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Category: travel

Day 6: Beartooth

Total Distance: 2711 miles

Part 1: Grand Teton National Park

Jackson Hole Coffee Roasters has good Egg Bagel sandwiches. –CeG <oBelIX>

Any road that says, “Scenic Drive” should always be taken. –CeG <oBelIX>

I will admit that I did not have a fixed plan when I woke up. I wanted to head generally north and generally west and so decided to drive through Yellowstone. After a quick cup of coffee and an egg bagel sandwich I headed back on the road I had driven last night, US-89 and north through Grand Teton. It was still cloudy over the mountains so I did not get to see the Tetons. I did see a turn for the Signal Mountain Scenic Drive and with nothing on the agenda I took it. It was a five mile drive up a hilly road. There were deer and these deer are very under-nourished when compared to the ones on Hurricane Ridge. I blame this to the lack of wildflowers. At the top of Signal Mountain is a view of the valley (or flood-plain or whatever-it-is-that-is-known-as-the-area-that-a-river-irrigates-or-drains). It was far too bright to get a competent photo.

Malnourished deer


That stretch of water is the Snake River

Jackson Lake and one of those insufferable Tetons

The next stop on the road up north was the lodge at Signal Mountain. There was a giftshop where I picked up assorted items and relied very deeply on the kindness of a total stranger. There were also boats and kayaks for rent but boating or kayaking on a hot day all by myself does not appeal to me. I headed further North, crossing a dam and more views of Jackson Lake. The best part of the scenery though was over by now. The road would be a very good road if there was no traffic and no park rangers but alas, this being one of the main entrances into Yellowstone, there were a lot of cars and a lot of Police.

Boating at Jackson Lake

Jackson Lake is big!

Part 2: Yellowstone

Yellowstone is crowded. –CeG <oBelIX>

There is a USPS office at Old Faithful. –CeG <oBelIX>

Mileage is a function of driving style. –CEG <oBelIX>

Yellowstone according to Wikipedia is the first National Park and it is very very big. I drove up from the South and the views are somewhere between awe-inspiring and breathtaking. The views are not even the best part of Yellowstone and I am getting ahead of myself so I will return back to a coherent narrative. There is no definition of the word done for which ‘I have done Yellowstone’ is a sentence that is accurate. I have driven through Yellowstone. The plan as I entered Yellowstone from the South (well, plan is too strong a word for what I had) was to exit it from the North, staying on US-89, somewhere in Montana. Whilst stuck behind a trailer or an RV or a camper I looked through the map. Lamar valley is to the east. There is also US-212 which courtesy of a very nice book which was once gifted to me I remember as being a very good drive. So, the new plan was to drive up North till the Mammoth Springs Visitor Center and then head east and exit via the North East entrance of the park. I am not keen on wildlife hence the drive along the lake to look at Bison and Water Buffaloes and Hippopotamii and Birds that have orange beaks and go squaaaak did not appeal to me. I wanted to see a geyser.

Random Lake. I stopped because there was a park ranger behind me who was getting antsy.


I reached Old Faithful at 1:15 in the afternoon after a nice drive through some quite decent scenery. I stopped here and there, to stretch the legs, to take in the view and for no particular reason. At the Old Faithful visitor center I was very pleased to hear that it is going to erupt at 1:19. I ambled in and sat down by one of the benches seeing steam coming out of the ground (yes, this is very weird, the ground is steaming) and waited for nature to do its thing. More people joined me and sat around. A ranger walked up to give what I presumed would be a blow-by-blow commentary on the upcoming spectacle. “How many of you just saw Old Faithful erupt?” she began. Everyone else raised their hands. I looked at her quizzically. Gradually, (insert very witty simile here) it dawned upon me that I had missed the eruption. I did sit through the entire talk though, it was fascinating. The difference between a geyser and a hot spring is that there is a constriction in the passage down below. There is a cavern under Old Faithful which a bunch of Geologists discovered by sending a camera down there. This cavern fills up with water and the heat from the magma underneath causes the water to become steam. The pressure keeps increasing until, well, eventually, it blows up. I am sure my description would have been better had I seen the geyser erupt but alas that was not to be.


Old faithful. Five minutes after it erupted.

Continuing North the road is full of just out of this world stuff. It is surprising to see, for no reason whatsoever, steam coming out of the ground. There are also very beautiful canyons, rivers and forests. All this comes over a very large distance, on the order of many twenties of miles. There are also many animals around. I saw a set of cars pulled over and immediately pulled over. I asked a hippie dude in shorts and an inverted-mercedez-benz-save-the-world-logo-t-shirt what was up. He pointed to the side. I went back into the car and got my glasses. It was a Bison. It was a Bison in a field with yellow grasses. There was a mountain in the backdrop. I carried on, impressed by the image. However, it is worth mentioning that Bison are very common, especially on the road East from Mammoth Springs. They are just everywhere. They are, for want of a better phrase, like the noodles in a bowl of Maggi.

Gibbon Falls


Bison and Mountain


The road into Mammoth Springs is top notch. Apart from the aforementioned geysers which are very cool it drives through a canyon. Mammoth Springs itself is an utter disappointment. I say this only because I got in there rather hungry. The café/grill was one of those commercial fast-food chain things and I had the worst five dollar chicken sandwich ever. Do not eat at the grill at Mammoth Springs. It is just intolerable. I headed east and after a small detour on a dirt road which in hindsight was not the best idea – dirt roads heading into plateaus are great to sit and look for wildlife – not so much if you are not all that keen on wildlife. I went through Lamar valley which is another spot to see fauna in the evening. Also, most wildlife comes out in the evening and 4pm is not really evening. Binoculars would also be useful (note to self) for wildlife viewing. After crossing Lamar Valley I headed towards the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone. The book was coming towards an end as well, the final few chapters left where Phaedrus takes control. It was an interesting part of the book, all story and no philosophy. The moment was near.

Avoidable one laned dirt road



Lamar valley

Part 3: The Beartooth Scenic Highway

If a road says “Scenic Highway” then take it. –CeG<oBelIX>

The Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness area forms the Northeast border of Yellowstone National Park. The Beartooth highway passes through this wilderness which is mostly mountainous and at an elevation of 10,000 feet over the Beartooth pass. The elevation rises from 5200 feet to 8000 feet in less than 12 miles. The Highway is open from May to October, so less than six months of an year. I crossed it in about 1.5-2 hours. I encountered less than ten cars. The reason for the existence of this road baffles me – there seems to be very few people driving it and very few people who live in that area. I am not complaining – it was a most excellent drive.

From Yellowstone, the road climbs a little bit into Cooke City with a turnout promising a scenic view. I took this turnout dutifully and was disappointed. The road continues on. It is a very good road as it climbs. This is not because of the views – when considered in isolation I’d think they were splendid but given the scenery I had seen over the past few days they were average. The thing about this road is that it is just one turn after another after another. There is nobody around. Absolutely nobody. It climbs and climbs and climbs. I pulled over at another turnout while climbing and found out that the radiator fan on my car will run even after the car is turned off if it thinks that the car is too hot. After a little more driving and passing a service station known as The Top Of The World (which I did not stop at for reasons that are unclear) the road crosses the treeline and enters a plateau. This plateau is just rolling undulating hills with mountains in every direction. There are lakes scattered here and there. These lakes are not the normal watery blue. They looked viscous and not full of water but of something more metallic, like a mixture of molten silver and sapphires. After a very satisfying time of changing from second to third and back to second I crossed over into Montana. At a rest stop I walked out onto the walkway and looked down at the road ahead as it switch-backed its way down into a valley and to the town of Red Lodge. I stood there for quite a while, eating from a packet of Khatta Meetha and letting the first few drops of rain fall. It was finally time to head west.

The road out of Yellowstone. Mountains!



The moment of discovery – the fan will keep on running even after the car is switched off.



Lake by the side of the road



Higher and higher



Switchbacks

—-


The backdrops are just stunning.



The jagged peak in the middle is Beartooth

—-


Lakes of molten silver and sapphire



A storm is coming



The walkway out into nowhere



The road back home

On edge, with quite a lot of adrenaline in the bloodstream I pulled into Red Lodge which was a coal-mining town and now is a tourist town offering primarily backcountry hiking, whitewater rafting etc. I had dinner at Red Lodge Pizza Company which was a simple straightforward affair and got onto a state highway in Montana, one that would take me back to I-90. I started Zen once more, the last few chapters were left and as I tore through the deserted Montana landscape I heard Phaedrus’ story come to an end. It was an expected end, having heard the prologue which had robbed me of all suspense. It was a fitting end. “Drive 700 miles on I-90 West,” the lady on the GPS said as I settled down for the drive back home.

