The Sabbatical 2021

We took a six week sabbatical this fall to refresh and rejuvenate; most of the time was spent in Colorado but we visited five states in total – lots of hiking (LOTS), lots of family time, and a lot of aimless wandering. It was just what the doctor ordered and it was deeply enjoyable. It was incredibly special to catch the last of the summer flowers and the start of the fall colors. Turns out, shoulder season was perfect for us! We’re sad the trip is over but we look forward to new adventures in the near future.

Special thanks to Hilton, Delta, and United for pretty much sponsoring our trip. We saved a lot of money churning credit cards for miles / points and most of our trip was free. This is probably one of the biggest changes in our travels – we normally stay in Airbnbs but Airbnb has become: expensive, unfriendly, filled with rules, and a hassle. It feels like we rode the Airbnb train during the golden age and had an incredible amount of positive experiences so Airbnb is now relegated as a just another story in our book of travels.

We had some pretty big surprises ; some are easy to describe and others are really hard:

  • We were pleasantly surprised to see mountain flowers in the wild! We thought for sure the season was over so it was a nice surprise when we saw lots of fireweed, lupine, indian paint brushes, and so on. What a treat!
  • The weather was pretty much perfect every day. We had two days of rain and the rain + clouds made for some beautiful mountain scenery so the rain wasn’t even bad.
  • We hit some fall colors around Silverton and Denver right around the peak time and it was stellar – up there with the fall colors in the Smokey Mountains NP.
  • The Uintas area a hidden gem! Our time in the Uintas was incredible and an absolute joy. The complete lack of people, very accessible trails for families with small children, the stunning scenery, and perfectly still mornings made for some unforgettable experiences. Our visit to the Uintas ranks up there as the best part of the trip.
  • The most amazing food we had the entire trip was found in a Mexican grocery store housed in a former gas station in Cortez, CO. It was clear the tacos, tamales, and everything else we ate was home made by the family running running the store. It happened to be Taco Tuesday the food was shockingly good. The next best food was a BBQ place we stumbled upon in Colorado Springs of all places. Absolutely incredible BBQ.
  • The forest fire smoke wasn’t that bad! Towards the end of the trip the smoke seemed to go away completely.
  • Colorado is full, chock full, of people. It was surprisingly hard to get around, even in rural areas. As an example, it ended up taking an extra 45min to get between Chimney Rock and Alamosa because of people hauling campers, trailers, and boats going slowly.
  • The number of older people out traveling is astonishing. None of them are in a hurry and many seem perfectly content standing in egress paths, driving 10mph below the speed limit, and chatting with service workers when there are a line of people trying to get out of a store. I’m not sure if Colorado attracts these types?
  • COVID is still a thing and we still had to make accommodation for COVID restrictions.
  • Staff shortages are felt even in rural areas. There were a number of places that were entirely closed or had reduced hours.
  • The wealthy in this country are really wealthy. Labor shortages in the services seemed to be more common in the really wealthy areas which is no surprise; it’s probably hard for anyone below the 5-10% to compete in the housing markets where people commute using their private jets.
  • The wealthy areas had a very strange feel, kind of like a museum or an art gallery – “people look at and use these areas but only some are allowed behind the rope” kind of feel. As an example: Park City, Aspen, and Telluride and some other cities have pretty big highways leading to the cities for all the service workers to flood in and out in the mornings and evenings since these people clearly can’t live in those areas. It’s just odd to be driving on a major highway to a town of 7,000 people surrounded by vehicles with decals showing cleaning, landscaping, building, contracting, and other services.
  • Sunrise and sunset in San Diego are nearly impossible to beat. Just so beautiful
  • Our trend of bad stuff happening to areas we visits continues. A forest fire broke out shortly after we visited Silverthorne.

Some trip stats:

  • 3 flights
  • 5 states (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, California)
    • 8 days in Utah
    • 7 days in California
    • 22 days in Colorado
  • 8 National Parks and Monuments: Dinosaur NP, Colorado NM, Mesa Verde NP, Gunnison NP, Chimney Rock NM, Florissant NM, Great Sand Dunes NP, Cabrillio NM
  • 28 free hotel nights
  • 37 days on the road
  • 4,100 road miles
  • ~12,000 photos
  • Only two days of rain
  • Many climates: alpine, desert, sand dunes, mountains, plains, alpine plains, temperate, and even lush forest.

Probably the biggest surprise was the Uinta mountains in Utah. Fantastic hiking, complete lack of people, and gorgeous scenery. Of all the places we visited on this trip it’s the place we enjoyed the most and look forward to visiting again.

