A few glorious days in Glacier National Park

Last summer, we camped just west of Yellowstone National Park, and a sore throat led me to the sweet nectar of ramen from the KOA camp store. I also bought an emergency “hand stitched” fleece blanket. Last week, another sore throat led to more cheap ramen and recuperating on the sofa under that bear blanket and I got to thinking of our latest camping trip, to Glacier National Park.

Recovery on the sofa means lots of assistants

We drove the kids out to Glacier in August and lucked out, getting a campsite at Two Medicine and stayed for three nights.  Most of the camp sites in the park can’t be reserved ahead of time, and the park has gotten so popular in the last two summers that you have to troll the campsites, waiting for others to pack up.  We’re not the only ones who want to see the glaciers while they last, I suppose.

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On the path to the Apistoki Falls, which we never found

91-year-old wooden boat, Sinopah, ferried us across Two Medicine lake for a chance to torture the kids with a “miserable” hike to Twin Falls

I took a ridiculous amount of pictures, but truly, if you can go, you should to experience it yourself.  The thing that stays with me is how quiet it was, and how dark the night was.  We went to sleep the second night to very strong winds rattling the tent. (Don’t worry, the bear fleece was keeping us warm.)  I woke in the night once the wind had died and there was no sound, anywhere.  No crickets or peepers or even the owls from earlier or wind or distant car traffic or generators or any other human noise.  It was the kind of silence that had a weight to it on my ears.  I was unsettled by it then, but miss it now.

Winter kill from sap rising fast in warm Chinook winds, then expanding in a sudden refreeze.

We checked out the Two Medicine area, St. Mary and Many Glacier before driving through the park on Going-to-the-Sun highway as we left.  Two Medicine lake and a spot on the far side of Swiftcurrent Lake (that edges on the Many Glacier Lodge) were my absolute favorite parts of the park, although we really only saw a fraction of it.  We did see some bears ahead of us on the road, twice, from the car, just the way I like.  The open-range cattle were more shocking, though, just hanging out in the road, right after any sharp bend.

Recent fire scars remain

 

One of the old park tour vehicles ahead on the road to St. Mary
Wildfire scars and recovery

Some of us were there for the lichen, some of us were there for the geology

When we were there, wildfires in the park had been burning for about 10 days.  No new back-country permits were being issued, and no campfires were allowed anywhere in thepark (camp stoves were still okay at campsites only) but that didn’t affect our plans at all, and we just dealt with hazy skies.

View of Saint Mary Lake, August 12, 2017, hazy from wildfire smoke

I had been hoping to see the Perseid meteor shower from our camp site, but even if they skies hadn’t been smoky, it was cloudy those nights.   We were all exhausted from hiking and playing in the river to be too disappointed about this.  The kids made sure to have their “special ramen” and made sure our neighbors knew that “ramen makes you toot.”  They were from Seattle and before leaving, they gave us a bag of Peet’s ground coffee (because we’d very sadly left ours at home) and I’m still grateful.  (I love you, Lisa!) What an amazing place in the world.  Number ten on our list, and number one in our hearts.

Hiding from the wind at Rising Sun along St. Mary Lake

 

View from the lodge at Many Glacier
The hike begins in good spirits that last a whole quarter mile.
Hiking around Swiftcurrent Lake

 

Close to the best and “worst” spot in the entire park, a beautiful wooden bride over the river into Swifcurrent Lake.  This is where a hot, 2 1/2 mile hike through stupid, gnarled trees and a failed attempt at a trail-side pee (mom’s stupid idea) came together.  No amount of Skittles could fix it.  Still pretty, though.
Ramen for mood-restoration
Back on the road, near to stop #3 for carsickness
Just after Logan’s Pass on Going-To-The-Sun Road.  Don’t worry, Wolverine poop jokes are still alive and well in this family.
Goodbye, Glacier NP.  We’re grateful for your spacious, awesome beauty.
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Jerome, Arizona

Fly into Phoenix, drive out of the airport and stop at Carolina’s, and feast on the best tacos you’ve ever had.  Get a quesadilla and know what heaven tastes like.  It’s up to you if you use the little cups for salsa, or your water cup filled to the brim like the locals.

