Tikal National Park, Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala_feistyharriet_April 2017 (16)

When Blue Eyes and I were planning our trip to Belize I knew I wanted to spend some time on one of the northern caye’s (we chose Caye Caulker), and some time exploring some of the ancient Maya ruins in the interior. The more I looked, the more I really wanted to visit Tikal National Park in Guatemala, a few hours away. I know there are a number of amazing sites in Belize and others in Guatemala, but something about Tikal was calling to me. So, I researched various transportation options, figured out a way to get us from Caye Caulker to Flores, Guatemala, and set my sights on Tikal.

Tikal Guatemala_feistyharriet_April 2017 (12)

Our guide, booked through our hotel, was AMAZING. He had a PhD in Central American archeology and spent his retirement days doing independent research, taking small groups through Tikal, and traveling to conferences to learn more about Maya culture, both ancient and current. He lived within a few miles of Tikal for most of his life and spent his childhood accompanying his archeologist father into the park. I know there is certainly something to be said for exploring such an amazing place on your own, and Tikal is ripe with places to explore. But I know I wouldn’t have had nearly the enriching experience without our super knowledgable guide.

Tikal Guatemala_feistyharriet_April 2017 (5)

Tikal was built over several centuries, from about 600 BCE to the peak and eventual decline in 900 AD. Think of European cities from 900 AD, they were squalid cess-pools of plague and tribal fighting. To compare to this massive ancient city will make your jaw drop, the sheer SIZE of the various buildings is incredible, multiple stories, stone work that was covered in white plaster and painted in bright reds and yellows and blues and greens. The architectural genius of this civilization is still baffling; Blue Eyes is a civil engineer and he was amazed at so many of their inventions and strokes of genius, stuff that modern engineers are still struggling to figure out, these ancient people had perfected, without computers or power tools. This ancient world was stunning in every way.

Tikal Guatemala_feistyharriet_April 2017 (2)

Many of the buildings, temples, and palaces are excavated, but there are literally hundreds more than are covered in jungle and just look like hills. I wish I had taken notes while we were wandering around the park, I have already forgotten so much of the history and detail, both of the reigning kings, the culture, the history…the layers of richness–and the quantity of information our guide was throwing around–are so amazing.

Tikal Guatemala_feistyharriet_April 2017 (4)

This is part of the biggest plaza that has been excavated so far; you can climb all over these ruins, explore the rooms, and sit in the shade, your back cooling against a wall that was built 3,000 years ago. NBD.

Tikal Guatemala_feistyharriet_April 2017 (6)

Part of the original Star Wars was filmed in Tikal, it stands in for the Rebel Base. And that is, literally, the least interesting thing about this place.

Tikal Guatemala_feistyharriet_April 2017 (7)

The long, low buildings are palaces, mostly for living. The taller triangle-shaped pyramids are temples, which are for worship and ritual, and, to impress people, obviously. Each new king would try and build something bigger and better than the previous ruler, to show his dominance and general badassery. Dude, that strategy TOTALLY worked on me. Because, LOOK AT THEM!

Tikal Guatemala_feistyharriet_April 2017 (8)

The main plaza, two enormous temples facing each other, with tiers of buildings in-between. We arrived in the park really early, but it was still oppressively hot, 108* and wicked humid with raging forest fires which turned the skies a dense, smoky white and made your lungs burn after several hours (or, after hiking a couple hundred steps to reach the top of one of the temples). We didn’t linger in many areas and I bought several bottles of water as we walked through the park.

Tikal Guatemala_feistyharriet_April 2017 (9)

I kind of feel like I’m running out of ways to explain how AWESOME this place was, I was geeking out like crazy and wishing I could download all of the research on the ancient and modern Maya into my brain for reference. I have since ordered a few books (on recommendation from our guide) and I can’t wait to dig in and learn more about this amazing civilization.


Tikal Guatemala_feistyharriet_April 2017 (10)

If you go: You must show your passport at the park entrance, and pay a cash-only fee of Q 150 quetzals (about $20, but they only take quetzals). Bring water and sunscreen! Bring your camera! SERIOUSLY consider taking a guided tour, we got so much back story and behind-the-scenes information, just because our guide told us where to look and then explained what we were looking at.

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.

Petroglyphs National Monument_feistyharriet_2016 (3)

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.

Petroglyphs National Monument_feistyharriet_2016 (2)

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.

Petroglyphs National Monument_feistyharriet_2016 (4)

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.


When you can't see the trees from the fire in the forest

Kings Canyon NP_feistyharriet_2016

Earlier this summer I took myself on a detour-road trip on my way to San Francisco for a wedding. As I drove through King’s Canyon National Park I was stunned and terribly saddened by the devastating damage from a recent forest fire. The photo above was taken at the end of May; there should be carpets of green covering everything, tender new shoots and leaves everywhere. Instead, everything was charred and dead, it seemed like the fire had consumed as far as I could see. However, when I got out and started exploring, there were thousands of wildflowers peeking up through the ashes and burned stumps. Maybe they stood out more to me because of their charcoal background, but in that setting they were absolutely vibrant in a way that could only exist with the fire scars surrounding them.

