Category Archives: Small Trips

Canoeing Lewis and Shoshone Lakes

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Frost crystals crack across the surface of our canoe, dry bags, anything that has touched water. I stomp my feet and squeeze my fingers into fists, looking east for the sun. In front of me, thick clouds are a blanket on glassy Shoshone Lake. A subtle sunrise pink  guards the horizon before it is kissed by the early sun.

All is quiet, and then we hear the sound of an alpine autumn: an elk bugle- high and clean and unmistakable- cuts through the low fog and clouds. Then another. And at least one more.

By the time we get on the water at 8:19 a.m. on the second day of a 4-day trip, it seems our goal for the trip  has already been met: be in the wild and distract ourselves fully from our long list of Peace Corps preparations.

There’s no better place for wild lands and distractions than Yellowstone’s backcountry. It’s a place that’s easy to return to, almost addicting. It never disappoints, and there’s always something new to be found there. After getting more than 300 miles of Yellowstone’s trails under my hiking boots, it was time to try something new on this summer’s trip to the park.

Alex and I hatched the plan in late Spring: buy a cheap canoe, practice all summer/learn how the heck to boat, circumnavigate the massive Lake Yellowstone, sell the canoe and leave for Mozambique.

An exciting but perhaps overly ambitious plan morphed into something more do-able as we learned more about ourselves inside a boat and more about the 5-foot whitecaps that sometimes churn up on the waters of Lake Yellowstone.

Shoshone Lake was the perfect pick for our first multi-night canoe camping trip. To help ourselves out we planned low mileage days so we could do all of our paddling in the calm morning water ,we practiced packing our canoe on a couple overnight trips on Lake Granby, and we devised a food system that allowed us quick and easy breakfasts and lunches for our paddling hours.

So, on day 4, we stopped for lunch at the mouth of the Lewis Channel with only 3 miles left ahead. We swam, we ate, but mostly we stopped here to flex our muscles-now 31 paddled miles stronger- for a picture next to the sign that reads ‘Closed To Power Boating Beyond This Point.’

Paddle Power!

Video credit to Alex Romanyshyn

Boating Information/Logistics:

Our first step to planning this trip was printing of the boating regulations and lake maps with campsites. After calling the backcountry office to get an idea of mileage between sites, we filled out this backcountry reservation form and paid $25 to reserve the sites for our trip.

When we got to Yellowstone, we set up camp at the Lewis Lake campground (where the boat launch is) and visited the Grant Village backcountry office to obtain our camping permit (a reservation is NOT a permit) at $3 per person per night, boat permit at $5 per week, buy a fishing license, and get an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) check on our boat. The AIS process was a little confusing in Wyoming. We received ‘clearance’ for our boat at the Wyoming/Colorado border and were given a piece of paper confirming this. We then had to present this paper at the Teton entrance station on the way through to Yellowstone. Then, we had to get a special AIS inspection at the Grant Village Backcountry Office in Yellowstone and received an AIS sticker for our boat.As a sidenote, when we boated in the Tetons after Yellowstone, we had to present the original AIS paper from the border and give all sorts of personal information to get a Wyoming AIS sticker mailed to us.

Anywho, once we were all set up with permits, we were ready to pack and go. We came into Yellowstone a day early to allow time for all the running around and getting permits organized. I wouldn’t recommend trying to do this the day of your trip, as there is nowhere to get the permits that is all that close to the boat launch.

Once we got on the water, our mileage and sites were as follows, for a total of 34 miles:

Day 1: Lewis Lake Boat Launch to site 8Q7, 8.47 miles. This site was shaded in both evening and morning, which made it a bit chilly. It is backed by a beautiful meadow and Moose Creek. The bear pole and tent site were right on the beach, making unloading and reloading very easy.

Day 2: 8Q7 to 8T3, 4.74 miles. This site was tucked into a nook of shoreline, and it took some hard looking to spot the orange marker that signifies each site. The site itself was on top of a small hill, which made unloading and reloading harder, but offered awesome views of the lake and steam rising out of the nearby Shoshone Geyser Basin.

Day 2 side trip: 8T3 to Shoshone Geyser Basin, 4.45 miles roundtrip. Because our mileage between sites was so short on Day 2, we arrived at camp early and decided to take a side trip to the Geyser Basin even though we would be passing it on Day 3 on the way to our next campsite. From the water, you can see a large orange marker signifying the boat pull-out for the geyser basin. The trail starts right from the beach and winds up a mellow hill, taking hikers past a variety of geysers and thermal features. Our maps showed that this was a loop trail, but we did not find this to be true. At the top of the Geyser Basin, the trail petered off a bit. The most defined trail led us a ways away from the basin until we determined that we had gotten onto the South Shoshone Trail. Having never found the loop option, we did this as an ‘out and back’ that was about 2 miles long.

