Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Glacier National Park: Many Glacier

We have to take the long way around to get up to the Many Glacier entrance, back through East Glacier Village to Browning, then up to Saint Mary, but no problem, because we’ve rented a cabin in the Saint Mary area. Going through Browning, we see tee-pees, just alongside the road:

 

 

 

 

 

 

This ride is just gorgeous, but it is not a great road. It isn’t a terrible road, but it is not paved, and from time to time there are serious potholes. There isn’t a lot of traffic, so we are not inconvenienced, it’s just we haven’t been on a road like this since maybe Africa.

 

Along the way, we see something we haven’t seen before, a Mama Black Bear but with only one cub. The cub looks older, maybe one year old, and life must be easier for the Mama than if she were trying to feed two cubs.

It was just us and one other couple. This was heaven.

 

 

Now I want to show you how the same scene looked in Hayden Valley, in Yellowstone:

It’s horrible. This was the Mama Bear and her two cubs trying to feed while people are scrambling to get their attention and photograph them.

Bear watching on the way to Many Glacier was relaxed – for her and for us.

 

Many Glacier Lodge

 

 

 

We want to come back and stay here. (Many Glacier Lodge is not open until around Mid-June) What joy, to wake up in the morning to all this beauty.

June 28, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Spiritual, Travel, Wildlife | , | Leave a comment

Kalispell Farmer’s Market, Glacier NP Apgar and Avalanche Creek

In our hotel, they give us an information sheet when we check in:

 

I had a tick once. It totally creeped me out. The news has it that ticks are now spreading Rocky Mountain fever. You can hike, but you have to be really covered up.

There is also, in the local paper, an ad for the Kalispell Farmer’s Market. I am such a sucker for a farmer’s market, and AdventureMan is a good sport, so off we go.

 

 

 

We spent quite a bit of time at this booth because having come through the Lake Flathead Orchard area, I have a yearning for cherries. I look for them everywhere. It is not the season, but I am wishing for some cherries. These people are growing cherries, and bottling cherry juice, which we bought. It was wonderful. We drank it like wine, and it reminded us of wine, and we also thought it would be good with champagne, like a Kir Royale, or a Samburu Sunset.

 

Glacier National Park is just minutes away; we are there by ten in the morning. I am posting this sign because we were constantly in and out of the park, a luxury we can afford thanks to our Senior Passes to all the National Parks which we bought when we turned 62 for $10 (or maybe $20, I can’t remember.). They are now $80, and if you love the national parks the way we do, and like the freedom of being able to travel freely in and out, these passes are worth every penny.

 

 

Today we head into Apgar, where many people stay, and especially we see a lot of campers. AdventureMan wants to go on that hike at Avalanche Creek up to Cedar Trails, and we are told he can rent bear spray in Apgar.

 

 

This is the Lake Hotel, in Apgar, not the Lake McDonald Lodge. This is more motel-like.

And wait until you see the view:

These are the recycle and bear-proof trash bins. Both are taken very seriously.

We take Camas Road, which goes off to the northwest from Apgar, and we go high into the hills, where I find just about the only mosquitos I’ve experienced on the entire trip. That is really something, because mosquitos are very fond of me, so it turns out that this is not he best drive for me.

I did get out to take a couple photos, one of which is below. This is a patch of blueberries, the kind of patch where my sister and I and our friends would pick blueberries. We would move from patch to patch, but . . . you can see how easy it would be to be surprised by a bear, who loves blueberries as much as we do.

 

We drive back along the river, to the McDonald Lake Lodge, and have a lovely lunch in the lounge. I have the Penn Cove Mussels, in a silky sauce laced with saffron, and my husband has that wonderful charcuterie board again. I totally love that they have Ginger Beer. This isn’t the kind I love the best, with ginger sludge and pieces in it, but it has bite.

 

 

We head back to Avalanche Creek, AdventureMan takes a hike, I stay in the car and start writing notes to remind myself of things I want to remember when I start writing up the trip for the blog.

AdventureMan always laughs when he reads my trips in Here, There and Everywhere. He says “I want to go with you! You have so much fun!” I remind him that he was with me. What we really enjoy is going back several years later and reading about our trips. There are details we’ve forgotten, things we are glad to remember.

(My favorite trip is December 2007, because we love Damascus so much, and the Damascus we love barely exists anymore.)

Walking Old Damascus  

We gas up so we can get an early start in the morning, and I see this sign.

 

We eat at the Three Forks Grill in Columbia Falls. It has a great rating on Trip Advisor. Sometimes we just order the wrong thing. It was a nice place, we just can’t remember what we ate.

This was the perfect way to end our day, along with the cherry juice from Flathead Lake. AdventureMan had the blueberry pie, and I had the cherry cobbler, bought at the Kalispell Farmer’s Market and waiting for us in our little refrigerator. Heaven.

