Eastward Bound (part III) – Ontario to the Atlantic 

Day 5. The last day of our cross-country road trip.

After catching one last glimpse of Niagara Falls, my mom and I set off for the long drive across upstate New York. We drove I-90 from Niagara Falls all the way to Schenectady before branching off onto Highway 7. This wasn’t the fastest way to Connecticut. But as per usual, my mom and I decided that if we were going to be in New England, we were going to visit as many states as we could. We ended up hitting 5 of the 6, so I’d say we did a pretty good job.

First stop: Vermont. Continue reading

Eastward Bound (part II) – Indiana to Ontario

At the end of my last post, my mom and I were wading in Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Day 4 of our cross-country excursion, however, was the one I was most excited for. Our destination: Niagara Falls!

We left Indiana early in the morning, continuing across the northern edge of the state and crossing into Ohio. By lunch, we were just outside of Cleveland. Coincidentally, earlier that morning my mom and I had been discussing national parks and the fact that there aren’t any in Ohio. She grew up there so I didn’t have any reason to doubt her. However, when I pulled out the map to find us a suitable picnic location, I spotted the small green area labeled Cuyahoga Valley National Park just south of Cleveland.

And so our picnic spot was chosen. Continue reading

Eastward Bound (part I) – Montana to Indiana

August 10, 2012: Moving Day.

I don’t think it had hit me yet that I would be spending the next few years of my life in Connecticut. I’d never been there before. I’d never been anywhere in the northeast. All I had was warnings from various people that northeasterners are rude and everyone has a Boston accent. And though people do tend to drive like total jackasses here, I quickly learned that most people are friendly and the Boston accent is pretty well confined to Boston.

Anyway, the point of my story is that I hadn’t quite realized what I was getting myself into. It didn’t really hit me until I was sitting in my new house in Connecticut and my mom was on a plane back home. My roommates hadn’t yet arrived and my grad school advisor was on vacation. I was alone. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t the best day I’ve ever had.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading

Favorite Destinations: Waterfall Edition

In keeping with my list-making theme, I’ve decided to start a favorite destinations series of posts. I’ve previously talked about some of my favorite hikes and my favorite national parks, so today I thought I’d branch out a little bit and talk about my favorite waterfalls.

For the most part, these aren’t the tallest waterfalls I’ve ever seen, and unlike much of what I talk about on this blog, many of these aren’t located in national parks. Instead, these are the waterfalls stand out in my mind in some way.

Awosting Falls – Minnewaska State Park, New York
This one makes the list because it’s cool – but also because the unique geology and large volume of water surprised us immensely.

Continue reading

That time I willingly jumped into 55°F water – Crater Lake National Park, Oregon (part II)

Day 2 at Crater Lake dawned clear and calm, which was perfect because this was the day we’d been waiting for – boat tour day! We’d hemmed and hawed over this for quite a while because the $42 per person tickets didn’t really fit in with our MO of budget travel. But in the end, we made the tour reservations because we knew that if we didn’t we’d end up regretting it.

And it was worth every dollar!

The only access to Crater Lake is on foot, by descending an incredibly steep 1.1-mile trail to Cleetwood Cove. This strenuous trail drops 700 feet in this short distance; going down isn’t too difficult, but climbing back up at the end of the day is a different story. After a long day in the sun, our legs were not pleased with what we were asking of them.

From the dock at Cleetwood Cove, Volcano Boat Cruises offers two tours: the Standard Lake Cruise (a guided tour around the perimeter of the lake), and the Wizard Island Cruise (which also circles the lake but includes a 3-hour stop on Wizard Island). We took the Wizard Island Cruise, which departed at 9:30am and got us back to Cleetwood Cove by about 3:00pm. The lake portion of the tour is narrated by a park ranger; on the Wizard Island part of the tour, we were left to our own devices.

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly, and we learned a lot about the geology and history of the lake. Of course, this was 4 years ago so I don’t remember all of what we learned. But I remember that we learned it. Continue reading

Crystal Clear – Crater Lake National Park, Oregon (part I)

After leaving the Columbia River Gorge, we turned south at Hood River, OR and began the 4.5-hour journey to Crater Lake National Park.

Crater Lake was formed about 7,000 years ago when Mount Mazama erupted so violently that it collapsed. The top of the mountain was blown off and what remained formed a caldera that is 5 miles across and nearly 4,000 feet deep. A few subsequent eruptions were small enough to form the 755-foot tall Wizard Island in the middle of the caldera. The mountain has not erupted since. Many Native American tribes actually lived in the area when Mount Mazama erupted; this event is still alive in some of their legends, and Crater Lake is considered sacred.

Because the lake is in a caldera, there are no inlets or outlets. The only source of water for the lake is precipitation – either that which falls onto the surface of the lake directly, or that which is absorbed into the ground of the caldera and eventually seeps out into the lake. The only way out of the lake is by evaporation. Due to these factors, Crater Lake is home to some of the cleanest and clearest water in the world. Clarity readings range from 115-175 feet, which is incredibly unusual. Continue reading

“Gorge”ous – Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Highway, Oregon

After four fabulous days exploring Mount Rainier National Park, we packed up our car and headed off. It was a bittersweet parting; I was sad to leave when so much of the park remained unexplored but also excited for our next destination: Crater Lake!

After much cajoling on my part (and some whining – not on my part), I convinced my family to take the long way there and drive the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Highway. It added at least a couple hours to our already long drive, but in the end I think we all agreed that it was well worth it.

The Columbia River originates in British Columbia and is the fourth largest river in North America in terms of volume. It travels over 1,200 miles and drains part or all of seven states plus a large portion of British Columbia. Along the way, it travels south through eastern Washington before curving around to the west and forming much of the border between Washington and Oregon as it flows out to the Pacific Ocean. Throughout much of Washington and along the border with Oregon, the Columbia River has cut a deep gorge. Continue reading