Photography, Travel

Road Trip Travelogue Day 5: Last Day in Yellowstone

Once Philip and I found the best campsite in Yellowstone (see Day 4), it was hard to face that we would have to leave the park.

Here are some photos from our last full day, which we spent hiking and fishing. We had no luck with the fish, but we did spot a buck and wrangled a small snake!

DSC_1062.jpg

DSC_1070.jpg

DSC_1074.jpg

DSC_1077.jpg

DSC_1083.jpg

DSC_1091

DSC_1092

DSC_1093

DSC_1096

DSC_1102

DSC_1104

DSC_1105

DSC_1109

DSC_1113

DSC_1117

DSC_1123

DSC_1133

Read my other Road Trip Travelogues here:

Day 4

Day 3

Day 2

Day 1

 

Advertisements
Standard
Photography, Travel

Road Trip Travelogue Day 4: The Best Campsite in Yellowstone

Finding an available camping spot in a National Park during peak season may seem impossible, but Philip and I proved through experience that you can get one of *the most beautiful* campsites in Yellowstone, even when you fly by the seat of your pants. I would say third time’s the charm, but in our case it was our fourth night in the park that we found campsite W6 at the Norris campground.

DSC_1067.jpg

After days of finagling last minute reservations with confused concessioner campground staffers, we finally decided to give the first-come-first-serve campsites run by the National Park Service a go.

We woke up early, drove to Norris, parked in a line of cars and waited in front of the camp office. Even though we were sixth in line, the wait was long. It turned out to be well worth it when the woman helping us beamed and said, “Can I offer you the most beautiful campsite in all of Yellowstone?” Walking out to our site, we could see exactly what she meant: a winding river and open meadow invited us to set up camp and enjoy the scenery. Perched on the edge of the campground we felt like we had the meadow to ourselves. The sounds of the river and singing birds overtook the chatter of nearby campers. I was so happy, I changed into my “cute camping” outfit to celebrate.

The day’s first order of business was paying Ol’ Faithful a visit. I didn’t take any pictures of that geyser but I did document some of the other geysers we saw.

DSC_0956

DSC_0959

Chromatophores or colorful bacteria give this hot spot its vivid colors.

DSC_0965

I ate a tiny pizza, this seemed noteworthy.

DSC_0966

When we returned to camp, Philip decided to go fish along the winding Gibbon River. I went out with my camera to capture the last bit of daylight. Even the scary bear signs looked more picturesque at this campsite.

DSC_0984

The camp office looking very much like a cozy cabin.

DSC_0987

A peek at the Gibbon River.

DSC_0989

The meadow catching the last bit of light. I think it was nearly 10 PM at that point.

DSC_0999

DSC_1009

The view from W6.

 

DSC_1031

DSC_1039

Thank you Yellowstone Firewood!

DSC_1061 (1)

Philip’s hat on our campsite picnic table.

DSC_1050

Read my other Road Trip Travelogues here:

Day 3

Day 2

Day 1

 

 

Standard
Photography, Travel

Road Trip Travelogue Day 3: Reunion at Lost Lake

After saying an abrupt goodbye to my college friend Kate in our second year at Franklin College Switzerland (now University), I wish someone could have told me that I would be reunited with her in Yellowstone 5 years later! It wouldn’t have softened the blow of her absence, but it would have given me something to look forward to, aside from her amazing blog post updates.

Kate’s stories about her home in Montana had always captured my imagination, and I knew I wanted to visit her there long before I made the trip a reality this summer. But before Montana, there was this little pit stop Philip and I wanted to make at a place called Yellowstone. So Kate and Logan, her gentleman caller, obliged us by meeting us for night of camping and a day of hiking in Wyoming!

After a night of catching up over s’mores and Montana brews, we ventured into the Northern reaches of the park. We stopped by Tower Roosevelt for a peek at the falls and some incredible basalt formations. Then we went on to hike the Lost Lake trail. Our first inclination was to hike towards a waterfall. When the trail petered out, we doubled back to find the Lost Lake, but not before catching sight of the fall we sought.

