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HERBIG IDEA is a creative studio comprised of WHITNEY LYLE and SAM HERBIG. Whitney is a designer who loves to create books, packaging, and do more crafty projects in her spare time. Sam is a film electrician who loves to take photos tirelessly, while finding time on the side to create maps in various mediums (a long-standing hobby, starting with his 3-d topographical map of his hometown, Tübingen, Germany in elementary school).

Together, Whitney's big picture ideas and Sam's impeccable attention to detail, they pull prints in a print shop or set-up a makeshift photography studio. They love to generate ideas and find ways to execute them. 


We're chronicling our travels around the states on this blog. Check it out, if you're bored and sitting on an apple box (you can also check it out from home or the office).

Filtering by Category: Hike

The Southwest with Sue: Part Two

Samuel Herbig

Everyone Loves Vegas?

This post is obviously also brought to you by the number two. The only reason it isn't one long post is because I wasn't sure I could hold your attention for that long and because I wanted to throw another two in somehow since these posts are sponsored by 2 (as you can see in the endorsement up top).

Sorry Omi, but . . . 

Back to the action! We took a gorgeous route to get to Zion. We drove through the painted desert where I took a bunch of pictures of our progress. Some of them even turned out. Oh! And the Omimobile turned 90,000 miles old, so we had to capture that as well. 

We made a little rest stop on a bridge that went over the Colorado river and saw two cool animals: a weird bug, but more importantly, a California Condor. These birds are highly endangered. Our little buddy was tagged H9 for those counting at home. The view of the river was something else as well.

After a stop for lunch in a Utah town that was having a grayhound festival, we were an hour away from Zion. When we finally arrived we could not believe our eyes. The mountains looked like they were made of white lava that cooled, or like wasp's nests, or pulled taffy, or syrups of bacon. We had seen some pictures if Zion, but nothing like that! 

Without naming names: Some call it the O'Keefe Mound

Without naming names: Some call it the O'Keefe Mound

After passing through two tunnels (one very short one and one very very long one that had windows carved into it every hundred yards or so) we got to the other side of the park that had formations that were more familiar to us. We stopped by the visitors center to get our passport stamped and to ask a ranger about hiking The Narrows. It seemed that the conditions for this sometimes perilous (or even completely closed) hike would be ideal.

We got up the next morning and got outfitted for waterproof pants, neoprene socks, fancy river shoes, and a walking stick. We watched an informational video about the hike that covered everything from "don't splash strangers on purpose" and "collect solid human waste in bags is you need to go on the hike" to "if the water gets muddy, seek higher ground, you're likely going to see a flood. Good luck." Lots of preparation, but we wanted to be sure we were well equipped to handle any needs that should come up for any of the three of us so that we could truly enjoy a very unique experience.

I realize I should explain what the narrows hike is exactly because it is not a normal hike. We took a 40 minute park shuttle to a paved trailhead, walked about a mile and when the trail ended we went down some stairs to the Virgin River*. The river is actually at the bottom of a slot canyon and the hike is through the river. The canyon walls reach high above you, over a thousand feet in some places. The water was around 50 degrees and since we would have wet feet for several hours we thought having the gear might help us last longer on the hike. Indeed it did. Sure, there were some guys doing it in flip-flops and I envied them at first, but when we got to the deeper and shady parts of the river I was glad for the shoes and the waders.

Here we are at the start of the hike. Fresh, nervous, excited.

Before . . .

Before . . .

As we hiked along we passed someone who reminded us to be happy and enjoy it as much as possible because we were seeing the canyon and the river in a way many people never would. He was right. I smiled as I passed the little waterfall he told us to look for. I became happier and braver.

If only Rosie the Riveter was into nature, the poster would have had her in The Narrows

If only Rosie the Riveter was into nature, the poster would have had her in The Narrows

My mom became a bit meditative and awestruck.

Sam took his camera out of the waterproof bag so many times he stopped putting it away, as you can see. 

Our goal was an area called wall street and after a few hours of slow wading and photos galore, we arrived. Just two miles from our start, but the water slows the hike. 

Both my mom and I had cold feet, but Sam, ever the explorer and completely used to having 12 hours of cold feet (from working New York's film jobs in January and February for years) forged on for a little bit. Here is what he saw:

[Wall Street]

[Orderville Canyon]

By the time we turned around we knew we faced a time crunch. We had to return the gear, wanted to go back to the other side of the park to get some pictures of the taffy rock mountains, and then had to drive to Vegas.

