In which we took a day trip to Mount Rainier

You know you’re going to miss a place when you can go on a random Thursday afternoon road trip with your awesome neighbors to say goodbye to your favorite mountain.

It started off cloudy

It started off cloudy

We stopped at the Box Canyon on the way - it was such a steep and narrow drop that a picture doesn't adequately encompass it.

We stopped at the Box Canyon on the way – it was such a steep and narrow drop that a picture doesn’t adequately encompass it.

We hiked the short Grove of the Patriarchs that we think should be renamed - or at least get us our own Matriarch Grove.

We hiked the short Grove of the Patriarchs that we think should be renamed – or at least get us our own Matriarch Grove.

The trail was short, but full of giants.

The trail was short, but full of giants.

And required crossing a cool bridge.

And required crossing a cool bridge.

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There were plenty of photos taken, but none do it complete justice.

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Anna's water bottle to commemorate her first time at Mount Rainier matches mine.

Anna’s water bottle to commemorate her first time at Mount Rainier matches mine.

The largest trees had a built walkway around them.

The largest trees had a built walkway around them.

You couldn't help but look UP.

You couldn’t help but look UP.

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Giants.

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So lucky.

Is this real life? Is this Thursday?

Is this real life? Is this Thursday?

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When we emerged from the forest we caught our first glimpse of the Mountain. She had been obscured by clouds all day.

When we emerged from the forest we caught our first glimpse of the Mountain. She had been obscured by clouds all day.

See?! She is SO BIG!

See?! She is SO BIG!

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I have amazing friends

I have amazing friends

After stopping at all the view points, we popped into the Paradise Visitor’s Center. Seattle may be getting ready to slide into the sea in the coming Big Earthquake, but we’re safe if Rainier erupts:

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The clouds obscured the summit before we were done - so we headed home.

The clouds obscured the summit before we were done – so we headed home.

I will miss this Mountain and all her beauty. I will miss my dear friends. I will miss all of this so much. But how lucky am I that I have so much good to miss?

I will miss this Mountain and all her beauty. I will miss my dear friends. I will miss all of this so much. But how lucky am I that I have so many amazing things to miss?

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In which we go on our Graduation-moon, Part I: Haleakala

Jeff and I decided to take a celebratory trip after graduation. Twenty-three grades, four degrees and two certificates now under my belt; we both needed a vacation. Since we are currently “so close” to Hawaii and neither of us had been it was an easy choice. Picking the island was a little harder – but we narrowed it down to Maui or the Big Island in part because they both have national parks. Maui won out and I’m so glad we picked it – we had an incredible time!

Po'olenalena Beach

Po’olenalena Beach

The first day on the island we picked up our 2015 Nissan Rogue (thank you Priceline for letting me bid on an incredible deal – having an SUV was a fun luxury) and drove to our VRBO condo in Kihei. The Rogue was brand new – only 520 miles on it. We would double that amount on our adventures. Most of the rest of the first day was spent sleeping, which was much needed after the hustle that was finishing residency and my final graduation. The second day we explored our nearby beaches (Kama’ole I, Po’olenalena, Makena Landing and Big Beach), snorkeled in among the reefs (and saw sea turtles!) and ate the best lobster of my life at Mama’s Beach House. It was so good we went back for the only other reservation available during our time there and we both ordered it again! My Aunt Teresa and Uncle Larry would be proud of us – we toasted with Cakebread chardonnay – from one of their favorite vineyards.

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Wednesday we woke late and had a lazy brunch at Chez Meme in Kihei after seeing the line for the other popular breakfast spot, Kihei Caffe, was going to be an hour long. It was a great choice – they had delicious mimosas and french toast and a couple of freshly baked pastries ended up coming home with us for later.

After relaxing on our beach, we drove to Pai’a and picked up a picnic lunch and dinner from the Hana Picnic Lunch Company and began the winding, foggy drive up the volcano.Most of the drive was in thick clouds – so much so that the car in front of us just gave up and stopped driving in the middle of the road. They insisted on waving me around by way of the oncoming lane – a scary proposition considering it was so hazy I couldn’t see the front of their car, but we made it. The road snaked through the Maui high country, then into deep coniferous forests and then out into fields that looked like Scottish moors. We finally emerged from the soup into a landscape that looked more like the moon than a tropical island:

Emerging

Emerging

At the top we ate our lunch sitting on beach chairs in the parking lot and took in the visitor’s center. You could see over into Science City where national space observatories and secret Air Force tracking facilities are housed.

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The road into Science City. The pale blue ocean is separated from the sky by a thin line of clouds on the horizon.

At the observatory

At the observatory

After lunch we started on the first of many hikes that we’d take on our visit here: Keonehe’ehe’e,  or as we called it, Sliding Sands Trail down into the crater of the Haleakala volcano.

