This is me, almost slipping into Crater Lake, the deepest in the United States at 1,943 feet.
Well, first I would have tumbled two thousand feet down crags and cliffs before reaching the water, some of the purest in the world because is is fed entirely by snowfall.  
I wanted a cheeky, look-I’m-falling-into-Crater-Lake photo…and I got a realistic one. Not bad!
It’s a pretty abrupt dropoff, covered in pumice-stone pebbles from the violent volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago. The top of the peak collapsed, creating a volcanic basin called a caldera.
Only one trail leads to the crystal clear, icy water below, and it’s a “strenuous” 2-miler.  I didn’t really want to swim, and I knew that if I was gonna risk my ankles to get down to the water, I’d feel compelled to jump in (or regret not jumping in, forever). I couldn’t justify doing that, alone, on a brisk 50-degree day with a start time of 3:30.
Instead, I drove I drove the entire 33-mile Rim Road loop, clockwise.
{I started at the north, looking south to Wizard Island, a small volcano named for its resemblance to a sorcerer’s conical cap:}

{From the northeast:}

[At the east, wind-ravaged trees:}

{From the east, with a clear view of the Phantom Ship, the remnant of an ancient volcano that preceded Mount Mazama, whose dense lava rock may be more than 400,000 years old:}

{From the southeast; see Pumice Castle?}

{These super-strong golden layers of air-fall pumice deposits were preserved beneath  subsequent layers of rock and then exposed when the top of Mount Mazama  blew off:}

{From the southwest:}

{From the west:}

{From the northwest—back to Wizard Island and full circle!}

{I was relieved to find all sections of the road open:}

{Being post-season, however, all roads were unmarked:}

A loop around a giant lake: you’d have to try pretty hard to get lost. 

This is me, almost slipping into Crater Lake, the deepest in the United States at 1,943 feet.

Well, first I would have tumbled two thousand feet down crags and cliffs before reaching the water, some of the purest in the world because is is fed entirely by snowfall. 

I wanted a cheeky, look-I’m-falling-into-Crater-Lake photo…and I got a realistic one. Not bad!

It’s a pretty abrupt dropoff, covered in pumice-stone pebbles from the violent volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago. The top of the peak collapsed, creating a volcanic basin called a caldera.

Only one trail leads to the crystal clear, icy water below, and it’s a “strenuous” 2-miler. I didn’t really want to swim, and I knew that if I was gonna risk my ankles to get down to the water, I’d feel compelled to jump in (or regret not jumping in, forever). I couldn’t justify doing that, alone, on a brisk 50-degree day with a start time of 3:30.

Instead, I drove I drove the entire 33-mile Rim Road loop, clockwise.

{I started at the north, looking south to Wizard Island, a small volcano named for its resemblance to a sorcerer’s conical cap:}

scaled.IMG_9927

{From the northeast:}

scaled.IMG_9945

[At the east, wind-ravaged trees:}

scaled.IMG_9950

{From the east, with a clear view of the Phantom Ship, the remnant of an ancient volcano that preceded Mount Mazama, whose dense lava rock may be more than 400,000 years old:}

scaled.IMG_0025

{From the southeast; see Pumice Castle?}

scaled.IMG_0015

{These super-strong golden layers of air-fall pumice deposits were preserved beneath subsequent layers of rock and then exposed when the top of Mount Mazama blew off:}

scaled.IMG_0016

{From the southwest:}

scaled.IMG_0032

{From the west:}

scaled.IMG_0045

{From the northwest—back to Wizard Island and full circle!}

scaled.IMG_0049

{I was relieved to find all sections of the road open:}

scaled.IMG_9889

{Being post-season, however, all roads were unmarked:}

scaled.IMG_9906

A loop around a giant lake: you’d have to try pretty hard to get lost. 

scaled.IMG_0060

Yo-de-lay-hee-hoo, YELLOWSTONE!

