Redwoods National Park

REDWOODS
Crater Lake National Park is a great day trip. I don’t think I would necessarily feel the need to camp there again, but it was worth the trip. With an early morning under my belt, down I went to find me some really big trees. Like, the biggest trees. I started at the Hiouchi Visitor’s Center where a nice ranger talked to me and another couple about some good day hikes, places to camp, and routes to take due to road closures. I paid close attention to that last part seeing as I haven’t been having the best luck with that on this trip…
To dive right in, I parked my car at the Hiouchi River Trailhead and started hiking. The trees gradually got bigger and bigger. I came to one tree that was completely hollow, and thought it was a dead end, so I turned left and went down to the river. The river’s bed was totally full of rocks. Practicing finding my center, I balanced some rocks and got a pretty impressive rock stack waist high before wandering back onto the trail. It turns out, that hollow tree was in fact a tunnel to more of the trail. Perfect. Through the tree I go. The trees towered over me. Moss was still sticking to branches, dead trees, rocks, and the ground. The Hiouchi River Trail follows along the Hiouchi River (also Smith River) which is a beautiful clear blue with a teal tint. You can see every rock, every fish, every ripple across the water. There were people swimming, dogs splashing, families kayaking. After walking along for a little over two miles I couldn’t take it anymore. The envy rushed over me and I needed to be in that water, too. I hightailed it back to my car, put on my swimsuit and tried to find this little parking lot across the river I saw while hiking with beach access. I found it, but you had to pay 8 dollars and I knew I wasn’t going to get 8 dollars worth of swimming in. I turned the car around and went back to the trailhead. I hiked in about ¼ of a mile before finding a turn out that went to the river. Crossing over rocks and sticks, I found a nice little sandy corner. It was there I dipped myself into one of the cleanest rivers I have ever seen (later, I would find out it is the 4th cleanest river in the nation). The water was cold, but totally doable. I bobbed around for a bit before laying on my towel and taking a nap while drying off.

Waking up in a beach-sleep haze, and stumbling back to the car, I tried to decide what to do next. There was a trail the man at the visitor’s center had mentioned that was a little farther south from where I was which was perfect because I needed to make my way south eventually anyway. The trail was along the coast and through thick bushes and trees. It was a loop about 1.5 miles long and I made it around in 20 minutes. There was this eerie feeling while walking through those bushes and trees that I was not alone. Knowing that mountain lions and bears are frequently spotted on that trail, I did not want to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. That was the one time up until that point that I had been frightened on this trip so far.

Now, after 26 years of life, I’d like to say I think I know my body pretty well and my body was telling me, “I’M HUNGRY FEED ME NOW.” I had some snacks but they weren’t holding me over, I was driving down 101 next to all these national forests and parks and I could not find anywhere with food. Finally, I arrived in a small town named Klamath. They had a hotel, a trailer park, a two pump gas station, and a bar and grill. The bar and grill was small. There were four other costumers there, two of which were locals and two of which were traveling from Florida. The bartender had a harsh sounding voice but was very kind and asked me what I wanted. Food. I really just wanted food. But I ordered a vodka soda and asked about food later. There was another counter on the other side of the bar and grill that made the food. You had to pay for them separately. I am not kidding you when I say I ate one of the best burgers I have ever eaten at that little tiny bar and grill in that little tiny town of Klamath. Hot diggity it was tasty. Juicy, cheesy, full of onions and pickles and cheese and lettuce and some special sauce they called fry sauce. I chowed down, paid for my food, then my drink, and went on my way. I drove through the Avenue of the Giants, but at that point, it was already getting dark and I was spooked right out. The Redwoods tower over you. They leave this feeling of something looming, something alive just above you and all around you. They radiate all sorts of energy. Some of them were wider around than my car from bumper to front. They were seriously stunning, seriously insane, and seriously scary at night. That brings me to the second time I was scared on this trip. I was the only one on this road through the Avenue of the Giants. My headlights barely cut through the darkness. I could not see a single star in the sky because the sky was completely blocked by trees. At one point in time I pulled over to a potential sleep spot but got so nervous thinking about going pee next to my car in the dark that I just kept driving. That night I ended up sleeping in my car in front of a motel that was under construction in some little town that literally had houses and a motel. That’s it. It was another good nights sleep, with an almost potty accident in the morning due to lack of bathroom availability. But don’t worry, my pants stayed dry and I found a place to relieve myself.