The downsides were pretty surprising. There are a ton of people all over Colorado doing all sorts of outdoor activities. It’s impossible to get away from people. Time entry for the national parks, monuments, and busy sites is a major bummer. This is the first time I’ve felt that the “outdoors are closed”. We planned ahead and were able to see and visit a lot of the places we wanted but we didn’t get to see everything. It’s sad because I feel like I might be in the last generation of Americans who could use the national parks, monuments, and other federal lands to the fullest extent.

Six weeks is a long time so I have multiple posts:

I also have my favorite photos from the trip in the album below.

Enjoy!

Chris W.

Colorado 2021

Where to start. Visiting Colorado was great. The state has so much to offer – hiking, sites, sights, and all the wonderful places like the butterfly pavilion to experience made Colorado a wonderful place to visit. I can see why everyone loves Colorado. Which brings me to my next point: Colorado is overrun with people, especially retirees.

We were very fortunate to have nearly perfect weather the entire time in Colorado. We started the journey by flying into Denver and spending some time in the the metro area. I finally had a chance to hike to St. Mary’s glacier. It ended up being a really neat place to catch sunrise and we were some of the only people in the area because we started so early.

Our first destination was Aspen and I was taken back a bit about how wealthy and abnormal Aspen is compared to the normal world. We drove by the Aspen airport twice a day and it was so strange to see the many private jets. We didn’t know this was our first taste of the ‘ski town’ experience on this trip.

The Maroon Bells were beautiful, as always. We had our timed entry passes and made it up to Crater Lake a little bit after sunrise. It was very beautiful and great to have peace and quiet surrounded by stunning beauty. We turned back early as the crowds were working their way back up. We went again the next day but it was raining so we weren’t in much of a hurry. Turns out, the rain and clouds added a whole new layer of beauty to the area.

One of the bigger surprises was the immense beauty of Highway 141 between Grand Junction and Naturita. We were completely unprepared for the drive through the deep valleys and the changes from green-ish landscapes to dry desert red rocks. We had the road to ourselves and it seemed like we were the only people around to enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Seeing the abandoned flume was really interesting simply because it shows the extent to which humans will go to make money; building a water flowing apparatus on a cliff wall hundreds of feet above the floor of the valley for many miles is no easy task.

We spent a good chunk of time in Ouray and visited Telluride, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and other places in the area. Ouray was super neat. It reminded me a lot of where I grew up and was dumpier than the ski towns probably because the town doesn’t have a ski hill. Most of the roads in the town were gravel! We had a couple decent meals there but Maggie’s stands out as being on of the best hamburgers we ate on the trip. There was no line when we visited (end of September) but a conversation with one of the employees revealed that they would serve 500-ish people an hour in the peak summer time and that a line would stretch for blocks in the tiny little town. Of all the little towns we visited, Ouray was one of the more neat places because of the hiking inside the town (Box Canyon), the quietness, beauty, and food options.

We managed to hit peak fall colors on the million dollar highway between Ouray and Silverton. It was one of the most spectacular views we’ve had and we’ve seen a lot of spectacular things. The reds, yellows, and colors in between were stunning.

Some other surprises:

  • Timed entry is a killer. We were unsuccessful at getting anything in Mesa Verde and the rest of the park was OK. Each park / national monument seems to do timed entry differently and it wasn’t fun to make it all work. I guess I’m the last generation who grew up being able to visit national parks when they wanted. I can’t help but think of the disenfranchisement timed entry will create since timed entry makes the outdoors closed for a lot of folks.
  • Chimney Rock National Monument is one of the newest national monuments and it showed! We were driving by so we decided to stop and we were glad we did. I’m guessing the overall experience will be a bit better in the coming years as their new facilities open up.
  • Traffic sucked. Sucked hard and pretty much sucked everywhere. Colorado has been over-run by people and the infrastructure hasn’t kept up. If the roads weren’t clogged by normal traffic (Denver, Colorado Springs, all the ski towns), there was construction, or some retiree driving 10-20mph below the speed limit in their truck pulling a camper pulling a boat pulling a car on a single lane highway.
  • The retirees were everywhere. Their complaints were hilarious. One retiree told a national park ranger that ‘they don’t do much for people’ in regards to folks afraid of heights. The park ranger took the comment and stride and reminded her that ‘it’s the outdoors’. It boggles my mind that someone thinks the national park service needs to make Mesa Verde, a place known for cliffs and cliff dwellings, a good place to go for those afraid of heights. The retirees did not seem to be in any particular hurry so they were completely happy standing in egress areas, speaking with cashiers / attendants forever, and driving super slow. One area was so clogged up with retirees driving RVs, trucks pulling campers and boats, that our 2.5hr car ride turned into 3.5hrs. I feel a particular distain for those who are oblivious or uncaring to others and the huge number of retirees slowing everything down is enough for me to think long and hard about ever going back to some of the areas we visited.

