Saturday, July 22, 2017

Master Corryn

I'm about two months behind on blogging, but that is okay.  Life has been crazy even after graduation, which I still cannot believe I now hold a Master's in Science.  Well, I can believe it.  I put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the past two years.  Okay, maybe not blood and tears, but there was definitely sweat (hello, no a/c!), caffeine, and Clif bars.

The Acknowledgments page is one of first pages in my thesis document.  I looked at several other theses and practicums to see what other students wrote in the past.  Though this section is not academic at all, I feel that this one of the most important pages in the entire document.  I tried to squeeze all of the people who helped me in the past two years.  I also apologized to my friends for when I had to turn down fun events to work on my thesis during the late hours of the day or on the weekend.  Nevertheless, I think one of the most important lines is the first sentence on that page.

"The past two years have been filled with laughs, adventures, and a newfound love for Northern Arizona; I firmly believe that moving across the country to pursue my Master’s Degree in Applied Geospatial Sciences was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. "

Stepping back and looking at my accomplishments over the past two years blows me away.  I remember when I applied to three graduate programs and feared that I wouldn't get accepted to a single one.  However, I was accepted to all three, which made choosing rather difficult.  I was very interested in the Planning, Recreation, and Sustainability courses that were included at the program at Northern Arizona University.  Also, I was dying to go out West ever since I took Physical Geography my sophomore year in college.  Deciding to move across country was exhilarating and also nerve-racking.  I was leaving behind everything that I knew, and I was okay with that. Though "home" in Georgia isn't a bad place, I was ready to meet new people and see new things.

It's funny how people back home always complain how much they hate it, but they never leave.  Why don't they leave?  What's holding them back?

I was very happy to leave the small-mindedness of Georgia.  I miss seeing the Appalachian mountains.  I miss the biscuits and gravy.  I miss the sweet tea that could give you type-II diabetes.  I don't miss the prime definition of suburbia.  I don't miss the racism or sexism.  I don't miss driving a car.  I don't miss driving an hour to get on a hiking trail.

That brings me back to Northern Arizona and why I have no regrets on moving here.  I didn't know how much I would fall in love with Northern Arizona when I moved out here.  I didn't know how I was living in a very unsustainable area.  The fact that Flagstaff has their own urban trail system and bus lines blows my mind.  People respect cyclists, and there are many miles of bike lanes!  You can walk to places.  You have opportunities to recycle.  People use parks and open spaces for pleasure.  People respect nature and their peers.  People don't care what your wearing, if you have facial piercings or tattoos, or when the last time you shaved was.  Being in a judgement-free zone is just so relaxing!

As you can see, one could get very sidetracked when trying to study but also take advantage for what Northern Arizona has to offer.  For the first year, I tried to squeeze in as many hikes as I could.  Mostly because I didn't know how long I would be here.  Finding a job in my field in a small town can be difficult.  However, I tried to keep a positive attitude that I would stay here after graduation, and to focus on my studies so I would graduate on time.

I switched my thesis topics three times.  I changed advisors twice.  It was difficult to pick a topic.  After my internship with the City of Flagstaff, I decided to take the "easy route" and use the data that I collected for my thesis.  What I enjoyed most about this thesis was that it was actually going to be used.  I was doing a meaningful project that someone could look back on.  Now that I'm finished with my degree, I would like to publish part of my thesis. :)

The last semester of my grad program was the most intense.  Mostly because I had to write my document.  I stayed at the office late.  I had to make Subway runs when my Clif bars didn't fill me up.  My thesis was practically fueled by Dutch Bro's Iced Cocomo and Starbuck's Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato.  I read my document too many times to count.  I asked my friends and committee to proofread it for me.  Writing this thesis was probably the most difficult task I've ever done in my academic career.  The project itself wasn't that hard-- it was like a large lab report.  However, I wanted to make sure I had all the literature to back up my project.  I wanted to make sure that I had a clear reason why I was doing this project and how/why I used the steps that I did.  I tried to eliminate passive voice.  I tried to talk in third person.  I tried not to quote and to paraphrase to the best of my ability.  I know I'm not the best academic writer, so that also made me very paranoid.

I took hours making my maps and formatting my document so it was perfect.  I triple checked all of my references, to make sure that they were all included.  I sent my document out to my committee, expecting the worse.

And then there was the oral defense.  You talk about your project for thirty minutes and answer questions.  I, once again, was expecting the worse.  What if I couldn't answer a question?  I'm suppose to be an expert on this topic since I did hours and hours of research on the literature.  Once again, I over reacted, and I just had a few minor changes.

After the few changes, I submitted my document to the graduate college.  It was accepted, which means I passed.  I have a Master's degree.  I have a Master's of Science in Applied Geospatial Sciences with an emphasis in Planning and Recreation.  It took a lot of hard work, but I'm glad I completed it.

