When Travel Plans Change

I’m not going to lie, while I’m extremely fortunate that my family, friends and I stayed healthy through the initial phase of COVID-19, I was very disappointed on having our Alaska vacation cancelled because of it all; I think for about a week I threw a pity-party for one! We had been planning this trip for over a year. This would had been my husband’s 1st cruise and our 1st time in Vancouver, Canada. I’m sure we will have the opportunity to revisit these plans sometime in the future. For now, the most important thing is to stay healthy so we can continue to travel. So in 2020, we go with Plan B and C.

“Life is a crazy ride. It’s a privilege to go through it with a partner.”

Kristen Bell

After 6 weeks in quarantine, we escaped and ran away to the desert. As soon as Colorado Governor announced that it would be “safe” to start going out, we didn’t finish listening to the last part of the press conference, we went! We missed a couple of the recommendations, but…

Our 1st road trip took us back to one of our favorite fishing spot along the Green River in Utah. There were a few other like-minded campers in the area, but we all practiced social-distancing and just enjoyed being outdoors again.

Brown Trout
Green River Brown Trout

Our go-to spot is a small campground along the river called Indian Crossings. This is a BLM campground with no electric, but it does have nice large camp sites, away from one another, with clean bathrooms, water and river access. This campground has access to a boat ramp which is heavily used by rafters and guides. Browns Park Wildlife Refuge is just a few miles away, making the area ideal for bird watching. Many different species of birds can be seen around the camp and river. Very peaceful area for those wanting to get away from it all. Closest “town” is Dutch John, about 38 miles to the West. There you have a small convenient store, gas station, and fly store. From Dutch John you can also access the Flaming Gorge dam, the lake and the Green River. This area is very popular with rafters and fishermen floating the river.

River with Mountain in the background
Miracle Mile ~ North Platte River, Wyoming

After a couple of days in Utah, we drove a bit North to a spot along the Platte River, between Seminole and Pathfinder reservoirs, called the Miracle Mile, known for it great fishing. Here you can float these sleepy waters and be rewarded with some beautiful trout. This was my first time visiting the area; my husband had been here some 30+ years ago. According to him, nothing has changed.

Cutbow Trout
Platte River Cutbow Trout

This is a remote area with no facilities other than the State Parks within the reservoirs. If you love fishing, this is the spot, but make sure you have all your supplies and gas before leaving. The closest town is Sinclair, right off of I-80. There are many local fishing outfitters available to take you out on a guided trip or you can opt to do it on your own. There are some primitive camp sites along the river with access to restrooms, available on a first-come basis. First time here, but not the last for sure. I see a fall trip in our future.

sunset over mountains along river bank
Wyoming Sunset along the Platte River

For the time being, our travels are limited to camping around our western states. Lots to explore and enjoy. We love the June month in Colorado. While we can get the occasional snow storm in the high country, we still have amazing warm days with cool evenings to get out and play. This is also a good time to enjoy our outdoors before we have to share it with visitors. We have been taking advantage of most weekends and gone camping. fishing, and kayaking. Hiking this year has been somewhat limited since on our 1st camp trip, I rolled my ankle fairly bad; still nursing it back to health.

Note to self: don’t cover holes in the ground with your camping rug!!

Stay healthy and travel as much as possible! Where to next?

Diving Rookie – Our Newest Member

As we tried to escape the mountain snow in Colorado, a quick dive trip to Florida this past month was in order. A few days in the sunshine state was just what we needed to recharge.

Our newest member received his dive certification in May. This was his first opportunity for an ocean dive; he received his Open Water Certification in Midway, Utah. This was a totally different experience.

We lucked out with the weather. The week before, South Florida had experienced a cold front. We were glad it passed before we arrived. We had several beautiful days of mid to high 70’s. Water temperature was 77 degrees.

