MONTREAL

BACKGROUND

My husband asked me what my plans were for the weekend. Having spent the previous two weekends in other states, I decided to keep my schedule clear. My expectations were Netflix, Chinese food and wine. So he brings up Rhode Island. Block Island to be exact. Not having been to the beach yet this year I figure it’s an excellent idea. Totally unaware of what it’s like to plan a trip for Block Island, we were in for a surprise. It’s NOT that easy. Too complicated for a spontaneous trip. I simply did not have the patience to figure out the ferries, fees, and hotel in such a short amount of time.

After weighing our options we set eyes on Montreal. It would be a straight 5H 45M drive if we left at midnight. It was 10:30pm and we had 1.5 hours to shower and pack. Talk about anxiety. I’m a planner. If you’ve read my other blog posts, then you also know I do extensive research. I like to use up every minute I have while I’m in a new place. And I like to pack at my leisure, but this wasn’t going to allow for that kind of preparation. Granted I had been to Montreal twice before. But those were my underage years. And traveling with your husband is very different than traveling with your parent.

All packed and showered, we hit the road. We only stopped twice to fill up the gas tank and purchase a pair of Redbulls. Once when we first left and once around 3:30am at a Sunoco. The bathrooms were clean FYI. As you can see below it was dark. And yes, that’s a nasty bug splat on the windshield.

After what felt like a very short trip (due to the very entertaining conversation) we were at the Canadian border. There were zero lines to cross the border, but we were questioned more rigorously than last month when I went to Niagara. He wanted to know where we were staying (address and all), where we were coming from, what the purpose of our trip was, and what we were going to do until businesses opened at 9am. We answered his questions and were on our way.

Sunrise was a pretty one that morning too.

DAY 1

We parked in the hotel’s parking lot at 6:00am. We both broke night and it was time to sleep. We parked the car in the shade and wrapped up in the blankets. I knocked out until about 9:30am. I 100% flat-ironed my hair in the car in the front seat. Don’t judge me! And Tony woke up around 10:30am as I was finishing.

I was so happy to have stayed at the hotel we picked. They graciously let us check in at 10:30am. Check in wasn’t until 4:00pm! And the hotel is conveniently across the street from the olympic park and the botanical garden.

Once in the room I hopped in the shower while Tony went to the barber shop for a shape-up. After we freshened up, we were both ready to find some food for lunch. 

Tony found this neat little place called Copper Branch. They serve 100% plant-based, gluten-free, all-natural, organic food. So I ordered a dish with quinoa, turmeric tofu scramble, carrots, beets, chick peas, spinach hummus, and I don’t know what else. I was stuffed and I only got the mini. The regular size bowl could easily have fed Tony and I.

After lunch we headed over to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Admission is $24 CAD per adult, which converts to $18.22 USD per adult.

We decided to go straight to the top floor and work our way down. I did not know Thierry Mugler had a temporary exhibit here. How lucky is that?!

The first room was intense for me. I won’t ruin it if you plan on visiting by posting the photos or videos I have of the room. It’s definitely meant to be an experience. Just know that it was dark and I’m a big chicken so I hate the dark. Otherwise, the exhibit was amazing. So much talent! And obviously I knew who he was because my fave Cardi B wore one of his archived pieces to the Grammy’s. Cute video on Vogue’s page about that process here.

The rest of the museum was pleasant. We saw a couple of Monet’s and some more contemporary pieces. One that stood out to me was Speaking for the Light by James Turrell. I had seen one of his installations in Seattle in March at the Henry Art Gallery. This piece made a beam of light look tangible. Like I could go into that room and touch that green shape. Total mind fuck.

Not far from the museum you have Mont Royal. This park has plenty of hiking, running, biking space and viewpoints. Not having planned to do any of those activities we found the highest viewpoint we could drive to for vistas. Low effort+high reward = crowds. It took us quite a bit of time to reach the parking lot at Belvédère Camillien-Houde. After all it was Saturday and they had only one lane operating due to construction. When we finally got to the lot we were lucky to find parking right away.

