Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A year of exploration

For us, this was a year of exploration- of our strength, tolerance, companionship and most importantly…gumption.
Our travels to American wilderness took us through various places.

…stood at the northwesternmost point of the lower 48 and gazed from the southernmost point of the USA.
…attempted climbing the tallest mountain on the Earth (Mauna Kea), hiked around the most prominent mountain of lower 48 and stood at the lowest point of the USA.
…marveled at the glowing crater of the most active volcano, walked within old craters and saw the most destructive volcano of our time.
...watched sunrises above the clouds and sunsets beyond oceans.
…found ourselves walking into clouds, a polished marble canyon leading to a dry waterfalls and through cheese like perforated sandstone walls that echoed.
…got splashed at pristine sandy beaches, showered besides erupting geysers, drenched at the hottest place in the world, and thrills touching glacial ice.
…passed through vast grassland, lush green rain-forests, colorful and fragrant alpine meadows, grove of ancient trees, oasis dominated by palms, gardens of cacti and desert forest of Joshua.
…woke-up in wee hours to see sunrises, rushed to witness erupting geysers and stayed up to watch milky-way and meteorites.
…counted starfish in tide pools of a rugged coast and stargazed atop mountains.
…beheld beauty of painted hills, jagged peaks, materializing mountains, rushing waterfalls, reflecting lakes, vast prairie, unexpected rainbows, unforeseen weather change, winding roads and unfolding vistas.
…marveled at tufa towers and wondered through a lava tube.
…searched patterns in glaciers, old lava flows, and followed animal tracks in sand dunes.
…tried to discern fossils from ancient bedrocks and attempted to imagine life of natives from petroglyphs.
…mingled in crowded cities and pondered through ghost towns.
…encountered bisons, elks, prong horns, deer, moose, grizzlies, marmots, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, tortoises, humpback wheals, birds like Nene and Gambel's Quail, and unique plants.
…visited sacred grounds, pioneers’ towns, abandoned mines, war-fronts and battlefields, monuments of engineering feat, and memorials of human courage and endurance.  

2014 was the year, we could fulfill a long-due wish from our bucket list- a month long road trip to American west. Coincidentally, the first stop of this trip was St. Louis. From there onwards in our westward journey, we visited Lewis and Clark, Mark Twain and Buffalo bill Cody. We survived thousands of miles of highways, cold nights and waterless restrooms while camping, lightning and low oxygen while hiking up mountains, sever thunderstorm in open, vast plains which followed us for a couple of hours through dense forest wilderness in dark, dead midnight hours while driving on a most remote, sparsely populated state route. We were busier than usual exploring places and our energy demand was higher than ever, but surprisingly, we never felt tired. Although connection to the civilization was minimal, we enjoyed being lost in nature; it was reinvigorating and at times…surreal.

We made memories of a lifetime, thanks to the National park service, the US Forest service and many state park systems!

Looking forward to new adventures in 2015!

Stats for 2014
National Parks* visited: 21
Miles Hiked: 100-120
(*incl. national preserve, historic site, monument, memorial, trail, recreation area, battlefield)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Starting point

There is no better way to see and feel a country than a road trip, so I have heard. But not many countries provide enough facilities to conduct a road trip. I appreciate American interstate system, besides intelligently designed intricate road network system and well maintained roads, I often find myself thanking the engineers for well placed sign boards and rest areas.

This time we are planning a long road trip- from Atlanta, GA up to Seattle, WA (in a way from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast). We have been thinking of doing such a trip since last 5-6 years. Although we go on road trips often and the farthest we have driven is up to Baltimore, MD; this trip, i feel, is going to be different. Different because it will be mainly in and around wilderness of the Northwest, away from more urbanized corridors and, overnight stay will needed to be decided on impromptu bases after initial few days to keep our travel flexible. In 25-28 days this summer, these are the parks we are planning to visit- Great Tetons, Yellowstone (again), Glacier, North Cascade and Olympic. How exciting! Lure of the National Parks is overwhelming but remoteness and limited network connectivity make me anxious. I believe, planning, preparing and gathering as much relevant information as I can is a key to make this journey smooth and pleasant. 

So, here it goes, the first step - a Road Map.

Posted on June 17, 2014 on my other blog