Summer Recap

February 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

Back when I blogged often, before I lost ready access to internet for the summer, and before Practice Court stole my soul and so much of my free time that 5 hours of sleep was a luxury, Tuesdays were Travel days.

I travelled all summer, really. Lived in a different culture than most of us are accustomed to. Woke up amazed by the grandeur of Electric Peak every morning. Dozed off listening to the river running mere feet from my open window.

Today, I just wanted to share with your a few of my favorite memories of the summer I’ll always look back on as one of the best in my life.

Parked along the road in Yankee Jim canyon, watching rafting.

The summer was arguably the best years for whitewater on the Yellowstone River. So almost every evening, we put boats in the river, loaded up and paddled down the canyon. Occasionally, I didn’t feel quite up to the effort of wiggling into a wetsuit or soaking in the tropical 40 degree water if we flipped. So, I grabbed a camera, drove the bus, and took pictures as the rafts came by.

Hiking with my mom, dad, and Paul

The trail to my favorite waterfall was closed most of the summer because the trail was covered with snow. Looking back, hiking comprised some of my favorite memories of the summer. Hiking near the hoodoos with the girls and coming upon a Grizzly sow and two cubs just a couple of hundred yards away; hiking across from our dorms and deciding to sit on the mountain top and have “girl talk” for an hour; hiking LaDuke alone and singing loudly, bear spray in hand, because I was in bear country; hiking 7 mile hole (which is about a 9 mile hike, oddly) with a huge group and enjoying lunch in the grand canyon of the Yellowstone; hiking the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone for about 13 miles back out to Gardiner with the guy I was completely interested well before he was interested in me, which means I tried desperately to play down my attraction all day long; and ultimately, finally hiking to my favorite waterfall with the guy, once he’d finally become interested in me, with my parents when they came to visit. It was a beautiful day in the summer sun, surrounded by wildflowers as I tried to control my klutz tendencies and not fall all the way down the steep, switch back trail, while Paul laughed at me and took every wild berry before I got a chance.

Grand Prismatic

When your back yard is Yellowstone National Park, you never run out of places to explore. On days off, we often loaded up a car and drove various areas. Stopping along the way to hike to some of our favorite places like Trout Lake, or Mystic Falls. Doing the Old Faithful thing just because we had to. Walking around the boardwalk at Norris Geyser Basin. And stopping at the Fairy Falls trailhead to scramble up a little mountain to gaze upon one of my favorite places, Grand Prismatic.

My memories from the summer far outnumber those listed here. They include playing capture the flag up a mountain with Mammoth Hot Springs in view. Learning to Western swing. Dancing at “The Sonic Boom” every Thursday. Soaking in Chico Hot Springs. Cooking family dinners. Hanging out with customers on their overnights and camping in the teepee.

Keep a look out for further recaps. : )

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Neverland

May 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

I never want to leave here.

No. Seriously. Maybe not specifically here, but Montana for sure. Yes, it gets cold in the winter, yes the snow is ridiculous. No, I don’t care.

At all.

This is my happy place. My neverland.

Not in the sense that I don’t ever want to grow up here, but in the sense that I want to grow up here. I want to make this home.

I love the mountains. I love the people. The laid-back attitudes. The nonexistence of the rat race. The small town feel.

There is something particularly meaningful about meeting people through the tourist industry, too. Everyday, I meet people who are escaping their everyday lives, looking for a little fun, a little adventure. Conversations with them are easy; the basic “where are you from,” leads to stories and shared experiences. Subtle bonding.

Right now, there are about 8 people (3 girls and 5 guys) living at our dorms and we’re waiting for everyone else to arrive. The weather has been a little cold and dreary, so we’ve been taking as much advantage of any good weather we have as possible. Four of us toured the north loop of the park the other day and hiked to a few waterfalls, saw some wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, a bald eagle and a grizzly with 2 cubs.

