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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: National Park

Where all the Extremists go

Samuel Herbig

Real paper maps will be back ... at some point. Pinky swear.


Following the last post we really just had a lot of driving to do. Originally, we'd intended on staying a night in Jackson, WY (Whitney had told me all about the antler gates and such) and we did stop there if only for a milkshake but then decided to keep pressing on. We kept going mainly because in a tourist destination such as Jackson, rooms aren't exactly cheap to come by. Secondly, we wanted to make progress towards the South, to reduce the driving in the following days and seeing that we were traversing Wyoming and Utah, we didn't exactly have a lot of "cities" to choose from. We picked Evanston, right at the southwest corner of Wyoming at random.

By the way, we did need to stay at a motel that night. Not necessarily because we wanted to sleep in a bed. I'd like to think that we have gotten pretty comfortable with the whole camping setup. It was more that, as Whitney so gracefully put it, "we've had two more [expletive] milk shakes than we've taken showers in the past three days." That argument seemed to hold water.

We crashed in Evanston, ate the two most depressing meals of the road trip (dinner and breakfast), and got out of there as quickly as we could.

Fun side note: apparently the motel we stayed at got a lot of visitors from Australia in the winter season. So much so, that the front desk had a local time, Athens time and Sidney time clock on the wall. No one could explain the Athens time one though. Hmmm.


From Evanston we had booked two nights at the Lazy Lizard Hostel (turned out to be a "hostel", more on that later) for a bottom dollar price of $30 a night in Moab, UT. Now that I think about it, we really had intended on staying at Moab Basecamp while we were in the area, but their pricing and our budget didn't match up unfortunately. If I'm ever back there, I think I'd try to get out there though. Sounds like a heck of a cool place to visit.

Moab became more of a focal point mainly because of it's proximity to Arches National Park, which came highly recommended by Whitney's aunt Ronnie (whom you'll get introduced to later on, right after Denver). If you come from the North as we did, you'll likely approach Moab on Route 191, which is pretty unremarkable. It's flat, sandy, with low brush and grasses on both sides of the road. It's white, beige, yellow, brown... that kinda color spectrum reminding me of New Mexico and southern Texas. Then about 45 minutes outside of Moab, the road turns and starts to drop. Quickly, the large red walls that define this region started to rise all around us. The road drops off even steeper until you roll across the Colorado River and into Moab itself.

Extr-EHH-me sports!

Immediately, we started seeing signs for bouldering classes and climbing gear stores. There are signs to the nearest airport for skydiving and advertisements for SUV tours of the countryside. The main street was lined with big trucks, jeeps and ATV's. We were in and (almost) out of Moab in less than 10 minutes.

We checked in at the Lazy Lizard just at the other end of town and settled in. When I wrote about it earlier I put it in quotes, because it really seemed more like the house of a guy whose family had moved on and he decided to rent the rooms out as hostel rooms. Our room door barely closed, the carpet and furniture was a colorful mumbo jumbo of whatever was picked up at his friends place that wasn't needed anymore, etc. Considering that *everything* else in Moab starts at $100+/night it wasn't surprising, I guess. Just the same we were glad to have a room with a door and a place to take a shower.

Aside from exploring the area a little bit for it's striking formations, we also had laundry and some blogging on our agenda. For the evening program we wanted to try to do a little bit of both and set out to get up to Arches National Park for a first impression before sunset.

Late afternoon sunlight

We hopped back into the Omimobile and back tracked up 191 to the National Park entrance. Equipped with our America the Beautiful park pass, we only had to wait behind three Winnebago's that were paying with credit cards (sigh), had a chat about where they could drive with their monster-wagons (eye roll) and probably asked how the weather's been, just to be friendly (grumble). We had some sunset light to catch, people! Whitney, by the way wasn't sighing, eye rolling or grumbling, unless of course you're accounting for her disdain of my comments on the Winnebago's slow progress.

In order to get into the park, the road takes you up a relatively steep grade with multiple switch backs. Once you've made it up the first steep climb, you enter a plateau of sorts. It's flat, rocky or sandy, and covered in brush, bushes, lots of grass and shrubbery. Right before the road turns away from the valley you can actually get a pretty neat view over Moab. Immediately, huge red stone formations start to rise out of the plateau. They stand there like big chess figures or groupings of giant men and women (one of them is in fact named the "Three Gossips"). The road winds it's way along and it just becomes an awesome highlight show. 

Formation #1

With the sun setting the shadows of the rocks started to reach farther and farther towards the horizon, while the color of the rock started to change to a gleaming golden red in the sun and a purple violet on the shade side and although we had talked about it before, we both knew that we at least had to *try* to get in some painting time while we were here. We stopped here and there, so I could take some pictures, including this extr-EHH-me one of Whitney, look:

Oh my!

I'd meant to get a good tour around the park done in the evening, to get a feel for the park and what we wanted to do perhaps, when we got back up there in the next day or two, but Delicate Arch ended up being our turnaround spot. While the sun set behind us, we slowly cruised back towards Moab, trying to pick out a spot or two we might be able to paint at.

Back in town, our stomachs were grumbling and we picked out the Moab Brewery. It wasn't anything particularly special to be honest. The food and beer was fine enough. Carrying on with the extr-EHH-me theme that Moab operates under, the place was full with Kayak's suspended from the ceiling, advertisements for rafting and TV's alternating between a video about cycling and hill climbing.