Sequoia National Park_feistyharriet_2016Later that day, in Sequoia National Park, I wandered for miles through the giant trees; there was a particular little spot where most of the trees had been gutted and scarred by a forest fire (or twenty); it seemed like every tree had gaping black gashes on it’s body. Yet, even with so much lost to the blaze, these trees continued to grow, putting out new branches and needles. I read at the Ranger Station that some Sequoia trees had survived dozens of forest fires in their hundreds of years in the forest. They have adapted to be able to absorb the flash-point heat of a quick-moving fire, and some even need that heat in order for their seeds to germinate. I spent a lot of time in one particular grove, trying to capture these giants with burned out canyons rising twenty or forty or sixty feet up their bodies, charred bark to their heart, deep enough to swallow my length of my arm.

Sequoia National Park 2_feistyharriet_2016

And yet, the forest continues to grow; the forest is healthier because of the fires. The necessary adaptions and evolutions of the trees in order to survive for hundreds of years is the reason places like Sequoia NP and Redwood NP exist. Sequoia trees are some of the oldest, largest, and strongest living creatures on earth, able to withstand heat and cold and fire and drought and earthquake and any other kind of natural disaster (or man-made disaster) that has been thrown at them for thousands–literally, thousands of years. Those trees are thriving, with the yawning black cracks likes badges of honor.

This last little while as I’ve been both reeling from my own personal fire, and also feeling sorry for myself (yes, I’ve been wallowing), I had forgotten about these trees; I’d forgotten how long I wandered among their burned trunks, putting my hands in the scars and trying to wrap my head around how they were still alive and growing and expanding. I had forgotten. I’m not sure what jogged my memory, but I’m glad it did. Everything may be on fire, but it won’t always be on fire. The flames will die out, the smoke will clear, and the coals will eventually stop smoldering. And yes, I’ll probably carry some scars from the experience, but I am a fucking Sequoia: a fire cannot destroy me.

Harriet sig




P.S. Thank you to all who have reached out in concern; I haven’t responded to many, I’ve literally been just trying to breathe. Last night’s epiphany about the Sequoia’s was an a ha! moment for me, a crisp, swift breeze that brought me hope I haven’t felt since this whole thing started. Yes, I’m being vague. I’m sorry. Actually, I’m not sorry. This is my little corner of the internet, and I use my writing as therapy. You’re the weirdly voyeuristic part-stranger who is reading my therapy sessions for recreation.

P.P.S. THANK YOU, all you voyeuristic weirdos! You are My Tribe.

P.P.P.S. ooxxooXoXXx

Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park_feistyharriet_May 2016 (2)

I grew up at the base of enormous mountains, but my mountains make up the most western outcrop of the Rockies, and the eastern wall of the Great Basin Desert that stretches across Utah and Nevada to the Sierra’s in California. My mountains get a lot of snow, but not a lot of rain. We don’t have lush forests, we have plenty of pine trees, and groves of aspen trees, and a few stands of cedars, and a lot of scrub oak (which has zero resemblance to an actual oak tree). But thickets of giant trees and miles of lush greenery? Not so much. My mountains still constitute the high desert which is not known for it’s lushness.

Visiting Sequoia National Park in eastern California was almost overwhelming in how much Tree-ness was surrounding me. Not just little saplings, either, but the soaring monoliths as impressive in their height as their girth. Yes, I most definitely am in-love with the sequoia trees. In. Love.

Sequoia National Park_feistyharriet_May 2016 (1)

This was not the biggest tree in the park, but look at those tiny people at the left of the trunk! (Also, this pic not-at-all-professionally-stitched together because my camera lens is not wide enough to actually capture the enormity of these trees!) I just…even looking at these pics again, I can hardly fathom how gigantic these living, growing organisms are. They are the blue whale or brontosaurus of the forest: giant and overpowering and awesome in every way. Not inherently dangerous, but you know, would smash you to pieces without even noticing your existence under the right (wrong?) circumstances.

Sequoia National Park_feistyharriet_May 2016 (1)

That pine tree at the bottom? A good sized Christmas tree.

Sequoia National Park_feistyharriet_May 2016 (6)

I wandered through the only-sort-of-marked trails in the park for hours, wishing my camera lens could somehow capture what my eyes could see, and also glad that part of the majesty and awe would only leave traces in my memory.


Sequoia National Park_feistyharriet_May 2016 (9)

General Sherman, largest living organism in the world. Calling it an “organism” somehow makes me think it’s more like algae or plankton instead of this towering giant. Sherman is the largest by volume (52,000 cubic feet), while it is no longer growing taller, maxing out at 275 feet tall, it does continue to gain girth. At the moment it’s already 100 feet around at the base, and still growing.

Harriet sig

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Point Reyes National Seashore_California_May 2016 (5)

A few weeks ago I spent a lovely Saturday at Point Reyes National Seashore just north of San Francisco with my sweetheart and my oldest, dearest friend and her family. It was heaven in every possible way and I want to go back.

Point Reyes National Seashore_California_May 2016 (2)

Meandering “hiking” down to the old lighthouse with ocean views for daaaays.

Point Reyes National Seashore_California_May 2016 (3)

Laughing at her kiddos as they clambered around, taking in the old history and the newer exhibits.

Point Reyes National Seashore_California_May 2016 (1)

Sneaking kisses with my sweetheart as the cool wind blew my hair all sorts of crazy. Listening to the waves crash against the shore.

Point Reyes National Seashore_California_May 2016 (4)

Stopping to explore anything that looked remotely interesting, and ending with a few hours on a quickly deserting beach watching the waves and chatting with my BFF (seriously, we met in Kindergarten and she set me up with Blue Eyes on our first date). California, why you gotta be so far away?

Harriet sig