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Along “Going to the Sun Road”

It was raining, sunny, cloudy and foggy as we drove along the “Going to the Sun Road” in Glacier National Park. We left Many Glacier Hotel on the north east end of the park and was taking Going to the Sun Road down to Lake McDonald which is on the western edge of the park.  Logan Pass, which is so beautiful, was under construction which kind of ruined so many pictures and videos but the scenery was like something out of a movie.  It is as close to Rivendell (Lord of the Rings) as you can get. Waterfalls everywhere, steep mountains, glaciers, valleys, wildlife.  Gorgeous! After finishing “the loop” we came upon this river.  It had unbelievable color, like an emerald.  The clean water has minerals in it that gives it that color.  I couldn’t stop taking videos of it.  We also stopped at the boardwalk trail in an ancient cedar grove. I left my camcorder in the car because I just wanted to look at the trees for once, not through a view finder.  Mistake!  How I wished I had brought my camcorder.  There is a river coming through the huge smooth rocks crashing into emerald pools lined with mossy cedars in filtered light.  I can’t share it with you as it lives in my memory but I do have a video of the clear emerald creek along the road. I embedded the video to play in HD and if it is jerky or stops from a slower connection speed, just pause it and let it load before playing.

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Glacier National Park

Our three national-parks vacation started with Glacier National Park. We stayed part of the week at the Many Glacier Hotel and the second part at the Village Inn at Apgar.  The only place I have been in the US (and I’ve been to 42 of our 50 states) that rivals these views is Inspiration Point in Yosemite.  Glacier’s beauty is something else!

We watched a moose family from our room’s balcony frolicking on the shoreline across Swiftcurrent Lake with the backdrop of majestic glacier-formed mountains and valleys.  Mountain goats were high up and seen with our scopes, binoculars and my zoom-in camcorder. When we first arrived, mountain goats had come down to munch on the hotel lawn and then was gone only to be seen as small white dots on the mountain tops. The lake is gorgeous and the few times the sun came out while we were there, it was truly breathtaking.

I’ll post two videos, one is a panoramic video looking out from our balcony and the other is of the moose family.  A baby moose appears toward the end of the moose video.  The cow moose plays in the water and swims under water and is playful with the bull moose in the video.  Parts of the moose video is under 50x magnification so it was hard to hold it perfectly still without the use of a tripod (and the wind was blowing.)  Excuses!

Purple Mountains Majesty

We  returned from our 16-day cross-country drive to Montana and Wyoming a couple of weeks ago.  Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton National Park were so awesome that if I had the talent, I’d write my own song about these national treasures. What is really striking about all three of these national parks is the contrast when driving there.  Sagebrush and what appears to be worthless scrub land suddenly turns into majestic mountains, not unlike a jack-in-the-box popping up.

This was our first vacation in years that I didn’t have a laptop along.  Our laptop can’t handle all the graphics of the modern internet and thus gets hot trying to load it all and shuts down.  We didn’t want to put the money out for a new laptop and wondered with the data plan I have on my phone if it was even necessary.  I pretty much used the laptop in the past to transfer my photos off my cameras but the laptop can’t handle all the HD video I take so it was left home. I bought an extra 16G memory card for the camcorder and extra batteries so I wouldn’t have to worry about transferring the photos off until we got home.  Besides, after reading all the literature, there was no internet (so I couldn’t use the laptop for that,) cell phone service or TV where we were going. What if someone needed to get a hold of us because of an emergency?  The lodging in the national parks we stayed at didn’t give telephone numbers for the actual hotels online, just reservation telephone numbers.  I guess they didn’t want to be bothered.  I left a day to day itinerary with family members to know exactly where we would be on any given day, just in case.  I warned them that they wouldn’t being hearing from us for days at a time  because of the lack of cell phone service and internet.

It turns out the information was partially wrong.  There was no TV or WiFi or ethernet internet but there were many places that we did get cell phone service which meant I did have internet through the cell phone.  In Glacier we had great signals at most of the ranger welcome centers we went to.  I took advantage and uploaded photos to Facebook and sent emails, checked the news and weather, called my sons, and felt connected.  In Yellowstone, Mammoth Hotel had cell-phone service as did Old Faithful Inn area.  I started to get service around the Thumb area in Yellowstone.  There was no service at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, though, nor the Canyon Lodge area.  We heard a guy complaining to the Canyon area ranger that there was no cell phone service and he read that they were suppose to have service in the area within 2 years (which was up.)  I guess something went wrong.  I didn’t think we would get ANY service while we were there so I was happy being able to drive a few miles and get cell service when we wanted to.

