Sunday, October 22, 2006


Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park

Saturday was out last day. We had to drive to Salt Lake, where we are flying out on Sunday. We were a bit disappointed having been so close, but snowed out at Yellowstone. I woke up early and decided to give the Ranger Station a call. They said the South Gate was currently open to Yellowstone, so we got up, packed and got going at day break. To get to Yellowstone you need to drive all the way though Grand Teton National Park. This was a treat, as we had not been above String and Leigh Lakes. The view from Jackson Lake was awesome. We stopped at a convenience store in the northern part of the park. The lady working their called Yellowstone for us and told us snow tires were advised, but the road was open. She encouraged us to continue, so we did.
We made it into Yellowstone. The drive was beautiful. We saw great valley views, Lewis Falls and Lewis Lake. We also saw a small herd of elk. The road goes over a windy mountain pass. The roads had a bit of ice and snow, but nothing too bad. Before we knew it we saw steam billowing from the valley below. We arrived at the lower geyser basin and Old Faithful. You can see geysers spouting all over the place. Our timing was great. A few minutes after we arrived at the Old Faithful viewing area, it began spouting. After the show we had lunch at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. We learned that this was the last service open in the park, and it was closing the next morning. After lunch we drove and looked around the lower basin area. We were very close to elk, mule deer and buffalo. We continued with our drive and stopped and walked around both the Middle and Lower Geyser Basin. They were very beautiful and interesting. We actually enjoyed them more than Old Faithful.

Again, I felt that our timing of the trip was good. It was cold. The roads were a little dicey. We had our Wildlife trip of Yellowstone canceled. On the other hand we saw so many animals in a short time. Seeing the trees and mountains covered in snow was beautiful. The roads through the parks were empty. There were very few people in the park, even at Old Faithful. The down side is that we only got about 4 hours in Yellowstone. There is so much to see. Hopefully we will return. We also never saw a bear. I was really hoping to see a bear in the wild. At this time of year the bears have moved up to around 9000 feet. Most of the roads leading up there are now closed.
The drive to Salt Lake was interesting. We drove through Montana and Idaho. I had never been in either state. Idaho has mountains, reservoirs, lakes and streams that make for world class trout fishing. There are vast plains between mountain ranges. Going through Wyoming, Montana and Idaho was a totally differnet experience. I would like to go through Montana and the Northern Loop of Yellowstone next time.
We spent the night in Salt Lake at a downtown hotel. We had a very nice dinner at an Italian Restaurant across the street from the hotel. The next morning I went for a really cool run. Starting downtown I went up Main Street, through the LDS campus and park, up a hill past the capital, continued up the hill through city residential neighborhood that dead ended at the foothills. From there I picked up a single track trail that climbed through the foothills. The views were tremendous of downtown Salt Lake, the Lake and mountains on either side of the city. The trail forked going on seemingly forever above the valley and parallel to the highway, or up higher. I took the high trail, which lead to an upscale new foothills neighborhood with brand new or under construction contemporary mansions. These had some of best views any city dweller could have.

Middle Geyser Baisin, Yellowstone Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 20, 2006

Best Laid Plans

Elk near Teton Village

Moose in Gros Ventre
We had a very organized plan for our trip to Wyoming. Our first full day, Wednesday we decided to hike in Grand Teton National Park. Thursday, we had a phone conference at 3:00, so we decided to explore the Gros Ventre area and Grand Teton by car. This left Friday for a full day for Yellowstone Park. To make the most of it we had booked a trip with Wildlife Expeditions, a part of the Grand Teton Science School. This was to be a 14 hour Yellowstone Loop Tour leaving at 7:00 AM. The guide, Tenley, arrived on time. We were pleased that no one else booked the trip, so we were going to have a private tour of Yellowstone with a wildlife expert.

