Typical Yellowstone

Road trip 4: Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California

All good things must come to an end. And for this trip, the end is sadly here. It’s been a wonderful time traveling around. Have definitely had a busy return from Canada. Since then I had my picture of Peyto Lake viewed by over 200,000 people. It is now the most viewed picture that I have ever taken, and I think it’s one of my better shots. Peyto Lake. Shout out to reddit.

2-Sep Glacier, MT

Coming off the previous two days of Jasper and Banff, Glacier was the next national park. I actually ended up grabbing a yearly pass for the national parks at Glacier because I would be visiting so many that it was cheaper that way. I never could justify buying a national park yearly pass in the past but with this trip it made sense.

Our trip to Glacier was a fortunate one. As we pulled up to our place to stay the night before we smelled and saw the haze of smoke in the air. Upon checking in the lady told us about how there were recent fires and they only just opened up the highway that we drove in on.

The fires led to the closure of the Going-to-the-Sun Road which drives from East Glacier to west Glacier and is really the core road you take to visit Glacier’s beautiful views and destinations. Luckily for us the road had reopened and we were able to take the drive.

The drive leads to stunning views such as the following.

Driving through Glacier
Driving through Glacier

Here’s a picture of Lake McDonald just outside of the Lake McDonald Lodge where we stopped for a quick bite.

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park

After driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road and stopping at a few places to walk around we headed off for the trip to Yellowstone. We stopped for dinner at Casagranda’s Steakhouse in Butte, Montana. With the amount of cattle out here it was pretty necessary that I had a local free range ribeye at some point.

Local free range ribeye
Local free range ribeye

After dinner we finished off the drive to West Yellowstone without any problems.

3-Sep Yellowstone, WY

I’ve been looking forward to coming to Yellowstone for a long time. It’s a place you hear about all the time and wonder if it can live up to the hype. Overall, Yellowstone was the most complete day of nature that I had on the trip. It’s beautiful from the moment you enter. Everything about the park feels right. Everything seems in place. The wildlife is incredible. The views are great. Here’s an example of a typical Yellowstone scene. Bison are abundant and can be seen throughout the park at many portions of the park. We saw them at many ten different locations, sometimes as close as a few feet away.

Typical Yellowstone
Typical Yellowstone

And here’s a zoomed up shot because these guys are awesome. I really hoped to see bison on the trip but didn’t think it would be as easy as it is in Yellowstone. At times the bison blend into the background and look and act like large rocks. They have an ancient presence and aura amongst themselves.

The great bison
The great bison

The geysers and hot springs are spread throughout the park. They give the park an otherworldly sort of vibe. The hot springs seem like something from another planet. Old Faithful went off just as we were walking up to it which was perfect timing.

Old Faithful
Old Faithful

There are many great views of the park. This is Artist Point.

Yellow stone in Yellowstone
Yellow stone in Yellowstone

Another very different looking spot in Yellowstone is Mammoth Hot Springs. The hot springs on this occasion were home to a silly elk that felt like hanging around and posing for pictures.

King of the castle
King of the castle

You have to be careful driving in Yellowstone as there is so much wildlife that it often overflows into the roads. Here are some sheep.

Jaywalkers
Jaywalkers

After finishing both loops we tried to make it in time to check out the Grand Tetons but it was dark and another storm was rolling in. We headed down to Jackson to spend the night, and decided to leave Grand Teton for another trip.

4-Sep Salt Lake City, UT & Las Vegas, NV

We grabbed a coffee in Jackson and got on our way. We were debating spending time in Jackson before heading to Salt Lake City but the vibe of the city through me off. Some people seemed really nice but some people seemed really annoying. Like the guy who couldn’t pay for two coffees because he couldn’t find a card other than his American Express. Of course you can’t use American Express. You can’t use that card anywhere. I almost wanted to just pay his tab so that I could get to my espresso sooner but he eventually found some other card to pay for it. Or maybe I was annoyed by the girl who asked what a cold pressed coffee was, and after the barista told her she asked if she could have a half cold press and half drip coffee. Nooo. That’s not how it works. The barista said she couldn’t do that and eventually she ordered a drip coffee. Who knows what it was but we got out of Jackson and headed out to Salt Lake City.

We got to Salt Lake City and Summer Jam was going down. The Game and some other artists were performing. We talked about going but passed in favor of some Thai food. While eating we decided to head out of Salt Lake instead of spend time trying to find something to do. Our next stop was Las Vegas so we decided to zoom out of Salt Lake and make the drive out to Las Vegas and spend the night out.