And what does that mean for me now?  What type of advantages do I now have with my new degree?  Higher paycheck with government agencies?  Qualified for work at colleges and universities?  Research opportunities? -- The list can go on and on.

Honestly, I did my Master's to buy myself time.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and I really wanted to try something new in my life.  I would have never moved out to Northern Arizona if I didn't apply for grad school.  If grad school wasn't on my mind, I would probably be working in the Atlanta area.

However, things worked out for me.  I finished my degree, I've been working for different agencies, and I see myself with a future in Northern Arizona.  I think the universe wanted me here.

This brings me back to the first line in my Acknowledgements page.  Moving across the country to pursue my Master's was the best thing I have ever done.  I got out of Georgia for myself.  I needed to be around like-minded people.  I needed be more involved with my community.  I wanted to around more nature.

I now have my Master's degree, and I'm patiently waiting for my bound copy of my thesis to arrive on my door step.  I am proud of my accomplishments.  I worked hard for myself. And now, I wish to use my degree to give back to the community--whether it be through the City of Flagstaff, USGS, or Northern Arizona University.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Brief Trip to Las Vegas, Nevada

Welcome to Las Vegas!
So, Brandon and I have never "done" Las Vegas before. I know, I know. We live 4 hours from Sin City, and we haven't indulged in the shows, casino, and cheap drinks.  Honestly, it is not our scene, but it has been a bucket list item of mine for sometime now.  Well, rewind to last October-- I purchased 2 tickets for the Green Day show at the MGM Grand.  I figured, sure, I'll make the 4 hour trip to see them again live.  So there it was, an excuse to finally go to Las Vegas!

We weren't planning on having a whole weekend there, mostly because of me being slammed with school work and that pesky thesis.  That Thursday before we left, I submitted my thesis to my adviser for review, I was ready to have a nice, stress-free weekend!

When staying in Las Vegas, you pretty much will expect resort and casino fees.  Since we were only staying there one night, and it was just the two of us, I decided to get an Airbnb room for only $61.  The lady who owned it was super nice, and very responsive.  Unfortunately, she was out of town that night, so we didn't get to meet her.
The Fountains of Bellagio

Anyways, Brandon and I first stopped at Boulder City to grab dinner before the concert.  Boulder City has a very cute downtown scene, and a nice brewery!  We had dinner at the Boulder Dam Brewery for a beverage and a sandwich.  We sat outside, and the weather was perfect.

Afterwards, we drove up 25 more minutes to be in Las Vegas.  We did the "Welcome" sign, sat and watched airplanes land and take off at McCarren, then finally made our way to the MGM Grand.

Caesar's Palace
The concert was great, and we decided to walk around for a few minutes through the MGM Casino.  The casino smelled like cheap perfume and cigarettes.  You could see the people just pressing the machines to see if it was there lucky night.  We saw ladies celebrating their bachelorette party, and a few who were celebrating their 21st.  We were going to walk down the Strip, but there was construction in our way.  Since we were both thirsty and we had water in the car, we decided to call it a night.

Outside M&M
We left our Airbnb around 11am and went straight to Treasure Islands' Free Self-Park.  This was pretty far north of the Strip, but we didn't mind walking and it was free parking.  We walked through Treasure Island's casino, walked into Caesar's Forum Shops, Caesar's Palace and Casino, the Bellagio, the fountains and gardens, we went all the way to the M&M factory, then walked through Paris.  We only had 2.5 hours to walk around until we had to leave to be back in Flagstaff to pick up Kodak.

Overall, Las Vegas was very interesting.  We put $2 in slot machines and lost $2.  Perhaps we'll go back sometime when we aren't so rushed.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A weekend in Moab, Utah

I love Moab.  Since living in Arizona, I have visited Moab three times.  The first time was last Spring when Brandon and I went with another couple from Flagstaff.  While in Moab, we met with two of their friends who were from Salt Lake City.  We only have one and a half days exploring on that trip, but it was just enough to give me a taste of something that I enjoyed.

When coming back home from Denver last Summer, we drove through Moab.  Unfortunately, we didn't have time or enough sunlight to explore the cute town, but once again, it gave me an urge to come back and visit again.

Last October, I decided to give Brandon a unique birthday present.  Gifts can be difficult, especially when that person buys themselves what they want all year long.  I wanted to do something different, so I bought him a ticket for the Canyonlands Half Marathon race in Moab, Utah.  Brandon was running a lot with Kodak, so I thought this would be a great gift for him.  Since I didn't want to wait my entire morning for him to finish the race, I signed myself up for the 5 mile race.  I don't run, and I really haven't ran that much since I played soccer.  However, I paid for my ticket, which made me committed.

Fast forward to March-- Brandon did some training, but he still never ran 13 miles straight.  I also did not train.  I've been doing my body sculpt class twice a week, so I was getting a workout in, but I did not ever run.  I was a little unsure since I did not train for the race at all.  I know people walk these races, but I didn't want to walk.  I told myself that I will be fine.

