Joined November 2016 Message
  • Day7

    Grand Teton National Park: Day 2 (final

    July 23 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    First stop today was Jenny Lake. Queuing for the boat ride took a while but the ride was worth it. So glad for wearing our jackets and long pants since it was cold on the lake in the morning.

    A short easy hike later we arrived at Hidden Falls; a much longer and uphill climbing at the edge of cliff later, we arrived at Inspiration Point, a beautiful vista hilltop that overlooks Jenny Lake. Saw a very unhappy woman going downhill on this dangerous hike in her flip flops. She was so nervous her legs were shaking. Don’t recommend doing that!

    Jenny lake is gorgeous from any angle, but from the Inspiration Point under the morning sunshine, it was very tranquil. The boat on the water left a golden wake behind it, creating the only waves on the calm lake.

    The trail by the lake is 2.5 miles, I was surprised to see many young kids walking on it. There were 2 girls, who were about 5 years old, left impressions on me. One girl was walking with extreme confidence, calm and determined, eyes straight ahead. Her mother was trying to catch up to her, with a big smile on her face. Then there was another girl, walking with a frown on her face. Her mother said encouragingly:”you are such a good hiker!” The girl immediately screamed:” I AM NOT A GOOD HIKER!” Proceed with loud sobbing. The poor mother… she has a long road ahead of her!

    Almost at the end of our hike, I noticed a small trail led to a tiny rocky beach by the lake. We decided this was our final picnic spot. The gentle waves rippled on the rocks, the imposing mountains casted long reflections on the water surface, kayaks dotted on the lake. What a perfect spot for us to have … instant ramen noodles 😂. One kayaker who passed our spot said to her partner:” Hey, the noodles look good!” LOL!

    We then drove to the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive, and noticed the Full sign by the road for the picnic area, we patted ourselves on the back for making the right decision picking a much better place to eat.

    After a few more stops in the park, we drove back to Jackson Hole, therefore concluded our amazing trip to the National Parks.

    We had such a good time on this trip!!
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  • Day6

    Grand Teton National Park: Day 1

    July 22 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    We drove through Yellowstone National Park for the last time in the trip, said goodbye to this magnificent place on earth, heading to Grand Teton National Park.

    2 and half hour later, we arrived The Mural Room at Jackson Hole Lodge for lunch. For the first time during this trip, we were eating our lunch indoors. The restaurant has an amazing view of the Grand Teton Mountain, and the food was fantastic as well!

    On our way to Jackson Hole, we stopped at a beach area right by Jackson Lake. Steve and Evan built the strangest cairn rock art. While others built theirs as a single column to show their rock balancing skills, these two built theirs with 2 columns, with rock bridges between them. I guess you can say it showed their rock bridging skills. LOL! People tend to leave others’ rock arts alone, I wonder if their creation can withstand storms, and stand there for some times to come. By the way, the view of the mountains across the lake was breathtaking!

    On our way to Signal Mountain peak, a coyote ran towards us on the road. We stopped our car to gave it space to pass us, but this guy had a different idea about how to handle this encounter. In order to establish its dominance, or maybe it just really had to go, it looked us right in our eyes, squat down, and pooped!! We were shocked and started laughing. It finished its business, stood up and ran away. We decided to call it Joe.

    As we continue to drive towards Jackson Hole, a sudden rain shower arrived but the sun was still in the sky. The already magnificent mountain peaks were covered with golden mist. We were thinking the Misty Mountains of Lord of Rings must’ve looked like this.

    Jackson Hole is very touristy! The streets were full of people and the restaurants were packed! It’s clear the tourism in America has made its comeback.
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  • Day5

    Yellowstone National Park: Day 5

    July 21 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    A heavy fog covered the entire park this morning, and gave it a mysterious feel to it.

    Instead of heading directly to a major destination, we were hitting all the places we skipped for the last 4 days this morning. There were waterfalls and more interesting geysers. This park is full of beautiful places!!

