Back From Vacation

Well my 3 week vacation trip across the country is over and I’m back home with over a 1,000 pictures to go through to see which to keep and which to get rid of and which to use in some posts here. It was an interesting trip with visits to the maritime museum in Astoria, Oregon; trips to Mt’s Hood, St. Helens and Rainier; the Scifi Hall of Fame in Seattle; zoos in both Portland Oregon and Seattle Washington; the Seattle Aquarium; harbor and lake cruises in Seattle; 5 days exploring Yellowstone park and 3 days exploring the Blackhills and the Badlands in South Dakota. The highpoint of the trip was Yellowstone and if you never have been there you are really missing out, the whole area is fascinating. So over the next couple of days I will be making some posts dealing with the various areas visited but I’ll start out with a post dealing with the trip out from the Eastcoast to the Westcoast and back.

First things first this trip was done by car and this wasn’t the first time I have driven across country. I first did that when I drove from my childhood home in Pa to San Diego when I got stationed there in 1992 and repeated the trip in 1995 when I left the Navy, however this was a little different of a trip. Where before the trips spent very little time at high altitude, this trip spent a lot of time there. For those that have grown up and lived their entire lives at low altitude, spending a lot of time at higher altitudes presents some challenges. For one, things you do physically at low altitude that are second nature to you can become more demanding at high altitude. An example of this was walking up and down the stairs to some of the observation platforms and along certain trails at Yellowstone. Normally in low altitude those walks are not very strenuous but Yellowstone sits mostly at over 6,000 feet in altitude with some parts such as the roads going through the mountains reaching heights in excess of 8,000 feet. To top things off I am highly allergic to fir trees and in Yellowstone you find plenty of them. The other thing it is just not Yellowstone and the mountains but a lot of the areas in Wyoming that are at higher elevations and it can be deceptive. What I mean by that is that vast areas of Wyoming are basically flat as a pancake and you think there is no problem, but you need to keep in mind that you are in the “high plains” sitting 5,000 to 6,000 feet up in altitude where there is less oxygen then at or near sea level. So if you suffer from any form of breathing problems such as Asthma or allergies you can find yourself in trouble while trying to convince yourself you are not because the land is flat there is nothing physically demanding about exercising on flat ground. So take proper precautions if you ever spend time at high altitudes, remember there is less oxygen then you are used to and if you start to experience any problems breathing immediately cease your physical activity, find a place to sit and if you have a prescribed inhaler for breathing problems make sure you have it close at hand and don’t be afraid to use it.

One thing we ran across was that there was still plenty of snow laying on the ground in portions of Wyoming and not just on the tops of mountains, you could clearly see it next to I-80 and here is one photo of such.

This photo was taken on May 30th and as you can see there is still snow on the ground at about 6,500 feet in elevation, though at the time the temperature wasn’t to bad it was in the mid 50’s, but the wind was blowing pretty strong.

Now the another interesting thing was on the way from Seattle to Yellowstone, we planned to make a stop at the Sunrise Visitors Center at Mt. Rainier National Park. Well things didn’t go as planned, you see the road to that visitors center was closed still. Now they didn’t say why it was closed but from what you see along the road that transverses the park and the road to the visitors center runs from that road, you can make a guess why. Here is a series of photos of that road.

As you can see it’s raining at the elevation we were at but the road to the visitors center is higher in elevation and according to the locals they had been seeing snowfall where we were at in the last week so its not so far fetched that the road to the visitors center is still blocked by snow. These pictures were taken June 9th. For more information on Mt. Rainer visit:

http://www.nps.gov/mora/

UPDATE: The road I mentioned above will be opened June 25th according to a news release fron the Park Service issued today. In it they don’t say that the reason it was closed until now was due to snow but this quote from the news release IMHO basically tells the tale that it was due to snow and they just got the road open

 

Sunrise, at an elevation of 6,400’, is the highest point in the park that can be reached by road. With approximately 6’ of snow still on the ground, hiking trails in the Sunrise area remain snow covered.

 

http://www.nps.gov/mora/parknews/upload/2010%20Sunrise%20opening%20062310.pdf

That is alot of snow they had to remove to get the road open and as stated in the news release they got the job done a week ahead of schedule. Maybe the White House needs to put the Park Service in charge of the Gulf Spill Clean up, at least they seem to be competent when it comes to getting the job done.

Now to me the most amazing sights from the traveling between destinations was the trip from Yellowstone to South Dakota. We went via the Beartooth Scenic Highway which winds through the mountains NE of Yellowstone on the way to Billings MT, it is also the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies . While driving along you see snow on the mountains and by this point it’s not that shocking since you have been seeing that for weeks now, then you get high enough in elevation the snow is sitting next to the road. Again that isn’t shocking anymore, even though it is June 15th at this point, since that also you have been experiencing for weeks. What was shocking was coming across a series of still frozen lakes which I got in a couple of photos seen here.

The last little hamlet before you get that far up in the mountains calls it self “Top of the World” and when you get up there and see that vista you really do feel you are on top of the world.

For more information on the Beartooth Scenic Byway visit :

http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/2281/

http://www.gorp.com/weekend-guide/travel-ta-scenic-drives-red-lodge-cooke-city-montana-sidwcmdev_052607.html

http://www.beartoothhighway.com/

There was also some things to see will making the trek out to Portland across I-80, one of those things was the Lincoln Monument:

Another was a slight detour we made on Day 3 of the trip to the Flaming Gorge:

Reason we had the time for the detour was a little miscalculation I made when estimating how long it would take to reach Portland. What happened was I was basing everything on how long it took me years ago to drive from PA to San Diego, driving 12 to 14 hr days and at 55MPH and then putting that to 8 to 9 hr driving at again 55 MPH. What I quickly learned is that on the east coast the speed limit is 65 MPH and in the western states it is 70 to 75 MPH. So by the end of Day 3 I was where I should have been at the end of Day 4 of a 5 day trip. Oops! Wel that allowed us the time to tour around the Flaming Gorge which runs from inside Southwestern Wyoming into Northern Utah.

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