March 23, 2014

National Parks and me

I am a "late convert" to visiting National Parks.

Although my first "national Park" is technically the Gateway National Recreational Area in NYC, and I visited several of the historical ones in New York, my National Park experience really dates to my emigration to Minnesota. (Although, funny, as a prelude, one of my courses in College had a textbook of the geology of National Parks, which was an eye opening experience. I got, and lost, a poster map of the Grand Canyon geology from that course).

So, my visits to National Parks:

2005 Teddy Roosevelt National Park
2005 Yellowstone National Park
2005 Grand Teton National Park
2005 Mt. Rushmore National Monument
2005 Badlands National Park

2007 Teddy Roosevelt National Park
2007 Jasper National Park, Canada
2007 Banff National Park, Canada
2007 Yoho National Park, Canada
2007 Waterton Lakes, National Park, Canada
2007 Glacier National Park

At this point, I convinced myself to get myself a DSLR! I was hooked into visiting and photographing National Parks.

2008 Badlands National Park (2nd visit)
2008 Mt. Rushmore National Monument (2nd visit)
2008 Devil's Tower National Mounment
2008 Jewel Cave National Monument
2008 Wind Cave National Park
2008 Pipestone National Monument
2008 Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

2009 Teddy Roosevelt National Park (2nd visit)
2009 Yellowstone National Park (2nd visit)
2009 Grand Teton National Park (2nd visit)
2009 Glacier National Park (2nd visit)

2013 Arches National Park
2013 Mesa Verde National Park
2013 Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
2013 Grand Sand Dunes National Park
2013 Capulin Volcano National Mounument
2013 Florissant Fossil Beds National Mounument
2013 Rocky Mountain National Park
2013 Mt. Rushmore National Monument (3rd visit)
2013 Badlands National Park (3rd visit)

2014 Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

...Where will I go next?

Posted by Jvstin at 11:06 AM

December 5, 2013

My Travels and Adventures 2013

I don't have any additional major trips planned for 2013, so here comes the recap of what and where I've gone this year.

Cardinal Directions:

Furthest West: Arches National Park. Furthest West since 2009
Furthest East: Davenport, Iowa
Furthest North: Itasca State Park
Furthest South: Capulin Volcano, New Mexico. Furthest South since 2003

Highest Elevation: 14110 Feet, Pikes Peak Summit (New Record)

Places Slept outside of Home:

Marion, Iowa
Davenport, Iowa
Denver, Colorado
Mesa Verde, Colorado
Gunnison, Colorado
Cortez, Colorado
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Estes Park, Colorado
Wall, South Dakota
Park Rapids, Minnesota

New States Visited:
New Mexico

New State Capitols Visited:

National Parks and Monuments Visited:
Arches National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Capulin Volcano National Monument
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Rocky Mountain National Park
Mount Rushmore National Monument
Badlands National Park

Posted by Jvstin at 7:35 PM

June 10, 2013

My Journey to the West

My Journey to the West:

Total miles drove: 4318.9 (6950.6 kilometers)

Cities Slept in:

Arvada, Colorado

Mesa Verde, Colorado

Montrose, Colorado

Alamosa, Colorado

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Westminster, Colorado

Estes Park, Colorado

Wall, South Dakota

National Parks Visited:

Arches National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Badlands National Park

National Monuments Visited:

Florissant Fossil Beds

Capulin Volcano

Mount Rushmore

State Capitols visited:

Lincoln, Nebraska

Denver, Colorado

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Hitherto not visited states reached:




New Mexico

Posted by Jvstin at 6:57 AM

December 28, 2011

My year in travel

My 2011 travel was not very extensive.

The main reason is that my main traveling companions, My Friends The Olsons™, uprooted themselves and moved to Iowa this past year. The loss of their trailer to theft didn't help.

And of course, the bugbear of us all in this tough economy, money.

So, anyway, 2011 recap in travel:

States Visited: 3

Places slept:
Blaine, Minnesota
Roseville, Minnesota
Marion, Iowa

Furthest North traveled: Oberg Mountain, on Minnesota's North Shore
Furthest South traveled: State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa
Furthest East traveled: Springfield, Ohio (for work)
Furthest West traveled: Itasca State Park, Minnesota

States Visited for the First time:

Indiana (Auburn, Indiana)

State Parks visited for the first time:
Willow River (Wisconsin)
Lake Bemidji State Park

State Parks revisited:
Jay Cooke
Amnicon Falls (Wisconsin)
Interstate State Park (Minnesota)
Interstate State Park (Wisconsin)

Interstate Highways completed: 1 (I-380 in Iowa)

Conventions Visited: 1 (Diversicon)

Posted by Jvstin at 7:17 AM

December 31, 2010

Travels in 2010

My travels in 2010.

I didn't go very far in 2010, mainly because of the Olsons financial situation, and a lack of personal time off in my new job.

Where I laid my head to sleep:

Blaine, Minnesota
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Two Harbors, Minnesota
A campground near Ely, Minnesota

From Home...
Furthest North traveled: Grand Portage State Park, on the Canadian Border
Furthest South traveled: Solon, Iowa
Furthest East traveled: Copper Falls State Park, Wisconsin
Furthest West traveled: Jordan, Minnesota

In 2011, I've already promised to visit the Olsons often when they move away down to Iowa, and I owe a visit to the East Coast.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:24 AM

June 14, 2010

Picture of the Day: Castle Geyser

Castle Geyser in Full Eruption
Originally uploaded by Jvstin
I am in a bad mood today. So to cheer myself up, here is a picture of my favorite geyser in Yellowstone, and the world. No, its not Old Faithful.

This is Castle Geyser, which erupts less frequently than reliable Old Faithful, but I think its more spectacular, and its cone is far more interesting looking.

In the foreground, my friend Felicia (of My Friends the Olsons™) is a bit unhappy I used her as a scaling factor in my shot!
Posted by Jvstin at 7:30 AM

March 10, 2010

The Wolves of Yellowstone, and Me

This NPR story on the fall of the Yellowstone Druid Pack tells part of the story as to why I have pictures of Coyote, Fox, and many herbivores, but I have no pictures of Wolves.

Rotten luck.

During my trips to Yellowstone, in 2005...

Yellowstone Lake

And in 2009...

Paul at the Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone

The Druid Pack was not doing well in either year, despite years of success for the most famous and visible pack of Wolves in Yellowstone. Now, according to the NPR story, the pack is so devastated that its down to a lone female who has all but fled the Lamar Valley.

Sad, and doubly ironic, since the Olsons and I this weekend had watched a documentary explaining the travails and trials of the Druids a couple of years ago (which gave us a clue why we had so much trouble seeing wolves in 2009). That documentary ended on a hopeful, positive note. Apparently, that optimism, and the temporary re-rise of the Druids, was only that: temporary. Predation, a nasty disease that kills cubs, and intra-pack aggression have done in the druids.

Alas, it may be a while, or perhaps never, before another "photogenic pack" takes the Druids place in Lamar Valley.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:15 AM

October 3, 2009

Brief Thoughts on Ken Burns' National Parks

I managed to see all of the episodes of Ken Burns' documentary, The National Parks, thanks to going on vacation and getting back to the hotel at the right time, and judicious visits and a sleepover at My Friends the Olsons™.

So, some thoughts on the series...

Clocking at at around 11 and a half hours, Ken Burns' The National Parks: America's Best Idea is very much in the same line as Burns' previous documentaries:

--Strong use of archival material, photograph, recordings
--Reliance on descendants and relatives of historical and other figures in the narrative
--Commentary by respected historians and experts in the field
--Lots of almost "stunt level" voicework by Hollywood actors. Tom Hanks, John Lithgow, Carolyn McCormick, George Takei, Andy Garcia and others

TNP is not so much about the scenery pr0n (and there is, as much as there was, less than Scott, Fe and I actually thought there would be) but its about the evolution of the idea of the National Parks, starting with Lincoln, and progressing all the way through the 20th century and to the 21st. We meet many of the historical figures who had a hand, for better or worse in making the Parks possible, and how they evolved.

