Throwback Thursday: Antelope Slot Canyons – Page, Arizona

I used to publish all my travel photos on Flickr before they changed their membership structure. Nowadays I rarely use my Sony camera (a mirrorless model) and pretty much take all my photos with my smartphone. It’s not the same but it is easier. Anyhow, I enjoy going back through some of Flickr albums and thought I’d try to share some each week.

This week it’s the Antelope Slot Canyons located near Page, Arizona on Navajo Nation lands. There are several tour operators and I have no recollection who we used 10 years ago. However, the pictures are gorgeous and it’s definitely worthwhile to include on your road trip through the Southwest. They’re not cheap. I checked the price on one tour operators page and you’re talking about $90 a person! Yikes. So I’m glad we got to see them when we did.

Enjoy!

Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road (Part 1): the new smoky reality of travel in the Western United States and Canada

This past summer of 2021 we finally checked off Glacier National Park from our bucket list. But unfortunately, we were greeted with smoky skies. A few years earlier we had visited Banff and Jasper in Alberta, Canada and experienced the same. It is, unfortunately, becoming more and more common, as forest fires are no longer the exception, but the norm.

I debated how much editing I should do to these pics, but decided to post them as is. No sugar coating it. Fortunately, the rain came on our last day and I did get some better pics, but in this posting, I am showing what we saw on our first drive through on Glacier’s famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. It is the main scenic drive through the park. Despite the smoke, it is still stunningly beautiful and easily my favorite national park drive. I’ve been to almost every national park in the the Western United States, some numerous times (Yosemite, Crater Lake, and Rocky Mountain), so this is high praise!

Now, a word about parking. It’s pretty bad. Many people’s destination is Logan Pass Visitor’s Center, but you may be forced to wait to get a spot. I returned on the second morning to drop off my husband for a hike he did and it was already packed at 7 am. We did manage to find a space on the first day, but it was pure luck. When we were in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, people parked along the road but you can’t do that here. However, if it is packed, continue on and check out the equally beautiful east side of the park, including Saint Mary Lake. We were unable to find a parking spot for St. Mary’s Falls Trail but did manage to get one for Baring Falls.

The following set of pictures is from the east side (beyond Logan Pass), including St. Mary’s Lake and Baring Falls. There are lots of beautiful road-side falls that cascade down to the road. You can see evidence of the one of the numerous fires that have scorched Glacier over the years. Yet, from the ashes beautiful wild flowers grow again.

I’m officially “boosted” (Moderna #3)

A few weeks back I was distressed to hear that my state of Colorado was about at #4 in terms of Covid hospitalization rates in the US. I was quite surprised as roughly 73% of the population (12 and older) is vaccinated. But right now many hospitals are at or near capacity and have to turn away patients. On the same newscast I also heard that our state’s chief medical officer told vaccine providers that they could give boosters to anyone, no matter what the federal guidelines were (although it appears those guidelines may change soon).

I quickly checked around and found that that I was able to get an appointment at Walmart. Yes, I had to fib a little bit on the online appointment scheduler stating that I did indeed meet the qualification criteria, but this has always been a problem with the pharmacies. During the initial rollout people qualified but the pharmacies always lagged in updating their systems. Anyhow, when I was at Walmart, several people came in for walk in appointments. So I don’t feel bad.

Although I preferred the ease and comfort of the drive-thru clinic I had gone to for my first two vaccines, I found that Walmart was quite efficient and better set up than Walgreens or Safeway.

As a side note, I felt like I was in another country. In Boulder County we have a mask mandate but the Walmart I went to is in Adams County with no mask mandate. I wore my mask during the whole process but none of the pharmacy staff did. Oh well, I’m a proud Boulderite and we do stand out from the rest of the state.

I was prepared to battle the side effects. Sore arm? Yes, but not as bad as my flu shot. Tiredness? Yes, I fell asleep watching the Costa Rica – Honduras soccer match. (Costa Rica won!) The next day was horrible. Fever and chills and a headache. The good news was that by bedtime I was fine.

I feel good about getting my booster and doing my part, which also means continuing to wear a mask. I have a big trip planned for February to Costa Rica and I’m not letting Covid get in my way. In the meantime, I wish the holdouts, like my hair stylist, would get their vaccines.