 

 

Wonderful way to end the day.

 

June 28, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Food, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | Leave a comment

Glacier National Park: Lake McDonald Lodge and Going-to-the-Sun-Road

We settle our bags in our hotel, and as soon as we can, we head into Glacier National Park, west entrance and hurry to Going-to-the-Sun-Road. We know it is early in the season and the road may not be open, but when we got to Avalanche Creek we learn that there was an avalanche just days ago and two bicyclists were trapped several hours while rescuers tried to get them out. You can walk or bike farther beyond the gate closing the road, but you can’t drive.

Meanwhile, there is much to see, but it is very very hazy. We keep thinking it will burn off, and it doesn’t. Later we learn that there is a huge grass fire in Alberta, across the Canadian border, and the smoke has all blown south. It is a little hard to breathe.

Nonetheless, this place is gorgeous. This river is the color of old glass bottles, and it is swollen with snow run-off. I would not want to raft on this river at this time of year, it is too unpredictable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Avalanche Creek, AdventureMan took a short walk in the woods, while I walked on the road.  Guess which one of us spotted wildlife? I was taking photos of Avalanche Creek when a deer walked right in front of me and settled down in a little grove of trees.

 

 

 

 

 

In Glacier National Park, even more than in Yellowstone, there are warnings about bear everywhere, and there are all kinds of kiosks selling bear repellent.

I grew up in Alaska. AdventureMan has heard my stories about blueberry picking so many times that he can tell the story himself, starting with “when I was a little girl growing up in Alaska, . . . ”  It never fails to crack me up. So, when I was a little girl growing up in Alaska and the blueberries would get ripe, my Mom would send us out to pick blueberries. We had big coffee cans hanging from string around our neck, and a stick. If we saw bear, we were supposed to beat the can with the stick and back away slowly from the bear. We were never never never to touch a cub, or to get between a cub and its mother. Those were the rules I grew up with.

There was a boy I knew who lost an eye to a bear, and had a big claw mark across his face. He was the lucky one. His friend didn’t survive.

So I keep my distance. I have a healthy respect for bear, for all wildlife. This is not Disney-does-wildlife, these are bear, in springtime, and they are hungry and focused on filling their bellies. You do not want to get in their way.

I spit on bear repellent. I think it gives people false courage. It might stop a bear. It might enrage a bear. I think the best strategy is not to be alone in bear country if you can help it, especially in a remote area, and to move away slowly if you find yourself in one of those “holy shit” moments that no one could predict. And I know it’s easy to say, and very very hard to know how anyone will respond to that kind of lethal threat.

 

Lake McDonald Lodge is lovely. It has all the features I love; huge old timbers, a three story high lobby, a huge stone fireplace, homey furnishings. I love this place:

 

 

 

We walk out the front door (the Lodge was built before the road was built, so the front door faces the Lake, and today you enter the Lodge through the back door) to discover there is a Lake boat cruise leaving right now, so AdventureMan buys two tickets and we scamper aboard just in time for a sundown cruise.

Can you see how hazy it is? That isn’t fog, that is SMOKE!

It makes for an atmospheric photo, but . . . no visible mountains.

 

It is dinnertime when we return to the Lodge, and we know where we want to eat. Fortunately, it is early in the season, and we are able to snag a table without a reservation. This is the creek next to the dining room, as it empties into Lake McDonald.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what the Dining Room looks like. This was the best Lodge Dining we experienced. The food was exquisite and the service was experienced and sophisticated.The wait staff was really good at helping us choose wine that went with our meals.

I had a Farmer’s Market salad, with smoked trout on top. It was just right for me.

 

My husband had a salad, and a charcuterie platter. On the platter, the meats and cheeses were all from Montana. There was smoked duck, an elk sausage, and a bison pastrami, I think. I may have gotten something mixed up.

This was one of the nicest meals we had on our trip. We thought that the lodge prices were very reasonable, too.

June 27, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Customer Service, Restaurant, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Mammoth Hot Springs

There are crowds of people visiting Mammoth Hot Springs during the day. There are special lots just for all the buses that come to see the magnificent terraces. Suddenly, the afternoon is hot, and we are shedding layers. Late in the afternoon, we decide to visit the Upper Terrace, a one way road, very short, but you can park and hike in several of the areas.

This is not snow, although it looks like it might be. It is calcium carbonate, leached from the soil by heat and water, and laid down, layer by layer on these fabulous terraces. We are told this is the same material that makes up travertine tile, but it looks nothing like travertine. It is also different colors in different places, depending on which minerals are also mixed in and how long the deposits have been in one place.

We visited Pamukkale, in Turkey, many years ago with AdventureMan’s sister and her family, and were astounded such a wonder could exist. We had no idea that it also existed in our own country.