Moab is an excellent spot to camp.  There are lots and lots of campground on the BLM lands around Moab.  However, Brandon and I both wanted a shower after the race.  I looked at hotel rooms, but they were almost $200 a night!  I looked at Airbnbs, but the ones that were available were all hostel style.  Lastly, I found a privately owned campground called ACT Campground.  They were pretty cheap at $25 a night with very clean bathrooms with showers.  We never spend a lot of time at camp, so I decided this was our best option for what we wanted.

The Weekend

We left Flagstaff right at noon on Friday.  We both wanted to get an earlier start, but we had to take care of some work.  Driving to Moab isn't too bad.  It's a 5 hour drive, but it's mostly on the reservation,  It takes 3 hours to get to the Utah border, and then it's all good from there.
Newspaper Rock

We have been participating in the Utah GeoTour.  This is a geocaching tour all across Utah.  When you find 3 specific caches in each county, you get a patch.  After 10 patches, you can receive a coin.  Anyways, we needed one last cache for San Juan County.  We stopped at Newspaper Rock, which is on the way to Canyonlands Needles District.  This was a really cool rock!  I highly recommend stopping here if you are in that area.  We would have continued to the Needles District, but we were running out of time and sunlight.

We got to Moab with about an hour left of sunlight.  We drove up to Dead Horse Point State Park to see the overlook at sunset.  It was very pretty! Once the sunset, we drove back into town to pick up our race packets.  We ate dinner at a cool burger joint, then found our camp and went to sleep since we were waking up early for the race!

The Race

Brandon and I left camp at 7:15am.  That is 6:15am Arizona Time.  We found a parking spot downtown, wished each other good luck, and went to our shuttle pick ups.  The race was very organized, which is very nice.  When I did the Warrior Dash back in Atlanta, it was not organized, which made it the worst race I have ever participated in.  Anyways, I was on one of the first shuttles for the 5 mile racers.  We waited in a trailhead parking lot for about an hour.  Once we were 15 minutes from the start of the race, we walked a quarter mile down the road to starting line.  When I got to starting line, I realized I had to use the restroom.  Yes, I used the restroom when I was waiting for the hour.  I was drinking a lot of water, but wasn't sweating anything out.  

The race started, and I was feeling great.  I did the first mile in 8 minutes!  I kept thinking about my bladder and knew I was going to have to go to the restroom soon.  After mile 2, I saw a porta-potty with no wait.  I was finally able to use the restroom, and I told myself "if this puts me 2 minutes over an hour, it's because of my bladder."

The course was very, very nice.  It was very scenic and was mostly downhill.  Mile 4 went along Hwy 191.  This was probably the worst part of the course.  Many cars, and the sun was beating right on you.  I reached mile 5 and knew I was almost there.  I had to walk and catch my breath a few times, but I kept going.  I crossed the finish line at 1:03:15.  That's maintaining a little over 12 minutes a mile.  Not too bad for someone who doesn't run. 

I got snacks, stretched, and waited for Brandon to cross the finish line.  We completed his race at 2 hours and 23 minutes!  We grabbed a free beer and sat around.  We finally decided to head about to the campsite around 2pm to take a shower.  


Once we were all cleaned up, we decided to drive around Arches National Park since we were both sore from the race.  We went to a lot of the viewpoints and parking areas that we missed last time we were in the park.  I love Arches National Park!

Double Arch
We made our way back into Moab for a small geocaching meet & greet.  We met two other geocachers who were from Blanding, Utah.  We talked about geocaching, about Utah, and the Bears Ear National Monument.  After about an hour of chatting, we parted our ways.

We originally wanted to go to Moab Brewery for dinner, but the wait was 50 minutes for a seat!  We went across the street to the Blu Pig for some yummy bbq.  We got back to the campground around 9:30pm and quickly fell asleep.


We woke up around 8am, broke down camp, and made our way back into town.  Brandon wanted to show me where he started his race, so we drove up to the Half-Marathon starting point.  We found a few geocaches, set up the GoPro, and went back down into Moab.  It was a very beautiful drive! 

Musselmans Arch
Next, we decided to visit Canyonlands for a little bit before heading back to Flagstaff.  We went to Mesa Arch, which was a short little walk we did last time.  After looking at the map, we wanted to go into the canyon to see Musslemans Arch. 

We took the Suburu down Shaffer Trail, which is a 4WD road that goes into the canyon.  The road and drive was scary, but also very cool.  It took us about an hour to get to the Arch.  The Arch was wild!  There were only a few other people down there, and one offered to take out photo on the arch, so we did!  Walking on the arch was terrifying!  

