In which there are a few more pictures from Sol Duc

Just a few more pictures:

Taken by a man we met at a viewpoint along Crescent Lake

Panoramic taken by a man we met at a viewpoint along Crescent Lake

This poem has been reminding me about our trip this past week:

Give me a land of boughs in leaf
A land of trees that stand;
Where trees are fallen there is grief;
I love no leafless land.

-A.E. Housman

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Seriously, I will take trees any day. I love no leafless land either Housman.

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In which we Burned the Man (again)

Wow – how long has it been since I’ve updated this thing? Between hunting for jobs, finishing up the last remaining residency requirements, conference season and successfully defending my thesis (yay!), I’ve been a bit busy. Here’s the beginning of an attempt to catch up!

Jeff and I were so fortunate to go to Burning Man again in 2014. I’m not sure what 2015 hold for us, so our plans to return to Black Rock City may have to take a small hiatus, but we’ll see. Our camp, Camp No Plan, named for the fact that we were taking only one virgin with us and none of us had adequate time or resources to plan something elaborate, was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for better companions. It was an amazing time, as I suspect it always is.

Our car - as clean as we'll be for the next week at some rest stop in Oregon

Our car – as clean as we’ll be for the next week at some rest stop in Oregon

To begin with – the drive down from Washington, through remote parts of Oregon and across the tip of Northern California into the Nevada desert is absolutely breathtaking. Jeff, Anna, Alyssa our virgin, and I left out Saturday mid-morning with the trailer and made it all the way to Klamath Falls, OR the first day.

We had spectacular views of Mount Hood outside Portland

We had spectacular views of Mount Hood outside Portland

We drove down through Bend in what I can only describe as desolate volcano country. It's eerily empty and beautiful.

We drove down through Bend in what I can only describe as desolate volcano country. It’s eerily empty and beautiful.

After a night in Klammath and the annual trip to the Fred Meyer to stock up on last minute supplies, we decided to try to a night approach to the line. That meant leaving Klammath in late afternoon so we hit the line entering Gerlach just perfectly at sunset. Our dear Jeep is running strong, but no one wants to sit in a hot, dusty line in the blazing heat without any air conditioning. This also mean we had fantastic “golden hour” shots of some of my favorite landscapes along the way:

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This is what the drive looks like from the backseat from Anna’s camera

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Always good to take a look back and make sure the trailer is still attached..

We hit the line around sunset and made it almost to the gate at around midnight. It ended up that we were three cars behind the gate when the fireworks began to celebrate the official opening of the event – so close! After we made it through, we found some of our friends camped in a great spot (9 o’clock and E) who offered us space. We had to decide at that point if we were going to set up camp in the dark or go out exploring – exploring won the day.

I got to hold this 30 seconds after our group making that decision:

A giant ballon string filled with tiny LED lights. Photo by David Hays from here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dav1d/4979419103/

A giant ballon string filled with tiny LED lights. Photo by David Hays from here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dav1d/4979419103/

Slightly terrifying – it’s all your childhood nightmares of letting go of a balloon multiplied by 1000 – but it’s tethered to a harness, so the chances of that happening are slim.

The other half of our group had planned to come the following day, so we went in search of some of our other friends but couldn’t find their camp. We have a tradition of meeting at the far side of the Temple at sunrise in the mornings as as the sky began to lighten we gave up our search and headed there. The playa was unusually quiet, but we chalked that up to it being still early on the first day. Unknown to us the gate had been closed because of rain which turned the gigantic prehistoric lake bed into an oozing sticky clay. We hardly saw anyone as we approached the Temple, but as we rounded to the other side we saw a small group of people standing under a “Finish Line” art piece/sign. Our friends! Some of whom we hadn’t seen since last year!

Finish Line art installation at sunrise

Finish Line art installation at sunrise. Photo credit: Alex Cahn

Our friends! Photo credit: Alex Cahn

Our friends! I’m in the leopard coat and neon green backpack. 
Photo credit: Alex Cahn

Catching up with old friends and drinking champagne - just like how all mornings should start.