    The main attraction today is the Prismatic geyser. Based on its name, we waited until the fog was lifted before we went there. We were hoping the sunlight would gave it a colorful hue we saw in photos. However, due to the mist steaming from the geyser, we couldn’t see it very well. It’s still stunning beautiful nevertheless!

    As we were leaving this places, we saw how packed the parking lot had become. Cars were parked at least half a mile away, and many were lining up to try to park. As we were driving north, the traffic towards south almost at standstill! Once again, we were thankful how much we were rewarded for getting into the park early.

    One good thing about the Yellowstone National Park, it’s the fact many attractions were close to their parking lots, so people don’t have to walk far to see the beautiful sites. However, I think the best way to see the park is going for a nature hike, not only we can see more beauty of the nature, but we can avoid crowds.

    Once again, we went to our picnic lunch early at 11 AM, and found the best spot for the entire trip so far. The table was hidden between trees, and right by Gibbon River, it’s a quiet and beautiful spot! We enjoyed our lunch with a lurking raven. We couldn’t help ourselves but to gave it some fresh cherries. The raven took out the pits very efficiently before eating them, and then stashed some cherries in its hiding place out of sight. What a smart animal!!

    We ended our trip to Yellowstone Park with a bit splash in a clear stream in the woods. The water was shockingly cold, but felt so refreshing!

    We have to say goodbye to this park now, and heading to Grand Teton National Park tomorrow!
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  • Day4

    Yellowstone National Park: Day 4 (a clos

    July 20 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Every time we passed by Norris Geyser area, it was always super crowded, so today we went there the first thing in the morning, and enjoyed this site with far fewer tourists.

    As soon as you walked in, with all the smoke coming from many geysers, it looked like a battle field to me. It’s such a unique and interesting site!!

    As we were leaving, the parking lot started to fill up, and a car was waiting for us to leave. Under the pressure to leave as soon as possible, Steve decided we were going to Lamar Valley. It turned out to be an excellent decision!

    After another lovely lunch at the most scenic picnic table, we headed into the valley.

    First of all, I have to say the this northeast quadrant of the park is very beautiful! The rolling mountains under the blue sky in the distance, the streams and rivers snaking through the vast plains, the wild flowers covering the the grassy landscape. Just WOW!

    And the vast amount of animals!! I think we saw about 800 to 1000 bisons!! Herds of bisons were everywhere! A huge herd of bisons were migrating to the river area of the valley, so they were constantly crossing the road, causing traffic jams. The amount of baby bisons we saw assured us that the bison population here was very healthy!

    As we were returning to the west side of the park, we noticed some cars were parked by the roadside, and a crowd was looking at something. So we asked a guy, he said:”a black bear!”

    So we parked our car and running towards the crowd, sure enough, a black bear was under the bridge, and enjoying some shade.

    Steve said:”Great! A bear at a safe distance.” Just as he said that, the bear started to move, and it climbed up towards to bridge, and getting closer and closer to us. Some people ran to the other side of the road, suddenly the bear was directly in front of me, about 20 feet away! I ran to the other side of road, just as the park ranger screaming:”everyone across the road!”

    Well, apparently the bear liked to follow the order too… the bear crossed the road as well. 😳. Fortunately with the park ranger around, we didn’t feel particularly threatened.

    Being this close to a bear in the wild was certainly the highlight of the trip!!
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  • Day2

    Yellowstone Narional Park Day 2

    July 18 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    We had one goal for today before we set out this morning: we want to see wild animals! And the goal was immediately reached as we were driving towards Mammoth Spring: a lone bison was casually walking on the road right next to us. We had to drive on the other lane to avoid him. Having a huge animal walking right next to me was so interesting!

    Other animals we saw today are a family of elks, a herd of bison in a distance and some deers. Not bad at all!