Drive north a ways, weave through some side roads and canyons, and find your way to the abandoned Gold King Mine turned machinery graveyard/ghost town in Jerome, Arizona.

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We went this past spring and spent some time wandering through the vast collections of machinery, mining tools, buildings with mannequin inhabitants and everyone enjoyed this charming oddity.  Behold!

The man who preserved the Gold King Mine, Don Robertson, was apparently Gandalf’s own brother, and a an adventurer, collector and free-spirit.  His family is now managing the site. It was fascinating to peak in to the forgotten mine town and the things people leave behind, and I’m so glad he created it and so glad we went.

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Thanks, Don.  Jerome holds a true roadside attraction everyone should see at least once.

A Week in the Life, Take II

Do you keep seeing black and white photos of people’s lives? It is easy to see the appeal of this particular challenge; The beauty of it lies in its simplicity. Everyone can find the gorgeous in the everyday with the help of a monochrome filter. It’s satisfying to see these spaces we inhabit be lifted to a higher plane, stark and barren without people. I like to see the world that way.

I also want social media to be a link for me to those friends of mine who’ve spread across the city, state, country and world, and yet that isn’t what it is for me. I’m not sure it ever was, but it certainly isn’t that now. I don’t want to spend my time there feeling more and more alienated rather than closer to people. I took a couple weeks away from all media (okay, not my Spider Solitaire), and I felt different, and better and more hopeful and I need that to continue. I don’t have the energy to invest in visiting social media everyday to post pictures as there are a dozen things I “can’t even” about right now and, as always….

Winter is coming. Here’s what I’ll be doing this cycle around the sun: Running. If you’ve never felt the lifting of your heart from the simple act of running, I wish you do someday. I’m leaving my bootcamp for a while, doing my PT, resting all five injuries, and running. And walking. In the cold. In the dark. In the snow. I welcome the fresh air to clear out the many cobwebs. And April 7th, I’ll be finishing a half marathon because the fifth time is the charm. I welcome the early dark as a blanket of calm to mute the sparkle of the holidays. I sort and store and prepare.

….And I’m an impatient story-teller. So, here’s another seven days condensed into seven pictures to stand without explanation. You don’t even have to check in every day.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

4

5

6

Nearly full Sharps container

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Visiting The Wyoming Dinosaur Center

A year and a week ago, we visited the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, and just had to go back.  I always tell people my nine-year old is “a bit of a dinosaur enthusiast,” which, while true, is an understatement, and ignores that both his father and I are even bigger nerds about it.  I mean, how often do you get to see the actual feather imprints of dinosaurs?!?

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Microraptor (early Cretaceous, China) with feathers on both upper and lower appendages. Wyoming Dinosaur Center

This year, after spending the night in Thermopolis, WY…IMG_4215 in our favorite hotel (warm cookies in the lobby in the evening) and running along the boardwalks and suspension bridge that criss-cross the World’s Largest Hot Springs, we headed over.

I kid you not, the music playing as we walked in was the same as what my husband and I walked, together, down the aisle to: Bach Cello Suite No. 4 Sarabande  (What a gift to have Nils Bultmann play at our wedding.)  I was geeking out and tried hard not to get overwhelmed before making it to the main room this year.  No luck.  It is such a phenomenal collection of specimens from the beginning of life on earth.  So much of what is on the floor is the real fossil, not casts or models, and it is mind-boggling. True, it has amazing, huge specimens of Supersaurus (“Jimbo” for those in the know) and Camarasuarus, but everything here is amazing: Stromatolites, first arthropods, fish, plants, amphibians, reptiles and on and on and on.  Absolutely worth the two (or eight, or 14) hour drive.

It’s a small museum, absolutely packed with incredible fossils. It has the most complete fossil archaeopteryx on display in North America,IMG_4272 (2)

(although The Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta has a replica of the Berlin imprint/fossil that is indistinguishable from the real one.) I made it up to a stony, fossil skeletal lystrosaurus, “the most humble badass of the triassic,” before I couldn’t absorb any more.

