About hennacornoelidays

Our family loves to travel, camp, and basically go trapsing across this land. We also love to share our stories as well as our favorite picks for adventures. In 2015 Hennacornoelidays Press published the first of what will hopefully be many travel guides. Check it out!

Lagging Indicator

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Taking the boat across Jenny Lake

After four thousand miles, twenty-eight days and five states we are finally home. There have been many larger trips but this one was by far the most anxious undertaken. It began with the simple thought that while it would be horrible to get sick on the road, it was actually much more Covid-safe out there than it was here. Here was over seven thousand people who never recovered from Covid (with more than half that number coming from our county). There were places with less than a thousand total cases and maybe a handful of deaths. They could maybe afford a bit of Covid carelessness.

This bison appears blissfully unaware of Covid. Or is he? So far this summer there have been at least two bison to human “incidents.” Neither incident went well for the human.

Turns out that pretty much everywhere we visited is now Covid worse. One example is Uinitah County in Utah where we spent two pleasant days in Vernal. They now have twice as many Covid cases as they did before our visit (62 versus 31). While there we noted that all the big chains required employees to wear masks but not their customers. Some sort of traveling circus had also reportedly just left town and the 4th of July parade was going on as planned. Fortunately, no one in that county has yet to pass away from Covid but then death is a lagging indicator; we will not know the true Covid toil there for some time. It will also be another week or so before we know for sure whether or not we contracted Covid in Vernal or any of the other places we carefully visited.

Near the summit of Bear Tooth Highway

One-month later Chicago feels different. In my quiet northwest bubble, I see lots of children riding bikes together. They hang out together like kids everywhere have always done and it feels reassuring and terrifying at the same time. Stores are reopened but with size limits fully enforced. Just like before our trip, nobody within these places are mask less. Midweek the stores are more crowded than they were before our trip but still feel eerily empty.

On the Perimeter Trail in Ouray, CO

Someday there will be a vaccine. Or someday the virus will sufficiently burn its way through the population making subsequent flare ups less deadly. Either way there is a lot of living to be had until then and we all need to strike a balance between reckless carelessness and paralyzing fear. For us this means wearing masks inside, visiting friends and family outdoors and avoiding crowds as much as possible. This simple way of life, rooted in the present and hopefully soon to be a relic, is just another of many lagging indicators.

Just another picture of us hiking in the Tetons

Being A Little Boulder

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Orchids found along a trail in Chautauqua Park (Boulder, CO)

After Red Lodge we spent some time touring colleges in Ft. Collins and Boulder. It was a downright spooky thing to do as both campuses had this post-apocalyptic vibe going on. Things were especially desolate within the main college square areas, you know, that tree lined area most colleges have which is featured in every university mailer. There the message boards were completely bare. These areas also featured lonely bike racks and even lonelier groundkeepers who somehow looked downright sinister while pruning back bushes. And there was absolutely no there to give tours or answer questions. The only other family we spied wandering these wastelands looked just as confused and lost as we were. Maybe it was my imagination, but they also appeared a bit frightened by us, as if we ourselves were some sort of ghostly appearance.

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Henna, Robert Frost, and Noel at University of Colorado. The great poet was actually had little to say to us.

We like Boulder. We like Ft. Collins better. Seems like this is pretty much everyone’s opinion. From the shop owner in Ft. Collins (who grew up in Boulder), “There is just something too Boulder about Boulder.” The hotel clerk here in Boulder (who grew up in Colorado Springs) said something similar which begs the questions, what exactly does “being too Boulder” mean?

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A little street art in Ft. Collins, CO.

Maybe we misheard the intent and “being Boulder” is actually a good thing. That would make sense as the surrounding mountains here are absolutely beautiful. People here are pretty cool too; relaxed, friendly and willing to engage strangers in all types of conversations. But we think being Boulder refers to something else entirely, something not quite so positive. Boulder is very crowded and also very expensive to live in (but then so are many other beautiful places like Telluride and Jackson Hole). Does being Boulder maybe refer to its very progressive politics? Maybe, but I am not sure that Ft. Collins is that much more conservative than Boulder. Honestly, we have no idea what being “too Boulder” means but there is a fundamental difference between the less crowded, slightly less costly Ft. Collins and it’s uber-rich cousin Boulder.

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View of one of the five “Flat Irons” found along a hiking trail in Chautauqua Park (Boulder, CO).

I know one thing; Boulder is by far the most Covid-cautious place we have been all summer. Twice we have had our temperature checked before entering a business (a book store and brew pub). Masks are worn inside but also outside and even sometimes when walking alone on an empty sidewalk. In store maximum crowd sizes are also strictly enforced. But life still manages to go on with people able to shop, eat outside and hike to their hearts content just so long as they follow all rules (we continued to hike mostly mask-less but covered our mouths whenever moving close to someone). It really is a glimpse of how people today can safely balance being social while also being safe. Beer will always find a way.

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One of many fun breweries located in Boulder, CO.

