Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Yellowstone

This being the epic journey that it is, we couldn't miss Yellowstone National Park! I-photo is not cooperating and refuses to allow the vertical photos, which maybe works for helping me weed through the billions of images of this beautiful place...so here is our trip through Yellowstone, briefly, in the horizontal...

Old Faithful
We stayed only two nights, but as you can imagine, we soaked up as much as we could.  The "hydrothermal features" really are remarkable.  Imagining the world as that hot and raw, microbes the only living thing around, was not hard to do as we walked around the geysers.

Solitary geyser

There was sign of life - dried bison scat and tracks - but really, how could anything survive the hot, sulfuric air blowing from these pools?


bison carcass
Apparently the animals love the minerals and the warmth of the pools.  We saw many bison lounging beside the hot water, and rolling in the dust to clean themselves.



People! Lots of people at the Prismatic Geyser
Grand Prismatic Geyser

Of course people come to Yellowstone for the animals, and we were on the lookout for all things wild. Our first sighting was a family of yellow-bellied marmots, a Rocky Mountain version of our groundhog.  Still, we were excited.

yellow-bellied marmot
Eventually we realized that we only needed to look for large groups of humans to locate the other large mammals.  This crowd below was gathered to watch a large grizzly bear eating a bison carcass!! Yes, we stopped. 


grizzly taking a break from eating to chase off some vultures
happy campers
On our way out of our campground on our last day we encountered this guy who apparently had been visiting another loop of the campground the whole time we'd been there!  There are abundant signs warning people to stay away from these huge animals, but clearly not everyone is accustomed to reading them...



Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Lower Falls

elk


On our last day, we stopped to hike on Mt. Washburn.  Dan ran up to the top while the girls and I took our time looking at the flowers and the view.  

Hiking on Mt. Washburn

We barely scratched the surface of this incredible and immense piece of land, but I feel like we got a good taste of what is there. (Even though the moose were hiding. Blargh.)


Filled with views of wildflowers and mountain air, we headed to Bozeman to visit a friend we hadn't seen in twenty years.  Delicious dinner and a dance party - we felt so welcomed!

Dan and Andrea; room-mates in 1993

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wyoming















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(Ok, so here's the skinny: we're here! We made it West today!! But the story just can't be that short, because the drive was sooooo long and wonderful, so bear with me here...)

Wyoming stole my heart.  White Stripes playing loudly over the rush of wind, pronghorn antelope, a long view that pulled my eye over wind-rounded hills and up striped canyons.  Scrappy homesteads, sprawling ranches and desolate stretches populated only by the occasional cow or solitary biker. Antlers draped over every door lintel.  I got the feeling that Wyoming doesn't suffer fools, but has its fair share of hardened weirdoes. And then there was the climb into the mountains, the trade of the long-view for more green, more trees, and finally, the Tetons themselves, the prize for our longest day of driving yet. The signs for elk and bison on the road. The change in color, the change in the air.  The pull of the mountains is so mighty strong.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Westward Ho! The Epic Journey



Y'know how long it takes to get ready for a trip? So much time plotting, dreaming, planning, scheduling, figuring, reworking the puzzle.  I almost can't believe we got out the door, but we did.


Ohio...Kentucky...Indiana...

Harmonie State Park: swimming pool, hummingbirds, fireflies!

Illinois...Missouri...(reading about Sacagawea and Lewis and Clark, even as we crossed the Missouri River)...Kansas...


The soundtrack of the trip has definitely been The Beatles, with some classic rock thrown in as we travel through the cities...


Milford Lake State Park: cicadas, mayflies, dragonflies, and a storm in the night


emerging by flashlight - can you believe it?!
 Yes, we will probably remember this trip by the insects we saw (that actually wasn't a play on my mentioning The Beatles, believe it or not). Do you remember all of the damselflies at the campsite in Kansas?  At one point, Ani came running pell-mell from the bathrooms, yelling at the top of her lungs, Mama!!! For a half-second I panicked that Eliza had fallen in the shower or something horrible, but no. It was a dragonfly that had alighted on the bathroom wall.  Eliza was guarding it for me so I could take a picture...


the adult mayfly lives only a day
going, going, going - you're in the West when the skies get so wide
more Kansas...

Overheard from the back seat: Kansas looks like Mongolia, don't you think? Yeah, Mongolia, but without the purple mountains in the background.  General head-nodding in agreement...There's been the expected squabbling in the car, but it has been manageable and dang, I have to say, it is so much easier to travel with the girls at these ages.  We talk, we read, we sing, we talk some more...we sink into our own daydreams and then start all over again.

more Kansas...
 At one point Ani asked, What are we calling this trip? We settled on Westward Ho! and she insisted that it needed The Epic Journey thrown in for good measure.

finally, the mountains - can you see them? Ani dubbed these the "toehills"
Colorado!

mule deer 
Roxborough State Park
Denver in the distance

Cousins!!
Uncle Tim and Cousin Matt
 We got a tour of the "real" mountains yesterday, driving along the South Platte River and up, up, up...




a shot out the window, going up the Boreas Pass, a long, narrow gravel road

mouse-ear chickweed
SNOW!
orange paintbrush



looking down on Breckenridge

After lunch in Breckenridge, we braved the chairlift at Peak Seven.  Singing helped Eliza and me, and how lucky that we know a song about the great divide...

We made it!

Our wonderful hosts, Gen and Tim
It is surreal to suddenly be in the snowy peaks.  On the top of the world.  The plants are small, the trees sparse and the view so long.  

tiny violets
Rocky Mountain Pentstemon

Today we made lemonade of lemons; our car has been having trouble and leaking coolant...yeah, and we're in the mountains and today in an attempt to replace a hose, we saw a large problem with the radiator (it was a hole), so long story short, we stayed an extra day with our generous hosts who suggested a trip into the big city on the light rail. 



new Union Station


black-crowned night heron, enjoying the confluence of the North Platte and Cherry Creek in downtown Denver

And that is why I have a moment just now to share photos and a few words from the journey!  We'll travel on in the morning, over the mountains and closer to the Pacific...