We started out, Tenley pointed out some elk on a hill side. We made it to the main entry gate of Grand Teton Park. To get to Yellowstone's South Gate, you drive for about 50 miles through Grand Teton. The ranger at the gate informed us that Yellowstone had been pelted with snow over night and the roads and gate were closed. Our trip to Yellowstone was snowed out by an early season storm. So, instead, we did a half day wild life tour of the Grand Teton area. Quickly, Tenley found some moose at a distance across a plain. She had a high power scope that allowed us to see the moose. I had never seen them in the wild, but it would have been nice to see them closer with the naked eye. Our guide then proceeded to an area where there was a herd of prong horned antelope. She also spotted a carcass that coyote were feeding on. We hiked across a field and up a hill where she set up the scope for us to observe the antelope and coyote.

Next she headed back to the Gros Ventre area where we had been yesterday. This is where we saw the herd of buffalo, but they were gone today. She quicky spotted several moose that we were able to get close to. This was fantastic. We watched them for quite awhile and took great pictures. We also saw a warm spring. Several years ago someone wanted to get rid of their tropical fish, so they dumped them in the warm spring. The fish survived and multiplied. Now the spring is teeming with small tropical fish.

After finishing the tour we went into the town of Jackson. While my wife focused on shopping, I read about the town. Jackson was incorporated in 1914, so it's less than 100 years old. This seems strange compared to our visit over the summer to Italy. Jackson started in 1914; a 100 year old building in Rome would be considered new. One would think that the old west wouldn't be an area of women's rights, but the town of Jackson was founded by women and in 1920 an entire slate of women was elected to govern the town. Jackson also had a woman sheriff.

On the way back to Teton Village from Jackson we saw an enormous herd of elk just off the road. It was funny, previously we were with a guide as were many other people, looking for herds of elk. The guides worked hard to find the elk, but we found a much larger herd right off the road across from the ski resort.

For weeks we were planning to visit Yellowstone in the Fall when few people would be in the park and the animals would be active. We thought by going on Friday, when we had the most time and going with a guide, would give us the best opportunity to see the wildlife and natural beauty of Yellowstone. The unpredictability of nature made it impossible for us to get to Yellowstone, but on the other hand we had even more time to see wildlife in Grand Teton. Some have called the area the Serengeti of America.

Hopefully we will have an opportunity come to northern Wyoming again in the future. We will probably have to plan a trip solely to Yellowstone. I would still plan the trip for Fall or Spring, so as to avoid the crush of people in the summer. We would have liked to have seen bear and a wolves, but it was really amazing how much wildlife we saw and how easy it was to spot it.

Jackson, Wyoming

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prong horned antelope

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Gros Ventre

Bad weather was called for today, so we decided to explore the Gros Ventre area by car. Behind the parking lot is the massive ski run of Jackson Hole Resort, rising like an intimidating wall for all of the skiers to see as the first drive into the resort. Access to the top of the mountain and this run used to be by a large cable tram, but it was just decommisioned last week. A new replacement will be complete in 2008. The tram is also used by hikers to access great trails at the top of Rendezvous Mountain and the Grand Teton National Park. Jackson Hole means different things to different people. To some it is the Jackson Hole Ski Resort where we are staying. It is located 1 mile from Grand Teton National Park and about 12 miles from the town of Jackson. Some people think the ski resort and the town are one in the same, but they are not. The town, which is a touristy western town filled with motels, chain stores and fast food joints, has it's own small ski resort called Snow King. Jackson Hole is actually an entire area, the valley below the Tetons.
It was recommended that we drive through the Gros Ventre area of the National Park and the National Forrest to see wildlife. We also did two small hikes.