Catching up with old friends and drinking champagne – just like how all mornings should start.

We all went to Robot Heart afterwards and got to dance to the smallest gathering there all week - it was great! Like having the best party place all to yourself. I also got to drink bloody marys with the owner which was awesome.

We all went to Robot Heart afterwards and got to dance to the smallest gathering there all week – it was great! Like having the best party place all to yourself. I also got to drink bloody marys with the owner which was awesome.

For comparison, this is what Robot Heart normally looks like at sunrise:

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Crowded, fun, chaos with great beats

After being up for 36 hours Jeff and I somehow managed to make it back across the playa in a rain storm, put up our yurt and crawl inside to sleep. Typical Burning Man. The other half of our camp managed to get in early Tuesday morning after being hampered by closed gates and rain.

Random pictures of excursions into the playa:

Biking down the 9 o'clock street

Biking down the 9 o’clock street

Climbing brightly lit plexiglass sculptures.

Climbing brightly lit plexiglass sculptures.

Watching the sunrise in front of a laser-cut wooden gorgeous Temple

Watching the sunrise in front of a laser-cut wooden gorgeous Temple

Hanging out with friends in a huge net-hammock seat.

Hanging out with friends in a huge net-hammock seat.

Comparing beard lengths

Comparing beard lengths

Dressing as Jeff with a beard - he was only slightly amused. I didn't keep it on for long because it was too hot!

Dressing as Jeff with a beard – he was only slightly amused. I didn’t keep it on for long because it was too hot!

Beard reprisal.

Beard reprisal.

Beard buddies

Beard buddies

Night adventures

Night adventures

Giant crocodile art installation

Giant crocodile art installation

Biking down a path towards the temple

Biking down a path towards the temple

Open playa

The Man - the tallest one they've ever built

The Man – the tallest one they’ve ever built

It was hard to get him into my lens

It was hard to get him into my lens

Surrounded by souks in the spirit of the Caravansary theme.

Surrounded by souks in the spirit of the Caravansary theme.

The Canadians filled their souk with useful items for rent.

The Canadians filled their souk with useful items for rent.

Meeting in front of the temple to drink champagne and watch the sunrise

Meeting in front of the temple to drink champagne and watch the sunrise

The Embrace sculpture you could go up into!

The Embrace sculpture you could go up into!

Looking through paper books in the library

Looking through paper books in the library

Getting ready to go out - camp style

Getting ready to go out – camp style

Because Burning Man is the only place a bear hat, hot pink tutu, geometric tights, moccasin boots and a leopard fur coat don't look out of place together.

Because Burning Man is the only place a bear hat, hot pink tutu, geometric tights, moccasin boots and a leopard fur coat don’t look out of place together.

My camera broke early on, so most of these pictures are stolen from Anna, Mary, Hannah and Alex. I was sad at the time, but it allowed me to truly live in the moment of being there. All too soon the week came to the final close and it was time to burn the Man:

Burn night

Burn night

Dusty burn night

Dusty burn night

Goodbye Man!

Goodbye Man!

Dusty friends

Dusty friends

We took one last shot of the best No Plan Camp ever…

Ben, Amy, Yoni, Alyssa,

Ben, Amy, Yoni, Alyssa, Anna, Mary, Jeff and I

…and headed home:

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Writing this post now so many months removed and just trying to spill all the pictures into place I’m remiss on too many things from that time to put on here. Burning Man stretches you to all the limits you knew you had and exposes you to new ones – I always come back in a weird state of refreshment and exhaustion and with a renewed hope in humanity.

This year I felt like I knew what I was doing (to the best you ever can); was integral to our (no) plan camp in ways I could’ve have been last year; and immersed myself in the community more (one morning I was one-handed biking through a dust storm, eating an Uncrustable sandwich on three hours of sleep to get to a volunteer shift at the airport and kind of felt completely normal about that). I hope life has many more Burns in store for us in the future.