Day 5: Jenny Lake

Part 4: Antelope Canyon

Part 3: Zion National Park

Part 2: From Idaho to Page

Part 1: From Seattle to Idaho
Total Distance: 2060 Miles

This post comes to you from Kirkland. Two days late. Better late than never though.

Part 1: Salt Lake City

I-15 has no views of the Great Salt Lake. –CeG <oBelIX>

The night had been spent at a motel in Fillmore in Utah. Yes, there is an obvious joke about Fillmore that I will desist from making and carry on. The breakfast was a welcome change, cornflakes with milk and sugar. Cold milk, warm milk with corn flakes induces sleep and sleep is best not induced before a long drive. The long drive today was targeted towards Seattle which at 982 miles looked daunting and I had the suspicion, well, not suspicion, more like a gut feeling that I’d end up spending the night somewhere in Washington, Oregon or Idaho, perhaps 300 odd miles from home. I was in a hurry to get going and I think it was 9:00 by the time I was on the road after having filled up with gas.

Driving through central Utah is similar to driving through Nevada, except that the land is not as flat. The hills are bigger. I was on I-15, a dual carriageway which was smooth. The going was steady, comfortable and I was eating up the miles, listening to the narrator continue to vilify Phaedrus. One of the things that happens on long drives is a slight disassociation from time. I have forgotten the specific part of the book I was listening to that morning.

As I approached SLC, Utah, the expressway widened to three lanes. Traffic increased. People going about life. The number of lanes widened to four. I pulled into a center lane and slowed down – driving the speed limit is advisable in cities. I hoped to see the Great Salt Lake from the road – I had no plans of stopping, there was a long way to go.

I’d thought about going to Grand Teton when leaving Arizona. It seemed like a very worthwhile detour to make and I had deferred the decision. The time had come though. The exit for US-89 North towards Wyoming was coming up. I was chitchatting on the phone, explaining the dilemma. My head said to carry on North on I-15. The heart said to take the exit. I took the exit and it was one of the best decisions ever.

Part 2: US-89

Epic is an understatement. –CeG <oBelIX>

Subway FTW. –CeG <oBelIX>

The first stretch of US-89 as it leaves I-15 goes over a bunch of hills. At the time, there were low hanging clouds, a wide road through the mountains and lots of locals selling fresh fruit. On a drive, especially alone, and for someone who does not have a particular penchant for fruit, it makes no sense to stop for some. This does not hold for Washington Cherries though – they are amazing and one should always stop for Washington Cherries. Wikipedia points out that US-89 here follows Dry Canyon and crosses Sardine Summita t 5900 feet though I do not remember seeing this sign. US-89 eventually enters Logan where there is a branch of the University of Utah. I picked up a subway (yes, I persist with calling a sandwich
from Subway a subway) and carried on, further into more mountains. Here, US-89 is the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway and it is very scenic indeed. There is a stream, a highway and mountains that have lush forests. There are several trailheads. I had the good fortune of heading North – I had an empty road ahead. The majority of the traffic was heading south, back to Salt Lake City after the long weekend. The highway climbs and climbs and finally summits Bear Mountain at 7900 feet. There is a rest stop here and it is a great place to stop and take a look at Bear Lake which is a pleasant surprise to find.

Bear Lake!

—-

The road drops down into Bear Lake valley. It hits a bunch of cities, and I use the word city very loosely, all these cities have less than a thousand people and some are just a set of houses on the main highway itself. The first city is Garden City which is tiny. The highway turns North and crosses into Idaho and the cities of Paris and Montpelier. Wikipedia states that Montpelier was named after a town in Vermont but is mum on the topic of Paris, ID. There is not much of US-89 in Idaho, I did not realize how quickly I went from Idaho into Wyoming.

Entering Wyoming US-89 goes through a set of mountains (The Salt River Range) and the scenery is breathtaking. It continued to be overcast, typical Seattle weather. The road is twisty and turny and windy and hilly. It climbs up a summit called Geneva (no pun intended) at ~7000 feet. It was an exhilarating drive, I’d turned off the audiobook and at the summit there is a pullout with a bunch of placards that are fun to read.


The car at the top of the summit.



The Salt River Valley

The road then goes into the valley and the town of Afton comes and goes. The only noticeable thing about this town was that there was a great big arch made of elkhorns. It was advertised as the largest Elkhorn arch in the world and I will take their word for it. The road is mostly flat after this as it follows a very agricultural valley. Zen at this time, I remember was talking completely about Greek philosophy. I was not very interested, having only heard the names of the principal characters involved, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates. I had stopped following the discussion around now because it got very detailed and into minutiae of Greek Philosophy which I will read someday. Greek Philosophy is not really high up on the list of things I need to read – it does however exist on that list.

Next stop on the road was the town of Alpine which when I got there I thought existed only as a Junction town between highways. Wikipedia however states that it is also the junction of three rivers and a popular ski resort. I stopped here for petrol and because there was a policeman who had been following me for quite some distance. The Snake River (the same one that runs through GTNP) flows here and there is a very high bridge that crosses the river. It is here I realized that the majority of the traffic on the road was either trucks (the GM/Chevrolet/Ford kind) or SUVs. There were far fewer sedans and far far fewer fast sedans. This surprised me given the roads out here are so much more conducive to driving such cars.

Part 3: Grand Teton National Park

Most other times, I would have blasted through the road from Alpine to Grand Teton (US-89). It shares many of the characteristics of US-89 as it enters Wyoming. Windy, Twisty, Turny etc etc. It is slightly better because there is a river running next to it and the river has very beautiful white water. The drive continues mile after mile after mile. The book at this point, and I remember this clearly because I was paying a lot of attention, talks about Phaedrus’ life, specifically the part where he challenges his Philosophy teacher. I liked the story of the character Phaedrus in the book (aka the narrator). I liked some of the ideas better, especially towards the earlier part of the book. It seems though that I do remember some parts of the book, I will append my earlier hypothesis, there is only so much that can be associated with certain times. When all my energy is focused on the drive I forget what was going on in the book. When I am less focused on the drive (in this case there was a police car two cars in front forcing everyone to go speed limit) I remember more of the book.

GTNP is superb. It is not GNP superb but comparable to ONP. It is the weather and my general mood that provides this bias. It was overcast and drizzling intermittently. Typical Seattle weather. The Tetons, this towering mountain range of several 10K feet mountains which are visible on every postcard, were shrouded by clouds. There were no people. I was not disappointed though. I drove into the park, the lady at the booth greeted me with a very polite smile which I returned and headed towards Jenny Lake. The leaflet had a hike called Inspiration Point which sounded interesting and it was in the Jenny Lake area. At around 6 pm, feeling generally very happy I pulled into the Jenny lake parking lot. The hike was 5 miles round trip and common sense suggested avoiding a two and a half hour walk with moderate elevation gain at nearly sundown on an overcast day after having driven over 400 miles. I took a smaller trail by the lake shore.

Trail

Jenny Lake, named after the wife of a settler dude, is beautiful (I will leave that there as a note to my future self – as an example of poor sentence construction – the settler dude completely takes away from the beauty of the lake). It’s big but not oceanic. It was not deep blue or turquoise but just a very calm peaceful blue-grey. The sun was far too shy for it to shine deep blue. It was very quiet, It was also crystal clear water. Cold. It reminded me of Lake Crescent. I had the lake to myself for a long time. Later on, a kayaker took his kayak into the center of the lake. He did nothing there. Just sat. It was such a moment.

Jenny Lake

—-

Solitude.


The Tetons in the background


A Wyoming rainbow – when I walked back to the car after Jenny Lake.

Part 4: Jackson, WY

Jackson is a small (tourist?) town that borders GTNP on the South. It is expensive. It is also quaint. Again, my opinion is biased, I was in an incredible mood. I might have found it cheesey on another occasion. I stayed at a motel in downtown Jackson and walked down to Pinky G’s Pizza. I had a couple of glasses of liquor while I waited for my pizza. The pizza was decent, do not expect “Bar-Del-Corso” or “Tuttabella” out here. It was warm and had many toppings and was only the second non-subway-non-maggi meal I had had in 7 meals on the trip. This was a day, carpe-diemed.

