Category Archives: Travel

Travel Destination: Yellowstone Day 3

You can find Day 1 here: https://boballab.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/tarvel-destination-yellowstone-day-1/

and Day 2 here: https://boballab.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/travel-destination-yellowstone-day-2/

See what happens when you put off doing the next installment of a series? You get distracted by another project, then another, then real life intrudes and the next thing you know it has been almost a year since you did the trip you are posting about. Oh well that is just the way it goes sometimes, but luckily Mother Nature is co-operating with me by still dumping snow on Yellowstone so what I’m going to post about hasn’t been overtaken by time so to speak.

On Day 3 of our stay at Yellowstone was a day of contrasts.

We started the day out with a Grizzly bear siting just 14 miles into the park and just south of where the west entrance road meets the Grand Loop:

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Travel Destination: Yellowstone Day 2

In my last Travel post I showed some of the attractions in the town of West Yellowstone: https://boballab.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/tarvel-destination-yellowstone-day-1/

In this one I will lay out things seen and done on our first day inside the park itself.

About 1 mile (at most) east of the town of  West Yellowstone you come to the west entrance of the park. There you pay your entrance fee which grants you access to not only Yellowstone National Park but to Grand Teton as well for the next 7 days. They also give you a couple things, one is a fold map (that they attached my receipt to) of the park and the park newspaper. When you get that you should pull off and read the important safety information that is contained in the paper and maps. If you ever visit the park always keep this in mind: The animals do not fear humans in the respect that they will run away. They will attack you if you get too close especially after the calves, cubs, fawns and pups have been born and now accompany momma or during the time of the rut (mating season). The rule is stay 25 yards away from all animals except the Bears and Wolves; stay 100 yards away from them. Now here is a copy of the road map in the park newspaper:

As you can see except for the North Entrance, all of the entrances have double digit miles between them and the central section of the park. That central section has a road that completly circumnavigates it and is called the Grand Loop. As you can see there is another road that bisects the Grand Loop. Besides those major roads there is minor side roads you can drive out on and see different parts of the park, also off these there is parking areas for hiking trails that go out into the wilderness. So all descriptions of location for the things I will be describing will be based on the map above and in relation to the Grand Loop.

We started the day early, basically pulling up to the park entrance just after sunrise. After paying and entering the park we made our way down the West Entrance Road marvelling at the scenery, including a spot where you could see a Bald Eagle’s nest. We were not able to get a photo of the nest and the Eagle because they do not allow anyone to stop near the nest site. One word of advice: according to the Park Service and from our own experience, the best viewing times for most of the wildlife is very early in the day and just before sunset, so plan properly. Once we reached Madison we had a choice go north towards Norris or south towards Old Faithful, at that time the road between Madison and Norris was closed between 10pm and 8am for roadwork and it was only 7:45am so we had to head south.  At this pont we haven’t seen any wildlife until we got to a side road called Firehole Canyon road where we saw our first buffalo herd:

Buffalo Herd near Firehole Canyon

The small orange looking Bison are young calves that had been born this spring. At this time none of the wildlife wasclose to the road. From there we proceeded down the road into the canyon and the Fire Hole Falls, basicaly just getting a feel for the park. Eventually Firehole Canyon road rejoins the Grand Loop and as you head south you can to Geyser basin which runs next to the Firehole river and the geyers, fumeroles and hot springs drain into the river:

As you can see from the colors in the picture the geyser water has life that is specifically designed to live in that mineral rich water. What is amazing is the clarity of the water itself and how deep down into pools you can see (shown later). Alas what mother nature gives in giving those small lifeforms a nutrient rich enviroment to live, it also takes away:

The minerals that is needed by the microscopic life that makes those amazing colors also gets taken up into the roots systems of trees which ends up killing them due to clogging up basically the trees circulatory system. That is why you see the bottom of those trees colored white and dying. this causes the Geyer Basin to look like something from an alien world:

Besides the big geysers such as seen above you will find very tiny little holes in the ground that just percolate along:

But what really gets your attention is when a geyser spouts:

