Thanksgiving in Colorado

Welcome to 2015!

I am far behind on uploading pictures and posting something new so I’d thought I’d try and capture your interest with a peak into my Thanksgiving with Jon and his dad in the foothills of Colorado. His dad moved up on Conifer Mountain around 8000 feet above sea level with a view of Pikes Peak from his front porch and I immediately came down with post-mountain depression upon my return to Texas. Let’s take a looksy and see how jealous you get.

On Friday Jon and I hiked to the top of Conifer Mountain (where the marker is so it definitely counts as summiting) and I was a little worried when I got winded just climbing to the top of the driveway but my years of swimming and then running came to my rescue and my lungs decided to work with me so I could take in this view:

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Pikes Peak in the distance

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bear sighting on top of Conifer Mountain

Pikes Peak from his dad’s porch. And no, there is no way that this view gets old.

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On Saturday we went out to one of Colorado’s newer state parks, Staunton State Park, for a hike. I was so ready for this hike thanks to Jon’s dad being a gear guru, something about working for PMI and volunteering on a mountain rescue team for years made me trust his advice, I dunno. Where we started was about 8000 feet up and then up up up we climbed.

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some Colorado pride

If I remember this correctly, I believe this one is called Mt. Baldy and is a popular climbing spot.

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I’ve always liked the line from Pride and Prejudice “What are men to rocks and mountains” and without getting to John Muir-ish philosophical on you, that line could not be more true. I have always been humbled going up into the mountains because you immediately know that you are not the big-shot you think you are, in the best way possible.

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this is Colorado in the “ugly season” according to Jon’s dad…

why yes… those are some snow-capped Rockies you see down there. Have I convinced you to pack your bags yet?

this is the highest we went and it was well worth the huffing and puffing

this is the highest we went and it was well worth the huffing and puffing

Thanks to our guide dog and the newest member of the Hauser family, Gabe. Part rotty, part lab and a whole lot of love and couch-potato. He was a trooper on this hike.

DSC01855Until next time Colorado! Thanks for letting me put my new hiking boots to good use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asheville, North Carolina

After Christmas in South Carolina, Jon and I took a trip up to Asheville! I love Asheville and the Biltmore was decorated for Christmas with over a 100 Christmas trees that I had to see. So armed with a new camera to keep him interested (somehow after 6 or 7 visits this castle of a residence loses it’s luster to some) we took a tour and then explored the grounds. Below are some of my favorites from our trip around the grounds since photography is prohibited inside- you’ll just have to go yourself to see, and make sure you take Jon and make him do the audio tour again because he hasn’t got it memorized all the way yet.

I feel like trumpets should be playing to open with this shot

I feel like trumpets should be playing to open with this shot

Walk to the garden (abloom during the not-winter months)

Walk to the garden (abloom during the not-winter months)

Enjoy the backyard

Enjoy the backyard

biltmore detail

Every detail counts

biltmore ponies

Explore the grounds

Because I wanted to try out the panoramic feature on my phone... not bad Steve (RIP)

Because I wanted to try out the panoramic feature on my phone… not bad Steve (RIP)

Because we can’t help ourselves, we found some waterfalls to hike to outside Asheville.

asheville falls 1

Asheville falls 2

asheville falls 3

until next time Asheville

until next time Asheville

This trip was in particular very exciting, seeing as Jon proposed! It was perfect. Asheville will hold a very special place in my heart from now on. There might be some wedding posts coming up as things start to come together…

Jon and Rachel take on California

Mission accomplished. And we had the best time! It started with us flying into San Francisco and meeting up with my cousins Erin and Scott who showed us downtown, AT&T park and the water then we drove up to Napa and spent a few days there then drove back down to San Francisco stopping at Muir Woods along the way and ended the week exploring the city. It was a packed week but so much fun. Here are some of the hi-lights:

Welcomed to the city by true San Franciscans. My cousin got a compliment from a stoned hobo on her pants-- thats the welcome I was talking about.

Welcomed to the city by true San Franciscans. My cousin got a compliment from a stoned hobo on her pants– thats the welcome I was talking about.

AT&T Park where there was a game going on. Lots of birds… very frightening.