Day 4: Antelope Canyon

Part 3: Zion National Park

Part 2: From Idaho to Page

Part 1: From Seattle to Idaho
Total Distance: 1611 miles

Part 1: The absence of a prologue

In my head, each of these posts was supposed to have a prologue. Nothing significant, some random thought or quotation to get the ball rolling. Usually, completed unrelated to the topic at hand. However, I cannot think of one for Antelope Canyon. Actually, hold that thought. I just thought of one.

Antelope. Ant-Elope. –CeG <oBelIX>

Part 2: Upper Antelope Canyon

It was a sunny day, the only day in the first five days of my vacation where a desert would behave like a desert and not display weather patterns similar to Seattle. The canyon was open and in all honesty was a total disappointment. This is because:

  • There is no time to stare at the canyon walls themselves
  • There is no peace
  • One is being constantly pushed around by the system (I say system because I have listened to a lot of Zen today)
  • There are too many people
  • It costs 40 usd and feels like a money making scam

Bottom line: Go to ZNP – the Antelope Canyons make for great photographs but should you ever be planning a trip out into Southern Utah, Antelope had better not be the reason for it. There are great pictures to be had. The canyons are beautiful. The experience leaves far too much to be desired. There are many other places in the world that will leave you feeling cheerier and happier, deep down inside than Antelope.

Part 3: Lake Powell

A nice-looking lake? I did not jump into it. The best I can say from personal experience is that one of the gentlemen who work at the Marina was kind enough to mail a postcard for me. This, to me, is a rather big thing, postcards are important but in the grand scheme of things – this may not be relevant at all.

Part 4: Horseshoe Bend

Arizona saved its best for last. –CeG <oBelIX>

I have a predeliciton for sunsets. Sunsets rarely disappoint. Even cloudy sunsets, as long as there is either a vast open space or the absence of people, the silence that accompanies most sunsets makes them worth going for. In Arizona, the Colorado got lazy at a certain point. Instead of making a hole through the rock it decided to take its own sweet time and go around it. I suspect it lost a bet becaue immediately after going around this big rock it turned back on itself rather than going further somewhere else. The result of all this though is perhaps the most beautiful sight I saw. A sunset. A vast sagebrush desert. A bend in a canyon. Tranquility.

Part 5: Utah-20

After the sunset, I headed back towards Seattle (the fact that I am writing this from Wyoming is another story which I shall write about tomorrow). This was the fourth time I drove towards Kanab (at a very sane speed I will add, I did not cross more than 30 above the limit at any point). I then took US-89 which for the part upto Zion is okay and the part after that is decent enough. Nothing much to complain about, not too much traffic, rather straight. Somewhere near Bryce though, I needed to go faster. At that point, the plan was still to make it to Seattle which required me to get atleast 350 miles or so in so that I’d have only 900 miles to do on Monday and be back to work on Tuesday. I decided to move on to the Interstate. I do maintain that state highways provide for the more entertaining drives. Interstates are faster though and safer and easier to drive, especially late at night. UT-20 is a state highway that goes from US-89 to I-15. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a gem of a road. If I was a touch sleepy before, this woke me up. It was late at night so I have no idea about what I actually drove through. The road is very very good. It twists and turns and is nicely banked. I stayed in a combination of second and third which is always good. There are lots of signs that warn about deer that wish to cross the road (along with other assorted wildlife) but I found none. I guess the deer were fast asleep then.

Day 3: Zion National Park

Part 2: From Idaho to Page

Part 1: From Seattle to Idaho

Total Distance today: 0

Total Distance covered: 1370 miles

This post comes to you from the same vacation rental in Page, AZ. There has been no change in displacement and I haven’t done any driving ergo no change in mileage. The first half of this post was composed in Page, AZ. The second half was composed in Wyoming.

ren why y. –CeG <oBelIX>

Part 1: Sunrises

There was a very beautiful sunrise today which I slept through. This was disappointing. The plan, when I left was to see every sunrise and sunset. The first sunset was somewhere over Oregon. The first sunrise was missed because of a delayed wakeup. The second sunset was somewhere on NV 319. The second sunrise was missed because I slept through it. Again. This smells suspiciously like a pattern. However, I still have more sunrises to see!

Part 2: Arizona, US 89

The scenery is much better during the day. –CeG <oBelIX>

Cheap, ten dollar glasses break rather easily.

We drove back on US-89, the part that had been a drive from point A to point B. Today morning, well, morning tending to afternoon, we drove back on the same road. The road was far more beautiful in the day. The scenery is very vast and much drier and more canyon-ee. The canyons are strikingly similar to the ones in which Wiley Coyote engages in battle with Road Runner. They are like lines of altitude on a map. There is no straightness and no reason that I can fathom to their structure. There are isolated peaks on the horizon. These are occasionally pointy and sometimes white.

Scenery

Part 4: Zion National Park

Zomg.

This is a very good national park. At this point of time I got lost when composing this post. I did not know what I wanted to say. The answer was provided by a passage of Zen a couple of days later (somewhere in Utah) where the narrator talks about stuckness. I was stuck back then, in that little fake vrbo in Utah. I was totally stuck because I was in two places, I did not know what all I wanted to talk about and I did not know the order in which I wanted to talk about those things. This makes a difference – a fairly important difference – one that I know rather well – enumerating what all needs to be done is the first step in doing so. I will go ahead and write paragraphs for all the things I think are important from that day.

There is a tunnel. It was built a long time ago, such a long time ago that when I first heard of when it was built I was surprised. It is a marvel of engineering excellence from my point of view, to have had the technique to build such tunnels so long ago. Before I describe this tunnel though, it is necessary to describe how I got to this tunnel. I was driven there, in a SUV which seems to be a rather marvelous, this was a VW Tiguan and I feel it is rather nice, powerful, grippy (having never driven it ofcourse – the guy who has a thousand miles to drive till he gets back home had better not drive). I am still anti-SUV, they are rather big, rather fat and when one is driving one is far off the ground. However, the VW Tiguan (which is what I think it is – it might have been a Touareg) was better than any other SUV I’ve driven (except for a certain someone’s RAV4 – driving which I first realized how unexpected it is to not have a clutch pedal) has some oomph, some jazz, some ability to get its butt in gear and go when asked. The other group (there were a total of 9 of us in that VRBO in Page, AZ) were driving a Chevrolet which was an abomination. The one time I sat in it, the drive had to rev it till the engine whined and complained before it decided to get its butt in gear.

Coming back now to this tunnel: it is rather impressive. The road at the end is even more so. It is impressive in the sense that had I been driving I would not have felt the need to blast down it. This is partly due to the view surrounding the road and partly due to the old gentleman who was cycling uphill. The road goes through the canyon and the views are breathtaking. There is also the opportunity for listening to echoes here. I will point out though that going “mooo” in a deep guttural voice is not the best way to demonstate the echocity of the canyons.

ZNP has this amazing idea of using a shuttle service. It is actually very logical. Instead of having everybody drive all around they have designated the main road (think GTSR:GNP::this road:ZNP) as a road on which only shuttles are allowed. This helps control pollution and crowding and parking (which in India I would never have though as a problem). The shuttles leave from the visitor center and go up the ZNP scenic drive and stop at all the points on the way.

Part 4.5: ZNP continued – What to see and What not to see

The deer in ZNP are rather underfed. –CeG <oBelIX>

CeG <Butcher> defeats CeG<obelIX> at chess nowadays.

Due to circumstances that involved a basketball, a thigh and a pulled muscle I cannot describe Angel’s Landing which is the premier hike in ZNP. I will do this the next time I did in ZNP. However, given a basketball, a thigh and a pulled muscle, there is still a lot to see in ZNP. The bus ride itself is amazing. The roads are red. The canyon walls are tall. The river, while narrow, has a look of real menace. This is mostly because it is not the crystal clear streams in the PNW, it is also not the white water from rapids near Rainier, it is a chocolate sediment brown. It says, “I broke those canyons apart – are you sure you want to take off those shoes with blue shoelaces and step inside?” At the temple of Sinawava (yes, I know I have jumped ahead without defining what the fuck the Temple of Sinawava is but when you go to ZNP you will not need this) there is a riverwalk. It lets you walk along the Snake river to where it narrows. I could not go further up because it had flashed and flooded. It looked rather pretty though – totally worth doing.