 

 

There are also crowds at the Upper Terraces, so we head back to the hotel to check in.

This is the Mammoth Hot Springs General store, where they have all kinds of souvenirs, t-shirts, jewelry, art works, ice cream and grab and go sandwiches and snacks. This was the best stocked General Store we found in Yellowstone. (Canyon was the most shopped out.)

This is what a view of the terraces looks like from the hotel – it is Mammoth.

 

This is a map of the USA made out of US woods. The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is undergoing renovations, and rooms IN the hotel are not available, but they do have cabins. The facilities – the lobby, the Xanterra Gift Shop and the Map Room and Bar are open, and in a separate building, the Mammoth Hot Springs Dining Room and the Grill.

Guide to the woods used in the giant map of the USA.

 

Map room bar

Map room place to hang out and use internet. There is no internet in the cabins.

.This is a view from the lobby to the Xanterra Gift Shop. This is important to know if you are obligated to bring back gifts. The General store has souvenirs. The Xanterra shops are totally different, and have different – and often nicer – gifts to buy than the General stores. Don’t think that because you have shopped in one, you know what is in the other. They are different!

Now for the fun part. Well, fun for us. Not everyone would prefer a cabin to a hotel room, and they have their reasons, too. We love cabins, and we reserved far in advance, thanks to my friend’s warning, so that we could get a cabin with a bathroom. Do you want to go walking to a communal bathroom at night when there are huge wild animals walking about?

We also just like the privacy of having a little cabin. So don’t be shocked, it is tiny but it has enough space for people who are out most of the day.

 

It has a porch! We ate dinner out here on our second night of our stay.

 

Little washstand, and that is what works as a closet next to the washstand. We kept our suitcases in the car, parked right next to the cabin, and brought in what we needed for the next day in our backpacks.

It may be tiny, but you can shower and toilet without having to walk outside in your bathrobe, or wrapped in a towel or something.

AdventureMan loved these little chipmunks (?) squirrels (?) which were everywhere in the park. This one had a burrow with two entries right under our porch. He wasn’t shy about inviting himself to share our dinner, either.

Our first night in Mammoth Hot Springs, the end of a very long and eventful day, we decide to try dinner at the Mammoth Dining Room.

The Dining Room is entered from the right, the Grill Room (burgers, etc) is entered from the left.

 

The interior of the Dining Room; nice high ceiling, everything looking freshly painted.

 

We each had soup, Butternut Squash for me, French Onion for my husband. The soups were good. The Flatbread and the Hummus Plate were not what we expected. They felt assembled, not prepared. They didn’t feel fresh.

 

After such a nice lunch in Gardiner, this was a let down.

You are probably ready for this day to be over, but not us. We want to take a walk through the old Fort Yellowstone historical area before we close down for the night. We love that Mammoth Hot Springs is so walkable. Just have to watch out for the local residents:

 

 

But what happens if the Elk approaches you, at a rapid pace?

 

 

There are wonderful old military quarters, and stables, and an old PX, all with signs. As we were looking at the old PX, one of the residents (park employees live in the old military quarters) hollered out to us to watch out for the cranky old Mama, that she had a baby hidden somewhere nearby and could be a little hostile. We moved away, and were reading a sign when we heard yelling again, only this time “Run! Run! She’s coming!”

I got behind a nearby car so she couldn’t see me, but it wasn’t me she was interested in, it was my husband. He kept a sign between them, terrified, he tells me later, because an elk is big and muscular, and this was a big muscular mad mama elk. Someone else clapped hands at her and yelled, and she backed off long enough for us to move far far away. We didn’t know, but we must have moved too close to the hidden baby. Not her fault, our bad.

(In the newspaper two days later I read that an elk had attacked a park employee in that same residence area and the employee had to be hospitalized. The mama elk had to be relocated.)

This was a very appropriate finale for a day full of fun and adventures of all kinds.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Building, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone National Park; Bear En Route to Mammoth Hot Springs

I’m posting this Yellowstone National Park map again to help you orient yourself on today’s adventures. We go from Canyon Village to Artist Paintpots (at last!), stop a lengthy time to watch a sedate mother grizzly and her cubs, view an awesome mountain, arrive in Mammoth Springs, have lunch in Gardiner, Montana, outside the North gate to the park, visit the upper Terrace at Mammoth, and spend the late afternoon once again in Lamar Valley, our happy place. This evening, my husband gets attacked by an irate Mama elk.

Yellowstone is so do-able. We did all the above, and never felt rushed.

 

This is an easy day, and our plan is to get up when we feel like it, but we are both awake by seven, and in fifteen minutes we are ready to go. We shake the dust from our feet!

