Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Washington: June 24, 2003

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben in the summer of 2003....

Day 17--Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Since there was only one other tent at the entire campsite (the one next to us) and tons of RVs, I had no competition for a shower in the morning.  We had a nice slow morning while we slept in and took our time getting ready in order to miss the traffic rush into Seattle.

After we broke camp and drove into the city, our first stop was the Public Market.  Getting there was really quite the adventure, since our maps were terrible.  We ended up having to wind through little side streets, including some truly huge hills, before eventually finding some $11 parking and heading into the Market.

Mostly, we just window shopped.  Our primary target was the Pike Place Fish Market.  When we eventually got there, I have to admit that I wasn't as amused by it was I had expected to be.  There were tons of people crowded around, so it was hard to see anything--I hate being short!  We looked at plenty of shops and stalls with jewelry, fresh food, and novelties.  In a way, the Public Market reminded me of the English Market in Cork [Ireland].

While at the Market, we stopped by a crepe place and had lunch.  We had a crepe with gorgonzola cheese and spinach for our main course, then a sweet one with Nutella, bananas, whipped cream, and almonds for desert.  Mmmmm.

Our next Seattle stop was the Seattle Center, where parking was much more reasonable.  We walked past a skate park, where it was neat to see all of the little kids doing such amazing stunts.  We went by the Space Needled, but we didn't go up.  In fact, we passed on most of the attractions because of the cost.  We found a nice park in the center and sat around watching little kids play in a huge fountain that shot up water in time with music coming out of speakers around the perimeter.  While we were there, a deaf woman tried to give us bookmarks in exchange for a "donation," but we gave them back to her.  Good grief.

After leaving the city, we drove for a very long time.  Since we weren't sure exactly where in the park our campsite was, we ended up driving way out of our way.  We went around the top of the park and then had to come back down the other side, so we ended up getting there much later than expected.  En route to our campsite, we stopped at Jack in the Box for the first time ever and got two tacos for 99 cents--after a very, very long wait.  We eventually got back onto Route 101 and took that to the park.

After skirting around Olympic National Park for quite a time, we eventually made it to Kalaloch Campground on the coast.  Our site was definitely the worst one around.  There was really no place to put the tent, since the picnic table was taking up the entire site.  Even once we managed to squish it in, the ground was so hard that we couldn't drive in the tent pegs.

As soon as we got the tent set up, we hit the beach near our campsite.  The girl at the check-in shelter told us the sun would set between 8:30 and 9:00, and we wanted to make sure we didn't miss it.

When we got to the beach, Ben went to stash our shoes behind a log so we could walk barefoot in the sand.  While he did that, he found a wallet lying in the sand.  We opened it up and recognized the guy whose campsite was across from us from his ID.  Moments later, we saw him walking down the beach towards us, looking intently in the sand.  Ben went up to him and returned his wallet, and the guy was overcome with gratitude.  First he tried to give us money, and after we refused that several times, he tried to take us out for a drink then and there.  (Really, where were we going to go?)  After we assured him several times that we didn't need any material form of thanks, he showed us pictures of his grandkids and then returned to his campsite, while he resumed our walk down the beach.

My little scavenger Ben picked up several pieces of driftwood as "poking sticks" and quite a few "cool rocks."  We played in the sand, splashed in the water, and explored.  I was especially amused by the long row of seagulls that all lined up and stood stock-still on the waterline to watch the sunset.  The sun didn't go down until a little after 9:00, and then a cloud was in the way so it wasn't as impressive as it might have been.  This was my first trip to the Pacific Ocean, and Ben's first trip to the ocean, period, so we made sure to take plenty of pictures!

Back at our campsite, we made dinner and then got ready for bed.  We had no idea where a bathroom might be, so we had to just pee in the woods near our campsite.  We also had to put away all our food, toiletries, and anything else that might smell, as so to avoid unwanted encounters with wildlife while we slept!

9 / 40

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Washington: June 23, 2003

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben in the summer of 2003....

Day 16--Monday, June 23, 2003

I woke up slightly before 8:00.  I could still feel the effects of the previous day's adventures, but 10 hours of sleep can cure most things.  I showered and got ready in the dark and then woke up Ben.  While he showered, I went to the lobby and got breakfast for both of us.  We ate it while watching cartoons and writing postcards, and then we were on the road again.  Destination: Seattle.

So we drove and drove and drove....

And eventually arrived at the Vasa Park Resort outside Seattle.  There were two huge picnic parties going on and we were at first concerned that we had come to the wrong place, but a very nice lady and her husband, who ran the place, assured us that we were in the right place and fixed us up with our site and some maps and driving directions for Seattle.

