Petrified Forest, i.e. The Painted Desert is Basically Mars

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Petrified Forest, i.e. The Painted Desert is Basically Mars

Click through to explore uncommon landscapes and a tiny bit of geology

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Saguaro: Remember, the g is silent

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Sorry for the lateness of this video, everyone. The good news is you get to visit with all sorts of cacti this week (including, of course, the famed saguaros). Click through to see them for yourself! And look sometime early next week for a post about all the different cacti and other desert plants we met in southern Arizona!

Recommended Reading from the Road

Believe it or not, I find a fair amount of time to read while on the road. Louisa does 99% of the driving (she’s one of those people who likes driving) and if I’m not editing video or planning our itinerary for the next park, I’m normally reading in the passenger seat. Interesting books pop up in National Parks gift stores, or there’s a cool used bookstore across the street from our motel, and I end up buying paperbacks even though I bought a Kindle so I wouldn’t drag around 50 books everywhere. So here are three interesting books I read during the most recent leg of the Great American Parks Trip!

(All the cover art and graphics are property of their respective authors and publishers, I just grabbed them off Amazon so this wouldn’t be a boring text-only post!)

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Park Ranger: True Stories From an Ranger’s Career in America’s National Parks by Nancy Eileen Muleady-Mecham. Have you ever wondered what NPS rangers actually do? Have you ever wondered about the hardest parts of their jobs, the rescues and emergencies? Or what happens to someone who gets super drunk and disorderly on National Park property 100 miles from the nearest police station? The author is a paramedic and registered nurse, but she doesn’t only deal with medical emergencies.

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Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks, by Andrea Lankeford. This was one of the more entertaining books I’ve read in a while. Unlike the above, which focuses on the author’s career, this book gathers stories from a variety of rangers at a variety of parks. It’s very well-written and covers a lot of ground, from chaperoning sea turtles on their march to the water, to rappelling down the side of the Grand Canyon to retrieve an unfortunate tourist’s body.

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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed: “But DA,” I hear you say, “that book isn’t about National Parks! Sure, the PCT passes through 7 parks, but the book is mostly about her struggles with life and hiking.” I know. But it’s a great book. The author is not a serious hiker or camper, and starts out with a pack that is way too heavy. Along the way, she loses her shoes and learns not only how to camp, but also meets people who show her lessons about life and hiking.

So there they are, three great books related to the National Parks that I picked up and enjoyed on the road. “Graphic the Valley” by Peter Brown Hoffmeister comes in 4th, it was recommended by a co-worker, and it was interesting, but I’m not sure I would recommend it because the writing style might be difficult for some. Still, it’s worth checking out if your interest is piqued by a boy growing up in Yosemite National Park, unknown to the park rangers, and dealing with the development of his home. It also mentions the subculture of rock climbers and parks people.

Have you read any good books about the National Parks, rangers, or camping/hiking in general? Leave us a comment!

Brief housekeeping announcements

Just a few things to let you know!

1. First of all, the trip now has an instagram! We’re thegaptrip there, so feel free to follow there for more pictures of our adventures!

2. After weeks of inconsistent and too-slow internet, we can finally have a regular schedule for videos. They’ll be released every Thursday between noon and 2pm Central Time. 

3. We’ve updated our thanks page to include the fantastic people who hosted us this time around! Thanks very much to Mary Weinzirl and Barb Spelman in Arizona, and Mary and Bill Lampe in Colorado! If you haven’t taken a look at that page yet, please do check it out, as there’s no way we could do this on our own.

Thanks for following the trip! 

See you on the road,

DA & Louisa

Guadalupe Mountains, where the wind reigns supreme!

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Our second stop this time around was Guadalupe Mountains National Park, where we had quite a challenge keeping our roomy dome tent on the ground! Click through to see our explorations — including Frijole Ranch and McKittrick Canyon. We’ll be posting videos regularly every Thursday now, so mark your calendars!

Deserts and I Don’t Really Get Along: Reflections on Big Bend

Big Bend is where I first learned the desert hates me.

I’d never been to a desert before, and while I knew it would be hot and dry, I was also looking forward to seeing all sorts of new plants and animals – and to its cooling down at night. I figured I’d handled hot places before, and we were going in April, far from the hottest month.

The heat isn’t what I should have been concerned about. Yes, it was hot. The temperatures got up to triple digits in the middle of the day – and oh yeah, the “middle of the day” is from about 10AM to 4PM – but beyond that it was unbelievably, inconceivably, and in my opinion entirely too dry.

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I had been lucky enough to realize I had some kind of virus developing the night before we left, and I’m sure my sore throat and stuffy nose weren’t helped by the aridity but there was more to it than that. There’s something about the dryness of the desert that saps not only every ounce of moisture it can from my body, but also every thought of hiking anything resembling a slope or going for a walk longer than 15 or 20 minutes.

It was a bizarre experience for me – in my life, dry air has always been coupled with the cold. Going to school in Minnesota, temperatures on January days would peak around 8 degrees if we were lucky, and the air didn’t really carry any moisture. But hot and dry was new, and I can say unequivocally that if I were to list the earthly environments for which I was most suited, the desert would probably be second from last, beating out only the bottom of the ocean.

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Which is a shame because it’s absolutely beautiful. Life is everywhere – spindly bushes with tiny leaves, little lizards that dart across rocks, roadrunners and quail, coyotes who saunter across the road at sunset, shy big-eared mule deer watching any humans from a safe distance, and cacti of every size and shape.

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After awhile, you get used to being surrounded by rock-strewn dirt and low grey-green shrubs, and you lose the sense of awe at the sheer size of the sky. It feels natural to look for clumps of green that indicate the presence of a spring, and to watch your footsteps carefully to avoid any basking rattlesnakes.

The desert is beautiful, yes, but it’s harsh, and it’s not hard for me to accept that I’m simply not made to live in a desert.

A cave, on the other hand, might do quite nicely.

See you on the road!

Louisa