From Canyon, we take the road directly going West. When we get to the junction, we turn South, just to get us to Artist Paintpots. We’ve tried twice before, and the parking lot was jammed and overflowing. This time, we are the first car in the lot. It’s only about 7:30 a.m. and the long weekend is long passed. There are fewer visitors, and even fewer who are out and about this early. (We are still early in the park season, once the summer rush starts, even early may not be early enough.)

 

 

Yep, you guessed it, Artistic Paintpots is so named because of the wondrous colors created by the variety of minerals leached into the boiling hot water, and the bacteria that thrives in the steaming springs.

 

I cannot even imagine a caldera this big, but as we drove, we tried to identify the ridges. The floor of this caldera thinly covers molten lava and the geysers and springs are caused by the heating of water in the ground which expands and comes out with varying degrees of force. This is how I understand it; someone with a more technical background can give you a more thorough explanation. So Yellowstone is a super volcano, and last erupted 700,000 years ago. It could erupt again. We were constantly aware of how very thin the crust of the earth is here, and now we obliviously walk over the possibility of instant, painful death.

But oh, the combination of heat, and minerals creates some magnificent colors and an eerily beautiful landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

It is a beautiful hike, one of the best on our trip. It is worth finding a serene time to visit the Artist Paintpots.

Back in the car, we see a big jam of cars on the road, and people running. Anywhere else, you would think someone had a car accident, but in Yellowstone, a jam like that with people parking anywhere – sometimes just leaving their car in the middle of the road (!) means that some kind of game has been spotted. This time, it was a Mama Grizzly and her two cubs.

So many people! Many of them had powerful, huge lenses, and tripods. They were all set up to take photos when the bear would be in clear view. I just use a little Lumix with a big telephoto, and it takes surprisingly sharp photos, considering it has a very light and easily tucked-in-a-purse kind of body.

There was an empty place where no one wanted to be. We really just wanted to watch. (Yes, we had backed up to a real viewing point and parked legally. The rule is – or is supposed to be – that you are supposed to be outside the white line delineating the outer boundary of the road.

We watched the very placid sow dig up some roots, keeping an eye on the playful cubs.

 

 

 

 

I just got lucky. The bear and her cubs moved to directly in front of me. It’s . . .well, it’s like a God thing, if the photo is put right in front of you, you are meant to take it, right?

More and more people came. They were quiet and respectful of the bear, and of one another, but their parking was not respectful of the trucks and RVs that needed to get through. Soon, the park rangers arrived. We were told they can ticket anyone not parked outside the white lines, and that the fine is HUGE, but this is a tourist attraction, and the rangers we saw used good humor and persistence, and cajoled people into moving along and parking legally. We never saw anyone ticketed, and we also never saw anyone argue with a ranger.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Customer Service, Geography / Maps, Law and Order, Lumix, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Dunraven Pass, Tower Falls and Lamar Valley

Today we are headed north out of Canyon Village, through Dunraven Pass, which just opened a few days ago, up to Tower Falls and Roosevelt Lodge, and out to Lamar Valley. Lamar Valley is where after decades of killing wolves, wolves have been reintroduced and are rebalancing the Yellowstone ecosystem.

The early morning is cloudy and dark, we worry about ice on Dunraven Pass. We watch the temperatures drop below freezing as we head up, but soon we are safely on the other side. (We had snow on the way home, coming through the pass.)

Along the road – you have to keep your eyes open.

We took a short hike to the outlook over Tower Falls – it is an easy hike, and if you get there early enough, there is good parking. The General Store was not open, though, so we fixed apples and peanut butter for breakfast.

 

 

This is not a tour bus. This is a Yellow Cab, a special kind of tour vehicle that makes me smile every time I see it. I heard they stopped using them for a while, but they had so much appeal that the management brought them back. Good call!

 

Little deer jumping over a creek

Bison on the road at Slough Creek, one of our favorite haunts in Lamar Valley. Unpaved, but drivable. Rumored to be one or more wolf packs that hang out there, but we never saw them.

 

AdventureMan getting a snack at Slough Creek

AdventureMan loved these little rodents; they were everywhere.

 

It’s past noon and we head into Cooke City, outside the northeast entrance to the Park for a bite to eat. We find The Bistro, and I have a meal I love – trout, pan fried with garlic and parsley in butter. Simple, and so good. AdventureMan has the same meal, with fries. The Bistro also has burgers and salads, but we wanted trout.

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to think about dinner when you’ve just had a meal so satisfying, but we remember the horror show dinner of last night and decide to order food to take with us. AdventureMan goes to one restaurant for a chef’s salad, and I cross the street to Buns and Beds for an Italian Sandwich.