Nearly all of our stays in Colorado were at Hilton properties, primarily Hampton Inns. We churned credit cards and ended up with a lot of reward points and free is free. I generally wake up early in the morning so it was interesting to go down and see what was playing on TV; it’s been years since I’ve watched the weather channel and I had no idea it transitioned to a “the weather is good now but danger is always around the corner” type of station. It hurt my brain to watch. We seemed to be the youngest people in the hotels too; we stayed on central time so we were able to catch an early breakfast and get out before the retirees clogged everything up in the dining area and standing around.

A lot of Colorado seemed to be suffering from labor shortages as well. Things like early check in, quick restaurant service, and other places relying on services were impacted, especially up in the mountains. Some places were just flat out closed. It makes sense since wages in the service sector probably cannot pay for any standard of living or quality of life in the ski towns.

Our journey thru Colorado had a lot of other fun sites not already mentioned – like the Glenwood Springs cave, Colorado National Monument, Butterfly Pavilion, and had some absolutely stellar food ranging from great BBQ in Colorado Springs to wonderful tacos and tamales from a gas station converted into a Mexican grocer + small restaurant. It seemed like wherever we went there was no shortage of things to do and eat.

Overall, Colorado was great. We also don’t need to go back anytime soon since we thoroughly explored the state!

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

San Diego 2021

San Diego never disappoints. We’ve been there a bunch of times and we’ll probably go back a bunch more.

The perfect sunrises, the perfect sunsets, the moderate temperature, the wonderful restaurants and varied foods, and the people make San Diego a wonderful place to visit time after time. There isn’t much to write about because we didn’t do much – get breakfast, see the sunrise, frolic in the ocean, eat, hang out, eat, sunset, sleep, repeat.

I must say, Ocean Beach, where we always visit, is getting even stranger. It may be because America a whole is aging but it was pretty strange to see a guy with gray hair driving slowly thru a residential neighborhood while loudly rocking out to the Beastie Boys in his late model Toyota Prius. That particular situation doesn’t make a lot of sense anywhere else other than Ocean Beach.

I finally had a chance to visit Hodad’s after walking by the place for years. Hodad’s made it big and was on a TV show – ever since then there was always a long, long, long, long line to get into the restaurant so I never went. Either due to the general economic climate or the pandemic there wasn’t a line one of the mornings so we had some delicious Hodad’s. It was good, really good, but I’m glad I didn’t wait two hours to eat at Hodad’s.

Otherwise, San Diego seems to be suffering the same fate as everywhere else – shortage of workers and materials and reduced hours for businesses. Regardless, San Diego is still awesome :).

Utah 2021

What a very pleasant surprise. Utah, specifically the Uintas and some of Park City, was incredible.

We first stopped in Vernal to visit Dinosaur National Monument. The monument is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and there is a near zero percent chance I’d ever visit the park unless I was on a sabbatical or something. The area has some pretty wild geology and was super interesting. The dinosaur bones were cool and the hike into Box Canyon was a ton of fun. I started using the Alltrails app for hikes in Dinosaur NM and the hike to Moon Arch – the app turned out to be a godsend for so many reasons. The trail around Moon Arch was poorly marked and a family with a small child decided to join me on my hike since I had Alltrails an could direct us; it ended up being a pretty fun experience. Overall, this area of Utah was a neat place to visit.

Our next chunk of time was in Park City. We knew Park City was a ski town but we didn’t realize how wonderful the hiking would be in the Uintas, and, stumbling across their annual city festival was a very fun experience. Hiking in quiet solitude is a wonderful experience, hiking in quiet solitude while in a beautiful area on well kept trails with little breeze so all the lakes had mirror reflections was a truly remarkable experience. I had never heard of the Uintas prior to this trip and it feels like we found a secret – the area is only 45min away from Park City. Most everyone seems to hike around Park City / Brighton Lakes so it was neat to find an area where no one seemed to be hiking.