Brogan, me, Angie, Tyler at the Lower Falls

And the people I work/live with are the best. Hands down. The group is a great size for “family dinners” right now so we’ve spent a lot of time together, all sharing the kitchen, the huddle around the fire after we eat, drinking PBR and sharing stories. We rafted a couple of evenings ago and the water was freezing. It makes me a little worried for raft guide training! And if we go into town to the bar, we generally go as a group. The group is full of college students, or kids taking a year off between college and grad school, or the occasional person just taking a break from their normal routine. Level-headed people, who know how to have a good time; somewhat different than your normal impression of a “raft-guide.”

The boys grubbing for brinner

Yesterday, was beautiful and I got to hike a little and enjoy a leisurely morning, reading on the porch. We had planned on bouldering in the evening, but the rain set in. So, we watched A River Runs Through It instead. Obviously, perfectly fitting for a night in Montana, curled up in sleeping bags in our movie garage.

Pardon me...

There is snow everywhere right now. Its crazy. When it melts, the river should be at about a 70 year high. Right now, that means, I’m really anxious to hike, but most of my favorite trails and taller peaks are snowed over. It also slightly increases me anxiety over guide training. Fun….

Norris Geyser Basin

Yellowstone

May 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

“Live with intention. walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” 
-Mary Anne Radmacher

As I pack, clean, and prepare for my summer working outside of Yellowstone, I can’t help but reflect on my last trip there.

Osprey Falls

Yellowstone: It means so much to my family. I’ve probably told you this before, but here is a quick recap. My mom’s parents always took roadtrips, often to the west, to the Rocky Mountains. My mom fell in love with Yellowstone. Maybe the size, the grandeur, the sprawling valleys, surrounding mountains. The wildlife, the smell of the trees, the mountain air. After she graduated from high school, my mom found an ad for Yellowstone park employees and applied. She ended up working in the Fishing Bridge area for two summers. My mom fell so in love with Yellowstone, that she even has collection of vintage Yellowstone souvenirs in our house. I understand that; Yellowstone was her second home. Its the way I feel about Poland after I spent my summer studying abroad there. The places that provide us a different element of self-discovery, reveal parts of ourselves we didn’t know, teach us, introduce us to people who challenge us, and often, our best friends.

My sister, her roommate, Brendan and I at the hoodoos.

After my mom worked in the park, her brothers and sisters followed. My grandpa went after he retired. My cousins and I grew up with their stories. Yellowstone became larger than life for us. Not so much the place, but the idea of it; the experiences and lessons and secrets that the park held for us. We dreamt of living it for ourselves.

Sunset

My sister was the first cousin to go and live it. And she lived it big. She loved every second of it and Yellowstone revealed many of the same lessons and experiences to her that it did for our mom.

The group on a full moon river float

One of my closest friends, Brendan, and I roadtripped up to visit my sister last summer. This was neither of our first trips to Yellowstone, my mom would drive us out of the way on numerous family vacations just to make a stop in Yellowstone, but its the freshest on my mind which I can share with you. A few days after Brendan and I got there, my mom, dad, and cousin arrived.

My sister on top of Bunsen

My sister worked in Mammoth Hot Springs, so we spent a lot of time there and at the town at the North Entrance, Gardiner, MT.

Brendan and I on our 14 mile hike.

We had an amazing week. Not only did we get to hike, swim, climb, sightsee, etc. But we also made friends with my sister’s friends and got to raft, full-moon float, dance, star-gaze and just enjoy the vacation.

Mammoth Hot Springs

We hiked to my favorite waterfall, Osprey, secluded and not overly hiked, and enjoyed lunch there along the river. We hiked Bunsen Peak, Hellroaring, Fairy and Mystic Falls, and Beaver Ponds. We swam in Firehole Canyon, duckied down the river, fly fished, and played on the hoodoos (rock formation) that felt like playing on a God-made playground.

Yellowstone River

I love to hike. I wish I lived somewhere with better hiking trails. I’ve found a park here, but its just not the same. I honestly think I could hike to Osprey falls every single day.

Elk

Most people who visit Yellowstone don’t get very far off the trail. But there is so much to explore if people would just do a little exploring. I’m glad we did. We saw and did so much. Now, I can’t wait to go back. I’ll be there in about a week!

**I know I keep telling you that I’ll post something more urban, but I guess my heart is the mountains these days…ok, always. Why fight it?!

