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.

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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.

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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.

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Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble…
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Grand Tetons Recap

Length of Stay:

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

Highs:

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

Lows:

  • 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)
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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)
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Shades of blue

Grandness

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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.

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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.

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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

Treasuring Beauty, The Mile High City, and Traveling Safer

“I’m sure that after all the national parks you’ve been to, this is underwhelming.”

“You’ve been to all these incredible places – what are you doing here?”

People I run into seem to believe that my senses have become dulled towards appreciating beautiful things in a “lesser” setting. Sure, I’ve gazed upon the Appalachians, snorkeled in picturesque waters, and watched the sun set over Colorado mesas. Yet despite all of the big nature moments I’ve experienced, I still thoroughly enjoy the simple things about being outside. Whether it’s feeling a cool breeze as a respite from the hot sun, or exploring a strange rock outcropping, I am not in the habit of comparing my natural encounters or rating my perspectives. If anything, visiting so many national parks has piqued my curiosity and honed my ability to pick out the most alluring views. I have learned to treasure beauty, regardless of the place or form.

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Red Rocks Park (Morrison, CO)

Denver is a great example. This city is surrounded by a great outdoor playground. During my stay, I hiked in some local parks, marveling at the uniqueness of the area and its relative solitude despite its proximity to hundreds of thousands of people. My 2-day break from camping was ideal: I had all the amenities of a city, yet the ability to escape into nature for hours. My gracious Denver hosts, J.C. and Renae, are fellow nature-lovers and explorers. In fact, J.C. is a traveler/blogger who focuses on helping sojourners travel safely. I was able to gather some pro tips about staying safe while on the road.

In a couple days I’ll say goodbye to Colorado. The views have been spectacular, the people have been gregarious, and the beauty (big and small) has been absolutely extraordinary.

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The Royal Arch in Chautauqua Park (Boulder, CO)

 

Rocky Mountain Recap

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Bear Lake*

Length of Stay:

  • 4 days, 5 nights

Highs:

  • The freshness and crispness of the fall air
  • Estes Park – what a cute lil’ town to explore in between park adventures!
  • Meeting Lauren, a fellow adventurer/traveler who captures the beauty of her surroundings through art
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Happiness level = very high*

Lows:

  • A campsite that was way too far from the bathrooms

Favorite Hike:

  • Emerald Lake
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Enjoying the sunshine*

Favorite Treat:

  • Cowboy cookie (chocolate chips, walnuts, raisins, and coconut)

 

 

* Photo credit: Tyler Minix

 

To the Tundra!

For every 1,000 feet my car climbed up the winding road, the temperature dropped more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Pretty soon the pine trees began to wane and were replaced by heaps of snow that had still not melted from the previous winter. I was officially in the tundra.

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One of the many lakes found at above 11,000 feet*

When most people think of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, they imagine sharp peaks jutting into the sky and elaborate forests dotting the landscape. Those views are plentiful and greatly appreciated, but there is something magical about entering a brand new ecosystem in the “land above the trees”.

Yellow-bellied marmots hang out by the side of the road, greeting park-goers at pullovers. Dwarfed plants cover the ground, strong when it comes to the elements, but fragile when it relates to human interference. This truly is a land of extremes. I shivered, despite my layers, grateful for the strong sun, but cursing the wind that whipped around.

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Embracing the cold, enjoying the view*

The beauty was unlike anything I had ever encountered. There was something so raw and achingly real about it. The tundra has permanently embedded powerful images into my memory and officially captured my imagination.

 

* Photo credit: Tyler Minix