Sunday, April 29, 2007

Spreads Like Wild Fire.

Kernville, California. We were sat waiting for a friend in a carpark when we saw a tree catch fire.

Start of the Fire

People began calling the fire brigade as it was within 10ft of the general store and a gas station.
Within minutes it spread rapidly across the mountain side...

Fire Spreading across the Mountain

Arriving quickly on the scene was the fire brigade and the forest fire teams.
All day we have watched the fire grow and spread. Numerous planes and helicopters have been dousing the mountain with water and fire retardent powder.

Planes and Helicopters dousing the Fire

We walked to the river to witness the helicopter pick up water...very impressive.

Cheryl and Simon feeling the draft of the Helicopter

Unfortunately 9 hrs later the fire has spread over the mountain top and is now burning along the mountain. It seems it has been left to burn itself out...but from the house we are staying at we have amazing views of it quickly looks like volcanic lava running.

We are here for a couple of days so we will keep you posted on the fire.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Las Vegas Sucks!!

Well if you haven't already heard!!
We have had some unfortunate bad luck in Vegas... No we didn't lose a load of money on the tables or slot machines. We had both of our Mountain Bikes stolen off the back of Astro.
The terrible people cut off all the locking straps and straps holding the bikes in place..
At least they didn't touch our precious Kayaks or break in the van!! and we have to be thankful unlike the guy in the police station who got beat up in an elevator and wasn't even mugged but the attackers took photo's while they did it..
I guess Las Vegas is really sin city. We have promtly left and now in Sunny California.

The bikes have now been replace with two walmart specials including heavy duty locks. (Dad promise we will remove the wheels next time we are in the bright lights). We will report how these bikes hold up in future posts.

We’ve come a long way..

Finally we have made it out West. We are currently in California.
Since our last post we have traveled far and come through some extreme weather from High Winds, Lots of snow and now it is in the 100’s and really humid.

After Santa Fe we went to the Bandera Ice and Fire, a Ice cave and Volcano in one (it snowed heavily here).
Then on to El Morro national monument which house huge cliffs covered in 1800 signatures of travelers who passed through and some petroglyphs of ancient Indians. Crossing the border into Arizona, we headed into the Petrified Forest national Park. This is a park housing all the scared trees.. really though it is fallen trees which have become fossilized and full of spectacular minerals and colors.

Yes we did all the above in one day.
The next day was just as busy we started at Homolovi Ruins which were not very distinct and looked like a modern pile of rubble rather than old ruins,
Then came tourist trap number 1 the meteor crater. Our first sting!! $15 got us a small view of a very large crater.. pretty cool place, but disappointing we couldn’t walk around more.

Next was Walnut Canyon.. a beautiful national park. We were surprised to find steep canyon walls, tree lined and full of ancient Indian homes half way up the canyon walls. Truly amazing to think people actually lived and farmed here.

Grand Canyon was next on our list. Again yes we did this all in a day. We arrived at the Grand Canyon National Park just in time to watch the Sunset over the Canyon.
Our second day we got up early and hiked the Bright Angel Trail down into the canyon and out to the Plateau Point. This 12 mile round trip, dropped 3000ft in 3 miles along steep winding switchbacks. It was extremely hot.
The views all along were amazing, but the Plateau point was the pinnacle with views of the river below and to our delight a bunch of rafts about to run a rapid. The rapid is apparently the most feared on the river…even from along way above (about 2 miles away) we could see the crashing waves.
The canyon was full of wild life from Cheeky backpack raiding ground squirrels (who preformed the task like stealth ninjas), Lizards and beautiful Condors.

Then came tourist trap number 2 and Cheryl’s rant… We decided to go to the new Indian Skywalk, a glass bridge overlooking the Grand Canyon. The drive there wasn’t easy 45 miles each way of the interstate of which 14 miles was off road and I mean off road we drove at 15 MPH. We arrive excited to see the canyon as it appeared 100’s of other tourists.. picture this we cant see the Canyon and your in the middle of the desert. We go to the ticket desk ask for a Skywalk pass and we were politely told we had to buy a package.. which would cost at least $80 and would involve going to a ranch cowboy games, Indian ruins and a lot of other stuff we didn’t want to see. Can’t we just go to the skywalk… NO!! (and you can’t take cameras on the skywalk).. So back on the Dusty Road.. with a quick stop off at Hoover Dam… Dam great Engineering there!!

