Tag Sechs

This morning we made French toast and poached eggs. Hilary’s kitchen is delightful, especially with the balcony open. And we’ve fallen in love with her Nespresso machine. I feel a little guilty, but she can recycle the capsules right in her normal recycling. In fact, I’m rather impressed by the recycling setup that seems to be everywhere. (mind you, people still litter. It’s not like they’re saints) One of the joys of traveling (or even weekends at home or camping) is the quality of breakfast. Michelle puts far more love in to breakfast than I do, but I love the results. During breakfast, we hammered out the plans for the day. Bonn (for Haribo gummies), Berg Elz, and back to Köln by dinner.

Next Hilary and I took the loaner car that her mechanic had given her (a POS Golf with a litany of electrical and mechanical problems) to rent a Passat. The exchange at the rental agency was ever so delicate. They all spoke excellent English, but add to that the intricate dance of trying to sell you on an SUV, or add trip insurance, or a GPS, or whatever. We left thinking we’d gotten out OK, but you never really know. The car was a drastic improvement over the loaner, but even an upgrade in size over Hilary’s Audi wagon. I drove the POS Golf home and relished the opportunity to drive a stick/diesel again. We got back, loaded up the Passat, and made off for Bonn to visit the Haribo store.

Bonn, a name largely forgotten but somewhat familiar to Americans, used to be the capitol of West Germany. By comparison to Köln, it’s a somewhat lame city. It did have a nice enough downtown, and we enjoyed picking from the walls of different types of gummy candy. Then we walked across the street to Lindt to get chocolates as well. As we walked back to the car, we realized we’d just bought a bunch of melty things that we were going to have to store in a black car for the rest of the day. We crammed all the chocolate in to the glove compartment where there’s an A/C vent, hoping the chocolate wouldn’t be ruined. Then we drove towards Berg Elz, winding around and feeling like maybe we were lost. There was some tension in the parking lot about the direction the trail to the castle went and the way the service road went. We wanted to take the bus/shuttle, but it appeared to not run that day. So we followed the trail further and further downhill. We were all a little concerned about the direction, but I had memories of arriving at the castle sweaty from our visit some 21 years ago. God, I’m that old already?

With the Haribo bear
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More schnitzel
Hilary approaching Berg Elz

The Berg Elz (Castle Elz), is a picturesque castle nestled in a valley on a stone mound. By the time we arrived, we were starving, so we got lunch at the cafeteria. It was just fine. Schnitzel, salad, and spaghetti. Oh, and pomme frites, because they come with everything. But then we went upstairs to join a tour through the castle, which had a tremendous family history. It was a little odd looking at the place and knowing that the president our nation somehow elected really does live his life as if he were one of these royal families. It kind of put a sour taste on the tour for me, but I kept it to myself. The castle is just amazing and really looks like a place you could enjoy yourself. And I’m not just talking like a crazy 8 year old boy.

Inside Berg Elz
Freeds at Berg Elz
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Berg Eltz Bedrock

After the tour, we got some snacks then headed down the Mosel River valley towards Koblenz and the Rhine. We followed the Rhine north to Linz, where we felt we could find a reasonable dinner. You park out on the highway then walk in to the town. The cobble streets are small and the town is charming as all hell. And it was empty. The rain and I guess the Thursday evening meant the streets were quiet. We wandered for a while until we found a place that appealed to the adults. And it was Pfifferlinge season (chanterelle mushrooms) and Hilary is a huge fan. So all the specials included pfifferlinge. I got pork medallions with pfifferlinge sauce and pasta and it was excellent. We were thirsty enough that we sprung for 2 6 Euro bottles of still water. That’s still hard to justify coming from Bull Run water country. After dinner we wandered the charming streets and made our way back to the car for the remaining drive back to Köln.

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in Linz

That evening, we packed for our trip to Bavaria, watched some more Brooklyn 99, and tended to Maddie’s dry skin. The girls slept outside again and slept right through a thunderstorm. The covered portion of the deck meant that they were well covered, but I pulled their mattress a little closer to the door. The air was wonderful.