Day 3: 8T3 to 8R1, 5.29 miles. Originally, we planned to stay at 8R1 for two nights to have a layover day, and then go to o8Q6, which would have made this a 6 day trip. However, because the mileage was so short, we arrived at 8R1 at about 10a.m., so no longer felt like we needed a layover day or the extra day at 8Q6, just a short 3 miles away. Here we decided that this would be the final night! 8R1 has a great beach for lounging, fishing and relaxing, and this is exactly what we did all day on Day 3. This site is on the far side of The Narrows, the only spot that NPS recommends crossing Shoshone. This made it easy to get up and go the next day, paddling the most potentially dangerous portion of the trip first thing in the morning. The site itself was similar to 8T3 in that the bear pole and tent site were up a hill from the beach. Again we were awarded great views of a large portion of the lake from this site, and enjoyed our third and final night of cooking and eating on a beautiful beach 🙂

Day 4: 8R1 to Lewis Lake Boat Launch, 10.67 miles. With blue skies and sunshine, we had plenty of time for snack breaks, pictures, fishing, swimming, and dragging the boat down the Lewis Channel!

Food tips:

It’s not unusual for me to become fairly obsessive about food, enough so that Alex has deemed me the Food Liaison for our trips 🙂 Wanting to avoid day after day of oatmeal and Ramen, I set to work contemplating our menu for this trip weeks in advance.

I portioned out and packed everything for each breakfast and dinner into a gallon Ziploc for each day, including even instant coffee and other ‘extras’ so we wouldn’t have to dig through multiple bags for every meal. For lunches, I packed us each our own smaller Ziploc with snacks that ‘packed a punch.’ Then I packed this all in a dry bag, putting the last day’s meals on the bottom and stacking up to Day 1 from there. On top I included a bag of extra snacks. Each night we took out the next day’s breakfast and lunch to avoid opening one more dry bag in the morning. This system was AWESOME! It was so nice to not dig through tons of bags to get what we needed for each day and to only hang one dry bag of food on our bear pole.

Breakfasts:

Pita breakfast pizzas with almond butter (individually packaged), banana chips, craisins, pumpkin seeds, and toasted coconut.

Oatmeal with trail mix

Couscous with dried, chopped mango, coconut, almonds, cinnamon, and honey. ( We ate this after the trip ended, since we cut the trip short by two days…but it was scrumptious 🙂 )

***Alex had the brilliant idea of filling our big Thermos with boiling water each night after dinner and using this for breakfast and coffee the next morning. This system worked great and saved us time messing with the stove in the morning.

Lunch/Snack bags included some combination of:

Individually packaged almond butter or peanut butter, beef jerky, non-refrigerated cheese-like laughing cow (we found something similar at Cost Plus World Market), individual summer sausages (also from Cost Plus), Triscuits, fruit leathers, Clif bar or another granola bar, trail mix, salty snack mix, snack olives (woot woot Cost Plus).

All I can say is that I couldn’t wait to get hungry mid-morning every day so I could choose a snack from my snack bag. I loved this system as well and would definitely use this for backpacking or long day hikes too.

Dinners:

Chicken Fajitas: This was our Day 1 dinner, so we were able to pack fresh chopped bell peppers with pouch chicken and spices.

Thanksgiving Dinner: A gem of a backcountry dinner, first discovered by Alex when students cooked it on this year’s high school Leadership Trip in the school district where we worked! Cook instant mash potatoes and stuffing together, add pouch chicken, and top with craisins and pumpkin or sunflower seeds. You could even get crazy with gravy if you so desire.

Pesto pasta with chicken and sun-dried tomatoes: Again, eaten after the canoe trip ended, but a great backcountry meal nonetheless. Combine pasta with a pesto sauce packet and pouch chicken, and add a little color with sun-dried tomatoes, which don’t require refrigeration until opened.

In addition to these meals, we had originally planned soup with rice every other day of the trip. I bought the Campbell’s Go soups because they are bagged instead of canned and pack wonderfully.

Finally, don’t forget beer, whiskey, and chocolate!

With full bellies and sore shoulders, we left Shoshone as we had wanted: happily distracted and energized by the wilds.

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Tuesday Talk: Shoshone snapshot

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Boxes are packed, the house is moved out of, last paycheck in the bank, and Peace Corps plane tickets arranged! 

We are a bit homeless and a bit jobless. We are starting to say our slow goodbyes to America.

So a week ago we strapped the canoe to the top of the Subaru (how Colorado is that?!) and headed to a place we love and consider quintessentially American: Yellowstone National Park.

Here, we can say ‘see you later’ to the wilds, the public lands that are one of our favorite parts of the good ole USA!

We had to jump for joy at the end of our four days on Shoshone Lake 🙂

  
More to follow! 

