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   When in San Francisco I visited Peir 39 where sea lions hang out on the docks.  Several males fought for control over some areas of the docks, but most just slept in a big cuddle pile.  These are wild animals, but seem to be enjoying this camping spot left out by humans.

The photoblog at DrQue.net has over 10,000 images, and search engines are told not to index them. The scripts that run the gallery use random numbers to order the images and a search engine would get a different set of pages each time it tried to spider them. Most search engines respect this. Others ignore the robots.txt and try and index anyway. I setup Apache such that it won’t serve an image to a bot by checking the user agent. That took care of most of the others. However, I’ve been seeing some bots from China that identify themselves as a normal web browser and they have been wasting bandwidth downloading every image in every size from my site. Seeing this drives me nuts. Who knows why said bot is doing this. I’m sure I’m not the target of whatever thing they are searching for. Since I’ve done all I can to try and block bots that identify as bots, I have no choice this time but to block the IP addresses. Whomever is doing the downloading is big as I saw a lot of different IP addresses doing downloads. I stopped every one of them by simply fire walling three entire subnets:

que@Sun-Dragon:~$ sudo iptables -I INPUT -s 180.76.14.0/255.255.255.0 -j DROP
que@Sun-Dragon:~$ sudo iptables -I INPUT -s 111.206.36.0/255.255.255.0 -j DROP
que@Sun-Dragon:~$ sudo iptables -I INPUT -s 111.13.13.0/255.255.255.0 -j DROP

That took care of it.

August 13, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 14--Home

   My last day on the road and just a few hundred miles left.  I had my book and road to traverse.  I pulled into the driveway at Elmwood Park just after 2:30 pm.  
   14 days of travel; 6,659 miles; 14 states; 3 time zones; 7 national parks; 3 skating rinks; 8,652 photographs; -280 to 12,000 feet altitude, 45°F to 120°F temperatures.

August 12, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 13--Devil's Tower

Devil's Tower

Devil's Tower

   It was time for my last national park, number 7, Devil's Tower.  I had been by this giant monolith once before on my 2013 trip, and about got my Eve stuck in mud.  Poor planning on my part meant I didn't get a change to explore.  This time, I would remedy that.  I arrived early and took my time, making a loop of the fetcher and spending some time in the visitor center reading about the native peoples who still consider the area a place of spiritual significance.  There were several prayer cloths and bundles tied to trees around the park left by native peoples.  While walking the park I chatted with a women who's husband was climbing the rock face.  She pointed him and ask if I could take some shots of him with my 300 mm lens.  I took several and left her with my contact information. 
   After my hike, I stopped near the entrance of the park were there was a large field of prairie dogs.  They were pretty busy doing what prairie dogs do and I figured I'd just slowly go into the field and get a few pictures with my 300mm lens.  What I didn't expect was how curious the little guys were.  I was approached a couple of times for a good sniffing.  They were pretty skittish of quick movement, but the noise of constant motorcycle traffic didn't seem to bother them (turns out the Sturgis motorcycle rally was the week before).  I took a lot of pictures, but sometimes the prairie dogs were so close I couldn't get focus--my 300mm lens needs at least 3 meters between the lens and the subject.
   Once my pictures were complete, it was time to go.  My trip was winding to a close and I would need to start putting a lot of miles behind me.  When made it to Sioux Falls and being a Friday I knew I should be able to find a roller skating rink with an evening session.  Afterward I continued east a ways before finding a rest area just before the Minnesota boarder.  Temperatures before I left on this trip had been awful, but seemed to have cooled off some.  While warm I was still able to get a good nights sleep.

August 11, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 12--Glacier and Montana

Good Morning Glacier

Good Morning Glacier

   I set an alarm to wake up early--just before sunrise.  I wanted to capture the sun as it came up over the horizon if I could.  The morning's chilly mountain air was welcome after a trip that saw temperatures of 120° F.  As I thought, the other cars in the visitor center parking lot were still there.  I don't know if anyone else was camped out, but no one at the park seemed to care.  Unlike Yellowstone or Yosemite, Glacier doesn't have throngs of people mulling about and I liked that a lot.  I started my second trip along the road in Glacier which wasn't made any faster than my first.  And just like yesterday, it was just as spectacular.  Most of my pictures failed to capture the true beauty of the landscape as I had hoped, but this one did.  It is a HDR shot consisting of three pictures separated by one F-stop each.  I think it is one of the few that shows what I experienced.  I had considered doing a long hike which would have put me on a glacier.  I had talked to someone at the visitor center about what my options where, and she told me there wasn't a trail that went directly to a glacier.  However, I could get close using one trail, and then walk along the edge of a stream to reach the glacier.  The hike would be 12 miles one-way, and she said it was risky at the end because it could be very slippery.  While I'm usually not one to turn away from a good challenge, I considered some of the facts.  I am not accustom to climbing in mountains, I had no hiking partner in a place with no cellphone service, my water bottle was both too small and a piece of junk, and a hike this long would take the entire day.  While I still would like to do it, this kind of hike requires more preparation than just deciding to do it.
   I made it back to West Glacier and somewhat reluctantly left what I believe to be my favorite national park.  It was time to start working my way east, and some long driving would be required.  The rest of the day was spent driving through Montana, and I made it a good way into Wyoming before stopping for the day at a pullover area.  I don't require much to sleep in my car, and this location was as minimal as they come.  Just a location on the side of the road where simi-trucks could pull over for some rest.  I had just become settled in my trunk when a simi pulled up behind me.  The driver kept his truck idling, which despite being 100 feet away and having in ear plugs was too loud to sleep.  I moved in front of an other simi that was shutdown and was fine for the remainder of the evening.  The only downfall of this location was there were no bathroom facilities.  The landscape was too empty to just find a tree.  Other than that, I had no problems with my sleeping accommodation.