After setting up our tent, we changed into our suits and headed down to the lake to go swimming.  There were tons of kids from the picnics running around, plus the water was freezing, so I was pretty hesitant to get in.  Ben, however, dove right in and began splashing around.  I eventually lowered myself in, taking great pains not to get my hair wet because I didn't want to sleep all night with wet hair.  We swam over to an area near shore where some ducks were paddling around.  Ben proceeded to swim after them while chanting "duck duck duck duck duck" and trying to "play" with them.  They all quickly swam away!

When we got back to the campsite, we realized that we had a guest.  We had left our bag of bread sitting out on the table, and it now had a hole in it, plus there were bread crumbs all over the table.  We originally thought that one of the ducks came to visit, but we later discovered that it was the work of some little brown birds!

We had a good dinner of pizza pot pies.  When our regular ingredients ran out, we used spaghetti sauce in place of pizza sauce and peeled some string cheese for the insides.  We spent some time observing the people at the next campsite--two parents and two late-teen/early-20s kids all sharing a tent the size of ours!

9 / 40

Monday, August 29, 2016

Montana: June 22, 2003

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben in the summer of 2003....

Day 15--Sunday, June 22, 2003

When I awoke, I felt like a whole new person.  We were within an hour of Butte, Montana, our destination for the night.  While the name of the town is actually pronounced "beaut," as in the geographical structure, Ben insisted upon calling it "Butt" for the duration of our stay.

When we arrived in Butt/Butte, we made the rounds of every hotel in town, trying to find the cheapest one, only to return to our first stop, the Comfort Inn.  A banner across their entryway read "Butte's Best Value."  I guess we should have believed them the first time around!

We got checked in to a nice room and watched "Ghost on HBO for a while.  We had dinner at the Plaza Royale, a greasy little local restaurant/casino.  We put 50 cents into the nickel slots and came out with $1.15.  I crawled into bed at 9:30 to slip into oblivion.  Ben, meanwhile, stayed up until 3:30, typing, reading, and watching "Star Wars: Episode 2" on HBO."

8 / 40

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Wyoming: June 22, 2003

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben in the summer of 2003....

Day 15--Sunday, June 22, 2003

I was awakened by the voice of a man at a nearby campsite.  I wormed my way deeper into my sleeping bag and tried to go back to sleep.  I do not deal well with not getting enough sleep, and this made two days in a row.  I never did manage to get back to sleep, though, because Ben managed to force me into consciousness three times in quick succession: first, by dropping one of my shoes on my back while bringing extra clothes into the tent; two, by striking up a conversation with the man at the next campsite; and three, by sitting on my as he attempted to climb back into the tent after all of this.

I was not a happy camper when I woke up.  I was tired and COLD.  Ben apparently suffered from none of the same exhaustion problems, but the cold was pretty much universal.  He told me that there had been snow on our picnic table when he got up.

I managed to rouse myself enough to demand a shower, so we got into the car without breakfast and drove to the shower area, which was just past the check-in area.  By the time I finished my nice, long, warm shower, it was snowing again.  We're not talking about little flurries here.  It was an out-and-out snowstorm.  The temperature was at 34 degrees and the snow was flying everywhere in a bitter breeze.  I would definitely not have gone outside in weather like that at home, but here in the Rocky Mountains I was left with no protection but a 7-year-old sweatshirt.

After Ben finished his shower, we began our drive toward the Geyser Basin.  During this drive, we laughed at the silly park ranger that had told us the weather would get up to 60 that day.  We joked about the possibility of catching hypothermia and dying.  Ha ha.

At the Geyser Basin, we got out to explore the wooden walkway and the views it offered.  Ben especially liked the "paint pots," small bubbling bodies of water of all different colors.  They were definitely cool, and it was so strange to see smoke rising from the ground as snow obscured all other views.  But I have to admit that my favorite part was when we headed back to the car.  We tried to job the last bit to the car, but Ben slipped on the slick path, completely wiping out while also managing to kick my leg and create a big bruise and also toss the camera a few yards.  Neither of us was in quite as good of spirits when we returned to the car.

I took a 20-minute nap during our next drive, and I awoke soggy from the melted snow on my sweatshirt.  It was now down to 32, and the snow was still coming down hard.  This was the point when I introduced the idea of checking out of the camp and getting a hotel for the night.  Even if we could somehow make it through the day, I just couldn't imagine sitting around at our campsite for hours in weather like that, nor sleeping in it again.

