Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Oregon Bound: pt.9

The second day at Yellowstone started with much promise, as the sun decided it was going to cooperate that day. As it turned out, this would be one of the best days that we had on the trip, and I'm glad that we had it at Yellowstone. We had saved many of the major things we wanted to see for this day, since we had hoped the weather would be better. After some breakfast with a great view from the Lake Lodge, we headed to Old Faithful.

the view from the parking lot of the Lake Lodge, where we ate meals
It would be safe to say that Old Faithful is easily one of the most popular destinations in Yellowstone, and it's easy to see why. See water squirt hundreds of feet into the air? For sure! It's the most famous and easily recognizable geyser in the park. That said, I actually found it less than impressive for all the hype. I've included a photo of what it looks like normally (the first one) and then some shots as the geyser started going off:

at rest


As it turns out, you just don't realize how actually big it is. My dad opted to stand far behind the crowds, and here is the view from where he was:

That kinda puts it in perspective eh? So note to any future visitors of Old Faithful: the best view is actually farther away. There is a much bigger wow factor back there! I was sitting somewhere right around where that guy with the umbrella was. Also, another tip: If it's raining, wait in your car until you see crowds of people returning to their cars. Give it about ten minutes, and then mosey on out there. The geyser only goes off every 13-20 minutes or something like that! Ask the rangers and they'll give you an estimated time of when the next shoot will be.

Around Old Faithful there are other geysers along with volcanic activity, and also a lodge (which was probably one of the prettiest ones in the park). One of the highlights of the afternoon, though, was when a bison decided to wander right into the middle of all of this infrastructure. That patch of grass must have been awful good for it to walk right in amongst everything! Naturally, rangers immediately caught sight of it and made sure people stayed clear.

other activity around Old Faithful
the lodge 
blue lake or bottomless steam puddle?

bison chillin "I do what I want"
We cruised around a bit more, moving past more geothermal activity. Fact is, there's a lot of that stuff in Yellowstone and you can really find it everywhere. Unfortunately, this means that after you've seen so much it starts to wear off a little bit... but that didn't stop us from taking pictures of course! There is still always something new to see and appreciate.

a little steam here...
... and a little steam there...
and a little steam over hereeeee.
Some of the greatest sights were just the clouds, hovering over the plains like a fluffy blanket while the sun broke through. Out here, there are no lights, no telephone poles, no neon signs, no advertisements or billboards. It is nature in its purest form, and damn, is it beautiful. We found this little road off the main drag around the park and decided to pull off for a photo. With the river flowing through, it was a prime opportunity for a picture, and even had a few bison chilling nearby.

sleeping it up

The day is still far from over, but I think that's probably as good a place as any to take a break. More to come tomorrow!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Oregon Bound: pt.8

Hey Blog World, it has been quite a long time! Since my trip out to Oregon I have made it through the first term of grad school at UO. Needless to say... it kept me pretty damn busy. That means that I didn't really have time to blog... and it would probably be safe to say that I didn't really have time to blink either! Anyways, here I am on Christmas break and finally getting back to blogging. So without further ado, the journey continues...

We pick back up in Yellowstone Park, probably the greatest national park in the entirety of this country. Around every corner lay a new exciting view, around every bend lay a new vista.

As I think I may have mentioned before, Yellowstone truly has it all: the mountains, the valleys, the forests, the plains. Even on a cloudy day, it's beautiful.

Dad with camera at the ready... sporting that America jacket
At one point we saw a small dirt road in passing along the main road, and I seem to remember it had Blackhawk somewhere in the name. I looked at my Dad and said, "Wanna try it?" There was a sign that warned that certain vehicles shouldn't traverse this terrain. But shit, this was the reason I got a truck with four wheel drive, right? We went for it. Unlike the main paved roads, this one was dirt, with more potholes from erosion that you could count. But the views that you got were pretty cool. We may have hit a lot of bumps and blown a lot of gas, but shit, when you're driving across the country, why not? Check it out:

out here, you're truly on your own... no traffic, no cars, just silence and nature

the infamous one-way dirt road
 On our way across the country, we had been trying to hit as many states as we could on the way, and since Yellowstone's borders spill over into Montana, naturally we had to go out the northern exit to check it out. We found a huge gate there that my Dad had seen once before when he traveled west after his college days had ended, and this was by far the coolest entrance to the park. The Xterra parked off the road on the right side was our chariot for the journey!

