|Me and Meg from last year’s annual Stillwater Trek|
|Me and Meg from last year’s annual Stillwater Trek|
[Three days behind again… Darn it!!]
We packed up the tent for the last time this morning, leaving the camping behind to finally ease ourselves back into civilization. We left the California Redwoods yesterday after stretching our three-day trip into a fourth and headed north along the Oregon coastline, arriving at Sunset Bay State Park for a one night stopover, before continuing up to Astoria today. What a week!
After leaving Crater Lake, the drive to Redwoods National Park was a relatively short and scenic one. We stopped at the Visitor Center on the way in for campground recommendations, and learned that many were full for the night, and ended up with the “consolation” of a site at the Mill Creek Campground. Redwoods is actually three state parks pasted together, and ours was in Del Norte Coast State Park. It turned out to be a perfect location, right in the middle of all three parks, allowing us to get around easily, and still retire to beautiful surroundings.
Our first full day, we decided to take ranger recommendations and visit Stout Grove and do the Boy Scout Tree Trail, but not before a ranger presentation on “OWLS in the Old Growth Forest”. To get there though, we took an old stagecoach road through the towering forests of Redwoods. The dirt from the road covered the trees, offering an even more eerie feel to what was already a pretty amazing sight. We stopped in the Stout Grove for a quick walk under the giants before heading on to our morning talk. Alyssa was incredibly excited for another owl presentation of course, only to find that these “OWLS” were just a mnemonic device – an acronym to remember the composition of the forests. It was a great interpretive walk, where we learned that there was much more to look for in these forests than just the trees themselves. Ranger Poole was both informative and engaging – which is important when you’re surrounded by 300-foot tall trees that you just want to stare up at!
|I saw a tree “this big”!|
The hike was a nice 6-mile round trip on fairly level terrain, a nice change of pace after a few weeks of mountain hiking. The Boy Scout Tree was more than 30 feet in diameter, making everything else seem puny in comparison. Back at the campground that night, we attended another ranger talk, this time by one of the state park interpretive rangers, a recent grad named Ryan. Let me just say that this guy was the best of the best, combining entertainment, information, and enthusiasm in his pitch perfect delivery. He got the crowd singing safety songs, and cracked jokes that were all ages appropriate. It was great fun and I made sure to fill out a comment card to commend the state of California on retaining this natural resource.
On Saturday, We did a lengthy section of the Coastal Trail that followed Damnation Creek down to the shoreline. While the beach views were nice, the 12-mile hike was a bit of a snoozer, starting with a thousand foot climb in the first mile and then plunging another thousand feet down to the water in the mile following the creek. Everything in between was pretty flat, and not even forested with Redwoods. We vowed not to repeat this mistake the next day, and Alyssa picked a winner – the Fern Canyon Trail. To get to the canyon, we followed the Irvine Trail, which took us through the old growth redwoods. After this hike Alyssa officially put Redwoods ahead of Badlands as her second favorite park of the trip (Teton being the clear #1). Once we got to the half-mile canyon stretch, the walls filled in with fifty feet of bright green ferns all around us, with a small creek trickling along at the floor, which we followed to the beach.
|Fern Canyon – the orange
dot in the middle is a person!
Once on the sand, it was like we were in another world. Though you could drive down to base of the canyon and walk up from the beach, the parking lot was small enough that the beach itself seemed almost empty. The mist settled in at the far ends of the stretch we were walking and though the surf pounded the shore, it was the retreating water that made the most din with a great big sucking sound. Giant rocks dotted the seascape, and there was a feeling of quiet solitude as we walked the mile-plus stretch of sand that connected us to the trail for our return trip. Along the way, we noticed a few smaller dots in the cresting waves – the heads of some playful seals came up to the surface, searching about curiously, then disappearing for brief periods of time. We could have sat there all day watching their antics and just enjoying the ocean breeze, but the trail called us back!