Crater Lake National Park

I will add pictures into these posts later. Or just post them in an album on Facebook. But for now, words will have to do.

CRATER LAKE
On Sunday, the 16th I entered the North Entrance of Crater Lake National Park. Once you enter, you have to drive several miles through a desert before reaching the rim of Crater Lake. I knew of two camp grounds around the lake, both on the southeast side of the park, one more primitive (and half the price) than the other, so I decided to go there. I started driving around East Rim Drive which eventually meets West Rim Drive to make a complete loop around the lake. I must have missed some signs along the way (shocker) because I ended up at yet another dead end and had to turn around. Apparently there was a big snow storm a week prior to my arrival and it closed that part of the Rim Drive. “No worries,” I thought, “I can just drive all the way back around the West Rim and meet the East Rim drive on the other end. That way I can reach the camp ground.” WRONG. I drove the whole West Rim, entered the East Rim, and after several miles was met with, you guessed it, another dead end. Laughable, really. With a few puffs of my breath I drove back down to the West Rim and found the other camp ground with plenty of open sites for the night. I set up camp and ended out to hike around this magnificent blue world where water meets mountains and mountains meet sky the same color as the water.

I got to Garfield Trail, stoked to be out of the car and walking around with some spectacular views. Lalala, there I was huffing and puffing my way up this mountain when GUESS WHAT HAPPENED. The trail was closed due to snowdrifts and I would not be able to get to the top of the mountain that overlooks the whole lake. Seriously? Reluctantly, I turned around and found a nice little outlook and sat down to write and take some pictures. In front of me was a nice guy taking a selfie in front of the lake. In striking up a conversation, I learned he was from Ohio and was traveling around alone much like I was. After talking for a bit he said, “Okay, so I know this is corny but will you take a picture of me staring at this lake? You know we’re all instagram junkies…” I happily snapped a few shots and we traded roles, him becoming the photography. It gave me a good laugh (and a good picture or two) and he went on his way.

Shortly after, I made my way back to the trailhead, and into a gift shop down the street. I grabbed some grub and a postcard and sat outside in the sunshine before retreating to a lodge to try and find some wifi for a bit. The wifi was 4 dollars for an hour and it was hit or miss as to whether or not you actually got an hours worth of work done. There were several times I had to log back in, shut the web browser, refresh, don’t refresh, pay again, sit, sit, sit, get excited at the prospect of a page loading only to get an error again. So after being thoroughly fed up with technology I tossed my hands in the air and went back to my campsite in the woods. It was one of the biggest campsites I’ve stayed at on this trip. It had plenty of room for a tent, my car, and my hammock. A nice ranger told me he sleeps in his hammock all the time, which I was hesitant to do because, ya know, bears and stuff. But he reassured me and I was determined to swing soundly into the night while hanging in my hammock. My tent was packed up along with everything else because I knew I’d have an early morning.

When morning came I was SO thankful I had already packed everything but my hammock. I woke up freezing cold (totally should have worn socks) around 4am. I attempted to resituate. No luck. I gave up and through my hammock in my car, turned the heat on high and headed to the nearest bathroom. The prior day in the lodge I heard a lady talking to a guest about a sunrise viewing at 5am in front of the lodge. I knew the lodge was close to another less popular pull off because I drove all of Rim Drive the previous day, so I went to the pull off and waited. The sun was slowly starting to glow behind the mountains across the lake. I changed my clothes, brushed my teeth and washed my face and waited patiently. The clouds above Crater Lake grew pink and orange and the water started to shimmer a little bit more. The water was thick looking, almost like it was starting to freeze. Much like me in my hammock. Just as I thought I had seen all of the sunrise I needed to see, this bright grapefruit colored ball of light slightly showed over the mountain. Faster than I could believe, that glowing grapefruit sun showed it’s whole figure and lit up the sky. It was bright and colorful but easy on the eyes, not bright and harsh like mid-day sun. Everything was calm. Everything was colorful. Everything was all right. And with that, I said my goodbyes to Crater Lake National Park.

