On Yellowstone

Above the surface, Yellowstone National Park is …

Still …

 

Colorful …

 

Tranquil …

 

and majestic.

 

Below the surface, Yellowstone is …

Restless …

 

Powerful …

 

and continually forming …

 

Yellowstone is home to over 10,000 thermal features – more than the rest of the world combined.

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Yellowstone is home to simple organisms living in the hot springs that formed the foundation of life today.

 

Yellowstone is home to melting snow and ice that roar in the spring and percolate the ground into the heat below.

 

Yellowstone National Park – a place for us to behold a snapshot of natural history and a snippet of our land’s past history.

 

Yellowstone National Park – a place where the grandness above serves as an illusion of the turbulence below the surface.

 

Yellowstone National Park – an active volcano with a 45-mile-wide caldera and an active interior – leaving us wondering when ye shall blow and change everything.

 

Yellowstone National Park – a place for awe and wonder – romance and inspiration – peace and rage – this is spectacular Yellowstone in a nutshell.

 

Next stop: On the way back to Vegas

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On the Northern Loop

The trip northward from Denver to western South Dakota is through the grassy plains of Colorado and eastern Wyoming. Easy riding while looking at the open terrain that is easy to spot various wildlife.

Located within the beautiful Black Hills, we stayed (2 nights) in this wonderful lodge at Custer State Park (outside Custer, SD). President Calvin Coolidge used this location as the “Summer White House” in 1927.

 

Custer State Park is home to many animals. During scene drives, we observed elk, mule deer, white tailed deer, prairie dogs, pronghorn, and many buffalo.

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Two outstanding landmarks are located near Custer: Mt. Rushmore is a national treasure. It’s actually a National Memorial that is operated by the National Parks Service.

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Located 16 miles (26 km) away is a treasure that greatly impacted me. On our entire trip, our guide talked much about Native Americans. The Crazy Horse Memorial – the world’s largest mountain sculpture – stands as a tribute to all North American Indians.

Started in 1948, it still has a long way to go to completion. I know I won’t see it in my lifetime. Maybe our new great-niece (born this past July) will see it. Then again, maybe her kids.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is so big, Mt. Rushmore would fit in the head area behind the face (in the hair). The picture below shows a model of the final product with the mountain sculpture in the background.

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After leaving Custer, we travelled 2-days westward toward Yellowstone National Park – with stops along the way.

Deadwood, South Dakota – a town established as a result of the Black Hills Gold Rush of 1874. It’s also linked to western legends as Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. Some readers may remember this past post about my link to Deadwood – a headstone near my home marking the grave of Charlie Rich – the one who dealt the infamous Dead Man’s Hand of aces and eights.

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Devil’s Tower National Monument – declared as the US’s first National Monument in 1906 – is a butte of igneous rock located in northeastern Wyoming. We took a 45-minute walk around the base, and observed climbers!

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After a night in Sheridan, Wyoming, the trip through the Bighorn Mountains was a pleasant surprise – especially because I’d never heard of them.

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Cody, Wyoming, located near Yellowstone’s east entrance, is home to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. This stop was an unexpected surprise as it is 5 museums within one: Buffalo Bill Museum, Plains Indians Museum, Whitney Western Art Museum, Draper Natural History Museum, and Cody Firearms Museum – as well as a research library.

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Next Post: Yellowstone

For more posts about this trip, click here.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 378

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Pronouns: The Musical is continue its trek this weekend featuring songs with Them in the title. Hint: This is not an easy theme. Curtain time is Saturday at 1:00 am (Eastern US).

Last weekend we attended a play that was a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was interesting and well done – plus the set was fabulous. Here’s the link with pictures.

Although our National Parks Tour was 15 nights, I’ve shorten the travel series to 5-6 posts. Next one is this Sunday night.

Regarding the two huge lotteries this week – well – not only did we not win – we were shutout – no numbers on any of the 6 tickets/lines.

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Election Day for the midterms is approaching – but not soon enough because I’m tired of all the campaign ads: especially those of the 2 races buying the most time.

Party partisans continue to ignore messages from the independent middle. For instance,

  1. Long ago I suggested that leader of Democrats in the House (Nancy Pelosi: D-CA) should step aside ahead of the election. With an approval rating that is much lower President Trump’s, Republicans continue to use her in negative ads.
  2. Shortly after Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination I suggested that Democrats NOT pursue blocking his nomination. Now that he’s on the Court, multiple polls show the Democratic actions have worked against them, thus improved the stature of Republicans in the public.