You can see the city from the lot. But if you’re willing to do some cardio you can enjoy other vantage points without the crowds. Seemed like most people didn’t want to break a sweat that day. We climbed these stairs and veered left at the fork. And it didn’t take us more than 15 minutes to get there.

Old Montreal was next on the list. Parking was a real pain to find so we gave up after about 30 minutes of looking and parked at the lot on Clock Tower Quay Street. It cost $25 CAD and was for 24 hours. We walked south past zip lines, bars, restaurants, paddle boats, etc. There’s a little something for everyone in the port area and it’s family friendly. The cobblestone streets and shops are at the turn of every corner. Some were under construction, but nothing that derailed the experience. The nice weather also made it enjoyable. We found plenty of outdoor seating and beer gardens. My favorite being the Hoegaarden tent obviously. Below you’ll find a slideshow of a few pictures captured there.

Running on approximately 3 hours of sleep it was time to head back to the hotel. No amount of Redbull or coffee was going to keep me awake! I read somewhere that people don’t go out on the town until late anyways. I napped for a little more than an hour. I woke up just before 11pm and we were at our first bar by midnight.

We decided on the neighborhood of Hochelaga. Our first stop was Blockhaus. It was such an unassuming spot. From street level all you see is a bouncer and a doorway leading to some stairs. Once inside there was a full bar and plenty of dancing patrons. I don’t think it’s necessary to state this, but for anyone who wants to know: it’s a gay bar. And it has gender neutral bathrooms. More importantly, it has a pool table good music and drinks. That’s all we could have asked for 🙂

Our second stop for the night was Bar Davidson. This bar had slot machines and a pool table. Hip hop going back to the 90s was blaring out the doorway. We let nostalgia kick in and had ourselves a good dance off.

I know we went to a third location on this road, but honestly I can’t remember the name. All I can say is we had a blast! Good night Hochelaga!

DAY 2

After getting to bed at 3:30am neither of us cared to get up early. So we slept in until 11:00am as check out was 12:00pm. We left the car parked in the hotel lot and walked over to Olympic Park. This stadium is where the 1976 Olympic games were held and its 45 degree slanted tower is a site. The park connects to the Saputo stadium, planetarium and Biodome.

Across the street you’ll find the Botanical garden. Having been to one in California, New York and El Salvador I was excited to see what this one had to offer. My first error was underestimating how large it is. Definitely the largest one I’ve been to thus far. It has large exterior gardens and a very large greenhouse. We spent 2.5 hours walking around the grounds and didn’t even see the whole thing.

I won’t even try to pretend to be horticulturalist. I don’t recall the names of all these flowers or plants or what part of the world they’re from. But these living things exist all over the world. It’s good to think about that for a moment. How lucky are we to live in a time where you can see plants found in other countries? Or found in areas very far from home? All in one dedicated space!

This botanical garden is definitely one I would want to visit again. There’s just so much to see I’m sure I missed some gems. Also it’s not a bad way to get your steps in for the day. I walked over 10K in this garden alone lol. For those concerned about the walk, there is a trolley dedicated to the elderly and disabled.

Having burned plenty of calories it was time for food! Le Blind Pig was our next and final stop in Montreal. Beers were $3 CAD and the food was good. Tony had been talking about eating poutine the whole drive up and was finally getting it. His was served with shredded chicken and peas.

With outdoor seating on a summer day I had plenty to be happy about. People watching wasn’t crazy busy but enough to be entertaining. Some passer-by’s were coming back from grocery trips while others seemed to be rolling out of bed. There were a few runners and music coming from apartments on the second floors. Some businesses were still in the process of opening up shop.

And then it was time to go home 😦

We left Montreal at 5:30pm and there were 4 other cars at the border. The crossing was smooth and we were asked one question. We stopped for food around 9:30pm and were home by 12:30am.

The drive home always seem so dreadful. The idea of having to go to work the next day after enjoying a weekend in another country just doesn’t sit right with my soul. So as I write this I’m getting up to ask my husband where we’ll be going this weekend lol.

I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.