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You can see some of the cinder cones in the right of this picture. Each one marks a different eruption.

While it looks warm the temperatures hovered in the mid-70s since we were 10,000 feet above sea level. Every step you take going down this trail makes you acutely aware that you will have to come back up the other way soon enough. We marked our progress by time – one hour down in order to give ourselves two hours to return. We were pleasantly surprised it only took us an hour and a half to climb out though.

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Clouds rising off the western shores of Maui and cooling as they reached us. It felt so good.

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Like walking on the moon

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I don’t even care if this picture is sappy. We needed this vacation! We’re done! We made it!

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You can take the girl out of the South.. but you can’t keep her from hiking in a skirt.

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Stepping off the trail damages sensitive roots of endangered plants and wrecks the fragile ecosystem

These are 'ahinahina plants - also known as Haleakala silversword. They are found here and no where else on earth.

These are ‘ahinahina plants – also known as Haleakala silversword. They are found here and no where else on Earth.

Their Hawaiian name means

Their Hawaiian name means “grey grey” – the closest word the ancient Polynesians had considering they had never seen silver metal. They are only found at elevations above 6,900 ft on this island and came close to extinction due to cattle grazing and people taking them for ornamental purposes.

They are like salmon - they bloom once in their 15 - 40 year life spans, and then they die.

We were lucky enough to see one in flower – they bloom once in their 15 – 40 year life spans, spread their seeds, and then they die.

Overlooking the crater on the way back up.

Overlooking the crater on the way back up.

After hiking we hung out around the summit waiting for twilight.

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Feeling on top of the world.

Feeling on top of the world. This is looking towards the north – strange to think there is nothing but water until you reach Alaska.

Sunrise and sunset on Haleakala have taken on a mythical event status for Maui tourists. Most people (in the throws of jet lag, I’m convinced) rise at ungodly hours, drive up that windy road in the dark and watch the golden light rise from the ocean. Many then bike down afterwards. Neither rising early on our vacation, nor hurdling down the side of a 10,000 ft mountain, white-knuckled and potentially ruining my newly-earned career that needs fully functioning hands, appealed to us, so sunset it was:

Moon rise over the observatory.

Moon rise over the observatory.

Everyone gathered for the sunset. Bonus for being crepuscular later - less people to share the summit with.

Everyone gathered for the sunset. Bonus for being crepuscular later – less people to share the summit with.

Another spin around done.

Another spin done.

I loved how it bathed the volcano with it's last rays.

I loved how it bathed the volcano with it’s last rays.

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Changed into warmer clothes for the plunging temperatures.

Going, going...

Going, going…

...and gone.

…and gone.

I became mildly obsessed with taking pictures of the tiny people silhouetted by the setting sun on the rim of the crater. It just looked so cool:

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As the last bits of light settled out of view we retreated to the Rogue to rest and eat our picnic dinner while it got really good and dark. I wanted to try to take pictures of the stars since we were in one of the best places on Earth to see them. Unfortunately a brilliant full moon wrecked our plans to see the Milky Way, but it was cool nonetheless:

Too many lights

Too many lights

Kahului from above. While the full moon ruined plans for some spectacular stargazing we did see Jupiter and Venus at their closest point in the sky in 2,000 years. Some think that the last time they were so close together was the inspiration for the Star of Bethlehem.

The town of Kahului from above. While the full moon ruined plans for some spectacular stargazing we did see Jupiter and Venus at their closest point in the sky in 2,000 years (upper left corner – the big dot is Venus, the smaller one to the right, Jupiter). Some think that the last time they were so close together was the inspiration for the Star of Bethlehem.

Despite the full moon, it's easy to see why you would put an observatory up here - it's so far from light and air pollution you feel as if you could reach up and graze the sky with your fingers.

Despite the full moon, it’s easy to see why you would put an observatory up here – it’s so far from light and air pollution you feel as if you could reach up and graze the sky with your fingers.

We ended our full day crawling slowly back down the mountain, listening to the Rolling Stones and Jimmy Buffet and planning our next adventure on the island.

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 take a hike

Ever since the hike Jeff planned to Tiger Mountain State Park last summer (which inspired our Glacier road trip the very next weekend), he’s been saying that it’s my turn to plan one. We’ve been a bit busy around here so it’s taken me a while, but we were finally able to get out of town and head north to Deception Pass State Park near Anacortes, WA.

Pictures from our Rosario Head to Lighthouse Point hike:

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Bowman Bay

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Deception Island and Puget Sound in the background

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Lyrics from I and Love and You by the Avett Brothers

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Rocky beach walls

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Bridge over Deception Pass. There are no toll cameras per AMC's The Killing story plot thoug.

Bridge over Deception Pass. There are no toll cameras per AMC’s The Killing story plot though.

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Hidden cove

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Cloudy day, but we had a few peaks of sun.