I did find out that there is some use for transferring your photos to a laptop while on vacation.  Even though I had plenty of memory left on my memory cards when we got home, I transferred them to the computer and realized that a whole lot of the snapshots taken with the camcorder didn’t turn out very well.  I had it set on a scene setting that whited out a lot of the background.  Had I transferred the photos day to day while on vacation, I would have known to change the setting back to automatic.  The thumbnail view you see on the camcorder makes everything look pretty good when it is that small.

I’ll be posting photos and videos in the coming weeks.

Geocaching with Tornado Warnings

Thunderstorm warnings didn’t stop us from taking off Saturday and Sunday to the Ohio/PA border area.  There were geocaches in and near the state game lands.  My goal was to hit my 200th geocache by day’s end on Saturday.  That didn’t happen. I way overslept so we got a late start (like early afternoon) and only found 9 geocaches and quit early because the last one we did drained me.

Our first geocache took us to/near the old potters cemetery. I had not heard of the place before.  There is a nice monument describing the history of the place.  Next came one that was a tiny camouflaged geocache placed in plain view.  I don’t know how my husband saw it but he did and we signed the little rolled-up log paper and were on our way.

We found one near the Battles Museum of Rural Life on the trail. I really enjoy these kind of geocaches.  You have to get out and walk the trail, see huge ancient trees, listen the all the thrushes fluting their song and hear the sound of a babbling creek nearby. For this one we had to make our way down a steep muddy crevice towards the end of the trail.  I didn’t bring my hiking stick so my husband made his way down there with my GPSr unit. The GPS accuracy was low with the overcast skies and tree cover so he searched a wide area.  I found a large stick and decided to get down there and give it a try. When I got about 3/4 of the way down, he had already found it. DOH! We didn’t have to resort to the clue.  The history of the canal, the dam, and rural life at the Battles farm was really interesting.

We found several cemetery caches and with that came lots of historical facts.  Several grave markers were of participants of the War of 1812.

We found our way to the state game lands where there were a few geocaches. We sprayed ourselves with some repellent and headed down the dirt road.  We spotted American Redstarts (little birds) and lots of butterflies and wildflowers.

That was a very pleasant walk. When we got to ground zero of where the cache was suppose to be, we had to do some real searching.  This was a really clever hide.  The clue was “get bent.”  I didn’t know if it meant you had to get down and lean over the edge of the creek or if it meant it was in a place that was bent, like a tree limb or bent metal. Maybe it could mean both.  I won’t tell you as it would give it away but my geo-sense kicked in and I asked my husband to check one more time in a place I thought it might be and sure enough, he came up with it. We had never seen a geocache container like that before.

The next geocache was a ways off the parking area .  It started off really nice.  The area was mowed and very pretty.

After walking awhile my GPSr pointed off the path.  It looked swampy so I wanted to continue on the path and see if it wrapped around later up the way. Sure enough, it did.  It curved around and was probably going to take us back towards the geocache.  The closest we could get on a path was about 100 feet from the geocache.  We were going to have to bushwack our way in.  The growth was so thick and the humidity was pretty bad.  I got my clothes and hair caught up in the undergrowth.  Some places were impassable.  I had sweat dripping into my eyes blinding me and the mosquitoes were thick.  My husband made his way ahead and found the cache.  I came in behind whimpering, exhausted and bug bitten.  We signed the log and noticed the marshy area we had seen when we were first on the path was right next to us.  It wasn’t wet at all.  We took that way back to the main path easily.  All that bushwacking was for nothing.  I was drained and we headed home.

I stayed up late Saturday night organizing the cache routes for the next day.  I didn’t want a bunch of  backtracking on the road as gas isn’t cheap.  We got another early afternoon start on Sunday.  I still needed 9 geocaches to hit my 200 mark. We headed for the Ohio line again but this time south of I-90.  We found some caches near covered bridges and cemeteries.  The thunder was rolling and the skies were dark. Severe thunderstorm warnings were being sent to our cellphones. I wanted to get my 200th. What was suppose to be my 200th cache turned into a “Did Not Find” or DNF.  We searched and searched and the bugs were so bad.  The air was hot and muggy.  We both put on long-sleeved shirts and had long pants on because of the thorns and mosquitoes. I had a head net on my head to keep the bugs out.  It was miserable and I felt heatstroke was upon me. I was ready to faint and had to give it up.  DNF.  I did get my 200th at one called “Stop at the State Line” and another where we stopped to get gas.

I had planned to head back to the state game lands up near Lake Erie.  The weather warnings were coming faster.  We reached the area before the rain started. We saw an immature bald eagle and a buck.