Tag Fünf

Hilary’s apartment is on Beethoven Park and is some fancy, award winning architectural/community darling. It really was a substantial development with massive underground parking and storage, lovely courtyards with ponds, carp (er, Koi), and turtles. Her apartment itself is quite roomy with a fantastic deck/patio that looks out towards the park. It was so nice and the weather was warm enough that the girls spent the night outside. In the morning, we scrambled some eggs, bacon, and sautéed some kale from Hilary’s balcony. Breakfast included excitement about what the first day would hold, but also required some calculation about how we’d work a trip in the the mechanic. During the drive from Amsterdam to Köln, the front right wheel wobbled during acceleration. Just a few days prior, Hilary had the vehicle in to get the tires changed and the mechanic had noticed some leakage from the from CV joint. Rather than repairing it, they just put the wheel on. So she had them look at the boot but apparently they didn’t find any issues.

Am Beethoven Park

Well, we were going to drive across Germany in 2 days, so we were a little less comfortable with the shape of the front wheel. So Hilary took the car back to the mechanic (who didn’t speak English, but the daughter who worked in the accounting dept did, so they texted back and forth). It was and continued to be a frustrating experience. We learned but didn’t use the phrase “am der Name eherumführen), which roughly translates to being jerked around (by the nose). So with no confidence in the mechanic, we decided to rent a car for our trip.

During all this, Michelle, the girls and I went to Beethoven Park and played at a playground. The girls had a good time but had some difficulty communicating with the children, some of whom were naked. The girls had a blast though as they tend to do when there’s a playground around. Afterwards, we headed to the neighborhood Rewe to get some picnic items (and beer) and we took the train to Media Park, a large city playground with nearly abandoned equipment. The kids had a blast on the gigantic slide and unique and complex swing set. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch and watched a group of adult (men) who seemed to be walking back from lunch stop to watch one of their coworkers take the giant slide. We assumed there was beer at their lunch.

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Hilary sliding
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Dom through a bridge head

We wandered a little further along the parkway to a massive swing set that had two pivots and two swings, but both were connected by cable. So to swing, you had to cooperate with the other swinger. It was challenging and somewhat frustrating, and if you jumped from the swing, the whole motion collapsed on the other swinger. But by this time, we were all hot, and the girls needed to use a bathroom. Which there are so very few of in Europe. So we meandered in to a nearby Saturn electronics superstore. We took turns pretending to shop while the kids used the bathroom. The store was fun in that “it’s familiar but different” way, and Maddie really enjoyed pretending like we were shopping. She even went so far as to make up statements like “I was looking for one of these!” Ham.

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Futurama mural in Köln

Next we wandered through town towards der Dom. We went through the old part of the town with castle walls and gates, stopped in a comic book store, looked at fanciful dress shops (for Carnival), and found an Asian market that Hilary was thrilled about because they had tons of ingredients she hadn’t been able to find anywhere else. We continued our walk, and Hilary had gone through considerable effort to try and get us there without seeing der Dom until we were right there. And it was worth it. We turned around the corner and were caught off guard by the presence of the gothic cathedral. It is massive. We wandered around it, trying to take in the scale of the building. There was scaffolding on the north tower which made everyone sick thinking about how scary it would be to work on the suspended platform that high off the ground.

Der Dom with the Freeds
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Girls and aunt Hilary
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Der Dom

Around the cathedral was bustling with tourists. Everyone trying to find a break in the crowds for the perfect picture. We went inside and MG lit a candle for Barley. We were too late to climb the tower so we wandered over to the bridge to see the locks and a view of the Rhine river. This city is quite gorgeous and I already regret having dedicated so little time there. But the kids were starting to crash from being tired and hungry so we made double time over to Peter’s, a beerhall that served their own Kölsch. By the time our drinks arrived, the girls were spiraling and finally crashed. We had to force them to eat some food, and after some gnashing of teeth, they both perked up. I got the pork knuckle, which was massive. And it was delicious. We shared a variety of pork dishes, including schnitzel, pork medallions, wieners, and we were able to find some vegetables (doused in cream) as well. The food was great, the server prompt, and the Kölsch was delicious. This was also the girls’ first experience in Germany of having a bathroom attendant. They were confused but eventually managed to use the bathroom and leave a tip.

