Thursday, September 24, 2015

Westward Bound!

Business at work and a lack of wifi has resulted in a distinct lack of blogging, but I just had to share these pictures from the wild, wild west! I visited one of my best friends, Brad, in Colorado and we also ventured to Wyoming from September 12-19. This was my vacation to celebrate the end of my AmeriCorps VISTA term, and subsequent hiring onto the Central Berkshire Habitat team.
Feast your eyes on the glorious Rockies!

The town of Dillon hosted weekly concerts on the reservoir (that serves Denver) during the summer. We caught the last one the night I flew in, featuring a Michael Jackson funky tribute band!
The towns are high in the mountains, 8,000-9,000 feet in elevation, and built largely around the ski resorts. They ski lifts still operate in the off-season, so we hiked around Keystone Mountain.
View of Dillon Reservoir and surrounding towns from Keystone Mountain.
Climbing a rock slide at Copper Mountain.

The neat part about Dillon, CO is that there are a few other friends from Honeoye that have moved out there! We met up with Nikki and Bri who hiked around, and also joined us on the Wyoming road trip.
The view from Copper Mountain was a bit hazy from wild fire smoke blowing in from farther west.
We drove 8 hours north through the vast lands of Wyoming, to Jackson Hole where I was able to meet with one of my friends from Habitat/St. Lawrence (photo on Facebook), and then to Grand Teton National Park!
Proud to say that I was the first one to spot this moose, then cause subsequent traffic jams.
He was a beaut!
Despite the freezing rain, we convinced ourselves that it was worth taking a swim in Jackson Lake at the base of the Tetons (which were shrouded by the fog). We figured the lake would be warmer than the air -- and we were wrong! Photo is post-swim.
Not too long after the dip, we made it to Yellowstone! 

Every 10 minutes is a different, jaw-dropping geography.
We snagged a camp site before they all filled, which had full running water (thank goodness).

Wyoming sits upon a volcanic caldera, and is so alive through its hot springs and geysers.

The sulfuric gas stinks, but the hot springs are beautiful! Don't even try touching them, though... they can be as hot as 300 degrees F. 

Here's Old Faithful, but it erupted once it was too dark for a photo. The lodge there is gorgeous, but I'm glad we arrived when things were closing up.

The bison were incredibly majestic! The locals actually refer to the calves as "red dogs" because they are born this color until they turn darker brown. 
The best traffic jam I've ever been in (and would prefer)!
Elk interspersed at another tourist stop.

Calcite springs tumbling into the Yellowstone River.
Amazing vistas, and snow falling on the 14,000+ foot peaks in the distance (no thanks!!).
Lower falls in Yellowstone Canyon is one of the park's best known views, although the number of tourists there was overwhelming. 

Our crew at Yellowstone Canyon.
And then we saw a grizzly!! All these cars were stopped and the rangers were trying to redirect people to the cars (duh), yet I was thrilled at the opportunity to spot one. 
On the way back out of the park, the Tetons revealed themselves to be dusted with snow!
Back on the shores of Jackson Lake (but not for a swim)!
Wyoming was a dream. I would love to go back!
I still had a few days in Colorado after that, so I hiked among the gorgeous golden aspens and Mount Buffalo (the hump in the distance).
We did a quick hike at Mont Royal, which gave more beautiful views of Summit County.
On my final full day, we drove 3 hours south to the Great Sand Dunes National Park! This 30-square mile monument formed after a millennium of erosion and sediment deposits, tucked between the mountains.

Truly epic and surreal. ... then we hiked.
There was a class sand boarding down one of the first dunes!

It took us a while, but we ascended the highest dune in North America, rising 755 feet over this micro-desert!
More sand boarding... ouch!
On our way back down, the wind picked up so I went into storm trooper mode to protect my face. We weren't at the Great Sand Dunes for too long, but it was simply another marvel of nature I visited out west.
The West was amazing, the vacation very restorative, and I really enjoyed spending time with Brad, who's been with me through middle and high school and crashed his car on the way to St. Lawrence (and the only hometown friend to visit me) senior year. Quite the reunion.

(I can't guarantee more blogging in the immediate future, though hopefully these photos suffice!)