Monday, August 31, 2015

On My Mind Monday

Photographs economize the truth: they are always moments more or less illusorily abducted from time's continuum.

Sally Mann
Hold Still

Today was the last day of summer vacation.  We spent the day at the beach simultaneously celebrating and lamenting.  This summer was a blink, a flash, a flutter.  The shore was shrouded in fog when we arrived and the air still waiting to warm up.  It never really did.  Lake Michigan was a balmy 62 degrees, but that didn't stop my little water sprite.  She was the first one in and the last one out aka FILO.  That's pure chutzpah as far as I'm concerned.  I sat with my toes dug deep into the warm sand reading my book and taking pictures because the truth is life is short and the photographs help me connect the dots that occur in endless perpetuity.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - YNP Part II

After sleeping past the sunrise and preparing what my dad used to call "a fat boy" breakfast, we spent the rest of Friday in one river or another.  We had reservations for a rafting trip at 10 o'clock that we were late for due to the paving project on the two lane highway right in front of our cabin.  The highway that is the sole route to anywhere we needed or wanted to be, and it seemed to coincide with our 72 hour stay.  Nonetheless, the pilot car was prompt, and the good people of Montana patient.

She chose to sleep on the couch outside our room instead of the room next door.  And it was a comfy couch.

Ellie and Alice everywhere, always and forever.

We arrived at Montana Whitewater Rafting, which I cannot recommend highly enough, and signed every disclaimer under the sun before getting geared up (life vests, helmets, booties).  I was a little nerved up.  I only needed to hear, "The worst thing that can happen to you is you can die," once to feel nervous, and I'm pretty sure it was said at least 3 times.  The rest of my family showed only signs of excitement.

I felt much more at ease after meeting Theron (The-ron) who was our river guide.  I'm of the belief that he could navigate that Yellowstone River in his sleep.  Which is to say that I felt like we were in good, capable hands.  He also made the trip tons of fun with his stories, stunts and jokes.  After 8 miles and 2 1/2 hours, each one of us was soaked, but all 8 of us managed to stay in the raft.  I most enjoyed the bald eagle and the herd of elk we saw, while the kids raved about surfing the Giant twice, riding bull and playing rodeo. Hands down it was the most popular part of the trip for all 4 of us.

The flotilla sets out down the river.

Forward 2.  Forward 2 more.  Forward 3. 

Theron at the stern. 

Teddy riding bull at the bow.

 Our first taste of rapids.

 Big water.

Big, refreshing water!

 Dig! Dig!

Cartwheeling off a large boulder.

 Now Miss Bit is at the bow.

 And fearlessly loving it I might add.

  I think we have an eddy here otherwise known as THE Giant!

I love the joy on Lily's face in this one.

 Lean in!  The Giant is not going to win.

 Hydraulics are killer!

 We're all wet, happy and in the boat after surfing The Giant not once, but twice.

 Heading below.

All paddle salute!

After rafting, we decided to check out nearby Chico Hot Springs.  Nearby out there means 30 miles or so.  We weren't really sure what we were getting ourselves into, but it turned out to be a resort that has hot spring fed swimming pools.  Given the commercial feel of it and the fact that it was hovering near 90 degrees, we visited the saloon for drinks and appetizers and then made our way back to YNP to swim in the Boiling River.  That was a wise choice.  Do not leave the park without swimming here preferably during the golden hour.  It's magic.  I promise.

Happy hour!

Here I am happy for air conditioning and an icy margarita.  He is happy for chicken wings.

It is here where the very chilly mountain fed Gardner River is warmed by the steamy run-off from Mammoth Hot Springs.  It is one of the only places to swim in YNP and another one of the highlights of our trip.  We arrived just before 7 o'clock and passed the ranger on the trek out who came to close the swim hole at 9 o'clock.  It was the perfect place to watch day turn into night, to cool off or warm up depending on your position, and to spend more time in YNP.

Next to this placard was a sign suggesting we refrain from all sorts of activities such as submerging our heads in the river.  Of course, we didn't read it until we were leaving.  Too late!

Racing to the rock.  Everything is a competition.

Looks like Miss Bit won this time.

Up river.  

