Friday, October 31, 2008

Ultrasound: say hello to little Baby Hall

Today Kimbal and I went in for our first ultrasound. I'm officially in my 2nd trimester, and our little one decided to say HI for the camera. It was super exciting! Enjoy the pictures!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Glacier from the East

The Going To the Sun Road is the only road that crosses the park from west to east, so we spent the rest of our time in Glacier on the east side of the park. The road itself is pretty amazing considering they essentially carved it out if the side of the mountain; and the scenery is breathtaking.

At this point we were growing weary of camping so much since our sleeping bags were pretty gross, the tent was feeling really small, and a soft bed and shower sounded really good. With all this in mind, and without a reservation in the height of tourist season, we headed to the Many Glacier area (the name growing more awkward every year…) and pulled up to the Many Glacier Lodge. Our good luck held, and we got the last room available for the night.

The lodge was on the east shore of a small lake with craggy, snow-covered peaks in the background, behind which the sun sets. We settled into our room, cleaned up, ate dinner, and still had an hour before the boat rental place closed, so we decided to go for a romantic row around the lake.

The next morning we tried to check out of the hotel, only to find that none of our credit cards were working. With visions of spending the rest of our vacation doing dishes to cover the bill in my head, we made a phone call and fortunately got bailed out. A special thank you goes out to our hero of the day.

We still only had about $30 in cash between us, and thankfully, we had a full tank of gas. We made a couple more calls to figure out what the problem could be. Was there a bill we didn’t pay, and our creditors had frozen our account? Had we been marked as possible terrorists, and they froze our accounts before we skipped the country and fled across the border into Canada? (We have after all made financial contributions lately to such dubious organizations as the Sierra Club, NPR, and our local firefighters) We didn’t have a clue what it could possibly be.

So instead of worrying what the problem was, we went for a 10-mile roundtrip hike up to Iceberg Lake. There had been reports of a grizzly in the area, so we were extra vigilant about letting the bears know we were in the area. Becca wasn’t feeling particularly vocal that day, so the gravely serious responsibility fell on my shoulders, and I serenaded Becca, any bears in the area, and more than a few hikers we passed with little the little snippets of songs that I could remember, making up lyrics when my memory failed me, and singing completely off key. The ranger we spoke to said that the bears especially hate ABBA, but (un)fortunately I haven’t listened to any of their songs enough to remember more than a few words.

So we made our way to Iceberg Lake, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would name the place thusly. Fortunately, I had Becca there, and she explained to me that it was named after the not-so-well-known explorer Johann Iceberg.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the credit card thing just turned out to be a simple paperwork error with our change of address form, and was all straightened out within a day. Phew, we were back in business.

That night, after we were assured the money would be turned back on the next morning, we wrote a check to cover the campsite at the Two Medicine area of the park. We were informed when we showed up that half the campground would be closed because of a “bear re-education program” they had going on that night. There had been a bear that was visiting every night for the past week cleaning up after messy campers, and though there hadn’t been any problems, they wanted to ensure that there wouldn’t be any problems in the future. To do so, they set up a bear trap which consisted of a big cylinder that was closed off on one end, had an open trap door on the other end, and a tasty piece of road kill for the bear inside. Once the bear goes for the road kill, the trap door keeps the bear inside until they pick up the bear the next morning, and deposit it to an area of the park not so infested with people. We asked the rangers if the bear was going to wake us up in the middle of the night screaming and yelling about being caught, but apparently they are just happy to have some food, and they just quietly chow down until their ride comes. We never found out what happened, but we got the impression that nothing much happened.

Again, we had hiked the previous day and not showered, and stayed in the tent, and I was feeling especially dirty and daffy, so I snapped a couple of pictures that I think show how we felt quite nicely.

