One Fish, Two Fish, Somalia Fish, IUU Fish

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I announced this on Facebook, so for many of you it will be old news. I apologize for the redundancy, but I wanted to keep those who are too cool for Facebook in the loop.

I just finished the second week of my new job! I am very happy to say that I am the new Research Assistant for Secure Fisheries, a program of One Earth Future, a non-profit based in Broomfield, CO. I am working on a report about the state of fisheries in Somalia, specifically trying to determine how much illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU, get it now?) fishing is occurring there. No, I’m not going to Africa; it’s all computer research. I’ve already learned more than I ever thought existed about fisheries in Somalia and I’ve got a ways to go.

I feel lucky to have found something that will further my career while I await my Peace Corps placement. As for that, I still don’t know when I’m going, but it will likely be next summer. I have my fingers and toes crossed for the Philippines where they do work on fish catch reporting and establishing marine protected areas. Send some supportive thoughts for me to the Peace Corps on that one. It would be perfect and it’s the only program they have like that. 

The only downside to getting a job is that my travels are over for now…kind of. I still have some trips to write about and one coming up, so don’t give up on the blog yet!

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Candid Canyons

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Since I only drove through Bryce Canyon National Park and Colorado National Monument, I don’t really have any good stories to tell, but I took tons of pictures so here is a little compilation for your viewing pleasure. Both places were incredible and I hope to spend more time in each of them in the future. 

Dixie National Forest on the way into Bryce

Dixie National Forest guards the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park. It was beautiful and the colors were intense.

Dixie National Forest guards the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park. It was beautiful and the colors were intense.

Reaching for the Sky

Reaching for the Sky

Desert Flowers

 

Bryce Canyon National Park

My first view of this otherworldly place.

My first view of this otherworldly place

Cloud Shadows

Cloud shadows over the canyon

Ravens

Sunrise Point in the afternoon

Sunrise Point in the Afternoon

Hoodoos Under Pine

Hoodoos Under Pine

 

Colorado National Monument

Fruita Far Away

Monumental

Truly monumental

Gnarly

Gnarly

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

More canyon

More canyon. With shrubbery.

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Zion

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After my whirlwind day in Salt Lake City, my friends and I headed south to Zion National Park for a weekend of hiking, camping, and ogling amazing canyons and buttes. We got there in the early afternoon, and incredibly, there was a campsite left in one of the grounds inside the park. However, we had our sights set on something a little more isolated so we left the man of the camp to stake our claim while the ladies went on a dirt road adventure to find a site on Bureau of Land Management land just outside the park. We found some gorgeous spots and went back for our third to give up the tight-packed campground for something a little more spacious.

Exploring on the BLM land yielded lovely views. Especially of the approaching storm.

Exploring on the BLM land yielded lovely views. Especially of the approaching storm.

The sunset from our campsite after the storm passed.

The sunset from our campsite after the storm passed.

Unfortunately, it started to rain. Yes, in the desert. I thought for sure this would be the one camping trip the whole summer that didn’t get rained on, but I was definitely wrong. Some of the roads to the BLM land were supposedly impassable when wet, so we set up next to a lovely little creek (after waiting out the storm in the car).

We had a delicious dinner of pudgy pie pizzas (if you don’t know about pudgy pies, you need to) while we planned our attack for the next day. We had only one full day in the park, so to make the most of it, we decided to hike Angel’s Landing. The guide books said it was a strenuous hike with a portion that went up to a peak with chains to hold on to. No problem! We are all relatively fit people and there are handrails!

Woah. This hike was the most thrilling, terrifying, fun, adrenaline-pumping hike I have ever done. It felt totally insane to be up on the top of a narrow rock cliff with nothing to stop you from falling over 1,000 feet to the bottom of the canyon. The signs at the trailhead about people dying didn’t help.

Yikes!

Yikes!

Double yikes!

Double yikes!

I am not “scared of heights.” I have a healthy respect for them, but I’m not the person who’s paralyzed with fear on a third floor balcony. That did not matter. This was scary. We all had our moments, interestingly at different points for each of us, where we stopped and said, “I don’t know how to keep going.” For me, the scariest parts were the section where there was about two feet of rock to walk on with a sheer drop on either side and no chain, as well as at the top where there was maximum distance to fall.

