Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the seventh day of our travels.
We packed up our van at the Canyon Campground and headed out for our return journey to Salt Lake City. The Artists Paintpots was the one remaining attraction we hadn’t seen that was still on my wish list, so Susan graciously agreed to make a stop there on the way. I thought the Artists Paintpots was a roadside attraction like the other geysers, but upon arriving we learned there was a 1.2-mile hike for the round trip to the paintpots. Kay was not up for this, so Susan returned with her to wait in the van while Peter and I made the hike.
It was worth the trip. We’d seen geothermal features by Lake Yellowstone in West Thumb and in arid basins in the Old Faithful area, but this was the first time we saw them in a forest. The rising steam in the woods gave it a fairy tale feel. I did have the impression there would be more bubbling mud than we actually saw, but I guess it was the dry season. We returned to the van at the right time, because a wave of other tourists were just heading in. In fact we’d see a lot of inbound traffic heading into the park for the Labor Day weekend as we drove out. Not all the congestion was human-made, though, as we delighted in the awesome experience of seeing a large bison bull saunter down the road.
Leaving Yellowstone through the west gate, we arrived in the town of West Yellowstone, Montana. We stopped here to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a small zoo for rescue animals that would give us the chance to see some of the wildlife we didn’t see in the parks, including grizzly bears, wolves, raptors, and otters! We arrived at the right time being the last family admitted for a noon entry group. Inside we saw the grizzly bear Nakina, and then the change over when the twin sister cubs Condi and Seeley enter the enclosure. One of the cubs climbed the tree to get a feeder left by the center’s staff, but had some trouble getting back down from the tree.
Susan spent a lot of time talking with the naturalist, learning facts about the bears and their behavior. She also got confirmation that she and Peter probably saw a glimpse of a bear several days earlier on the Moose-Wilson Road. I spent a lot of time watching the otters until dragged away by the children. We headed into Yellowstone and were able to get lunch from a 50s-style diner. Then it was on the road again for a long drive to Salt Lake City. The route back through Idaho was less scenic than on our drive to Grand Teton, but we did pass numerous locations for boating and tubing that were attracting Labor Day crowds. We arrived in Salt Lake City just after sunset, happy to check into a hotel room with comfy beds and a television.
Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the sixth day of our travels.
We had a full day catching on many Yellowstone attractions we hadn’t seen yet. Since we didn’t make it to Old Faithful on our geyser day, we headed there first. We arrived in the confusing complex of parking, access roads, hotels, and support buildings wondering where the actual geyser was located. But it was Kay who pointed and said, “It’s right there, Dad!”
The next eruption was not expected for another hour so we went into the Old Faithful Lodge to pick up breakfast food from the cafeteria. We took it outside to eat on a bench under the eaves of the Lodge and watch the steam rise from Old Faithful in the distance. People were already gathering on the crescent of benches around Old Faithful, so after breakfast we claimed our own socially-distanced bench. Peter & I went for a walk on the trails around Old Faithful and saw some of the smaller geothermal features in the area.
On schedule, Old Faithful erupted as it always does. Kind of remarkable to think it has been doing so for hundreds probably thousands of years. Having fulfilled our Old Faithful obligation, we returned to the van and drove to the Midway Geyser Basin. It was also crowded and we ended up parking down the road along the Firehole River instead of the parking lot. This gave us a nice walk along the river before reaching the boardwalks around the Grand Prismatic Spring.
The Grand Prismatic Spring was lovely and the boardwalks were nowhere near as crowded as all the parked cars would indicate. I also began to notice that it was “Wear Lycra Leggings to Yellowstone Day” but we didn’t get the memo. So embarrassing. There is a path that leads to an overlook to see the Grand Prismatic Spring but we didn’t know where it was and after being in direct sunlight at both Old Faithful and Midway Geyser Basin, it was getting too hot to consider hiking up a hill.
So we returned to the van for a nice, long air-conditioned ride through the scenery to the park entrance in the northwest corner. This included passing through a windy, mountain pass and into lower elevations than we had been to since arriving in the park (although still higher than most of the peaks in New Hampshire’s White Mountains!). We visited Roosevelt Arch, the formal gateway to Yellowstone dedicated in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt himself. We did some shopping at a Yellowstone gift shop – where Kay got a bison hoodie – and then ate lunch at a pizza place.
We reentered the park and made our next and final stop at Mammoth Hot Springs. These springs deposit minerals creating terraces of stone with remarkable patterns. Susan said it was like the inside of cave on the outside. We walked up and around the boardwalks increasingly noticing that we were feeling quite warm. The kids had enough so I took them to the van while Susan did some more climbing to an overlook. While in the van we checked the local weather and learned that it was 90°! I guess this is what people call a “dry heat.”
Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the fifth day of our travels.