After I pulled myself together, we packed up, and headed to the great white north, passing a cool little feature called “trick falls” on the way.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The park formerly known as Glacier

After Yellowstone Kimbal and I headed northwest towards our last national park of the trip: Glacier National Park. Yellowstone to Glacier is a pretty long drive, so we made a one night stop over in Missoula, Mt. In Missoula we found a really nice coffee/tea/wine café where we parked ourselves for a day and did some serious blog updating and Kimbal did some more job search type stuff. Other than the café, we weren’t too impressed with Missoula. It could have been the heat wave though; the high temperature in Missoula ranged from 97 to 107 while we were there. So when we were done internetting, we got some groceries and quickly left town for Glacier.

We arrived in Glacier on Sunday evening and found ourselves a nice campsite at the Avalanche Campground. After we finished dinner we headed over to the campground amphitheater for our first ranger talk of the trip. This program was about bears in the park. Since Glacier has the highest concentration of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, I wanted to learn a bit about them before I set out on the hiking trails. The talk was pretty interesting and the ranger even had us singing campfire songs. The rangers advice for hiking was to make lots of noise, so you don’t surprise any bears. Also, Glacier is pretty good about bear management, and if too many bear sightings happen on one trail, they will close that trail. For example, a grizzly bear had been false-charging people on one particular trail the week before, so that trail was closed while we were in the park. We were loud hikers while we were in the park and didn’t see a single bear. (I was a little disappointed. I didn’t want to see one up close—that would be scary, but seeing one across a meadow, or something, would have been neat.)

(Kimbal writing now)

On our first full day in the park we did the “loop hike”, which is actually an 11.6 mile one way shuttle hike. The hike started at elevation 4,500 ft in an area that burned a few years ago in a forest fire, and then progressed up to an alpine environment over elevation 6,000 ft. It started out at a balmy 80 degrees, but as we climbed it quickly cooled off to the lower 50s and windy, and we found ourselves a little underdressed.

We were promised by the ranger that we spoke with that the bighorn sheep and mountain goats would be waiting for us up there, and after hiking the first 7 miles of no wildlife other than an overly friendly marmot we were starting to wonder.

The rangers were right though, and we found a bighorn sheep about 150-ft off the trail nonchalantly munching on some grass muttering to itself “dumb tourists, staring at me while I’m eating my lunch, why don’t they go stare at the mountain goats instead”.

So we did. A little farther down the trail we came across a mother goat with her kid which hardly seemed to notice we were standing less than 30-ft away. We didn’t want to get too close to the animals, and they were standing right on the trail, so we walked up and around and continued on our way. All in all, a great hike.

The next morning we took a stroll up to Avalanche Lake from our campground to start the day.

We left the campsite and headed to the east side of the park via the Going to the Sun Road, and stopped at Logan Pass again and went up to the hidden lake overlook. It’s a mile and a half each way up a hill, and it looked pretty tame from the ranger station so I decided to wear my flip flops. Once we got over the first hill, we discovered the trail wasn’t quite as tame as we thought as it was covered in snow. We continued on anyway, and I gingerly made my way over the snow. The lake was beautiful, and well worth the slippery trip.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


Taking the short drive north from the Tetons, we came to Yellowstone – the Official Favorite National Park of Becca Hall. Not long after arriving we encountered the ubiquitous Buffalo (Latin alias – Bison Bison).

After driving around some we decided to stay at the Indian Creek campground, apparent fly capital of the park. The flies decided that the park was much too nice for us to just hang around the campground all day, so they did their best to encourage us to leave. We obliged and headed down to Firehole Canyon where there is a nice little geothermally heated swimming hole in the river, and we played in the water for an hour or two. After we partook of some rather expensive showers at the Old Faithful Lodge, and had a nice picnic dinner by the side of a river. Quite nice.

The next morning, we went for a hike that was supposed to be teeming with wildlife, but alas there was none. We cut that hike a little short and headed over to Artists Point for some great views of Lower Yellowstone Falls.