In which we check one off: North Cascades National Park

For my birthday Jeff gave me a map of the US with all of the National Parks on it because he knows of my love of travel, my love of the outdoors and most of all, my love of checking things off lists.

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We hit a few of them on our way out here a few years ago (though sadly I didn’t know about the Wind Cave in South Dakota even though we were so close to it! Ahh!), and this weekend we checked another one off – the only one we were missing in Washington State: North Cascades National Park.

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#43

It’s only three hours drive north of Seattle now that WA 530 state route is back open after the Oso mudslide. We drove through the devastated area where 43 people died when the side of the mountain came crashing down one morning back in March. The road was early quiet – like driving through a graveyard.

State Route 530, opened one week ago on June 20th.

State Route 530, opened one week ago on June 20th.

The side of the mountain that came down and the destruction underneath.

The side of the mountain that came down and the destruction underneath.

We left after work on Friday and after fighting Seattle traffic, rain and some bad directions, we made it to the campsite with the last bit of our long Pacific Northwest daylight around 9:15pm, just enough to pick a spot and put up the tent. We had planned to use our air mattress like we had before in Yellowstone, only we hadn’t factored in that we had bought a larger size to replace the old one that died on my trip up to Whistler in January. It did not fit at all. But in the dark and pouring rain, all we could do was deflate it halfway and cram it in as best we could to get out of the wet – it filled up probably half of the tent by volume. We climbed in and managed to balance ourselves somewhat, now much closer to the tent roof and constantly readjusting our lopsided selves on top of the squishy behemoth. The air mattress at this point took on a life of its own; it was the third creature in our three-person, three-season tent. It felt like sleeping in what Jeff described as a half inflated fun house. It’s been years since I’ve slept outside where it rained hard throughout the entire night. I remembered that I do not miss that.

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John Muir in a letter to his sister, 1873

The next morning I managed to light the camp stove in what had let up to a light drizzle and we made coffee in the French press – it was much needed after the soggy, squished night. We then decided to hike up nearby Thunder Creek to the 4th of July Pass (it being close to the holiday and all and one of the only trails the park ranger said wasn’t covered in snow). We made it about 5 miles in the rain before deciding that we had had enough fun. A steep ascent had left us exposed on the side of an open mountain face and Jeff did not have adequate rain gear, so I made the call to turn back. It wasn’t fun rain. It wasn’t just deal with it rain. It was beat at you without tree cover, soak you to the bones rain. I’ve had hypothermia once before, many years ago and I wasn’t willing to repeat it.

Sometimes knowing when to turn back is just as important as knowing when to push on, even when it’s hard. We were close to the Pass and close to the top, but it was just getting too dangerous. It paralleled an experience I had had with a patient just the day before: a sweet kid with a medical condition that I could have easily precipitated into a medical emergency with a little stress of dental treatment. Sure, we could’ve gone ahead with the filling, and maybe nothing would have happened, but the conditions that day were just right for the makings of something more sinister and I had to make the call not to risk it. Same with the hike – we could have made it. Or because of today’s conditions, one of us could have gotten seriously hurt in the storm. The older I get, the easier it is to make the call. I think they call that maturity or something? Anyway, we got a few pictures of the old growth forest and Thunder Creek on the way down:

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Very wet Elise

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The water is milky blue green - from when the park's many glaciers have crushed the hills into fine power. This "mountain flour" mixes with the water and reflects the light to make it look this way.

The water is milky blue green – from when the park’s many glaciers have crushed the hills into fine powder. This “mountain flour” mixes with the water and reflects the light to make it look this way – it’s surreal.

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We ate lunch back at our campsite and spent the rest of the day driving around looking at things. A lot of the trails still aren’t open yet because of snow – crazy to think that even after the official start of summer things are still thawing out here!

The old faithful Jeep - still trucking.

The old faithful Jeep – still trucking after 189,679 miles..

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Overlooking Ross or Diablo Lake

It was freezing cold and still raining.

It was freezing cold and still raining.