Moab Potash Ponds (source: Google)
After the arch, we decided to go back home.  Only problem-- we either go back up into Canyonlands, or we follow the road into Potash and then Moab.  We decided to take the latter!  Brandon had lots of fun taking his car off road.  It was a beautiful day for a drive, so why not?  We saw the Moab Potash ponds, which are the "electric blue ponds in the middle of the Utah desert".  Super cool!  We ended up seeing a lot of rock climbers, found even more camping spots, and had a nice time driving.

On the way back home, we found a few more caches before the sun went down.  Overall, it was an awesome weekend. I will definitely sign up for the 5 mile race again next year! 

View from 4WD Shaffer Trail

Monday, February 27, 2017

The sorrow of being a student web-programmer with little to no support

In October, I took a part time position as a student web developer.  I haven't really touched Python Programming or any web development in almost two years.  I know the concepts, and I can pick things up rather fast, and I had the confidence to fulfill the task.  Four months later, I realized how over-my-head I am in tasks.  As a full-time student with a full-time assistantship, I was crazy to even add another 20 hour a week job into my hectic schedule.  However, I was determined to fit this in my planner mostly because I wanted the foot in the door as well as the experience.
I have the skillset to do this job.  It's basic Python Programming, Web Development in Flask, and version control using github.  What I didn't know: server management, mobile application development, and coding in Google Earth Engine.  I have taken over the position of a person who created a web application with an API and a mobile app from scratch.  I knew going in that the project was pretty well maintained, and I knew I could get started as long as I had guidance.  The only thing I was missing was the guidance.  The person before me left little to no documentation on the project.  I also didn't know much about servers and SSL certificates to know that they could expire.  I also didn't know that servers might need to be manually restarted if they go down.  Taking over someone's project in any field can be tedious and frustrating.  Not knowing what was going on in the person's head and what their intentions were causes the person taking over the project grief.
I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work on this project, but I feel like I'm letting the team down.  Sometimes, I reach roadblocks.  Currently, I am trying to display coordinates on the map page, and I've spent hours reading plugins and trying to implement them in the project--- only to realize that the person used angular-leaflet for the project, so now I'm starting back at square one.
I have already learned a lot from this project.  And one main thing that I learned is that I don't think I can do a web programming job without help.  Yes, I've consulted the mighty Google and yes, I've asked friends, but sometimes that doesn't help.
I'm mostly venting and ranting on this because I've pretty much been asked if this is something I want to do full-time.  Though I love the idea of having a full-time position with an awesome organization in an amazing City, I don't think I have the necessary skill set to continue.  What I mean is that I cannot do this job by myself which frustrates me.  I'm a type of person that hates asking for help.  I like to figure things out on my own.  But I've reached the point that now I have to ask a friend or consult Google for the answer. And if they don't have an answer, I'm up shit-creek. And Lord help me if the website goes down-- my inbox gets flooded as I'm trying to find the answer.  I've reached the point where I just ignore them because I'm just trying to fix the issue.

As a Type A, I want to take this full time position because I'll have a job in the place that I want to live.  Knowing that I have this safety net is nice.  As an ISTP, I also crave intense, spontaneous excitement-- this means that I like to live on the edge and hope for the best.  I also get nervous and ask myself "What if I cannot find a job in my field?", but I also remind myself that the universe does everything for a reason.

In conclusion, I am very fortunate to have a part-time for a cool project for an awesome organization in an amazing City.  The pay is pretty nice, and I would be offered full time benefits, and I get to travel twice a year.  HOWEVER, I'm not happy.  I enjoy learning new things, but I cannot learn anything new on my own.  I get frustrated and give up to easily.  In addition, I'd rather be doing more GIS or remote sensing analysis.  I don't want to rule out programming entirely, but if I were in a different environment, I could probably grow with it.

Here's to trying to find a full-time job in my field.  Fingers crossed that it is in Flagstaff.  If not, I'm open to move elsewhere.
/rant over.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A weekend in Death Valley National Park

