Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth

It has been over seven years since my last visit to Yellowstone National Park, and I hope to return again some day to this fascinating place.  The diversity of geologic features, wildlife, and beauty is amazing; and each trip only begins to scratch the surface of what the Park has to offer.  Yellowstone National Park was one of our favorite family road trips taken with our boys as they grew up (which I recounted here).

The pools and hot springs are some of Yellowstone’s most colorful features … and many have seemingly unfathomable depths that turn greens and blues to black as the opening in the earth swallows all the color and light.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Depth” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Yellowstone National Park, Classic Road Trip Destination

I am saddened that our days of the classic summer road trip are over.  We had a good run of them.  Then our boys became involved in summer activities or jobs that made it increasingly difficult to schedule around, and they went on to create their own special memories with friends old and new, as it should be when your children grow up.  Since summer road trip season is not too far off (or so I like to believe as I watch the snow get blown about outside my window ….), what better time to dig into the photo archives and share some of my family’s favorite travel memories from over the years.

Our summer road trips usually involved a National Park destination or similar natural setting.  If you had to select just one classic U.S. National Park to visit for that summer adventure, you could not go wrong with Yellowstone National Park.

Old Faithful Inn and the Upper Geyser Basin

Yellowstone has an amazingly diverse landscape, from the colorful steaming pools and murky paint pots, to the geysers and rivers and lakes.  The glacial landscape results in some amazing scenery.

Glacial Boulder in Yellowstone National Park

While Old Faithful is a classic sight, it is in the center of the Upper Geyser Basin activity.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

We found that sitting along the banks of the river on a hot day, watching the River Geyser go on for ages, provided a peaceful respite.

River Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

A person also could spend much of the day pondering the midnight blue depths of the Black Pool, alongside Lake Yellowstone.

Black Pool, Yellowstone's West Thumb Geyser Basin

Some water features of the park are hidden far below the surface, showing themselves only through the steam escaping from vents scattered about the Park.

Buffalo steam-bathing in Yellowstone National Park

Then there are the incredible moving bodies of water — both the Upper and Lower Falls are scenes straight out of a postcard, captured through the ages in paintings and photography.

Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone presents the classic sight of buffalo letting drivers know who rules the road.

Buffalo on a Yellowstone National Park highway

Congestion is quickly escaped, though, by enjoying the vast rolling greens of Hayden Valley.

Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park

Even Hayden Valley meets with a traffic jam on occasion, as the herd moves to its evening grounds with the sunset.  What an awe-inspiring sight it was to watch buffalo after buffalo, mother encouraging their young, large bulls kicking up the dust, as the line of buffalo snorted and grumbled its way across the highway, down the bank of the river, across the river, and then off into the valley beyond.

Evening buffalo crossing in Yellowstone National Park

Buffalo herd crosses the river at sunset in Yellowstone National Park

The National Park Service’s website is your best starting point for planning a visit to Yellowstone National Park.  If you intend to stay inside the Park, plan your reservations far in advance, because lodging fills early during popular summer vacation dates.

Ciao! ~ Kat


Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV (Take 2)

To make up for the bold appeal for my son’s scholarship pursuits in my last two posts, I will take you to the beautiful setting of the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park.  The sun setting over the mountains, the elk moving across the Willow Flats marsh . . . add a fine meal on top of it and you have the formula for a travel memory that endures.

grand teton 13

The traditional picture is often the full view of the mountain range as the sun sets on the flats . . .

grand teton 11

. . . but looking behind me, I could enjoy the beauty of the sunset reflected in the windows of the Lodge . . .

grand teton 14

. . . and continue to drink in the scenery as we savored that memorable meal many years ago in the Lodge’s Mural Dining Room.  No matter which point of view you chose, that breathtaking vista was there.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”An Unusual POV” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

It’s All About the Little Things

Which parent hasn’t searched the world over and then paid through the nose for the elusive toy that darling Jimmy whispered into Santa’s ear was the “one” special present he wanted this year?  (I confess, for me, it was a hard-to-get Lego kit that I ended up ordering online and paying almost as much in Federal Express fees to have it show up in time for Santa’s sleigh!)  Was the surprise on my son’s face Christmas morning as he rushed down the stairs to see what Santa brought worth every penny and minute spent tracking that toy down?  Of course.  I am not suggesting that joy cannot be found in gift-giving (and receiving), or that it is not part of the fabric of many of our holiday memories.

That Lego kit only seemed to be sold out near and far . . .
That Lego kit only seemed to be sold out near and far . . .

As our kids move past the magical Santa stage, though, if they tell us there is nothing they need or want, why are we so quick to ask insistently, “Are you sure there’s nothing you want for Christmas this year?”  Perhaps we should pay attention to those signals that suggest no “thing” is needed under the tree.