Diablo Lake

Diablo Lake

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More clouds moving in – time to get back in the car

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Peaks peaking through

Around this time I began to feel very sick from lunch. We had grabbed to-go sandwiches from the grocery store since this was a last minute camping trip and we hadn’t had time to prepare well. Something in mine did not sit properly with me and I was struggling. This, coupled with the prospect of another rainy sleepless night in a deflated fun house of a tent, was too much. I called it again, for the second time in one day. The reason there are no pictures of our very picturesque campsite in Colonial Creek (right by a very blue lake in an old growth forest, really a spectacular spot) is because we packed everything in ten minutes of this decision and headed home.

I was fully reminded and humbled that June is not a summer month here. No matter what the calendar says, July 4th is the official start. This post on reading it highlights a lot of horrible things on our 28 hours trip up north – but it was in fact actually really good to 1) check off a new, and beautiful National Park and 2) get our bearings for when we come back. It’s too close and too pretty not to return. When it stops raining.

In which we Burned the Man (Part I)

Last week Jeff and I went to Burning Man, the weeklong event held once a year in the northern Nevada desert to celebrate creativity, self-reliance and community. Trying to describe it is often compared with the attempt of trying to describe color to a blind person, but this BuzzFeed article comes close. It’s huge (68,000 people – temporarily becoming Nevada’s 3rd largest city), crazy (24 hours of non-stop music, light and people) and just simply wonderful. We went with 28 strangers in our camp who quickly became lifelong friends, bawled our eyes out at one of the most beautiful marriage ceremonies we’ve ever attended and learned to embrace the “Burner Culture” founded on the Ten Principles (which basically boil down to: “Get your shit together and also love everyone”).

The alkaline dust that coats everything is pervasive and corrosive, so I didn’t take my camera out much. The following pictures are the ones I did take in an attempt to document one my favorite weeks I’ve been alive, and due credit is given for the (much better) photos I’ve borrowed.

Tickets - check. Camelback - check. Crazy fur costumes - check.

Tickets – check. Camelback – check. Crazy fur costumes – check.

Our group right before we left. To be honest at this point I knew only one or two names. Now I love these people so much.

Our group right before we left. To be honest at this point I knew only one or two names. Now I love these people so much.
Top of truck: Tyson. Back row LtR: Ben, Mikey, Spencer, Me, Jeff, Josh, Andrea, Symon, Ashley, Matt, Phil, Amy, Mary. Front row LtR: Anna, Yoni and Eric.

Two of the Principles of Burning Man are Radical Self Reliance and Decommodification - Basically you've got to bring everything for the week with you, there is no food to be bought in the desert. As a camp we coordinated food for 30+ people for a week and signed up for shifts to cook it (Jeff and I had Thursday night: Chicken teriyaki with rice and veggies).

Packing and labeling the food
Two of the Principles of Burning Man are Radical Self Reliance and Decommodification – Basically you’ve got to bring everything for the week with you, there is no food to be bought in the desert. As a camp we coordinated food for 30+ people for a week and signed up for shifts to cook it (Jeff and I had Thursday night: Chicken teriyaki with rice and veggies).

We left Seattle on Saturday afternoon at 3:10p and arrived in Black Rock City at 5:30a Monday morning.

We left Seattle on Saturday afternoon at 3:10p and arrived in Black Rock City at 5:30a Monday morning. Our camp’s theme was Owl Town and “Hoot” was the adorable mascot for the Jeep.

Stopping somewhere in Oregon to try down the tarps. Our little caravan held 3 vehicles, 2 trailers and 15 people with enough supplies to last us a week in some pretty hard conditions.

Stopping somewhere in Oregon to try down the tarps.
Our little caravan held 3 vehicles, 2 trailers and 15 people with enough supplies to last us a week in some pretty extreme conditions.

The view when you're caravanning.

The view when you’re caravanning behind your friends’ trailer for hours.

We finally made it through the gate and into camp as the sun was rising. The first shape I could make out was a ship. Yes, a ship with masts parked next to our tent. It was the first of many "art cars" we would see out on the playa.

