Category: Seeing it

Colorado – Loveland and Fort Collins

By , August 25, 2010 4:15 pm

On our slow trip back towards the East Coast, we wanted to spend some time in Colorado.  Our first stop was Loveland.  We actually wanted to be in Fort Collins, but Loveland was pretty close and had a couple RV parks with reasonable rates.  We didn’t really have an agenda for what we wanted to do in Colorado, we just wanted to check out some of the towns.

One thing we found when driving around Fort Collins was a flower garden set up on the CSU campus.  Dasy spent some time wandering around admiring and we both took few pictures.

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Our next real stop of note was the New Belgium Brewery.  We got there around 10:30 and signed up on “standby” for a tour.  All the tours were booked out online, so we took our chances.  While waiting for the tours to start, we wandered around the front entrance and took in some of the interesting bits they have outside.  The most interesting (although not very photogenic), was a fountain made out of some kind of pipes and a tin catch pan.  It made the coolest noises as the water fell in the tin pan!  When we get settled again, I might attempt to make one. 😉

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Since we live in an RV right now, we also had to go check out the Airstream they had parked in a flower bed in the parking lot.  It’s not really a functional RV any more, but it’s still pretty cool. 

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After spending a little bit of time in the Airstream, we headed inside to the bar area.  I’m not sure if it’s an actual bar or just a “sampling room”IMG_2997 for customers, but there were a lot of glasses of beer being passed back and forth and we didn’t see anyone paying for anything.  When we checked in for the tour, we were given a token for “a free drink”.  Apparently, “a” is plural at the brewery because I ended up trying about five different beers before finally settling on Trippel.  Dasy tried a few and actually liked one!  She’s not a beer drinker and normally just makes really cute scrunchy faces whenever she tries one.  But, she quite liked the Mothership, which is apparently the only totally organic beer that New Belgium makes.  I thought it tasted like burnt cardboard, but maybe that’s just me. 😉

After sampling a fair bit, it was time to start the tour.  Meet our tour guide, Andrew:

IMG_2999He did a good job by us and it was an interesting tour.  No one here seemed to take themselves too seriously, and I suppose it would be amazing if you were into how beer is brewed.  Personally, I just enjoyed seeing how they did everything and trying five or six different beers throughout the tour. ;)  Trippel is still my favorite. 

The tour lasted a little two hours, during which time we walked through or around several areas of the plant, mostly centered around brewing and bottling.  Speaking of bottles, Dasy got to be an official helper and poured several for the group!

IMG_3030I mostly asked stupid questions and took pictures of everything.  It’s not often to get to get in amongst mazes of stainless steel plumbing, glass bottles and bicycle parts. 🙂

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While exploring things to do in Fort Collins, we also found the Holiday Twin Drive In!  Dasy had never been to a drive-in, so we carved out a night to do so.  I had no idea how busy it would be, so we arrived fairly early, but we got a good spot.

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We watched Despicable Me, a kids animated movie, which was quite funny.  The other movie was Inception, which was just weird and a lot of work to get through.  We should have left in the middle of it, but one of our weaknesses is sitting through an entire movie once we’ve started it, even if it’s a bad one.  But, the intermission between movies made up for it…  They had dancing hot dog commercials!!! IMG_3051

The rest of the time was pretty relaxed and nothing to write home about.  Our next stop was to be Golden, Colorado, which will be in our next post!

 

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Camping Critters

By , August 24, 2010 7:21 am

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While visiting Crater Lake, we stayed at Collier Memorial State Park.  We’ve already mentioned the ground squirrels there.  As you can see below, they’re quite bold little critters!  IMG_2895

In case you were wondering, Dasy wasn’t feeding him, she was just putting on her shoes.  There were a number of these little guys harassing us on a regular basis (including jumping in the barbeque pit while I was trying to light it). We originally thought they were chipmunks, but we were mistaken.  Chipmunks are technically a ground squirrel, but they’re generally smaller and their head is shaped a little different than the ground squirrels that were all over this place.  What’s the difference between a regular squirrel and a ground squirrel?  Ground squirrels generally live in burrows, not trees.  They also tend to stand on their back legs much more frequently and for longer periods than tree squirrels.

Another group of critters we spotted while camping on the way to Colorodo were antelope. 

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We found out about Dugway BLM campground and settled there for the evening on our way from Crater Lake to Loveland, CO.  Dugway is about 8 miles north of Sinclair, WY on what we think is the North Platte river.  It’s a primitive campground that’s basically in the middle of nowhere.  We had one other van camper pull up a few hours after we did, but otherwise we had the place to ourselves.  The antelope pretty much steered clear of us, but I was able to get a few pictures down the road from the campground.  There were also mule deer, plenty of falcons and various other birds. 

This was probably the first “boondocking” I’ve actually liked.  It was remote enough that I wasn’t constantly disturbed by traffic noise.  We have two more boondock areas planned on our way East, so we’ll see if we can get some as nice as this one was! Smile

Our next stop was Loveland, CO.  We’ll have more about that in the next post!

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Crater Lake

By , August 17, 2010 1:33 pm

Dasy really wanted to see Crater Lake, so we headed down there for a couple days.  Crater Lake is pretty much in the middle of no where.  We could have camped in the park, but it was primitive (no water or electric) and we weren’t sure if we’d fit, so we decided to stay at Collier Memorial State Park instead.  There we found full hookups, pleasant sites, a nice little creek and LOTS of very bold ground squirrels. ;)  We’d recommend it if you don’t mind the drive from there to Crater Lake.

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Crater Lake itself is one of the smaller National Parks.  It has a couple of little villages and visitor centers, but it’s mostly just one loop road around the lake.  IMG_2807Our main goal was to catch the boat tour around the lake, with a stop at Wizard Island.  Even though we bypassed several overlooks to get there at a reasonable time, they were already booked up for the entire day (cost is $28 per person, $10 extra if you want to stop at Wizard Island). :(  We contented ourselves with a hike down to the lake instead. 

The hike is on the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which goes from the crater rim down to the boat dock and it is the only place you can actually get to the lake.  It is not for the faint of heart or the weak of knee!  It was just over a mile in distance, but the elevation difference from the rim to the lake is about 700 feet.  It took us about half an hour to go down.

Once at the bottom, we stuck our feet in the water and ate our lunch while watching several people swim and jump off the rocks into the lake.  It was cold, but apparently bearable “once you get in”.  We didn’t test that, mainly because I didn’t want to be hiking back up in wet clothes and shoes.  Were I to return, I’d probably bring trunks or some extra socks and shirt at least. 

IMG_2837The hike back up was significantly worse, but bearable if you’re in reasonably decent shape, or if you have a LOT of time and a couple bottles of water.  In the parking lot they sell shirts that say “One mile down, six miles up”.  ;) 

The lake itself is pretty cool and is an awesome color of blue.  Depending on where you are at different stops and at different times of the day, it can be more or less blue.  Our photographs show that somewhat.  I tried to keep the photographs as true to the original colors as I could… I didn’t enhance any of them to make them more colorful.

