Archive for August, 2009

Yellowstone… Take 3

Monday, August 31st, 2009
Elk neighbors

Elk neighbors

Our campsite at Grant Village was a convenient location for reacquainting ourselves with our kayaks.  Chris tested out the waters first and found himself surrounded by wildlife.  He not only found himself surrounded by elk, but also several birds and a swimming otter.

Brenda learns to paddle

Brenda learns to paddle

Brenda and Kim set out the next day to see the West Thumb Geyser Basin from the water.  It was a perfect afternoon to be on the water, blue skies and calm seas.  The view wasn’t half bad either.

Thermal activity view from the kayaks

Thermal activity view from the kayaks

It was wild to see the geyser basin from the water.  The steam rising, water bubbling, and the mini hot water falls into the water were quite surreal.  We even got close enough to feel the hot water, which freaked Brenda out a little.

On the campground trail

On the campground trail

After the kayaking, it was time to stretch their legs. A short jaunt around the campground was in order.  The trail meandered through the woods, along the shore of Yellowstone Lake, and across a cool suspension bridge.

Trail in the Gallatin NF

Trail in the Gallatin NF

While Kim and Brenda enjoyed the serene views on the lake, Chris set off on his motorcycle once again to explore the wildside in the surrounding National Forest.  He found some great trails and was having a blast when he unexpectantly became one with the ground. He went down pretty hard and came home earlier than expected with a sore shoulder. It does not appear to be anything too serious.

Backside of midway geyser basin

Backside of midway geyser basin

The next day the sun was shinning again. While Chris stayed back at camp to “lick his wounds”, Brenda and Kim set out to find Fairy Falls. It was an easy but hot hike to the falls, in direct sun the whole way. The first part of the trail paralleled the Midway Geyser Basin and the colors were fantastic.

Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls

Once at Fairy Falls, they spent a few minutes trying to capture the perfect timer shot, which was more challenging without Chris’s expertise.  From there they walked a little further to check out Imperial Geyer, small but active, set back from the hustle and bustle of the other geyser basins.  Out of water and a bit overheated they headed home to check on the invalid (don’t worry “moms” he is fine, just sore).

Clepsydra Geyser

Clepsydra Geyser

For Brenda’s last day in the park, we set out to hit all of the last “must see” spots. We stopped at Firehole Canyon and Firehole Drive to see some falls, cascades and geysers. At Fountain Paint Pots we caught some nice action.

On of the many springs at Midway Geyser Basin

On of the many springs at Midway Geyser Basin

Of course we had to stop at Midway Geyser Basin to share with Chris what we had spotted from our hike the day before. 

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

We had to take a photo op in front of Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest and most colorful hot spring in the park.

Mystic Falls

Mystic Falls

Our last stop of the day was a hike to Mystic Falls, which didn’t dissappoint. Having to burn off some calories, we continued on to the Biscuit Basin Overlook before heading back to the car.

No more hiking for Brenda

No more hiking for Brenda

Well, she did it.  Brenda managed to see all of the park’s highlights, and none the worse for wear… Although she didn’t agree at this moment in time.

Sunday was Brenda’s last day.  The ladies spent the day sightseeing in the Tetons (“no more hiking”, said Brenda) and shopping in Jackson Hole. The trip ended on a high note with a very nice dinner out and Scrabble in the hotel with a Hagen Daz chaser:)

Bye Bren, we’ll miss you!  See you in October.

Yellowstone… Take 2

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

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The past few days have been filled with geysers, canyons, colors, and waterfalls.  The weather has been more than cooperative and we have been taking advantage of it.  We spent a lot of time in the truck in what Scott would call “Bison Jams”.  They are all over the place and act as if they own the park… go figure.  We got a kick out of their parading down the road.

We walked around Yellowstone Canyon trying to capture views of the Upper and Lower Falls from various vantage points.  We hiked down to Red Rock, a great observation point to see Lower Falls from.  The hike back up was quite steep and we almost lost Brenda (she was up for the challenge). From there we stopped at the Mud Volcano area, which was on our way home.  Not as impressive as some of the other points of interest, but we did like Dragon’s Breath.

On Tuesday we moved to our new campsite at Grant Village.  We lucked out and got the site we requested which was overlooking the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake. We relished in a “REAL” campsite and enjoyed just hanging out the first day there. Who needs electricity and water.

