Aug 30, 2015

Yellowstone National Park (Day 4, Part I!!)

I slept like the dead again, waking up only to think of how my legs were aching.  Upon waking, I remembered how worth it all the hiking was, and I jumped out of bed to begin my next adventure.  I had a ranger led hike to check out at 10:30, so I left Grant Village, where I stayed the night, and headed to meet my newest ranger crush at West Thumb.

I had half of the tour alone with Ranger Ellen, and the other half with one other person.  Let me tell you, having a private guide to Yellowstone is not usual, and I learned so much.  Thermophiles, geyser plumbing, volcanoes, and earthquakes, oh my!  Probably my favorite part was learning so much history that wasn't on the boardwalk placards.

In the picture above, Ranger Ellen was telling us about Fishing Cone, which you can see in the background, and how people used to catch fish, and then fling it into the cone.  She had a picture of people in the 20's doing this, standing on the cone itself, which was amazing to think about.  The heat of the geyser would cook the fish in a few short minutes.  (But think of how it would taste - yuck!)  Ranger Ellen also told us about an elk calf carcass in on of the pools, decomposing, and we talked about the dangers to wildlife in Yellowstone National Park.  Finally, I learned that the clearest water was the hottest, like this pool here:

 Overall, the whole experience at West Thumb was just fantastic.  Here are a few more of my favorite photos from this part of the park.

The view of the lake, with the geyser steam... Amazing. 

Also amazing to me was the contrast of rich green life, and the sulfurous spots devoid of life next to it.  

Here at Yellowstone, I actually ran into the couple of couples that I had met the day before in Grand Teton National Park.  We were all astonished that in these huge parks we would meet twice.  As they were also headed to Glacier National Park, they invited me to meet them for dinner there.  Although it didn't work out, the kindness of these people to someone they just met will stay with me for a long time.  They talked about how I was brave for going on this journey alone, and I talked about how I didn't want to regret not taking this trip.  My favorite comment was when I was called a "modern woman." I guaranteed them I would be safe, and hoped to meet them again.  Again, it didn't happen, but I hope to run into them again somewhere else in my life.  Another perk to traveling alone, is the kindness of strangers and the new friends you meet. =)

 With the intent of making the most of every inch of daylight that I could, I headed to Fishing Village and mud volcano.  Here are a few of my favorite nature shots, as I saw elk, bison, pelicans, ducks, swans, and a fox.  

From the shores at Fishing Village.


Yellowstone River

I went on another Ranger led hike in the afternoon with Ranger Mike.  Storm Point trail would take 2 and a half hours, and was time well spent. I learned a lot, but by far my favorite memory of this time was how Ranger Mike started out his talk/walk by telling us what to expect.  He went on to say everyone fears a bear, but that the creature he most feared in Yellowstone was the bison.  He said bison were unpredictable, stubborn, and unstoppable.  (If you spray a bear with bear spray or make human noises they will most likely take off.  If you spray a bison, he will be angrier when he tramples you.) He let us know that bison can jump a six foot fence, standing still, and can gore you faster than you can run away.  

Ranger Mike talking about how bison roll around in their own funk and mud. 

Then we started our hike, and not five minutes in, a bison approached us.  

This is not a joke.  It really happened.  Ranger Mike had us stand still, but the bison kept coming our way.  My heart was pounding as he seemed to be heading directly for me.  Ranger Mike put himself between me and the bison, and the bison eventually got interested in a snack and we were able to continue our hike.  In the meantime, before he was too close and I almost died of fear, I snapped this picture. ;)

I love how his body glistens in the sunlight. :)  

We had storms move in all around us, meaning cool temps, but no rain.  I also met another couple on this hike who befriended me.  You can check out their adventure here. We passed by a crop of rocks where marmots live, but as it was downright chilly, they were safe and warm inside.  I'm going to end with these last pictures I took while on the hike in the woods.  I have such great memories of this trip, I hope you're enjoying the recap! 

Lodge Pole Pines

Just a deer, but I love the reflection on the water.

Part II to come soon! 

Aug 9, 2015

Grand Tetons (Day 3!)