DSC_0934

Kate took photographs on this hike as well, which you can find on her blog Zephotographist under “Foxes, Frogs, and Hiking: A Day in Yellowstone.” I think it’s really interesting to compare the different subjects we chose to photograph on the same hike! She’s much better at taking photographs of people!

DSC_0938

DSC_0939

DSC_0940

DSC_0941

DSC_0942

DSC_0947

DSC_0952

After Kate and Logan left, Philip and I continued on to Mammoth to see the hot springs. We stopped to eat ice cream on a patch of grass not occupied by lounging elk.

DSC_0954

We also ate some pretty disappointing food in a cafeteria. Luckily, these old pictures of tourists in Yellowstone hanging on the walls more than made up for the bland meal.

IMG_1495

IMG_1498

After a long day of driving around the park and spotting wildlife (a mamma black bear and her two cubs!) along the roadside, we settled into yet another new campsite. I found this little face on a log and it made me smile.

IMG_1499

IMG_1507 (1)

It was a great day.

Standard
Photography, Travel

Road Trip Travelogue Day 1: 5 States

CA > NV > ID > MT > WY

5 States – 1 Day

Destination: Yellowstone National Park

Breakfast: scrambled eggs & homestyle potatoes

Departure: 5:30 something AM

First Stop: Black Bear Diner in Fernley, Nevada

DSC_0631.jpg

Unplanned Stop: adjacent casino in Fernley, Nevada

Philip’s Winnings: $12

Number of Photos I Took in the Casino Before Being Told Photography Was Not Allowed: 6

The Best Photograph of Those 6:

DSC_0646.jpg

Places to Pee in Nevada: Casinos

Places to Order Starbucks in Nevada: Casinos

Places to Lose Your Hope for Humanity in Nevada: Casinos

Where We Did Not Stop for Gas in Nevada:

DSC_0654

DSC_0670

DSC_0666

The RV Model’s Name: “Honey”

How I Fought Boredom While Driving Through Nevada: eating sunflower seeds and spitting the shells into a paper cup tucked into my seat belt

Number of Prisons We Passed in Nevada: 3

Number of Hitchhikers Allowed to Pick Up: 0

How Many Snakes We Stopped for in Idaho: 2

DSC_0719

My Impression of Idaho:

DSC_0718.jpg

Where We Ordered French Fries in Burley, Idaho: MacDonald’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box

DSC_0743.jpg

MacDonald’s: salty, greasy, too crunchy

Burger King: delicious when hot, too potatoe-y

Jack in the Box: perfect amount of salt and grease, good when cold

Winner: Jack in the Box

DSC_0745.jpg

Camping Advice from a Walmart Employee in Chubbuck, Idaho: “Keep the fire going all night… Do you have a gun?”

Camping Reservations Made: 0

Arrival Time in Montana: 12:30 something AM

Number of Grizzly Bear Warning Signs at Lonesome Hurst Campground in Montana: 3

How Long it Took to Decide to Keep Driving After 18 Hours on the Road: split second

Arrival Time in Yellowstone National Park: 1:00 AM

When We Snagged an Empty Camp Site at Madison Campgrounds: 1:30 something AM

When We Learned We Would Need to Move Our Tent: 8:30 something AM

Follow my blog here on adrienneblaine.com for more posts about my 10 Day Road Trip!

Standard
Arts & Culture, Travel

From the Archives: “Snæfellsjökull Healing” for the Reykjavík Grapevine

The following is an article I wrote in 2013 about Iceland’s Extreme Chill electronic music festival while interning for the Reykjavík Grapevine. Thanks to the Panama Papers, things are not “extremely chill” in Iceland at the moment. The beats you’ll hear in Iceland today are the beating of pots and pans outside government buildings protesting the deceit and corruption of the prime minister.

Make sure to follow the Reykjavík Grapevine for up to date coverage of the protests in Iceland. If you need some “Snæfellsjökull Healing” (like Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”) read on and harken back to chiller times.

Covered Kirkjufell close to Olafsvik.

