Thursday, August 30, 2012

Time travel

We boarded our plane in LAX on Tuesday, August 28th at about 10:45 p.m.  After about 10 hours of travel we landed in Fiji at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday, August 30th.  Not only are we both farther south than either of us have ever been, we both experienced time travel for the very first time.  Never before have I had an entire weekday disappear from my life - it's quite bizarre.  Since starting this trip I have been noting on my iPhone calendar where we spend each night.  When it came time to fill in the entry for Wednesday, August 29th I wasn't sure what to write - so I simply wrote - Time Travel.

So, off we go to experience our first full day in Auckland, New Zealand on this beautiful Friday!  First stop the sky walk at the sky tower.

Catching up...

This post is about catching up in multiple respects - one because I have been absent from blogging for way too long and two because we have spent the past two weeks catching up with friends and family. 

So, since I am trying to cram two weeks into this post while using free internet at a coffee shop in Auckland, I've decided to go with a list style post. 

  • Catching up with Sara - We had two wonderful dinners with my mom's childhood friend Sara, it was wonderful to see her and for Charles to meet her.  We enjoyed seeing Salem, where she lives, and took a day trip to Pacific City while using her place as home base.  Thank you so much Sara for the hospitality!! 
  • Pacific City - a wonderful stop for a day of staring at the ocean, painting, hiking, climbing the HUGE sand hill, and eating some good food on the beach. 
  • Eugene a.k.a. Tracktown USA -  Charles is a fan of the legendary Steve Prefontaine, (you can read more about his story by clicking here) so we spent one morning in Eugene checking out Hayward Field and the Oregon campus and seeing the sites that helped Prefontaine become a world famous distance runner. 
  • Drive down Hwy 101 - After Eugene we headed for Coos Bay and then drove all the way down the coast into California and looped up through the redwood forests.  
  • Catching up with Susan and Dave - We were invited by Susan (Sara's sister) and her husband Dave to visit them at their home in the tiny town of Takilma, Oregon.  Their house is the last house on the left before you hit California (true fact).  We had a great meal of freshly caught salmon and veggies from their garden.  We checked out Dave's glass blowing studio and learned the story behind the fire truck they keep on their property.  I hadn't seen Susan in probably 15 years, but it was great to catch up and felt like no time had passed.  Thanks Susan and Dave for the wonderful time.   
Pacific City, Oregon

Dave, Susan, me, and Charles

You can see all of our pictures from Oregon by clicking here.

