One Big Canyon

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“I hope you’re not scared of heights, cuz I’m going to assign you one of our tallest mules.”

“That’s fine. Will I be riding that one over there?”

“No, yours is in a separate corral. She needs to be isolated from the other mules.”

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Me on Cher, the “troublesome” mule

And that’s how my mule riding adventure at the Grand Canyon began (not the most comforting thought to be told you’ll be placing your life in the hands of an ornery animal who has social issues). Yet mule riding and the Grand Canyon go together like peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies, and other food-related famous duos. How could I not ride on the back of one of these stubborn, sure-footed creatures overlooking one of the most famous canyons in the world?

My ride was fabulous. Cher ended up being a little bit of a handful, but didn’t launch me off the edge, so I was happy. Each turn along the trail brought another view of the canyon’s sheer expansiveness.

The Grand Canyon sure is big!

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Grand Tetons Recap

Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 4 nights
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A pretty rainbow during a misty morning

Highs:

  • The grand mountains and phenomenal views
  • Not running into a grizzly bear while hiking in the woods

Lows:

  • Super cold mornings (25° feels pretty darn chilly for September)

Favorite Hike:

  • Death Canyon (allegedly named after an explorer in the late 1800’s who was sent to investigate the area and then never seen again)
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8 miles of stunning canyon scenery!

Favorite Treat:

  • Roasted rack of lamb

Favorite Random Moments:

  • Seeing a falling star
  • Watching moose (they watched me back)
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Shades of blue

Wind Cave Recap

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The surface of Wind Cave national park

Length of Stay:

  • 4 nights, 2 days (I ended up spending 2 days exploring Custer State park)
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Thou shalt not pass

Highs:

  • Bison!
  • Riding Ricky, the beautiful Arabian
  • Driving the Needles highway and Iron Mountain road in Custer State park

Lows:

  • None

Favorite Hike:

  • Little Devils Tower

Favorite Treat:

  • Raspberry-rhubarb-jalapeno pie

Favorite Random Moment:

  • Being invited to a Full Moon gathering (yes, we all howled at the moon)
  • Watching the wild burros aggressively seek out treats from passersby
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Just lookin’ for a handout

Bemusing Beasts

When I first met Ricky there wasn’t much of a connection. After spending 4 hours on the trail together, however, we finally hit it off.

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Ricky and I

Ricky, the adorable Arabian, was a real trooper maneuvering his way through the rugged trail up along the base of a rocky ridge. It was morning, and the sweet smell of fall mixed with the not-as-sweet scent of horse turds. Local wildlife calmly watched as the nimble beast and I passed respectfully through their forest territory. It was a gorgeous day, and I couldn’t think of a better way to experience the Black Hills than astride Ricky. Crazy Horse memorial could easily be spotted in the distance. If you’ve never heard of this artistic work that’s been 68 years in the making, you should Google it. It makes for an interesting read.

And then there were the bison.

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Bill the Bison strutting his stuff

Although not anywhere as sweet as my little Arabian friend, these creatures are something else! Immediately after I entered Wind Cave national park, they corralled my car as the official welcoming committee. I strained my ear to listen for huffing – the characteristic sound they make when agitated – but heard only heavy, labored breathing. I’ve seen some nifty characters in the wild during my travels, but I think the bison is one of my favorite thus far.

Click here to check out a short video I took.

Everglades Recap

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Length of Stay:

  • 2 days, 2 nights

Highs:

  • Petting a baby manatee
  • Going for a 15 mile bike ride along the canal and through the marsh
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Just cruisin along

Lows:

  • Deer flies (they’re relentless)

Favorite Hike:

  • Gumbo Limbo trail

Favorite Treat:

  • Fresh mango

Favorite Random Moment:

  • Watching a classic Floridian storm roll in from the Shark Valley observation tower

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    Storm’s a brewin’

Wild World

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In the heart of the ‘Glades

I had expected to see some creatures during my time in the Everglades, but I wasn’t quite prepared to be so enthralled.

It was incredible to watch alligators, crocodiles, and manatees up close and personal as they hung out in their natural habitat. However, I was surprised to find that the “boring” animals were just as interesting. Yep – that means birds and bugs.

There were so many different colors of insects and spiders. My favorite was this lubber grasshopper; he was very photogenic as I snapped the pic.

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Going for a hike was quite surreal with myriads of butterflies dancing circles around my head. Birds swooped in to catch some prey or to people-watch while I just drank it all in. To be honest, taking pictures didn’t even come to mind. Why waste time fumbling for a camera, when I could enjoy the moment and commune with nature?

My apologies for the lack of footage.

You really had to be there!