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Counting Kölsch at Peters
Dinner at Peters

After dinner, we (I) waddled out on to the old town square to enjoy the active energy of the evening. The girls had rebounded and were doing piggy-back rides through the square. The grounds were being prepared for the Cologne Gay Pride festival that was happening in 2 days. The girls got some gelato and we continued to wander through the charming square until we could catch a train back to Hilary’s apartment. Once we arrived at home, the girls were nearly ready for bed and insisted that they sleep outside again. We gladly allowed them to, and Hilary introduced us to Brooklyn 99, which streamed in English with German titles on Netflix there.

Tag Vier

On the fourth day, we woke with a hunger for some delicious breakfast. Fortunately, there was a renouned waffle place nearby. We walked north towards it and were interrupted by a route closure due to construction. As we tried to bypass it, a construction worker started yelling at us in Dutch. We apologized and when he realized we were Americans, he turned totally nice and in nearly perfect English, gave us an alternate route to get to where we were heading. The route took us through this massive housing project called Funenpark that was a mix of park/open space. It looked like project housing done well.
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We had breakfast at Brunchroom, which had an amazing “build your own waffle” option which the kids loved only slightly more than Hilary. Some of the combos selected.

  • Bacon, Bananas and maple syrup
  • Honey, fig, pumpkin seed and goat cheese
  • Strawberry, blueberry, and whipped cream
  • Nutella, Banana and coconut smoothie (not a waffle)

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After breakfast, we headed to an electric boat rental shop (boaty) do do a self-guided canal tour. We all wanted to do a canal tour of some sort, but the idea of being packed in with chumps didn’t thrill anyone. So we hopped tram and got off at the connector to buy groceries for a picnic lunch. The lunch options were pretty stellar, but I was suddenly sad when I found the plastic packaged hot dogs (in buns) had American flags on the labels. Forgone conclusions.

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Anyway, the electric boat rental was awesome. We motored down a canal to the Amstel River, then back through some canals to get a feel for the city. The views were amazing, and the pace was perfect. It’s hard not to get some relaxation out of a float. But the amazing cruise got even better as we pulled over to one of the very view empty spots along the canal to eat lunch. Cheese, bread, cured meats, fruit, and awesome beer. It was the height of existence.

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We motored back to the mooring spot after watching a young swan tear around. We then took transit back to Hilary’s parked car on the outskirts of town and somehow managed to cram all our luggage in. It took some time to get out of Amsterdam proper because of traffic, but by the time we did, I’m pretty sure 3/5 of the car were asleep. And that was despite my encouragement for everyone to take in what they saw and notice the subtle differences between here and home.
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We drove on and my sister and I debated how bad the rattling of her front CV joint was as we traversed two countries to finally reach Germany. After some long chats and long naps, we arrived in Köln (Cologne) and immediately stopped for food at Planet Hürth. It was a very traditional German spot with excellent curry wurst and frits. Oh, and they had Kölsch. Hilary explained the May pole tradition whereby young suitors attach small trees to the homes of their secret loves. If the source of the love accepts, he (though mostly she) takes the tree down. Otherwise, the tree stays up, decaying as an embarrassing sign of misplaced love.

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We polished off our meals then stopped at a grocery store to grab some food for the coming days and finally arrived at Hilary’s apartment on Beethoven Park. It is an awesome complex. Obviously built to last 70 to 140 years, unlike the crap we built here. We got a quick tour then utterly crashed for the night. Windows and doors open to let the fresh air caress us to sleep.

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Tag Drei

Day three was our first full day in Amsterdam. We started the morning by hopping a train in to town to get near the Van Gogh Museum for breakfast. The morning was cool, and we almost got on the wrong train because we assumed that the direction of the tracks represented the direction the train was going. The train was nice though, like our street cars in Portland, but with more riders and more service.

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We stopped at a bakery near the museum and our eyes nearly fell out of our heads. So many options. Pastries, sandwiches, mini-pizzas. We all picked up something (I got a ham & cheese croissant) and coffee and walked over to the park next to the museum to eat. It was delicious, but messy as all flakes fell off the wonderful sandwiches. Since we still had time until our museum ticket reservation, we wandered around the park and then wound up at the iamsterdam sign by the Ruks museum. The kids climbed, we took pictures, and made our way through some sort of festival. On the way back to the Van Gogh, we saw some installations of Banksy & Dali work. Cool bonus.