After getting our fill of Geyser basin we headed back onto the Grand Loop heading south. When we got to the turn off for Old Faithful we decided to bypass it on this day, we wanted to get a more overall feel of the park on this day. From Old Faithful you head up into the mountains on the way to West Thumb and along the way you will cross the Continental Divide (you will criss cross the Divide multiple times in Yellowstone).  Forgot to mention this in the beginning, there is vast swaths of Yellowstone where you can still see the damage from forrest fires including the Great Yellowstone Fire of 1988. So it is in very few places you will actually see vast tracts of pine trees, the section between Old Faithful and West Thumb is one of them. When you get to West Thumb you have a choice: continue on the Grand Loop to Yellowstone Lake or head to the South Entrance which will take you to Grand Teton. On this day we stayed on the Grand Loop (We ventured out the South and East Entrance roads on Day 3) and drove along Yellowstone Lake:

To the east of  Duck Lake and on the shore of Yellowstone Lake is the West Thumb Geyser basin where to me we really first experienced Yellowstone’s Magic. The basin is encircled by walkways including running  along the edge of the lake  with a strip of trees in the middle. I first it was just a smaller version of Geyser Basin:

 Until we saw this in the middle of the basin:

Right there in that barren area was a mother and her fawn surrounded by man made walkways with tourists snapping away. The Mother slowly led her very curious fawn away from the people and into the small stand of trees, trying to hide.

 Unfortunately for Momma the fawn was having none of this hiding stuff and started running in circles around the stand of trees Momma was in:

Watching that fawn romp and play with total abandon, totally unconcerned there was all those people there, that was special. Besides the spectical of Mother and child there was some fascinating geyser,s including ones actually in the lake:

Then there was the big and deep Abyss Pool:

As we were about to leave the West Thumb Basin another Elk showed up basically out of nowhere and a tourist got very lucky, he got way too close taking a picture but was able to get away with it…..this time.

From there we drove north up the back side of the Grand Loop to Tower Falls and the Canyons along the Yellowstone River:

One thing that was intereesting about the canyon was the colors of the differnt bands of rock:

From there we stayed on the Grand Loop eventually working our way to where the old Army Fort is located. Prior to the formation of the Park Service the US Army managed the park and in typical Army fashion built a fort that included houses for the officers, barracks for the enlisted and various other buildings that are still used today including a church. We didn’t stop and take pictures there on this day because it was already almost 8pm by this point and we still had to travese down to Madison including where the road work was being done and was posted to have up to 30 min delays. Since that is the case I will not go into more detail of that area now since it has it’s own special role to play on Day 3. However as we were driving along south of the Mammoth Hot Springs are we spotted a small herd of Elk:

 

there was a nearby rock I was able to climb up on to give me a better view which attracted this elks attention:

From there we got back on the road but there was another distraction: A Bison herd about to bed down for the night.

After that it was back on the road but we ran into a traffic jam and it wasn’t from the the road construction either:

Yes the Bison have learned to use the paved roadways for themselves. Instead of tracking through trees and rough trails they let man pave the way for them between meadows.

As you can see the Bison are not affraid to get up close and personal, take note of the size of that male, he is about the same size as that SUV and can get up to 2,000 lbs in weight. Oh btw they can run at speeds up to 30mph. The adults didn’t really pay that much attention to the vehicles but the calves sure did:

One thing you noticed in the adults was that they were still shedding their winter coats:

Besides the main herds you will find single or small groups of Young Bulls traveling by themselves. This one took an interest in me taking his picture:

I guess he decided it wasn’t a big deal since he didn’t come through the window for me. That or it was because something else caught his attention:

Eventually the Bison cleared the road and we finally made our way back to West Yellowstone for a quick bite to eat from Mc Donalds, a shower and a good nights rest for the adventure had just begun.

Travel Destination: Yellowstone Day 1

Where to start when dealing with Yellowstone?

Probably the only way I can do this is to not try and put everything into one post, but try to break it down somehow. So here goes:

When we arrived at our accommodations in the small town of West Yellowstone Mt, just out side the park, it was in the early afternoon and driving since early morning we decided not to head into the park that day, but take in the sights of the town by walking around the main block of it. We looked in many a shop, checked the local restaurants and visited the local animal park. We ended the day by catching a film at the IMAX theater and dinning at Gushers Pizzeria & Sandwich Shop.