Shortly after driving off the main road to the Gros Ventre area we saw a big herd of wild buffalo. They are enormous and were only a few feet from the car. They have a prehistoric look to them. As a kid I remember that they were almost extinct. It was amazing to see the large herd with 100's of animals is flurishing.
Our first short hike was at a turn off after climbing up the road on switchbacks. At first we saw a canyon and a view of mountains. I followed a trail and saw a magnificant view of the Grand Teton Mountain range across a valley. They view was even more magnificent than the view from Inspiration Point.
We continued driving and came to the slide area. In 1925 there was one of the most massive landslides known to man. The rocks came crashing down from 9000' landing on the Gros Ventre River and creating a new lake. We hiked on a trail that went through the area were the rocks landed and remain.
We kept driving through the area. the road turned to a rough dirt road. We continued on the road for quite awhile going past all kinds of terrain, camp grounds, mountains and ranches. Posted by Picasa

Driving across Wyoming

After filling up at the Donut Ranch we left Saratoga for Jackson Hole. The weather hadn't cleared and seemed to follow us. It was cold and overcast with snow squalls. We stayed on the two lane road for 20 miles until we hit I-80. The drive on the interstate was rough. The speed limit is 75 and people tend to go a lot faster. Just as in Pennsylvania, 80 in Wyoming is a truck route. Our rental car is a small Saturn Ion. It was windy and dreary. The trucks shot snow and ice on our windshield and our wipers froze over. The visibility was scary bad. The drive was tense. We did see some very interesting rock formations in the stretch east of Rock Spring. At Rock Spring we got off of the Interstate and headed north on the two lane black top, 191, which leads through Jackson and to Yellowstone. Towns were few and far between. Those towns were tiny with populations between 100 and 300. Luckily the weather cleared. We came to a bigger town (pop. 1700), Pinedale, and stopped for lunch. It had the feel of a western diner. My wife had a cheeseburger and I had a quesadilla. As is required at a diner we had homemade pie ala mode, which as is always the case, looked better than it tasted. We noticed there were a lot of energy workers eating at the diner who were living in motels in town. They obviously were from out of town. We learned there is an energy boom in Wyoming, which includes a pipeline through the state.

After lunch we still had about an hour and a half to Jackson. The drive turned beautiful as we
rode through the Teton National Forest. We stopped at a scenic view and saw a father and son fishing on the Hoback River. We also saw a heard of Big Horn Sheep on a hillside across the river. We stopped. I got out to take pictures and walked to a spot directly across the river from the wild sheep. As if they spotted me they came running down the hill toward me. Their real motivation was not to ham it up for the camera, but to get a drink of water from the river.
We continued, stopping for gas in Hoback Junction and continued over the Snake River, on to Jackson, and then from Jackson to Teton Village. Posted by Picasa

Boulder to Saratoga, Wyoming

On Monday we dropped our daughter off at Boulder and then started our journey to Jackson Hole. Our plan was to make it about half way or a little more to Rock Spring. We got off to a late start out of Boulder. Before we reached Fort Collins my wife realized that she left her fleece coat in Niwot. Without a coat she was going to be in trouble in Jackson Hole as the weather wass turning cold. We stopped in Fort Collins and replaced the missing coat. We then continued into Wyoming taking a back road to Laramie. From Laramie we took a mountain pass road called the Snowy Mountain Pass with great views of Medicine Bow. The name of the pass held true. When we reached the 11000' peak the windy mountain road turned snow covered and icy. The drive became very slow. It was 6:15 and getting dark by the time we reached the base in the tiny town of Satatoga.
Saratoga is an old western cowbow town that hasn't changed much in over 100 years. The town's claim to fame is a thermal hot spring that has been turned into a municpal pool open 24 hours. I stopped by, but the bathers looked rather shady. Reading the local paper, I later learned that some of the local teens entertained themselves, when not at the pool, by dousing a passed out drunken kid with gasoline and trying to set him on fire. They were arrested. Even though some of the locals aren't charming, the local hotel, the Wolf Hotel is charming. It is a classic western hotel, originally openned in 1892. The current owners, who bought it 30 years ago, restored it to it's original splendor. There is a long wooden bar in the saloon, with swinging doors and mounted trophies hanging on the walls. The restaurant features steaks from the local ranches.