Our next stop was Old Faithful.  We missed the eruption by minutes, so we made ourselves comfortable in the nearby lodge.  We got our requisite postcards and magnet, I tried unsuccessfully to call Dad, Ben bought us hot chocolate, we admired cute babies (okay, that was more me than him), and I sank closer and closer to the table, thinking how nice it would be to curl up and go to sleep.  When the snow let up a bit, we walked over to the Visitors' Center so Ben could get a stamp in his book.  While we were there, a lone buffalo wandered past the building, so Ben dashed outside to get some pictures.  After it had meandered off toward the parking lot, we returned to the lodge.

With about 10 minutes left until the eruption, we went to stand outside to watch Old Faithful, along with several hundred other idiots who were braving the weather.  I have to admit that I was pretty miserable at this point.  I was absolutely freezing, not to mention exhausted.  Not a good combo for anyone, especially me, who doesn't handle either of those extremes very well.  The eruption itself was pretty cool, seeing the geyser just start bubbling all of a sudden and then shoot water and steam upward.  However, I will say that I didn't like it as much as the smaller, less predictable geysers.

I then drove the 17 miles back to our campsite, where we checked out for the night and received a refund.  We then broke camp and got back in the car.  We had to drive past Old Faithful again on our way out, and just when I was sure I was going to fall over asleep on the steering wheel, we arrived at the Finger Paint Pots, which Ben wanted to see.

I'm going to leave most of the description here up to him [Ben also kept a journal of our trip, but I'm not posting it here], as I was basically trying to prop my eyes open at the time.  There were many which were bright colors, and some which smelled pretty strongly of sulfur, and all were bubbling and smoking and showing off for us.  Ben took pictures of everything.

When I finally got to crawl back into the car, I promptly fell asleep and remained unconscious for about the next three hours.  When I awoke, I felt like a whole new person.  We were within an hour of Butte, Montana, our destination for the night.

7 / 40

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wyoming: June 21, 2003

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben in the summer of 2003....

Day 14--Saturday, June 21, 2003

We went through the rest of Utah, then all of Idaho, then cut the corner of Montana, and then into Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park.  Our long day contained a lot of reading, a little bit of wedding discussion, and quite a few phone calls on my free-minutes-on-Saturday cell phone.  Ben discovered the games on the computer and got somewhat addicted, and I did Magic Lens grammar sentences for all of Night by Elie Weisel for my English 12 classes.  I think it should be clear which of us had more fun.  :)

It was after 10:00 and pitch dark by the time we came rolling into Yellowstone.  We were pretty anxious to make camp and go to bed after more than 11 hours of driving, but no such luck.  The woman working at the check-in shelter informed us that our campsite was about an hour and 20 minutes away, and cautioned several times that we should closely adhere to the speed limits, as there had been several accidents.  We heaved huge sighs and continued on the trek.

However, the trek soon became work it.  As we drove up the winding road, cars coming from the opposite direction started flashing their lights at us.  Ben asked me to help him keep a lookout for deer.  We both peered through the front window.  And then, as we rounded a curve, there they were, mere feet from our car.... Buffalo!  Two huge buffalo lumbering down the road, completely oblivious to the cars which stopped on both sides of them.  We got the best pictures that we could while both exclaiming over their huge, lumbering beauty.  That definitely made the drive worth it.

We got to our campsite around midnight and made camp as quickly and quietly as we could.  It was very cold, so we bundled up in extra layers and snuggled down as far into our sleeping bags as we could!

7 / 40

Friday, August 26, 2016

Utah: June 21, 2003

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben in the summer of 2003....

Day 14--Saturday, June 21

I don't know what was the matter with me, but I just couldn't sleep last night.  I somehow managed to develop a pounding headache after Ben fell asleep, so this kept me from getting any good deep sleep.  Finally, a little after 5:00, I woke Ben up, forced him away from the entrance to the tent, and went to the car to get some Advil.  After that, I managed to fall into a good sleep until a little after 8:00.  When I got up for the second time, I startled two deer who had slept in a little hollow of grass less than 10 feet from our tent!

We broke camp as quickly as we could, but we had been so relaxed the night before that we really weren't very prepared.  The drive down the mountain took a good long time, and we had to drive through Moab again in order to get going the right direction.  This took a very long time.  Ben has had stomachaches for the last two or three mornings, and combining that with today's winding paths down rocky mountains led to him feeling a little carsick.

Today has been essentially all driving.  We did manage to get showers at a Conoco--right before we entered an area which offered "no services" for a little less than 200 miles!  We drove through Salt Lake City but didn't really stop because we knew we had a long drive ahead of us.  We went through the rest of Utah, then all of Idaho, then cut the corner of Montana, and then into Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park.

