New friends and old mountains.

Time goes so fast, I just can’t believe that it’s almost August! I can’t believe I’ve been here for almost 2 months already, but I’ve seen so many things that I hardly can remember it all. I’ve said it before but I’ll keep saying it, because life is so incredibly good. No, good is not the word I’m looking for. Life is great. Amazing. Fantastic. This is how life should be, simple as that.
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This is approximately how I have travelled so far. I cycled up until the third white dot after Wilmington, and then I’ve been driving the rest. Still so much left to see! I need to come back, that’s for sure. 

I left Zion on Monday, and drove towards Arches National Park. It took me a few hours, but I got there right after lunch time and drove into the park. It’s a park filled with these natural stone formations, and most of them were really cool. But it’s mostly famous for the arches that nature has formed though, so I set out to see some of them.
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This one was called the double arch. 
This was either the south or north window. 
Can you see me up there, with a halo of blonde hair? I don’t think I’ve been this blonde since I was 12, but I’ve barely seen a cloud the entire time here and the sun is strong.

To get to the Delicate Arch, which is also the most famous one and the symbol on Utahs license plates, I had to go for quite a hike. It was very hot but it was so pretty. 
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I wish I could do that…
I expected to at least see a snake or something while walking this trail, but nope, just some tiny lizards and that was it. Disappointed.

Right across from the Arches national park is Canyonlands, which is where I went the very next day. I picked a trail I wanted to do, which went up on top of one of the rocks there. It was pretty steep though, so when I was sitting there sliding down on my butt to get down I just thought “I’m so happy my mother can’t see me right now, she’d freak out”. But I got up and down in one piece, so no worry. And the trail was called Aztec Butte trail, I don’t know how to say butte or what it means so I just figured it means you need to slide down some parts on your butt. (I googled, it means “an isolated hill with steep sides”. The more you know…)
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Since it’s mostly rocks they put these tiny little formations so you know where to go. 
Up at the top I found this. I couldn’t find a sign or anything indicating how old it is, but I’m guessing that it’s pretty old… 
If at first you don’t succeed… 
…try again!

After the hike I got back in the car, and was finally headed for Colorado. I’ve been looking forward to that state for so long. I was almost immediately rewarded with the most amazing views, as the landscape soon shifted from the red rocks, to a lush green with high mountains showing up far, far away.
I think I startled the guy on the bike as I shouted “do you want water, peanuts, nectarines or cherries?” (which was everything I had in my car) as he rode by… he didn’t though. I also stopped next to every other cyclist I saw along the road and offered them the same things, Colorado has a lot of cyclists! I’m jealous, but not really, because this state has too many mountains for it to be fun…

I got the Salida in Colorado late that night, and spent the night there. The next day I got to sleep in for a bit, before I was back on the road, heading to a very, very small town called Westcliffe. There I had been invited to spend the night with Jeanie and Mike, all through the wonders of the internet. Oh, I love the internet… After a luckily very small wrong turn I got to their house, and it was just gorgeous. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, with an amazing view of the mountains right in their backyard, and their house was so beautiful too.
Ceffie the lagotto! It’s the same type of dog that my parents have. They had the exact same mannerism, it’s so fascinating. 
Just an hour after I had arrived, so did two of Jeanies friends, Cindy and Kathleen. I had the absolute best afternoon getting to know them, they were just hilarious. I’m so thankful that I get to experience things like this, what other tourist gets to do that? This trip has just turned into something so much better than I ever dared to dream of.

When I arrived I was told that there would be gifts waiting for me, but that most of them would be gag gifts. This is everything I received:
Socks, sandals, a chocolate moose, candy, a bunny pin, a necklace, bracelet, a Colorado cup and a bottle of wine. Not too bad! Though I had sworn I would never wear Crocs in my life, I guess that’s about to change. But I promise that I will never ever wear them with socks again!

We spent the entire afternoon talking and drinking some wine, before Mike cooked us an amazing dinner and Jeanie made a coconut pie that was delicious. I fell asleep as soon as I laid down that night… which was good, because the next day we were hiking up to a waterfall close to where they live. But not before sitting on their back porch drinking coffee and talking for a few hours. This place is just too beautiful. IMG_5186It was a fun hike, and I enjoyed both that and actually having other people to talk to, not just myself for once.
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After a while we got to the falls, and they were amazing! I took the chance to get me feet wet.
I got some pretty nasty mosquito bites, can you see the one growing on my arm?
Ceffie and Mike hiking ahead, they were fast.