Seattle Departure

I am alive and well!

After sight seeing, good food, and some laughs, family vacation in Seattle came to an end and I hopped back in my car on Thursday, the 13th. I had a vague idea of where I wanted to go, but not quite sure where to go once I got there.

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Several hours driving west, then north, then west again, I found myself at the visitor’s center of Olympic National Park in Washington. Highway 101 goes all the way around the park, with different entrances jetting into mountain ridges, rainforests, and rivers. I’m getting used to using maps and not relying on GPS and I’ve done pretty well so far (with a few turn arounds thrown in there of course). One of my whoopsies came after too much excitement entering the park. I thought I was taking a route that would lead me to a nice campsite, but instead, 40 minutes later, I found myself at a dead end on Hurricane Ridge. Although I was a little put off because I was trying to beat everyone else to a first come first serve campsite, the view was amazing and it eased my frustration. Hurricane Ridge is a panoramic mountain range that is in the upper part of the park. It was b-e-a-utiful. After smelling crisp mountain air, taking a picture or two, and using the restroom (my mom taught me I should go whenever one is available), I was back in my car, heading back to exactly where I started.

There was a thick fog that covered the tip tops of trees. The wind carried the fog across the road in front of me as I drove towards my desired campsite, which by the way, was full once I got there. Having several hours until sunset, and realizing I wanted to end up in the Hoh Rainforest the next day, I started driving west on 101 once again. Not long down the road I found Klahowya Campsite and there was room for more! The site was right next to the Sol Duc River so the sound of rushing water over rocks soothed me as I put up my tent next to a fallen tree covered in moss. After camp was set up, a short little walk by the river complete, and dinner was eaten, I read my book and went to bed. The next morning I woke up early, made some tea, and packed my things. Before heading to the Hoh, I backtracked towards the Sol Duc Campground for hike around the Sol Duc Falls. I’m not going to lie, all the signs about bears and mountain lions and hiking alone freaked me out bit, so with the advice from another lone traveler, I grabbed a hiking stick and headed on my way. The falls were splashing under a walkway, falling off a small rock ledge, and then cascading into a river below. There was so much mist in the air; a huge rainbow circled the bridge going across the falls. It was an amazing way to start the day. Back at my car I had a quick snack and started driving once again.

Thankfully, the early rise was worth it because I was able to snag a killer camping spot in the Hoh Rainforest Campground. Spikemoss draperies hang from big leaf maple trees in the Hoh Valley. It doesn’t harm the trees, but it does weight up to 4 times as much as the tree’s on foliage! How crazy is that? Once my camp was set up for my second night in Olympic, I jumped on the Hoh River Trail and started walking. The trees got a little bigger and bigger as I walked farther into the forest. Everything was covered in mossy green and the Hoh River snaked along next to the trail. I followed a group of backpackers for some time, listening to their stories about past backpacking trips, helpful tips for traveling, and even the volunteer work they do in their home town, but then a waterfall appeared on the left of us and I had to break away. I scampered up as high as the ferns and rocks would let me. Slightly misted by the falls, I sat for a while and cooled down while writing in my journal. I was on the Hoh River Trail for a little over 4 hours and made it back to the trailhead before the visitor’s center closed so I could send some postcards. Having had a full day in this lush rainforest, I was committed to one more day in Olympic. Before going to bed, I mapped out a route because just that morning I drove in the wrong direction away from the falls for 20 minutes before realizing it. National Parks really need more signage, y’all. With a route planned, I curled up in my tent and fell asleep.