As you can see our accommodations (Kelly Inn) was not very far from the park, the shopping/dinning district, the IMAX theater and the animal park. The rooms were very nice and comfortable and the rates are reasonable for the area (West Yellowstone and Gardiner Mt are the closets towns to the park and so the room rates are more expensive then staying in Cody or Jackson Wy for that reason. The rate was $130 per night but well worth it).

Besides a door leading directly outside, there was a second door that led to an interior hallway. This hallway takes you to the main reception area where you can get a free breakfast and also to the indoor pool.
http://www.yellowstonekellyinn.com/

So after checking in we decided to walk over to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. This center has a small indoor exhibit area where you purchase your ticket. From there you can walk outside to their viewing areas for the wolf packs and one grizzly enclosure. In between the two wold pack enclosures there is a small lecture/presentation hut were different animal experts put on various presentations for all areas. Twice a day the center has to seed the bear enclosure with food, so they bring the bears inside. When that happens they take out small children, that sign up for this, out into the enclosures to hide the food the bears:

Keeper Kids – Join us for an exciting activity especially designed for kids ages 5-12. In this unique program, kids first learn about grizzly bear eating habits and then accompany the naturalist and animal keeper into the bear habitat to hide food for some of our resident bears. After the food is hidden, kids get to learn how bears use their sense of smell to search out food. Space in this program is limited, so please sign up with a staff naturalist on the day you want to join in the fun. Keeper Kids is offered twice a day during the summer, and at various times during the fall and winter months. This program does require a $2 partcipation fee, all other programs are included with the price of admission to the Center.
http://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org/programs.php

The kids get all the fun 🙂
Here are some of the photos we took at the center:

http://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org/wolves.php?id=52
The wolves in the above photos are from the first Wolf Enclosure and are part of one of the three packs at the center. These wolves are bigger and older then the wolves in the second pack which appear in the photos below:

http://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org/wolves.php?id=23

They have several Grizzly Bears at the center but only two were out when we visited, a brother and sister pair that were rescued after their mother disappeared:

These photos were taken on June 10th in the late afternoon just after it had finished raining. The temperature in West Yellowstone at that time was in the mid 50’s. After we got done watching the wolves and bears in the center, we visited their gift shop where they had some very nice pieces of merchandise including a the wall hanging in the photo below.

The wolves and bears in the wall hangings they sell are of the wolves and bears in the center.

To give some more background on where these wolves and bears came from. The Wolves came from areas where the habitat couldn’t support them and instead of being left to a long an lingering death from starvation or being euthanized for ones born in captivity, they were given a home at the center. As to the bears they were all either nuisance bears or cubs of nuisance bears. Typically nuisance bears end up being killed because they become so used to eating out of human waste receptacles and landfills they become a danger due to failure of relocation. Instead the center has given them a home were they can live out their days peacefully and in the case of the bears in the photos above stopped a sad situation from becoming a tragedy:

Sam and illie, twin brother and sister were placed in captivity as young cubs after their mother disappeared in Alaska. These two bears wandered in to a fishing village where people (young and old) began hand-feeding them, becoming quite the attraction and a dangerous situation. Without a mother to care for them and becoming habituated to human food, these bears had to be placed in captivity and arrived at the Center in 1996. Being from the coastline of Alaska, these two bears are very large, with Sam weighing approximately 1050 pounds and his sister illie close to 800 pounds. Sam was named after the fishing village of King Salmon and illie after Mount iliamna, both areas are near their birthplace.
http://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org/bears.php?id=2

Visit the Grizzly and Wolf Center website below to learn more about these animals and others:
http://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org/

From there we checked out what was playing and the times for them at the IMAX theater (While there is only one screen the theater shows different films at different times). Noting that the film we wanted to see was not due for a few hours we decided to stroll around the 2 block main shopping and dining area of the town, peaking into the various shops, comparing prices and looking for a good place to eat after the film. After that we returned to the IMAX theater and watched a film on the wolves of Yellowstone.

The tickets we purchased also gave us a discount on a second film, if we returned in a certain amount of days which we did on our final full day in Yellowstone which I will go into when I get to that day.

