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.]

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!



China 2019 – Shanghai

First of all, I must ask you not to judge the quality of photography of Worldwide Explorers and Skye Photography based upon my photographs.  As the least knowledgeable photographer of the group, while I got excellent tips from our guides Marcus and James, I still managed to cut off the tops of buildings, take the photo from too high an angle, misalign the composition of the picture, etc.  Both of our photographs will make you weep… but for different reasons.

With that disclaimer, on to Shanghai.

Shanghai is the largest city in China by population and the second most populous city in the world with a population of 24 million.  It is a global financial center and the world’s busiest container port.  It sits on the south edge of the estuary of the Yangtze River on the East China Sea.

Today, Shanghai is a mixture of new and old.  There is the modern Shanghai with some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world.


There is the historic Victorian Bund.



And, just a short walk away, is the old Shanghai with narrow streets, storefront vendors and crowded homes and shops.

Coastal Maine

I’ve hit the trifecta – photography, travel and food in one post.

I have mentioned several times that I love the idea of traveling but hate to travel.  One of the travel goals of many US travelers, including the less adventurous like me, is to travel to all fifty states.  The rules are pretty lax – in fact, there are no official rules – but it seems reasonable that you should see at least one notable sight in each state to have it qualify as a visit.  Since I had never been to Maine, I just got back from a trip to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor.

Bar Harbor at sunset

Acadia near Thunder Hole

Is it possible to take a bad picture of coastal Maine?  I guess so but I wasn’t able to do it, not with my version 1.0 digital camera or with the camera in my cell phone.  All the usual phrases apply:  rugged coast lines, scenic byways, crystal clear streams and lakes, picturesque and laid-back towns (though Bar Harbor, at the height of tourist season, was bustling) and an abundance of fresh lobster.

The lobster comes in every form imaginable – lobster bisque, lobster rolls, lobster thermidor, steamed lobster, lobster tacos, lobster quesadilla, eggs benedict with lobster and lobster ice cream (yes,  that’s right, lobster ice cream) – to name a few.  There is currently a lobster glut in Maine.  So much so that lobstermen are refusing to go out for a daily catch because they cannot sell lobsters at prices that pay for their expenses.  Bad for lobstermen but good for lobster foodies.

Acadia: Jordan Pond

The Island Explorer bus service in Acadia offers free shuttle buses in the summer months to many locations in Acadia National Park.  In fact, it is possible to visit without a car at all.  Fly into Bar Harbor airport (technically, the Hancock County Bar Harbor airport), take the shuttle bus to your campground, bed & breakfast or hotel and then catch the bus to sightsee throughout the park.  While your car will take you some places that the buses don’t go, you avoid the hassle of looking for a parking space in heavily crowded parking lots at favorite locations.  And you get to see more of the views and less of the road, which is the whole point of a vacation.  You also get the convenience of being dropped off at one spot, walking or hiking to another and then getting picked up and taken back home.

Overlooking Bar Harbor from Bar Island

Now in case you are worried that I have become a softie for someone who professes to be a curmudgeon, let me point out that being there was wonderful; getting there and back was a different story.  The cattle car atmosphere called modern air travel can spoil the best of vacations.  I’ll leave that complaint for another time and give a big thumbs up to coastal Maine.