OREGON
I woke up knowing I had a full day planned in another part of the park, but feeling like I needed something different. After packing up my things, I quite literally just started driving. Leaving Olympic National park, Highway 101 took me to the coast. A friend recommended Cape Meares State Park with a nice little hike right before the entrance so I was now on a mission to find it. And I did! The park overlooking the ocean with some rocky masses jetting out of the sea off the shore. I met a couple who came from Montreal and France. They spoke broken English, but enough for me to understand they flew into Seattle and are hitching their way to Humboldt County for a job. Lets just say they are…gardeners…I chatted with them for a little while, but then the realization the sun had started going down and I still didn’t have a campsite for the night set in and I went on my way after saying safe travels and goodbye. All of the campsites along the coast were at max capacity. Even thinking back on it, it sounds stressful but there was something in me that just did. not. care. I kept my foot on the gas pedal and kept driving. The West Coast pulled me in so hard my mind went tide pool. I pulled off the road and sat on the edge of this drastic crusty sand cliff that overlooked the beach. The sand had footprints going every which way across it. I could tell there was only a few hours until sunset but I could not pull myself away from that beach without sticking my feet in it first. My shoes and socks were on all day! I was driving all day! It felt wrong not to touch it. Not long down the road was a beach access pull off and it led to a short rocky path that twisted through trees, ending at little river that flowed into the ocean over shallow rocks and old drift wood. I hobbled my way across the water and landed next to a little wooden shelter that had been built by someone with a lot more motivation that me, but for that I’m thankful.

While sitting on that beach, something happened to me. I was completely overcome with this sensation of knowing that I long for tall trees and rocky mountains. I crave big landscape that makes me feel small but I was rooted in sandy Michigan beaches. That beach is exactly where I needed to be. It cleansed me and scared me and made me feel all the feels. The air was thickened by salty water crashing onto shore and the paper in my journal felt damp while writing. And here I was, sitting on a beach in Newport, Oregon all emotional but all smiles, watching the first sunset I had seen since Seattle thinking, “If my car wasn’t parked in a no over night parking zone, I would stay here all night in this little wooden half shelter on this beach in this sand.” But, reality was I couldn’t park where I was for more than another couple hours, and the sun had sunk beneath the horizon so it was starting to get dark. Hesitantly, I got back in my car and drove until I found a rest stop to sleep for a while before heading to Crater Lake, Oregon the following day. It was the best nights sleep I’ve gotten on this trip so far. So to that I say, “Thank you, Oregon Coast.”

Here’s some random things I’ve noticed and learned so far:

  1. People pump your gas for you. You don’t even have to get out of your car. Now, this doesn’t happen everywhere, but along most tiny gas stations on the 101, it does.
  2. There are signs that say, “End of 45 Speed Limit” but they don’t tell you what the actual speed limit is. Eventually, I realized if nothing was marked, just go 65 and all is well.
  3. Postcards are not only fun to pick out and send, but they also have really fun little facts on them.
  4. Olympic National park is 1,442 square miles. Yellowstone is a whopping 3,471 square miles!
  5. The beaches on the coast of Oregon are clean, crisp, and magical.
  6. More people hitch hike across the US regularly than I ever would have imagined. It seems wild to not really have a say in your route and the arrival at your final destination. I’ll stick to my car, thank you (and you’re welcome mom and dad).
  7. Good music makes the world of a difference when you’re in a car for 8 hours.

Seattle, Washington

Woohoo! Alright, so, I’ve made it to Seattle. I’ve actually been here for several days now, but haven’t gotten around to sitting in front of my computer.