Ruks Museum garden
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The Van Gogh Museum was packed. The format was designed to handle the population, but the kids didn’t exactly get hooked right away. Maddie learned that Van Gogh died at 35, which she was very curious about and kept asking questions about. There were a few notable missing works, but the collection was fascinating. I admit I really liked some of his contemporaries work, which was also on exhibit to show examples of what others were doing. None of us had seen the almond blossoms work yet and were all enamored with the colors. I really liked the haymaker/landscape work as well.
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After the museum, we walked to Vondelpark. We’d heard so much about the playground, and it took a while for us to find because the park is so big. Fortunately, there was an info booth with some old Dutch women who spoke really great English. In fact, there was no shortage of friendly, English-speaking residents. Hilary told us to enjoy it while we were in Amsterdam because it would be absent when we arrived in Germany. We played at the park at the west end for a while. I was impressed with the quality and imaginative design, but Ella was tired and couldn’t keep up with Maddie. After a while, we walked north to Foodhallen, a giant indoor “food cart” pod. The selection of food was excellent and we each got something that caught our attention. I had an amazing Iberian ham sandwich after the vendor lured me in with a small sample. Hilary got dim sum (and ended up sharing), and Michelle got a salad roll (which was the most boring). The girls, despite all the options, chose fruit & yogurt cups. Then they stole bites from us.
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After eating, we wandered towards the center city to explore. The kids got hungry again, so we grabbed some snacks right on the square and watched the crowds and picked apart the performers and their techniques. Then we wandered around making a big loop towards the Ann Frank house, which we couldn’t get in to. We had hoped to pick up some of the late day releases, but the lines were amazingly huge. So sadly, we couldn’t see the house. We did pick up some stickers, and Michelle checked out the palace after being moved by curiosity. After more souvenir shopping, we walked through the red light district to Brewery De Prael for dinner. Upon seeing nearly naked women standing in windows on the street, Maddie asked what they were doing. Hilary told her to ask her parents. We explained at dinner what prostitution was and the girls were a little surprised and confused, but didn’t really follow up with many more questions.

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The girls and I had dessert (I had a Nes IPA, which was delicious) while Hilary and Michelle wandered the Red Light District. I managed to have a conversation with a couple from Germany whose English was a good as my German (at least that’s how I perceived it after 3 beers) then Hilary took the kids back to the hostel so Michelle and I could explore. We toured the district, taking in the whole scene along with thousands of elderly tourists. The district is charming in it’s own way, and it is certainly helped by the canals, but the crowds of tourists makes the whole thing seem kind of commonplace. But comments from some of the tour guides (that we eavesdropped on) suggested that there was a concerted effort from the city to try and gentrify the district.

Michelle and I grabbed some beers while waiting for the sun to set and Michelle locked herself in a bathroom. She did manage to escape. Eventually, we grew bored and took a bus back to the hostel. While we were out, Hilary and the girls played hide & seek at the hostel.

Tag Zwei

We landed in Amsterdam at 1pm (er, 13:00) local time. We all immediately needed to use the bathrooms, which was a fun intro to subtle differences between European and American design (and language). Getting through customs was cake, and after we walked through the doors, we were greeted by Aunt Hilary. The girls were thrilled and we got our hugs in before buying commuter train tickets to our hostel. Hilary had picked up a SIM card for me to use and I tried to get it to work on the train but it wouldn’t work. Oh well. Better pay attention to what is going on outside anyway.
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We walked about half a mile to the Stay OK hostel and checked in to our “family” room. 6 bunks and a private bathroom and some funky decoration. The place was very nice and the staff were super friendly. We were famished, so we walked to a nearby Vietnamese place, but it apparently only serves Vietnamese food after 5pm. So we had more continental food (and beer!) and caught up with Hilary. Michelle ordered a Hilary ordered the Croque Madame, Michelle and sandwich that included brie, apples, and walnuts, and I had a spicy sausage baguette sandwich, and the girls had waffles and cakes.
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Next we wandered over to the De Gooyer Windmill (and Brouwerij t IJ) to check out this vestige of history along the canals. We wandered along the canals, marveling over the mixture of nice and partially sunken and rotting boats to Oosterpark to enjoy the fountains and ponds. The kids fed the ravenous ducks and pigeons. The birds were pretty gross, but the girls made a game out of petting the flying rodents. We headed back to the hostel to plan out the following day and figure out dinner. We enjoyed beers in the sun while the kids played on the playground across the street.
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For dinner, we wandered over to Boi Boi, a wonderful Thai place that everyone enjoyed. On the walk back, we encountered a German Shorthair Pointer with a full-length tail. It could also bark loudly. We wandered back towards the hostel and picked up some ice cream for desert. It was a fun stroll as the sun set, and we arrived home around 10pm. We successfully made it a full day after the long flight.
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More photos are available in the Amsterdam 2017 Flickr album.