A picture of Mammoth Hot Springs where the water reaches temperatures of 163 degrees.  The run-off is what creates the hot, sometimes near boiling pockets in the river, hence The Boiling River.

More cumbersome than the variations of hot and cold are the many sharp and slippery rocks in the river bed.

Not for the tender footed.

Lily had such fun allowing herself to be carried down the cold river by the very strong current and then beating her way back up sometimes with her dad's help.

Ted preferred to float in the warm pockets.

Over time, swimmers build ledges to lounge on (or to keep from being carried away) with the bigger rocks.

It was so peaceful despite the fact we were not alone.  There were probably 50 people along the river any given time.  The next day as we passed, we saw a small herd of elk standing in the river much closer than 100 yards from the swimmers.  No thank you.

The gloaming at The Boiling River.

We made a quick stop at the Gardiner Market for dinner: snacks and ice cream.  One thing I want to add is that everything (groceries, sandwiches in the park, restaurants, activities) is fairly priced.  We expected to spend much more than we did, and we didn't want for anything.  The entertainment for the rest of the evening was Ted's Barack Obama impersonation, and that folks was free.  After the rest of my family was finally dry and tucked in, I stepped outside in the cool mountain air to hear the elk bugling a little longer and to gaze at the bright, starry sky from the bench overlooking The Paradise Valley. Before long, Lily joined me.  My girl was also too jazzed and awed to sleep so we spent some time in silence taking in the dreamy moonlight valley, sitting with the wild vastness around us, and counting our many blessings. I'm convinced that those 20 minutes extended my life by 2 years.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

2 day pass

it was a beach and birthday weekend.
i have had many words to share about the moments created.
then i waited too long and now i am left with the memories captured.
and then that's just why i take so many pictures.
it's why i keep the ones that are blurry, off center and not exactly right.
truthfully they are never exactly right.
no, they are perfectly imperfect glimpses at my life.
they are reminders of goodness and love.
they are invitations to see beauty even in the ordinary -
evidence of the extraordinary ordinary.
i would argue that pictures are not just worth a thousand words, but also a thousand feelings.
they're hugs - bear hugs - winks, nods, chest bumps and high fives.
they say this is important to me, i see you, and i want to remember this.
i could've and wanted to include a dozen more from just this weekend.
i take a lot of pictures, but still i could take many more.
ted says "mom" like the annoyed teenager he can be, but i know that someday he'll thank me.
and lily just smiles knowing the sooner the better.
the rest of my people usually indulge me...
and especially so on my birthday weekend.

1. i came home after work on friday and walked smack dab into the birthday banner she made and had strewn across the doorway.  lily was quick to point out that it was made of pink and green, my besties, but of course, i noticed that straight away.  it's the little things that we are always left with so notice them, cherish them, keep them.  my family made me feel so thought of on my birthday.  the things they said about me and gave to me made me feel the love.

2. we went out for a night of nostalgia: lisa's pizza.  my dad suggested it when he called to wish me a happy birthday, and to remind me that i was stubborn from the start.  i put my mom through 26 hours of hard labor.  he also told me that i was worth the wait.

3. saturday was kind of like a national holiday at casa wags for we were making our inaugural trek for the year to our favorite lake.  more nostalgia. mike, lily and i went as a trio and enjoyed the sunny, breezy afternoon.  teddy was away camping with his cross country team.  that fact almost deserves a post of it's own as like his mom, he is not really the "camping" type, but he had an absolute blast even though he had to sleep in a tent with 12 boys, forgo a 20 minute before bed shower, and wake up in the pouring rain.  who knew cross country could be so life changing?

4. this girl is part fish.  she stayed submerged in water for the 5 hours we were beachside save for the 10 minutes it took her to eat her roasted pork sandwich, which she rather loved.  at the ripe old age of 11, she's discovering the sandwich.  coach made up silly games with her, while i mostly read and had fun watching them play.  i finally got into the water, but it took me about 30 minutes.  she got her fish-like qualities from her dad. definitely.

5. the birthday divas.  sunday afternoon we headed to my brother and sil's for a little bbq bash.

6. grandpa looks good in a tiara.  i'm pretty sure he'd do anything for her.