We finally made it through the gate and into camp as the sun was rising on Monday morning. The first shape I could make out was a ship. Yes, a ship with masts parked next to our tent. It was the first of many “art cars” we would see out on the playa.

I stole this picture from this flikr page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/thelastminute/7964064238/). There are three ways to get around Burning Man: Walking (it's realllllly far, and realllllly dusty); Biking (on your decorated bike of course); or by hopping on one of these art cars which are just amazing.

This is the ship I had my first glance of. I stole this picture from this flikr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thelastminute/7964064238/.
There are three ways to get around Burning Man: Walking (it’s realllllly far, and realllllly dusty); Biking (on your decorated bike of course); or by hopping on one of these art cars which are just amazing.

And then I put my camera away for three days because of the dust and constant running around and doing things. The art that people bring to display on the playa (read: large, flat, dry, dusty, prehistoric lake bed) is incredible and more pops up each day. We rode our bikes for hours trying to see it all and then when we’d get tired we’d sit and chat with people from all over the globe.

On Wednesday we had the really cool chance to go up in a plane with some skydivers to see the city from the air. One of the members of our camp had put us in contact with the members of Burning Sky, the camp that organizes planes to take skydivers up over Black Rock City and some observers along with them.

We met at their camp on the other end of the playa and a plane art car took us out to the airport. It's a temporary airport that exists, like everything else in the city, for only one week out of the year.

We met at their camp on the other end of the playa and a plane art car took us out to the airport. It’s a temporary airport that exists, like everything else in the city, for only one week out of the year.

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They fit all of the observers with parachutes as well with only two instructions: “If the pilot tells you to get out, get out. Next, pull the cord next to your heart”. I’d only been skydiving once – I really didn’t want to do it again.

All parachuted up and ready to go

All parachuted up and ready to go

Ready for the skydivers to exit the plane.

Ready for the skydivers to exit the plane.

Black Rock City from the air. It was incredibly dusty on the day we went up, so the picture quality isn't great. I was just amazing by how HUGE it is. Seriously, for one week it's the 3rd largest city in Nevada - and then a week later it all just disappears.

Black Rock City from the air.
It was incredibly dusty on the day we went up, so the picture quality isn’t great. I was just amazing by how HUGE it is. Seriously, for one week of the year it’s the 3rd largest city in Nevada – and then a week later it all just disappears.

To give you some idea of scale. Stolen from here (http://www.buzzfeed.com/kevintang/53-things-i-learned-at-burning-man)

To give you some idea of scale. Stolen from here (http://www.buzzfeed.com/kevintang/53-things-i-learned-at-burning-man).
The streets are laid out in a radial pattern – from 2 to 10 o’clock and then the concentric circles are alphabetized out from the center from A to L. We were camped at 8:20 and E – so just to the right of that 9’o clock line in the picture, about halfway out (kinda near the “9”). The man is in the center of the empty area known as the playa.

We survived our airplane trip without having to use the parachutes!

We survived our airplane trip without having to use the parachutes! Our plane art car made it back to the Burning Sky camp about the same time that the skydivers did!

More to come.

In which we go to Glacier (Part II)

We’re starting to perfect our camping skills as an offshoot of our “throw two bags in the car and go” skills. This time came the added challenge of sharing our adventure with some toothy wildlife:

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Our campsite had recently had some bear sightings and the Ricky Rangers were out warning everyone to keep their food secure.

We ate all our meals out of the picnic basket that was a wedding present from my grandparents. They have the sweetest tradition that each grandchild is given a picnic basket and a family Bible when they marry. I love that this one is part traditional basket and part cooler on the bottom; we’re certainly getting some miles out of it!

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DSC_0596 One of our favorite camping foods is “drunk fruit” which we invented in Yellowstone and made for this trip. The recipe is a jar of fruit, drain (drink) some of the liquid and then add back in your favorite spirit. Shake occasionally and then enjoy.

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This time it was mangoes, peaches and rum.