Our campsite
Last July, I decided I wanted to go to Death Valley National Park.  Of course, I wasn't going to go in the summer where the temperature is over 100.  I looked on and found that they were taking reservations for campsites in January.  This would be a perfect little weekend getaway before starting my final semester at NAU.  I booked two nights in a tent-only campsite in Furnace Creek.  Now, there are several other campsites within the park, but I do not like doing the whole "first come, first serve", especially on "Brandon's time" (aka, later than I want).  On, most campgrounds have an interactive map of the site.  In addition, some campsites have pictures.  What I loved about the drive-in tent only spots were the trees!  I wasn't sure how hot it was going to be, so I picked a spot with the most shade.
We left Flagstaff on Friday around 11am.  We were in no rush to get there since there wasn't a gate to the campground. (Tip: Always check to see if there is a gate.  While in Utah last summer, the campground gate closed at 10pm).  Death Valley is also only a 5.5 hour drive, and we were going back a timezone.  We finally headed as far West on I-40-- all the way to Kingman.  We stopped at a Mobile gas station to use the restrooms.  However, this wasn't no ordinary Mobile Gas Station; this gas station had a small dog park!  We let Kodak run around for a little bit.  There was another dog that came by.  Of course, we told Kodak that we didn't drive 2 hours for this little thing, and that we had to keep on going.
About one hour from Kingman is the Nevada Border and also Hoover Dam.  I've heard my grandma talk about this location, and since we were passing through, I figured we just take a small detour.  I was surprised on the amount of security there. We drove all the way to a parking lot on the Arizona side of the dam.  I'm not going to lie, I really wanted to check out the bridge walk, but I knew that we didn't have enough time, and that someone in our party is terrified of heights (Kodak).
The Hoover Dam isn't too dog friendly.  In fact, dogs aren't allowed on the dam at all.  Brandon and I walked around, grabbed a geocache, and made our way back to the freeway.  Overall, it was a pretty interesting place, and I would love to check out the Dam Tour next time when we don't have Kodak with us.
Next stop: Las Vegas!  Okay, this was only for lunch.  We packed food with us, but wanted to save it for when we were in the park.  Since I was driving, I requested In-N-Out.  I've only had this food once, and it was actually last January when I first had their food.  Brandon ran in and ordered, and we ate in the parking lot.  Once we were refueled, we switched places.  Brandon went to start the car, when we realized I left the engine on.....whoops!  Brandon asked a truck that was parked two spots down if he had any jumper cables.  The nice guy did and helped us jump the car.  At this moment, Brandon and I decided that we need to have a set with us in future emergencies. (Update: We now have a set with us!).
After that small little fiasco, we were finally back on our way.  Next stop: Pahrump!
The drive wasn't too bad.  There was a little traffic (people not going the speed limit), but we made it on time.  We decided to top off in Pahrump, even though we had about half a tank.  I knew we were going to do a lot of driving within the Park, but wasn't sure how much the gas would be.
Update:  Gas in Pahrump was $2.19.  Gas in Furnace Creek inside Death Valley was $3.79!
Because we were in Pacific Time, the sun sets at 5pm.  We got to our campsite around 5:40pm and set up camp.  We had a fire, and Brandon made himself a brat.  We just sat and chilled around the fire.  We went to sleep around 9pm. Though we went to sleep early, we woke up several times throughout the night because of the wind.  The wind was so loud and strong that it shook the tent!
Devil's Golf Course

The next day, I woke up around 8:30am (hey, you get to sleep in a little when you're on vacation).  I walked Kodak around the campground, woke Brandon up, and we were off to the Visitor's Center.  We picked up a map and got an idea what we were doing today.  I had several geocaches saved on my phone, we were also trying to get enough to pick up our #3000 cache on the trip!

Our first stop was Badwater Basin-- the lowest point in North America.  It was pretty cool to see, and we just walked out a little since we had Kodak.  We also went to almost every point heading back North to Furance Creek.  We actually hiked Natural Bridge and checked out Devil's Golf Course.
Zabriskie Point
I wanted to see Zabriskie Point, so we headed around two miles East to check that out.  Once again, dogs weren't allowed, so we took turns checking it out.  This was probably my favorite sight during the whole trip.  Next time I'm here, I would like to hike the Badlands.
We made lunch and examined what we wanted to do next.  We checked out some of more not-so-popular sights like the Salt Flats with the pupfish, and the Death Valley Borates.   We made ourselves all the way up to Mesquite Sand Dunes.  We had fun here and let Kodak run in the sand.  Once we were down, we noticed that we had around 40 minutes left of daylight.  We were pretty exhausted being in the sun all day that we decided to head back to camp and cook dinner.

We had another fire and made the remaining brats and smores.  Brandon read some of his book while I just relaxed and enjoyed the moment.  That night, the wind was not as bad as the night before.  I had a pretty good night's rest.

Sunday morning, we ate breakfast and broke down camp.  We chatted to the young couple that was next to us and gave them recommendations on what they should do.  I knew we needed to get back home, so we stopped back at the Visitor's Center to grab some souvenirs.  Our last sight at the park was Dante's View.
Dante's View
This was a pretty interesting part in the park. You drive around 30 minutes and gain around 4000ft in elevation.  I watched the temperature from when we turned off the road to the parking lot at the very top.  The temperature began at 65 and dropped all the way to 41! At Dante's View, you are overlooking the Badwater Basin.  It was crazy to see the landscape at a different elevation.  We made lunch, and then decided to make our way back to Arizona.

We didn't make many stops on our way back.  We did, however, stop at Seven Magic Mountains which is a temporary art piece just outside of Las Vegas.  It was very crowded but still really interesting.  It was here that we finally grabbed our #3,000 geocache!

Seven Magic Mountains
Death Valley National Park is a huge park.  I wish we had one more day to explore the Western part of the Park.  The northern part with Scotty's Castle is currently closed due to historic flooding.  I read in the Visitor's Center that it probably won't open back up until 2019.  I will definitely like to go back to this park in the future.
Death Valley is also filled with lots of Earthcaches and Virtuals.  During our trip, we managed to grab 15 within the park.

