June Road Trip

Sometimes life gives you a break when you most need it!  E was able to take a week off and we were able to spend a week on the road; meeting up with family, staying with friends, experiencing new places and enjoying a wonderful wedding!

E & I had not really explored Nevada to the extent that we wanted to so when we were planning our road trip to Denver for a wedding, we decided to make a few stops before our final destination.

First Order of Business- Middle of Nowhere, Nevada

Toquima Campground in Toiyabe National Forest
I enjoyed stopping at this campground and exploring a short trail to the Toquima Caves.  Check out this blogger's post about the caves.  The cave was fenced off but I still managed to get a nice picture of the pictographs (judge for yourself in the slideshow below). On our way back to the truck we took a different route and found a rock cairn on a picnic table securing a funeral program that celebrated a rather young woman's life.  She had chosen a career in conservation and wildlife biology and enjoyed visits to the Toiyabe range.  Death is one of those inevitable things that seems so surreal.  I don't mean the mention of this to be grim just that E & I always talk about making the most out of our lives, enjoying quality time together, being the forever couple, and discussing who gets to die first.  We're hoping we go out Notebook style- together.  Any who- this gal's legacy was that of a nature woman who took advantage of opportunity and here we were on a road trip, with a tight budget- trying to make the most of life.  

Diana's Punch Bowl
I think I have shared this before- E is the tree of random knowledge.  I don't know how he finds out or decides to retain such information but it makes my life much more interesting!  Diana's Punch bowl is super hidden and if you were not intentionally going there- you'd never know 1.) how to find it or 2.) that it was even out there.  The same blogger from above also has a post about the punch bowl.  It made my tummy nervous to be at the edge.  E however was fine and scooted his butt literally- right to the edge.

Pine Creek Campground, Mount Jefferson
There are not many places in Northern/Central Nevada that are worth returning to in my opinion.  Someone from BM will shoot me for saying this but truly everything is so far away with nothing in between.  Pine Creek Campground however was a rare gem that we happened to find on this road trip.  If I didn't know any better I would have thought I was in Minnesota!  There were trees and water- Can you believe it?  We camped by the creek, had a campfire and in the morning took a short hike on a trail that leads to Mount Jefferson.  It was beautiful, super warm but the trees provided enough cover that we weren't miserable.  This is one place I hope we visit again.

Belmont, Nevada- Ghost Town
E pretty much used the google to find anything and everything between Battle Mountain and Rachel, Nevada.  Belmont happened to also be on the list.  The town has a lot of history and is quite inhabited for a ghost town.  We grabbed the brochure from the historic courthouse and did the walking tour.  The bar was closed so we couldn't grab ourselves a cold Cola but we did peek in the windows and it is rather cute.  

Lunar Crater Back Country Byway
Lunar Crater is a BLM site so obviously we had to check it out!  The one super cool thing about the site is that it was once used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as a training ground for Apollo astronauts.  Basically it's one big hole in the desert- I feel awful for explaining it that way but I don't know how else to describe it.  We can say we've been there and I can appreciate it that much.

Rachel, Nevada was our destination as we were meeting my cousin and her gf's.  My cousin's BFF was turning the dirty 30 so she surprised her with a vacation.  They've done Vegas a trillion times so she wanted to throw something a little special in there.  Rachel, Nevada is special indeed.  Before meeting up with my Cousin we did hike up a mountain to get a better view. I'm gonna let E tell the Rachel stories because quite frankly he's funnier than I- And I know this because MJo has told me so....

One doesn't dare make a journey into Lincoln County without trying to gain an understanding of the vortex that is occurring. There aren't too many parts of this country left were ones eyes strain looking at the horizon and still the vast open spaces can't be comprehended. It is often said that a tourist just sees, while a traveler does. Stepping out of the comfort zone must take place before being a traveler. One does that by sleeping up high in the Tempiute Mountains where every howl of the wind could be mistaken for an intruder. The vortex is confusing because it lures travelers into thinking that they can see familiar sights by just climbing up the mountain, only to be thrust into more open space.  Venturing into town is the only option left to try and break the code and unlock the mystery, but after talking with the locals all that's left is more confusion. 

It's always a shame to see pretty gals come into a town like this and think that they won't be affected by the uncontrollable forces. A pretty gal named J couldn't bear to watch what was going to happen to 4 Minnesota gals that rolled into town in their rental car. All she could do to escape was to run and hide in the bathroom of the Little A' Le' Inn. She knew what these gals would soon be facing with all their lap sitting and picture snapping. Of course they wanted all that fancy shopping but all that was to be had was Pam's thrift store were a gal could fill a bag for a buck. These girls were looking for a thrill, and it was only a matter of time before they wanted to venture past the gate of no return. They were lucky this time, one false step past that line and they would have entered an unfathomable world without make-up and shopping bags. Fortunately they had enough and there was only time for one last stop- the mail box of the unknown recipient. They peered and they stood atop but still it left no clue, of the mysterious open space that lies between me and you. Each of us were only left with more questions than answers. It was determined that this place better be left alone before the wrong stone was unturned. So off we all rode staring down that down that old dusty road, puzzled by the mystery of Lincoln County, still untold... 

Here are the fun pictures from Rachel with the birthday girl!