There are other big stops on the bus though. There is the weeping rock which if you have gone to GNP will not seem spectacular. Infact, the only real thing I remember of this is a couple of cute kids with their parents. The kids were rather intelligent and young – of perhaps the age when crayons seem edible and hippopotami is an acceptable plural for hippopotamus. This should serve as some indication of my opinion of the weeping rock.

I had great expectations from the Emerald Pools. In the PNW, most lakes are named without much fanfare and far below their actual wow-factor. Colchuck is called Colchuck, not “Lake-Blow-Your -Mind-Away-With-My-Awesome-Turquoise-And-Chilly-Alpineness”. I saw the name “Emerald Pool” and it auto-expanded in my head as, “The-Pool-Where-The-Water-Is-This-Colour-Of-Green-That-Inspires-One-To-Write-Great-Essays.” Suffice to say this is not the case. Infact, I believe the Emerald Pools were thus named only because hallucinogenic substances were legal in Utah at the time the Emerald Pools were first discovered.

obelIX’s first law of waterfalls: The prettiness of a waterfall is no indication of the awesomeness of a hike.

Tldr: ZNP is worth seeing – there are many moments when I had to pause and take a breath and then carry on. This is due to the sheer vertical cliffs that the Virgin River has carved through the rock. There is quite a lot of rather useless trivia about how the river has done this in my head but I will not bore you with it).


Dieting is very common in ZNP.

Day 2: Idaho to Page, AZ

Part 1: From Seattle to Idaho

Total Distance today: 740 miles

Total Distance covered: 1370 miles

Average Speed for 1370 miles: ~71 mph

This post comes to you from a vacation rental in Page, AZ.

Part 1: Idaho

Idaho, there is not much to say. Really.- CeG <oBelIX>

I do not mean any offence to the state, I am sure it is very beautiful. Unfortunately, owing to a shift in timezones and a little oversleeping I ended up leaving Twin Falls at 10:40 in the morning after picking up a footlong at a subway and filling up with gas. It was a memorable morning but that is perhaps for some other time. The 10:40 departure worried me because I had originally thought I’d leave at 9 in the morning. US-93 had very little traffic. It seemed mostly agricultural in Idaho and there was really not much to say to it. The narrator was getting into the topic of Phaedrus, introducing him so to speak and I listened to Zen for many hours.

Part 2: Nevada

Nevada is nice to drive in. –CeG <oBelIX>

Fear not, I will give specifics. The city of Jackpot lies on the border of Nevada and Idaho and US-93 gets interesting just after. It goes through a series of hills and by now the land is covered in scrub and sagebrush. It is arid now, but a different kind of arid from Ellensburg. The dry hills of Eastern Washington are more rocky, they have more grit, substance, a feeling of power to them. The word in Hindi, which would convey this is chattan. The arid hills in Nevada, while covered with scrubbery (yes, I’m continuing to use this word so that it gets imbibed into the con) seem very weak. Eroded. Sandy. They land is also flatter so after climbing a hill I could see where the road goes for many miles. There was also very little traffic on US-93 which surprised me. I expected it to be packed and the going to be slow. The going was in fact slow, based on the average speeds I maintained through Nevada in th elater part of the day.

Towns here are found only where there is water. The city of Wells is founded next to a hill which I presume is high enough to cause the rain carrying clouds (where on Earth do these come from?) to shed water. There was not much more of interest on US-93 except that I was now doing far above the recommended speed limit. I had a companion as well, a Honda Accord from Greenlake. He followed me for many miles, glad he had someone ahead of him who was going.

I also learnt something rather interesting about Highway Patrol. While cruising at a nice rate of speed I happened to spot a highway patrol car in front and put the car in sixth and settled down at a nice 70 miles per hour an acceptable distance behind him. The radar detector was silent as a, well, umm, I have nothing to complete that simile. When a car would come by in the opposite direction the radar detector would go berserk, beeping and telling me there is something ahead to be careful of. I conclude that highway patrol is clever, they do not keep their radar on all the time when they are cruising, preferring instead to turn it on when needed. This led me to alter my driving style to slowing down to a sensible 5-10 over the speed limit when an oncoming car was approaching and speeding up after identifying it. This worked well in Nevada, Utah and Arizona, on state highways, because of the lack of traffic.

Part 3: The Humboldt National Forest

This was one of those pieces of road that put a smile on my face. Right after Ely, the road towards the Great Basin National Park goes through this forest. The forest exists on a set of hills. There is a road through these hills. This road is amazing.

Part 4: Great Basin National Park

If you go to Las Vegas and do not go to this national park then you are missing out. –CeG <oBelIX>

A sealed packet of Cheetos can explode if you change elevation fast enough. –CeG <oBelIX>

There was a volcano in the middle of what is now Nevada. This volcano, which is now known as Wheeler’s Peak stands 10,000 feet in the middle of the desert. While this in itself is not very large (re: Everest) it is tall enough to completely alter the geography of the surrounding areas. Great Basin National Park, a national park that had very few visitors so close to the Labour Day weekend. There are two primary attractions:

  • Lehman Caves
  • A 12 mile scenic drive up to Wheeler Peak

I did not do the caves (see above: I was late). I did drive up to Wheeler Peak. It is a 12 mile one-way drive and took about 20-30 minutes. I was going at a sensible pace, nothing like Hurricane Ridge, mostly because the road is untrustworthy. It is neither well banked nor smooth. There is no shoulder, there are just a few shrubs, a very pretty green, between you and a very airbag-explosion-inducing-mountain-side-should-you-go-over. The views are decent, not epic. The interesting thing to keep an eye out for is the change in flora. At the desert floor it is all sagebrush. As I went higher, it gave way to plants that required more water. Trees. Really verdant trees. It was remarkable. The exhibit at the visitor center mentioned that every thousand feet in elevation provides the same vegetation as a 600 mile increase in distance towards the pole (goop: horrible, I need a word for that).

I had a grandstand view at lunchtime!

Part 5: An unforgettable drive

The road from GBNP back to US-93 is, umm, empty. It is also banked very well. It also has nice sweeping curves. It allows you many moments of pure exhilaration. These moments are derived simply from the drive, the scenery, while not bad is not remarkable in any way.

US-93 on the other hand, after Majors and till Pioche, is a beautiful drive. The open space in the desert makes me nervous. Wary is the right word. I do not feel that way driving through the greenery in the Pacific Northwest. The desert commands respect because it is so open and so vast and because it shows you its vastness. The last time I drove through Nevada and Arizona I did not feel this. I presume it was because I had the company of three other gentlemen. This time, alone, with a narrator that was talking about Emmanuel Kant and his Critique of Pure Reason I was very aware.

At some point, I noticed a thunderstorm on the horizon, due south. US-93 heads due South. It is interesting to look at rain from far away, it looks like sheets of water, localized. The thunderstorm decided to plomp itself right on US-93 and unleash its full fury upon me. There was lightning and I recalled a Physics teacher telling me, you can’t get struck by lightning inside a metal shell. I do not remember why. I was relieved. The rain was, well, typhoonous? Hurricanous? It was slapping the windshield. I opened the window and put a hand outside and the force of the raindrops stung. It was a nerve-wracking twenty minutes, spent driving at 40 miles an hour. Unforgettable.

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, localized showers


Ominous

Part 6: Nevada 318

A great road is when you want to turn down the music and listen to the car. –CeG <oBelIX>

From US-93 till the Utah border. Just, well, drive it and you will know.

Part 7: Zion National Park

Not really. I lied. I did not go to Zion. However, at 8PM when an exit on I-15 says “Kolba Canyon, Zion National Park” and the words Scenic Drive below it there was no way I was not taking that exit. Especially since the tearing through Nevada and Utah had caused me to gain quite a bit of time. Things to note:

  • The road is red
  • I assisted a suicidal frog fulfill its desires
  • I need more practice at night time photography
  • Khatta Meetha is nicer than Cheetos

By now, I was sufficiently tired for the day. The remainder involved a drive, just getting from point A (ZNP) to point B (Page). The radar detector saved me in a town called Federnio or something like that, a sheriff sitting with the lights out. I think I drove over some very beautiful scenery on US-89 A and but it was too dark to make out what was going on.