After finishing the hike back on the Miner’s Trail, we headed back on the 20-minute drive to camp. Alyssa had asked about the “drive-through” redwood trees, and I remembered seeing a sign along the road on the drive down, so we pulle doff in Klamath, at first thinking it was just something along the road. But a screaming billboard and a kiosk at the roadside informed us otherwise: we were at a bonafide tourist trap. I couldn’t resist though, so we shelled out the $5 to drive up a hill and be confronted with a tree whose lower region was excavated in a most unnatural shape. We were both disappointed that this wasn’t just some gargantuan tree with room to park Sylvia underneath, but instead had been carved out after some fire damage, but was inded still a living and growing redwood tree. At first glance, it did not seem as if our trusty Highlander would make it through the tunnell, but with some minor adjustments to the side-view mirrors, we got through with room to spare!
On our final day, we headed into town briefly to catch up on some correspondence, and then made our way north. The weather was fairly good for a lot of the trip, but the drive was a bit more than we anticipated. The Oregon coast was much like what we saw in the Redwoods, and made for a scenic trip, but we were happy to arrive at Sunset Bay. This state park borders on two others and each had their charms. First we headed to an overlook which offered views of hundreds of sunbathing seals and sea lions, barking furiously. Alyssa couldn’t help but comment on how unpleasant and dirty their island respite might be, but they seemed not to care. After a brief visit to a tidal basin that offered little for us to see, we headed to the botanical gardens of the park next door. Alyssa particularly liked the dahlia displays but we both marveled at the array of plants – the monkey puzzle tree being my favorite. This was a one-night stopover, however, and today we got back on the road to much less pleasant weather. Only about thirty minutes of our drive offered any sun, and we arrived this afternoon in Astoria, only to find it pretty rained out. But we’ll make the most of it. [Can anyone guess what brought us to Astoria?]
This time tomorrow, we should be in Seattle. We’ve already started scouring Craigslist for apartment rentals, and have secured short-term accommodations to get us through the early days of house-hunting. Hopefully we haven’t missed the best of the apartment season.
[We’re getting better! Only two days behind now!]
In the past week, we’ve gone from one set of craters to another, from one state to the next. We’re leaving Oregon today after having visited Craters of the Moon and Boise in Idaho, and stopping briefly in Bend, OR before spending the last couple of days at Crater Lake National Park. This morning, we’ll leave for our last “scenic” stop of the trip – a few days in Redwoods National Park in Northern California. Before that though, here’s the recap.
We left Teton bright and early, grabbing breakfast at Dornan’s again, as planned. We crossed over Teton Pass into Idaho and were greeted with similar scenery as we had just left in Wyoming for the first few miles. The mountains started to level out as the Snake River Plain took over the view, and the mountains parted and spread far to the north and south of us letting farmland take over the borders of the highway. Unlike the monotony of Iowa and Nebraska, this was pleasant, rolling hills alternating hues of amber, gold and green. In a happy coincidence of music, at the same time, the mix we were playing came upon Joe Satriani’s Rubina’s Blue Sky Happiness, and it was the perfect soundtrack for the landscape we were driving through.
We took the turnoff to head north into the Arco Desert, home of Idaho National Laboratories and Craters of the Moon. Along the way, we saw signs for the mysterious EBR-1 – “National Historic Landmark!” – and I was intrigued enough to make the one-mile detour off the main road. I was glad I did as we pulled into the parking lot of the world’s first energy producing nuclear reactor. It was like taking a step back in time, as most of the facility had remained untouched since being shut down in 1966 and converted to an educational exhibit. It is remarkable to think that only five or six years after dropping the first atomic bomb, we had begun to master harnessing that same destructive power for positive use.
|The interior of EBR-1. I want this furniture…|
|The creature emerges from
the depths of the earth…
The next morning, we toured two of the park’s caves with Ranger Bill from Arkansas. Well, he lives in Mountain Home, ID now… We visited Beauty Cave and Indian Tunnel and heard more about the volcanic forces that created the environment around us: hot and cold collapses, Aa and pahoehoe, and more. We also learned that apparently, we had missed Jamie Lee Curtis at the visitor’s center the previous day by mere minutes. Nice to know we run in similar circles to the rich and famous! After the ranger-led jaunt, we decided to due the park’s only “lengthy” trail – a 4-mile round trip near the campground. Unfortunately, Alyssa had stubbed her toe pretty badly the night before, and despite the fact this allowed me to use my first-aid kit for the first time, it forced Alyssa to call it quits early on the trail. Luckily for me, it allowed her to drive to the other end of the trail to pick me up, and I didn’t have to do the return leg on the same trail.
