Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Trip Summary

Well, I'm here in Manhattan, KS. Art has an apartment here while he is attending veterinary school at Kansas State. For those that know him, he seems to be adjusting well after having been here a month or so. From here, it is another 25 hours of driving to be divided up over 2 or 3 days. I don't expect that I'll be making any other stops along the way. At this point, I am excited to get home and thus this shall be my final post.

I figured I would summarize the trip from several different perspectives. By the time that I arrive home, I will have driven nearly 7000 miles over 30 days. I will have passed through 14 states (Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Connecticut) and two provinces (Alberta and British Columbia - where I arrived on foot!).

I visited the following national and state parks and national monuments:

Waterton National Park (Canada)
Glacier National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Grand Tetons National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Mt. Rushmore National Monument
Devil's Tower National Monument
Custer State Park (South Dakota)

I made 10 different hikes that travelled a total distance of 103 miles and had a total uphill (elevation gain) of approximately 17,000 feet.

My favorite experiences were the incredible hikes and scenery at Glacier, Waterton and the Tetons.

I took over 700 images and my favorite is posted here.

It has been a largely fulfilling, restorative and rewarding experience. I won't say it was the trip of a lifetime because that presumes I will not have similar experiences in the future. I will simply say that I feel that I have grown immeasurably because I took the time to quietly be largely with myself in all of nature's grand beauty and be inspired.

Top Ten List

I have been asked by so many people about taking this journey alone that I wanted to share the Top Ten Pros and Cons of doing such an adventure on your own. They are listed in no particular order.


You can take the time to jot down scenes that inspire poetry.

You can drink right from the container.

Plenty of room in the Element.

Plenty of time for relection, contemplation and inspiration.

Easier to meet people.

You can make simple meals.

Minimal time in gift shops!

No complaints about driving skills, navigation skills, the weather or how badly you smell with three-day stink!

You don't have to wait for someone else to get ready.

You only have to consider your own needs when making choices.


You don't get the chance to see nature's beauty through someone else's eyes.

No one to split washing the dishes with.

A woman would make the nights warmer in the Element (no, another man is out of the question).

Eventually, you talk to yourself driving across the prairie.

You do get lonely, particularly while driving.

It is harder to get pictures with you included! You need to enlist the cooperation of passers-by or carefully stage the camera with the timer.

Nobody else prepares any of your meals.

No one to split the driving with.

Making and breaking camp takes longer.

You aren't challenged to consider other options that might be more rewarding in the end.

Bonus Post... Poem

Awaiting Release

Nestled within bare canyon walls

An inviting golden meadow

Breezes tossing the strands to and fro

As waving an invitation

Strolling through the grasses

Tassles tickling and pricking my ankles

Crunch is heard as I sit

And then I lay

Looking skyward the shafts tussle

Some with their seed released

Others awaiting a stronger wind

Coming later in the season

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sadly Saying Goodbye to the Rockies

I had a wonderful final day in the Rockies. I hiked several different trails in the Bear Lake area that gave me access to five different alpine and sub-alpine lakes. The elevations ranged from 9,500 to 10,000 feet. Overall, I probably hiked about 10 miles and gained only a thousand feet. Although the wildfires in the Boulder area had settled some smoke into my campsite, there was no presence of smoke at Bear Lake.

Interestingly, the National Park Service runs free shuttle buses in the entire area to transport hikers around. It is needed because of limited parking and the park is VERY popular since it is only 2 hours from Denver. It worked out well as I started at a higher elevation and got picked up at a lower one.

After leaving the park and finding a local shower in Estes Park, I travelled down the long and beautiful Big Thompson Canyon to Loveland where the Rockies and I parted ways. Tomorrow I plan on meeting Art at KSU, then progress east where I hope to arrive at home on Saturday.

It has been a fabulous trip of discovery. The sights and my encounters have been awe-inspiring, breathtaking and heart-warming. I understand more about my inner self, my limitations, my strengths, my weaknesses and my passions. And I know how I want to travel life's path.

Taking it to New Heights!

Monday I started out from Steamboat Springs and arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a clear, but VERY windy and cold day. I considered taking a hike, but after learning that the temperature at the top of the pass was 30 degrees and the winds were blowing at 40 mph, I quickly realized that the wind chill was probably in the low single numbers. Not a good hiking day. It worked out well though as I leisurely drove from the west side of the park to the more popular east side where I could set up camp for the night and be prepared for Tuesday morning to hike around Bear Lake.

The Aspenglen Campground was awesome. At the end of the campground was a meadow nestled in a canyon.

The roadway at the top of the pass is over 12,000 feet, just above the treeline of 11,400 feet. At the top there was a herd of elk. Usually they start moving down the mountainside by now to begin the fall rut. But the rangers are bewildered. Perhaps another sign of global warming?

The guy camping at the campsite next to me is the President of a company that provides parking ticket billing services for the City of Somerville. Yes, I am sad to say, I used his online service when I had to pay my last ticket in Davis Square!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Three Day Stink

Well, after having been at Jenny Lake without showers for the past few days, the first order of business after getting into Jackson, WY was to get a shower! There are few things in life more enjoyable than showering off three day stink (or was it four)! Don't worry Linda, I did clean up every day!

I had a great breakfast at a place called Eleheaven in Jackson. Afterwards, I decided to ride up the road a piece and check out the world famous Jackson Hole Ski Area. I took the 4,000 foot ride up to the top. The terrain looks fab with above treeline bowls and a headwall. I think this might be where I go skiing in a few years. I met a woman who had done a 4 day "steep and deep" program with instructors at the area last winter. She said it was wonderful!

The rest of the day was consumed by driving through mountains south of Jackson into the familar prarie landscape that changed back to forested hills and mountains when I arrived at Steamboat Springs, CO. I was hoping to make Rocky Mountain National Park, but that will wait until tomorrow morning. I've got another two hours to go to get there. Hey, but I found a campground with a wi-fi signal so that I could post!

By the way, I found lots of small oil and gas operations along my ride in Wyoming along with dead deer and antelope on the side of the road. I narrowly missed a deer on my ride into Steamboat Springs!

Hike of the Canyons...

Saturday I spent the day hiking the Cascade Canyon which is on the opposite shore of Jenny Lake. Since the hike was 15 miles roundtrip and a gain of elevation of 2300 feet up to over 9000 feet, there was no question I was taking the boat as I would have added another 4 miles of hiking!

It was another beautiful day with a few puffy cumulus clouds and just a little breezy. The hike began easy enough with a very gradual climb of the canyon with lots of thimbleberries and raspberries for snacking on the way up the first canyon. Then the canyons split north and south. I travelled north up to Lake Solitude. The last two miles must have gained over 1200 feet and at that altitude, my breathing was noticeably more labored. But I made it! Lake Solitude is another crystal clear alpine lake. But what I enjoyed most were the spending views down the north canyon! When I arrived at the lake there were a few sprits of rain that didn't amount to much.

I met an awesome couple from Pennsylvania on the way up and an awesome French man who has lived in Michigan the past five years. All had interesting stories. On the way back down, we spotted a black bear about three hundred yards away on the opposite slope. Probably snacking on the delicious berries!

After arriving back at camp, my neighbors were a family from Ohio who were enjoyable to share a Moose Drool Ale with... I was exhausted!