Pictures for Texas, New Mexico and Arizona on Webshots

Monday, April 23, 2007

Where are all the Aliens!!

Well we couldn’t miss the opportunity to go to Roswell. The town famous for the first UFO landing in 1947 and the massive cover up (maybe) by the US Government in the many years that followed.
Interesting fact on our way to Roswell we drove through Clovis, the beef capital of the world…lots of cows and very smelly.
We went to Roswell in the hope that we would find our own little pet alien and maybe a UFO to gain as the ultimate shuttle vehicle.

What we did find was a relatively normal town that just happens to have a UFO Museum and a few cafes and the odd shop cashing in on the phenomenon.
We did find a beautiful state park called Bottomless Lakes to camp the night before our Alien hunt.
The Bottomless lakes is out there, relatively unattractive at first.. but take a closer look and it hosts beautiful aquamarine lakes hidden by rock walls. Created millions of years ago by underground water flows the rock ceilings eventually caved to reveal the lakes to the open air. The lakes host an abundance of fish.
While the park itself hosts numerous animals and during our stay we heard coyotes fighting, owls hooting, Saw huge beetles, a road runner and a large 4ft coach whip snake..bright green and very fast.

So back to Roswell and we visited the UFO Museum, primarily dedicated to the 1947 incident. Sadly we left Roswell with no pet alien.

On our way through New Mexico we realized we would be able to head through Socorro, the burial site of our good Friend Linda Weiss and home to her parents. With help from John G, We were able to contact Linda’s parents Bill and Nancy and pay them a visit. We also visited Linda’s grave and bench dedicated to her at the local Tech college.

Our stay in Socorro led us to another state park high in the mountains (N.M terrain goes from complete dessert to high lush mountains). We camped at about 6500 ft and it was very cold!!
27 miles from this lush area took us to a large flat plateau, which homes the VLA radio Telescope. This amazingly interesting place was a pretty neat find. It also featured in the film Contact with Jodi Foster.

Santa Fe came next. A cute city which is built in typical Mexican style of Adobe architecture and centered around the traditional plaza. Where today still many locals sell their wares. The city hosted an unbelievable amount of galleries and jewelry shops sadly out shadowing the local market plaza.
It was at this point we made the decision not to continue north in our quest for paddling. It seemed the ability of getting a shuttle on the river and the quickly dropping levels would be against us…so west we are heading to Fire and Ice.

Don’t Mess With Texas!!

Amarillo crunchy on the outside chewy in the middle…oops that’s Armadillos not Amarillo.
While we had no real reason to visit Amarillo except that it sounds a cool place we came across some interesting places.
Firstly we got drive Route 66 for the first time for all of 6 miles through the outskirts of the city. At least we can say we have been on route 66 now.

We also got visit a strange sight of half buried Cadillacs, which are open to everyone to artistically paint or graffiti, which we did numerous times with our big black marker in hand. While not the most stunning piece of artwork we have seen it is definitely one of the more unusual.

We then did the Texas thing and ate Steak at the Big Texan. The Big Texan is Famous for its 72 oz steak. If you eat the steak and all its trimmings, a salad, beans, a bread roll and a baked Potato within the hour you get it free.
The steak its self is a whole cow..honest. We wussed out and opted for more reasonable sized portions. We did witness someone commence the 72 oz challenge, we left before he finished.

From there we traveled to Palo Duro Canyon the second largest canyon in the USA after Grand Canyon. From top to Bottom it is around 850 ft. It is spectacular, a multitude of different colored rocks and plantation.
We camped in the canyon floor, Unlike the Grand it has a small river that runs through it.
We hit the light house trail on our Mountain bikes. A 5 mile round trip to a light house shaped rock. The terrain for Mountain biking was fantastic and ranged from biking down steps to steep up hill sandy paths.
All around the scenery was amazing..

Now we are off to New Mexico next to do some Alien hunting!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

How Dirty Kayakers get Clean..

Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Hot Springs is a small town in Arkansas. Famous for it hot springs that run in the surrounding country side and right through the heart of it.

The main attraction is a row of Bath Houses, sadly most are now closed and are being refurbished for Business use. One of the two remaining is a beautifully restored museum and tourist centre. The other is still a bath house today and that where us dirty kayakers got a good scrubbing!!

Below are pictures of the Fordyce Bath House which is now the Tourist Centre and Museum.

We also visited the Garvans Botanical Gardens where they have built this beautiful modern non religious Chapel in the woods.

