American Northwest Trip, 2017: Old Trail Town

During my long drive across the entire state of Wyoming I stopped in Cody for a visit to Old Trail Town, a recreation of an old west town using authentic buildings collected from around Wyoming and Montana. The buildings were disassembled, moved and reassembled at Old Trail Town. Among the buildings here are original cabins used by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a saloon frequented by Cassidy’s “Hole-in-the-Wall Gang,” and the home of the Crow Indian scout who led Custer to Little Big Horn. There are also tons of historic Old West artifacts and grave sites of several notable Western figures.

It’s a nice little diversion on the way to or from Yellowstone for fans of the old west; I think the entry fee was $10. There weren’t many people there so I pretty much had the run of the place and was able to get some nice shots. I chose high-contrast processing for a lot of the photos to give them a more vintage feel. I considered going all out and converting them to black-and-white/sepia but decided it would be too much work. Perhaps I’ll convert a few of them at a later date.

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American Northwest Trip, 2017: Needles Highway

These photos are from my drive along Needles Highway, a scenic, sometimes treacherous road winding through granite “needle” rock formations in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The road has a number of one-lane tunnels cut through the rock, wherein you have to be careful and make sure nobody is coming from the other direction before driving through them.

Needles Highway was the first leg of a grand loop scenic drive I took through Custer State Park that also included the Wildlife Loop and Iron Mountain Road before ending at Mount Rushmore. If you’re planning a trip to Rushmore, I highly recommend taking this loop if you have the time as the landscape is often spectacular.

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American Northwest Trip, 2017: Multnomah Falls

On my way from Portland to Mount Hood I decided to take a detour to view the majestic Multnomah Falls. It was well worth the trip, though I narrowly avoided a situation that could have left me stranded there all day. As one of the photos below shows, a pair of RVs got themselves stuck together on the narrow road leading to the main parking lot, creating a massive traffic backup in both directions. Had I arrived earlier, I might have been stuck on the wrong side of that jam. Luckily, the RV crunch happened before I arrived, so I parked further away near a smaller waterfall and hiked to the main falls. I didn’t have time to hike up to the bridge but I got a few nice shots from below.

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The RVs were still stuck together when I left, causing traffic to back up past my car, so I had to wait for someone to let me out before I could turn the car around and leave, but it could have been much worse. I felt sorry for everyone who was stranded there because it did not appear that those RVs were getting unstuck anytime soon, but I made it back to the highway and was soon on my way up to Mount Hood.

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American Northwest Trip, 2017: Mount Hood Magic Mile

These photos are from my ride on Timberline Lodge’s “Magic Mile” ski lift toward the summit of Mount Hood, a trip for which I was woefully under-dressed with just a windbreaker to protect me from the frigid winds. At the top I had a spectacular view of Mount Jefferson peeking above the clouds, as well as great looks at Timberline Lodge in the mist below. It’s definitely worth the ride if you’re visiting the lodge, or you can choose to hike up to the top. Had I had more time, I would have at least hiked back down from the top, but I needed to get back to Portland to catch my plane to Montana, so I rode both ways.

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American Northwest Trip, 2017: Mount Hood

One great aspect of Portland is its proximity to both mountains and beaches, either of which are just a day trip away. Although I didn’t have time to visit the Oregon coast on this trip, I did make the 90-minute drive up to Mount Hood, where I spent my final night in Oregon at Timberline Lodge near its summit. The lodge was made famous by The Shining (more on that in a later post). These photos are from my drive up to Mount Hood and my hikes around it.

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Back to the West

After last year’s trip to the American Northwest, I’ll be turning right back around this summer and heading out to the American Southwest. I’ve always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, so I thought I would organize a big trip around it that will include visits to Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks in Utah, and a lot of driving in between. Here is my rough itinerary:

Days 1-2: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

I had originally planned to start at Arches National Park in eastern Utah and work my way down through the other Utah parks before finally ending at the Grand Canyon, but I concluded that Arches was a bit too far away from all of my other stops on this trip (and the car rental fees were much more expensive at the nearby airports), so when I stumbled onto this animal sanctuary located right in the middle of my other destinations, I decided to make this my first stop after flying into Vegas.

