WOWMesa Arch CairnMesa Arch:  View BelowMesa Arch:  Red Rocks at SunsetMesa ArchMesa Arch:  View Beyond

The Best Camping on the Big Island: Spencer Beach Park

Spencer Beach is a family-friendly white sand beach located 40 minutes north of Kona and 15 minutes south of Hawi.  The weather is cooler than the scorching heat of Kona and less windy and cloudy than Hawi.

Camping at Spencer Beach is a breeze.  The campground has five deep sinks to wash dishes in, a shaded kiosk with electricity and plenty of hibachis (grills).  The true gem of camping at Spencer Beach is private, enclosed showers.  J and I have visited every state and county campground.  Spencer Beach is the only one with enclosed showers.

On weekends, local families pull picnic tables together on the beach and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other holidays.  During the day, local folks sit in the kiosk talking story and playing the ukulele.

Next to Spencer Beach Park is the Puukohola Heaiu.  King Kamehameha I commissioned the structure and oversaw the construction.  This heaiu was the last major temple to be built on the island.  Many of the stones used in the Pu’ukohola heaiu are from the Pololu Valley 20 miles away.  Workers formed a great human chain from Pololu to Kawaihae and the stones were passed hand over hand.  You can learn more about the heaiu at the Pu’ukohola National Historic Site building that is open from 7:45-5 p.m. daily.  There is no charge for admission.

There is a gorgeous white sand beach just below the heaiu.  For centuries royalty fed the black tip reef sharks off of this beach.  The sharks are still here today.

J and I visit the beach frequently at sunset.  We have seen a handful of black tip reef sharks at each visit.  Lately, we have been seeing them during the day.  A few weeks ago, a local caught a five foot white tip reef shark shore fishing!  (He released the shark).  Black tip reef sharks are typically more active at night.  We have only seen them on the heaiu side of the cove, not at the swimming area at Spencer Beach.

Camping in Hawaii is cheap at $5-6 per person per night.  However, securing a camping permit in person is not.  There are offices located in various cities throughout the island where one can go and purchase a permit.  The crux is these offices are oftentimes NOT located in the town closest to the campground.  Also, the permit offices have odd hours.

The easiest and most efficient way to reserve camping is to visit the reservation website.  Many campgrounds do not check permits, but private security guards at Spencer Beach Park check the permits of each camper nightly.  The security guard also ensure quiet times are enforced.  Quiet times begin at 9 on weekdays and 10 weekends.

If the wind is very calm, snorkeling at Spencer Beach Park can be good.  If there is even a hint of a breeze, which there often is, the water is cloudy.  The beach at the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel in downtown Kona and Two Step in the Captain Cook area are the best spots on this side of the island.

Spencer Beach Park is a great place to visit if you are traveling with kiekis (children).  The shoreline is almost always calm and the sandy bottom is inviting.  If I were staying in a hotel, I would not see a need to visit Spencer Beach unless I was traveling with small children.  Instead, I would snorkel in Kona and Captain Cook.

Kawaihae itself is a fairly unremarkable village.  There are a few restaurants, souvenir shops, a boat harbor and a gas station.  Café Pesto is a popular restaurant in town.  The restaurant serves pizza and pasta and has been busy every night out of the dozen times J and I have gone by.

The harbor at Kawaihae is a local’s hangout.  The harbor is fairly unremarkable.  There is a small black sand beach.  Visit on weekend evenings you want to get dah stink eye or see a fight.