I woke up at Ruby’s Inn and Convention Center on Friday, ate a lovely continental breakfast (seriously, they had corn beef hash) and then packed my car and went on my way. I stopped in a little town called Superior to get gas and met a nice young man named Matt. We got to talking and he hopped in my car with me once I got a good sense of who he was (mostly, he’s never killed or hurt anyone, and he wasn’t looking to do any harm, he just needed a ride). He’s been “hitching” for 7 years, travelling all over the US but mostly on the west and in the south. He swore he will never find himself in the south again due to heat and rude people. He got “stuck” in Texas for 3 years a while back and is now making his way back to Seattle because his family lives there. We chatted, stopped for some food, shared stories, sat in silence, I wondered about his life, he probably wondered about mine. It is so incredibly wild to thing he had all of his possessions in a pack on his back. Even his winter gear for the colder months went along with him everywhere. He’s slept under bridges, on couches, near exit/entrance ramps on highways, in the woods. He’s met some very interesting people and got robbed on Father’s day this year. Since I’m doing the majority of this trip alone, it was really nice to have some company for a part of it. He was expecting to find a ride to a town that wasn’t too far from Superior, but was overjoyed that I was going all the way to Seattle.

“Man, oh man, I wasn’t expecting to see this today!” He said as we crossed the border into Washington. I can’t imagine just not knowing where I was going to end up when. My car being with me allows me freedom, but also certainty that I can make it somewhere, or at least sleep in my back seat. He’s got a whole different kind of freedom that’s a little frightening to me to be honest. He works small jobs for under the table pay here and there, but really just bounces around to where ever he can get a ride next.

Although his final destination was/is Seattle, he’s a rambling man and had me drop him off at a gas station in North Bend. That left me in my (now somewhat smelly) car by myself as I cruised into Seattle.

When I got to Seattle I went to Green Lake Park and hung my hammock. I wrote in my journal and attempted to read but got distracted by all of the people, and dogs, that were enjoying the park. Everyone seemed happy. I could not help but smile. I took a little break from my hammock and got some fish and chips at a local shop before retreating again to my hammock for a nice little nap. It was getting cooler, especially in the shade, so I got a blanket from my car and rocked away. After a little while, my cousin, Nicole, texted me and told me she was done with work and wanted to hang. I gathered my things, loaded the car, and headed towards Ballard to meet up with her at her new place. She just recently moved back from New York. We went to a brewery, got some beer, and sat on the patio with her husband, Aaron. After the beers were gone and the brewery closed, we went over to her apartment where our other cousin, Sheila, met us. Aaron grilled us some cheeseburgers and we all sat on the only furniture in their house: patio chairs. All of Nicole and Aaron’s belongings are in a storage facility in New Jersey…supposedly it will be in Seattle soon, but no one is holding their breath. I had a long day of traveling so Sheila and I jumped into my car and went to her place where I was spending the night. She blew up an air mattress for me, introduced me to her cute, cuddly cats, and said goodnight. In the morning we ate at a diner around the corner from her place and then chatted on her couch until my mom called and told me she was in town and had arrived at the house we were renting for the week.

When I arrived at the rental house, everyone except my mom had gone to the grocery store. We looked at pictures from my drive until my dad, grandma, aunt, and two cousins came back. After the groceries were put away, we made our way to Chinooks, a seafood restaurant that sits next to a boat dock. Walking up and down the rows of boats was pretty cool. I found one that I wanted to live in, found some other ones that I would never step foot in, and other ones that are way too fancy for me even on my most fanciest of days. Eventually, we sat down at Chinooks and ordered some food. I enjoyed some shrimp scampi that was saturated with garlic butter and herbs. My goodness it was good. When dinner was done we went back to the house and played some cards before going to bed.

Sunday morning we woke up an went on a city tour with a man named “The Chuckster”. He took us all around town, blowing bubbles, whacking on a cow bell, and telling jokes. The Chuckster was an unbelievably entertaining tour guide and showed us a lot of cool places in the city. We already had places to go in mind during our stay here, but he solidified some of them. After the tour we visited Chihuly’s exhibit. Chihuly blows glass and makes these incredible structures out of them. Some of them are huge! Here’s a picture for size comparison:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe makes chandeliers, garden ornaments, and more. While walking through the exhibit you are hit with beautiful, vibrant colors and interesting art forms. As you make your way through the exhibit, you can enter a garden with tall plants standing next to Chihuly’s glass sculptures. It is something so stunningly beautiful.

