Day 7: Leaving Yellowstone


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.

Day 6: From Old Faithful to Mammoth Hot Springs


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.”

Day 5: The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone


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.

Day 4: Geyser Basins


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.

Day 3: Grand Teton to Yellowstone


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.

Day 2: Grand Teton National Park


Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the second day of our travels.

On a cool, overcast day with sporadic rainfall, we did a driving tour of Grand Teton National Park.  Despite the clouds, the views of the Teton Range from various pullouts on the Teton Road and Jenny Lake Scenic Drive were awe-inspiring and made Susan say “WOW!” We stopped for a walk around Menors Ferry Historical District where we saw the Chapel of the Transfiguration and various historic buildings from when Bill Menor ran a ferry across the Snake River from the 1890s to 1920s, allowing tourists to pick huckleberries.

Peter was cold so we returned to Jackson where we picked up a fleece pullover on sale at one of the outdoor stores.  We also had a pub lunch at an outdoor table. We returned into the national park via the narrow and partially unpaved Moose-Wilson Road which Peter learned is a place with a good reputation for wildlife spotting.  Peter and Susan may have got a glimpse of a bear and Liam briefly saw a mule deer, but despite all the promises we didn’t see any moose.

As the rain got heavier we went to historic Mormon Row.  The kids didn’t want to leave the car so Liam went out alone to take photos of the famous T.A. Moulton barn.  As the sun set, we drove along the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River  where the NPS rangers had set up warning signs for bears.  We saw no bears, but did see various birds and pretty reflections in the water. Nearby we saw a grazing mule deer and a glimpse of a herd of elk.  We finished the evening at the Jackson Lake Dam where our van was surrounded by an unkindness of ravens, drastically increasing our corvid risk.

Day 1: Salt Lake City to Grand Teton National Park


Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the first day of our travels.

We finished off our very strange summer with a week-long vacation to two great National Parks: Grand Teton and Yellowstone.  We began by flying in to Salt Lake City where we spent the night at a hotel near the airport.  We woke up in the morning to a beautiful sunrise over the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains.  We called a Lyft to get a ride to to pick up our camper van, and our driver Chris gave us a tour of the highlights of Salt Lake City.

Chris dropped us off at Basecamper Vans where the staff member Jen met us to show us how to use our van with a fold down bed in the back and a pop-up tent up top. With this knowledge we headed off to the grocery store to stock up on food for the week.  Peter described the grocery store experience with one-way aisles and the need to avoid other shoppers as like being in a Super Mario Bros. game.  Stocked up on food, but our tummies rumbling we picked up lunch at Del Taco.

There was a long drive ahead of us, 311 miles, but it turned out to be fun.  This was probably because of the novelty of traveling through three new states – Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming – and seeing the constantly-changing landscapes.  The suburbs of Salt Lake City gradually turned into cattle ranches.  After crossing the Idaho state line we left the flat basin behind and headed into rolling hills. We stopped for gas and refreshments at Lava Hot Springs, a local hotspot for camping and boating with its own water park.  We passed by historic markers for the Oregon Trail and then phosphorus and gypsum mines before diving into the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

At last we arrived in Wyoming and enjoyed the awe-inspiring views of the Snake River in the Bridger-Teton Forest.  We stopped in the well-heeled vacation town of Jackson for supper, getting take out from Hand Fire Pizza.  While waiting for our order to be ready we took a photo under the elk antler arches in the Town Square park and checked out the oddly out-of-place lifesize sculptures of figures ranging from Ben Franklin to Jeanne d’Arc to a bison.  Kay was also able to find a keychain with her name on at it at one of the souvenir shops.

With our bellies full, we continued on to our destination – Grand Teton National Park – stopping to take many photos in front of the sign.  As we continue deeper into the park we come upon a field where a whole herd of bison are grazing!  Finally we arrive at our home for the next two nights, the Colter Bay Campground tent village, where we will stay in a tent cabin with a wood stove.

