Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Here

Candy for Trick or Treaters:
(Bucket is from a McDonald's Happy Meal circa 1989--I bought the Happy Meal just to get the bucket, and timed my visit to get the ghost bucket because I didn't want the witch bucket or the pumpkin bucket. And to spare you the math, yes, I was 22 years old!! I felt a little silly ordering a Happy Meal for myself, but 21 years later I still have the bucket, so you can see I really did want it!)

A trio of ghost lanterns:

A jack-o-lantern lantern:


Man of Mystery:


Our favorite baseball team:

Peace sign (carved by the hippie):

My son wasn't going to go trick-or-treating this year, but my daughter's trick-or-treat plans fell through at the eleventh hour, so I asked him to please please please go with her. He threw his look together in less than 5 minutes, and then they went trick-or-treating by themselves.

I don't like that daylight savings time ends in November now. It's still daylight when trick-or-treat starts. The thrill of Halloween when I was a kid wasn't so much the candy. It was going out in the dark!! My kids wait until it's dark to go, but by then there's only about an hour left of trick-or-treating. It's just weird!

I have eaten way too much candy today. I feel shaky! I will have to eat a high-protein breakfast tomorrow to counter-act the junk.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Three Crocheted Scarves

I kept my hands busy on our 4,500 mile journey. Nothing like long hours in the car to get a few back-logged crochet projects stitched up! When I wasn't staring in awe out the window, I crocheted.

The pattern for the first scarf is from Ella Rae: Island Holiday (Book 18). The book is Australian, but I stumbled on it at a local needlework shop. They had this scarf on display, and I loved it.

The cowl pattern is the Cardiff Cowl from Lion Brand Yarn, available free on their website. I made it using their recommended alpaca, which was really easy to work with.

The neckwarmer pictured below is from the Flower Warmers pattern by Lisa Gentry, available on Ravelry.

I didn't make the crocheted flower embellishments because I wanted something simple, but I did use rhinestone flower-shaped buttons for closures! They may be a bit too small, though, so I'm thinking a retro stick pin may be in my future. I wonder if I still have mine from the 70s? I should go look.

I love cozying up in scarves this time of year. It hasn't really been cold yet, which is weird, but I know it's coming, and when it does, I can keep the heating bill down by fighting off the chill with one of my new neckwarmers!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Great American Road Trip, Part XII: Rocky Mountain National Park

Jackson Hole certainly felt like civilization after our days in Yellowstone and our drive through Grand Teton National Park. The town is very western, with wooden boardwalks and covered walkways all over town. Just as with Cody and Deadwood, I wasn't sure how "authentic" all that was, but it was still charming. The town square has an archway made of antlers at each of the four corners. Man, that's a lot of antlers!

We spent the evening arguing about where to eat dinner. My son was not fond of the first pick of the rest of us, so we compromised on The Bunnery, and ended up very pleased with our choice! One of my least favorite parts of travel is trying to find a place to eat, but when it works out well, dining in fun, local places is one of my favorite parts of travel.

The next morning we had a very long drive ahead of us, since our plan was to reach Boulder, CO, that same day. However, the realization that we were this close to Idaho was too tempting to resist, so even though it was opposite of the direction we needed to go, we decided to drive through Teton Pass and stick our toes into a new state.

Unfortunately, as we began our descent towards Idaho, we saw the much-dreaded "flag man" road sign, and sure enough, after a bend in the road, there stood a construction worker holding a Stop Sign. We were the only car there, so I rolled down the window and asked how long he thought the delay might be. "An hour," he said. "An HOUR!" we cried. He looked taken aback and said "Well, maybe only 10 minutes." Knowing that we had 500 miles ahead of us that day, we couldn't take the risk of it really being an hour wait (and possibly another hour wait to make the return through the pass), so we asked if we could make a U-turn. He said yes. Before we did, though, I asked hopefully "We haven't crossed into Idaho yet, have we?" and he said "No, it's about 4 miles away." Argh, so close, yet so far.