As we got back to the house I took a quick shower, had a fruit smoothie and was on my way towards Loveland, Colorado. I left at around five in the afternoon, and got to the hotel at almost nine thirty. But I stopped just outside of Denver to have dinner and buy some real hiking shoes at REI. That place is just great, I could easily spend so much money there. As soon as I got to the hotel I started researching where I was going to hike today in the Rockies, but I quickly decided that I needed rest. I’m constantly moving around and doing things, and I’m in desperate need of both a mental and physical break, so that’s what I’m doing today. Well mostly, I do have some minor planning that needs to be done as well but other than that I’m in need of a down day.

Thank you so much Jeanie and Mike for taking me in, you’re the reason why I love this country so much. And Cindy and Kathleen, it was such a pleasure getting to know you! I can’t believe how I got so lucky to get to know such amazing people during my journey across this country. And Colorado is just amazing. I even asked the ladies if they could find me someone to marry, just so that I can stay here. I know I’ve said it before, but Colorado really is my favorite state so far. Might even be my favorite place on earth.

I’m such a lucky woman.

I go to seek a great perhaps.

I’m falling in love. I’m falling in love with the mountains. With the rivers, and the colors the sun paints across the cliffs during the late afternoons. I’m falling in love with the endlessly blue skies, and the kindness of the people. I’m even falling in love with the heat. As I was stretched out on a sun chair today, overlooking the mountains all around me I thought “I could see myself living here.”

I grew up in the south of Sweden. Where I lived, there are no mountains. We have a lot of rain, wind and grey skies, and the summer is usually short and disappointing. The kind of nature I’m experiencing here is unlike anything I’ve seen in my life. I’ve never hiked a mountain in my life, simply because there has never been any for me to hike, and I had no idea how great it could be. I can’t cycle, but I can walk, and this is the best type of walking there is: hiking. It’s been a word I’ve heard, but never quite experienced. And it’s better than I dreamed of.

So maybe this was the thing I’ve been searching for in my journey across the country? A new purpose in life, something that makes me want to travel from place to place to explore. And now I feel like I’ve found it, in hiking. Maybe I wasn’t mean to bikepack, I was meant to backpack. I’m watching nature in its rawest form, and getting closer than ever before. Being alone gives me a lot of time to think, a lot of it is about being right here right now and appreciate everything I get to experience, but a lot of it is also about my future. What I want to do, who I want to be, and recently: where I want to be. After having experienced nature like I have this past week, the very thought of having to give it up pains me. I want to hike mountains. When my hand heals, I want to try mountain biking. I want adventure at my doorstep, and I’m not sure where I might be able to find that. But isn’t that also so great? That anything is possible? That I’m finding out who I really am on this adventure, and getting to know myself and constantly stepping out of my comfort zone to find out what excites me.

But if this is how I feel after Arizona and Utah, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to cope after Colorado and Wyoming. If I could move here and take Sweden’s health care, educational system, my family and all other great things with me, I’d probably not even hesitate.
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But back to the main point of this post: hiking. Like I said, I’ve never really been on a hike before. I’ve walked a lot, long journeys along the sea or around the islands in Stockholm, and I’ve loved it. But the closest I’ve ever come to hiking a mountain was Friday at lunch time when we’d sometimes go to Hammarbybacken which is the only high point in Stockholm (and it’s not a mountain, it’s a hill), and run laps up and down. I always came dead last.
(the good thing about this picture is that even though I look dorky, my former colleagues look even dorkier!) 

So of course when I did research on the trails here in Zion national park, I settled for Angels Landing, a trailed marked as “strenuous” and “not for anyone fearful of heights”. I’m not terrified of heights, I just respect them, a lot. I knew I’d have to walk up a mountain and I’m not in the best shape, but how hard can it be, really?

Well, pretty damn hard. I was panting a lot, and sweating like crazy (that might have something to do with the 38C/100F degree weather) but it was so beautiful and so much fun. The switchbacks seemed never ending, but after about an hour I reached the summit of the first mountain, and felt so pleased with myself.
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This I’ve learnt is a chipmunk, not a squirrel! It’s like Piff and Puff! (eh, Chip ‘n Dale?)
But little did I know, that the climb to the top had merely begun. After having walked up, up and up for more than an hour, I would now have to climb on the side of a mountain, with only a chain to hold onto to get to the summit. But I faced my fears and started climbing. Not only did the climb itself scare me, people were also going down when I was going up, so we had to meet and pass each other on the way. Nerve-wrecking!