More Photos: Grand Teton National Park to Red Lodge, MT

Kayaking on Jackson Lake
Hiking up to the gondola which is free to take down at Teton Ski Village. Brutal hike (2,700′ elevation gain over about 5 mikes)
At Indian Paintbrush Canyon (GTNP)
Bear spied at Yellowstone National Park
Wildlowers at about 10,000′ (Bear Tooth Highway)
Ferocious chipmunk prowling Bear Tooth Highway
Along the Bear Tooth Highway

Our Time In The Tetons

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Hiking along the Taggart-Bradley Lake Trail in GTNP

The Milky Way stretched out like a rainbow across the cloudless night. Laying on our backs on the Signal Mountain boat dock we saw so many stars that the constellations became meaningless. The stars also reflected back up from the water like yellow pin pricks. This was my favorite moment from the eight nights we spent camping in Grand Teton National Park.

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Sunset over Jackson Lake taken from our tent (site 71)

That and other moments made up for a bit of car drama. The worst of it was when we realized the back hatch was not locking. Corey ended up walking behind the car while I inched our way back to the campsite (a very long quarter mile).

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Boat across Jenny Lake. Every other row in boat was empty which created longer lines than usual. All employees and most hikers wore masks when on boat. 

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Our favorite pizzeria located at Leeks Marina was closed for the season. So too where many indoor lodging options. All campgrounds at GTNP were open and filled at earlier than usual times while we were there.

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Hanging at the rocky beach just below our campsite. We especially enjoyed our new inflatable paddleboard (Thanks Mom and Dad!)

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Henna a few moments before jumping into Bradley Lake. So cold!

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Henna in Cascade Canyon

 

After eight nights camping, we find ourselves at a boutique hotel in Red Lodge Montana. The Pollard Hotel (built in 1893 and originally named something else) is a fine hotel. We also saw more wildlife (a wolf, bear, elk and hundreds, maybe thousands of bison) on the drive through Yellowstone than we have seen all trip. We also survived and even enjoyed the Bear Tooth Highway. Have more stories to share, but a hot shower and a comfy bed are calling. Hope you enjoy all the pictures.

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View from room at The Pollard (Red Lodge, MT)

Good Night Sleep

Marina at Signal Mountain Campground

The steep trail that leads directly from our campsite to the Marina


Woke up two nights ago to a flashlight shining bright into my tent. It was deep night, probably around 4 AM. First I was scared. But then, as I gradually woke up, I became mad. Figured a neighbor was accidentally pointing a light into my tent. So I Got myself out of the tent in order to check things out. And there it was, the moon, almost full and just banking over the trees. It was so bright it hurt my eyes to look at it.

Our campsite at the Signal Mountain Campground


I’m very use to not getting a good night sleep. Happens all the time but is more likely when camping. There is just so much more to wake me up when sleeping outside. Last night it was an angry owl. At least I assume it was angry. Also kind of assumed it was angry at me as it just kept getting louder and louder. Like it had something to say to me. Corey kind of remembers the hooing but it never truly woke her. Henna had no idea. And really that is how it always goes as I’m the only one ever disturbed by crazy roosters (everywhere in Maui) or a bunch of teenagers putting up a tent at 6 AM (three nights ago; loudest damn thing I ever heard and not one stir by the ladies). A few years ago I left my tent in the middle of the night and spied a huge bear pacing back and forth about 100 yards from the tent. There were lots of other campers around and we were never really in any danger. But it still took me an hour or more to fall back to sleep while all the time Corey and Henna slept on. 

Our Time In The High Desert

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The drive from C0-139 from Loma to Rangely, CO

The calendar and pandemic both contributed mightily in our decision to spend a bit more time in Vernal, UT than we had planned. How so? Well, the Tetons are one of the last few national parks where most campsites are given out on a first come first serve basis. It is a system that rewards the Noels’ of the world but greatly punishes the not so early bird type (you know, like Corey and Henna). So plan A was to spend July 3rd in Pinedale, WY then drive north on the 4th to the Gros Ventre campground which usually never fills or at least not until late at night. Then after a day or two we would drive just a bit further north to our true Summer home, the Signal Mountain Campground (site 41 if possible) which often fills up by 9 AM in the summer. But this year the 4th is on a Saturday. And there is a definite nesting instinct going on where people (us included) are becoming nomadic in their wandering. So on July 2nd the Gros Ventre campground filled up by 10 AM. Our best guess is that a whole lot of these people will end up staying through the weekend.

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At Douglas Pass on CO-139 (elevation 8,268′). The 70 mile plus route has no services and only a few scattered ranches along the route. Limited amount of travelers too and we had this summit entirely to ourselves before getting back in the car and coasting down to Rangely.

It just so happens that I was a bit upset we would not have time to check out Dinosaur Monument in Colorado. Turns out though there is a second entrance to monument just east of Vernal, UT.  Amazingly, tiny Vernal, Utah has not one, but two Marriott hotels. Like everywhere else, however, campgrounds and Airbnb’s are booked solid. Hotels though remain pretty much empty and we were able to use points to book a very sweet room for two nights which allowed us time to both explore Dinosaur Monument and time our entrance to the Tetons for Sunday i.e. the best day ever to arrive at a first come first serve campground and especially when that day happens to also be the 5th of July.