What better way to use the volunteer hours my company allocates to me than by spending two days hanging out with dogs in a beautiful canyon? The sanctuary is also home to cats, horses, rabbits, pigs, and other animals, but as a dog lover I’ll be focusing my volunteer time with the dogs. And when I’m not volunteering, there appear to be some good hiking opportunities in the canyon, while at night I may be able to bring one of the dogs back to my cabin for a sleepover, which would be neat.

Days 3-4: Bryce Canyon National Park

I’ll be spending the next two days in Bryce Canyon. In-park lodging was already booked up so I’m staying just outside the park, but Bryce appears to be fairly easy to explore by car. I’m thinking my first day will be a drive-through to stop at all of the overlooks since it will be a partial day, and I’ll return on the second day for specific hikes.

Days 5-6: Zion National Park

I’m very much looking forward to my two days here as everyone raves about Zion. Like with Bryce, the in-park lodging at Zion was all booked up, so I’m staying just outside the park. The good news is that my hotel is right across from a shuttle stop and from what I’ve read, you essentially need the shuttle to get around the park anyway, so there’s not a huge disadvantage to beginning outside the park.

Days 7-8: Grand Canyon North Rim

At last, the reason for the trip. My first two days at the Grand Canyon will be spent at the less-popular North Rim. Most tourists go to the South Rim because it has all of the facilities and iconic views, but many visitors actually prefer the less-crowded North Rim in spite of its more limited facilities (there is only one lodge here, in a more rustic setting of cabins and motel rooms). Although I will be spending more time at the South Rim, I have a feeling that I will end up counting myself among those who prefer the relative tranquility of the less-touristy North Rim.

This was the hardest place to find lodging for. If you don’t stay at the Grand Canyon Lodge, the next closest lodging facility requires you to drive a considerable distance to get to the rim. I had to rearrange my trip to a couple of weeks earlier than I had planned just to find a couple of nights here. People start booking these rooms over a year in advance, so if you want to stay here, book early.

Days 9-11: Grand Canyon South Rim

The final three days of my trip will be spent on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The photo above will be the approximate view from my hotel; pretty cool. Interestingly, even though the North and South rims are fairly close as the crow flies, my drive from the North Rim to the South Rim will be the longest of my trip up to that point because of how much you have to backtrack and circle around by car.

The Drive Back: Route 66

Since I have a late flight home, I was planning to stop at Hoover Dam on my way back to Vegas and then spend any remaining time checking out some of the Vegas strip. But when I saw that my route will pass by a significant stretch of Old Route 66, I decided that I can’t forego the chance to drive on that historic highway. Depending on how long I decide to remain on the road (dare I drive all the way into the Black Mountains and up to Oatman?), I may not have time for Hoover Dam and definitely won’t have time to check out Vegas, but I don’t consider that to be a big loss since Vegas doesn’t particularly interest me anyway.

For the red-eye flight home, I decided to treat myself to first class since it only ended up costing about $100 more than I would have paid for economy plus and a checked bag, so that’ll be a new experience to be in front of the curtain. 🙂

Well, that’s the plan. Have you been to any of these parks or driven any of these routes? I would love to hear about your experiences, as well as any tips you might have.

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American Northwest Trip, 2017: Portland Japanese Garden

Here are some photos from my hike up to Washington Park in Portland, Oregon to visit the Japanese Garden last summer. It was a long uphill walk to the park, and then again to the garden, but it was worth it. In addition to the beautiful Japanese aesthetic, the garden also offers some nice views of Mount Hood. You almost forget that you’re in a major city.

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2001: A Personal Odyssey

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the theatrical release of Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. I am very much looking forward to seeing it on the big screen when it returns to theaters this May.

The following is a re-post of an article I wrote for the 45th anniversary. It’s not so much a review as an anecdote of my experience with the film and how I grew to appreciate it as the greatest science fiction film ever made.