    Mammoth Spring was a very interesting geographic location. Although we had seen a much bigger site of this phenomenon in Sichuan, China a couple years ago. The unique formation was created as hot water from the spring cooled and deposited calcium carbonate. We enjoyed the walk nevertheless.

    Next site was Artist Paintpot. We still haven’t got tired of seeing all those colorful geysers yet, but the most interesting things we saw were the mud pots. Basically they were pots of boiling bubbling mud, fascinating and a bit disgusting to look at.

    Lunch was at a beautiful picnic spot right by the Madison river. Getting there early afforded us some peace and quiet moments before other families showed up.

    We then stopped at a tranquil lake by the road. There was no official trail by the lake, so we had to create one on our own. The water was so calm and clear, the hill next to it made a perfect reflection on its surface.

    Trying to go to Norris Geyser area but was deterred by a huge line of cars going to the same place, so we went to Yellowstone Grand Canyon area. Once again the crowds held us back from going into it further, so we decided to come back here first thing in the morning tomorrow.

    We had brought bear spray with us on this trip; when we decided to go on a backcountry hike, we could finally carry it with us. The trail we chose had almost no one on it, which was perfect since we wanted some solitude. Unfortunately… or fortunately, we didn’t see any bears on this hike, just a quiet trail with a view of a beautiful meadow. 4 miles of hiking later, it’s time to exit the park!

    It’s only the second day, but for some reason, days during a trip seem longer than when we are home, doing routine things.
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  • Day1

    Yellowstone National Park Day 1

    July 17 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    Not sure how to feel about this, but the pandemic has stopped people from other countries to visit our national parks, so we didn’t see any tour buses, which means even Old Faithful was not that crowded.

    We made sure to leave early from our hotel from Yellowstone West, a tourist town right outside the park’s west entrance. The morning temperature was about 40 F, I was so glad I did my research before coming here and we were fully prepared for 40 F morning and 85 F afternoon. What we did was: wearing a pair of long pants over our shorts, and wear a light winter jacket on top of a T-shirt. As we were walking around comfortably in our cold-resistance attire, people in shorts were shivering around us. 😉🥶

    We waited about 30 minutes for the Old Faithful to erupt, but it was so worth it!! The power of nature was truly a magic sight! And then we climbed a hill next to the Old Faithful (climbing on a 8,000 feet altitude hill is no joke!), and watched it erupt again!

    Can I offer another suggestion here? Go to the picnic area before noon! Since I like to do my research thoroughly before I visit anywhere, I took an excellent suggestion from an article that suggested we pack our own lunch in order to avoid crowds in the few restaurants in the park, and it worked out great! Seeing all those people waiting outside of the restaurants proved we did the right thing. However, another great thing we did was to reach a picnic area around 11:30 AM, so we were able to eat our lunch in a quiet forest settings, before the crowds showed up around noon.

    After lunch, we head to Yellowstone Lake. The lake is 136 square miles, a huge body of water inside of the park. The geyser area the lake is called West Thumb, because the section of the lake looks like a thumb of the lake (and it’s on the west).

    we then went to Biscuit Basin that’s also covered with many unique geysers, and 2 of them erupted right in front of us. It was awesome!! At the end of the boardwalk, was a a very lovely hiking trail to Mystic Falls. Almost the entire hike was accompanied by a crystal clear river, with beautiful wild flowers on the banks. A nice water fall at the end of the trail rewarded us even more beauty of the nature.

    The best thing about going to the park early was how much crowds we had avoided. On the way out of the park, we had seen so many overflown parking lots, and the road to Old Faithful was completely jammed!

    Since we have 5 days in Yellowstone National Park so we will have plenty of time doing many things, we left the park around 3:30 PM when the park was super crowded.

    After a bit of rest in our hotel room, we went out for Chinese food! I’ve decided to try a restaurant called Red Lotus, and was very surprised how good the food was! Even to my very picky Chinese taste buds, the food exceeded my expectations! Highly recommended!

