Annandale, VA

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HERBIG IDEA is a creative studio comprised of WHITNEY LYLE and SAM HERBIG. Whitney is a designer who loves to create books, packaging, and do more crafty projects in her spare time. Sam is a film electrician who loves to take photos tirelessly, while finding time on the side to create maps in various mediums (a long-standing hobby, starting with his 3-d topographical map of his hometown, Tübingen, Germany in elementary school).

Together, Whitney's big picture ideas and Sam's impeccable attention to detail, they pull prints in a print shop or set-up a makeshift photography studio. They love to generate ideas and find ways to execute them. 


We're chronicling our travels around the states on this blog. Check it out, if you're bored and sitting on an apple box (you can also check it out from home or the office).

Filtering by Tag: Camping

The be all end all

Samuel Herbig

No more flyers!

Day #58 of our journey was going to take us to the famed Yellowstone National Park. What I knew of the park was mainly wildlife (read: bison) and geysers (read: old faithful). I knew that it was big and I knew that it was mountainous and that's about it. Particularly in the few days before driving down there Whitney kept saying, "if we don't see any bison, I'm gonna be really disappointed." No pressure Yellowstone.

I'd vote for Bugs any day

I'd already been feeling pretty shabby, so much so that Whitney had been doing a lot of the drive from Brownies Hostel, which had taken us through Browning, MT (at that time seemingly consumed by a fierce public office election) and across vast stretches of prairie. As I was drifting in between my two co-pilot states of napping and taking pictures we traversed the big sky country for endless hours. The ridges of grass green hill chains bobbing up and down in front of the windshield, with puffy white clouds overhead. All the while we were being accompanied by the mountains of the Lewis Range to our right. Signs of open ranges continuously warned us of roaming cattle and the biggest hinderance to our progress was a road construction site which we were lead through by a truck with a Follow Me sign on it.

In Helena, we stopped to load up on groceries for the next few camping nights. Since neither of our sinuses were feeling particularly groovy, we decided on chicken soup for the evening (NOT from a can). We also grabbed some granola and other supplies that had worked out well for us in the past and then continued on our path towards the park.

Coming down south along route 191/287 we entered the park from the West, with the end goal being the campground at Madison Junction. You'll think this is crazy, but we actually had enough time to set up our tent, and then make the roundtrip to the visitor center near Old Faithful. All during day light!

Of course, we saw bison galore already on that very first drive through the park. I mean it's pretty tough not to. They are big, they are slow and they make a funny huffing noise when they're grazing. Reminds me a little bit of the times growing up when we would stay on farms in Switzerland or the Landwirtschaftspraktikum (yep, that word is street legal in Germany) when being around 2000 pound animals was a daily occurrence.



Tempting as it was, we didn't spend too much time away from the campground, because we still had to make dinner and wanted to get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

We woke up the next morning to Whitney feeling the effects of a worsening sinus congestion. So after just making a bit of tea, we intended to set out to get Whitney to a shower, so she could hopefully drain her sinuses to relieve the pressure. Due to a series of unfortunate decisions and events, we didn't make it to a place with showers until Evanston, WY! We started with the best of intentions on a trip clockwise around the Yellowstone park.

One of the thoughts Whitney and I would discuss later at length regarding Yellowstone is, that it was perfect for a sick day or two. The reason is simple: Yellowstone is laid out to be explored by car. Sure there are hikes and most of the attractions of the park can't be seen from the road directly. However, almost all of the spectacular sights and amazing nature can be enjoyed from your car or otherwise after a very short stroll from the parking lot. So if you're not feeling well, which neither of us were, this park is about as good as it gets.


The first time I pulled over the car, was at Gibbon Falls. They are tame in comparison, but it set the tone in terms of what we could expect for the rest of the day. Not necessarily regarding the kinds of attractions, but more the company we'd be "enjoying". It's certainly a busy park and more than once I asked myself, how the park service was ensuring the proper preservation, when the crowds were already so thick in late May?

Snow and hot springs: one day

We drove up to Canyon Village, got gas which was surprisingly not over priced (I know, right?) and then I wanted to go up to Dunraven Pass and Mt. Washburn. Naturally, we weren't going to go on a hike with Whitney feeling worse for the wear as the day continued. Still, I wanted to see the other side of the park, but realizing that it wasn't all that I had hoped it to be, I soon turned back to continue our loop around the park.

I dragged our poor Whitney out of the car again and again: "Do you want to see the Yellowstone Falls?", "Should we go to Inspiration Point?", "I'll take the South Rim Drive out to Artists Point, okay?" or "How about the Sulphur Cauldron or the Mud Volcano?"

Ladies and gentlemen: no words!