Shortly after this picture was taken, I came across a bend, and saw this:

That is the very last climb up to Angels Landing. It’s steep, you have a 1400 feet drop on both sides and only a chain to hold onto. On some sections you’ll have to pull yourself up with your arms. My entire body just locked down and screamed a big “NOPE!” which I gladly listened to. I made it almost to the top, but it was just not worth getting to the very top for me. Way too scary.
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Despite not making it to the very top, I felt so proud of myself, and so accomplished. I loved it! So much that I’m now planning to do a lot more hiking during my stay here, and also when I get to Australia and New Zealand. Today my legs were pretty sore and I had a late night yesterday (I drove to the nearby town of Hurricane to see Paper Towns at the cinema) so I mostly hung out by the pool and walked around Springdale to buy a small camelbak backpack and a hiking skort. I can’t be hiking more mountains in jeans, and the drawstring backpack I’ve been using up until now is falling apart. The camelbak has a built in water system, so that will help a lot as I won’t have to carry around a bunch of bottles. Now I’m even more excited about my last month here, hiking is so much fun!
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Isn’t the backdrop with the mountains just gorgeous? Who wouldn’t want to live here.

Tomorrow I’m heading towards Arches National Park, and in a few days I’ll get to Colorado. There I will be staying a night with one of my mothers instagram friends (!!) before I’ll spend a few days in the Rockies doing my new favorite activity: hiking!

So much fun stuff coming up, that’s for sure!

Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon.

After a night in Flagstaff, I was on the road bright and early to get to Grand Canyon in time. It wasn’t that long of a drive, and I arrived at the park around 10 in the morning. After getting convinced to buy a park pass for all the national parks for a year, I drove in and parked. I expected there to be a crazy amount of people, but it wasn’t too bad actually. I love the feeling when you know that you’re about to see something spectacular, the expectations as you walk towards the first overlook and know that in just seconds you will be seeing a world famous phenomenon.
Seconds away from seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time…

And it was just that good. I was in awe from the very first moment I laid my eyes on the canyon, and just never stopped. It’s hard to capture just how beautiful and magnificent it really is, but I tried my best. Here is a tiny amount of the photos I took at the park. 
There were warning signs that you shouldn’t leave the path and climb the rocks. Well, not a lot of people listened, me included. But I never went as far as the people in the picture above, that is just stupid. 
There are a lot of hiking trails down into the canyon. Can you see the switchbacks in the corner? 
(it looks worse than it is, there were cliffs all around me, you just can’t see them in the picture. I promise I was never at risk of falling.)
Once again, some people were just being plain stupid. 

I took a bunch more pictures, but I won’t bore you with all of them. I did manage to meet some Swedes though! As I was climbing up from having taking one of the pictures, a family came climbing down and I knew right away they were Swedish. One of the sons even had a NY rangers t-shirt, a dead giveaway. Why? Henrik Lundqvist, duh! We had a quick chat, which was nice, but nothing too long, we’re still Swedish after all… I did have a longer talk with an American family I helped take a photo off though, they were super nice.

After having spent 5 hours just walking along the rim, I got back in the car and headed northeast towards the city of Page. It was only a 2,5 hour drive and I had a stop planned just before Page: the Horseshoe Bend. This was also on the list of beautiful places I should see, that I googled a few weeks back, and once again I have to thank google (and National Geographic!) for guiding me to the most amazing places. Just take a look at this:
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You might not be able to see it on my face, but I was absolutely terrified. It was SO high up, and super windy, so for some reason this was much scarier than Grand Canyon. You could tell that this was the general feeling, everyone was almost shuffling towards the edge to be able to get the best picture. You had to almost lean over to get the entire bend… scary! But so beautiful. Just unreal.

Minutes after I arrived to my hotel in Page, and during the check in the lady asked what else I had planned for my visit here.

Me: Tomorrow I’m going to see Antelope Canyon.
Her: What tour company have you booked?
Me: No, I’m just planning to go by myself.
Her: Oh no, it’s on the Navajo reservation, you have to book a tour and guide, otherwise you can’t get in.
Me: What.

