Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coming Home

Couer d'Alene, ID

Coeur d'Alene had a very cool feel to it. With the lake right by it's quaint downtown and a beach running for a nice stretch from downtown to the local college, it made for not only a great place to relax and read (and enjoy almost perfect weather), but also to swim and run as well. And the volleyball courts they had there were running fairly competitive pickup games non-stop the whole time I was there. However, for some reason or another, I couldn't seem to get more than a 60 second conversation out of anyone in the town. Everyone was outwardly friendly, but I got the feeling that if you weren't from their quaint little town they didn't really care to make your acquaintance. So after a couple days spent swimming, running, and reading on the beach, as well as racing a small, local triathlon, I had no more to do than to move on.

Couer d'Alene has this great lakefront beach to hang out at that is right by downtown.

Jackson Hole, WY

While staying with my cousin in Jackson Hole, I discovered there was in fact more to do than National Parks and uber expensive restaurants and tourist shopping. Lucky me happened to be there right when the county fair showed up! And, let me tell ya, this was no disappointment. Without delving too far into stereotypes, I imagine county fairs and the carnies that run them must be fairly similar nationwide, which of course makes for entertaining people watching experiences. But the rickety rides, with the promise of an adrenaline rush not just from the ride itself but the feeling you get that it could break at any second and cause catastrophic consequences, are what really make fairs so much fun.We had a blast riding the Zipper. A rough machine that spun you vertically with a surprising variety of speed and unpredictability that made it not only tough to keep dinner down but also your face slamming into the same bars you held onto with a death grip. Apparently, at 6'0 I was too short to make proper use of the padding above to stop your head in case you get caught not paying attention or can't hold tight enough. That's not all this fair had though. It was thoroughly complete with rodeos and, even better, figure 8 racing. Figure 8 racing for those who have not seen it before, involves a bunch of stripped down old cars running around a figure 8 course for a specified time. The ones that advance to the next round are the top 2 or 3 with the most laps. Or, as is usually the case, the top 2 or 3 still running...

You can see here how you can get some good car smashing action whenever a driver wants to be aggressive. We even saw one catch on fire right in front of us.

It's a heck of a lot of fun to pick your car and see it get crashed out for awhile on the first turn and then come back in the end to outlast all of your friends' cars or simply cheer for that one driver that no matter how badly he is out of it, he never gives up.

Boulder, CO

After a week spent hanging out with my cousin and her roommates in Jackson Hole and taking day trips up to the Tetons and Yellowstone, it was now time to head back towards Oklahoma. It seemed forever since I'd raced or trained with the good people of OK and it was time to change that. So I took off from Jackson on another one of their beautiful 70 degree days and headed south and east towards Colorado. However, that being a long drive for one day, I found this area to stop off for a nice, free camping spot.

This was sunrise at the Vedauwoo rock formations just past Laramie, WY,
right off of I-80. There is a park here that costs money to enter, however,
if you just drive past the entrance down the dirt road (Vedauwoo Glen Rd)
 you will see free camping spots all over.

And then it was off to Boulder, CO, to meet up with my old acquaintance, Danger Carrie, and get some last bit of quality altitude training before heading back down to sea level and the ridiculous heat and humidity that is Oklahoma. Boulder, was quite the place, to say the least. Out of all the places I had visited, it was by far the easiest and safest place to bike around that I'd seen. Trails and bike routes seemed to be everywhere, not to mention the beautiful path that went along the creek, right by downtown and the University, which contained both off-road trails for running and on-road paths for biking or running. But perhaps the most striking thing about the town was how laid back, friendly, and approachable everyone was. It seemed like you could strike up a conversation at random with almost anyone in any place and it would likely turn out to be a good one. Though I found much of the Northwest to be like this, it was much much more so here. And it even, oddly enough, had a very impressive slew of street performers in it's downtown Pearl District.
 This snake on the shoulder was not the new style, but another of Boulder's excellent street performers.