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Made it to Napa! And we found a giant chair!
“Better than a mug shot” -Napa police officer who took our picture
Thank you?

And thus begins all the pictures of the wineries/vineyards. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the view. And take notes, we hit some good ones. First up: Castello di Amorosa. Go there. As soon as you can.

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Why yes this is an authentic Tuscan castle in Castiloga California. And why no it was not built by authentic Tuscans because they couldn’t stand the heat. The owner tried, they couldn’t work in “these conditions”.

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It just wouldn’t have been the same if there weren’t sheep and chickens.
Oh and the further one is cooling down against the stone, he’s not in time out or depressed like I thought.

While looking at the animals, we bumped into a lady who started asking us a lot of questions about our tour and what we thought, turns out she was a reporter for the local Calistoga newspaper and we made it in the article!

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The view is like no other I’ve seen

Next up: Beringer. In my opinion, Beringer had the prettiest grounds because of all the gardens and details. I think Jon was still stuck on the castle, because it was in fact a castle.

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Beringer grounds– so many beautiful gardens! None of which Jon even noticed…

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We found the vineyard cat

And what do you do when you find a vineyard cat?

You chase it.

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Unsuccessfully…

Apologies for this shot… it was the best one I could get with the sun

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Beringer

Because of I’ve heard of it before… Robert Mondavi was next

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Robert Mondavi– under construction so not a lot of good pictures here…

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Well except this one. He welcomes you to the vineyard…

This next one was my other favorite: Cuvaison! Thanks to Jon’s mom for telling us about this one. It was small but the man who helped us was so nice and so informative and friendly!

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Pondering which wines to taste? Trying to remember what lunch he ordered? Contemplating the meaning of life? Or ignoring me trying to take a picture of him?
We’ll never know

We got a picnic lunch here and ate, drank and were merry.

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Picnic view. It’s really ok to be jealous at this point. It was pure bliss.

Pretty much just to see what this building was about: Opus One. It was supposed to be a blend of space-age and Maya? It had a big hill that would be prime for rolling down if you were a kid, that’s what I noticed.

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It did have really nice symmetry– I noticed that too. Is that space age or Maya related?

Not pictured: Alpha Omega but I do recommend going there. We enjoyed our tasting and had really good conversation with the man who helped us!

After thoroughly enjoying Napa it was off to Muir Woods then San Francisco! First up: Muir Woods

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Not just for tall trees

If you’re going to go to Muir Woods, go early in the morning. On our way out of the woods around noon we were hit by a wall of people flooding in.

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Thank you Jon for going to see the tall trees with me

"If I were a mountain man I could consider this tree as a home" -Jon

“If I were a mountain man I could consider this tree as a home” -Jon

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How does this happen?

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forest gangsters because tagging bridges in national forests is thug

forest gangsters
because tagging bridges in national forests is thug

we chose the sea view path to see the sea. so up up up up up we go

we chose the sea view path to see the sea. so up up up up up we go

And this is the view we were rewarded with. Well worth the hike.

DSC01711Successful trip to see the tall trees. On to San Francisco!

We stayed at a hotel on Nob Hill, a pretty swanky area. So glad we arrived all gross from our hike to make a good first impression.

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the view from our room: Grace Cathedral

You can’t go to San Francisco and not see Lombard Street!

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To be fair, we saw Fort Point for Jon.

enlisted men quarters-- Jon's future residence with some minor upgrades

enlisted men quarters– Jon’s future residence with some minor upgrades

I think the bridge was my favorite attraction of San Francisco. Very impressive.

DSC01765When we were making our trek to the Golden Gate Bridge we kept seeing this weird golden dome sticking up above all the apartments and shining in the sun and we kept taking turns saying “I wonder what that is…” as we got closer and closer and then we passed it. On our way back we found out what it was: the Palace of Fine Arts.

In the middle of the city was this colossal beautiful structure. It was such a nice break from the rows and rows and rows of buildings and so unexpected!
DSC01786 DSC01782 You can’t go to San Francisco and not go to Chinatown. And in fact we had some darn good Chinese food there too. DSC01787 A little out of place but I found other good one of the bridge that I liked.DSC01751We saw a lot more of San Francisco including Fisherman’s Wharf, the trollies, and other sites I was just bad and didn’t get pictures of it all. shame on me. For all the pictures of our trip, check out our Flickr page.