To lift our spirits after feeling tired and cranky the day before, we started off our fifth day by treating ourselves to a hot breakfast from the eatery at the Canyon Lodge. We ate at the picnic tables outside under the watchful eyes of the local ravens. Fueled by scrambled eggs and French toast, we spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon taking in the views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
We started on the south rim stopping at Artists Point and Uncle Tom’s overlooks. Then we saw everything again from the north rim at Lookout Point and Inspiration Point. The Yellowstone River dropping over the Upper and Lower Falls never failed to please and we enjoyed the many colors of the canyon, including the stones of yellow. We also enjoyed watching the osprey soar over the canyon. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is very photogenic. Not that it stopped Kay from stealing our phones to take selfies and silly photos of her family.
After resting in the afternoon, we went to the Canyon Corral. Susan and the kids went horseback riding on an hour-long guided tour and saw elk from the saddle. Kay bonded with the wrangler Jonathan by talking about Star Wars. Meanwhile, I went for a drive through the Hayden Valley where I saw a small hide of bison (with very cute calves), a coyote, and many spectacular vistas.
Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the fourth day of our travels.
We had trouble setting up the fold-out bed in our campervan the night before, so everyone was tired and cranky on our first full day in Yellowstone. Nevertheless, we headed out to attempt to visit the geysers and geothermal features along the Grand Loop Road, leading up to Old Faithful. We stopped first at Fountain Flat Drive where I got out to attempt some artsy photos of a hot pool draining into the Firehole River.
Turning around and returning to the van I spotted a bison walking right across the flat on the opposite side of the street. We saw him poop and then approach a small pine tree which he used as a backscratcher. We named him Itchy. Heading back to the main road we saw another bison sleeping by the side of the road. We named him Sleepy. Driving off, Susan was shocked to see in her rear view mirror that people were getting out of their cars to walk right up to Sleepy!
The next stop was the Lower Geyser Basin where Peter and I got out and saw the many geothermal features including the Fountain Paint Pots and the always-erupting Clepsydra Geyser. Then we drove down Firehole Lake Drive and saw many more pools and geysers. The White Cone Geyser is supposed to erupt every 20 to 40 minutes, so Susan got out to wait while the rest of us kept cool in the van. We waited and waited, but it never erupted.
We stopped next at Whisky Flats Picnic Area for a late lunch. By this time it was clear that everyone was too tired to go on. So we made the plan to go back to our campground for a nap and/or quiet time. By the time we were rested it was too late to head out again.
Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the third day of our travels.
On our last day in Grand Teton National Park, blue skies returned, except for low clouds that hung out just below the peaks of each mountain in the range. We checked out of Colter Bay Village saying goodbye to the tent-cabin and its cozy woodstove. We drove to Jenny Lake where the parking lot was full of vehicles. We took the shuttle boat named for “Beaver Dick” Leigh across the lake, and then hiked up to Hidden Falls. Although a short, easy hike it does count as our first hike in Rocky Mountains.
Shuttling back across the lake, we returned to our campervan and drove north toward Yellowstone. The view of the Teton mountains looked spectacular even in the rear view mirror. We stopped for a picnic lunch by Jackson Lake for one last view of the Teton Range while eating peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. As we continued north we passed through hauntingly beautiful burnt regions of the forest.
After checking into Yellowstone, and passing over the Continental Divide, we stopped at West Thumb Geyser Basin. Our first set of geothermal features was located right on the edge of Yellowstone Lake, providing a stunning background to the geyser activity. We continued along the Grand Loop Road (the long way around because of a road closure) to Canyon Campground where we’d be staying the next four nights. At dusk, we once again went out wildlife spotting and saw a grazing elk and sleeping buffalo.
My son and I took an overnight trip during spring break to Cooperstown to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. This is my fourth trip to Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame. I have mixed feelings about Cooperstown. On the one hand, Cooperstown is an absolutely gorgeous village and its fun to drive the winding roads through scenic farmland to get to the town and its excellent museums. On the other hands, the story of baseball being invented in Cooperstown is completely fabricated, and places with much better claims on being the place where baseball was invented in New York City, New Jersey, and New England would be a lot easier to get to for most visitors. Cooperstown needs the Hall of Fame more than the Hall of Fame needs Cooperstown.
That being said we had a great time walking through the town that was largely empty of people, visiting the baseball memorabilia stores, and taking in the exhibits at the Hall of Fame. I took a lot of photographs including the plaques of all my favorite Hall of Famers and posted them in this web album.
April 15 was Patriots Day in Massachusetts and we celebrated in our usual way.
First, we attended the Red Sox game, the only scheduled MLB game each season scheduled to start before noon. The weather was cold and wet and the Red Sox lost, but it’s still better than going to work on a Monday morning.
Next, we went to watch the runners in the Boston Marathon. We somehow missed seeing all four people we knew running the race, but cheered on lots of strangers at the corner of Hereford and Boylston. This is a fun place to watch since it’s the first place the runners can see the finish line and they get very jubilant at the turn.