The series is not without flaws though. The scenery pr0n has a very prominent focus on Yosemite, even when the series for the most part moves on to other parks and history, images of Yosemite keep cropping up. Scott and I agreed that its a consequence of Burns' modus operandi--he likes to use archival material from people when there is a wealth of material to be had. Given Yosemite's proximity to population centers, this makes sense. There are LOTS of photographs of Yosemite, even more than Yellowstone.

Still, Scott and I came up with a "drinking game"--to take a drink every time a shot of Yosemite appears. Even in the last episode, where Alaska and Florida got a lot of focus, we still could get sloshed because of the gratuitous Yosemite shots in the program. Granted, Yosemite is a pretty park, but it got a little ridiculous by the end.

I learned a lot, including unexpected nuggets of information. For example, the President can no longer make National Monuments (something he can do by Executive Act) in the state of Wyoming. Why? The series will tell you! The complicated history of the Parks and the men and women was enlightened for me.

Scott and I agreed that the series is not one we'd want to own and return to again and again--not quite enough scenery pr0n to justify it. On the other hand, should YOU see the series, once? Yes. Yes, you should. Like much of Burns oeuvre, his documentary filmmaking is essential to understanding America.

And now I want to figure out what National Park I want to see next. Granted, this series makes me really want to see Yosemite for myself (and the fact that one friend and one friend/coworker have or are going to see it soon is impetus, too...)

Anyway, so what National Parks have I seen?

Well, as far as full National Parks are concerned:

Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Grand Teton National Park
Badlands National Park
Glacier National Park
Wind Cave National Park

National Monuments? (Created by the Executive Branch)

Castle Clinton
Ellis Island
Federal Hall
Governor's Island
Statue of Liberty
Jewel Cave
Devil's Tower

Other National Park areas:
Gateway National Recreation Area
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
NJ Pinelands National Reserve
Lincoln Memorial
Jefferson Memorial
National Mall
Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington Monument
Minuteman Missile
Mt. Rushmore
John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway
St Croix River National Scenic Riverway
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

In 1970, Congress realized how confusing the nomenclature was and amended the 1916 National Park Service Organic Act, to say all units of the system -- regardless of their formal name -- have equal legal standing.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:54 AM

October 1, 2009

Back from Vacation

Back from my vacation to the Great White Colorful North.

Still working on uploading pictures. But they will come!

In the meantime, a rough map of my adventures...,-93.867187&spn=6.495013,15.270996&z=6&msid=102213421021933379982.000474e2b22d6d4923ce0

Posted by Jvstin at 12:09 PM

September 17, 2009

Clark Griswold Vacation Life

You know, I sometimes think Clark Griswold is my accidental inspiration for the things that happen on my adventures.

Maybe these things happen to other people with the same regularity. And maybe I just remember these things and share them more often. Or maybe I just have the darndest luck...

This is a long standing tradition!

Let's look back in the time machine at a few (mis)adventures...

Like the time my brother drove over 120 MPH in a rented station wagon, trying to outrace cops and nearly flipping the car over by taking an exit ramp at several *times* the rated speed.

Or how about the time my brother and I hiked and used cabs to cross London because the Tube was closed thanks to a IRA threat?

Let's not forget my trip to New Orleans with my friend Felicia. The fact that we were in a hotel room where the temperature controls were in another room--and the people in that room cooked us good and proper. We eventually had to flee to a motel room in Mississippi.

Or how about the time I was stuck in a plane on a tarmac with friends trying to get back to NY. More common these days of course. It was the phrase "don't want to sound like rats deserting a sinking ship" by the pilot, upon leaving the plane (and leaving us to wait for a new crew) which *really* put the icing on the experience.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:41 PM

July 1, 2009

Canada Day

Happy Canada Day!
I've only been to Canada three times:

The first time was with my family on a trip to Niagara Falls. This trip was noteworthy for the Station Wagon we rented with the weird mushroom smell and my older brother dangerously speeding (so much that the speedometer went "beneath the dashboard"). While in Niagara Falls, US, we decided to briefly jump over to the Canadian side and see the falls from that side too.

The second time was my 2007 visit to Jasper, Banff and Waterton Parks in Canada with My Friends The Olsons™.

The third time was just this past April on my own personal trip that led me to Thunder Bay.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:00 AM

June 28, 2009

Book Review 2009 #28: Yellowstone's Treasures

Yellowstone Treasures is a guidebook to Yellowstone National Park, written by Janet Chapple

In its third edition, Yellowstone Treasures is a comprehensive guide to Yellowstone National Park, written by Janet Chapple. Janet's father worked in Old Faithful Inn for four summers, giving his daughter a lifelong love of the park.

That love has translated into this guidebook.

I purchased the book in anticipation of a trip to Yellowstone, and on our recent trip to the west, my friends and I quickly discovered this book was illuminating, enlightening, and above all, essential to our travels.

My friend's daughter needed a bathroom, and quickly? Janet's system of describing everything along the roads of the park, down to mileposts, allowed me to easily tell them exactly where we were, and exactly how far it was to the nearest toilet. What's the name of that mountain? A quick look at the mileposts, drawing and maps almost always told us the answer.

In addition to the comprehensive and painstaking detail on the sights at each mile of the road, Janet provides opinions on the best things to see, cross references things by subjects, and provides a lot of the background on the park in asides in the book.

I found myself, as we were traveling along, reading aloud on subjects that Janet mentions. Where did the Firehole River get its name? Just who was Norris that Norris Geyser Basin is named for? Which of the sights in Mammoth are worth stopping to take a look at?

I had purchased an additional guide to Yellowstone, but everything my traveling companions and I could want to know or need to know about the area within Yellowstone was within the nearly 400 pages of this book. The next time my friends and I go back to the park, we certainly will be making use of Ms. Chapple's work.

If you are planning to visit Yellowstone National Park, I strongly advise you to get a copy of this book beforehand yourself and keep it on hand as you traverse the park. You will be extremely glad that you did.

This is the way to write a travel book on a National Park.

Highly Recommended.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:40 PM

2009 Vacation Photos!

Running Eagle Falls

Finally, after a lot of work, I have completed choosing, editing and uploading my pictures from my June vacation to Yellowstone and points beyond.

Old Faithful Geyser

I uploaded a total of 633 photos from my trip. The entire collection is here.

Mother Moose shows her baby how to cross the road

But don't despair if that sounds like too much. Taking the excellent advice given to me by Carl on my last photographic venture, I have chosen 50 representative pictures from my trip. They may not necessarily be the best, but they give the width and breadth of my experience. So why not take a look at those?

St Mary Lake

The Highlights from my trip are available here

So, go, enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:36 AM

June 21, 2009

The One and Only Old Faithful

Originally uploaded by Jvstin
Old Faithful Geyser
Posted by Jvstin at 9:01 AM

June 17, 2009

Paul at the Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance to Yellowstone

Paul at the Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone
Originally uploaded by Jvstin
Standing in front of the Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
Posted by Jvstin at 4:36 AM

June 15, 2009

My 2009 Western Vacation Adventure (Part 4 of 4)

I wrote over 6000 words on my vacation adventure, and so have split it, unlike Gaul, into four parts.

Part One: Wagons West!

Part Two: Rain, and Rain

Part Three: Disaster, and Fleeing North

Part Four: Journey's End

And now, Part Four...