Tag Eins

Introduction

This is a rather disjointed summary of our trip to Amsterdam, Cologne, Bavaria, and Paris this summer. We traveled from July 1st to July 15th and spent most of the trip (except flying) with my sister. She lives in Cologne. The post is mostly about capturing things that will hopefully trigger our imagination later in conjunction with the images we captured. There are oh so many images. I may never sort through them. Heck, I don’t think I even finished the posts about Yellowstone or South Africa yet. Thus, these will be fairly succinct.

back to day one

Day one was travel. To save money on airfare, we flew out of Seattle and landed in Amsterdam (and left from Paris). Even though we’ve known we were going for months, there was still a last minute rush to organize and thin our carry-on bags. Then, we loaded up the cars and made great time getting to Tacoma, where we stashed the cars with a friend. We dropped off the luggage and grabbed some horrible food from a dumpy teriyaki place. To wear out the kids before the long flight, we went to Kadel Park, where there’s a wave pool. Even though the skys were cloudy and the weather rather cool, we spent nearly 2 hours in the water playing and swimming. Everyone agreed that it was a blast. We took an Uber to SeaTac (there were no Lyft drivers) and our driver was a lifetime welder from Vietnam. Really cool guy who got us there in no time. We also raced through security and had to find ways to occupy ourselves while waiting for the flight. That included multiple trips to the bathroom, random wandering, and trying to watch a Timbers game on my phone. Eventually we boarded and hunkered down for the long red-eye flight.

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Thanks to the modern entertainment systems, it was easy for the kids (and adults) to entertain themselves. Michelle and the girls all managed to get some sleep, but I wasn’t able to get more than maybe 30 minutes (thanks, Melatonin). But we’ll pretend that day one ended with everyone asleep in the air flying over Hudson Bay and Greenland.
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Wyoming Adventure, Day 8

4:45am is early in Yellowstone, and cold. But most importantly, it is an amazing time of the day free from the noise and motion of other people. When the weather cooperates, there is nothing better than being the only person around to savor the splendor of the start of a day.

I grabbed some Via instant coffee, a granola bar, and headed towards Pumice Point to launch the canoe. I’d found what looked like some good drop-off features in the West Thumb the night before, and I was determined to catch and kill some Lake Trout. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do in the park. Regardless if you keep them, you must kill them. The Park has set up gill nets deep underwater on their spawning routes to try and eradicate them in an attempt to salvage the Cutthroat population.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The steam on the lake, the light, and the complete absence of other people, save for a research vessel leaving Fishing Bridge, made of a dreamlike experience. I had goosebumps, and only party because it was cold.

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Once I reached Pumice Point, I slowly moved the Canoe, trolling motor, and fishing gear down to the shallow and rocky shore. Still no sign of other people.

This is why you get up early

I trolled out towards where I knew the drop-off was using the same setup I use on Oregon lakes. These are hand-made lures – pink hoochies with a few beads and a smile blade (with double barbless hooks) behind a pink sling blade and a dropper weight. In small craft, you’re not supposed to venture beyond a 1/4 mile from the shore because the lake is so cold (43F).
Trolling for Mackinaw

Since I had a trolling motor and, well, the lake was glass, I might have gone a little further. In fact, I was in the middle of the thumb, surrounded by geyser steam, clouds, mountains and sun when I made my first turn and got my first strike. Woohoo!