Over and over again, Whitney said "I'm really not feeling so hot, but I want to get out of the car anyway." I was really glad that she did, because she'd let me know about the different things she recalled from coming to the park the first time when she was 9 years old. That time the family had travelled out with her grandparents. That's important to note, since Pop-pop (amongst many others) has been a driver of our artistic expression, and I never even met the guy. Also, at Painters Point she sneezed like a four year old. You know, snot hanging by thick threads out of her nose all the while she's looking back at me at least as shocked as I am looking at her. It was funny, you had to have been there.

Pop-pop himself was a painter (oils and water colors) and going through his catalogue a couple of years back in order to make a book of his work, turned into a learning experience of sorts for us. Looking back, it was around that time that we, and certainly I, felt compelled to get back to creating more art from scratch. With my hands. With paint.

Whitney recalled going out to Artist Point with Pop-pop and showed me the colorful earth and rocks surrounding the Yellowstone River Canyon, just below the water falls.

A little later we stopped at the Sulphur Cauldron and Mud Volcano (the names!). It was the first of many stops along the parks famed thermal elements. If you have any inclination of going, just go. I can tell you all about it here, but it's just incredible to see the sheer number of different springs and pools and geysers, and mud pots and so on. The park service was also quick to illustrate that the thermal features were constantly in flux and could change at any point. Hot springs slowly moved over hundreds of feet. Geysers go dormant and reemerge. As a matter of fact the area surrounding the Mud Volcano had completely changed in the 1980's due to a number of earthquakes. A sharp increase in the ground temperature following the quakes has been killing the trees along the hillside ever since.

Finally, our loop took us by the grand stage of the Old Faithful. The area around the geyser is completely built up with shops, the visitor center, restaurants, you name it. It is a bustling complex ready to handle many, many tour busses filled with tourists from far away countries and loads of minivan's filled with vacationing families form not so far away. The geyser itself is surrounded by a large circular boardwalk, which has conveniently placed benches along the edge to view the geyser. Considering, that people used to throw logs and rocks and handkerchiefs into the geyser back in the day, the boardwalk it probably a sound idea.

Regardless of the commercial noise surrounding Old Faithful, it is a fantastic experience to watch it explode into the sky. We were particularly lucky, because just before the eruption a rain storm had moved through, darkening the sky and making the steam and white water shooting from the ground all the more visible against the sky. I wonder what it would have been like, to see the geyser back when none of the buildings were there. Back when you had to take an expedition many weeks long to get out there. What it would have sounded like, just the rushing of the wind in the trees, and the water shooting into the sky...

The end of the show

The end of the show

We treated ourselves to milk shakes at one of the restaurants (which were delicious!) and got back in the car to get back to the campground. You see, before we left in the morning we were sure it wasn't going to rain, but because you're an attentive reader you remember the "dark sky", right? We were worried that the rain had gotten into the tent and we wanted to either deal with it, or prevent further soaking. Luckily, though the tent had seen a sprinkle, nothing seemed to have gotten wet.

On the way back from Old Faithful I had also spotted a bison herd near the road and I really wanted to get some good pictures of those guys. Whitney relented and back out we went to get Sam some bison. Not far down the road was a little off shoot of the main loop where we found at least a couple hundred bison grazing.

Bison, not buffalo (don't be a European!)

Bison, not buffalo (don't be a European!)

From a distance, we were able to see big bulls, nursing calfs, play fighting youngsters and more. It's a marvelous thing to be able to get in such close proximity of such large mammals. That these guys were mercilessly slaughtered isn't easy to stomach, but considering their relatively peaceful demeanor it isn't hard to imagine either. Anyway, I got my pictures!

Back at the campground we made another simple dinner, and then headed up to the "amphitheater" to hear a ranger talk on the parks history and flora and fauna. Whitney and I were quickly getting to like these talks and if you're the National Park visiting kind, it's worth checking them out. I for one really liked getting context for my visit and being able to ask some questions afterwards (i.e. "What's it really called, a bison or a buffalo?"). Tired but satisfied we went to sleep, soon after.

The next morning I was starting to feel better, but no such luck for Whitney. Despite our honest efforts to rest well, drink plenty of tea and to feed ourselves the way Sue would have, Whitney's throat was still hurting and her sinuses stuffed. Being on the road however meant that we could only do so much and Whitney was being a trooper. While in the park, we wanted to visit as many of the thermal springs and geysers as we could, before we had to leave later in the day. So we broke camp, loaded the car back up, made sure that we had all the lozenges and a thermos of hot tea within arms reach and set out.