The sky was spitting a bit but nothing we couldn’t handle.  We hiked down a trail in the woods where  a geocache was hidden. It was getting pretty dark in there.  We couldn’t see well and it was slick and steep.  Lightning started lighting up the sky really close by and we hurried back to the car.  Another DNF. We’ll have to come back to this one as we didn’t get a chance to really search well.  It was about 6:30PM and quite dark. On the way out we stopped and watched the lighting over the lake.

If you look closely at the photo you can see a lightning bolt hitting the water (behind the memorial rock.)  I know, but in the original size photo it was quite impressive.  It was quite a show. On our way out of the game lands the rain started coming down so heavy our windshield wipers couldn’t keep up.  Tornado-warning texts started alerting our cellphones.  It was a wild and scary ride home.

Heritage Fest-June 26 10am-4pm

Guys Mills Heritage Fest featuring Erie National Wildlife Refuge Open House – Saturday, June 26, 2010 – 10:00am-4:00pm

Kids love this Heritage Fest! They will love the games, crafts and petting zoo and more. There is plenty of fun for the adults, too.  Last year I really enjoyed the guided bird walk and the Tamarack Rehab birds and the beautiful artwork on display. There will be hot dogs and hamburgers for sale.  Get away from the big city and enjoy this quaint little town of Guys Mills and see the Erie National Wildlife Refuge.  You ‘ll find out why we enjoy going there so much.

For a map and more information on what you will find at the Heritage Fest visit this webpage,  http://www.friendsofenwr.org/Heritage.php

My First Geocache Placed-Disgusted

I wanted to put out some geocaches because I didn’t want to be one of those who hunts but doesn’t hide. I already have 161 cache finds and hadn’t yet put one out. My husband bought me some geocache containers for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to put them out.

Trying to find a place that is approved is another story. My first try was rejected by geocaching.com and I was so disgusted. I searched for the perfect spot, hid it cleverly, got the coordinates average so it was right on and sent it to geocaching.com. I got a refusal notice. It was too close to another cache. They use “as the crow flies” measurements to see how close the other one is. I was instructed to move it a bit farther away from that cache. We went back and retrieved the cache and looked the area over. Unless I was to place this cache near a raging creek or near a big power box or busy road, I wasn’t going to be able to do it. This place had meaning to me and I wanted it there, it was the perfect place but they’d have you put it in a substandard place just to meet a measurement. There is so little urban green space left to hide caches and I’m not a fan of urban caches where you have to use stealth and worry someone is reporting you because they think you are hiding drugs or placing a bomb. I finally got a different one approved elsewhere but it’s not in a good spot.

I read that the Pennsylvania State Parks are charging $25 now to put a cache in their parks. Forget that! I heard Ohio state forest lands were now off limits to caching but on a groundspeak forum I saw that it wasn’t decided yet and that it wasn’t off limits at least not yet. Whatever. It’s getting harder to put caches out and get them approved. Between Geocaching.com’s ridiculous saturation rules (which makes you use more gas and pollution than you should have to retrieving caches) and the government’s long greedy fingers which are growing like Pinocchio’s nose, I wonder how long geocaching will be popular. Ohio has so many places that require permits before you can hide a simple little geocache. We are drowning in regulations, permits and fees. You can’t do anything anymore without a permit. Yes, I’m still disgusted. Geocaching is a fun, wholesome time outdoors and it is being ruined by bureaucracy.

Soaked-geocaching

My husband and I participated in an experimental geocaching program that may be implemented around the nation this past Saturday. We hope it is successful because, to us, nothing other than fishing is more fun in the outdoors.

I kind of ruined our trip because even though it was raining pretty hard when we left home I figured the clouds would break here and there and an umbrella would be all I needed. Well, the clouds didn’t break and the umbrella wasn’t all that I needed. I was soaked to the skin on my legs and my shoes were filled with water and sloshing with each step as we hiked around the countryside and through the wet brush as the rain poured on us. Other participants were seasoned outdoors people (apparently) because they had full rain gear down to their ankles. I’m still a west-coast girl (10 years removed) that hasn’t gotten “it” when it comes to weather out here. After Saturday, I think I finally got “it.”

There were 3 trails we were to take to find all 19 geocaches but I wanted to go home after we completed the first trail because I was soaked and was chilled. Even though it wasn’t all that cold out my teeth were chattering. My husband had warned me to wear my weatherized shoes and bring extra socks and even tried to give me a rain poncho which I didn’t want to wear. It’s too bad and I regret not being prepared. One of the trails we missed going on was one we had never been on before and we were looking forward to it.