There's a note in my journal here that says I'm packing SO MUCH into my days that I felt like I should stop and journal in the middle of the day... but who has the time! =) That's your warning that the posts will be long and adventure filled from here on out!

I started my morning in Jackson Hole, with a stop at the visitor center.  I wanted to talk to the information desk to see what hikes they thought I could do alone.  It was early spring, so the bears were out and about.  Rangers had reported so many, I wanted to err on the safe side.  I knew I had all day to cover 60 miles of road, and I was really looking forward to it after the preview I got on the way in!

After stopping at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor center, and lucking into a Ranger talk (Have I mentioned I have the biggest crush on NPS Rangers?) I took my first road less traveled and walked around the back of the building.  Literally NO ONE was out there, and I snagged this picture, which I will always remember.

Grand Teton National Park is just surreal.  One of my friends said I was living in a postcard, and I couldn't have put it better myself.  The volunteer from the visitor's center had told me not to miss The Chapel of the Transfiguration, so I made this stop next.

(No words can even capture this place, so I'm not going to waste my breath trying.)  Just across the way was a hike to Menor's Ferry.  Absolutely NO ONE was taking this hike.  It said it was 0.3 miles, and I said to myself, "Eh, why not, it will be a short walk."

Past the closed ferry and past the Maud Noble cabin, where the thought of a National Park first started, was a mercantile shop.  I thought it would be a replica and I would just cruise through.

However, inside the small building was a real store with things for sale.  I cruised past them, but being as it was early morning, empty, a bit chilly, and most importantly, since I was BY MYSELF, the volunteer in there chatted me up.  He gave me a bit of a history lesson on the building, and as we walked into the second room, which had a working wood burning stove, he said, "I just pulled cookies out of the oven. Would you like one?"

This photo is horrible, but I love this man.

Would I like a warm gingersnap? Uhhhh yes.  As we ate cookies by the stove, he gave me some great tips on trails that would be busy enough, I could hike them alone with ease.  We talked about education, and politics, and Grand Teton and Yellowstone.  And then, on my way out, he gave me the ginger snap recipe.  Which was, of course, from the original owner of the mercantile store.  Be still my heart!!

One hike he recommended to me was Jenny Lake.  I stopped at every scenic turnout, the entire day, but was excited to get my boots dirty. ;)  The hike to Hidden Falls turned out to be the highlight of this day.  If I hadn't made the decision to take the 0.3 small hike detour... Well, you get it. I befriended a couple of couples I kept passing back and forth on the trail up to the falls.  They could hardly believe I was alone and also seemed amused by me.  =)

Jenny Lake

 Hiking, hiking, I love hiking!!

Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls turned out to be even more hidden because of some trees that had fallen, but it made the adventure even more fun.  I sat on a rock and just watched for a while, and breathed in that amazing mountain air.  As I left the couple of couples, they shouted, "We'll look for you again!"  And I fell in love with them. =)   

At the end of the hike, I stopped in the store at Jenny lake and bought some ice cream.  (Hey! I'm on vacation!) I nibbled on Dibs as a chipmunk came and circled my feet... I felt like a damn Disney princess.  A group of hikers at a nearby picnic table who were watching the chipmunk, got a big kick out of me when I froze and asked them, "You guys would tell me if it was climbing up my leg, right?!?" I later gave them the Dibs I couldn't eat, which they kindly accepted. =) 

Next I went to Signal Mountain.  The views of Jackson Valley from the summit were marred only by the fierce mosquitos, who, despite two layers of insect repellant, hovered around me, trying to get a bite. 

At this point in my day, I'd had exactly: 1 bowl of cereal, one granola bar, and one half package of Dibs. ;) I decided it was time for dinner, and remembered from my map that Jackson Lake Lodge was coming up and on my way.  The Lodge, while not my style, was an amazing pit stop. I circled the place to check out all my options and saw plenty of outdoor benches that were wide open.  So, I grabbed dinner to go, took it outside, and just enjoyed the view!

With a view like this mostly to myself, I felt like I was robbing people blind.  I looked back behind me into the Lodge and I saw people having their fancy dinner on the other side of the glass.  I chuckled, and felt so content.  