After the film we decided that it was getting a little on the nippy side and drove over to Gushers Pizzeria & Sandwich Shop for dinner. The name is misleading, besides pizza’s, burgers and various other “fast” food they also served up various types of steak and other regular restaurant faire. The prices were very reasonable, the service and staff excellent, the food very tasty and the atmosphere eclectic (where else do you have to look around a mounted moose head to see the stock car race on TV while a waiter pours a glass of fine wine at the table in front of you, while at the same time a group of Hungarian scientists and their post grad students, at the table next to you, discuss their day in the park observing Grizzlies?). One word of warning the place is very popular and if you want to sit down and eat there, instead of to go or having it delivered, you might have to wait a bit in line.

As we returned to our room for the night you could hear the call of the wolves in the center and no matter how many times you have heard that call in recordings you will have a visceral, instinctive reation to it. When that occurs you will realize the truth of what  Jack London wrote about:  it is truly the  Call of the Wild.

Travel Destination: Seattle

This is the post on the second stop on my vacation: Seattle

Seattle has some very nice attractions that doesn’t get much national attention, plus really good package deals on ticket prices.

The first day there we went down to the waterfront and I must say that Seattle has done a real nice job, its clean, friendly and easy to get to. It is also not far from the park area where the Space Needle is.

Our first stop was at the Seattle Aquarium where we purchased what is called the City Pass, which is a 6 attraction bundle at a much reduced price. Price for the City Pass is $59.00, separate admission to each attraction is $113.70 which is a savings of $54.70

This included not only the Aquarium but 2 rides to the top of the Space Needle in a 24 hr period, entrance to the Pacific Science Center which has many exhibits but also 2 IMAX theaters (one IMAX film per City Pass), One harbor tour by Argosy Cruises and entrance to Woodland Park Zoo. It also comes with what is called an optional ticket. What that ticket does is allow you entrance to either the The Museum of Flight 10 minutres from downtown or the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame which is in the same area as the Space Needle and the Science Center.

The Aquarium has two indoor exhibit halls, plus an outdoor viewing area for their larger attractions such as the Harbor seals. This was a very nice aquarium with easy access and plenty to see with fish from all over the world as well as species that live near the Northwest coast.

From there we trekked to the Pacific Science Center. The trip is not far by foot but it is uphill from the Waterfront district. The reason that it is uphill is that modern day Seattle is built on the remains of the original Seattle that was destroyed by earthquake and fire. Some of the old parts of Seatlle still survive and you can take a tour of this “underground Seattle” (unfortunately time constraints prevented us from doing this). Once at the Science Center we caught a showing at one of their IMAX theaters and then walked among their exhibits. They are similar to OMSI in Portland but with less focus on technology.

From the Science Center we used out optional ticket and went into the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. As the Name implies it is devoted to SciFi and it sits in one half of the building with the Music Project in the other half. In it they chronicle the history and evolution of SciFi and they have many, many artifacts including one of the original models of the Enterprise and Captain Kirk’s Command Chair.

Also they have Tweekie from the show Buck Rodgers, the robot “dagget” from the original Battlestar Galatica, R2D2.

While there I had to get myself a “Dead Man Walking” T-shirt that has a Star Trek security guard with cross hairs imposed over him and that saying next to it. This is based on how many times, usually in the first minutes of the episode, a security guard gets killed. This in turn inspired the term Red-Shirting for when a SciFi author uses a real life person in one of their books and kills that character off.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Redshirt

From there it was a trip to the top of the Space Needle for a view of the greater Seattle area.

After that we took a trip via a monorail which runs from the Space Needle to downtown Seattle. Matter of fact the stop for the monorail downtown is inside a multistory shopping mall. We then headed back down to the waterfront which took us through Pike Place Market which is an attraction in its own right.

Once back at the Waterfront we ended the day with an hour long harbor cruise. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate so we weren’t able to see and take pictures of the Olympic montain range to the west of Seattle.

What we did see was a French Destroyer in for a port visit as well as the 2 heavy Ice Breakers the Coast Guard operates in for work.

On the second day we took the Lakes Cruise, also offered by Argosy Cruise lines. This cruise is 1.5 hours long and takes you past Husky Stadium and the University of Washington campus, plus the famous houseboat homes that have been featured in films as well as the Sleepless in Seattle community. You also got to see where the uber rich live including Bill Gates home as well as the natural beauty of the lake area. Also on clear days like this one you get a spectacular view of Mt. Rainier. We also got to see small ‘bush’ planes of a small airline that uses the lake as their landing zone.