For dinner we feasted on hotdogs and baked beans over a pretty darn good fire:

DSC_0607We ended the night sharing some marshmallow roasting techniques with sweet retired man at the campsite next to us. The secret is a good looped wire, focusing on the second mallow and lots of turning. He gifted us his homemade roasting wire as a present before he left. Thanks kind sir! Whenever we make perfectly roasted mallows we’ll think of you and your kind lessons!

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Good morning! Our new snuggle sleeping bags from REI worked great!

The next morning we drove the Going-To-The-Sun Road in reverse:

Saint Mary's Lake

Saint Mary’s Lake

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Saint Mary's Lake with Wild Goose Island in the background.

Saint Mary’s Lake with the small dot of Wild Goose Island in the background.

Jackson Glacier, one of the only glaciers you can see from the Going-To-The-Sun Road (those other things are ice packs).

Jackson Glacier, one of the only glaciers you can see from the Going-To-The-Sun Road (those other white things in the pictures aren’t glaciers, they’re ice and snow packs).

Did you know in 1890 there were a 125 glaciers in GNP? Now there are only 25 and they’re all projected to disappear by 2030. Weird and sad to think I won’t be able to take my grandchildren to see this.

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This road hugs the mountain so intimately

Back down the mountains. This road hugs the mountain so intimately

Jeff loved driving this road - you can see the incredible panoramic views we were treated to.

Jeff loved driving this road – you can see the incredible panoramic views we were treated to.

One last stop at Logan's Pass

One last stop at Logan’s Pass

DSC_0650Thanks Glacier for the chance to come back and see more of your beauty! 

Soon it was time to head back towards the West. As we passed out of Montana we were reminded of how much beauty our untamed neighbor has:

Fields the same shade of yellow highlighters are apparently a flower being grown as an experimental biofuel

Fields the same shade of yellow highlighters are apparently a flower being grown as an experimental biofuel

The vastness is indescribable

The vastness is indescribable

Roads are sweet that lead to home

Roads are sweet that lead to home

We crossed into Eastern Washington which looks for all intensive purposes, like Kansas – flat and agricultural. It’s miles upon miles of peas, Timothy hay, wheat, corn and potatoes:

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Our Jeep is still holding up well, if only a little dusty after this latest jaunt. We’re at 181,143 and counting. You’ve got miles to go little Jeep. Miles to go.

Those are windmills in the background over the Columbia River Gorge

Those are windmills in the background over the Columbia River Gorge

And so ends a road trip that was all at once beautiful, long, refreshing, quick, enlightening and so, so worth it. Until our next adventure!

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In which we go to Glacier (Part I)

Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park in June 2012.

The view from our hotel room of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park in June 2012. Doesn’t it make you want more?

Last year on our trip out West, we tried to hit a lot of the highlights on a drive across the northern US. We got to see a lot of cool things: YellowstoneMount Rushmore, the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, etc, but we when we got to Glacier National Park in June the highlight of the park, the Going-To-The-Sun Road was closed for snow. To be fair, it was gorgeous all the same and the folks at the National Park Service would like to let you know there are other things to do, but it just seemed we were missing the whole main experience.

This picture, from the same place as the picture above, is the image on my work computer desktop and iPad  background

This picture, from the same place as the picture above only the next morning, I love so much. It is the image on my work computer desktop and iPad background

Jeff and I were hiking around a cool little urban pocket wilderness, Tiger Mountain State Park outside Issaquah, last week when we started talking about our move last year that had us chasing the ever lapping sun:

Me: You know the only thing I regret about that trip is that we didn’t get to drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road.
Jeff: Well, let’s do it next weekend.
Me: What?
Jeff: Yeah. I mean, we can do it. You’re not on call. It’s possible to get there in a day. We can do it, so we should do it if you want. 

And that’s one of the many reasons I married him. I’m thankful for his spirit of adventure and his insistence that we seize the opportunities we have control of. It’s a nice lesson to be reminded to do things if you can in fact, do them.