Goodbye California! Thanks for having us!

Lake Texoma

Almost to Sooner country. Almost, but we kept our distance. Put a whole lake in between us. (See said lake below). We did primitive camping this time with our friend Sean out at Lake Texoma, including hiking out to our spot a few miles before poking through and finding a spot off the beaten path.

The grand Lake Texoma

The grand Lake Texoma: see that strip of land on the horizon… Sooner country.

For real primitive camping we passed up spots like right off the trail: no privacy whatsoever. I think this was around mile 3 inward.

doing manly camping-mapping things

doing manly camping-mapping things

A positive of camping is that everyone out on the trail is usually really nice and considerate. I say usually due to past experiences with hordes of Boy Scouts or some weird cult that stayed up all night chanting…

Thanks fellow camper for the pic!

Thanks fellow camper for the pic!

By the book tee-pee for our campfire. Thanks Eagle Scout Sean.

lord of the teepee fire

lord of the teepee fire

So it got cold later, and we were unprepared. I can remember almost the exact time the fire went out because an unforgiving chill came over me. It was a long night.

well needed fire

well needed fire

Cooking with new gear.

Pocket Rocket

Pocket Rocket

Tried and true gear.

Pocket Rocket

Pocket Rocket

Our spot. You had to scramble through some bramble but it was worth it.

our spot

our spot

Tucked away, hope we can find it again… We will also be more prepared for the weather next time. And for the hiking, none of us had the right shoes.

off the beaten path

off the beaten path

It was overall a good trip besides being unprepared for the cold night. Those hills coming back were once again a surprise but I will gladly hike out again. The Starbucks we got also made things better… But when does it not? We want to get better at backpacking out to primitive sites. Does anybody have recommendations for spots in Texas?

Inks Lake, Texas

To kick off Spring Break the way we like it, we went camping at Inks Lake. It’s a state park with normal car camping and cabins and all that but Jon reserved us a primitive camping spot. Meaning we had to hike out to our campsite with only what we could carry. So we loaded down our packs with sleeping bags, food, camp stove and pots and pans and food, camelbaks for hikes, and our tent and tarp. We park and reserve spot #5. It’s already raining but we get all our stuff and start the 1.5 mile hike to our spot. I may or may not have been a grumpy bear due to the chair sliding off my shoulder and killing my arm the whole way there… With one wrong turn (my fault) we make it to the primitive spots and take one look at spot #5 and turn it down, it was pitiful and should not be counted as a spot. Just a warning, if you’re going to Inks Lake to camp do NOT pick spot #5. We take #4 instead, it had lots of trees and easy access to the creek. Set up of the tent and tarp go smoothly for being in a rush and everything being completely soaked. The tarp is one of the best investments for camping. See all our room!

Tent and tarp and chairs. Whole lotta room!

Night #1: camp pizzas found here from Backpacker magazine. Jon was trial 1 and the bottom got burnt but mine was delicious.

camp pizza with bisquik crust... made our camp smell like pancakes

Day 2: after a night filled with sporadic rain showers and a lightning and thunder storm at like 6… we picked ourselves up for a hike around the park. It totaled to be around 4 or 5 miles, plus a hike to the car and back. Typical Texas views: rock, cactus and wildflowers.

the trails we hiked

the state flower, the bluebonnet and in my opinion the state plant, the cactus

these infested trees were Jon's amusement on the hike.

aliens? or bored hikers? who knows!

trekking a southern mile (or two or three or four)

view from the top

thanks for the space gravity

a top lake view

...and the reward I got from taking that picture. An ant bite from the ants from hell. GIANT. RED. BITING. ANTS.

Ants are some of the lowest creatures that inhabit this earth. First are cockroaches but that’s a whole different story. Don’t even get me started.

Texas, my Texas

our state plant. looks good doesn't it?

HEART CACTUS

After all the hiking and the working for our food (lots of energy spent) there was no better way to end the day than to climb up on a rock and watch the sunset set over the water and the Texas skyline. Once the stars came out, oh the stars, I swear I have yet to see a prettier sky. You can’t even see anything like that in Austin or College Station. But then the night came alive and we heard coyotes and we retreated back to our tent to cozy on up in our sleeping bags. The inventor of the mummy bag has my full respect.

the right way to end a night

All in all a successful trip. All the gear worked, including the water purifier (a leap of faith in itself) and the hike was well worth it. Thanks to Inks Lake for a great time!