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Along the short hike but blistering hot hike from the Visitor’s Place to the Quarry at Dinosaur National Monument. There was a free, open air shuttle available with alternating empty rows of seats but we decided to walk instead.

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At Quarry Hall visitors are able to view and even touch a whole mess of dinosaur bones deeply embedded within solid rock.   

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There are also many petroglyphs within the National Park. These images were created by the Fremont people over a thousand years ago.

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Billboard seen heading east toward the Colorado border on 40. Make no mistake, this is a very conservative part of the country. A confusing country too where it seems easier to buy an assault weapon than a six pack of real beer. 

Happy 4th of July everyone! Be safe and will talk to you soon.

Noel

 

Traveling In The Time of Covid: Gunnison to Ouray, CO

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Montrose to Ouray, CO

This is not the first time Ouray has faced a global pandemic. From 1918-1919 the then thriving mining town enacted a very strict quarantine that initially protected its citizens from the horrors of the Spanish flu. Eventually though the virus broke through with their hospitals then quickly overwhelmed. Times though now are different. Luckily Covid is nowhere near as deadly as the Spanish flu although Ouray no longer actually has any hospitals to be overwhelmed. Per conversations with locals, the only available medical care is at an urgent care in Silverton (a steep drive up the Million Dollar highway) or a tiny hospital in Montrose which is about forty miles away. Any Covid outbreak in Ouray would almost definitely result in patients having to be flown for treatment. Maybe this is why the small town requires all patrons to not only wear masks but to wash their hands with this strange moonshine concoction available by the door that practically strips your skin away while you scrub. Sip it and you will go blind.

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No mask for this cat but its owner wore masks proudly advertising their love for one of our favorite National Parks.

They were much more cavalier in Gunnison. Again, per local conversation, Gunnsion has one local hospital with about twenty beds available (and no ICU beds at all). Some of the businesses there did require masks but others were more defiant in the face of common sense. At one ice cream shop the elder employee gave us a lengthy lecture on how it is more important to wash ones hands than to wear a mask. At that point we were less than a week away from our Covid aplenty Chicago neighborhood and a day away from the Colorado Spring area which has seen a recent uptick in cases. Our worn masks were definitely more for his than our protection.

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Henna looking down into the abyss of Black Canyon Gunnison

Most distressing to us was experience at the KOA in Ouray where masks were not even encouraged within the campground store or other indoor places. Some employees though did wear masks. Many though wore them around their neck and then covered their nose and mouth only when talking to a masked customer. I have seen this type of situational mask covering and it kind of makes sense. Very respectful but only minimally effective. There may have been a few social distancing markers but those were mostly ignored by the customers and there were no attempts at limiting the amount of people within the store. A large number of campers appeared to be from Texas which is currently among the top Covid surging states in the country. We kept our distance from others as much as possible and wore masks whenever indoors. Hopefully this was enough to keep us safe.

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At Black Canyon Gunnison National Park

Along the Perimeter Trail in Ouray

How We (Still) Roll: 2020

Two thirds of Hennacornoelidays are pushing fifty and we still spend quite a lot of time sleeping on the ground. I’ll admit it; each summer it takes a little more nudging to leave my comfortable home in search of road time adventures (and our new king size ain’t helping matters). Also seems to be taking my body longer to adjust sleeping in a tent. But man, right now, while typing these words out in the open with the sun just barely breaking through the pines to bake my back, there is nowhere else I would rather be.

Frank from Texas showing off his creation. Him and his family are camping pros to the point that Frank brings a propane torch on the road (handy when starting a campfire).

Postcards from South East Colorado

Just wanted to share with everyone a few postcards from the road. Enjoy!

My view this morning while walking the long walk to the car from our campsite at Mueller State Park. Where are Corey and Henna? Well, the photos were taken a little after sunrise.
Giant fossilized red wood tree trunk at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

Settling In

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How quickly signs like this one now appear normal

Been a few days into our tip now and we are beginning to settle into the new normal. Just like at home, we wear masks indoors and go mostly mask less when outside. And I would say that a little more than 50% of Southeast Coloradoans are on the same page as us. The fact that our rented cottage has roughly the same dimensions as our home-home also goes a long way to making us feel mostly Covid safe. Corey and Henna are presently cooking up some ratatouille while outside a mountain storm whimpers away and I cannot begin to tell you how snug this feels. Makes me almost forget about the storm presently ravaging Florida, Arizona and Texas. Pueblo County, or the populous area pressed directly against our current Teller County home, is also experiencing a small increase in cases. I chart these fluctuations like a sailor marks the weather. We have no firm plans past this Sunday night and are prepared to flee in any direction at a moment’s notice. But for right now we are content to sit back and relax; to acclimate to the new altitude as much as possible.

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Hiking at Garden of The Gods in Colorado Springs, CO

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Although outside, we definitely wore our masks while shopping at the Woodland Park Farmers Market. All the vendors wore masks and there were also restrictions about how many people could approach a table at one time. 

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This and the above photo were taken at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Cars were stopped at the gate to ensure that there were never too many people at one time viewing the restored ruins. We also had to give our names and phone number before entering the gift shop/museum as part of a contact tracing program. Most but not all tourists wore masks.