Exploring the parks and camping always makes me excited for my next trip.  After some work and school, I'll be ready for another vacation.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Havasupai- aka The Hidden Paradise in the Grand Canyon

After moving to Flagstaff, all of the "most do" activities for nearby attractions always led me to Havasu/Havasupai Falls.  Several Grand Canyon postcards and advertisements use the unique turquoise water-- however, it is almost impossible to see the naturally, breathtaking waters in the flesh.  Okay, perhaps I am being a little dramatic, but it is actually really hard to get a camping permit in the beautiful little piece of paradise.  After missing out on an opportunity via Meetup and another through the hiking group at NAU, I pretty much accepted the fact that I may not see the falls in person while living in Flagstaff.  However, while working at the City of Flagstaff, my supervisor told me that her and her friends got a last minute camping reservation for the following weekend.  She told me to try and call because cancellations are pretty frequent. After hearing that little bit of hope, I decided to give them a call.  I first called the Camping Office on a Monday at 9am.  I believe I used the 2121 number.  The lady who picked up the phone told me that they were completely booked for the season, which lasts through November.  I knew this was my fate, and decided to call them in another hour.  So after about 45 minutes had passed, I took a water break (I was collecting data at the time), and I decided to give them another call.  This time, I called the 2141 number.  The phone gave me a busy tone, so I hung up.  I remember I edited some data and decided to call once more.  So, I called the same number, and it rang for almost a minute.  I was about to hang up, but a voice was on the other line.  I asked about 2 different weekends in October, but this new lady told me the same news.  I then asked if there were any openings in September, and then she said yes!  She said that they had an opening for 2 nights for 2 people in September.  Of course, I didn't exactly know what days they were, but I accepted the opening.  I gave her my name and wrote down my confirmation number.  I was head over heels excited for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

** So this is how the reservation process goes down.  Feb 1st is when the season opens for camping.  I heard that since so many people are calling on this day, that it is nearly impossible to get someone to answer the phone.  You could be lucky and get someone to answer, but your dates might not be available.  When I called the office, it was the last week in July, and it was for a reservation in early Sept.

Anyways, fast forward to a week before the trip.  I start school for the semester and realized that I couldn't miss school that Wednesday, which happened to be the first day of our trip.  I called the camping reservation and asked if it was possible to change my trip by 1 day.  I got denied, which made me really upset.  This isn't a trip that you want to do in 2 days.  I waited a few days and called back, on a Saturday afternoon.  The phone rang for a minute, and I almost hung up.  However, a chipper lady answered the phone.  I asked her what time the tourist office closes in the village, because you have to check in there before you go into the campsite.  She told me 6pm, which would not have been enough time for me to teach lab that Wednesday morning, and drive 3 hours to the trail head.  I told her that I wouldn't be able to make it on time, and if it was possible to change my reservation by 1 day for my party of 2.  She told me to hang on, and got back with an answer.  She said that since it was just 2 people, that one extra night shouldn't be a problem in the campsite.  I thanked her so much and confirmed my reservation number.

I was very, very lucky with this whole reservation process.  I booked a 3 night stay at a kennel for Kodak.  Though, it was more than just a kennel-- they have doggie day camp and have 24 hour care!  Anyways, Brandon and I made a meal list, ran to REI for last minute supplies, and packed our bags.  We were very excited about this trip.

Day 1

We left Flagstaff at 4:30ish on Thursday morning.  Brandon slept in the car while I drove to the trailhead, which was almost 3 hours away.  We arrived at the trail head around 7am.  We tidied up our packs, got all situated, and headed down the trail at 7:20am.  The trail was all down hill, which meant it was going to be all uphill on the way back.  However, I tried to not focus on the future, but rather on the now.  We passed several groups that were hiking up, and got passed by a few pack mules.  We even saw the helicopter.  The weather was great and we were in the shaded during the majority of the hike to the village.

Havasu Falls
The hike from the trailhead to the village was 8 miles.  Yes, 8 miles.  When you get to the village, you have to check into the tourist office.  Here, you pay for your trip, get wristbands that must stay on you for the entire trip, a tag for your tent, and a few rough maps of the area.  We got to the tourist office around 11:20, which meant it took us 4 hours to hike 8 miles downhill.  We took breaks for food, water, and picture opportunities.  There were several groups checking in at the same time as us, so we didn't get out of the office until almost noon.