We got into Vegas around 12:30 AM, just after midnight thanks to the time change. We took turns trying to nap in the car so that we would be ready to hang out in Vegas. Those couple hours were the only driving I didn’t do on the trip. It worked well enough. We checked into the Venetian thanks to a sweet deal from Hotwire which was an awesome stay.

Don’t really have many pictures from our time in Vegas because I didn’t want to carry a camera on me but here’s a pretty lousy shot of one of the halls we had to walk through to get to our suite.

Our hotel
Our hotel

We spend the night playing some roulette. Started to lose a couple bucks but fought our way back to make over 150% after tipping the cocktail waitresses and the dealers a bunch of our winnings. We walked the strip a little but mostly hung at the Venetian as it is one of the best casinos in the area.

5-Sep Las Vegas, NV

We got back to the hotel at 6:30 in the morning, but with a late check in were able to get plenty of sleep. We decided to spend the next day in Vegas over some southern food. Deviled eggs, biscuits, fried chicken, and grits.

Don't have too many shots of Vegas
Don’t have too many shots of Vegas

After fueling up we strolled the strip. We went in and out of shops. There was this one shop called Bauman Rare Books that had some sweet copies of some rare older books. I asked if they had any first edition Tolkien but they did not. The lady said they occasionally get them and they sell for $20,000 to $70,000 for copies of the Hobbit or the full Trilogy. I remember looking at these not too long ago and they weren’t that expensive but Tolkien is hot right now.

We went to the Bellagio and saw the water fountain show. There’s an Eiffel Tower in Vegas. Just like the faux works at the Venetian, the faux Eiffel Tower really makes you appreciate the real things. Vegas makes a good attempt but these works look cheap in comparison.

Fountains of Bellagio
Fountains of Bellagio

We decided to check out of the Venetian and head to the old strip. Everyone we talked to who visited or lived in Vegas told us we had to check out both the new strip and the old strip. So from the Venetian to the Golden Nugget we went.

We walked the old strip for a minute in search of food. In a sea of cheap looking buffets we stumbled upon Carson Kitchen, and with it, an entirely different Las Vegas. Carson Kitchen is an awesome local eatery with both inside seating and rooftop. It’s an example of what people are trying to do in the city. It’s an attempt to go from the flashy lights to a more subtle and authentic experience. The people working at that place all believe in what they are doing and we had a great meal there.

On recommendation from someone at Carson we headed to Atomic Liquors to grab a drink. It’s a dive bar with a hipster vibe three blocks off of the old Vegas strip. The flashy lights are there, but the locals are there talking about the various things they are doing to build the new Vegas.

We eventually made our way back to the old strip and back to the Golden Nugget. The differences between old Vegas and new Vegas are pretty apparent. Different people. Different vibes. Both worth experiencing. It’s flashy vs. gritty. Regardless, the money is won and lost in the same way. After a whole bunch of spins of the roulette wheel we end up calling it a night. It was around 3 in the morning and we had another drive in the morning.

6-Sep Death Valley, CA

In the drive from Vegas to Yosemite we didn’t have any destination picked out. We decided to head out to Death Valley. First we rolled back through the area near Carson Kitchen and grabbed some brunch at a place called Eat. It’s another local restaurant that has that authentic vibe that the area seems to be building on. Food is on point and the house coffee is even pretty awesome.

After fueling up went from one desert to another even more serious desert. Here’s a view of the valley from the peak at Dante’s View.

Death Valley
Death Valley

The drive around the valley looks otherworldly. The temperature seems that way too. At the hottest the thermometer in the car read 106 degrees Fahrenheit, but the temperature shifts around so quickly depending on exactly where you are. The high for the rest of the week was 115-117. Nights dip back down into the 70s here. I couldn’t imagine too many things living here but saw a pack of about four coyotes. No picture as I was driving but they seem like really cool animals.

7-Sep Yosemite, CA

Yosemite is the final stop of the trip. We wake up to the smell of smoke. Fires are back in the area. The haze from the smoke covers the whole air. The smoke definitely obscured the views of Yosemite but the visit was still beautiful. The park was packed for the Labor Day holiday.

The drive through the park is pretty subdued compared to some of the other parks that we saw but there is some wildlife around. We saw another bear. Apparently they are something to watch out for. This one pretty carelessly crossed the road a little while in front of us.