There are a few other areas of the park that are worth mentioning that we checked out…  Vidae Falls are quite nice, accessible from the road and worth stopping for.  There is also a section called The Pinnacles that is quite neat and worth the extra drive (it’s about 7 miles off the main loop).  The Pinnacles are spires of volcanic rock that are now exposed due to erosion of the surrounding rock.  Our final stop for the day was at the Castle Crest Wildflower Trial.  That was pretty cool, but we made some navigation errors at the start and had to do some backtracking before we found where we were meant to be (from the parking area, keep to the right, over the footbridge).  If you manage to go the right direction, it’s a 1 mile loop through some very nice growth areas around a small stream.

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Crater Lake Is Unique

By , August 15, 2010 7:17 pm

We left the Crater Lake region this morning and are currently in Winnemucca, NV. We are making our way to Colorado.

Crater Lake is a caldera lake when Mount Mazama erupted in 5400 BC. It is still an active volcanic. It is part of the same mountain range as Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, the Cascade Range. It is the deepest lake in the US at 1,943 feet. It is about 6 miles across and has no inlets and tributaries. It’s water is one of the deepest blue and one of the clearest, it is estimated that you can see 400 feet below.

We will post about our trip soon.

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Portland and Vancouver

By , August 14, 2010 10:43 am

We spent about a week in Portland, OR.  Actually, we were in Vancouver, WA, but that’s just across the river from Portland.  We met some great people in Vancouver at the nearby congregation. We didn’t originally plan to spend that long here, but a number of coincidences changed our schedule a bit…  More about that later.

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Portland is a pretty cool town.  There’s not much traffic for a city this size, once you’re downtown.  IMG_2683There are a lot of public transport options and a lot of people use bicycles to commute.  It’s a town that’s known for being “green”.  Unfortunately, that means parking for four-wheeled vehicles is a bit of a premium.  Just keep it in mind if you’re visiting.  Be prepared to park somewhere then walk to where you want to go.

IMG_2689We started by doing a guided walking tour, by Portland Walking Tours (I’ll supply a link later when I have a decent connection).  It was interesting and a good way to see the downtown areas.  It was a good introduction and gave us an idea of what we might want to do for the rest of our trip here.  I’d say it’s worth the cost if you don’t mind walking a bit.

At the end of our walking tour, we went back to where our Jeep was parked and had lunch.  The parking lots in the area are surrounded by little food booths of just about every ethnic variety you can imagine.  The food was pretty inexpensive and almost everything was cooked up as you order.  I ended up having something that was kind of Bulgarian, but I forgot what it was called.  It was basically a sausage, but made with some kind of thin dough as the wrapping instead IMG_3683of the usual sausage skin.  The whole thing was wrapped in a spiral, steamed and then grilled.  It could have been a bit spicier, but was good and plenty filling.  Dasy opted for some Thai Drunken Noodles, which were also pretty tasty, but I prefer the thin rice noodle dishes.  A couple next to us ordered a teriyaki chicken and rice bowl which looked and smelled incredible, so we snagged an order of that to go as well.  Our original assessment was correct… it was awesome!

IMG_2721We spent another day at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) and we also did a drive around Washington Park.  Washington Park is sort of a big collection of smaller parks.  It would probably be great for day hiking and/or biking, although it’s a bit hilly.  OMSI is one of the better science-type museums in the area (way better than Seattle), but it also reinforced our belief that we’ve been spoiled by the Smithsonians in Washington DC.  There’s a lot of hands-on stuff for kids, but there were some decent exhibits tucked away that we enjoyed as well.  The temporary Einstein exhibit was kind of cool, but I suspect it’s a bit too “deep” for the average bear and kid just walked right through it because there wasn’t really a lot that they could mess with there.  It made a valiant effort at explaining some of Einstein’s theories and I don’t think there would be many ways to do a better job.

Unfortunately, our plans got tossed out the window after that.  We ordered a couple packages that turned out to take a lot longer to arrive than we expected.  The campground we were at was completely booked, so we ended up having to move to another while awaiting the shipment.  It didn’t help that I caught some kind of nasty stomach bug or something.  I spent three or four days moping and trying to keep some small amount of food in me, while Dasy did her best not to get frustrated with me.  I’m still not completely up to snuff, but at least I can get out and do stuff now.

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Yes, it’s a pickle.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

By , August 10, 2010 6:05 pm

Our final destination in the Rainier area was Mount St. Helens.  We drove in from Randle, WA on 131, then turned off at Forest Road 26.  If you’re in the area on a motorcycle, this is a road you shouldn’t miss. Winking smile  The pavement isn’t in the best of shape, so use caution, but the twisties are awesome! Smile

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There’s not much in the way of scenery or exhibits or anything on the way to Mt. St. Helens, but it’s fairly impressive in it’s own way.

IMG_2583Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, which drastically changed not only the mountain (volcano), but the area around it as well.  Unfortunately, 57 people were also killed in the eruption.  The eruption blew sideways, not up.  This knocked about 1200 feet off height of St. Helens and left a mile wide U-shaped crater in it’s place.  It’s estimated that the blast cloud was travelling horizontally at approximately 300 miles per hour.  Needless to say, this left it’s mark. 

The park area is mostly dead trees now.  Most are fallen trunks, but a few dead trunks remain standing.  It’s not as scenic as most other parks, due to this.  There are some overlooks and a ranger station that’s worth checking out. 

At the end of the road, we came to Windy Ridge parking area.  We managed to arrive just a couple of minutes after a ranger’s presentation started, so we settled in and caught the rest of it.  If you time it right, it’s worth listening to the talks here.

IMG_2552The other point of interest here (other than the volcano itself) is the hike up to Windy Ridge.  I warn you, this is not for the faint of heart.  From the parking area, it looks like wood steps up to the ridge (which I estimated to be at least a 300 ft climb).  Unfortunately, once we started, we found that it was actually just a wood frame for steps, with each step filled in with pumice stones.  This did not make for an easy climb. Confused smile

At the top is a viewing platform that shows about as much of St. Helens that you’ll see without doing a serious hike.  It’s also a good place to see the blast field and Spirit Lake.  The lake is now about a third filled with dead floating logs.  The other two thirds have gotten waterlogged and sunk over the years.  It’s kind of eerie.  There are some interesting flowers and some nice areas of growth, but it’s mostly fairly barren land.

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IMG_2599On the way back out, we stopped at Iron Creek Falls.  This is technically outside the national monument and is part of Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  It’s definitely worth checking out!  From the parking area, it’s a short hike down a fairly well maintained trail to the falls.  We were able to cross the stream below the falls, due to some piled up log debris.  I imagine this can change radically depending on rain and snow melt.