Love Your Neighbors: Adventures in Utah, 2014

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Alex and I are pretty lucky to have (mostly) great neighbors. Neighbor states, that is. After working for two summers in Yellowstone, I am certain I will have a lifelong love of our neighbor state of Wyoming, and I take any opportunity I can to share that with Alex. Kansas…welll…it’s flat, so we don’t find many recreating opportunities there. But I do have some family there, so that’s something to love about it! And plains’ sunsets are pretty alright too. New Mexico is a place we haven’t spent a lot of time, but it sure seems like it has a lot to offer and there are plenty of New Mexico spots on our ‘bucket list,’ like Taos, Truth and Consequences, the Balloon Festival, and Carlsbad Caverns. Plus, we just spent a few days visiting friends on the Jicarilla-Apache Reservation in Dulce, NM and that was a huge learning experience for us. And that brings us to our final neighbor: Utah. Our love for Utah has really grown over the last couple years. We especially love an April visit to Utah now that we live in Fraser. Utah in April can still be brisk and spring-like, but it’s unquestionably warmer than Fraser in April. Plus, an April visit to Utah really scratches our itch for summer backpacking season that starts to creep up in the spring.

This year, we spent one extremely windy day exploring the blobbish rock formations of Goblin Valley State Park. In the early evening, the winds picked up to about 50 mph and all the campers ran for their cars. After scooping up our wind-blown and broken tent, we spent the rest of our night in the car, drinking grown up apple juice drinks, eating a bag of chips for dinner, and just being silly weirdos.Despite the weather, or maybe because of it, it ended up being quite a fun night of (literally) car camping. After a delicious breakfast with a view of the Goblins the next day, we did an awesome hike in nearby Little Wild Horse Canyon before heading to Capitol Reef National Park for a couple days of backpacking!

In Capital Reef, we set our sights on the Spring Canyon area and camped in a side canyon for two nights. Although we didn’t mean to end up in a side canyon (it was truly a happily lost moment!) we were lucky to find a beautiful red-rock alcove to pitch our tent in. We didn’t see a fellow human at any point in our side canyon, which we named ‘Alex and Cece’s Spring Canyon.’ We spent a lot of time in our alcove home, cooking, eating, relaxing, and climbing about on rocks. During our one full day in the Spring Canyon area, we went on a long journey to refill our water bottles at the only spring in Spring Canyon.

Here’s a photo story of our adventure:

Oh Canada

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When we decided to take our honeymoon in the very northern-most parts of Vermont, we kind of knew we’d have to take a day trip to Canada. International travel like that is just too exciting to pass up! The people that we were staying with in Vermont live about 6 miles south of the border, and recommended that we visit the town of North Hatley in Canada. If you would like to drive from Newport, Vermont to North Hatley, Canada I cannot be of much help on driving directions. Good thing for maps and GPS and such. We still don’t really know where we were when we left Vermont and entered Canada; it was a pretty otherworldly experience.

Just kidding. It wasn’t. On our journey north we just got a little bit lost (happily lost, of course) and suddenly came upon the border crossing. We didn’t really know if it was the border crossing because it looked very boring and it seemed that there was one route that passed through the border checkpoint and one route that just went right past it. So we pulled into the gas station across the street from this thing that we thought was the border crossing and we sat there, staring at the checkpoint. That’s not suspicious at all…

Deciding finally that it was, indeed, the entrance to Canada we went on to the checkpoint and answered all the questions about what we were planning to do in Canada (drive around and eat food), why we came from Massachusetts just for a day in Canada (our rental car had Massachusetts plates…confusing), and what we did for work (professional maple syrup smugglers and hockey saboteurs eh?….). Onward!

On our drive to North Hatley, there were quite a few wonderful things: all of the road signs were in French, we got to feel like we were driving really fast because the speed limits were in kilometers, there were signs directing us to covered bridges, and also to hockey facilities…obviously. After a little bit of construction-zone driving and navigational errors on my part, we arrived in North Hatley an hour and a half after leaving Newport.

North Hatley, Canada.

North Hatley, Canada.

North Hatley is a very picturesque town right on the shore of Lake Massawippi. There is a kind of canal from the lake that runs right through town and opens into the wider mouth of the lake. There are a few small restaurants right on the water’s edge, as well as the town park. The park is where we sat to enjoy our picnic lunch and far-reaching views of lake and the orange hillsides that surround it.

“Bonjour. Bon appetite,” a passerby said to us at the park.

Tee hee hee hee. “Someone spoke French to us,” we giggled while we ate.

From the park, visitors can enjoy a walk out on a short boardwalk over the water that leads to a gazebo where they can sit and relax and take in the views.

After lunch we strolled around town, which was pretty quiet on this weekday. We tried to go to the chocolatier but they were closed ( 😦 )so we went to a little café for coffee and pastries, where we paid with American dollars and received Canadian change (woo hoo!!). Next, we decided to drive around the North HatleyP1100338 neighborhoods a bit; the houses right in town were beautiful, old and uniquely ornate in a way that Colorado houses just are not.

After some cruising around, we headed south and entered America at a different border crossing that, once again, I can’t really specify. All in all, a successful day international voyage.

