My Happy Place

When you are asked to close your eyes and think about a place that makes you so happy and at peace, you often picture a specific place that you have been to before. Somewhere that you feel totally, absolutely, amazingly relaxed. Often it involves a beach, waves, a thunderstorm, sometimes crickets chirping in the background….you get the picture!

One of my favorite places in the world now has to be Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park, and that’s the one I picture now when I have to go to my “happy place”.

It starts at the Tower Juction across from Roosevelt Lodge. If you take that road all the way down the valley, you end up in Cooke City (where you will find amazing pizza! But that’s a separate story).  Beyond that, you enter the scenic Beartooth Highway. Not too shabby of a drive!

It just makes me feel so relaxed when I drive through the winding roads, past the meandering stream, herds of bison, and rolling hills. The light seems to be the most beautiful golden shade all day long.

One of my favorite hikes is along this stretch of road too. Trout Lake is a quick jaunt, but the lake you end up in is so quiet and peaceful, I could sit there beside the otters and snap picture after picture as the light changes during the day.

What also entices me to hang around that valley is the concentration of wildlife, especially wolves, grizzlies, pronghorn, and bison. When I was there this summer, I witnessed an amazing show with the bison. They had to cross a raging river with one of their young that could not swim yet. So in order for this baby to cross with the rest of the herd, the older ones started a chain in the river which allowed for the baby to float across and hit this chain of bison, then crawl along beside them until it reached land. What team work! It was fascinating to watch.

Luckily, this section of Yellowstone is one of the quietest places to be. Not many tourists head to the northeast part of the park. So it just seems so much wilder and isolated…the true wild west.

So now that my work day is winding down, I am going to kick my feet up, close my eyes, and picture my happy place – Lamar Valley.

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Game On!

One of the essential ingredients to a good road trip, aside from an actual vehicle and gas, (oh, and a drivers license), is a way to entertain yourself on those long hauls. Hence, my boyfriend and I tested out a few popular games for road travel. Yes, we are both actually just big kids.

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One of the most popular and exciting game was called “The License Plate Game”. The one where, when you visit a very tourist friendly place such as Yellowstone, you see if you can get all the US states, and we added all the Canadian provinces. Of course when we started the game, miracles began to happen. First, our rules considered that we could exclude Alaska and Hawaii, as well as the Canadian territories. But, lo and behold, HAWAII drove by us. Not once, not twice, but THREE times! So thus began the quest to add on Alaska. Which we did (a grand total of 14 times) and before we even spotted Rhode Island and West Virginia. At one picnic rest stop we uncovered a delicious smell of BBQ, followed by a group of men cooking beside their truck from MEXICO! Next, when we entered the Canadian parks, we spotted Yukon, then NUNAVUT of all places. Toward the end of our trip, my boyfriend picked out Northwest Territories to complete the north.

Can you guess the one place that we did not see once on our journey? No? Because I would have thought it impossible to see Hawaii personally.

It was actually another island. Prince Edward Island (PEI).

Time to make a stop this summer to that lovely and tiny island to complete our game…possibly our lives.

Need some other road trip game/activity ideas to play? We tested out a few:

1. Take pictures of funny sounding town/city/street names. Some amazing finds were a town called Welcome, Minnesota; Paw Paw, Michigan; and Keister, Minnesota.

2. Create a song about the landscape. One person starts, the next person has to make it rhyme. Be glad you were not in my vehicle to hear my singing voice trying to rhyme to a story about sage brush or hoodoos.

3. Watch some people in other cars, make up stories about them (be nice). We had some great people names and occupations. I wonder how ol Torrence is doing on his yam farm right now…

4. Also to do with license plates, since we were forever focusing on them this trip, create a saying out of the letters (And sometimes numbers) from the plate. PRTS 731 = People roam the stars. No sorry, that didn’t make sense. But a lot of ours didn’t. I am actually curious if we started to go a little mad at the end of the trip from all the hours clocked in the car.