Day 1: From Seattle to Idaho

Total Distance: 630 miles.

Total Time: ~10 hr

Total Time in Car: ~8.5 hr

This post comes to you from a cheap motel in Twin Falls, ID. Six Hundred and Thirty miles, give or take a few from Redmond. Day 1 of the road trip to Arizona. Let us go chronologically shall we.

Part 1: Departure

It takes a while to get onto I-90 from Redmond. –CeG <oBelIX>

Useful things to take on a road trip:

  • A radar detector
  • A GPS
  • Audio

If you are driving alone then you should have a fairly good idea of the route you need to take. Fortunately, my destination for the first day was in Idaho and a simple route. I-90 East to Ellensburg, I-82 till I-84 and then I-84 till Twin Falls. It is also useful to keep the following easily accessible (I keep them on the passenger seat):

  • Water
  • Tissue paper
  • Snacks (Haldiram’s Khatta Meetha)
  • Espresso Shots
  • Halls/Altoids

The trip itself started off bang on time and it took a long time to actually get on to I-90. Well, not a long time in terms of actual minutes but a long time in terms of the initial nervousness that makes ten minutes feel like twenty. Once on I-90 of course, the trip began in earnest. I will not talk much about I-90, it is a nice drive but by now the novelty of the scenery has worn off. The cascades did look beautiful, all the mountain tops were covered in clouds. There was a slow down near the lake where all the construction is going on and another near Ellensburg (there is always traffic there). Nonetheless, I made good time through I-90. It was tiring though, unintelligent of me to have not put on the sunglasses. I did listen to some nice music, courtesy of someone who I will refer to as Why. Among the songs I liked or remembered were:

  • Something by Gloria Gaydner, I forget the song right now
  • A song in Arabic, Albina or something like that
  • Eyes Like Yours
  • The song that goes, “I’m too sexy for this boat, too sexy for my shoes, too sexy for this hair, too sexy for the boots, too sexy for the water, too sexy for the moon” …

Part 2: Yakima

I-82 is pretty. –CeG <oBelIX>

By Ellensburg, the scenery has changed. The greenery has reduced. There is more bush. There is more scrubbery (if there is shrubbery and there can be scrubs then why is Microsoft Word ™ putting red squiggley lines under scrubbery). I-82 off from I-90 at around Ellensburg and immediately climbs over a few hills. The last time I drove this road it was 5AM and I was returning from a night of meteor gazing at Goldendale (something I highly recommend doing). Anyway, there is a viewpoint which is not as epic as it looks and a road which is rather nice. Continuing onwards the scenery gets much better. The hills have a little more brutishness in them, the scrubs are fewer and fewer and you can see more of the rocks. There is an exit that says “Military Base” which looks like something CeG<xirtam> may try. This is the part where the drive started to get interesting – up till now it had been routine. Infact, one of the laws of drivingness, and I am sure I am discovering these, is that the enjoyment factor of a drive is inversely related to whether the road is one you have travelled before.

I-82 continues past this gorgeous, desert (well, far more desert-like than the other side of the Cascades) scenery and into Yakima valley where there is greenery. Not tall pine trees greenery but smaller farm greenery. There are lots of hoardings for wine places and other such “Tourist Activities”. At this time, I was listening to NPR which in this area is on 88.9 FM. It gave me an idea of how plugged out I was, there was apparently a vote in the British Parliament and David Cameron was slapped on the face (figuratively of course – Why will tell me if I misused figuratively over there) and told “Don’t go messing around in Syria.” The IRS has decided that it will allow same sex couples the same benefit as different sex couples regardless of whether the state they are in (by state I mean Geographical state in case some of you are inebriated while reading this and parse that as a state of matter – ala – solid, liquid, gas, bose-einstein condensate). Anyway, it was nice listening to NPR.

The only other thing of interest that happened was the radar detector paying off yet again. It beeped as I was about to crest a hill and I got the car back down to a sensible 75 from 80 (I don’t speed much in Washington State) and lo, behold, there was a cop, sitting in the bushes, in the middle of the road, waiting for someone to come over the hill at speed and ticket him (or her – for my readers with strong feminist tendencies – I do not have any presumption that the fairer sex is not prone to going fifteen-twenty over the speed limit).

Part 3: Oregon

I like Oregon. –CeG <oBelIX>

By now, I was tired. Well, by tired, I mean mostly irritated at not having worn sunglasses and it was reasonably bright outside. And about this time is when I entered Oregon. I-82, enters Oregon across the Columbia river with much more fanfare than I-5. At I-5 there is the city of Vancouver that stands as a big bright billboard stating, “Hey You, Portland is coming”. On I-82 there is no such city. There is a board that says, “Weigh station”. You go over a small hill. You see an expanse of blue divide the landscape in two. And then you see two bridges, one for each side of the carriageway. These are nice bridges, they have arches that look yellow, a nice yellow ochre which goes well against the blue of the river. Ergo, I state that I-82 is a nicer entry into Oregon than I-5.

I-82 merges into I-84 and I took the road East – this was the last major route change I needed to make and there is about 180 odd miles of driving in Oregon on I-84. The speed limit is 65 which is woefully incorrect and I moseyed along at a nice 80 miles to the hour with absolutely no indication of the police (this includes the band as well). The first part of I-84 in Oregon was flat and farmland and it climbed over some hills where there was a view point. This view point would have been really nice had the sun been lower on the horizon. Unfortunately, that was not the case and the sun was fairly bright making any kind of photography a pointless exercise. So, I got back into the car and hit the road.

At this point, I will bitch about the iPod. It took me practically forever to get the damn thing setup last ngiht, and download the audiobook (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) on to the blessed thing (the Audible version is very good for 12 dollars). When plugged in to the car, it would skip and made this horrible whine. In the end, I ditched the iPod and used my old old Kindle to play the audiobook.

Part 4: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The first time I read this book I was perhaps in school. I skimmed through it and hardly understood a word. The second time I read this book I was wiser. I understood some bits of it but the most important understanding was that I would need to read it again to understand more of it. This trip, especially with its few thousand miles of driving alone seems like the perfect time to indulge. The audiobook from audible is also well narrated and the narrator has a deep-ish voice and good enunciation. It is not like jarring heavy metal and is pleasing to the ear.

I will not describe the book here in any form of detail. This is mostly because when driving on a nice empty road with an audio book playing I usually tend to listen in a very different sense of the word listen. It’s going on in the background, my mind is rather empty, devoid of absolutely anything. Every once in a while a phrase will register, like when the narrator talks about how if human consciousness is a river then in earlier eras it had a well defined course and in the twentieth century it has overflown it’s banks or when he mentions how he takes back country roads because it is about making good time with the emphasis being on good and not time. It is very difficult to recall exactly what was said in the book but since the mind is not listening actively the words are being processed and stored at a far more intrinsic level. The understanding will be greater when something in the future hits the right spot and brings it back up.

I just re-read that last paragraph. I guess I am tired but perhaps I will elaborate on it some other day. Or perhaps, as that is rather against the nature of this blog I will take it out all together.

Part 5: Oregon and Idaho

I-84 is a nice highway –CeG<oBelIX>

Idaho is flat with a chance of hills! –CeG <oBelIX>

I have said this before, in a post about Portland IIRC. I-84 East of Portland is beautiful to drive. There are hills and the Columbia river. After Hermiston, I-84 today was fun to drive as well. After all that view point and farmland stuff. There is a point where it gets hilly and goes through a set of mountains. The road here is beautiful, even for a dual carriageway interstate. I was wishing I was on something more like a state highway, a two lane road where the turns would be far more fun to take. Regardless, it was joyous to drive this at around 8 in the evening when there was little to no traffic. The mountains or hills that I am taking about were when I was 400 odd miles out of Redmond.

Immediately after these mountains is the border between Idaho and Oregon. It was dark by now and I was tired and hence this was more on autopilot. Also, in Boise Idaho, the radar detector found a cop who followed me all through Boise waiting for the moment that I would step on the throttle and go above 65. I kept it at 60 and outwaited him. It is important to note that if you have a different interpretation of the speed limit than the gentlemen who drive the big dodge chargers with lights on them, do invest in a radar detector. It has already paid back its money’s worth in tickets. And if you know me then just send me a message, I’d be happy to lend it to you if I am not using it.