We visited a few dive sites; one south of Miami (Emerald) and a couple off of Hallandale Beach (PL1 – PL7). On the 1st day, we stayed south of Miami Beach. The first stop was Emerald, which was just by Biscayne Bay. Lots of fish, octopus, lobster and even a giant crab. Visibility was good also. On the second day, we stop at buoys PL 1 and 7; not really sure of the actual site names. The visibility was not as good as at Emerald, but still decent; some interesting coral formations. A bit of a current too.

Our last day was spent at the beach, just relaxing and sunbathing on the sandy beaches around Hollywood, Florida. It had been some time since I last visited the area. Much more going on now. Lots of shops, bars, and interesting & diverse food. Great spot to “people watch”.

Hollywood boardwalk

Well, it was fun. Off to the snow we go. Where are you diving this year?

Going places where we’ve never been!

sunset over desert

For several months we planned for our 15-day road trip. It all started as a possible trip to Mammoth Lakes, California, to participate in the Mammoth Gran Fondo road bike annual event, then it evolved from there. “You can’t go to California and not go to wine country… While we are in northern California, let’s visit the Oregon coast.” And so it began this epic road trip plan; 3,342 miles, 4 states, and wonderful new experiences!

We both still work, so vacations have to be well planned to maximize our available time off. Sometimes I think I plan too much but it’s difficult not to plan things out. I did not plan activities, just the locations and our camping spots since we tow our RPod, travel-trailer. Our hotel on wheels! While we don’t mind boon-docking, it’s easier to know we have a spot to stay the night. And, with more and more people adopting the RV lifestyle, good camping spots are sometimes hard to find if not booked in advance.

First spot was Mammoth Lakes, California. Small ski town, high in the eastern Sierras surrounded by several lakes and beautiful alpine scenery. Husband participated in the one-day, 70-mile Gran Fondo, with a finish time of 4 hours and 41 minutes. I was right there taking photos. They had a beautiful day to ride through some great scenery.

We choose June Lake, Oh Ridge Campground, just outside (13 miles) of Mammoth Lakes, for our base-camp. This was the perfect spot for our 4 days stay while we explored the area. We golfed at Sierra Star Golf Course; nice mountain course right in Mammoth. A bit pricey, but the course was beautiful. Since we were this close to Yosemite NP, we decided to go; my first time. We were going to leave early and head to Napa, but glad we ended up extending our stay and taking the trip over. Also glad we drove over on a Monday. Can’t imagine the park in the summer or weekends; it was crowded enough. Just beautiful!

Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite NP

Next stop, wine country! We explored Napa Valley; mainly from Calistoga to St. Helena. Experienced some great food in Calistoga. Loved the wineries we visited and the people we met.

Sattui Vineyards, St. Helena, California

Favorite restaurants in Calistoga: Best pizza – Bosko’s Trattoria; Great After Dinner Spot – Napa Valley Brewing Co. outside patio; Mexican – Pacifico!

Wineries we visited: Markham Vineyards; Beringer Vineyards; V. Sattui; Louis M. Martini Winery; Frog’s Leap Winery. There were a few others we would have loved to visit, but we ran out of time. We will just have to return, soon!

Harris Beach State Park, Oregon

The next leg of our trip took us up hwy 101 to the Humboldt Redwoods, then up the coast to Brookings, Oregon. We stayed at Harris Beach State Park, where we met up with some friends from Colorado. This was definitely another spot we would have loved to stay for at least 3 or 4 more days. Beautiful sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.

As we traveled east through southern Oregon, we were all very surprised to drive past fields and fields of hemp. It seems the crop is a popular one with Oregon farmers. Who knew!

Lessons learn: next time, going to focus on a particular area, not multi-state attractions. More time to spend in one particular spot. I think we need to return to Oregon, especially the coast. Have you been? What area would you recommend visiting?

For now, we stored our travel trailer for the winter, or until the snow melts in northern Colorado. We stay put for a bit and enjoy our winter activities in the mountains.

I ran away to the woods!

Living in Colorado, we are lucky to be able to “run away” for higher ground often. That was the case this past weekend. On a recommendation of friend, we added a hike to the outing.