  • Redwood National Parks - We spent a day driving through the redwoods in Northern California.  I had been to the parks years ago, they left me in awe then, and still do today. 
  • Fort Bragg - We stopped in Fort Bragg in the Medicino area of California as a stopping point on the way to Santa Cruz.  We picked this town because they make Red Seal Beer, which is one of Charles' favorites.  The brewery and the town were great to explore.  The best part was a little art gallery we found called the Northcoast Artists Gallery, where we received the recommendation to visit the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.  
  • Point Cabrillo Lighthouse - A beautifully restored lighthouse and homes of the lighthouse keepers.  Charles did a painting, I did some journal writing.  It was a beautiful and peaceful place to hang out.  
  • Drive on State Hwy 128 - From the lighthouse we took a great drive on 128 through the wine country and rolling hills of California.  It was an unexpectedly beautiful drive on our way to Santa Cruz. 
  • San Francisco - we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge on our way to Santa Cruz and stopped for a few photo ops on our way.  
  • The Smiths - we made it to Santa Cruz a couple of days before Tracy, Matt, Hazel, and Finley had to leave to go back to Houston.  We had a great time hanging out with them at the Long Marine Lab and watching Hazel and Finley play in the waves at the beach.  Thanks for letting us crash your family vacation!
  • The Suttons - We enjoyed coffee time with Gail, Mark, and Brett (Tracy's brother) every morning at the Kind Grind.  We were lucky to be able to stay with Gail and Mark even after Tracy, Matt and the kids headed back to Houston.  Thank you so much for letting us use the beach house and enjoy Santa Cruz with you!
  • Paul and Meredith - We picked up Paul and Meredith in San Francisco so they could road trip with us down the coast to Los Angeles for the wedding.  
  • Half Moon Bay -  we stopped in Half Moon Bay to check out the world renowned surf spot, Mavericks, and then had a great lunch by the harbor.  
  • Beach, Boat Races, and dinner with the Suttons - We got back to Santa Cruz in time to squeeze in some time at the beach and watch the Wednesday night boat races.  Then we had a lovely dinner with Gail and Mark at the Crows Nest.   We lucked out and got a great table on the patio overlooking the water with no wait at all!  Something Gail said has NEVER happened to her in all the years she has been visiting.  So, I figured it was blog worthy!
  • Big Sur Drive - We packed up the car (which took some work, since we had Paul and Meredith with us) and headed for Santa Barbara.  We stopped in Carmel for a few hours for some coffee, a walk through the town, and some window shopping.  After a short drive down 101 from Carmel we had lunch at this great little spot recommended by the Suttons, the Rocky Point Restaurant - the views are amazing!!  The curvy, cliff edged highway continued to lead us down the coast with beautiful views made even better by the music accompaniment that Paul and Meredith provided.  They had loaded their iPhone with a playlist for Charles' birthday - songs from every decade and Charles had to guess the artist, song title, and date the song was released.  We stopped one more time for a short hike in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to see a waterfall spill into the Pacific, then we continued on to Santa Barbara.  
  • Santa Barbara - Paul and Meredith planned this portion of the trip as a pre-birthday celebration for Charles (since we will be on this trip on his actual birthday).  We spent the evening exploring State Street in Santa Barbara and spent the night at the Hotel Oceana.  The next morning, as a continuation of the pre-birthday celebration, Paul and Charles went stand-up-paddle boarding and Meredith and I went sea-kayaking.  Thanks for the water activity adventure, we really loved it!
  • Los Angeles and Jesse and Lizzie's wedding - After weeks of travel we finally made it to the final U.S. destination.  We were greeted by Charles' parents, Tom and Gwen, and many other family members.  The wedding weekend was full of visiting with family and celebrating the happy couple.  The rehearsal dinner, the wedding ceremony and reception, and the Sunday brunch were all perfect!  It was great seeing Paula and Rick, Janet and Robbie, Sally and Mark, Susan, Sarah and Javi (so happy about their recent engagement!!), Alexis and Matt, David, Zack, and of course the bride and groom.  
  • Vicky and Charley - the wedding festivities concluded and we headed to Hollywood to see Vicky and Charley for a few days.  They recently relocated to Los Angeles from Houston for their jobs, so it was fun getting to see their new home, and explore the neighborhood with them.  Thank you so much for letting us stay with you, it was so good to see you both!  We miss having you in Houston, but your new place in L.A. is awesome!
Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz with Hazel and Finley

In Carmel with Paul and Meredith

You can see all of our pictures from California by clicking here.   

So that pretty much sums up the last two weeks.  As you can see, we have been crazy busy, and that is why I wasn't posting.  I promise to be better from here on out.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

First Post Ever!

Planning this trip was exciting and fun since it gave us the opportunity to be creative as we worked our schedule around two very important weddings. With the first wedding coming up this weekend (Los Angeles) and the second being on October 6th (New Orleans) having the goal of making it back to the States by Christmas has our journey set in three stages. The first stage is nearly complete: our long road trip through western North America. We are now in Santa Cruz and look forward to a couple more days here before working our way down the coast to L.A. with stops in various places. My brother Paul and sister-n-law Meredith will be joining us tomorrow for this last leg and for the wedding celebration in L.A. We are excited to see them and to have them join the amazing list of family and friends who have been a part of this incredible journey so far.