First bite at first light

It was a little odd puncturing the swim bladder and tossing it back, but given the bear activity, I didn’t want to take fish back to the camp site. I poked, then dropped the fish back in, hoping a pelican would be nearby to enjoy the fresh catch. Oh, here’s the boat setup. Rod holder, paddle, spare paddle, trout-slayer rod (that my dad found on a lake while canoeing and has been unstoppable since), tackle, spare rod, and net. There was no way I was going to lug this stuff all the way from Oregon and not use it.

Trolling canoe setup

I did another loop and in almost the same spot, hit another fish. Puncture, drop, and loop again. On the third loop I caught my biggest trout, probably around 16″.
Gut the fish

It was now 7am, the sun was up, and the breeze was starting to pick up, so I decided I’d had enough fun that I should get back to shore while the water was relatively calm. I saw another boat just as I reeled in my tackle, but I wasn’t quite done. You see, pumice point is relatively shallow water with lots of rocks, so there were a number of lost lures that I could see from the canoe. I hauled in the trolling motor and pulled a few lures up from the bottom. Salvaging lures is yet another favorite activity, so this was a very fun and successful trip. Spending solitary time in the splendor of And it was only 7:30am.

The day hadn’t even begun. Our next outing was to see the Falls. Our first stop was the upper falls and Uncle Tom’s Trail. We opted to hike all the way down, something that was quite a feat for Michelle especially since she doesn’t like, well, cliffs and precarious-feeling ladders. But good god is the view splendid.

Panorama from Uncle Tom's Trail

Stairway is not for the faint of heart

Uncle Tom's Trail

Lower Falls from Uncle Tom's Trail

As we were getting back to the trailhead, we overheard some folks say they’d just seen a black bear. I rushed up to try and see it but instead noticed a young male grizzly above the parking lot. I wasn’t the only one though. People started swarming towards it. Some people getting within 30 meters of it. Fools! I almost sent the kids back to the car so they didn’t see a mauling and have that ruin the trip. Fortunately the bear was doing his best to high-tail it out of there. We were able to snap a few quick shots from the van as he made off.

Young Grizzly near Upper Falls

We also checked out the far side of the canyon, including Inspiration Point, and despite the dreary day, the intense colors of the canyon still impress. Getting a clear shot here was challenging though because tourists kept walking in to the frame while I was shooting.
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By now, everyone was tired of waterfalls and rain, so we headed to Canyon Village and got some lunch at the dining room. It was mediocre, but warm.

Lunch at Canyon Lodge

After fighting traffic to get back to camp, we chilled at our site for a bit. The solar charger ensured that we had a full battery every day. And it was time to start preparing for the next leg of the journey.

Goofing at Bridge Bay

Wyoming Adventure, Day 7

Today marks our halfway point for the trip. It was a fine looking morning, so Dave, Michelle and I rented a boat from Fishing Bridge to try our hand at Lake Trout fishing (a.k.a. Mackinaw trout). The Lake Trout were planted sometime after we moved away, and their deep spawning tendencies and lack of a larger predator have made them a menace for the ecosystem of the lake. They have decimated the native Cutthroat population, (some feat after the way humans decimated them in the first half of the 20th century) and rangers who have worked the lake have noticed a change in the population of otters and birds of prey now that there are fewer Cutthroat to eat.

We rented small aluminum lodge boats when I was a kid and I remember fondly as we trolled spin-a-lures and caught plenty of Cutthroats. The boat we rented was much larger, and a Klamath to boot. It was very comfortable, though we had to rely on a bathymetry chart on my phone for depth.

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We trolled a variety of different lures, including a few spin-a-lures with various dropper weights and even a few straight lines. At one point, we drifted a little too close to the shore and got snagged in some bottom gunk. I thought my navigation was sound, trying for deeper channels and ledges, but we had nary a bite. Amazingly, when we were well out in the middle of the lake, we were swarmed by gnats. Another fun fact: the PFDs that Michelle and I were wearing were my parents from when we lived in Wyoming in the 80s. Yes, those jackets were 30 years old and have been on that lake many a time.