A Glorious Fall in Colorado

I just can’t get over how beautiful fall has been here in the front range of Colorado. Many years we haven’t been so lucky with an early frost or early snow causing the leaves to fall early. Either that or a big wind event comes along and blows them off before we get a chance to enjoy them. This year the maple tree in our backyard has the reddest it’s ever been. We also had a chance a few weeks ago to do a quick trip up to the foothills west of Golden to enjoy the beautiful aspen.

Glacier National Park: Planning for your visit

Glacier National Park has been on my bucket list ever since I moved to Colorado 14 years ago. However, I’ve always been in a bit of a quandary how to get there. We had previously visited the national parks in Wyoming (Grand Teton and Yellowstone) and doing a 14-hour drive from our home in Colorado to visit this national park in the northwest corner of Montana just didn’t seem like something I wanted to do.

So I reluctantly shelled out close to $800 for 2 tickets for me and my husband to fly there this past summer. It has its own International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell and is serviced by quite a few major airlines. Now, as you probably heard, there was a rental car shortage last summer. Initially I had some issues finding an available rental car, but ended up making a reservation with Hertz through Expedia. It was expensive – $200 a day. But a rental car is essential in Glacier. Lucky for us, the line was short. The line for Alamo was a mile long. I noted that Enterprise is located outside the airport. So I got lucky since I had also made a backup reservation with Enterprise.

Hopefully, the rental car situation will be better in 2022, but please make your reservation for one as soon as you make your flight reservation. Although there are the funky Red Bus tour cars, they don’t offer you the same freedom as a rental car.

Red Bus Tour Car (PC: NPS)

Where to stay?

Well, since it was the Pandemic, we opted to stay outside the park. The National Park Service actually has a variety of accommodations inside the park including seven NPS-affiliated lodges in the park: four on the west side (Lake McDonald Lodge, Village Inn at Apgar, Lake McDonald Motel, and Apgar Village Lodge & Cabins) and three on the east side (Many Glacier Lodge, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn & Cabins, Rising Sun Motor Inn & Cabins). Normally, I might have been inclinded to stay in Lake McDonald Lodge since it is a classic national park lodge with a beautiful location, but we are starting to prefer cabins and AirBNBs because of safety issues in the pandemic.

lobby of Lake McDonald Lodge (PC: NPS)

And of course, campgrounds. But camping was out of the question for me since this is grizzly bear country. But please don’t let this scare you. I’m just prefer a roof over my head and quite honestly, we didn’t spot one bear while we were there. And my husband even hiked in the backcounty, although he did pack bear spray at my insistence.

Grizzly bear in Glacier (PC: NPS)

I found a nice cabin resort called the North Forty Resort just about 10 minutes from the airport on the outskirts of Columbia Falls. It does add about 25 minutes on your drive into the park but on the plus side, it is close to Columbia Falls dining and shops.

Our cabin at North Forty Resort

GOING TO THE SUN ROAD – Ticketed entry!!! Please read this

I did not realize until a few weeks before we left that the main road through the park has a ticketed entry system. No, this is not included in the entry fee. You must go online and get this either in the spring or the week before you go. This is the info from the website for 2021:

Going-to-the-Sun Road Entry tickets are available 60 days in advance on a rolling daily window for arrivals May 28 – September 6, 2021. Beginning May 26th, 2021, tickets will also available two days in advance at 8 a.m. MT on a rolling daily window. Entry tickets are good for 7 consecutive days including the reserved day of arrival. Only one GTSR entry ticket is required per vehicle/motorcycle.

Since I missed the window in the springtime I attempted to get our pass a week before. They sold out within minutes. They said do not have multiple windows or devices open in an attempt to get a pass, but the next day I said to hell with it and had 3 windows and my phone submitting requests for a pass the minute they opened it up. I got it on my fourth attempt.

My next post will include more pics of the park. But I wanted to leave you with a few today. It’s a glorious place, even with smoky skies.

Lake McDonald

5 weeks post Septoplasty: life is great!

It’s hard to believe that having a clear nose to breathe out of has made a huge change in my life. For those of you considering Septoplasty, I highly recommend it. I will include links below to my first two posts.

As for the recovery, I thought I’d go into a bit more detail. The first week after my splints were removed my nose still hurt a bit to the touch and I needed to flush my nose at least twice a day to clean out residual junk (blood and mucous). Granted it wasn’t much but I didn’t like to blow my nose and I sort of grew to enjoy saline flushes (yeah, weird, but true)

By two weeks post-op I was only doing nasal flushes once a day in the morning. I had started running again as well. I have had to “retrain” myself to become a nose breather when I run.

