Tag : roadtrip2014

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Last Summer: A Not-Solo Road Trip

Then there was the family reunion up in Jackson Hole for some reason. I took this picture there:


It was the most meaningful one I took.

Then it was time to drive to Oklahoma, except then two of my nephews were going to come with me sort of, part of the way, before being passed off in New Mexico so they could be taken to Old Mexico by their mother (not an abduction).

I’m just going to do some bullet points, see what happens.

  • Started heading north and east out of Jackson, which means we spent some quality time driving in Yellowstone traffic while discussing various qualities of traffic and gangsta rap.
    • Findings:
      • Pull off the road and then stop to look at the buffalo.
      • West Coast > East Coast.
  • We visited the western museum or whatever it’s called in Cody, Wyoming. Due in some part to Yellowstone traffic, we got there 45 minutes before closing, so the dude let us in for half price.
  • Eventually found a random campground somewhere in the hills between Cody and Sheridan.
    • Jacob built a fire.
      • Wyoming-Camping
    • A good many ‘nilla wafers were roasted that night.
  • When we got to Sheridan, we went to Taco Bell, ostensibly for breakfast. There, Sam ordered this on purpose:
    • unnamed
    • It’s a Doritos taco with only meat.
    • Except that the meat is mostly sawdust, so I’m not sure on whom the joke is at this point.
  • Next day, we headed out east with the idea of visiting my brother in South Dakota, who had missed the family reunion despite living, relatively speaking, not very far away from Jackson, Wyo. We also wanted to see Devil’s Tower.
    • Devils-Tower-Rally-Week
    • And experience Rally Week.
      • IMG_1149
  • Eventually got to my brother’s house, where Sam and I experienced yellowjackets on the front porch and, later, my South Dakota niece sought her cousins’ assistance in her never-ending war against gators.
    • Since everyone in that house works for a living, though, we didn’t end up staying very long.
    • It made us feel self-conscious about our lives of leisure.
  • Went to see if Mt. Rushmore was still there.
    • Mt-Rushmore
    • Indeed it was.
  • Then started heading south, eventually going to Pizza Hut (!) and experiencing some fine summer weather.
    • IMG_1193
  • We stayed in a hotel in Ft. Collins, Colo. I also got the truck’s oil changed there.
  • The next day, we had lunch at Carl’s Jr. in Colorado Springs.
  • And then kept driving until we came to Great Sand Dunes National Park.
    • Where, that evening, we went on a short hike up to some small slot canyon where there was a waterfall at the end.
      • Sand Dunes Waterfall
    • Jacob then free-solo’ed up some rocks and took this picture:
      • View-of-Sand-Dunes
      • He has very good no-look photo composition skills.
  • We camped that night in an NFS campground just outside the actual national park.
  • In the morning we ate breakfast bars and/or similar. I don’t actually remember what we ate, but if I had to guess, it would be something along those lines. Or else we all ate different things based on what had been purchased at a gas station on the previous day.
  • Then it was off to the dunes!
    • It turned out that if you wanted to boogie board down the dunes, you had to rent the boogie boards in the nearest town, which was 45 minutes away.
    • So instead we opted to death-march into the dunes.
      • By “we”, I mean “I, on behalf of us”.
      • The march starts by crossing a sometimes river.
        • Great-Sand-Dunes-River
      • Then continues uphill for as long as you want to go uphill in soft sand.
        • Great-Sand-Dunes-Hike
      • Afterward, Jacob subtly suggested that, in addition to the many upsides, there can also be a downside to the sand dune death march experience.
        • DSC_4185
      • Also, we saw some teenager break (based on the ambulance, paramedics, stretcher, etc., very possibly literally) his neck boogie boarding down the sand dunes.
  • Then we got back in the car and drove further south.
  • We ended up holing up in Roswell, N.M., where gas and hotels are inexpensive.
    • Visited the UFO museum.
    • Jacob talked Sam into feeling okay about experiencing Thai food at a place on Main Street.
      • Sam found the food fine, but determined that he doesn’t love cilantro.
    • We also had breakfast at some place that Yelp recommended and where there seemed to be a lot of locals. The parking lot was gravel.
  • Eventually we ended up in Carlsbad Caverns, but most of the pictures I took worked out about like this
    • DSC_4193
  • We also stayed for the Batflight! program at the cave.
    • Rangers sometimes come across as being a little bit full of themselves.
    • You see a lot of bats, but you can’t see any of them very well because it’s sort of dark.
  • Anyway, then we made the handoff in Las Cruces and I never saw my nephews again.
  • Also worth noting is that Sam spent the entire trip in the back seat of a not full-size cab, which isn’t really big enough for an hour-long trip, let alone one from Jackson, Wyo. to Las Cruces, N.M. by way of several places that aren’t part of a direct path.
    • IMG_0902
    • Suffering builds character. Hopefully. We’ll have to monitor status.
  • Also, it turns out that they make alphabet Cheez-Its.
    • IMG_0913
    • And that I tried to teach my nephews a few very important phrases in German.