    A successful first day!
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  • Day13

    2019 Australia Trip - Day 12

    June 6, 2019 in Australia ⋅ 🌬 12 °C

    Today is Evan’s 14th birthday!! We were picked up from our hotel really early in the morning, started 6 and 1/2 hours tour bus ride back to Ayers Rock. The tour guide Jordan happens to be Rita’s boyfriend, and had learned about Evan’s birthday from Rita. So he suggested everyone on the bus to sing happy birthday song to Evan in everyone’s native language. There were people from at least 5 countries represented on the bus, so the song was sung in French, Chinese, English, Dutch, Swiss German. How awesome is that!!

    We arrived at our hotel before noon. The big celebration of Evan’s day has just begun.

    After a nice lunch at the town square, we joined the camel tour.

    When we arrived at the camel farm, we saw a line of camels arranged in a perfect line, sitting quietly and patiently for us. Evan and I rode a camel called Hugo, Steve’s camel is called Buddy (nick name is psycho! He is the only camel that has to wear a mouth guard). It was a bit startling when the camel first stood up, because it’s so tall. But we soon got very comfortable riding it because it walked so calmly and slowly. Our tour guide walked alongside of us, taught us a lot of fun facts alit camels. Do you know Australia has the biggest wild camel population in the world? Australia camels also maintained some good qualities through the years, that the Arab camels had lost, so the Arab countries actually import camels from Australia sometimes.

    The most exciting events are coming up!!

    Tonight, there were 4 events planned with Ayers Rock Resort - Night of Field of lights program:

    1) We had drinks (Steve had several glasses of champagne; Evan and I had soft drinks) and hors d’oeuvres with sunset over Uluru rock

    2) We had 3 course meal with fantastic Australian food. Our table mate told the event organizer about Evan’s birthday, so everyone there (about 80 people) sung happy birthday to him. Evan was so embarrassed. LOL!

    3) They turned all lights off, so we were engulfed by darkness and silence. Then an Astronomer came out, gave us a fun talk about Southern Hemisphere stars and constellations

    4) A walk through the Field of Lights! There is no words to describe how cool this art installation is, so I will just give you some facts:
    - the artwork is made up of 300,000 individual components
    - over 380 km of optical fibers is used
    - 50,000 individual handcrafted delicate lights stems covering an area of over 49,000 square meters, equivalent to over 7 football fields

    Standing in the darkness, looking up, you see thousands of brilliant stars twinkling; look down, you see a field of lights stretching to the horizon! The lights change color every 6 to 12 seconds, seems to have a life of its own.

    The time seems to be frozen as you lose yourself in the awesomeness of the perfect conversion of nature and art, and the truth of “forever and always” creates a sense connection between the ourselves and something larger than life. This is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had!

    This concludes our time at Outback, since we are leaving for Sydney tomorrow.
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    Peter Sinclair

    Ended on a real high!

    6/6/19Reply

    Wow!! how exciting!

    6/7/19Reply
     
  • Day12

    2019 Australia Trip - Day 11

    June 5, 2019 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    After a much warmer sleep last night while wearing 4 layers of warm clothes, I woke up super early, under a sky full of stars! We left the camp site by 6 AM, heading into King’s Canyon.

    Today, we hike the rims of the canyon. The entire hike takes about 3 hours.

    It started with a very difficult climb up a steep hill called “heart attack hill”. Evan, with his young legs and excellent health , climbed way ahead of us. The rest of us huffed and puffed our way up. We were greeted with a magnificent view of the canyon and land far beyond. Blue sky, red land and greens extended all the way to the horizon.

    We then continued on for hours, admiring the beautiful rock formations all around us, and hiked to a calm waterhole that’s surrounded by large vegetation called Garden of Eden. I have to say my daily workouts paid off here since I was able to keep up with Evan, climbing up and down on many, many rocky hills. Winter wind chilled our faces, and bright sunshine warmed our backs. We hiked fast and efficient, with no one else but our camping group behind us.