Note to self: when receiving recommendations on a new hike, take into consideration the fitness level of said friend!!

purple wild flowers along the hiking trail
Wild flowers along the hiking trail

This was our 2nd attempt trying to hike to Agua Fria Lake. This not so popular lake on the east side of the Continental Divide, was fairly challenging. The 4-mile hike to the lake is steep and rocky, but those that are up to the challenge are rewarded with great views of North Park along the trek up. Give yourself time to stop along the way and enjoy the views. You gain about 1,400 vertical feet in 3 miles, then you climb down another mile to reach this beautiful alpine lake. I would recommend at least time for a picnic along the lake shore or a little fishing. If you are like us, we carried our fly poles and tried out luck on the lake. One of us got a bite, no fish after that. I’ll blame the nasty wind. Regardless, the scenery alone makes all the effort worth it.

Agua Fria – Water falling over to the canyon below
Beaver Creek

July seems to be the push for family vacations; that last trip before kids of all ages go back to school. We found the area that normally is fairly quite, totally busy. Not only were the campgrounds in the area totally full, the dispersed camp sites within the 3-mile radius were occupied. Because of this, we decided until schools are back in session, we will stay around the house and catch up with summer chores. Plus another couple of weeks and the high country will start to cool down. It will be much nicer to camp then.

Dispersed camping east of Buffalo Pass

Paella – Lena’s Version

Paella

Growing up in Portugal everything we did revolved around food, and wine! The love of cooking started at an early age. Spent many evenings watching the women in my family cooking those great meals for family holidays and events. I also learned to cook, the fishermen’s way, from my dad. I always felt cooking was more than just food or substance. It was a treasured time spent with family and friends, enjoying wonderful meals with great wine, listening to family stories and passing down traditions. Great memories were created around the kitchen table.

Fast forward to present times and a new country, and I still try to keep up those same traditions I enjoyed growing up.

A few weeks ago, celebrating our wedding anniversary, I made my version of paella. I’ve had this recipe since I was 14 years old; I started collecting recipes at a young age. Several friends have asked for the recipe, so here it is. If you get to make it, hope you enjoy it. Let me know if you made adjustments and how it turned out. Bom apetito!!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 spanish chorizo sausage, thickly sliced
  • 1 medium sized spanish onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 can (15 oz) of diced tomatoes or whole, hand-crushed
  • 1 Tbsp of ginger (I use the paste version)
  • 2 cups of short grain Spanish rice
  • 4 cups of fish stock, or warm water
  • 2 generous pinches of saffron threads (you can use less, depends on taste)
  • 1/2 lbs of squid, cut thin slices
  • 6 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1/2 lbs of mussels, scrubbed
  • 4 scallops
  • 1/2 lbs of jumbo shrimp ( I use raw and unpeeled for the flavor, but you can buy peeled and deveined)
  • 2 lobster tails
  • 1/2 cup of sweet peas, frozen and thawed
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • flat-leaf parsley, chopped for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste ( I taste as I go along) start with a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.

1 Heat oil in a paella pan over medium-high heat. Saute the chorizo until browned, remove and reserve. Meanwhile, cook the lobster tails, in a large pot of salted (1 Tbsp) of water, for about 3 to 5 minutes or until they start to turn orange and curl. Remove from water and let them cool.

2 In the paella pan, make a sofrito by sauteing the onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on a medium heat. Add the squid and cook for a couple of minutes. Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld. Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. Pour in fish stock or water and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. (I like to add half the liquid and see how it cooks and add more if necessary – I’m cooking at altitude) Add the chorizo, and saffron. Add the mussels, scallops, clams and shrimp, tucking them into the rice. The shrimp will take about 8 minutes to cook. Give the paella a good shake and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, for about 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, when the rice is filling the pan, add the lobster tails. When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, turn the heat up for 40 seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom, then it’s perfect.

3 Remove from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with peas, parsley and lemon wedges.