My greatest epiphany from the trip:

  1. Even fast food isn’t all that cheap when you have to pay for more than just yourself.

Of course, at the time it had been over five years since I’d received a meaningful paycheck. And it would be another month and a half before that streak would be broken. In some ways, I don’t necessarily miss being poor. OTOH, I kind of do miss having infinite free time. (This paragraph constitutes a much later epiphany that occurred when reflecting upon the events of this trip.)

If this made complete sense to you, give no indication.



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Last Summer: Driving, Hiking, Fishing the Beartooths

The Beartooth Highway is probably the prettiest drive I’ve ever been on and it’s not for lack of trying. This is the best photo I have, but it’s not that communicative of the vast excellence of the drive.

So there was that. The Beartooth Mountains are in southwestern Montana, south of Bozeman a ways, a little northeast of Yellowstone. Sort of also in northwestern Wyoming.

I ended up going on a couple of overnighters, one solo and one with my brother.

The solo one came first and I wanted to do something in sort of the south part of the Beartooths since the previous time out there I’d spent in the area around Red Lodge, hiking to Keyser Brown Lake for a few nights, and then a day trip with a different brother up to Glacier Lake.

Ended up hiking to Fox Lake. The most notable things about this hike were (1) mosquitoes and (2) tree prison. Eventually I got to the lake and it started raining. I just wish the mosquitoes would stay out of my ears.

Look how eager I was!

I caught a few fish. They were all the same size. It may have been the same fish every time.

And this is what my tent looked like (after being rained on).

Next morning…:

There were a couple of other guys who were also camped there and were trying to fish, but I didn’t see them pull in anything. Ergo, I am better than them. Whoever they were. I’m sure their families like them.

Also, I have a hard time sleeping to the sound of rain hitting a rainfly. I don’t get how rain sounds are always included in white noise apps. Seems counter-productive.

Right on. So then I was sleepy and hiked back through the mosquitoes.

The next day (I think), I kind of talked my brother into going up to Red Lodge and Glacier Lake (we’d had something else planned), since that area was more bona fide and I knew I wouldn’t have so much of the tree prison problem. We ended up camping on Emerald Lake (in Wyoming!), which was pretty and offered an extra mile or so buffer between us in civilization. We didn’t see anyone else at Emerald while we were there (we did at Glacier) and, for whatever it’s worth, most of the fishing success came at Little Glacier Lake (between Glacier and Emerald).

Now you know. Also: this all happened last summer. On some road trip. Because I was homeless and my job didn’t start till the middle of August.

Glacier Lake:

The nearby Emerald Lake:

And, since everyone loves reflections:

And then I woke up.


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What I Did on My Summer Vacation (Last Year): In Washington

Oregon gives way to Washington. BTW, this, all this last summer stuff, was part of a homelessness-inspired road trip I took in 2014. My house in Pittsburgh sold way faster than I meant for it to sell and — well anyway. Starting June 8th or something I was on the road. Went from Pittsburgh to Norman to look for a place to live, then drove up to Utah (by way of the Colorado posts I’ve posted) for my niece’s wedding, then down to San Diego. From SD, I had to fly back to Pgh to defend my thesis, then I flew back to San Diego and started driving north. Ergo: Eastern Sierras, State of Jefferson, then Oregon, then this post.

Also, driving from Bend up to Hood River is a really nice drive.

After crossing the Columbia on a bridge, I camped somewhere and then went to look at some cave where people in the nearby town used to visit to get ice. Because there’s year-round ice in this cave. It’s a real thing.

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There were also some natural bridges around there, but they were odd and green and maybe not quite as dramatic as the ones in Utah. Here:

I mean, they were fine. Totally fine. That ice cave was super cold though.