This is probably one of the most pleasant areas we’ve found with falls in our trip.  The falls are impressive, but not so huge that you can’t get to them.  You could easily swim here if it were warm enough (I doubt it would ever be “comfortable”).  The fall shoots out almost vertically before falling in an unobstructed pool.  The entire area is incredibly green and nicely shaded.  It would be a good place to chill out and have a picnic. Smile

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Mount Rainier National Park (continued)

By , August 9, 2010 12:27 pm

IMG_2618For the rest of our time in Mount Rainier, we spent a fair chunk of it at the Grove of the Patriarchs.  The Grove is on an “island” in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River.  You can get there via a nature trail that starts just past the Stephen’s Canyon entrance to the park.  If you hit it on a weekend, expect parking to be a scarce commodity.  We actually went up to the next parking area on the road and walked back a fair distance to get to the trail.

The trail leads through some old cedar next to the river, before crossing a small suspension bridge.  The bridge is only wide enough for one person, so everyone alternated with those on the other side.  I almost waded across the river instead, but the water was cold and I didn’t want to be walking around with sandy or wet feet the rest of the day.  Winking smile

Once you cross the river, you’ll eventually come to a boardwalk that leads around the grove.  Here are some of the oldest of the trees in the area.  Exceptional ones will have small plaques around somewhere describing them.

These are some monstrous trees!  After seeing these and the ones previously at Olympic National Park, I have a real hard time comprehending how big a redwood or sequoia might be. Confused smile

IMG_2612After a pleasant hike around the grove, we headed back to the Jeep so we could check out the Sunrise and White River side of the park.

Be careful of the drive to Sunrise, especially on weekends.  The rangers are pretty diligent about monitoring and penalizing speed limit violations.  I pulled into an overlook to let a motorcycle pass us… he was pulled over getting a ticket about two minutes later.  We spotted plenty of rangers both in and out of the park, so watch your speed everywhere (the park rangers do have jurisdiction outside the park, as they cooperate with the forest rangers in the area too).  There’s not much need to speed through…  as the drive is very scenic and it’s worth taking your time for it.

IMG_2642Once you make it to Sunrise, there is a ranger station, restrooms, backcountry and hiking permits, plus a cafeteria and gift shop.  Expect prices to be fairly unreasonable.  You’re in the middle of nowhere and at their mercy…  I seem to remember that the going rate for a hot dog was $5.  Pack your lunch!

Dasy did a half-hour tour on one of the ranger programs, while I chilled out for a bit and checked out the buildings and stuff.  I just wasn’t in the mood for more walking around today.

The rest of our time was spent in the campground or at Mount Saint Helens.  More about that next time!

 

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Mount Rainier National Park

By , August 6, 2010 7:43 am

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Ok, I’ve got to start this off with a disclaimer and a warning…

The disclaimer: The picture above is heavily processed and is more of an “art” picture than a historical or reference shot.  But, it is almost exactly what I was hoping to get when I set it up.  For those interested in why it looks like it does, do some research on HDR processing (later).  Winking smile

The warning: This is a long post.  I have an excuse though…  The weather was just about perfect and it’s pretty hard not just point a camera at something here and get a good picture.

IMG_2430“Here” was Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state.  We spent five days in the area, divided between Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens.  Instead of jumping back and forth, we’re doing a couple of Rainier posts first, then we’ll do another one on St. Helens.

Mount Rainier National Park is pretty awesome!  In my book, it’s close to Glacier NP in scenery and photography value.  It’s easier to get around and it’s more “tourist friendly”.  However, it’s also got a LOT of area that isn’t easy to get to unless you plan to do some major hiking and camping.  We did a few walking trails, but mostly stuck to the main roads in the Jeep.

IMG_2435Surprisingly, you can’t actually see Mount Rainier unless you’re far away (up to 100 miles away on a clear day) or until you’ve driven a few miles into the park.  The mountains around Rainier aren’t ridiculously impressive or anything, but they’re big enough for it to hide behind. 

We were staying in Randle, so we came in on the Southeast corner of the park, at Stephen’s Canyon entrance.  If you come the same way, it’s worth stopping at the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center on the way in.

The first scenic stop that we made was at Box Canyon.  Here we found a nice plaque explaining that the rock I was standing on had been polished by a glacier at one time.  The road also goes over the canyon, so you can get a nice perspective from the sidewalk.IMG_2442

The first real “viewpoint” of Mount Rainier from the entrance we used had plenty of parking.  If you’re coming in from the Stephens Canyon entrance, keep going.  There are a few nicer views after you cross a deep valley.

One of the stops we made was at the Reflection Lakes.  This is a small collection of lakes that the main road runs right next to.  I would imagine they earned their names by being smooth as glass… when there’s no wind.  We had just enough wind to ripple everything, but it’s still a nice view.

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After Reflection Lakes, we took a scenic loop up to and around Paradise.  It was absolutely packed and there didn’t seem to be any better view than the ones we’d been seeing all morning, so we didn’t stop.

Further down the road is Narada Falls.  We definitely stopped for that!IMG_2514  We actually stopped once to eat lunch and enjoy the falls at the top, then we stopped again later in the day on the way back to do the trail.  The trail is pretty steep and is loose rock and dirt in some places, but it’s worth it.  The Narada Falls parking area is at the top of the falls.  Unfortunately, it’s somewhat behind the fall area, so you can’t actually see the falls.  You can see the stream that feeds the falls, and you can sit on the bridge that goes over it.  The trail goes to the other side of the river and down a steep hill.  We stopped at about half the height of the falls, which is probably the best view you’ll find without bushwacking.

The falls do send up a water mist, so be careful with you’re camera and electronic gear.  Just keep stuff covered until you’re ready to take a picture and you should be fine.  The reward, of course, is the rainbows that are pretty much always present due to this (check the lower right corner of the picture to the right).

IMG_3510Narada Falls are clearly the biggest and most impressive of the easily accessible falls off the road we were on, but they aren’t the only ones.

Christine Falls is a multi-level fall that starts well above the road (there’s a steep hike up to the top) and ends well below the road.  There’s a short walk down from the road to see the falls under the bridge, which is definitely worth it.IMG_2502

Our next stop was at Longmire.  There is a museum here, along with most of the park’s administrative offices, an inn, plus shuttle busses to run back and forth to Paradise.  We checked out the museum and the administration building.  They were interesting, but not very photographic.  I’ll probably include some of those pictures in another slide show that I’ll get to eventually. Winking smile

At Longmire, we ended our trip for the first day in the park and headed back to our campground in Randle, WA.

Note: There will be another post on Mt. Rainier NP, this one was getting long enough. Winking smile

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Olympic Peninsula – Cape Flattery

By , July 31, 2010 4:28 pm

IMG_2352On our last major outing in the Olympic Peninsula area, we went out to Cape Flattery.  This is supposedly the most northwest point of the continental US.  It’s on the Makah Reservation and requires a reservation pass (available all over the reserve for $10 – good for a year) and fairly decent hike. 

