Two more parks.

We drove straight to Colorado on the way north, about a 15-hour drive, and stayed with Julie in Denver for a night. Then we headed to Gene and Jo’s for two nights. We made a side trip to Estes Park as well. The family get-together was very special.

On the way back south we had another nice visit with Julie.

Dinner and desserts with Julie in Denver.

Then we broke up the long trip home into a couple of days including stops at two national parks.

Great Sand Dunes National Park – snow on the dunes
White Sands National Park – a truly unique place

We stayed in Ft. Davis for a night with a reservation to attend one of the McDonald Observatory’s star parties. The skies were not cooperative for viewing at the observatory, but we had fun.

McDonald Observatory socked in with clouds.

We left Ft Davis on Wednesday well before dawn, and on the drive up to I-10, I noticed that the clouds parted, opening up a clear, starry sky. So we pulled over in the middle of pitch-dark range land with coyotes howling all around and enjoyed a full-sky view of the Milky Way.

We enjoyed the view for a few minutes and then resumed our drive. A few minutes later the skies were filled in with thick clouds again. It was a treat to get that brief moment of star gazing.

A successful road trip, but it’s always nice to get back home.

Spring break.

We took our friends Tim & Fiona and their three kids sailing on Nirvana today. We’ve done it many times over the years during their Spring Break holidays.

The kids are now 13 or 14, and 19 years old. It’s amazing to watch them grow up. They all have an intuitive feel for the helm. Monte and I didn’t need to steer much at all. It was a beautiful day for a nice long sail. I’m glad we got to spend it with them.

Quick trip.

I had an opportunity to visit two more National Parks this week. Lori and Mike are driving to Arizona to visit her sister, and planned to visit two parks I’d yet to see. So, I stowed away in their backseat on Wednesday morning. We drove all day, staying in Van Horn, Texas for the night.

A Say’s Phoebe singing to me outside the Van Horn hotel

Thursday we took a short detour north to see Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We crossed into New Mexico to see it, and the underground caverns are stunning.

One of the too many photos I took inside the amazing Big Room cave chamber at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

After the caverns we turned around and headed back south. We hiked the Devil’s Hall trail at Guadalupe Mountains National Park on our way back up I-10.

Guadelupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, aka the ‘Top of Texas,’ the highest natural point in the Lone Star State

We stayed in El Paso for the night, my first time visiting this border town. Our hotel had an amazing rooftop bar with great views.

This morning I flew back home. Lori and Mike are continuing on west. That was a whirlwind 48 hour trip. And two more Parks in the bag!

A fine Fourth.

We enjoyed a long, fun Fourth of July weekend at the lake. We floated, paddled, fished, grilled, sailed, watched a couple movies, played some games, admired fireworks, and caught up with friends. Various sponsors on Lake Travis had fireworks on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights. And there were many small, but impressive, volleys all weekend long.

We watched fireworks on Saturday sitting at the end of our dock, on Sunday spitting in our cockpit in the slip, and on Monday we motored out to watch a big show. We enjoyed them all.

The show put on by Mattress Mack.
A fun sail on Monday in 15-knot winds, gusting to 20. Nice, very nice.

I hope you had a fun weekend as well.

Dusty.

The seasonal Saharan dust clouds have arrived in Central Texas. It’s very hazy during the day, with colorful sunsets in the evening. Read more here.

So, not only is it hotter than Hell here, the air is also unsafe to breathe. Bring it on.

Up-the-river 2022.

Last weekend Monte and I sailed up river about 30 miles from our marina. We left on Saturday morning, minutes after a thunderstorm rolled through. The calm after the storm made for breezes on our nose, so we motor sailed most of the way.

Kurt and Kevin joined us on their boat. We anchored up together in a cove below John and Wendy’s lake house. We fished, paddled, floated, and enjoyed catching up with some friends we haven’t seen in a very long time. The sail back home on Sunday was sporting, to say the least. The winds had clocked around and were 5-10 gusting to 20. Good sailing, but lots of grinding on some legs. I was sound asleep about 15 minutes after we got home that night.

The next best thing.

I visited my family in Washington State last month. I had planned to get my first ever amazing pics of the tulip fields in Skagit Valley, but it was a tad too early.

Here’s a lovely field of daffodils in bloom instead. 💛

Happy Earth Day!

Above the trees.

Tuesday morning we got up early and drove to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the most visited National Park, with over 12 million visitors a year. And it is stunning.

We made it up to Newfound Gap overlook, which lies on the Tennessee/North Carolina State line, as well as the Appalachian Trail.

I’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail (100 feet of it!)
Standing in 2 states at once.

Then we drove up to Clingman’s Dome and walked up the steep climb to the observation tower for 360 degree views above the treetops. Clingman’s Dome, called Mulberry Place in Cherokee, was sacred to them. It is 6643’ high – the highest point in Tennessee.