On Wednesday, we finally made our way to the Old Faithful area.  We spent the better part of the day hiking around the upper and lower geyser basins.  We observed Old Faithful go off from two separtae vantage points during the afternoon.  Although it is predictable and relatively tall, there are many other more impressive geysers, springs, and pools in the surrounding basins.  Some of our favorite spots from the day were Grotto Geyser, Morning Glory Pool, and Chromatic Pool. We saw several other geysers go off as we happened by, which was a bonus. To top the day off… Giant raspberry/chocolate swirl ice creams in waffle cones, YUM!

Yellowstone… Take I

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009
Upper Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs

Upper Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs

After spending our first night in a Walmart parking lot, we arrived in Yellowstone on Thursday. The park entrance road was thin, twisty and turny and to complicate things, they were repainting the stripes. Fun with the camper in tow, only to be topped by the charging bison on the road we encountered as we rounded a corner. The excitement had begun. The first campground (Fishing Bridge), although full service, was pricey and tight (no fires allowed) but it was the only place that would fit us that night. After getting set up, we headed out on the motorcycles to find a better spot, which we did (Grant Village).  We will move there in a few days.

The Grand Tetons

The Grand Tetons

Brenda was due in on Friday, so we spent the day in Grand Tetons National Park, since it was close to the airport.  We had a great day hiking around Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. 

Best friends back together again

Best friends back together again

Brenda arrived without incident.  It was great to see her and she was excited to be here.  Our first day together, we headed out to do the upper loop of the park.  Our first stop was Virginia Cascades, an interesting cascading waterfall off the beaten path.

The Norris Geyser Basin

The Norris Geyser Basin

From there we went to the Norris Geyser Basin where we were all impressed by the multitude of colorful steam vents, acidic features, and geysers.

Constant Geyser

Constant Geyser

We were even lucky enough to see one of the unpredictable geysers going off.

Artist Paintpots

Artist Paintpots

After Norris we went to check out the mudpots and colorful springs at Artists Paintpots.

Lower Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs

Lower Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs

Another impressive stop was the travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs.  These terraces are formed by the calcium carbonate dissolved in the spring water. From there we made a few more stops as we worked our way back home.

Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River

We checked out several overlooks that showcased the Yellowstone River, as well as Undine and Tower Falls. There is so much more to see but we had to call it a day. 

Lola Pass

Lola Pass

Day two brought some cloudy skies.  We decided to divide and conquer once again.  Chris set off on his motorcycle to explore the National Forest just outside the northeast entrance. He found great roads and scenery, including many old abandoned mining camps.

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge

Although the weather was threatening, Brenda and Kim decided to do a few hikes around the Fishing Bridge area. First stop was a short jaunt to Natural Bridge tucked away in a small hilly area by Bridge Bay. After the hike the weather became more of a challenge so Brenda and Kim did some auto touring along the east entrance road hoping it might clear up.  Unfortunately, the rain was persistent so Scrabble under the awning won out.

Because of the thermal activity in the caldera where we are staying, this place is so different from every other place we have visited this trip. Hence the absurd number of pictures. Or maybe it is because we have such beautiful models this week…. Everyone is looking forward to what is next, as we have only explored half the park so far…

Glacier… The Rainy Season

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
Luke misses his spare

Luke misses his spare

On Wednesday of Luke’s visit it started raining and basically didn’t stop until he left on Monday. We considered flying Kim’s dad back out since he had such good weather karma.  Even though the weather didn’t cooperate we found things to occupy our time.  We had a lot of fun playing Wii, especially when Kim wasn’t a sore loser. We also frequented the movie theater in town.  They now consider us regulars and call us by name.

Hey look, it's not raining

Hey look, it's not raining

We tried to make the most of the times when the clouds parted and even fit in a campfire one night.  Luke made some killer pie iron sandwiches.  On several of the days the sun peaked through the clouds in the morning and the day looked promising. We would set out into the park for a hike, but to no avail.  We tried to do the Highline trail once again, only to be rained out after getting to the trailhead (which we couldn’t see, as the mountains were socked in with fog and rumours of recent snow). The good part about all of our trips into the park was the huckleberry milkshake joint we found and had to pass every time on our way home, yum!

