The Grand Canyon on Fire!

IMG_0254In the autumn of 2012, we headed off for another extended US road trip. Our ultimate goal was Austin, Texas, for the inaugural Formula 1 US Grand Prix, so naturally we flew into… Wichita, Kansas. And headed west!

Two weeks, 5500 miles (yes, that really does say five thousand five hundred miles), and seven states later, we finally arrived in Austin. Along the way we’d encountered some pretty amazing things (you can follow the whole trip starting here).

But perhaps the most amazing of all was seeing the Grand Canyon full of smoke, from rim to rim, thanks to some controlled burns taking place in the National Park.

You have been warned!

You have been warned!

Not convinced the photo on the sign was really taken here!

Not convinced the photo on the sign was really taken here!

Looking south from Bright Angel Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Looking south from Bright Angel Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Early morning at Bright Angel Point

Early morning at Bright Angel Point

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With some friends at Roaring Springs Canyon

With some friends at Roaring Springs Canyon

The same spot above Roaring Springs Canyon an hour and a half later

The same spot above Roaring Springs Canyon an hour and a half later

Smoke dissipating over Roaring Springs Canyon

Smoke dissipating over Roaring Springs Canyon

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Source of the smoke: one of the prescribed fires still smouldering

Source of the smoke: one of the prescribed fires still smouldering

Job done: the controlled fires clear away the litter layer, partly to prevent a worse, unplanned fire, and partly to feed nutrients back into the soil

Job done: the controlled fires clear away the litter layer, partly to prevent a worse, unplanned fire, and partly to feed nutrients back into the soil

The combination of the lingering smoke and the setting sun as we left the National Park that evening was particularly beautiful

The combination of the lingering smoke and the setting sun as we left the National Park that evening was particularly beautiful

IMG_0271IMG_0274This post was inspired by the theme Fire/Summer, from Cee of Cee’s Photography.

While you’re marvelling at a smoke-filled Grand Canyon, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my brand new websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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South Pacific Geocaches, with Leis

At the risk of repeating myself, back in March I wrote a blog called Hawaiian Paradise, about Lumaha’i Beach on the island of Kauai. In my original post, I mentioned that this pristine stretch of virtually deserted beach once featured in the old movie, South Pacific. What I didn’t reveal at that time was how we found out about Lumaha’i Beach. Or why we were there in the first place.

We’d arrived on Kauai the previous evening, and in so doing had set foot in all 50 US states. To celebrate, Sue had arranged for us to be greeted at the airport in the traditional Hawaiian manner, with leis made of the most beautiful purple and white orchids.

With Sue and Phyllis at Lihue Airport, Kauai

With Sue and Phyllis at Lihue Airport, Kauai

To be honest, though, after an extremely long day’s travelling, none of us were feeling at our best that evening. So, the next morning we set out with the mission of finding the ideal spot to take some photos with our purple floral finery.

But how to chose the perfect location on such a fairytale island? With the help of some local knowledge, of course. And a geocache!

Geocaching is one of my favourite things to do while on vacation. In its most basic form, someone hides a container, records the latitude and longitude with a handheld GPS device or smartphone, and then posts this information online. Someone else then downloads these coordinates and heads out in an attempt to find the hidden container, or geocache.

IMG_6369For me, the beauty of geocaching while travelling, is that locals often hide caches in all sorts of interesting locations. Places that unaware visitors might otherwise pass by. That was certainly the case with Lumaha’i Beach.

IMG_6370As you can see, we found our geocache. And the perfect place for a few photos of us wearing our leis!

Rich and Sue on Lumaha’i Beach

Rich and Sue on Lumaha’i Beach

Purple Pacific Princess

Purple Pacific Princess

Sue gets taken unawares on Lumaha’i Beach

Sue gets taken unawares on Lumaha’i Beach

We Ses had to get in on the act, too!

We Ses had to get in on the act, too!

Visit the dedicated section on my website to learn more about geocaching.

This post was inspired by the themes Containers (from Ben of the Daily Post) and Purple (from Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack?).

While you’re still breathless at the beauty of Lumaha’i Beach, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Wooden Covered Bridges, a North American Tradition

I just love covered bridges. They’re so traditional and iconically North American. Here are a few examples I’ve come across on my Journeys on this great continent.