Our room was a two room suite, with a comfortable bed and period antiques. I felt like I was sleeping in Deadwood. Prices were from another era too. The spacious two bedroom suite was $79.
Before leaving town the next morning we stopped at the Donut Ranch for breakfast. This was the elderly local hangout. This is where people meet and swap stories over coffee and breakfast. Kids stopped by on their way to school for donuts. We sat down for a full breakfast. The coffee was good. I had hotcakes and eggs, while my wife had the french toast. The food was excellent and extremely filling.
On the drive to Saratoga we did see some wild life. We saw a heard of antelope and got very close to some mule ear deer.
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Grand Teton National Park

We hiked today through Grand Teton National Park. Our hike started at String Lake, went along Jenny Lake and then climbed to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The weather was cold in the morning, around 20 and the high was low 40's. It was generally sunny, but there was snow on the trails. The weather and conditions were perfect for hiking. Before we left we bought treking poles at REI in Pittsburgh. My friend, Tom Jones, who works at REI suggested I buy them and said they will make a big difference. Tom was right. They really make hiking easier. The conditions in some of the areas were really icy, particularly on the rocky, steep climb to Inspiration Point. The poles made it a lot safer.
We were really hoping to see wildlife and we really lucked out. About half way to the falls we saw a bald eagle circling and soaring. Fortunately we borrowed some binoculars at the hotel, so we had a great view of the bird. Just after ending the hike and getting into the car we saw a few female elk. Where there are females a male has to be around. We saw this guy with this most impressive rack.
I think we also did really well with the time of year for the visit. There were very few people on the trails. The roads were almost empty. The wildlife is out and about. In addition to the elk and eagle, yesterday we saw Big Horn Sheep, Mule Deer, Antelope and a fox.
The timing was also really good for getting a great deal on a room. We are staying at the Teton Mountain Lodge. Although we got a regular room for only $91/night, we were able to upgrade for a few dollars more to an awesome suite with a bedroom, two baths, full kitchen with granite counters, a lving room with a fireplace and a large balcony with great views.
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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Republic of Boulder

We spent the day in Boulder visiting our daughter for Parent's Weekend. Our daughter is a Freshman at the University and Colorado. In one day I can see why she fell in love with the school. The campus is absolutely beautiful; tasteful red tile roofed buildings framed by the foothills of the Rockies. The student body is made up of bright, attractive young people.

The Boulder community is creative and liberal thinking. Such products as Cellestial Teas and Crocks started here. The shopping district of Pearl Street has many boutiques. I found out the hard way, accompanying my daughter and wife. Fortuantely I picked up a copy of the Onion from a newspaper box. I have heard of the Onion, but didn't realize that it was published in Boulder. It is a satirical paper skewing current events. One headline was Bin Laden's Mother Worried Sick. I sat on a bench on the walking street reading, laughing and crinking coffee, while they helped the GNP of the Republic of Boulder.

In the afternoon I attended the football game with my brother-in-law Brian. The CU team, nicknamed the Buffs (no they don't play naked) is loved by the students. Unfortunately they have fallen on hard times. In previous years they were nationally ranked and had been National Champions in 1990. This year they started 0-6, and had lost 10 in a row going back to the previous season. Since Pitt moved their games downtown to Heinz Field, I have forgotten how electric an on campus college football game can be. The CU stadium is located right on the campus. There are views of the mountains from the endzone. The stadium is very interesting, not feeling too big, actually almost intimate for a football stadium. It has been expanded over the years. The one side is actually a basketball field house with stands built into the side. Another seperate building is in the far end zone and it has a scoreboard attached. The Buffs pulled a big surprise and crushed Texas Tech 30-6. After the game the fans stormed the field and the marching band marched right out of the stadium and through the campus.

