Petroglyphs National Monument, New Mexico

Petroglyphs National Monumnet_feistyharriet_2016

Over the summer Blue Eyes and I spent a long weekend exploring New Mexico, I did a lot of research on what adventures we could pursue while we were there and when I came across Petroglyphs National Monument I 100% knew we would be stopping by. This preserved area of volcanic rock has tens of thousands of glyphs scratched into the black stones. Literally, they are EVERYWHERE.

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We wandered around on a few short trails, gawking at the ancient art, trying to get some photos that would reflect how incredible these images were while battling a super hot sun and crazy reflections on the stone.

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It was a super hot day, with zero shade, and a lot of black rock soaking up (and radiating) extra heat, so we didn’t stay long or attempt some of the longer trails, but I am still baffled at how MANY pieces of art were just, you know, laying around on the ground.

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Of course, people tend to ruins stuff like this, and there were plenty of graffitied pieces, “So-and-So Was Here” crap and “Cory + Rhonda, 2014” stuff, which is ridiculously unfortunate, why do people have to do that!? Anyway, if you’re ever in Albuquerque, I highly recommend giving yourself 45 minutes (or, you know, 4 hours, if it’s not hella hot and sunny) to check out these ancient drawings.

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Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico

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It’s not really a huge surprise that I kind of love the weird: weird architecture, weird geology, weird non-fiction topics to obsess about. When I read about the Tent Rocks in New Mexico I knew we would be stopping to explore, and this was before I even knew what they looked like!

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Creamy, layered sandstone, slot canyons, pointy tents (or mirage-like ice cream cones, depending on how hot it is and how long you’ve been hiking), with a path through the whole thing and up to the top of the mesa for a better view.

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Mr. Blue Eyes and I lathered up in sunscreen (it was 90-something degrees…not the best day for hiking!), grabbed more water, and started hiking. At first, the trail was super flat and meandering, we passed old people and babies who had stopped to enjoy the shade or go exploring.

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We wandered through a couple of amazing slot canyons, I stood at one end, camera poised, waiting for all tourists to get out of my shot. I love slot canyons, these were fairly narrow, but completely dry. (However, had there been rain they certainly would have been dicey!)

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We kept wandering….and then we hit the “steep” part. There was very little shade and I was a sweaty mess, but–nerd that I am–there were MORE TENT ROCKS TO SEE! So we kept going, zig-zagging up the cliff, scrambling at places, to get to the top of the mesa and look down into the “campground” of tents we’d just wandered through.

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I would love to visit in the early morning or on a cool spring evening, I bet the sunrise/sunset on those rocks is just stunning. As it was, I was impressed by the sandstone formations, all the layers, and the slot canyons. Yay, nature!

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The Tidal Basin in Washington DC

Washington DC Tidal Basin_feistyharriet_June 2016 (1)A few weeks ago I spent a whirlwind two days in Washington, D.C. for a work conference. I knew I wouldn’t have much free time, so I decided to spend the few hours I did have doing things I’d never done in DC before. After my meetings were over I decided to walk around the Tidal Basin, swooning over all the monuments all lit up at night.

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Mr. Lincoln was a very popular stop with crowds of people everywhere. I only spent a few minutes here and kept wandering, past the Korean War monument, and the Vietnam Memorial. I stopped at the Martin Luther King monument and listened to a tour guide talk about Dr. King’s life and his dedication to civil and human rights. I walked through the memorial to FDR and his political policies, and kept wandering around the Tidal Basin towards the Jefferson Memorial, my favorite. It was pretty late by the time I got there, and I had the place almost to myself.

Carved into the wall of the memorial are several quotes, but this one hit me square in the gut:

I am not an advocate for frequent change in laws and constitutions. but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered, and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society remain even under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

—Thomas Jefferson

Of late, there have been a lot of political upheavals on better gun control and policy, LGBQT rights, issues surrounding race and ethnicity, religious freedoms, women’s rights to determine their own healthcare needs…and I can’t help but think that our Founding Fathers are shaking their collective heads, somewhere. Jefferson knew that government must evolve as humanity progressed, so I am baffled at the argument that it should not because that’s not what the constitution intended. Wrong. The constitution is a living, breathing, CHANGING document, as it should be, as we as a collective citizenry are constantly changing, evolving, and becoming more enlightened than our “barbarous ancestors” who didn’t provide protections and established individuality for women, people of color, and the “other.” We know better, and we should campaign for better, not for status quo.