Tradition squared - a Mennonite wagon crosses a covered bridge (West Montrose, ON)

Tradition squared – a Mennonite wagon crosses a covered bridge (West Montrose, ON)

Me at Swartz covered bridge (Wyandot, OH)

Me at Swartz Covered Bridge (Wyandot, OH)

A newer-looking covered bridge in Redwood State Park (near Crescent City, CA)

A newer-looking covered bridge in Redwood State Park (near Crescent City, CA)

Sachs covered bridge reflected in the mirror-smooth waters of Marsh Creek (Gettysburg, PA)

Sachs Covered Bridge reflected in the mirror-smooth waters of Marsh Creek (Gettysburg, PA)

Baltimore covered bridge is tiny (Springfield, VT)

Baltimore Covered Bridge is tiny (Springfield, VT)

Blenheim Covered Bridge (North Blenheim, NY). This was the longest single span covered wooden bridge in the world, until it was sadly destroyed by Hurricane Irene on August 28th, 2011.

Blenheim Covered Bridge (North Blenheim, NY). This was the longest single span covered wooden bridge in the world, until it was sadly destroyed by Hurricane Irene on August 28th, 2011.

This post was inspired by the themes Wood/Spring (from Cee of Cee’s Photography) and Traditional (from Sue of A Word in Your Ear)

While you’re dreaming about crossing a rickety old covered bridge during a spring Sunday drive, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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The Monuments of Glencolumbkille, Ireland

People have been farming Glencolumbkille (which translates as the Valley of Colm Cille, also known as Saint Columba) on the west coast of County Donegal in Ireland for over 5000 years. Over that time they’ve left their mark on the landscape and the structures they’ve erected.

Cross Pillar in the village Striad is over 6 feet tall and was probably carved between 1200 - 1300 years ago

This Cross Pillar in the village of Striad is over 6 feet tall and was probably carved 1200-1300 years ago

In the foreground is another cross pillar, which has broken in half at some point (the top is on the left)

In the foreground is another decorated cross pillar, which has broken in half at some point (the top is on the left)

Colmcille’s Well, surrounded by a large stone cairn

Colmcille’s Well, surrounded by a large stone cairn

View south across part of Glencolumbkille. A number of enclosures and cairns are visible on the hill in the foreground.

View south across part of Glencolumbkille. A number of enclosures and cairns are visible on the hill in the foreground.

In front of St Columba's church, Sue crouches beside Straid Court Tomb, a burial mound dating to about 3000 BC.

In front of St Columba’s church, Sue crouches beside Straid Court Tomb, a burial mound dating to about 3000 BC.

Cloghanmore Court Tomb at sunset

Cloghanmore Court Tomb at sunset

This post was inspired by the themes Relic (from Donncha of the Daily Post) and Decoration (from Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack?).

While you’re delving the depths of Irish history, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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The Colosseum, Rome – Bucket List Destination #91

IMG_1972There’s not much I can say about Rome’s iconic Colosseum that hasn’t already been said hundreds of times over. The graceful, curving walls of this atmospheric amphitheatre have been filling visitors with awe for almost two thousand years. Thankfully, a trip to the Colosseum usually comes with less bloodshed and horror these days!

The Roman Forum, with the Colosseum in the background

The Roman Forum, with the Colosseum in the background

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Inside the amphitheatre, where people and animals once fought to the death

Inside the amphitheatre, where people and animals once fought to the death: I think I see some of their ghosts!

Thankfully, the greatest peril I faced was being knocked off the railing by an unsuspecting tourist

Thankfully, the greatest peril I faced was being knocked off the railing by an unsuspecting tourist

Circles and Curves abound inside this architectural marvel

Circles and Curves abound inside this architectural marvel

This post was inspired by the themes Circles and Curves (from Cee of Cee’s Photography) and Fight! Fight! Fight! (from Nancy of Nancy Merrill Photography)

With some friends at the Forum

With some friends at the Forum

While you’re daydreaming about Romans and gladiators, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

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Remote Desert Twists

A couple of years ago I spent a week in Utah, while driving around the Southwest USA. It was a state I’d always wanted to visit, ever since seeing my first John Wayne movie. The remote desert landscapes are really something special.

I wrote several blogs on the road about our adventures, although not many people saw them, since I had very few followers back then. But this week’s photo themes of Twist from Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?) and Remote from Sue (of A Word in Your Ear) have encouraged me to revisit one of those old blogs, which was called Scenic Byways & Slot Canyons.

The Scenic Byways part of the title referred to Utah’s Scenic Byway 12. In particular, I wrote about one short part of this starkly beautiful highway, unofficially known as the Hogback. We renamed it the Heebeejeebee Highway for reasons I think are obvious. This twisting section of Byway 12 follows a ridge of land, which drops several hundred feet on either side, and is quite the adrenalin rush!