View from Clingman’s Dome.
Clingman’s Dome observation tower.

After the park, we drove another 9 1/2 hours to Little Rock. One more National Park and then home tomorrow.

…And by car.

We left Annapolis yesterday, driving home to Austin. Our route takes us very close to four US National Parks along the way. So, we must see them!

Sunday’s park was Shenandoah National Park. It was the created in 1935 amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains. The winding, two-lane Skyline Drive takes you through the park along the ridge-tops with dozens of overlook parking areas along it. We drove it for 60 miles. The trees were turning red and gold. It will be even more stunning in a week or two.

Mid-week lake play.

We rafted up overnight with Julie and Ryan last night, grilling up dinner once they tied up to us after sunset. It was a new moon night, dark and clear.

The only other boat in the cove with us, as we enjoyed the sunset.

The temps were perfect, but no wind overnight.

Thankfully the winds came up around 10AM this morning and Monte and I enjoyed a lovely sail up to the yacht club and back.

A good day.

We’re back.

Last week was busy. We rescued Nirvana from the boatyard, brought her home, and I spent the next few days schlepping 100 lb batteries up and down the ramp, and Monte made sure they worked. The old ones lasted 5-6 years. The new ones will hopefully perform similarly.

Out with the old. One starter battery and two house batteries. The big ones weigh 100 Lbs each.
She’s back home and shiny!

We got everything installed in time to race the beer-can regatta on her with Kurt and Kevin and she flew with her new bottom. We think she’s at least a knot faster.

Then over the weekend we anchored in the cove for a sunset grilled dinner. Nice. Very nice. We had our annual first jump in the lake, finally, a week or so past the usual Memorial Day dip. It was fantastic.

Ahhh, sunset.

Days 9 through 11.

We picked up the anchor at sunrise Monday morning and enjoyed some good sailing across Albemarle Sound and Currituck Sound.

Lunch nibblies aboard

We hit the last bridge openings before rush hour and tied up at Atlantic Yacht Basin in time to watch the local rowing club practice alongside us.

For dinner we biked to a fantastic Italian restaurant for a delicious meal ashore.

Yummmmm

Tuesday morning we caught the 7AM bridge opening at Great Bridge and followed the parade of boats and geese into the lock beyond the bridge for the one foot rise in water level between the canal and the Elizabeth River beyond it.

We reached mile marker 0 of the ICW in Norfolk and kept going on past it and into Chesapeake Bay for some more good sailing. We anchored in the Piankatank River, on the west side of Chesapeake Bay for the night.

Sunset on the Piankatank River

Wednesday we picked up anchor at sunrise again, trying to get as far north as possible before sunset.

We crossed into Maryland before noon, and raced a thunderstorm into our anchorage at the Choptank River on the east side of the bay.

We made it before the rain and high winds came, and watched the full moon rise after the storm passed.

Tomorrow, Thursday, we will arrive at our destination. Annapolis, here comes Trident and her crew!

Days 4 through 8.

We left Winyah Bay Wednesday morning with E to ESE winds predicted which would make for a great sail around Frying Pan Shoals. But… while you can buy weather guidance, you can’t buy good weather. Turns out the wind was not as predicted at all, it was out of the NNE, exactly the direction we wanted to go. And the seas were big enough to slow us down if we tried to motor directly into them. So, we sailed some big tacks to make more headway than motoring. FINALLY after rounding Frying Pan Shoals the winds did eventually turn out of the east, about 1 or 2 AM, so we were able to sail nicely after that. While the wind has not always been cooperative, the weather has been beautiful.

We made it to Cape Lookout by about 4PM Thursday afternoon, and anchored in a beautiful spot in the bight in front of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. We grilled up some salmon for dinner and got a good night’s rest.

Cape Lookout Light, North Carolina.

Friday we motored into Beaufort Inlet and stayed at a marina for the night. We were able to do some laundry, take a nice land shower, and restock some provisions.

Wild horses on Shackleford Banks, entering Beaufort, North Carolina (they’re there, trust me)

Saturday morning we biked to the local farmer’s market and scored some basil, which will be good for a pizza night on the boat. Then we left the marina and headed up the Intracoastal Waterway for the remainder of the trip. Neither one of us fancies going around Cape Hatteras with a crew of two. Going from Charleston to Beaufort on the outside allowed us to miss all the shallow, shifting shoal areas of the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. So we’ve got that going for us. 🙂

Mmmm, Basil.

Saturday we crossed the Neuse River and anchored overnight in the Bay River.

Pretty sky leaving the Bay River.

Today, Sunday, we cross the Pamlico Sound, and head up the Pungo and Alligator Rivers, and will anchor overnight on the south side of Albemarle Sound. We should be in Chesapeake, Virgina by tomorrow night.

A pair of bald eagles watching us watching them.
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