So that’s how on Thursday night we found ourselves in the insanely cool REI headquarters downtown, dodging mountain bikers on a tree lined test path and climbing out of the parking garage with its very own waterfall, to buy some sleeping bags:

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Inside REI Headquarters

And then on Friday after work, heading out on yet another Team Sarvas road trip. Just East this time:

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Just a 2 day, 1200 mile road trip. No big deal.

The original plan was to make it to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, just across the Washington state line to spend the night. When we got there though all hotels there and in nearby Spokane were booked. All. Of. Them. A helpful hotel clerk told us that our only real option was to continue driving 40 miles east and hopefully Kellogg, ID would have something. It was approaching midnight, but what could we do? So we kept trucking on, the whole time trying to call ahead, but failing due to losing signal in the mountains. The desk clerk at the almost full Silver Mountain Resort seemed sad that all he had to offer was a studio room, but perked up when I told him that he was my new favorite person and we’d take it! Yay for a bed and a shower after a long day of clinic and an even longer day of driving.

After a goodnight’s sleep and hearty breakfast we set out again and reached Glacier around 1pm. And then we started to climb. I’ll just let the pictures tell the story from here (though they do not begin to do it justice):

Stopping for lunch on the way up.

Stopping for lunch on the way up.

Adult lunchables!

Salami, cheeses, fancy crackers = Adult lunchables!

It's not being in the woods without some good ol' raisins and peanuts (and M&Ms, granola and banana chips..).

It’s not being in the woods without some good ol’ raisins and peanuts (and M&Ms, granola and banana chips..).

The road is carved into the sides of the mountains. Obviously Jeff drove and I tried to keep my fear of heights down to a dull roar.

The road is carved into the sides of the mountains. Obviously Jeff drove and I tried to keep my fear of heights down to a dull roar.

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Rim Rock

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You can see why the road is sometimes closed - they have to clear thousands of pounds of snow each year.

You can see why the road is sometimes closed – they have to clear thousands of cubic feet of snow each year.

It’s crazy the amount of snow they clear each year. The park even employs professional avalanche experts to test things out. Pictures from this year’s clearing can be found here. Check them out – they are indescribable!

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So excited we got to do this!

Logan's Pass Visitor Center

Logan’s Pass Visitor Center

Bighorn sheep just chilling in the sunshine

Bighorn sheep just chilling in the sunshine

Continental Divide - 6646 ft

Continental Divide – 6646 ft

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DSC_0557The entire road is about 50 miles long and once we reached the end of it and therefore the east side of Glacier, we decided to camp for the night and snagged one of 4 camping spots left. We certainly cut the obtaining of nightly lodging thin on this trip, but both nights we were fortunately okay! (But seriously, with two tents AND the Jeep, which we’ve definitely slept in before, are you really ever out of nightly shelter?).

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Perk: The Rising Sun campground was right next to the Rising Sun Motor Inn which meant hot coffee in the morning!

We set up our new (to us) tent to test it out for a camping trip we’re planning later in the summer and started dinner. Just in case the blue one didn’t work we had my favorite small yellow Marmot I’ve had forever in the car as backup.

Not too shabby lodgings

Not too shabby

I feel I've inundated this post with too many pictures already, so more in the next post.

I feel I’ve inundated this post with too many pictures already, so more later.

Yellowstone – Part 1

My experience as far as large, popular national parks has primarily been with the Great Smokey Mountains NP which was basically in my backyard. I grew up hiking all through its backcountry, taking field and family trips to Cades Cove and falling in love with nature on its gentle sloping peaks. On all my many backpacking trips (including 71 miles of the AT in the park  completed over several years) I admit that in addition to learning to cherish and respect the Great Outdoors I also developed some snobbery towards the 95% of the visitors that visit the park every year and only leave their cars for pancake breakfasts and all you can eat buffets.

13 year old Elise

I saw such awesome views in the backcountry and felt such peace in the solitude of walking miles without seeing another person that I never understood how they could only drive through such a minute part of it all crowded together.