Whitney self medicating... tsk, tsk

The park has just tons and tons of thermal features. The most famous of them, after Old Faithful, is the Grand Prismatic Spring, but there are so many others! As we headed south along the loop towards Grant Village and the South Entrance of the park we first steered the Omimobile into the Firehole Lake Drive. I guess, because none of the drives features are as bombastic as others in the park it wasn't as crowded, which suited us just fine. Along the route we stopped at the Firehole Spring, Surprise Pool, Great Fountain, White Dome and Pink Cone Geysers before finally arriving at Firehole Lake and Steady Geyser. That's a whopping seven geothermal whatchamacallems! And they're all very different. Some are still steaming colorful pools, others gurgling mud pots, others again spout water high into the air. While I was busy clicking away, Whitney was lamenting the fact that she wasn't able to jump into one of the hot springs. So she did the next best thing: at each spring that was particularly hot and steaming she found the perfect spot to stand in the steam as the wind carried it away from the pool. Even sitting here on the soft bed at an airbnb thousands of miles away, I can still smell the sulphur with each breath as I think back.

As the expedition photographer I wanted to go to the Prism Pool of course. Interestingly, you really can't get that famous overhead shot you always see very easily. You'd have to go on a hike, to gain enough elevation . . . and then hope it's warm enough out that there isn't too much steam coming off the surface of the pool. Still, we got to walk around it and see the other pools as well. It's a neat place and the colors are amazing. It's terribly crowded though with tour bus after tour bus arriving, so we left before too long.

On our way out, we once again stopped for a sandwich at the Old Faithful Visitor Center and (accidentally) saw the geyser erupt for a second time. Not bad! With a little bit of food in our tummies we finally bid the park adieu and began our long treck to Moab. Hang on! We saw some more elk on the way out. 

Elk end

Elk end

In hindsight, I wished we had more time at Yellowstone (as was the case in so many other places). I wouldn't have minded being able to do a hike or two. That being said, with some time and patience and a camera you can explore most of what's there to see. There are also many more pictures from this part of the trip, that didn't make it into the post, but I'll do my best to get them uploaded to Flickr soon. 

Big Sky Country

Whitney Lea


Leaving Seattle meant we were embarking on a more rigorous leg of the trip, and what better way to start that off than with a very long drive. 486 miles long. We drove for so long that we went from lush, green, and mountainous scenery to barren and dry rocks then on to farmland and finally back to freshly growing forests and glacial mountains. We passed a town in Washington state called George. We passed fields of crops that had been labeled for people on the highway to learn about what was being farmed (SURPRISE! Potatoes...). We drove through swooping highways that ran next to rivers that were swollen to the tops of the banks with muddy water. It was like driving through a Woody Guthrie song.

Our destination was Flathead Lake, Montana. Flathead is one of those places that winds up on all these travel lists for "prettiest places in the USA" and "stops out west that you cannot miss!" and whatnot. The thing that really sealed the deal for me was this photo circulating on the internet:



Because we were scheduled (ha! we still has a schedule back then!) to make it to Montana over Memorial Day weekend, I had even booked a campsite right on the lake. It was the most expensive campsite we have had on this trip to date at a whopping $31 for the night, but it was definitely up there on the list of most gorgeous. 

Our campsite was directly on the water

Our campsite was directly on the water

On driving days (which we have deemed to be any day with a drive that is more than six hours) that also happen to be camping days the sunset is a huge factor in how much time we take on the road and how stressed we feel getting there. Luckily, the sunset at Flathead Lake was one of the latest we had seen. It was at 9:24 on May 25. Isn't that crazy? Dangerously close to the sunset times in Norway, where Sam's sister lives. To balance it out we also lost an hour as we drove back from Pacific to Mountain time, another time issue that tends to come up (as I write this we are in the Atlantic time zone, which does not even exist in the United States).

I think I'm getting used to this parfait thing

We arrived and set up camp – finally getting the chance to air out our wet tent – and even managed to start cooking before the sun went down. Kids kayaked on the Lake and rode their bikes around the camping loop. Big Arm State Park clearly seemed to be a "locals" kind of park, which tends to be a different kind when compared to all the big national parks we had seen previously. More kids and bikes and dogs. More big groups of friends hanging out. A wider spread in age. Up until this point, much if the national park attendance had been us and baby boomers that had already made it to retirement.

We stayed up late, sitting on a log and sharing a bottle of wine while looking at the lake as the stars passed above and car headlights came around a road on one of the inlets.

The morning brought a slight hangover, parfaits, and repacking the camping gear and the car. We stuck our toes in the cool water and concurred that we would definitely consider swimming if we didn't have to drive for three more hours up to a park named Glacier (brrrrr) that day. Driving while soaking wet wasn't exactly something we were interested in getting into. We were slated to explore glacier that day and wanted to use the time for that!