 

 

 

Next door is the Beartooth Cafe, a place I would love to try next time:

 

 

 

We buy some T-shirts for the grandchildren at the Yellowstone Trading Post, and they tell us we spent enough that we get to go in and see the wildlife exhibit. Someone has an amazing skill with taxidermy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have the National Parks Senior Pass? I think we paid $10 or $20 each to get one; you can get them when you turn 62, but now the price has gone up to $80. I still think it is a deal. If you have the pass, you have free entry into all the national parks – starting, for us, with Fort Pickens, here in Pensacola, and taking us to all these amazing places we’ve been going through the years. They pay for themselves quickly.

 

Leaving Cooke City

 

Heading back into Yellowstone through “Silver” pass:

 

 

Big horn sheep

Coyote running near Roosevelt Station

June 23, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Geography / Maps, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone National Park: Old Faithful and Old Faithful Inn

I love this photo, which I owe to my husband. we were out for a walk after dinner and he spied this old bison in front of the steaming geyser, just walking along, not at all concerned about the dangerous ground.

 

Forty two years ago, (we were so young) my husband and I spent six weeks driving across the USA in our Volkswagon Bus with our six month old baby and our cat, Big Nick. Mostly we camped; one time Big Nick, who was dog-like and usually came when we called, didn’t come. We had to cool our heels for a couple hours before he sauntered out of the meadow and rejoined us. We stopped in Yellowstone, and stayed at the Old Faithful Inn. Big Nick had to stay in the car.

So when we started planning this trip, we knew we had to stay in the Old Faithful Inn. This time, we wanted a bathroom, in our room, not down the hall.

We loved our room. It is so quaint and cabin-ish. It even had a radiator, and because it is very cold, the radiator feels good. For a while.

This is the view from our room:

 

 

 

I loved this old time bathroom with it’s clawfoot tub and octagon-tiled floor.

 

We watched Old Faithful erupt, and quickly went to the Bear Pit so we could grab something to eat. We had looked at the dining room, which is grand and atmospheric, but even the staff told us it was too expensive for the unreliable quality of the food.

The Bear Pit Lounge is a bar that serves food. It seemed odd to me – it was a large space, with few tables, mostly for six people. Not much food, a few items. We thought we would try the bison burger, in honor of being in Yellowstone. It took a loooonnngggg time to get there. The fries were cold. The bison burger was ok.

 

 

I took a couple photos of the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room. Normally I love lodge dining rooms. Not so much this one.

 

 

After dinner, we take a walk over to the Old Hamilton Store – remember, you saw a photo of it from the Museum of the Rockies? On our way back, we were far enough away that when Old Faithful erupted, I could capture the whole thing. The firs time, I was too close.

 

 

 

 


So I can be a little wonky about old lodges, but we were so delighted to be at Old Faithful Inn . . . until we went to bed. I had taken a bath in the claw foot tub, fighting my guilt about using all that water, but the room was hot – all that radiant heat. We had the window wide open because we couldn’t get the radiator to stop radiating. We were also in a bed that called itself a Queen, but hmmm. . . . we used to sleep in a double bed, and this bed was very small, like a double bed.

We could hear every conversation, from the outside, from the rooms on either side of us, from the hallway. Any time, all night, someone went in our out of their room, we could hear it. It was very atmospheric, and it was the worst nights sleep of our entire trip.

I wouldn’t recommend skipping the Old Faithful Inn. You can visit. You can sit in the galleries and drink coffee or have ice cream and listen to the cellist. You can make reservations and eat at the Dining Room. You can do all that. You can take a tour of the historical parts of the hotel. We are actually going back next year, we already have reservations, but we will stay in the newer part of the hotel . . . with bathrooms.

Why stay at Old Faithful Inn? Early early the next morning, before any of the tour buses or day-trippers arrive, you can have Old Faithful all to yourself, to give you a private eruption with the sun gleaming off the steam in the icy cold morning.

(Thinking of all my old Kuwaiti friends and the Kuwaiti sunrise series I used to run)

June 22, 2019 Posted by | Food, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Glorious Sea Day to Reykjavik

It’s party time aboard the Viking Sea, with gentle seas and blue skies and a whole load of sunshine:

 

One of the fun parts of this trip is that every other day or so, we gain another hour, so we often get to sleep in an hour “extra” in the morning. Even after sleeping our extra hour, we were up bright and shiny, had our breakfast, and I suited up and hit to pool when it opened, at 0800.

Except . . . it wasn’t opened. I was still mostly emptied, and closed. The jacuzzi was open (or as the spa manager calls it, the ya-kut-zi) and I spent about ten minutes there, but for me jacuzzis aren’t that fun, I really loved how the waves rolled and roiled as the ship tosses from side to side, and fore and aft. It did, however, give me time to update the blog.

