Mining for Opals

We went opal mining a few days ago. The description for Rockhound State Park, just outside of Deming, New Mexico, noted quartz, agate and even opals are found in the hills surrounding the campground, and visitors are encouraged to haul away the stones. I like opals. We needed a place to camp in southwest NM. Perfect!

Now, I have no idea how to mine for opals, nor even what a raw opal looks like. Continue reading


We woke surrounded by clouds. From the campground at the summit, the sides of Mingus Mountain dropped steeply down to the wide Verde Valley. The evening before, we’d watched gathering storm clouds turn pink over the distant red rocks of Sedona; now the edge of our campsite was a swirl of grey. The wind blew coldly. Rain gave way to the ratatatat of hail, drumming down on the roof, bouncing off the wet ground. It gathered in small white drifts while we watched from the warmth of the Minnie, eating toast with almond butter.

Mingus Mountain Campstite

About halfway down the mountain, the town of Jerome, Arizona clings to the slopes. Formerly a copper mining location, the little city is now an artist community. The old high school houses studios and the streets are lined with unique shops offering handmade jewelry, prints, clothing and more – a refreshing change from all the mass-produced tchotchkes we’ve seen at other tourist destinations.

One shop in particular is dedicated to enchantment and wonder – descriptors most often applied when talking about places for children, but this store is most definitely for adults. Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes features gorgeous, intricate versions of the classic toy, reimagined in stained glass, brass and smooth polished woods. Though the pieces were intricate works of art, the atmosphere was quite the opposite of a stuffy fine art gallery. We were encouraged to touch everything. We spun small wheels and turned dials, peered into the mirrored scopes, watched as the colored beads and oils and chunks of colored glass formed ever-changing patterns. It was wonderful. As I looked around, I realized everyone in the store was smiling. Have you ever thought about how rare that is? Adults, just smiling, indulging in play and beauty?

Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes

This whole planter box was a kaleidoscope – both the scope and the basin of the box spin to create beautiful designs. The atmosphere in Nellie Bly kept us smiling long after we had driven away, feeling warm and cozy despite the chill in the air. It’s definitely been one of our favorite stops so far.

Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes

Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes

We Can’t Wait to Talk to You

Before we embarked on this trip, our “real lives” were filled with dozens and dozens of people – colleagues, best pals, landlords, casual acquaintances, favorite waitresses, job contacts, regular baristas, you get the idea. Now it’s just us. Always. And though we like each other about as much as two people can, sometimes we don’t have anything new or witty to say to each other anymore. If you’ve been following us here, you know we’ve had an incredible few months filled with exploring, snapping photos, making great meals. What we haven’t done a lot of is chatting with other people. Because we tend to boondock on public land and spend our time out on hiking trails, we go days without running into anyone besides a camp host or park ranger. It’s been six weeks since we last saw any family or friends.

This is a long way of saying we’re itchy for conversation.

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Spiced Apple Yogurt Pancakes

In the late 1800s, Mormon settlers planted fruit trees in the small community of Fruita along the Fremont River. Now part of Capitol Reef National Park, the orchards are still maintained by the park service and the abundant fruit is available for picking. We stayed at the Fruita Campground and picked a few pounds of these small heirloom Red Delicious apples, which were absolutely nothing like the mealy bright red version found in grocery stores. We had some company while we picked, too!

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Waldo Lake, Oregon

High in the Willamette National Forest, Waldo Lake is tucked in a glacier-carved valley amidst pine trees and huckleberries. Revered among Oregon canoers and kayakers, Waldo is one of the clearest lakes in the world; it has no permanent inlets beyond snowmelt and lacks the nutrients needed for significant plant growth. Visibility here reaches depths of up to 150 feet, occasionally an eerie phenomena, such as when you glimpse watery shadows of your canoe on the lake floor far below, or see stumps of trees, ghost-like and covered in silt, deep in the water.

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Glacier National Park

Limited Internet makes keeping this current a bit challenging! The past four days we’ve been in Glacier National Park, hiking and gawking and trying to stay dry. It’s been stormy, with the steep mountains draped in clouds and rain every night. Many of the trails are still closed due to snow.  Still, wildflowers are abundant as if a careless gardener threw open packets of seeds all along the roadways and valleys.  Continue reading

First Days Out

All night long the thunder cracked and ricocheted down the rocky walls of the Owyhee River Canyon, rain pelting the roof of the Minnie just a foot above our heads in our sleeping loft. Between flashes of lightning, the full moon peeked out through cloud breaks, washing the sagebrush and willows in pale blue light. It was not a restful night, but thrilling to hear the storm crash over us. We slept late and woke to clear skies and a warm breeze. We bumped over the short sandy track up to the main road, and drove out of the red-walled ravine into farmland.

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