Bikes, Boats, and Automobiles: How We Saw Foliage on Our Vermont Honeymoon

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P1100135When you think ‘honeymoon’ what comes to mind? Hawaii? Mexico? Jamaica? All amazing options, no doubt about it. But when Alex and I thought ‘honeymoon,’ or rather, ‘honeymoon in October,’ we thought the northeast corner of the U.S. sounded like a pretty good option. I’m a sucker for fall and have been since childhood. In fact, when I told my childhood best friend that Alex and I were getting married in October and honeymooning in Vermont her response was, “Awww, just like you’ve wanted since we were little!” Ain’t that sweet? So, on October 7 we departed for Burlington, Vermont. We decided to make Newport, Vermont our home base during our 5-day stay. We rented a studio apartment over a local’s garage. From here, we enjoyed uninterrupted views of Lake Memphramagog , as well as uninterrupted access to the lake and its encompassing bike trail. We rented a car and our hosts lent us some of their toys: bikes, kayaks, and a canoe. Off we went to see the oranges, yellows, reds, and purples!

Town of Newport as seen from the Eastside restaurant deck.

Town of Newport as seen from the Eastside restaurant deck.

By bike: One afternoon we decided to ride our bikes into the town of Newport

The Newport bike path.

The Newport bike path.

for happy hour at the Eastside restaurant. It was about 4 miles one way, and at 600-something feet above sea level I felt like I could pedal for a million miles. Oxygen is great. The bike trail from our rental unit took us along the lake’s edge and then on a little tour through town. The forest in the northeast is much different than the forest in Colorado’s mountains.  It’s thicker, shaggier, darker, more mysterious. The dying leaves and grasses tangle together to create a seemingly impenetrable wall. Not to mention the shadows that invite thoughts of mythical creatures. I swear, I was sober (it’s hard not to be at 600 feet above sea level…sheesh!) Well, we went along, enjoying the forest and the crispy, crunchy sounds of a fall bike ride. On our ride back, we saw the forest in a different light: sunset light. The pink came through the leaves, accenting the warm fall colors. Right in the middle of all this tall, tangled forest I was in heaven. And, of course, Alex slyly mentioned that there are some places you just can’t get to with 4 wheels. True story.

 

Bike ride sunset over Lake Memphremagog in Newport.

Bike ride sunset over Lake Memphremagog in Newport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By boat: As mentioned, we were very generously lent kayaks and a canoe, and P1100064spent two mornings in these glorious watercrafts. This is extra special. We own cars. We own bikes. We do not own boats (yet). In contrast to the bike ride, during which we were in the forest, from the boats we were awarded far-reaching views of the colorful trees lining the lake, the red rolling over the surrounding hills, and the naked, gray side of Jay Peak. I’ve never been in a boat as late as October, and it sparked a subtle nostalgia for summer days, and a gratitude for the few warm days left. I suppose it’s when an end is in sight that you most enjoy what it is that’s ending. With all my favorite colors surrounding me, and only the lapping sound of paddle meeting water (not to mention the joyous fact that I just got married!!!) it was easy to appreciate these moments.

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By automobile:  Car rentals are expensive when you’re not yet 25 years old (onlyP1100009 3 months short!) A big boo hiss to this fact! However, the peppy little Ford Focus we rented was one of our main forms of entertainment. At least that’s what we told ourselves at first to justify the cost. But it turned out to be true. You can read more about our scenic driving routes in Vermont here , but I’ll just give ya a sneak peak. First of all, who doesn’t love that swish-crunch sound of a fall drive with the windows down? Mmmmm… that says relaxation.  The fun part about fall drives is that it’s just kind of a blur of color on some of these country lanes. Sidenote: ‘Lane’ was my choice word on these drives. Definition (mine, that is): a road or path lined closely

Gotta love blurry fall driving pictures!

Gotta love blurry fall driving pictures!

by trees on both sides. Lane. Anyways, we have a lot of blurry, orange pictures to prove that we drove down a lot of blurry, orange lanes. The whole landscape of Vermont is (duh) much different than that of Colorado. It’s rolly instead of pointy, mainly. We passed horse pastures, barns, roadside cider stands, tractors on the road, white-steepled churches, covered bridges, regular bridges, and a whole lot of cemeteries. Alex’s explanation: People have been on this side of the country longer, so they’ve had much longer to die. This makes sense. Moving on…

Driving is handy. Driving with no destination is great. Choosing each turn as you come up to it is, well, kind of like how I see marriage.

And that’s a good honeymoon discovery, right?

 

A Handful of Highlights from Northern Vermont

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Our trusty rental car!

Our trusty rental car!

While honeymooning in Vermont, we saw a lot of foliage while we were kayaking, canoeing, and biking, but we also took a lot of time to drive around with loose destinations in mind and see what we could see along the way. All of the fall drives took us through orange, rolling, countryside, and here are a little more details of the highlights we saw on our three drives:

Our first drive:

Covered bridge near Montgomery, Vermont.

Covered bridge near Montgomery, Vermont.