Bear
Bear

The drive through the park leads you to the valley. The iconic walls of the cliffs out here are gorgeous. Although the layout of the park is a little weird (they advise you to park in the Village and take busses around), you can still see some pretty awesome views.

Yosemite
Yosemite

There were some mule deer in the area.

Deer
Deer

8-Sep Fly back from San Francisco

So that’s about it. Have to be up in about an hour to head to the airport to head home. The trip has been both very fast in that we are leaving for home soon but very slow in that some of these memories seem so long ago. The trip was awesome. We stuck mostly to a pretty rigorous schedule and saw and experienced some of the greatest things this country has to offer. It’s a trip that I will draw inspiration and experience from for the rest of my life. I look forward to spending some time reflecting on the trip and getting back home to see everyone.

In case the beers get lost or break in transit, here’s what I’m attempting to bring home.

Hope these don't break
Hope these don’t break

Will get a final write up done when I’m unpacked and settled back home.

Cheers,
Joe

On a canoe

Road trip 3: Oregon, Washington, Canada

Well it has been a while since last posting. Swung in and out of Canada. Saw a whole bunch of great things and have been having a blasting grinding away on this road trip. Since last posting I had my picture of Dungeness crab viewed by over 100,000 people, which is pretty cool. It’s the most viewed picture that I have ever taken. 100k views, yay! It’s not my best shot but so goes life. Thanks reddit.

28-Aug Mount Hood, OR & Multnomah Falls, OR & Mount Saint Helens, WA

Before leaving Oregon and heading into Washington, there were two stops that we wanted to make. Before we could venture off we were held up for about ten minutes from the lady at the front desk of the hotel. She was giving us random tips about some local cheese farm that we should check out. She told us a bunch of things to do and what to avoid. The people in Oregon all seem to want to chat your ear off. Most people we talked to while getting gas or a coffee would have stories to tell or advice to give. It’s great if you have time to spare but if you’re in a rush you might want to keep your head down and keep moving.

The first place we wanted to check out was a drive around the Mount Hood area. Mount Hood stands out alone amongst the many cliffs and mountains in the area. Apparently the odds of an eruption in the next 30 years are around 5% but it’s generally considered a safe place to visit. Grabbed this panorama during a quick stop at Trillium Lake.

Mount Hood
Mount Hood

There are a bunch of areas to see the mountain and you can spend time hiking or fishing or picnicking around. We tried to drive up the top but were met with a pretty rough road and decided it would be best not to risk the eight mile trek with the rental.

After checking out Mount Hood it was time to venture off to the Columbia River Gorge area. Checked out the famed Multnomah Falls.

Always reminds me of Lothlorien
Always reminds me of Lothlorien

I love this place because the pictures that I have seen always remind me of Lothlorien, a fictional Elven land from The Lord of the Rings. We took a hike up to the top of the falls. It was a nice two and a half mile hike with about 700 feet of elevation gain. Hikes like this have been a good way to get out of the car and get some much needed exercise to break up the sitting around.

After checking out the falls we headed out to Mount Saint Helens. We drove to the Climber’s Bivouac. It’s an area you can park and take a ten mile round-trip hike with 4500 foot elevation gain to the rim of the volcano. As it was getting dark and we weren’t prepared for it we obviously opted out. If anyone is up to climb to the top of the volcano you will probably be warned not to get to close to the edge. People have fallen over and fatalities have occurred. Just like in any of the parks there are tons of dangers associated with what you do. Be smart out there. That’s GoPro footage we just don’t need. Snapped a picture near the top facing the other direction. Descended down and got out for a little more hiking until the darkness rolled in.

Top of Mount St. Helens
Top of Mount St. Helens

29-Aug Seattle, WA

Decided to call our first audible of the trip. Originally the plan was to spend the day in Mount Rainer, WA & Olympic, WA but we decided to skip those for Seattle and the San Juan Islands.

Seattle was an awesome city. Spent the beginning of the day in Pike Place Market. Checked out the little shops selling fresh food and drink. They have everything from seafood to fresh flowers and coffee.

Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market

The market was packed so we opted for seafood at Elliott’s Oyster House down by the water. After a nice lunch we swung back to the market to grab coffee from Storyville Coffee. It’s tucked away a floor above the ruckus on the streets. We could have went to Starbucks, as their first store is located in Pike Place. But a huge line for coffee I can get anywhere else didn’t seem worth it. Nothing but props to Starbucks for what it has done for coffee in this country, but we have moved past the quality that it provides.

