Archive for the ‘National Parks’ Category

Miles ~2800 plus a few
States Yellowstone National Park
Highlights The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and wild animals

Yellowstone isn’t easy to describe, so I am just going to give you a very very brief photo tour:

We entered through the North entrance (from Gardiner) and headed down to Madison Campground where we made a reservation for that night. The first area is Mammouth Hot Springs. (The way the park is sectioned off reminds me of Disneyworld’s villages; isn’t that sad?) Everywhere you look the ground is steaming, bubbling and spewing water. And all the minerals in the land create bright colors.

Upper Terrace Springs with mountains in the background:

The sulfur in the ground made the whole place stink like rotten eggs. Me and the three-year-old girl in front of us walked around this section holding our noses shut.

Roaring Mountain (Andrew was reminded of the Astrocrag from the show Guts!):

Some of the Fountain Paint Pots just randomly spouted water:

Andrew loved it!

I don’t know what makes the water blue, but it was so vivid.

Mustard Spring. The colors on this one were a bit ewwww! But as we visited the Mustard Museum only a few days earlier, the photo had to go in.

The Mammouth Hot Springs “area” is were the hot springs are most concentrated, but they are everywhere. You drive down the road, pause for a photo, and next to you on the ground is bubbling mud. They were very good about warning you though. These signs were everywhere:

From there we did the ultimate touristy thing and joined the crowds waiting for Old Faithful. Seriously, it was like waiting for a Seal World dolphin show. We actually arrived just after it erupted (erupt? Is that the right word?), so we indulged in the local cafeteria’s fine cuisine. Outside the cafeteria was a long porch with rows of rocking chairs that people had taken up residence to wait. It made me think of my grandma. I could imagine her sitting there with her knitting, stopping every 92 minutes to watch Old Faithful and say “oooo, ahhhhh!”

To kill time we headed towards a path that goes around the perimeter of the geyser. “Sorry, this trail is closed,” a  ranger said standing in our way. “Oh?” “There is a herd of buffalo on the trail; you can’t walk on it. Head over to the other side of the waiting area and you can see some buffalo.” So we did:

And eventually Old Faithful showed all her glory:

My opinion? Over-rated. There are a number of geysers in the park actually, Old Faithful just happens to be the only one that erupts that regularly. The Grand Geyser is actually the tallest one known, but only goes off every eight hours.

From there we got back in the car (story of our life this week) –– after a quick stop at the souvenir shop. Andrew’s caption for this photo: “Ahhh, The American Government sold out!”

We made a few animal-inspired Canon moments. It’ really easy to track animals in the park; you just look out for a lot of other cars on the side of the road and pull over when you see people pointing into the woods.

We also saw a grizzly in the woods… not at our campsite, thank goodness.

At this point it was an hour from getting dark. We decided to pass up cooking on the fire and eat in the lodge so we could get some more sightseeing time in. This turned out to be a fantastic idea: the next, and last stop, was my favorite, EVER! And the bison tacos I had for dinner were pretty sweet too!

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone:

It really was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Until now my favorite place I’ve visited was Lord Stone’s Country Park in the Yorkshire Dales. I camped there once and spent the night lying on the softest coziest grass on this earth staring at the stars. I felt at ease there.

This place brought the same peace. It was perfect!

It was the perfect note to end the day. So we did. We headed back to the campground to cuddle up and freeze our butts off all night!

Been to Yellowstone? What were your favorite sights?


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Miles >3200
States Very little corner of Wyoming in Yellowstone, Montana, Idaho and 1/2 Washington
Highlights Elk traffic jam in Yellowstone, Spokane, WA, and the Purple Sage Motel

Yellowstone is gonna have to come later. There is just too much activity to mentally digest. It was one of the most stimulating and awestruck days I’ve ever experienced. We also have more than 300 photos from the 10 hours we drove around the park. Soooo… give me some time.

In the meantime, we did finally get to camp at Yellowstone. We got up mad early on Thursday and headed into the park to reserve a site as soon as the place opened. We stayed at Madison Campground because it was convenient to what we wanted to do and see. So this morning we got up sprightly; Andrew cooked us some breakfast; and we were on our way.

