Posts Tagged ‘National Park’

Grand Canyon: North Rim

January 11, 2011

The drive to Grand Canyon, through southern Utah and northern Arizona, is long and empty.  On the way, you’re likely to remark that Bryce is more beautiful than anywhere else and to doubt your earlier, novice impressions of Grand Canyon.  And then you get there and wearily clamor to the edge and stop remarking altogether, your jaw dropped too low and your voice squelched.  If you recover from that initial shock, you may find yourself quoting the late president Teddy Roosevelt, declaring Grand Canyon “one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.”  At least, that’s how it went for me.

I mean, look:

I don’t have enough megapixels for this kind of sweep.

Selby and I talked to a most-knowledgeable ranger who outlined all the best, secret camping spots in the Kaibab National Forest, which surrounds the park.  We ended up driving forty minutes down a dirt-rock road, my Hyundai Accent vibrating all the way and my CD skipping, to clearing bordering a hardly-accessed section of the park.  You’re not technically allowed to camp in the park without a permit, so we pitched our tent on the forest-side of the fence.  It was dark when we arrived and we were hungry and cold and frustrated by the drive.  So we setup camp by the light of high beams and Selby cooked steaks on the campfire like a hunter gatherer (with a grocery store).  In the morning, we made coffee and walked forty feet into the wood, where we stood on the canyon edge, not a soul in sight, our voices once again squelched.  Not bad.

Here are some photos not taken there:

If you’re bold, you can sit on the rim:

If you’re even bolder, you can do this:

Or, really pushing it, this:





December 17, 2010

Bryce is nice:

If you look at it, you will gasp.  Like this rock wall gasps:

You will then see hoodoos (not the magic, the rocks):

And this rock:

And this rock:

And this rock:

And this rock:

And this rock:

And this rock:


You’ll also see this tunnel.

Maybe you’ll even see Selby.

Here she is drinking coffee like a tourist:

Here I am drinking water (while holding coffee like a multi-tasking tourist):

Here is a freezing sunrise over Bryce (sunrise over ice?):

I almost got frostbite on my fingers.


December 14, 2010

Leaving Vegas, we began “The Grand Circle Tour”, as 1920s Union Pacific marketers once called the line that brought travelers through Zion, Bryce and the North Rim of Grand Canyon.  Lacking both the intricate beauty of Bryce and the sweeping, oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-die shock of Grand Canyon, Zion is the least memorable of the three.  That doesn’t mean it’s not memorable.  Or not amazing.  Just not as.  A good place to start.

We took a long hike.  The first of many.  Here’s Selby walking up a hill:

The top:

I thought about stealing this marker but forgot my pickax.  Do they increase the fine with inflation?

The view:

Back at the bottom, tired, dehydrated and in need of electrolytes, we met some hip, road-tripping Portland chicks (or was it Seattle?  Same shit.) who were toting a couple lion heads around the country, photographing what they saw.  They saw us:

The weeping rock:

Rain falls on the top of the mountain.  It soaks into the porous sandstone.  Over hundreds of years, it seeps down to the base of the rock, and drips out.  Like rain or tears.  Don’t drink it.  Imagine the video turned this way:

A fawn suckling at our campsite:

The next morning, a sunrise:


WHAT?! GEYSER PORN! VIDEO!!! aka Yellowstone, pt. 3

December 1, 2010

Photographs are all well and good, but they’re quite still and don’t lend themselves to moving things.  In Yellowstone, the ground moves:

Video is better:


Yellowstone, pt. 2

December 1, 2010

The Boiling River flows through Yellowstone.  You can’t touch it: it’s boiling.  Eventually, it flows into a normal, cold river.  Where they meet, they form something of a jacuzzi river.  I paddled about for an hour or so.  Some eddies are scalding hot while others are frigid.  Delightful, really.  To get there, you’ve got to head to the north edge of the park:

And of course hop between states on your way.

Yellowstone has a canyon, too.  The Yellowstone Grand Canyon.  Not as impressive as the real Grand Canyon.  But not bad:

Now you get the bit about yellow stones.  Me:

I met a lady at my camp who offered me some newspaper to help kindle a fire.  I thanked her for her kindness.  She then offered to dig out her ax so I could cut the logs I had carried from a dry part of the camp.  I prefer the smash-into-concrete-until-they-splinter method.  I declined her offer but thanked her again for being so hospitable.  She said, “Of course!  This is the West!”  As if only the West is hospitable.  Would no Vermonter share their newspaper in a campground? Would no New Yorker point a lost Montanan to the train?  I hate that shit.