That's right, Vegas. One night only! At the Mirage! thanks to my mom's research, generosity, and her coworkers' travel tips. But I'm ahead of myself. We did it all though. Returned the gear. Drive to the other side of the big tunnel and to pictures of the taffy mountains.

And minutes after my mom said "I'd love to see some long horned sheep," guess what we saw? And guess how many. No. Not two. Twice that! Two grown up sheep and two babies. Here's proof!

And then we drove. We got to Vegas. We bathed. We walked the strip on a Friday night. We went inside of the Bellaggio and Caesers. We ate. We slept. My poor mama only got an hour or two of sleep before she had to leave for the airport.

And in the morning we walked around some more, ate breakfast at the Omelet House (cheaper and tastier than anything we could afford on the strip), and then started the long drive to California.

Mom, thanks for taking the time to meet us out West. I am so glad we spent that time together, so proud of what we accomplished, and so glad for the memories we made together.

* Every geographic feature at Zion, including the park itself has a religious name. The Virgin River. The Court of the Patriarchs after Abraham and two other old testament guys. Angel's Landing.

The Southwest with Sue: Part One

Whitney Lea

Tucson, Pheonix, Grand Canyon!

This episode of HerBig Idea is brought to you by the number 2!

In this post, our dusty and hungover travelers link up with two moms: Whitney's mom, Sue, and the mother of us all, Mother Nature.

Howdy, partner!

Before we could escape the barren dust plains of the Southwest, we had to drive through two cities we had very little interest in: Tucson and Phoenix. On Sunday we left Casa de Sueños to drive to Tucson, and we had to go toTucson for two reasons (and only two reasons as far as I'm concerned): My mom was flying into Tucson and Sam wanted to see the Pima Air & Space museum.


We did stay in a nice B&B where we had a spectacular breakfast and we did explore downtown a bit, but there isn't much more to say beyond that. On our way out of town we headed to that Air & Space museum I mentioned. There were lots of historic planes and we got to do a tour of "the bone yard" where the US Military sends its aircrafts to kill time, get turned into drones and get shot down over the gulf for military practice, or get scrapped for parts. There were thousands of planes. Sam took pictures. See!

So then we headed to two cities smooshed into one place: Phoenix and Scottsdale. Two good things happened there: we bought a camp stove so we don't have to create fire from matches or cook with charcoal AND we did laundry.

Slow start, right? The nice part about that was that we had a chance to spend a little "normal" time all together before going into full road trip mode. Those two slow days were leading up to some big adventure for the three of us. We were headed to two legendary national parks: The Grand Canyon and Zion.

We decided to take a bit of a scenic detour on our way to the Grand Canyon to see two places that several people told us would make the drive more fun: Jerome, a historic mining town; and Sedona.

The mine, before it became an open pit mine. That's what  Wiki  says, anyhow.

The mine, before it became an open pit mine. That's what Wiki says, anyhow.

We drove up a very windy road, saw a big old snake on the way, gained some serious elevation, and got to Jerome in time to eat a huge lunch. It's pretty difficult to imagine it was home over 10,000 people back in the boom times. Jerome is also famous because Maynard (from the bands Tool and A Perfect Circle) lives there and owns a wine shop or something. The two people that told us it was worth a visit also mentioned him, which was surprising because I don't know any Tool fans in their 50s. To be honest, I think my mom thought Tool was a place because everyone was saying "Maynard from Tool" and she asked "Where is Tool?" Sorry to "out" you, Mom! I promise she's really hip most of the time and knows all the cool bands. Sam took some nice pictures on the winding road up to Jerome, as well as of the town proper.  See!

As we drove through Sedona, I saw how gorgeous it was and wished I had scheduled for us to stay a night or two there instead of in Tucson and Phoenix. But now I know in case there is a next time and you know now too. As we passed through town we saw so many great formations that we wanted to take pictures of.

We finally spotted a pull-off next to a stream. As we stood there we realized we could bushwhack a little to get down to the water and spent the better part of an hour down there watching birds, listening to the stream and enjoying a very intimate experience in nature, just the three of us. Sam even took some pictures. See!

So at this point we realized that we were running out of daylight. We spent almost an entire day doing what should have been a 4 hour drive. Sometimes that's my favorite way to do a drive. I know my mom was a bit concerned that we wouldn't get enough time in the Grand Canyon because of it, but I think and hope she enjoyed the explorations. By this point though all the of us had been building anticipation for more than two days. It was time to get there already!

