Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Atlanta to Kings Lynn

Long time no Blog.
It been 2 months since returning from the U.S. and trying to kick start a new life in the U.K. and we're finally moving out of Grassington Drive in Burnley, and leaving Nic's parents alone. We're off to Kings Lynn in Norfolk were Nic has secured a job in the local Hospital.
But what about Atlanta?! Atlanta was interesting. We visited the local museum of art, and viewed an exhibition of Leonardo Da Vinci, only to find that most of his works are owned by our very own Queenie, Liz. A lot of his works had Elizabeth Va.. (er i mean) Regina stamped all on them.

We then visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, and learnt quite a bit about the civil rights movement. It was a very moving experience, and i would recommend it to anyone visiting the city.

After an 8 hour flight back to Manchester we were greeted by Steve and Bev, and whisked away for an Asda Bacon Butty and mug of tea! It was great. The jetlag was interesting, it took a few days to get settled, to be honest it has taken until now to get our feet back on the ground. I had a great visit to Northern Ireland and spent some time with my parents, then back on the job-hunt. Initially we had thought about resettling in Northern Ireland, but that wasn't to be. Even though they have the lowest unemployment in the UK, there just wasn't any jobs available for either of us. It would have been to explore my Island more, but it was not to be, and so that is why we are off to Kings Lynn where the work is.

We've had a great couple of months with Nicole's parent's, and its been really good catching up with all our friends and family. The blog will continue from now on with my musings on life, as the Appalachian Trail continues to Europe and beyond, long may the adventures continue.


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

San Francisco to The Grand Canyon

So, Floyd turned up thankfully to take us to Prescott Arizona, but not before we had to bid farewell to Phoenix and Tinkerbell. Without them we would have never extended our adventure to the West Coast, it was most definitely fate that brought us together, and i believe we will see each other again sometime in the future.

Before we said goodbye, they took us on a daytrip to Santa Cruz, south of San Francisco, and a Mecca for surfers and wildlife. At one point we counted 12 Pelicans flying in a row over the surfers heads. I have never seen bigger waves, and we were mesmerised by the skill of the surfers as they rode the waves towards shore for what seemed an eternity. On the pier, we were pleasantly surprised by the sound of Sealions barking below us, sunning themselves on the beams.

Next day, we drove South again to the central California coast, took the 17 mile drive along the coast at Monterey where again we saw lots more wildlife. I have always wanted to see Sea Otters in the wild. I thought I was going to have to spend a week in Scotland sitting in the rain, for a slight chance to spot one, but like most things on this trip, just when you least expect it, along comes another breathtaking moment. It came in the form of 4 sea otters, swimming on their backs just in the bay below us, feeding and playing in the surf. The coast here is beautiful, with high cliffs and the Santa Lucia Mountains rising up right by the sea.

Floyd arrived on a Saturday night, we caught up in a late night diner, then tried to get some sleep before Floyds first time in San Francisco, and an epic whirl wind tour of the city.
We started out on Market Street downtown, then headed to Haight and Ashbury (famous for its role as the centre of the Hippie movement!) on our way to Golden Gate Park. We had visited the park a day earlier with Tink and Phoenix, and it was buzzing with life, with people chilling out on the grass listening to live 'improvised' music. No such luck on Sunday, as the weather was taking a slight turn for the worst with a storm on the way. Golden Gate park is massive, bigger than Central Park in New York, and we had no hope of seeing it all. There are museums, art galleries, sport facilities, botanic gardens, world gardens, and that's just what we saw.

We cracked on towards pier 39 and Floyds first view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. After spotting some sea lions, we headed up towards Chinatown, one last Hookah bar visit then back to the hotel. In the morning, in the midst of the storm, we headed towards Prescott Arizona, with a slight detour via the suburbs of Los Angeles (unplanned), and 17 hours later (!), we were there, (For those of you who may not remember, we met Floyd in Maine on about day 4 of our hike South from Katahdin, then again in Caratunk, then again in Raleigh, then Vegas, and now Arizona, phew! He refuses to buy a GPS).

