Best of 2017!

All year I had been excited to write a Best of 2017 post, but when the time came I was burnt out and lacking the motivation.  After essentialy two months away from blogging, I’m ready to get back at it.  So, without further ado, our favorites from 2017:

 

Favorite Brewery

Liz & Zach: Tradesmen Brewery, Charleston, SC

The two story bar, built in an old house and managed by a husband and wife brewmaster/bartender duo offered the best beer flights we had all year. At $5 a platter, not only were they cheap, they contained several of the best beers we had all year.

 

Favorite Campground

Liz: Langhor Campground, Bozeman, MT

In order to have a reasonable commute time to a place with internet, we usually have to stay in cramped, noisy, developed campgrounds often lacking trees.  While they do have nice things like electricity, showers, and cell phone service, it’s nice to get away every now and then.  Nestled outside of Bozeman, Langhor Campground allowed us to do just that.  Our campsite bordered Hyalite Creek and we spent hours eating, reading, and relaxing near it’s shore.

 

Zach: Cave Spring Campground, Sedona, AZ

There have been a lot of great campgrounds this year but I think this one edges out the competition simply because it was the first with our trailer. After a few questionable AirBnb stints we decided to buy the trailer in Phoenix, AZ and immediately parked it in the Grand Canyon parking lot while we lodged with Liz’s family. Instead of heading on to spend the week in Las Vegas, like planned, we took a detour to Sedona. The campground – nestled in a unique canyon valley –  was fairly empty throughout the week and had a few nice hikes nearby.

 

Favorite Campsite

Liz: Robbers Roost, Big Bend National Park, TX

I think the picture below explains itself.  We were the only people for miles, the view was amazing and the stars were extraordinary.

 

Zach: Agnes Lake, Voyageurs National Park, MN

Like Liz’s favorite campsite, Agnes Lake offered immense solitude. Situated on a large lake on a larger island accessible by canoe, we only had to share the view with a mother deer and her doe (and a million mosquitoes).

 

 

Favorite Meal

Liz: Sakari Sushi, Des Moines, Iowa

You wouldn’t think that Des Moines would have some of the best food of our trip, but it’s been eight months and I’m still dreaming of Sakari’s shrimp tempura.

Zach: Red Curry Mac & Cheese, Jack of Cups, Charleston, SC

I’m no chef, but this one was so good I tried recreating it on my own (not nearly as good). The red curry sauce complimented the relish in a very unexpected and satisfying way.

 

Favorite Drive

Liz: Road to Hana, Maui, HI

We started the day in a genuine rainforest and ended in a certifiable desert.  Along the way we saw countless waterfalls, discovered my new favorite plant – the rainbow eucalyptus,  visited the largest temple in Hawaii, and watched waves violently crash on lava rock cliffs.  It’s crazy that people live here and drive this route daily on their way to work or school.

 

Zach: White Rim Road, Canyonlands, UT

The 100 mile drive was the perfect level of off-roading excitement I was looking for with our 4Runner. Liz and I took hour long shifts at the wheel avoiding rocks, climbing canyon switchbacks, and doing our best to share the trail with mountain bikers. Then, in our shift as a passenger, we were able to focus less on the obstacles ahead and more at the grand beauty of Canyonlands.

 

Favorite Concert

Liz: The Decemberists

2017 was a great year for live music! I went to two music festivals, Laurelive in June with Megan and Traveler’s Rest in Missoula with Zach, and saw some other amazing shows – Bon Iver, Garth Brooks, and the xx (my second favorite concert of the year).  But when it came down to it, the most memorable performance was the Decemberists headlining both nights of their music festival.  A live show should grow your appreciation for the band and, while I liked the Decemberists before, my admiration for their artistry increased and listening to The Mariner’s Revenge Song will always take me back to that concert. 

Zach: War On Drugs

Liz and I listen to a lot of music. According to Spotify’s 2017 ‘Year In Review’ we each logged well over 50,000 minutes of listing time. And, for me, it was the year of the War On Drugs. Not only did they top my chart for both most listened to artist and album, they also held 4 of the top 5 song positions (with one spot going to The Growlers). And, after seeing them in concert, they also hold the top slot for concert and live song. Watching them play Under the Pressure with a glitter snowstorm raining down on the crowd was surreal.