The Republic of Boulder does seem like a perfect island of higher education.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Parent's Weekend

Tomorrow we leave to visit our daughter for Parent's Weekend at her college. She is a Freshman at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I'm really looking forward to seeing what her college life is like. I also love the town of Boulder. It's the ultimate college town, beautiful mountains in the background, a brick walking street lined with funky shops and great bars and restaurants. I didn't get the chance to take her to school so this will also the first chance for me to see her dorm room and meet her friends.

As much as I love my daughter she drives me crazy. 18 is a tough age. 18 year olds constantly remind you that they are adults and independent. On the other hand they are totally dependent on their parents. Last Sunday I got a call from my daughter. It went something like this:

"Hi Dad"
"Hey what's going on. What did you do this weekend?"
"Well I have a problem"
"What or should I say how much"
"My cell phone broke"
"What happened?"
"It fell in the toilet"
"How did that happen? Why were you talking while you were on the toilet?"
"I wasn't talking to anyone"
"How did it happen?"
"I was texting and it slipped"
"The worst part was I had to fish it out."
"Maybe it will dry out"
"I don't think that will help out. I dropped it in after I finished"
"Finished what?"
"You know, Dad!"

So, I told her I would help her. I told her I wasn't willing to pay a lot of money for a replacement phone. We had just commited to two more years on our contract to get the toilet infested phone. To replace it on Ebay would have been $250.

I remembered that we just replaced a lot of cell phones at work with Treos, and we used the same company at work as at home. On of my work friends had a nice cell phone in good condition that he didn't need any more, so he gave it to me. I took time out of my day to get it activated, pack it, find a charger, and then ship it overnight, so she wouldn't be without a phone. The phone was a flip phone with a camera, color creen, speaker phone and a clock on the front. I thought I did pretty well for her.

When we talked to her the next day I was expecting a big thank you. Instead, she was mad because it was a "three year old model." Since when did phones become a status symbol or fashion statement?

Probably I made a mistake even getting a phone for her. Adults who break or lose their phones replace them themselves. Of course had she tried to replace it herself she would have had a hard time. Only the contract holder can activate a phone. Maybe it would have been a good lesson.

Its amazing what are necessities for college students now. In addition to the out of fashion cell phone she has a laptop. They also have in their room:a flat screen tv (courtesy of roomie's dad), a fridge, a microwave, a dvd player and of course the ipod and ipod speakers. Somehow I think I will be informed this weekend about all of the things she needs. I think she confuses "wants" with "needs" often.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why having a party when parents away is "Risky Business

Recently I went out of town for a few days. My 18 year old daughter stayed behind. We told her not to have people over. When I got back home I discovered my bike was missing from the basement. She was shocked that it was missing, but fessed up that she had a "few" friends over. She gave me a list of all the "guests". I had her get the message out that if the bike was not returned that I would be letting the police sort through the guest list. No one came forward. I made my daughter accompany me to the police station. We filed a report with my daughter being compelled to give the police the list. Within two hours the bike magically appeared at my house.
`` I really like the bike. It's a Motobecane Vent Noir. I commute to work downtown as often as practical. With the time change, shorter days and colder weather my commuting days are going to be limited until the Spring. Next summer I'm planning on riding the trails from Pittsburgh to DC. I may have to get a different bike for the trip. I'm not sure if this one can handle the trails.
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Cycling in the Burg

I really enjoy biking in Pittsburgh. You really need to ride defensively, but things have gotten a lot better in recent years. Now there are great riverside trails. Now you can ride for miles without having to deal with much traffic. On the Southside you can access the trail at the far end of Station Square and ride past the South Side Works ending just short of Sandcastle. On the Northside you can start beyond the Science Center and ride all the way to Millvale. They have created a nice little park in Millvale. You can also start in Schenley Park in Panther Hollow and ride the Jail Trail to downtown. From the downtown side of the jail trail cross Grant and you can stay on the sidewalk to the Southside and access the Southside Trail. Soon there will be a bike and walking lane for the Hot Metal Bridge.