One night after coming home I even saw my 2nd fire in a week! Luckily, only the
papers pinned to the kiosk burned and so it quickly fizzled out.

 There are several great hikes around Boulder and one of the most popular
is the beautifully shaped Flatirons.

 This spot was actually easier than it looks to get up to and down from,
and a great little nook to eat lunch at

It's one heck of a view from the top of the Flatirons.

The Long Road Home

I couldn't, of course, head home without stopping off in Colorado Springs again to see my good buddy, Tom. And boy was I glad I did, as he sent along another three excellent Belgium brews, that, of course, are not available in the States. However, after that, it was a long drive with not much in between.

But that didn't stop from finding a nice spot in very small Bucklin, KS, to eat lunch along the way.

Several hour later I was back in Oklahoma City again, and, for the first time in a while, stuck in traffic, since there were 3 separate wrecks up ahead on just the stretch of highway I was on, not to mention the other highways around. Luckily though I was able to navigate around it well, but it was a nice little reminder of how bad the drivers in Oklahoma are (OKC is consistently ranked on top 10 dangerous cities for driving lists). It was also, as usual, well over 100 degrees Farenheit, making it swelteringly hot for someone no longer adjusted to the heat. Despite all that, though, it was good to be back home again and in a place where I could comfortably regroup and plan for the next leg of my journey. Up next, I will travel up to the east coast and back down for the fall and after that, who knows, so stay tuned for more of Journey's adventures!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yellowstone and the Tetons

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is famous worldwide for it's vast number of hot springs, geysers, and paint pots along with many other geological features such as forests, canyons, waterfalls and such. However, the main draw to Yellowstone is definitely the wildlife. And during my trip, I saw quite a bit of all of it. Mostly through driving, however, a friend and I did get a nice, hard bike ride on the west side of the park one day, which is my favorite way to tour any new location. The rest of the park doesn't have much shoulder to bike on, but the west side was excellent.

 A waterfall is always a nice spot for a break.

The colors at Midway Geyser Basin were spectacular.

Here is one of many hot springs. Most of which, were on the west side of the park.

 I didn't notice until later that I wasn't supposed to be in this area, but...
the water really wasn't THAT hot.
I think it only scalded my toes a little bit...

From the picture it's hard to notice the steam,
but this little pond would have been a HOT swim for sure 

 Elk are a common sighting in the park. Like this one, chilling on his own little island.

 Or these fellas, basking in the sun near the West Thumb springs.

 This spring was so clear and deep, it felt like you could see down to the
center of the Earth if you shined a flashlight down it.
Unfortunately, they don't let you get closer than this...

 This was just the thumb of Yellowstone Lake (the West Thumb).

I thought the east side to be a bit more scenic for the most part.

 These bison were hanging out on this little island with it's own little geyser. Way cool.

And later, we find that, bison are simply everywhere!

Including right at your door!

Snakes too! This one got him a fish!

 And of course, there are huge waterfalls like the one at Lower Falls.
Warning: it's one heck of a hike (at least that's what the sign said.
I thought it was nothing. If you have no problem walking up the stairs
 of a 40 or 50 story building at 7000ft, you will too)

 My favorite scenic piece. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
I heard it was snow covered and iced over in the winter. All I could think about
was snowboarding down to it...

And finally, the oldest, the faithfullest, the most spectacular, Old Faithful
in all her glory, blowing her load!

Grand Teton National Park

Coming out of Yellowstone I had no idea what to expect of the Tetons as I really hadn't heard much about them. Quickly though, they became a favorite, as I fell in love with the beautiful glacier formed lakes and rugged, sharp edged mountain peaks. It also didn't hurt that I saw...

 A grizzly and her three cubs almost as soon as I entered the park!

Luckily I was in my car (after the park ranger yelled at me to get back in it...)
and thus safe at this point.

 But soon after I encountered one on the trail as well! This though was a young, 
lone black bear and thus much less dangerous (I think...)