Highlights: Covered bridges and Jay Peak

What we did: From the town of Newport we took highway 105 to 100. We took 100 to Troy, and got on 101. Then we followed the signs to Jay Peak- on highway 242. Along this whole route we enjoyed the rolling countryside that is so different than where we live. Jay Peak is a ski area, and ski areas are just not very interesting in October. We found that Jay Peak was so deserted we didn’t even know where the hub of the area was. We stopped by the Jay Peak General store, near the gondola, and picked up some locally-made blueberry wine (mmmmmmm) and some locally-made cider (mmmmmmm).  After wandering

On a covered bridge hunt outside of Montgomery, Vermont.

On a covered bridge hunt outside of Montgomery, Vermont.

around in the desolation of ski area off-season, we headed down 242 toward Montgomery. Being a little higher in elevation, all of the fall foliage around Jay Peak was gone, but things got more orange as we descended. When 242 ended, we took 118 north, drove through the town of Montgomery, and then went in search of the covered bridges we knew were nearby. General and common-sense rule in this search: follow the river! We found the first covered bridge in a neighborhood on the outskirts of town and stopped here to take a handful of pictures. This is also something we don’t have in Colorado, and covered bridges just feel so country quaint to me. Yep, we were being very touristy snapping pictures of a bridge right outside people’s houses. We kept heading north on 118, finding some beautiful lanes along the way. We also came across a couple more covered bridges right off the side of the road, but none quite as picturesque as the first. We went north to Richford and then got on 105 east, took a left on 101 (toward North Troy), and then got back on 105 east in Newport.

Our second drive:

Highlights: Craftsbury area and the town of Hardwick

Cheesy foliage pic!

Cheesy foliage pic in Craftsbury Common!

What we did: From Newport we got on 105 to 14, toward Coventry and Irasburg. Once again, we just enjoyed the countryside and small towns along the way. Fourteen took us all the way down to Craftsbury Common, which is probably the most picturesque New England place we saw on our trip. The center of town is the soccer field, which is surrounded on all sides by a white picket fence. Quite a few maple trees also border the field. All of the buildings around the fence are clean and white: the church, the small school, and a few others. We walked around town for a while and took some hokey leaf pictures. It was in Craftsbury Common that we spotted our first magenta tree, which is something we’d been told we might see. Again, we don’t have purple and magenta trees in Colorado, so it’s pretty a wild to us! From Craftsbury Common we continued along highway 14, passing through the town of Craftsbury. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought there would be all sorts of craft fairs around these parts. There wasn’t. Not a single one! When we reached Hardwick, we stopped to pass the time and enjoy this little town. Hardwick was a very cute little town where we heard local residents talking

Magenta tree in Craftsbury Common, Vermont.

Magenta tree in Craftsbury Common, Vermont.

about how they have 10 months of winter and 2 months of bad skiing. Ahem. These folks might hear the same kinds of things if they ever came to Fraser, Colorado. After meandering through the town’s small bookstore, we visit the café that was in the co-op. We got a cup of coffee and sat outside on a bench, next to a very skinny suspension bridge over the river. Hardwick kind of reminded us of Boulder, Colorado, but much, much smaller; As if someone just cut a chunk out of Boulder and moved it to Vermont. From Hardwick, we got on highway 16 north, toward Barton. Right before Barton, we got on I-91 to Derby Center, and then on 5 back to Newport.

 

Our third drive:

Highlights: Smuggler’s Notch, Stowe, Ben and Jerry’s factory, Burlington

Smuggler's Notch road.

Smuggler’s Notch road.

What we did: On our last day in Vermont we made our way slowly from Newport to Burlington to catch our flight out at 7p.m. From Newport, we took highway 105 to highway 100. We took 100 south to Eden. At Eden, we got on highway 118 and took this to 109. I know…we are not very direct-route kind of people. We take all sorts of loops and backtracks, and it’s rare that we’ll use anything but a good ole’ road map! Well, we did have a reason for taking this strange route south: we were in search of more covered bridges. So, we took 109 to Jeffersonville and, according to our map, should have seen some covered bridges along the way. We did not. Oh well. At Jeffersonville we got onto 108 south

Smuggler's Notch area.

Smuggler’s Notch area.

toward Smuggler’s Notch. The road down is narrow and windy, but if you can swing it in your vehicle then it is definitely worth the trip. Smuggler’s Notch hosts a ski area (boring in October, as we already know), but you will also find all sorts of interesting rock formations and twisty trees around these parts. The roadside pull-offs were quite congested and hikers and rock climbers walked single file along the side of the road. With all the hustle bustle, we didn’t stop along the way but we did enjoy the rocky forests around Smuggler’s Notch.

Along the bike path in Stowe.

Along the bike path in Stowe.

Next up: Stowe. Everyone told us to go to Stowe! It’s pretty cute. It’s a ski town. It seemed to have a lot of yummy places to eat. Without much time to spend there, we got the drive-by version of Stowe. We took a walk on the town bike path and enjoyed scuttling the leaves and looking at the river. Then off we went! In Stowe, we got on 100 south, which led us to Waterbury.

 

Eatin' ice cream at Ben and Jerry's.

Eatin’ ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s.