Note to self: start doing better research and don’t leave everything for the night before! But I started googling and luck was on my side because I found a company and could book a tour for 10:30 the day after. The tour began with a Navajo man showing us the traditional hoop dance which was very impressive. I filmed the ending of it, where he was covered in all the hoops.
Then we boarded the cars, and were driven to the park.
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At the canyon the driver of each car also turned out to be our tour guide, mine was a native Navajo man named Leonard. All the guides were Najavo, which I think is pretty cool, it’s their land after all. We entered the canyon, and I was just in awe once again. Seems like that’s my constant state recently. Leonard told us stories about the canyon and its history but also turned out to be a great photography guide as he kept telling us where to stand and where to point the camera to get the best shot. The light was just amazing and I got so many great photos that I want to print as paintings when I get back to Sweden and have a home again, that I’m not sure how I’ll be able to pick. But here I don’t really have to pick, so you’ll get to look at almost all of the pictures I took.

I still can’t believe this is actually a real place that I got to see, and these are pictures that I actually took myself. While Grand Canyon was amazing because of how huge it is, Antelope Canyon was great because of the light and the shape and the colors. Both beautiful but in completely different ways.
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I must admit that this picture is a bit fake! You can’t actually see light unless something is blocking its path, so the guides would stand and throw sand into the air and then jump out of sight so that we could take pictures like this. I think this is my favorite out of all the ones I took. 
This is Leonard, my guide. He played the flute when we exited the canyon on the other side, such a nice touch.
Heading back through the sand towards the cars. It was a very bumpy and dusty trip, I had sand everywhere when we got back to town.

After a quick lunch stop I got back in the car and headed north towards Lake Powell to go for a swim. As I approached the area I had seen on the map, I realized that I was entering another park, and that it had a 20 dollar fee to get in! Once again I was in luck, as the national parks pass I had purchased at Grand Canyon was valid here as well. I think it has almost already payed off actually, and I have a bunch of parks left to visit.
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Yay, the beach! And look at the little cooler Janet gave me, it’s perfect! I can finally buy yoghurts and cheese and other things that needs to be kept cool without problem. And it’s very cute.

On my way back to the hotel I drove past the Glen Canyon Dam. It seems like Arizona will never stop surprising me.
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Tomorrow I’ll have an early start, as I’m driving to Zion National Park in Utah, about 2 hours away. I’m planning on hiking the Angel’s Landing trail there, which is supposed to be pretty hard so I want to get started early. It’s supposed to be really beautiful.

How am I doing otherwise? I must admit I’m doing very well. I’m happy, very happy and I feel so blessed to be able to do this and see all these amazing things. Life is easy at the moment, and I’m living the best life I can imagine there is. All I worry about sometimes is how much money I’m spending, but it’s just that, money. No matter how old the saying might be, you actually only do live once, and life is for living. And I sure am living. I can afford to do this, so why shouldn’t I? Yes, I’m spending a lot (A LOT) more money than I originally intended, but I’m gaining so much experience that I wouldn’t change it for the world. As I have experienced myself on this trip, you never know what might happen in your life, so what’s the point of waiting? I’m living my dream, and yes, it comes at a cost but I wouldn’t change anything that has happened to me up until this point in my life. I’m a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason. 

The hand situation is a little bit better. The bump is still there right behind my knuckles, and there is a constant tension across my upper hand and the knuckles. I can use my hand without problem but I have to flex and stretch it a lot. I had originally planned to go whitewater rafting as I get further north, but I don’t think that is an activity I’ll be able to do soon unfortunately. Holding on to a paddle while in a raft on wild water is not the smartest thing with an injured hand.

Okay, time for this lady to sleep, so that I’m ready to go hiking tomorrow! Expect an abundance of pictures…

Driving, being in awe, and driving some more.

When they told me Texas was big, they weren’t joking. I found a great picture the other day for comparison.
In the past few days I’ve driven across all of Europe basically. It’s flat. The roads are long and straight. But for some reason, I don’t get bored. I put on cruise control, listen to my documentary podcasts about murders, robberies, rapes, and other crimes, and get educated in the Swedish crime history while driving. It’s great! Well, except for the fact that some of the podcasts are quite upsetting…

Anyway. I drove from Marble Falls the other day, and knew that it would just be a travel day. I had looked at the map though, and saw that I would be passing by a cinema, so I timed it so that I could go see a movie. I decided to see Trainwreck, a film with the tagline “not your mother’s romantic comedy”, and it’s rated R here because of the sex and swearing. An R-rating means you have to be 17 and over, so imagine my surprise when the girl working there asked for ID. I just stared at her, before handing it over and telling her that I promise I’m over 17. So offended. I do NOT look like a teenager! I’m fine with them asking for ID when I get a beer, but this was just… and even worse when I googled later and realized that when it’s released in Sweden, it will be from 11 years! Oh wow. We take violence a lot more serious than sex and swearing in Sweden. You can even swear on TV, it’s no big deal.
I spent the night in a little town called Big Spring in Texas. Nothing special really, but it was my last day in Texas! But I had a lot more miles to go, of long and straight highways…

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The last one is at the Bottomless lakes national parks in New Mexico. Oh, and yes, I saw some bicycle tourists! There were a lot of them, so I’m guessing they were out on an organized trip.