7. every royal princess needs a fox.

8. my teamsters.

9. girl with balloons...

10. helium balloons that didn't last too long.  i'm not sure whether it was grandpa or teddy who first suggested we get our mickey mouse on, but before long we were all saying funny things in high voices.

11. i'm pretty sure uncle b. bone would do anything for her too.

12. btw, i think my brother needs his own reynard or vixen.

13. aunt ashley made us both feel extra special.

14. how many boys does it take to grill 8 harp burgers?

15. happy birthday to us!  after red velvet cupcakes, we played cards.  first indian poker and then ted taught us a game he learned camping the night before called egyptian river rat.  sounds fun, huh?

16. one from the cutting room floor because as i just confessed, rarely does a photo end up there.

and a few more...

Monday, August 24, 2015

On My Mind Monday

It's the strangest thing about being human: to know so much, to communicate so much and yet always to fall so drastically short of clarity, to be, in the end, so desolate and inadequate.  Even when people try to say things, they say them poorly, or obliquely, or they outright lie, sometimes because they're lying to you, but as often because they're lying to themselves.

~ Claire Messud
The Woman Upstairs

I finished this novel over the weekend.  It's been a long time since I've dog eared pages and even longer since I've gone back to reread the beginning after finishing a book.  This speaks to Messud's masterful storytelling.  She is also skilled at character development.  Being inside Nora Eldridge's mind is illuminating and uncomfortable and captivating.  I found the themes that were explored to be relevant especially in this season of my life.  At the end, I felt raw and unnerved, but also grateful for a work that left me thinking and feeling about my life and human nature.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - YNP Part I

We planned our trip out west meticulously to fit in the 8 days between the last possible date for the state baseball tournament and the start of football camp and even that was a stretch.  Then the dates changed and the team went further than we anticipated.  We spent a week letting it play out realizing it was all beyond our control.  We cancelled the front end of our trip to South Dakota, but we would've had to eat the house we rented in Montana on VRBO and disappoint one patient little girl.  Lily may have never really forgiven us so we wanted to make it work.  After the boys took state (14-3) on a Tuesday eve, we skipped the post win celebration and instead packed up the van and got on the road.  Coach drove from 9 p.m.- 4:30 a.m. while the rest of us mostly dozed.  I took over somewhere in Minnesota so he could get some rest.  The roads were wide open like runways. Traveling over the road in the veil of night gave me the eerie and exhilarating sense of vastness and solitude...of being small and alone.   The incredible depth of the chiaroscuro sky slowly and then all at once sharpened with the rising sun.  I watched it rise and my kids sleep in my review mirror as Jack Johnson sang Go On and it was a "universe" moment.  The veracity of his lyrics hung on my heart for the duration of the trip resonating like the Sunday gospel.  I felt blessed to be making these memories with my family, and grateful that we didn't give up on our trip.

I love looking out the window watching the world go by.  I think Coach about had it with my excitement over clouds, livestock and hay bales.  Midway through North Dakota I suddenly understood Claude's affinity for them.  They are perfect studies of pattern and texture and light.  He may have also had it with my rudimentary use of cruise control so even when I was driving he had one eye open.  
Trains in the distance.  

Checkers after breakfast somewhere in North Dakota.

These two traveled like royalty.

I think Judy Collins wrote a song about these clouds.

Sunflower fields lined the interstate. 

Bales and bales.

A butte. We're in Montana now.

I did a great deal of oooing and ahhhing before we even made it to Yellowstone.

We  all cheered when we saw this sign after about 15 hours of being cooped up in the car.

And we finally reached our riverside cabin after 18 hours.  It was a sight for sore eyes.

Not too sore to spot a herd of elk across the river in our first 5 minutes.

A bald eagle fishing too. 

Sage and Jack were quick to welcome and entertain us.

A cabin with a view.

The home was cozy and clean and filled with gorgeous artwork.  I'm still coveting that owl.

El is a gifted artist and she and John are wonderful hosts.

Wednesday night we simply ventured to the nearby Lighthouse for a well balanced dinner before turning in early exhausted after the drive and 24 hours worth of junk food.  We were up very early Thursday morning in order to get to Old Faithful before the crowds at El's urging.  The cabin was 10 miles from the Roosevelt entrance to the park so very well appointed.

