Highlights: Colorado Springs, Buena Vista, UFO Watchtower

Colorado Springs


Keya, Zag, and I headed down to Colorado Springs to visit my sister, Kristen. She took us on a hike in the Red Rock Canyon Open space. It’s a beautiful meandering set of loops that can be extended if your group is up for it. It looks like the open space would be a pretty fun place for beginner mountain bikers or climbers as well.

After the hike, we saw some flyers in the dirt near the Jeep for a place called Pub Dog that supposedly lets dogs hang out “inside” while you eat. Of course we had to go there! That kind of thing is rare. I think they got around the city rules stating dogs can’t be inside restaurants. Basically, they have the “main” restaurant area with no dogs allowed and the “indoor patio” area technically outside of the main restaurant where dogs are allowed. Both are indoors with full AC. Outside, there was more patio seating and a dog play area. They also had pretty dang good food for dogs and people as well as good beer! A+

Buena Vista

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After the hikes, we headed south toward Ojo Caliente. We stopped for dinner at House Rock Kitchen on the way. I have no pictures of the burger or place, but I assure you the burgers were spot on.

The UFO Watchtower


We ran out of light so we made the call to stop at the UFO Watchtower and camp. If you missed my previous post on it, the UFO Watchtower is one of my favorite places in Colorado and also has a camping area. We were there with a few other believers, but unfortunately we arrived past their bedtime. After some brief stargazing we crashed.
We couldn’t see much from the tower in the morning due to the low hanging smoke from various nearby forest fires so we packed up and headed out. Ojo Caliente, here we come!

Jeep gear update: getting taller and more capable

I have now taken my Jeep about 36,000 miles in just over a year and I’m getting ready to head out on another several month long journey. Here’s how my current gear is holding up along with some new upgrades.

New goodies

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I finally finally FINALLY got my Gobi Ranger rack installed. I have been daydreaming about this thing for months. Not only does it look sharp, but it will hold 250-300 pounds gracefully. This will free up so much space within the Jeep and allow Keya, Zag, and myself to travel a bit more comfortably. I also got the tool box and some additional accessories that help keep it stable and from damaging my Jeep. I will likely be using it to store an extra gas tank (will purchase when needed) along with some surf boards and/or a canoe.
While waiting for Gobi to carefully fabricate the rack, I had my eye out for a specific cargo box. It needed to hold a fair bit of gear, while not taking up too much precious roof rack space. I settled on this Yakima Skybox 12 because it’s light, slim, and could even hold my skis. I set up a Craigslist alert and waited. Eventually I picked one up for about half the cost of a new one. Unfortunately, my rack wasn’t finished yet so I had to load it inside the Jeep (tight fit, but doable). So far it seems to work pretty well.
My tires were just about bald and fairly cupped since I didn’t do the best job rotating them early on (lesson learned). I picked up a new set of five slightly larger tires. They are the newest version the BFG Muds because the last set did extremely well in many conditions. And since I got bigger tires…
I got a 2″ lift. It’s nothing particularly flashy, but will be necessary with the added weight. I got stiffer variable rate coil springs meaning we won’t bottom out nearly as much when in fun places like the Maze District in the Canyonlands. It’s also a couple inches added distance from rocks which is always nice. Oh, and my mother can still get in my Jeep without a ladder so that’s well and good.

Going strong

tool roll and blanket
I have both the Shop Tool Roll and the Wool Camp Blanket from the Adventure Tool Company and both are holding up extremely well despite the abuse I’ve given them over the last year.
I use the tool roll to hold screwdrivers, wrenches, maps, zip ties, and some spare lug nuts. It’s super handy and I keep it tucked between the roll bar and the window of my hardtop.
I have use the blanket for all sorts of things. I use it to cover the gear in the back of my Jeep rendering my gear mostly invisible when looking through the windows. I have used to line my hammock on cold nights, to keep myself and my dog warm and occasionally as a picnic blanket. The thing is tough and when I do wash it, it just gets softer and more amazing.
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My Zeon 10s winch seems to be doing well, though I don’t have to use it all too often (a good thing?). I mostly seem to be using it to help move larger trees out of the way when on trails that haven’t been used much.
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My Maximus 3 rear tire carrier is doing extremely well. It’s been through some gnarly stuff and shows no signs of strain anywhere. It’s been lugging around two bikes, a small gas tank, a high lift jack, and my shovel for almost a year now. Props to the Maximus team.
Both of my Firestik antennas are holding up well despite the parking garage abuse I have given both of them.