Walt Whitman
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BEARFENCE MOUNTAIN

GPS: 38.452349, -78.467136

TIME: 1H

LENGTH: 1.2 MILES RT

ELEVATION CHANGE:  380 ft

Bearfence mountain is 1 hour away from the Airbnb. The hike is 1 hour long. Sunrise is at 5:50am… It’s not everyday I get out of bed at 3:00 am. But when I do, it’s not for work. It’s for a hike. That’s what I call commitment.

Staying on the southern-most part Shenandoah allows me to take the 340 north. It runs parallel to the park but without all the twists and turns. That makes the drive so much faster. After turning east onto Route 33, I made a left to head north on Skyline Drive. Notice how dark it still is.

Parked at the lot located at the trailhead I try to get my bearings. Nicole and I are petrified worried about a bear encounter. It is still very dark and we have one lantern between the both of us. Neither one of us have done this hike before. No one else is on the trail or in the lot and my brain starts to wonder if the other hikers know something we don’t.

And then my prayers were answered. A car pulls in to the lot with three hikers climbing out. They seem to know where they’re going as they didn’t really bother approaching the map. Excited to not have to fight the bears alone we happily follow them into the dark.

At first we didn’t really need to look for the trail markers because we followed the trio in. But they were much faster rock scramblers than me and at some point I had to make sure I could see the blue blazes. In the dark they are much harder to find, but not impossible. This picture has the flash on so you can see what it looks like with headlamps or lanterns.

This picture is with no flash. I did notice that as the minutes went by the trail got easier to see. The overcast sky was serving as a faint source of light.

By the time we got to the higher rock scrambling portion the lantern was put away. We continued following the blue blazes.

When you get to the top of the rock scramble you are going up and over the rock formations.

The trail continues back down into the trees but we sat at this clearing. It was perfect. I could see almost 360 degree views and if there was any sun to be seen that day I was in the spot to see it.

The sun lit up the sky, but there were no pretty colors dancing on the horizon. Another bust for sun activity today.

After drinking my coffee it was time to head down. The trail looked so different in the light of day. And the markers were so much easier to spot.

Follow the blue blazes back to the junction and head down to Skyline Drive.

The picture below is the entrance of the trail. I took this picture once the sun had risen and I was standing by my car. When starting the hike, you cross Skyline Drive (carefully) and make your way up the hike following the blue blazes.

After finishing the hike I was truly grateful to have been able to follow the three hikers in. I believe there’s strength in numbers. And it gave me the courage to go into bear country in the dark. I would have still done it had they not showed up. But the company was a relief.

I didn’t see any bears and I didn’t see a picturesque sunrise. Sometimes it’s not about the big “ta-da” moment at the end of the hike. Bearfence was 100% about the rock scrambling in the dark. The adrenaline pumping through my body. Hearing sounds in the dark and praying it wasn’t a bear. As I write about these things in the safety of my suburban lifestyle I have to laugh. My parents would tell me I’m crazy for going out there, but being outdoors is what makes me happy. Even if it causes fear.

“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

Is it absolute insanity to try and do Arches in a day? Yes. Did I attempt it anyways? Yup! I love a good challenge. This one required a dubious amount of research to execute flawlessly. And guess what happened? It still wasn’t as we planned, but it was a perfect day at Arches nonetheless.

I’ll break down the different points of interest we visited in the park. I’ll even include Wilson’s arch as an honorable mention at the end because of its proximity to the park.

Getting into the Park

We set our alarms super early and were on the road by 6:15am. We watched yet another lovely sunrise from the car.

Arches is a very large park and Arches Scenic Dr runs through a good chunk of it. As we drove on the road meandering through the park we caught this scene. I can NOT make this up. This is what the sky looked like!

We spotted the Three Gossips on the left and the Courthouse Towers on the right the further we drove into the park.

Double Arch

We drove to double arch super early as our first stop. Double arch is 0.5 miles RT from the trailhead and is home to the highest arch in the entire park. Honestly, we thought we were driving to delicate arch and didn’t realize it until we got to the sign at the trailhead. Not wanting to double back we carried forward with exploring these arches. From the car it looked very dark.

As the sun continued to rise it started filling the shadows with light. We were there just over an hour and the arches looked so different in that time lapse.