Cloudy day, but we had a few peaks of sun and it didn’t rain.

Sandy hiking

Sandy hiking

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The grayness here is subtly beautiful.
We had some great views over the Sound and even got to see a few sea otters!

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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.

In which we visited Pittsburgh!

When I sat down to think about it, I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve visited my “in-laws”. Jeff’s been back to Pittsburgh for a few of his friends’ weddings last summer, but I’ve been stuck in residency and Pennsylvania was way out of the way for our coast to coast road trip. The holidays saw me taking call and us not wanting to brave the airports during the crazy holiday travel time and so here we are, a year and a few months after the wedding, and finally getting together!

Our flight on Thursday morning from Seattle was delayed for a maintenance issue which meant that we missed our connection in Chicago. Unfortunately this meant that the 45 minute layover turned into 8 hours.. ugh! But we utilized our time wisely to watch some March Madness:

IMG_1536In the Chicago Midway airport there is a very small Terminal C which has about 3 gates. Normally it’s quite empty so you can spread out, find a plug and set up camp if you’re there for too long. You’re welcome if you’re laid over there for an extended period of time. Thank you last year’s interview season for helping me find this spot. Please don’t let the secret get out.

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We never check bags anymore because of our rotten luck in airports.

Unfortunately because of the delay we lost almost an entire day of an already short trip. Ugh! But we tried to make the most of our next few days with lots of basketball watching, setting up Jeff’s parents’ new computer and eating delicious home cooked prime rib. On Saturday we headed first to Washington, PA to indulge in some Shorty’s:

Shorty's storefront

Shorty’s storefrontHotdog and hamburger with the special chili, mustard and onions and a large fries with gravy. Total cost: $4.05

Hotdog and hamburger with the special chili, mustard and onions and a large fries with gravy. Total cost: $4.05
Shorty's Menu(picture form HollyEats.com)

Shorty’s Menu
(picture form HollyEats.com)

Lunch counter

Lunch counter

This is the place that I fell in love with fries and gravy – so good! Jeff’s dad Paul has been going here for over 50 years and says the place hasn’t changed a bit. I don’t think we’ve ever spent more than 10 total minutes inside, including ordering, eating and paying – it’s the original fast food. Last time Jeff and I were driving through PA we stopped, but it wasn’t open and I’ve been disappointed for the last two years – glad we got a taste of it this time around!

We continued on south to go to the dog track to bet on the greyhound races at Wheeling Island. I’ve been several times with Jeff and his family and they’re pretty good at it, but I’ve always been terrible. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to look at the names and watch the dogs (did you know that Saturday was also National Puppy Day??), but I do not have the handicapping ability that comes with years of practice.

Jeff studying the program to pick the best dogs

Jeff studying the program to pick the best dogs

Jeff and his dad waiting for the winners to be announced

Jeff’s dad started off the first race winning a big trifecta! I just circled random things in my booklet like I knew what I was doing: IMG_1548

To be fair, I’ve learned a lot in all our trips down there – I actually know now what a quinella and a trifecta mean and I can at least read what all the little numbers in the book mean after warming up on a couple of races. But usually I just give the track money. But then it happened! I looked at my trifecta ticket and the first two numbers matched first and second place, but third was contested and they had to go a photo finish:

IMG_1555By a nose #6 was third!! And it was the largest trifecta payout of the day! Whoo! I can see why people can get into this gambling thing 🙂 We all had a great day with the dogs, minus Jeff, but he makes a very cute anchor.

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We caught up with Jason, Jeff’s best man for dinner and a few beers later that evening. He’s finishing up his PhD in Economics at Carnegie Mellon and we tried to convince him to move out to Seattle, but I don’t think he was buying it. Good luck with the final parts of your thesis and come visit!

Jeff and Jason

Jeff and Jason – sorry for the blurriness, my phone was dying from checking my March Madness bracket too many times

And then this morning, it all came to a much too fast close and we headed back to the airport. Thanks for the wonderful trip Paul and Mary Fran! And thanks for my birthday presents – I read half of the book on the plane back! Can’t wait to see you all again (hopefully soon)!

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Fortunately no unexpectedly long layovers on the way back, but still plenty of time to catch up on March Madness:

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And we made it back to a gorgeous Seattle spring day in time to catch Duke’s win over Creighton (the only advantage of a 9:40pm east coast start time). Good job Devils – sweet sixteen bound!

Unconsciously we both wore plaid flannel shirts this morning. We totally fit in on the plane full of people clad in flannels and outdoor gear - a dead giveaway that the plane was headed to the Pacific Northwest.

Unconsciously we both wore plaid flannel shirts this morning. We totally fit in on the plane full of people clad in similar shirts and outdoor gear – a dead giveaway that the plane was headed to the Pacific Northwest.