National Parks trip – Yellowstone

A favorite saying goes “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes.”  I believe that Yellowstone has all other locations beat.  After the Grand Tetons, we made our way from the Jackson Lake Lodge to Old Faithful Inn.  The first picture shows the snowy, overcast weather we encountered and the traffic jam caused by a motorist’s car stuck in the snow.  A helpful park ranger got the motorist unstuck.  After arriving at Old Faithful, we decided to drive up to Mammoth Hot Springs and the second picture shows the snowless drive.  Same day, different weather patterns.

Yellowstone is too fascinating to cover in just a few pictures.  Over 3 million visitors go each year and most of them, I suspect, make the trek to the Old Faithful Inn and Old Faithful geyser.

Both are worth the stop but there are more geysers than just Old Faithful.  In fact, within a single square mile around Old Faithful are half the geysers on the planet.  There are also fumeroles, hotsprings and mudpots in the park.  A few days are not enough time to see all the wonders of Yellowstone but we did manage to see Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, West Thumb, Lamar Valley, Upper and Lower Falls and Grand Prismatic Spring.


[Next up is a brief stop at the Copper King Mansion on the way to Glacier National Park.]

National Parks trip – Grand Tetons


I know, I know.  I have been absent and have failed to fulfill my complement of bitching and grousing.

I will return to that subject but first – another trip, this time to three US National Parks; the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier.  My wife and I took this trip in May, starting at the Grand Tetons then moving north first through Yellowstone and then Glacier.  Taking the trip early in the season meant some chanciness in the weather.  The Grand Tetons had some rainy weather but we got an improvement in Yellowstone and Glacier.  We also got a look at a number of critters including black bears and a grizzly.  More on that later.

First up, the Grand Tetons.

The first four pictures are the classic one (though a bit cloudy) of the Snake River in the foreground and the Tetons in the background.  The Tetons are unusual in that, unlike most mountain ranges (the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Cascades and Sierra Nevada’s), they rise directly from a flat valley without any foothills.  It’s all due to tectonic activity and the fact that one tectonic plate is moving directly under another and, as one plate rises, erosion levels the valley floor.  At times, it is as though there is a flat valley floor and the Tetons are huge fake drapery to convince you that there are mountains.

During our visit, we took the boat ride across Jenny Lake and the next picture shows the approach to the landing dock.  A hike with a 600 foot in elevation change took us to hidden falls (next picture).

A Mormon community attempted to establish a farming community in the latter part of the nineteenth century and this barn is often captured in photographs of the now abandoned buildings of that community.


Next is a picture taken from our bedroom balcony at the Jackson Lake Lodge and the last is one on our departure to Yellowstone as the weather cleared.



[Next up is Yellowstone.]

China 2019 – Beijing

Our photography tour ended in Shanghai but we spent time in Beijing.  From Shanghai we took a bullet train to Beijing and stayed near the center of the city.  We got to see the Forbidden City, the Beijing Zoo and parts of the Great Wall.

I could have spent days at the Forbidden City.  Supposedly, it has buildings whose rooms total 9,999.  Even during the off-season (January), it was very crowded.

After the Forbidden City, we stopped at the Beijing Zoo to say hello to the pandas and the Bengal tigers.  Although the animals were not mistreated, I was not entirely convinced they were happy in their surroundings.

By contrast to the Forbidden City, we went to a sparsely visited section of the Great Wall.  Most of the pictures you see of the Great Wall are probably taken around Badaling.  This section has been completely restored and is only a short hike (5 minutes) from taxi to wall.  We went to Simitai which is much less traveled and also not restored.  We had an hour hike to get to the wall but we were the only ones there.


China 2019 – Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie, in Hunan Provence, is located approximately 1,285 km east south east of Shanghai.  It is a city containing spectacular landforms and parks, which includes the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.  It was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 and is said to have inspired the filmmakers of the 2009 film Avatar.  The region is famous for its towering quartzite cliffs and Rhesus monkeys abound.  There are three cable cars and the Bailong Elevator that will take visitors to the top of the cliffs.

Notice that, from the picture taken, you appear to be alone.  Turning to the right or left tells a different story.

We spent two nights in Zhangjiajie at the northern entrance to the park and then two at the southern entrance.  Our accommodations here – at the Cube House Guesthouse – were somewhat unique – 500 steps from the street to the guesthouse!


China 2019 – ancient water towns

The water towns were very interesting, more than I expected although getting to them was definitely not what I expected.  I thought that they would be out in the middle of nowhere and we would approach them in a very rural setting.  Instead, we drove and stopped in the middle of a city, walked to an entrance beyond which was this older, hidden village – canals and all – surrounded by a modern city.  Sometimes the entrance was over a bridge straddling a canal (Tongli and Zhouzhuang) and, in other cases (Xitang), through a narrow break in the street leading on to the old village.  These are shown in the next two pictures.  Very strange.


These three water towns – Tongli, Zhouzhuang and Xitang – located southeast of Shanghai are all picturesque, each reminiscent of Venice with a network of canals.  Tongli was my personal favorite despite sleeping in the hardest bed I have ever slept in my life.  It was here that we had access to the cormorant fisherman and two of my favorite animal pictures – the patient dog and the inscrutable cat.  I also loved the moss and greenery growing in the foot tiles.  Can you pick out the outline of a creature in one of them?







You will also notice that it was impossible to get past the “conveniences” of American life – KFC and Starbucks!