Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Yellowstone: Early Morning on the Travertine Terraces

 

The sun is shining, and we slept wonderfully. The cabins have no heat, and no air conditioning. We slept with the window open; it is very quiet in the cabin area. It is early – maybe 6 – when we get up and go to walk the lower terrace while the sun is rising.

It is COLD! We are all bundled up and I even wore socks with my sandals; fashion faux pas maybe but I don’t care, my toes are toasty and I take the socks off when we have finished the hike – it’s warmed up considerably.

Here is a photo from inside our cabin of how people toured the terraces back in the day.

This is the famous “Liberty Cap.” I see a grumpy man’s face under the cap, do you? Look for the downturned mouth.

The sun is rising, and in the hour we spend hiking from view to view and up to the upper terrace, we see only two other couples, and one single.

 

 

Did I mention it was cold? Really cold?

I want you to see how close we are to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel; you can see it at the top of the photo. I remember counting these steps, a lot of steps, going up and up and up, but now I can’t remember how many there were. It was daunting looking up, but exhilarating looking down.

 

 

Much of the boardwalk is still covered in frost, but the sun is bright and warm, and there are places with no frost at all.

 

Some of these photos I am putting in so you can see the variation in colors depending on the minerals leached, and the amount of time exposed to the elements.

 

 

This part really reminds me of Pammukale, in Turkey. In Turkey, people bathe in the hot springs. I can’t imagine. You could get really badly burned in some of these springs.

 

 

 

 

 

On the upper terrace we came across this: a boardwalk viewpoint is now off limits; it is sinking. We contemplated how difficult it must be to install these boardwalks to allow visitors to safely walk these terraces, and how difficult it must be to repair, maybe impossible. The ground is constantly shifting and reforming. How to balance the need for the tourist dollar to preserve and protect the park with the costs of keeping the visitors safe and amused.

 

 

 

I am just a sucker for this terrace formation process. It is endlessly fascinating. Does anything like this exist anywhere else in the United States?

 

 

 

It is barely 0730 and a few other visitors are arriving. We feel so blessed to have had this beautiful morning on the terraces.

June 25, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Environment, Exercise, Geography / Maps, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Turkey | Leave a comment

Entering Yellowstone National Park – A Day of Thrills

You know I am a map lady, and a navigator. Being a map lady is really helpful when you discover that in spite of the fact that you downloaded all the relevant maps (you thought) into your smart phone, there are times the smart phone won’t show you the next section of the map in the detail you need. This is our plan for today, with a side trip up to Norris Geyser Basin, which I really want to see.

We love our car. We rented from Enterprise, and when we got there, they gave us a little SUV, not unlike our own cars back home, and it was plenty of room, very comfortable, and all wheel drive. Our only tiny criticism of this car is that the turning radius is not that of a Rav4. We are spoiled. We love being able to turn on a dime.

There is one other little thing. You know there is a thing, in Seattle and in Montana . . . a thing about Californians. When the Californians leave California because housing prices and taxes are too high, they move to Seattle and to Montana, and then the housing prices start going higher in those places and the Californians get the blame.

For example, when we got to the South 9th Bistro, in Bozeman, we weren’t sure it was OK to park where we parked, so we asked the head waitress if it was OK. She said it was, and I said “well, our rental has a California plate,” and she gasped, then said “I think you’ll be OK,” and we both laughed. The point is, if you have a California plate, you need to be a little more careful. It’s just the way it is.

We didn’t hurry to hit the road this morning, as it is only a short drive to our next overnight, and we are feeling relaxed.

Marriages are funny. You don’t know what you don’t know when you get married. I thought every family travelled like my family, i.e. you get up really early and hit the road and drive a few hours and then stop for breakfast at some rest stop along the autobahn, then you get back in the car and drive more hours until the next meal or Dad has to gas up the car and then you drive more until you get “there.”

My husband was all about stopping all the time to enjoy a view or stretch or have a soda, and by the end of the day were often weren’t “there” yet and had to keep driving, making us both cross. Sometimes we were barely speaking by the end of the day.