That's not a pot with rocks in it, people!

That's not a pot with rocks in it, people!

An important detail that shouldn't be overlooked here was that Sam and I both woke up feeling a little sore in our throats and a little stuffy, though Sam definitely felt worse than I. My current theory is that our sinuses kicked into schlime* overdrive when we went from a very humid rainforest atmosphere to a very dry mountain atmosphere. Any ENT doctors out there should definitely feel free to chime in. Us feeling bad hadn't really impacted our plans too much though. We each sucked on a cold eeze as we drove, hoping that would somehow help.

To the glaciers!

Soon we started a very high paced drive through the Montanan countryside. It sure was gorgeous. I think Sam and I both agree that it was some of the prettiest landscape we have seen on the entire trip. A big sapphire lake with rolling emerald hills rising out from it. Cherry orchards in abundance all along the way. Big fluffy and bright white clouds that might drop a little rain even when the sun was shining and the rest of the sky was blue. A huge variety of trees with new growth and many shades of green. Perfectly cared-for log houses with hunter green tin roofs. The pictures we took couldn't even start to capture the beauty we felt we were seeing, despite Sam's abilities.

We took a little detour in addition to the scenic route mainly because I think Sam was having fun with the maps and didn't have phone/internet access while I drove. It was worth it regardless because we saw a few more bald eagles eating something gross in a field and a pheasant running around, its bright red and green feathers a stark contrast to the chartreuse grasses it tried to hide in.

We arrived at the west entrance of Glacier only to learn that much of the park was still closed for the season due to snowy conditions. Luckily a ranger (seriously, rangers are your friends!) explained that we could head over to the eastern side of the park and have a better chance at seeing wildlife and doing a little hiking. We decided to stop by our hostel on the way to the other park entrance, listening to a classical music mix of cello-centric pieces that Sam had put together a few years ago. Along the way, this is what we saw:

Thomas and the gang

Thomas and the gang

See? Totally fitting.
We arrived at Brownie's Hostel and checked into our room. Yes, there is a hostel/bakery near East Glacier national park. A private room was nearly as cheap as our campsite from the night before and came with a bed and WiFi. Win-win. The building was almost 100 years old, but I think that only makes it cooler. After we chucked our stuff, we padlocked the clapboard door (feeling quite a lot like the old dudes of the west) and headed off on our steel horse with wheels to see Glacier. The drive was breathtaking. 

En route we saw tons of livestock and saw plenty of signs about open ranges, which luckily prepared us for a band of real horses that decided the grass was greener *right* on the other side, just next to the road. A few miles later two grown horses and a very very young foal were doing the same. Before I knew it (did I mention I passed out, in the napping sense, on the drive?) we had arrived! Sam seemed a little more antsy to get out of the car than I did, probably because he had been manning the gas pedal unchecked for so many miles.

Sam had a trail in mind in hopes of just gaining a bit of a vantage point and we strapped on hiking boots and winter coats and made our way to a trail head. Each of the three trailheads I had seen at this park had very clear warnings about bear activity, strongly encouraging bear spray for hiking groups with 3 or fewer people. Want to know what I was thinking when I read that?: Seriously, Glacier? Everyone knows I over worry. How can you do this to me? How can I push the warnings out of my mind and take this hike at 5pm at the end of hibernation season through bear country? Ugh. Well, I guess I'll carry these big rocks with me to defend Sam and I against grizzlies. And I'll do my best to make lots of noise since Sam won't be paying any attention at all because he'll be clicking away on his camera. How can I be a better sport than I was at Crater Lake, land of the avalanche?

Well, I can tell you I sure did try. Five minutes into the hike we were climbing over a pretty fresh patch of trees that seemed to have succumbed to a snow melt avalanche just days before. I'm talking 30+ pines using on each other all down a mountainside, though none looked to be more than ten years old. Soon we were safely above the treeline, which helps not only with avalanches, but also with bears (in my mind). We looked up at the small patches of snow on the mountains above and saw a small herd of sheep grazing. Looking out to the other peaks reminded me if my very first hike with Sam to the Tannheimer Tal in Austria in 2007. We've sure come a long way in seven years, but I'm still battling the voice of fear that runs through my brain, making me an inherently overly cautious person.

As a storm rolled in we decided to check out part of another trail we had scouted on the way in and hiked back down. The other trail was in trees (eeek) and I totally forgot to mention the duck we saw at this trailhead in the way in! It was dead. And it had its head torn cleanly from its body. Imagine the stories I was making up there! No wonder I was all cautious on our walk. Who eats just the head of a gall-dern duck?? Rather than get hung up on what kind of animal just eats a duck's head, Sam decided it was time for a photo.