The drive from Trout Lake, past Mt. Adams on the unpaved roads up to Packwood, was also super scenic and highly recommended (although it’s kind of a long stretch on a rough road).

Mt. Adams from NF-23

Then a couple photos from when I was hanging out with my parents in Tacoma. I know, you’re only here for the text. Sorry.

Rail transport! And then it was time to go to JHole for the family reunion by way of the Beartooths.

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Last Summer: Bend, Bachelor, and Broken Top

I had never been to Bend before since I skipped out on the family reunion that had been there. There’s less threat of golf when visiting solo I think.

I went to a really good Thai place there and had the Kao Soi:

Kao Soi in Bend

The very next day, I drove up to Mt. Bachelor to see what there was to see and go on another famous day hike. It’s not a bad drive.

Mt. Bachelor from the Highway

Then I went on some hike. It was one I’d studied out. I think it was, like, Green Lakes trail up to the Todd Trail, and then to the Broken Top trail. It was middle of July, but there was snow at the trailhead and, eventually, too much snow to keep going. I did get to hike through a lot of snow before then, though.

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It was a much more amazing hike than the pictures might lead you to believe. You get to cross a couple of creeks, it’s not much of a tree prison after the first half mile or so, and you keep coming onto new vistas. The second-to-last photo is where I stopped. I wasn’t going to find where the trail picked up again at the other end of the snowfield I didn’t think. I mean, I tried, but then decided it would be okay to lay out on the rocks like a lizard and enjoy the silence.

I’d like to try this one again some time without all the snow so I can actually get to the cool high alpine lakes. Maybe next year.

I also drove around some “activities loop” or something around Bachelor. There wasn’t a lot going on there, though, in spite of there being a lot of people trying to do something. Just, you know. That was my take-away.

And then I went to Carl’s Jr. in Redmond. To the important details, I hold fast.


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Last Summer: Lava Beds National Monument

Getting out of Lake Tahoe’s ugly Bay Area traffic and into the beautiful State of Jefferson was a nice transition.

State of Jefferson - Forest

State of Jefferson - Farmland

Was trying to work my way up to Bend, Oregon. On the way was Lava Beds National Monument, of which I had not prior to this trip heard. Maybe. I can’t remember. It’s been a while and saying I’d never heard of it before sets up the story to be “more impressive” by creating a wider gap between expectation and reality.

At any rate, Lava Beds is mostly, as the name would imply, A BUNCH OF CAVES. Not like Carlsbad Caverns caves, but a bunch of human-scale caves that you can head off into and run around in (depending on how good your flashlight is). Fun, self-guided, very dark caves with stairways down into them and enough jagged rocks to bang into such that you feel like you’re really doing something.

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If you were a kid, this would be like the greatest national monument ever. They tend to overstate the “difficulty” of the caves. Watch your shins.

A lot of no-cost NFS campgrounds around here also. And if you hadn’t been there before, you could have also gone to Lassen, which was fun the first time.

Caves, then.


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California, Holiday Weekends, and Tahoe Traffic

Picture > many words.

Instagram made it better.

Instagram made it better.

There was no accident, there were just this many people. At which point — how is this a vacation for them? It was a good reminder of California. For reals, though, it took 3 hours to get from South Lake Tahoe to Tahoe City, which — man. I really should have looked at Google Maps in Menden to see the traffic report.

Yet somehow, once you were anywhere north of the 80, all the people disappeared.


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I Know What I Did Last Summer: Eastern Sierras

I had planned to do this Thousand Islands Lake hike and had permits for it and had borrowed my brother’s bear canister. I didn’t go, though — I think I got sick instead or something. Probably from that stupid too-fancy sandwich place in Bishop, the one with the world’s worst parking lot. I ended up eating a lot of dry crackers.

Somewhere north of Bishop.

Somewhere north of Bishop.

But anyway, camped for a couple nights, went on a couple day hikes. Extremely hot, extremely crowded. Note to self: never Sierras between June and September. There: done.

These hikes meant so much to me, I don’t remember what they were called. I don’t *actually* know what I did last summer. The Thai food in Bend was excellent, though. Eventually. After spending six hours stuck in traffic in South Lake Tahoe. A few days after. Etc. Never South Lake Tahoe on 4th of July weekend.