The hike was about a 3/4 mile each way.  But, be prepared for a 300 foot descent on the way to the point, which means a climb on the way back. ;)  The trail is pretty neat, but expect parts of it to be made of split timbers, with steps and stacked logs as well.  Not difficult for most people, but you’re not going to be getting a wheelchair or anything back there.

There are several points on the way out where there are small overlooks onto the coastline.  They’re pretty cool, but the real reward is at the end!  There’s a viewing platform with a spectacular view (when it’s not foggy) of the light house and surrounding coast.  It’s well worth the trip.

After heading back to the Jeep, we drove into the main town on the Makah Indian Reservation and found “the salmon guy”.  We’d heard that there’s a guy who makes great smoked salmon.  Our neighbors at the campground even asked if we could get some for them!  Well, we found the guy, tasted the salmon and promptly bought a couple pounds.  I have to say that I don’t like salmon.  Dasy does, but I don’t much care for it… at all.  But, this smoked salmon was incredible!  Suffice to say, it didn’t last very long. :S

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From here, we headed back to Shelton to spend a couple more days with my sister and her family and then headed out to Mt. Rainier.  More on that next time! 🙂

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Olympic National Park – Hoh Rainforest and Sol Duc Falls

By , July 31, 2010 8:17 am

Our second outing in the Olympic National Park took us to the Hoh Rainforest.  The is on the west side of the Olympic mountains, where the mountains push the wet sea air upwards, causing it to rain much more than anywhere else in the park.  Fortunately, we seemed to hit a good time in the year to avoid the rains and it was a beautiful, sunny day. 

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IMG_2169There aren’t any real scenic views or anything on the way into the park from the Hoh entrance.  The scenery is the forest!  The trees are HUGE and there’s a primeval feel to everything as you drive under that dense canopy.  Most of the ground is covered with water, mud or moss.  Ferns are also quite abundant.  We didn’t spot any dinosaurs, but I suspect there are a few wandering around in there somewhere. 😉

We stopped at the Sitka spruce, which is one of the first of the ‘giant’ trees that you’d encounter in the park.  It’s probably wider than our Jeep is long!  It’s big, old, and a bit gnarly looking.  I think it’s about 500 years old.

IMG_3322But, the real attraction is the visitor center at the end of the road.  Here you’ll find information on the rainforest and a few exhibits on the animals and plants in the area.  There’s also a small gift store, picnic area, restrooms and backcountry hiking permits.  Plus… trails!  There are trails for just about all levels, from 1/4 mile paved “kid friendly” trails, to multiple day hike-through-the-entire-park trials.

IMG_2193We went on the “Hall of Mosses” trail.  It wasn’t too long, but went through some of the old groves that we wanted to see (and we like moss).  The trail is about a mile and is relatively flat, although there are some fairly gentle inclines. The trees here are simply monstrous in size!  My poor attempts at describing them wouldn’t come close to doing them any justice.  There are a few pictures that give an idea of the size, but I’m not a good enough photographer or writer to really get the idea across.

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Our next stop was the Sol Duc entrance so we could see the trail and falls.  We decided to skip on the hot springs, as we’d heard that they’re not really that nice and are kind of commercialized (and we were there on the weekend).  I got the impression that it had been built up enough that it would be a stretch to call it “natural” any more.

IMG_2305I don’t know if the Sol Duc area is technically rainforest, as I think it’s far enough north to get a little shelter from the rains on the west slopes, but it’s still huge and primeval.  The trees are a bit different than the Hoh section and there doesn’t seem to be quite as much underbrush.  The trees at Sol Duc seem to be a brighter green and there were a fair amount of younger trees.  If you come to the area and don’t have time to see both Hoh and Sol Duc, it would be a tough to decide which to skip.  The trail is nicer at Sol Duc, but we only did the one.  There are a lot more trails at Hoh and a lot more species of trees there.  Hoh clearly has older trees, but there’s also a lot of dead stumps there.  Hoh is awesome, but there’s a feeling of “life” in Sol Duc that can’t be ignored.  It’s the kind of place where you wouldn’t be overly surprised to find a triceratops grazing on a patch of ferns just off the trail. 😉

Of course, the other thing that Sol Duc is known for is the falls. As with any decent sized river, there are generally smaller “feeder” streams.  You’ll cross a few of these on the way to the falls.  I always like these little streams because I can go rock-hopping and actually mess around a bit.  Bigger ones like the falls are kind of off-limits to anyone with the slightest bit of sense.

IMG_2316I only managed to get one decent picture of the falls (above), mostly because they spray up a water mist and my camera is afraid to get wet. ;)  There main trail crosses almost directly over the falls using a very stout footbridge (it would probably hold a decent sized truck easily).  This gives a great view right down the “throat” of the little box canyon than the falls have carved.  The amount of moss here (due to the spray) is ridiculous!  You could probably belly-flop on some of the rocks and be more comfortable than on some mattresses.

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Unfortunately, that pretty much finished our time IN Olympic National Park, but we also did a bit of exploring outside the park.  We’ll get into that on the next post!

Olympic National Park – Hurricane Hill

By , July 30, 2010 10:11 pm

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Our first real outing in the Olympic Peninsula area took us to the Hurricane Ridge entrance of Olympic National Park.  Hurricane Ridge has a number of scenic vistas and interesting areas, but the main point for those who don’t mind a bit of a hike is Hurricane Hill.IMG_3163

The hike to Hurricane Hill starts at the very last vehicle-accessible area from the entrance at Port Angeles.  The last section of road is extremely tight and windy.  A small class C RV might be able to make it, but I doubt event a 30-foot class A could manage it.  We parked at the bottom of the trail and proceeded to head upwards.

The trail climbs through fairly arid areas that can be a rather odd mix of snowfields, dry sandy soil, flowers, meadows and windswept trees.  To make it even more odd, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky (no shade) and it was quite hot.  We got pretty well baked on the trail.  Serves us right for not planning.  We didn’t think we’d do the hike, we kind of decided to attempt it at the last minute. :S

IMG_2124The hike is about 1.7 miles each direction and climbs about 700 feet.  The trail is dusty and rocky and was absolutely infested with bees for the entire trip.  A few signs at the entrance to the trail indicated that if we just kept moving when any of the flying critters investigated us, we’d be fine.  I guess they knew what they were talking about, as we didn’t have any issues with them.  Just be warned should you go in the summer.