Upon reentering the park, the daylight was beginning to get sparse and we didn't have much time left. However, as we passed back through the gates to Yellowstone, passing through the main headquarters, there was one more thing yet to see before daylight ran out: Mammoth Hot Springs. The pictures here truly do not do it justice, as it is the largest hot springs in the country. Normally, there are many vibrant colors all around the springs, but since there was less water during this time (it was fall instead of spring) the effect was lessened, and also the sun was absent more or less, contributing to a (slightly) less spectacular sight. From the top of the hot springs, you can see down the valley into the depths of Montana, mountain ranges flanking both sides, the town of Gardiner, MT, basically the gateway "city" to the park.

the view from the top -- you can see the buildings of headquarters of the park in the distance

you can see some colors, but normally this is much more colorful and active because of the melted snow in the spring!

yours truly standing on one of the boardwalks around mammoth hot springs
On the way back to our cabin we stopped on a whim to see a geyser basin before we ran out of sunlight. It was so spectacular that we decided that we would definitely come back here the next day. It's so amazing that Yellowstone contains such geothermally active areas, and this is one of the biggest! Steam, constantly exploding out of the earth, with a roar and a putrid stench. Ah yes, the sights of Yellowstone. More to come!

dad admiring the geyser basin

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oregon Bound: pt.7

Yellowstone. The go-to, best-in-the-country park to see. The best place to go if you want an easy way to see the real wild, the great outdoors (short of maybe going to Alaska I suppose). We departed the next morning from Cody, Wyoming, waking up to a rather bland day with blanket cloud cover. Not exactly positive foreshadowing. Regardless, we began to trip to Yellowstone.

leaving "A Wyoming Inn", with Seamus parked under the marquis
on the way to Yellowstone... raindrops already litter the window 

By the time we actually got to Yellowstone, it was raining. I suppose at least the car was getting cleaned in the process (sort of). Upon entering the park, there was about a 35 mile drive or so to get to the stop sign where we would then start upon the main figure-eight-shaped loop. For those of you who don't already know, Yellowstone is freaking HUGE. Look it up on a map. Driving around the loop of the park in one direction can be over 100 miles. Therefore it seems that unless you're going to be spending a lot of time there, by car is the way to go. On the way in, immediately we were greeted by some furry friends:

Upon getting to the Lake Lodge, which was the village where we would be staying in a cabin, we found out that we were too early for check-in. We had wanted to be able to dump the bikes off the back of the car, both for security and convenience, but alas we pressed on with full cargo in tow. The lodge itself is a masterpiece, a mammoth log cabin, as I assume that's simply the best way to build things when you're out in the middle of nowhere. The Lake Lodge itself was where we also ate the majority of our meals while we were staying in the cabin... simply because it doesn't make sense to drive 60 miles to go get a meal each morning. Though, traveler beware, Yellowstone is expensive. A cabin for two people with two beds and a bathroom -- $200 a night. Each meal? Somewhere between $25 and $30 for two (which doesn't sound like a lot, but even for breakfast it was that expensive). Need gas while you're at the park? (and you will...) $4.20 a gallon. However, as my dad said, the experience is priceless. And so you open up your wallet for the opportunity to see some true magnificence.

We basically decided that today, we were going to do a half of the figure eight loop that ran inside the park. Given the inclement weather, we would save some of the more sun-necessitating things for the second day we were spending there.