One week ago (or just about 4 weeks post-op) I no longer felt the need to flush my nose. But that’s how long it took for it to completely heal and drain out. Now at five weeks I feel pretty normal. The nose has no more discomfort if I touch it.

The thing that was most weird was the numbness directly behind my front teeth. That took almost 5 weeks. Today is the first day I feel no numbness there.

Many people have asked if I stopped snoring (yes, I did snore before!). I will say it did help. But don’t do this operation solely for the purpose of stopping snoring. It may/may not help. Sometimes I do a quick nap during the day and catch myself snoring (since I fall asleep in my recliner.) But at night I sleep mostly on my side and for the most part I’m not snoring anymore. I think I slept on my back a lot more prior to my surgery.

So for me, this surgery has been worth it! Please feel free to message me if you have any questions.

Part 1: What is Septoplasty and why I got it done

Part 2: Surgery

My Septoplasty Adventure Part 2: Surgery and Recovery

Read Part 1 here for more background on Septoplasty!

If you’ve had surgery before, then Septoplasty surgery itself will be easy peasy. Pay attention to your instructions about eating and drinking before surgery (typically eat dinner no later than 12 hours before surgery and nothing to drink after midnight). Try to see about getting your prescriptions for pain meds and antibiotics filled before your surgery so you don’t have to worry about that after surgery. Trust me – you’ll want to go straight home and rest. My doctor did get this taken care of and I thank him immensely. Yes, he did want me on antibiotics after surgery. I watched some YouTube videos where some people did come down with sinus infections so he believes in giving them as you’ll have a lot of gunk in your sinuses afterwards. DO talk with your doc if he does not prescribe them.

Plan to buy protein drinks or other soft foods to have for the first few days. My surgery was at 10 am and by 5 pm that same day I was hungry. But I just ate little bits every few hours. You will be intubated and more than likely your throat will hurt afterwards.

One of the important things you will need to do is purchase a saline flush kit. My doctor does not recommend a Neti pot. You need one with a squeeze bottle as shown below. Do practice beforehand. I did not, but after a day I finally got better. I’m used to nasal sprays, including saline ones, but with this you really need to master the technique of flushing out your nose. My doc wanted me doing it at least 4 times a day. I bought a kit with 30 packets of saline but ended up buying more because I came to really like doing this. I could feel the junk in my nose and since you can’t blow your nose, this is the only way to get it out. I got my splints out a week ago and I’m still doing it, although not as much — typically in the morning and at night.

As for the surgery, it’s like any other surgery. You go under and then a minute later you wake up! No, not really, but that’s what it feels like. Mine took just over an hour. The funny thing was when I finally woke up from the anesthesia, I started talking in Spanish. While I do not consider myself a true bilingual person I do spend time on WhatsApp every day chatting with friends in Costa Rica so I’m fairly proficient in Spanish. It’s so bizarre that this happened.

Anyhow, as expected my throat hurt like hell and I was thirsty. They gave me some Percocet and water and that did help, but my nose was still mighty uncomfortable. Here’s a pic of me later that day with my awful little nose sling thingy.  No makeup. Rare that I would even post a picture like this, but I don’t want to sugar coat this. This is surgery and you won’t feel wonderful afterwards.

post op–feeling miserable

Sleeping that night was awful. I tried sleeping in my recliner but my cat wanted to sleep with me. Somehow I got a few winks in, but it wasn’t easy. I took a Vicodin at bedtime and then another at 3 am. By morning the throat pain was gone. I was able to drink a little coffee but it tasted awful. I pretty much slept as much as I could all day. Like the day before I just ate soft food. The good news was that the bleeding was subsiding and I was able to sleep in my bed with an extra pillow. By the next morning the bleeding had stopped and I just kept tissue with me at all times. I detested the nose sling anyhow.

The next few days I saw steady improvement with less swelling and increased appetite, although I could not smell or taste anything! Also the front part of my mouth behind my incisors was numb. On the last two nights before I got the splints taken out my throat started to feel sore again. Not sure why. Perhaps some post-nasal drip down my throat at night.