Day Thirteen, Thursday
Our last day of travel-less vacation was a somewhat fitful sleep for me. I awoke to breakfast with Scott, and some early morning picture taking (the weather was beautiful and stayed that way). We discovered, though, that the dome light in the Durango had been on all night. Fortunately, the Durango's battery was not completely drained, and Scott let the car run for a while just to be absolutely sure.
Scott and his Dad decided to go off and do more fishing after breakfast, leaving the rest of us at loose ends. I trotted down to the Ranger station, met Mrs. Olson taking in the view, and came back from the friendly staff at the station with maps and information on the area. I finally could put names to some of the distinctive peaks in the Two Medicine Valley, like Sinopah, across the lake, and the massive Rising Wolf Mountain which loomed over the campground.
When I returned, I discovered that Felicia, who was "finished" with vacation, decided to stay in the trailer for the nonce. Dani wanted to spend time with grandma. This leaves, of course, me.
I had maps, a camera and hiking boots. I decided to go for a hike. Mrs. Olson insisted that I carry a phial of bear spray, just in case (we were still in Grizzly country), and so armed, I headed off. I hiked past Pray lake down to Two Medicine Lake, and took a trail that led me to Aster Falls (a pretty little waterfall which was only on the local map rather than the overall Glacier Park map). I also got a nice view from the far side of Two Medicine at a place called "Paradise point". It was about 3 miles, all told, round trip to do both, not counting the walk down from the campground to Two Medicine lake.
While I did not see any bears, I did see a disturbing fresh and large pile of feces. Discussion with Mrs. Olson, who has had experience with bears, confirmed my suspicion--there was a bear in the area of the trail, and only by luck (good luck, I think) I had missed a dangerous encounter. One of the headlines in the paper we had seen while Mr. and Mrs. Olson had hosted us was the fact that several days earlier, a jogger in Glacier National Park *had* been assaulted by a bear.
Over lunch I talked Felicia into taking all of us to another waterfall at the end of a short trail. We piled into the Durango and drove down to Running Eagle Falls. The site is sacred to the Blackfeet Nation (which lies just to the east of the park). It is one of the most unusually shaped waterfalls that I have ever seen, and the four of us enjoyed it immensely. As we walked back to the Durango, we ran into Scott and his Dad. As they were returning from their fishing, they had seen the Durango, and stopped to come and meet us. Reunited, we headed back so that the male Olsons could lunch, and we could plan our next venture.
Dani wanted to stay with her grandparents, so Scott, Felicia and I took a winding (too winding!) road up to St. Mary and the east portion of the Going to the Sun Highway. Although the world-famous highway that bisects the park was not completely open yet (snow drifts and avalanches!), we could take the east side as far as Jackson Glacier overlook, and we proceeded to do just that. I took numerous pictures of the Glacier, surrounding mountains, St. Mary's lake (with a cute little island, Wild Goose island) and other delights. I definitely want to go back!
Our only real disappointment was the visitor center. We had passed by it with the intention of returning to it when we finished our run up Going to the Sun. Unfortunately we did not expect the visitor center to be closed at 5 pm local time, when we returned! Denied access, we headed back down the winding road to camp.
Dinner was on the fire--grilled steaks! (and chicken for me, naturally). We spent the post-dinner period enjoying the nice weather. It was our last full day of vacation, and the day itself seemed reluctant to ever end.
Day Fourteen, Friday.
Scott and I awoke early in preparation for departure. We alternatively breakfasted and put things in motion. Scott's impatience, however, got the better of him. He lightly had pulled up (and not securely fastened in place) the tent portion of the trailer, and while messing with it inside, caused it to fall down onto the front , creating a hole in that portion. A blob of duct tape closed the hole, but it was a harsh reminder of the vehicular and other disasters that had plagued our entire trip.
Once these problems were behind us, we loaded up, said goodbyes to the senior Olsons (who were planning to stay another day or two there), and got rolling.
Eastward on US 2 we progressed, the Rocky Mountains quickly giving way to endless plains. And I do mean endless plains, punctuated by small towns. Oh, and gophers. Lots and lots of suicidal road-crossing gophers at random intervals were the primary wildlife we had seen, along with the occasional mule deer and pronghorn.
We stopped in Glasgow, MT. for lunch (Pizza hut--our sandwich materials along with many other things were running low!) and continued the interminable journey east. Like the last few days, the weather continued to be beautiful, sunny, and even warm. Once again, it was vocalized that if Yellowstone had been like this, we never would have left the park. The length of the driving thought was wearying on all of us, especially Dani. Scott had had dreams of making it as far as Bismarck, ND, but we finally had to stop (with Dani loudly unhappy) at Theodore Roosevelt National Park--the North Unit. Dani settled down once we settled into camp and took a drive on its badlands route, seeing the strange badlands topography, plenty of buffalo, and even a group of bighorn sheep.
Day Fifteen, Saturday, Last Day.
With a longer-than-liked trip ahead of us, Scott and I moved as quickly as we could to get the ball rolling and our wheels up. Even so, we did not leave as soon as we liked and our progress was slow. The day headed as we headed south to the Interstate, and then another interminable drive east. We lunched at the Cracker Barrel in Bismarck, and continued onwards.
It seemed to take forever, and even Dani impatiently and continually asked "where are we?" All of us at this stage just wanted to get home.
Aside from a visit to a rest area (which had a play area for Dani), the occasional stop for gas, and some unexpected traffic near St. Cloud, our trip was uninteresting. Just long. It was past 9 when we finally made it back to Blaine, and home at last. I removed my items (although I realize now that I forgot my hiking boots), said my goodbye and thanks to the Olsons, and drove back home for some well deserved vacation from my 2009 vacation adventure.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:05 PM

My 2009 Western Vacation Adventure (Part 3 of 4)

I wrote over 6000 words on my vacation adventure, and so have split it, unlike Gaul, into four parts.

Part One: Wagons West!

Part Two: Rain, and Rain

Part Three: Disaster, and Fleeing North

Part Four: Journey's End

And, now, Part Three...