 

Favorite Run

Liz: LaPine State Park, Bend, OR

Having run 1,000 miles last year, I had a lot of options to chose from.  But LaPine State Park checked all the boxes for a great run route.  It was scenic – you can’t beat running through the ponderosas along the Deschutes river. It was peaceful – each run I saw, at most, one group of runners. And most importantly, it was flat.

Zach: Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, SC

Since we spent two weeks in Charleston, I had the chance to run across the bridge a few times. The best part of the five mile round-trip was the last mile – all downhill.

 

Favorite Hikes

I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

  1. Subway, Zion National Park, UT
  2. Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park, TX
  3. Rim-to-River-to-Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
  4. Muir Snowfield, Mount Rainer National Park, WA
  5. Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, MT

2017 Stats

Miles Driven: 26,785
States: 34
National Parks: 25
Flights: 10
Flat Tires: 2
Emergency Appendectomies: 1

There were so many great experiences last year that didn’t get mentioned. We travelled more in one year than most people do in their lifetime.  And we get to do it again this year!

Advertisements

DC, NYC, and the Holidays

I took a few weeks off from working on the blog to relax and enjoy the holidays and a lot has happened in that time.  We enjoyed a great Thanksgiving with family, spent a week in Washington DC, returned to Columbus for a fun work holiday party, traveled to New York City, went to Indianapolis for a concert and are currently recovering from a great Christmas season.  Rather than write full posts on each city we visited, here’s a few paragraphs on each:

Washington DC

We left for DC the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  Lucy remained at Zach’s parents and we stayed at an Airbnb two miles north of the National Mall.   We had both been to the city before but not as adults.  Between the museums and memorials, we filled our schedule with free, educating activities.

Washington Monument

Being on the east coast and near the winter solstice, it was dark by the time we finished working.   Many museums closed around 5, so we had to get creative with our after-work activities.  We spent one evening walking around the monuments and memorials; they all looked spectacular lit up.  The Smithsonian art museums – the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum – were open until 7pm, so we spent a night at each.  Obviously, my favorite part was the America’s Presidents collection.

Jefferson Memorial

With our weekend, we took advantage of more free museums and activities.  Again, my favorites of the American History Museum were president related – the top hat Lincoln wore when assassinated and the desk on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.   The Holocaust Memorial Museum was difficult but important.   We toured the NPR headquarters where we saw Korva Coleman, Sam Sanders and the actual Tiny Desk they use for concerts.

We only took pictures of memorials

Columbus

On our way back to Columbus, we stopped by Canton.  Zach’s aunt Susan was in from the Upper Peninsula.  Although we were only there for less than 24 hours, it was nice to catch up.   We spent the work week in Columbus – as much as I love life on the road, I enjoy working from the office.  Along with my coworkers and seeing old friends, the free lunch, snacks, coffee and beer are a big reason.   The week ended with our holiday work party.  I had a great time at the official party, the official after-party, and the unofficial after-after-party.

The after-party at Pins

New York City

We booked a direct flight to New York, but the morning of we were informed the original flight had been cancelled and we had been rebooked with two layovers.  We considered trying to cancel the flights and just drive, but decided against it and suffered through eight hours of travel instead of what should have been a 90 minute flight.  We arrived late Sunday night at our Airbnb, the only place within our budget which was on the far side of Queens, about a 45-minute (on a good day) subway ride from Times Square.

Rockefeller Center

Like DC, it was dark by the time we finished working, but we still managed to fill up our nights with the best the city has to offer.  We attended two standup comedy shows and an improv show.  Zach bought me tickets to the Waitress (a Broadway musical written by one of my favorite musicians – Sara Bareilles) for Christmas and they put on a great show.  We went to an Italian restaurant a block from our Airbnb four times (if you ever find yourself in Jamaica, Queens, check out Paul Michaels Brick Oven Café!)