The places we have seen and the things we have done have all been great. Each of the national parks we visited was incredible. Tough to say which one I liked best, but it was great to follow-up the visit to Yellowstone (and Glacier) with a viewing of an exhibit of paintings by artists who recorded views from these parks. Many of the pieces in the show (Yellowstone to Yukon – at The Whyte Museum Banff) were painted by Thomas Moran, the official artist of a team of surveyors who set out to discover the sources of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers and record the areas in and around the park. It was his work that did much of the convincing of congress for the creation of the world’s first national park.

I had the opportunity to visit Yellowstone N.P. in 1988. My family was there during the massive forest fires that burned through much of the park. The smoke was reported to have reached Chicago and beyond. Anyways, Shelley and I had lunch at a picnic spot that was the same place where my Dad was interviewed by a local station doing a story on the fires back in 88. It was cool to look across the river there and notice the 6’ pine trees that I’m guessing were about 24 years old. Oddly enough, at that same spot, there was a family of five (three boys acting like muppets) that also took me back to 1988. The woman (presumably their Mom) apologized to Shelley and Me for their behavior. I laughed and told the woman my story- no apology required.. 24 years ago the reporter asked my Dad if he was afraid for his family. After 3000+ miles of driving from Culver, Indiana, fear had to have been the least of his emotions.

Along with embarking on a trip around the world with a swell travel companion, my secondary goal was to produce a new body of art work that could eventually result in something worthy of consideration and exhibition; something worth viewing and interpreting in a fresh and unique way. The watercolors will be going all the way around the world. The Acrylics might make it as far as New Zealand, and the scratchboards will probably remain in the U.S. This artistic goal has proved to be difficult with limited time in each place, and ever-changing daily plans running interference. Yet, being forced to work quickly is good. (For those of you who know how I work will probably agree). Limited time and fluctuating schedules aside, the real hurdle has been the subject matter. In the midst of so much grandeur- where do I start!?  Even when a spot is selected- it seems insurmountable.. It’s a good problem to have, but makes this goal of mine rather difficult. And while I could be spending that time hiking and seeing more, it’s nice to stay in one spot for a while as things unfold around me. Taking a summer painting course at The Anderson Ranch in Snowmass, CO a few years back- I recall everyone in the class feeling an extra degree of difficulty when approaching a day painting of The Maroon Bells.

The spots selected for painting were all great places to sit back (away from crowds) and enjoy. Much nicer spots than my studio room back home I must say. Turning my attention from painting to watch a mountain goat walk by versus turning around to see if the offsides call was in fact correct is slightly different. Here is a list of subjects painted with their locations included (pictures to follow):

1) Rampart Range / Colorado Springs

2) Shelley in the Barrow’s Kitchen / Denver 

3) Grand Prismatic Spring / Yellowstone NP

4) Lower Falls / Yellowstone NP         

5) Hidden Lake / Glacier NP                     

6) Bow River and Downtown Banff / Canada

7) Lake Louise / Canada

8) Studies in Vancouver and Seattle

9) Pacific City Beach / Oregon (may be my favorite stop of the trip so far)..

10) Point Cabrillo Lighthouse / Mendocino

11) Elephant Seal Statue / UC Santa Cruz Marine Lab 

I wrote most of this in the morning- then had to explore Santa Cruz a little more. I will have to find some more time later to write about stage 1 of 3. But, here are a few lists I’ve thrown together:

Great Little Drives:

287 - Ft. Collins, CO to Laramie, WY
Bow Valley Parkway – Banff to Lake Louise
128 – Mendocino to 101 Sonoma Valley.

Animals Seen:

Sea Otter, Sea Lion, Hawk (catching trout), Elk, Grizzly Bear, Bald Eagle, Mountian Goat, Big-horned Sheep, Marmot, Coyote, Dolphin, Pika, Owl, Bison, White Pelican

And then: Chipmunk, Squirrel, Mule Deer, Seagull, Sand Piper, etc..