And on the ninth day, Sunday, we awoke to snow. Not just the dusting that we had been kissed with on our September 2005 visit to the park, but a couple of inches. (Later, we would learn that a total of four inches fell). It was pretty, cold and treacherous. Progress and the morning were slow. Fe and I looked at the bargain area of the store and returned back to the trailer for breakfast. The snow had ceased for the moment.
At this point in our trip, we had had enough. Rain, and now snow? We wanted out and were going to get out in a big way. We had decided that leaving the park was the only option, and we were going to head to Scott's parents house in Kalispell, some 450 miles away, with a stop in Three Forks for the night.
So we packed things up and slowly headed north, as the snow resumed falling. The snow and icy roads, and driving a clumsy trailer led to the inevitable. An accident. The truck ahead of us stopped suddenly, and we could not stop in time and rear-ended him. Damage to our front was ugly, but the car seemed functional, for the moment anyway. After exchanging information, we continued on, cautiously.
We did not get far. The car started to overheat, and we pulled on the side and let it cool down. Clearly the damage was worse than first thought. Fortunately, Canyon was a mile away, and a service station (the only one in the park) awaited us. We limped there, detached the trailer and Scott had them look at the damage while Fe, Dani and I walked over to the visitor center. While we were there, we discovered the sudden and treacherous snow had actually closed all of the roads in and out of Canyon, anyway.
Eventually, we learned that one of the radiator fans was pushed and interfering with the other one. This fan was not crucial, and it was removed so that the car could run. A liberal use of duct tape helped keep the bumper and the rest of the front together. A couple of hours later, we were on our way. We headed out the west entrance of the park and into West Yellowstone. Lunch at the outpost café (and some huckleberry gummi bears for Dani) fortified us for our trip north A hole in the western sky mocked us as we headed north toward Bozeman.
Besides being the future home of Zephram Cochrane in the Star Trek Universe, Bozeman is also the home of the Museum of the Rockies, a very nice museum with a strong emphasis on Paleontology. Remember Jurassic Park? Sam Neill's character Alan Grant is based strongly on real Paleontologist Jack Horner, famous in these circles. He had a strong hand in designing the presentation of the exhibit and fossils in the Museum of the Rockies. While he does and did interject his POV into some of the information, it was well balanced, fair, and provoked a lot of discussion between Scott and myself.
After the fun visit for all (including a combination playpark and interpretive exhibit on Lewis and Clark to occupy Dani outside for a bit) we continued on to the nearby Missouri Headwaters State Park, where the Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison rivers meet to form the mighty Missouri. The park was nearly deserted and we dropped the trailer for the evening.
Day Ten, Monday.
I woke up early, along with Scott. Since we had some time, Scott strongly suggested that I take my camera and go to the actual headwaters. The lure of interpretive signage was enough for me. (He was not trying to, I think, get rid of me for the reason several days ago; Felicia was still soundly asleep). I leapt at the chance, and camera in hand, I went to see the headwaters. I had seen the end of the Missouri where it meets the Mississippi over ten years ago; I had seen it in a number of locations in Montana, North and South Dakota and now I would see where it starts. I enjoyed myself immensely, and even climbed "Fort Rock" for a view of the area. When I reached the top, I had a early morning companion-a marmot. At close range and with my zoom lens, I couldn't help but take a few pictures of him before he decided to head elsewhere, perhaps for breakfast. After a while, I decided to do so, too.
We broke camp and headed west and north. Our goal was Scott's parents house, still a long distance away, but we decided to take a route through Helena so that I could get a glimpse and a photo of Montana's lovely capitol building. I would have liked to have gone inside, but we were burning daylight. Perhaps on a future trip I shall see it in full. Unfortunately, I did not know and could not point out the FRB branch that is in Helena, much to my chagrin. I had not expected that we were going through Helena, after all.
The trip up to Scott's parents was drippy and relatively uneventful. The car continued to run, a blessing none of us were unhappy about. Our arrival in Kalispell at Jeanne and Dan Olson's house was warmly greeted. Dani, always eager to see her grandparents, was especially happy, and the sentiment was reciprocated by her grandparents. We were fed a meal of enchiladas and Scott's favorite birthday cake. Fe and I took a brief stop at Borders to load up on more reading material, if we should be stuck there for an extended period. Thanks to being so far north, the sky was still light when we all finally turned in for bed.
Day Eleven, Tuesday.
Morning came in stages. I awoke to find Scott and our hosts already awake, and I joined them in breakfast. Scott and his Dad brought the Durango to a shop for reapirs and I chatted with Mrs. Olson, checked and sent email on a poky but functional dial-up connection. I also indulged in a much needed shower.
At the start of the trip, Scott had hoped his parents would join us at or near the park for some fishing. Since we had come to them, it was decided that fishing would be done in and near Kalispell, and give Dani her first real chance at fishing. Felicia remained behind, and I brought my camera as we went around to several fishing spots which were suited to a neophyte like Dani. I concentrated on photographing the Olsons and the fishing areas while Scott showed Dani how to fish, while his father fished, and Mrs. Olson looked around. After a while, Dani was tired of fishing (and more interested in throwing rocks into ponds--a no-no for fishing).
The weather continued to be good when we returned back to the Olson household for lunch. After lunch, Scott and his Dad spent some bonding time, going off to fish together in a serious way. Dani had her grandmother to play with; Felicia read and I took it easy. The three of us also played some board games.
Rain did finally catch up to us, turning blue skies to dark, a cool wind and a splattering of rain. It was far less intense than anything in the park, though. Scott and his Dad came back a little early thanks to it, and Mrs. Olson produced a meal of pork ribs and potatoes for evening repast as the evening darkened and the weather relented for the night.
Day Twelve, Wednesday
I awoke relatively late, but found only our hosts up, rather than Scott. (It was remarked that while at his parents house, Scott seemed to have a tendency to sleep in). He did soon awaken however, and we talked about our plans. Scott, Dani , and his parents decided to do some serious fishing on an inflatable boat; Fe and I would be tasked for laundry in the hopes that the car would be ready today. We were stuck, and the books and the library of the Olsons household came in handy to amuse us between laundry flops.
When Scott and company returned (Dani apparently had done well with her efforts fishing!), a call to the mechanic revealed that the car would be ready in the late afternoon. A plan was made to have Scott's parents, with their own trailer, join us on the last leg of our trip--to the east side of Glacier National Park! At about 7, the Durango was back (with the internal damage fixed, but not the body damage). Both trailers were hitched and loaded and we were ready to roll.
After a stop at Marias Pass (which, in contrast to the Beartooth is the lowest pass through the Rockies, at a "mere" 5220 feet), we made it to the Two Medicine Campground on the east side of Glacier National Park. Despite the name of the campground, we were actually camped on the shores of pretty Pray Lake.
After setting up trailers and looking around, the senior Olsons took the lead in dinner and we were treated to pulled pork, potato salad, and cake. After such a bounty and looking around, we returned to our respective trailers for the night.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:04 PM

My 2009 Western Vacation Adventure (Part 2 of 4)

I wrote over 6000 words on my vacation adventure, and so have split it, unlike Gaul, into four parts.

Part One: Wagons West!

Part Two: Rain, and Rain

Part Three: Disaster, and Fleeing North

Part Four: Journey's End

And, now, Part Two...

