Sunday, July 31, 2011

Here On This Mountainside

As I began the second half of my journey, instead of focusing on geographic and geologic features, today was almost entirely about life. Specifically, the largest life forms the earth has ever known. There is a reverence that comes from walking among the giant sequoias. Even without fully comprehending their sheer immensity, it is plainly obvious to anyone who visits them that they are enormous and nearly indestructible, and that our presence among them is possible only but for their grace. Should one choose to shed even a small limb while crowds are gathered beneath, there would be nothing we could do to save ourselves. We are lucky that these are peaceful and hospitable giants.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Here Be Giants

My fourth and final day in Yosemite. Marked by a return to the peaceful solitude that I enjoyed in Tuolumne Meadows and at Glacier Point but that was sorely lacking yesterday, today I visited a side of the park that was completely different from any I had seen before – the trees of the Mariposa Grove.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The I-It Relationship

It’s possible that I built this day up a bit too much. True, the scenery was spectacular and did live up to my expectations, but the experience as a whole was less pleasant than my days at Tuolumne Meadows and Glacier Point. There was far more people in Yosemite Valley, many more of whom seemed to be there to see Yosemite rather than to do Yosemite. While this wasn’t inherently a problem, I didn’t find myself surrounded by folks who wanted to immerse themselves in nature. While it never seemed as crowded as the Grand Canyon, the peacefully seclusion that other parts of the park had offered were nowhere to be found here. In short, while in the past few days Yosemite and I have approached I-Thou status, today was firmly planted in I-It.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Mountains Are Calling And I Must Go

There is a magnetism to this place. More than its spectacular scenery, Yosemite just feels different than the other parks I’ve visited. There is a real sense of unspoiled nature here, where we are just a piece of it and we do not control it. Unlike Death Valley, where the wildness is intimidating in its power, the wildness at Yosemite is inviting. Deer graze just feet away from people, with a seeming understanding that there’s no reason for them to act defensively if the humans let them go about their business.

With mountains, waterfalls, cliffs, rivers, meadows, birds, wildflowers, geology, just to name a few, the park invites visitors to try it all on for size. And people certainly take advantage of that. People, by and large, are not here to see Yosemite; they are here to do Yosemite.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

To See the World, To Stand Among the Trees, and All the Living Things

Yosemite is for real. The embodiment of the national parks idea in all its glory. A source of refuge and recreation for millions, it is full of people but isn't crowded. Its focus is on nature, not what we have been able to add to it. It is what the Grand Canyon should be, and it is exactly what I had hoped to find here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Dam Quick Day

There. Obligatory “dam” joke out of the way. Like the title says, today was a quick day, but for some reason I’m still exhausted. Hopefully I’ll sleep well for the few hours I have until I need to be up again.

I'm getting close...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Who Puts a City in A Place Like This Anyway?

It’s in the middle of a desert. There’s no available drinking water. On a day when the temperature reached 106, the meteorologist on the news commented, “If you don’t like the weather today, you should probably move.” What on earth possessed someone to build a city here, of all places?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Disneyland of the Grand Staircase

It all started because of Niagara Falls.

By the mid-19th century, the area surrounding the falls had become so commercialized and exploitative that foreign visitors would think less of America after having seen it. In order to prevent another Niagara, Congress created the country’s (and indeed the world’s) first national parks. Unfortunately, at the Grand Canyon – one of the park system’s crowning jewels – another Niagara is exactly what it has become.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sand, Stone, and Ice Cream

Today was another transition day but unfortunately I don’t have anything nearly as profound to say as I did on Monday.

This morning, after learning that the hotel laundry room was finally operational again, I managed to do all my laundry before the 11am checkout time, before hitting the road and getting myself out of Utah. The goal was to get myself to Page, AZ, which would be my launching point for my day at the Grand Canyon, but of course I had to take the scenic route. This time it was US 191 to US 163 through the Navajo Nation and Monument Valley. You’ve heard of Monument Valley, even if you think you haven’t. When you think of images of the Southwest, you think of Monument Valley. If you watch Doctor Who, or any number of other shows and movies, you’ve seen Monument Valley. And if you haven’t done any of that, take a look at this picture and you’ll have seen Monument Valley:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Wilderness of Rock

After an excursion into Canyonlands National Park, I’m happy to report that I did not get trapped in a canyon under a boulder and I did not have to cut off my own arm with a dull pocketknife.