5. Count the _______________. I declared, once we passed the gate into Yellowstone, that I was going to count all the bison in the park. I got up to 101 and then saw a huuuuuuge gathering of black dots ahead on the right. So I just decided that there were 101 bison in the park, and they kept circling around to the area we were driving at that moment. So, moral of the story, pick something more rare than bison in Yellowstone.

The Outhouse – A Comparison

I thought one of my posts since my return from a month and a half in wilderness should fittingly be on camping comforts. One such comfort I became very familiar with was the outhouse. One place I was careful not to come in contact with the seat.

One huge difference I noticed when traveling from the US (Wyoming and Montana mostly) to Canada (Jasper, Kananaskis, and Waterton) was the smell in those lovely waste heaps. It is amazing how fresh and clean these ‘houses in Wyoming and Montana are. Some had fresheners trying to mask the dirties, but others, it was a mystery…they just didn’t smell at all.

Canada, on the other hand….phewwww. I could barely do it. The tall grasses looked more appealing when I was there. I saw the fresheners in Canada, tried to appreciate the cedar wood smell featured it some of the ‘houses. But POW in the face when you went to one in Canada.

Please tell Parks Canada your secret National Parks Service of the USA. My nose will be better for it.

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Stop and smell the roses…

R.I.P. Mr. Tomato Plant

So long buddy....

I just returned from my month and a half long adventure off in the American and Canadian wilderness. One of the first things I had to check when I returned to my home was to check on my poor poor Mr. Tomato plant who had been neglected. I had forgotten to give Mr. Tomato plant a cozy home while I could not care and eat all the wonderful presents it would deliver to me this summer.

Alas, when I saw those poor dried out leaves, the pot tipped over sideways on my balcony, my eyes were drawn toward the bright red TOMATOES growing on the defunct plant. It was a sign.

“Don’t give up”, it said…”wait until next year when you can enlist some help to nurture me. I have hope for you yet, traveler.”

Rest easy Mr. Tomato plant…I will remember you until I throw you down the garbage chute tomorrow and remember that you gave me hope that I might still develop a green thumb some day.

Here I Go!

It’s officially summer holidays for me as of today. So why not pack up and head out on the open road to nowhere and everywhere?

Here’s the plan, which is still in the works and will inevitably change as soon as my boyfriend and I set foot in my car.

Day 1: Leaving this morning and driving to Chicago. (8-9 hours)

Day 2: From Chicago, heading hopefully to either Sioux Falls or even Rapid City (10-12 hours) in South Dakota.

Day 3: South Dakota to Yellowstone or Grand Teton (8-9 hours)

Day 4 – ??: Bear watching, wolf watching, taking a billion photographs around Yellowstone

Then it gets fuzzy from there. Somehow we will end up in Vancouver and hopefully meet up with one of my co-workers who is visiting the city in mid-July.

Back to Toronto by early/mid-August for a wedding and similar events.

Please consider me for a hero award since I will be the only driver. My boyfriend does not possess a license!

Ok, I am getting excited! This summer is shaping into a plan, and will almost certainly guarantee some exciting stories and photographs. My apologies that my blog posts will be a bit delayed, since internet is not in the program for a week or 2. Stay tuned!!!

Camping gear

This could be me! (Source)

It looks more and more likely that there might be camping involved in my summer plans this year. I really would love to make a trip out to Yellowstone, and instead of putting myself up in expensive hotels, I would rather save the money and give camping a try.

I think the last time I went camping was in Morocco, and I loved it. Although I slept on the pointiest rocks I have ever encountered, and a mouse ran out of my friends sleeping bag in the middle of the night, and I had to go to the washroom behind a rock, it was a wonderful experience and I would love to do it again.

So my mission right now is to track down some (hopefully free) camping equipment. What do I have? What will I need? Where will I get equipment if I cannot borrow it from a friend?

Here is what I have:

  • camping pillow
  • sleeping bag
  • air matress
  • sheets
  • a cooler
  • old magazines and matches for a fire
  • trash bags
  • dish soap
  • containers/pots/utensils/cups/paper towels
  • bug repellant/sunscreen
  • first aid kit
  • flashlight/batteries
  • air pump

What I will need:

  • tent
  • tarp
  • stove/charcoal/bbq grill

Where can I get it?