Who decided to meander down onto our trail! Since I had the big knife and the bear spray,
the group that had formed to watch the bear unanimously decided that I now lead...

So I made a bunch of noise as I walked after him and he smartly
scampered up away from the trail to cover and let us pass.

 The rest of that hike, however, was somewhat uneventful as far as wildlife sightings.
Though there were plenty of ground squirrels (they look like chipmunks) like this little
guy all over the place.

 The hike had originally been planned for a 20+ miler to include the Paintbrush Divide and back through Paintbrush Canyon, however, because of all the snow, this area was ice axe required. I had thought about chancing it, until I saw how snow covered and iced over Solitude Lake, at approximately the midway point, was. After slipping on snow and sliding down the mountain a ways on a previous hike, I was aware of just how dangerous a situation it could be, particularly if it was all snow and not just a few patches.

So I took in the beautiful view at Solitude lake and ran most of the 9.25 miles back down
through Cascade Canyon and around Jenny Lake (where I saw the bear).

 The more difficult hike of the trip was a 16-17 mile roundtrip up and then down to Phelps Lake seen here and then along the Death Canyon Trailhead to the Alaska Basin trail, and then up to the Static Peak Divide.

 It starts, like many trails do, following a river that flows down from the mountains, which, most always, offers gorgeous views of white water and falls.

 After a few hours of going up (approx 5000ish ft gain over 8 or so miles), Static Peak Divide is completely snow covered and is the end of the road.
Unless of course you brought a snowboard and decide to slide down a ways and head on over to the Idaho side of the Alaska Basin Trail. This was tempting, as it would have been the easier way back, if you happened to have a ride waiting on the other side.

 From here, it was a fairly simple scramble up to the top of Mt Albright peak on the right side and a 360 degree view of gorgeous, snow covered mountain peaks and lush valleys, streams, and lakes.

 If I'd had more supplies, It would have been nice to walk/climb across to some of the other peaks.

 But the view from this one was simply breathtaking enough.

And the weather had of course cleared up nicely for the return trip to Phelps Lake, which is also a nice little recreational area for swimming and picnicking.

With so many glacier lakes and jagged peaks surrounded by forest,
it's no wonder I fell in love with this place.

For me, it was the perfect backdrop as I swam in String Lake, biked down to the entrance of the park on the dedicated multi-use trail that winds through it, and ran on the trails around String Lake for a nice 26 mile triathlon to celebrate my 26th birthday.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Glacier National Park

The Road to Glacier

On my way through Montana I decide to head up north a few hours and go through Glacier National Park. Now, of course, I need to find a free camping spot, so I take a little detour of about an hour or two driving through national forest and on logging roads until I end up at the perfect spot to park and rest for the night.

This was the view at sunset along Highway 200 between Paradise and
Plains, Montana, on the way up towards Glacier National Park.
Found a nice place to camp alongside Clark Hinchwood 1027 which accesses national
forest land off Highway 28 in between Plains and Hot Springs. The roads were pretty gnarly and looked to be used only for logging, but the views were no less stunning.

Flathead Lake was a beautiful place. Will have to spend some time here next time I come.

It had a great little stop along the way that was perfect for lunch (and a beer...).
This looked to be a good spot for swimming as well, with an island right close to explore.

Glacier National Park

 Coming into Glacier I had high hopes as I had heard so many wonderful things
about the park, and early on it was quite beautiful.

 However, up in the mountains, visibility turned out to be quite poor on this day,
and there was still a lot of snow on the ground, making any hiking quite difficult.
Still, the views were quite breathtaking.

Down lower and toward the east end of the park there
were no shortage of waterfalls to hike up to.

 Including this monstrous beauty.

 And the sky was much clearer at this altitude, lending to a few very
nice views as I neared the east end of the park.

From here, you would have never known how dark and cloudy it
 was higher up in the mountains in the middle of the park!