When planning our trip to Yellowstone I resigned myself to knowing we were going to have to be in that 95% of driving fools in order to see a lot and continue West (you know, that whole starting residency thing and all). The Smokies and her highlights are easily visitable if you put in a good, long day of driving so I assumed we could do the same in Yellowstone.

I stole this from: http://www.yellowstonenationalpark.com/maps.htm
We came in the East Entrance and camped in Bridge Bay

The original plan was to spend two full days in the park: Day 1 driving both upper and lower loops and on Day 2 take a good long hike in the backcountry to cleanse my conscience of being a car tourist from the previous day.

We got into the park late after driving across Wyoming and set up camp in Bridge Bay.

Driving into the park.
View across Yellowstone Lake to the snow capped mountains beyond.

7735ft up!

Home Sweet Tent

We were really lucky to discover that the air mattress we brought to tide us over for our first few nights in Seattle fit perfectly into the tent I’ve had since I was 14. Its an old Marmot tent, but I love this thing despite its funky smells and the fact I have to McGuyver one of the tent poles into its holder. Its been all over with me and now Jeff too: from camping on Cape Lookout to camping for a spot to secure our wedding date for the Duke Chapel:

Now we can add Yellowstone to its long history!

Jeff and I made delicious fried bologna and cheese sandwiches over a campfire for dinner. The best part about this type of camp food (and something we’ve learned from experience) is that even if you can’t get a fire going you can still eat it. Fortunately this wasn’t a problem this time!

Jeff making dinner

Mmm.. delicious!

While we were eating some jarred fruit for dessert, Jeff had the brilliant idea to mix some of the alcohol we brought with some and Drunk Fruit was born! Recipe: some rum in a jar of mangos and bourbon in a jar of pears to taste. Shake well. Later we mixed it with our remaining jars of fruit to marinate it until the next night’s dinner – highly recommend this, it turned out incredibly!

We were woefully unprepared for how cold it would be to camp in Yellowstone in June (apparently the week before sixteen inches of snowfall had shut down all the entrances trapping everyone in – or out). It was a long, frigid night so we weren’t in the mood to eat our cold granola bars for breakfast when morning finally broke. We decided to check out one of the nearby lodges on the map to see if we could at least get some coffee – for me to warm up my bones and for Jeff so he could function as a person. I’m pretty sure that if coffee wasn’t readily available we would have had to leave Yellowstone before we’d even started.

The Lake Lodge was quaint and had that old 1960’s Parent Trap camp charm about it and had a wonderfully hot and reasonably priced breakfast. We asked, but they didn’t have any rooms for the following night so we decided we’d just try and find another blanket at a gift shop later in the day for the next night.

Inside Lake Lodge – sorry for the quality

Best part for Jeff – they left the coffee pot on the table! Feeling a million times better after some caffeine, food and warmth we started out on our ambitious plan to drive the entire park in a day.

First stop: West Thumb Geyser Basin

West Thumb Geyser Basin

Underwater geyser in Lake Yellowstone with the mountains in the background

Or else you will die. Seriously – they’ve had many deaths in Yellowstone from stupid or unfortunate people. When we were driving in we had seen some steam coming off an area on the side of the road and I had gotten out to investigate only to run into one of these signs. Part of me wanted to ignore it and keep going, but fortunately didn’t and was really glad I had after reading about all the accounts of people being steamed to death the next day. We can leave that fate for the lobsters thank you.

The different colors correspond to different species of bacteria that thrive at different temperatures. Ergo, the color tells you how hot it is – that beautiful blue being the hottest

I knew we weren’t even to the big draws like Old Faithful and spouting geysers yet – but my inner nerd was going berserk! I MEAN SO COOL!! You have these pockets of earth that are steaming against this unreal backdrop of snow capped mountains and this gorgeous lake – ah! It was enough to inundate the senses. Seriously, coolest thing ever, ever, ever. We had to walk along these beautifully maintained boardwalks because the Earth’s crust is incredibly thin and you could step through into the magma. Science and danger. Love it!

And all this before 10am.