Armed only with rumours that I would most likely encounter cold weather and people doing A LOT of drugs, I headed for the fourth annual Extreme Chill Festival bundled up in my warmest gear, haunted by visions of neon booty shorts and glowsticks. What I didn’t expect to find was a warm and welcoming group of electronic musicians and fans communing with nature under Hellissandur’s mystical glacier, Snæfellsjökull.

It all began with a stop in Grundafjörður to plant a tree. The Sterna bus we took to Snæfellsnes doubled as a guided tour of the Snæfellnes peninsula, and when it stopped I woke up in confusion. A guide invited passengers off the bus to plant a birch sapling in a community garden that we christened “Little Chill Fest” in honor of our final destination.


Undír Jökli

Thanks to the tour guide, I soon realized Hellissandur was near Ólafsvík, the birthplace of my great great grandmother, Ólína, whom I share a name with. She emigrated to Canada near the turn of the 20th century during a famine, and tragically lost contact with her sister. As the first Ólína to return to Iceland from our family tree, I have reconnected with her sister’s offspring but had yet to make the pilgrimage to her hometown.

 

This is when I first began to sense the pull of Snæfellnes’ glacier, Snæfellsjökull. It is this same glacier Jules Verne made famous as a portal in ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth,’ and the same glacier my great great grandmother undoubtedly saw many times in her early life, and while, the distinctive twin peaks of the 700,000-year-old ‘jökli’ were hidden by low clouds, there more than enough scenic views to go around.

Calm before the storm

We set up camp in a grassy field near a corral of friendly Icelandic horses that came right up to the fence to watch the first tents pop up. A group had already established itself at the far end of the site, with eight smaller tents surrounding a covered communal area complete with a voodoo skull planted on a stake. Despite the skull, the group was incredibly welcoming and explained they had come together to honour the memory of a recently passed friend who had brought them all together. As the campsite began to fill up, car stereos pumped muffled beats and a small colony of nomads formed and spread out along the banks of a small stream.

8b62cdb9e691a816
Up the street from the campsite, a few Extreme Chill posters pasted to covered windows identified Röst, a modest venue with all the necessary amenities including a sizable stage, a projection booth and acoustic wood panelling. Inside, electronic music pulsed along to visualizations from the surrounding environment: snowy roads, rushing waves, craggy rocks and grassy fields. Tea candles and incense burned on tabletops surrounded by chairs. The overall effect was more calming than raving. Throughout the festival it was common for the crowd to sit or lay-down, some even practiced yoga near the front of the stage.

According to Árni Grétar, a.k.a. Futuregrapher, Extreme Chill is unlike any other electronic music festival because of this spiritual element. While violent fights are common at many Icelandic festivals, Árni maintained Extreme Chill attendees “don’t want to destroy themselves or others.” Which is an atmosphere the controlled number of attendees, purposefully capped at 400, helps maintain.
However, this is not to say the festival was lacking in moments of intensity. The second day in particular featured the eerie stylings of father-son duo, Stefán Finnboga Péturs; the heavy beats of the Swiss artist Mimetic, and the hardcore dance rhythms of 101 Reykjavík’s Future-grapher and Maggi Lego.

Beyond the MacBook

I talked with one of Extreme Chill’s organisers, Andri Már Arnlaugsson, at Kaffi Sif, where performers and attendees congregated over beers and hamburgers. As we sat on the outdoor deck, he explained the festival’s rigorous selection process: “We seek out performers with a stage presence. Nobody wants to see a guy standing behind a MacBook. Enough of that already.”

Acts like Úlfur, Modesart and Samaris featured live instrumentals, most unconventionally with Tumi Árnason on saxophone. My only criticism would be that with the exception of Jófrí›ur Ákadóttir and Áslaug Rún Magnús-dóttir of Samaris, the festival’s line-up was overwhelmingly male. Overall, the festival successfully highlighted some of the best experimental electronic music in Iceland while attracting big foreign names. Unfortunately, Le Sherifs from Egypt were unable to make it due to political unrest in Cairo.

