Annie Hits The Big 3-0

Hello, Annie here. Yup, you read that title right. My 30th birthday was back in mid-March. Recently, most years I haven’t been interested in doing much if Emma and I aren’t celebrating together, which I realize is kind of ridiculous considering how much we disliked sharing a birthday when we were kids. This one though, this one felt like a birthday I needed to acknowledge. Much of my 20s wasn’t exactly a great time in my life, so this transition from one decade to the next felt significant and a little more worth celebrating than previous birthdays. Matt and I both took several days off from work that week, which in itself is a great gift, and despite a few things not going to plan it was a great birthday week overall. 

We kicked things off a little early the week before, with a cave tour after work. We did what they call an “adventure tour,” which takes you into some of the less accessible parts of the cave. Had this been our first experience with anything beyond a simple walking tour we might have felt differently about it, but we left feeling a bit let down. This particular cave was also heavily damaged, apparently it went through ownership many years ago where guests were encouraged to break off pieces of formations as souvenirs. 

The only real request I had for our days off was that I wanted to celebrate by doing something new. A few ideas were to either summit a new tallest mountain or put in a new (at least for me) longest hiking day. Unfortunately, we settled on the long day hike which is what ended up not working out. We’d planned to do a 30 mile loop (30 miles for 30 years) but most of the peaks on our planned route got snow the day before we were set to hike. We didn’t bring our winter hiking gear in the van, so rather than risk a very slow day without it we opted for a few shorter hikes instead, then a visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Normally we would have simply bumped the hike back a day or two, but we had to be back in the Carlsbad area mid-week and didn’t have that flexibility.

The first hike was a short trip out to a low river. We had slept at the trailhead the night before, so once we called off the 30 mile day we figured why not since we had the time. The second hike brought us through a canyon (you can see it on the right in the left picture below) to a series of waterfalls at the end.

Heading into the canyon
The waterfalls at the end

After those two hikes, we drove to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This museum is a zoo, natural history museum, and botanical garden all wrapped up in one. It would have been nice to have more time there, but we intentionally got tickets for the end of the day so it might be less busy (which it was) and still managed to fit in just about everything we wanted to.

The only place we felt rushed was in the natural history museum part of it, which was way cooler than either of us expected, largely due to the fact that this was the first time we’d walked through an exhibit like that with the context of the various caves and mountains we’ve recently explored. Having so much information right in front of us hit a little differently after hiking on former reefs, finding marine fossils on mountain tops, and seeing up close and personal what happens when caves are formed in different ways. *Sigh*, if only I could have been in Ms. Frizzle’s class when I was a kid, I would have retained so much more in school.

Mountain lions are less intimidating when you know they can’t reach you.
The botanical garden area was incredible.

When we left the museum we started the drive back towards Carlsbad. We had a few days before we had to be back, so we’d planned a stop at about the halfway point to break up the drive and explore a slot canyon as one of the new things. To reach this particular canyon we had to park at a trailhead marked only by a tree on the bank of the Rio Grande, cross the river on foot, then hike a short, overgrown trail to the base of the mountains. It turned out none of that was as difficult as online reviews made it out to be. The tree was obvious, the river was fairly dry (there are many dams upstream that aren’t fully opened until later in the spring), and the trail was easy enough with the canyon in sight the entire time.

The second and final new thing we did for my birthday, and the reason we had to be back in Carlsbad mid-week, was by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. We had the opportunity to go into one of the permit caves in Carlsbad National Park, and a vertical one at that. There’s another post coming with more about how we got into this. I’ve been holding off on writing it until after we visited a few more caves recently, so I could get them all in one post.

Before I wrap this up I have one final story that only those of you who knew my Nana will get. Back when I was in probably middle school, my family and my Nana were driving back to my parents’ house from Campobello Island and we stopped at a blueberry store along the way. This store was full of all things blueberry: real, flavored, scented, printed; if you could theme it blueberry, they probably carried it. The store itself was a large dome painted a bright, blueberry blue.

Anyway, we stopped at this store and my Nana went on the hunt for blueberry soap. I’ll spare you the details, but it had something to do with someone at bingo she didn’t always care for. While we were there we picked up a drink or a snack, I don’t remember what it was, but it had a distinct blueberry flavor (like real blueberry, not artificial). Now you might be wondering what on earth this has to do with my birthday, but I’m getting there.

The night before we went for the hikes and desert museum, Matt ran into a grocery store alone to grab a few things for a picnic lunch. When he got back to the van he told me he also picked up some beers, but it was a small selection and he wasn’t sure if I’d like the ones he got for me. He pulled them out of the bag and passed them over for me to see. I chuckled when I saw the can, Matt knows about the old van but hadn’t considered it when he grabbed these off the shelf.

I don’t normally go for fruity beers, but this was surprisingly good. As soon as I tried it the memory of stopping at the blueberry store came back to me; this tasted just like whatever it was we’d picked up there. Then I looked closer at the can. I’d never told Matt the story about stopping at the blueberry store with my Nana, and although I have told him about her move to Arizona, he didn’t notice when he bought the beer where it was brewed (see the picture below).

I’ve been thinking about Nana a lot since we reached the southwest; I understand how she could fall so in love with the desert and feel such a pull to come back here. For the past few years I’d been planning to make a trip to Arizona around Nana’s birthday. Despite us being in a different city, and in March rather than November, I took these Lake Havasu City beers and my memories of blueberry soap as a sign that I was exactly where I needed to be.

4 thoughts on “Annie Hits The Big 3-0

  1. Some great memories–both old and new; that’s definitely a Can Of Destiny! You scared the crap out of me with the cougar pic! Glad you’re both well; enjoy, and thanks for including us with your great pics!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fortunately that’s been the only big cat sighting so far, and that was in a very controlled environment. I did see a coyote today on my lunch break walk, but it wanted nothing to do with me which is fine by me.


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