Our agenda has been relaxation, seeing the local area, preparing for our flight to Atlanta and eventually home and the real world (Sh!t), and Floyd through in an added bonus for us, The Grand Canyon, which happens to be just 2 hours away. We thought we had missed our chance, when heavy snow closed the roads on Friday. But with a better forecast for Sunday we took a risk and headed North to the canyon, got a hotel, and drove up the rim before sunset. This is an experience I will never forget, and the pinnacle of our trip. The South rim sits at around 7,000 feet above sea level, and the canyon has been eroded away by the Colorado river, now far below, a process which is estimated to have started 17 million years ago.

We took a free shuttle to Mather point, then hiked about half a mile around the rim to Yavapai. Normally this wouldn't take us long, but we took the challenge hiking in snow up to our knees, and created our own path to the viewing point at Yavapai, then back on the shuttle to Bright Angel.

We decided to start out early down the Bright Angel trail, which is a series of tight switchbacks leading down into the canyon. We were heading for Plateau point, and a drop in elevation of just over 3000 feet, just to get a closer look of the Colorado river. The trail was deep in snow to begin with, but as we dropped elevation into the insulated sun drenched canyon we soon warmed up, shedded some layers, and made it to Indian Gardens where we stopped for lunch. We hiked out to the Plateau, and i was amazed how big and powerful the Colorado river was, it looked like a stream from the edge of the rim, and ran red with the eroded soil. The experience of viewing the Canyon from the rim is very different from actually getting into, and i'm glad we did it at a time less people tend to visit. I don't know why, i think we caught it at its best. Temperatures on the Plateau reached 60F, and would have been even warmer at the rivers edge. In summer, temperatures can exceed 100F, due to the same insulating factors that led us to shed some layers and enjoy the sun. We hiked out and reached the rim at sunset, and watched the canyon walls turn more and more red as the sun set, and we rose out onto the rim. We celebrated a great day with a pint of Fat Tire (crackin beer by the way) then home to Prescott.

We are spending our last night here in Prescott, and will be sad to leave Floyd, but hopefully it will not be the last time we see him. As i write i can hear him listening to Quadrophenia by 'The Who', which we listened to on our drive home from the Canyon, and i swear it will always remind me of this special day. I would love to return to the Canyon again someday, there is so much to see and do, who knows.

Tomorrow we fly to Atlanta, and we intend to explore the city until Friday when we return home to start another new adventure...

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Arcata to San Francisco

Last time I wrote the blog, it was from the library in Arcata, Ca. It opened at 10.00am, and we were there early to do some research on the local area and things to see and do. We were going to go on a bird watching guided tour, but we don't have our own binoculars, which was a requirement, so i did all the bird research i could do in the library, and we headed off to the marsh ourselves to go 'twitching'. We saw lots, Red shouldered Hawk was good to see and American Avocet were great to watch, searching for food with their bills in the mud.

We then moved onto Manila Beach, and walked across some sand dunes to a peaceful and almost empty beach, with huge Pacific Ocean waves crashing onto the shore, and large pieces of driftwood as big as a car drifting in and out of the sea-mist either side of us. We read our books, splashed in the cool sea, then around 4pm we made our way back to the marsh for another look.

The following link to a local newspaper article explains what happened next in Eureka, about 10 miles down the road;,0,4204701.story

For us, at 4.26pm we got out of our van at the marsh, started walking along a path with a large grazed field on one side and a line of trees on the other. which led to a freshwater lagoon, right by another coastal path, in the tsunami zone (this is critical information for the story, but pretty much all the way up the coast we were in the tsunami zone. There are signs to tell you when you enter and when you leave). We had only walked for about a minute when we heard a large boom, the birds took flight into the air straight away, with huge screeches, a split second of silence followed, then the earth shook, wobbled and waved. We were surfing the ground in an earthquake.

