Friday, April 26, 2013

Red River Gorge, Kentucky

I was lucky enough to be invited to a wedding in the Red River Gorge of Kentucky last weekend. I knew it would be scenic but what I experienced surpassed every expectation.

The Gorge was about a two-hour drive from Louisville. Luckily our rental,  a Prius hybrid, boasted almost 50 miles to the gallon. We pushed buttons and more buttons trying to figure out how to turn it on, and after a few minutes of fumbling and consulting with the guidebook we finally figured it out. (The car is so quiet that I had trouble discerning when it was actually on at times.) The high-tech screen was impressive though.

From the road I admired the famed rolling hills of Kentucky, the farms, grazing horses and cows, tall trees and signs for historic landmarks. I was dying to visit the distilleries, but alas, there was no time.

Our first stop was Nada Tunnel, which used to be a railroad tunnel. Now, after stopping to check for oncoming cars, cars can drive through it, one direction at a time. It's a tight fit, claustrophobic even. The recent rain created a mini waterfall over the entrance.


We then explored Sky Bridge and Sky Bridge overlook, the wedding location. The hike was little muddy at times but a welcome change from the dry heat in the Valley. Everywhere I looked I saw green, though natives told me this was just the beginning.

Our cabin, rented via 5 Star Cabin Rentals, was accessible via a bridge and stairs -- a short hike that made transporting our luggage quite the workout. Its most impressive feature was a waterfall behind the our home in the woods. And we had it all to ourselves!

Serenity Falls.

The day of the wedding began with a pancakes and a hike to Natural Bridge. The trail was short -- just over .5 miles to the bridge -- and easy. The scenery was green and luscious. Temperatures in the 60s and sunny skies completed the perfect day.

While absorbing the beauty of the landscape from atop Natural Bridge, a wedding party arrived. It was put on by My Tiny Wedding, which organizes small nuptials in the area.

The hike continued toward an overlook. We passed the ski lift, which the bride and groom had used to get up to Natural Bridge. We soldiered on despite the abundance of mud on the trail. And we were rewarded with even more stunning views.

We also visited Lovers' Leap and saw Devil's Gulch.

Our final hiking destination that weekend was Indian Staircase, which I was told was an unofficial trail. And I can see why.

Just a little steep.
View from the top.
There were other finds on the hike. One was Frog Rock, which resembles its namesake.

I don't recommend this. At all.
The end of the hike resembled a scene from Lord of the Rings. Wildflowers and moss accented the landscape, a parting gift from nature. Can't wait to see you again, Kentucky!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Another Piestewa Peak hike

Unless you've been quarantined for the last few weeks, you know that the weather has been perfect. It would be a shame to waste the last weeks of bearable temperatures indoors, so I put on my hiking shoes and headed to Piestewa Peak.

The view of Phoenix framed by Phoenix mountains never gets old.

I made the trek, which I believe is 1.2 miles long to the summit, in an hour and 10 minutes. This, of course, includes time to snap photos, chug water while soaking in the views and rest at the summit. The hike also allows me enough time to sort out my thoughts and feelings and gear up for the day. See you on the mountain!

Mountaintop selfie.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Urban Beans

I ditched my Sunday morning routine of yoga and brunch for coffee and breakfast at Urban Beans this week. We were set to walk across the street to Starbucks when it occurred to me that we should give a local Phoenix coffee shop a chance. I drive past Urban Beans almost every day en route to work, yet I've never tried their coffee.
The inside was small but cozy, with black-and-white photographs of Arizona ranchers adorning the walls. The patio boasted just enough shade to keep us cool and block traffic noise on Seventh Street.

There was something that tasted different about the French toast, and I suspect it was the mango syrup listed on the menu. 
It was sunny, perfect-for-patio-eating Sunday, so I went with an iced coffee and French toast Urban style. I'd say what set this meal apart was the service. Both workers who took care of our orders were cheery and attentive. They suggested the omelet bar for us, the two Urban first-timers. I was also delighted to see that Urban Beans has a wine bar and offers a happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m.

Rave Run 2013

I went to a rave last night. It was the after-party for the Rave Run in downtown Phoenix.

As I quickly realized, this run was more about the rave than running. Runners were decked out in glow-in-the-dark gear and outfits in all colors of the rainbow.

It seemed to be a popular run, though somewhat unorganized. I couldn't discern what an announcer was directing the runners to do just before the start time. The crowd seem to just hang out in the general starting area until the mass started to move forward and eventually it was our group's turn to start (closer to 9 p.m. than 8:30, the official start time). In fact, the runners around me took off just about when the first runner was crossing the finish line.

But who joins the Rave Run to win it? I suspect most people were there to have a good time. Lights illuminated the street of downtown Phoenix and the sound of bass injected energy into the crowd. Spotlights spelled out "The Rave Run" on buildings and a lawn. As runners and walkers approached speakers blaring different techno songs they would burst out into impromptu dance parties and let out cheers. Many stopped to pose for pictures to likely post on social media. Some got a kick out of cheering and dancing outside the windows at US Airways Center, where a high school was hosting its prom. Bewildered teens in sparkly gowns and tuxedos stared and laughed and wondered what was going on.

In no time we reached the midway post, a tunnel lit up in multiple hues through which everyone stopped to walk and take more photos. Just before then was the only water station. Anyone, like me, who ran the entire course had to weave through hordes of walkers and strollers, which kind of added to the craziness of it all.

The best part of the event was the after-party, a "rave" on the lawn just south of the finish line. A DJ played everything we didn't know we'd want to hear and dance to at the moment, and lights mesmerized the crowd. We danced and jumped and sang along. Overall, for the $25 I paid through a local deal, I'd say it was an entertaining night, with an added bonus of great exercise.