Great seats at the Waitress

On Saturday, we took a blistery ferry ride to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty.   Although the crown was sold out, we obtained tickets to go up to the pedestal which gave us an interesting perspective of Lady Liberty.  On Sunday, we braved the cold and rode bikes around Central Park.  Before we knew it, our time in the Big Apple was done.

View from the pedestal

Indianapolis

We spent two nights at home before it was time to head back out.  This time to Indianapolis, to see Zach’s favorite band – The War on Drugs.  Four of his five most listened to songs on Spotify this year were by The War on Drugs.  They had played in Columbus while we were Hawaii so to Indianapolis we went.  The was concert great; I’m not a huge fan of their music but they put on a fantastic show. We left Indianapolis early on Friday and worked from the office Columbus before driving home in the evening.

We took zero pictures in Indy so here’s another of NYC

Christmas

Christmas is far and away my favorite time of year. Unlike most, I delight in snow and we were blessed with a white Christmas this year.  I love spending time with family, especially now that I’m not home often.   Zach and I are typically together 24/7 so we were happy to split up and spend time with our own families, but we also found time to see each other’s families.  The Christmas season seems to keep getting better and better as I get older.  I hope everyone had a great holiday season and New Year’s!  2017 was a great year and I look forward t0 what 2018 will bring!

Christmas with the Cymanskis

New Years with the Serafinis

Salt Lake City: A Day in the Life

Bring! Bring! Bring! I roll over and unlock my phone, turning the alarm off.  Groaning, I pull the covers over my head, not ready to get out of the toasty bed.  After nearly falling back asleep, I start scrolling through Twitter, hoping the brightness of my screen will get my brain synapses firing.  In the meantime, Zach is up and nearly ready to leave.  He puts on his shoes which is my cue to stop grumbling and start getting ready to face the day ahead. I throw on my jeans, the first shirt I grab and then a few more layers – these late October mornings are getting chilly.  After brushing my teeth, Zach, who’s been patiently waiting for the last ten minutes, and I say goodbye to Lucy and head out to work.

Salt Lake City morning

Since we’re staying near downtown, in the factory district, the drive to Starbucks is short.  We place our usual order, two everything bagels, toasted with cream cheese, a grande black coffee for me, and a venti coffee for Zach.  We head to separate tables and get to work.  I spend the morning chugging along on my assigned issue.  I’m working on switching over some queries to a read-only database.  In laymen’s terms, I’m trying to make our system able to handle more people using it.  As usual, Zach’s morning contains more meetings than mine;  I only have my team’s daily scrum (our everyday check-in to ask for and offer help).

Hard at work (or hardly working?)

This rarely happens, but our Salt Lake City campground has a good enough internet connection to work from their lobby for the afternoon.  We head back during a break in Zach’s meetings for soup and salad in the camper.  It’s a nice change of pace from our typical lunch of sandwiches in the car.  I spend the rest of the workday in the lobby, which is conveniently located next to the laundry room.  I knock out a load while struggling to test my code changes.  I’m unable to accomplish much workwise but at least I now have clean clothes!

We took very few pictures in SLC

After work, I lay in bed for a short time, allowing my brain to recover from the day, and then change into running clothes.  I fell behind on my goal of 1,000 miles when I sprained my ankle in August, but I am working hard on catching up.  The past few days I’ve run from the campground, but today we drive up to Antelope Island, a state park 30 miles north of downtown.  The island, occasionally a peninsula (the lake is so shallow that its area fluctuates from less than 1,000 to over 3,000 square miles), is located on the Great Salt Lake.  A buffalo on the side of the road greets us– the park is home to one of the two herds in the state.  The mid-fifty temperature combined with great views of the lake and a 538 politics podcast make for a great workout.  I still feel good when I get back to the car; if it wasn’t for the grumbling in my stomach, I would have added on another mile or two.