An Angel Landing

Pictures can not do this path justice.

It was an out-and-back trail so as I was clinging to the chain for my life on a ledge as wide as my two feet together, someone else, or rather a steady stream of people, were coming down at the same time. We got VERY close to some of our hiking companions. The worst part was that they all said, “You’re almost there! It’s totally worth it!” It was worth it, I grant them, but we were never almost there! On our way down I understood this phenomenon. Everyone was so relieved to have gotten to the top that it seemed like the way up was a piece of cake! They must have blocked out their moments of sheer panic.

Anyway, the view from the top was absolutely incredible. Most of the park is in the valley, so seeing it from this height offered a grand perspective. We made our way down with relatively few anxiety attacks and all felt proud to have made it to where the angels land.

View From the Top 1View From the Top 2Feeling the need to sit down, yet wanting to see the rest of the park, we hopped on the shuttle and rode to the end of the road. It was a short walk to The Narrows trailhead. The canyon here gets very–you guessed it–narrow. You can walk the river to where it is even more narrow, but we weren’t equipped for that so we called it a day and headed back to camp.

We soaked our feet in the creek and drank some beers and were enjoying the relaxing time when a truck full of rednecks pulled up. It turned out this was not BLM land. It was a private lot that the owner, a friend of the lead redneck, had set up as a campground for nature lovers to use for free, so it was fair game and these guys were playing. They drove in hollering with dogs barking and all we could do was hope they would not camp next to us. Guess what? They did. We talked to them after our dogs had a standoff and they seemed ok…until I saw the handgun sticking out of one guy’s jean shorts. We were in for a long night.

Sunrise after the rednecks.

Sunrise after the rednecks.

They told us they were going to make a big fire in spite of the fire ban and the forest fire we saw in the distance the day before. They managed this by collecting firewood. By “collecting,” I mean they grabbed tree branches and whacked them against live trees to break them apart. Redneck hatchet, I guess. The three of us were so tired we went to bed basically as soon as the sun went down. Or tried to. Once the fireworks ended, I thought I would finally fall asleep until one of the guys stumbled into the tree next to my tent during their “camp crawl” to go harass some more conscious neighbors. After I heard them come back through, all was quite and I could finally rest. That is, until 6 am when the fireworks started again! It may have been annoying at the time, but at least I got a good blog post out of it.

We left that day through the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel which puts you out on the other side of the canyon from where we came in. The difference in the landscape was very interesting and we even saw a desert bighorn sheep. Another check on my big game viewing list.

IMG_4698We drove the long way home through Dixie National Forest and stopped in Bryce Canyon to check out some of the overlooks and have a picnic lunch, then back to Salt Lake City.

I drove back to Colorado the next morning and capped off my sightseeing for this trip with a ride through Colorado National Monument. I will have a photo post of Bryce and the Monument coming soon.

Road Trip Appendix: Salt Lake City

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My original plan on my long journey home, if I had the time, was to go from the Tetons down to Utah to visit some friends who just moved to Salt Lake City, then end in Colorado. I didn’t quite make it during the big trip, so I made a plan to go to Utah for a long weekend in late July instead. I spent a day with my friend exploring the city, then she, her husband and I went camping for the weekend in Zion National Park. My one day in SLC warrants its own blog post we managed to cram so much in!

Little Cottonwood CanyonFirst, we went to breakfast.

Then we took a short car ride up a mountain. Again, these mountains are so different than the others I’ve seen in my travels. This is one of the things I have been most surprised by. Just because they are high mounds of earth, doesn’t mean they’re all the same and each range has had its own character and uniqueness. The Salt Lake mountains are all granite, so they’re high-end and fancy. Just kidding, those are granite countertops, but these mountains were very pretty.

From the mountains we went to the Gilgal Sculpture Garden. Basically, a mormon mason decided to carve statues in his back yard that were significant to his life and his religion. They were kind of kooky, but it was a fun stop on my SLC tour and I learned a little about mormonism from the descriptions of each statue.

