09/29/2013

Finally we come to Day 5. The forecast said the weather was expected to be sunny with temperatures in the 50’s.

Uhh, no.

I don’t think it ever got above 50, and it was grey, rainy, and really windy all day. Overnight, as we lay in our tent, the wind rattled the tent. Luckily both of us had enough layers and some nice sleeping bags, so even when the temperature dropped into the 20’s and 30’s we were cozy and warm.

Defying the weather, we decided to go ahead and make the ten-mile hike up to Surprise Lake. It sits nestled between Grand Teton and Middle Teton, and on a sunny day I’m sure the view is quite spectacular. I’m pretty sure four of the five miles up to the lake are uphill for every step, and by the time we reached the top after a few hours, my legs were like jelly. Thom, of course, wasn’t even breathing hard– he’s used to all this mountaineering stuff.

At the lake, it was like a different world. It was in the 20’s, the wind was blowing hard, and it was snowing. Everything was bitter cold and monochromatic.

That said, it was kind of cool to sit there, the wind howling and the snow falling, and just enjoy the harsh beauty of winter.

The trip back down the trail was tricky because of the ice and snow on the upper portion of the trail– it was easy to slip. Thom was the only splash of color in the snowy landscape.

After ten miles, I was exhausted and ready to call it a day. We bade farewell to the Tetons, hoping that the next time we visit there are blue skies, bright sun, and we actually get to see the tops of the mountains.

We gorged ourselves on some pizza; after three days of light snacks during the day and ramen for dinner, it was nice to fill our bellies with some “real” food. A shower sure felt good, too.

Tomorrow we head home through Wyoming, back to the sunny autumn skies of Colorado. As always, it was a great time together and I’m looking forward to next year… wherever that may be.

09/29/2013

Day 4 of our trip was spent in Grand Teton National Park. We finally realized that the weather simply wasn’t going to cooperate– the forecast called for cloudy days with highs in the 40’s and 50’s. We lucked out with a few scattered sightings of the sun and blue sky, but for the most part it was cold and grey.

We spent the morning hiking around Spring Lake and Leigh Lake on a short trail.

Although the skies were blue briefly, the clouds soon rolled in over the mountains.

In an attempt to be “artistic” I took a macro shot of the shoreline:

Thom and I took turns skipping rocks across the water, but we couldn’t find many nice smooth flat stones. Apparently they’ve all been used by past visitors. Here’s Thom hitting three skips before the plop. I had the record with four, which is kind of weak. I blame the uneven water.

At times, the increasing cloud layer provided some interesting views of the Teton mountain range.

After a small lunch (really more of a snack), we headed up a hike to Inspiration Point, up in Cascade Canyon. It provides a nice view of Jenny Lake far below:

Although that perspective shows a hint of blue sky, the other direction has the same grey cloud cover that obscures the higher mountains deeper in the range. That said, the brief glimpse of sunlight provided some nice lighting on the trees and snow.

Similarly, as the clouds rolled in over the hilltops, the sun provided some dramatic backlighting:

On the hike we passed Hidden Falls, which are nicely framed by trees.

At Inspiration Point we could look down on Jenny Lake and watch the wind move across the water. Since it was pretty windy, it was cool to see the waves shift and move on the surface of the water. You can see some of the effect in this photo, although a still shot doesn’t really do it justice.

After all of the iPhone-toting photographers left the area, Thom and I enjoyed some solitude the sound of the wind in the trees. It was inspirational. (Get it? Inspiration Point?)

On the way back down, we continued to be disappointed in the rolling storm clouds, but again, they sort of defined the character of the weather that day.

We headed to our tent that night hoping that the next day would be warmer and sunnier…

09/29/2013

Thom and I spent Day 3 in Yellowstone. We had originally planned to hike into the backcountry in the Tetons and spend three days up there, but given the weather conditions, we thought we’d delay another day to see if things improved. It’s the end of September, but we felt like we’d gone into a winter wonderland.

Of course our first stop was Old Faithful. But first I had to talk to the park ranger who gave me a stern talking-to because I was speeding past her in a 25mph zone. Yes, I was doing… 27mph. I guess it was a slow day for her. Anyway, we walked up to Old Faithful– which apparently isn’t as faithful as it used to be– just as it started to erupt. Perfect timing!

Then we headed out on a tour of the park. Pretty much everything in the park is either steaming, bubbling, or involves crazy colors.

Apparently many of these colors come from microorganisms that thrive on the hot water and sulfur. There was one really amazing area that reminded me of the surface of Jupiter’s moon Io (which, in fact, has active sulfur volcanoes).