The Great Salt Lake

On the way home, we pick up a pizza – black olives and pineapple, my favorite.  We eat and listen to the latest Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! laughing at all of Paula Poundstone’s jokes.  In addition to running 1,000 miles, I have quite a few other goals for the year – read 50 books, finish a third of my giant cross-stich project, keep this blog semi-up-to-date.  Tonight, I read 25 pages of my current book, The Happy Traveler, while Zach plays Roller Coaster Tycoon on the tablet.  Once he beats the level he’s working on, I work on my cross stich while we watch Band of Brothers.  Not quite ready to go to bed, we watch an Office episode and then another because they’re too darn funny to just watch one.  I remember that I haven’t brushed my teeth so I begrudgingly walk the six feet to the bathroom and do so.  I crawl under the covers, cuddle with Delilah – my zebra pillow pet, and try not to think about work as I drift into a deep sleep.

Tahoe

After a few great weeks in Hawaii, it was time to head back to our car and trailer in San Francisco. So, for the third time this year we found ourselves spending the night in an airport parking lot. And, since we’re pretty sure spending the night in an airport parking lot is frowned upon, we found ourselves again trying to inconspicuously disembark the shuttle and sneak into the trailer. 100% success so far (knock on wood).

Hawaiian Airlines has the best in-flight meal (free wine!)

The next day we headed northeast to Lake Tahoe – starting our long journey back toward Ohio for the holidays. While we were too late for swimming in the lake, and too early for skiing, we were still able to find plenty to do. Wednesday, we went on a short hike, passing the hordes of salmon that had made their way up the stream to lay eggs. Then, tried out a new disk golf set at Bijou Park. Thursday, we went on another hike, climbing Maggies Peak and finally spotting a bear at a reasonable distance for the first time this trip.

Question, which kind of bear is best?

After rounding out the work week, it was back on the road, driving East into Nevada. On our way to Great Basin National Park, we stopped in Ely, a small town along “Americas Loneliest Road” to watch Ohio State come back to beat Penn State while playing video poker and drinking a beer or two.

Liz won $20 playing Keno!

While we didn’t spend long in Great Basin, we made time to hike through a bristlecone pine grove, seeing some of the oldest living organisms on the planet. The trees can live thousands of years and stand strong hundreds of years after dying due to the fact that their wood grows slowly and tightly enough to prevent rot. Beyond the bristlecone pine grove, we hiked to a glacier before turning around and hitting the road again, destination Salt Lake City.

This tree is older than the city of Rome

Hawaii Part III: Oahu

In high school, I was part of a group called the Shady Ladies.  What may sound like a shifty organization, was just a self-given nickname to my group of running friends.  Sammi, Jessica, Caitlin and I all ran cross country and track and were recognizable by our matching red sunglasses.  We liked to use words like druthers and behoove and frequented Buffalo Wild Wings.  Sammi and Caitlin were significantly faster than me, both went on to run in college, but Jessica and I spent hours each week, fall and spring, running together and chatting about life.

The least awkward picture I could find of us

The four of us stayed in touch throughout college, reuniting at BDubs a few times a year.  Last year, Jessica moved to Hawaii when her then fiancé, now husband, got a job in Oahu as a contractor for the Marines.  I hadn’t seen her since she left Ohio so it only made sense to swing by for a visit while we were in the area.

Jess and I in Hawaii!

Unfortunately, we were out of vacation days which meant back to work.  Zach has a daily meeting at 10 am eastern time so he was up by 4 am Hawaiian time.  I usually slept in until 5 am.  I’ve never used ‘slept in’ and ‘5 am’ in the same sentence before.  On one hand, starting work so early allowed us to have the whole afternoon for activities, but it also meant being very sleepy and going to bed by 8 pm.

The view during my daily run

With our free afternoons, we took in some of the best Oahu has to offer.  A somber visit to Pearl Harbor, a windy afternoon watching kitesurfers at Lanikai Beach, a rainy hike, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, and dinner at a fabulous farmers’ market with Jess, Ben, and their adorable dog Koa.

