Category Travel North America

Unpacking Denver with Nigel Barker

When I was just a teen living in Manila, my brother and I loved watching the show America’s Next Top Model.  It was a big hit in the Philippines at the time, which was surprising considering how far it was from the US.  We would catch it on TV every Friday afternoon, and my brother and I would cheer for our own favorite contestants. It was from that show that I first heard about Nigel Barker, one of the permanent judges on the show alongside Jay Alexander and Tyra Banks.

Fast forward 10 or more years later, my husband tells me one evening that there’s an auction through Marriott Hotel’s reward programs, for a chance to get a private tour led by Nigel Barker himself. Before I could even decide if I wanted to go to Denver, my husband starts bidding on the auction, and two days later we found out we were the winners.

Unfortunately, my hubby couldn’t make it.  But luckily one of my friends was down to join me for the trip.  I had a great time “unpacking” Denver, plus the chance to meet and learn a few things from Nigel Barker was priceless. 

Exploring Montreal & Quebec

I finally got a glimpse of some really nice cities in Canada, during my recent visit.  Although I only saw Montreal & Quebec during my trip, both cities were among the most recommended to me by locals, along with Toronto.  Canada has such an interesting history and landscape, the rest of the country deserves another visit, especially the rockies and the countryside.

Images from the Slot Canyons

Last week I had posted a short video from my unexpected trip through Canyon X.  During the same journey and prior to Canyon X, I had visited the lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona, and captured the images you’ll see below of the stunning rock formations which have become what they are today through billions of years of transformation.

To give you an idea, there are two types of slot canyons in Page – the lower and the upper canyons.  What makes them different is that the upper is on the ground or upper level, while the lower canyons are under ground level. By definition, slot canyons are narrow canyons formed by the wear of water rushing through rocks over time.  And they are significantly deeper than they are wide.  In some canyons the drop could be more than 30 meters (100 ft or similar to a 10-storey building) to the floor of the canyon.

Although they are very beautiful, it’s always important to check flash flood warnings prior to hiking.  If it rains in any surrounding area, the probability of water from anywhere upstream flowing down to the canyons can be very dangerous, and in most slot canyons, it could be miles before you find the nearest exit.  In the image below, you will see behind the girl and before the slopes are interesting patterns on the ground.  These are the surface areas of the lower canyons. The gaps on the surface let light come through, and you will see in the photos that follow what they look like when you’re inside the canyons.

Canyon X, the Unexpected

Over the last few days, I had driven more than a thousand miles across different landscapes from Phoenix, Arizona to the borders of Utah.  Along the way I managed to stay in a small motel along the historic Route 66 in Flagstaff, see the Grand Canyons from different angles in varying times of the day, breathe fresh chilly air up in Jacob Lake among alpine trees covered in snow, and walk through amazing rock formations and slot canyons in Page.

On the third day of my journey, I was driving somewhere in the afternoon about 11 miles away from Page when I saw a dirt road that I decided to turn to. On the map, it seemed that the small dirt road would lead me somewhere close to a portion of the Colorado River, although I knew it would require me to hike a long distance from where the road ends.  I still decided to give it a try. Barely halfway through the dirt road, I was beginning to realize that my intermediate sized vehicle was not made for such roads, and I decided to turn back at the halfway point. But as I was just about to leave from the dirt road, all of a sudden my car couldn’t go any further.  My feet pressed on the gas as far as it could go, but to no avail.  I realized my car was stuck in deep fine sand.

This has never happened to me before, and I started thinking of ways to get out of my situation.  I started digging the sand with my hands and throwing it to the side, and then tried to accelerate the car after removing enough sand from the front wheels.  I moved about an inch.  Frustrated, I tried reversing the vehicle, which didn’t really help but probably got me even deeper into the sand.  I realized pressing on gas was probably not helping me in any way, so I put the car in neutral and tried to push it forward with what arm strength I had. Sadly that didn’t work one bit.

I sat back in the car and decided to call up roadside assistance.  Luckily there was reception from my mobile network even though I was in the middle of nowhere! The agent said through the phone that it would take about an hour for a tow service to come, but that was not guaranteed and I might end up waiting longer depending on the availability of the nearest tow truck.  I decided to wait it out, but was also strongly fighting the urge to pee. About 500 yards away was the main road, where cars were zooming past in high speed through the highway – and that didn’t really help with my situation.

Across the highway was a dirt lot that carried a sign saying Canyon X Tours, and I decided to cross the highway to ask for help.  The family who runs that tour company offered to help, they were natives of Navajo Nation, and they showed me the canyons that they own.  This video was the result of that afternoon – of the misadventures and later on realization that everything really happens for a reason.

Old Wild West

I never understood the fascination people had about horses in Texas, until I surrounded myself with horses.  Last weekend we went to Texas and had a great time in Dallas and Austin.  Dallas had huge expanses of land owned by locals who kept ranches, while Austin had the younger metropolis vibe – with streets full of Saturday night party-goers and late Sunday morning brunch scenes.  The Dallas we saw was a very quiet city, where you could go on horse riding for a whole day if you wish.  So to say it was very peaceful.

Marshall Creek Ranch was my favorite thing about Dallas.  They had beautiful horses which they let run free in the golden hours after a long day of carrying people like me around.  The thick forest on their backyard is there for them to explore, and the volunteer wranglers in the ranch feed them with treats after a good gallop.  The ranch dogs run wild and free too, and quickly warm up to visitors like me, hoping to get a pat or a treat as they rest their chins on my knees or sit under my feet.

The truth is, this is all quite a new experience to me.  I grew up in a city far from wild things like horses.  I’ve only ridden a horse twice before, and both times with a wrangler walking next to my horse when I was a kid.  So feeling like I missed out on some of those experiences made me jump to the opportunity of riding on a horse in Texas.  And it was exhilarating.