When the Sun Goes Down

 

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Goodbye sun, goodbye light

 

Sunsets on the Pacific are pretty stellar. The entire sky emits a gorgeous scheme of colors that reflect off of the ocean. Taking a horseback ride on the beach with dusk approaching rendered this Mexican moment even more glamorous. The sun hovered around the horizon casting long rays of light out onto the sandy shore.

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As night settled in, I was able to explore some hot springs along the beach. Steaming water bubbles up in a “secret” location. Anyone with a shovel and a lil’ bit of grit can essentially dig their own hot tub. Some places within the pit were too hot for even my feet to handle.

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Impromptu beach hot tub (excuse the poor, grainy quality)

Mexico, you’re a quirky country, with lots of fun things to explore… especially when the sun goes down.

Bonfire on the beach, anyone?

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My new amigo
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A Mile High (and more) Once Again

I couldn’t resist fitting in one more outdoor trip before heading back into full time teaching. All 47 parks had been successfully checked off the list, but I jumped at the opportunity to revisit the Rockies. Re-branded as the Park Pilgrim*, I hopped on a plane sans Clarence, ready to have some rugged adventures with a Denverite friend.

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The Colorado River at Radium Springs (I had to scramble down to reach the natural “hot tub”)

First stop: a primitive hot spring located pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I took a hefty 2-mile hike down to a rocky outcropping where natural hot spring water mixes with the Colorado River. I was not aware that this was a popular stopping point for rafting trips until I heard jubilant shouting halfway down the mountainside. There were a few too many people for my liking, but it was fun watching people awkwardly cliff dive from 40 feet up.

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Pretty sunset during the drive to Timber Creek campsite

During my first go-round in Rocky Mountain National Park, I didn’t spend any time on the west side. Nestled neatly in between mountains, the gorgeous night sky made the cold camping experience worth it. I felt snug in my friend’s little tent, but I have to admit I pined for Clarence the teardrop trailer most of the night. Bugling elk lulled me into a fitful sleep; I awoke in the morning to a small herd gently chomping on foliage within 15 feet of my tent.

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Getting an early start to the day

And there was still more to come…

* Explorer of wild places and natural spaces

 

Lassen Volcanic Recap

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Pretty snowscape

Length of Stay:

  • 2 days, 2 nights

High:

  • Snowshoeing around the thermals

Low:

  • Not being able to drive all the way through the park due to road closures
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Manzanita Lake

Favorite Hike:

  • Manzanita Lake (the west entrance had less snow and was more suitable for actual hiking)
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It looks like these pieces of driftwood are wrestling

Favorite Treat:

  • Buddha bowl – a bowl stuffed full of cabbage, avacado, other veggies, tofu, and overall deliciousness

Winter Wonderland

I didn’t know what to expect at Lassen Volcanic National Park. According to the website, it had been a heavy snow year and many of the park’s roads were still closed. High elevations equal unpredictable weather, so I dug my winter coat out from deep within my trunk, found my little finger gloves, and then made some phone calls involving snowshoe rentals.

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Lassen’s south entrance parking lot

I was astonished by the conditions that greeted me upon entering the park. Snow was piled high, almost 35 feet high in some places. I carefully cruised up the meandering road, towing Clarence and reminiscing about winters of my childhood spent in Canada.

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Checking out the visitor’s center

There were only five other cars in the visitor’s center parking lot, a welcome relief from the crowds at Yosemite. I parked, stepped out of my car, and looked around for the building. It was hard to spot, mostly buried in snow, but I was greeted by a friendly park ranger upon entering.

I have a lot of respect for park rangers. Many of them are extremely knowledgeable, not just about hiking trails and roadways, but about the history and ecology of the park itself. They work hard for a season of the year, and often are given difficult and thankless tasks. The sweet lady at Lassen was very eager to share about the various snowshoe trails in the area, warning me against avalanches and cornices.

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Snowshoe time

I set out. The sun was bright, I was warm enough in just a light jacket, and the scenery was gorgeous. For most of the day I was by myself, pressing fresh tracks into the places I explored.

About a mile in, I spotted Sulphur Works, one of the park’s thermals similar to the ones I saw at Yellowstone. These were special, however, surrounded by snow and extra steam caused by the more extreme temperature difference.

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A little bubbly and a little steam

Lassen wasn’t what I expected. It was a wonderland covered in a white blanket. The trees dotted the serene landscape, while the mountain peaks provided a mesmerizing backdrop. If I was a painter, I would have wanted to set up an easel and create a masterpiece inspired by my surroundings. I plodded through the snow promising my tired legs a rest at the end of the day.

When I go someplace without presumptions, I tend to enjoy the pleasant surprises that meet me throughout the day.

I should try it more often.

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So serene

Yellowstone Recap

Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 2 nights

Highs:

  • Excellent educational exhibits at the visitor centers
  • Waterfall viewing at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
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Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Lows:

  • Tourists with selfie sticks

Favorite Hike:

  • Uncle Tom’s trail (lots of stairs but a worthwhile view at the bottom)
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The view from the bottom of Uncle Tom’s

Favorite Treat:

  • Huckleberry dark-chocolate truffle

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…