I first saw 2001 as a kid and found it boring as hell. I had grown up on action-oriented science fiction like Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Star Trek (yes, compared to 2001, Trek is quite action-oriented), so I was not prepared at that age for science fiction presented as a cerebral art film.

Consequently, these were some of the questions that ran through my juvenile brain: Where are the lasers and light sabers?  Where are the spaceship dogfights and massive explosions?  What does a space odyssey have to do with a bunch of apes running around in the desert? When are these astronauts actually going to do something other than jogging around to classical music? Okay, now there’s just some old dude sitting in a room eating dinner—that’s it, I’m out. And so I returned to Star Wars and its ilk, leaving 2001 in the dust, never to be seen or thought of again.

Then one day, as a young adult, I was flipping through channels and stumbled onto the movie just as the Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite sequence was beginning.

I was mesmerized.  This was not the 2001 I remembered as a kid.  This was stunning.  I watched it all the way through to the end and, instead of being bored by the old man eating dinner, I was intrigued.  I knew I had to watch the entire film so I rented it on VHS (kids, if you don’t know what that stands for, ask your parents).

It was a mind-blowing experience.  Every scene that had once seemed boring I now found incredibly compelling.  Things that had previously been unintelligible now made sense. However, as anyone who has watched the movie can attest, there was still much I didn’t understand.  As with the best of art, much was left open to interpretation, so after the movie was finished I went online and gobbled up every piece of information I could find, reading various takes on the material that helped me to develop my own interpretation with repeated viewings.  More than almost any other film, 2001 lends itself to multiple viewingsand multiple interpretations.  Every time I watch it I get something new out of it.

That being said, those who can’t sit through a movie unless something is exploding every five minutes may not find much to like.  2001 is not your traditional three-act, plot driven-film.  It is more of a visual tone poem, a brilliant work of art that challenges the mind and rewards viewers willing to probe its depths, in much the same way as poetry.  It embodies everything to which the greatest science fiction should aspire.

It’s also beautiful to look atand we’re talking about a film made in 1968, before the revolutionary advancements in optical and computer effects ushered in by movies like Star Wars and Jurassic Park.  That 2001 still looks so amazing is a testament to Kubrick’s talent as a filmmaker and the skills of his effects crew.

I could spend all day going deeper into the film, discussing the ways in which the movie predicted future technology that we now enjoy, the meaning of the monoliths, what actually happened to Dave after he went through the stargate, and how, despite being cast as the “bad guy,” the computer HAL is actually the most tragic (and human) character in the film, but I don’t want this post to get overlong.  Besides, critics and film historians far more talented than me have already discussed these things in much greater depth.

I mainly just wanted to convey my love for this film and encourage you to watch (or re-watch) iton as large of a screen as possible. If you give it the chance, if you let it grab hold and pull you in, you will see why, 50 years later, it is still considered by many to be the greatest science fiction film ever made.

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American Northwest Trip, 2017: Downtown Portland

Last summer I stayed in Portland for four days as part of my two-week eclipse trip. These photos are from my walks around downtown. Fans of Portlandia may notice some landmarks from the show, such as the Portland Theater and the Portlandia statue, which is the second largest copper statue in the country (after the Statue of Liberty).

There is a lot of natural beauty and interesting architecture in Portland, and it often feels more like a small city than a major one, which is a compliment. In fact, of all the cities in America I have visited, Portland is my favorite.

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American Northwest Trip, 2017: Devils Tower Prairie Dogs

There is a giant field beneath Devils Tower that is entirely covered with prairie dogs. I was so mesmerized by the little critters with their cute screeching noises that I almost forgot I was there to visit the tower.