Andy and Dave on Yellowstone Lake

We knew we were skunked, so we headed back to join back up with Kathy and the girls for lunch. After what was I’m sure an excellent lunch, we loaded up the wagons and drove up the Hayden Valley again to see the mud pots. Traffic was thick because the Grizzly mom and her cubs were out. Progress was slow, but we were able to see the cubs playing in the grass, a few eagles, and of course, lots of bison.
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At first, the bear cubs were asleep in the sagebrush and we could only see the sow meandering around. Once the cubs woke up, they were in a playful mood and we were able to see them follow mom back towards the carrion. You can see in the shot above how the two are wrestling. How adorable.

After the bears, we turned back towards the lake to check out the Mud Volcano boardwalk. The sights and smells were a treat. It’s amazing how the sink of sulfur translates so well across different languages. You could see the disgust in the faces and in the laughter of the foreign visitors. (Side note – the country of origin of the tourists was much different than when I was last in Yellowstone. The world changes, obviously.)

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It was up hear that Dave saw what he believes to be a wolf running near the mud volcano. Sadly, we couldn’t follow it to try to get a better sighting, because, boiling mud.
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After our adventure, we headed back to camp to clean up. We had reservations at Lake Hotel for dinner. IT turns out that even when camping, we can clean up pretty well.

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How lucky am I? What beauties.

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Girls at Lake Hotel

Dinner was excellent, service was great, and there were a couple buck deer with their velvety antlers right outside the window during our meal. What a treat. Afterwards, I showed the kids the medical clinic I used to visit with my dad when he was the volunteer medical director for the park. It looks the same now as it did then.

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After dinner, we went back to Kathy & Dave’s camper for some Rummy and shit-talking. Ella had a camera and was able to capture the moment, though she’s not yet the best at making sure the photos turn out before moving on to the next image.

Rummy and Shit Talking

Since Kathy got cell reception in the park at times, I used her phone to find additional maps of the West Thumb bathymetry since I was going to take the canoe out fishing the next morning. No one else wanted to get up before 5am to join me. Wimps.

Wyoming Adventure, Day 6

What trip to Yellowstone would be complete without seeing Old Faithful? Well, that was our adventure for the day. We headed over and got to see one eruption with front seats (after some waiting). The girls pretended to be excited by the false starts but it’s clear they didn’t get it. But then the eruption happened and they got why we were there.
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We also explored the amazing lodge where I’m sure I bored the girls to tears with stories of my childhood where my sister and I got locked out of our room in our pajamas and the loge staff had to find our parents. The lodge is still as impressive now as it was as a kid, however, and I still yearned to climb all the way to the top.
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After the lodge, we had lunch on a bench in front of Old Faithful. Talk about an epic lunch. The girls were scandalized by all the people who were getting off of the boardwalk and sticking their hands in the runoff from the geyser. Ella because she’s such a good rule follower, and Maddie because she’d seen the sign warning about breaking through thin crust and getting scalded. Either way, we were glad to have such well behaved daughters.

After lunch, we checked out the discovery/education center where the girls learned a little more about the park (as did we). We weren’t there too long before we decided to wind our way around the wood boardwalk and explore the other geysers, hot pots, pools, terraces, and variety of algal rafts (aka scum) until the girls were actually tired of hot water and stink. They loved it for a good 90 minutes though, given the variety of different ways that hot, stinky water can come out of the ground.

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Done with the loop

After Old Faithful, we drove north to Grand Prismatic to try and see the splendor of it’s amazing colors. Turns out, so did plenty of other people. There’s a short walk up, but the sheer size of the pools is amazing. Giant, turbulent pits of boiling death. It must have been amazing to watch the eruption, but I’ll take not getting burnt over a close up seat.
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Just as we were about done at Grand Prismatic, something funny happened. I lifted Ella on to my shoulders so she could get a better view for a picture. When I lifted her up, her shoe caught my elbow and flew off the boardwalk and down into the moist runoff of the geyser. It was well out of arms reach and I sure as hell wasn’t going to get off the boardwalk out of principle (and fear). But I sure as hell couldn’t leave a purple and pink Croc sitting in this amazing piece of nature. So I carried Ella back to the car (she was so embarrassed) and grabbed my tripod and ran back. I was able to extend my tripod to it’s fullest, lay flat on the edge of the boardwalk, and extend my arm out and extract the Croc. The smugness I felt for my problem solving wasn’t shared by many because it was on the downhill side and during a lull in foot traffic. A few people chuckled at my misfortune but offered no support or congratulations. Tourists.

