Between our month-long house sit in Rollinsville, Colorado and the next, three-month one in San Diego, California, Mark and I faced a gap of two weeks. Initially, we were on the look-out for a short pet sit, but pretty soon, we realized this would be the perfect opportunity to really test the van life. Longer than one weekend, and for fun, instead of as a means of transportation to get from point A to B. It was an attractive plan for many reasons, including these four: we have always wanted to visit some of Utah’s incredible National Parks, they happened to be en route, we could use a break from our computers (when not?), and, coincidentally, our business partner appeared to have a scheduled vacation within the exact dates we’d be on the road. Now, if that wasn’t the ideal time to relax The Wirie work a bit ourselves!
A window to Delicate Arch
Arches National Park
Not much planning and anticipation went into this camping trip. I checked the map, saw Canyonlands, thought “I guess we stop there,” then noticed a green spot called “Arches” along the way and yelled: “Oh yeah, that’s the famous one in Utah, not Canyonlands. We have to go there!” Now, I don’t know whether you have ever looked at Southern Utah on a map… it is one national park after the next! How exciting! All we had to do was pick and choose, be happy about not doing it all, and not feel rushed! Oh, did I mention that the two biggies, Bryce Canyon and Zion are here as well?
Our selection of Utah National Parks
On September 16th, Mark and I left our previous house sit in Santa Fe, New Mexico early in the morning for a decent drive to northern Colorado. While taking care of a pet-less home for one month provided us with more flexibility, we were both looking forward to furry company again. Arriving in Rollinsville, 40 minutes west (and up) of Boulder, we were immediately greeted by Oscar, a big and fluffy Golden Retriever. At eight years old, he is a ball of energy with a very high cuddle factor. The owners gave us a warm welcome as well, quite appreciated in the chilly air of our new home at 8500ft of elevation.
Cute and photogenic Oscar
Very high “cuddle factor”
Soaking up the sun.
The contrast with New Mexico was grand – temperature, scenery and activity-wise. Our new neighborhood was very picturesque. After unloading Zesty, the camper van, we spent the next 24 hours with Oscar and his “parents”, getting to know them, the area, the schedule and the house. Then, we settled for a month in the mountains.
Afternoon hike with our host family
The third weekend was the charm. On the first one, we arrived at our current house sit in Colorado and spent time with the owners and their dog. On the second one, it was raining and cold. And, the fourth one is when we are leaving again. So, it was all or nothing on that third weekend. The weather predictions for the Estes Park region were alright, we packed Zesty the camper, loaded up Oscar the dog, and headed north on Saturday morning. From the moment we left the house, the scenery opened up and entertained.
Copeland Lake – our hike to the falls was aborted due to the rough road to get there
Oscar at Lily Lake
Lily Lake and surroundings
As in many national parks, dogs are not allowed on any of the trails in Rocky Mountain NP, so it was eminent that we gave Oscar – who is used to a lot of exercise – a decent walk, before hitting the scenic road. In the town of Estes Park, we planned to walk him around the lake on leash. Before we arrived at the water’s edge, we stumbled upon a dog park. Even better! Continue reading
Throughout our one-month house sit in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Mark and I were extremely busy. During the week with work and over the weekends with excursions. There is so much to do and see in the Santa Fe area (we barely even set foot in the town itself), that four weekends do not suffice. That being said, we did our best, and hope to return. While our previous weekends of explorations are doable as day trips, our last weekend required a longer drive. Still, people do visit Taos on a day excursion from Santa Fe. We decided to take the long way there and not rush. The focus was more on driving than on hiking this time.
We planned to take the “high road” to Taos. This is a scenic drive of about 2.5 hours, without stopping. It brought us through some amazing New Mexico scenery and a few spiritual places.
During the weekends, Mark and I always face a dilemma: do we take it slow and enjoy our precious time off relaxing, or do we take advantage of being in an incredible area and go sightseeing? Usually, we opt for a combination if the weather cooperates. So, this particular Sunday morning, we took our time getting up, making breakfast, packing lunch and storing the bed and the table in our camper. Then, around 10:30am or so, we backed out of our free campsite in the woods near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and drove the 20 minutes to the base of the Sandia Mountains. We anticipated a big hike and – once the wheels were rolling – were antsy to get started.