IMG_3190Other than the sun, heat and bees, we really didn’t have any problems and it was well worth the effort.  The flowers were really surprising considering the terrain and weather conditions.  The views were spectacular and the hike wasn’t that hard until the very last section.  Note: If you are actually a real “hiker”, consider our description to be woefully tainted by the fact that we’re wimps and we don’t really hike.  A real hiker would probably consider this to be a gently sloping tourist trail. :S

At the top of Hurricane Hill, you can see down to Port Angeles and if it’s clear enough, you can see Victoria, BC across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It kind of feels like the top of the world!

IMG_2100The area is pretty much infested with chipmunks!  They’re not at all shy and they will pretty much be running around just about any rock you look at.  They were cute, but not very cooperative for the camera. 😉  Fortunately, that wasn’t the only thing we saw…

IMG_2130One of the things I’d been hoping to see on our trip to this area, but hadn’t really expected to see was a marmot.  We found one running around a meadow just below the peak!  They look like big groundhogs, just furrier. 🙂

We also went to Obstruction Peak, but it was a dusty unpaved road and the end wasn’t that impressive for us.  Half the trail was still covered in snow and we’d already done far more hiking than we’d planned, so we just took a look around and headed back home.

If you’re headed here, there’s a nice visitor center and some nice overlooks just off the main road.  But, if you’re really looking to see the area, expect to put forth some effort to do so.  It’s well worth it, but bring some water, a good hat and sunscreen or a long sleeved shirt. 😉

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It Floats and Barely There

By , July 30, 2010 10:18 am

After Seattle, we decided to make our way to Olympic National Park.  After doing a bit of research, we found that the ferry was probably the cheapest and fastest method of getting our collection of vehicles over.  We hopped on the ferry at Edmunds, after a number of issues.

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First, there were no signs to tell us that we had to disconnect the Jeep from the Dutch Star.  Second, there was no designated space to do so after getting through the entry booth.  We pulled over, blocked a lane for a bit and got everything unhooked.  IMG_2076Dasy took the Jeep and I drove the Star.  Dasy loaded up first, while I sat there for a bit and was then directed to take up two spots and straddle the lane to park.  Dasy unloaded first and ended up in front of me.  Unfortunately, she didn’t know where we were going and there was no where convenient to reconnect.  So, she drove for about a half an hour with occasional horn honks and lots of turn signal warnings from me behind her. 😉IMG_2069

The icing on the cake, however, was there were at least four other RVs on the ferry.  One was larger than us, directed to take a single lane and did not disconnect his toad.  There was another smaller class C, also with a toad that was connected (“toad” is the nickname given to a towed vehicle by RVers).  So, we ended up with a lot of confusion and a lot of extra hassle and work because the ferry system is inconsistent on what to do with RVers.  Ah well, it was still cheaper and faster than driving all the way around the sound (about $75 for both vehicles).

The ride was fine, but the view wasn’t great from my perspective. IMG_2073 I did get out a couple times and take a look around, but it was kinda gray and there wasn’t a whole lot of decent pictures to get on the trip.  But, it did get us over to the Olympic peninsula pretty quickly and easily, so it’s all good.

Now for the other part of our headline for this article… “Barely There”.

We’re currently just outside of Mount Rainier National Park.  It’s pleasant and will give us the opportunity to see Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens, but we have no wifi.  We also have no cellular data connection.  That means we’re essentially without any kind of connectivity for a few days.  The nearest coffee shop with Internet is about 15 miles from us (which is where we are right now). So, we’ll not be regularly replying to emails, text messages, comments on the blog or anything else for about four days.  The bright side is that I can work on the blog posts for Olympic National Park offline, then upload them when I get to town.  So, you might be seeing three or four posts roll in on one day (but probably not today).

That covers us for now… we’re off to see Mt. Rainier, then we’ll start batching up blog posts on Olympic tonight. 

Seattle Meanderings

By , July 28, 2010 8:55 am

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In total, we spent about a week in Seattle.  The weather was just about perfect and we found lots to do (hence the lack of updates).

IMG_1884We went back into the city a couple of times and somehow managed to end up at Piroshky Piroshky again. Winking smile  Dasy had a smoked salmon piroshky, which was shaped like a fish (and still quite tasty).  Speaking of fish, we also went to the Seattle aquarium.  The aquarium had some nice exhibits and a cool “touching pool”, where you could touch starfish, urchins and anemones.  It was pretty neat, but I didn’t get many decent pictures.  Shooting through glass and moving reflective water doesn’t work so well without some filters that I don’t have right now. 

We also went to the Space Needle, the science center and the sci-fi museum.  All of this was paid for with a City Pass.  City Pass is a collection of tickets to various shows and attractions, all at one price for a “book”, which is good for nine days.  Most of the tickets are good for one entry to the attraction, but some are good for multiple…  The Space Needle allowed for two visits in 24 hours, so you could see the view during day and night (we only did night). IMG_1828 The City Pass isn’t a bad value if you plan on hitting multiple attractions.

Another area we visited a couple of times was the International District.  Imagine a “Chinatown”, but instead of being just Chinese shops, it’s a little bit of everything.  Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mongolian, etc.  We even found a Cambodian noodle shop!  Unfortunately, it was closed on Monday, which is when we were there. Sad smile We ended up having noodles somewhere else (I think it was a kind of Asian fusion place… a little mishmash of everything).

IMG_3145Seattle is kind of a big melting pot.  There are a lot of nationalities represented by both the inhabitants and the visitors.  We spent a fair amount of time with a group of Cambodian friends from one of the congregations in the area.  We had a lot of fun, met a bunch of new friends and it gave Dasy a bit of an insight into how easy (or hard) it would be for her to relearn Cambodian (she speaks just fine, but would need to learn reading and writing again).  Mostly, we just had fun hanging out with them. Winking smile

I’m not going to take a lot of time going into each of the museums and what there is, but I’ll give you a few general opinions that I think Dasy and I agree on.IMG_3110

First, we’re probably spoiled by living in Washington, DC for so long.  All of the museums and attractions we went to were “nice”, but none were great and we probably would have been a little miffed at all of them if we’d paid the regular admission prices.  The aquarium was small and overcrowded, the science center was almost completely geared towards children, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t hate any of them and we’re glad we went to each of them. But, we’re used to the Smithsonians in DC.  Those are museums!  We should spend more time in them when we go back to DC.

There were a couple of exceptions though…  One of the items in the City Pass is for Argosy Cruises, which offer a number of sightseeing tours around the sound.  It was very interesting to see Seattle from the water and the announcer did a good job of explaining everything.  It was just a pleasant cruise and a good break after walking around the city all day.