After much soul searching, we slowly through the years adopted new, better practices. Now our phrase is “Shorter Days, Longer Stays.” It seems to be working.

We headed straight back to Feed for breakfast. It was phenomenal. AdventureMan had biscuits and gravy with a hit of eggs on top and the best fried potatoes ever. I had an omelette, and grilled toast. Total Wow.

 

Leaving Bozeman, we followed Highway 191 down to the West Entrance of Yellowstone, and before we even reached the entrance to the park, the great adventure began.

This was sheer good luck. I had my camera ready to take a photo as we drove by and just by chance caught a group of white water kayakers and rafters on their own grand adventure.

 

Not long later, we had to stop. There were bison on the road, with bison babies (probably called calfs) and they were huge, and not the least bit interested in us.

 

 

There was quite a line at the West Entrance – it was the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. I imagine the lines only get worse as the season goes forward.  We headed for the Artist Paintpots, and were heartsick when we saw the parking lot full and people parking outside the parking lot all over the place, and buses and people rushing as if they might never get another chance to see the paint pots. We really wanted to see them too, but we were spending several days in the park, and we knew we had time.

We headed on to Norris Geyser Basin, which for me, was one of the highlights of the day. First, there weren’t a lot of people, and most of the people there were hiking the much shorter Porcelain Basin, while we were hiking the Back Basin. It was mostly all boardwalk, with a considerable number of stairs near Steamboat Geyser and some woody trails coming back. In between are some of the most desolate, eerie, and fascinating natural wonders I have ever seen.

Steamboat Geyser was the most fun. We must have spent 45 minutes there, while the geyser spurted and gurgled and growled and totally teased us into believing it was going to erupt full scale, but it never did. We were told we were lucky to see it so active, but it reminded us of Africa were the tourists are constantly told how lucky they are, that this is a very rare sighting. You get a little skeptical after a while. I already felt lucky enough, watching boiling hot water bubbling out of the earth.

Here is something I took very seriously.

 

It’s hard to show you how spectacular this scenery is with a static photo. Please imagine the steam coming sizzling hot out of the ground and drifting up. Imagine acres of steam coming out of the ground.

 

Emerald Spring

 

Steamboat Geyser

 

 

 

 

 

Look at those colors! Bacteria that thrive in the unimaginable hot temperatures create rainbow like colors, some all reds and oranges and yellows, some all greens and blues and purples, all, for people who are addicted to color, irresistible.

 

 

Below is the Porcelain Basin walk, much shorter.

 

 

 

 

We left en route to the Old Faithful area, trying one more time to get into Artist’s Paintpots, but the parking, it is hard to believe, was even worse! We continued on.

We found a one way side road along the Firehole River, which was a lot of fun. We always love the side roads.

The Firehole River is wild. It is pounding hard as the mountain snow cover melts, but it is also fed by the natural hot springs along its bank. In warmer times of the year, people are actually allowed to swim in this river, but you have to be careful. You can be comfortable and then suddenly find yourself in very hot water (not just a figure of speech.)

Our last stop before getting to the Old Faithful Inn was the Black Sand Basin, and Spouter Geyser.

 

 

Spouter Geyser

One really nice thing about our National Parks – at just about every stop, there are restrooms. Some are more primitive that others, some are long drops, but most are fairly clean and supplied.

June 22, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Environment, Geography / Maps, Marriage, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Zion National Park, Mineral Gulch and the Coral Sand Dunes

Wake up to grandeur in Zion National Park 🙂

 

It’s a little chilly for breakfast on the terrace, but the inside restaurant is nice, the wait staff is exceptional, professional, helpful and quick. When I saw blueberries available on another dish, and asked the waiter if I could add them to my oatmeal, it was a done deal. Don’t you just love it?


Most of the hiking groups who are tackling the higher peaks have already departed, but there are some elderly hikers getting a later start. We hike, but we are not group hikers. We like to set our own schedule and our own pace, but we admire the groups that have been hiking for years and adapting to one another’s styles. They have a great camaraderie.