August 10, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 11--Yellowstone and Glacier National

   I started the morning early just as the sun came up in hopes of filming Old Faithful without hoards of noisy people.  Turns out that even at 5:30 am one cannot escape people at Yellowstone.  After getting my pictured I set out in a northwesterly direction.  I stopped at Biscuit Basin for a hike up the side of the caldera.  Then I continued until I left Yellowstone and was surprised that on this trip I had not seen a single bison.  I like the big hairy bovines and was sad not to have seen any.  I guess they must hang out on the north east side of the park which is where I usually come in.
   After Yellowstone it was time to work my way to Glacier National Park.  I had been there once before in early June of 2013.  However the road through the park had still not been fully plowed and I didn't get to drive all the way through.  Now early August, I was pretty sure I wouldn't have that problem and I could try a second time to see a glacier.  The drive from Yellowstone to Glacier is quite pleasant, but there was something I noticed as I got closer: cloud cover.  The mountain tops disappeared into the clouds.  Turns out I wouldn't be able to see a glacier this time either, but the clouds made for a spectacular view I hadn't anticipated.  Glacier was absolutely beautiful.  I took over 700 pictures as I slowly drove the road through glacier.  It turned out to be my favorite location on the entire trip and I was just enamored with the place under the clouds.  At the peaks of the road, nothing could be seen as I was in the clouds.  But just below cloud level were gorgeous valleys, streams, waterfalls, and lush green forest.  I'm not sure why I was so drawn to the location, but I would dream about it for weeks afterward.
   I'm not sure how long it took me to traverse the 50 mile road from one side of the park to the other, but I know it wasn't fast.  By the time I made it from West Glacier to St. Mary sunlight was getting low.  I was unable to find a good location just outside Glacier to park for the evening, but I noted that the visitor center was closed but still contained several cars.  I decided an other empty car would hardly be of notice and discretely crawled into the trunk for the night.  It got down into the 40s in the evening which made for a very comfortable nights sleep in a closed car.

August 09, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 10--Grand Teton and Yellowstone

   Two more national parks in a single day: Grand Teton and Yellowstone.  Grand Teton was more of something along the way to Yellowstone more than planned, but it was really wonderful to travel though.  Most of the day was spent slowing making my way north with constant stops to take pictures and explore.  I spent about 45 minutes talking to a geologist who pointed out fetchers to look for while traveling in the two parks.  I've long thought about just taking a class in geology so I could appreciate more of the mountains, and this conversation just reinforces the merit of that idea.  In Yellowstone I spent some time hiking around Lewis Falls and took a lot of pictures.  I eventually ended up at Upper Geyser Basin where the sun was getting low in the sky.  I arrived just as Old Faithful was about to erupt, and with hundreds of others watched the world's most famous geyser display what a pool of magma benighted the surface can do with water.  The hotspot may be couple million year old, but still hold tremendous energy.  The entire park is full of demonstrations like Old Faithful of how much power lays under the surface of this super volcano.  I find this fascinating.  After the first eruption I decided to hike a little and got a second eruption with the sunset as my backdrop.  Afterward, I retired to my trunk for a good nights sleep.

August 08, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 9--The Great Salt Lake

Effortless Floating

Effortless Floating

   The goal for today was to swim in the Great Salt Lake.  I had wanted to do this in my north west trip of 2013, but wasn't prepared.  This time I was ready.  I found Antelope Island State Park and it sat in the Great Salt Lake.  While swimming wasn't highly advertised, it was mentioned they had beach access and that was good enough for me.
   I first swung by the visitor center to learn about the native peoples, history of the lake, and a bit on the lake life.  Then it was time to experience something I remember learning about as a kid: floating in the saltwater.  The beach around the lake was fairly far from the waters edge.  While there was nice soft sand on the beach, the walk to the water was quite rugged land.  Glad I didn't take my shoes off for that walk.  The water's edge was a mass in small flies.  Tons of them.  I'm not sure I've ever seen so many flies hanging out in once place.  When you stepped down hoards of them would fly up and you could hear a buzzing.  Nonetheless, I was ready to try out the water.
   It took awhile to wade out far enough there was enough water to actually try and lay back, but when I did it was crazy--I just stayed afloat.  There was absolutely no effort required.  This is what I had expected, but years of swimming made it feel so usual.  My brain was ready to start treading water, but no motion was required.  I ended up swimming for quite awhile.  It was fun just to tool around by kicking my feet and steering with my arms.  Several others had their first experience in the lake as well, pointing at me before trying it out themselves.  I talked to a group from of people Germany who seemed to be having a lot of fun with the buoyant lake.  There are only a few places on Earth where this swimming effect happens, and it is because of the high salinity of the water--3 to 8 times higher than ocean water.  Knowing this, I decided to taste a drop of water.  The ocean tastes salty, but has nothing on the Great Salt Lake.  It's like pickling brine.
   Alas, it was time to finish my swim.  I rinsed off, but my damp trunks in the back window to dry, and started back north.  Some hours latter, I found my trunks had dried--and solidified.  There was still so much salt in them they dried ridged.  My hair absolutely loved the water and was soft for days afterward.  I worked my way into southern Idaho and slept at one of the few rest area I could find close to Yellowstone.