In the early afternoon, we headed to Boise, grabbing lunch in Fairfield , ID along the way. We checked in at what is easily the nicest Marriott Courtyard Hotel I have ever seen. It had a very modern interior, with a huge touchscreen display with local area information, a bar that served hors d’oeuvres and sandwiches, and a mini-market with snacks and drinks. After my experience at Holiday Inn Express, my check-in here was enough to make me a Marriott convert. The room was nice as well, though one could tell that the stopped the updating with the bathroom. We ventured downtown to get some drinks and dinner, and learned that we happened to be in Boise at the same time as the Western Idaho State Fair! We made plans to check that out on Sunday, but continued with a little bar-hopping Saturday night.
We were wary at first, since downtown Boise seemed a bit quiet at 6pm when we arrived, but things livened up a bit, and as we drank margaritas at a place called The Matador, we made friendly with the couple next to us at the bar. Though from Idaho, it turned out that Jake and Maggie had both gone to school in New England, at MIT and Connecticut College respectively. After a couple hours of knocking back tequila and margaritas, the drinking got the better of both of us, and we headed back to the hotel for a fitful night’s sleep.
|For Bob & Maureen – we missed
him by one night!
The next day we awoke with horrendous hangovers, both of us. Fortunately, we had a breakfast recommendation that paid off for us and restored some of our energies, but we learned that due to wind damage, the Idaho Fair was postponing opening for the morning. Instead, we decided to visit Flicks, Boise’s version of the Kendall Cinema, to see The Girl Who Played With Fire. It was nice to kick back for a day and just relax a bit instead of our usual running around to see everything. The movie didn’t live up to the expectations set by the first installment, but was good nonetheless. Alyssa said it would have been impossible for them to cover everything in the book, and they left a lot out. We wandered downtown again, finding that Boise is quite sleepy on Sundays – everything was shut down by 4pm. We had intended to try Basque cuisine that night, but poor planning did us in, as all such establishments had the Lord’s Day off. So we settled on another meal option, then headed back to our hotel for a night more restful than the last.
The next day we began our trek to Oregon. Originally, we intended to be on the road no more than a few hours and to stop well before Bend. However, we crossed the Pacific Time date line, and got an hour back, so we decided to push on. We looked at camping options and saw several just south of Bend, so we stopped for a nice dinner in town, then made our way south, getting us a few precious hours closer to our next day’s destination, Crater Lake National Park.
We arrived here Tuesday morning, and when pulling up to that first viewpoint, the lake was breathtaking. Neither of us had ever seen water so calm and blue in our lives. We did the rim loop, visiting several overlooks along the way. We stopped at the two visitor centers and walked a few miles along the edge of the caldera (the lake is named after a crater on an island in the lake, not the huge volcano the lake is in). We headed back to the campsite and pitched our tent, planning our activities for the next day.
|Phantom Ship on Crater Lake|
Early Wednesday morning, we woke and headed for the ticket booth for the boat dock. The folks at the boat ticket booth let us know there would be no boats docking in Wizard Island in the lake that day – a real let down for us. We still opted for the two-hour tour of the lake, which started at a trailhead 1,000 feet below where we stood. We started down the one-mile trail and brought our lunches with us to enjoy afterwards. The boat tour was nice, if a bit too relaxing – both I and Alyssa drifted off at times. When we docked again, Alyssa and I found some space on the rocks to soak our feet while we ate. We encountered some of the most aggressive chipmunks I’ve ever come across – one actually jumped up on my lap to try and get a bite of my sandwich! After a bit of relaxing, we headed back up the one-mile and one-thousand feet of trail. We picked out a couple more trails that would give us some nice views of the lake, and also visited The Pinnacles, more volcanic formations on a side road off the lake’s Rim Road. Knowing we had seen pretty much all there was to see of the lake (but not the park, of which the lake only makes up 7%), we headed back to camp.