There is much more to say but I am tired now and it is 2AM Mountain Standard Time. Tomorrow is many more miles of driving, listening to Phaedrus and the Great Basin National Park.

Going To The Sun

Long overdue, this is the post about Glacier National Park which is, I have to grudgingly admit a better place than Olympic National Park in quite a few ways. There are some common themes/undertones to this post that I will list out below:

  • The mountains
  • The waters
  • The U’s
  • The roads and the drives

Also, useful information is summarized below:

  • It is 500 miles from Seattle to East Glacier, about a 12 hour drive with breaks (and a crap car)
  • East Glacier has better access to the park. West Glacier has better facilities
  • Skip Two Medicine, Many Glacier is a must see
  • Hike. Hike. Hike.
  • Sunrises FTW/

Photo Credits go to several people, TK, Suma, Madhav, Urja, Muru etc.

The Drive

Glacier is about 500 odd miles away and easily-easily drivable. The drive is due east of here, I-90 and then a bunch of Montana Highways. The going to GNP was at night so not much of the scenery was visible. I will say though that the Montana state roads have speed limits of eighty and well, lets be honest, there is nothing there so in a competent car it would be challenging to keep to 80. Stay alert though, deer frolic about for no good reason and I do think that hitting a deer is not the most intelligent thing in the world.

The place we stayed at was a vacation rental from vrbo.com. The lady in charge had a gazillion questions to ask but did provide us with a very luxurious house in the middle of Whitefish (which has a lake which I did not see). Courtesy pictures below:

the view of the lake from the house

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Glacier National Park

The park itself is a rectangle. There are several entrances but the two prominent ones are the ones on the East (at Apgar) also known as East Glacier and the one on the West (at St. Mary’s) also known as West Glacier. The Going-To-The-Sun-Road (GTSR) connects these two and there is a whole section on this very nice road. US-2 runs East-West across the southern boundary of the park and I believe US-91 and US-89 run North-South parallel to the edges of the park passing through East and West Glacier respectively. We stayed near the entrance at East Glacier. I would recommend staying at West Glacier because it provides more convenient access to the park.

 

Going To The Sun

Lake McDonald

Leaving Whitefish, the drive towards Glacier is fairly pleasant after escaping the towns and the cities and other such things. There is a portion that has magnificent views, a mountain to the left, a windy road in front, a river to your right and a railroad on a hillside beyond. The railroad I am told goes from Seattle to GNP and is very scenic. It certainly looks so. The first stop on GTSR is the Apgar Visitor Center (where the gelato stand is rather nice). It is right next to the first big lake, Lake McDonald and should provide ample opportunities for you to sing OldMcDonaldHadAFarmEEYaEEYaOOOOO. Do not seek solitude on the Apgar side of this lake, it’s a bustling center of activity. There’s a motel, a Kayak rental place and many infants and children and bigger specimens of the human population milling around.

Lake McDonald at Apgar

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To find Solitude, drive on GTSR and head east. GTSR goes along the lake to the very end of the lake and there are many spots to just pull out. Choose a spot where you don’t see any people and walk down to the lake. It is a nice lake and I’d give this four out of five stars (I am rather spoilt for lakes because I can afford to give this a 4 out of 5 stars). It is worthwhile to just focus first on the waves and then at a point on the horizon and then back again on the waves.

Mesmerizing waves

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And crystal clear water

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Avalanche Lake

As a quick warm up, there’s a short four mile hike to nearby Avalanche Lake. As far as hikes go, it is very dissimilar to the hikes in the Pacific Northwest. The hike follows Avalanche creek which as you go further becomes a roaring collection of little eddies, rapids and waterfalls. The flowers here are different too.

Water in motion

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White Flowers

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The other thing which must be mentioned is the difference in the landscape. I am not a botanist but I notice that the trees are not the same. And then there are the mountains. These are big, proper mountains, very dissimilar to the mountains in Washington. The only time I’ve ever felt awed, mildly so, was at Navaho Pass, where the continuity of the Stuart range took my breath away. At Glacier, the mountains are bigger, imposing. They feel like the mountains atop Moria. They feel solemn. Majestic. The hike itself continues on, climbing a little, falling a little; nothing too strenuous. There is a lot of vegetation and some bugs as you get closer to the lake, just mosey on through that patch. The lake itself has a greenish tinge. It does not feel quiet by the lake; there are far too many people to enjoy solitude in the evening. It is still a sight to behold, set amidst mountains that are peppered with countless glacier-melt waterfalls.

Avalanche Lake

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GTSR

GTSR continues. It follows a stream for a few miles. There are beautiful sights to the right (if heading east). There are also mountains behind and stopping at the pull-outs or scenic views is recommended. The road soon leaves the stream and starts winding its way up a mountain-side, heading towards Logan’s pass, across the Rockies. This portion of the road is beautiful to drive. It is twisty and bendy and incredibly smooth. However, during the day, GNP is overcrowded. Stuffed. Packed. There will be no scope to enjoy just the drive so accept it and look at the views. Also, do get a car that drives well, driving a hundred-ton-SUV-with-an-insipid-automatic-transmission will only serve to exacerbate your irritation. The only remedy, stop often, enjoy the views.

Glomp. If that doesn’t do it for you then look at the next one

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All right, I lied, the picture above is better, but there is something about this …

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How about this for a view eh? That is the portion of GTSR going along the stream.

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Like I said, take a nice car …

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Logans Pass

GTSR climbs on relentlessly until it reaches Logan’s Pass. This is very obvious, there is a big sign that says, “Logan’s Pass” and a turn after which there is no more elevation gain. At Logan’s Pass is a visitor center, a crowded parking lot, a snowfield and more mountains. Lots more mountains. There are hikes here and in July, on the 4th, give or take, there were wildflowers blooming. There are quite a few people here who do add a little bit to the entertainment, especially the underprepared ones who walk on the snow in sneakers. The proper way to travel on snow is on top of your behind, sliding. For the nitpickers, the use-the-right-word-instead-of-a-whole-sentence-so-that-you-can-get-to-the-point-quicker, the word is glissade. Also, binoculars or a mighty zoom lens (which if you are a guy makes me suspect you are overcompensating) is a good idea. There are those weird goat-like-mountainous-creatures, no wait, I mean, mountain-like-goat-creatures, well, the things in the picture below.

Mgs

Wildflowers. If you are a teenage girl, this is a great place to get a profile picture to make your girlfriends jealous.

At this point, I will yammer on for a little while on the topic of those goatlike-creatures-for-whom-I-am-too-lazy-to-look-up-the-appropriate-name. I had the misfortune/luxury of meeting them up close. From the confines of a car in a parking lot. From the confines of a car with the engine running in a parking lot. From the confines of a car with the engine running and someone not at all afraid of running over these unnamed-horny-beasts behind the wheel in a parking lot. Anyway, after that bit of butchering of the language, I will get back to the point and don’t you dare, not for a moment think that the entire purpose of this paragraph was to butcher the language and just ramble. On. There is a point and I am getting to it. Slowly. These, I will use the word, things, to get to the point quicker, are rather disgusting. There was a flock of them in the parking lot at Logan’s Pass one fine morning. My friend was enamoured clicking away. It is interesting to observe them for a minute or ten but not much longer. They do not seem interested in humans, they seemed fairly content with licking the tarmac for any food. They are yucky as well, peeing everywhere and preferring to expose their behinds to humans with cameras. The class hierarchy in this species is also very hard to gauge. They are sprightly though and look built to gander up the mountain slopes like Chintu.

 

St. Mary’s Lake

Heading further east on GTSR the road starts going downhill. It’s a nice drive plagued by traffic during the day. There are far too many motorized means of locomotion to make the drive enjoyable. There are also these ancient red people carriers, made if I recall correctly by Ford. They are used as taxis, free transport from one end of the park to another. It’s a sensible idea and I would recommend doing this if it is possible to plan around it. The car does offer a lot of freedom though, so it’s a tradeoff like with most things in life. These, apparently are very expensive to maintain.

People Carriers used since a long time ago

The next big attraction on GTSR after a little while is St. Mary’s Lake at the eastern edge of the park. It is a long lake, stretching east to west. It is flanked by mountains. It’s also a nice azure (forgive the nomenclature here) and a good place to stop and get your tripod out and take a photograph.

