And the Winner Is…

Two weeks ago, I introduced the Jelly-Bean-Miles-Hiked contest. Congratulations to Debbie Minix, who guessed 165 miles (the correct answer was 171 miles).

Some numbers

Most miles hiked: 36 in the Smokies

Least miles hiked: < 1 in Biscayne

Average miles hiked per park: 12.2



Thermal Activity

If you haven’t already submitted your guess for the “jelly bean” contest, you have one more day! The winner will be announced tomorrow evening.

Gazing out over the hot springs

Yellowstone has a lot going on under the surface, which makes for some interesting scenes happening above ground for the visitor’s viewing pleasure. Geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and vents demonstrate how our Earth is a dynamic planet that is constantly changing. These geothermal features are fun to photograph and gaze upon, yet the science portion of Yellowstone really captured my attention.

So let me share a couple tidbits with you:

  • A large portion of the park is actually located in a caldera, or a collapsed volcano.
  • Magma that is relatively close to the Earth’s surface provides the heat needed to create the thermal wonders mentioned above
  • Since tectonic plates keep moving, Yellowstone is an evolving park that won’t look the same in a couple years as it does today
  • There are more than 10,000 geothermal features found in Yellowstone (I probably only saw about 40)

Mud pots are my favorite. They look like a witches’ cauldron bubbling with a thick oozy liquid. Watching Old Faithful erupt was enjoyable, but I also marveled at Steamboat Geyser, another popular site in the park.

Thar she blows! (Old Faithful)

When the wind blew just right, the heat from the springs would provide a much-needed respite from the cold.

It also smelled like rotting eggs.

Yum, yum.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble…

Grand Tetons Recap

Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 4 nights
A pretty rainbow during a misty morning


  • The grand mountains and phenomenal views
  • Not running into a grizzly bear while hiking in the woods


  • Super cold mornings (25° feels pretty darn chilly for September)

Favorite Hike:

  • Death Canyon (allegedly named after an explorer in the late 1800’s who was sent to investigate the area and then never seen again)
8 miles of stunning canyon scenery!

Favorite Treat:

  • Roasted rack of lamb

Favorite Random Moments:

  • Seeing a falling star
  • Watching moose (they watched me back)
Shades of blue


The Tetons

The dictionary defines grandness as: impressive in size or appearance; characterized by splendor and magnificence.

Grand Teton national park truly lives up to its name. The mountain range is certainly impressive, and I had to pull over multiple times in order to simply admire the magnificent view.

The main park road runs along the east side of the range, so depending on where you stop to hike, you can get a different feel for these splendid mountains. Some perspectives show you the awe-inspiring sharp peaks while others reward you with a softer view and beautiful lake reflection.

Reflecting off of Taggart Lake

I’ve enjoyed waking up early, breathing in the crisp autumn air, and listening to the bugling elk as I traipse through the forest. By the time the sun begins to warm up the earth, I have already covered miles. I return to my car invigorated and energized for the day. My reward? A cup of coffee and a grand view.


Life: A Soliloquy

Taking this trip was scary.

Choosing to leave my job, my stuff, my home, and my community was not an easy decision. By far the biggest fear I had going into this national park adventure, however, was that I wouldn’t like it. Yep. I was extremely apprehensive that I would be one week into my travels and absolutely hate being on the road. Or that I would be miserable, stuck with the same sense of listlessness I had while residing in Northern Virginia.

The verdict?

I’ve never been happier!

Getting out of my comfort zone was just the remedy for a healthy life “reset”. Completely flipping my daily routine was a perfect treatment for that sense of monotony I had felt. Yet it took courage and grit to move forward into the unknown; I had no guarantees that contentment would follow.

Sure, I miss my loved ones like crazy, but each day I am filled with gratitude that I decided to take this risk and travel around the U.S.

Life is too short to live squished into our bubbles of complacency.

Life is too short to always be asking “What if…?”

Life is too short to have regrets.

Life was meant to be lived.

Livin’ life to the fullest in the Tetons

Wind Cave Recap

The surface of Wind Cave national park

Length of Stay:

  • 4 nights, 2 days (I ended up spending 2 days exploring Custer State park)
Thou shalt not pass


  • Bison!
  • Riding Ricky, the beautiful Arabian
  • Driving the Needles highway and Iron Mountain road in Custer State park


  • None

Favorite Hike:

  • Little Devils Tower

Favorite Treat:

  • Raspberry-rhubarb-jalapeno pie

Favorite Random Moment:

  • Being invited to a Full Moon gathering (yes, we all howled at the moon)
  • Watching the wild burros aggressively seek out treats from passersby
Just lookin’ for a handout

Jelly Beans and Miles Hiked


You know those contests where you guess the number of jelly beans (or some other sugary candy) and the closest person wins a prize? is doing the miles hiked version of this.

Here’s how it works:

  • Leave a comment with your estimate of how many miles I have hiked in national parks since the beginning of my trip (state parks and walking in downtown Memphis doesn’t count)
  • Next Friday, September 30, I will announce the winner
  • Your prize? Either a big bag of jelly beans or any picture from my blog sent to you as a 8.5 X 11 print

Keep in mind that some parks, like Dry Tortugas, contain very little “hikeable” land.

Also, if you don’t see your guess posted right away as a comment, don’t panic, I have to approve all comments before they become official.

Good luck, have fun!


(Oops… I accidentally deleted this post earlier, hence the double-publish)