IMG_2035The other one that we really liked was the Science Fiction museum.  It’s a little on the small side and there’s nothing “interactive”, but if you’re a sci-fi buff and in the area, you need to go.  They have a ton of cool stuff on display and most of it is pretty well known, even by those who aren’t really into sci-fi movies and books.  They have about four full outfits from Blade Runner, a bunch of stuff from all the Star Wars and Star Treks (including the original captain’s chair), a Terminator robot, Buck Rodgers robots… I could go on and on!  They have some cool “classic” stuff too…  Like Logan’s Run and even Metropolis!  Ok, I’ll stop now. Winking smile 

Oh, if you plan to take pictures at the Sci-Fi museum, bring a compact tripod, a fast lens and a circular polarizing filter.  Everything is behind glass, poorly lit for photography and no flashes are allowed!  I managed to get a few decent pics, but I wish I’d known the conditions earlier.

Speaking of pictures, I have way too many to stuff into one blog post.  So, I made a short slide show of the highlights.  It’s probably about 30 pictures or so, but if you’ve been following us so far, you’ll probably enjoy it. Winking smile  Just click here for the slideshow whenever you’re ready and it should open in it’s own window (hit the little play button if you don’t want to click them manually).

Note: We’re currently in Shelton, WA and will be heading to Mount Rainier tomorrow.  We’re about a week behind on the blog and will be filling in some posts about Port Angeles and Olympic National Park over the next few days.

Glacier National Park

By , June 16, 2010 8:49 pm

After Dasy went back to Northern Virginia and the Star was done with it’s major work, I headed up to Glacier National Park.

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I was hoping to spend a fair amount of quality time on the TW-200 (motorcycle), but the weather wasn’t cooperative.  It wasn’t bad weather, just highly unpredictable. 

Glacier is probably the prettiest of the national parks I’ve been to so far.  Everything was so green and the plant life and terrain was so varied.  Most of the other parks seem to have a couple types of trees (or no trees), but Glacier seems to have a little of everything.  I’d have to say it’s possibly my favorite so far. 

The first day, I got the Star checked in and set up around 5pm.  That left me only a couple of hours to run up the Going To The Sun road to see the park.  Unfortunately, the road was closed after about 15 miles, as they haven’t finished snow plowing yet.  Since that’s the only road that goes through the park, that left me able to only see a portion of it.  It remained closed throughout my visit and is only scheduled to open about now.  Maybe I’ll take Dasy with me and we’ll see the rest of the park on the way back from the west coast.

Glacier is pretty much lots of lakes, streams, forests and mountains.  Most of the streams contain a number of waterfalls, of varying sizes.

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On the second day in the park, I’d bumped into Jennifer of LivingInMyCar.  We talked a little about some of her RV problems, and made arrangements to do a short tour the following day.  I ended up caulking what we thought might be leaky spots in her roof, then we spent the morning on the Going To The Sun road.  Jennifer only has her RV and didn’t want to uproot and drive it out there.  So, I volunteered the Jeep as transport and we spent an afternoon taking pictures on the road.  Luckily (for me), on the way there, I spotted a black bear and a ranger promptly showed up to “deal with it”.  This involved shooting it with a bean-bag cannon, which didn’t work at all.  The bear simply ran up a tree. ;)  I didn’t hang around to watch the aftermath, as there was quite a bit of traffic building up to watch the show.  I also saw a grizzly bear later, but didn’t have the camera handy, so no pictures of him (sorry).

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IMG_1537The next day, I took the Jeep out to Polebridge, via a gravel road in the park.  The ride out was pleasant, but long.  It also rained for about half the drive.  I decided to go back on the TW when the weather was decent, as it would handle the potholes much easier than the Jeep would.

IMG_1538I also checked out the local national forest and found a trail up there that I thought the Jeep could handle.  Unfortunately, I ended up sinking the Jeep in snow up to the bumper, which is where I turned around.  I might have attempted to go further, but the surrounding trees in that area were too small to support the Jeep if I needed to winch through any deep snow or mud.  But, it was a nice drive and I got to see a few of the more out-of-the-way streams and waterfalls.

IMG_1552 IMG_1553I spent a couple days in the RV due to the weather and work needing to be done.  But, when I had a decent day, I took advantage of it.  IMG_1579One of the trips I made was out to East Glacier, which is a small town at the entrance on the opposite side of the park where I was staying.  Normally, I would have taken the Going To The Sun road, but since it was closed, I took highway 2 around the south end of the park instead.  It’s a nice scenic drive if you’re in the area for a while.

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IMG_1584For my last day in the Glacier area, I managed to get good enough weather to go back to Polebridge.  There’s exactly two stores there, one of which is a well known bakery; Polbridge Mecantile.  I waited a bit for some particular lunch bits to come out of the oven.  I was rewarded with one of the best turnovers I’ve ever had…  Chicken with ranch dressing and bacon, stuffed in a flaky crust and baked to near perfection.  It was pretty awesome and was worth the 40 miles on bad roads I took to get there.  I got a roast-beef with grilled onion and horseraddish to go, which would be lunch for another day. 😉

While waiting, another set of motorcycle guys showed up on very well equipped (farkled) BMWs and KLRs.  They wanted to take the park road back instead of the main pothole-riddled road.  Since I’d done it a few days ago in the Jeep I offered to guide them/requested to tag along. ;)  The TW is still fairly new to me and it has a few “quirks”, so I prefer not to be in the middle of nowhere without some kind of possibility that someone can send for assistance if needed. 

We arrived back at the park entrance an hour or two later, said our goodbyes and then I headed out to pack up the Star.  My next stop would be somewhere in Washington state.  I would be heading past Tacoma towards the west coast to spend some time with my sister and her family.

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Going Underground

By , June 10, 2010 11:50 am

IMG_1475On Thursday, while the Star was waiting on a new control module, I decided to head out to Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park to check out the caverns.  It was one of the few days that it didn’t rain (well, it didn’t rain on the way there).

I could probably ramble on ridiculously about the cave system and what makes it different from the majority of other caves, but if you’re not into caves (and I’m not really) it probably wouldn’t mean much.  You can do some research on the internet if you really want to know about the caves.  What I can tell you about is how the trip was and what you might want to know if you decide to go.

IMG_1346First, the caves aren’t horizontal or vertical.  They’re tilted, at about 55 degrees due to the mountain shifting a long, long time ago.  The entrance is up on the side of a mountain.  The exit is several hundred feet below it on the same mountain.  You’re looking at about a two mile hike, with a lot of elevation changes.  You’re also looking at climbing up and down a few tight and dark passages.  Plan to spend at least two hours in the cold and dark.  It’s 50 degrees and it is damp (I found several puddles the hard way).  You should be in relatively decent physical shape and you shouldn’t be claustrophobic or afraid of the dark.  Now that all the nasty disclaimers are out of the way… 😉

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The cave tour is very interesting and worth the effort.  Unfortunately, I’d have to take an entire lighting rig down there to get decent photographs, so I have only mediocre ones, at best.  Near the end of the tour, they’ve upgraded the lighting to multicolor LED projection bulbs.  They approximate sunlight, but I’m pretty sure they added a few filters for effect. Still, it’s better than the standard incandescent bulbs in the rest of the place.  Any pictures that have a lot of color (like the one below) were taken near the LED lighting.  Anything that looks mostly orange or brown were taken near the incandescent lights.