AdventureMan and I laugh; we spend money to have a nice room and we spend time reading. We could do that at home, but at home, there are so many things demanding our attention. We are willing – even eager – to have this time with no responsibilities, no cooking, no cleaning, no yard work. There is some guilt associated with the luxury of having this kind of time, especially when the hurricanes have devastated to many to the east of us, and to the west of us. It’s almost primal; if we enjoy ourselves too much are we inviting destruction?

When we get hungry, later than usual because of the time change, we discover that with everyone on board, no tours, no lunches in a local city, everyone using the same facilities, that the facilities are more crowded than usual. The World Cafe, where we take most of our meals, is packed. We head for the Pool Cafe, which we also like, but there is a loud rock band entertaining the lunchers, and people have even found our hidden favorite places near the WinterGarden.

 

Below is the World Cafe, where we tend to eat. There are other restaurants, an Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s, the Chef’s Table, where a specialty menu is paired with wines, and another called The Restaurant.

AdventureMan and I are odd. We have preferences, and our preferences are strong enough to prevent us from eating often in the other restaurants. We really like Italian food, and we have eaten at Manfredi’s, where we found the tables too close together for our comfort; we could hear every word of conversations in every directions, and we felt shy about having our own conversations which could be overheard. We also asked for small portions, and were told that the plates come as they come; they didn’t split, they couldn’t give small portions, but that we would love it so much we would want to eat it all. I hope my face didn’t show how aghast I was at that response.

We had similar problems with The Restaurant. Seats too close together, no privacy, and the service is SO SO SLOW. I can manage an hour, even an hour in a half without getting too antsy, but at some point attention deficit kicks in and all I can think is “get me out of here!” Too much eating! The Chef’s Table does a lot with foam and freezing and precious tiny portions of things I can barely taste, as well as having close seating and pretentious presentation. Actually, that is too harsh, I am a fan of presentation, it is this style that annoys me and you might like it just fine.  You might like more leisurely meals, and be fine with two to two and a half hours of sitting, but I am a restless sort, so as fine as some of the food may be, I like the World Cafe.

 

It would be awful to be married to someone whose style was different from your own. Lucky for me, AdventureMan is a lot like me. We really LIKE good food (you couldn’t guess 😉 reading this blog?) In the World Cafe, I can tell the man I would like a small portion of the risotto, and I get a small portion. Or if I want to make a dinner of mushroom soup, I can go back for more. We have found the horseradish, the tabasco sauce, the red pepper flakes, the balsamic vinegar, the things we need to enhance the blander foods. We are up and down, soup, salad, maybe a little main course – or maybe not. We like having choices, and I even like being able to get up and walk around to get what I want next. All that walking helps me justify a small bowl of ice cream, or even maybe a small fudge brownie. All the desserts are tiny, which I like a lot. They also have smaller plates and larger plates; we stick to the smaller plates.

It’s not that we are so virtuous; it must be an age group thing. The ship is full of our demographic, and most are eating healthily.

This was my lunch on the Sea-Day-En-Route-to-Reykjavik – fritto misto, green beans, and a soba noodle salad which tasted of sesame, divine combination.

 

With the glorious sunshine, there is a party atmosphere on board, a huge group playing Trivia in the Explorer’s Lounge, the bridge players all down in the Chef’s Table, lectures in the Star Theatre, movies – so much going on!

My thrill – I had just washed my hair and was dressing when I saw a spout. I know that spout! That is whale! I quickly finished dressing and went out on the balcony, where I happily spent an hour or two taking photos where the whale had just been. Finally I got the one photo showing a spout as it was just finishing. I quit taking photos and just enjoyed the sunshine and the frolicking whales; one was flicking his tail after spouting.

 

The day ends with a beautiful sunset. We are nearing Reykjavik, and can’t wait to visit this beautiful, dramatic land.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Blogging, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, sunrise series, Sunsets, Travel, Wildlife | , , | Leave a comment

Zion National Park to Monument Valley: AZ or UT?

“Look! Look! Grab your camera! Grab your camera!”

“It’s just turkeys,” I grumble to myself, I’m not even settled in the car, I don’t even have my seat belt on and AdventureMan wants me to take photos of turkeys? I take a couple shots, then we head to the lodge and check out.

This time, the camera is in my hands. This time, when we see three turkeys, and two of them are male, trying desperately to get the turkey chick to give them the time of day, so to speak.

 

This was actually a great way to start a day which will have a lot of driving before we reach our goal, Monument Valley, which is sort of in Utah and Sort of in Arizona, or at least the hotel where we are staying is in Arizona, but the road to get to it starts in Utah. Because it is Navaho Nation, they have gone on Daylight Savings Time, in spite of the technicality that they are in Arizona, a peculiar state who does not go on Daylight Savings Time.

Farewell, beautiful Zion.