The fifth day. As promised, both Felicia and I woke up early. My anxiety had led to strange dreams, including a dream where I had discussion with Scott about his status as an unpublished author of the novel "War Moon". Being a notorious early riser, Scott was up too, and wished us well as we headed off to try and find wolves. (Yes, he was amused by the dream when I related it)
We headed up and down the Lamar valley, from the Roosevelt junction to past Soda Butte in search of a crowd. Crowds are often a good sign of a wolf spotting.
Unfortunately, in the early morning mist and rain, everyone seemed to be driving around, as we were. Either we were too late, or perhaps the wolves just wanted to stay in the trees and away from the rain by venturing into the river plain itself.
So we returned, rejected. In the mist and rain, Fe, Scott and I discussed the situation. Even at this early point, we considered the idea of cutting Yellowstone short and pulling up stakes for a hopefully sunnier destination. We ultimately decided to head for a cell phone signal at the Upper Geyser Basin and talk to Scott's folks. Most of the park, aside from places like the area around Old Faithful, is not exactly cell phone friendly. I can understand this. The topography is bad for signals, and I probably would personally learn to shoot someone if they tried to put up a cell phone tower in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone!
Our path took us south, to Canyon village. We decided that, before reaching Old Faithful, we could visit the brand spanking new Canyon visitor center. Yellowstone has been in the process of upgrading their visitor centers and information the last few years, a process which continues. Canyon held one of the brand new centers, coinciding with, we understood, new paths around the Canyon itself. While the rain did not encourage us to go and see the new paths, the idea of a warm and dry visitor center was appealing.
When we arrived at the visitor center, we were in for a shock. Certainly, the visitor center was warm and dry. It was also dark, as it seemed that they had lost power. In fact, we learned that the entire park had lost power due to the storms today. Living in a primitive site, we hadn't noticed! While we could not go to the visitor center, we did go to the nearby store which was open with flashlights and manual calculators. After some discussion with Felicia and Scott, I decided to purchase a raincoat, something I had not brought with me. We left Canyon with my brand new Columbia sportswear raincoat, and decided to continue on our quest for Old Faithful. We circled south, past West Thumb and around, looking and hoping for clearer weather. We didn't really find any at that point, and we reached Old Faithful in a gloomy milieu.
The four of us lunched , Scott tried to talk to his parents in vain. Afterwards, we were lucky that the famous geyser was about to erupt, and had the chance to see it. Old Faithful was about as far away from our camp as you could get in the park, and in the miserable weather, lingering was not a considered option. I had hoped to see Castle Geyser, my favorite, erupt. In fact it did erupt, behind some trees, not long after Old Faithful did. At the time, we were not unduly concerned, because we were still convinced the weather would improve and that we would have more chances.
Thus, with the weather encouraging us to do so, we moved on. We made our way up and through the center of the park, stopping at Tower Falls so that I, at least, could get some pictures. At this point, there were a few teasing bits of blue sky, and no rain. Scott even made the joke that it was my purchase of the raincoat which had improved the weather. I declared that I would be happy to have wasted my money as a small price to pay.
After Tower falls, and before and after dinner, we had more critter spotting. Despite the lousy weather, and aside from the elusive wolf, our critter spotting on this trip continued to be awesome. We even spotted a nicely horned bighorn ram sheep lounging underneath some trees, as well as a close encounter with a fox, more pronghorn, buffalo, elk and Moose. The weather continued to tease us with improvement, enough that Scott was able to build a campfire and we were all able to roast more marshmallows.
With the hopes that the weather had turned at last, we turned in for bed.
And on the sixth day, I found myself an embarrassing presence. I woke up and dressed. Scott strongly urged me to "take a walk on the trail." As Felicia was awake, I was not stupid and quickly figured out what was going on.
While I suspected that Scott and Felicia didn't want me to go away for too long, I decided on giving them as long as possible. The weather was still good, thankfully, and so I spent an hour, sans camera (it was locked in the car, alas) walking along a trail that began at the campground. I followed the river, clambered over deadfalls, and enjoyed the quiet, tranquil side of the park. When I finally returned, it had turned somewhat cloudy, and Scott and Felicia were waiting for me. It seems that Scott had even gone along the trail a bit to try and find me.
With the weather improved, we decided to first do something Scott wanted to do. With Felicia's desire for animals, and mine for topography, it was only right and fair for Scott to get a piece of vacation. So we headed east, for the Beartooth pass, the highest of the passes into the park. Scott gets a thrill looking for pika and marmots at the top of the world, and with the rain holding off, and we camped close to the pass, today seemed like the perfect day to do it.
We didn't see pika, and I was slow on the draw to see a marmot, but we did climb all the way to 10,947 feet, the west summit of the Beartooth highway. This is the highest pass through the Rocky Mountains; later in the trip we would go through the lowest. At this high altitude, there was still a good deal of snow, and Dani enjoyed throwing snowballs at Scott and myself in the cool, thin air.
We made a number of stops on the way down, to see the matterhorn like Pilot Peak, its cohort, Index Peak, and a charming unnamed waterfall that had an old highway bridge in front of it. I only found out today that the name of the waterfall is Lake Creek Falls.
Perversely, as soon as returned to the boundaries of Yellowstone, the weather turned miserable, again. With drippy weather, we retreated to the trailer for lunch and a discussion, again, of our options.
We decided to head North. We headed over to Mammoth, to get a look at the terraces and the hope that moving north would allow us to escape the front. It was a good idea, but not one that panned out. The rain forced us to move even further north, into Gardiner itself. This allowed Scott to talk to his parents with the cell phone signal working again. It did not allow us to escape the rain, either. However, at this point, we seriously started thinking that our days in the Yellowstone area were severely numbered. We finally returned to the trailer to end the day.
On the seventh day, Scott and I awoke first, to gauge the weather. The early morning skies were blush over us, but clouds elsewhere. Was the rain over? Hope was the last thing in Pandora's box, and it was hope that moved us to remain in the park. However, we had decided that we were done with Slough Creek, and so we pulled up stakes and moved down to Fishing Bridge. On our way west, though, Felicia got an awesome shot of baby badgers in their den. My lens was not strong enough to see them clearly, alas. We reached Fishing Bridge without incident, dropped the trailer and decided to see to the real necessities not available at Slough creek--showers and laundry! A ranger who came into the convenience building tempted us to head over to the Fishing Bridge visitor center for a talk on marmots.
By the time the talk was done, the rain had returned in force. We bought frozen pizzas in the Fishing Bridge store and brought them back to bake, hoping for better weather by the time we were done.
Alas, the rain only intensified. We were stuck in Fishing Bridge with lousy weather and not much in the way of good options. After some quiet time for all of us, we headed up, in the rain, to the Canyon visitor center that had been closed due to that power outage. This time, we were able to enjoy its comprehensive and well balanced and presented science exhibits on Yellowstone, from anthropology to geology to ecology. A particular highlight was a large raised relief topographic map of Yellowstone, showing all of its major features in detail.
We emerged from the Canyon visitor center to find somewhat better weather. As a bone to me, we headed for a brief visit to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, to allow me at least one stop at the famous and beautiful canyon. We stopped at Artist point, and I did indeed see that the paths and signs had been vastly improved since my previous visit several years ago. I would have liked to hike more trails than this one, but time and weather conspired against it. Instead, we returned to Fishing Bridge, bought some ice cream and relaxed in the trailer before bed. Tomorrow was Saturday, and we had a plan to make a game changer to hopefully escape this foul weather.
"It would make you cry to see the sky"
That was my thought as I looked at the sky on the eighth day, Saturday. I had slept fitfully and woke up first, because we could not put up the tent portion of the trailer in this campground and I had to sleep, essentially, on the table. Not very comfortable! My dreams continued to be weird with solipsistic ones about reality dysfunctions and Potemkin buildings.
I put the table back together while the Olsons slept, and went for a walk to the bathroom. By the time I had returned, Scott was awakening. We talked, drank tea and contemplated our options. When Fe and Dani awoke, our plan was set in motion. If Yellowstone was such a murky place, perhaps, several hours to the south, Jackson WY and Grand Teton National Park would be better off.
So we headed south.
Perversely, in keeping with the theme of our vacation, as we headed south, past the West Thumb Geyser basin, the rain intensified. Again. This intensified rain followed us south, onto the Rockefeller Parkway that led out of Yellowstone and down to Grand Teton, and showed little signs of improving. When we reached Grand Teton National Park, we made a discovery, or the lack of one. The weather was so bad, we could not see the Grand Tetons at all. Clouds covered them almost to the base.
So we rolled on.
Jackson, WY is a charming, if overpriced town where the billionaires are pushing out the millionaires. I was tempted, in Felicia's favorite camera store (where she had bought her big lens) by a new lens for myself, but I did not pull the trigger. We visited the store again after the discovery of a real bagel shop, with authentic bagels. (I stocked up for breakfasts later in the week) and lunch at the Grand Teton steakhouse family restaurant. The dinner prices for that restaurant seemed insane, but lunch was reasonably priced and tasty (I had a buffalo burger). We toured a few stores (including one of Felicia's favorites, Cold Water Creek), made a run back into Grand Teton National Park (the weather wasn't much better but I took a few photos) before we returned for dinner at a Chinese restaurant (scallops for the win!), Haageb Dazs for ice cream, and our long trip back to Fishing Bridge. On the return trip, the weather turned cold, rainy and nasty, a cold monsoon season. We did make a very brief visit to Lewis Falls on the way back. Scott thought that there was a chance of snow overnight.
He would be proven far more right than he would have wanted to be...

Posted by Jvstin at 1:04 PM

My 2009 Western Vacation Adventure (Part 1 of 4)

I wrote over 6000 words on my vacation adventure, and so have split it, unlike Gaul, into four parts.

Part One: Wagons West!

Part Two: Rain, and Rain

Part Three: Disaster, and Fleeing North

Part Four: Journey's End

And, now, Part One...

We started our first day a little later than Scott, the driver throughout the trip, would have liked. If I say that we left at 6:35 am in the morning, you will get a slight sense of what my friend is like. The opening stages of the trip were free and easy, even if, a couple of days before, Scott had accidentally busted one of the jacks on the trailer. It was not a fatal flaw, however, but it was one that we were anxious to repair. We slowed our trip west as we reached Fargo, North Dakota and cast about for an RV dealer who might have a replacement part. We did locate a dealer with one in West Fargo, and with the part and instructions on repairing it supplied to us, we continued west into North Dakota.
North Dakota is a long and relatively dull state to drive through for the most part. With a stop for lunch, and the occasional bathroom stop, we crawled westward. Our first sighting of an animal, just past 6 pm, was of a Buffalo near to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. As it so happens, our planned camping spot for day one was in the south unit of that park. We set up camp, had dinner and decided to take the badlands loop in the dying light, to see panoramas, the prairie dog town and other animals. Our efforts were rewarded with a major "Buffalo jam", including some calves. We had hoped that a spring trip would allow us to see some young animals, and we were already rewarded.

