You’d think it would be easy to spot Denali, North America’s tallest peak. It is, after all, over 20,000 feet tall. In reality, the mountain formerly known as Mount McKinley is notoriously elusive. It makes its own, constantly changing weather and is usually cloud-covered, so the odds of seeing it are fairly low. In a single day, there’s about a 33% chance of seeing the mountain in its entirety, and odds aren’t that much better that you’ll even get a glimpse of it.
That’s why Dale and I spent ten nights camping in Denali National Park and Preserve, a long time to spend in a single campground.
Our year in Ketchikan, Alaska, plus an announcement!
We left home the day after college graduation. Dale picked me up from my parents’ house, the house I grew up in, and I told my parents and sister goodbye. I was 23 but still so attached to my parents that you might say it was via umbilical cord, yet here I was, moving thousands of miles away. I climbed into the Ford Ranger, its camper stuffed with our belongings, and turned to give my house one more look. Then I started to cry. Even after we had hit the highway and were headed north, tears continued to stream down my face. It started to rain, a storm so heavy that Dale could barely see, but he said later that no way was he going to stop; I would’ve made him turn back. I cried until we hit Dallas, and then, suddenly, I quit looking back, and the tears stopped.
It was May, 1993, and Dale and I were moving from New Braunfels, Texas, to Alaska.
We spent a few days sightseeing in Taos, a tiny town with a fascinating mix of cultures–Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo, not to mention the influence of artists and free thinkers who have made their residence here for over 100 years. For such a little town, there’s a lot going on.
“Will we be OK with going back to an air mattress again?”
These were questions that we’d been bracing ourselves for.
I mean, I hog the sheets and Dale tends to take up more than half the bed, issues that become more pronounced when you’re sleeping on an air mattress more appropriate for a large child than two adults.
But we’d adapted, you know? We were sleeping well, and I’ve mostly gotten over my squeamishness about using public bathrooms. We’d made some good progress.
But, after four weeks of camping, we’ve now moved indoors for side trips to Las Vegas, Idaho, Portland, and Seattle. These were planned stops and we knew this time was coming, but we had to wonder–would our return to the civilized world for two weeks thwart our desire to go back to the nomadic life?
Taos, New Mexico, is a town of about 5700 people, so small that it doesn’t even have a Starbucks (our go-to for WiFi, so that was a disappointment).
And yet, when it comes to the development of modern American art, Taos’ place in history is huge. Many of the biggest names in 20th-century American art, including Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams, have been inspired by Taos’ and Northern New Mexico’s stunning landscapes as well as the Native American and Hispanic cultures of the region. Taos has even earned the nickname “Paris West.” Continue reading “Taos’ Harwood Museum: The spectacular colors of New Mexican art”
A surprisingly moving visit to this little historical site
We came to Ft. Davis army post expecting to spend an hour tops. We’d been there years ago and remembered it as being a dry, dusty little place, your average 19th-century army fort, with a small cluster of buildings and an American flag flying out front. A museum in the visitors center orients you to the history; from there you can wander the grounds and inspect the handful of buildings that have been restored, and, if you don’t put this place into its proper historical context, you may forget it as soon as you leave.
“I am made of the dust of the stars, and the oceans flow in my veins.” —Rush, “Presto”
One of the best observatories in the world is McDonald Observatory, run by the University of Texas at Austin, my alma mater (hook ‘em!). It’s situated on a few mountain tops in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. McDonald Observatory is a mind-bending place to visit–-so many great minds accumulated in one place, researching our vast universe, completing all that advanced math….
This was our third trip to the observatory, and as always, it was overwhelming, but in a good way.