 

This is the route we will be taking today. Our maps tell us it has some scenic routes. Remember, cell phone coverage is spotty in this area, and physical maps are a really, really good idea.

 

We know where we will stop for breakfast – The Thunderbird, In Mt. Carmel Junction, where we had lunch the day before. It is right on our way. Actually, I had a healthy breakfast, but I had to order this cinnamon roll, which AdventureMan and I nibbled on, and then took the rest with us in case we were stuck somewhere in a remote place and needed some sugar-energy. This roll had a lot of sugar-energy.

 

On the road, after the glory or Arches, and Bryce Canyon, and Zion, we are spoiled. It is harder to appreciate normal beautiful vistas. As we drove through a forest, however, AdventureMan spotted a deer running, not a pronghorn, not a mule deer, we don’t know what it was. I am sorry it is fuzzy; he was running!

Maybe it was a mule deer, now that I see the ears. I am not sure.

We stopped to look at this vast overlook, and I was sort of thinking “ho-hum” when an Asian family drove up, a dad and his three daughters, and the daughters all had iPads and were taking photos and one of them said to me “Just look! This is right out of the old West! Can’t you just see an enormous herd of buffalo stretching all the way to the horizon, and what if they get spooked and stampede??”

And then, I saw them, thousands of buffalo in the valley below, nibbling on the new green grass, stretching to the horizon. I owe that girl. She gave me a great gift, a major shift in perspective.


AdventureMan said “Why are there so many contrails?” and he was right, there were contrail everywhere. We were close to the Northern side of Grand Canyon, which is still closed at this time of year, so maybe they were planes coming and going out of Phoenix? Maybe the air is so cold that the contrails form more easily? I don’t know, but he is right, the sky is streaked with them.

I think these are the Vermillion Cliffs, fabulous, but . . . we are jaded after the glories we have seen. We drive on.

 

 

We stop for gas in Kayenta, and we go into the Basha Market to buy water. Two things, one is that we have this totally deja vu feeling, like we have been in this shopping area before. AdventureMan says we had lunch at that Subway store, and I kind of remember. Second, all the people in the market, mostly local Navaho, have carts full of sugary foods, sodas, sugary cereals, snacks and candy. It’s like the don’t know that sugar is the new poison, that it leads to obesity, that it rots your teeth and inflames your gums. Or they know, and they don’t care.

But we are starving. We see Amigos on the side of the road as we are heading to Monument Valley, and decide to give it a try. As soon as we get inside, we know we are in the right place. There are local people. There is a lunch special up on the blackboard. The smells are wonderful.

AdventureMan had Tostada and Enchilada. See that salsa? That salsa is one of the best salsas we have ever eaten. In the photo it looks red, but it actually was very green.

I had two tacos. The tacos were enough, I didn’t need the rice and beans and I left them, but I did ask for another salsa, it was so good.

We liked Amigos so much that we came back here again for dinner the night after we had been out all day in Monument Valley.

 

The name of our hotel is The View. It is a Navaho owned and operated hotel in Monument Valley proper, where all the tours start. We chose it for so many reasons, for one, because every room has a view, for another, that it is Navaho owned and operated, and last but not least, they advertise that they have some of the best star-gazing because there is no light from nearby cities; there are no nearby cities (Kayenta is about 30 miles away.)

At check-in, we are delighted; the lobby is lovely! It is light and bright and full of art works. We are also chagrined, the receptionist is rude to the people in front of us, and not at all welcoming to us. She wasn’t rude to us, just very businesslike and unsmiling. Maybe she was just having a bad day.

 

This is the area where people met up with their tour guides for the morning, afternoon and evening tours.

 

This is our room. It was lovely. We loved the art work, we loved the very spacious bathroom, and oh my, we loved the view.

 

 

The view, straight out:

 

The view to the right

The view to the left

 

As the late-afternoon sun begins to mellow, the colors morph and darken

 

 

Staying in this hotel is SO worth it.

 

The hotel has a fabulous gift shop, full of lovely jewelry, art items, artifacts. AdventureMan looked at a beautiful knife for our son; the cost was over $500. Oops! They also had more affordable things, one of our grand children’s favorite gifts was a bag of colored rocks, LOL. They had some good books, with Indian legends, written for children, and of course, T-shirts.

 

We ate dinner in The View restaurant, it was packed, full, with lots of families with young children and lots of tourists, some in groups. The servers did their best, but it was chaotic. AdventureMan had the “famous” green chili stew, which he said was not very interesting, and I had a taco salad, which was equally not very interesting. Our breakfast there, the next morning, was equally not very interesting. It was a breakfast buffet with a very limited selection.

