Mashley’s Adventures – Mountains and Hot Springs and a pause

Current Location: Benton, KY

You rest now. Rest for longer than you are used to resting. Make a stillness around you, a field of peace. Your best work, the best time of your life will grow out of this peace.
~ Peter Heller


Looking at the weather last week, we realized that we had only a one day window to visit Rocky Mountain National Park without being snowed in. So we sped up to make it in time and enjoyed a day’s visit. Though it was sunny and dry down at the visitor center as we climbed up into the mountains snow covered the ground. We layered up and headed out onto the snow-covered trail to Nymph and Dream Lake. It was easy enough to follow existing tracks and we quickly arrived at Nymph Lake, enjoying the view of the mountains around us and the empty trail. We walked around the frozen lake and on to Dream Lake, though we turned around before reaching the end since it had snowed over-night and the trail was far less obvious and it had begun snowing, obscuring any view. Almost back at the parking lot we checked out what we could see of Bear Lake.

heading to Nymph Lake

rocky outcrop above Nymph Lake

next to Dream Lake

hiking beside Dream Lake

After lunch we hiked up to the nearly frozen Alberta Falls and then explored the open roads of the park, enjoying the views of the mountains and across the valleys.

elk in the valley

Since weather was moving in we headed on, trying to beat the worst of Denver’s evening traffic. Still not sure if we managed that, but we ended up working our way south, back through part of Kansas (still not our, um, favorite place) and then into and across Oklahoma, which we found much more visually interesting.

crossing Route 66 inĀ Oklahoma

It seems that the storms were also migrating east, it was very windy. The worst gas mileage on the trip thus far was on the nice flat Kansas land. The wind, coming right at us, pushed us back, dropping our mileage. Ironically, we had the best for the prior tank, climbing through the mountains.

On we headed to Hot Springs, AR. In the park, we hiked up Peak Trail to the Mountain Tower and back down to explore Bathhouse Row. It’s a different type of park, set right inside the city. Thus, we didn’t have high expectations, but we ended up really enjoying it. Touring Fordyce Bathhouse was fascinating. It’s been restored and shows off the “state-of-the-art” technology and methods used in the 1920s. The Ozark Bathhouse holds the art collection, mostly creations of past Artists in Residence. Matthew really enjoyed seeing the work that’s been created from the program – and was encouraged to see that “I could do that!”

hot spring water

showing off on the Promenade

Ashley found her dream shower – 17 nozzles!

lifesized – not something Matthew feels like he could do

fresh hot spring water

  • 44 National Parks (of 47 in the Contiguous US)
  • 38 States
  • 6.3 mpg, the worst yet!

And since then we’ve been taking a break – it feels like we’ve constantly been on the go since leaving North Carolina in February. So we’re ready for a break. After visiting Hot Springs we moved on a bit more and surprised both our families by appearing in their driveways. What fun it was to get to catch them off-guard and to spend a few days visiting. We’re currently parked and sitting still, doing a deep-clean of the RV (inside and out), catching up on some maintenance, and generally enjoying a bit of a break while soaking up time with loved ones.

In a few more days we’ll continue on, beginning the final leg of our trip, the loop up through the north east. Until then, we’re enjoying a bit of recuperation.

Catching our breath,

Matthew & Ashley

Mashley’s Adventures – Canyons and Contemplations

Painted Wall in Black Canyon

Current Location: Monument, CO

True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence on the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing.
~ Seneca


Even though it’s only been a few days since our last update, we’ve still managed to cover some ground – changing states and visiting another National Park! Over the weekend we rode into the northern portion of Canyonlands called Island in the Sky for another visit and then on Sunday we packed up and headed out.

We headed east, returning to Colorado in order to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It’s a relatively new park, only having been instated in 1999, though it’s been a National Momument since the mid 1900s. Even though there isn’t snow on the ground and the roads are all open, it’s still a bit early in the season to visit. On the one hand, that means that we’ve been avoiding crowds and it’s been peacefully quiet, but that’s because it’s been chilly during our visit. We hopped on the motorcycle for a trip down into the canyon on the East Portal Road to ride alongside the Gunnison River. It was quite a steep ride down, Ashley kept sliding forward on her seat! Being inside the canyon is a unique experience. It’s beautiful, but also intimidating. Like being inside a slot canyon that has teeth!

At the bottom of Black Canyon, next to the Gunnison River

The Gunnison River

After checking out the visitor center and watching the park movie about the early exploration of the canyon (including the use of inflatable mattresses to raft the river!) we continued to the end of the road to check out the overlooks. Unfortunately, the weather was threatening rain/snow so we didn’t stay out for long and retreated to the RV to warm back up. While the weather wasn’t as bad as predicted, there were some snow patches still sticking in the morning, though they melted quite quickly.

  • 42 National Parks (of 47 in the Contiguous US)
  • 16% grade on the road
  • 36 States

Pictures fail to capture the colors, depth, and general sensation of the canyon.

Looking down into Black Canyon

These last few months everyone’s been asking about our upcoming plans, both for the next leg of our quest and the”what’s next” after we finish. As for the next leg of the quest, we have only a handful of states and National Parks left to visit and the current plan is to finish visiting them all by the end of July. After exploring what we can of Rocky Mountain National Park here in Colorado, we can head back east through Oklahoma and Arkansas (Hot Springs NP) then to Mammoth Cave before working our way up through New England to Maine and back down to Savannah, GA in July for a family get-together. Three weeks later we have a 25-day permit to hike the John Muir Trail in California.

We’ve considered spending more time here in the west, exploring more deeply and finding a job to add more to the gas fund, but with the fixed family meet-up in July and the JMT in August, we’d be pushing our completion date into next year to avoid winter in New England. While we don’t want to rush to finish, or feel like we’re simply checking places off a list, we are eager to begin the next stage of our adventure. We’ve currently visited more parks than states, which means that we have a lot of driving ahead of us, more miles than exploration. That makes our final leg fairly straightforward to complete and gives us the option to count the JMT as the grand finale (and with Mt. Whitney being both the finish line and the highest point in the lower 48, literally ending on a high point!)

And then we get to begin our next adventure in life. After much pondering, consideration, and discussion we’ve decided to… wait and see! We have lots of ideas about what sounds best but are currently delaying the decision. It’s hard not to think about it since we’ve had so many questions from famiy and friends, but part of our rationale is that we get lost in the debate and forget to enjoy our current location and adventure over concern about the future. By focusing too much on future plans we forget to enjoy and appreciated the present, and the amazing things we are experiencing at this very moment. It’s a hard balance that we are continually striving to make. We have put out some feelers looking into future options, so we’re not ignoring it completely, but at the moment we’re aiming to appreciate the amazing journey that we’re currently on.

Adventuring appreciatively,

Matthew & Ashley

Mashley’s Adventures – Dunes, Dwellings, Canyons, and Crescents

Current Location: Moab, UT

The sky overhead,
the earth below,
the mountains around.
I stand in the middle place –
at home.
~ Dr. Rina Swentzell


What a lot of country we’ve seen since our last email! Or so it seems… After leaving Santa Fe we headed north into Colorado (now we’ve visited all of the western states!) We found a great spot of wild camping on BLM land outside of Great Sand Dunes National Park. Ashley had been to a section of the Park before, and wasn’t super excited about returning, so imagine her surprise that we loved it! Continue reading