About the time we were done anyway, a storm came rolling in, so we took some more showers (twice in two days!!) and did some laundry while it was merrily raining, and thundering away outside. Since it was still storming when we were done, we went to diner and while we were at the salad bar we were treated to a huge lightning strike about 100 yards away (that’s how far you’re supposed to stay away from bears in the park also).

We finished dinner about the same time as the lightning storm ended, and headed to the northeastern corner of the park for some wildlife watching around sunset. We went almost all the way out to the park entrance, seeing antelope, elk and bison along the way. All very cool, but nothing we hadn’t seen plenty of the past few days.

On the way back, we stopped at a relatively uninhabited pullout on the side of the road, and found a ranger setting up his scope to look at the hill in front of us. A couple more cars pulled in right after us, and there was one silver haired gentleman that caused Becca to do a double-take. After taking the binoculars from me for a closer inspection (he was only about 100-ft away) she confirmed that the gentleman was indeed Anderson Cooper. After some deliberation, we decided it was best to admire him from a distance, and instead to talk to the ranger, who was very helpful. He told us that yes, he was Mr. Cooper, and they were doing a story about wolves in the park, which they expected to come over the hill at any moment. He showed us a grizzly bear in his scope on the hillside he had found, and when the wolves showed up, he showed us those as well.

Around that time, Mr. Anderson Cooper, the ranger he was interviewing, and 2 cameramen headed over towards where the wolves were to get a better shot for the interview, with Anderson carrying his own equipment. That’s him in blue, second from the left with the incredibly shiny hair (although you can't see it in the picture).

We stuck around for a while longer taking turns with the binoculars, and ended up seeing 2 or 3 wolves running around before it finally got too dark to see. We drove back to the campsite elated, with Becca’s decision on her favorite National Park firmly cemented in her mind.

The next morning, we headed out the west entrance of the park, and within 10 minutes of leaving the campsite, we came across a brown bear (same thing as a black bear, Latin alias – Ursas Americanus) 40-ft off the road. Used to being gawked at, it pretty much ignored everyone watching it while it ripped the top off a log, gobbled up all the bugs inside, and then trotted away into the woods.

We thought for sure we were done seeing cool wildlife in the park, and then only 20 miles from the park exit, we saw a coyote trotting along the side of the road, which looked up at us nonchalantly as we passed, and the turned into the woods for a little more privacy.

Yellowstone did not disappoint.


It was the Monday before the 4th of July, and we headed into Teton National Park looking for a campsite. Since we got there just after lunch, we secured one of the 3 remaining sites that day in the Signal Mountain campground, and subsequently watched about 20 cars, trucks, and RVs circle the campground first naively hopeful, and then with the crestfallen look of someone slowly realizing the music had stopped, and they were left standing in a big game of musical campgrounds.

We waited out the midday heat in the shade reading our books (I took a cue from the local animals and took a nap) and in the afternoon headed over to Two Oceans Lake for a short (6-mi) hike. We didn’t see much wildlife, but Becca heard some rustling in the bushes pretty close by at the end of the hike, which after talking to some people at the trailhead was a mama grizzly with a couple of her cubs. We were pretty relieved to have missed each other.

After the hike, we went back to camp, made dinner, and sat by the shore of Jackson Lake and got some good pictures of the mountains.
Early Tuesday morning we drove down to the Jenny Lake trailhead, and started off towards Lake Solitude. It turns out the name wasn’t entirely appropriate when we got there, but it was definitely nice. 18 miles, a few blisters, 4 tired legs, and several bug bites later, we returned. We headed back to the campground, to the lake to cool/wash off, made some dinner, and went to bed well before the sun was down.

On Independence Day, we rented a warped plastic canoe for the outrageous price of $13.50/hr, and floated around on the lake for a little while. I once again proved to myself exactly how well sunscreen works when I missed a big spot on my stomach and ended up with a rather unattractive and uncomfortable red splotch that I’ve been wearing around for the past few days. Afterwards, we went swimming, read our books some more, made some dinner. Our fireworks display was au natural, and one of the better ones I’ve ever seen. Judge for yourself.