On the seventh day I got my splints out! I was so happy to have this over, but let me tell you that this for me was the worst part. Although they sprayed numbing spray in my nose (some of which got in my throat) I could still feel the doc slowing take them out.  They were huge! Probably a good 2.5 inches long.

Nasal splints

He then suctioned out my nasal passages. That was uncomfortable, too. You know how they say to imagine yourself on a sunny beach when you’re having an uncomfortable medical procedure? Well, I tried that and it did help some but I was still anxious for it to be all over.

The next few days I continued to take Advil because my nose felt a little uncomfortable. It’s been almost a week and I almost feel back to normal. My nasal passages still feel just a tad bit swollen but no more blood when I flush out my nose. Yesterday I went running for the first time and being able to breathe through both nostrils was wonderful. And yes, my sense of smell and taste came back right after the splints came out.

In the end I’m glad I went through with this procedure. It actually was an easier recovery than I expected and I already am sleeping better.

back to normal! After my first run

My Septoplasty Adventure Part 1: Why I got one and what it is

First the why:

For as long as I can remember, or at least close to 45 years dating back to my teenage years, I’ve been an allergy sufferer. Sneezing, itchy eyes, stuffiness . . .  you name it. For the most part I learned to live with it. But as I got older, it got worse. When I moved to California I started taking over-the-counter (OTC) allergy pills, and then when I moved to Colorado 14 years ago, it got notably worse (dry air here.) I have tried pretty much every nasal spray and eye drop, along with OTC allergy pills and a humidifier in my bedroom. I finally decided to go to an allergist as my life was miserable.

The results were astounding. I was basically allergic to nothing. She did note that I had a deviated septum, but didn’t mention that it could be a contributing factor. So I continued living in misery and wondering what I could do. I then noticed several posts on a local FB page where people mentioned that they had better luck going to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist than an allergist. Apparently, there are a lot of miserable people like me in Colorado.

However, it took me nearly 10 years to finally pull the trigger to make that appointment. I was always busy – traveling, kids’ school stuff, etc. Finally, I had the time last spring and the pandemic had settled down a little bit (we all know that has changed). So I made the appointment. I first went to the  physician assistant (PA) for the ENT (not the surgeon). Guess what? First thing that came up was the deviated septum. He also mentioned that my turbinates were enlarged and that I was the perfect candidate for septoplasty with turbinate reduction. First he wanted me to do a specific corticoid nasal spray for a month to document for insurance purposes that a non-surgical approach was unsuccessful. No surprises – spray didn’t help a bit. So I came back one month later and talked with the surgeon. He confirmed what his PA had said, explained the surgery and turned me over to scheduling. I could have had it done within a few weeks but I decided to wait until all my traveling and remodeling projects were done. In a way, I wish I hadn’t waited, as recovery was easier than expected. But anyhow, it’s done now and I couldn’t be happier.

So what is a deviated septum, septoplasty, and those funky things call turbinates?

The best way to show what a deviated septum is by a simple graphic:

You may also take a look at your nose in the mirror and note that your nostrils are a different size. Here’s a lovely pic of me before. As you can see mine are a slightly different size. Not horrible. But the doc said that my septum looked worse further up. In some people it’s much more obvious as seen in the man shown below my picture

So how do you get a deviated septum? Well, a lot of people have one simply due to genetics (thanks Mom & Dad), or they have had a rough trip out during childbirth (high birth weight babies in particular.) The other is injury. And that doesn’t necessarily mean a broken nose, although a broken nose can certainly cause a deviated septum. In particular, athletes such as basketball players frequently get banged in the nose without it actually being broken. This I believe is what happened to me, although not in basketball. I had a sledding accident when I was 12 or so where a saucer sled hit me in the bridge of my nose. I was gushing blood but my nose was not broken. However, that seems to stand out in my mind as the beginning of the time I started to have allergy issues.

So what are turbinates?

According to Stanford Health, “Turbinates are small structures inside the nose that cleanse and humidify air that passes through the nostrils into the lungs. They are made by a bony structure surrounded by vascular tissue and a mucous membrane outside, and can become swollen and inflamed by allergies, irritation or infection, causing nasal obstruction and producing an excessive amount of mucous which leads to congestion.”

This part of the procedure is relatively straightforward and uses a radiofrequency instrument to reduce the size.

So what is Septoplasty?