St. Marys

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At the east entrance to St. Mary’s is a lodge where there is a gift-shop, a concierge that is kind enough to send out stamped mail for you – you can send postcards from here – and a restaurant that has rather nice food. The beef stroganoff was not up to the mark (based on feedback from a friend, I don’t eat beef) but the rest of the food was some of the best we had on the trip. The bread was fresh and very soft and it is sad that there are no pictures of the food.

 

Two Medicine

South of St. Mary’s is another entrance to GNP. Getting there involves a short drive on US-89 and US-89 is marvelous. The scenery is one of huge mountains with U-shaped valleys on the right (if you are heading south) and rolling hills, pastures, meadows on the left. The occasional bovine (yes, I used it as a noun) will cross your path. There are signs which proclaim that the shop or restaurant in question has the best blueberry or hickenberry or some-other-berry pancakes. The road twists and turns and is beautifully graded. The name of the area in question is “Two Medicine” and having not paid much attention to the ranger lady I do not know why it is called so. This is a valley, tucked away with a lake. It is quiet, peaceful and serene. This area is also not very popular, there was just one more group there when we arrived. It is nice but in my opinion, not a must do.

u-shaped valleys, the view from US-89 S

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Rendu-aushadii

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US-2 runs east-west along the southern edge of the park. It is parallel to GTSR and a much quicker drive back. There are portions of US-2 that are also very enjoyable to drive. Especially in a thunderstorm. There is, once again, a river, mountains and a twisty road. A little bit of music, some half-decent company and most of the drive will be spent with a smile.

 

Sunset

On the topic of sunsets I have a little bit to say. I’ve seen some very nice ones before. There was one somewhere in Arizona/Nevada, the in December, I called these lilac-fire, violet-burn, as we were driving West towards the Los Angeles (a city that I think has far too much sprawl). There were many in Oregon that we simply mind-boggling, where the Sun’s rays reflected on top of the clouds, setting them alight in Gold. There was one in Olympic which I remember more for the conversation. Chasing the Sun at Glacier National Park is a lot of fun. The trick is to start off at the East entrance to the park. The Sun will set over the west so when you are at St. Mary’s you see it play with the mountain tops. They were a very brilliant orange.

Sunset at St. Mary’s

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Twilight West of Logan’s Pass, the Sun setting behind the mountains

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Many Glacier and Iceberg Lake

Many Glacier is another entrance to GNP, situated North of St. Mary’s. There is not much to write about the drive from St. Mary’s to Many Glacier, think of Many Glacier as the starting point for spectacular scenery. There’s a hotel and a lodge there where there is food (pizza, reasonably nice pizza). There’s also multiple lakes and the opportunity to Kayak and you can hop from lake to lake in your kayak! Iceberg lake is a very delightful trail, it is like a five mile walk in the park. The elevation gain is minimal, the trail climbs a little at the start but levels out and is mostly flat, walking along a ridge. It is not a disappointing walk, there is much beauty to behold. The first perhaps mile or so is through forest and the next couple of miles are along a ridge on a side of a U-shaped valley. The mountain side had wildflowers, not a large number of them but a significant few and it is interesting to see the variety of the different wildflowers and that particular picture happens to have been misplaced. Halfway through the trek is a bridge over a river, a nice place to take a break along with the rest of the crowd. There is wildlife nearby, squirrels and such, and feeding them is perhaps not the most intelligent thing to do. Further on, as you climb higher and head up the U-shaped valley, to the very heart of the Glacier, the foliage starts to thin, just a little bit. There are chilly streams and ice-cold waterfalls of snowmelt gurgling and ready to provide refreshment. The first major water body is an un-name-able-blue. It’s not Iceberg Lake though, Iceberg Lake lies a few hundred meters farther on. It comes into view suddenly and is surprising – a mess of broken icebergs, a harmonious disarray.

Random beautiful shot

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U-Shaped valleys, Iceberg Lake lies at the foot of those mountains

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Looking back, if nothing else, I have a very clear understanding of what a valley carved by a Glacier looks like

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The Bridge and the stream halfway through the hike

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The un-name-able-blues

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Iceberg lake

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The sun and the clouds, reflected in the lake

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Sunrise

St. Marys is a very nice spot to see the sunrise at GNP. And seeing a sunrise at GNP is worth the effort of waking up in the morning. GTSR is empty so you can enjoy the drive. There is a silence. Quiet. There is a chilly breeze so make sure to pack a cap. And after watching the sun rise, stop by downtown Whitefish for breakfast!

Spectacle

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I do not need to caption this.

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To say that I thoroughly enjoyed GNP is an understatement. There is pristine beauty there, especially when you are away from all the crowds in the parking lots and near the visitor centers.

The Oregon Coast – II

I drove this last year – The Oregon Coast. This year, @roh4n had come up to Seattle and wanted to drive back and of course, while blasting down the interstate does get you to San Fransisco faster, it is much less scenic. So, we did the following ~900 mi:

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We left on a Friday, at around 5:30 in the evening, fully aware that traffic near that ugly place where there is an upside-down-bowl-of-concrete would be terrible. Still, it made sense and we did end up getting into Portland at around 8:30-ish. Now, traditionally I’ve been a fan of Chennai Masala in Hillsboro, one Rava Dosa and a filter coffee can keep me going for a bit but this time we headed over to the Bollywood Theater. There was a line, which was to be expected, a Friday evening. The décor was brilliant, the ambience doubly so. It felt real without really being overdone. The ads in the bathroom were epic:

 

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I will not translate this

 

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and I liked the devnagiri font over there

The food was decent. I wouldn’t really drive over to Portland to eat it again (unlike Bombay Chaat which is a foodtruck that serves heavenly chaat). If you are here though then do order the Kathi Roll. Also, this was the first time in a long time that I had trouble finishing food on the table.

 

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dinner … pav bhaji to the right where the bhaji lacked spice and dahi-papdi to the left which had some masala that felt incorrect

 

It was at this time night and there was fog and we drove on I5, continuing past Salem and Eugene. This part of the drive was uneventful, relaxing. The traffic had thinned and people were driving sensibly despite the fog. Somewhere past Eugene we turned onto OR-38 which is another one of those brilliant roads in Oregon. Last year, I had driven West on OR-42 in the wee hours of the morning with the sun rising behind me and it had been memorable. This year, at midnight I was driving west on a very similar road. There was a little bit of fog, the Umpqua river next to us for the most part and mountains. I am sure this road is brilliant during the day, scenic and beautiful but at night the experience was exhilarating. We turned onto 101 and halted at “The Best Western” in Coos Bay for the night.

The next morning after breakfast we headed south on US-101.

 

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weird car parked at a grocery store – I forget what groceries we got

 

it was a gloomy, overcast day.

 

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windy as hell

 

at the first cape that we stopped at.

I’ll take a moment here to chit-chat about what I think is a good way to do the Oregon coast.

Step 1: Get a nice car. This is important if you like to drive.

Step 2: Wait for December end or January. This is important if you want the road to yourself and free from random grandmothers

Step 3: Drive either North or South on 101

Step 4: When you see a sign-post saying “Vista Point” or “Cape **** State Park” put on your turn-signal and pull over

Step 5: Step outside the car.

Step 6: Marvel at the sheer power of the Pacific

Step 7: Feel the wind through your sweatshirt and your jacket

Step 8: Breathe!

Step 9: Rinse and repeat till you see a signboard that says either, “Welcome to California” or “Welcome to Washington”

This is pretty much what we did.

 

foam and surf

 

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US-101 and the Pacific

 

We eventually hit the town of Gold Coast which is approached by a rather decent looking bridge. It has a beach, which at this time was deserted. I suspect it would be a nice place to visit during the summer as well.

 

This is a rather good photo

 

The Pincochio Hippo. Yes, I was lazy, drew it with my foot.

 

You never get tired of the views!

 

and the ocean

 

and the road

It should be noted that there is a small part for which 101 does leave the coast and goes around a hill, Humbolt or Humtumps or Hum something or the other. Be awake, this little bit is incredibly beautiful with small streams and a different shade of green and quiet.