It was nearly impossible for me to capture both arches in a shot while standing beneath them. And with good reason as they are very large arches. The closest I got was with the fisheye lense I put on my iPhone.

When you’re sitting inside the arch the view towards the trailhead is nice too. You can see the parking lot so clearly, but they feel a world away standing in that space.

Delicate Arch, Petroglyphs and Wilson’s Cabin

We were so fortunate that someone was pulling out of a parking spot when we got to the end of the oblong shaped lot. Every single spot was filled, including the approximately 20 RV spots (filled with mostly non-RV-type vehicles). That’s why our first stop was supposed to be Delicate Arch. But everything worked out and we were pleasantly surprised to get a spot right away. Others may not be so lucky, so plan to arrive early!

This hike climbs 500 ft and is 3 miles long. But it is exposed. So exposed. Did I mention exposed? I went into sweaty workout-mode immediately with the help of the sun. There are very few places to rest in the shade and I could see people loosing steam on the way up. Make sure you are carrying enough water when you attempt this hike, especially in the summer months!

There’s a window on the way to delicate arch that’s easy to miss. I was curious to see what was on the other side and discovered this awesome view. Unfortunately, after taking some pictures here a line had formed. That was definitely a sign of things to come.

So you get the arch and now what? Want a picture with it? Of course! I did not hike in all of that sun up that super long rock to not capture a moment with the final destination! Well, this photo opportunity also had a line that had formed. I wasn’t happy about it. After all I’m a New Yorker and we do things on the move, never stopping/waiting. I was happy to see it wasn’t a very long line and it moved rather quickly for me.

One of our co-travelers didn’t have that same luck and was skipped twice! So Tony decided that while CJ struggled with the line and the skipping, he would take a much deserved nap in the shade.

Having had enough of the super touristy vibes it was time to head down. Going down is way easier and it gives you a completely different perspective of the landscape.

At the base of the delicate arch trail (at the entrance basically) there’s Ute Rock Art. The sign says it was carved between AD 1650-1850. You can walk right up to it, but DO NOT touch the art. Aside from preserving the art not touching it will also help you avoid a potential $250,000 fine and five year imprisonment. I’m glad they’re taking the preservation of these sights seriously!

After we completed the hike to delicate arch and viewed the Ute art, we visited the Wolfe Ranch. The first settler in this area, John Wesley Wolfe, built it in 1906. He’d been there since the late 1800s. It’s a one-room wooden cabin that housed Wolfe and his daughter’s family until the year 1910.

Landscape Arch

On the Garden Trail there are several options for arch viewing. We decided we would see the landscape arch because I read somewhere that it may not be around for much longer. The trail to the Landscape arch is 2.0 miles long and also very exposed. At the trailhead there are facilities and water fountains. There is no excuse, bring water!

Due to a rock slab falling in 1991, you can no longer hike right up to the arch. This is for safety reasons and the trail gets you to this point. Being closer would have been nice, but not worrying about a slab landing on me is really nice too.

Nicole and I were having a hard time capturing a photo with no one else in it. So the guys found this perfectly nap-able rock and got to it. Isn’t that a nice place for a nap?

When you’re walking back to your car, pay attention to the vista. Only in the southwest can you walk in the desert and still see snow 🙂

Balancing Rock

This formation is sandstone on top of mudstone. It had a counterpart that has fallen and it’s only a matter of time before the larger rock falls too. It’s interesting to see something so strong and heavy simultaneously be weak. What’s awesome trail-wise is that you park your car and walk right up to the base of this one. There isn’t any strenuous hiking and when you’ve had your fill you can run back to your car and pump the A.C.

As we got in the car and prepared to leave Arches we came across this view. I totally ran in traffic to capture this. I’m joking! I did it safely of course. Don’t tell my mom…

Wilson’s Arch

So Wilson’s arch is located just outside Arches National Park. It took us about 30 minutes to get there and there’s a large paved pull off for you to park. There aren’t any facilities here and when we arrived only two other cars were parked. Please be careful crossing the street here when coming from Arches. It’s not like the road inside the park with lower speed limits and tourist. This road has 16 wheelers and high speeds. This “trail” is about 1/2 mile long but steep. Watch your footing heading up and enjoy the view!