I handed the camera over to my six-year-old and the rest of the photos are hers.  I love seeing her view of things.

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Rhamphorhyncus, Late Jurassic
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The framing. Definitely a child of mine.

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Supersaurus in the middle, Camarasaurus rising in background

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Go see for yourselves!!

One night and a hike in Sedona

We spent just enough time in the charming Sedona last week to make me wish we lived there.  We started the morning in Phoenix and drove north to visit Montezuma Castle National Monument, or rather two of us did and the one with pneumonia and I drooped our way back to the car and drank juice and coughed until it was time to go.  I got just enough of a look to be amazed, and realize any pictures I took made it look like a doll house in the rocks. Guy overheard a teenager lie to his sister that this was Montezuma’s summer home.  *snort*  

We drove on through Jerome (more on that coming soon) and finally made it to Sedona just in time to be crushed to realize The Red Planet Diner is no longer.  We mourned the loss of Space Junk, the entree, then found a worthy replacement at MoonDog’s Pizza.  Granted, we were starving, but I’m still pretty sure the pizza and ancho chicken sandwich and spaghetti were great.  I wanted to ask the owner if he was Moondog, expecting some old hippie, and was grateful I didn’t….because we heard a pack of coyotes singing and chattering three times that night and I put it together.  Aha.  Moondogs are coyotes.  See, here, we hear a couple coyotes do a low howl now and then, but the moondogs in Sedona have a LOT to say.  Especially at the full moon.

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Moonrise over Sedona

Even after a night filled with coyotes, snoring, and two coughing kids, we were sufficiently reenergized by breakfast at Nick’s to go on a short hike before the day heated up.  We headed to Boynton Canyon in a designated Red Rock Secret Wilderness of the Coconino National Forest to hike the Vista trail for the supposed vortex at the end.  We’ll take all the good mojo we can get for the Peanut. Perfect for us.  Gorgeous and restorative, and only one of us needed a piggy-back ride back to the trail head. We’ll go back again and hike some more of those beautiful red rocks for sure.

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After a roadside picnic, we piled back in the car for a drive along Oak Creek Canyon, a thirteen-mile stretch I remember well from the first time my husband and I drove it; I was pregnant and the curves and the dizzyingly close canyon walls were intense and nauseating.  This was a much easier drive.  We stopped at the canyon rim and got a chance to get out and look back….and promise to come back again soon.  Thanks, Sedona!

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Dinosaurs of Arizona

The other main reason we went to Arizona last week was to see dinosaurs.  The dino-philes amongst us had heard there were some fine Triassic fossils, models and murals spread throughout Arizona.  Some of us researched how and where to see every last dinosaur and dinosaur-like creature in the state.  We also brought some of our own and showed them around.

Now, my kids were beyond bored with the amazing facts about the Grand Canyon, including the that the top layer of earth there is Kaibab limestone, rock older than the dinosaurs.  As you proceed down the canyon, the rock gets even older, with the deepest part of the canyon being 1.5 Billion, with a “B” years old!! (Vishnu and Zoroaster formations. Geonerds, check out this awesome geologic map of Arizona. )

Of more interest was the rock formations left from the early and late Triassic periods (Moenkopi and Chinle) for the Postosuchus and the Coelophysis fossils they contain.  (That’s “crocodile from past” and a 10-foot-long bipedal, carnivorous early dinosaur.)

We looked high and low and this is what we found…

In Flagstaff’s Museum of Northern Arizona

In Petrified Forest National Park and the park’s Rainbow Forest Museum, Arizona

 

At the Museum of Natural History of Mesa

*What a gem of a museum.  The Dinosaur Mountain exhibit is several stories high and combines geologic layers of rock with animatronic dinosaurs, animal, and plant life from the corresponding age.  The flight exhibit was also a bit jumbled, but worth visiting.  Not pictured is the Dino Zone, a room for kids to touch, climb and explore around life-size models of  a stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, and triceratops set in front of realistic background murals where my children spent more time than the rest of the museum combined, crawling in and out of a tube.  Because they were raised by animals.*

And then there was The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

 

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Some of us see dinosaurs everywhere 

May you too find dinosaurs wherever you look.