Christmas tree

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” ~ Albert Einstein

Looking back, the experiences of life are what make the memories, not the “things” we collect along the way.  When recalling a family trip, my sons do not say, “Oh, and remember the cool souvenirs we bought?”  Wait, I take that back when it comes to our road trip to Yellowstone – I had to reverse course and return to a “shop” that was in someone’s garage, marked by the pile of antlers and other bones in the front yard.  The “Jackalope” my son painstakingly selected, searching for just the right character in the little antlers jutting from the taxidermy creation, is still proudly hanging on his bedroom wall – but it is part of the memory of our travels through Wyoming that week.  The memories of the rustic, western landscape were reinforced by wandering through a boys’ paradise of fossils, skulls, and fur pelts.  Rather than the “thing” it was the experience of it that made the memory.

Mystic Lady ~ Wyoming
The Mystic Lady shop in Wyoming

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” ~ Robert Brault

During our memory-making family trip to Italy, what moment does one of my sons always recall when we talk about our day trip to Florence?  Seeing Michelangelo’s David?  No.  Climbing the steps to Giotto’s Tower?  No.  He always first recalls the moment when I lost the top of my gelato cone in the middle of a busy sidewalk, successfully saved it before it hit the ground, and ungracefully restored the scoop to the top of the cone as the gelato dripped down my arm and onto my purse . . . and one of the many “gypsies” chose to approach me at that moment, speaking Italian with hand extended asking for a contribution.  I replied somewhat sharply, “Go away!” — as I simultaneously wiped up the gelato drippings before they coagulated into a sticky mess.  My son informed me that she promptly called me a “witch-with-a-B” in clearly-understood English as she walked away.  My husband and sons found the whole scene amusing, and apparently it became one of their favorite Florence memories.  I was just happy to not have good gelato go to waste!

Italian gelato
The good memories of Italian gelato

“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.” ~ Susan B. Anthony

So, as we move through the often hectic holiday season, keep in mind that those little things hidden among the big events and traditions may be the real memory-makers down the road.  Take time to enjoy the little moments – playing a game of cards with your family, undistracted by phone, computer, or the never-ending task list; enjoying a leisurely chat with a friend over a glass of wine or hot chocolate;  heading out for a walk with someone you care about (and the dogs, of course!) on a crisp winter night even though you “don’t have time”; watching your favorite holiday movie for the umpteenth time and letting the tears flow even though you know the ending (can anyone say “It’s A Wonderful Life”?).   Remember, you can always clean tomorrow.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

Steven Spielberg did not need to use special effects to inflate the size of Devils Tower in the film that made this National Monument famous:  Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  One best appreciates the significant size (not to mention geologic interest) of this eastern Wyoming icon by walking the undemanding 1.3 mile base trail surrounding the column.  Particularly in contrast to the relatively flat landscape surrounding it, Devils Tower is big!

Devils Tower National Monument ~ Wyoming

Many legends tell the story of how Devils Tower came into being.  One of my favorites is that of the Kiowa Indians, as retold on the National Park Service website:

Before the Kiowa came south they were camped on a stream in the far north where there were a great many bears, many of them. One day, seven little girls were playing at a distance from the village and were chased by some bears. The girls ran toward the village and the bears were just about to catch them when the girls jumped on a low rock, about three feet high. One of the girls prayed to the rock, “Rock take pity on us, rock save us!” The rock heard them and began to grow upwards, pushing the girls higher and higher. When the bears jumped to reach the girls, they scratched the rock, broke their claws, and fell on the ground.
The rock rose higher and higher, the bears still jumped at the girls until they were pushed up into the sky, where they now are, seven little stars in a group (The Pleiades). In the winter, in the middle of the night, the seven stars are right over this high rock. When the people came to look, they found the bears’ claws, turned to stone, all around the base.No Kiowa living has ever seen this rock, but the old men have told about it – it is very far north where the Kiowa used to live. It is a single rock with scratched sides, the marks of the bears’ claws are there yet, rising straight up, very high. There is no other like it in the whole country, there are no trees on it, only grass on top. The Kiowa call this rock “Tso-aa”, a tree rock, possibly because it grew tall like a tree.
Told by I-See-Many-Camp-Fire-Places, Kiowa soldier at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 1897.

The Kiowa story and other stories passed on through the Plains Indians can be found by clicking on this link from the National Park Service website.

Devils Tower National Monument ~ Wyoming

Devils Tower National Monument ~ Wyoming

Devils Tower is a worthwhile stop, even if only for a short hike and stop at the visitor center as you road trip across Wyoming, or perhaps as a day trip while visiting the Black Hills in western South Dakota.  If you have time for an overnight or evening visit, though, the sunsets and sunrises can be spectacular photo opportunities.

Ciao! ~ Kat