We have to take the shuttle to get deeper into the park, so we go all the way to the end. Our plan is to do the Riverwalk hike, then work our way back to the hotel. At this time of the morning, there are only adults, no children. The children arrive on buses, hundreds of school children brought to the park nearing the end of the school year, to show them the wonder of our country’s natural beauty.

The Riverwalk is awesome. It is glorious, and relatively easy, and relatively safe. You reach a point where it says “no wheelchairs beyond this point due to the grade” and realize that even to this point, there have been steady ups and downs.

The beauty is so totally different from Bryce Canyon, we are in another geological era and we are viewing it all from below, rather than from above. This reminds me very much of Yosemite, with Capital Dome, and all the granite. The color mixtures here are wonderful to behold.

You can see that the path is mostly smooth, and paved, with an obstruction here and there to keep it interesting and natural.

There are rockfalls along the path, giant rockfalls. Anyone with an inkling of imagination can realize how short life can be, how unpredictable, how chaotic.

 

It is so early that the river itself is mostly in the dark.

 

Wonderful plants and flowers find enough nutrients in crevices and eroded places to explode into life.

Look at those trees, clinging to life at the tops of these cliffs!

 

I spotted this, and followed the line up.

AdventureMan, with his sharp eyes, spots an anomaly on the side of the cliff:

We think this is one of the park employees, creating safe climbing areas for those who like to go straight up, using ropes and pitons and you know, climbing stuff.

 

Leaving Zion, we are exploring Mineral Gulch, just outside Zion National Park, where we are told there are pictographs. I will tell you the truth, but do not do what we did, it is not safe. AdventureMan went one way, and I went another. I found a dry stream bed that looked promising, and I followed it.

Doesn’t this look exactly like where pictographs would be?

Or this? Oh, I wish AdventureMan were with me, with his sharp eyes. Even as I am thinking how very wrong and stupid it is to be off exploring separately, not together, I keep going a little further, a little further. Every now and then AdventureMan and I shout back and forth, but it’s been a while since I have heard him. I know I need to go back, I know it, but maybe, just around the corner, are the pictographs.

 

We never found the pictographs. I found a lot of places where I think they should be, but if they were there, I didn’t see them. Hot, tired, dehydrated, we headed for Mt. Carmel Junction, where we found this crazy funky restaurant, and got our orders in just before the Korean tour bus arrived.

Club Sandwich for AdventureMan:

Taco Salad for me. Very different, lots of peppers, lots of salsa. Very tasty, not a lot of beans or meat.

 

AdventureMan has spotted another remote road going to Coral Dunes State Park. I keep thinking we are on the wrong road, and he keeps insisting this is the road, it is the only road it can be. We are not arguing, we are just not on the same page. He was right. We find the Coral Sand Dunes, and they are beautiful.

He has shown me the road on the map, and we THINK we can make it, but his rental is a little low to the ground. I notice that the road number obscures the fact that for four miles, going into Arizona, the road is actually a track. We hold our breath, as the pavement ends, the road turns into washboard, the road forms crevasses, and we just hope the road doesn’t wash away. This is one of the longest four miles ever.

Safely off the track, we hit Springdale, just outside Zion, for ice-dream, and for sandwiches for dinner. They have a mercantile shop with a sandwich shop inside, with gourmet sandwiches. AdventureMan has an Avocado Veggie special, and I have a Reuben, and we find some crazy great T-shirts for all the little ones.

Back in Zion, the light is fading fast.

The horses are being taken back to rest up for the next day.

My feet are sore from the uneven smooth rocks in the creek-bed, and I am still a little dehydrated. Sure wish we had found those petroglyphs.

 

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Eating Out, Environment, Exercise, Food, Geography / Maps, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Trips Out

I must be feeling better. This morning I got an important quilt sandwiched – yes, even in these humid 90°F + temperatures, I was down on my hands and knees, pinning the three layers together. The colors are so beautiful it was truly a labor of love.