If it was anywhere else, you’d think there were all kinds of forest fires around the park. But it’s just steam rising from pools and streams.

The textures are amazing.

And in some places there’s so much steam that it completely obscured the landscape. Here, for example, is the walkway near a pool of geysers. You can see a couple of people walking along it (click for a larger view).

We headed over to Lower Yellowstone Falls, where you can actually stand right at the brink of the 300-foot waterfall. It’s really cool to watch all of that water plunge to the canyon below.

Looking down the canyon, it’s easy to see why the park is named “Yellowstone”. The sun came out for the only time that day, illuminating the canyon:

At a different viewpoint, we could see Lower Falls and all of the water vapor from the plunge blasting up the canyon walls.

Thom took a picture of me on a bench at Artist’s Point. I was on this same bench with Kathy back when I was three or four years old, then again with my kids about ten years ago. Here I am again!

Despite the clouds and the cold, it was a pretty cool day.

09/26/2013

Today is Day 2 of the annual Schroeder Brothers Backpacking Trip. We skipped Day 1 because the weather forecast for the Grand Teton area called for chilly temperatures and snow all day Wednesday and most of Thursday. Sure enough, as we drove through western Wyoming today on the approach to Jackson, there was a lot of snow at higher elevations, and a dusting on the highway.

So most of today was basically a travel day, with a few highlights.

The famous Lone Tree monument in south central Wyoming!

This is a little “point of interest” in the median between the eastbound and westbound stretches of I-80. I’ve driven past it countless times with Laralee, and every time I wonder aloud what could possibly be interesting about a tree growing out of some rocks in the middle of the highway median. And every time she tells me that we don’t have time to stop and see. Well, Thom acquiesced and we pulled over to learn about the mystery. As it turns out, it’s a pretty cool story.

We arrived in Jackson around dinner time, which of course meant pizza.

And we wandered around the main part of town (the “tourist-ey” area), and that led, inevitably, to me sitting in the lap of a large wooden grizzly bear.

Now we’re relaxing in the Super 8– clearly a little bit superior to the Motel 6 next door (because 8 is better than 6). Thom is reading the latest issue of GQ for reasons beyond my ken, since his style of clothing is hardly what they showcase in that magazine.

Tomorrow we’re heading to Yellowstone, and then into the wilderness of the Tetons for the rest of the weekend.

09/25/2013

Last night Zack joined his Scout troop down in Denver– they visited Channel 7 News studio to learn about the weather. They met with Mike Nelson, the long-time forecaster there, and he took them on a tour of the station and then they watched the evening news program live.

Zack is such a ham.

09/21/2013

Today me, Laralee, and the boys headed down to Niwot to help some people clean up their basement and yard. They had a really nice house that backed to Left Hand Creek. Normally it’s maybe three feet across this time of year; today it was probably thirty feet of raging muddy water. (Where does that water keep coming from? It hasn’t rained in days.)

It’s heartbreaking to see basements that had six or seven feet of water in them. They’re just destroyed.

So Alex and I hauled mud (of course) that had washed up into the yard while Laralee and Zack cleaned inside the house in an attempt to get rid of the mud and other debris.

Just down the street, Alex and I were theorizing about whether the neighbors’ car had been sitting there when the floods came across the road, or if it had actually been washed there in the water.

There were all kinds of people helping in the neighborhood today– inspiring as always. On our way out, we noticed that someone had written “HOLD HOPE” in the sand and mud by the riverbank.

Cool.

09/21/2013

The other evening I was driving home, and the moon was rising in the east. It was a full moon and low to the horizon, so it was a brilliant orange. It was amazing, as in Disney’s The Kid screaming “Holy smokes! Holy Moses! Look at the moon!

Okay, maybe you had to be there.

Regardless, it was really cool so I thought I’d snap a picture. I pulled over to the side of the road (safety first!) and used the only camera I had at hand: my HTC phone. The results were… underwhelming.

Taking shots of the full moon requires some specialized equipment anyway because of the contrast between the moon and the rest of the dark scene. And apparently mobile phones aren’t “specialized equipment” in that way.

09/21/2013

Check out this cool bug that Zack and I saw on the screen door the other day. I don’t even know what it is, but it looks amazingly like a leaf.

It’s a big sucker, too.

09/21/2013

We ran out of macaroni noodles the other day and I was in the mood for some mac and cheese, so I went to the basement and cracked open one of our old #10 cans. We’d canned a bunch of macaroni and spaghetti a few years ago.

Well, maybe more than a few.

As it turned out, ten-year-old macaroni noodles aren’t too bad.