TRAVEL

Monument Valley & More

The famous Mittens at dusk

The famous Mittens at dusk

MONUMENT VALLEY:

Monument Valley, that ever iconic symbol of the Wild West, has always represented for me the rugged and unexplored frontier, what’s possible for the curious, and the reward for the seeking, the real diamond in the rough. The real secret though? There’s so much more to do in this area. But let's start at the beginning.

Okay, so you want to go to, but you need to know where to stay and what to do. No problem. 

 

WHERE TO STAY: THE VIEW

http://monumentvalleyview.com/

Grab a room at The View! There is no place closer than this for your access to Monument Valley. Rooms here are reasonably priced, especially for the views, (you can see Monument Valley from your room!) and it includes a complimentary breakfast. The restaurant provides local cuisine and I recommend getting a Navajo Taco. A gift shop is attached to the restaurant if you're in the mood for grabbing a souvenir, a beautiful piece of Navajo jewelry or pottery. How much for a night? Plan on spending between $100-$200 a night. Rooms fill up fast so book your room a few weeks in advance. 

The View

The View

WHAT TO DO: GO FOR A DRIVE

So you've paid a small entrance fee and made it to Monument Valley. What next? GO FOR A DRIVE and see the sights. Right next to The View Hotel is a 17 mile looped road for your viewing pleasure. A compact car will do, but be prepared to drive slowly on a dirt road with some potholes. Along this route you will see much more than the Mittens, a myriad of rock formations and valleys that give you a much better appreciation for the depth of the valley. How long does the loop take? Pack a lunch and plan on spending a few hours by stopping at the many sights along the way. Maps are available at the entrance fee station.

 

BUT WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO SEE?

I'm glad you asked. SO MUCH MORE! Here's a small list below to get you started.

 

VALLEY OF THE GODS:

Looking for a more rugged experience? How about pitching a tent along Valley of the Gods road? Here, you'll beat the crowds and be even closer to the large monoliths rising up above you. Give it a go. You won't be dissapointed.

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GOOSENECKS STATE PARK:

Wanna see something wild? Take a quick trip over to Goosenecks State Park to see the meander of the San Juan River. It's a truly spectacular sight.

 

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MOKI DUGWAY:

To see a breathtaking sight of the Utah/Arizona land in which you'll be roaming about, take the steep, unpaved but graded switchbacks of Moki Dugway. When you get to the top, take a moment and pull over, and enjoy the sights below you.

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WELL...

What are you waiting for? GO ADVENTURE!

Monument Valley at sunrise

Monument Valley at sunrise

Guatemala - Champions in Action

THE HEART

This summer I had the opportunity to take part in a ten day adventure in Guatemala with Champions in Action. This faith-based, non-profit organization has a beautiful mission that aims to take at-risk youth out of the inner cities of Guatemala City for a week to participate in a soccer camp along the shores of Puerto Barrios. The kids that participate come from all types of backgrounds with many being exposed to gang activity, drugs, and physical and sexual abuse. But mentorship for these youth does not end after camp; youth continue to be empowered to be leaders in their community by the support of a mentor whose roles include soccer coach and spiritual leader. Also, a year long soccer league keeps youth involved by participating each week in games and practices.

THE DAILY

The daily camp schedule is comprised of soccer conditioning, soccer training sessions, beach time, afternoon games, and chapel in the evening. The camp also provides three meals a day (chicken, carne asada, rice, beans, eggs, pancakes, tortillas, etc.) and some of the best fruit drinks (melon, orange, mango, papaya, horchata, etc.) that I have ever had.

The success and energy of the camp relies heavily on the help of dedicated staff and volunteers. Camp is fast paced, full of energy, and packed with fun. Meal times often turn into competitions for best team cheer, or best team spirit. 

A youth watches over camp during afternoon games.

A youth watches over camp during afternoon games.

Ten groups of ten youth with their mentors and volunteers.

Ten groups of ten youth with their mentors and volunteers.

THE SETTING

Camp is held at El Faro, just a 15 minute boat ride from Puerto Barrios along the Guatemalan coastline and within the larger Caribbean Sea. The setting is tropical and in the summer it is not uncommon to get rain and sun all in the same day. El Faro is equipped with several living spaces throughout its property. These living spaces are able to hold hundreds of people, including separate quarters for youth, men, and women. The property also includes an immaculate soccer complex that includes a training field and full sized soccer field, along with a weight room and track. A fully staffed kitchen provides meals throughout the day, and snacks are provided in the local tienda, or snack shop.

A look out into the ocean from camp. Beach time is offered daily for volunteers and youth.

A look out into the ocean from camp. Beach time is offered daily for volunteers and youth.

A view from the dock of El Faro. Hammocks are also provided for rest and relaxation.

A view from the dock of El Faro. Hammocks are also provided for rest and relaxation.

A typical morning sunrise over the ocean.

A typical morning sunrise over the ocean.

EXPLORATION DAY

At the end of camp, after the youth return to Guatemala City, volunteers are able to take a day to explore Antigua. This day is generously set up by Champions in Action. The first part of the day is spent visiting with youth in Ciudad Quetzal, one of the many "red zones," of Guatemala. There, volunteers are warmly greeted by mentors and youth who set up food and provided activities. This interaction between volunteers and local community help bridge the gap between the safe and fun camp environment to the sometimes harsh realities of city life where the youth grow up in. After big hugs and more cheering, volunteers take off for Antigua.

Antigua is one of Guatemala's best cities. There, volunteers are able to explore part of Guatemala's rich history by visiting Spanish colonial ruins, enjoying the colorful architecture and plazas, all while walking the cobblestone streets. Champions in Action provided a map that located several points of interest for volunteers including one of my favorite ice cream spots to date called "Helados Exoticos." Put Antigua as one of your must visit places when you travel to Guatemala!

The cobblestone streets of Antigua.

The cobblestone streets of Antigua.

Plazas like these dominate the architecture in Antigua.

Plazas like these dominate the architecture in Antigua.

TAKE ACTION

Champions in Action

Want to volunteer? Feel compelled to give financial support? Want to start a correspondence with a young person in Guatemala? Click on the link above to get involved, and feel free to ask me any question here on the blog. 

Oregon - Summer Lake Hot Springs

Taking a trip to Oregon? Like soaking in hot springs? In search of some solitude? I have just the place. Nestled in Central Oregon, just two hours south of Bend, is a hot spring sanctuary. The place is called Summer Lake Hot Springs. Here you can choose from several tiny homes and small cottages, filled with all you need to spend a weekend getaway. Looking to camp out or bring a camper? That's no problem either. The hot springs? Oh yes. Imagine this scene: you're outside on a cool evening, soaking in a 102 degree mineral water, enjoying the vast openness of the area. Want an indoor hot spring? They have that too. And it's big. Friendly staff, similar-natured travelers, and a reasonable price make this a fantastic trip to get away and soak up some good vibes. Check http://www.summerlakehotsprings.com/ for more.

A pretty view out one of the many tiny homes for rent at Summer Lake   

A pretty view out one of the many tiny homes for rent at Summer Lake

 

Kitchen views

Kitchen views

Inside hot springs

Inside hot springs

Outside hot springs

Outside hot springs

Views from the hot springs

Views from the hot springs