Sorta busted, but still working

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The speaker in my Cobra 75WXST CB radio went out somewhere in the woods in Canada. Not so great. When we finally realized what the problem was, I rigged up this setup on the spot using a speaker I had in my tool bag and a phone tripod I was planning on using as a phone tripod. It works fairly well considering I’ve been using it like this for six months, but I’ll likely need to rig up something more permanent.
My Bestop RoughRider Black Diamond Tailgate Organizer is still a little troubled in that both bags no longer stay locked on. However, neither have slid off and seem to be holding steady since the last update.
My Yakima spare tire bike rack that came with the Jeep is still working well enough. I had to grind the plate down a bit to fit the bolt pattern of the Maximus 3 tire carrier (slightly different than stock). The bikes move around quite a bit more than I’d like, but I have yet to lose one. We’ll see how it does with the new tire over the next few weeks.

Gone

Hitch
I have given away the hitch tow point to my father as it was largely superficial. Now we have a good way to pull his vehicle out of rough spots if needed.
High lift jack mount
I replaced the original high lift jack mount when I installed the Maximus 3 tire carrier. I’ll be donating it at some point.
I was using a black plastic bin in the back to store my Jeep gear (recovery straps, tools, etc), but it was a pain to move around when needed and kept falling apart. With the addition of the cargo box, it’s no longer needed.

What’s next

I’m thinking of either replacing the bulbs in my stock headlights or adding some big goofy spotlights. The stock headlights are pretty dim, which is unfortunate because I actually like the design of them. I could use any ideas or suggestions in this area.
 

Buckskin Gulch

About a month ago, Keya and I hopped into my Jeep and headed down to Buckskin Gulch. Buckskin Gulch is the longest slot canyon in the USA and runs into the Paria river. It’s located on the border of Utah and Arizona. Getting to it can be done in any vehicle since most of the roads are really well maintained dirt roads.
We had an initial plan of dropping our bikes at the middle exit and riding back to the Jeep. When we went to check out the middle exit, we found out the entire road to it is super soft sand. We tried riding it, but ended up doing some pretty hilarious crashing mostly. We bailed on that idea and decided to do an out and back starting at Wire Pass.
We camped out close to the Wire Pass entrance near some unusually friendly jack rabbits. They kept us company in the evening and morning. The next day we headed into the canyon. It was intoxicating. Every turn yielded more spectacular canyon scenery occasionally opening up into massive open areas with trees and grass. It was wanderlust heaven. We hiked about ten miles in before turning around. We didn’t want to be caught in there after dark.


The next day, we decided to head to Lake Powell to do some kayaking! We found a kayak to rent and headed out toward Lone Rock and all the little canyons surrounding it. The water was super cold, but great for quick refreshing dips.

Then, we drove through Monument Valley to get to our camp site in the Valley of the Gods. Both are amazing places often seen in old westerns. The next day we did some off roading to get to some Native American ruins.


This was a great weekend trip. I highly recommend getting some fry bread and getting lost in the canyons in the area. Thanks for the fun, Buckskin!

Photos by Keya Lea Horiuchi and Michael Arestad

The UFO Watchtower and the Great Sand Dunes

Keya and I headed south to check out the Great Sand Dunes National Park a couple weeks ago. On the way, Keya asked if I had been to the “alien place” near the dunes. There is no better way to peak my interest than by mentioning aliens. While I was driving, she loaded up the website for the UFO Watchtower. It may be one my very favorite websites.

After one glance at the website, I was convinced. We had to go. Before going to the tower, we took a short detour to the town at the end of the road, Crestone. It’s an amazing little town with plenty of free-thinking folk. We had lunch at the brewery and, though eager to head out, stopped at the Free Box. The Free Box is a kind of free store. In it, everything is free. I dropped in a few books and an unused hat, but on the way out of it spotted a book on space tourism. Too perfect. Nabbed it and headed out to the watchtower!
When we got there, it was everything we could have hoped for. There were custom works of art all over the place designed to welcome travelers from any planet. We followed the signs on the way in to a deserted watchtower. There was no trouble parking at all.