In the past outdoor sets were extremely popular in the sunny weather, however, I chilled myself to the bone listening to Mixmaster Morris in the cold. The master lived up to his name as he mixed CDs live like a psychedelic gorilla, pacing behind the table in tie-dye pants and a sweater with large black sequins that swayed to the beat. The misty gray setting was a nice juxtaposition to a masterful sampling of Rhye’s lyrics, “It’s one of those pretty summer, summer days. Just a tiny one,” before I headed back to Kaffi Sif for a warm cup of tea.


Techno teepee

After the official sets ended at around 3:00, the party continued at the campsite. Local kids took matters into their own hands, appearing over a ridge shuffling under the weight of large speakers. On Friday night the biggest tarp I’d ever seen was turned into a pop-up techno teepee with the help of a few pieces of wood. The party continued well into the wee hours until the wind ripped the tarp off the ground and the structure collapsed.

Strangely enough, sleeping through this 24-hour dance party was easier than you would expect. It was only when the music stopped around 8:00 in the morning that I would wake up with a start. At Extreme Chill your body becomes accustomed to a constant, persistent beat and without it, you become suddenly lost. Luckily it usually wasn’t long before someone else’s stereo would take over the metronomic duties.


Clouded in mystery

On Sunday a blue sky peeked through the clouds and I hoped to get a better look at Snæfellsjökull, but the winds were not in my favour. Until my next journey, this glacier will remain clouded in mystery. But as Futuregrapher said, “It is beyond man to understand, but for man to feel,” which sums up most of my experiences at Extreme Chill this year.

Snæfellsjökull National Park - Iceland

Standard
Travel

Waiting to Be Born in Death Valley

“One day, in the Time When Animals Were People, Coyote came to the valley. The people were small then, so Coyote kept them in a large basket he carried on his back. After a long journey, Coyote grew tired. When he came to a place at the north end of the valley, he set his burden down on the earth. The moment he fell asleep, the people climbed up out of the basket and ran away in all directions. The place where they emerged is called Ubehebe Crater today, and it’s hollow like the shape of a wosa, or basket. After Coyote woke up, he walked up and down the valley naming the places where the people could live. That’s how the Timbisha knew where to find everything they needed.”

This excerpt from Indian Country, God’s Country: Native Americans And The National Parks by Philip Burnham retells the Timbisha Shoshone story of how the indigenous people came to find their home in what we call Death Valley. Burnham’s writing explores the fraught relationships between Native Americans and national parks. He goes on to explain that pioneers came through the same valley and saw it not as a gift but as a death sentence. Their hostile relationship to the land was reflected in the name Death Valley.

Standing above Ubehebe or “Tem-pin-tta- Wo’sah,” (Coyote’s Basket), I was surprised that I was not made uneasy by the site’s explosive origins. The crater was formed by what is called a maar volcano, where magma bubbles up to the earth’s surface, heating the ground water and causing an explosion that leaves a crater behind.

I can understand why this crater would seem like a great place for a heavy basket filled with humankind. There was something welcoming and comforting about the spot. Although we were not carried by a coyote, I did feel like Philip and I were carried to the crater by a certain force. An interesting encounter we had with a raven just moments before entering the crater intensified this feeling.

While eating yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Philip and I sat facing away from the crater. We watched better equipped cars make their way on unpaved roads to a site we were going to have to wait to see: the Racetrack.

Both of us were having a hard time finishing our dry sandwiches in the dry weather. Philip dejectedly showed me two pieces of crust he couldn’t bring himself to eat. I pointed to a raven in the distance, which prompted Philip to throw his scraps out as an offering. The raven quickly flew over to where Philip had thrown the crusts.

After eating the first scrap it jumped up and flapped its wings before taking the next scrap in its beak. We were surprised when it started walking deliberately towards us, while holding the second piece of bread in its mouth. With its head cocked to the side, it was giving us, and particularly Philip, an assessing look. We were close enough to see the raven blink several times as it came closer: a black marble never disappearing, just briefly covered in a gray film.

It almost seemed to be asking us whether we had really intended to give it this food. Or maybe it was trying to gauge our intentions. Who knows what kind of discriminations Ravens have endured? I have heard that Ravens are capable of memorizing people’s faces. When it finally flew away, I whispered to Philip, “the ravens know your face now.”