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Chihuly Chandeliers with the Space Needle in the background.

Around the corner from the Chihuly exhibit is the Space Needle, so we went there after we saw all the glass there was to see. The Space Needle is cool, but honestly, it’s just that…cool. It’s a long line, tiny elevator, small circular landing, more people, more lines, and then back in the elevator, back down to the ground. Don’t get me wrong, the views form the top are awesome and the whole history of the Space Needle is fascinating, but it’s one of those things you do once and don’t really ever have to do again. When all that sight-seeing touristy stuff was completed, we went to Elysian Brewery to get some grub and get some booze. It was delicious, and was capped off the night with some Blue Bird ice cream from the next block over. Mine was marionberry (basically blackberry). Yum.

So the whole reason my family decided to come to Seattle was because my grandma loves the show Tree House Masters and Pete Nelson, the dude who builds them, built Treehouse Point near Seattle and my grandma wanted to check it out. So that is exactly what we did Monday morning and I could not have enjoyed it more. It is unbelievable to walk into the woods and see little houses sitting amongst the trees. We had a lovely tour guide named Ayla who gave us some history of the place before showing us the inside of 5 out of the 6 tree houses that were there. The 6th one is currently not accessible to people because Pete Nelson is helping the city create codes for building tree houses and this particular tree house is build all on one side of the tree using beams and wires, rather than being built around the tree. Although the city ordinance person came out o said, “Pete, you done good,” they were worried that the public would get their hands on the floor plan and try to create it themselves without having the knowledge in architecture and support like Pete. So, hopefully, as soon as the codes are written, that tree house will be accessible again to the public. And it’s a good thing too, because from the outside you can see into it’s 80 panes of windows and it looks stunning. Yes, it has 80 window panes. Talk about natural light! The tree houses inspired the inner fairy in me and now I want to live in the woods in a little wooden tree house with a compostable toilet next to a river with my cats and call it a day. But for right now, rental house in Colorado Springs it is…

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my future house

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The whole family (minus my brother) before going in the first tree house!

We soaked up the tree houses, enjoyed a walk by the river, I held someone’s baby as she went across the river and back (yay babies!), and then we ate lunch at the Road House down the street. With fully bellies we adventured to Solqualmie Falls where we took a short, but steep, hike down to the bottom of the falls and back before heading back to the house. I took a little nap, washed my face, and then my mom and dad and I met back up with cousins Sheila, Nicole, and Aaron at Hale’s Brewing. It is always nice to spend time with them laughing and telling stories. We finished our food (and our beers) and then said our goodbyes.

Today we managed to drive onto a ferry and get to Bainbridge island. We walked around some shops, I bought things I didn’t really need but really wanted, and we ate lunch at a very slow, but tasty restaurant that had flights of wine. Mmm, wine. After the wine and food we walked around some more and wound up at Eleven Wine Tasting Room. For ten dollars you can try 5 different wines. I will say, I enjoyed all of mine except for the desert one. It was entirely too sweet, but everything else was delicious and I would recommend Eleven’s wine to a friend for sure. What goes with wine? Some may say chocolate, or cheese, but not the Sirovy’s, the Sirovy’s say, “ICE CREAM!” Mona’s across the street had a ton of interesting flavors. I got Lemon Bar ice cream and it was ideal. Before leaving Bainbridge and boarding the ferry again, we drove to The Labyrinth, which is essentially a circular maze made from patterned rocks and crystals. Around the Labyrinth were nice walking paths, a Tibet Prayer Spinner, and a comfy wooden swing.

Back on the ferry, back to Seattle, back to sight seeing, then onwards to dinner, and back home for the night. Today was a long, but entertaining day. We’ll see what tomorrow brings! So far my time in Seattle is wonderful. The weather has been freakishly nice (no rain) and our rental house is working out perfectly.

A trip.

Back by popular demand (just my mom suggesting it, really) are my tales of traveling!

Summer vacation has been in full force for several weeks now. I’ve had a trip back to Michigan, a couple of weekends camping, and I have spent many hours hanging in my hammock reading books. It’s really been very lovely.