I had time to get my bearings, turn around and make sure we were far enough away from the trees in case they were knocked over by the force of the quake. We were safe. The trees were shaking and rustling uncontrollably in every direction. I have no idea how they stayed standing, the ground had turned to liquid almost. Its hard to say how long it lasted, maybe 5 to 10 seconds of shaking. I'm so glad we were outside; I imagine it would have been a very scary experience inside.

Initially I thought a bomb had exploded, but halfway through the shaking I quickly realised we were experiencing an earthquake, which was confirmed directly after when i heard other walkers in our vicinity talking. I ran towards a guy in front of me who i thought had fallen over; he got up and seemed fine and summoned me to run the other way. I knew what he was concerned about, we were in the tsunami zone, and he didn't have a car. So without introduction, after we ran over to the van, we bundled him into the back and headed for town and higher ground.

Ab (Abraham), has lived in Arcata for a while, and fuelled my fear of tsunami by informing us this was the biggest earthquake he had ever felt. So as I'm driving I'm looking in the rear view mirror for a wave. People are running in all directions, red-faced and scared trying to get to their cars.

We get to town and everyone is out in the street just looking at each other. Crucially, there is no destruction, people are pretty calm, but all the lights are out in most of the buildings, so electricity is knocked out, we know that much. We drive up the hill just past the town square; it feels safer, so we decide to find a coffee house. We just have to stop, take stock and talk this out with our new friend and figure out what we and everyone else should do next.

Ab knew a Finnish coffee house and spa near his house, we tried there but no electricity. There are people standing in wet towels, who have just exited the hot-tub which is suspected to have developed a crack. We go to the other side of town to a vegetarian restaurant/cafe and take stock. The staff and most of the locals are calm, they have electricity, and we hear from the waiter how they lost some plates and cups but that's all. There is no tsunami siren, and after about an hour we can relax. Ab invites us to park up outside his house for the night, and we drop him off home as he has to work early.

Walking around town that night was surreal, it was Saturday night so town should have been busy, and was busy, but people didn't have many places to go. But where they could hang out they did, even it was the supermarket to buy candles, and information on the size of the quake was exchanged by word of mouth, the radio station had been affected and was not on air. We were disturbed yet calmed by a man dressed in a bunny suit, bowler hat, with red clowns nose who sat beside us in the burrito bar later that evening, quietly reading his paper. But thats Arcata any night of the week to be honest! We knew already that there would be no local newspaper the next day, and relied on the coffee house the following morning for information.

We had experienced a 6.5 earthquake, and for its scale please see the link below;

I wasn't sure how to describe our experience to you, and i apologise if it seems insensitive in light of the recent devastation in Haiti, but our experience helps us understand the power of tectonic activity now, having never experienced such a force before, and the feeling of helplessness, shock and fear when it strikes so unexpetedly.

The next day we went back to the beach and reflected on what had happened. We set off for Fort Bragg to say goodbye to our new found friends from our new years eve party, Jeanie, Greg, Todd, Heidi, Hilary, Martin and Ginger the cat, who affectionately clawed me to death before we left again for Sunnyvale to be reunited with Tinkerbell and Phoenix.

With a stop at Mendicino for more yarn so as Nic could finish her skirt (!), and one last goodbye to the beautifully rugged northern California coast, we headed toward the 101 to San Francisco, through the vineyards of Anderson, Napa and Sonoma valleys, entering the city via the impressive Golden Gate bridge.

We dropped off the van, 'Vegas' (absolutely heartbreaking), in San Francisco, and walked through the Mission district toward town. We found a really good and cheap curry house on 3rd street (near Yerba Buena gardens if anyone ever goes in the future), headed for China town, then over to the Jazz district (Fillmore and Sutter), where we went into a lovely Lebanese restaurant for a glass of water, and some Hookah. Hookah is a giant water pipe that one smokes flavoured tobacco through. Both Nicole and i had never tried it before, and had been told it was something we should try, and we loved it. Apple flavoured tobacco, cooled and filtered through water, heated at the top by hot coals, very relaxing.