From there we spent the rest of the day at Woodland Park Zoo as shown in the following pictures. One thing I couldn’t get a picture of was the Bald Eagles nest that was not the pair of Bald Eagles belonging to the Zoo. Turns out that there is a lot of crows that hang around this zoo and in turn they attracted a pair of wild Bald Eagles. Due to the abundance of food in the area they made a nest there.

The third day was a travel/visit Mt. Rainier day. We had planned on stopping at the Sunrise Visitors Center while traveling through Mt. Rainier National Forest but the road to it was closed due to having 6 feet of snow on it.

While we were traveling the roads through the mountains there you could really see how they affect weather patterns. On the west side there was rain all the way up to the crest of the mountains, that turned into fog and low lying clouds and that turned into clear skies by the time we exited the National Forest on the east side. Also just prior to entering the National Forest we saw 1 lonely Elk munching away no more then a foot to a foot and a half from the road.

Overall I wished we had planned one more day for Seattle for we had to forgo some nice attractions such as the Museum of Flight, Underground Seattle and a tour of the Boeing plant.

The next travel destination is Yellowstone.

Vacation Destination: Portland Oregon

The first destination of my vacation was the Portland, Oregon area. This area has a wide variety of activities and scenery, from the Oregon coast at Astoria where the Columbia river enters the Pacific to the snow capped summit of Mt. Hood. From the science exhibits of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to the wildlife of the Oregon Zoo.

My first stop was to the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria (http://www.crmm.org/), unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating that day so I didn’t go aboard the lightship Columbia. Also the weather prevented from me from getting any good photos of the “Graveyard of the Pacific”, the Columbia Bar.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Bar

Since 1792 around 2,000 ships have sunk where the Columbia meets the Pacific and it is considered today as one of the most dangerous waterways in the world. Whats amazing is that the port of Portland lies miles down the Columbia and each year hundreds to thousands of ships visit that port with out a ship sinking. The reason for that is the 16 men/women who are the Columbia Bar pilots. These pilots spent years learning the Bar and what it can and can’t do and every ship that enters the Columbia river has one come aboard to taken them “cross the bar”.

http://www.funbeach.com/attractions/shipwrecks.html

http://www.funbeach.com/attractions/shipwreck_brochure.pdf

I have myself been over that bar in 1989 when I was stationed on the USNS Navasota and we were on our way to Swan Island Shipyard in Portland for drydock work. The night before we entered the river we had to anchor off the coast due to fog and rain (Ships do not cross the bar at night in bad weather). At 3 am I was awoken from my rack because the ship had lost its last operating radar set (the other set was not operational due to cracks in the waveguide and one of the reasons we were heading into drydock for overhaul). Without a functioning radar in a fog bank in the area known as the Graveyard of the Pacific was no fun and to top it off, if the set wasn’t working come 6am when we were due to cross the bar, the Bar Pilot would have declared us unsafe for navigation and we would have been stuck anchored out until such time we had a functioning set. To make a long story short another ET and myself got the set working by 5:30 am and we made the transit uneventfully from there.

Well on the day we visited the museum there was rain and fog obscuring the bar from view so all the photos I took from there are from the inside of the museum, where you learn the history of the Bar, the evolution of the rescue service into the US Coast Guard and some of the legendary rescues.

In these pictures above you see the original British designed 36′ rescue boat operated by the US Coast Guard up until very recently, where it was replaced by a larger American designed one. The boat in the picture is the actual original boat that the Coast Guard received, tested, used operationally, and as a teaching boat at the Cape Disappointment Coast Guard Station. The station is also the home of the National Motor Lifeboat School. This school is where the train the people you see operating the rescue boats all around the US, so if you are in trouble and you see a Coast Guard MLB hove into view to help, rest assured they have been through training in some of the worst conditions imaginable. Also of note the Coast Guard has only lost one of these 36′ MLB’s at sea and it was to the Columbia Bar. The angle you see the ship in is the angle the ship is on display inside the Museum and it is to show you how rough and big the seas around the bar get.

You also get to learn about the history of how the Columbia River and the way it has been changed over the years has played a crucial role in the development of the Pacific Northwest. There is many artifacts on display as well as many videos, films and audio recordings about events that happened at the Bar.