Sphynx Joseph SmithPieces

The sculpture garden was small so it did not take us too long to get through it and we had plenty of daylight ahead, so we went to the botanical gardens. Surprise! It was free for the holiday I did not know existed, Pioneer Day! Lucky us. The gardens were lovely, if a little hot.

An oasis within the hot Utah desert.

An oasis within the hot Utah desert.

We refueled with beverages and pastries then headed to the Temple Square (free parking for Pioneer Day!). After all, when in Salt Lake, do as the Mormons do. I had to see the temple, plus the Tabernacle is an incredible piece of acoustic engineering. Sadly, our coffee interlude meant we missed the Tabernacle organ performance, but we did see a little demonstration by some tour guides during which they ripped a piece of paper in the front an you could hear it clearly in the back of the building without any amplification.

I found the juxtaposition between the ornate temple and the boxy office building striking.

I found the juxtaposition between the ornate temple and the boxy office building striking.

Since I was just a tourist and not on a religious pilgrimage, we did not spend too much time wandering the cement square (did I mention it was hot?). We had one more stop to make before happy hour: The Salt Lake, of course! We went to a state park with shore access and walked out to the water. It was kind of an eerie place. All that water and none drinkable. Some people were going in for a float, but we neglected to bring our swim suits, so we admired, took some pictures, then left.

Gull Over Salt

After that, we were pretty tired and ready for a cold drink at Uinta Brewery. Utah has weird alcohol laws that mean no one can have any beer on tap over 4% alcohol content, so I couldn’t get my favorite beer of theirs, but I tried all the others and they were tasty. Overall, it was one jam-packed day of Salt Lake fun!

Uinta

House on the Rock

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View from the roof deck on top of the main house. Not a bad location!

View from the roof deck on top of the main house. Not a bad location!

House on the Rock was one of the strangest places I have been. Ever. To get the full story, you should read about it on the website. Basically, a man named Alex Jordan bought his childhood picnicking spot near Spring Green, Wisconsin and built a house around it. He incorporated the rock into the house and made a great little domicile reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright. He added gardens and the Infinity Room. Then things got really weird. He kept expanding and added on many rooms that were straight out of his vibrant imagination. Among other things, he was obsessed with automated music machines, stained glass, antiquities, dolls, and carousels. I’m fairly certain the original house is haunted. It was very eerie in there and the whole place made me a little uncomfortable. The organ room made me feel if I stayed in there, I would go crazy. I couldn’t properly capture the enormous whale versus giant squid statue (the size of a warehouse) or the organ room or the Streets of Yesterday, but here are a few pictures so you can get the idea. Basically, this place was incredible, insane, and such an experience. I’m so glad I went!

Some of the lovely gardens before things got weird.

Some of the lovely gardens before things got weird.

The Infinity Room

Infinity Floor

Treetops through the floor of The Infinity Room.

This was one of the most beautiful walls in the house, and it was in the women's bathroom.

This was one of the most beautiful walls in the house, and it was in the women’s bathroom.

An accordian-based music machine.

An accordian-based music machine.

Good advice.

Good advice.

The largest indoor carousel in the world. It has no horses, only other animals, real or mythical.

The largest indoor carousel in the world. It has no horses, only other animals, real or mythical.

Esmerelda, the automaton, gave me my fortune and of course, I got some squished pennies.

Esmerelda, the automaton, gave me my fortune and of course, I got some squished pennies.

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Trip Statistics

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Here are some fun statistics from my cross-country adventure. The links go to my blog posts containing more information, on the off chance you missed something. I know that is unlikely since you have all been hanging on my every word, but just in case!

Miles Driven: 4236.5
Gallons of gas: 114
Average mpg: 38 (Go little Fit, go!)