All things considered, Arches was beautiful. The arches are definitely something to see in person. To stand under and admire their grandness. I would love to come back and hike through the Furnace one day and share it with you. Want to know anything else about this day at the park? I’d be more than happy to share. Ask below in the comments section!

“An arch consists of two weaknesses which, leaning one against the other, make a strength.”

Leonardo Da Vinci

CASSIDY ARCH & PETROGLYPHS

GPS: 38.263715, -111.215994

TIME: 2H 30M

LENGTH: 3.5 MILES RT

ELEVATION CHANGE:  950 ft (Peak: 6,350 ft)

DATE: APRIL 26, 2019

We woke up super early and were on our way to Capitol Reef! We stayed in Loa and were only 25 minutes away from the park. State Route 24 is a beautiful road to drive on and we were going to use it to traverse the park that day. Gifted with many beautiful sunrises that trip, I was grateful to be traveling with people who understand the importance of seizing the day. I would hate to miss morning views like the one we got that morning.

Once we were in the park we drove on Scenic Drive for 3.5 miles and turned onto Grand Wash road. This dirt road took us to the trailhead 1.2 miles away. There are flash flood warnings and a gate that was open when we arrived. I did a great deal of research for all the areas that had potential flash floods and had discovered this video. So please make sure you check for storms (especially upstream from the wash). That family was lucky to get out but I could see being seriously stuck if the water was any higher.

Once we got out of the car I noticed there were facilities at the trailhead. It’s a pit toilet, but for us small bladder owners, that’s all you really need lol.

The moon stayed out long enough to capture this picture. You can see the sun touching the peak turning it yellow just north of where we stood. Soon enough it would light up the whole park.

We walked on the trail and simply followed the signs. It is very easy to follow.

Some of the rock formations you see on the trail are like that of another world. I would go as far as saying it could even trigger someone’s trypophobia.

As we made our way we could see the sun forming shadows and illuminating rock faces. We were still wearing sweaters at this point because it hadn’t warmed up yet.

At this junction we joined the frying pan trail. It’s a sharp left and up. There’s a portion of this hike that gains 600 ft. very quickly and in a short distance.

Naturally the slick rock (with some human assistance) forms “stairs” to help you climb the trail.

And during that steep climb stopping for pictures is a great excuse to catch your breath. It was also nice to take a moment to notice the sun spreading it’s yellow light as it touches the rock formations ahead.

And then as though someone had flipped a switch the sun was on! There is less than a 20 minute time difference between the picture above and below. Awesome stuff and we hadn’t even gotten to the arch yet.

There was a moment where I couldn’t see where the arch could possibly be. And then this trusty little sign let us know we were heading the right way.

When we turned the corner, there it was! The arch! Still had a ways to go, but so excited to see the destination in sight.

Did you know the arch is named for the infamous outlaw Butch Cassidy? I wonder if there is any unfound loot in the thousands of hidden corners of the canyon. For the history buffs who want clarification between fact and fiction: I found a great article in the LA Times.

There comes a moment where the trail becomes harder to follow on the slick rock and these small cairns start appearing.

They appear in rows to guide us hikers.

And sometimes a bit more scarcely. But they guided us just the same. Thank you to whomever left these here for the thousands of people who hike this trail.

Finally, we were at the arch. What a beautiful sight! Of course being my very adventurous self I walked right up to the arch. It’s not as scary as I thought it would be but it’s enough to get my adrenaline going. I still can’t believe I was there even now as I look at that picture. You know what’s even crazier to think about? There was no one else. Not a single soul but us. We had the entire place to ourselves.

And since it was my best friend Nicole’s birthday we had a photoshoot up there. We weren’t being rushed by other hikers so we took our time and got all the angles. I love scrapbooking and like when I can make sure I have the perfect pictures for my books!

Just past the arch there’s a great vantage point overlooking the entrance to the Grand Wash. Great place to see the different layers of the Earth.

Even above from where I was sitting there was all this area to explore.

The views went on for what felt like forever.