We made it in enough time to set up the tent and hightail it to the rim to watch dusk fall. My mom and Sam had both been to the canyon before. I had only seen pictures. When I walked toward the rim it was exactly as I had imagined. But then as we walked closer I realized it just kept going down. And down. And down. I could not see the bottom. It was somewhere waaay down there and I had no idea how far. It was the first time I remember looking at something and thinking it was unfathomable. It was the pictures I had in my head but much bigger and deeper than I ever could have realized. Calling it "grand" is belittling. It is huge and complicated to the point that I still can't wrap my head around one thing being so big. Mountain ranges are big like that too, but I think of them as an area or as a series of peaks, and therefore numerous places. I had always thought of the Grand Canyon as one single entity and that's what makes the enormity so unique.

The only picture we took at the Grand Canyon!

The only picture we took at the Grand Canyon!

We carried our own stuff up and down.

So we went back to the campsite, feeling the cool of the night turn to real cold. We fired up the new camp stove and excitedly cooked dinner faster that we ever had on this trip and inhaled the food faster too. We tucked in for the night — Sam and I in the tent, Mom cuddled up in the back seat of the Omimobile — and all three of us woke up very very cold. Just days earlier we had been sweating in the El Paso sun and now we were wearing longjohns, hats and coats. We ate a quick breakfast and took the shuttle to the Bright Angel (wiki!) trailhead.

[If you click into the 360º panoramas above and pan around, you should be able to click through to the other two I took — Sam] 

It started to snow as we began our decent. Not heavily and nothing stuck, but it was a little surprising nonetheless. We carefully strolled downhill as we greeted tired hikers making their way up from Phantom Ranch. It was overcast which gave the canyon a pastel color palette and the low contrast made for nice photos of the trail. See!

We hiked down to the first waypoint a mile and a half into the trail and decided we would try to make it to hut number two — three miles in — knowing that the hike down is the easy part. The weather was so perfect (in the high 50s I'd guess with little sun) we made it there easily. We took a small break and then Sam took a photo break. See!

We've been holding this post back, just so we could add this picture!

So now we faced the hike back up. We knew we could do it (or that we had to do it, whichever). In our way up the sun peeked out, the weather got warmer, but we were cooled with small pockets of light rain. Our energy was good and it was nice to look into the canyon at parts of the trail we had already finished.

After five hours and thirty minutes we were back at the trailhead, exhausted but feeling quite proud if our six mile hike. We got on the shuttle to look at other parts of the canyon. See!

Then we had to check out the Kolb studio, a photo studio built into the canyon. It's now a museum that talks about the Kolb brothers and their daring exploits to make money as photographers when the canyon was initially being settled by pioneers.

That's the Kolb's "work place"

After all of that we decided we had all earned drinks, so we got two cocktails and a ginger beer at the lodge and sipped then on a mezzanine while trying not to pass out.

We woke each other up and hobbled to the shuttle only to hop off to make a run to the store for campfire wood. That's not the interesting part. The two elk we came across on the way there were. We were maybe 50 feet from them so Sam took pictures. See!

We made another great meal with our fancy dancy stove (roasted potatoes, sausage, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, and cheese. Yum!) and then sat by our first real campfire of the trip to tell my mom all about our travels so far.

The next morning we stopped by the visitors center to stamp our National Parks Passport and got a few planning tips from a ranger there. We made sure to swing by The Watchtower on our way out of the park. See!

The rest of the story happens in part two!

Big Bend NP

Samuel Herbig

Almost to Mexico

You guessed it, we did make it to Big Bend National Park!

A big motivator was that Marfa really didn't have much to offer to keep us occupied. To be perfectly frank, Marfa was a disappointment plus dust. So we were happy to pack our stuff back up, grab two free cups of coffee from the office and head out on to our next adventure.

Once again we passed through Alpine gassed up and continued until we found route 385 which was going to take us South (past a Border Patrol check point) to the entrance of Big Bend. 

Whitney wasn't feeling well. The second night in Marfa had given her sinuses what seemed like the final blow, so when we got to the park entrance flying dust was of particular concern.

So we asked the ranger. 

The answers he gave us weren't exactly what we were looking for. He said things like, "oh yeah there's been a lot of dust there in the past days . . . but maybe it was smoke" and "sure, it's always windy up there".

Unimpressed, we pressed on. 

Driving towards Big Bend is a wholly uneventful affair. The landscape is a series of low rolling hills, with the occasional rift covered in grass, low shrubs and an occasional cactus. The only animals we saw were a few birds. Part of Big Bend National Park's allure, is how remote it is. In the brochure we read that it is one of the most remote places in the lower 48 states. It doesn't come as a particular surprise then that I counted about 5 cars in the last 2 hours of our drive.