Birds nest on Hungry Horse Reservoir

Birds nest on Hungry Horse Reservoir

The day before Luke left, the skies looked promising once again.  We decided to check out the Hungry Horse Reservoir and the Jewel Basin.  Our hope was to hike into one of the many lakes in that area.  It started off pretty good, however every time we went to get out of the truck for a hike, it started to rain… We enjoyed our car touring and even gathered some firewood in the National Forest.  We had a great time regardless of the rain and enjoyed having Luke visit.

What is the opposite of cubicle?

What is the opposite of cubicle?

Of course, the day after Luke left the sun came out. Rumor has it that  it rained in Webster… We finally made it to the Highline trail, which didn’t disappoint.  The trail runs just under the Continental Divide and offered great views the whole way.

Wildflowers on the Highline Trail

Wildflowers on the Highline Trail

Although it was a bit past peak, the wildflowers were very pretty adding color to the day.

Brave marmot

Brave marmot

There was a great deal of wildlife.  We saw several marmots who had no problem coming right up to us on the trail.

Braver bighorn sheep

Braver bighorn sheep

We thought the marmots were bold… We finally saw tons of male Big Horn Sheep who were enjoying grazing on the fauna.  They had no problem using the trail for themselves and would even block our way on occasion.  One time we had to head up the rocks to go around them as they wouldn’t move.  It was quite intimidating having a huge Big Horn stare you in the eyes from a few feet away.

Still finding snow on our hikes

Still finding snow on our hikes

Even in August we still found snow on the trail.

Grinnell Glacier

Grinnell Glacier

Since we are gluttons for punishment, we decided to add another 1.2 miles roundtrip to our already 11.6 mile hike.  Not only was it added mileage, it was a 900 foot elevation gain.  The view was worth it.  The peak of this spur trail sits right on the Continental Divide and looks down onto the Grinnell Glacier.  This, almost 13 mile hike, was the longest of the trip so far.  We were pretty pooped when we were done, but happy to have finally been able to do it.  3 times is a charm…  Tomorrow it’s off to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.

Glacier National Park

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

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St Mary Falls

St Mary Falls

We left Waterton NP happy that we were able to do the Crypt Lake trail.  We made it to Kalispel, just outside of Glacier, on Saturday afternoon and spent the day getting supplies and set up for Luke’s visit. He arrived safely at about midnight, after a long day with 3 flights.  We stayed up late chatting and catching up, going to bed around 2 AM Mountain Time.  Our first day was spent chillin’ around the campground and relaxing.  The next day we set out into the park on the motorcycles to ride the “Road to the Sun” road.  It would have been a better ride without the traffic and construction, however the views were outstanding. After making our way to the other side of the park we decided to take a walk/hike to several falls we had read about. We parked at Sun Point and made our way to Baring Falls, St. Mary Falls, and Virgina Falls.

Fun in the St Mary River

Fun in the St Mary River

Each of the falls were  more impressive than the last.  The intense blue of the rushing water at St. Mary Falls beckoned for you to jump in.  While working our way up to Virginia Falls there were several great “mini” falls, swimming holes, and jumping spots along the river.  We stopped to watch a family cheer on their kids as they jumped from a rock cliff into the ice cold water.

Virginia Falls

Virginia Falls

When we finally made it to Virginia Falls, we were pleasently surprised to be the only ones there.  We took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed a snack along the rocks as we listened to the water roar.

Luke, How do you feel after your first hike?

Luke, How do you feel after your first hike?

We didn’t set out to kill the boy, but after about 6 miles this is what he looked like.  As much as his butt hurt from riding on the back of Chris’s motorcycle, he couldn’t wait to get back on. It was a long day and by the time we got home we were all pretty pooped.

Bowman Lake

Bowman Lake

The next day, we opted for an “auto tour”, so Luke could rest up.  We headed for some less traveled areas of the park and stopped at Bowman Lake for a little while. The views were quite enjoyable, however the bugs started to carry us away. 

Luke is so sad rain canceled our second hike

Luke is so sad rain canceled our second hike

On Wednesday the plan was to tackle an 11.6 mile hike from Logan Pass along the Highline trail and back to our car via the Loop trail. When we woke up it was pretty gray and threatening.  Having fought the weather before, we packed for a day on the trail, ready for anything.  As we drove into the park it got worse and worse.  We stayed positive and grabbed a shuttle from the parking lot at the Loop trailhead up to Logan Pass.  The higher we got, the colder, cloudier, rainier, etc… the weather got.  When we stepped off the shuttle it started to pour and we couldn’t see 20 feet through the clouds (which we were in).  We tried to wait it out, but after 30 minutes we gave up and grabbed a shuttle back to the car with our tail between our legs after an unsuccessful attempt.  As you can see Luke was VERY disappointed about this.