Rainy + windy hike

On Saturday, Zach, Jessica, and I took a day trip to the north shore.  We started the day at the Dole Plantation.  It is incredibly touristy but the Dole Whip alone makes its worth the stop.   For those of you, like myself before visiting, who have never heard of Dole Whip, it’s pineapple ice cream that’s only sold at Disneyland, Disney World and the Dole Plantation.  It has a huge cult following, and after eating some I can understand why.  In addition to delicious Dole Whip, the plantation also had the largest gift shop I’ve ever seen.  Who knew there could be so many pineapple related objects?

The best looking pineapple around

Our next stop was Waimea Bay, birthplace of big wave surfing.  They hold surfing competitions here in the winter and in October, the waves were starting to grow but were still a manageable size. Zach and Jessica jumped off the famous Waimea Rock while I bobbed in the waves.  I went cliff-jumping once and that was enough to last a lifetime for me.

Zach mid-jump

After working up an appetite from swimming, we got lunch at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.  Their world famous shrimp scampi was worth the long line.  We also stopped at a fruit stand where I tried, for the first time, fresh coconut, rambutan, and dragon fruit.

Giovanni’s Shrimp Scampi

Before we knew it, our twenty days in Hawaii had come to an end. On our last night, Jessica, Ben, Zach and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings, just like old times.  Although sad to leave the Aloha State, I was ready to get back to Lucy and our regular day-to-day life.  Thank you so much to Jessica and Ben for having us and hopefully it’s less than a year and a half until we see each other again!

Medford and More!

Leaving Crater Lake, we headed south to meet up with the rest of Tyler’s family.  While in Medford we repeated some of our favorite activities from our last visit.  Watching Zach’s nieces at their swim lessons, walking down to Roxyann Winery and staying up late every night playing board games and Super Smash Brothers.

Uncle Zach and June

Unfortunately, we also experienced some unwanted activities.  I came down with a bad cold in the beginning and by the end of the week, all of the Oregon Serafinis had caught a stomach bug.  There were a lot of sick people in the house but still managed to enjoy our time together.

Common Block Brewing Company

The six of us headed down to Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. The titular Lassen Peak is the largest plug dome volcano in the world and the park is home to all four types of volcano (plug dome, shield, cinder cone, and strato).  I had not heard of Lassen before we started out on our National Park quest so I was surprised to learn it was created in 1916, making it the 11th oldest park.

Selfie with Lassen’s Seismograph Station

We started with the best named trail in the entire park system –  Bumpass Hell.  The hike takes you down into a geothermal area nicknamed ‘Little Yellowstone’.  Having not previously seen anything like it, I was fascinated by the way the ground bubbled, steamed, gurgled, and churned.  The sulfuric acid created fascinating color patterns surrounding the scalding mud pots.

Bumpass Hell from above

Planning on eating out for dinner, we had not gone grocery shopping in preparation for the weekend.  It turned out, our only options less than a ninety-minute drive closed before 5pm. Between a can of clam chowder, some pasta, and a pouch of tuna, we managed to scrounge together a meal for six from our trailer’s limited pantry.  Tyler, Whitney and family slept in the trailer.  After first getting used last week by Tyler, our convertible table bed had its second customer in Sage.  This gave Zach and I an excuse to break out our neglected tent and cuddle under the chilly stars.

Artsy filler picture 

The following morning, after a delicious breakfast at JJ’s Café which would have made Leslie Knope envious, we headed to the north side of the park for another hike.  Cinder Cone Volcano was created by an eruption around 1650 which is recent enough essentially no plants have started growing on it.  The hike to the crater is two miles each way, meandering gently up to the base and ending with a challenging climb (about 700ft in a third of a mile).

Cinder Cone Volcano – they must have used all of their creativity naming Bumpass Hell

The hike out took longer than expected due to a slow moving four-year-old.  Zach and I had more than a five-hour drive ahead of us so we said our goodbyes at the bottom of the volcano and high-tailed it back to our car.  As always, it was great to see Tyler, Whitney, Sage and June.  I’m looking forward to seeing them at Christmas and hoping our next reunion will be healthier and equally as adventurous.

