Sunday, November 18, 2012

Adventure Out West & the Spay/Neuter Conference

At the end of October, I had plans to go to the United Spay Alliance conference in Las Vegas to learn strategies to make spay/neuter programs more accessible to those who live within our state.

So many of the men and women at the
conference are so inspiring!
I went as the representative from Spay Indiana and was so inspired by what my peers are doing within their respective states.  Each state has its own challenges: some states have huge Indian reservations that are difficult to reach because they are so remote, other states have expanses of rural land, and other states have very few shelters or rescues, much less affordable spay/neuter options.  

I learned about a new product called Zeuterin, which is a chemical that is able to sterilize male dogs.  Dogs do not have to be under anesthesia (a sedative is adequate), so this makes older male dogs a particularly good candidate for this method of sterilization.  Secondarily, this method of "neutering" the dog is helpful for those guys who just can't part with their dogs testicles - believe me, there are more out there than you think!

Prior to the conference, Aaron and I headed to Vegas a little early for some fun!  As soon as we landed, we rented a car and headed to Arizona to hike the Grand Canyon.  Specifically, we wanted to hike to the trio of waterfalls within the Havasupai Indian reservation.

The closest hotel to the trail head is an hour away, so we found ourselves at a kitschy little place that looked like something from the animated film Cars:

The hotel utilized old, broken down cars as part of its decor, and Tex Mex style was all the rage!  Even though the place was a little corny and the accommodations were definitely not of a fancy hotel, we had a great time and to relieve the experience that we had the next day at the Grand Canyon, I would go back in a heartbeat

The hotel had a cafe nearby, and of course, there was more over-the-top decor - LOVED the T-Rex!

The next morning, we arose at 4:30 am so that we would have enough time to hike to the campsite and to spend time at the waterfalls.  

With the 1 hour drive to the trailhead, we started hiking as the sun was rising - BLISS!!  Even though it was an early day, I have such fond memories.  

Hiking the canyon was a really neat experience.  I had to be careful not to run into anything or trip on something because I was taking in the view.

 After hiking about 10 miles, we came to the second waterfall: Havasu Falls (the first set of waterfalls is called Little Navajo).  It was spectacular.  I have never seen such beautiful blue water.  It made us think of Berry Blue Kool-Aid!

By the time we reached our campsite, we were pretty wiped out.  We had hiked a good distance with 30-40 extra pounds of weight on our backs from our camping gear.  We set up our tent and sleeping bags and made ourselves lunch before hiking to the last waterfall - Mooney Falls.

We brought canned spaghetti for lunch, but unfortunately, we forgot to purchase the self-opening type of cans....oops.... Aaron brought a claw hammer and we were able to make that work, thank goodness.

The cooking process was pretty interesting.  Because no campfires are allowed, we brought a sterno and built up some rocks around the can - it worked perfectly!  Clearly canned spaghetti is by no means a culinary masterpiece, but it tasted sooo good because we were starving from all the hiking!

Money Falls is just beyond the campgrounds by 2 miles, and even though we were tired from hiking the 10 miles to the campground, it was worth the trip!!  The waterfall is about 200 feet tall, and it is magnificent.  To get to the bottom of the falls, you start at the top and have to carefully scale the rocks down to the bottom.  A series of chains and ladders help you get down to the bottom, but it was still super scary.  My legs were trembling during the entire descent.  

Night comes early in the Grand Canyon - this picture was taken between 6:30 pm and 7 pm (and right before we went to sleep!).  Even though it was early, the 14 mile hike wiped us out, and we went to bed.  Being out in the middle of nowhere has some huge advantages - we could see thousands of stars.  It felt like we were in a planetarium.

Sure, you could pay big bucks to have a helicopter take you out of the Canyon or even rent the Havasupai horses to carry your stuff for you, but what fun is that?  We opted for the more frugal option and hiked out ourselves the next morning.  I think these are pretty fake smiles - we were very tired and sore from the hike the day before.  We learned that most people do not make the hike over two days - usually, people camp for a couple of nights to let their bodies rest to make the hike back to the nearest road.

The last part of the hike was a 2,000 elevation change within a 1/2 mile span.  Truth be told, I wasn't sure if I was going to make it.  The last half mile was every bit as hard as finishing the last few miles of the marathon.

 We took historic Route 66 to get back to Vegas (and to a HUGE meal and a hot shower!)

To round out our outdoor fun, we stopped by Las Vegas Cyclery to rent some mountain bikes and went to Red Rock Canyon to hit the trails.

Unfortunately, we didn't pick a great trail, but the landscape was fantastic!

We found a few neat things along the way like this cave.  

Vegas itself was pretty amazing and fun, but we were content with the one day we got to check it out.  We got to walk into most of the hotels to see the crazy displays - what a difference between our day camping and this!  

Hilariously, the most expensive night for us was camping in the Grand Canyon.  It was twice as expensive to sleep on the hard ground in a tent as it was to stay in a nice hotel in Vegas!

We went to the top of the Stratosphere to watch the sunset - it was a bit windy!

And to round things out, I had to post this picture: how ironic is that we were in Vegas for a conference about neutering and this ad for the Blue Man Group is up: 

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