Rain forced us to Plan B

Rain forced us to Plan B

Alright, back up plan. We had seen advertisements about “The House of Mystery”, a location known for having a vortex(s) causing weird things to happen on the property.  Both Chris and Luke had heard about it before and even saw/read about it.  We were all pretty skeptical and looked at it as just another tourist trap but what did we have to lose, it was raining and miserable outside, why not check it out.

Kim takes a snooze in the vortex

Kim takes a snooze in the vortex

After walking through some woods with crooked trees (of course caused by the pull from the vortex…) we happened upon, you got it, THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY. This house was mysteriously off camber(actually, it looks like it just slid off the side of the hill), allowing you to enjoy some play with gravitational forces (oh, we mean the vortex(s)).

The Vortex pops out an evil head from Chris' shoulder

The Vortex pops out an evil head from Chris' shoulder

We had fun trying to capture the moment. Is it real or is it memorex?

From there we headed home to watch some movies hoping the weather would break.

Waterton II, Crypt Lake Trail

Friday, August 7th, 2009
Prince of Whales hotel in sunshine

Prince of Wales hotel in sunshine

The plan was to leave Waterton NP and head into the US and Glacier NP this morning. Who would have “thunk” it, contrary to every weather forecast we saw, the sun decided to make an appearance.  We woke up to what could be interpreted as a sunny day.  Since our plans can be flexible and Luke wasn’t due until tomorrow, we decided to take the Crypt Lake trail afterall. We had to stop and recapture the Prince of Wales Hotel picture with a better sky. You can see the huge difference a sunny sky makes to the quality of the views by comparing this shot to the one in the previous post.

Crypt Lake

Crypt Lake

We checked with the campground office and staying another night wasn’t a problem.  From there it was game on.   Readying ourselves for the day, water, snacks, lunch, raingear, etc… took no time at all.  We were on the trail, after catching the 10 o’clock boat shuttle, by 10:20. Our goal was to make it back for the 4 o’clock return shuttle.  The trail started out steep, with switchbacks through the woods, then worked it’s way through a few canyon/valley areas with several stream crossings.  It was a reasonable grade and some flat offered time for recovery.  We passed several waterfalls along the way and, of course, tried to get our timer shots. The last section of trail was very steep with switchbacks up a rocky knoll , a cliff like section to traverse, a ladder climb into a 60 foot narrow tunnel, another cliff section that was so steep, they had cable railings for safety… then a short jaunt to Crypt Lake.  We enjoyed a short rest and our PB&J’s which we shared with the gnats (they threatened to carry us away if we didn’t). We cruised on the way down to try and catch the early boat home.  At one point, we were distracted by a female moose grazing in the valley below.  While Kim was looking for more moose and shouting her moose call, she missed her footing and took a very graceful fall(not!) with a full roll included for effect (mind you her second fall of the day).  None the worse for wear we continued on, even braving the Hell-Roaring Falls trail.  Braving not only due to the added distance, but there was tons on bear poo making us a bit nervous. Tired, happy, and hungry we made the 4 o’clock boat and headed home to post our trek.  Well worth staying the extra day!!!

 

Waterton Lakes National Park

Thursday, August 6th, 2009
Prince of Whales Hotel and Upper Waterton Lake

Prince of Whales Hotel and Upper Waterton Lake

Having spent the money on an annual pass for the Canadian National Parks, we decided to spend a few more days taking advantage of it.  Waterton Lakes National Park borders Glacier National Park in the US.  It was established as the world’s first International Peace Park in 1932 and is considered a “hidden Jewel” of the Rockies.  Without Kim’s dad’s awesome vacation weather karma, we once again had to struggle with some wet and gray weather.  From what we were able to see, the park is pretty impressive in a much more compact way than Jasper or Banff. 