Today, we woke early for a quick morning hike, then head to California, if only the top-most sliver of it and if only for a few days. After this stop, it’s due north to Seattle, where our trip ends, but where the adventure really begins.
[The last of the time-delayed posts (we hope). But the pictures weren’t all on the PC so look for an update with the rest later!]
The noted philosopher Thomas Roman said it best: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Grand Teton is everything we imagined and hoped for, and more. I don’t want to leave. Really, I want to say “screw the 7-day limit” and claim squatter’s right on this campsite until they drag me kicking and screaming from this place. I love it here. Alyssa does too. There is zero doubt in my mind that when we arrive in Seattle, we will begin planning our next vacation in Grand Teton.
Just north of Jackson, WY and immediately south of Yellowstone, there stands an array of craggy peaks collectively known as the Tetons. A week ago, we left Yellowstone at 5:45am and drove south in hopes of getting a site at the coveted Jenny Lake campground. And the early bird, as they say, got their worm. Our site here is phenomenal. A little bit of shade, just close enough to the bathrooms to be convenient, but not so much as to find the slamming door a nuisance. Alyssa may not like the lack of showers, but who needs that when you’re less than a quarter mile from the lake? Yeah, I’m gushing, but it’s is only that good because…
We are right at the base of the Tetons. I mean, we stare up at them from our site. All we have to do is walk down to the boat dock, and in a few short minutes, we are there – right in them!! And where Steve McQueen may have lamented being kept from the mountains in the closing minutes of Tom Horn, we need have no such concerns. And in the last week, we have taken full advantage. This is one amazing place!
|The view from Dornan’s.|
Our first day here, Friday morning, we secured our campsite by 8am and then headed to Dornan’s for a chuck wagon breakfast. This is no ordinary chuck wagon though. Imagine all-you-can-eat sourdough pancakes, cooked fresh for you while you sit outside at a picnic table with a staggering view of the Tetons. Yeah, pretty awesome. When we were sure that check-out time had passed for our campsites prior occupants, we headed back and pitched tent, strung tarp, set up chairs, and got comfy. But within minutes, we were eager to get out there and see the scenery.
On our first day, given our late start, we only did the 3-mile String Lake loop, which still afforded us some nice scenery. And on Saturday, we upped the ante and circled Jenny Lake on the 7-mile trail and then finished our day with a nice kayak trip on which we saw a bald eagle high above us in the shoreline treetops. The real work would start on Sunday!
We woke early and caught the 7am ferry special across Jenny Lake. Our destination for the day was Lake Solitude, at the distant end of Cascade Canyon, which we had been told was excellent moose habitat. The 14.8-mile round trip was both a leg stretcher and an ankle breaker, climbing 2,300 feet, most of that in the last two and a half miles of the ascent. We were sweating and gasping for breath as we reached the top, but oh was it worth it! We found a quiet spot on the far side of the lake to relax and have our lunch. Alyssa read a little of Sookie Stackhouse’s early adventures while I got a little shut-eye to recuperate for the trek down.
|Can you see the beast, Miss Moneypenny?|
The scenery on the return hike was even better, as the Tetons now occupied our full view, and we weren’t staring down at our feet in exhaustion. Once we returned to the canyon, the route became a bit monotonous, but the boredom was shattered when we got our promised “moose viewing”. We watched from a good distance as he chomped away at the creekside vegetation, his massive antlers swaying gently from side to side. We smiled as we started back down the trail again, only to have those smiles wiped away when we reached Inspiration Point.
The sole downside of the Jenny Lake area is that the boat ferries people across a lake that would normally require a minimum five mile hike. Thus people can forego that effort to get to the base of the Hidden Falls/Inspiration Point trail, and not educate themselves on what that trail involves – which is five hundred feet of rocky switchbacks in less than a mile. So every tennis sneaker explorer was headed up to Inspiration Point as we were heading down, many of them clinging frantically to the cliff wall for purchase, which incidentally was the side we were supposed to be coming down on. It had flashed of Yellowstone for an instant, but once we were back at our campsite, all was well again.