Gruene, Texas

It’s pronounced “green” in case you have not lived in Texas long enough or not at all. It’s one of those names that gets a lovely southern mispronunciation to it if you’re not in-the-know. Like Guadalupe (guad-uh-loop), Manchaca (man-shack), or Bexar (bear) for example. Gruene is the town where my grandparents live and is a historic German town that is stuck in time; complete with a General Store, and an old wood dance hall. The shops that line the main street all sell basically the same things: antiques, homemade jams and hot sauces, trinkets and quilts and anything with Texas sewn on it but in the backyard of one is this really neat garden area that is overflowing with metal works and giant pottery and other ornaments. And you can’t miss the ginormous wind chime hanging from the tree. It’s one of my favorite places that has changed the least so I decided to share it with you:

please excuse my shadow...

and God bless your Texas home too!

all photos taken with the fratberry

Be Creative! B-E CREATIVE! Pt II

Do you know what enriches my life? The wonderful support I get from Jon, as seen in the title. Part II of Rachel and Jon’s End of Summer Fun consisted of going to the wonderful South Carolina, camping in North Carolina and visiting Grandfather Mountain which had a wildlife preserve and a mile high bridge! Let the adventures begin!

Our lovely campsite at Mama Gertie's

We had this really great campsite at Mama Gertie’s, it was surrounded on 3 sides for seclusion and no ugly views. Not too shabby.

Man vs Campfire

If you’ve ever had the privilege to go camping with Jon before, as I have, then I must say that he has made tremendous progress with campfires and had many triumphs on this trip.

Pocket Rocket and Camping Tools

Successful camping trip means cooking camp food. We got to test out the Pocket Rocket, and the pots and pans. They worked great and the camp food was actually good. One small mishap… a bee might have been drowned in Jon’s mac & cheese, by me… It came out of no where and liked mac & cheese, not my fault.

Magnetic Koozies from Half Moon Outfitters

Half Moon Outfitters in South Carolina has got to be one of my favorite stores now, it’s location is a little far for us in Texas but it’s still awesome. It’s like a small/local REI with tons of Patagonia and North Face and Marmot etc. Obviously having magnetic koozies puts them at the top of the list. We’ll be back for more.

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

One day in North Carolina, we went to take a tour of the Biltmore Estate. This was once a private residence. Still privately owned by the Vanderbilt family, but they decided to share with the rest of the world the beauty of their family home. I would love to give you a history lesson on the Biltmore, but Jon is much more qualified since this was his 3rd or 4th time there much to his delight. Ask him about it. It’s a massive estate that is way way WAY much more than this mansion. Second time visiting Asheville and I have seen the Biltmore now.

Biltmore Lion

No mansion complete without a lion or two.

Rescued Caterpillar

Saved from being singed by the burning side of the campfire, we had a visitor at our campsite, although not quite the desired company.

FIRE

So easy, a caveman could do it.

"Hike"

One of my favorite photographs from the trip… “Hike” = fight weeds that were taller than me a few hundred yards before giving up because that’s just not a hike, its North Carolina not the Amazon.

Flower

It It’s so green in North Carolina from all the rain (what’s rain? you ask, you must be from our Texas) that this just jumped out at you.

Mile High Bridge

Up on the top of Grandfather Mountain is the Mile High Bridge. And yes it swings. LETSDOIT.

Middle of the Bridge

Keep walking, it’s starting to swing and its scary.

On the Other Side

View of the Smoky Mountains

And the view is totally worth it.

Back Across

Quickly getting back across. No need to waste time suspended in the air.

Mildred the Bear's Habitat at Wildlife Preserve

Visiting one of Jon’s distant relatives

The Bear

This is the one that decided to get up from napping to say hello.

Otter at the Wildlife Preserve

Because what wildlife preserve/zoo would be complete without a friendly otter?

Woodruff!

The very best at welcoming you back, from anywhere, including your room.

That completes Part II of the summer fun.