Well, almost on our way. The west entrance to the park was held up a bit by a herd of Elk hanging out alongside the road. Look at the poor baby elk’s leg; I think he was attacked by something.

The trip wasn’t too exciting from here on out. We saw some beautiful landscapes just outside the park heading north into Montana.

When we got close to the Washington border our energy perked up again. Our final destination was soooo close. We decided to stop in Spokane to reconvene and decide how far we’d make it. Well, Spokane adorable downtown area packed with bars, restaurants coffee shops and a massive mall was very distracting. We ended up driving, wandering and eating there. I had no idea what Spokane was like to say I was “surprised,” but if I had to have guessed, I wouldn’t have expected it to be as cosmopolitan as it was. Esp in such vicinity to so much… hmmm… vastness… and “un-cosmo” cities of Idaho and Montana. Wow! I love it! If it was on the water, I’d move here.

We needed to find somewhere to stay so we popped into a Starbucks (hey, it’s been weeks since we’ve seen one, it’s ok) to hit up Google. I found this adorably eclectic place in Sprague, WA –– the Purple Sage Motel. The minute I saw the photos of the rooms, I had my heart set on staying there. To me, experiencing places like this is what road-trippin’ is about. However I had to be practical about the situation so I called a few places for prices. Lucky me, this place was the cheapest.

We are now tucked into the Norman Rockwell room. And it looks just like the photos on the website. See?? This is my bed:

It is now super late and I promised Andrew a super early start so he can get himself into his apartment and settled. It’s sad our road trip is coming to an end. And knowing I have only a weekend of fun left has reinserted the stress of work into the back of my brain. But I’m super excited to see Seattle. Andrew was practically jumping in his seat with excitement over showing me the city. Although this was back in Indiana, we’re more tired now.

This trip has been so much more than I expected. I think it’s because I didn’t really expect much. I went into it with a blank mind ready to enjoy and experience whatever popped up our way!

Next Stop: The Rainy City (Seriously, as soon as we hit Idaho, the clouds came down and have yet to leave.) With its British weather and pub culture, I think I’m gonna like Seattle!)

Ok, as the motel owner said when I collected my key, “Sweet Dreams now!”

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Miles 2800
States Wyoming and Montana
Highlights The Giant Dead Bear

My first piece of advice for anyone interested in visiting Yellowstone is BOOK AHEAD!!! Don’t plan on just rolling up and getting a campsite –– or a motel, hotel or cottage for that matter.

My second piece of advice is STAY MORE THAN A DAY! I wish we had another day, or two, or seven, to explore the place. And keep in mind, we actually saw a lot in our one day!

It is apparently necessary to photo-document your arrival.

Before we get into that, rewind!! We arrived at Yellowstone on Wednesday night after a day of driving through the hills of Wyoming and Montana. Upon leaving Gillette, WY, we headed for the hill mountains…

…with only a quick break for breakfast and a photo in Buffalo, WY, right off I-90. (My brother used to live in Buffalo, NY, right off I-90.)

We thought we’d roll up, grab a campsite and have sausages going on the fire by 7 pm. Hahahahahaha! As we learned later, this is the most popular time of year to visit Yellowstone. We also learned that by mid summer Yellowstone and the surrounding area had received 200,000 visitors more than its previous record high. By now, it is estimated the number has reached near 300,000.

After being denied campgrounds in the park –– and the ones in the surrounding towns –– we started going door-to-door to all lodging establishments in the town of Gardiner. We must have stopped at half a dozen places with no luck. When I popped into the Best Western I was told, “Sure, I have one room left.” Then she paused to listen to her colleague sell that room over the phone. “Sorry, that was the last room.”

The town of Gardiner: the north entrance to Yellowstone Park.

We finally found a room at the Yellowstone Village Inn, which looks like a western log lodge. It was really cute. I wouldn’t have voluntarily paid what we paid –– which was about three times the amount we’ve paid for the previous nights –– but I really enjoyed it. (And yes, the room had a hairdryer!)

Knowing we had a place to sleep, we began our Yellowstone journey with Buffalo burgers at the Antler Pub & Grill that resembled a hunter’s cabin. The burger was delish and the décor was…

This is where we learned all the interesting facts above that would have been better to know prior to our arrival. We also heard some interesting stories.