With vistas aplenty to see and landmarks of all kinds, we set out into the park. We stopped at some hot springs, as Yellowstone contains tons of geothermal activity, and eventually made our way to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
steam arises from the depths as geothermal energy releases from the core
volcanic ground is very unstable... so the park has set up boardwalks to go around and see all the bubbling springs... though bring nose plugs because the sulphur smell is horrid!
mountains, plains and rivers... Yellowstone has it all
a random waterfall we stopped at before the canyon
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was, in my opinion, by far the coolest thing we saw in the park. Cavernous, with seemingly painted walls, there are some truly breathtaking views. The sun even poked out from behind the clouds for a moment. According to my dad, there is nothing quite like it when it truly is sunny outside.. but I suppose I'll have to take his word for it. Regardless, the pictures are, well, nothing short of picturesque.

For fear of becoming too picture heavy, here is where I'll stop for now. But more will be on the way tomorrow!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Oregon Bound: pt.6

Welcome to Wyoming ladies and gentlemen. This is where the true wild begins in this story. Unbeknownst to me, the majority of Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming, with small bits on the north and west dipping into Montana and Utah. But I'm getting ahead of myself for right now.

Our first stop in Wyoming, dubbed "Forever West" was Devil's Tower. Unlike most of the other main attractions in other states, Devil's Tower is pretty far off the beaten path. Yes, you take a US Highway, but that highway doesn't exactly look like a highway. Much like other US highways, this particular one was simply a long and windy two way road out in the middle of nowhere.
still on the interstate... but just before the exit for the US highway

But the magic laid in where it led. Devil's Tower has a whole story associated with it from Native American legend. I'm going to copy and paste the story from devilstower.net:

One day, an Indian tribe was camped beside the river and seven small girls were playing at a distance. The region had a large bear population and a bear began to chase the girls. They ran back toward their village, but the bear was about the catch them. The girls jumped upon a rock about three feet high and began to pray to the rock, "Rock, take pity on us; Rock, save us." The rock heard the pleas of the young girls and began to elongate itself upwards, pushing them higher and higher out of reach of the bear. The bear clawed and jumped at the sides of the rock, and broke its claws and fell to the ground. The bear continued to jump at the rock until the girls were pushed up into the sky, where they are to this day in a group of seven little stars (the Pleiades). The marks of the bear claws are there yet. As one looks upon the tower and contemplates its uniqueness, it isn't hard to imagine this legend as fact.

So that's the story, and there's a lot more information on the website. But you're more interested in the pictures of this thing, I'm sure. Say no more:

looming from a distance
note those cool fluted sides
see if you can spot the climbers... they say it takes about 5 hours to climb

I'd say it was pretty worth the drive. It's something that's just completely out of the ordinary, and honestly it doesn't even do it justice to take pictures of it. It's just something that is purely bizarre, and you have to go there to see it in person to appreciate it. So if you're ever in the Wyoming neck of the woods... here's what you should see!

Our next destination was our arrival for the night in small-town Cody, Wyoming. However, the entirety of the Big Horn Mountain Range stood in our way, and the forecast for that night was rain. Not just a drizzle, I'm talking full out storm. Downpour. Murderous amounts of weather. The closer we got to the mountains the darker it got, and pretty soon, as we started up the switchbacks, it was all around us. Because of the weather, we didn't take any shots on the way up. However, as we crested the top, the storm subsided, and you could see hints of blue among the sky. The drops ceased falling and as we came down out of the mountains, we passed through Shell Canyon. It was so breathtaking that we not only took pictures along the way, but actually had to stop and get out and take some photos too:

yep... that grey stripe is the road down there

Pictures simply don't do it justice. After passing through the dinko town of Shell, population 83 (yes, you read correctly 83!!!) we pulled into Greybull, Wyoming for one last stop of gas before heading off to Cody. En route to Greybull, I encountered one of the best sunsets I've ever seen in my life.

Honestly, it was like something out of a calendar. Upon rolling into Cody for the night, we met up with my friend Grace and her roommate for dinner at the Geyser Brewing Co, where I had my first taste of a true bison burger. Literally the best burger I've ever had in my life, though as per the recommendation of the waitress (and myself after having experienced it) I highly recommend ordering one grade more toward the rare side than you normally do! First time I have ever ordered medium-rare in my life.

We turned in that night at a local inn not-so-creatively called "A Wyoming Inn", and rested up for the next day in Yellowstone.
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