Scott was easily capable of fixing the jack, and that worry, at least, receded
We returned in the dying light, and eventually turned in on our first night.
Our second day was early to rise, for Scott and I. It wasn't until after breakfast, at 8, that we finally got ourselves moving. The long boring miles of North Dakota had taught us a lesson, and Felicia started an audiobook she had brought--The Furies of Calderon, by Jim Butcher. His first tale of the Codex Alera occupied us as we reached the Treasure State, Montana and continued west and south toward our destination.
We stopped in Billings for some supplies at Walmart, and Famous Dave's for lunch. An hour and forty minutes after our stop, we were back on the road. Fortunately our destination for the night was not as long of a journey as the previous day. In fact, just past a quarter after six, personal time, we were at the KOA campground in Paradise Valley, on the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park!
I played with Dani and a fast friend of hers in the playpark, and threw in a bout at the indoor swimming pool, too. In addition to dinner, Scott built a campfire, and I was introduced to a to-me unfamiliar concept: roasting marshmallows on a campfire. Although my efforts were fumbling and amateurish, I admit that they were indeed tasty.
I also, before the light died and before we turned in, got some shots of the nearby Gallatin and Abrasoka mountain ranges which framed the valley to the west and east respectively.
Our third day started slow for me. I awoke past 7:40 personal time. Although we were in Mountain Time Zone, I never bothered changing my watch, and we all mostly referred to Central Time as "personal time" and never really acclimated to the other time zone anyway. And even while Scott and I stirred late, Dani and Felicia stirred even later. Still, we had pushed hard to get where we were over the last two days, and some rest was needed. Before camp was broken down, I did a little more photography of the mountains around us. The last time we were here, in September of 2005, Fe and I had seen a group of Sandhill cranes near to the camp. This year, I only had...cows.
The trip from the camp down to the park entrance was another banquet of stunning topography. With the trailer, however, making stops was a dubious proposition. We did stop when we reached Gardiner, and the Roosevelt Arch that officially marked the entrance to Yellowstone. Felicia took a picture of me at the arch, and we proceeded into Yellowstone at last, two and a half days after we left Blaine.
Our progress through the park, was slow and easy. Scott had hoped that we could stay in his campground of choice, Slough creek in the animal-rich Lamar Valley in the northeast of the park, and we headed in that direction.
We arrived at the camp, and toured around, even though the sign at the entrance said that it was full. We saw immediately one of the reasons why--a few of the campsites were under water! Slough creek was so high, a few of the low lying campsites were actually flooded. Scott's intuition and our luck, however, led us to check all of the empty, but tagged as occupied, campsites. One of them, a prime spot overlooking the creek on a small rise, was actually available. Happily, Scott registered the spot and it seemed that our trip was going to be nothing but good luck and serendipity.
We would prove to be sadly mistaken...
Things continued to be ducky at first. The skies were overcast, but we headed out from the dropped trailer in search of animals and diversion. A visit to the Mammoth visitor center for an orientation video and looking at the buildings of old Fort Yellowstone, a brief visit to Undine falls, and a wide swath of animals on one day. By the time rain convinced us to retreat to the trailer, we had seen a fox, coyote, elk, buffalo, and Felicia had also managed to see at distance a black bear and a crane.
After dinner and a game of "Sorry", the rain had mostly ceased, so we headed out, this time to the east portion of the valley, another animal hotspot. And it was. We spotted an animal the Olsons had never seen in any of their numerous visits to the park--a Moose. We also saw the ubiquitous mule deer as well to add to our total. Dark finally sent us back to the trailer for a night's rest and the promise of a new day.

I slept poorly that night, as the rain resumed, loudly and uncessingly. Rain on a window is soothing and calming. Rain on a tent right above your head (for most of the trip, I slept in the fold out tent portion of the trailer, a luxury that would prove to be problematic later) is not very restful. When I finally awoke on the fourth day, it was still raining.
And so it goes.
Rain colored everything we did. I missed the opportunity to photograph the amazing sight of a pronghorn charging and chasing a coyote because of a lens and card fumble on my part. We suspected that the only reason why a pronghorn would charge a coyote is that she had just dropped a baby, and was protecting the baby from said coyote.
I think that coyote is *still* running.
We searched for clearer weather. We found none in Mammoth, and none as we headed down the west side of the park past the Norris geyser basin. When we reached the Madison River campground, a possible future base of operations (especially if Scott's parents, as planned, came down to meet us), we decided that maybe getting out of the park would help matters.
So we drove West and exited the park entirely, and headed into West Yellowstone, MT. While we did stop for some more groceries and lunch in a restaurant, our real goal was Earthquake Lake, or perhaps more properly, Quake Lake. In 1959, a devastating earthquake caused a landslide to the west of Yellowstone, killing some campers and creating a lake on the Madison River, the eponymous Quake Lake. There is a small visitor center and my beloved interpretive signs on the rockpile itself to investigate. The weather seemed a little better here, and we spent most of the rest of the day getting there and looking about before we headed east.
On our way back, we briefly stopped at a West Yellowstone minimall before we returned to the park and the trip to the trailer. Typically, the rotten weather came back, making a stop at Gibbon Falls a smash and grab operation at best. We also did see another coyote and some bighorn sheep on our progress back to camp, though.
A discussion with Felicia came up with a plan (amusingly, Dani now likes to use the phrase "I have a plan!"). We would awaken early the next day, and while Scott watched Dani, Fe and I would drive about in the valley to look for wolves, notoriously early risers.
And with that, we went to sleep with plans to try and capture the elusive wolf on film, or even long-range eyeshot...

Posted by Jvstin at 12:50 PM

June 14, 2009

Fast Facts about my Western Adventure 2009

National Parks Visited: 4 (Theodore Roosevelt South Unit, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, Theodore Roosevelt North Unit)

Where I spent the Night:

Theodore Roosevelt South Unit Campground (Night 1)
A KOA Campground south of Livingston, MT (Night 2)
Slough Creek Campground, Yellowstone (Nights 3-6)
Fishing Bridge Campground, Yellowstone (Nights 7-8)
Missouri Headwaters State Park Campground, near Three Forks, MT (Night 9)
The Home of the Senior Olsons (Nights 10-11)
Two Medicine Campground, Glacier National Park (Nights 12-13)
Theodore Roosevelt North Unit Campground (Night 14)

Inches of Snow that fell in Yellowstone: 4
Amount of Rain that fell in Yellowstone: Too Damn Much!
Number of Car Accidents: 1, on the Road between Fishing Bridge and Canyon, in Yellowstone

Number of Geysers seen: Just one, Old Faithful

Major Waterfalls Seen:

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River
Tower Falls (Yellowstone)
Gibbon Falls (Yellowstone)
Lewis Falls (Yellowstone)
Running Eagle Falls (Glacier)
Aster Falls (Glacier)

Glaciers Seen:
Jackson Glacier (Glacier)

Major animals Seen and photographed:

Moose (including a Moose baby!)
Mule Deer
Bighorn Sheep
Pronghorn Antelope
Prairie Dog
(Felicia saw a Black Bear, too)

Highest Point Reached: 10947 feet, on the Beartooth Pass east of Yellowstone.

Number of Audiobooks finished: 1 (Furies of Calderon, Jim Butcher). We also started but did not complete the second book in the series.

Interstates Traveled:
I-94, Rogers, MN to its end in Billings, MT (West)
I-90, Billings to Livingston (West)
I-90, Bozeman to Three Forks (West)
I-94, Dickinson, ND to Rogers, MN (East)

State Capitol Buildings Seen: 1 (Helena, MT)

Posted by Jvstin at 2:15 PM

May 30, 2009

Off to Yellowstone

See you all in two weeks!

Posted by Jvstin at 5:04 AM

May 3, 2009

North Shore Photo "Sampler Pack"

Thanks to Carl for suggesting this.

500 pictures is a lot to get through. So to make it easier for you all to get a sense of my adventure, I created a "sampler pack" of photos:

Posted by Jvstin at 8:57 PM

Photography: My North Shore Vacation Photos!

