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May 31, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 1

   Bags are packed, car is loaded, and it is time to start my long trek westward across the country.  There are more than 1,600 miles between home and my destination, with several scheduled stops along the way.  The first day of my road trip has been spent mostly in preparation and not a lot of miles are planned for today.  After a stop at the grocery store for initial supplies, I was putting on the first miles of the trip about 8:00 pm.

June 01, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 2: Minnesota and North Dakota

   Started by day about 6:00 am after a lovely nights sleep at a rest area in the trunk of my trusty car Eve Liberty.  In the morning I had a 1/2 mile run as the rest area I stopped at for the night had an observation area at the end of a trail.  Throughout the day I kept this practice up, having a short jog at each rest area.  Felt good to move a bit after several hours of driving.
   The goal for the day was to travel Interstate 90, entering Minnesota close to Minneapolis and following it northwest toward Fargo, North Dakota.  I had never driven this route before, and I had never been to North Dakota.  That was going to change.  The scenery north of Minneapolis was pleasant, with rolling hills and dotted with lakes.  I entered North Dakota at 3:45 pm, marking the 48th state I've traveled and completing all the contiguous United States. 
   North Dakota was what I expected it would be, but not as flat as I've often been told it is.  With my audiobook going, plenty of snack food, and a clear day I made easy time with North Dakota.  At about 7:00 pm mountain time I arrived at my only scheduled stop for the day: Theodore Roosevelt National Park right at the west edge of the state.  I viewed it from Painted Canyon Visitor Center and observed the sun was getting low in the sky.  I decided to hike one of the trails and see if I could allow some time for the sun to set.  The clouds in the sky, low sun, and badlands backdrop provided several fanatic HDR photo opportunities.
   I had planned to sleep in North Dakota, but I was making progress too quickly.  The sun set shortly after I entered Montana and I found a rest area near Wubaux.  One thing I wanted to do on this trip through North Dakota was photograph the stars.  There is very little light pollution because of the low population density.  However it was too cloudy to make this a worthwhile effort.

June 02, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 3: Beartooth Mountains and Yellowstone

Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes

   While I still slept well, the evening was as windy as I had ever spent in my trunk, rocking the entire car in wave after powerful wave.  At about 6:30 am I woke to sirens, and with the wind from the evening before I wondered if bad weather wasn't coming my way.  However, the sky didn't look particularly threatening, and there was nothing on the national weather service site for the area.  So I have no idea why the sirens went off.
   My goal for today was to work my way across Montana and head south toward Yellowstone National Park.  I still had a lot of Montana to cover before I would get into the mountains, and so it was good to get an early start.  Eastern Montana was interesting.  The morning was hazy, and the landscape had a lot of badlands.  In the distance I knew there would be mountains, but there would be no seeing them for some time.  Then about 10:15 am mountain time I gazed my first snow topped mountain peaks of Beartooth Mountains.  By noon I would be traveling Hwy 212—the famous Beartooth Highway—in these mountains, climbing higher and higher.  Soon I came across snow on the ground and had to stop and play in it.  My first stop was a little premature because this road just continued to climb.  Near the top, everything was covered in snow and the view was breathtaking.  I stopped a few more times for pictures, including the frozen Twin Lakes some thousand feet below my vantage point.  And my summit stop was at  44.974957°, -109.434730° at a posted altitude of 10,947 feet.  The snow was at least 18" deep here, and the temperature in the lower 40ies F.  I wanted to walk over to a rocky patch I saw a couple hundred feet away and noticed shortly into the walk I was working really hard.  At first I thought it was just the work of trudging through the deep snow, but then it dawned on me: altitude.  I was getting much less air per breath than I typically get at the 800 feet I'm use to.  It was really interesting to experience this phenomenon.
   While playing in the snow at high altitude is a lot of fun, I had to continue and descend.  I entered Yellowstone National Park around 4:30 pm MT.  Shortly after arriving I saw my first buffalo resting in a grassy field.  On my first visit to Yellowstone I also saw buffalo right after arrival, and I really like this fact.  I would not have thought one of the largest tourist attractions in the United States with all the traffic it brings, sitting atop a super volcano, spanning the otherwise fairly empty states of Wyoming and Montana, would have such a concentration of wildlife, beauty and appeal.  But I guess I too cannot resist the allure of this place.  Driving through Yellowstone is an experience in and of itself.
   While I had been to Yellowstone once before I certainly didn't see everything that one trip.  This time I did the Lamar Valley, Tower Fall, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Hayden Valley, before stopping at Yellowstone Lake for the evening.  The first time I was at Yellowstone the GPS messed up my location and I wasn't able to see Old Faithful.  There were no rest areas I could camp at near the park and I was worried I wouldn't be able to see a geyser.  Then it dawned on me that I was in a place with several hotels and no one was going to notice my car in a lot of cars if I just pulled into a parking lot and slept for the night.  That worked so well I decided that was the plan this time.  So next to Yellowstone Lake I found a nice parking spot and climbed into my trunk for the night.  And like before, I slept soundly on this 640,000 year old caldera.

June 03, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 4: Craters Of The Moon

Lava Rock

Lava Rock

   Woke about 6:00 am and started working my way out along the south west end of Yellowstone National Park, making several stops along the way.  I was became a little concerned about fuel when the road the GPS had scheduled me to turn was closed.  It had no other gas stations close to me.  Luckily, the GPS didn't know of all the gas stations and I found one a few miles latter.  Fueled up I began to work my way south west toward Idaho.  Technically I had been to Idaho, having even spent the night in the state.  But it was just the 60 mile strip of the upper panhandle, so I didn't feel like I really got to see much of Idaho.  So this trip I decided to travel the southern part of the state.
   My only scheduled stop was Craters of the Moon National Monument—a 618 sq. mile lava field.  I had come across a lava field once before and I randomly stumbled upon Carrizozo Malpais in New Mexico.  However, Craters of the Moon was larger and had many more formations.  While I didn't find it looked much like the moon, it was am interesting landscape.  The patterns formed from the flowing lava were fascinating. 
   After exploring lava for awhile it was time to log some miles.  I got back on the road and began working my way north west.  Enjoyed my scenic drive through Idaho and stopped in Oregon just shy of the Washington border to stay the night.