We did enjoy the drive through the pass, with its stunning vistas, and this humorous sign on the return to Jackson Hole.

We also noticed this enormous bird's nest on the top of the electric pole. You don't see stuff like that where I live!

We had a long drive through Wyoming that day, and even though I'd been in the state almost a week, I was still in awe of the terrain and the scenery. Big huge sky, brown scrubby desert, mountains ranging the edges. We saw a thunderstorm way off, but the road conveniently circled it, and we felt not a drop of rain. Lunch was a picnic in the town park in Pineland, WY, and for dinner we stopped in Laramie and took a quick driving tour of U of Wyoming. The town looked just like any midwestern college town, with brick colonials, green lawns, and mature trees. Such a contrast to the surrounding desert!

We neared the Colorado border as the sun was setting. I felt a bit sad to leave Wyoming. Such a wondrous place, so beautiful, so different than home, so dramatic, and even a little bit dangerous. Good-bye, Wyoming!

My first views of Colorado were in the dark, so it didn't make much of a first impression, but in the morning we headed straight for Estes Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park, and I was impressed indeed.

I took this next picture because I thought it was so picturesque, and found out later that that lovely building is The Stanley Hotel, which was the inspiration for the setting of Stephen King's The Shining. The only thing of Stephen King's I've ever read is his autobiography. I'm not a fan of horror. Nope. No thanks.

Rocky Mountain National Park was just as gorgeous as you'd think it might be. I tell you, by this point in our trip, I was sort of looking forward to the plains of Kansas on the drive home, because I was getting exhausted from all the awe and wonderment I felt from the non-stop spectacular mountain scenery.

(This looks to me like the beginning of The Sound of Music)

We drove up Trail Ridge Road, which is the highest paved road in the US, peaking at 12,183 feet. They have a visitor's center/gift shop at 11,796 feet. I was definitely feeling altitude sickness. I had felt mild effects of the altitude while we'd been in Yellowstone, but nothing remarkable. Here I felt light-headed and weak, and my chest felt oddly constricted. My heart was also pounding harder than normal. I have a couple of congenital heart defects which, for the most part, don't bother me that much, but when in a situation like this where I can feel my heart laboring, it can be a little scary. Then I don't know if the physical sensations are getting exacerbated by nervousness, or if they are "real". I think in this case they were "real" because as we descended I felt better and better and better. Whew!

My kids capped some empty water bottles when we were at 12,183 feet to see what would happen to them as the altitude changed. The bottles shrunk in on themselves as we descended. This is what one of them looked like when we finally got home:

(And just a side note: we are not regular consumers of bottled water, and in our everyday lives we each have reusable water bottles for times we want bottled water, but on a big long vacation such as this one, we buy bottled water, and save the empties until we find a recycling container. Or we do science experiments with them!)

It's not a vacation for us without a stop at a Rock Shop. The one in Estes Park was a good one.

We headed back to Boulder to walk around campus and town there, and to find dinner. Campus was lovely, with a lot of red stone and tile on the buildings. At first you feel like you could be at any midwestern campus, but then, hey look, it's mountains!

Sometimes I wonder why I live where I live when there are places like Boulder, CO, in the world.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Great American Road Trip, Part XI: Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is directly south of Yellowstone. We only spent one day there, driving through to get to Jackson Hole.
Unbelievably beautiful.

We had a picnic lunch at Colton Bay, and and walked along the lake, where my children and my husband enjoyed their favorite beach past time of skipping stones. (edit: It's actually called Colter Bay!)

Later, in another part of the park, we saw a moose!

And a bit later, we spied a coyote.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Great American Road Trip, Part X: Yellowstone, Part the Second

We spent four days in Yellowstone, and it wasn't nearly enough time to see everything you can see. I think you would need an entire summer if you wanted to explore every part of the park, and even that might not be enough time. I didn't want to do any back country hiking, so we didn't wander too far away from the paved roads, but I still feel like I saw some truly spectacular things.