And the following Family and Friends along the way:

Mary (and the McDonalds), Pat and Rich, Brian and Kim, Andrew, Rachel and Brittany, Lee and Betsy, Jeff and Sarah, Jason and Miles, Will and Ali, Sara, Dave and Susan, Matt, Tracy, Hazel, and Finley, and Gail and Mark.

While mentioning people- I need to finally give a shout-out to two of my wonderful former students, Claudia and Julia. The bow tie has been having a great time, and will be receiving it's own link on this blog. Soon I promise.. It has been there with us the whole way, and pictures will be posted soon. Thank you for this gift- it's making it's way around the world!

Heading South

We arrived in Vancouver on August 11th just in time to check into our hotel and head to BC Place Stadium to watch the Vancouver Whitecaps play Real Salt Lake.  Charles is friends with the head coach of Real Salt Lake, Jason Kreis, and when we saw they were playing in Vancouver while we were on our U.S. Road Trip, we decided to work the game into our travel plans.  While watching the game we met a couple, Mike and Grace, who were friends of the assistant coach, Miles Joseph, they were sitting near us during the game and we struck up a conversation.  After the game we all went to dinner at this fantastic restaurant called Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar.  Our new friends were able to get us a table in the wine room and knew just the wine to order - Director's Blend.  The story behind this wine is that four wine directors from top restaurants in the Vancouver area decided to get together and create a wine with the help of a vineyard in British Columbia, the result a fantastic red blend.  We definitely enjoyed not only the good wine, but the amazing food - sushi, scallops, calamari, tuna, salmon, etc.  Yum!  Overall it was a fun evening and a great time catching up with Jason and getting to know Miles a little better. 

BC Place Stadium

The Wine Room at Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar
The next day was my 33rd birthday.  We woke up and walked to a coffee shop for a healthy breakfast of chocolate croissants (my favorite breakfast pastry) and coffee. After our breakfast we took a nice long walk down to the water and through the city of Vancouver.  We decided to check out the Vancouver Art Museum and have lunch at the museum's restaurant, the Gallery Cafe.  There was a great visiting exhibit featuring Matisse, which we really enjoyed.  The rest of the Vancouver museum is an eclectic collection of modern and installation pieces set in a beautiful building.  We left the museum to head back to the hotel and get on the road to Seattle.
Birthday lunch at Gallery Cafe - Vancouver Art Museum
There was a bit of a traffic jam at the U.S. Canadian border, but once we were back in the U.S. the drive into Seattle was pretty easy.  We were greeted by our friends Ali and Will and their dog Baxter!

Will and Ali prepared an amazing dinner for us that evening, we ate salmon, beet salad, and some delicious veggies.  We spent a few days in Seattle visiting with Will and Ali, exploring the city, and doing a few errands that are hard to get done on the road (laundry, oil change, emails, etc).  The highlights of our time in Seattle include - hanging out with the Buntings, checking out Pike Place Market, visiting the original Starbucks, going to the Experience Music Project Museum, enjoying the great weather and beautiful views in the city, and going to a Mariners game.  Here are a few of our favorite pictures from Seattle:

Pike Place Market

EMP Museum

Mariners Game  

You can see the rest of our pictures from our time in Seattle by clicking here

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Relaxing in Banff

As we drove into Banff a thunder storm was just ending and a huge rainbow behind us had traffic stopped on the other side of the highway.  It was a very impressive sight!  We paid our admission to Banff National Park and made our way to our bed and breakfast.  We decided to stay at Thea's House, after lots of research on the various hotel options in Banff.  I am so glad we decided on a bed and breakfast, especially this one, it was perfect!  If you ever find yourself in Banff, please consider staying here - Jami the owner is wonderful, the rooms are beautiful, and the location is perfect.  After a little unpacking and freshening up, it was almost 10:00 p.m. before we made it out for dinner - and the sun was just setting!  We chose a spot on Banff Avenue for dinner and settled in for our nightly viewing of the Olympics.  After dinner we walked around a bit, but we were pretty exhausted from our hike in Glacier so we headed back to get some sleep. 