We put our $4 into the box and headed up to the tower with our binoculars. Then, another vehicle pulled up and a couple got out to check out the watchtower. They seemed pretty knowledgable about aliens and vortexes. Not long after, a third truck rumbled on over from a nearby home and out of it walked one wonderful and quirky person, “That Crazy Lady Down the Road.” Judy is the one who built and operates the watchtower. She has some “out of this world” stories. She showed all of us around and introduced us to the two vortexes below the watchtower. According to her, many psychics (I think 20+ IIRC) confirmed not one, but two vortexes that intersect. These vortexes showed up not long after she built the watchtower probably because it was built as a welcome to all life forms. They connect to other universes. So cool. The vortexes are surrounded by tons of cool items left by people over the years. It has culminated in a pretty amazing work of art.


Keya and I couldn’t help but contribute. We both had perfect things.
I had been given a colorful wooden art puzzle by my aunt last year during my travels around the US. It accompanied me for thousands of miles across Canada and all the way down the west coast before returning to Colorado. Dozens of people messed with it as it was always front and center on my dashboard. I figured it probably has the best energy and history of all the stuff I had with me. It also fit right in. I de-cubed it and hung it next to one of the portals.

Keya had a wooden coin from her first Defcon (A defcoin?) that she had been carrying for some time. She found a figure reaching out for something in the garden and gave the figure the coin it had been reaching for all this time.

We then spent some time up on the watchtower checking out the dunes and seeing if we could spot a UFO or two. After a bit of that, we realized the weather was starting to turn. We needed to get to the dunes before things got too bad so we waved goodbye and headed to the Great Sand Dunes!

When we got there, it was already pretty windy. We geared up quickly, leashed Zag, and headed up the dunes. Unfortunately, the wind kept getting stronger. It got to the point where Zag was getting a bit anxious so we turned around. Zag and I ran down a few of them on the way back. Next time we are definitely heading to the top.

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Shifting sands

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Photos by Keya Lea Horiuchi and Michael Arestad

The Maze

Last weekend, Keya and I went on a bit of an expedition down into the Maze District in the Canyonlands. It was unbelievable. If you’re thinking about going, you’ll probably want a pretty high clearance vehicle, as much water as you can carry, a few good maps, and maybe some extra gas. It’s pretty dang remote in there. I think the closest gas station to our camp site was 99 miles away and there aren’t any rangers around to help you out. Enjoy the photos. 🙂

Colorado photo dump

I’ve been a bit radio silent on this blog, so here are a bunch of photos and a little about what I’ve been up to.

Steamboat


Oh, and Joshua brought his nifty drone with us when we went snowshoeing and cut together this quick video.

Mathews-Winters Open Space

Copper Mountain

Eldorado Canyon

Breckenridge

Switzerland Trail

Wonderland Park

Mount Sanitas

What’s next?

Well, let’s just say it involves going way the heck off grid this weekend. Will post about it next week. 🙂

Home sweet boat in Amsterdam

Several weeks ago, I was looking for a place for Jeff, Rick, and me to stay in. I jokingly suggested we stay in a houseboat, but in the end we decided against it thinking there just wouldn’t be enough space. Instead, I found a nice looking place for a reasonable price. They both took a look at it and gave it two thumbs up so I booked it.
Fast forward to this morning. As we neared the address, we realized it would be awfully close to a dock. Then it dawned on us. We booked a houseboat. And it is amazing. The thing is, the listing for it clearly stated that it was a houseboat, but we were all so tired we missed that part entirely. Quite the surprise.
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Anyway, now we have some pretty fantastic canal views, a super convenient location to work from, the fastest internet I’ve used in some time, and some gentle rocking of waves to lull us to sleep. Here’s to the happy accidents that make adventures even better!
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Down the west coast – part 2

Okay. It’s time to continue from where I left off in part 1 post Damascus, OR.

Cannon Beach to North Bend

I drove up from Damascus to Cannon beach to get some lunch and wander further down the coastal highway.


I ended up stopping and camping near the Oregon dunes. It was a bit rainy so I opted for sleeping inside by Jeep via my hammock.

North Bend to San Francisco

I got up pretty early the next day to hang out near the water and then continued my journey south. I ran through all kinds of bizarre weather on the coast all the way to SF. It was amazing.

San Francisco, CA

I stayed with a my good friend Hugo for a week or so in SF and he showed me around. I also got a chance to actually work at Automattic’s office. So much fun!