We're now planning our last 2 weeks in the U.S. and awaiting the arrival of our buddy Floyd, who is taking us home to Prescott Arizona at the weekend, but its not over yet. Hopefully there,s time for a few more surprises.

That's it for now, thanks again for all your responses, take care.


Saturday, 9 January 2010

California - again

We've returned to California, via a detour to Crater Lake in Oregon. It was cold and the edge of the crater was covered in deep snow, but you guys back home know all about snow, right!?

We got a couple of pictures and then our camera died, so we resorted to a disposable camera when we got to Mt. Shasta in California again. From one Volcano to another, Shasta is very different standing at 14,000 ft, and casts a shadow on the town below. The town was great and we liked it so much we stayed 2 nights there, then drove across country to Arcata again, were we are spending the weekend. It was '2nd Friday' last night, 2nd Friday of the month is when the shops and art galleries open up for the evening, and some even put on live music. We woke up to rain but managed to get in some birdwatching on 'Mad River', and got great views of western Grebe, Great Egret, and Great Blue heron. We're hoping to go on a guided tour this afternoon and learn some more about the local wildlife.

We'll be back in San Fran soon, only 3 days left in the crazy Vegas van, that seems to attract lots of attention, and is a brilliant conversation starter! Take care...


Tuesday, 5 January 2010


We've made it to Oregon, via giant redwood tree-lined avenues in the Redwood National Forest Park. The trees get bigger and bigger. I've lived in smaller houses. The rivers run blue/green and we've seen massive fish that could bite your leg off (slight exaggeration, but impressive none the less).

We stayed in Crescent city and woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the crescent bay, and the sound of sealions, barking at the fishermen for food. The coastline is amazing and you can watch the huge waves crash against the beaches and rocks forever. We're travelling across country tomorrow to Klamath Falls area, and then onto Mt. Shasta in California, 14'000ft above sea level.

If you'd like to check out the campervan we are travelling in, you can see it at;

We've seen lots more wildlife since coming west, Elk male and female, elephant seals, sealions, birds of prey in abundance, heron, pelican, egret, and lots of waders, but no whales, which is what we hope to see today. So we are off to stare at the ocean, thanks again for all the comments on the blog, Happy New Year!


Saturday, 2 January 2010

Northern California

I'm in another Library, this time its Trinidad CA, and we're travelling North in a campervan we hired from San Francisco. The campervan is a bit of a talking point, as it is painted 'Vegas' style, with cards, dice etc painted on the side. People keep commenting on it and its a great way to meet people.

Anyway, we had Christmas in San Fran, stayed at the Phoenix hotel where we met Todd and Heidi from Fort Bragg. We told them we were thinking of doing a road trip to see the giant redwoods in northern California, and they gave us their contact details and told us to stop by for new year if we wanted to.

We stayed with Tinkerbell and Phoenix in Sunnyvale while they went house hunting, and we sourced a van. It was strange saying goodbye to our friends whom we had travelled across country with, but we will return to them in San Fran around the 12th Jan.

We headed out of San Francisco and stayed at Point Reyes beach the first night out, right by the storm beach. The waves are huge all along the coast, and it was nice falling asleep to the sound of the waves. We are taking it slow and enjoying this beautiful yet dramatic coastline. I never imagined California would look like this. We stayed at a campsite near Guernville, then travelled up to Fort Bragg, via Mendocino, where we attended a dinner party at Todd and Heidi's (and Ginger the cat, who loves attention. Thanks for the claw marks all over my chest Ginger!). It was great to spend New year with our new friends, and thank Todd, Heidi and the gang for their hospitality.