Catching the annual fall festival was a super neat treat. We were surprised with a pancake breakfast, we were able to watch a human+dog 5K, and the ‘running of the balls’ down mainstreet fundraiser was pretty hilarious to watch – nearly only because of the people and their excitement in watching balls roll down a street!

We thought we’d visit some Olympic related sites and spent quite a bit of time watching people practice long jumping / ski jumping. It was odd; Park City is pretty hot and seeing people practice ski jumping in the very early fall was kind of a strange experience. Regardless, it was amazing to see what people can do with the help of gravity.

I was a bit surprised with how much basic things cost in Park City. It was common to spend about $50 on a meal for the family. That was pretty expensive considering none of the places we visited were all that remarkable except for one place which also happened to be the best deal – the Wasatch Brewery.

Park City itself is another high end ski town filled with high end ski town stuff.

All-in-all, the Uintas were fantastic. A+, 100%, 5 stars, we’d go back.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Boston 2021

It felt great to travel again, even if it’s just in the US.

We chose to go to Boston because we wanted to go somewhere we didn’t need a car and had a lot to see. Turns out, Boston was perfect. The food was amazing – our place was right next to the North End so walking into the North End for amazing food and desserts was no hassle. We walked about 50 miles in our six days in Boston and more than offset that calorie burn with huge meals like pizza at Ernesto’s and fantastic desserts at places like Bova’s.

We had a great time in Boston. There was plenty to do and it was super neat to be in Boston on July 4th – the town came alive with all sorts of independence day celebrations. We had a wonderful Chinatown tour and stopped at quite a few of the major sites in town. We walked the entire greenway and stopped at many of the installations along the way.

There were some surprises. On the positive: pretty much everything we ate was incredible, playing on the beach during sunset on Cape Cod is something I’ll never forget, Boston seems to be filled with late risers so walking around in the early morning was super quiet and fun, and there were so many family activities we could do that were free or super cheap – like walking tours and playing in all the fountains along the greenway, and the history / architecture was wonderful; our central location made everything accessible within a 15 min walk. On the negative: Provincetown in Cape Cod was a let down and the weather went from cold to blistering hot to tropical storm. In the interest of making lemonade, we ran around to a couple museums like the old south meeting house and the old state house during the tropical storm and we were the only people there!

The biggest surprise was Tropical Storm Elsa. Elsa hit right as we were about to fly out and we actually flew out of the storm – one of the photos is the edge of the storm as we flew out.

All in all, Boston was 100% awesome. 5/5 would do again. It was cathartic to get out and resume normal activities after being locked in for the last year.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Vegas 2021

We went to Vegas in March but I forgot to write about it. It was great but there were still a lot of pandemic restrictions so it sorta felt normal.

The hiking was phenomenal. We had a fabulous time hiking in quiet solitude since no one goes to Vegas for hiking. There was just us and Search and Rescue at one trailhead in the Valley of Fire State Park; they were busy doing search and rescue stuff so we didn’t see them. The weather wasn’t great, it snowed a bit, but it did create beauty – we drove back from the Valley of Fire State Park by Lake Mead and watched the sun break through the clouds / snow and create a spectacular scene. 

The food was great too – Vegas is two hours behind us so getting breakfast or donuts at 5AM in Vegas is no big deal. We did something new, we went on a self directed food tour, and it was a lot of fun. It was in old Vegas and it was super neat to go to three different restaurants with wildly different food.

About a month after we visited Vegas it became crazy – everyone is done with COVID. We heard the mayor say, “for all intents and purposes, Vegas is sold out of hotel room and rental cars for the indefinite future”. That’s wild!

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Five Years Home.

Six years ago we packed up all our belongings into a Toyota Corolla and drove from Upstate New York to Minnesota through Canada officially starting our world trip. I can still remember two distinct feelings: the first feeling of being free – it was the first time in my life where I didn’t have a boss, a teacher, or someone else deciding my time, and the second, feeling like I was staring into the abyss and the abyss was staring back at me. At that point in time, I had worked at different jobs while going to school since I was 14; I never had a gap year, studied abroad, took a summer off, or had any other common youth event / engagement that gave me a large break from work or international travel exposure. We had no certainty we would find jobs on our return, lots of people did not recommend we go on the trip, and we didn’t really know what was going to happen. It certainly felt like the Rubicon was crossed.