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Umm… it’s a cave.  IMG_1395It’s neat, but it’s definitely a cave.  I’m sorry, but I really don’t know how to describe a cave.  It’s such an alien place.  The pictures will have to do my talking for me.  I can tell you that this particular cave system is known for it’s formations, which are quite interesting and varied.  Some are strange enough to appear to defy the natural laws of physics.

Oh, expect to get a little cozy with others if you end up in a large tour group.  Some of the rooms and the passages are quite small. 😉

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Hunting The Hunters

By , June 6, 2010 9:23 pm

Gallatin National Forest

On our last outing while in West Yellowstone, we decided to go see if we could find some bear in Gallatin National Forest.  There’s a section called The Narrows that’s on Hegben Lake that we’d been told was closed to visitors due to bear activity.  Apparently, there were some carcasses (of unspecified type and origin) that were on the beach and the bear were feeding on them.  When I’d gone on my morning outing a few days earlier, I’d gotten close to the closed area, but didn’t actually go as far as I could.  I figured that was our best shot at finding some bear.  Even if we didn’t see any bear, it would be a nice drive through the woods and would be close enough to town that we could call it quits in an hour or two if we got tired (we did).

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We ended up going north of Hegben lake to see if we could see any bear activity across the lake.  We figured that would be easiest and safest… bears can run fast, but they aren’t the quickest of swimmers. ;)  We saw nothing of bear or carcasses.  So, we headed back and took a bunch of Jeep trails towards the bear area. 

We stopped first at Horse Butte Overlook.  We saw evidence of bear (shed fur), but again there were no bear.  We did see a couple of Ranger looking people but they didn’t stop us or say anything, so we pretty much ignored them. 🙂

The view from Horse Butte was nice and we spotted a herd of bison in the distance (the picture above is taken from Horse Butte Overlook).  But, our quest for the day was BEAR!

We headed back down the butte and followed some more Jeep/forest roads towards the closed area.  The sign marking the road closure had been knocked over earlier and… um… we didn’t see it until we left.  So, we headed all the way through the closed area and all the way to the beach.  Unfortunately, I think this was another park service publicity stunt… no fanged or clawed furry critters were to be seen.  While it was little consolation to us, we did spot our first picah on the way out (sorry, no pictures, they’re skittish and FAST!). 

After that little drive, we headed back along Hegben Lake towards town, stopping at various little scenic overlooks.  At one point we had to drive through the herd of bison we’d spotted earlier from the butte.  A few of them did NOT look happy about it!  I don’t have any pictures, because I was driving and didn’t want to stop the Jeep.  I thought there was a real possibility of one of them getting unhappy enough to charge us.  They’re awesome creatures from afar, but they much more intimidating when staring at you from three feet away!

There were two other interesting things we spotted though…  Osprey and eagles.  There were several osprey, but one of them flew pretty close to us and he’d just been fishing!

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I don’t know how big that fish was, but I’d have been plenty happy with the portion size if it was on my plate.  One of the bald eagles must have thought the same thing and it started chasing the osprey!  I figured the osprey would just drop the fish and run, but he was quite set on keeping his own dinner.  Much to our surprise the osprey just kept climbing (with the fish) and managed to keep several flaps ahead of the eagle.   We’re not sure of the final outcome, as they were eventually too high for us to keep track of them.  My bet is on the osprey!

After that we headed back to town.  Rob and Lara had a flight to catch the next day and Dasy was going with them, as there were some family and friends back in northern Virginia she wanted to visit. 

Oh… we never did see a bear on our trip to Yellowstone. 🙁

Note: This was about a week ago… I’m playing “catch-up”.  I’m currently in Coram, MT, just outside Glacier National Park.  The Star is all fixed and working and I’m chilling here for a week.  I’ll be in or around the park for a couple of days when the weather is decent and will be working when it rains.  Judging by the forecast, I’ll be working quite a bit. :S  But… I saw a bear today! 😛

Taking It Easy

By , June 4, 2010 10:06 am

Gallatin National Forest and Grand Teton National Park

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For the last few days at West Yellowstone, we decided to check out some of the areas around Yellowstone National Park.  We were still on a quest to find a bear and we’d heard that there was an area not too far from our campground that had been closed off due to bear activity.  I figured we could get close enough to see the area from afar and maybe spot our elusive bear.  For some reason, I’d woken up really early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I did some exploring on my own at 6 AM.  At worst, I’d have an idea of how to get where we wanted to be.  At best, I’d see a bear or find some good trails.

The area I was aiming for was called The Narrows and was located in the Gallatin National Forest, just north of West Yellowstone.  It’s basically a peninsula in Hegben Lake.  Dasy and I had taken a couple of short drives to Hegben Lake already, so I thought I knew what to expect… However, at sunrise it looks completely different!  Sometimes getting up at a ridiculous time can reward me with some amazing sights.  The fog and lighting from the morning sun were almost unreal.  I really should get up early and go exploring more often. 😉

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If I have my timeline correct, we checked the weather and we had one potentially decent day and one wet one approaching.  We decided to use the decent day to go to Grand Teton National Park. 

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It was a terrible day of driving (luckily Rob had volunteered that morning).  We got stopped in the park for almost an hour so the park service could herd some wandering bison back into the park.  It was IMG_1277cool to see that many of them and the cowboy was quite entertaining… especially when he tried to get the “last” bison to move when it didn’t want to.  I guess the last bison is kind of like the rear guard of the herd.  There were several times we thought he was about to charge the cowboy!  Unfortunately, it was too far away for a decent photo, but I took some video, which I’ll post later.  After the herd passed, we were stopped again by bison near Old Faithful.  This was a large family group with bison of every age and size.  Some of the younger ones were fighting, which was pretty neat.  Dasy particularly likes the calves.

After the bison, we made it through Yellowstone NP and then got stopped again for a long time while waiting for construction on the road between Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP!  We probably spent two hours parked on the road that morning. 

But, we finally made it to Grand Teton National Park.  Unfortunately, almost all the facilities were closed.  They were opening that weekend and we were a few days early.IMG_1300

We drove through part of the park and realized that there’s really not much there other than boating and hiking.  It’s fairly undeveloped and isn’t as accessible as Yellowstone.  It didn’t help that most of the roads off the main road were also closed.  So, we ate lunch, saw the Grand Tetons, took our pictures and went back.  Most of us slept for the trip back to our campground (sorry, Rob!).

Note: I haven’t had my coffee yet and I can tell I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll save the other post about Gallatin National Forest for later.

Hot and Cold

By , June 3, 2010 10:22 pm

Our third outing in Yellowstone was a cold and dreary morning.  We might have also made an unwise choice in where to go and when.  It wasn’t snowing or raining regularly, but there were flurries and it was far colder than any other morning so far.