Once you check in, you have to pay for your reservation.  It is $35 per person to enter.  Then, $5 per person for an environment fee, and then $17 per person per night for camping. It is rather expensive for camping, but this is how the Village makes their money.  When you pay, everyone in your party gets a wristband that must stay on during the duration of your trip.  After checking in and getting your wristbands, it is another 2 miles to the campsite from the village.  The village is home to almost 300 Supai people.  There is a helicopter pad, a school, post office, trading post, lodge, and cafeteria.  We didn't spend much time at the village, since we had everything that we needed.  The 2 mile hike to the campsite was really hot-- the sun was out and if was of course the hottest part of the day.  It took us almost an hour to reach the campsite.  I was very exhausted from the heat. While going to the campsite, you pass Upper and Lower Navajo Falls and Havasu Falls.  We knew that we were going to head right to Havasu Falls once we set up camp.

We reached the campsite and saw one available spot.  Not knowing what the campsite status was, I sat with our stuff at the first site while Brandon continued down the camping area to hunt for available sites.  He said there were several nicer spots, so we walked a little further.  We found a nice spot that was off the trail with some shade and picnic table.  We set up our tent, ate a snack, and put on our bathing suits.  By this time, it was around 2pm.  We decided to head back to Havasu Fall which was just about a quarter mile from our campsite.

Havasu Falls was amazing.  We jumped in the water, which was cold, but felt really good after a 10 mile hike.  The area was a little crowded.  There were people eating on the picnic tables, some people were asleep on the beach, while others were playing the blue water.  After enjoying the nice water, the sun moved below the canyon, so it was getting cold.  We went back to the the campsite and grabbed some dinner and water.  We went back to Havasu Falls, and no one was there.  We cooked out dinner and enjoyed the lovely views.  We headed back to the campground right before dark.  I was exhausted and went right to sleep.  Brandon stayed awake for a little bit to take pictures of the stars.

Day 2

Mooney Falls
We decided to let our bodies sleep in after our long hike yesterday.  I remember waking up to hearing people people on the trail.  It was a slow moving morning since we were a little sore.  We had breakfast and decided to do Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls.  We packed our day packs and continued down the campsite and saw all of the other sites we missed.  About a half mile away is Mooney Falls.  This waterfall is taller than Havasu Falls with a very strong undertow.  We took pictures from above and looked at the climb down--- and it look terrifying.  But, I was going to do it.  Brandon hooked his GoPro to his head and he recorded the climb down.  The climb down to Mooney was a narrow hike, through these mini-like caves.  Then, you had to descend using ladders and chains.  It was definitely terrifying, and I didn't have that much fun, but the view were worth it.  At the last ladder, there was a Rez dog just chilling.  She was in my way, but after gathering up my guts, I attempted to go around her, and we were both safe.  The Falls were beautiful, but we wanted to head over to Beaver Falls since it was a 2 mile hike away.  The trails was not marked at all, and at times, it could of been difficult to lose the trail.  After a few water crossing and sketchy ladders, we made it to Beaver Falls.

Beaver Falls was not crowded at all.  Beaver Falls is a cascaded waterfall with several pools.  Before descending down to Beaver, there was a Native to checked our Wristbands.  It was crazy to see that they still had some checking wristbands all the way out at Beaver.  Anyways, we enjoyed the cold water for about an hour and had lunch.  It took us almost 2 hours to get from Mooney to Beaver.  It was around 2pm when we headed back to Mooney.  Heading back was a little tough since we lost the trail twice, but we ended up where we needed to be.  We took photos of Mooney Falls, but decided to grab our dinner back at the campsite and eat it at Havasu.  The climb back up from Mooney was just as scary.  Since the wind changed direction, the mist from the falls made the chains really slippery.  But, I made it back up in one piece. 

Near Beaver Falls
We arrived back at the campsite.  I changed out of my bathing suit and into some dry clothes. We grabbed dinner and went back to Havasu Falls.  We stayed until about dark again and went back to camp.  Since we were heading out in the morning, we packed our bags the best that we could that night, so we could head out early.

Day 3

My phone alarm went off at 5:30.  We got up, took down camp, packed our bags, and hiked on out at 6:30am.  We stopped at Havasu Falls once again to quickly eat breakfast.  We enjoyed the last views of the Falls, and hiked back to the Village.  We arrived at the village around 8am.  The helicopter doesn't run on Saturdays, but we should of used a pack mule...anyways, the hike out was a tough one.  The never ending uphill was a killer.  We took our time, had plenty of water breaks, and took rest stops in the shade.  They last hour and a half, and mile and a half, was the worst.  It was a 1,000 feet change in elevation.  With a 30 pound pack on my back and during the hottest part of the day, I seriously thought I was going to die--okay, I was being super dramatic, but it was a tough hike, and it was super hot.  Brandon does a great job putting up with me, but I was thrilled to see a small little stand at the top of the Hilltop.  Here, we bought 2 cans of Dr. Pepper, 1 cold water bottle, and 2 slices of watermelon for $10.  It was so great.  Overall- the trip was awesome, and I would do it again.  Here are some tips.
The Only Way Up and Down to Mooney Falls