Five years ago I remember landing at Dulles airport in Washington DC and re-entering America. I was kind of nervous since we’d been gone for 13 months and had passports full of stamps and thought that maybe someone would be at least a little curious. It was the most anti-climatic entrance ever. In fact, I’m not entirely sure we entered the US correctly since I’m pretty sure we missed some important steps and no-one collected the customs form we were given on the airplane. All of a sudden we were in the US and that was that! In no time we were able to find jobs and get back to the daily grind.

Little did we know what our world would look like five years after our return home: we’ve had quite the amazing journey. We’ve been successful in our careers, we’ve added to our family, we’ve laid down some roots, and we’ve even had a bit of traveling! Who knew some of the habits we developed when traveling, like what we eat and how we spend our time, would carry over to our daily lives in the US?  We’ve been fortunate. We’ve had great luck in our personal lives and our professional lives since we’ve been back, pandemic included. Knock on wood the trend continues!

We spent a bit of time thinking about the last five years and our perspective on life. Turns out, not much changed in our thinking, feeling, or planning compared to two years ago: https://word.christopherwagner.org/?p=8250 and our thoughts on the places we visited https://word.christopherwagner.org/?p=5912: Shortly after we landed we started thinking about when we’d be able to take a break and travel again; I did some basic math and I figured it would be around seven years. Turns out my math was mostly correct but I hadn’t penciled in a pandemic and travel ban for Americans.

We’ve explored some new and oldies-but-goodies areas of the US and thoroughly enjoyed the sites, the smells, and the sounds. The US is a very special place and we are happy we were able to learn more about the US by leaving and traveling abroad. There seems to be a general dark cloud over the US, especially now with the election, but America is still the best place for someone like ourselves and will probably continue to be a great place for a very long time.

We were able to sneak in a trip to Spain two winters ago and we were looking forward to more international travel starting this year. It seems the world is on hold until a vaccine is released, everyone gets COVID, or people just get sick and tired of staying home. Our hearts ache for all those we met during our travels who’s livelihoods depend on tourism. We met incredible and industrious people who helped us along our way and gave us an incredibly enriching experience. The pandemic is taking a terrible toll all over and it’s not just due to illness. Permanent structural changes seem to be underway and it’s looking the world will be quite changed the next time we want to travel.

Never in a million years had I guessed the five year update of returning home would be a story about how everything is great for us but awful for many others. Hopefully, life resumes quickly.

I put some photos below of some of our favorite events / sites / whatever from the last two years. Enjoy the photos!

Colorado 2020

Hiking in Colorado was amazing. Just a spectacular hike with great company. The weather was perfect, the scenery was amazing, and we went at a time where the mountain flowers were out; 100% perfection.

Since I go hiking in Colorado nearly every year I could tell there were some differences due to the Rona life.

The noticeable difference started at the airport when I flew out on a Friday:

  • Fridays and Mondays the TSA pre-check line is usually quite long with business travelers. Not this time, I was the only person in the TSA pre-check line.
  • Everyone’s wearing masks and the airport is nearly empty.
  • Fellow passengers in the airport are overwhelmingly young people and families. The average age of travelers appeared to be a few years younger than my age.
  • Iceland Air’s plane was missing. Every Friday around 7PM there is a direct MSP to Iceland flight; the plane arrives to MSP the night before and is always at the same gate waiting for Friday evening. It was the same flight we took to kick off our world travels so every time I’ve been in the airport on a Friday I always get a happy reminder of our wonderful travels. The plane was missing. Probably because international travel is nearly non-existent.
  • Loading of the plane was done in smaller groups and went a hell of a lot faster than normal for some reason.
  • Middle aisle free seating on Southwest was really strange. Normally, people don’t want to sit in the middle aisle anyway but this was really, really strange since the plane was full.

A lack of business travelers was very strange. It’s only happened a few times in the past and it was always at touristy but not businessy locations, like Hawaii. The whole experience in the airport just felt surreal.

Hiking was different too. As I mentioned, the weather was absolutely perfect, the scenery was stunning, and I had, as usual, a great hiking companion. However, due to the Rona, Rocky Mountain National Park was limiting the number of visitors and slotting visitors into specific times between the hours of 6AM and 8PM. Since we weren’t able to get a slot we opted to show up before 6AM. Not a huge deal since we usually try to get to the trail head around 5:30AM to watch the sunrise on the trail.

We went to the same trailhead we’ve been to four-ish times in the past, usually no one is around or just a handful of people are around. This time there was a huge conga-line of vehicles driving into the park before 6AM and the trailhead parking lot was 2/3rds or more full with tons of people around. It was wild. People want to hike regardless of a pandemic and I guess they’ll show up at the ass-crack of dawn to go hiking.

