And the last shall be first
After this year’s “challenge” to book lodging for every one of our overnight trips, the Hiking Committee decided to get a head start on next year. We held our first meeting earlier this week to nail down our road schedule for the 2018 season. I am happy to report that we were successful in that endeavor, not only in reaching consensus on our destinations, but also in arranging group accommodations (24-25 rooms…and in the same hotel no less) for each trip. But you’ll need to make your own individual reservations within each block of rooms, first-come-first-served.
Here’s a synopsis of that schedule:
Moab: May 21-25;
Crested Butte: July 30-August 3;
Albuquerque: October 1-5.
The rest of the schedule will be published on the website in January.
So let’s begin at the end…Albuquerque (we’ll call it ABQ for short). I have two good reasons for beginning at the end: the beginning…and the end…of that trip. I booked us 25 rooms in ABQ for the nights of October 1-4. Those dates were selected to dovetail with the International Balloon Fiesta (yes, it’s “Fiesta”, not “Festival”), which runs October 6-14. However, I didn’t book any rooms for Oct 5 or later. Here’s why: the cost of rooms that I booked at the Comfort Suites Balloon Fiesta Park skyrockets from $83/night to $219/night after Oct 4…but before taxes. I could have booked our entire group for 5 nights at $136/night plus tax, but not everyone may want to lay over for the Balloon Fiesta, and many would rather save the extra $$. And some of you may want to stay longer. Group rates are hard to find, if available at all, for the duration of the Fiesta. However, there are other hotels in ABQ that offer lower rates (because “Balloon Fiesta Park” is not part of their names). They are not as convenient to the Park, but there are buses to the Fiesta from several locations around town, so it doesn’t really matter where you stay. Why you should care: because those of you who would like to attend a portion of the Fiesta will need to make your own reservations for Oct 5 and beyond ASAP if you want to get them at a reasonable rate.
Why should you bother: because if you’ve never seen it before, the Balloon Fiesta is unlike anything else…including other ballooning events…you’ve ever seen. During mass ascensions (Sat-Sun), as many as 600 balloons take flight. And you’ll be down on the field amongst them as they inflate and launch. I’ve been to six Fiestas, including a dozen or more mass ascensions. Even my legally blind mother went to half of those. Despite her limited vision, the shapes and colors were dazzling. In the age of film photography, Kodak boasted that they sold more rolls of film there than at any other single event. I have no doubt…they stuck it to me a few times with their inflated event pricing. But in the digital age, that’s no longer an issue. Throughout the week, there are other events… balloon glows at dusk, special shapes rodeo, key grab, hound-and-hare, and other competitions. But, if you see nothing else, the mass ascensions are the main events.
Now let’s flashback to the beginning of the ABQ trip. Most of you no doubt will depart Monday morning with the peloton and drive to ABQ. There will be an optional en route hike for you mileage wonks. Or you can forgo the hike, sleep in and drive down at your leisure. However, for the keeners amongst us there is yet another option. But it will require you to leave a day earlier (Sunday) and drive to Farmington, NM. We would not hike on Sunday, but would take a more leisurely scenic route to Farmington. From there we would arise early Monday…but not too early…and drive to the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Badlands. After a hike of 7-10 miles or so through this 45,000-acre wilderness with its bizarre rock formations, we would continue on to ABQ and meet up with the rest of the group Monday afternoon. If you are interested in this one-day extension to the trip, let me know ASAP. It’s not a commitment on your part. I just need a ballpark estimate so I can reserve an appropriate number of rooms in Farmington.
And that brings us all the way back to the very beginning…Moab in May. Mike Larime booked us a block of rooms at the Bighorn Inn for $119.95/night plus tax, and you will need to make your own reservations within that block no later than April 21. After that date, any remaining rooms will be released. Be sure to mention the 100 Club when you book because the hotel is otherwise completely sold out. We will have hikes scheduled in Arches, Canyonlands, and elsewhere in the Moab area. This trip should be very popular, and there are only 25 rooms in our block, so don’t wait until the last minute or you may miss out…first-come-first-served, or as I like to say, “you snooze, you lose.”
The Crested Butte trip also should be popular, so for the same reason you may wish to book well ahead of the June 30 deadline. A block of 24 rooms has been reserved for us by Farshideh Jahani at the Old Town Inn in downtown Crested Butte. The group rate is $149/night plus tax, but you can ask for the lower AARP/AAA rate of $137/night when you book. Again, be sure to tell them you’re with the 100 Club.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s….
Most of you who joined us on the Zion trip (and quite a few who didn’t) no doubt are aware of the phenomenal photos that Renee & Norm took from Angel’s Landing on Wednesday. Most people would have been happy simply to shoot the dramatic landscape from that lofty vantage point (and many of you did on Tuesday). But not Renee & Norm. Observing what they first believed to be a crow, then a vulture, they ultimately came to the inevitable (and correct) conclusion that this was the extremely rare California condor.
But while they were still marveling over this amazing discovery, they noticed that this largest of North American birds had a mate. And not only that, they were both spreading their wings, like a pair of anhinga after a fishing trip. But since condors don’t fish, we have to assume they were sun bathing. Gotta work on that tan…on their bald pates.
Their heads are bald so their feathers don’t get covered in blood and guts as they feed on carrion. Now this is a face only a mother could love, and his mother was a hand puppet. Most of these birds were hatched and raised in captivity, after all known wild birds were taken from the wild in an attempt to recover the species through a captive breeding program. To prevent hatchlings from imprinting on their human “parents”, they were fed using hand puppets resembling their birth parents. It’s one of the Fish & Wildlife Service’s greatest success stories, though they’re far from out of the woods.
Since carrion can also be roadkill, motor vehicle collisions is one of the causes of their decline, along with habitat loss. But they’re not the only carrion feeder to suffer such a fate. Bald eagles also have been killed by vehicles as the they feast on the roadkill du jour. Our national bird eats dead stuff?!! And they’re dumpster divers and thieves too. Imagine one of those going through your windshield.
The condors Renee & Norm saw in Zion no doubt dispersed from a “hacking site” in the Vermillion Cliffs area, north of the Grand Canyon. I’ve seen condors in flight over the Grand Canyon before, but never on the ground…and never posing so provocatively as those in Renee & Norm’s photos. Thanks for sharing them with us.