Here’s a recreation:
Saving a shoe

And here’s another of the Grand Prismatic. Epic.
Grand Prismatic

We decided to make a grand loop of the trip, so we headed towards Madison, then to Canyon Village before winding back to Fishing Bridge. We got a surprise between Madison and Canyon though when it started to snow. In July. No biggie. It didn’t last long, and by the time we hit Canyon, it was just heavy rain, which lasted most of the way back to camp. We sat in traffic in the Hayden valley, which is apparently the norm, but we also saw some great herds of bison, and an elk, which didn’t cooperate for a photo.
Velvet Elk

When we got back to camp, the rain had passed. The girls played among the lodgepole pines, and even put together a pretty spectacular fort with some other kids. That, after all, was one of our motivations for getting a camper; the quick, fleeting friendships that occur within a campground. Anyway, the girls were having a grand old time when a Xanterra van pulled up and two contracted employees got out and said the kids couldn’t build stuff because it damaged the scenery or something. Oh, and we couldn’t take it down because they had to do it. But they had a flyer for us. This is what you get when you contract out work in the national parks. Miserable lackeys who hate fun. I was telling another park staff about it later, and she remarked “yeah, that’s why we’re called Xanterrorists.”
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For the record, I hate the privatization of National Parks and such. This type of work should be a calling, not a job. Imagine if someone outsourced the clergy at your churches, synagogues or mosques. That is what the parks are; temples to the glory of this land.

Wyoming Adventure, Day 5

Today we left the Tetons behind and drove north to Yellowstone. I mean, after one last trip to the lake with coffee. The morning was beautiful and we finally had the weather we’d been hoping for.

Michelle and the tetons

It was a relatively quick drive, and the SW corner of Yellowstone was not a place I was all that familiar with. But when we arrived at the entrance, we clearly weren’t alone in our excitement. There was a huge line of vehicles waiting for their turn to get a picture with the sign. We opted out, knowing we’d be in and out of the park at least a few times.

Entering Yellowstone's south gate

We stopped briefly at Moose Falls to see the falls. We were all excited, and sitting in the car was getting old.
Moose Falls

It didn’t take very long to reach Bridge Bay campground, and after winding our way through the massive collection of loops, we arrived at our very steep spot and spent quite a while trying to park the camper in a way that wasn’t too scary. None of us were the happiest about the angle, but I guess we’re all here so it held it’s spot. Note to self – get more wood blocks for balancing, leveling, etc.

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After situating our camp, we headed over to Fishing Bridge RV park, where Kathy and Dave were camping. The Fishing Bridge campground I grew up with had closed years ago because of bear problems, and the newer namesake RV park only allowed hard-sided campers due to the risk. (of note, a few weeks after we got home, a hiker was killed by a bear not far from the RV park)

Racing at Fishing Bridge

After settling in, we walked over to the Fishing Bridge general store, the nature center, and took a look at the lake. The nature center was a lot of fun for all of us, and the kids got a chance to see what they were going to be looking for over the next week. I got excited looking at the lake bathymetry model and the big lake trout mounted on the walls. We meandered back after picking up some trinkets and local beers and had dinner at the big camper. We played amongst the fallen lodgepole pines.

After dinner, the four of us decided to drive up the Hayden Valley to see if we could see some wildlife as sunset approached. We first stopped at a roadside stink pot so the girls could truly experience Yellowstone. Peeeeee-yew.

Who smelt it dealt it

We lucked out because a bear had just killed a bison and had been feeding on the carcass for the last day. Traffic made it clear that we were in luck, and we managed to park and join a gaggle of people who had been cordoned off a safe distance away from the bison pile. As luck would have it, we managed to see the mom and the two cubs that were with her. They could be challenging to see in the sage, but we got a positive sighting, along with a herd of bison, before heading back to camp. What a thrill! Less than a day in the park and we’d already seen a Grizzly.

Girls glimpsing their first grizzly

Of note. We did not roll away that night. So apparently our chocks, blocks, and leveling legs all held.

Oh, and how freakin’ amazing is the Hayden Valley? I could die!
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