The waitress told us how brave the bears are and that she found one scratching at the back door of the kitchen a few days earlier. And how a brave stupid “daring” busload of “international” tourists tried to go up and pet one. “Yuup! They tried to pet it,” she said, with a look of warning. “You don’t pet a bear.” Oh no? Gee, thanks for the head’s up!!

She then told us a story about how a ranger caught a couple posing for a photo with their infant son sitting on an elk, horse back-style. The ranger stopped them, explained the dangers involved and [pretended] to go on his merry way. He ducked behind a tree, and when they thought he had gone they tried to it again. He wasn’t so nice the second time around: he issued them a $500 ticket. Personally, I think he should have let natural selection run its course. But that’s just me!

Following dinner and stories, I took a wander around the dead animals in the grill noting a very large stuffed bear. “Did you read that story?” she waitress asked. “You gotta read that one. Hunter almost died shooting that thang.” Ooooo, bear attack on a hunter?! I like the sounds of this! The framed news story told of a hunter’s trip to Alaska to take part in a guided bear-hunting trip. He shot the almost 12-foot bear three times, but there were so many other bears in the vicinity (I like to believe they were mourning), it was days before they could collect the body. In the struggle to transport the 12-foot, thousands-of-pounds bear back to wherever it is you take a bear of that size on a hunting trip, the hunter suffered a heart attack. No bear mafia. No wild-animal gangs. A heart attack! (Hmmmm, can we say karma?) He lived, but only after being rushed to a hospital a couple hours away by heli. And the guy didn’t have health insurance so ‘between the cost of the trip, the transport and all the hospital bills, it was a $119,000 bear.’ I don’t know much about hunting, but if you spend your free time outside among potentially violent animals and guns, WHY DON’T YOU HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE?

It was an interesting introduction to Yellowstone –– one we would not have gotten if we had spent the night roasting sausages over an open fire.

And there was so much more to come… stay tuned!!

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I’m in the paper! Well, not me… but my photo.

In the summer of 2006, I ventured across Northern England along Wainwright’s Coast to Coast trail. My partner and I spent 3 week hiking across hills, plains and mountains through wind, rain and a record-breaking heatwave. It was a life-changing accomplishment.

I look a few hundred photos that sit on my hard drive — except for the few lucky ones that made it through the Costco poster printer and now sit in frames on the floor of my living room! A while ago I randomly submitted a bunch to Newsday to be published in their Sunday travel section, Go! And this week, one of my photos was published. (How cool!)

Patterdale, Cumbria, UK

For my Masters dissertation I had to submit a 3,000-word feature article. I wrote a travel memoir about the walk. Here is an excerpt describing the build up to when this photo was taken:

Continuing onward, the path followed a lofty and narrow Roman road called the High Street. During the time of the Roman Empire people allegedly raced their horses along the ridge. Characterised by practically vertical pebbly drops on either side, I couldn’t help but wonder how successful they had been. The remainder of the day’s journey twisted through a maze of rolling grassy mountains. The tops of the peaks were hidden in thick grey cloud not far above us. The wind was bitter and whipped through my nylon track pants. I was shivering even though I was wearing every shirt I had brought with me. The trail circled high above bright green valleys and crystal blue lakes. Except for the odd sheep, it was silent for hours. Rounding a mountain the trail began to dangerously descend. In front of us, deep within the valley, was Patterdale. We watched as the clouds parted and a heavenly ray of light decorated the village as if to guide us home.

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We made it—we returned from our trip across England. It took us 18 days to return of which we walked for 15. We took one day off for relaxation in Kirkby Stephan.

It was an amazing experience and I had a lot of fun completing it—except maybe for the days where it rained non stop. I could have done without that. The country side was beautiful, the lakes definitely incomparable to the rest. The Lake District was the most difficult portion of the trip but endlessly breathtaking.

All in all it was an wonderful trip and I raised over $1,000 for the American Breast Cancer Foundation. Good job and thanks everyone!

Got lots of good pics: community.webshots.com/user/zil227

Me standing in the Irish Sea at the end of the walk

Me standing in the Irish Sea at the end of the walk

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