Well, I’m not going to get into the nuts and bolts of how it is done, but the main thing to know is that it is done under general anesthesia and you will have a fun little set of internal nose splints when you are done. (see graphic below) Unlike rhinoplasty, the nose is not broken or reset but you will have some swelling and discomfort for a number of days. I will talk more about that in my next post.

Cathedral Spires trail at Custer State Park

My husband is more of a hard core hiker and did a bit more hiking at Custer State Park when we were there earlier this summer. But for me Cathedral Spires was an easy and enjoyable hike that I think most people will like. The key is start early in the morning to avoid the scorching sun and the frequent afternoon thunderstorms. If you’re looking for some challenging hikes, consider Little Devil’s Spur and/or Black Elk Peak. My husband did that one on his own. It’s the highest spot in South Dakota (7242 feet).

Cathedral Spires is roughly 1.6 miles out and back. It takes you to the base of the spires and if you’re lucky you might spot some climbers like we did. It’s a moderate uphill climb and there were quite a few mosquitoes in the first half mile or so as we crossed some marshy meadows filled with wildflowers

Road Tripping to Black Hills, South Dakota: Bismarck Lake Campground

Back over a decade ago when we first moved to Colorado, we took an epic road trip up to the Wyoming national parks (Grand Teton and Yellowstone) and then finished out our trip by driving over to South Dakota and visiting Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands (which, contrary to their name, are pretty awesome). On our way home we passed through the Black Hills National Forest. At the time we were road weary and ready to get home, but we made a mental note to return as it was so green and beautiful. It took us a while but my husband and I finally made it back this summer. And we weren’t disappointed by our stay at Bismarck Lake Campground.

Getting there

From Denver it’s a good 5-6 hour drive, especially on a busy holiday weekend. However, that’s nothing for many folks. We talked to a couple who drove from Michigan and it was a 20-hour journey for them. If you prefer to fly, the nearest major city is Rapid City, just about an hour away. Since the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore, as well as some other major attractions such Crazy Horse Monument and Wind Cave National Park, are nearby, it’s very easy to spend a week here visiting all the sites.

Info for campers

There are cabins and hotels in and around the town of Custer, but we decided to tent camp. We don’t have an RV and every year I regret it a bit more as I get older as it just is not comfortable. Another reason is that in Colorado and throughout the Mountain West (and I stretch to include South Dakota within that region) summer thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence. All three days we were there we had them. Now, fortunately none were as torrential as we experienced in Colorado, but I think we just got lucky. Only one happened during the night and that passed by us just to the north. However, it woke up me (I was thinking it was another fireworks celebration as it was on the 4th of July) and I was unable to get back to sleep for over an hour as I was concerned it would come our direction as it appeared to be doing on the radar.

Now when it comes to picking a campground I always feel a bit torn. Usually I prefer a state park when staying 3 nights or longer, as they have shower facilities, but I didn’t really like the look of the campgrounds within Custer State Park.  The most central ones had a generic feel to them and were better suited it seems to RVs. So we decided to just stay right outside the boundary of the state park at a Black Hills National Forest Camp, Bismarck Lake Campground, a small 21-site campground next to a scenic lake. Like forest camps everywhere, it only had vault toilets but it did have water.  But it was high enough up that we felt it wouldn’t be too mosquito infested.

The campground itself was great. The location of our site (#3) was also very nice with lots of trees and plenty of space between us and our neighbors. However, it was indicated as a tent site and I just don’t agree with that.  We ended up pitched our large-ish tent at the end of the long gravel driveway. At least it was flat but the ground was very hard, difficult to drive the spikes into.

However, #3 was on the quieter end of the campground with better spacing than the small loop and we felt the mosquitoes were minimal. Close to the toilet but not too close and a short walk to the lake. The lake is smaller than the very popular Sylvan Lake and nearby Stockade Lake but very pretty, with a boat launch (for canoes, kayaks, small fishing boats, paddle boards as this is a no-wake lake).

Because of its proximity to Custer, we actually drove into town for breakfast 2 mornings and donuts on our final day. (I especially recommend Baker’s Bakery and Cafe – great breakfast and killer Apple fritters) We ate our dinner once, as well. For me, it was a nice balance as I’m not a hardcore camper

Overall, I’d give this a 4 out of 5 for its beautiful location and quiet surroundings.

Links to our favorite places:

The Begging Burro for killer Mexican food in Custer.

Baker’s Bakery & Cafe for homestyle breakfasts and donuts.