This verifies that we did indeed get on the road early.

We arrived at the park shortly after 5 a.m. and were pretty much the only fools ambling about at that hour.  Literally it was us and the elk.  Elk everywhere.  Before the sun came up, the forest was all eyes.  The animals lined the road like soldiers in waiting and occasionally crossed the road too.  Mammoth, which is the quickest route to the geyser basins, was closed because of new geothermal activity encroaching on the road thus requiring off hours maintenance.  It took us a little bit in our sleep deprived state to figure out that we needed to take the Tower/Roosevelt route which is significantly longer, but incredibly scenic.  It took us up and over.  

The early morning fog hung heavy like an otherworldly miasma.

Slowly the sun showed up and burned off the low lying clouds.

Active roadside geothermal features added to the smaze.  

Mystical landscape thanks to about 10,000 thermal features.

Through the valleys.

As we climb, the air clears.

Roadside geyser on the way to Old Faithful.  

There are close to 300 geysers in the park.

View of a very active Upper Geyser Basin as we approach.

Along the Firehole River.

We're getting closer.

Old Faithful had just erupted when we arrived.

So we spent the 91 minutes until the next eruption exploring Geyser Hill.

We gathered evidence of this truly enchanting basin.

Obviously this is Beehive Geyser.

Not sure which geyser we have here, but that's the historic Old Faithful Inn in the background.

Old Faithful getting steamy.


9:14...91 minutes like clockwork.

Girl and geyser.

The eruption lasted about 2 minutes.

Ted spotted a bison, our first, from the road so we stopped to check out Black Sand Basin  No picture of that guy because we stayed the recommended 100 yards from the lone bull. But below are a couple of some of the most awing geysers of the park.

Emerald Pool.

Opalescent Pool.

Our next stop was Biscuit Basin.  Jewel Geyser at rest.  It erupts every 7-9 minutes.

 Aptly named Sapphire Pool.

The water looks inviting, but it's over 200 degrees.

Pictures of pictures.

Picture of a geyser erupting at Biscuit Basin.

Shell Spring.

Mustard Spring is full of color contrast due to the thermophiles that inhabit it.

On the way to Grand Prismatic Spring.

View through the trees of the largest spring in the U.S.

 View of Grand prismatic from the tree tops.  Photo creds to Ted.

It's colors match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism.  You can see blue, red, orange, yellow and green.

We literally could have spent the entire day and maybe two just looking at all the geysers, springs, fumaroles and mudpots, but we decided it was time to move on.  The mercury was climbing and as the temperature headed close to 90 degrees, we couldn't take any more steam.  We decided to check out the Grand Canyon of  The Yellowstone River.

Our first view was from the north rim on the Brink of Lower Falls Trail.  

It was rather stunning.

We all took a moment to take in the view.

I'm pretty sure this is Lily trying to commit it to memory.

Mike works to get the best aerial shot.

The kids work to keep him from falling into the canyon.  

Then we headed to the south rim to Artist Point.

Three of nature's best creations: Teddy, Lily and Artist Point.  

Active hydrothermal features line the river.

 This is one of the most photographed views of Yellowstone.

The falls are a mile away from this viewing spot.

The last stop for the day was the Hayden River Valley where we were happy to find this guy.

And then thrilled to find an entire herd roaming around the river basin.

On the way out of the park, we spotted a few female elk.

 They were curled up like cats in the middle of the boulevard at Mammoth Hot Springs.  We also saw some bighorn sheep atop the near vertical, rocky cliffs as we exited.

 After 12 hours in the park, we were ready to head home.

Home to our cabin for a little downtime.  

Mike and I headed out to the K Bar for a little adult time while we waited for our carryout.  After gloaming, we all gathered for pizza and a game of Monopoly before calling it a night.

Moon over the Absaroka Range.

(All of these photos were taken with my i phone.  We have yet to load the pictures Coach mostly took with our Nikon.  So I guess this is both a disclaimer that these are not the finest quality and a warning that this blog may be inundated with images of YNP for some time to come.)

Days 2 and 3 coming soon.