Timing, as you can tell by the turn of events in my day, was everything on this trip.  As I finished dinner, a storm started to roll in.  I took that as my cue to leave Grand Teton National Park.  I made it to Grant Village in Yellowstone (my stop for the night) after an easy drive, with only the mosquitos standing in my way. 

I said, "Wow!!" a lot more than I have in a long while.  The Tetons are truly amazing.  I must admit, I have quite fallen in love with their jagged peaks, and can hardly wait to go back to do more hiking. A quick repack of my pack, and an exhausted sleep lay ahead of me... until Day 4! =) 

Jul 19, 2015

Road Trip! (Day 2)

Today's drive was from Denver to Jackson, Wyoming.  It was a long day of driving, but not one I am willing to complain about.  Upon leaving Denver, I drove straight to the Wyoming state line, where I stopped at the first rest stop to get a map.  Yes, I had an atlas, and a cell phone, but I'm old school, people.  I like maps.  =)  At the rest stop, I took it as a sign that I got this sticker for free along with my map.

I took a look at the map, and decided to take a longer, scenic route into Jackson that gave me my first glimpses of the Grand Tetons.  More than anything, what I remember about this day is the disbelief I had that people actually LIVED in these places that were so beautiful and scenic.  I took my time, and enjoyed the longer days as I moved North, and stopped at EVERY single scenic outlook.  I am not joking.  Every one.

Once I was in Grand Teton National Park, I came across my first herd of bison.  I must admit, I thought they were beautiful and majestic.  I was so excited to see my first wildlife, and could hardly wait to see more.

As the sun was setting, I did not get great shots of the mountains, but I'll never forget my first glimpse of them.  Here are a few of my favorites.

I arrived in Jackson around 8, and with a dinner/brewery recommendation in pocket, quickly checked into my hotel and headed off to Snake River Brewery.  (Snake River is pictured in all three above shots.) I enjoyed a burger and a wonderful beer or two here, and then headed to my home base around 10.

At this point, I was exhausted, but I took a few minutes to get my pack ready for the next day.  Up to this point I had done mostly driving and a little stopping, but I knew I was planning on my first day of hiking in Grand Teton!

Jul 9, 2015

Road Trip! (Day 1)

I started my road trip around 10:30 on a Monday morning.  For those of you who know me, mornings are not my favorite, and I had a poor night of sleep the evening before as I tried to remember what I would forget on my 12 day adventure. =)

I rented a car, because the miles were going to rack up quickly, and I snagged a Nissan Altima.  Let me tell you right now that I fell in love with that car and am ready for it to be my next one.  =)  (The gas mileage was amazing and I was comfortable right away.  In fact, when I returned home and was driving my own car, I tried to turn on the Altima's wipers and was confused for a moment.)  Altima, I love youuuuuuu!!

So, even though I didn't leave very early, the thought of arriving for the night at my first stop, the Heimer Haus, had me anxious to make short work of my first day of driving.  Jess is a dear friend, and seeing her and her darling family meant I did not stop except for one brief moment, to grab this quick photo at the state line.

Did I mention I didn't need to get gas the whole way?  (Magical Altima.)  Western Kansas is not remarkable in any way.  I was grateful I had checked out two audiobooks, and I made a good dent in the first.  But otherwise, there is nothing to report.  At all.

Arriving at the Heimer Haus is basically my idea of heaven.  You arrive to appetizers and beer and big hugs and it feels just like home.  There is an adorable child to greet you and ask for tickles, a dog that tolerates you, (ha!) and a husband and wife team that leave you in awe.  At the Heimer Haus, you have goodies in your room, like magazines you'll love to read, and in these magazines things marked just for you. Your amazing friends will cook you dinner, spoil you rotten, and make you never want to leave.  Seriously people.  If they decide to open their home to the general public, you must go.  

I woke well-rested the next morning and had another delightful meal with my sweet friend.  She helped me pick out restaurants and places to stay also, so I will say here, very loudly, "THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR HELP WITH MY ADVENTURE!" I will also apologize because I did not get a whole family photo.  But here, on this stoop, I leave a little bit of my heart.