The plan: take the tramway to Sandia Crest and hike down for 10 miles. Usually, we don’t like spending money on things like ski lifts or trams when we can get to places on foot, so this proved a special, yet pricey occasion. It was Labor Day weekend, the weather was beautiful, and, apparently, we were not the only ones having a tram ride in mind. Our late start soon bit us in the butt. The line to buy tickets was immense and doubts about our grand plan almost made us abandon it. But, what was the alternative? Strolling around hot and busy Albuquerque? We had both looked forward to this hike in nature, so we hoped for the best. After an hour of waiting (luckily mostly in the shade), it was our turn to join 48 other visitors in the tram car.
The parking lot at the tramway is already pretty high.
Time to buy tickets, and wait in the long line! You can see the long cue outside.
Ready to board this tram car
New Mexico state has so many natural and cultural treasures, that when the weekend approaches, Mark and I are filled with excitement and the promise of wonderful excursions. We pack our camper van up and only have to drive an hour or two to reach enough sites to fill days. Of course, we only have two of those a week, and, after a tiring work week, immediately getting on the road Friday night is not the way we like to approach our time off. Instead, we have a glass of wine and a snack, make an ever-pleasing vegetarian pizza, and put a few things in the camper before picking up the mail or in between watering the plants.
On Saturday, we have a not-to-early start and depart to our destination, in this case, Bandelier National Monument, NW of Santa Fe. Continue reading
Mark and I have been extremely busy this year and, to be honest, our alternative lifestyle doesn’t help. I often wonder whether it wouldn’t be healthier for us to settle somewhere indefinitely, while we attend to our full-time but low-paying careers. It would certainly cause less stress. But, then we might as well get “real” jobs… On the other hand, doing these house and pet sits all over the United States, allows us to explore certain regions in depth, turning the weekends into mini-vacations.
We are currently caring for a comfortable adobe home with plants, but no pets, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Continue reading
Mark and I have been house and pet sitting for almost two years and this was the first time we returned to a home and a dog we took care of previously. We have often been asked by home owners to come back, but never have, either because the climate was too cold for our liking, the period too short or we found ourselves on the other side of the country. Some of you might remember sweet Lola and the heaps of activities Sonoma County in California has to offer from my earlier blogs, so it is probably no surprise that we agreed to do this repeat sit for three weeks. And, it fit our short-term plans.
Lola’s perch inside
Lola’s perch outside
Family of deer in the yard
Tired after a long hike
Acorns are fun toys…
Lola was incredibly happy to see us again. Continue reading
Yosemite NP is one of the most impressive national parks in the United States, if not the world. Mark and I visited Yosemite Valley once before with my parents, in 2005, but we had mostly forgotten about its allure. That being said, when we returned to California in mid-October, the park regained a spot on our mental “things-to-do” list. We considered a weekend getaway there during our three-month house sit in Rocklin, but winter was upon us and the dog we were taking care of did not get along well with others, so we pushed Yosemite into a corner of our brains. That was until my cousin Griet and her husband Wim decided to fly in from Belgium for a 10-day vacation in Northern California. They generously treated us and Lola to a weekend in Yosemite.
The family at Tunnel View
On March 24th, Mark, Lola and I picked up my cousin Griet and her husband at SFO, the airport of San Francisco. While visiting us many times on Irie, in the Caribbean and the South Pacific (they also helped us transit the Panama Canal in January 2013), it was the first time they came to the United States. Customs and Immigration procedures took a while, as expected, but once we found each other, their 10-day vacation could start…
The heavy rains paused for about an hour and a half, in which we brought them to a viewpoint over San Francisco and to Fort Funston, an awesome off-leash dog park. Lola had been very patient in the car during the two-hour drive in rain and traffic and the one hour wait at the airport. She loved her reward in nature, our guests enjoyed their first impressions of the city and Mark and I appreciated stretching our legs during a break in the rain.
Rainy day to pick up our guests in the city – wet drive over the Golden Gate Bridge
The view over the city was better than we expected
Funny sign at the viewpoint
On Saturday, we revisited Armstrong Redwoods, still as impressive as the first time we came with Lola. Continue reading