And – AdventureMan has been asking me about our next road trip. Oh, he is so subtle! He talks longingly of road trips we’ve taken, places we’ve stayed and loved, and how much he loves to be on the road. I understand; I get restless, too! So last night I began sketching out a two week road trip through the “four-corner” states.

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I have a sister who loves this part of the United States, and I have heard from her for years about some wonderful places I have never seen. Bryce Canyon. Zion National Park. Arches National Park. There is some Native American territory I want to cross and a couple places we’ve stayed before, and loved. Best of all, there are two adorable little toddlers I haven’t seen for over a year, and my arms hunger to hug them – Little Diamond’s children, no longer babies, growing growing so fast.

 

I just did a first draft – haven’t made any reservations yet. I’ve been getting advisories from Trip Advisor about flight prices from here to Denver; it’s one of the changes we are going to make, not making ourselves drive hell-bent-for-leather for three days just to get to where our vacation will start. We are also driving fewer miles and staying more nights at each stop. We discovered on our Vancouver Island trip how much we enjoy that style.

We’ve been thinking about this trip for quite a while. We are eager to visit Montana, and we are eager to do more exploring in Alberta and British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies, and we are also realizing, after all these years, that it is more rewarding for us to focus on a smaller area and explore it at greater leisure. We’ll spend three nights in Santa Fe – a place we fell in love with last time we visited.

We already have two other trips planned and finalized, but we really needed a good road trip together 🙂

 

August 29, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Whaling and Bear Watching Out of Tofino

We are enjoying perfect weather, not a given when you are in the Pacific Northwest, and not a given on any coastline or any vacation. The mornings may dawn a little grey and foggy, but it all burns off – this week, anyway – and we are having wonderful afternoons.

I don’t even bother trying to shoot whale any more. I have one photo of a marvelous whale tale from our first trip back to Alaska and this time the boat was rocking and rolling and mostly all we would see were backs breaching and spouts. Do you really want to see the place where two seconds ago there was a whale? Hmmm, no, I didn’t think so 🙂

In calmer waters, we also saw otter, seal, sea lions and lots of birds.

The next day, on the bear watch, we also took lots of photos, and I won’t show you all of them because again, as the boat rolls, that perfect shot of the mother bear and the baby bear walking down the beach cuts off the mother bear’s snout, and the next one, the mother shows up fine but the baby is indistinguishable from the shadow in which he is playing . . . or the bear on the beach, you know 40 photos of the bear’s backside as he sucks a clam for one good photo of the bear (without his legs cut off). Wildlife photographers make their money by spending hours, days and months to get those calendar shots, and then being in just the right place at just the right time.

And it is so much fun just to go watch, and to try to get those good shots 🙂

Otter

 

SeaLion

 

SealPup

 

SeaWaterIsland

 

GuidesGrandson

 

BearFace1

 

BearFace2

 

MamaBaby

 

BearRubsTree

 

BearRubsTree2

 

MamaBaby2

 

Do you see the little bear? He’s over to the left, in the grass; Mama Bear is looking at him.

MamaBearLooksBaby

 

Now you get to see him! (And Mama’s nose is cut off, dammit!)

PerfectMamaBabyExcept

 

BestAvailableMamaBaby

 

BeachBear

He’s digging and eating clams. He is in heaven, full belly, lots of clams.

NotPerfectBeachBear

 

ExposedBear

 

BestBeachBear

Seeing an eagle; good luck!

Eagle

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , | 2 Comments

The Carolina Wrens

Several months ago, we noticed a wren flying close to our house, flying out, flying back, flying out, flying back, and she was always carrying something.

 

“I think she might be building a nest in our watering can,” I told AdventureMan. He checked the can, and sure enough, it was full of little straw and twigs and pieces of string. Her mate showed up, also bringing strings and twigs and grass clippings.

 

Weeks went by, and we enjoyed their company. We gave the plenty of space.