"Uhm, excuse me!?"

"Uhm, excuse me!?"

At this point I was really battling my silly inner fears and the refreshing rain that was rolling in across the peaks above was helping quite a bit. Little creeks were already swelling and the rain pushed water over the edge in little rivulets. It was cool enough that it almost felt like ice rather than rain. We spent a few more minutes taking pictures and then decided to leave mainly because it was unclear that any restaurant would be open after 9, a problem we ran into repeatedly on our trip. It was already 7:30 and we were nearly an hour from town.

On the drive back we saw a female moose preparing to cross the street in front of us as we rounded a bend. Sam stopped in time and I attempted to take a photo before she disappeared, but I realized the settings were all wrong just a moment too late. Luckily Adobe Lightroom could still produce this photo of our moose after we adjusted all the settings a lot.

If a moose runs you over and no one is around to hear it...

If a moose runs you over and no one is around to hear it...

Of course that caused us to miss our turn, and as we backtracked we rounded a bend again we saw a beaver! This time I had the camera settings right, though my ability to photograph wildlife out of a car window leaves much to be desired compared to Sam who grabbed the camera as the beaver crossed the road into his side. Don't worry! We had pulled over to the shoulder already and hadn't seen another car for more then 30 minutes.

First time seeing a beaver! That sounded weird.

First time seeing a beaver! That sounded weird.

Once we got back into town we made the rounds to see if there was anywhere that could feed us. We wound up following nicely hand painted billboards to a bar outside of town that also had a kitchen that was still up and running. Phew!

At the end of the meal we went back to the hostel to work on blog posts into the wee hours of the morning. Well, Sam worked. My hands were tied as he used the computer to organize photos for the posts. Instead I read a little and made several cups of camomile tea for each of us in hopes of soothing our throats. By the time we went to bed we sure slept like angels though.

The morning brought sorer throats and a list of annoyances to deal with. Sam was such on the phone with El Paso traffic ticket people again to see if his letter had arrived. On that call he learned that the first person he spoke to had told him to address the letter to the wrong department. The ticket itself didn't have his proper name written on it and the address they had listed for Sam was incorrect because of the officer's illegible handwriting. Sam was given further instructions on how to deal with protesting the ticket, but there was a lot of back and forth.  Not long after that Skype call was finished, the transformer for the hostel blew. Luckily I had already heated the hot water with salt and lemon to gargle and help our throats. To stop the trail of not so fun stuff, we loaded the car and grabbed one of Brownie's famous cinnamon rolls before skipping town with Yellowstone a mere 7 hours away.

*schlime = mucus in German. I bet you couldn't have guessed that. There are so many words like that in German that I bet you'd be fluent by just knowing a few verbs and throwing on a German accent. E.G. schmutzig = dirty, brezel = pretzel, blumen = flowers, antibebepillen = birth control...

The Jungle Post

Samuel Herbig

The western most point of our trip!

On Thursday, we turned our backs on Portland with all its quality of life resources to head back into the wild, making our way even further up the pacific coast line. For the next two nights we had two different campgrounds in mind, one on the pacific coast (Kalaloch) and one in the rainforest (Hoh).

Both destinations were in the Olympic National Park. There were several reasons I was very excited about the opportunity to visit this area. One is, that my favorite color is green. A favorite factoid of mine is that the human eye can distinguish shades of green more easily. Another reason is that growing up I read tons of books about plants and wildlife in the different regions of the world. If I recall correctly there was a time when I had thirty three plants in my room. It's not altogether surprising then that I'd be into visiting a rainforest. 



First however we were headed for Kalaloch. It was at some point en route that we decided, for a reason that I can no longer recall, to stop at Kalaloch but to ultimately continue all the way to Hoh. 

This ended up being a good decision, though stopping over at Kaloloch provided one of the most awesome animal encounters of the trip so far. See, Kaloloch is directly situated on the coastline. It is wedged between the roadway of US-101 and the surf of the ocean. We pulled over and parked the Omimobile intent on taking a short exploratory stroll down the beach in the afternoon sun. As usual I grabbed my trusty camera and we got on the way.

Mmmm, seagull!

On the beach we found many things: sand dollars that were still fuzzy and yet to be cleaned by the water, hundreds of crab carcasses, huge pieces of driftwood, birds, shells, algae...  All those things were cool and interesting no doubt, but the thing that will stick in my mind was when I noticed a bunch of seagulls milling about in the surf. At first glance I didn't notice and a couple of the birds just seemed unusually large. I called out to Whitney, "Hey Whit, look at these big birds!" I slowly made my way closer and just as I realized it, Whitney called, "Oh my, those are two bald eagles!"