Beautiful sunset driving though California

I forgot that I was planning on including our time in San Fransisco in this blog which is why the previous paragraph sounds like a conclusion.  We were flying out to Hawaii on Wednesday, so in the meantime, we spent three nights at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, about an hour north of the city.  All in all, it wasn’t a great experience – we were worried about catching the stomach bug going around, I always get anxious before big trips and none of the Starbucks in the Bay Area have outlets which makes working from them nearly impossible.  The highlight of the stay was our visit to Point Reyes National Seashore.   One concluding paragraph is difficult enough to write, let alone two, so I’ll just end things here.

We’ll be seeing a lot more of the Pacific in the coming weeks

Ohio / Rainier

It’s interesting how our perception of time is always changing. Sometimes the last half mile of a difficult hike can seem to last forever. Yet, the whole weekend seems over as soon as it starts. I have been very fortunate (or maybe unfortunate) in the past nine months. Nearly everything has flown by. To help keep things in perspective and not lose sight of the amazing adventures we’ve had while experiencing new ones, Liz and I often ask each other “What were we doing a month ago today?” and “Where will we be in a month from now?”. Perhaps the most interesting part of the time change phenomenon is that while the days seem to speed by, I’m always shocked at how long ago the things we did just a few weeks before seem.

It’s already been 3 weeks since Rainer!

Perhaps the fastest time yet this trip was the whirlwind week we spent in Ohio. We had planned on spending two weeks in the Seattle area, but CoverMyMeds offered to fly us in for the work week, so we jumped on the opportunity to catch up with friends and family (and work).

Cymanski Family Reunion 

On Sunday night, Liz and I took a red-eye from Seattle to Columbus and headed straight into work. After work, Liz picked up her sister, Megan, and drove up to Ashland to get dinner with her parents and grandparents. Meanwhile, I took a series of Ubers from work to our AirBnB and back to work again to find a charger for my dying phone before seeing Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats at the LC. Tuesday, we caught up with a group of friends from work for volleyball and trivia. Then, on Wednesday, I managed to stay upright on my first Segway tour. And in the evening Liz and I headed our separate way to grab a few drinks with coworkers. Thursday, we drove up to Canton to see my family and hiked the beautiful new Fry Family park with baby Zion in tow. Then, Friday morning we drove back to C-bus, put in a day’s work, and flew back to Seattle. By the end of the week Liz and I were exhausted. Although, we still had a full weekend ahead of us.

Uncle Zach and Baby Zion

Due to our late arrival in Seattle, we opted to sleep in the airport parking lot (which I’m sure is against some sort of rule). Then, the next morning, we met up with Mark and Ben, my friends from college,  and headed to Mount Rainier. While Ben has twice summited the 14er, it was the first time in the park for the rest of us. Even though we didn’t attempt the technical summit, we did make it up to the Muir basecamp – one of my new favorite hikes. To get to the basecamp, we hiked up about 5,000 feet and across the Muir snowfield. Although going up rewarded us with some spectacular views, it was going down that made the hike.

Camp Muir

The heavily packed snowfield not only allowed us to hike to Muir basecamp without sinking in knee-deep every-other step (like we would the next weekend hiking the South Sister near Bend) it also allowed us to glacade down. For those who don’t know, glacading is just a fancy word for sledding without a sled. Enough hikers had gone before us that nice slick chutes ran down the snowfield, adding a new dynamic to hiking I had never considered. Pro tip: bring a heavy-duty trash bag to act as your sled.

Glasading!

The next morning, before driving Ben and Mark back to Seattle, we hiked up to the nearby Eagle Point to get a panoramic view of Mt Rainier. I hope that someday I can head back to make it all the way up to the summit, although going it to the basecamp is a worthwhile hike in of itself.

Drinking our summit beers!

Bend and Beyond

After dropping Ben and Mark off in Seattle, we headed South to Oregon.  There was a bit of a mishap in our accommodations (we thought our campground reservations started on Monday night, but they actually were for Tuesday) which resulted in an extra night spent in a Walmart parking lot.  We’re becoming experts at sleeping in Walmart lots and they’re really not that bad.  There’s usually bright lights shining throughout the night, occasionally loud cars and not all allow overnight parking but it saves money, time and the effort of finding a campground.