Here are photos taken on hikes in the Eastern Sierras about which I recall no further details:

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There are, like, two and a half hikes represented there. For some reason I had a hard time having water with me. It was in the 100s every day. Also, travel is a little less fun when you’re poor to start with and your next paycheck isn’t coming for another couple of months. This is the kind of mindset that results in buying houses that are way too new, way too big, and way too yellow. Avoid it if possible.

Evidence of crowdedness.

Evidence of crowdedness.

Aperture’s “Vibrancy” slider is like a drug. (Mid Contrast also sometimes, depending on the camera.)


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Cedar Breaks National Monument = Bryce Canyon – (.5 * Bryce Size) – (.95 * Bryce Crowds)

Basically Bryce Canyon, but not as big and definitely not as crowded. Similar hoodoos though. I was there on June 22nd, driving from SLC to San Diego.

Later that night I slept at a rest stop on the California side of the CA-NV line. I-15. The idling semi trucks were like white noise. The person whose car alarm went off once every two hours will one day pay for his (her) insolence.

Long before that, though:

Cedar Breaks National Monument


A marmot.

A marmot.

The road out.

The road out.

It’s a national monument that warrants about four photos and I *do* now realize that I should have taken more (a non-zero number of) pictures of the rest area. Although you’ve probably been there yourself — metaphorically if nothing else.


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Mills Lake Hike and Rocky Mountain National Park

This happened a long time ago. Before I did my dissertation defense. Before my niece even got married. A long time ago.

Rocky Mountain National Park is a National Park located in Denver. There are a ton of people since in Denver (fine, “in Denver”, where “in” means less than 90 minutes away). The Mills Lake Hike was one I found out about online. It was pretty good. Get to the trailhead early to ensure parking and that the way up the trailer won’t be in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I stayed at some campground just outside the park. It cost $26 because it’s in Denver.

Here’s the payoff from the hike:

Mills Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

Nice, right? I think it’s probably the highlight of the whole park.

On this photo, I think the horse’s head should be crossed out:

No Horses Sign

And somewhere along the way you see this:

Alberta Falls at RMNP

I think it’s called Alberta Falls. There’s no better angle without a helicopter and wires. Sorry. They should have angled the waterfall differently, I agree.

I actually remember thinking it was a great hike three of four weeks ago or whenever it was I actually did itt. I’m just a little jaded right now since I’ve been outside for the last week and seen a lot of mountains and lakes. Tomorrow I will see more mountains and lakes. We’ll see how disappointing they are. Here’s another photo of Mills Lake sort of with some mountains behind:


There was an ice field you had to walk across close to the lake. I got to the parking lot by like 8:30 or so. No problem finding parking and not too crowded on the way up. On the way down, all of Denver was on its way up. And most of Denver is part of one of a variety of youth groups. Then some dude commented on my hat so he could get to his punchline about how dumb it is for Under Armour to make pink camouflage underwear for girls.

After the hike, I drove through the rest of the park. Given that it’s located in a major metropolitan area, the drive over the crest of the park (parks have crests now) was conducted in heavy midday traffic and looked like this:

The top of RMNP

Vorwärts. Immer vorwärts nur.



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Climbing Pikes Peak (in a Car)

Pikes Peak is super-close to Colorado Springs. It’s a 14,000+ peak to which you can drive. It is the highest elevation to which I have ever driven. It’s sort of like a toll road operated by the NFS.

Whichever of those peaks is the highest, that's Pikes.

Whichever of those peaks is the highest, that’s Pikes.

At the edge of civilization before you start climbing up to the pass toward where the entry booth is located, there’s a gas station+barbecue place. I used their restroom and bought a rice krispie treat there. The bathroom was the better of the two experiences.

  •  19 miles from the toll booth to the top (IIRC).
  • Somehow takes about an hour-plus to get up there.
  • Most people driving up it are totally reasonable, but it only takes one Minnesotan without the self-awareness to use turnouts to ruin everything.
  • Which is how it takes an hour-plus to get up there.
  • I get a little dizzy and light-headed at 14,000 feet.
  • Also my fingers get a little numb and tingly.
  • There are a lot of hairpin turns.
  • They tell you to only ever use first gear on the way down.
  • Halfway down there’s a checkpoint where an NFS employee tests the temperature of your brakes and if you’re over 300, they make you stop. Mine were 293.0 degrees (Fahrenheit I hope).
  • Here are some other photos:
Backhoes on the road also slow the procession.

Backhoes on the road also slow the procession.





Probably enough.