Okay, I'm outta here

Indeed right in front of us on the beach a couple of bald eagles were eating dinner (a culled seagull). Whitney and I had about 5 minutes or so, before they eventually took off. 

We walked a little further and Whitney took a few pretty cool pictures of me standing on some driftwood logs, and then I tried to take a nice one of her and it didn't turn out so well. 

We got back in the car for the final hour and a half of our drive to Hoh. We got some gas, two bundles of firewood, too. Not after long we exited the 101 and began the slow ascend up to the rainforest. The road wound it's way along the Hoh River. It's a beautiful drive going in and out of the forest as it grows thicker and thicker. Even though it was still hours until sunset it was already suspiciously dark driving between these huge spruces, firs and hemlocks.

Chief Camp Cook in Charge

Once at the campground we had to do two loops before we were able to settle on a spot. The grounds are on the bank of the Hoh River with the dense forest starting just beyond the parking lot and the visitor center. We put up the tent and got ready to make dinner as dusk was settling around us. Whitney prepared one of the best road dinners yet, with a super fresh salad (snap peas! raddishes! lettuce! pistachioes!) followed by lentils, with mixed mushrooms and a wonderful couple of links of white sausages. I mean we were eating like kings!

I'm still dreaming of those snap peas

We cleaned the dishes, put the kitchen away and then overcame our social anxieties and joined the group of roadtrippers on the next campsite over for some CAH, with wine and beer. Thinking back now, we were pretty loud and I feel a little bit bad for that, but it was a pretty rare occasion so I'll ignore my guilty conscious and remember to forgive it the next time someone is inconsiderate and chalk it up to their rare occasion. That's how this works, right?

We woke up the next morning because it was hot. It was hot in the tent, and the reason for that was the sun. At the time the sun was pretty directly above us, because it was somewhere around 10 or 11am. Uff!

Seriously one of the most beautiful campsites so far

Seriously one of the most beautiful campsites so far

We crawled out and prepared a little bit of yoghurt with granola and fresh raspberries and a cup of coffee for breakfast. 

I just want to take a quick second and get into a little issue that's been vexing us: milk. It's pretty obvious that fresh milk is not very travel worthy, because buying small quantities isn't cost effective and large quantities require constant cooling. Instead we had picked up what we thought was milk powder. We didn't read the ingredient's carefully though, so we ended up with a corn syrup product. It did make the coffee more light colored, but also made it taste like sh*t. Eventually we picked up some real milk powder which however comes with it's own set of challenges: it clumps like crazy so you have to mix it really, really, really well before you use it, but then it gets the job done, more or less. 

Back to the story: I was really excited to finally get into the rainforest, but first we took a short walk down to the Hoh. It's beautiful down by the water. The sound of the river rushing by, the leaves of the trees at the bank. The rocky river bed and the little islands in the river. Between the rocks were thousands of different miniscule little flowers in all colors and shapes and there were patches of different moss and algae. Over the constant sound of the river we could hear the many bird songs. 

We both, one by one balanced our way across a massive log to one of the islands in the river. I think we experienced that careful balancing act quite differently, because Whitney wasn't as enthused when she reached the other side. Whitney told me about how she hadn't liked gingerly crossing water over narrow pieces of wood since she was a little girl. As a cautious boy growing up I know that feeling of not getting out of your own head when you need to trust your body to it's thing. It's a tough thing, to convince yourself much less convince someone else that it's okay without "making them do it". On the other hand you know that doing it will give you that immense feeling of accomplishment and self confidence. That's a tough one. 

I'm such a great photog

I'm such a great photog

We didn't walk across the log to get back to dry land. We opted for the (in my mind anyway) much more difficult task of wading through the ice cold river. The water temperature reminded me of that one time when I was in 8th grade and we went on a class trip into the Alps and on a hike came across a lake that was directly fed by a glacier. If you wanted to mimic the temperature I'd suggest you put cold water in your bathtub and then dump four 10 lbs bags of ice cubes into it. That should about do it.

Rather than go on a hike we decided to head down to Forks (yes, that Forks). I'm a fiend for sweets and trying to get better about it, but we'd talked about ice cream the entire driver up to Hoh, so when we drove by JT's Sweet Stuffs and they advertised ice cream AND free Wi-Fi, we stopped for both. 

I guess we wanted to be fair & balanced and so we went down to La Push. Really we just thought we wanted to see the Pacific ocean one more time, but it turned out to be much more of a wildlife viewing expedition than we'd expected. We got down to La Push on the Quileute reservation and parked as close as we could get to the water. 

As noted in the Best/Worst list post, it was later determined that La Push also would be our western most point on this trip. 