Now they can be seen. My photos from my North Shore Vacation are now up and available!

A few select samples:

Kakabeka Falls
Originally uploaded by Jvstin

High Falls with Rainbow
Originally uploaded by Jvstin

Palisade Head View
Originally uploaded by Jvstin

Middle Falls
Originally uploaded by Jvstin

Aerial Lift Bridge at Night
Originally uploaded by Jvstin

See the entire collection:

My Mosaic of Pictures on Flickr

Posted by Jvstin at 9:12 AM

April 28, 2009

My North Shore Vacation Adventure Part II

The continuation of the details of my adventure...

Part I covered everything up to Tettegouche.

Next up, was still within Tettegouche but isolated from the rest of the waterfalls was Illgen Falls. Rather than daring the long hike to it, I decided to take the "cheat" and head up the road to a shortcut. I had to bushwhack across a non existent path to get to them, but this allowed me to make up for my missing Two Step. I had not seen Illgen before, and I found it a charming waterfall.

Next up on our list was another waterfall, and as it turns out the last waterfall on the trip I had seen before in person--Caribou Falls. Not really a park, Caribou was found by a path that led from a wayside rest. It was a long, tough path, but I had my hiking boots on, and the snow wasn't quite as bad as it was on the path to the Tettegouche High Falls.

Again, the Falls were impressive and the river was raging!

Returning to my car, I now really was entering virgin country. With the previous parks, I kind of knew what to expect. From here on out, I was all on my own. The weather was starting to turn a bit raw and rainy and I didn't spend as much time on the next falls and area as I would have liked--the wild and wooly Temperance River. While the previous rivers had been raging, the not very well named Temperance River was a river in a narrow gorge that looked very *intemperate*. The falls were pretty neat, too.

I definitely want to see more of this gorge someday.

Next up? Cascade River. Unlike Caribou, there is actually a station in this park. But like Caribou, the way to get the falls is really by a wayside, and following the signs. A climb up into the gorge (still rainy) allowed me to see the epynomous cascades and a few small waterfalls that percolated their swollen banks. The trail was a loop, and a bit difficult to follow with the snow and bad signage. I did manage to make the loop successfully and returned to my car. The rain had come in earnest at last.

In the rain, I passed by a couple of possibiities for wayside waterfalling and kept going until I finally reached Grand Marais. I decided, with tiredness and aching feet and the weather, that I wasn't going to get the other parks done today, and checked into my hotel. Perversely, the weather cleared and I drove into the town to find food.

My choices, limited, I went for Sven and Ole's pizza. Something told me to get a whole pizza pie, rather than a few slices, a decision I would later be thankful for. I waited an interminable time for the pizza (no coal fired ovens here!) and brought it home to eat, relax, and then spend time in the hotel whirlpool.

I had a busy day in store tomorrow.

Saturday, the weather was cold and raw and I left the hotel in my heavy coat. The drive up and out of Grand Marais was pretty even with that cold weather, and I reached the park named after the guy responsible for a lot of these parks--Judge Magney. Home to the "Devil's Kettle Waterfall", the trail was hard, and the stairs were daunting. I never would have been able to make them yesterday evening had I gone here! The waterfalls were interesting, especially the Kettle. I liked the topography of it a lot.

But, time was wasting and I wanted to see more. I drove into Grand Portage, hoping to see the Grand Portage National Monument and cross that one off of my list of National Parks.

Unfortunately, the Monument was closed for the season! (A theme that kept cropping up). I took a couple of pictures of the bay, and kept on going to the border, where the last MN state park (or the first, if you are heading south) awaits: Grand Portage.

Grand Portage was fun, except for my inability to find the historical marker beyond the picnic tables--the snow and ice obscured the path completely. Daunted by this, I headed for the Falls--and met a couple who said that the spray would get me wet. The hike was tough, even with the boardwalk (ice and snow covered, natch) at the end of of it...but the High Falls of the Pigeon River were amazing. The sun had come out in full force, and I even saw a rainbow, a beautiful full bow. I hope the picture I took of it came out!

From Grand Portage, I headed to the border, talked with the border guard, and into Canada I went. I discovered the Canadian side of the park was technically closed, and I decided to postpone going down the snow covered path. Instead I took a detour to see the Middle Falls of the Pigeon River. Nice, but I am glad I didn't take the long hike from the US side to see it.

From there, it was time to head north again. I drove through the pretty country of Ontario until I reached the stink and smell that told me I had reached the big city in the area--Thunder Bay (about the size of Duluth). I went to the Terry Fox overlook on the far northeast part of the city. The sun was blazing in a clear sky at this point and so I got some views of the bay and area. There is still ice in the bay. However the angle of the sun made it difficult to get good pictures of the statue. I got some directions from the tourism place about finding a grocery store in Thunder Bay and how to get to Kakabeka Falls.

In a Safeway there, I had a flashback to a jingle I remembered--and as a result bought a box of a type of cookie once available in NYC but no longer (Peek Freans). Out of the Safeway, I drove West on the Trans Canada Highway until I reached the tallest falls in the area--Kakabeka Falls.

Again, not really open for the season, I was faced with meters that did not take credit cards anymore, and I was caught without Canadian money. I dared to race around the falls, taking pictures, hoping I wouldn't get ticketed.

Fortunately, I wasn't.

I took a different route back from the falls south, since I decided I had enough of the stench of Thunder Bay. I saw some more nice views, and finally found myself at that closed Pigeon River Provincial Park. Here, I made a mistake. Not reading the maps properly, I took a long detour that took a kilometer of snowy path and in the end brought me to a spot that I could have reached easily, without ice and snow, and half the distance, just down the road.

Angry at myself, I kept going, through ice, snow, meltwater and bad paths all the way to the Canadian side of the Pigeon River. Honestly, I think the American side I had seen earlier in the day was a better view--even if there wasn't a rainbow. I hiked around the loop, getting some nice views of the riverside. I had the wrong lens to capture a bald eagle in flight, much to my chagrin.

On the return leg to my car, I warned a couple of hikers in tennis shoes heading the opposite direction that the path was not accessible to light footwear, and I drove back to the border.

US Customs.

After handing over my passport and answering a couple of questions, Customs decided I warranted further review. They had me park, and come inside.

Over the next forty minutes:

They took my keys and searched my car.
They took my passport AND my Driver's license.
They even searched my *wallet*.

They kept asking questions about me, the same questions, over and
over. I plugged the FRB and savings bonds several times. They weren't
mean about it, one guy noted that I would be vested since this is my
five year anniversary.

Of course they didn't find anything, but the delay was a pain. I
nearly didn't make it back to Grand Marais in time to get something
from Dairy Queen (and in fact, it was too late for hot food--lucky I
had leftover pizza from yesterday).

I relaxed in the whirlpool afterwards, and finally headed to sleep.

Sunday, I awoke, had breakfast, and checked out. As I headed south, the weather got worse and worse. I made a stop at the Cross River to take a picture of a waterfall I had missed in the rain on Friday. I kept heading south, making one more stop at the lakeshore at Duluth to try and capture the raging Lake Superior getting ready for a storm.

From there, it was a drive in the rain all the way home at last.

The End! (until I get pictures)

Posted by Jvstin at 6:39 AM

April 27, 2009

My North Shore Vacation Adventure (text only) Part I

I am still sorting and uploading pictures, but in the meantime, I can tell you in prose, about my North Shore vacation adventures!

Fast Facts:
Total Driving: 850 miles

Minnesota Parks visited:
Jay Cooke
Split Rock
Caribou Falls
Temperance River
Cascade River
Judge C.R. Magney
Grand Portage (American)

Wisconsin Parks visited:
Amnicon Falls

Ontario Parks visited:
Grand Portage (Canadian)
Kakabeka Falls

Major Cities Visited:
Thunder Bay

Now to brass tacks:

Thursday, bright and early, I went out on the road north. After a couple hours of driving, I arrived at my first destination, Jay Cooke State Park. Famous for its "Swinging bridge", Jay Cooke is dominated by the St. Louis River, and has lots of rapids and water forms to hike about. I hiked around the Bridge, and also around Oldenburg Point, a popular picnic spot. I had the entire park to myself, it seemed, because I arrived early. I even got there before the office was open.

When the office was open, I bought a book on Minnesota tourism "The Seven States of Minnesota" and continued on my way. On my way out of the park, I unfortunately struck and killed a squirrel I could not avoid on the road.

After Jay Cooke, I headed north and east, skirting Duluth and entering Superior, Wisconsin. After orienting myself at the visitor center, I continued on to my next stop, Amnicon Falls State Park.

Here I saw some waterfalls and ran into a pair of elderly ladies I later encountered at my next stop, Pattison. They were doing the same thing I was doing--seeing the waterfalls at near peak. (From all reports, the southern waterfalls were a little *past* peak, but they were rip roaring anyway).

Some backroads driving in rural Wisconsin (there is no real better route that isn't a long way around) got me from Amnicon to Pattison. Pattison park includes the pair of Manitou falls. The Big Manitou falls are the tallest in Wisconsin, at 165 feet tall.

Big Manitou was impressive, but I liked the mise-en-scene of Little Manitou falls a little better. Big Manitou is tall but the paths and views are not optimally placed, whereas Little Manitou is a charming waterfall with great sight lines. We'll see what happens with the photos. As I mentioned before, I encountered the ladies from Amnicon here, as well as photographers I saw at Amnicon.

Great minds think alike.

From Pattison, it was time to go to Duluth. I headed to the Thompson Information Center that overlooks the city and you've seen plenty of pictures of before. (It's the place with the funky Gate sculpture). I took a couple of obligatory photos, and got directions for my next task--to drive the famous Skyline Parkway.

Turns out that following the SP isn't as easy as the directions suggest. Its not a single roadway, rather its a bunch of streets that are co-signed with it. Sometimes I fell off track and had to get back on it. The views of the still-gorgeous day were amazing, especially when I got to Enger Tower and climbed it for the tallest view from the drive I could find.

After finishing the Parkway and a stop at B&N for some more reading material (a couple of bargain books), I headed down to Canal Park and my hotel--the Inn at Lake Superior. I checked in, decamped and debated what I wanted to do. First, I bought something I had forgotten to pack--swim trunks.

Next, I decided to handle the rumble in my stomach and had dinner. Two co workers from work suggested Hell's Kitchen, and so I went there. The best deviled eggs as an appetite, a great chicken sandwich, and a very strange decor made it a meal to remember.

After dinner, I grabbed my camera and took some pictures in and around Canal park before my aching feet brought me back to the hotel for some time on the rooftop heated pool. I felt like I was in a roman style caldarium! I switched from that to the conventional pool before returning to my hotel room. Something prompted me to trot out the tripod, and I tried to take a nighttime picture or two of the aerial lift bridge, before I decided I had enough adventure for one night, and after a little reading and TV, went to bed.

After breakfast, I checked out, packed up and turned my wheels north. The forecast was for rain and I wanted to get as much in as possible before the weather broke.

Up the shore I went, pausing only at Flood Bay to take some lake shots before I finally arrived at Gooseberry Falls. Here, the falls were at their peak, and raging. I already felt that my vacation was a success to see the three waterfalls absolutely powerful and awe inspiring. I took lots of photos, but, really, photos couldn't do the experience justice.

Next stop was Split Rock Lighthouse. Unfortunately, in a theme that was to be repeated, it was too early in the year for the office to be open at a decent time, and the Lighthouse itself was closed, as was the path down to the beach (which I hoped to take). I took a couple of desultory pictures of the lighthouse and the view from the top, and continued on my way.

Next up? Tettegouche State Park. Tettegouche is known as a hiker's paradise. I found it to be a paradise and a hell as well. First up, since I wanted some more lake views, I hiked the Shovel Point trail, which leads out onto the tip of the feature that juts out into Superior. It was a hard trail but the views, especially at the end (the weather was still holding) were awesome.

It was the interior that did me in, though. I drove to the campground entrance.

I found a trailer spot to try and park in, and tried to back in. Not happy with my angle, I tried to pull out again...

...Only to find that my car was stuck! I decided not to panic. I put the car in park and considered my options. Pushing seemed to be an idea. (I have a small car). So I put the car in neutral and got out of the car...

You can see where THIS is going, can't you? You do remember that my vacations sometimes have an element of Clark Griswold to them, don't you?

Yes, almost as soon as I got out of the car, the car started rolling backward! (Maybe my weight had something to do with it). I managed to get into the car and hit the brake before I hit a tree.

After all that, I managed to drive out of that spot and parked elsewhere to find the trail to the falls...only to discover steps covered in ice and snow that barred my way to Two Falls.

Disappointed, I drove over to the trailhead, and decided to go for the High Falls of the Baptism River instead.

I should have worn my hiking boots. Less than midway into the hike, the ice and snow on the hike became nearly unbearable, and in many spots, trying to find where the *trail* was, was difficult. I wished I had my boots. I wished I had a hiking stick. I wished I had a clue.

A couple of hikers coming the other way encouraged me to continue, especially their tale about the power of the waterfall.

All of my troubles evaporated when I saw the roaring waterfall. The tallest waterfall entirely within Minnesota, the waterfall was amazingly powerful, even more so than the ones at Gooseberry and south.

The hike back was no picnic, but I decided that I would do all of my subsequent hiking in my hiking boots. Turned out it was a good decision...

Posted by Jvstin at 8:09 PM

April 26, 2009

Back from Vacation

I've been away the last few days on a driving trip up the North Shore.

But, now I'm back. Details, and pictures, to come!

Posted by Jvstin at 9:47 PM

October 5, 2008

Vacation Photos Day 5: Minuteman Control Room at Delta-09

Tour Group in the control room
Originally uploaded by Jvstin
On Day 5, I went through the Badlands, North and South Units, and also to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. This is a picture of the control room where the two officers who controlled the missiles would, mostly, be very bored waiting for instructions or messages.
Posted by Jvstin at 6:52 PM

September 30, 2008

Vacation Photos Day 4: Me at Devil's Tower

Paul at Devil's Tower
Originally uploaded by Jvstin
On Day 4 I headed west to Devil's Tower and then headed down to Jewel Cave. This is one of the very very few pictures of me on my entire trip.This is me at Devil's Tower National Monument.
Posted by Jvstin at 5:53 PM

September 28, 2008

Vacation Photos Day 3: Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore
Originally uploaded by Jvstin
On Day Three of my adventures, my adventures were in stone: Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Wind Cave. This is the classic photo view of the famous Gutzon Borglum carved Mt. Rushmore. I took the loop and got a lot of pictures around the mountain at different angles, and even found a turn off on the road west that allows a profile of George.

However, I thought it was most appropriate to choose the classic look here for my picture for day 3
Posted by Jvstin at 10:28 AM

Vacation Photos Day 2: Spearfish Falls

Spearfish Falls
Originally uploaded by Jvstin
I've been accused of loving waterfalls. No bad thing in my book.

As you might have heard from the phone post and other methods, on my second day of the trip, my car battery died not long after a climb on a path in the Badlands. Once I got a new battery, the auto parts place strongly recommended that I drive for at least an hour.

So rather than "stop and go" driving in the badlands, I got myself on the highway and drove more than an hour west. I found myself in Spearfish, South Dakota, at the head of the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. I naturally took pictures, especially once I learned there were waterfalls to Spearfish Falls, as seen here!
Posted by Jvstin at 9:12 AM

September 27, 2008

Vacation Photos Day 1: Badlands

Originally uploaded by Jvstin
I am slowly choosing and uploading pictures from my vacation.

This is a picture from day one, when I took the Badlands Loop on the way to Wall.
Posted by Jvstin at 10:40 AM