There is another downside. During the day, the hotel facilities are dominated by the day-trippers. The hotel area is sort-of separated from the more public areas, but the feeling is chaotic. It all calms down dramatically when the last bus leaves. Wait to visit the gift shop after the teeming hoards have departed.

The upside of The View is the view. The upside is that the view at sunset is gorgeous. The upside is that it truly is magnificent star gazing. The upside is that the sunrise is beyond magnificent.

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bryce Canyon Pines and Dinosaur Tracks en Route to Zion National Park

We hate to leave Bryce Canyon Inn, we really love staying in this cabin, but the road beckons, so we get up early and find Bryce Canyon Pines on our route. Bryce Canyon Pines is a motel and restaurant, with a cowboy theme. As soon as we walked in, we knew we had come to the right place.

I wish you could hear the country music radio playing old old classic country and western tunes. I wish you could smell the buttery smell of pancakes and waffles in the pans, and the bacon frying. This is about as down-home as you can get.

 

I ask if I can have my veggie omelette made with 2 eggs, not 3 and the waitress says “of course!”

AdventureMan says these are the BEST biscuits and gravy!

I take photos quickly, before the restaurant starts to fill up.

 

This is a really cute place, and we heard they are also good for lunch and dinner.

We can actually get to Zion very quickly, maybe an hour and a half, but we decide we want more adventure. AdventureMan finds a road through the mountains, to another interstate, which we are hoping will take us to some other dinosaur tracks, more accessible, south of Zion. We have the time, and it sounds like fun.

First out, AdventureMan spots a Pronghorn Deer. “Take a picture! Take a picture!” he shouts, knowing I keep my camera in my lap, available for just such an emergency. The Pronghorn ignores us, so we shoot, quickly, and leave him in peace.

 

This is one of those photos that doesn’t work. High in the hills (once again, we have snow flurries at the higher altitudes) there are small groves of shining white birch trees among the pines. The white against the green is so beautiful, but it doesn’t translate in photos.

Did I mention it was cold? This lake, at a resort along the small Utah road, is still partially frozen. It is beautiful.

We hit the interstate, and quickly get to Hurricane, don’t you love the name? AdventureMan is looking for a particular site with dinosaur tracks, so we stop at the local historical museum for information. They told us just where to go and how to get there.

We follow the directions, and end up on a very rural road. It is so rural, it is open range and cows are on the road. The pavement ends, and it is sandy and rough. It is also hot, really hot, thank goodness we have water with us. There are no signs.

Finally, we pass Fort Morgan, which was part of the instructions, so we keep going, making a right where the track splits here, and then a sharp left a half mile later. We go up a steep hill, and finally, we find a sign. We are out in the middle of effing nowhere.

 

Looking back down the road we came in on. Of course, to get to the tracks is an uphill hike. Did I mention it is really, really hot? We are like in the desert!

 

This time, I am the one who spots the tracks. They are set aside, sort of protected, except that you can see people have chiseled out parts of the tracks and taken them for their own use. That just breaks my heart.

The signs tell us who made which track, and once you know what the tracks look like, they are easier to find.

Yep, this is it. These are the tracks. Maybe three good ones, and it was a long, hot drive followed by a long hot hike. Actually, it was a lot of fun, as adventures go, we survived, but I still get to tease AdventureMan about it.

 

We are starving. We head back into Saint George, UT, where we find this really fun restaurant with a bear theme, and pretty good salmon. I’m a happy woman.

Our reservation packet from Zion National Park included a red tag to hang from our rear view mirror. It allows us to drive to the lodge in our own car, since we are staying there. It also allows us in and out of the park, which comes in handy for us restless types. Check in is perfunctory; some lodges have chirpy, friendly receptionists, Zion has slow, surly receptionists. We like our spacious room and balcony, but we miss the privacy of our cabin.

 

We have dinner later on the terrace in the Lodge, salmon cakes and a salad for me, the salad bar and soup for AdventureMan. There are still tourist buses loading up in front of the lodge around 7; guess they are the last ones out.

 

Once the last bus leaves, you would think it would grow more quiet, but the lodge is full of hiking groups, many with wine, and they are having a fine time, everyone out on the balconies, hopping from room to room. Fortunately, they are early risers, and so also go to bed rather quickly. By nine, all is silent. We check for stars, and we can see a few, but it is hazy, so the stars are not so bright.

 

I know I have mentioned before the National Parks special card for seniors. My friends, this card is such a deal. You buy it once, I thin it costs 10 or 20 dollars. It covers you and the whole car every time you enter a National Park. It is such a deal that both AdventureMan and I each have one – we have Fort Pickens nearby, which is a national seashore park, and we often take visitors out to see the fort. These passes are good for life. It is a way the United States Park Systems honors aging US citizens. How cool is that, especially when the major parks charge $25 entry per car?

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Beauty, Eating Out, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , | Leave a comment