 

Top of Bear Hump trail
Top of Bear Hump trail
Since we arrived, We actually spent time catching up with emails and just relaxing in the camper.  When we weren’t being lazy, we (of course) were on the trails looking for the next timer shot of the day.  We took a short, but steep, walk up Bear Hump Trail, and yes we did see bear.  From a distance (Mom) we spotted a mamma and her two cubs.  They actually made the count 5 bears in this park already and 16 total for the trip.
View on the trail to Bertha Falls
View on the trail to Bertha Falls

After Bear Hump, it was off to Bertha Falls.  Anything with a name like Bertha warrants a visit as it was Kim’s grandma’s name.  It was a nice trail along Upper Waterton Lake.  The further into it we got, the lounder the thunder got as well. 

Lower Bertha Falls
Lower Bertha Falls

Although we got soaked, and Bertha Falls wasn’t “all that”, we had a good time anyway.  From there we headed into town and enjoyed a very tasty and well deserved black rasberry frozen yogurt, yum!

Kim practices her relaxtion skills

Kim practices her relaxation skills

The plan for our last day in Waterton was to take the Crypt Lake trail, voted Canada’s best hike in 1981.  The trail starts with a boat ride across the lake, then 4 waterfalls, a 60 foot tunnel, Crypt Lake, and approximately 11 miles and 2,300 foot elevation gain later you can rest.  Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate.  We woke up to rain and gray once again.  Looks like Crypt Lake will have to be on the next trip around.  We spent much of the day chillin’ in the camper then went into the park for our “last licks” (so to speak).  We did manage to see a mama bear and her 2 cubs, probably the same one from the Bear Hump hike. We got much better pictures this time… Off to Glacier National Park and back to the US.

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Lake Louise and Banff, Part II

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009
I gotta get me one of these!

I gotta get me one of these!

The plan for the third day was a visit to the Columbia Icefields and the Athabasca Glacier.  Dad treated for a tour onto the glacier. The transportation was pretty cool (glacier humor), but walking on the glacier and actually drinking the glacial runoff was tres cool. 

On the Althabasca Glacier

On the Athabasca Glacier

We enjoyed our 25 minutes in the arctic wonderland (us and the other million tourists they were bussing there). It was quite the experience.

Ubiquitous fireweed

Ubiquitous fireweed

We didn’t have firm plans for the afternoon.  We stopped for a picnic lunch along the Icefield Parkway, at one of the many picnic stops.  It was there where the plan came together. Kim and her dad were going to kayak Lake Louise while Chris did some brake work on the trailer.  

Relaxing after the paddle

Relaxing after the paddle

Kim’s dad hadn’t kayaked in a long time, but caught on quickly. It was quite the experience kayaking on Lake Louise, great views, great skies, great company… It was a perfect ending to another great day.

On the way up 6 Glaciers, Lake Louise in the background

On the way up 6 Glaciers, Lake Louise in the background

Day four brought the crew back to Lake Louise to tackle the trail of Six Glaciers.  Ira wasn’t sure if he could make it but set off to try.  Total mileage was about 8 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of about 1,200 feet (Joanne and Stan- we try and kill Kim’s parents too 🙂 ). Well, he was up for the challenge and made it.  

A well deserved smoke

A well deserved smoke

Of course, he had to light his celebratory cigarette the minute he hit the top.

See the Chatteau?

See the Chatteau?

In the middle of the 6 glaciers is a teahouse, basically a coffee house in the middle of the wilderness. Ira hung out there and had some chocolate cake while Kim and Chris headed a bit further to the six glacier lookout. It was quite steep as they worked their way up the moraine to a waterfall runoff.  

Kim's summit

Kim's summit

Kim chilled by the waterfall while Chris pushed a little further.

Chris' summit

Chris' summit

 It was wild being a part of the scenery, actually surrounded by the six glaciers. Everyone was pretty beat after that.  We headed home to crack open some well deserved beers.  Yeah Dad!

Bow River Valley

Bow River Valley

Sunday was Ira’s last day.  After living through the Trail of Six Glaciers he was up for anything. We enjoyed a slow morning before setting out to Banff for yet another lengthy trail.  The trail, roundtrip, was about 6 miles and meandered along the Bow River, though the woods and valleys, and ended at a sad display of Hoodoo’s (once you have seen Bryce Canyon it’s really hard to look at hoodoos the same way).  With smiles on our faces we tallied the mileage for the 9 days Ira was here, about 35- Not bad for an old man!  Tired and hungry we finally found a pizza place to quell our cravings. We said our goodbyes early Monday, Ira heading to Calgary for his flight home and Kim and Chris packing up for the next stop, Waterton National Park, in Alberta CA.