On Monday, we had scheduled a Snake River scenic and whitewate rafting trip, and though the water was well below springtime flood levels, we still enjoyed the trip. The whitewater was nothing close to what we had in West Virginia, but I raised the idea of rafting the Gauley in October to Alyssa. I’m working on it! Our guides for both legs of the trip were east coast transplants – the scenic guide was from Framingham and a staunch proponent of Jay Peak’s skiing!
We had decided to make a night of it in Jackson, and our first stop was the Snake River Brewing Company, where I dined on my first buffalo wings since having left Boston. The withdrawal symptoms may not have been evident, but the ravenous hunger with which I devoured them was that of an addict. We tried four of their microbrews and would definitely rate them as high on our list. After happy hour, we did some shopping for Alyssa. You see, despite the fact I had told her it would be cold out here, she failed to pack what one might consider “appropriate” clothing. So we got her a nice Patagonia sweater, and then headed for an early dinner. We were back on the road to Teton by 8pm, our hunger and thirst fully sated.
The next day, we visited the Rockefeller Preserve, a new addition to the park donated by noted conservationist Laurence Rockefeller. The visitor center here was a much different approach – less informative and more contemplative. We then did the seven-mile circuit around Phelps Lake, and rested by the shore for lunch. The trail was fairly quiet and we got to relax at a few of the benches along the way without fear of being disturbed.
On Wednesday, Alyssa decided not to accompany me on my proposed ascent of the Amphitheater Lake trail – 11 miles round trip, 3100 feet of elevation gain. So she did laundry and I did the mountain and at about the four-mile mark, I might have agreed to trade places with her, not knowing she was sitting in hours of traffic due to road construction in the park (your recovery dollars at work!!). At the top of the trail, you first come upon Surprise Lake, likely so named because you turn a corner on the trail and are surprised to find a lake there in front of you. The view was wonderful, with the Tetons framing the lake, and a couple of hikers suggested I come around to the lake’s southern edge and get a view into the valley below. And when I say “below”, I mean way below, as I was staring out over a cliff edge with no floor in sight. I then continued up to Amphitheater Lake, which was even more spectacular, and settled there for lunch and to get my legs back. On the return trip, I took a couple of off-trail detours to look down upon a glacial lake on the trail’s north side, and then to summit Surprise Lake Pinnacle, 200 feet above the cliff wall where I had been looking down before. Both routes gave me much different perspectives on the route I had taken up.
On the way down, I gave Alyssa a ring and she picked me up at the trailhead, informing me that she had spent an hour and a half to get to Colter Bay, 20 miles from our campsite, and another hour getting back. I hope these new roads are worth it! I took a dip in Jenny Lake, since Alyssa was freshly showered, and I was coated with the salt of a day’s perspiration. The frigid waters were a shock at first, but then a pleasant salve to the tired muscles of this hiker.
Thursday, we had decided to do the Death Canyon hike, an 8-mile round trip with about 1500 feet of elevation. Don’t worry about the ominous name, the trail is very much alive, and we enjoyed the hike, despite my back spasms acting up as we reached the far end of the round-trip. But this would be our last day in the park, and we were none to happy about that. After I took another cleansing dip in Jenny Lake, we settled down to read at the campsite, knowing we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the spot much longer.
Tomorrow we will end this stop as we began it, with another breakfast at Dornan’s, with that amazing mountain view. And from there, it is on to Craters of the Moon in Idaho, then Boise, then beyond. See you soon!
[Note: the title of the post is a reference from the park’s first explorers, whose names I forgot to jot down.]
[Contiuing our “time-delayed” posts!]
Yellowstone was founded in 1872 as the world’s first national park. Not the first in the U.S. mind you – the first on this planet. And while our forefathers were prescient in their foresight to protect such important landscapes and their inhabitants, a lot has changed in 138 years, and Yellowstone is not at all what I anticipated.