Washington DC Tidal Basin_feistyharriet_June 2016 (4)I have been thinking about activism a lot lately, and the more I think about it the more I get this sinking feeling in my gut that it is time for me to act; and that scares me a little, it’s outside my comfort zone. But if I don’t–if we don’t–actively work towards a more inclusive, safer, more peaceful world, who will? Watching so much fear and hate and violence and Drumpism fill the media, I just…I can’t sit still anymore. For my fellow Americans, as you celebrate your independence over the weekend, perhaps spend a little time thinking about those who have gone before you to grant you the freedoms you enjoy, and how can you help those who are coming along with you, or behind you, to enjoy similar freedoms in their lives.

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San Antonio Mission Trail, Texas

The Mission Trail in San Antonio consists of the five early missions that have since been swallowed up by the city. Some of the old churches are in better shape than others, and some were more extensive in the first place. Blue Eyes and I spent a Sunday morning wandering from one to the other, checking out the ruins, peeking in the chapels and standing in awe of the architectural feats accomplished during the 1700’s in the middle-of-nowhere Texas.

The Alamo is one of the original San Antonio missions, it is by far the most famous due to the terrible loss the Texans suffered at the hands of the Imperial Mexican army. (Confession: I actually had no idea that the Texans lost at the Alamo….I hope I can still be friends with those of you from Texas. And, to be fair, you probably didn’t know that Utah was founded by religious refugees running from government-issued extermination orders in the Midwest. So, state history lessons for everyone.)San Antonio - The Alamo

Mission Concepcion

After The Alamo with it’s memorial flowers and altars and hundreds of people milling about, I was surprised that Mission Concepcion was so different. We arrived just as Mass was getting out, and seeing families chatting and kids running around the lawns seemed so…normal. This building in old and weathered, and I was both surprised and delighted that–despite it’s National Monument status–it is also just a regular cathedral for the devout people nearby.

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Mission San Jose

Called the “Queen of the Missions” this cathedral was by far my favorite. I think it is the largest, and has these amazing arched extensions around the main church with gardens and flowers all over.

San Antonio - Mission San Jose

I mean, really. How can you not be totally charmed by this place!?

San Antonio - Mission San Jose

Mass was happening while we were visiting, so we didn’t poke our heads inside at all, but we wandered around for almost an hour, admiring the stonework and the sheer size of the building, and me patiently(ish) waiting for the crowds to clear a bit so I could get the photos I wanted.

San Antonio - Mission San Jose

Mission San Juan

Mission San Juan (which I don’t have any photos of), was the simplest building, whitewashed and without much decoration. We poked around the dark little museum and circled the grounds, but services were taking place in the church and we didn’t want to disturb, so off we went to the final mission.

Mission Espada

The oldest of the East Texas missions, the Espada church looks like it’s abandoned, but there is a small monastery and retreat attached where people continue to live, study, and pray.¬† The rest of the grounds are in ruins, with stones and bricks removed for decades for other building projects. Now it’s mostly just the outlines of the walls and foundations.

San Antonio - Mission Espada

However, the chapel was empty so we were able to go in and sit for a little while, admiring the faith and dedication of these believers from hundreds of years ago, and to appreciate the service and life-work of the priests and monks who continue to run the missions in San Antonio.

San Antonio - Mission Espada

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Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina

Fort Sumter, South Carolina

Fort Sumter, a tiny island fortress in Charleston Harbor, is the site where the Civil War began. The first shots fired in 1861 were by the Confederate army, they blasted Fort Sumter until it surrendered a day-and-a-half later. Over the next four years the fortress was reduced to rubble in battles and was not abandoned until Sherman marched his army through the South on his way to Atlanta in 1865.
Fort Sumter, South Carolina

I’ve read quite a bit about the South and the Civil War, but most of my knowledge is about the war in and around Virginia and Pennsylvania, what I know about the South is mostly gleaned Gone With the Wind. I loved being able to wander around the island, see the massive canon that were used to fire on ships, other islands, and the city of Charleston. I am still amazed at how large those guns are and their range is impressive.

Fort Sumter, South Carolina

After Fort Sumter was blown to bits, it was never rebuilt. What remains is the foundations of what used to be a several-stories high building that housed troops and supplies for weeks on end. It makes the broken walls and shattered bricks all the more eerie, imagining hundreds of men living and fighting in layers on top of you.

Fort Sumter, South Carolina

Fort Sumter, South Carolina

My visit at Fort Sumter was fairly short, but as there is very little to see–the whole island is really covered by the ruins of this fort and a small museum–I didn’t mind. A massive rain storm was rolling in and I was more than happy to get back on the ferry and back to (below sea-level) land before that tropical storm hit in full force. If you go, you have to buy your ferry tickets separately and probably in advance, they tend to fill up quickly via online sales, especially in peak tourist seasons.
Fort Sumter, South Carolina

Also, I think it’s time I refocus some of my Civil War reading on areas and battles farther south, I was embarrassed at how little I knew. (I’m a nerd. I know. It’s part of my charm.)

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