Charles at the Whyte Museum in Banff
Our second day in Banff we had breakfast and coffee at the B&B and then headed downtown to check out some of the shops on Banff Avenue and decide on an agenda for the rest of the day.  We had seen a sign for an art gallery on our way into town, so we decided to find it and check it out.  The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is just off Banff Avenue and had a couple great exhibits.  My favorite was the Yellowstone to Yukon exhibit that included art by painters who spent time in Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Banff, and Yukon National Parks.  It was really cool to see paintings of all the places we had just been. 
Yellowstone to Yukon exhibit
After a quick lunch it was time for a hike, we decided on the Tunnel Mountain trail that began a few blocks behind the B&B.  Jami, the owner of Thea's House recommended it for a great view of the town from the mountain above.  The trail was heavily populated, so this time bears weren't of great concern.  The view from the top was gorgeous!
At the top of Tunnel Mountain in Banff
After our hike we decided to go sit by the river and just hang out and enjoy the beautiful town of Banff.  We picked a shady spot with a good breeze off the glacial river and Charles began a painting and I did a little writing.  
Writing and Painting in Banff
After a relaxing afternoon of just letting the town of Banff move around us, we went back to the B&B to get ready for dinner.  We ended up at the Maple Leaf for dinner and Charles surprised me with an early birthday celebration. 
Pre-Birthday celebration
The next day it was time to head out into the rest of the park and make our way towards Vancouver.  We spent the morning walking around Banff Avenue one more time, then headed to Lake Louise for a hike.  We decided to take the long way to Lake Louise in hopes that we might see a grizzly.  Guess what - we saw one!!  I tried to snap a photo before a park ranger rushed us along, but it didn't turn out very well.  But, Charles got a picture on his iPhone:

Grizzly Bear

Beautiful Lake Louise
We hiked to the top of the Lake Overlook and Charles did a quick sketch for a painting.  After a couple hours at Lake Louise it was time to head through Yoho National Park in order to get to Kamloops, British Columbia for the night.  We stopped at several attractions in Yoho National Park - the Spiral Tunnels, Kicking Horse River Natural Bridge, and the Emerald Lake - all worth a quick stop.  Charles braved the frigid waters of the Emerald Lake, there were a few other swimmers brave enough to get into the 50 degree water, but not me!
Kicking Horse River Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge over Kicking Horse River

We left Yoho National Park for the four hour drive from the national parks to Kamloops where I had made a reservation for the night.  Little did we know we would be checking into a college dorm for the evening.  We finally arrived in Kamloops around midnight and followed the directions I had saved on my phone.  We arrived at the destination address and realized we were on a college campus - Thompson Rivers University.  I double checked the address, and according to our reservation on we were in the right place.  We walked in and had to wait a few moments for someone to come back to the desk.  There were signs for orientation up and some pictures of resident assistants, but there were also tourism brochures set out for guests.  Finally someone appeared to help us figure out whether we did indeed have somewhere to sleep for the night.  It turns out the dorm is used as a hotel during the summer and so we checked into our dorm room.
Our dorm room in Kamloops
The dorm room, while rather strange, was just what we needed - a place to get some sleep so we could continue on to Vancouver the next morning, and it included a continental breakfast!  All in all, it was an interesting experience.  After checking out we headed to Vancouver to go to an MLS game - Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Real Salt Lake. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Paranoid in Glacier

On our first day in Glacier we decided to check out Lake McDonald and then find a good hiking trail and squeeze in a hike before dinner.  We snapped some photos on the famous beach at Lake McDonald - the views are amazing, and the water is just as clear as we were told it would be.  
Charles at Lake McDonald