Regarding the recent mailing of bombs, the perpetrator has not been found. As the partisans take to the airways to point fingers at the other side, here are two important questions of initial focus: Who? Why? The second can’t be answered until determining the first. However, President Trump had a great opportunity to set a tone with his comments that night – and he obviously chose to take a different path – the usual low road.

I heard an interview when a person explain that it took Donald Trump to bring out the differences in Washington. ABSOLUTELY NOT! The difference have been steadily growing for the past 50 years, but Donald Trump has amplified the differences.

Updating the ever-changing odds:

  • Chance of Democrats gaining control in the House: 80%
  • Chance of Democrats gaining control in the Senate: 10%
  • Chance of Donald Trump being nominated by Republicans in 2020: 99.9%
  • Chance of Donald Trump winning re-election: 70%
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To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion has a great picture about climate-change advocate Al Gore.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)

Thrill seeker microwaves pot pie without slitting crust
Mom hates bad guy in movie
Horrified nurses discover 40-pound baby after accidentally leaving it in incubator over weekend
Magpie worried mate only interested in him for collection of shiny objects
Study finds over 5 million birds die annually from head-on collisions with clouds
104-year-old reveals secret to long life being cursed by witch to wander Earth eternally

Interesting Reads

People over 65: Facts vs. opinions
A read about Claude Debussy
Africa and web conductivity
The European schism
(Pictures) Freak hailstorm in Rome
(Graphic) Most valuable global retail brands
(Video) A lady making arms

To send you into the weekend, here’s a throwback to Bruce Hornsby and the Range. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On Touring by Bus

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My recent blog break (in May) centered around a vacation. I not only was a 2-week vacation visiting numerous national parks and monuments, the trip was our first-ever bus tour. My wife says she entered the venture with low expectations. For me, I started the journey with two angsts; people being late for departures and living out of a suitcase.

Although one tour is not a reliable sample, below is a list of positive and negatives about bus tours. Besides, I wanted to get this post out for Jo, ahead of her first bus tour.

Positive 1: Vacation planning is time-consuming – especially a two-week trip to a new area covering many miles. With bus tours, the tour company does all the planning. From all the hotels, numerous meals, special activities, setting the times, load/unloading luggage, and more, this long journey required little planning on our part.

The Downside: A bus tour resembles a forced march! Travellers are on the tour’s schedule – not theirs! “Instructions as the following are common: “Breakfast starts at 6, bags out by 7, and be on the bus by 8.” – “We are stopping for x minutes, so be back on the bus by 2:20.”

Positive 2: The tour guide provides the pertinent information of the area. Landmarks, history, people, culture, wildlife, geology, and more. A positive, knowledgeable tour guide makes a big difference. A major thumbs up to ours (which veteran bus tourists confirmed his excellence).

The Downside: Just like cruising, visitors are “in port” long enough for a taste – a sampling – not an immersion. All the major parks have much to offer, but we weren’t there long enough to take in everything. Like cruising, that is the nature of the beast. Given the available time, the tour director planned well so we could see, experience, and learn as much as possible.

Positive 3: Besides having a tour guide providing information, someone else is driving! Travelers now have the time to do as they please – read, sleep, watch, write, photograph, chat, or just relax.

The Downside: Although the tour company sets the schedule with the tour guide (who has some discretion) implementing the plan, travelers are at the mercy of fellow travelers. If one person is late, everyone is late because the rest are waiting. We were lucky because our group was very timely most of the time. However, our tour guide told me this is not always the case.

Positive 4: Our bus was more comfortable than we anticipated. A smooth ride. Ample leg room. Sufficient overhead storage area. Reclining seats. Although a toilet was present, the tour director encouraged us to only use it for necessities – so we stopped about every 90 minutes as off-the-bus breaks.

The Downside: When cruising, the ship travels in the evening and overnight to the next port while passengers are entertained and sleep in the same room. Bus tours travel during the day. Given our aggressive itinerary, we saw a lot of moving land.

Positive 5: We ate well – very well! It seems two of the differences in tour companies are the types of hotels and the number of included meals. The old saying “You get what you pay for” is very fitting. In our case, all breakfasts, several lunches, and about half the dinners were included.