Movie Review: Saludos Amigos (1942)


Title: Saludos Amigos
Release Date: August 24, 1942
Director: Norman Ferguson | Wilfred Jackson | Jack Kinney | Hamilton Luske | Bill Roberts
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Summary/Review:

Saludos Amigos is the first of the package films Disney released in the 1940s, and due to the random order of my viewing, the last I watched.  This movie is most directly connected to the Walt Disney company’s goodwill tour of Latin America in 1941, and features full-color documentary footage of Disney artists traveling by plane around South America.

The short film features four segments, one each set in Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.  “Lake Titicaca” features Donald Duck visiting the titular lake as a tourist.  “Pedro” is the story of young airplane making his first flight to collect the mail in a journey over the Andes.  In “El Gaucho Goofy” the American cowboy and the Argentian gaucho are compared and contrasted.  The final and best segment, “Aquarela do Brasil,” introduces José Carioca, who teaches Donald Duck to dance the samba. Amazingly enough, the famous title song was only a few years old at the time this movie was made, and Disney actually made it popular in the United States!

The film is slight, but enjoyable enough, especially the music.

Rating: ***

Photopost: St. Patrick’s Weekend in New York


I visited my mother in New York this past weekend and together we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in traditional and unique ways.

The weekend began with a Big Onion Walking Tour of the Lower East Side area once known as Little Ireland.

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.

A pegasus flying over Chinatown. Because it’s awesome, that’s why.

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!

City Stories #5 – Venetian Visions


13 years ago this week, my wife Susan and I spent the first three days of our honeymoon in Venice, Italy.  There is no other city like Venice, and even other cities named Venice or theme park recreations lack the accretion of human construction over centuries that makes the entire city a colossal sculpture of water and stone.  Below are snippets of my favorite memories. If you enjoy this City Story, please check out my previous writings about Brooklyn, Derry, London, and Chicago.  

 

Arriving at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport, we took the Alilaguna water bus into the city. I quickly got acquainted with the lagoon when a wave of briny water splashed through the window and soaked my shirt.

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While Susan napped, I strolled blindly through Venice’s alleys ending up in Campo Santa Maria Formosa. Children were playing soccer in the square and I got involved by kicking back a ball that went astray.

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In the evening we consume cones of limone while listening to the orchestras on Piazza San Marco. We try to dance in the mostly empty square, but that inadvertently prompts every flower seller in eyeshot to approach us and aggressively try to make a sale.

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The next morning, Susan catches a glimpse of everyday Venice from our hotel window, watching a man and his dog pilot a work boat down the canal.

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On our walk through the city, we climb the spiral stair to the top of Scala Contarini del Bovolo . We are greeted by a slim, friendly gatto wearing a jewel-encrusted collar. The view here is more intimate than the Campanile, with views of tiny Venetian backyards and clotheslines.

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We visit  the Scuola Grande di San Rocco — home to a fraternal organization that performed charitable works for plague victims — and is richly decorated with religious art by Tintoretto. We enjoyed interpreting the religious themes in the dozens of giant canvases on the walls and carrying large mirrors to study the murals on the ceiling.

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As the sun begins to set, we walk to get a closer view of  La Salute Church. The approach included walking through a covered alley that felt like a dark tunnel. We emerged from the tunnel and found ourselves amidst twig-thin fashion models in a photoshoot. We are certain the photographer said, “Yes! Gauche Americans are exactly what this picture needs to make the cover of Elle!”

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We ride a gondola at night, and Venice looks just right from the water. In the darkness, we can peep in windows, look at the stars, and listen to the gondolier greet doormen and waiters as we pass. We laugh as the motion-sensor doors on one of the fancier hotels slide open as we glide by.

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The next morning while we’re eating our breakfast at the Hotel Riva, we the same fashion models from the night before posing for another photo shoot. The whole crew come into the hotel for coffee and pastries, but the models stay true to stereotype and refuse to eat anything. More tart succo di frutti and cherry preserve on rolls for us!

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On our final morning, we visit Basilica di San Marco, where the glimmer of  mosaic tiles shine in the darkened interior. After years of settling, the marble flooring rolls like the sea. The walls use many marbles of different colors — pink, green, grey, white — like a Neopolitan ice cream.

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Those are some of our memories of Venice. Have you ever been to Venice?  What do you remember most?