Our Short Stay in Utah
Southern Utah is beautiful.  We drove through southern Utah near Zion and then out through the Moab area.  E & I have decided that because NPS sites are not very dog friendly- we do the more adventurous stuff now and leave NPS for when we're old, Loaf is in dog heaven and our bodies don't cooperate as much.  We found a campground tucked on the side of the road, enjoyed a campfire and got our beauty rest.  These pictures are in the first slide show- please see E modeling his new North Face from the Rachel, NV thrift shop... the little things that make that guy smile- make me laugh.

Getting High with the Metcalfe's

J and I were thrilled that we had the opportunity to meet up with Rich and Kathy on our journey through Colorado. Rich and Kathy are amazing people that we came to know while working at Voyageurs National Park, and who were also fabulous love shack neighbors.   The Great Places & Awesome People blog post made mention of them last July. They offered to host us if we were ever nearby, and we decided to take them up on their offer. After many hours of driving through the beautiful country that they call home, we finally arrived in the quaint town of Westcliffe. Rich and Kathy were troopers, and met us at a late hour to lead us back to their humble abode. We felt grateful because the accommodations that they provided were awesome, and are usually what people pay for when they travel. I was excited because Kathy had baked a cake for my upcoming birthday, and they gave me a Westcliffe shirt as a present that I proudly wear all the time (thanks so much guys!-J drinks from her Westcliffe coffee mug every morning too). After Rich laid out the options for the next days' adventure, we chose option C. It would entail an uphill hike to high altitude lakes in the Sangre De Christo mountains, 10+ miles roundtrip. It was just what we needed to stretch out our legs.   Rich had told me about the cutthroat trout that resided in these lakes, and I was eager to lure them in.  The Metcalfe's really ought to become outfitters- the day even came with Kathy's amazing homemade granola bars.   On the hike out Kathy was leading and was startled by a black bear on the trail, I scooped Loaf up to ensure he wouldn't be a bear snack.

All that can be said is, that it was one of the most memorable times of our lives. Awesome friends, great scenery, and trout that were more than willing to bite- in all three lakes I might add. We now have a new favorite home-away-from-home, and we can't wait to return. Even though our time there was short, our memories of that stay will last forever! 

Wedding Bells

My girl Nik is a married woman ya'll!  She tied the knot on June 22nd and I had the honor of being her MOH.  She is a beautiful person inside and out- see for yourself below.

Her and her beau know how to throw a party!  The wedding was fabulous; a flash mob, mojito as the couple's signature drink, and her Dad even made beer and wine for the festivities.  Nik and I were college roommates, we didn't go to the same college but we crossed paths working at Outback together.  She may have found herself a forever roommate but she will be my forever friend.  Below is an excerpt from my MOH speech:

"I'm sure he realizes today as we celebrate their love but I'd just like to remind Derek of what a lucky guy he is to get Nik as a forever roommate.
  • She makes the best waffles and pancakes.  I don't know if they tasted amazing because I was tired and exhausted or hungover.  Either way- Derek you get to enjoy her delicious breakfasts for the next…hopefully 5+ decades.  And I know you'll be enjoying some amazing waffles because you guys were sure to add the deluxe waffle maker to your registry.
  •  Nicole doesn't really get "mad,"  she expresses her aggression in non-assertive ways. So rather than confrontation, you'll get subtle little hints that say "Hey you irritate me when…" For example: I'm a habitual snooze button pusher.  So when I'd have class earlier than her and she was supposed to be able to sleep in, my alarm would go off every 10 minutes for an hour or so, and  she'd sometimes call out from her room to shut it off or get my out of bed.  Well, one year I received an alarm clock on wheels for Christmas.  You know the ones that go off and start rolling all over the room so you literally have to get up and chase it to turn it off.  Hmmmm….I wonder what she meant by that? I think that shows just how patient she is, a quality that I struggle with on a daily basis and one I truly admire in her.  As her now husband, you are a very lucky lucky man to have found such a patient wife.
  • Nik has a fun adventurous spirit.  Not only have we jumped out of a plane together, but she conned me into buying skis before I ever even went skiing and she'll come up with these fabulous plans and then make you do the work.  For example: she thought that an afternoon of canoeing on a very hot and humid Minnesota summer day was a good idea.  Of course she thought it was a good idea…because she played photographer and I was the lucky one who got to paddle the 2.5-3.0 hours down the river.  She's game to try new things and I know she'll encourage you to do the same.  And that in itself is healthy for any relationship.
  • Nicole has a fabulous sense of humor.  I love to laugh, and I feel I do it easily and often which is another reason I've enjoyed having Nicole in my life.  And when I said easily- it's often at my own expense because I am so gullible.  One time Nicole and I were grocery shopping and we had avocados on the list.  At that time I was the farthest thing from domestic, so I had no idea how to tell if they were ripe.  She said just knock them together and listen for a hollow sound.  So there I was knocking avocados together in the middle of the grocery store like a fool. I turn to look at Nicole and she's hysterical.  I hope you can laugh at yourself, because I know Nicole will laugh at you every chance she gets."
That's just a sampling from the speech- but I think explains what a wonderful friend she is and fabulous wife she will become.

All in all E & I had a great time in June.  The road trip came a fabulous time for us both to getaway, enjoy each other's company, catch up with friends and reenergize for life.