IMG_0287IMG_0291img_0293The other half of the title referred to the slot canyons of Grand Escalante National Park. With such wonderful names as Peek-A-Boo Canyon and Spooky Gulch, these were a real highlight of our time in Utah. For humans they’re a tight squeeze, and some of the twists make them quite difficult to navigate even for Ses like me.

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If you’d like to read the full original post, click here.

While you’re enjoying twists and turns of Utah, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

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A Short Detour To Carcassonne, France

I love playing board games, although I rarely find the time these days. My absolute favourite is a strategy game called Carcassonne (which is now also an app). One of the game’s main aims is to arrange the square tiles in order to construct walled cities.

IMG_0337The in-game cities mirror an actual fortress called the Cité de Carcassonne in Southern France, after which the game is named. And which I added to my Bucket List the instant I learned it was a real place!

IMG_0334A few years ago, we decided to change things up on one of our trips back to the UK and fly via Paris. Our plans not only allowed us to meet up with Rich’s parents in the French capital for a couple of days, but also enabled us to go a little further afield before they arrived.

Although our definition of ‘a little further afield’ is perhaps a bit looser than most peoples’. I mean, Carcassonne is only 390 miles from Paris, as the Vultureses flies. That’s practically next door, right?

OK, so perhaps ‘remote’ from Paris is more accurate. In fact, by the time we’d completed our pre-Paris loop, we’d covered almost 1300 miles… in under five days! But boy was it worth it!

Rocamadour, the Pyrenees, Andorra, Northern Spain, the Pont du Gard and Lyon were all pretty cool, but the unquestionable highlight of our little jaunt was definitely Carcassonne itself. We arrived late afternoon, in time to see the sun bathing the imposing walls of the fortress-city in a beautiful golden light.

Cité de Carcassonne and the Pont Vieux (the Old Bridge) from across the River Aude

Cité de Carcassonne and the Pont Vieux (the Old Bridge) from across the River Aude

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The west side of the castle forms part of the main city walls

The west side of the castle forms part of the main city walls

The Cité de Carcassonne stands on a hill above the modern town. Most of the structures visible originate from the medieval period, although some parts date back to the Romans. As the sun set and night came on, we climbed the hill to forage for food… although we  got repeatedly sidetracked along the way.

The Sun sets over Carcassonne

The Sun sets over Carcassonne

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The Citadel from below

The castle from below

Hey! Get out of my Picture!

Heading up the… Hey! Get out of my picture!

That's better

That’s better… Heading up the hill towards the Port d’Aude (the Aude Gate)

Our hotel was located just outside the citadel, so the next morning we were able to get an early start. It began with an outdoor breakfast within the atmospheric old town. After that we headed off to explore the medieval city, citadel and ramparts.

Un peu petit déjeuner?

Un peu petit déjeuner?

The castle's outer entrance

The castle’s outer entrance

And the inner entrance

And the inner entrance

The castle's inner courtyard

The castle’s inner courtyard

Looking along the walls from the castle to the Port d'Aude

Looking along the walls from the castle to the Port d’Aude

View across the rooftops of the Cité de Carcassonne

View across the rooftops of the Cité de Carcassonne

Today the Cité de Carcassonne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which makes it even harder to to believe that by the 1800s the fortress was so dilapidated the French government decided to demolish it. Thankfully, the uproar that followed this declaration saved the citadel, and led to its (albeit sometimes whimsical) renovation.

One of the city's wells

One of the city’s wells

IMG_0541The timely restoration of Carcassonne has preserved a masterpiece of architectural and military history worthy of anyone’s Bucket List. I’m certainly glad we made our little side trip from Paris to see this mighty city for ourselves!

One of the Roman towers - note the rounded windows and the thin, red bricks

One of the Roman towers – note the rounded windows and the thin, red bricks

The Port Narbonnaise (the Narbonne Gate)

The Port Narbonnaise (the Narbonne Gate)

Between the curtain walls near the Port Narbonnaise

Between the curtain walls near the Port Narbonnaise

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And back around to the Port d'Aude and the castle

And back around to the Port d’Aude and the castle

This post was inspired by the themes Squares, Triangles and Angles (from Cee of Cee’s Photography) and Remote(from Sue of A Word in Your Ear).

Cité de Carcassonne from the south

Cité de Carcassonne from the south

While you’re still awestruck but the magnificence of Carcassonne (or perhaps just the scope of our ‘little jaunt’), why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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