  • Leave early.  During the later summer/early fall hours, you can leave the Hilltop around 7am and get to the Village at 11am.  Perfect for beating the sun.
  • Filter your water.  Even though it's from a spring, we still filtered our water.  We heard several people have bad times in the restrooms
  • There are 3 compost restroom areas in the campground. 
  • You check in at the lady at the top of the Hilltop to confirm your confirmation before heading down
  • Don't stop at the first open campsite you see.  The campground goes back quite a ways with some very nice spots by the water.
  • There is a Cash-Only Frybread stand between Havasu Falls and the campground.  They were open around dinner time both nights we were there. 
  • Don't wear your packs when hiking back to the Hilltop.  I will definitely pay for a Pack Mule next time.  
  • You can pay with Cash or Card at the tourist check in
  • My hydroflask was awesome.  It kept ice cold water in it for 3 days. 
  • Take all of the pictures! 
  • Go down to Mooney Falls. It's super scary, but totally worth it!
  • Always wear your wristband
  • There is a Trading Post and Cafeteria in the Village

Funny story-- as we were hiking to the campground after checking into the tourist, we past these 3 southern people.  They were giggling up a hill and we said "hi."  The lady told me "We're going back to the village for a Coke."  I don't know why, but I thought that was so funny.

Also, my FitBit lasted the entire 3 days.  From Hilltop and back to Hilltop, my FitBit recorded almost 35 miles for the 3 days!  Talk about a workout.  I also lost 4 pounds when I weighed myself when I got back to the apartment. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pokemon Go or Pokemon No?!

If you have logged on any social media for the past month, you probably saw a post from a friend about the new smartphone app: Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game that encourages people to go outside and play along with Pokemon.  Alright, I don't know exactly how it works, but I do know that this application is making people leave their houses in order to collect supplies, capture pokemon, battle gyms, and of course, meet new (and real-life) people!

At first, I thought this was going to be a silly game that was only going to be popular for about a week.  However, with its popularity, the servers went down often, but that didn't stop people from wanting to play the game.  The game is something special to individuals, especially to the millennials.  You see, when I was around 6 years old (year 1999-2000), I remember Pokemon being really popular.  I remember seeing the different trading cards, but I had no idea what they meant-- and to be honest, I still kind of don't know what they mean.

Nevertheless, Pokemon was a staple for the millennial generation that ignited the love for anime tv shows, trading cards, and of course, video games!  I remember my neighbor had a GameBoy that he played Pokemon on.  He was nice enough to let me play, but I honestly still had no idea what I was doing-- at this point, I was in the 3rd/4th grade.

Since I didn't have consoles to play video games on, I didn't really have the passion for pokemon like others do.  However,  I use Pokemon Go as an opportunity to re-live my video game deprived childhood.  (Okay, my childhood wasn't that bad.  I actually loved playing outside and playing computer games!).

With the help of social media, everyone can state their opinion whenever they can, and in fact, many people complain how this new Pokemon Go is silly and pointless.  Well, one can say that about anything!  Candy crush, Geocaching, Neko Atsume, Boom Beach, etc.  If there is a game that interests you, play it!  We live in a world where we have thousands of games at our fingertips, and there is actually something there for everyone!

Now, who do I see playing Pokemon Go? Answer: EVERYONE.  Yes, people of all ages, races, and religions.  Why? Because it is a game that revolves around your movement and your environment.

And-- this is why I like the game, and this is how this game relates to my blog: it uses geospatial features to determine your location, and it encourages you to travel to new places to gather supplies, battle gyms, and of course, collect new Pokemon.

So the people that created Pokemon Go are the same people that created Ingress, another smartphone game that uses your location to play  the game.  You see, these "poke-stops" are mostly unique locations that have a symbolic feature to its surrounding area.  In Flagstaff, most of these stops are plaques, statues, and artwork.  You see, this encourages geo-tourism since you can learn a lot about a city's history and culture with the help of your handheld GPS device.

But what I think I love most about this game is that it wants you to leave your house and explore hidden gems around your town.  Many people miss out on the history and culture of their city.  Even though I've only lived in Flagstaff for a year, I am already learning a lot about Flagstaff because of this game.

So, I think Pokemon Go is a great way to play a game while also moving and exploring the town/city that you're in.  Obviously, don't go to places that make you uncomfortable, and ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SURROUNDINGS.  Don't walk into people, don't walk into oncoming traffic, and don't go in dark alleys by yourself!  Even if you are texting in walking, you should still do this.  I think people are getting too caught up into the game, that they forget about the real-world.  If you have good spatial skills, you can determine where upcoming pokestops are on the map, and your phone vibrates when a "wild pokemon" appears.

Use common sense, get outside, learn something new, and of course, have fun!  Brandon and I went to a meet-up two weeks ago, and there were at least 100 people there.  I've seen events for Pub Crawls and Flash Mobs.  My advice: always go with a friend-- use the buddy system.  Plus, it's more fun when you have someone with you!

Have fun!  Collect them all! :)