Lake Bled

May 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

Finals are officially over and I’m a 3L. But, I’m tired. And don’t feel like doing much. I got to spend a couple of days at home and after the drive back, I’m just going to give you a short bit about Lake Bled, Slovenia for Travel Tuesday.

After I completed my study abroad in Poland in 2007, my mom, sister, and my mom’s friend Gayle, came to visit. We flew down to Croatia, rented a car, drove the coast, and somehow ended up in Bled, Slovenia. I got my first view of the awe-inspiring Alps in the distance as we drove beside Slovenian farm land, worked by families with rustic equipment.

The tourism in Bled is based on this beautiful lake. There is a church built on the island in the center and the same family has handmade the boats to get to the island for generations. Simple, woode, canoe-like boats. The castle is built above the lake and overlooks the lake and the church.

My sister and I at the boats to the church.

The Castle area had some fun “monks” that helped my mom and I bottle our own wine. Which satisfied both our need for a souvenir and my mom’s constant wine craving. I mean, we were buying off the side of the road in Fanta bottles on this trip. Sheer madness…but it lead to some great stories.

Our group at the castle.

The traditional cake of Lake Bled is called Kremsnita. It tasked a lot like the cake that BLESSED (!!!…sorry uber-Caltholic moment there) Pope John Paul II called his favorite from his childhood in Poland called Kremowka. But considering that both nation’s are Eastern-European and the ingredients are simple and inexpensive, that isn’t too surprising. This cake is perfect with a really strong cup of black coffee. : )

Traditional Kremsnita

I’ll be making this cake sometime soon. We didn’t stay here long, but it was nice to be in a town that so much resembled any tourist-type town that I would have found here in the States. A lot of the towns we visited were the same way, but this was unique simply because I just felt like I was in some small Colorado mountain town and not in a foreign country at all. Until, I tried to read something, and then I was at a loss. Or got back to the hotel and had to sleep in a twin sized hotel bed. Then I remembered where I was.

We even got to go to mass in Slovenia. Not the church on the island (if I remember correctly, they don’t have mass there anymore), but another church in town. It was beautiful. I mean, I love going to mass in other countries, simply because there is an interesting bond I feel with all Catholics because I know what is going on even though I don’t understand a word being said. But this church was particularly quaint, quiet and simple. Just lovely.

I’d love to go back to Lake Bled, or really spend more time in Slovenia next time I go.

Slovenian Farm Land

My first view of the Alps


Smoky Mountains

April 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

Finals are upon me in all of their miserable glory. So here’s a short Travel Tuesday post. The Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.


When my family sees a river, we feel an uncontrollable urge to get in it and throw rocks. Totes normal.

My family stopped here for a couple of days on our way to Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2008. As per family tradition, it was one heck of a roadtrip.

When we pulled out of the driveway, my dad actually said “Roadtrip 2008 baby! Yeah!”

That’s how random and goofy my family is. I come by it honestly.

The Smokey Mountains have, as their name implies, a smokey look to them. Its eerie and beautiful at the same time. There is something intriguing about the blue-gray shadows over the mountains that I just couldn’t get enough of.

The rivers through the park were an excellent setting for a snack break and some rock skipping. This was my first trip to the Appalachian Mountains and, while I don’t love them nearly as much as I love the Rockies, I would like to go back and hike part of the Appalachian Trial.

Add that one to the Bucket List.

Ok, that’s two mountain, National Park destinations in a row on Travel Tuesdays. I promise I’ll become more Urban soon. Maybe…

Glacier National Park

April 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance” -LeAnn Womack “I Hope You Dance”

My family has always taken roadtrips. There is something great about not having definite plans. Just the general time we want to be at our ultimate destination. But the freedom of the road brings the opportunity for a scenic drive or a little extra time in some nice location along the way. The year before I went to college, my family took the roadtrip idea to an extreme.

View from a Glacier. Halfway through the 12 mile hike.