On the way down we were told by other hikers that they could see the rose gold balloons from their cars driving into the Grand Wash. Watching Nicole head down with the balloons attached to her has to be one of the funniest things that happened that trip. 😂

We retraced our steps and headed back down to our car. When we drove out of the wash we were treated to some contrasting rock colors and super blue sky. It didn’t look this alive when we drove in that morning prior to the sun illuminating the canyon. And just like that we were done with the arch and onto the next adventure…

Having an affinity to any and everything old and indigenous I could not leave the park without visiting the petroglyphs. I walked up to the boardwalk fixture they have just below the rock face and immediately spotted the markings. I have so many thoughts that whirl around my head when seeing this in person, even now my brain tries to put them into coherent words to share with you all.

When I travel I make connections with the spaces around me. Physical connections by touching a staircase handrail, visual connections by watching a beautiful sunset over the ocean, audio connections by hearing the birds, etc. The types of connections can be one or multi-sensory and impact me in different ways. I carry these connections I make with the world home with me. I think it’s the reason why I prioritize travel in my life. It makes me feel connected to the world as a whole. But at the petroglyphs it was more of a spiritual connection. The inhabitants of this area may not be our direct ancestors. But we are all human and come from the humans that have existed hundreds or thousands of years before us. It’s beautiful to stand in a space that they too stood in however long ago…

The etchings that have survived over time are at the base of the rock face. Try spotting them in the picture below. I’ll post a close up if you have a hard time spotting them from this distance.

Such a special place.

Here is the close up of the petroglyphs. I’m glad I was able to see them in person all these years after their creation. Hopefully you can see them one day too.

If you have already visited these or other petroglyphs, or if you’d like to one day, I would love to start a dialogue to share thoughts about what they mean to you. Leave a comment below!

“We’re all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.”

Liam Callanan

BRYCE NATIONAL PARK

I feel like this park is so underrated. I have taken so many pictures of this park that it was hard to decide which ones to add/leave out. It’s so cliche to say “pictures don’t do it justice” when you’re traveling. But I can’t help it if it’s true! This park! The hoodoos! And to think, I didn’t even get to see the whole thing because Navajo Loop was closed due to weather related issues.

So here are the points of interest with what I think are the best pictures we took of them:

INSPIRATION POINT

At inspiration point you’re standing at 8,100 feet elevation. This is where the main amphitheater is located and where we decided sunrise would be best seen from.

We parked in a lot that already had about 15 other cars in it and were standing at the viewpoint by 6:35am. I was so excited to see that the sun had not yet gone over the ridge. The next couple of pictures show how fast the sun actually rises. I feel so grateful to have experienced this sunrise. It was one of the best ones I’ve seen. And it lit up the hoodoos in such a way; I would describe it as setting them on fire.

6:35 AM
6:45 AM
6:50 AM

NAVAJO LOOP / SUNSET POINT

Our next point of interest was the Navajo Loop Trail. Unfortunately due to weather impacting the trail we were unable to do this one. The trail leads down into the canyon in the picture below. It’s the base of the really dark area. The second picture shows the beginning of the Navajo Loop trail and you can tell the trail is damaged. It’s not surprising really and people are lucky to hike it when it’s open. The rock is soft and crumbly in many areas.

The damaged Navajo Loop is visible in this picture

BRYCE POINT

There weren’t that many other visitors at the park yet so early in the morning and we were able to drive and park at each of these locations rather quickly. Bryce point was yet another delight. The green vegetation juxtaposed to the red rock and random white patches of snow were something to behold.

QUEENS GARDEN TRAIL

Queens garden is a pretty easy trail to complete. But it’s important to keep in mind that every descending step you take, you’ll have to retrace on the way back up.

I cannot make this stuff up! How perfect is this sunburst on Tony???

The queens garden trail ended up being the only one we did at the park. Once we were done with it though, there were many tour buses and a wave of visitors flowing into the park. We’d be moving on to another town soon and it was nice having it in the quiet of the morning. I was pleased to leave the crowds behind. I’ll have to re-visit Bryce National Park one day. The switchbacks from Navajo Loop are just begging to be crossed off my list!

“Hell of a place to lose a cow”.

Ebenezer Bryce