After coffee it was time to head to the downtown area. Saw the Space Needle. So here’s that obligatory photo.

Space Needle
Space Needle

Afterwards we went to the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. It features some incredible work by famed glass blower Dale Chihuly. I always thought his work was impressive so it was awesome to see many of his great pieces all in one place. If you haven’t heard of Dale Chihuly he is possibly the greatest glass artist ever or possibly an old hack that wouldn’t be anyone without his amazing team of blowers. I think his work is impressive. As it goes with artists, having a large super talented team is often necessary to achieve the long lasting success and fame that many of the greats hold. Regardless here are a few pieces that I thought were great.

Look at this insane detail, transparency, quality, thinness, etc.

Transparency, detail, delicacy
Transparency, detail, delicacy

I loved this wild and colorful installation.

This is some cool glass
This is some cool glass

Here’s an angle from the rear.

Fun stuff
Fun stuff

These two boats loaded with various glass pieces is so crazy looking.

Mastery
Mastery

I honestly thought this piece out in the gardens was just a cool looking tree when I saw it from a distance.

I thought it was a tree
I thought it was a tree

After the museum we headed out to Brouwer’s Cafe to check out the beers that Seattle had to offer. Like some of the places in Portland, Brouwer’s Cafe had an out of control bottle list. I’ve been trying to have a taste of Firestone Walker Parabola for some time now. They had four different years available. Ended up trying the last 2010 they had in stock, leaving them with the 2013-2015. Unfortunately the bottles at the shop cannot be purchased for taking home.

2010 Firestone Walker Parabola
2010 Firestone Walker Parabola

30-Aug Mostly driving from Seattle to Jasper

The plan for the next day was to hang in the San Juan Islands, but we decided to invest most of the day in making the long trek from Seattle to Jasper. Some of the locals who have been to the East Coast referred to the San Juan Islands as the Cape Cod of the North West. I can’t say whether that is true or not but sounds like it would have been a fun time. While Cape Cod may be a great time, there’s no way we were willing to give up the epicness of Jasper and Banff.

The day started with a last taste of fresh Dungeness crab in the town of Oak Harbor. It came from a half seafood and half smoke house place called Seabolt’s Smoke House. They had good seafood and awesome beef jerky and smoked oysters that I have been enjoying to keep me fueled up on the trip.

More crab
More crab

After hanging in Oak Harbor for a bit we set off for a whole bunch of driving. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for some rain, high winds, water accumulation, fog, darkness, insane truckers, and wildlife. We took our time and crushed the drive without any issues. No road is ever going to hold me back.

31-Aug Jasper, AB, CAN

The rain continued into the following day but there was enough sunshine to make the day in Jasper a beautiful one. I think this park will look great in any circumstances. Started off the day with some elk.

More elk
More elk

Then some driving through the park.

Driving through Jasper
Driving through Jasper

Random pull offs in this park give you views like this.

Random pull off in Jasper
Random pull off in Jasper

We ended up taking an hour and a half boat ride from the Maligne Lake terminal out to Spirit Island. It’s an island that you may see frequently photographed from people who visit Jasper. The clouds are there but that glacier water is still gorgeous.

Spirit Island
Spirit Island

Finished off the day with some awesome Indian food in the town of Banff and then grabbed some sleep at this awesome luxury resort. It was a great night of sleep, or editing photos and working on this write up.

1-Sep Banff, AB, CAN

Banff is another amazing park. You don’t really have to say much about it. The nature is big and beautiful out here like it is in Jasper. Everywhere you look there are gorgeous views and sights. We headed off to Lake Louise.

Lake Louise
Lake Louise

Hopped out on a canoe. There was some rain rolling in so we got rained on a bit while we were out there but it was a great time. Pretty awesome experience canoeing out on Lake Louise. I’ve seen a ton of pictures of that lake and never thought I would be out in the middle of it on a canoe with my love. Was a great time.

On a canoe
On a canoe

After Lake Louise we stopped in Peyto Lake. It’s another glacier fed lake. The color of this water gets me every time. Such a great view after a short hike.

Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake

After Peyto Lake it was time to leave Canada. We made it back into the United States a little late at night. It’s weird that the borders of the country are closed at certain hours, but luckily this wasn’t an issues going in to Canada or coming back into the United States. I guess if you are locked out of your own country for being a little late then you just bum around in whatever country you are in until it opens. Pretty bizarre but something to keep in mind if your crossing borders.

So that’s about it. At the moment currently in Glacier, getting ready to see the park tomorrow.