If you like to climb there are a few rides that I like. Sometimes I take the Jail Trail downtown, cut over to the Northside and cross the West End Bridge. I climb Greenleaf, which is a long and steep climb to Mt. Washington. I then ride across the ridge of the mountain and come down to the Southside. I ride the Southside trail, connecting to the Jail trail and head home.

Another ride I do is to take the Jail Trail to town and cross to the Northside. I then take East Street, cross 279 on the bridge and continue to Ivy. This is a nice challenging climb past WPGH. I come out on Perrysville, which I take to Cemetary Lane. This a fast windy decent. I make a right on Babcock and take it to Evergreen. I then follow it through Millvale and cross 28 to the Millvale trail. I take the trail back to town, ride through town and pick up the Jail Trail. I also enjoy riding through Fox Chapel, Harmarville, Oakmont and back to Highland Park. I climb through the Zoo and back to Shadyside.

One caveat when you are riding through Panther Hollow, beware of the wild turkeys. The Toms attack cyclists. See Brian O'Neil's P-G articles: or

I've noticed a lot more young people riding single speed or fixed gear bikes. They are getting old racing bikes and retro fitting them. This is great. I would like to try one of these bikes. Climbing up the hills might be tough, but they would be perfect for the riverside trails.

Road Rage

What is it about drivng a car that can turn an otherwise mellow person into a raging angry maniac? Honestly, it happened to me this morning. There is a crazy intersection coming out of the Schenley Park at Phipps Conservatory. Coming from the park you have a stop sign. Traffic coming in the other direction doesn't have a stop sign. In order to go toward the Boulevard of the Allies you need to wait for the traffic to break. I was at the stop sign. The idiot behind me started honking. I looked back. He was driving a black Mercedes sports car talking on his phone. He continued to honk as if he wanted me to push my way through oncoming traffic and risk life and limb for him. I watched him as we got on the Boulevard. He weaved through traffic, inbetween lanes as he continued to talk on the cell phone.

I admit. I talk on my cell phone while I drive, but I use a head set. I keep my eyes on the road. Really, if you can afford a brand new Mercedes roadster I would think that you can afford a Bluetooth headset. I wonder how many accidents are caused by people yapping on the cell phone. After I parked this morning I crossed a cross walk that has bright yellow "Yield for Pedestrian" signs. As I was half way through the cross walk a car comes flying down the road, ignoring the crosswalk, signs and pedestrians. I looked up at the car, my life flashing before my eyes, and I saw a lady talking on her cell phone. She did come to a screaching look and gave me a "sorry" look. I really think it's time to make it illegal to talk on cell phones while driving without headsets.

It's not just drivers of cars. I have also seen a new trend: people talking on cell phones while skateboarding. I've seen it by the Squirrel Hill library and in Oakland. I actually saw a guy go flying on his skateboard, through traffic, against a light, while talking on his cell phone. It would have been poetic justice if he got hit by a lady talking on her cell phone while driving a minivan.

I also experienced another form of outrageous inattentive driving recently. One morning I was riding my bike to town using the Jail Trail. At the end of the trail I waited for the light to change so I could merge onto Grant Street. As I crossed the intersection, a woman ran the light, almost hitting me. I pulled along side her and looked into her car. She was reading a novel while she was driving. It wasn't even a good book, it was some trash supermarket novel. I knocked on her window and asked her if the book was good. She seemed surprised. I then explained to her that if she kept reading and driving at the same time she would have a lot of free time in her jail cell to read, after being convicted for vehicular homicide. She promised not to read and drive at the same time anymore. I am rather certain that she is now talking on her cell phone while she drives, or maybe she put a dvd player in her front seat and watches "B" movies while she drives.

I guess the thing is driving can be very dnagerous. It is really insulting that some people have so little respect for others on the road that they feel that they don't have to pay attention while driving. Multi-tasking is great. Rush hour is boring, but let's make sure that we aren't turning our vehicles and boredom into weapons of mass destruction.

Pittsburgh Guy and Steeler Fan

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