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Old Trail Town, Cody, Wyoming - August, 2017 During my long drive across the entire state of Wyoming I stopped in Cody for a visit to Old Trail Town, a recreation of an old west town using authentic buildings collected from around Wyoming and Montana. The buildings were disassembled, moved and reassembled at Old Trail Town. Among the buildings here are original cabins used by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a saloon frequented by Cassidy's "Hole-in-the-Wall Gang," and the home of the Crow Indian scout who led Custer to Little Big Horn. There are also tons of historic Old West artifacts and grave sites of several notable Western figures. It's a nice little diversion on the way to or from Yellowstone for fans of the old west. #cody #historicbuildings #NorthAmerica #oldtrailtown #oldwest #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #wildwest #Wyoming
Needles Highway, South Dakota - September, 2017 This was taken during my drive along Needles Highway, a scenic, sometimes treacherous road winding through granite “needle” rock formations in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The road has a number of one-lane tunnels cut through the rock, wherein you have to be careful and make sure nobody is coming from the other direction before driving through them. Needles Highway was the first leg of a grand loop scenic drive I took through Custer State Park that also included the Wildlife Loop and Iron Mountain Road before ending at Mount Rushmore. If you’re planning a trip to Rushmore, I highly recommend taking this loop if you have the time as the landscape is often spectacular. #BlackHills #mountains #needleshighway #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #rocks #scenicdrives #SouthDakota #Travel #UnitedStates
Multnomah Falls, Oregon - August, 2017 The lower portion of Multnomah Falls. #MultnomahFalls #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Travel #UnitedStates #waterfalls
Multnomah Falls, Oregon - August, 2017 On my way from Portland to Mount Hood I decided to take a detour to view the majestic Multnomah Falls. It was well worth the stop. #hiking #landscapes #MultnomahFalls #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #waterfalls
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 This photo features Timberline Lodge (lower left) sitting beneath a blanket of mist and clouds while Mount Jefferson (upper right) rises above the cloud cover. #clouds #landscapes #mist #mounthood #mountjefferson #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #roadtrips #TimberlineLodge #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 A view of the mountainside looking down toward the valley while riding Timberline Lodge's "Magic Mile" ski lift on Mount Hood. I liked the contrast of the white trees against the landscape. #clouds #landscapes #magicmileskilift #mist #mounthood #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #TimberlineLodge #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 When I reached the top of the "Magic Mile" ski lift on Mount Hood I was treated to this spectacular view of Mount Jefferson peeking above the clouds. I wonder if anyone was standing at the summit of Mount Jefferson at the same time, looking across at me and enjoying a similar view of Mount Hood's peak above the clouds. #clouds #magicmileskilift #mounthood #mountjefferson #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 This shot was taken as I rode up Timberline Lodge's Magic Mile ski lift toward the summit. At the bottom of the photo is a house that almost blends in with the landscape. Above that is a patch of snow dotted with skiers (they look like ants from this distance). The lift is definitely worth the ride if you're visiting the lodge, or you can choose to hike up to the top. Had I had more time, I would have at least hiked back down from the top, but I needed to get back to Portland to catch my plane to Montana, so I rode both ways. #landscapes #magicmileskilift #mounthood #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #roadtrips #TimberlineLodge #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 Sunset on Mount Hood. #mounthood #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Travel #UnitedStates #sunsets
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 Berries on Mount Hood. #hiking #landscapes #mounthood #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 Looking up at the summit of Mount Hood, shot while hiking above Timberline Lodge (aka The Overlook Hotel), where I stayed overnight. #hiking #landscapes #mounthood #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Travel #UnitedStates
Portland, Oregon - August, 2017 This is Mount Hood looming over the city of Portland, shot from my viewpoint in the Japanese Garden. A few days after this photo was taken, I drove all the way out to Mount Hood to stay at the famous Timberline Lodge (aka Overlook Hotel) near its summit. #cities #Japanesegarden #landscapes #mounthood #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates #mountains
Portland, Oregon - August, 2017 A rock garden in Portland's Japanese Garden. #Japanesegarden #landscapes #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates #rockgardens #zengardens
Portland, Oregon - August, 2017 Waterfall cascading into a pond in Portland's Japanese Garden. #Japanesegarden #landscapes #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates #ponds
Portland, Oregon - August, 2017 Portland's Japanese Garden is so sublime that you almost forget you’re in a major city. #Japanesegarden #landscapes #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates
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