More Pictures at the Webshots dirrty Kayakers though!!

We are currently in Amarillio Texas after skipping through Oklahoma in a day.

Monday, April 16, 2007

At Last, Water!

Our quest to find water took us to the North Carolina and Tennessee border.
In order to get there Astro took us along a road known as Dragons Tail.. or to us normal people route 129. Dragon’s tail is a steep winding road 11 miles long with 319 Corners, very popular with bikers, sports car drivers and police. We had stumbled across a Honda S2000 rally which was taking place at the nearby resort.

Astro did us proud unfortunately she wasn’t fast enough or beautiful enough to have her photograph taken by one of the few photographers stood at tight bends.. We love her though!!
We camped the night at Fontana Village next to the largest Dam in the East, apparently the fugitive was filmed on that very dam!!
Hiyak (hike and kayak) Festival was being hosted throughout the weekend, so we did the paddler thing and turned up only to find we were the only kayakers amongst many Appalachian Trail hikers.. many who resembled Jesus like actors with long hair and beards..(Si told me the eat Dog food the whole way!!)

So At last we get to paddle – The time spent in the Smokey mountains allowed us to delay departing West to get in a couple of Dam release runs – Natural flow was still eluding us.…

First the Cheoah. A frothing Adventure of class IV/ IV+ so the guide says. This certainly got Cheryl’s palms a little sweaty, and a few roadside scouting runs only heightened the anticipation (or nerves). Fortunately Cheryl didn’t have to rely on Simon to guide her down, as we tagged along with some local guys to show us the lines. The paddle proved to be an classic continuous 7 mile run. Certain sections were brush ridden, leading to adventures bushwacking routes in places. It ranged from mellow class 3 to some classic technical class 4 drops and big rapids.
Some of the highlights included a 12ft Waterfall, offering a variety of lines from an easy angled chute, vertical drop, or creeky line. The final drop Yard Sale posed back to back holes to dodge which were the biggest holes of the run, which teased Cheryl’s first roll of the run out of her.
A highlight to the day was running into one of Cheryl’s friends Steph Lind (they paddled in Mexico together).

Our second paddle of the weekend was the Ocoee (Section 2) Again cold weather and miserable rain dogged our paddling, and our experience of the Ocoee was diminished slightly by this. This river is definitely one for a nice warm summer paddle. There were many good surf waves, and Hell hole was the highlight.

Now we start the long drive – mainly on Interstate 40, heading through Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California!!

Smokey Mountains - North Carolina

Lack of water forced us to go in search of other activities. Our Adventure mobile took us to the Smokey Mountain National Park.
Smokey National Park is the largest park in East North America…the scenery is breath taking.
While the weather wasn’t exactly scorchio, it was certainly warmer than any where else we had been.
We began our tour at the Cherokee Indian reservation, which boasted Santa land (Theme park and Zoo) and the enormous Harrah’s Casino…we searched for something a little more traditional and opted for the Cherokee Heritage Museum, which provide a great insight into the Cherokee heritage.
From there we traveled the Newfound Gap Road along with 100’s of other Tourists. The winding road takes you through the heart of the Smokeys. We stopped for a small hike/ stroll to the highest peak at 6643 the second highest peak in the east. To Cheryl’s dismay it was a 0.5 mile hike to the top along a concrete trail and at the peak a ghastly concrete look out tower.

The excitement of the day were two Bear Jams…not Bears in jars, but cars causing jams in the roads to view bears…amazing how close they were…very cute and cuddly.

Day 2 in the North Smokey Mountains, and we decide to do two hikes one to Laurel Falls and a second to Chimney Tops an impressive aggressive steep hike among huge trees to a sheer sided rock face known as Chimney Tops. The climb to the top was amazing, sadly there was no view to see….only clouds. Thankfully that also obscured the sheer drops..

Day 3 And we moved to the West Smokey Mountains. We decided to do a 11 mile bike ride around a loop known as Cades Cove. This is much less mountainous than the rest of the Smokey’s park, and has been maintained as a ‘Settlers’ era exhibition of houses and buildings.

This loop tour is closed for cars on certain days, but not today, so we had to crawl round in a procession of cars, most of which were more concerned with wildlife viewing than cyclist safety. We didn’t see too much wildlife, no more than we’d see in the Vermont countryside…. This was our final day in the Smokey mountain, with some Dam release rivers coming up this weekend!!

More pictures on webshots – Smokey Mountains and Cades Cove Albums.