 

CarolinaWrenBabies

 

We had houseguests, and as we were about to leave one day,  AdventureMan spotted four tiny little wrens, trying their wings for the first time. He quickly snapped a shot with his iPhone of the two not yet flying. It is a good thing; by the next day, they were gone. We were just so thankful we got to see them, and our house guests got to see them, too!

 

What fun! We hope they will come back and nest with us again next year!

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Birds, Circle of Life and Death, Environment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Gardens, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues | , | Leave a comment

Perseid Meteor Showers Peak This Week

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By MARC TORRENCE (Patch National Staff)

The brightest meteor shower of the year is coming up, and it should be very easy to see.

The 2015 Perseid meteor shower began July 13 and runs to August 26, with activity peaking around August 12 and 13.

The Perseids are typically the brightest of the year. And Earthsky.org says that this year should be an especially good year for Perseids since the moon will not come out until after sunrise, avoiding the pesky bright light it gives off.

Earthsky says the best time for viewing is after midnight, when the meteors will pick up steam until the “wee hours before dawn.”

It will appear to originate from the constellation Perseus, which will be in the northeastern sky on the nights of the August 12 and 13.

Meteor showers happen when the earth passes through the orbit of a comet. Bits of the comet that have broken off pass through earth’s atmosphere, and when they burn up, they create a gorgeous streaking pattern across the night sky.

NASA estimates that at its peak, Perseids will produce up to 100 meteors per hour streaking at 37 miles per second.

Here are some other tips to get the most out of your meteor shower-watching experience:

Find an open location away from bright city lights and other light pollution.

Bring something comfortable to sit or lie down on and try to fill your entire peripheral vision with the night sky.

If you’re in a colder climate, dress warmly.

Give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness. This can take up to 20 minutes and can be disrupted by looking at a bright phone or tablet screen. If you need to shine a light on something, use a flashlight with a red filter, the easiest color on your eyes.

Be patient. Give yourself anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour, and the streaking meteors should be easily spotted against the still night sky once your eyes are fully adjusted.

Don’t worry about using telescopes or binoculars. Those devices may actually make it harder for you to see meteors, since they only cover a small portion of the sky. You should be able to easily see the show, and more of it, with just your own two eyes.
(Photo credit: NASA)

August 10, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Environment | , | 3 Comments

As Others See Us . . .

“Oh that the wee wee giftie gi’e us, to see ourselves as others see us,” goes an old Scottish proverb which has haunted me my many years of living overseas.

This recent visit by our Saudi friends was one of those times, and yesterday as I was doing laundry, I thought of all the particular ways we do things, and why, and thought about how very difficult it is to be a house guest in a strange culture because on top of the profound cultural differences, there are also family cultures.

I remember visiting my parents, as an adult, and my mother carefully explaining how they do things, and why, and we would try very carefully to do what they were doing, but I often felt I was failing in some unknown way, to meet the standards.

Like us, when we do laundry, I have three drying racks, and I use my dryer only a few minutes with some of AdventureMan’s shirts, tumble drying them to remove wrinkles, then we pull them out and let them finish drying on hangers. I also dry AdventureMan’s towels; he thinks that the ones that are dried on the racks are hard and stiff and he doesn’t like the feel of them on his skin. Just about everything else dries on the racks or on hangers. It’s a result of years of living in Germany, and other places where we had utility bills, and the dryer is a huge electricity hog.

When we lived in a small village in Germany, I remember my landlady bringing my utility bill; her face was white. She said (in essence) “how can this be? You are a wasteful American and I am a frugal German and your electricity bill is half of mine!” (no, she didn’t say wasteful, but that was sort of the gist) but she had a clothes dryer that was going all the time, and I did not. I also had a very small little refrigerator, and she had a larger one. Old habits die hard; I still hang most of my clothes to dry.

We are careful with water use, as water becomes more dear, we try to conserve, so we don’t let water run, we turn it off. We must look very peculiar and very particular to our house guests.