Last Saturday, I marched in Jamaica Plain’s annual Wake Up the Earth Parade with my daughter who moved between two groups in the parade, her school and her afterschool program. As often happens, the kids’ baseball games conflicted with actually attending the Wake Up the Earth festival, but I did enjoy the many artistic expressions of my JP neighbors in the parade.
We met our guide Erin at St. Paul’s Chapel, and although her name was appropos to the day, she told us she was not actually Irish. The St. Paul’s churchyard has a memorial – but not the actual grave – of Thomas Addis Emmet. He was the elder brother of famed Irish martyr Robert Emmet, and participated in the rebellious United Irishmen in the 1790s. Exiled to the United States, he did pretty well for himself, and even became New York Attorney General.
The next stop was at St. Peter Catholic Church, the oldest Catholic parish in New York, established in 1785. The current church building dates to 1840.
The Marble Palace is under scaffolding right now, but it is a historic landmark that once held America’s first department store. Opened in 1846, it was home to Alexander Turney Stewart’s dry goods store. Stewart was an Irish immigrant made good. The store provided same day tailoring of clothing thanks to dozens of seamstresses working on the top floor, many of them recent immigrants from Ireland.
The Tweed Courthouse is associated with the graft of Tammany Hall, the powerful political machine that was initially nativist but grew to welcome Irish Catholic immigrants in return for votes. Across the street is the former home of Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, founded in 1850 by the Irish Emigrant Society to protect the savings of newly arrived immigrants.
We took a brief tangent from Irish history to discuss the African Burial Ground, which was pretty cool. Nearby in Foley Square, in the midst of a rally opposing discrimination against Muslims, we talked about one of New York’s first suburbs, built on the site of the Collect Pond which was drained in 1811 through a canal at what is now Canal Street. Since it was a natural spring, the water returned, making the houses unstable. As the wealthy moved out, the poor occupied the abandoned houses and created New York’s first slum. A short walk away in a Chinatown playground, we talked about Five Points, the notorious neighborhood known for its mid-19th century gang violence. But it was also a place where Irish immigrants and free blacks got a toehold in the city, and even invented tap dancing!
On Mott Street, the Church of the Transfiguration shows the immigrant heritage of the neighborhood. Initially a place of worship for the growing Irish community in the 1840s, by World War I it was a largely Italian parish, as the names on the World War I memorial plaque indicate. Today the church serves a Chinese Catholic community.
Another fascinating diversion from the Irish theme was passing by the Spanish and Portuguese Sephardic Jewish Graveyard, which is associated with Congregation Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States, founded in 1654!
Around the corner, we visited another Roman Catholic church, St. James, where the Ancient Order of Hibernians was founded in 1836.
We stopped by Public School 1 to talk about how Irish Americans had their children educated. Erin also noted the architectural design of the school pays tribute to New York’s Dutch heritage. In the heart of Chinatown, we talked about the Chinese Exclusion Act and how an Irish American woman could lose her citizenship if she married a Chinese man. At the final stop, we discussed the notorious riot brought on by the conflict between two street gangs, the Irish American Dead Rabbits and the nativist Bowery Boys.
Finishing our Irish tour in the heart of Chinatown, we of course had lunch at Thai Jasmine. It was yummy. Then we headed uptown to see part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I hadn’t been to the parade since in 22 years, but had a lot of nostalgia for my childhood when it was an annual event. We remembered the year when the wind was so strong it blew wooden police barriers down the street like tumbleweeds, and told stories of family friends we met at the parade. I was impressed that the pipe and drum bands have significantly more women than in my childhood, and that black and latinx people were in the parade as participants as well as spectators, making it a much more diverse celebration than it used to be.
The crowds were light and I didn’t witness any misbehavior, which was also a plus, although it may have been due to the fact that we arrived late in the day and were way uptown. When the winds got too chilly, we decided to drop in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an hour or so. We wandered into a gallery of art from New Guinea, which was fascinating, and definitely not anything I’d ever seen before.
If the day wasn’t full enough already, we finished things of with a performance by the New York Philharmonic, who played Mozart’s Requiem, but only the parts that Mozart wrote. I had a peaceful half-nap to the music in the first half of the perfomance.
On Sunday, we went to the New York Botanical Garden for the Orchid Show. There were significantly fewer orchids on display than last year, and the greenhouses were very crowded, but it’s always a lovely place to visit regardless.
I like how these two photos turned out. One is a picture of the dome of the greenhouse, the other is the reflection of the dome in the water.
To finish out a proper St. Patrick’s Day, we went to An Beal Bocht Cafe in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx. They had sweet Guinness poured properly and musicians playing a traditional Irish seisiún (although they snuck in a couple of crowd pleasers like “The Wild Rover”). It was crowded but friendly and definitely a place I’d like to visit again, albeit it’s a steep climb uphill from the subway station!