About the extent of our interaction with anything on the way to Chisos Basin

About the extent of our interaction with anything on the way to Chisos Basin

When we reached Panther Junction both of us wanted to get out to stretch our legs, ask a few more questions regarding a few hikes we had our eyes on and to get our super awesome National Parks Passport stamped (some people have suggested that the passport is somehow lame and something for kids, but those people lack both imagination, spirit, and display a worrisome case of seriousness).

Once past Panther Junction, the landscape started to change dramatically. The air was filled with fine dust (or maybe smoke? let's just call it haze) so driving up the into the Chisos Basin was a little spooky, even though it was the middle of the day. Slowly one by one the mountains stepped forward out of obscurity. The last half hour we were flanked on both sides by huge 7,000 foot (and taller) mountains. Along a narrow and very windy road we made it up to the basin where our campground was located.

Purely based on it's location, this campground was easily the most spectacular we'd been to. After oohing and ahhing for a bit, we set up our tent and then swung by the lodge to score some free Wi-Fi access to hopefully hear from our friends at Happy Mac in Austin. We didn't get an update and so we cooked dinner back at the campsite, decided to try to hike the Lost Mine Trail (tripadvisor!) in the morning, and then went to sleep. 

Hang on, there was one more thing: Before heading into the tent to sleep, I took some night sky pictures. I've been trying to polish my skills a bit in that department and I think they're getting better. Still, I admit there's a lot of room for improvement. I'm open for tips, by the way!

Whitney messing around in the tent, or somthin'

Whitney messing around in the tent, or somthin'

Then we went to sleep. 

In the morning we both agreed that we had slept much better and that there was no additional dust in the tent. The haze had cleared out of the atmosphere for the most part, too. Suddenly, we could clearly see all the mountains surrounding us in the basin. Bathed in the warm morning sunlight it was a sight to behold.

While making breakfast, the high winds and extreme wild fire danger were worrying me. I literally covered the open side of the grill with my hoodie to prevent sparks from flying. I really didn't get a big enough bed of coals going. Additionally, I think the strong wind caused the coals to burn through much faster, so that in the end we didn't have hot enough coals for long enough to make eggs and coffee.

After both of us were done stewing, we decided that enough was enough: we're gonna get a campstove. 

Encouraged by our own ability to face the music and move on we, uhm . . . moved on to break camp and head to the the Lost Mine trailhead.

Casa Grande

Casa Grande

The trail starts out easy enough: it is wide enough for two people to comfortably walk next to each other and well maintained. This was our first long hike of the road trip, so that suited us just fine. Aside from it's remoteness, Big Bend is also know for it's many native varieties of cacti, which bloom in the spring in fall. So we got to see a lot of different kinds, some of which were still in bloom.

They come in all shapes and sizes

They come in all shapes and sizes

The trail really showed off once we reached the Juniper Canyon Overlook. Ahead of us, we could see deep into the Juniper Canyon and looking back over our shoulder we saw the trailhead and Chisos Basin with the campground and lodge. As we continued our ascent along and up the northeast wall of Juniper Canyon the views just grew more and more spectacular. Each switchback provided a new vantage point. Across from us we could see the majestic Casa Grande (which, coincidentally was also behind our tent site) and other peaks.

We finally reached the end of the trail after about an hour and a half. However, the end of the trail in this case wasn't a peak, a singular point. Instead it was a drawn out ridge, the length of which we could walk from little peak to little peak. We could see into three different valleys and at least a handful of peaks and points rising around us. To top it off, we'd seen about a dozen or so people or so on the trail. In short, this was easily one of the most impressive views I've had and we both agreed that the ratio of visual pay-off to effort was steeply stacked in our favor.

Pretty flat up here

Pretty flat up here

We sat there for a while, us and the desert mountains, and I thought about how wildly different nature out here was. How different it looked from the places in the Alps I used to hike growing up, or even the Appalachian range on the East Coast.

Deeply satisfied, we began to descend. Not before long we were united again with the Omimobile and on our way towards El Paso, Texas. That's not technically correct: really we were headed for Santa Teresa, New Mexico since that's where Princess and a Kostya were getting married in only two short days! I was particularly excited to see those two get hitched, because Kostya is my oldest friend in the United States and he stood with me at our wedding. Now it was my time to stand with him at his.

Whitney was so greasy, she wouldn't let me take a picture of her. The steak on the other hand...