At Waterbury, you will find Lake Champlain Chocolates, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Grand View Winery, Cabot Annex (Cheese!), Green Mountain Coffee Visitor Center and Café, and the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream factory. We stopped at Ben and Jerry’s but did not do a tour. Maybe because it was Saturday, there were gobs of people here and we had not planned ahead to book a tour. We read the history timeline of Ben and Jerry’s and got what we really came for: ice creeeeaaammm! Alex stuck with chocolate chip cookie dough and I tried the seasonal Maple Walnut. Mmmmm. Because of my lactose intolerance, I was about 6 Lactaid pills deep as I cautiously licked away at my Maple Walnut. Those little pills are miracle workers… all went well! Anywho, next we visited the Flavor Graveyard. This is where Ben and Jerry’s pays tribute to all of their retired ice cream flavors. Along

The Ben and Jerry's flavor graveyard.

The Ben and Jerry’s flavor graveyard.

with the name of the ice cream, each headstone in the graveyard has a little saying about the favor. Pretty funny when you really stop and read! After hanging out under the trees for a while, we headed on to Burlington.

 

 

 

 

The first thing we did in Burlington was walk the pedestrian mall, Church Street. In all seriousness, I forgot we were in Vermont for a minute and thought we were on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado. Church Street, like Pearl Street, is packed to the brim with posh stores and restaurants, coffee shops, street performers, college students, dogs, and a whole lot of energy. We meandered and wandered, ducking into a few shops and generally enjoying the people-watching. Later that day we would find out that the Pearl Street pedestrian mall in Boulder and the Church Street Pedestrian Mall in Burlington were, in fact, designed by the same

Lake Champlain.

Lake Champlain.

architect. After our stroll we strolled a couple blocks down the hill toward Lake Champlain. Where the road ended there was a park overlooking the lake, and we hung out here for a while, enjoying the views and the afternoon sun before heading back toward the airport for our flight.

3 Night Out and Back: Southeast Arm of Lake Yellowstone on the Thorofare Trail

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P1070757Night 1: 6.5 miles to campsite 5E8, Park Point

Pulling up at the nine mile post trailhead, we quickly realized that this might the least shady trailhead in the park. There was not a spot of shade as we set out packing our packs for this four day trip. We were sweating within minutes and our food was softening and melting away! Nonetheless, after about two hours we were packed, fed, and ready to venture down the Thorofare.

Sidenote: The Thorofare through-hike is the Holy Grail of Yellowstone National Park; It takes hikers 68.5 miles through the park, one-way, and reaches, at one point, the most remote spot in the lower 48. Whoa. This trail is pretty awesome. It’s been on the to-do list for quite a few years, but limiting factors in hiking this beast are always 1) time, because it takes a week or more, and 2) having 2 cars so you can leave one at the beginning and one at the end. So, we did not set out to hike the entire Thorofare on this trip- I swear we’ll do it someday- but we were lucky enough to get a permit for three nights in this beautiful (that’s a given in Yellowstone) area of the park!

The trailhead is on the east entrance road to the park, and it’s an area I haven’t spent much time in so I was excited to get out there, into Yellowstone’s quiet nether regions. We started out hiking in burnt forest, dusty and exposed. Within about half a mile of the trailhead we saw bear tracks (dun dun dun!!), but I will just ruin the suspense now by saying that besides a little scat, we saw no other signs of bear activity along this trail. Overall, this was a flat, easy 6.5 miles that took us in and out of burnt forest, over fallen logs, across a couple small streams, beside a meadow with mountain views, until we reached the spur trail for 5E8. This can be a bit confusing, as there is one ‘unofficial’ spur that you will reach before the ‘official,’ marked spur trail. We took the ‘unofficial’ route and walked along the lakeshore for about the 200 yards before reaching the site.

If I was holding onto any loyalties about any other site in this park, they were all gone once I saw 5E8. It’s definitely my favorite campsite in the park. There is an awesome fire pit with benches, as well as good tent sites. But what really did it for me was that this site is right on the shore of Lake Yellowstone; it’s just a few steps from the fire pit to the lake side. There’s nothing like a dip in freezing waters to wash away the dust and renew your energy after a day of hiking! And, to me, nothing says freedom more than getting in a high mountain lake. Ahhh yes. So, after some swimming we discovered the Yellowstone hot stone massage, where you lay your lake-numbed body on the warm pebble beach and let the warmth sooooaaakk into your weary but revitalized muscles. It’s as good as any spa treatment, I promise. After swimming and sunning came cooking on the beach and watching the vibrant sunset over the water. Our topic of discussion: the big-ness of Yellowstone and how you could easily spend your whole life here and not see it all.