Friday, June 30th is when the biggest trip of my summer started. A couple of friends from Michigan were in town, and we went to see Umphreys Mcgee at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. We had three-day passes, so we rented an Airbnb house in Idaho Springs. The house was more of a condo, we were on the fourth floor, two bedroom, one bathroom, a trundle bed living space area next to the dining room/living room, and a Nintendo64! How lucky were we?! Umphreys was wonderful on Friday night. They were also wonderful on Saturday night. The second night we chose to sit up higher than we did the night before. Most times when people go to shows, getting as close as possible is the goal, but for me, at Red Rocks, that eliminates a lot of the experience of being there. Someone spent a lot of time creating that amphitheater and you better believe I’m going to take advantage of the view. And it’s a good thing we did because during the second set, fireworks started going off right behind the stage. So there we had it, Umphreys getting groovy on stage, the crowd loving it, and then on top of it all, fireworks! Happy Fourth of July weekend to us.

Sunday I decided to sell my ticket and hang out at the house with a friend who came to visit instead. The next morning we went to breakfast in Georgetown which is only a short drive away from Idaho Springs. We went to The Happy Cooker, a brunch place I’m familiar with because when I worked at Rocky Mountain Village summer camp, we would eat there on weekends (the came is in between Idaho Springs and Georgetown). My friend left, I met back up with my Michigan peeps, then we grilled our dinner at a friends house who now lives in Georgetown. She was the original camp go-er. Then she got my friend and I to join suite. We ate homemade bread, sausages, chips and dip, and mini cheesecakes. Mmm mm.

Tuesday morning was the 4th of July and I had been eyeing this hike right across the street from our Airbnb. Saint Mary’s Glacier could be seen from our (rented) backyard and I wanted to climb it! I got up, ate a quick breakfast and packed a bag. Off I went. Luckily, I could walk to the trail head because the parking lots filled up passed capacity by the time I was hiking back. Starting at the trailhead, it was about ¾ of a mile up some rocky, but easily navigable, terrain. At the end of that, I came to an opening that held a little lake. There were old trees, but a lot of open space and beyond the lake sat this beautiful glacier, so I made my way. Climbing up it, I was amazed at how many people were hiking up in their ski or snowboard gear. There was even a family that turned big garbage bags into sleds. I sat for a while on a rock near by the edge of the snowy parts and watched everyone enjoy themselves.

Saint Mary's Glacier

-Saint Mary’s Glacier on the right, lake and trailhead on the left.

The sun was warm but the breeze was cool. After a while of bobbing my leg up and down, I realized that I really had to use the bathroom. The only problem being…there’s no bathroom on the top of a glacier. I (very stealthily) climbed away from most of the people, found a patch of trees and took a squat. Relieved, I decided to climb a little bit higher and ended up finding the end of what used to be some sort of ski lift. I noticed the other half of it down by the main road before the trailhead a couple days earlier and was happy to put the two ends together. On my way back down to the house, my friend texted me and told me she was making breakfast and when I got back, an egg sandwich was waiting for me. It was perfect timing.

By the time Wednesday came around, I was ready for a change of pace and scenery. My plan was to drive to Salt Lake City, Utah, but that quickly changed when I saw a sign for the Grand Tetons. Mt route took a turn North and I could not have been more pleased. Several hours out of Colorado, into Wyoming, mountains started appearing on the horizon. Big mountains, covered in snow. I drove alongside of them for many miles until I approached Grand Teton National Park. As soon as I pulled in the main gate, clouds decided to let go of all the rain they’ve been holding on to. It poured. It was getting late. Campsites were filling up. I turned the car around and found the only campsite with an open spot and set up camp. Settled in, I grabbed my camera and decided to go try and catch the sunset. Thankfully, the clouds had cleared and it was sunny again. It’s funny how it tends to do that by mountains. Weather changes so abruptly and seems to be more intense than typical.

On my way around the F Loop of Gros Ventre campsite, a man stopped his bicycle and asked me,

“Did ya get-ta take a picture of the moose?”

