A whirlwind tour of western national parks...

Trip Start Jul 11, 2012
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Trip End Aug 24, 2012


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Where I stayed
Dani's apartment

Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wow! How do we describe our recent wedding in Whitefish, Montana as perfect without sounding like we are blatantly bragging? Well, without question, it was the loving and fun-loving family and friends surrounding us, the cooperative warm and sunny weather, and the hard work, diverse talents, and creativity of so many contributors that made it so incredible!

As we departed Montana on a fast-paced road trip back to the Bay Area, our minds were still reeling from the whirlwind of memories created and our overwhelming feelings of gratitude.

Our first stop: Grand Teton NP where we spent the first night of our honeymoon on a deflating air mattress on Danielle's living room floor. But the view from her window made it worth it! Before bedtime, we took a wildlife drive and observed some beavers working on their dam and a great grey owl silhouetted against the sky, along with some elk.

Still recovering from an energy intensive celebration, we had a leisurely next day of taking the tandem down to the shores of Jenny Lake for a picnic. In the evening, we checked out a couple of breweries over the pass in Victor along with Dani and her friend Eric.

We were up early the next morning to squeeze in some more wildlife watching with Dani's local expertise before hitting the road again. We tried for wolves, but three bull moose and a herd of bison with frolicking calves were the main highlights. Our only other significant stop of the day was at Fossil Butte National Monument in western Wyoming where we checked out a fascinating collection of--you guessed it--fossils from the ancient dried lakebed there.

After spending the night and eating a full breakfast in the funky settlement of Baker in Nevada, we ascended the flanks of Wheeler Peak along the usually scenic drive in Great Basin NP. The weather was not working with us as our views were obscured by clouds and it was drizzling on top. We took refuge in the visitor center instead to get a sense of place and decided it would be worth another trip someday to further explore the park. Being short on time with lots of ground to cover though, we took off and appreciated the arid open landscapes crossing Nevada on a road certainly lonelier than the one that earned that heavily promoted title, near desolation until we reached Mono Lake.

We happened to time our arrival to the south shore with lovely evening lighting to stroll amongst the "tufa," calcium carbonate deposits that form oddly shaped towers around freshwater springs bubbling up in the lake. Since they form underwater, seeing so many on land far from the shoreline was an impactful visual of how much the lake level has been sucked down by diversions to LA. While a compromised restoration plan has been gradually raising the water level for close to two decades now, there is still quite a void to fill. It's not just about quantity, it is quality too. With all of the freshwater diversions, the salinity and pH threatened the alkili fly and brine shrimp populations, which are the essential sustenance of literally millions of migrating and overwintering birds at the lake. An interesting ecosystem and conservation story, brought alive while bird watching with our friend Erica the next morning after crashing on her futon the night before. She is loving her position leading bird walks and staffing the bookstore for the Mono Lake Conservation Association???

The last leg of trip took us through Yosemite NP via Tioga Pass Rd. While literally a drive by, the views of the high country held us captivated and gave us that extra boost of energy we needed to make it home. We knew we were back in the Bay Area once we sat in traffic for an hour under a thick blanket of fog to complete the last five miles of the journey. We left ourselves about 24 hours to unpack our car and repack our gear before departing for Kona, Hawaii early on Tuesday morn. Our friends Lauryn and Pete were lifesavers, providing a bed, laundry, random stuff storage, a couple of meals, and even a ride to the airport painfully early in the morning. Overall, this mini road trip was a success and provided a nice transition to the next major event of the summer...

Hawaii here we come!
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Comments

lauryn on

What? No pic of our house made the cut?

bennyG on

Yeah Tandem!!!! Let's see some tandem riding pics! miss you guys. Come to CO soon, OK?

Rachel on

Though I still haven't finished reading all of your Iceland blogs... I have started strong by reading this one so promptly. I'm so glad things went so smoothly before you left and sad that we didn't connect when you were in the Headlands. Have an amazing next step in your trip.
My Goal: read all of your blogs in a timely manner, comment on them sometimes since you seem to like those, then finish with your remaining Iceland posts.

cousin Dan on

Yee=haw. We had a wonderful time at the wedding. love you guys.

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