After checking out the trail map at the Ranger Station we set out for Avalanche Trail which was about 15 miles into the park on “Going to the Sun Road.”  We arrived at the trail head and debated on what we needed to bring with us on our hike.  Charles wanted to bring his nine iron, in case we came across a bear, but I told him that wasn’t necessary, plus we would look ridiculous hiking with a golf club.  So, we set off with just our cameras, some water, and a jacket.  We walked through some campsites and down a short trail that led through the cedars at the base of the mountain, it seemed pretty well populated and not a likely place where bears would hang out, I was feeling fine about this hike through bear country – even without the nine iron.  Then we got to the actual trail head and saw this sign: 
Bear and Mountain Lions frequenting the trail
I may be smiling in this picture, but I was a little freaked out after reading these signs.  But, we were in Glacier to hike and enjoy the scenery, so up we went.  The trail snaked along with the river, which was a beautiful blue green and freezing cold. 

There were still several other people on the trail, so I tried not to worry to much about surprising a bear or mountain lion.  I kept trying to come up with conversation topics to keep us talking loudly during the hike, but it is harder than you think to talk continuously while hiking.  As we went a little further and got away from the river, it seemed so quiet, too quiet, and shadowy, like there could be an animal lurking just above us in among all the trees.  So I decided I needed a stick to bang on things to make noise.  I wanted to make sure those bears and mountain lions stayed far away from me!  I found a stick about 3 feet long and sturdy enough to bang on rocks and tree trunks and we continued on.  I stopped banging whenever we met other people on the trail, but they probably all thought I was pretty nuts anyway.

Charles hiking along the river.
After about two miles we decided to turn back, the trail went on several more miles, but it was getting late and we needed to get dinner and check into our hotel for the night.  We stopped at a great view point of the valley just as some other hikers came up behind us.  They commented that we had found the good view and stopped to chat with us.  They were all pilots from various cities across the country Chicago, Minneapolis, Miami.  We told them a little about our trip and gave them a business card and after a little more visiting we parted ways to enjoy the rest of our hikes.  We made our way back to the trail head, me banging my stick most of the way back, just in case.  Once we were back to the car we filled up our water bottles and made our way back out of the park for dinner.  We stopped at one of the very few restaurant options in town, the Glacier Grill, on our way out of the park before checking into the Historic Tamarack Lodge for the evening.

Upon check-in we met the nicest woman behind the front desk.  She was very friendly inquiring about where we were from, our hike in Glacier, and eventually learning more about our trip.  By the end of our conversation we had learned how she ended up in Montana from California, and she was trying to convince us to move to Montana after our trip.  She sent us off to our cabin with keys in hand and told us she would see us in the morning at the continental breakfast.   The next morning she greeted us and visited with us while we ate our breakfast and told us about some good hiking options in the park.  She offered us bear mace, which is lent out to guests, but since we weren't returning to the lodge that evening, we didn't take any.  After eating we set out for the park again. 

Breakfast at the Historic Tamarack Lodge in Hungry Horse, MT
Our destination for the second day in Glacier National Park was Logan Pass, the plan was to do a hike from there and spend a couple hours hanging out before taking in the sights on the rest of "Going to the Sun Road."  We had seen signs for construction and had been warned of traffic, but we weren't prepared for the long line of cars waiting to go through the one way curvy pass high in the mountains.  They made everyone stop for about 15-20 minutes at the top as we waited for traffic coming from the other side.  We got out of the car to find that the pilots we met the day before were in the car behind us.  We visited with them a bit while we waited for our turn to go through the one way pass.
After we finally got through the traffic jam we made it to Logan pass to find jam packed parking lots.  Determined to do a hike and explore the area we drove down the road a bit and found a shoulder to pull into and park.  As we were gathering supplies for our hike our pilot friends walked up next to the car, they had parked just a few cars down from us.  They say they weren't following us, but I began to wonder.  We finished gathering water, bug spray, and Charles' painting supplies and set off.  