After I had passed into New Mexico, I soon came to a little town called Roswell. It’s famous for a UFO crashing nearby in 1947, though it was really a air force surveillance balloon. Enthusiasts believe that it’s a cover up by the military though, and reports that there have been several sightings of UFO’s since that time. They even have a UFO museum there, which I of course had to visit! I was also a big fan of the 1999 TV show Roswell, which made it even more fun. IMG_4699 IMG_4707 IMG_4709
I LOOK SO WEIRD! I forgot to bring my glasses and only had my sunglasses, and even though I walked around with them on in there because I enjoy seeing where I’m going, it would have looked weird for the picture. So I removed them. I look weird. I love my glasses. 
Roswell! Such a great show. Well, maybe not by today’s standards. I believe it’s on Netflix though! Or that was a lie, I know it is because I have seen a few episodes…

After Roswell I headed north towards Albuquerque. Wow, that is a complicated name. More roads. But it was very pretty, I finally saw some bigger mountains, and an insane rainstorm. Luckily it was on the field beside me, and I didn’t have to drive through it.
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After a night in Albuquerque I headed for Arizona this morning. I had googled “what should I do between Albuquerque and Flagstaff” and the internet told me to visit the Petrified Forest National Park, and a meteor crater. Thank you internet!

North western New Mexico and Arizona are both SO beautiful. Rough, but with the most amazing hills and landscape. I love it! And the sky is amazing too. Blue and endless.
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When I entered the Petrified Forest I had really no idea what to expect. I didn’t know anything about it and had little to no expectations, but wow. I started driving and less than a minute later I pulled over onto the first overlook and was amazed. The red landscape was unlike something I have ever seen before.
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Look at this little house, doesn’t it look like something from Flintstones?

Every single time there was an overlook, the landscape looked completely different. It was so amazing.
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I took this photo just because I knew it would freak my mother out. It did! My self timer is for 10 seconds so I had to run to even get a shot with me in it. It took four tries… 

As I pulled into the last stop, a guy standing by a bunch of motorcycles waved me over. He wanted me to take a picture of him and his three brothers who were driving cross country on their bikes. I took a bunch of photos and then I got to try out one of the bikes. They thought I should switch vehicle, and I felt kind of tempted… haha nah, I’ve driven a moped before but unlike the 70’s when you got a motorcycle license for free along with your car license in Sweden, that had changed in 2004 when it was my turn. But they were so nice and they’re going to Grand Canyon tomorrow too, would be funny if we met again.
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The last stop on the 26 mile/42 km drive was to the actual petrified forest. It’s wood that million and million of years ago turned from wood to rocks and minerals. It looks like wood from a distance, but when you get close you can see that it’s not.
I love the petrified forest and would definitely recommend a visit if you’re in the area!

Cherry Bomb and I headed back out on the i-40 highway, this time with destination Barringer meteor crater. All I knew about this place was that a meteor hit the earth around 50 000 years ago, and the crater is still there. It was very impressive, especially when I learned just how small the actual meteor who made that HUGE hole was. Supposedly it was just 45 meter/150 feet wide, and that crater is really big.
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Me: Could you take a photo of me?
Woman: Sure!
Me: *gets suspicious* Where are you from?
Woman: Denmark.
Me: Jaha! Jag är från Sverige!

I’m disappointed I couldn’t spot them being Scandinavians right away, but the moment she opened her mouth I knew. There are a lot of Danes here! No Swedes so far though, but I suspect I’ll meet some as I get to more touristy areas. 

And that was the entire drive from Texas to Arizona. Tonight I’ve done some washing and planning, and tomorrow I’m heading for Grand Canyon. I will almost be hitting a different national park now every day for weeks, I’m excited! This country is beyond beautiful.

The Lone Star State.

And just like that things turn around! I’m feeling a lot better, and shortly after I had written my latest post, I got a comment from Janet telling me to get in contact with her. Who’s Janet? She’s one of the friends I made at the Cardinals baseball game in St Louis a few weeks ago, and she told me that I was welcome to stay with her and her husband Phil when I got to Houston. Very lucky for me, since that’s where I was going the very next day!