Jun 17, 2015

By yourself?

This year, during my summer break, I decided to take a road trip to Montana and Wyoming.  I had initially planned a trip out to California, but plans changed, and I was equally excited to see two states I hadn't visited.  By far, the question I got asked the most was, "By yourself?"

Yes, I planned a trip by myself.  If you think this is weird, or if it offends you in some way, please stop reading now.  Nothing I say about the adventure I had will change your opinion.  Being alone on a trip makes you grow and learn.  It makes you depend on the kindness of others.  It makes you stop, slow down, and appreciate the little things.  It gives you the opportunity to connect with nature, meet new people, and reflect and think for yourself. In short, it makes you a stronger person.  I think more people should travel alone, clearly. 

Also, newsflash!  I manage to wake up and get dressed every day, "by myself."  In fact, as an adult, I think that's one of the first qualifications: to be able to do things by yourself. =)  Men travel alone all the time and no one thinks this is weird.  No one was able to go with me, but I didn't want to regret not taking the trip, not seeing the world when I had the time and resources to do this.  

For me, it comes down to one thing: Will I live a life filled with regrets, or will I LIVE a life?

I choose B. 

May 27, 2015

Please Excuse My Rant

It seems like a very innocent question:  "Do you have kids?"

The most surprising part, to me, is quite often the follow up to my answer of no.

"Why not?"
"But you want them, right?"
"Oh you'll have kids someday."

To be clear.  I am making a conscious choice.  I do not want kids of my own.  I'm a teacher.  I am fulfilled by helping others.  I've been taking care of people my whole life, and I will continue to do so.  I am honest and forthcoming when people ask me this question.  But people don't seem to like the answer.  This question has, over the years, become more than an annoyance.  It's a sore spot, BECAUSE people keep poking and prodding at it.

"You'd make such a good mom."
"You'll change your mind someday."
"Your biological clock will start ticking."

I'm sorry, but as I read somewhere, I'm going to keep pressing snooze on that clock.

Also, when did it become okay to ask such a personal question??  It is truly NONE of your business if I choose to have kids.  I don't ask about your sex life.  Why do you get to ask about mine?

I am making a CHOICE.  But I have friends who CANNOT have children, or who struggled with years of infertility before having children.  Have you thought about how painful that question is to them?  Have you really?  Furthermore, don't ask if they are going to have another if they have one!!  It's the same question and could potentially be just as painful.  Don't ask males either.  Just because they aren't the child-bearers, doesn't mean it's not a sensitive subject to them too.

Believe me, in a world that is more and more politically correct, I hesitate to add another issue to the pile of things you shouldn't say.  But please, think before asking.  Think before poking and prodding into a private matter.  How well do you know the person?  Have they volunteered the information?  People with kids can hardly wait to talk about them.  Give people time to tell you what they want to tell you.

As always, treat others with kindness.

Rant over.

Jan 7, 2015

Gardening Off Season

I've spent some time thinking about the gardening off season.  What do gardeners do with the time when they can't really grow something?  (High of 10 today, folks, with a brutal windchill)

Just kidding, I really like the cold and snow.  Just not negative 13.  Mostly, during the off season, I dream and plan and look at seed catalogs.  Sometimes I am on the ball and start making newspaper pots, but let's be honest, I'm quite the procrastinator.  Once you've gardened for a year or two, you realize, as I have, that the best laid plans... =)

In truth, what I've found is that when I can't grow anything, I turn my attention to other interests.  Music is one of my great loves in life.  I was talking to my sister about it over Christmas break, and we both said how unusual it was for someone to really understand what music means to you when you REALLY love music.  Music is the soundtrack to my entire life.  I would prefer to always have some playing in the background, and if I'm with you during a song, I will most likely always think of you when I hear that song again.  Almost every important memory to me has a song.  It's a fatal flaw.  =)

I always have a new band I'm in love with and an old band I can't live without.  My current obsession, for your entertainment, is Leon Bridges.  He has two songs on this website that make me happy!  Take a listen, and tell me your thoughts!

In the meantime... Something is growing in my house.  More info to follow in your next Gardenerd installment.