Whitney was so greasy, she wouldn't let me take a picture of her. The steak on the other hand...

I should mention one more thing:

On our way there we stopped at Cattleman's Ranch, a short drive outside of Fabens, Texas for steak dinner. The steak was out of this world. I mean really, it was amazing. Peter L. (you know who you are), if you're reading this, you should take note.

As always, if you want to see a few more pictures, head on over to the Flickr page!

Esmont & Massies Mill

Samuel Herbig

Daily Map

Sam already posted about the bad weather we had in the early hours of our trip. Luckily we outran the storm after about 90 minutes on the road. We left Northern Virginia after a quick breakfast with my mom and headed out on I-66 to catch Virginia state route 29 (Lee Highway).

Gun toting bear!

Gun toting bear!

We took 29 most of the way to Esmont, initially encountering ice pellets mixed with powerful winds, but soon the weather cleared out to reveal gorgeous colors with a lovely overcast sky, perfect picture-taking light.

Wishbone stick for scale

Wishbone stick for scale

We made Esmont or first stop because my Uncle Ed and Aunt Deb live in a lovely house there on a quiet country road. The house was filled with light and my uncle's paintings, musical instruments, and delicious smells that foreshadowed delicious food.

They had lots of great ideas for things we could do today but this painting that hung in their living room inspired us to take an impromptu trip out to Nelson County, Virginia.

Painting by Ed Lyle (accompanying artwork by Dante, Deb and Ed's grandson)

Painting by Ed Lyle (accompanying artwork by Dante, Deb and Ed's grandson)

My grandmother (and Ed's mom), from here on known as Mom-mom, grew up in a little town in Nelson county called Massies Mill. Realizing that we were just an hour away and that Ed would be a very knowledgeable tour guide, we hopped in the Omimobile and got on our way to see Massies Mill as well as the site of the painting in the living room, Durham's Run.

Mom-mom's family, the Mahones, owned a general store in Massies Mill and then in August 1969 the majority of town was washed away when Hurricane Camille hit. My great grandmother's store was lost in the storm, but the church Mom-mom attended as a child and married my Pop-pop (read: grandpa) in still stands.

Before we started the trip Mom-mom told us where we would be able to find the key to unlock the church door so we could look inside. Believe it or not, the key was hidden in the exact spot that she told us to look and we snuck in.

The church is very small, with a capacity of maybe 120 people if they squeezed in really tight, but as you can see the stained glass is inspiring.

Stained glass detail

Stained glass detail

Church interior

Church interior

Our next stop was a twenty minute drive up a mountain to a spot at the north fork of the Tye river where my family has gone camping for generations. We parked the car and began a leisurely hike up a private road that follows Durham's Run. There was still a dusting of snow on the ground, but luckily it was 50°F or so.

There has been so much rain and snow recently that all of the creeks we've seen in Virginia are running high and this one was no different. The big difference came when we came to a part of the road that's clearly meant to cross over the creek. Instead, Durham decided to Run right over the road. After attempting to rock-hop across the first melding of road and run, we rounded a bend and were faced with another flooded intersection. Sam and I attempted to find a better spot to cross the creek while Ed rock hopped again and Deb decided the best option would be to just Wade across. In the end, that was by far the best solution.

Ice cold wading

Ice cold wading

A few hundred steps later we reached our destination: a  swimming hole that was vertically sandwiched between two waterfalls. It looked exactly like Ed's painting.

Durham Run Falls

Durham Run Falls

On the road home we visited the cemetery where my great grandparents are buried with a gorgeous view of the mountains.

Back at Esmont we were treated to the aforementioned delicious smelling food: a slow-cooked chicken soup with orange zest and saffron, followed by Deb's tasty customized chocolate chip cookies that she made while we sat together for kitchen table chats. 

Miscellaneous statistics from the road: Day 1

Bad weather is not permanent. Freezing rain can transform into blue skies a lot faster if you're driving in the right direction. This almost sounds like a metaphor.

Unresolved "You were right" banter for the day: 
Is a court an exact synonym for cul-de-sac or can a court (in the sense of a road) mean another kind of street?

Yellow Sexy Count, below the Mason-Dixon rules apply: 
Whitney: 3 
Sam: -1 (better luck tomorrow!)

Tasty beer of the day: Starr Hill Grateful Pale Ale

Artistic inspiration of the day: 
W: Seeing Ed's large scale landscape paintings. 
S: The drive into the Blue Ridge mountains (they are called that for a reason). More shots needed. "There's always tomorrow."

Signing off!