    Next leg of the trip is far more boring, we basically needed to drive 5 and 1/2 hours to Alice Springs. The vast Outback landscape stretched in front of us, on and on. However, we did stop for a bathroom break. Rita told us every tree is a loving tree, feel free to relief yourself around it. LOL! I think this is the first time I heard a tour guide encouraging us to relieve ourselves outdoors!

    We stopped at a small town on the way to have lunch. There is an Emu enclosure here. While trying to feed them, Evan’s finger was bitten! Fortunately nothing serious.

    After a long drive, we finally arrived at Alice Springs!! We will sleep in an actual bed tonight! Woohoo!

    There is some mishaps about the hostel the tour group booked for us. So we decided just book a much nicer hotel - Doubletree hotel here for tonight instead of sharing room with strangers. Private bathroom too! What a treat after roughing it for the past 3 days!
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  • Day11

    2019 Australia Trip - Day 10

    June 4, 2019 in Australia ⋅ 🌬 14 °C

    Well, sleeping outside on the dirt ground with just the Swag in Outback winter is not my thing. It’s so, so cold!! At first I was using my winter jacket as a pillow, but after being waken up by the cold wind too many times, never able to be warm enough to fall in sleep, I figured I could wear it instead Have you ever try to put on a winter jacket inside a sleeping bag? Not easy! I then put on my socks too. Felt some warmth after that. Finally fell in sleep. I dreamt I was Jackie Chan’s manager, had to take him to hospital after he got hurt doing stunts. Is it wired!? I guess I was really stressed.

    Woke up too many times throughout the night, hearing the snoring. Steve was snoring up a big thunder in my right, Evan was snoring up a small thunder in my left, I was raining tears in the middle. I was so jealous of them that could sleep to soundly!!

    Finally time to get up at 5:30 AM. We then headed back to Ayers Rock to see the sunrise and have breakfast. It’s truly a majestic sight! As the sun slowly risen, the sunshine slowly turned the rock into bright red. Amazing!

    Next, we climbed a mountain called Kata Tjuta. Steve and Evan chose to do a more challenging climb that’s 4 km longer distance than the rest of us, and I stayed with the rest of the group, worried abut my heart problem, and didn’t want to slow them down. They hiked the whole 4 km of rocky road in one hour!

    The best thing about this hike, besides the fact we were surrounded by red mountains and blue sky, is the fact there was no flies in the morning. Steve had a much time because of that.

    But the flies returned after noon. Fortunately we were just driving to King’s Canyon which is about 2 and half hours away. And on the way there, we stopped at a small town, bought our own flynet (a net cover your whole face to keep the flies away)! YAY! Never thought we would be this happy to buy some nets!

    Did you know billions of years ago, Australia has a huge inland sea? There are still many salt water lakes remaining in the Outback area. It’s kind of cool to see a large body of water in the middle of the desert!

    We gathered firewood for tonight’s camp fire. As soon as we arrived at Kong’s Canyon camp site, we started a big fire.

    Upon learning about Evan’s 14th birthday is just 2 days away, Rita and couple other ladies gathered some local fruits, baked an amazing birthday cake with the camp fire! The entire camp group gathered around the fire and sung happy birthday to Evan, who was completely surprised by all this. Pretty amazing birthday celebration!!

    Another night under the stars deep in the mountain! This time I am prepared! I am wearing a shirt, a sweater, a vast and a winter jacket before I get into the swag. Should have a warmer night with all this preparation.
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    Michelle Ortega

    Happy birthday Evan!

    6/8/19Reply
     
  • Day10

    2019 Australia Trip - Special Update

    June 3, 2019 in Australia ⋅ 🌬 14 °C

    Special update of or Australian Trip. While sleeping under the stars, I used an app called SkyView, which identifies all the constellations and presents them as images. Here are some of the cool ones in the Southern Hemisphere.Read more

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