Lucy in a Walmart Parking lot

On Tuesday, we made it to LaPine State Park, our home for the week.  The park, just South of Bend, is home to ‘Big Red’ the world girthiest ponderosa pine.  It was also the most voluminous but it recently lost a good chunk of its height to a lightning strike.  There were some great trails for running – not too rooty or rocky and, most importantly, flat.  The Deschutes River runs through the park making for some great scenery.

A bend in the Deschutes River

We visited Smith Rock State Park, home to some of the best rock climbing in the country.  Although we didn’t go climbing, the scenery itself was magnificent.  We had a delicious dinner at Sunriver Brewing company.  I ordered a Rueben Pretzel Calzone, which sounds like a strange combination but was really great.

Smith Rock State Park

On Saturday morning, Zach’s brother Tyler drove up from Medford to spend the weekend with us.  We planned to hike the South Sister, the youngest and tallest of the volcanoes which make up the Three Sisters.  Unbeknownst to us, the higher elevations had received a large amount of snow the previous week.  The trail was completely covered, in some places with well over five feet of snow.

Two brothers and someone else’s sister

We progressed very slowly up the mountain.  As the day warmed up, the snow became softer, and soon, every third step led to being knee deep, or sometimes even hip deep, in snow.  We didn’t make it to the top, instead drinking our summit beers at a pass about a mile before the end.  The guys were disappointed about turning around but there were some very menacing clouds heading our way and Zach had frozen feet.

Our summit

The way down was much faster (thanks gravity!) and Zach snapped this awesome picture of Tyler jumping down the hill.  Once again very happy with our camera purchase.  I greatly struggled deciding which pictures to use for this post.

Flying down the mountain

Sunday morning we left La Pine and headed to Crater Lake National Park.  We visited the park in May, the last time we were in Oregon, but there had been a ton of snow which was really fun but I wanted to visit the park without the snow to see what it was like.  It was too late in the year to wish for no snow but there was significantly less than last time.

Crater Lake National Park

The rim is an average of 1,000 feet above the lake but there is one place you can hike to the water, traveling 800ft down in less than a mile of trail.  I stuck my feet in the water but Zach was the only one brave enough to fully get in.  And by that, I mean he jumped off a cliff into the lake.  On the hike up, we tried to calculate the volume of water in the lake.   We knew that at widest points, it is about 4 miles wide  and 6 miles long and the deepest point is 1,932 ft.  Given those three data points, we estimated the volume to be 12.5 cubic km, only 6 cu km off from the actual volume of 18 cubic km.  That may seem like a decent ways off but I was happy to be in the right order of magnitude.  Our main source of error was underestimating the average depth by 100 meters (we guessed 250m, it’s actually 350m).

The equivalent of 5 million Olympic swimming pools

 

Canada Part 2 (Banff)

We spent nearly a year planning our trip prior to hitting the road – marking points of interest on a map, researching car and lodging options, and reading about the national parks. In all that time, I don’t remember ever discussing taking our trip beyond the US. Yet, for the second week this summer, we found ourselves in Canada. This time, instead of a remote island on the French River, we stayed in a campground within the city limits of Calgary.

Oh Canada!

While visiting a brewery in Calgary, Liz and I met a few locals who made a point to remind us that Canadians tend to know a lot more about the US than we know about their affairs. So, for those unaware, Calgary is Canada’s third largest city with about 1.3 million residents. The city lies about an hour east of Banff, Canada’s first national park. And it played host to the 1986 Olympics, a fact the city continues to heavily lean on more than 30 years later.

Looking back, nothing in particular stands out about our time in Calgary. We drove past several old ski facilities used during the Olympic games, spent a limited amount of time downtown, and got the cars oil changed. In short – I don’t feel a strong desire to head back any time soon.