Once we were on the trail it wasn’t different. Stunning beauty, serenity, blissful nature. Normally on the return part of the trip we start running into seas of people. Since the time slots exist we didn’t see many people at all on the return and the parking lot was full by roughly the same amount – another rather strange situation since the parking lots are usually jam packed and there are people swarming all over the trailheads.

Otherwise, everything in Colorado was great. We also went down to the Royal Gorge and enjoyed some beautiful mountain scenery along the way.

100% recommend. Would do again. A+.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

The Rona Life

It’s been an interesting four months since COVID-19 ended the daily routine for most of America. We’ve been fine; we’ve had nothing but good luck, and we’re fortunate our time has gone so well.

Normally, we sneak in another trip or two during the spring and summer but this year has been spent at home for extremely obvious reasons. That said, it’s been pretty great for us because we’re still employed and we’re healthy. Given the situation of tens of millions of Americans, I’d say we have nothing to complain about.

The lockdowns started when the weather was still a bit shit and now we have our plants bearing fruit. I remember the governor mentioning how great Minnesotans were at social distancing when the shelter in place order started. I laughed because the weather was still crap and of course people weren’t going to be out and about. Once weather improved it shouldn’t have been the surprise it was that people got together and were a lot closer. Maybe it takes a non-Minnesota native like me to see the situation for what it is!

We’ve had quite a bit of time to take stock of what we have and make the most of our surroundings. We’ve done our best to enjoy everything to the max.

But life has been strange; it was super strange to see: 

  • almost no one on the road for rush hour,
  • stores out of diapers, toilet paper, paper towels, and medicine,
  • stores running out of food,
  • lots of people going for walks in the neighborhood,
  • lines to get into stores and shops,
  • our jobs transition to work-from-home.

Traffic is picking up, stores are getting the shelves full, and life is sort of returning to normal for us. Restaurants and bars are open and even the Mall of America and the skyways downtown are open. It’s sad to walk around the Mall of America and the skyways simply because no one is around, many stores have closed permanently, and even more haven’t yet opened. I’m hoping life continues to become normal and the mask wearing by most becomes the mask wearing by all.

I decided to add some photos of the last five months. All the photos pretty much come from a three mile radius from our home. Make sense, the world just became a lot smaller with the pandemic.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris

Las Vegas and San Diego 2020

Well, I’m a bit late writing this. Like six months late. Better late than never, right?

This last winter we decided to leave the frozen tundra and spend some time with friends in Las Vegas and family in San Diego. Back in 2019 we did the same, except we went to Spain, and we missed the worst of winter. It was fabulous and we were trying to repeat our luck this year.

We weren’t so lucky missing the worst of winter BUT we still had a great time. This is easily a trip I could see us making every year. We were able to see a few amazing national parks during the flight and it really was a treat.

First we went to Vegas and the weather was perfect – no higher than the 80s and absolutely wonderful in the morning and evenings. We had a chance to hit up some new restaurants and eat some amazing donuts. Las Vegas has a LOT to offer on the food front. We went hiking in some of the local parks and it was awesome – no one was around in the early mornings and we truly had the parks to ourselves. I get the feeling people come to Vegas for activities other than eating and hiking so we really enjoyed watching the alpenglow at sunrise and sunset completely alone.

Most amazing part of wandering around was when we stumbled across Mt. Charleston, the local ski resort. First, we had no idea it snowed enough to create a ski resort, and second but most important, people were having picnics in the snow. Now, when I saw they were having picnics in the snow I’m not saying all the people were wearing snow gear and sitting near snow. No, these individuals literally were in street clothes and shoes and were sitting in the snow or hanging out in snow piles enjoying picnics. It’s not like one or two people were doing it either, there were hundreds. There must be some novelty to snow.

After a brief few days in Vegas we left to visit family in San Diego. The second half of the trip was equally amazing. Just like before we enjoyed great company and wonderful food. We wandered around San Diego at sunset and sunrise, much like Vegas, and really enjoyed seeing the world come awake and go to bed. Sunsets at Ocean Beach are flat out amazing and seeing the sunrise over downtown San Diego was wonderful too.

We walked quite a bit more and went to different parts of San Diego, like Pacific Beach, just to explore. Of course, we still went to Bronx Pizza, quite a few times, simply because it’s the best NYC style pizza outside of NYC.

Overall, we had a wonderful time and were very fortunate to have had great weather, great travels, and most importantly, great company.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.