Canyonlands feels more desert-y than even Arches did. I’m not sure why, though. I think it was actually a few degrees cooler today but I drank far more water, even without a hike on the same scale as Delicate Arch. Maybe it’s because this place is absolutely positively the complete center of the middle of nowhere.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

We Don’t Need No Stinking Arches

My father is a hero. When my computer crapped out on Friday night, he offered to send me the spare that used to belong to my sister. Not just send it, he offered to overnight it! So it’s thanks to him that I can recount to you my enthralling tale of my day at Arches National Park.
Double Arch. Look familiar?
It should, if you've seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Pain Is Miles and Miles Behind Her

On an otherwise relatively uneventful day spent driving from Bryce Canyon through Capitol Reef National Park and into Moab, I received a piece of news I’d been waiting to hear for years. Bringing tears to my eyes, it was one of those moments I’ll always remember where I was when I first heard it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow

I come to you tonight from Campsite 277 in the Sunset Campground at Bryce Canyon National Park. I arrived bright and early to ensure that I’d be able to find a vacant site. I chose the first one I saw, but after driving the one-way campground loop road back out to the main park road, I realized that I could have chosen any number of sites. Kids, let that be a lesson – get to Bryce Canyon by 9am and the campsites will be ripe for the picking.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Because Mukuntuweap Was Too Hard to Pronounce

…Congress decided to change its name when making it into a national park. It was then that Mukuntuweap National Monument was renamed Zion. This morning, when the automated info-voice on the park shuttle bus explained that Zion was a Hebrew word meaning “refuge,” suddenly this park became my people’s park. If not for the Jews, Zion would still be Mukuntuweap. Also, it was at that moment that the park and I developed a little inside joke, since anyone who’s ever spent time with Israelis can tell you that it’s “tzion” that means refuge. “Zion” is a part of the male anatomy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Major Computer Problems

Since last night, I've been having some severe problems getting this computer to do anything. Currently, the only way I can get it to boot is into safe mode, which will let me use Word and Firefox, but not much else. That means until this problem is fixed I can't upload any pictures.

A week before I left for this trip, I decided that my computer was too slow to be considered a computer, so I upgraded from Windows Vista to Windows 7. This was less than 2 weeks ago. For this trip, I basically need a computer to do 3 things for me: upload pictures from my camera, launch Word, and run Firefox. It worked fine until yesterday, when it refused to come out of hibernate mode for a good 20 minutes, and even then ran slower than the Vista version. Today, I came back to the hotel 2 hours ago, and haven't been able to boot into regular Windows at all. The thing has never created an autoamtic System Restore point, and my hard drive backup is in New Jersey. So, as I see it, I have no way to fix this thing. If that continues for much longer, I'm going to have to just buy a new one on the road.

So, that's why posts may not have any pictures for a while.

Friday, July 15, 2011

“Now THIS is Colorado!”

Thus announced one of the many county welcome signs I passed today. And it was right. Today’s’ vistas were exactly what I had imagined when I first pictured Colorado. Either my teachers or the media have done an excellent job telling me what to expect from the state.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Above the Fruited Plain

…if that fruit is corn.

Today was the day that launched the planning of this entire trip. I’d been kicking around the idea of driving up Pikes Peak since the fall, a few times even considering coming all the way out here for just that purpose, and then turning around and driving back. This morning, I finally got to cross the mountain off my bucket list.

Cows Into Rocks

I knew my breakfast plans from the moment I woke up this morning. Last night, as I was pulling into the rest area, I spotted a sign for an IHOP. Since IHOP is the greatest invention in the history of the human race, there was no doubt what I’d be doing this morning.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

And I Keep on Trekking Westward

As night falls on Salina, Kansas, I sit nearly 700 miles closer to my first major destination (Colorado Springs) than I did yesterday. I wasn’t planning on getting this far into the Sunflower State today, but I got an earlier-than-expected start. Maybe because I slept in the car, I was up and ready to go this morning at 6:30. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

And 10,000 More To Go

Greetings, faithful readers! Yes, I’m talking to all 3 of you. I come to you tonight from the parking lot of the Flying J service station in Spiceland, Indiana. For those of you who, for some reason, may be unfamiliar with the greater Spiceland area, that’s about 40 miles east of Indianapolis. My plan for today was just to get over the Indiana border, but then I decided I’d keep driving until the end of the Rachel Maddow Show (thank God for the MSNBC simulcast on XM!). As it turned out, just as she was getting to the Best New Thing in the World Today, this Flying J popped up right in front of me.

Today’s adventure seemed to have a natural division right around the Pennsylvania / West Virginia / Ohio border (Yes, I did say West Virginia. Who knew that WV was between PA and OH? So that brings the estimated total for the trip up to 21 states.).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Damn You, Ken Burns

Damn it, Ken. Why’d you have to do this to me? Why, of all the slow contemplative subjects in the American pantheon, did you have to pick the National Parks to document? And why did you have to show all 6 episodes of said documentary, not counting the multiple reruns between new installments, in stunning HD? Life for me was good, Ken. I had a dog, a decent job, and Hebrew School to look forward to twice a week. I had never considered making pilgrimages to any of these “sacred” parks, the way so many of the contributors to your program had. Why’d you have to go and screw that up?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I Hope This Works!

Welcome to my blog! 

(Wow. I feel old and out of touch by saying it that way, but there it is.) This is mainly just an introductory post to help me get the hang of things and work out the kinks.

This will be the first time in almost 10 years that I make a concerted effort to do daily writing of any kind (I know I still kept a camp journal my first summer working at Kutz, but I don’t remember how long I kept it up after that). What’s the occasion that’s prompted me to give it another shot? This occasion: