Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Go out with a bang

Waking up last Sunday in southern Wyoming, we finally accepted the fact that our days were numbered. There were a few ways to route ourselves back to Austin, namely through Utah or Colorado…decisions decisions. After reading through our guidebooks and drooling over the Atlas, we picked Utah (for Arches National Park & Moab) and struck out for a full day of driving. It was tough to trade the mountain weather for the desert…one night we’re shivering under inadequate blankets and the next night we wake up sweating. Cest la vie!

We stumbled upon Hittle Bottom campground after dark and had fun trying to decipher our surroundings from the full moon. My new constellation book also got broken in (spare me the jokes). What a nice surprise to wake up to this!

Welcome back to red rock territory!

We rolled into Arches National Park midday, tried to adjust to the 99-degree weather, took a 5-mile hike, and poked around until sunset. The scenery is spectacular. Essentially, it’s a bunch of wild formations made out of this type of sandstone rock, and all of it sits on top of a really hard-packed salt foundation. This somehow contributes to the formations rising and shifting. A geologic description for the books, don’t you think?

Delicate Arch

Landscape Arch

Double O Arch

It rained all around us but not on us…very Truman Show-esque. Storms and evening light make for great photos!

Balanced Rock

Aside from Arches, there is so much outdoorsy goodness in the city of Moab—rafting, mountain climbing, boating, and of course mountain biking—it’s all so tempting. But we really only had one full day of fun left, and this seemed like the best way to spend it:

Now, when I heard you could go “jeeping,” I assumed we’d be on dirt trails and rolling hills, which we’d seen a lot of from the highway. Negative. Here in Moab, they make goooood use of those big red rocks.

 Tracks mark the trail

The Sand Flats area in town is full of marked trails, detailed maps, and good descriptions of what you’re in for. It’s been so impressive to see how different areas of the country embrace their natural habitat and let you play within it—I love it!

We picked a trail called Fins ‘N Things, because it was rated 3.5 on a scale of 1-10...it seemed like a good place to start. It had a mixture of tight curves made of dirt, wide stretches of rocky groundcover, and then of course steep enormous rocks. Three hours and a few heart attacks later, we found out that trail was actually rated on a scale of 1-4. Baptism by fire?!

Our nemesis

Brian’s 4-wheel-drive experience in Colorado got put to the test out there, and I have to say, I was completely confident with him in the driver’s seat. Myself, not so much. But we had a BLAST. Granted, some parts were totally terrifying, but the tire tracks in front of you are good reassurance that it’s possible (if you know what you’re doing behind the wheel). And after you realize what the Jeep is capable of, it helps you gain a little confidence.  A little.

It really was a fantastic end to our amazing trip. We are already going through some withdrawals on the final push back through Texas, but we think the trip has really solidifed what kind of lifestyle we want to live, in terms of access to the outdoors. Who doesn’t want their kids growing up climbing in trees, skiing down mountains, hiking into canyons, swimming through rivers, jeeping over rocks? (Okay maybe not the last one, but you get my drift).

If they are able to pry the Pleasure Way from our death-grip, then we’ll be making our way to Chicago soon, with cat and camping gear in hand. God willing, we’ll be employed and housed shortly! 

We may still throw in another post or two of some things we missed along the way. Either way, thanks so much for reading along…it’s been fun sharing the adventure. 

Monday, August 2, 2010


With the clock ticking on our time left on the road, we booked it from Seattle to Montana, crashed one night, and swooped into Yellowstone in Wyoming the next day. We committed to 3 nights in the park so we could actually see what all the hooplah was about.

To tell you the truth, I had no idea about any hooplah besides that Yellowstone was "awesome." Not a super descriptive word (yet one that I use often...vocab check!). I mentioned in the post on Mt. Rainier that most parks have a few distinguishing characteristics, so here are Yellowstone's:

*Hydrothermal features
*Fly fishing

So this hydrothermal business...we're talking about geysers (which are a result of boiling water underground) and then a TON of sulfuric colorful, boiling pots of water in the ground. Everywhere. It is SO WEIRD.

The color depends on what kind of bacteria is growing on it, and there are muddy ones too. See:

This one was my favorite, Mammoth Springs. 
It's like an infinity pool hot tub that cascades down...awesome.

Don't be fooled. That's boiling water.

One big pool.

 Mudpot spewing out boiling water

I think the #1 word we used there was "crazy" - again, not too descriptive, but very accurate as it stands. The fact that there is an intense amount of boiling water erupting from the ground in the middle of Wyoming is...crazy. But nobody else seemed all that weirded out except us.

Okay, so onto the wildlife. If you're looking for an American safari, this is it.

Bison charging down the road

Trumpeter swan feasting in the rapids

Intimate encounter with an elk

Coyote looking for dinner

Okay dragonflies are everywhere, but how awesome is it that the point-and-shoot took this?

It's worth noting that the Grand Tetons NP, which is connected to the south side of Yellowstone, also sports a ton of wildlife. That's where we saw a moose and an otter, together, bam.

And finally, the fly fishing. There are so many fly-fishing-only rivers in the park, and they are magnificent. It's so peaceful, and the fish jump left and right! (Not that we caught any of course.)

Look carefully - that white blob is a hungry trout!

B getting in there

As a sidenote, we finally took advantage of a park ranger talk (we'd seen them in every park but never been able to time it right). As nerdy as it sounds, these things are great! They have a powerpoint presentation and a campfire outside under the stars and talk about things like wolves and fires. Slightly embarrassing, but hey, who doesn't need a little extra knowledge about how Lodgepole Pine trees contribute to forest fires?