Charles at Logan Pass with a Glacier Park shuttle

Once inside the Ranger Station at Logan Pass we started looking at the hiking options, the hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook was about 1.5 miles.  The ranger on duty said the lower part of the trail was closed because there was a mom and baby grizzly bear at the lake.  Sounded exciting to us - good hike and the chance to see bears from a safe distance.  We set off, Charles went ahead hoping to find a good painting spot (and hopefully catch a glimpse of the bears) and I took my time taking pictures along the way.

I ran into this guy on the way up to the lake. 

Mountain goat
I saw a marmot and some mountain goats on my way to the overlook.  And who should we run into again at the top of the mountain?  Our friends the pilots who seemed to be following us through Glacier.  We decided to get a picture together at the top.  (If you guys are reading - we're looking forward to hanging out in New Zealand!). 
Me with our pilot friends
On our way out of Glacier we stopped for a picnic near Lake St. Mary before heading toward the Canadian Border.  It was a short trip to Glacier, but we'll definitely be back. 

P.S. I've updated our photos, to see them all click on the "Our Photos" tab at the top of the blog. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sights and excitement in Yellowstone

We arrived at Yellowstone around lunch time on August 5th with a plan of attack.  We were determined to see as much of the park as we could in the two days we had.  After a quick lunch and a discussion about how we would handle it if a bear happened upon our feast, we set out.  
Arriving in Yellowstone

Our first stop was West Thumb Geyser Basin, which is an area of thermal activity that spills into part of Yellowstone Lake.  There were bubbling pots of mud and deep blue caverns of boiling water – it really is like being on another planet.  We stopped at the Sulfur Caldron and the Mud Volcano, both smelled horrific, but they were interesting to see.  
West Thumb Geyser Basin

Sulfur Caldron
Next, we continued on to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which I didn’t realize is the location of the famous waterfall in Yellowstone that is the subject of so many photos and paintings.  It was great to see it in person.  Charles wanted to do a painting, so I decided to hike the trail to get a closer view of the waterfall.  The hike was awesome, although about 30 minutes in I realized hiking alone in bear territory might not be wise, at that very second I heard a sound and got a little spooked, then realized it was another hiker and felt slightly ridiculous.  I later figured out if you are hiking anywhere around any of the main attractions of the park, you won’t likely be alone for more than a few seconds, fellow tourists are everywhere.   
Shot of the waterfall from my hike

Charles in his painting spot

We finished out the day by making our way to Old Faithful, but unfortunately we missed the geyser by minutes.  I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see the geyser in all its glory, but I was able to snap a picture as it was simmering down, all in all a satisfying first day in Yellowstone. 

Evening at Old Faithful
 That night we stayed in West Yellowstone at Three Bear Lodge.  West Yellowstone is a cute little town that caters to tourists from the park.  After settling in we walked to the Wild West Saloon and Pizzeria for dinner and to catch up on Olympics coverage.  Great pizza!  I highly recommend it if you are ever in West Yellowstone.  It makes a great picnic lunch in the park the next day, if you have any left over. 

Our second day in Yellowstone we set out to see more sights and find a good place for Charles to work on a painting.  We settled on the Great Prismatic Spring, which is pretty incredible – it truly glows neon blues, turquoise, and orange on the horizon.  
Windy morning at Great Prismatic Springs

I set off on my own to see a few other nearby sights and do some journal writing, while Charles painted.  We met up again for a picnic lunch and to see the Mammoth Springs and Tower Fall.  
Picnic lunch - Charles had a picnic here as a kid with his family

After lunch we were driving to Mammoth Springs when we both thought we saw either a coyote or a wolf walking across a prairie.  We stopped at the next turnoff and decided to hike back to see if we could see the animal.  We never did spot it, but together decided it was likely a coyote.  We ended up walking to the Obsidian Cliffs, which made our failed wildlife expedition worthwhile. 