The Grand Canyon, April 2017

Ostensibly, this recent trip was about taking the kids to see the Grand Canyon….and they both thought it was a total dud.  I joked beforehand with a friend who had taken her young kids about the whining, “Moooom.  We’ve been here twenty minutes and haven’t even seen a condor yet. Lame.”  In reality, it was less than a minute, no lie, before my six-year-old daughter turned to me and said “I can’t believe we drove a HALF HOUR to see this.”  (Bless her heart.  We actually took a week vacation, a four hour flight and did five hours combined, driving, to get here…but still.)

I’ll put up lots more from our trip in the following days, but here’s some of the best pictures from our morning at the Canyon.  For your viewing pleasure, none of the wilting or whining or “mood enhancers” (Jolly Ranchers, handed out at desperate times,) are included.  But, there IS a condor!

I haven’t enhanced or filtered any of these, only cropping one and spot-removing grit form three images.  The colors of the canyon are muted in the morning and develop as the sun moves overhead.  If you’re not eight and/or hot, tired,crabby, or generally miserable, it would be amazing to stay the day and watch the colors of the rocks “change”.

No Xmas Cards

Are you flooded with catalogs already?  I am. It starts in October and turns to a deluge. Toys. Puffy vests. Plaids. Glitter. Shiny. It’s like a war-boy’s death approaches, all this chrome in my mail box.

After my fifth sample Minted card with foil-pressed letters, I’ve decided not to do Christmas cards this year.  They’re too precious.  Too ostentatious.  Gold foil??  I’d be delighted to receive such a beautiful card.  I love getting pictures of people’s gorgeous families, and especially love the ones where someone is not thrilled about being in the picture.  But I ‘m not wading through gallery choice of gold foil and glitter and the staging the perfect picture of my kids this year.

I’m not putting on our annual Solstice Spectacular, either.  Last year I tried to go small for the holidays and it still felt like too much.  Maybe it’s a bah-humbug kind of year, but I actually just have hope that it will be calm and lovely instead of garish and rushed and overdone.  Maybe.  There’s always a chance I’ll give up and lay down on a shelf in Target like the priest in the window on Easter morning in Chocolat.

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#spiritanimal

What are holiday cards for?  Well-wishing for the season and new year?  Plus a little piece of something beautiful and peaceful?  Well, here you all go.  I hope you are well this holiday season.  I hope you find moments with your loved ones that make all the external noise disappear.  I hope you have time for hot chocolate and that you experience the joy and wonder that my kids do at the first snow.  And as for a little piece of something pretty, this is what caught my eye looking through this year’s pictures so far, in no particular order.  Enjoy and happy, early holidays.

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Let’s Go For a Ride
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Out for a run
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First snow
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Forward
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Sunset
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Sunset with a beverage
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To the Parthenon!
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Big Sky Country
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Sky Over Yellowstone in August

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Adventurers

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A girl and her millipede, out for a walk
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Phi and Ox-Bow, somewhere over Louisiana
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The Best of New Orleans
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Just passing through

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Traditional Crafting
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Home
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“Did you see the famly of Ammonites on the Beach??”
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May you find what you’re looking for this season and new year.

 

A New Lens

Courtesy, the kitten ( the older one, not the new oneOMGIhaveFOURcats!!!), uh, the camera was knocked off a counter and the lens broke.  The new one is Tamron 18-200mm (on my trusty Canon EOS Rebel T5.)  There’s something wonky with it, as the image jumps occasionally…but I haven’t had the time to take it back in and have it checked.  But it does have a further range than the previous one and I’m getting used to it.

After my temporary blind spot last year, I was hesitant to take pictures.  It just drew too much attention to this new weak spot.  However, my eyes now are as good as they ever were, and the new lens has gotten me a little excited.  Just a few here to show you what has been catching my eye lately.

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The underside of ivy

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Wish Doll

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Sky above Strickers
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Welcome to your CSA!
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Went well with all that candy corn
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Sutter’s Ridge