Winter in Yellowstone National Park (part I)

Eventually, I’ll sort through my thousands of pictures from all of my trips to Yellowstone National Park and organize them into a few (hopefully) coherent posts. It’s a daunting task for which I just haven’t found the motivation. So in the meantime, I’m going to take a more unique approach and talk about winter in Yellowstone.

Most people visit Yellowstone in the summer, which makes sense because most of the park roads are closed from November-May. The only section remaining open year-round is Grand Loop Road and US Highway 212, stretching across the northern portion of the park from Gardiner, MT to Cooke City, MT. Access to the rest of the park is by ski, snowshoe, snowcoach tour, or (much to my chagrin) snowmobile. I’ve yet to take one of the snowcoach tours but it’s on my to-do list. Up to this point, our winter experiences in Yellowstone have all been on skis. Continue reading

Lots and Lots of Lakes – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (part II)

There are roughly 200 miles of hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park. I’ve hiked probably 20 of those miles. I have a loooong way to go, but I guess I have to start somewhere, right? Well if I had a choice, that somewhere would certainly be Jenny Lake.

To camp at Jenny Lake, you have to get up early. Really, really early. I remember my dad heading down to the campground at 6am to get us a site. It think it’s the only time I’ve ever seen him willingly wake up early. The Jenny Lake campground is small, beautiful, insanely popular…and first-come-first-serve. But once we got a site, we had a great view and the perfect base camp for a week’s worth of hiking. Continue reading

Grandest of them All – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (part I)

You’ve probably seen the Teton Mountains before without even realizing it; photos of the iconic range pop up all over the place. The rugged profile of the Grand Teton, Mount Owen, and Teewinot Mountain is unmistakable. I’d recognize them from anywhere.

Grand Teton National Park is located in northwest Wyoming, directly south of Yellowstone National Park. It’s only five hours from my house, so I’m actually a little disappointed in myself for how little time I’ve spent there. I think it tends to get lost in the shadow of Yellowstone. Continue reading

Come What May – Bellingham, Washington

I always brag that I grew up in the most beautiful place. And I did. But Bellingham, located in Whatcom County in the northwestern corner of Washington, is a close second. I’m fortunate to have spent the better part of 4 years there, and it’s a place I’d gladly go back to.

Do you ever see or hear about something and just know that it’s exactly what you’re looking for? For me, Western Washington University was that something. I knew I wanted to go to school on the west coast. I knew I wanted to keep competing in track, so the school needed to have a team. I had no clue what I wanted to major in, so that wasn’t a consideration. In actuality, what ended up making my decision was a postcard. Yep, you read that right. A postcard. One of those little things you get in the mail from colleges all over the country after you take the SATs. It was a picture of the WWU college dorms looking out over Bellingham Bay. As soon as I saw it, I said, “mom, that’s where I’m going.” And it was settled. Continue reading

Up in the Mountains – Pine Creek Lake, Montana

Paradise Valley. Sounds like a place you’d like to be right about now, huh? I know I would. The Paradise Valley lies at the base of the towering Absaroka Mountains in southwest Montana, running most of the distance between the town of Livingston and Yellowstone National Park.

Fun way to determine if someone grew up in southwest Montana – ask them how to say Absaroka (hint: it’s pronounced ab-ZOAR-ka).

Anyway, the Absarokas are beautiful. They’re also massive mountains, so hikes up into them tend to be difficult. Case in point: Pine Creek Lake.

The trailhead for Pine Creek Lake is east of US Highway 89 in the Paradise Valley. Take Pine Creek Road across the Yellowstone River, then turn right on East River Road and left on Luccock Park Road. Follow that road to the end, to Pine Creek Campground and the Pine Creek trailhead.

Approximately 1 mile up the trail is Pine Creek Falls. It’s not an overly steep hike to the falls, so it’s a popular location; however, most people don’t go past this point. Beyond the falls, the trail begins to climb. 3,000 feet in 4 miles, to be exact. It’s steep. Very, very steep. It’s one of the more difficult hikes I’ve ever done. But the trail switchbacks through forest, meadow, and fields of rocks and when it opens up, a glance over our shoulders revealed the Paradise Valley 3,000 feet below. Continue reading

Changing Times – Day hikes around southwest Montana

The summer of 2007 was a time of change for our family. My parents split up, so a family road trip wasn’t high on our priority list. Also, I was getting ready to head off to college so instead of a big two-week excursion, our summer was dotted with shorter trips – day hikes with my mom, a drive to Yakima, WA for a cousin’s wedding, and my college orientation.

Our first hike was to Mystic Lake in the Gallatin National Forest. There are actually two trails to Mystic Lake – one winds up New World Gulch to the northern shore of the lake while the other follows Sourdough Creek from just south of Bozeman, MT up to the southern tip of the lake. New World Gulch trail is shorter, I believe, but we took the Sourdough Creek trail. The trail is wide and not very steep, which means it’s also a popular place for bikes and horses. It’s 16 miles round trip – but it’s also one of the easiest hikes I’ve ever done. I remember my mom and I came up on the lake, turned to look at each other, and said “really, we’re there already?” Continue reading

Vancouver Island, British Columbia (part 2)

(If you missed part I of this post, you can find it here)

After spending the first half of our trip on the inland side of Vancouver Island, we headed out to the western coast! The coastline is dotted with provincial parks and preserves but, for whatever reason, my dad chose Juan de Fuca Provincial Park as our only destination. The park encompasses a long stretch of coastline on the southwestern portion of the island, and is a conglomerate of four previous provincial parks combined into one. The 30-mile Juan de Fuca Marine Trail traverses the park, but there are also many shorter hikes as well as destinations that require hiking only a small section of the trail.

As to be expected along the north Pacific coastline, the beaches were rocky and the water was cold. We started at the northernmost point of the Marine Trail, with short hikes to Botany Bay and Botanical Beach. From there, we drove (the road is fairly parallel to the trail) to the southern tip of the park, where the trail comes to an end at China Beach, named for the plethora of smooth rocks and broken sea shells that give the impression that someone smashed a bunch of china. Continue reading