I really only told them the basics – here are these things, here are those, this is the way this operates – more than that would have been overwhelming. Probably they were overwhelmed with the little I did share! Being a houseguest is overwhelming, too!

And I think of my youngest sister, who took me in for weeks at a time through many of the years we spent overseas, clearing out a bedroom and bathroom for my exclusive use, letting me come and go as my schedule dictated, but still, an intruder and an interruption on her own family life, God bless her. I remember one time being in the kitchen with her son, asking him if he knew where his mother kept the emergency emery board, and he looked totally dumbstruck, and said he didn’t know.

“It’s probably here,” I said, opening a drawer and pulling out the emery board. Our mother always kept an emery board in that drawer; I keep a spare emery board in that drawer, and it just seemed likely my sister would, too. I still love the look on his face as I pulled it out. “How did you know??” he asked, and I just laughed.

I wonder what tales our house guests will tell of us, and our strange ways?

egg-in-a-nest

On their last day with us, I showed the 10 year old how to make Bird in a Basket, which he loved. It’s so simple, bread with a circle cut out, butter, an egg and a skillet – even a ten year old could do it. What was even better was that he loved it and was going to go home and show his Mama how to do it. One tiny piece of American culture may grow and thrive in Saudi Arabia.

June 21, 2015 Posted by | Communication, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Environment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Germany, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Saudi Arabia | 2 Comments

Jurassic World Explosive Experience

We’ve been waiting for a free afternoon to see Jurassic World, and yesterday was it. We wanted to see it in 3D, although in retrospect, I am not so sure it makes that big a difference. It was LOUD. We are not hard of hearing, and at the beginning I had to cover my ears, it was so loud.

jurassicworld-raptortraining

And, for all the movies I have seen, this one had some twists I didn’t see coming. It was full of exciting moments, and, within its own context, believable. You have to believe that humans let greed overcome their good judgement. You have to believe genetic manipulation is possible. You have to believe that the minute someone says “this is totally safe” you’d better be looking for a life jacket and a way out. All this, I believe.

AdventureMan had some struggles with unexplained things, but I think they were good at covering their bases, if you paid attention when the scientists were talking. I had a really hard time believing velociraptors could be tamed in any way. Trained – maybe if they are bored enough, and the training follows their normal instinctive practices. Tamed? Ummm, I don’t think so.

I loved the homage paid to Jurassic Park. I always love it when the bad guys get their just desserts. I always wonder, if we get curious and clone/create a prehistoric animal, will we be able to foresee all the possible outcomes?

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Birds, Character, Entertainment, Environment, Experiment, Family Issues, Fiction, Financial Issues, Movie, Safety | | 1 Comment

Ramadan Kareem and Pope Francis

“God bless the work of your hands!” was one of the Moslem sayings I most loved as I lived my daily life in various countries in the Middle East. So, Pope Francis, God bless the work of your hands yesterday in your encyclical saying we are all responsible for the price we pay for progress. You are a brave man, and you don’t hesitate to name corruption when you see it, and to do your best to correct us, and straighten the path of the Lord.

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“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth,” he writes.

It is not entirely a happy message for me. One of the items he castigates is air conditioning, and as Pensacola hits the nineties every day, I hate to think of how I would live without air conditioning. I think I would turn into a slug, swinging in my hammock for hours every day reading a book. My house would be full of dirty dishes and dust. And I remember living in Tunis, and in Jordan, without air conditioning. We managed, by the grace of God.

Meanwhile, during the hottest months of the year, yesterday, our Moslem brothers and sisters began Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and personal purification. Imagine, going all day without water and without food, breaking the fast only as the sun goes down. I wonder if the Pope made his world-changing address on the eve of Ramadan on purpose, as he clearly made it to all mankind, not only to his Catholic followers.

Ramadan Kareem, my Moslem brothers and sisters, whom I cherish, and who taught me so much. May your fasting bring you great insights and purity of spirit.

June 18, 2015 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Environment, Events, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Ramadan, Social Issues | 4 Comments