The one picture we took in Calgary

On Friday, after work, we made the short drive west to Banff National Park. After setting up the camper at Tunnel Mountain campground (an enormous campground with over 500 sites!) we headed into the town of Banff. The town sits within the national park and has the vibe of a large ski community, even in the heat summer. While in town, we decided to swing into the park visitor center to plan our weekend. There, we were ‘greeted’ by a warden (what they call their park rangers in Canada) who informed us that “you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do” in the park and that there’s “nothing that you need to see”. Thanks for the guidance Sophia.

Beautiful Banff!

Like most weekends, our time was primarily spent hiking. Saturday, we climbed the Cory Pass Loop – a strenuous hike that follows a seemingly endless set of switchbacks before leading up a picturesque mountain ridgeline. The trail then crosses through a mile of rocks and boulders before entering a densely-forested ravine that follows a creek down the mountain. The trek was tiring but a great way to start our weekend!

One of many breaks on the way up

On Sunday, we got up early and drove to Lake Louise. Perhaps the most popular destination in the park, the lake was already crawling with tourists early in the morning. We were able to escape most of the crowd by hiking around the lake and up to a remote tea house. The tea house is staffed by seasonal workers who hike in on several day rotations and cook all the food on site with supplies air dropped in by helicopter. After munching down a heavy piece of chocolate cake, we continued up the trail to check out the glaciers.

Great cake and great views!

While I don’t know if Banff is a good representation of all of Canada’s national parks, I felt like their park system is managed very differently. While the US national parks often contain guest lodges, a small handful of gift shops, and restaurants to service visitors, Banff plays host to a far larger commercial enterprise. From the town of Banff, located in the park, to the railroad track, the ski slopes, and the trans-Canadian highway, Banff seems to specialize in accessibility, not conservation. That’s not a slight to the park though – I think both Liz and I really enjoyed our weekend and I’d love to make it back again someday to see the park from its ski slopes.

Better glaciers than Glacier

Montana

We began our time in Montana by visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  Minutes off Interstate 90, the park is famous for being Custer’s Last Stand, where Colonel Custer and over 250 soldiers died attacking a group of Lakota and other Plains Indians.  The battle was a huge victory for the Indians but their good fortune was short lived as the US government continued to break treaties in the following years and force the natives into reservations.  We watched a very informative video and listened to a graphic telling of the battle by a ranger.

Photo courtesy of the NPS

After spending a night in Billings, we continued to Bozeman, the fourth largest city in Montana.  We stayed at an amazing campground in Gallatin National Forest, about 30 minutes from downtown.  Nestled in the mountains with a beautiful creek rushing right by our campsite, it’s my new favorite campground.  Although it had no electricity, showers, or cell service, it made up for it in beauty and tranquility.

Reading creekside

We spent one afternoon exploring Hyalite Canyon.  On the drive home, after hiking around the reservoir and exploring Palisade Waterfall, we saw a moose! It was standing right next to the road!  After overcoming my surprise, I snapped a picture before it ambled back into the forest.

Palisade Waterfall

A MOOSE!

From Bozeman, we headed west to Missoula.  We planned a majority of our summer/fall travels around attending Traveler’s Rest – a musical festival put on by the Decembrists.  In addition to the Decembrists headlining both nights, some of our other favorite bands were performing – Sylvan Esso, Belle & Sebastian, the Head and the Heart and Shakey Graves.   Everyone put on a great show and 2017 continues to be a great year of concerts for us.

Hanging out in the VIP section!

Due to Zach’s plantar fasciitis, my sprained ankle, and our lack of showers at both our Bozeman and Missoula campgrounds, we headed to the pool! This past year has been the first time since middle school that I haven’t regularly swam.  It was great to get back in the water and avoid not showering for two straight weeks.  Apparently, I’ve never swam laps with Zach – he was much better than I was expecting!

Zach considering going for a swim in the creek?

Now that we’re further north and at higher elevations, the nights get much colder.  I already struggle to get moving in the morning and near freezing temperatures don’t make it any easier.  Our camper does have a heater but in my mind, it wastes too much propane and I think that sleeping in the cold is helping me lose weight.  But Montana sure had some great sunrises, which made getting out of bed a little better.

This is actually a sunset