From the maritime museum we traveled down the coast to the Seaside Aquarium (http://www.seasideaquarium.com/index.php) in Seaside, Oregon. This aquarium sits right on the beach (to get to the entrance you have to walk down to the beach) and it is one of the oldest aquariums on the west coast. When you first enter the building on your immediate left is a big tank where the aquarium’s Harbor Seals come out and do antics trying to get your attention (watch out one of them likes to splash the unwary!). At the ticket booth you can buy some raw fish to give to the seals before heading into the back where the tanks are that contain different fish and coral species. From there we concluded the day driving back to our hotel through the forests in the surrounding mountains.

On day two we visited Downtown Portland and proceeded to take rides on both their street car system but their light rail system as well. Our first stop was to the sky tram that runs between downtown Portland and the medical center that is part of Oregon State University. The medical center sits on top of a large hill and gives good views over the city of Portland, on clear days you can see Mt. Hood in the distance.

As you can see the day I was there was not clear enough to see Mt. Hood but across the river from the sky tram is OMSI where they have an old, post WWII, diesel-electric sub on display and you can see it sitting in the river

From there we visited Powell’s City of Books, which is the worlds largest independent bookstore covering an entire city block and has over 1.5 acres of retail space.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powell’s_Books

Powell’s City of Books is a book lover’s paradise, the largest used and new bookstore in the world. Located in downtown Portland, Oregon, and occupying an entire city block, the City stocks more than a million new and used books. Nine color coded rooms house over 3,500 different sections, offering something for every interest, including an incredible selection of out-of-print and hard-to-find titles. http://www.powells.com/locations/powells-city-of-books/

If you are in the Portland area and there is a book you have been looking for but haven’t found anywhere else go to Powell’s, they sell used as well as the latest and greatest in books and I was able to find copies of three books I had been looking for: Anne Mcafferty’s “The Ship Who Sang” and the middle two books from Mercedes Lackey’s Bardic Voices series. You can also shop Powell’s via the web at: http://www.powells.com/

Here is some facts about Powell’s:

A few facts about the City of Books:

 • 68,000 square feet packed with books.
 • We buy 3,000 used books over the counter every day.
 • Approximately 3,000 people walk in and buy something every day.
 • Another 3,000 people just browse and drink coffee.
 • Our parking garage provides space for 40 cars (ok, so there are bigger parking garages).
 • We stock 122 major subject areas and more than 3,500 subsections.
 • You’ll find more than 1,000,000 volumes on our shelves.
 • Approximately 80,000 book lovers browse the City’s shelves every day in Portland and via the Internet.

As you can probably figure out I am an avid book reader and Powells is the promised land to avid book readers.

From there we headed out to Washington Park and the Oregon Zoo. The Zoo has exbits of native species to the Northwest such as the Black Bear and the Bobcat

To the more exotic animals such as the Serval

The Oregon Zoo also has a baby Indian elephant at the moment and can be seen with it’s mother

The Oregon Zoo has a very good track record of breeding asian elephants in captivity and you can find out more about them at:

http://www.oregonzoo.org/

Day three of our time in the Portland area was at OMSI and their exhibits, Half Dome IMAX theater and tour of the submarine. The most impressive things I experienced at OMSI was a viewing of “Hubble” in their IMAX theather and their up to dat Projection grapics of earthquakes onto a globe. OMSI’s IMAX theather is not your standard one, instead of a 6 story tall screen they have a Half dome that looks to centered around a 45° angle. With the way the seating is the IMAX films make it seem that you are not just watching a film but are really there. If you have seen the Hubble film just imagine those shots of the nebulas and star fields as they wrap around you. You not only see them straight ahead but because of the dome it is in your perphial vision as well as up and below you. They also have grapics simialr to what you get from the USGS website of up to date earthquakes but what makes this different is that they run it as a time elapse loop not as a static display, so as time expires you see the quakes pop up on the projection. Also you can’t see the entire thing from one side, you have to walk around it to get the full effect since the globe they project on is at least 15′ across. they have benches you can get up on so you can see the earthquakes that happen at the more northern latitudes. The submarine tour was more of a nostalgia tour then an information tour for myself since I had the background of having spent time at an operating mock up of the power plant used inside of a Submarine (6 months). I had also spent time inside a sister boat of the one on display when I was stationed in Sasebo when I visited it to help the crew with an electronics problem. For those that have never experienced Navy life what you see is shocking, from the 3′ tall hatchways you have to transverse to the small racks you sleep in, from the lack of privacy to how to take a “Navy” shower, trust me people it’s no fun taking a “Navy” shower. A Navy Shower consists of you getting in the shower, turning the water on, getting wet, turning the water off, shampooing and soaping up, turning the water on and rinsing off, turning the water off and exiting the shower. If you took longer then the time it took me to type that sentence you took too long in the shower and used too much water. When I said get wet that is what I meant literally, as soon as your body and hair is wet you turn the water off, you DO NOT soak or linger in the spray. A Navy Shower lasts about 2 minutes tops:

A navy shower (or “sea shower”) is a method of showering that allows for significant conservation of water and energy. The total time for the water being on is typically under two minutes.

Navy showers originated on naval ships, where supplies of fresh water were often scarce. Using this method, crew members were able to stay clean, while conserving their limited water supply. The idea has been adopted by many people who wish to conserve water and the energy needed to heat the water, for both environmental and economic reasons. Maritime cruisers often take navy showers when they are not in a port with easy access to fresh water. A ten-minute shower takes as much as 230 L (60 U.S. gallons) of water, while a navy shower usually takes as little as 11 L (3 U.S. gallons); one person can save 56,000 L (15,000 U.S. gallons) per year.[1]

The United States Navy phrase Hollywood shower contrasts with navy shower, and refers to long lavish showers without limits on water usage.[2][3]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navy_shower

I didn’t take alot of pictures from inside the sub (be lucky I took the one I did, every time I went to take one the old pavlovian response of military secrey reared it’s head and I just couldn’t take one)

I did take a couple of it sitting in the river

you can find out more about OMSI here: http://www.omsi.edu/exhibitsales?gclid=CO6hluH7u6ICFQS2sgodYSzX5Q

and its IMAX here: http://www.omsi.edu/visit/omnimax

The fourth day in the Portland area was devoted to visiting the Mt Hood area, which wasue to the fact it was the best day, weather wise, of the time we were there. There is a scenic by way that runs around Mt. Hood that takes you to such things as the Pioneer Woman memorial and to such historic buildings/sites as Timerline lodge. The day we made the trek around the mountain was warm and clear and at various places around the trek you could even see Mt. Baker off in the distance over in Washington.

As you can clearly see from the following pictures Timberline lodge and ski resort was still open as of June 5th of this year (it’s still open as of the posting of this article) with plenty of snow not only at it’s highest elevations but quite a ways down the mountain.

We got lucky with the break in the weather, the previous few days (when we went to the coast and spent time in downtown Portland) and the entire week before the Mt. Hood area was getting nothing but rain and snow. We sure could have used some of that Global Warming when we were there. For more on Mt. Hood and the surronding National Forest visit here: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mthood/about/

The last day in the Portland area was also a travel day to the Seattle area, so the planned activity for that day was a trip to Mt. St. Helens which is just off I-5 on your way from Portland to Seattle. For most of that day the weather was not very encourging ie: their was rain and low over cast clouds. Luckily we decided to stop in at the visitor center near I-5 and take a look at their displays, they just so happened to have a web cam with shots from the Johnston Observatory and a Ranger that has just made the 79 mile trip down from there. From what the Ranger said and from the webcam the weather was better at St. Helen’s then down at I-5 (You could see the mountain, not the most clear view, but completely recognizable). So we made the trek and took in the exhibits and got these photos:

Near the parking lot below the observatory they haven’t cleaned up the trees that were destroyed in the 1980 eruption like you see along the road up to it as can be seen in these photos:

Those trees were situated on the side of a ridge 8 miles from the volcano facing away from it ie, the ridge was between them and the volcano and it was 8 miles away. From what you learn at the Observatory flows from the volcano covered that 8 mile distance, went up and over that ridege where the observatory is now sitting and into the next valley. You can still see the flow deposits in the river valleys near the volcano even 30 years later:

To learn more about Mt. St. Helens visit here: http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/mshnvm/ and you can get live images from the Johnstone Observatory here: http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/volcanocams/msh/

The next Vacation Destination post will be on our stay in the Seattle area

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.