IMG_1107We headed to Yellowstone Falls and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which is on the east side of the park.  We stopped at a point near the falls and planned to do a little hiking to get to a couple of viewpoints.  Due to the recent rain/snow, the ground was absolute mush.  My boots were caked with clay and mud within minutes.  But, we did get some decent views of the falls and the canyon.  I’ve included both a zoomed in shot and a zoomed out one so you can get an idea of just how big the canyon is. 

Even though the views were worth it and we’re glad we decided to come, we were getting pretty miserable and we were less than halfway to the point we were trying to get to.  Luckily, I brought along a GPS (no cell service) and did some occasional checks as we went.  It looked a lot like there was a road that eventually ran out to the point we were trying to get to. IMG_1106 I mentioned it and almost immediately got a “Great idea, let’s go!”.  I guess I wasn’t the only one who was cold. 😉

We hiked back to the Jeep and drove right up to the point we were about to hike to.  I guess I should have checked a couple more maps before heading out. ;)  We were rewarded with another great view, but the distance was quite a bit further to the falls.  We did get a much better view of the canyon from there, but it was still cold. We decided we needed some heat!

So, we went to the Dragon’s Mouth!

IMG_1146The Dragon’s Mouth is so named due to the steam that constantly bellows forth and the roaring that accompanies it.  The water at the entrance is constantly churning and bursting out.  If not for the steam and muddy color of the water, it would be very much like a sea cave with waves crashing in it.  It’s rather strange.

IMG_1157There are a whole lot of active features at the same location, including bubbling mud pots, boiling pools and a mud volcano.  We weren’t up to exploring too much, but we did the normal picture taking and eyeballing.  If we did want to explore some more, we would have been out of luck due to the sign.  The sign was an “Area closed – there be bear abouts”.  We have decided it was all a publicity stunt and there aren’t actually any bear.  We ran into bear closure areas all over the place but didn’t see a single one the entire time.  There was one area with a ton of traffic where people said there was a bear, but we didn’t really believe that would be our only chance to see one, so we didn’t stop.  Oops.  We even went looking for bear, but that’s a story for another post later.

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By the way…  I’m not sure how long this area (Dragon’s Mouth) will be open.  It’s pretty active and the parking lot is now starting to get eaten.  There are several holes in the asphalt with hot sulfuric steam coming out.  At some point the park service will have to re-arrange that parking lot.  From my perspective, it was neat to see the change in only a couple years time.  The whole park really is an active area.  I guess it’s possible than any of the features could change radically at any time.

After the Dragon’s Mouth, we headed to Yellowstone Lake.  To our surprise, it was still covered in ice!

IMG_1164It’s probably thawed out by now, but it was neat to see it at least partially in it’s winter attire. 

After that, we went to the West Thumb Geyser Basin.  West Thumb is probably one of the most visited areas of Yellowstone, with good reason.  It has some really neat geysers, but it’s very restricted and can be quite crowded at times.  It’s best to visit this spot in the early morning or later in the evening if you don’t want to be squeezing past people on boardwalks.  It’s good if you can take some time and just wander here, as some of the pools are quite beautiful. The different water temperatures coming out of the ground (all of which are close to boiling) are home to many different algaes and other biologic stuff that I don’t remember the names of.  Different colored things grow in the different temperatures, some of which can show some incredible colors!

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It was also kind of cool to see the elk just hanging out amongst the features.  Some of them were getting a nice little steam bath.  They don’t have to adhere to park regulations about staying on boardwalks.  😉

Luckily it warmed up and the sun came out while we were at the West Thumb area.

That was pretty much a full day’s activity for us.  I think we were all getting fairly tired from the constant activity, as we’d pretty much been going non-stop since we arrived.  The remaining few days would change that.

Note: I’m still at a repair shop and can get power at night to pull pictures.  I’ll try to finish off the Yellowstone posts tonight or tomorrow (offline) and post them up when I can get a connection.  

Walking Around A Volcano

By , May 28, 2010 4:19 pm

West Yellowstone, MT and Yellowstone National Park, WY

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We arrived in West Yellowstone, Montana about a week ago and got the RV set up while waiting for friends from Virginia to join us.  The first day was a nice chance for Dasy and I to run around West Yellowstone and do some basic exploring before hitting Yellowstone itself.  To make it less confusing, let me define West Yellowstone and Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone is the town in Montana that is just outside of Yellowstone National Park.  It’s one of the closest areas you can stay in outside the park.  It’s located in Gallatin National Forest and serves as the “gateway” to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park.  We’re staying at Wagon Wheel RV park while we’re here.

Yellowstone National Park is located mostly in Wyoming, although small parts of it are also in Montana and Idaho.  I’ll refer to Yellowstone National Park as YNP from here on.

IMG_0706West Yellowstone is a neat little frontier town.  It’s not hard to imagine someone pulling up with a wagon full of skins at a traders store.  There are even bison wandering around!

The next morning, our friends (Rob and Lara) and us headed into YNP itself.  There were a number of road closures, due both to weather and bear activity.  We were in the park a little before the prime tourist season and it was still quite cold and weather was somewhat unpredictable (most people would definitely describe it as winter).

IMG_0710We saw a number of wild animals in the park, which for some reason generally makes us happier than scenery.  One of the first we spotted was a pair of golden eagles nesting near the road.  We stopped briefly and watched from a distance and took a few pictures.  There was a 1/4 mile “quarantine” zone that people weren’t supposed to stop in, so we were still a fair distance away.

We were also lucky enough to spot a wolf, presumably looking for food, near the Gibbon River.  Unfortunately, my camera lens appears to be getting worse and I only got one shot that was anywhere close to being in focus.  I think the sand in Moab did a number on the lens and it doesn’t like to focus any more.  I’ll clean it and see how it does over the next week or so.IMG_0725

One of the notable things that happened would turn out to be a recurring theme.  Even though it wasn’t really tourist season yet, we’d have to deal with traffic jams in the park.  But, unlike most traffic jams, these were usually caused by bison. 😉

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We also were lucky enough to spot some elk when we stopped for lunch at Mammoth Hot Springs in the park.  It would turn out that the bison and elk were pretty common and were generally found all over the place, but it was nice that we spotted some on the first day in the park.

IMG_0826After lunch, we checked out the springs and then headed back out for West Yellowstone.

It’s really easy to forget that Yellowstone is the largest active volcanic system in the world.  It’s such a beautiful place and really good example of how big this country is.  But then, you find some geologic feature that’s spouting steam and smells like sulfur and it sinks in a bit…

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…we’re walking on a volcano… a really BIG one! 

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Mornings

By , May 26, 2010 8:56 am

There are some pictures that can only be taken at 6 AM. 😉

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Hegben Lake, in Gallatin National Forest.  Near West Yellowstone, MT.

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