I said, “Moose!?! No! I didn’t!”

Kindly, he directed me towards the back of the loop and sure enough, there was a moose. It was only several feet away from a tent, and the owners of the tent told me to come closer to them so I could get a good picture. After that, I walked towards the front of the campground which faced the Teton Mountain Range. The sun was slightly hidden behind some clouds that were glowing orange and pink and I was sure I could reach up and grab cotton candy from the sky. The mountains leave this drastic outline that seems so harsh, yet calming, next to the flowing clouds.

Thursday morning I woke up with the intention of exploring the Tetons more. Maybe going for a hike, a scenic drive, ya know, tourist stuff. Well, I got to the scenic drive part and quickly realize just how close I was to Yellowstone National Park. Now, my parents bought me a National Park Pass for Christmas and I plan on utilizing it fully, so on to Yellowstone I went! But first, I pulled off on a Teton Range pull off spot and took out my camp chair. I’m not sure how long I sat there staring at those mountains. They looked so sharp, so crisp, so incredible intimidating, but also soft. I’m so used to seeing foothills in front of mountains, but not that the Tetons.

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Grand Teton Mountain Range

Maybe there’s a little hill, or a lake, but then BAM a big fricken mountain just piercing through the sky in front of you. It made me wonder about the moment they were made. Was it was swift movement? Did they almost explode into existence or was it a slow creaking growth? How loud was it? What gives people the oomph to climb up those peaks and not shake in their shoes? Grand Teton National park deserves a lot more exploring than what I had to offer, but I’ll save that for next time.

In driving through the Tetons, I came to understand how close I was to Yellowstone (remember, I didn’t plan on driving this far North so I didn’t map out any of these things…) so it had to be seen. I drove a little over 20 miles from the Northern end of the Tetons and drove right into Yellowstone. It took 45 minutes to get to the visitors center/shop! Trees lined the street. So many trees. It’s no wonder bears and other animals love it there, there’s no way they can be seen with that thick foliage. I stopped at a few different basins, but my favorite was the Grand Prismatic Spring: Prism of Light, Spectrum of Life (there’s a much simpler name but I like that one better). There are the most beautiful yellows and browns and oranges surrounding this bright turquoise spring. There was steam rising from it since it’s 160 degrees F. There are microorganisms that line the hot springs’ runoff channels called “Extremophiles” because they live in places that are thought to be too extreme for life. Fun fact: Because conditions on other planets in our solar system are harsh, if life exists elsewhere it is probably as some form of microscopic extremophile. Neat!

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Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone

After a couple of hot springs I drove even farther north to find some waterfalls. Yellowstone’s geography is so mind boggling to me. First, but rolling mountainous hills with trees covering what seem to be every inch. Then, beach-like land with bubbling aqua blue hot springs. Then, huge cliffs lining a river with a couple waterfalls thrown in the mix. It’s hard not to be amazed.

Last night I finally made it out of Yellowstone (it took me an hour longer to hit the exit than I thought, remember, it’s huge) and drove towards Missoula Montana. There was a beautiful creamsicle sunset that hung over the mountains, illuminating all the layers in between each peak. It was quite the sight. I made it to Missoula, did not feel like dealing with the hassle of a campground/car sleeping, so I bought a cheap motel room at Ruby’s Inn and Convention Center. When I got to my room, there was a note that read,

“Welcome to Ruby’s Inn! Please enjoy your stay! –Emily”

Well, in my driving-for-too-long mind, I read that as,

“Welcome to Ruby’s Inn! Please enjoy your stay, Emily!”

For a moment, I’m not gonna lie, I was scared. How did they know I was going to be in this room? How did they write that note in between the time I got my key and opened the door? The answer is, they didn’t. It was just an Emily wishing another Emily a happy stay. After my nerves settled a bit, I fell asleep soundly. This morning I am eating a continental breakfast and driving all the way to Seattle to see my lovely cousin, Sheila.

 

And the adventure continues.