We did two ranger-led hikes, one at Mammoth Hot Springs, and one along the south rim of the canyon. The hikes weren't long mile-wise (less than 2 miles both times), but the rangers are so good at what they do that it was time well spent. This was true for our spring-break trip to Mammoth Cave as well. Maybe we've just had good luck, but every park ranger we've hiked with this year was warm, funny, knowledgeable, and eager to share his/her passion for the wonders of nature.

One morning we got up at 5:00 a.m. and headed into the park before sunrise. We were hoping to see some interesting animal activity. We did spy some elk way off in the distance, and some bison up close and personal, but that was it for animals that morning. However, we did see a thunderstorm over a mountain, followed by a rainbow. Seeing a rainbow at sunrise in Yellowstone made getting up before sunrise so worth it. We drove over 100 miles that morning before going back to our hotel for breakfast, something that is unthinkable in our every day lives. It's almost like time and distance have no meaning in Yellowstone. It is what it is, and you adapt to it.

We were frustrated by some aspects of Yellowstone. It takes forever to get around. The wildlife traffic jams could be frustrating if you were stuck in the back and couldn't see the cause of the jam. You knew something fabulous was going on, you just couldn't see it! The park rangers would hustle traffic along (how were they always present where the wildlife were??), but then that meant by the time you got to where the animal was, they refused to allow you to pull over to get a good look. Argh. There was also a lot of road construction in the park, and we got stuck in a ONE HOUR construction delay one afternoon, which completely put our plans for the day into a tail spin.

Old Faithful is in the southern half of the park, which was a good 2 1/2 hour drive from our hotel. We went there our last full day in the park. I was glad it hadn't been my first Yellowstone experience, because it was by far the most crowded part of the park, and seemed almost like a theme park. The roads around there felt like a freeway, the parking lots were huge, yet we had to circle and circle and circle to find a parking spot, the gift shop/restaurants were crazy-crowded, and there were mobs and mobs of people around the geyser. Ugh.

She did blow right at the predicted time, though!

We were plagued with bad weather that day. Every day there was a thunderstorm right around noon, but then it would pass in about 15 minutes and clear up. That is a typical weather pattern for the park, according to the rangers. The weather there changes every 5 minutes. One minute the sun is beating down on your head, the next minute you're getting pelted with hail, then suddenly it's freezing cold until the sun comes out again. Where I live, the air is humid humid humid, so hot days are wet and sticky, and even in the shade you are sweating. Out in the desert and in the mountains, the air was so dry. Whenever the sun didn't shine, I felt chilly, but as soon as the sun came out, the rays felt so fierce I swear I could feel them pierce my clothing. The day we were at Old Faithful, the noon thunderstorm was followed by another thunderstorm that raged for an hour, forcing us to cut our tour of the geyser basins short. What we were able to see before the second thunderstorm made us run for shelter was awesome, though.

Our favorite geyser was Anemone Geyser. It was close to the boardwalk. We leaned over for a proper look. It appeared very dry, and just as my husband speculated that it must be an infrequent geyser, it burst into life, making us jump back and scream with laughter. That is one of my favorite memories of Yellowstone: the four of us laughing our heads off over the surprise of Anemone Geyser. (We later read in the guide book that it erupts every 10 minutes!)

See the rainbow?

The day we left Yellowstone, we drove the entire length from north to south, stopping at the Midway Geyser Basin, home of the Grand Prismatic Spring. Unfortunately for us, it was such a cool morning that the steam and vapors obscured all but hints of the vibrant colors.

Our drive had us crossing the Continental Divide multiple times.

Before we leave Yellowstone for good, here are some photos of the wildlife we saw:

Elk hanging out in Mammoth.

Black bear with cub.

A different black bear with cub.

Lone bison going for a jog on the road.

We also saw grizzlies on two separate occasions, but they were too far away to get good pictures, and a pika darted out by our feet during one of our ranger hikes.

I have a lot more Yellowstone photos in this Flickr set.

Grand Teton National Park, here we come!