At the beach we saw a good number of people who seemingly came here for a similar reason. A couple of motorcyclists, a 15 pass van of Croatian (?) lifeguards and so on. The weather was perfect . . . for Washington. It was cool and moist with a constant breeze from the ocean. The air was filled with that salty smell you get when you're at the ocean, seagulls and a haze that made it hard to see the tops of those iconic cliff islands just a couple of thousand feet of the coast. 

We strolled towards the harbor, when we noticed the commotion the fishing boats would cause as they were returning from the sea. We saw sea lions, more bald eagles, golden eagles, seagulls and more vying for the spoils being thrown overboard. I was snapping some pictures of a particularly noisy seagull, when a family stepped out of the small house behind us to wave to their father as his fishing boat returned to the harbor. I'm likely romanticizing the idea of an intact old school fishing village, but there was definitely something nice about seeing that scene. 

Coming home

Coming home

Fulfilled and with a camera chip fully filled with pictures we returned to Hoh. Whitney wanted to start on dinner, but I had to at least take a short hike in the rainforest and Whitney being the patient partner she is, relented. 

There are basically two short hikes right by the campsite and so we decided to do the shorter one. The evening was slowly creeping in as we took the twisty path through the trees. Hoh's trees were similar in scale to the Redwoods we'd seen earlier and thus created a similar impression on me. Mosses, ferns and grasses, small bushes and hulking giants of trees. We saw many birds, spiders, a deer and the tracks of what looked like an elk. It's a wonderland, and one of the few places I've been to as an adult that makes me forget that I'm a grown up. I felt small and insignificant and at the same time a part of it. 

Now, I was ready for dinner! Whitney's the chef, there's no doubt about that. I try my best to be a good helper, chopping and washing and cutting and salad saucing. In the end however it's Whitney who puts together one tasty camp meal after another. Thanks love!

After dinner we snuggled together next to a roaring campfire talking about this and that. The bottle of wine probably made it easier to dream up things we were looking forward to and to embellish the audacious adventures we conquered. Regardless it's nice to sit by a fire, even if it's just to look at the flames, there's always a fantastic quality to it. I miss doing big campfires. 

Then we went to sleep. 

Next morning we woke up earlier. It had rained overnight so our tent was completely soaked on the outside. Even before making breakfast, we broke camp, just in case it was going to start pouring again. 

Whitney came up with the best breakfast idea yet: parfait. For about 20 minutes Whitney carefully layered strawberries, yoghurt and granola into a perfect breakfast treat and because they were put together in little cups we took a lovely morning stroll through the other campsite loop.

Once back at the campsite, we cleaned our dishes and readied the car for departure. Then we headed off back into the steaming rainforest. Because it had rained all night it seemed even more vibrant this morning. It was almost as if we could watch the plants expand and grow in front of us. Being the guy with the camera(s) meant I was running buck wild taking pictures of it all trying to capture the infinite detail and spectacular variety surrounding us. I'm honestly a little disappointed with my haul, but it really was a lot more challenging getting a good shot than I had thought.

Once back from our hour long hike (some would have called it a stroll) we bid the forest farewell and turned our eyes towards Seattle. We took the long way around the north of Olympic National Park, just so we could take a ferry!

From the Redwood Forest (or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the road)

Whitney Lea

Introducing the annotated roadtrip map

After leaving Orr, we prepared ourselves for another stint with nature and the National Parks. This time we were heading up to the Pacific Northwest to see the Redwood Forest. More passport stamps!

This also marked a bit of a transition in our road tripping style. Until now, everything was very tightly planned. We knew where we were going to sleep months in advance for 90% of the nights. We had people we wanted to meet up with and places we had to be. Suddenly we were looking at two nights without a sleeping place booked and had plans to visit two national parks without knowing what we wanted to see or do there. I spent so much time knowing every detail of the first month and a half that it was a bit strange to look in the roadtrip binder and not have several options for activities listed along with their prices and estimated times. The page on May 14 just listed the drive time and destination with a suggestion for where to camp. My type A planning skills had petered out a bit and rather than feel increasingly concerned, I was feeling open and relaxed. Maybe it was the spring water?

We left the springs a little later than we should have with our sights set on a campground in the Redwood State and National forests. We drove through increasingly scenic stretches of the 101 (we didn't have time to take route 1) in hopes of making it to the campground before sunset. The redwoods were soon looming above us and the need to stop for photos increased. I knew we were racing the sun, but I also realized that we were supposed to spend the day enjoying the redwoods. What good would it be if we drove past them without Sam getting even one (hundred) picture(s)? We may never be there again. We needed to find a balance between soaking in the nature and taking care of business. 