But before driving to their home, I had a very special place in mind.
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That’s right: IKEA! The place where dreams are made, or maybe that’s Disneyland? Either way it’s the place where you can buy Swedish food, though I had hoped to find some salty licorice but no such luck. I did find chocolate though. I was happy!

After that I got back in my car and braved the insane Houston roads. I have to keep taking deep breaths while driving those crazy 7-8 lane (yes, that’s in one direction) interstates, it feels like there’s more people on a single road than in all of Sweden… well, it probably is. But I made it to Janet and Phil’s house, and was welcomed with open arms. I love this country, I go to a baseball game and talk to some people for a few hours and then they invite me to stay with them several weeks later. It’s amazing. Soon after I got there we headed out in their awesome Mustang, I’ve never ridden in one before. I’m impressed and wouldn’t mind one of those myself.
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We went out to lunch, and after some food shopping headed back to their house. We just hung out, preparing some food and talking a lot and had such a good time. Janet and Phil are truly great people, and so generous. They are world travelers, and we talked a lot about different destinations. They’re going to southern Europe on a cruise in September, so treat them nice Europe!
We also went for a walk to an area close by to look at the view of downtown Houston. It was so hot though! 100F/38C is way too hot to be out walking, even for me. 
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A dog park close to their house. Very fancy!

For dinner they had some friends over, Biff and Criss. They had just been on the same cruise in Europe, so we got to hear their stories and had a great dinner. I can eat again, but after not eating for almost four days my stomach has shrunk down to tiny, so I could only have a tiny bit unfortunately. And here I had been fighting so hard to get back to normal eating habits… but it was a great night and we got to see a lot of photos from Europe. Felt almost like home!

This is when I realized that I had forgotten to take any photos from the entire night. Oh well. It was like a sauna outside, hot and humid.

This morning we went to breakfast (they spoiled me!) before I had to hit the road again. Once again, a big thank you to the Jenkins for being such great hosts and taking such good care of me. I really appreciate it!

And just like that I was back on the busy highways. I don’t mind driving around actually, I still celebrate every hill that I don’t have to cycle up, and I have great company in the podcasts I listen to (P1 sommar and P3 dokumentär mostly, so all Swedish). But after a few hours I could finally head off the highway and out onto the tiny road towards the Hamilton Pool, a place I have really been looking forward to.
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I was really lucky, this was the line to get in. They have a tiny parking lot to minimize the amount of guests at the same time, so even these few cars took 10-15 minutes before I could park. On the website it said I should be prepared for a 90 minute wait so yeah, I was lucky…

You had to hike for a bit to get to the pool, but it was so beautiful. Very hot though, almost 100F again, but Janet gave me a really cute little cooler filled with ice so I came fully prepared thankfully. And the pool? Just wow. Wow. This is what wikipedia has to say about it, and after that I think I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.

Hamilton Pool Preserve is a natural pool that was created when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion thousands of years ago. The pool is located about 23 miles (37 km) west of Austin, Texas off Highway 71. Since the 1960s, Hamilton Pool has been a popular summer swimming spot for Austin visitors and residents. Hamilton Pool Preserve consists of 232 acres (0.94 km2) of protected natural habitat featuring a jade green pool into which a 50-foot (15 m) waterfall flows.

The pool is surrounded by large slabs of limestone that rest by the water’s edge; large stalactites grow from the ceiling high above. The ceiling and surrounding cliffs of the grotto are home to moss, maidenhair fern and cliff swallows. The Ashe juniper (cedar) uplands of the preserve are home to the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.

The natural pool and creek are not chemically treated, so water quality is monitored regularly and swimming is occasionally restricted.

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And even though I think these photos are SO beautiful, it was even more beautiful in person. If you ever find yourself in the Austin area, I would recommend a visit. Unfortunately the water wasn’t good enough for swimming when I was there, but I bet there would have been a lot more people there if it was so maybe that was just as well.

After the pool, I only had a half hour drive to the next pool, the one at my hotel. And it’s probably the best hotel pool yet, as it overlooks the Colorado river.
Tomorrow, I’m actually not entirely sure where I’ll end up yet! I have to fight with myself a bit just for how long I want to drive tomorrow first… my brain says “you can go FAR!” but my heart is not quite as convinced. In the meantime I’ll enjoy Welcome to Sweden on TV here, so weird hearing Swedish on TV again but I love that show, and have a scroll through trip advisor for inspiration.

So who knows what stories I’ll have next time, I have no idea myself! Isn’t that just great!