HOORAY! Autumn has arrived at Yellowstone National Park, where I spent nearly three days last week traversing the most diverse landscape to date on this fantastic voyage:

scaled.IMG_6378

A warm greeting in the welcome packet set the tone:

scaled.IMG_6281

Miles later, a temporary roadblock proved that the note was no joke:

scaled.IMG_6385

Turns out, I was approaching the Lamar Valley Buffalo Ranch, established in 1907 to restore the bison herd from near-extinction (fewer than 40 survived) after poachers swept the region. The ranch ceased operation in 1952; now the free-roaming herd of 2000 will cross streets wherever and whenever it pleases, thankyouverymuch.

scaled.IMG_6395

Further down the valley, wide open space, dotted with tall, fluffy trees:

scaled.IMG_6423

Rolling hills speckled with boulders that were once swept along by massive, melting glaciers and deposited as the water drained into the earth. Take a moment to scan the scene; can’t you envision that flow?

scaled.IMG_6445

Sometimes, house-sized blocks of ice were left behind, forming kettle-shaped depressions in the earth, creating small ponds:

scaled.IMG_6441

In contrast, this area of Yellowstone was ravaged by the infamous forest fires of 1988, which burned through thousands of Douglas fir trees, leaving their spindly trunks to tumble down like giant pickup-sticks.

scaled.IMG_6374

Not to be confused with the Petrified Tree, a fossilized redwood that “is a clue to a warmer, damper, more violent Yellowstone landscape….Volcanic ash and mudflows obliterated a living landscape yet preserved this tree for ages,” according to the plaque.

scaled.IMG_6487

Miles away, lush spires stretch toward a torn-paper horizon:

scaled.IMG_6595

Which buffer the sandy, craggy perimeter of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone:

scaled.IMG_6584

And creep toward waterfalls that will likely thunder for all eternity:

scaled.IMG_6612

Yellowstone River, a happy, majestic shade of aqua further downstream:

scaled.IMG_6458

Reminiscent in placid creeks and streams that cut through dewy, wildflower pastures:

scaled.IMG_6642

…seemingly a world apart from the severe panorama of the Norris Geysers:

scaled.IMG_6637

And massive mineral deposits near Mammoth Hot Springs:

scaled.IMG_6655

Old Faithful, smoking and hissing (I could not wait the ~90 minutes until the next predicted eruption), appears tame in comparison:

scaled.IMG_6321

At the exit to the north, a gentle goodbye via sandy, sage-brush-dotted hills and those beautiful, blue mountains:

scaled.IMG_6554

Hiking Death Canyon

scaled.IMG_6192

I giggled on the phone when I told my mom where I was headed. (Hey, she called, and she asked! Yet as we all learned from 127 Hours, telling someone where you’re going on your hike could mean the difference between keeping and losing a limb.)

First, the drive through Grand Teton National Park to Death Canyon:

scaled.IMG_6150

Seconds after I snapped this photo, the bear ambled off to the right, up a steep embankment.

Suddenly, a second bear charged across the street from the left to follow the first. He was moving so frantically that I could see his fur ripple back and forth with the momentum. The pair bushwhacked up the hill until they were out of sight.

Read More

People ask me every day: Where do you keep the animals at night? At what elevation do elk turn into moose? — Ranger at Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

COLORADO COOL

I’ve been in the Centennial State for about thirteen days (though non-consecutively), and I’m loving its low-key vibe, as seen in:

Specialty parking spaces all over the place:

scaled.IMG_1830

Sprouts aplenty—even on subs (here at the phenomenal Pickle Barrel in Fort Collins):

scaled.IMG_1861

Peaceful cohabitation of landscape and cityscape (in Denver):

scaled.IMG_4353

High-altitude athletics (the USA Pro Cycling Challenge finished downtown on August 28):

scaled.IMG_4745

Copious microbrewery beer to sample (here at Great Divide Brewing Company):

scaled.IMG_4374

Unparalleled views during tailgating (here at Red Rocks Amphitheatre):

scaled.IMG_1882

Did I mention rural splendor?:

scaled.IMG_4581

So you can’t blame me for wanting to stay another week….