It all started innocently enough. We had a fine Mexican dinner in Cody, WY and slept wakefully at our streetside campsite, secured just after a violent thunderstorm abated, but not before giving us some pause about our decision to pitch tent. The next day, we looked for some coffee for Alyssa, some Ben-Gay for my back (yeah, I’m getting old) and then began the 50-mile journey through the Shoshone National Forest to the east gate of Yellowstone. We had called in our reservations just that morning for a campsite at the centrally located Bridge Bay area, but for our day of arrival, nothing was available – we would be relegated to first come, first serve sites that day. Arriving at the gate around 10am, several sites had “open” listed next to them on the board, so we picked one of the more desirable destinations, Mammoth Hot Springs, though it was 60+ miles from where we were at that moment. Little did we know the mistake we were making.
Four hours later, after negotiating bear, elk and bison instigated traffic jams, we finally arrived at the Mammoth campground- frustrated, weary and not at all eager to head back the quarter mile to the visitor center we had just passed. To put it in simplest terms, Yellowstone is like the Disneyland of National Parks – it is viewed by many as a vacation spot, not a conservation resource, and people were abusing the privileges that such conservation provides them. Despite warnings everywhere saying not to approach wildlife, and to stay 25 yards from all animals – 100 yards from bears and wolves – people actually got out of their cars and walked right up to elk and buffalo as if these were tame creatures. Throughout our trip this annoyance would blossom into a full-fledged campaign on our part to “educate” the transgressors. And believe me, we were quite direct (would you expect less of me?). Enough of my tirades, back to our visit.
The first day, we walked among the hot springs at Mammoth, which were truly beautiful, revealing a myriad of jewel-like hues while reflecting the sky in their calm surface. Alyssa signed us up for a ranger-led day hike the next day titled “Gem of the Rockies”, and after we packed up our site Sunday morning, we joined Ranger Bill for a very informative 6-mile trip around Garnet Hill (hence the “Gem”). We saw badgers, beavers and a black bear and Bill filled us in on the flora and fauna that surrounded us, while expressing his own feelings about some of the park’s visitors: “People are going to turn Yellowstone into a petting zoo.” We liked Ranger Bill. Unfortunately, to get to our campsite after the hike, we had to travel back through Hayden Valley, which was the prime bison watching territory. Another 2 hours later, we had traveled the 20 or so miles to get to our home for the next six days.
How is it possible that one could take two hours to travel such a short distance? Well, people get so excited at the sight of bison that they just have to stop and look. And by stop, I mean right in the middle of the road. And by look, I mean get out of their car and go to the roadside to have a gander. Never mind the miles of traffic that pile up behind them! Of course, these are the same type of people who 150 years ago would have lined up for the train trips to hunt buffalo that were commonplace. “Tourists” at that time would board a train, be handed a rifle, and told they could should whatever moved of the sides of the train. Imagine the wastefulness of killing a one-ton animal, and then leaving the carcass by the tracks. Wait, I’m digressing again…
Our site at Bridge Bay was great. Despite having no showers, it was separated in a “tent only” section and was thus rather quiet and secluded. We woke the next day and decided not to further our frustrations by heading back toward Hayden Valley. Instead we did two local hikes in the Fishing Bridge section of Yellowstone: Storm Point and Elephant Back, each of which gave us excellent views of the lake, though from very different perspectives. On the Storm Point trail, we watched as bad behavior was learned by the next generation as two parents and their pre-teen children approached a marmot for a picture. When the marmot panicked and fled, the family encircled, and then cornered it. The father was no more than ten feet from the poor animal when I re-traced my steps down the trail and chastised him for getting so close. He apologized with embarrassment, but his slow retreat suggested he really wasn’t that sorry. As Alyssa put it, how would any one of them like it if four bears got them in a corner? There I go again…
Tuesday we ventured to the western side of the park to take in the Fairy Falls trail and visit Old Faithful. The Fairy Falls trip got a little contentious when Alyssa and I disagreed over an off-trail route I was taking us on, but the views were spectacular nonetheless. We traveled along the road a bit further to visit some of the other geothermal features along the way, and really there are just too many to name. One highlight of the drive was the Firehole Canyon scenic drive, which it seemed many visitors had not discovered. Thus we had a brief respite to enjoy the scenery in peace.