Days on the road: 25

States traversedThe Long Journey

  1. Maryland
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. Ohio
  4. Indiana
  5. Illinois
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Minnesota
  8. South Dakota
  9. Wyoming
  10. Montana
  11. Colorado
Campsite at Wind Cave National Park

Campsite at Wind Cave National Park

States in which I camped

  1. Wisconsin
  2. South Dakota
  3. Wyoming

States I had never been in before

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Montana

National Parks visited

  1. Cuyahoga Valley
  2. Badlands
  3. Wind Cave
  4. Yellowstone
  5. Grand Teton

National Forests I drove through (These were some of the most scenic portions of my drives. I would recommend that anyone traveling like I was make some time to explore them, or at the very least, go out of their way to drive through them.)

1. Allegheny
2. Black Hills

Surprise! A view of Mount Rushmore framed by a tunnel on Needles Highway.

Surprise! A view of Mount Rushmore framed by a tunnel on Needles Highway.

3. Bighorn

Sunset in Bighorn National Forest

Sunset in Bighorn National Forest

4. Shoshone
5. Gallatin
6. Bridger Teton                                                                                                                         Bonus: Buffalo Gap National Grassland (the prairie’s version of a National Forest)

Casualties

  1. Piece of roof rack for my bike
  2. Car battery
  3. Skewer for front bike tire
  4. Car tire (now patched and fixed, so not quite a casualty, just an injury)

Number of times I ate Mexican food out of a school bus: 2

Taqueria el Rodeo in Sheridan, WY

Taqueria el Rodeo in Sheridan, WY

Las Palmitas in West Yellowstone, MT

Las Palmitas in West Yellowstone, MT

Number of life birds: 23! Probably more, but sometimes I wasn’t trying that hard

A rotating lazy susan of beer at Bridger Brewing. All mine.

A rotating lazy susan of beer at Bridger Brewing. All mine.

Breweries visited

  1. Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland
  2. Broad Ripple Brewpub in Indianapolis
  3. 3 Floyds Brewing in Munster, IN
  4. Goose Island Beer Co. in Chicago
  5. Firehouse Brewing Company in Rapid City, SD (special thanks to their free wireless that allowed me to post Wisconsin is Made of Cheese)
  6. Bridger Brewing in Bozeman, MT

I tried a lot of beers local to wherever I was staying, but I didn’t always make it to the breweries themselves.

There Are Mountains in the Tetons?

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I guess those are mountains.

I guess those are mountains.

I left Yellowstone and drove south on a dreary Friday morning. I was up early and on the prowl for a good campsite in Grand Teton National Park. In spite of the misty weather, I was very excited to see the legendary views of the Tetons as I drove in. But where were the mountains? I knew where they were supposed to be; I could see the bottoms, but the drama of driving into the park and seeing the craggy peaks looming over the sagebrush meadows was taken from me by the clouds. Then it started to pour. What a bummer!

I found a good little campsite surrounded by shrubs and aspens in my second-choice campground, Signal Mountain, about a hundred feet from the shore of Jackson Lake. Not too shabby! Already a step up from the sardine-esque Yellowstone accommodations. Setting up my tent in the rain is not my favorite, so I took refuge at the Signal Mountain Lodge restaurant and planned my wet day in the park.

I decided to save the hiking for Saturday and go to the visitors center and then do some birding and a tour of Menor’s Ferry Historic District. At least that way I would be near my car if (when) the rain started. I went to Mormon Row and saw an green tailed towhee and some ground squirrels along with some old farm buildings. Yeah, I didn’t really read much about the place. I was looking at the animals and willing the clouds to part so I could see the mountains.

Historic Barn

A mountain bluebird (look closely) perched on the cable of the rehabilitated Menors Ferry, still in use today for park visitors when the water is lower than when I was there.

A mountain bluebird (look closely) perched on the cable of the rehabilitated Menors Ferry, still in use today for park visitors when the water is lower than when I was there.

The Menor’s Ferry tour was interesting and then the sun came out! The tops of the mountains were still shrouded in clouds, but I caught a glimpse at least. The tour guide was a very nice intern with the park and he invited me to go hiking that afternoon. I was happy to have someone to explore with so we made a plan to meet up later. I took advantage of the sunshine and went to Lupine Meadows for a short hike. Not fifteen minutes in, the sky darkened and it was pouring again. Grr. No hike that afternoon. Instead, I met the intern and some of the other park employees at a pizza place and got some beers and food and had a great time hearing all their stories about the stupid questions from visitors. I was so glad to not be sitting in my tent in the rain.