Watching the raven fly into the crater, we felt we had been given a cue to get moving. Here are some pictures of Philip as we walked into the crater. You can see how steep the descent was, and how much smaller the people already in the crater appeared in the distance.

After hiking (read: sliding) down into the crater, we were met with a stillness that did not exist at the top, where the wind whipped aggressively. Nestled in the valley of the crater, it really did feel like we were in some sort of cradle. Looking up, we could see that our raven had a friend and a nest in the crater. It had probably brought the second piece of bread to share with its mate.

Once at the bottom we were the only ones there. We laid down on the cracked mud and basked in the sun. Feeling restored after our nap, we got up and prepared ourselves to climb out of the Coyote’s Basket.

At some parts it felt more like crawling, but there were beautiful purple and yellow flowers lining the path. There’s no better feeling than pulling yourself up to a great height. Climbing out of the crater felt like a huge accomplishment.

We returned to our campsite for our last night. We watched the sunset and the fighter jets and drank instant coffee out of scalding enamelware.

The next day we packed up camp and made one last stop at Zabriskie’s Point before driving the eight hours home.

Another El Niño storm was rolling, held back from the valley by the rain shadow created by surrounding mountains. As we drove through the changing weather, a lyric from one of Philip’s favorite songs by John K. Samson (“Heart of the Continent“) resonated:

“Inky bruises are punched into the sky by bolts of light and then leak across the body of tonight, while rain and thunder drop and roll, then stop short of a storm, leave the air stuck with this waiting to be born.”

I overheard a man say that all the flowers we saw in Death Valley were the result of one storm on the night of October, 18 2015: thunder, lightning and flash floods. The seeds of life patiently wait for their time, but when given the opportunity, they climb out of Coyote’s Basket and spread through the Valley.

This trip to Death Valley was the perfect way to celebrate turning 25 years old. I cannot recommend trips to national parks enough. I look forward to finishing Burnham’s book to learn more about how national parks can better serve the native people who knew the land before conservation efforts became necessary. Why should we value people any less than landmarks?

Standard
Travel

Death Valley Birthday

I will be celebrating a quarter century of life while camping in California’s Death Valley National Park.

Thanks to rains brought on by El Niño, wildflower seeds that normally lay dormant in Death Valley’s inhospitable landscape have sprung up along the valley floor. The last time this happened was in 2005, however, Death Valley has gone hundreds of years at a time without any blooms.

This may very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see life spring from death.

This desert themed episode of Planet Earth shows a time-lapse of the blooms (at minute 43:09):

 

After watching this episode, I vowed to make it to the next bloom. I set a Google alert for “Death Valley” and “flowers,” but it was actually my boyfriend who alerted me while I was trying to come up with a way to celebrate my birthday.

Death Valley has been deemed the hottest place on the planet. The highest reliably recorded temperature was 134 degrees Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913. This valley’s harsh environment and macabre name have always made it a romantic destination in my mind.

My father, on the other hand, remembers his trip to Death Valley as the most unpleasant vacation he ever took with his family. I have black and white photographs of my father as a toddler looking very unhappy in Death Valley.

I’m no desert flower. I didn’t even own a pair of shorts until I started packing for this trip. Thankfully, Goodwill had exactly what I was looking for.

There’s something about National Park vacations that conjure recreation vehicles, high-waisted pants and sensible shoes. In this spirit, I have curated a campy wardrobe for this camping trip inspired by pieces I stole from my parents’ closet.

 

Vacation Dad Look

Los Gatos hat, Los Gatos Walgreens, Dad’s closet

Red graphic tee, In4mation, Santa Cruz Goodwill

High waisted acid washed denim pants, vintage DKNY, San Francisco Goodwill

Vacation Mom Look

Vintage scarf, Mom’s closet

White button-up sleeveless shirt, Jones & Co., Santa Cruz Goodwill

High waisted denim shorts with front pleats, Dockers, Santa Cruz Goodwill

I may look back on these packing choices with embarrassment but, memento mori, right?

 

Standard