The Downside: Yes, we ate well, but the breakfasts were very similar. While the hotels had more than the cheap continental breakfast, many in the group got tired of seeing scrambled eggs – but some breakfast offerings had greater variety than others. Plus, (it took me a while to figure out this one), adjusting one’s eating schedule each day is important. Breakfast time is relatively consistent, but lunch can vary from early, normal, or late, which will affect dinner. So some meal planning would be helpful.

Positive 6: Given that we had 14 different rooms in 13 hotels over 15 nights, we were happy with our accommodations. No – they were not a string of 5-star hotels – but the hotels weren’t budget-oriented either. In Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, we stay within the park (not in the surrounding area). The lodge at Custer State Park in South Dakota had an interesting history as the Summer White House for President Calvin Coolidge. The Rustic Inn in Jackson Hole, Wyoming was my favorite. Their individual cabin concept was unique and the room are beautiful.

The Downside: Living out of a suitcase isn’t easy – well, until one learns a routine for themselves – which we did. Each of us had our toiletries bag in the overhead bin, then set out (and put away) clothes before going to bed.

The Bottom Line: Our first bus tour involved an aggressive agenda over 2800 miles (4500 km). Not only did it exceed our expectations, we were very pleased with the our company – Globus – and yes, because the positives of this experience outweigh the negatives, we would take another bus tour. Is bus touring for everyone? Absolutely not.

On a Wave

To beach vacationers, the rhythmic the sound of the waves coming to shore provides peace and relaxation. To water skiers, waves are the peaks and troughs created by the boat pulling them along the aquatic surface … yet the surfer eagerly awaits the ultimate ride.

To physicists, waves are disturbances transferring energy; then again, different types of waves exist. To sports fans, the wave is the standup-sit down ritual to create a rolling motion across a mass of people. Yet with hair, it refers to a curve or curl.

As a verb, wave is associated with a variety of hand actions including a common gesture. Wave can indicate a sudden surge in emotions or numbers, but it can also be a persistent condition. This post is not about any of these or any definitions not included, but a place known as The Wave.

Steve and I met as college freshmen on the windy plains of northwest Ohio. Through those college years, we shared a dorm room, had many of the same friends, and shared many memories. We were each other’s best man at weddings and though many states apart, we have stayed in contact and visited each other.

Several years ago, I saw his photos of a land I had never seen or knew it existed. Figuring that many readers may not know this place, enjoy the Q&A and pictures about The Wave at Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area. If available, Steve will also try to answer comments and questions.

You have visited your share of national parks. Why did this one take so long?
The Wave was supposedly ‘discovered’ sometime in the 90’s, and I saw pictures of it sometime in the early 2000’s. Once I figured out where it was, I was determined to see it. As it turns out, by then many others had discovered it too; and there was in place a 20-person per day limit into the area. I managed to acquire two passes for July 4th (2007) coinciding with a mountain bike trip that a group of us had planned for the same week. One of my friends and I hiked there on a very hot (near 100 degrees) day.

As a geologist, what impresses you about The Wave?
The Wave is formed from mainly wind-worn Navajo Sandstone, one of the most photogenic formations in the West. The layers of sandstone were originally laid down by wind in a huge sand dune field, and looking at the layers one can see the dune patterns. The really cool thing is that the formation was created by wind, and now the wind has created this beautiful formation.

As a photographer, how does The Wave differ from other locations?
It is a unique blend of colors, textures, and rock shapes. I have never seen another place like it, either in pictures or in person. There are similar rock layers in some of the nearby areas, but none approach the perfect combination of features seen in The Wave.

How difficult was the climbing within The Wave?
It is a 3-plus mile one-way hike across sand and sandstone to get to The Wave. Generally, it is not a difficult hike for somebody in pretty-good shape, but the temperatures in the summer are brutally hot, there is very little shade, and no water. Carrying a camera, extra lenses, and tripod limited the amount of water that I could carry, and on the day we were there, I ran out of water by the end of the day.

Tell us anything else about The Wave that you have not already mentioned.
Now, it is nearly impossible to get a pass into The Wave, as so many people want to go there, and there is a lottery set up to get passes. Most days have a hundred or more applicants. I have applied a couple of other times, unfortunately unsuccessfully.