 

Eventually though, Oregon ended. California began. 101 becomes a different road out here and gradually transitions to a carrier of people. We did however, get off 101 and head onto this brilliant road called, “Avenue of The Giants”. Cut through redwoods and going along some type of water-body (a river and then a lake), in foggy weather it was beautiful.

 

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glomp – that is just amazing road

 

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the river I was talking about

 

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Redwoods are tall. Really tall. I took this looking vertically up. Makes you think a lot.

 

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no description required.

 

Eventually though, it became dark, the redwoods became normal trees and then grasses. The rain started to come down like a torrent. The drivers started to drive like idiots. The rest of the drive after sunset was just a grind, counting down the miles to San Francisco and dinner (which was rather nice, at Dosa on Filmore).

That is now, twice in two years. Ty, Oregon!

Philadelphia

I got a new phone. It’s a Lumia 920. It has a very good camera. Being rather bored in Seattle, where it is cold and wintery and rainy I decided to plop over to the other side of the continent to meet a friend who studies at the University of Pennsylvania. It was one of the better decisions I’ve made in the recent past. The rest of this post talks about food, aeroplanes, movies, art, history and walking.

 

I left Seattle on a rather rainy Friday morning, at an hour that I consider ungodly. After a ride in a taxi with a driver who had spent 10 years in Japan and thought very highly of Indian cinema, after a suprisingly painless experience at security that only involved taking off my shoes, belt, jacket, laptop I was on board an Alaskan airlines flight and I took the photo above. I was rather pleased with it, the camera managed to do exactly what I had asked of it – photograph the drops of water on the window.

 

It was bright for all of the duration of the flight. I was very pleased and looking forward to spending a weekend in sunshine. Also, I’m just showing off the camera. The plane then dipped below the clouds and Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, it was 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Overcast. Drizzling. Philadelphia airport does nothing to distinguish itself. There is a severe lack of space as in all airports – it is designed for utility. There is nothing wrong with it, there is just not much that makes you feel warm and cheery after a long flight. I used to think all airports are like this until I disembarked at San Francisco earlier in November this year. SF airport is spacious and bright and welcoming. There is nice music in the restrooms, like a sultry seductress’ serenade. I took a train to their University District, or University City – everything in Philly is a city. The train was old and had conductors which was surprising to see. The airport was actually the low point of the trip – it all got better so fast.

 

U Penn, is ivy-league, home to a lot of rich kids – which is why food trucks that deliver hot cookies to your hostel make sense

 

We had dinner at Zahav, this fancy middle-eastern place. I haven’t eaten in many fancy places and actually had no conception of what the food here would be like. The walk to Zahav was three miles through the University, Downtown Philly, the rich affluent housing area of Philly, the old Jewish quarter of Philly and then Zahav. The place is beautifully decorated – there are diwans and cylindrical pillows and very Turkish looking curtains. There was a chandelier, well, more of a lamp, made out of some blue metal, hanging from the ceiling, in the center of the room. The table was copper or bronze, dimpled like a golf ball. Our waitress was knowledgeable but snobby – perhaps it was my  hair but she had made this assumption that we were uneducated normal people with run-of-the-mill palettes.

The food was an experience. There were six kinds of salads, the picture above. The most interesting was the one made of eggplant – a salad of eggplant which was actually surprisingly good. The pita bread was fresh, hot off the oven and the humus was divine. The second best part of the meal were these spheres of lamb (I desist from using the term lamb-balls because of certain uncultured readers of this blog). They were the perfect blend of spice and meat. I will not use the “dissolve in the mouth” cliché. They did not. Infact, they just waited for the appropriate amount of time on the tongue, just long enough to understand the flavour and the spice and then melted. Brilliant.

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The walk back was interesting until it was cut short by a minor downpour which caused us to get into a Philadelphia taxicab. Taxicabs in Philadelphia have wide rear seats which can accomdate four people of my build and a glass partition separating the driver from the passenger.

washington square.

 

liberty bell. yes I did see it. no I do not know much about it’s history

 

the streets of philadelphia

The next day was overcast but not raining and was spent walking around. A must see place is the Reading Terminal Market – with its eateries and food shops. There is a creperie there – some of the best crepes I’ve eaten. Oh, and while walking around in Philly, do not be surprised to see black gentlemen at intersections proclaim loudly into loudspeakers, “Jesus is coming”, “The end is near” and other chantings of an apocalyptic-return-of-the-big-guy nature.

 

Philadelphia is old. Full of nice buildings

 

and ridiculous cars

 

and Chinatown

 

and streets that are forlorn and lonely in the winter

 

Our target was Penn’s landing – the place where William Penn landed and founded Pennsylvania. It is by no means a spectacular, stunning waterfront. Especially on a gray day – it just looks gloomy – I dislike water bodies that do nothing to cheer you up. The Philadelphians do not care for it either, the big neon signboard proclaiming Penn’s landing had only a few of the letters lit up.

 

 

What appears to be a lounging area of the general population. Devoid of people on that day. That river is the Delaware. There is another river in Philadelphia called the Skychupnawanapoppitipompom.

 

There is a military ship in the background on the river.

 

leaving Penn’s landing we meandered through the old quarters of Philadelphia, full of red-brick houses and more forlorn streets.

 

 

there was extremely good coffee over here – must try place

 

there was also this utterly lame museum of art made out of trash. ditch it.

 

one of the main streets, the city hall is shrouded in fog.

 

and there are a lot of interesting sculptures there

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Most of the last day was spent at the Philadelphia Art Museum and eating. I will not taunt you people with details of the food – suffice to say it was homemade and divine. The art museum is an old building (I like old buildings) and has a few nice paintings (of bridges and snow and mountains and water). It is not a particularly impresive museum but go here if you’ve got nothing to do. The walk back from the Museum, along the waterfront is nice!

 

the main staircase

 

the façade of the museum – columns – I like

 

I do not understand modern art.

 

and it’s a very nice walk back!

 

Overall, Philadelphia is fun. If only for a weekend. The food is amazing. It’s great to just walk around. U Penn is very likable. I approve!

Espana–Barcelona

Some days-weeks-months ago yours truly along with a couple of other gentlemen embarked upon a tour of Espana. This is what happened.

The ride from Seville to Barcelona was by the AVE which took approximately five hours. Pro-tip: Make sure you eat. The food on the AVE is horrendously expensive and overpriced.

Barcelona is a big city. We did not stay anywhere near the center. However, it has excellent public transport. The phrase I remember most from Spanish is proxima parada Monumental – approaching station Monumental which is where we had to get off.

After pizza for lunch we set off westwards.

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some dude on a horse

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the spanish arc de triomphe

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a postbox in Espana is yellow. if you want to send a postcard it takes one stamp of 0.85 euro that can be purchased at any tobaco vendor.

a bird perched upon the head of a charioteer

skyline

Kissing Ass

they love to get up close and personal!


The Barcelona waterfront, the beach is perhaps the most glorious beach in the world. It is full of expensive places to eat in. It is full of people. There is buzz, hulchul, activity. Be wary though, we were accosted by fake police claiming to be Passport Control and wanting to take our passports and then blackmail us. Stay on the main roads.

that is the Hilton (I think) in the background

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the marina

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the rest of the night was spent eating and drinking!


The next day we did the touristy bs.

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The Sagrada Familia – a cathedral that is being built only with donations. The lines were incredibly long so we ditched this – if you want to go book online.

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a fountain with flowers. infact this is The fountain with flowers. there is one big fountain – this is it.

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another one of those cathedral thingies. when it gets hot outside and there is no Sangria around I would totally suggest getting into one of these. It’s usually quite cool inside.

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walk around – there is cool stuff everywhere

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the museum of chocolate. I might have gone overboard here but I did like this place.

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I thought that would be a world-class photograph, the statue in the gap between the branches with the sun shining through the top. It wasn’t.


The rest of the afternoon/evening was spent at some place with multiple pitchers of Sangria.

Montjuiic – the musical fountains. must see. even if you’ve walked the soles off your feet, drunk litres of Sangria and simply want to crash

tl:dr;

  • Walk La Rambla
  • Walk the beach
  • Drink Sangria
  • Take the train
  • Watch Flamenco
  • Walk Seville’s waterfront at night
  • Visit the Alhambra
  • Visit St. Nichols
  • Eat breakfast and drink lots of orange juice
  • Eat everything, from batatas bravas to championes to pizza to kebabs
  • Relax