We headed back to Old Faithful and caught a show just before sunset. It lives up to its reputation of reliability, but after having seen geysers in Iceland, we were under whelmed (“Can you ever just be whelmed? I think you can in Europe.”). We had decided to dine out that night and try the Grant Village Restaurant, and on the trip there, we had a fleeting moment of what Yellowstone should be about. Off the side of the road, no more than fifty yards back, on the shore of a lake, sat a lone gray wolf. It caught my eye and I did all I could do to get Alyssa’s attention quickly and she confirmed the sighting. And rather than slow down or pull over like we had seen so many people so recklessly do. We kept driving, ear-to-ear smiles on our faces for having seen something so amazing, and knowing how few others would have such a moment.
Wednesday, it was back on the trails and we hiked the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Sadly, the rim has been turned into one overlook after another, crowded with cars of people who pull up and peer over, only to snap a picture and be off, able to say they had been there, without really having experienced it. We traveled from Inspiration Point to Artist’s Point, enjoying the peace of the woods between each overrun viewpoint. All tolled, we racked up over twelve miles that day and still got back on the road in time to make burritos at a picnic site on the way home, and then stop at one of the Hayden Valley overlooks where Ranger Bill had said we might see some wolves, which had suddenly become one of Alyssa’s new favorite animals.
At the overlook, a man with a spotting scope generously allowed all comers to take a look out over the valley. While there were no wolves to be found that evening, we did have the pleasure of seeing a grizzly bear from a comfortable and safe distance of a few hundred yards. And it wasn’t just the one griz, but a momma bear with three cubs in tow. Though they would disappear behind the tall grasses every now and again, they still held the growing crowd’s rapt attention. When the possibility of a wolf viewing became remote, we hopped back into Sylvia to endure yet another bison jam – just one mile forward in 90 minutes!! – and arrived home late that evening.
On that car ride home, a nearly improbable discussion took place. Alyssa brought up the idea of leaving a day early – canceling our last night, asking for a refund and heading to Grand Teton Friday morning. None of our hikes had really helped us escape the feeling of being surrounded by craven tourists, and we were hopeful that a trip further south would afford us some peace. Not only was I on board, I said that even if we couldn’t get the refund, I had had my fill. We began this westward trip with hopes of relaxing and getting away from the hassles of the big city, only to find something far worse at Yellowstone. And I haven’t even told you about the showers!!! Don’t worry, I won’t.
This morning, we got our requested refund and hiked to Shoshone Lake, which easily became our favorite of the trip for its silence and seclusion. We took an ill-advised “scenic” boat tour on Yellowstone Lake that afternoon with two teen-aged tour guides who seemed to care little about informing us about the sights and more about entertaining themselves. After a hot dog and mac & cheese dinner, we were pleased to know that we would be on our way away from here in the AM.
A few of our very best days on this trip have begun with an early morning alarm, and tomorrow will as well. We need to be on the road before 6 AM to have any hope of getting a site at the most sought after campground in Grand Teton – Jenny Lake. Wish us luck. After the week we’ve had, I believe we’ve earned it.
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
★ ★ ★ ☆
While I loved the comic-centric animation style and appreciated the energy, I was left with too many questions & felt there were too many convenient coincidences to find this film truly satisfying.
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY ★ ★ ★ ★
Everyone takes a backseat to Jude Law’s sensational star turn in this tense and heart wrenching thriller. When they get you rooting for the killer, that’s a job well done.
EIGHTH GRADE ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Like reliving its titular experience, this film is an awkward, though likely accurate portrayal of what life is like for a really uninteresting, social media obsessed kid – it just offers nothing compelling.
FIRST REFORMED ★ ★ ★ ☆
An intense performance from Ethan Hawke lends gravity to a film that shows how desperation can be a stronger motivator than hope, and lead individuals to irrational action.