Camper attached to the truck. Loaded with our stuff. 5 people in the truck that only sat 5 people. Cozy. We planned for about 2 weeks on the road. First destination: Glacier National Park. The park is situated on the Montana border of US and Canada. Starting from South Texas, meant this was quite the drive. One road through the park is “Going to the Sun Road.” Our truck was almost too long to make the switchbacks. But the views were amazing. The park wasn’t over-crowded. There were great hikes, both long and short. And the wildlife viewing was excellent. There is a natural salt lick that draws mountain goats and bighorn sheep. As much time as my family had spent going to the mountains while I was growing up, I’d never seen either of these two animals.

Waterfall along Going to the Sun Road

The snow run off meant that along with summer came lots of waterfalls. Have I mentioned that I love waterfalls?

Bighorn Sheep we saw on a hike

For further “entertainment” (read: often our only entertainment), my brother would try to annoy my sister and I but just talking and making noises incessantly. So my sister and I decided to hit him the second he made a noise. Which he thought was funny. So he kept trying to annoy us. Road trips are fun right?? Right?

Young Mountain Goat

My mom, in all of her hiking glory, drug us on a 12 mile hike. The altitude changed so much on the hike that we were wearing short and t-shirts when we started (and we were still hot), and we ended up at a glacier. So, it was a steep 6 miles up. And we got a late start, so we had to walk pretty quickly to finish before dark. And when I say “walk pretty fast” I mean walk faster than my mom’s average. She power walks everyday. Her walk is so fast I often have to job to keep up. At the end of this one, people were stopping me to tell my my feet were bleeding. Yeah, I noticed. Thanks, mom.

Also, there had just been a brown bear sighted in the area, so my sister was freaking out a little and kept singing loudly to scare away the bear. Pleasant trip, huh?

Glacier we were hiking to in the distance

The great thing about the camper was that we could just park in a Wal-Mart parking lot along the way, wake up the next morning, and get driving again if we needed to. Despite a few tire blow outs, resulting in road side “picnics” and excessive family time, and impromptu adventures. After leaving Glacier, we headed north to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada.

There is nothing like the Canadian Rockies


We took this truck onto a glacier in Canada. (I was going through a flip flop phase.)

And we made a little trip to Lake Louise. Which was beautiful. People were out kayaking in the lake. We didn’t get to stay long, but I’d like to go back and take it in for a little longer. Really, I wouldn’t mind another trip to the Canadian Rockies altogether. Its cliche, but they really are majestic, awe-inspiring.

Mom and kids at Lake Louise


Some elk on the way to Canada

And, true to form, my mom made us go through Yellowstone on our way home. We were too close for her to avoid begging my dad to stop. So, we swung through the park for a little hike to Lonestar Geyser, a stop of at Old Faithful, lunch at Old Faithful Inn, and a stop off at both the Gas Station my Grandpa once worked at and the grocery store where my mom worked.

And finally, a little stop in Cody, Wyoming and the Buffalo Bill Cody Museum before we made the trip back to Texas.

Grizzly and her cub.


Buffalo cow and calf.

I think road trips like this are what made my family as close as we are. We were not only forced to spend time together, but whether we had fun was up to us and how well we got along with each other. For 2 weeks, we had to be each other’s best friends. Its really no wonder that it continued when we got home.

**Excuse the awkward pics. I was 18. And even more awkward than I am now…if that’s possible. But, I had to go back a few years for my first Travel Tuesday post!

Costa Rica

April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” -G.K. Chesterton

I haven’t taken the time to tell you all about my Costa Rica trip yet and I really wanted to do so before I leave for my next adventure.

I have an Aunt, Uncle and three cousins who live in Nosara, Costa Rica. I went to visit them by myself in May of last year. It was a great trip to take by myself, I had some great experiences, and learned a lot.

I got to run a horse down this gorgeous beach

In August of last year, I was on a 2 week study abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico and I met a guy who is now one of my very best friends in the world. His name is Ben. I told Ben all about my trip to Costa Rica and we decided we should go back. In the meantime Christa and I had planned to take a spring break trip together, but we hadn’t decided where to go yet. So, in January when Ben brought up going to Costa Rica again, we decided it’d be a fun group trip. But, having been there before, I didn’t want to have any major expectations. In fact, I more expected to not be as thrilled since it wouldn’t be new. I was wrong.