Just drove his car right through a tree

This, of course was only the beginning. Around 4 PM or so I saw a highway sign for the Drive-Thru Tree Park (tripadvisor!) and told Sam we had to hop off the highway and go. He had no idea why or what the drive-thru tree was, but I sure did. It was a classic roadtrip pit stop, like the giant ball of twine. If you're on a roadtrip and drive by a sign for it, it's kind of a crime not to stop. We had already driven past tons of signs for The Thing (cue wavy, creepy lettering here) in Arizona and we had opted out of a visit to Rock City. The Drive-Thru Tree was a chance for roadtrip redemption. $5 later, here we were.

So now Omi can proudly tell people that car has driven through a tree!

The people we meet at this pit stop were by far the friendliest people we have chatted up so far on the trip. There was the biker who was showing his girlfriend around the redwoods and then taking her to Yosemite; the lady from Utah who had just visited Yosemite with her family (sitting quietly next to her) and felt strongly that it was far prettier than Yellowstone; and the woman from Vancouver, Washington who had done a cross country roadtrip with her husband and serval children in an RV from craigslist (I would have loved to get tips from her, but she was headed out, as were we). I got back in the car smiling even though I knew we would be pitching the tent as the sun went down.

Turquoise thing for scale

Turquoise thing for scale

We started discussing an alternate camping place once we saw signs for the Avenue of the Giants scenic byway. The biker had mentioned that he planned to take his girlfriend on that route, so we figured it would be good. And as it was a byway, it wouldn't take toooo much longer.

By the time we were back on the 101 we knew where we were going to try to camp and hoped the pricetag would be lower than the $35 fee being charged in the National Forest campground. We gassed up and soon saw Trees of Mystery -- another roadtrip hot spot that we had heard about from an episode of This American Life (#506). The kitsch of an enormous Paul Bunyan was more than I could bear. You know I love kitsch! We had to stop! We popped out of the car just long enough to snag some pictures of the great American lumberjack, Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe.

This is just silly

This is just silly

When we got to the park we planned to camp in we saw they would also charge $35 to camp for one night. Sunset wasn't far off now and we realized if we were willing to pay $35 to sleep somewhere that wasn't a part of the plan then we would be much better off paying $15 more for a room with electricity and WiFi in the next town. This decision sounds like it was made because we didn't want to deal with camping or wanted a fancy bed. You're only a little right. The idea of having WiFi and a night to dedicate to catching up on the blog and watching the German national soccer team play a friendly match against Poland was really what sold us. It turned out to be a very productive night in that regard.

One Whitney for scale

Now knowing that we had a little more time, we drove up the coast, stopping at the first beach we saw to watch the sun sink below the horizon and get our feet a little sandy and wet. I had never seen the Pacific before so I had to touch it! Besides, there was no reason to rush anymore.


We arrived in Crescent City, California after dark and after splitting dinner at Denny's, we tucked into the Front Street Inn (tripadvisor!). The next morning we ate breakfast and sat by the Pacific to get a few more blog posts going and for Sam to call El Paso about his ticket and to write a letter to extend the court date (of course they told him to send it to the city prosecutor instead of the magistrate, so it wasn't the best use of his time).

Best office yet

Feeling very accomplished, we made a beeline for the forest. The first few visitor and information centers were closed, so we were grateful to finally find an open office to get some ideas for activities, campgrounds, and to get the coveted stamp. The ranger also showed us what Poison Oak looks like since we don't have that back east. We came away with big plans that worked out wonderfully.

First, we backtracked a ways and hopped down a trail to see the forks of the Smith River. The spot the ranger described was beautiful with the deep blue river that was cold and crystal clear.

The next stop was up to Stout Grove (tripadvisor!), where we knew we would see some hulking redwoods. We took our drawing supplies because it had been a really long time since we had done any art. What could be more inspiring? 

We studied these ancient, enormous trees that seemed to survive so much and Sam explained that trying to understand the enormity of those trees was like trying to understand the structure of the universe. On paper you can write it down and have a rough idea, but when you really take it in, it's overwhelming because you can't see everything at once, only parts at a time. I hope I paraphrased that correctly.

We finally headed to Panther Flat campground for a lovely night of camping for only $15! So even though we spent a night in a hotel, we basically came out even on our sleeping costs in the Redwoods. Not shabby, eh?

Tilt shift!

Leaving the plan up to chance wasn't as stressful as I had imagined! We slept fairly well and the next day we were going to drive up to Oregon to see Crater Lake.

For a change, here's a Sam fun fact:

This has been the longest title of our roadtrip blog, weighing in at an astounding 64 characters! Way to go, girl!