6 / 40

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Utah: June 20, 2013

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben in the summer of 2003....

Day 13--Friday, June 20

I woke up first and took a long, hot shower.  Ben was shocked when I woke him up and told him it was almost 9:30!  With the blinds in the hotel room drawn, the morning sun just couldn't wake us up like it did at our campsites!

Our first stop of the morning was Hole 'N The Rock.  This bizarre structure was the home of two old and eccentric people.  They blasted out the inside of a mountain and built their home in it.  "And because of the irregularity of the walls, Gladys had plenty of places to store her knicknacks!"  The whole thing was kind of creepy because it had several large animals (such as a deer and a donkey) that Albert had stuffed himself.  Yep, those people were perfect for each other.  They were even buried on the grounds.  Scary.

After that, we had to drive back through Moab in order to get to Arches National Park.  This park was full of the huge red rocks that are famous to the area, all twisted into crazy shapes.  We saw Balancing Rock, the Three Gossips, and the Garden of Eden.  After driving through the amazing scenery, we decided to do the mile-plus Window Loop hike.  We took the "Primitive Trail" rather than the main one, and we were the only ones on it.  We had amazing views of the South and North Windows, as well as the Turret.  I think Arches National Park was my favorite so far--it was just so far from my previous experiences and so wild and beautiful all at the same time.  One brochure we picked up described it as "Tolkienesque."  I'm not sure I'd agree with that, but it was definitely a wild sort of beauty I had never seen before, somehow alien to all other experiences.

A crew was doing road construction on the road up to the trails, so we got held up on our way there and again on our way back.  We didn't mind so much, and on the way back, we got to sit and talk to a very friendly construction worker while waiting for the "lead car" to come and guide us down.

After Arches, we continued on to Canyonland National Park, where we stopped and had lunch at a picnic table near the trail we wanted to do.  Just walking to the picnic table and back, my shoes got covered with the soft red dirt.  The temperature was in the upper 80s, but our picnic site was shady and we had a nice relaxing break, eating chicken and rice while reading our books.

We then hiked the Upheaval Dome trail, 0.3 miles each way.  Basically, the overlook provides a view of a huge pit or valley.  No one knows how it was really formed, but one theory states that a meteor hit there millions of years ago and its effects were felt around the world.  Very interesting, but not very pretty.  We didn't feel the need to hike to the second overlook.  On our way back down, though, we did see the weirdest little yellow and black bug, as well as two lizards.

This was just the start of our wildlife adventures for the afternoon.  Our next drive took us to the Manti-lasol National Forest.  A National Forest, I learned, is NOT to be confused with a National Park, primarily because a National Forest doesn't have an entrance fee or an entrance booth, and also because Ben can't get National Forest stamps in his book.  However, he did manage to get two National Parks stamps today at Arches and Canyonlands.  It's not the five he was hoping for, but he'll try to get by.

Anyway, during our endless drive up the winding mountain roads to our campsite, we kept encountering cows and deer by the side of the road.  At one point, we saw three baby cows, which of course made me squeal that I want to have moo-cows at our house someday, which in turn made Ben roll his eyes heavenward.

During the hour-long drive, we created a rough draft of our guest list for our wedding and discussed the bridal party and other issues.  Ben got a little edgy toward the end, but he really did hold up better than I expected him to with all the "wedding talk."

When we got out of our car at our campsite, I had a couple of rude awakenings to face.  For one, it had dropped to 56 degrees, and I was freezing!  Secondly, there were no showers anywhere nearby.  Thirdly, the only bathroom facilities were pit toilets.  This did NOT make me a happy camper!

My flagging spirits were revived in two ways.  While I was sitting at the picnic table at our site, I heard Ben give a little gasp, and I looked up, only to discover a deer standing about four feet away from me.  This beauty was one of the three who visited us several times during the evening.  While Ben battled to prove his manhood by building us a fire, I followed the deer around the surrounding area with a camera.  "You can never have too many pictures of deer!" I told Ben.

The second excellent thing about our campsite was that it was surrounded by beautiful birch trees, most of which had carving in them from ages past.  There were names from the 1960s on up to the present.  Ben got out his pocketknife and carved "Amy + Ben '03" on one of the y ounger trees that didn't have any decorations yet.  I, of course, just melted.

We had real pasta and real sauce for dinner, plus marshmallows over a VERY smoky fire.  Afterwards, we sat on our camp chairs, staring into the flames and talking until late into the night, when we snuggled deep into our sleeping bags in an effort to stay warm.

6 / 40