  • Hopefully a friend
  • Canadian Tire – Look at this tent on sale!
  • Wholesale Sports – Another good tent on sale here.
  • La Cordee – has just what I need here 🙂
  • Mountain Equipment Co-op – hmm, don’t think I would rent a tent, I could buy one for those prices! But the hammock looks neat here.

I also found this great camping checklist of everything you should prepare for and everything you should  pack here.

Road Trip!

When I first met my boyfriend, it was on our second date that we came up with a list of road trips that we MUST do together. Yes, it was crazy for two reasons. First, we were talking about traveling together on our second date, and secondly, because we could think of so many road trips that we BOTH have desired to partake in. I found this list the other day, and was surprised that I could check a few of these places off the list already.

Here is the list that has been sitting in my phone for just over a year now:

1. Beartooth Highway – Through Yellowstone Country in Wyoming and Montana. Imagine all the wildlife wandering along on either side, the countless different landforms making you feel like you have gone through 5 different climate zones, gorgeous sunsets…

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2. Highway 101 – Along the west coast of the US (California, Washington, and Oregon). I can stop at one of my favorite US cities, San Francisco, take a side trip to Sonoma and Napa Valley, then move on to LA, to the Olympic Mountains, pause and enjoy a few beaches, and…, ok not in that order perhaps, but you get the idea I hope.

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3. Road to Hana – I have done this spectacularly jaw-dropping trip when I was in Hawaii and cannot wait to do it again to show my man. Again, you feel like you are driving through so many different climate zones. You go from hot, windy, beach suitable weather, to dark cool rainy roads, to lush rainforests, to deep valleys and gulches to high cliffs that seem to take you into the clouds.

4. Top of the World – Off to Alaska, northern BC and Yukon, sounds like an adventure waiting to unfold. Also, the Aurora Borealis is a must see for me. I saw it a few times in the past but I was very young in one instance, and in the other instance, it was faint. I want to see it in its full glory!

5. Going to the Sun – Done! WOW! And with the man. Glacier National Park in Montana treated us well for the brief time we were there. The mountains are gorgeous and make sure you ‘go to the sun’ as early as you can so you can enjoy the sun rising. The wildlife was also a great bonus. The road was under construction when we went, with a few delays, but how can you complain when you get to stop and stare at the scenery?

6. Great Smokies – I wasn’t too familiar with this one, but a trek through North Carolina and Tennessee sounds good to me! Hiking and camping in the Appalachians, just what I love!

7. Amalfi Coast – Done, with my man!  This drive was spectacular. We started out in Lanciano and went down to Pechiche,  Vieste, Bari, Matera then set out for the Amalfi coast going through Positano, and ending in Sorrento. Absolutely WOW. And this was done with a hugely majorly gigantic thanks to Katie, who could expertly drive a standard car through the narrow a** roads, up hills, back from dead end, and around droves of goats.

8. Highwood Pass – Done! Through Kananaskis Country. The two rock slide remnants I saw were facinating to see. Plus the mamma grizzly bear who we met two days in a row.  Oh, and the potato thing I had to eat at the Delta Hotel on my Restaurants page.

9. The Autobaughn – No speed limit! Amazing cars! Let me on there. As an unfortunate person who has received several speeding tickets, please, I just need to get out there and do my thing. Watch me be the slowest person on that highway…

10. Route 66 – Famous in the US. I want to feel this experience, after numerous songs, a tv show…all the stories, before it is gone.

11. Monument Valley – Arizona and Utah. Imagine all of the rocks to see! Sorry, I have a secret obsession with rocks! I could actually act out a movie  or two or three here.

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12. Death Valley – Scary sounding…hottest place in North America, imposing sand dunes. Another adventure! For some reason, when I think about this trip, I picture myself in cut off jean shorts, a white top, and a cowboy hat (with the boots lets not forget) kicking the tire of my broken down and smoking ’67 cadillac. My legs look great by the way in this visualization. Wasn’t there a music video, or 2 or 3 shot there?

Thelma and Louise

Start your engines!!