We stayed by the beach at Mad River, Arcata last night, and are on our way to the beach at Trinidad right now. We're both nursing colds at the moment, and are taking it easy, no hiking for a while, but we are thinking of doing a little more once we're better. This is what happens when you get off trail and start to be around humans again, we catch diseases! The temperature is around 16 Celsius during the day, too cold for the locals but fine for us, and its been mostly dry so far. The sun is shining today.

The redwoods really are giant, and we drove through the avenue of the giants to get here. We are off to see the tallest trees in the world tomorrow. I'm totally blown away by them, and can't wait to share our photos with you all. We're thinking of getting up to Oregon, but our plans are always changing, so who knows what next...


Wednesday, 30 December 2009



I seem to be always apologising about not updating the blog sooner, so again sorry, but we have had a hectic week or so.

Last time, we left Santa Fe to stop in Denver for 2 nights.

We stopped in Colorado Springs on the way to Denver to visit the garden of the Gods, some very impressive rock formations of red sandstone, once horizontal but now tilted vertical up into the air. We met a hiker whom we met in Southern Maine/ New Hampshire, called Smiley, and he gave us a tour, followed by dinner on him, thanks Smiley!! The garden of the Gods is overlooked by a large Mountain, with lots of aerials on top, with is hollow inside, and houses NORAD. This is the joint armed forces base featured in the film 'War games' and is probably where the button will be pressed to end the world as we know it, good to know.

The driving is taking its toll, and when we arrived in Denver we had to really force ourselves to head out and enjoy the pre Christmas festivities. Denver is one of the largest growing cities in the U.S. and also boasts the fittest population, with access to the Rocky Mountains so close by and all the outdoor sports that can be indulged, it makes sense.

I stopped by the Rockies Baseball stadium for a visit, then watched the Broncos on TV, who were playing just a stones throw away. We were very impressed by a very clean city, with good public transport, if not a little chilly. One would expect the 'mile high city' to be cold in December though.

Driving out of Denver took us through the Mountain range that had been to our West for hundreds of miles as we approached Denver. We stopped at a ski resort called Vail, and hitched a free ride to the top of the slopes on a cable car. This took us above 10,000ft, which is the highest i have ever been, and the snow covered mountains were breathtaking, or maybe that was the altitude sickness.

We drove out of Colorado, through snowy (!) Utah a little, stopped over in a place called Green River, then onward to Las Vegas Nevada, which did not have snow. This drive was long but we saw the landscape change so much it was worth it to do so quickly. From snowy desert to the dry dusty Nevada desert in one day, and driving into a basin with a large man-made money maker in the centre, looming out of nowhere, was surreal. Lets face it, it shouldn't be there. But, 2 days before Christmas, the place was as busy as ever, and more and more people arrived while we were there, so as they could spend Christmas there.

We stayed in the Luxor, a large glass pyramid, with hotel rooms for walls, and a huge open atrium housing a village below, with shops, restaurants and a casino - of course. Floyd joined us, another friend from the trail, who lives 3 hours drive away in Arizona. It was great to see him again and we hope it is not the last time on this trip, watch this space. We walked up the strip from the Luxor taking in the Excalibur (medieval themed castle), the MGM grand, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, and it was hard not to stay out of the casinos, literally. The paths and layout lead you into the casinos, then try to overload your senses and make you spend money. Nicole spent 25 cents, one some tokens (you never win money back, that's too easy), then we couldn't find a cashier to cash in our chips. They were kiddies chips from the child's casino, and we would have won a cuddly toy, and we did try, its amazing, the casinos even screw kids over!

Leaving Las Vegas (;0) was not hard, we couldn't spend Christmas there, it just wasn't right, so on Christmas eve we headed for San Francisco, and after the longest drive of the whole trip, we arrived late and collapsed to bed. We woke up and made our phonecalls home then headed to China town for dinner.

Oh no, Library closing in Inverness California, i'll tell you how we got here another time!