Guadalupe Mountains + Carlsbad, NM

 

This year for Thanksgiving the family decided to do something a little different. Instead of the usual extended family, feasty, Cajun celebration we all piled into the car for a few days out West. We had a great, long weekend full of:

  • Eating a turkey jerky and a swigging a stranger's whisky at the top of Texas, Guadalupe Peak, on Thanksgiving Day
  • Eavesdropping on serious UFO-believers in Roswell... apparently it's all about "teaching the controversy"
  • Watching Leigh taste the Salt Flats. Turns out it tastes like salty dirt.
  • Accidentally tricking myself into sprinting the 1000ft climb out of Carlsbad Caverns
  • Countless hours of driving, family bonding, and Tichu-playing
This man is a trooper, taking the brunt of the 8-hour drive West

This man is a trooper, taking the brunt of the 8-hour drive West

 
 
 
Gypsum Salt Flats

Gypsum Salt Flats


Day 2 - Sunrise start up to Guadalupe Mountain Peak hike

Day 2 - Sunrise start up to Guadalupe Mountain Peak hike

 
 
 
 
The view from the top of Texas

The view from the top of Texas

See that lock box? Inside it is a log, some rando's bottle of bad whisky, and countless patches, pens, and hotel keys

See that lock box? Inside it is a log, some rando's bottle of bad whisky, and countless patches, pens, and hotel keys

 
Lunch inside a cloud

Lunch inside a cloud


Day 3 - Rolling into Roswell

Day 3 - Rolling into Roswell

 
 
 
 

Day 4 - Making our descent into Carlsbad Caverns

Day 4 - Making our descent into Carlsbad Caverns

 
 
 
Homeward

Homeward

The Twin Cities

 

I took a few days to visit some lovely friends who moved up to the Twin Cities. It was a weekend full of catching up, crunching on fall leave, and terrible puns.

Most of the time was spent just introducing me to their new life in Minneapolis (and visiting the coolest children's museum about electricity!), but the crowning jewel of the stay was a road trip up to the North Shore of Lake Superior through the technicolor leaves.

We started the day with 'the world's worst brunch' aka Taco Bell breakfast. It's important to understand we joked about doing this terrible brunch adventure when Taco Bell first announced it's breakfast menu years ago, but we never actually did it before they moved away. Because we had good sense. Turns out it tastes exactly how you'd expect Taco Bell breakfast to taste. But even biscuit tacos (why????) couldn't ruin the amount of pretty that happened on this road trip between the lighthouses and the golden birch trees:

 
'Hey... so we've been waiting for Taco Bell breakfast for a long time, would you be weirded out if we took a picture of you handing us the bag to commemorate the occasion?'

'Hey... so we've been waiting for Taco Bell breakfast for a long time, would you be weirded out if we took a picture of you handing us the bag to commemorate the occasion?'

Spoiler: I desaturated this photo and those eggs are still not the color of eggs

Spoiler: I desaturated this photo and those eggs are still not the color of eggs

Lake Superior zipping by

Lake Superior zipping by

 
 
'I feel like Bob Ross painted this'

'I feel like Bob Ross painted this'

Ticino

 

And finally, our last stop in Switzerland, Ticino - or as I kept calling it 'might as well be Italy'.  The cities were a tiny bit dirtier, the trains a smidgen late, the gelato much sweeter, and the men far more forward than the rest of Switzerland. See? Might was well be Italy.

We got in fairly late in the day after our ride on the Bernina Express and made our way to the hotel. All day long Meghan had been singing 'Yellow Submarine', so imagine my surprise when we found ourselves in a tiny yellow elevator at the hotel. Clearly she is clairvoyant. 

Since there was some rain in the forecast, we made a plan to hike in the Verzasca Valley in the morning. Once the sun came up, we bought provisions at the local Coop grocery store, frustrated the Italian-speaking staff with our ignorance on how Swiss grocery stores work in the process, and hopped on a bus that brought us as deep into the valley as possible. And so we started our ambitious (honestly, probably too ambitious for how late in the trip we were running) trek along the Verzasca river. Since we started way back at the headwaters, it was really cool to see the river progress from a little creek into a raging force of water as we ticked off the miles. 

Our bus back into town, however was honestly just a miserable experience. We stepped onto the bus exhausted from the hike to find it full to the brim, so we had to stand while the bus driver clumsily wound along the tiny road slamming on the brakes willy-nilly. For an hour. Oh and did I mention a poor kid in the back got motion sickness and puked? The hike was beautiful, but eeeshh what a way to round it off!

Despite the puke-filled bus adventure, we really enjoyed the rest of our time in Ticino. We basically did what we do best: ate chocolate, wandered around the towns, and looked at pretty things.

Our yellow submarine

Our yellow submarine

No diving in the fountain.

No diving in the fountain.

Thumbs-up Magee (left) and Mr. Michael Jackson (right)

Thumbs-up Magee (left) and Mr. Michael Jackson (right)

The start of our hike in the Verzasca Valley

The start of our hike in the Verzasca Valley

Guys, I had to desaturate this picture so much just so the color of the water would be believable. It really is the color of Listerine.

Guys, I had to desaturate this picture so much just so the color of the water would be believable. It really is the color of Listerine.

Big o' ant

Big o' ant

Is that a cormorant? So hard to see....