Day 2: 8.2 miles to 5E3, Brimstone Point

Overall, the hike to this campsite was much more scenic than the first day. We started out hiking through thick forest before ascending a hill. We hiked along the side of this hill for quite a while, exposed in the hot sun but enjoying far-reaching views of the lake below us. Along the hillside we went in and out of meadows and forest. The ground cover was thick and lush, growing over the trail in some areas. The meadows were blooming with wildflowers: red, yellow, white, and purple. With the scenery of this day came elevation change; this part of the trail goes up and down a lot more. We had a few small stream crossings this day as well, but only one that required bare feet or a piggy back ride.

The second day, for me, is always the hardest. I don’t know why this is but it always seems to be. I was more tired and more sore. I could feel the bruises on my hips from my backpack. I could feel the start of pesky hot spots and blisters. It was starting to feel like a backpacking trip! Of course, a dip in the lake at the end of the day washed all these little ailments away. And an afternoon siesta propelled my body further into vacation mode. This site, too, is right on the lakeshore but didn’t seem quite as pristine to me as 5E8. The fire pit is in an open space with clear views of the lake, but it was a little harder to find a good tent site. Still, we got spoiled on this trip with our lakeside sites! The third day of our trip we hiked back to 5E8 and the fourth day we hiked out, for a grand total of 28.4 miles.

And the best part of this whole trip? Getting to show my fiance Alex the big,

Alex hanging our food on the bear pole.

Alex hanging our food on the bear pole.

open, quiet, beautiful, wild, free backcountry of Yellowstone. There’s no better place to vacation than Yellowstone’s backcountry.

 

Hot Springs and Kayaking Around the Tetons

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Like Yellowstone, the Tetons can be crazy crowded and while visiting some of the must-see spots (Snake River Overlook, Jenny Lake) is, well, a must-do, we found some spots on the water that tend to be a bit quieter.

Kelly Warm Springs, north of Jackson, Wyoming.

Kelly Warm Springs, north of Jackson, Wyoming.

Kelly Warm Springs: First of all, I appreciate the naming of this swimming hole as a warm spring instead of a hot spring because this is truthful. It’s not hot, but it’s warm enough to be comfortable on a summer day when the sun’s out. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and there were a couple families there with kids, but there was plenty of space to spread out on the grass next to the springs. There is one larger swimming hole that gradually narrows into the stream. Along with views of the Tetons, the smell of sulfur greeted us and we followed it upstream to see if we could find a hotter spot. We slipped over rocks and got stuck in the muck, stopping at times to look down on the goldfish and what we thought were cichlids. How these types of fish got into the warm springs…we don’t know. Failing to find a hotter area we returned to the main swimming hole where it was deep enough to float around. And when we’d had enough water time we laid down on the bank to soak up the sun.

To get here: Follow highway 191 north out of Jackson. Turn right at Gros Ventre Junction, following signs toward the town of Kelly. Continue north through the town of Kelly and follow signs for the warm springs, which will be a right turn.

Kayaking on Jackson Lake:  The first time we thought to rent a kayak on Jackson

Kayaking on Jackson Lake in the Tetons.

Kayaking on Jackson Lake in the Tetons.

Lake was 5 years ago, when I had blisters so bad from hiking that I couldn’t even bear the thought of putting shoes on my misshapen feet. Kayaking proved to be a worthy alternative to hiking in the Tetons, especially when we were able to observe a Bald Eagle at close range, so we decided to go on an evening kayak excursion this time around too. It’s $19 an hour to rent a tandem kayak on Jackson Lake and we ended up being out for about an hour and a half at the end of the day. Although you won’t be alone on the lake, you’ll have plenty of space to yourself as you paddle around the islands, enjoying uninterrupted views of the Tetons. If you have the time it’s always fun to pull your boat up on one of the rocky shores and spend a couple minutes exploring on land. We also figure that a quick kayak trip is a good way to keep the body balanced if you plan to do a lot of hiking in Yellowstone and the Tetons.

To get here: Take Highway 191 north out of Jackson until you reach Moran Junction. Turn left, following signs for Grand Teton National Park entrance. Continue to follow Highway 191 to the Colter Bay area. Rent your kayak at the Colter Bay Marina.

The small, natural hot springs pool below Granite Falls, south of Jackson, Wyoming.

The small, natural hot springs pool below Granite Falls, south of Jackson, Wyoming.

Granite Hot Springs/ Granite Falls: A little bit south out of the hustle bustle of Jackson, the Tetons, and Yellowstone Granite Hot Springs is the dead end of a dirt road that heads right into the Medicine Bow range. Ahhhh, sounds glorious already doesn’t it? We took the road to the hot springs to take a look and found that for a low rate ($6 I believe) you are granted access to a small, hot swimming pool. Having heard from Alex’s cousin that there is a hot spot in the river below the paid-entry pool, we set out to explore this option further. We didn’t find anything directly below the pool so went back down the road to Granite Falls (it has a sign and a small parking lot). We took one of the trails down toward the falls and saw two people soaking in a little nook on the far side of the river. Hmmmmmm….. After some debate about whether to pay $15 and stay in the nearby campground or pay $0 and stay in a national forest campsite down the road we …headed down the road. We ended up finding a free national forest spot nearby, set up camp, ate dinner, and organized the car. Then, first thing in the morning we packed up and headed up to the waterfall to get in that nook. We crossed the icy waters and stuck our numb feet- followed by the rest of our bodies- into a small, built-up pool just big enough for two. We were tucked in along the rock wall below the waterfall, with a hot springs waterfall flowing gently down into our little private pool. Oh, how I love Wyoming! We enjoyed quiet solitude here for about an hour and a half before dragging ourselves out of that little piece of heaven and heading down the road back to Colorado.