Yellowstone, pt. 1

December 1, 2010

I was told that there is a point somewhere in Yellowstone National Park that is farther away from civilization than any other point in the lower 48.  Granted, this most-distant point is only something like 30 miles from the nearest town.  But still.  It’s a barren place.

And an otherworldly one.  There are more geysers and hot springs in Yellowstone than in the rest of the world combined.  The whole place is little more than a thin crust atop a massive volcano.  Fields of thermophilic bacteria, which thrive off the extreme heat produced by the volcano, surround the geysers.  These are crossed by wooden boardwalks and marked by signs warning that the earth may have shifted since the maps were published.  Don’t walk off the trail.  Don’t trust the maps.

Here, buffalo prints wander through a bacteria colony:

Here, mud boils in what’s called a “Paint Pot”:

And plenty of steam too:

The Long-Promised Buffalo

November 30, 2010

Yellowstone Traffic Jam:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo:



The Road North

September 20, 2010

I woke up at 5 AM in the dark.  Packed my camp and drove up to a turn-out to catch a sunrise.  Ate a peanut butter sandwich and drank an energy drink.  The sunrise was still 50 minutes off.  I left.  Later, another turn-off:

I had eleven hours of driving before I reached Crater Lake.  The drive reminded me a lot of my tour through west Texas.  I saw mystical places:

And hilarious towns:

And right-wing nuttery:

And a motherfucking bald eagle:


Around 5 pm, I reached Crater Lake:

A better view, kind of:

The campground was just as wet.  Hardly anyone else was staying at it.  But I was feeling bold.  And I own rain pants.  So in a rush of rugged enthusiasm, I set up my tent on the highest ground I could find.  I then set to work collecting the driest wood around.  I found a few logs hidden beneath picnic tables left by previous campers.  I found a tree protecting a cache of pine needles.  And I pulled the Yosemite newspaper out of my car.  I then hung a tarp over one of the few non-submerged firepits in the camp.  I was never a boyscout, but  I did camp a lot growing up, and I pride myself in my fire-starting skills.  My first attempt was the strongest.  It burned for 15 minutes or so.  But the large pieces never caught: it had been raining for two days there and there was just too much moisture.  And now I was out of small twigs.  Still I pushed.  I tore more paper.  Threw on a handful of pine needles.  Burned threw a box of matches.  Grabbed more from the car.  Each subsequent flame lasted for less and less time.  If at first you don’t succeed try, try again until you’re bitter and cold and frustrated and wet and it’s dark and you’re still 5 hours from Portland.  The forecast had 100% chance of rain the next day.  I was done.  I tore down the tarp, collapsed my tent, and threw it all in a pile in the back seat of my car.  I changed my socks.  I then screeched out of the campground, probably terrifying the single group of campers remaining.


16 hours of driving that day. I listened to a This American Life episode on the road about some Iraqi young men living with daily bomb blasts and dying children.  I felt bad for feeling bad about my struggles.  Fortunately, I’m friends with a law student at Lewis & Clark, and she was up studying when I got into town at 1:30.  We split some beers.  Then I curled up on her couch, with warm blankets and cats, and fell asleep.

Fuck Yosemite

September 19, 2010

I spent three hours driving to Yosemite and then three hours driving around the place in search of camping.  The place was booked.  I had arrived at 5 and thought I’d have a lovely evening, setting up camp, watching the sun set over the Half Dome, roasting potatoes on an open fire. I did catch the sunset, though through a car window, amidst bouts of frustrated rage as I toured the parks many campground entryways and viewed the beautiful “Campground Full” signs blocking each one.  So I left.  Went out to the national forest surrounding.  Found a dirt forest service road, drove until I reached a wooded and level turnout, parked and looked at the stars, ate some sourdough bread and went to sleep in my car nervous all along that a bear might smash my windows, hungry for my potatoes and sardines.  I was fine.

I woke up at 5 the next morning and realized that the sun didn’t rise for another hour and a half so I went back to sleep.  When I did finally get up, I drove back into the park, down to the Yosemite Valley, to Camp 4, and waited an hour for the place to open and then another hour in line before I finally got my $5 spot in a camp site shared by 5 other people.  I stashed my food in the bear canister and went off for coffee.

I’m trying to say that my first hours at Yosemite were not a whole lot more than frustrating.