Is that a cormorant? So hard to see....

Wandering around Ascona

Wandering around Ascona

 
'That one looks like a seagull pooped on it's face' - Meghan

'That one looks like a seagull pooped on it's face' - Meghan

St. Moritz & Bernina Express

 

Let's be honest. I really don't need to say much for this one. We had a really lovely evening in St. Moritz with our host at Badrutt's Palace, took a relaxing walk around the lake in the morning, had a little much-needed time in the sauna breathing steam (the air was SO DRY), and hopped on the scenic Bernina Express for a day-long journey all the way to Ticino. Pretty things happened:

Lake St. Moritz in the morning

Lake St. Moritz in the morning

The BEAUTIFUL Bernina Express railway

The BEAUTIFUL Bernina Express railway

DSC00556.jpg
'You know, I'm kinda surprised we aren't seeing more horses?' Cue this...

'You know, I'm kinda surprised we aren't seeing more horses?' Cue this...

Mountain bikers between mountains

Mountain bikers between mountains

We've arrived!

We've arrived!

Appenzell & St. Gallen

 

On to Appenzell, a cute farming district near the border of Germany and Liechtenstein. It was a pretty miserable trek hauling our bags uphill on probably the hottest day we've had in Switzerland, so once we got to the farmhouse we were staying at we quickly changed into swimsuits, stashed our bags, and took a walk through the pastures down to a small creek to relax and plan out our short time in Appenzell.

We'd heard about a little restaurant tucked into a cliff-side nearby, Berggasthaur Aescher, so in the evening we took the train to the end of the line and grabbed the last cable car of the day up into the mountains. We shared the car with a group of paragliders who I hope did not speak English since we were acting like giddy children. I mean, it was for good reason - we caught a glimpse of some ponies (!) on the way up... more on the ponies in a second - but still, giggling like children. Once we all got to the top of the mountain, the paragliders got their things situated for a few minutes and then literally RAN OFF THE MOUNTAIN.

We didn't stay and watch them for too long though, because ponies. Not like 'oh look, a horse'. These were the tiniest, most majestic Swiss ponies. We agreed they must pay the ponies to hang around the paths for stupid Americans like us. I took a couple of pictures and realized I wasn't really capturing the true tininess of this pony, so I made Meghan stand near one of them for a size reference. Y'all, she was so scared of that pony. It was adorable.

Above the door at Aescher... I've never felt more at home in Switzerland :)

Above the door at Aescher... I've never felt more at home in Switzerland :)

Once we got our fill of ponies prancing along the mountainside in the evening light, we started the short hike to Aescher. It was a nice little 20-30 minute jaunt, along cliff sides and through a cave. We also silently passed a guy along the way that was awkwardly holding a leaf in the middle of the frame while taking a landscape shot... and he later started following Meghan on instagram. Got a good laugh out of that. At Aescher we settled in, watched some sheep graze below us, and ordered a giant plate of rosti (which is basically hashbrowns, but fancier sounding) with a fried egg on top. 

Following the fuel up, we took the 2.5 hour zillion-switchback hike down the mountain as the sun set, which went mostly without incident. At one point I discovered what stinging nettles were. Turns out it's not my favorite plant, but the stinging dies down pretty quickly. Later in the hike (while we were in especially odd moods), a cow started following Meghan. We've already established that ungulates make her uncomfortable, so she kept telling the cow 'Why are you following me?? I DON'T KNOW COW THINGS!' while I laughed behind them.

The following morning on our way out of town we made a stop in St Gallen to visit the Abbey.  The main attraction for us was the library, which was fiercely protected. Makes sense, as it has a couple thousand incunabula (printed before 1500) and manuscripts dating back to the 8th-15th centuries. Not only did they not allow photos, we also had to put on fuzzy slippers so we didn't scuff the floor. After wandering around the cathedral and rest of the Abbey complex, we continued on out trip back up into the mountains...

This one did not trust what I was doin

This one did not trust what I was doin

Paragliders doing their thing... note the ponies waiting to be our friends in the background

Paragliders doing their thing... note the ponies waiting to be our friends in the background

SERIOUSLY THIS PONY

SERIOUSLY THIS PONY

The cave on the way do dinner

The cave on the way do dinner

Aescher Gaushaus

Aescher Gaushaus

Not a bad view for dinner

Not a bad view for dinner

Lets be clear. The Swiss are advocating child leashes. NEVER OKAY

See alllll those plants under the trees? Those a stinging nettles. SURPRISE!

See alllll those plants under the trees? Those a stinging nettles. SURPRISE!

Thanks for always ruining everything. Jerk.

Thanks for always ruining everything. Jerk.

 
They recycled old railroad ties for erosion barriers 

They recycled old railroad ties for erosion barriers 

'SERIOUSLY STOP IT I DON'T KNOW ANY COW THINGS' - Meghan

'SERIOUSLY STOP IT I DON'T KNOW ANY COW THINGS' - Meghan

Wait..... which stop is this? When did we get back to Texas?

Wait..... which stop is this? When did we get back to Texas?

Whoever made a model of the old abbey had some fun with it

Whoever made a model of the old abbey had some fun with it

The Cathedral at the St. Gallen Abbey

The Cathedral at the St. Gallen Abbey