To get here:  Take Highway 191 south out of Jackson. Stay on Highway 191 at Hoback Junction. Follow signs to Granite Hot Springs. If you get to Bondurant, you’ve gone too far south.

There’s No Place Like Stone

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**Video credit to Alex Romanyshyn

Usually, I am a person who would rather go somewhere new than revisit somewhere I’ve already been. It’s hard for me to understand why I should go back instead of exploring something different. Why would I hike the same trail twice or visit the same city over and over? My usual mentality: there’s so much out there to see; there’s no time for revisits.

But then I start to think about the concept of familiar and unfamiliar vs. old and new. Going back to somewhere familiar? Now that’s different. Yellowstone is probably one of the most familiar places of all to me. After I worked there for the summer after high school I told myself I would make a little time to come back every year. I spent one more summer there and have visited every year since, except for one. It’s one of few places I feel compelled to go back to over and over.

First, there is about a thousand miles of trail in the park so most times that I go back I am able to discover something new in this familiar place. The second reason I keep going back, I realized this year, is that this place is familiar in feeling and emotion. To revisit Yellowstone in a geographical and physical sense is to revisit somewhere emotionally familiar. Have you ever forgotten a thought and tried to retrace your steps through the house back to where you first had the thought? And once you reach that place in the house you remember what you were thinking. Is my crazy brain the only that works like this? For me, physical places cause my brain to recall certain thoughts or emotions that were felt strongly in that place previously. Yellowstone is a physical place where I experienced a lot of personal and emotional growth-we’ll save that story for another day- so I suppose it makes sense that in most revisits to the park I have been overwhelmed with emotions and memories. And I usually shed a few tears and wallow in the painful nostalgia and strange feeling of being just another tourist in a place I’ve called home.

This year though, it had been two years away from the park instead of the usual one year. This year it was kind of like visiting an old friend. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Emotions aside, I just wanted some Yellowstone time. And I didn’t even cry on this visit J Mostly what I felt was gratitude for this place that is a part of me, that is so much bigger than me , and that is permanent; Gratitude for a place and a feeling I can always revisit.

Engine Crime Scenes

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The end of the San Juan River Trip has come, and we are back at our car. Almost everything is too hot to touch in the 103 degree heat, and we fumble through our dry bags looking for the car keys. We part ways with our group and head north toward Moab.

“Uh oh,” Alex says, about halfway there. “The car is doing that weird thing with the gas pedal.”

If you’ll recall, we had some issues with a faulty fuel pump in Alex’s car last summer and got a little bit stranded outside of Buena Vista. We replaced the fuel pump and a couple of spark plugs and everything seemed good to go in the last couple months.

Now, the gas pedal stops working again and we coast for as far as we can with no gas pedal…which is about a quarter mile. Then we sit in the stagnant heat for a moment, restart the car, and sputter on down the road. Of course, we talked to the car and gave her the reassurance we could muster while trying to reassure ourselves. We stopped in Monticello to stare at the engine, fill gas, fill all our water bottles in case we got stranded, and let the engine cool off. On we went, with an engine that was working extra hard to go. It kept revving and pulling and we kept thinking it was probably just overheating a little bit (weird gas pedal problem aside, because we still don’t really understand why that happened…again). We stopped a couple times and finally, as Alex backed up in a rest area to get a ‘running start’ onto the highway entrance ramp, we got a hold of our river trip group and told them to wait for us.

As we pushed the old Subaru up to the highway speed limits, we realized that the trouble seemed to be in getting going. Once we got up to 70mph we could coast there, but if we had to go uphill or if we got stuck behind a semi we were once again talking to the car, urging her to make it. The decision to stop and check things out more seriously came when we were revved up past 5 [you can insert unit of measurement here…I don’t know what it is] and only going 50mph.

At a gas station in Fruita, we examined things with a more keen eye and what we found was quite gruesome: blood splattered on the inside of the hood, fur on the alternator belt, and some cooked guts nearby. It quickly became clear that we had killed a nesting critter and that there were probably some bones caught up in some belts. It all made sense! We got to work scraping some guts away with a knife and then Alex had the brilliant idea to go through a high-powered manual car wash and flood the bits of critter out of the engine. We took some back roads over to Grand Junction and the search began. We got sidetracked by Chik-Fil-A, where I went in to order food and inquire about car washes while Alex searched on the smartphone. About an hour and a half after this all began in Fruita, our engine was squeaky clean and we were on our way once again. Lucky for us, the car ran perfectly all the way home and we will always remember to check for engine critters.