Looking for wildlife
 Our plan was to hike around Mammoth Springs and then swing by the Tower Falls before driving to Bozeman for the night.  A large rainstorm with some impressive lightning was the first diversion to our plan.  Since the lightning seemed close enough to be dangerous we decided to check out the Park Station nearby, get some water, and use the bathrooms.  We ended up arriving at the upper level of Mammoth Springs around 5:30 p.m. 

Charles parked the car and we were collecting cameras, rain coats, and water and getting out of the car when we heard a loud scrape, screams, then a crash.  Charles immediately handed me the keys and his things and ran up the hill to the other part of the parking area.  As I was running up after him I could only think that someone’s car had just gone off the edge into the boiling pit of thermal springs.  As I caught sight of the scene I was relieved to see that the car had not gone over, but had instead been stopped by one of the wooden bridges that allows people to walk down to the springs lower on the cliff.  My next concern was for the people in the car who were precariously hanging on the side of a cliff by a wooden structure.  A few minutes later I saw Charles carrying a dog and walking up from the car.  When he arrived at the accident a few seconds before me, he realized there were lots of spectators but no one doing anything, so he took action and helped the woman in passenger seat out of the car, then went back for the dog, and asked another man standing nearby to secure the parking brake on the car.  The whole thing was terrifying, but there were miraculously no injuries, and the only thing to do was to wait for the park ranger to arrive.  Charles and I took the job of making sure no one took the parking place in front of the car, so that a tow truck could pull the car to safety, as soon as one arrived.  

Surveying the scene
 As we waited I began talking to the family in the car, they were from Idaho and came to the park regularly.  The group of three was made up of the grandparents and their teenage granddaughter.  The granddaughter was driving and when they pulled into the parking place she forgot to put the car in park and got out.  The car immediately lunged forward with the grandmother still buckled into the front passenger seat.  The grandfather was standing at the back of the car getting out some camera equipment, he grabbed onto the car to try and keep it from going forward, but instead was pulled down scraping his knee and face on the gravel parking lot.  The grandmother luckily had been to the park often enough to know that the most secure part of the wooden structure in front of her was to the right, so she grabbed the steering wheel and veered the car into the largest part of the wooden bridge.  Had the car continued in the direction it was originally pointed, it would likely have taken the whole wooden bridge along with it and ended up in a thermal pool.  They were very lucky.  We waited as the rangers arrived and took charge of the scene.  Charles had to fill out an accident report and I visited more with the family, although rather shaken they were all very calm and grateful that the outcome left everyone unharmed.   

About an hour and a half after the accident a tow truck finally arrived.  They were able to pull the car out and we decided to say our goodbyes to the family.  We left them with a business card (yes, I made business cards for our trip) and told them I would write about it on our blog (so if you’re reading this – hello!).   Charles and I then set off on our delayed hike around Mammoth Springs, and as we were finishing we saw them drive out in their car – it was in good enough shape for them to drive it back to Idaho.  We ended up leaving the park around 8:00 p.m., later than expected, but with an exciting and memorable day behind us. 
Mammoth springs hike

Leaving the park

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Jackson Hole and the Tetons

We spent last Saturday night, August 4th, in Jackson Hole at Teton Village.  We had to drive through part of Teton National Park to get to our hotel and despite how tired and hungry we were after the long drive from Denver, we were both immediately excited and awed to see the Teton mountains.  We arrived as the sun was setting and received some amazing views. 
After checking into our hotel, The Alpenhof Lodge, we drove into Jackson to grab some dinner.  We ended up at the Snake River Brewing Company for dinner - good food, good beer, and the Olympics.

On Sunday morning we woke up and had a nice breakfast in the lodge.  After breakfast we loaded the car and set off for Yellowstone.  We drove out through Teton National Park and stopped a few times along the Snake River and Lake Jackson to take some photos and enjoy the scenery.  Despite how quick it was, we had a great time in Jackson and definitely plan to go back to Teton National Park.