Ben, me, Christa. At the beach for sunset

I’ve never taken a real spring break trip and I hoped that going back to Costa Rica with a group would be completely different. My aunt hooked us up with a great condo. Christa brought a friend from high school and Ben brought a friend from undergrad. We all met at the airport in Liberia. 3 girls, 2 guys. All of us with at least 2 people on the trip we’d never met. Ready to spend 7 days together. This was bound to be a good time, but I still wasn’t convinced Nosara would be as wonderful on the second time around.

Christa, Ben, and Me. Ignore the sunburn, please.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Nosara. Its a simple town. Its on the beach. Its calm. Everyone meets on the beach for sunset. Sits. Enjoys it. Savors the little everyday treasures like a pink sky or a cold beer. Things we too often take for granted.

One of our best locations for watching sunset

My experiences this time were different. We went to the “Fiestas” which was essentially bullriding, but once they fell off, it was more like 30 minutes of bull fighting. Really, it was an awesome cultural experience. And the guys were dying to touch the bull like the locals do when they hang over the edge of the fence and stick out a hand or foot as the bull runs by. We got to do yoga in the rainforest, in a studio they called “tree top” because it over looked the rainforest and you could see the ocean in the distance. We ziplined and made friends with some of the locals who helped show us around. I took a surf lesson, then rented a board a couple of times and practiced on my own. We deep sea fished and a humpback whale swam under our boat (!!!). We went to a beach in the middle of the night to see if we could find sea turtles. We hung out with our local friends on the beach at 2 a.m. We hung out in the pool at our condo. We played board games together. We walked all over the place. I jogged on the beach. We kayaked up the river. All-in-all it was an incredibly active week. But, that’s part of what was so nice about it.

Some whales we saw on our off-shore fishing trip

Of course, we ate so well it didn’t matter. Fresh ceviche. Fish tacos from a bar-b-que pit stand near the beach, pasta with octopus, mussels, calamari. Fresh mangos, papaya and kiwi with homemade yogurt and granola. Yucca fritters. Fried plantains. Tofu Curry (This was before I gave up meat for lent, but I still ate all veggies and fish). Excellent pizza. Black beans. Agua de Pipa. Seriously…the food was good. So was the beer. And the tequila. And the rum. (oops?)

Pasta, octopus, shrimp, calamari, mussels. Scrumptious!

Ok, so I countered all that exercise. But it was vacation. And I loved it.

Yummm. A Costa Rican Michelada. With Bavaria Light.

We’ve kept in touch with some of the locals we met on facebook. Thank goodness for facebook for that reason. I’m trying to learn spanish and the more I learn the more fun it’ll be to chat with the Ticos (the name for native Costa Ricans).

On our way back from ziplining with our Guide friends.

The group meshed excellently. We did activities together, but also weren’t scared to break off on our own and do other things. So it ended up being a nice balance between hanging out with friends and alone time. Group dinners every night, coffee and breakfast on the patio in the mornings. Traveling is equal parts learning about the people you’re with, the people you meet, and yourself. We got along so well, in fact, that Christa, Ben, and I all texted or talked everyday for at least 2 weeks after we got back because we missed each other so much. And they loved Nosara as much as I did. We’re even thinking about going back. Maybe my next adventure will let me live there for a few months. Maybe we’ll all get a time share there.

Surf break for sunset.

So, yeah, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t have as much fun going back since I’d been there before, but because I went with friends this time, it was a completely different experience. I might as well have been in a different place entirely. Yes…I could go back every year. I could live there. There are very few places I feel that way about. But my heart is at peace there. Content. At home.

In fact, I’m thrilled that I went back and took in Costa Rica for a second time. It allowed me to really, whole-heartedly fall in love with the place even more than before. Thank God for pleasant surprises.

"One night I dreamt I was walking along the beach with the Lord..."

**Note: I left one of my cameras in Costa Rica. I lost it in my Aunt and Uncle’s car. Its being mailed back to me. But, our only truly “group picture” from the whole trip was on that camera. Hopefully I’ll get to share soon.

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