After dinner, the intern had to pick up another of his cohort from the airport. I went with him and we drove to the town of Kelly to see the site of one of the largest landslides in North American history. It was impressive and the landscape on that side of the park was very different than the park itself. This was not an adventure I would have known to take by myself. I’m so glad I met that intern and his buddy. We drove back to the park in the dark singing along to The Head and the Heart. In spite of the rain, it had been a good evening after all!

I was feeling good cruising back to my campsite. The rain abated for a little while and I thought I might make it back during a break so I wouldn’t have to set up my tent in the dark AND the rain. In my Tetons revery, I stopped paying attention to my speed. Then I got pulled over. Double grr. Who would have thought there are cops giving out speeding tickets at 10pm in a National Park? Not me, but there are. You have been warned. I took that as a sign from the universe that my trip was nearing its natural end. I decided I’d spend one more day in the park and then make tracks to Boulder.

I awoke to no rain! Hooray! I hiked around Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, the most popular and lauded hikes in the park. I’m not really sure why. The lake is pretty, the falls are impressive, and the view from Inspiration Point was nice, but this walk really missed the point of seeing the Tetons in all their rocky glory. I did get up close to and almost in them at the last part of the hike, but I was underwhelmed. I wanted to see the scenery, not the woods!

Inspiration Point Hike

The view from Inspiration Point. There is a marmot in the middle of the rocks.

The view from Inspiration Point. There is a marmot in the middle of the rocks.

Anyway, it was a pleasant way to spend the morning. I did take a nice detour to Moose Ponds where I got two life birds (yellow warbler and red-naped sapsucker). I got up close and personal with a marmot at Inspiration Point once I got away from all the people who had taken the easy way to the trailhead in the form of a boat ride. On my way back, I saw a moose too, so I can’t really complain…oh, except for the hailstorm! Yeesh. The Tetons must not like me very much. Overall, I think my time might have been better spent on some more remote trails, but no regrets.

I thought I’d finish off my day with a hunt for trumpeter swans. Grand Teton is one of the only places that has a year-round population of the large waterfowl. I drove to some of the spots where the rangers told me they might be (some more helpful than others. One told me, “Look near water.” Yeah. Got it.). The sun was out and the Tetons were finally visible too! I drove to a river and saw some birds, but nothing spectacular so I got back in the car and headed to Swan Lake. Sounds like a good bet, right?

I was waylaid by a traffic jam which can only mean one thing: wildlife near the road. I asked someone and they said it was a bear! Seeing a bear would definitely round out my big-game viewing experience, but I did not want to be one of those gawking idiots who ignored the rangers directing everyone to get back in their cars to get a grainy picture. I crept by in my car and there he was! A big grizzly eating some plants in a clearing by the side of the road. He (or she, I have no clue and definitely didn’t get close enough to find out) was impressive and huge. I got a twinge of fear even from my car. I’m thankful I never met one while I was hiking.

Now on to Swan Lake. The trail took me past Colter Bay where I finally got my perfect view of the mountains. They really are incredible and unlike any other mountains I’ve seen. Don’t worry though, Rocky Mountains, you’ll always be my favorites. I made it to Swan Lake, and lo and behold, trumpeter swans! That was easy. They were sitting on a little island at the far end of the lake, but they were unmistakably large. Satisfied and rather afraid of seeing another bear, I turned around.

Check it out! Mountains!

Check it out! Mountains!

To top off my full day, I drove up Signal Mountain and watched a picture-perfect sunset over the peaks. Grand Teton treated me pretty well after all.

View from Signal MountainThe next day I made it through Wyoming to Boulder, Colorado. I was a little sad my trip was over, but very happy to be home and not by myself anymore. Thanks to everyone who followed and supported me on my trip, friends and strangers alike. I have a couple more nuggets about this trip to post, but this is the last long post for now. However, I have more adventures in the works, so don’t unfollow me yet!

Columbines