Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Little Bavaria in Leavenworth, Washington

Build it and they will come is an old saying and you know what? It's true. Tourists, us included, pack this town and spend till we can't spend anymore. Why? Who knows, but it's fun while it lasts. The restaurants were packed. The bakeries had lines out the door. Beer glasses were clinking everywhere. From the outside, looking in, it was all a reason to party. Then reality hits, you wait and wait and wait to be served. When you finally get the food it's mediocre, but by that time you are starving so you don't dwell on it. Afterwards, you stroll the streets and decide to check out the bakeries only to realize the pastries are dry and they look a lot better than they taste. Though this town is quaint and has that alpine feel, it lacks something. In the rush of staying busy, while the summer weather permits, they forgot about quality. Sadly, along with the beautiful buildings and cozy streets we will also remember the poor food and slow service. Hopefully, it was just a one off while we were there, but we doubt it.   

Beautiful streets.

Wagon rides through town.

My family with my sister and brother-in-law.

Cute buildings

The restaurants were totally stuffed to capacity.

Alpine looking.

Summer garden with live music.

Craters of the moon and Boise Idaho

After leaving Yellowstone we drove west to see Craters of the Moon National Monument. The skies in central Idaho are so clear at night, that we swore we saw a billion stars. Staring up into the abyss of space and realizing just how small we are, is humbling to say the least. Thankfully, there weren't any mosquitoes to pester our enjoyment of the stars, which was wonderful after the onslaught of bloodsuckers that we suffered through in the Grand Tetons. The beauty of Craters of the Moon is in the isolation and stark contrasts of ancient lava fields slowly being taken over by foliage. 
   Boise was our next stop and was the only larger city that we actually considered moving to, upon our return to the U.S. The city itself has a cool urban vibe and yet it is totally possible to get out of town in 15 minutes. A nice river cuts through town and there are bike paths and parks everywhere. It is totally feasible to pick up some Trader Joe's snacks and ride to a park and be picnicking in under 5 minutes. We really enjoyed this aspect of Boise a lot. We can certainly see why so many people are moving here from other areas of the country. We celebrated 4th of July in Boise and literally sat directly under a huge firework show. We were next to the fire marshal, that's how close we were. Our ears were ringing for days but it goes with the territory for independence day.     

Cooling off in a country stream.
Nothing better than enjoying a river on a hot day.

I borrowed Sierra's bike for a quick ride along the river.

Wide open spaces in Central Idaho.

Craters of the Moon 

Slowly the vegetation is taking over the old lava fields.

Many unique species have evolved just for surviving in this area.

The treasures of Yellowstone

Yellowstone is one of those places that conjures images of nature even just thinking about it's name. The uniqueness of Yellowstone makes it a magnet for all to visit. These days, Yellowstone is little more than a plane flight away for most visitors and the international tourism is booming. It is easy to see why so many people still love Yellowstone as the allure of this place is still just as alive today as it was a hundred years ago. There are many things one needs to remember to bring to Yellowstone, like bug spray, jackets and the normal camping stuff. However, one of the most important things to bring with you is patience. Though not as congested as Zion park, there are animal traffic jams that can stretch a mile or more if bear, bison or other animals are spotted. Still, one of the great things about this park is it's size and your ability to go elsewhere and avoid the crowds to enjoy the treasures of Yellowstone on your own terms. 

Mineral terraces can form anywhere within the western portion of the park.

Geysers are plentiful within the park.

Colorful combinations of the minerals and boiling waters.

The viewing crowd of Old Faithful.

Magnificent waterfalls.

Spring brings the new generation.

Picturesque mounds.

Mammoth hot springs
Federalist style construction at Mammoth Hot Springs village.

We had our picnic on the soft grass in town.

Employee housing

Beautiful views.

Sisterly love.

Snowball on the head, sisterly love.
Mineral terraces

The minerals and water temperatures sometimes kill the surrounding trees.

Experiencing geothermal power first hand.

Paths were created to keep people off the unstable grounds.

Like a Martian landscape.

The sizes of some of these pools were gigantic, you can see the people in the background.

A peaceful fishermen enjoying his day.

A grizzly bear (it is so grainy due to zooming in)

Wolves are common in the Lamar valley of Northeastern Yellowstone.

Grand Tetons and endless vistas

Ever lose your thoughts while gazing into the flickering flames of a campfire? I can assure you that staring at the Grand Tetons mountain range is just as relaxing and thought releasing as gazing into a fire. This is my third time visiting this area and I am never disappointed with nature's awesomeness. One of the better aspects of the Grand Tetons is how spread out it is and as such, feeling encircled by other people is somewhat avoidable. This park is a driving type of park. So in order to see it, one needs to traverse big areas and walking between the sights is not practical, unless you have a lot of time. There are boats on the lakes to ferry you to and from, when cars aren't available. We loved how there were plenty of well maintained bicycle paths for the non motorized visitors. It was definitely the way to get around if you don't want to drive. In fact, most of the bicycle paths that we saw were relatively flat and completely segregated from the highway, making them both safe and quiet. The biggest issue we had while visiting this park were the clouds of mosquitoes haunting our every step. I guess swarms of mosquitoes go with the territory at these latitudes, so bring bug spray.

Breathtaking vistas.

Alpine meadows.

Great views can be had all over this park.

Zoe likes watching birds just like her grandpa.

The marina was busy while we were there.

The path less followed.

A Mormon settler area

Springtime in the Rockies. 

Jackson Hole, country air and good times

We arrived to Jackson Hole in the early afternoon and we were exhausted after driving incredible 10% grades on highways 22, both up and down the Rockies. Towing a trailer makes these type of inclines and declines especially difficult on the engine, the brakes and the driver. Thankfully, Jackson Hole is a nice place to unwind and let loose for a bit, after such a journey. The weather and scenery in Jackson Hole was ideal while we were visiting. The Wild West theme really does permeate all aspects of this touristy town. City slickers got there "country" fix while shopping and meandering the pedestrian friendly streets.
   Inexpensive, this town is not. However, Jackson Hole is one of those places that is worth spending a little extra for the experience. Interestingly, the National Elk Refuge abuts the town to the north, so getting to open spaces here, is both quick and easy. We saw many long distance bicyclists, similar to what we saw while driving to Argentina. These cyclists were seeing the countryside one pedal push at a time and we had tremendous admiration for them. As the old saying goes, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." As for us, our respite came at the right time and my wife even found time to buy me a hat. How cool is that?     

Stage coach meets the modern era.

The elk antlers are collected each spring and some are used for the city park entrance.

The hills come up to town.

This guy was putting the finishing touches on my hat.

Wine bar

The green hills were really this green on the north facing slopes.

The flowers and this tee pee made this front yard so adorable.

We would have gone river rafting but class 3 and 4 waters were too much for us.

Nice restaurants and stores on every street in town.

My hat that Elise bought for me.