Yosemite National Park

After wandering around SF and Oakland for a few weeks, I headed to Yosemite. I had been wanting to check this park out for some time. It is a surreal place. I ended up staying at Camp 5 overnight and then hiking the Vernal and Nevada Falls trail the next day.

San Francisco to Big Sur to Ventura

I drove from Yosemite back to SF and continued down the coast through some of the most amazing scenery of my trip so far. I highly recommend this drive.

Ventura

Unfortunately, I took no photos here! It was amazing weather and so nice I just plain forgot! I spent a few days with my friends and coworkers, Erick, Chris, and Konstantin. Tacos. Great warm summer weather. Beer. I was so dang close to just staying there. <3

San Diego

I met up with some coworkers in San Diego. They are on another team and happened to be there at the perfect time. They had an extra room so I joined them for some fun weekend projects and the usual Automattic shenanigans.

Down the west coast – part one

Earlier this year I drove from Tofino on Vancouver Island all the way down the coast to San Diego. I took the coastal highways most of the way going back and forth between the 101 and the 1. I tried to stay as close to the coast as possible from Canon Beach all the way down. I only just now realized that I hadn’t posted a single thing about it. So here we go!

Vancouver and Squamish, BC

After my company meetup in Whistler, Stephane, Dean, and I made a quick stop near Squamish for a few photos of the crazy people who took the hard way to the meetup.
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Then, Stephane and I headed to Lighthouse Park in Vancouver to do a bit of wandering, climbing, and swimming.


 
After, we wandered back up north of Squamish where we found a great camp site for the night. We also ended up making damper (mostly) successfully for the first time!

Then it was time for Stephane to go our separate ways. He headed back all the way across Canada to Montreal to see his family and his pups.
After some hugs and tears, I went on to meet my friends and coworkers Sheri and Chris in Squamish. Sheri, Chris, Kelly (not there this time), and I tend to randomly hike or bike with each other all over the world. No planning involved. We ended up doing a short hike on the Chief. We hit a pretty good brewery after. Such a cool place!

Tofino, BC

After Squamish, I had a few days to kill so I headed up to Tofino. Check out my post on surfing in Tofino.

Bowen Island, BC

Post Tofino, I stayed with a good friend and coworker, Enej and his family on Bowen Island. Getting there from Tofino wasn’t the easiest and required two ferries. Both were filled with stunning scenery. When I got there, I was met with one heck of a surreal sunset.


I coworked with Enej the few days I was there out of his house, on a beach, and in some coffee shops. We even did some work with a few deer right next to us. We took time to hike around the island fairly often since there was such good weather.

Bowen Island is an inspiring place. I got a ton of work done along with a nifty side project Enej and I built out in a couple evenings.

Vancouver, BC

I didn’t spend too much time in Vancouver, but I did get to see two of my favorite people, Kirk and Joey. We worked out of a space called Hive (I think). After a couple days there, I head back to the US after about a month of wandering some amazing parts of Canada. ❤️
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Seattle, WA

I ended up staying with my family while I was there initially. We ended up going on a few hikes and visiting some of my favorite spots. We took the monorail to the EMP (rock and roll, scifi, and horror museum), Pike’s, and Fry’s (there’s no Fry’s in Denver, so it’s awesome to check out).




I also took the opportunity to work out of our Automattic Seattle office a couple of the days with Brooke and Beau. Both are awesome to work with.
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View from the Automattic Seattle office

Portland, OR

I headed down to Portland for a few days to wander around the city a bit with Meg and Carlos. I was too distracted by all the food and drink to take any photos. Shame on me. I did stop in at Powell’s book store and holy heck is that place massive. It could also use some serious wayfinding design improvements. It was extremely difficult to navigate.

Damascus, OR

I met a coworker of mine in Damascus. Derek and Heather graciously let me stay with them on their farm and meet the goats, the dog pack, and the flock of chickens. They even have a greenhouse filled with unbelievable carnivorous plants! It’s a fantastic place.

Whew!

Okay. Breaking this up into two parts. Here’s part 2!!!

My best photos from 2016

Here are my favorite photos from my travels this year. Not all are the best, but I think I caught a few gems. I recommend opening the gallery and just scrolling through. They should all have a comment and location. Let me know what you think!