The struggle is real

Right after we popped into the grocery store next door to pick up some beers. That's at least the way we thought this was going to go down. Pop in, pick up a couple of beers, pay and leave. Only, that even though we were in Moab, we were still in Utah and what they sell as beer in the grocery store is... different. The fact that the sign above beer fridge said "These beverages contain alcohol. Please read the label carefully." should have been a giveaway. Long story short, there's no beer above 3.2% at grocery stores (which all the big brewers go along with apparently, including some international companies), so we went back to Moab Brewery to pick up some "real" beer. Overall, we agreed that we'd had better beer. The packaging and labels were nice though.

Once back at the Lazy Lizard we each hammered out the text for a post. We probably would have enjoyed doing that in the common room or perhaps at the kitchen table, but unfortunately there was that guy. In this case that guy was an older, thin hippy with short white hair, standing at about 5'5" or 5'6". That guy was a talker and had finagled himself a young, and judging by the topics of discussion, naive kid to impart his wisdom to. I think that guy also gave the poor kid cookies. Yikes!


After a good nights rest we woke up late-ish to finish the posts before heading out. Finishing in this case meant selecting and editing, then exporting and inserting the pictures into the blog drafts before we publishing them. In all honesty, even though I'd really been working on cutting down on the time I spend selecting and editing the pictures, it still takes quite a long time to get everything to work the way you want. From that point of view, I see how blogging can easily become a full time job. Whether that job deserves compensation or not is a different story, I am just saying that it takes an awfully long time. 

Being back in a hot and dry climate, reminded us of the wonderful time we had had at Hamilton Pool and Balmoreah and had in fact found ourselves another swimming hole to check out. En route we stopped at the Peace Tree Juice Cafe for an afternoon snack. They had one of those fancy misting patio's out front we'd seen in San Antonio and elsewhere in the Southwest. Whitney usually let's me choose where we sit whenever we eat out, so out to the patio we went. I'd like to point out that I'm not the only one that gets excited about those misters. While we were sitting outside a very upset little boy was walking by with his mother and sister. He was upset because the misters were too high up, so that the breeze would carry away the cooling water droplets before they reached him at about 4 feet above ground level. Totally unfair, I felt that kids pain. Didn't stop me from having a nice time though :-).

This. Is. UTAH!!!

We hopped back into the car and drove through a couple of neighborhoods out the east end of town, turned left onto a dusty one lane road and after a few hundred yards came to a little gravel parking lot. We parked, put on our bathing suits and sunscreen, I took a picture of myself in the reflection of the hubcap of a Ford F650 and headed on down the trail. Compared to Hamilton Pool this one really felt like a swimming hole. You didn't have to pay, the legality was somewhat questionable and you had to walk along a not always clear path for about 15 minutes which criss-crossed the stream multiple times before you got to the pool.

How YOU doin'?

Similarly to Hamilton Pool, we could hear the laughter and screams of delight from about 300 yards out, before we came upon it. In line with the extr-EHH-me theme, people were doing flips off the rock cliffs surrounding the pool from about 20-25 feet up. Another couple of guys had anchored a tight rope on either side of the pool and then switched off gingerly crossing back and forth. We learned later, that a loosely formed group of locals deepen the pool each year, by digging out the sediment and building a wall where the stream exits the hole. This way they said they get the pool to be another 4 or 5 feet deeper.

Both of us took the long walk around to get to the top but in the end opted to jump of the lower cliff only. I like to think that we did that because we were smart (I made solid contact with the ground when I jumped in), but you can feel free to call me a wuss.

This might seem like a weird time to bring this up, but a number of people have actually asked us about how prevalent religion was in public in Utah. Specifically, "aren't there a lot of Mormons everywhere?" was asked a few times. The answer as far as we're concerned is "no". We didn't see a lot of Mormons, there weren't a ton of religious symbols or churches or any of that stuff. As a matter of fact the only time that we encountered something that could have been an event based on religion was at the swimming hole.

Mill Creek swimming hole

A group of about 30 parents and kids were hanging out, in what seemed to us like a church group outing. The parents were encouraging the kids to jump off the lower of the two cliffs. One of the kids, he seemed to be around seven or eight years old, was trying to convince himself to jump in. At different points of the afternoon he literally had the entire assembled public cheering him on. While people were shouting out helpful hints such as "You can do it!", "You just gotta take three big steps and don't stop!" or "Just jump!" he was rocking back and forth peeking over the edge trying to just jump. On a number of occasions he actually started, only to stop himself just shy off the edge. In a way it was a magnificent performance, how he kept pulling people back in over and over again with his portrayal of a tortured soul trying to convince himself to just do what everyone knew he must do. In the end he was a real tragic hero and didn't jump. He left with the rest of the church group with his task undone. I really hope this isn't the way this story ends, and that in the next act he finally jumps and then maybe gets the girl (if the church allows it).

Hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop...

Anyway, we had a real good time. We both jumped a few times. We walked up along the stream for a little bit (above the pool the stream actually flowed across multiple large stone troughs making it seem almost like a large bathtub). We cooled off by sitting in the water and eventually walked back to the car.

Roadtripping isn't all fun and games though, and at the end of the day we still had to find a place to do laundry. We googled and found Moab Laundry Express LLC, backed the Omimobile in, walked over to Gearheads asked for quarters (Thanks!) and loaded up three big washing machines of laundry and headed across the street to grab a bite for dinner at the Moab Grill. We got there just in time to witness an argument that went something like this:

Customer: This is bullshit! I don't buy it. There's no way that's a law!
Manager: Sir, I'm sorry but that's the law in the state of Utah.
Customer: I'm not buying food just so I can have a beer!
Manager: Sir, you'll have to purchase a food item. It's the law. Here, we have Texas Toast on the menu for just a $1.75.
Customer: This is the biggest crock of shit I've ever heard!
Customer exits and tries to slam door for emphasis. Door doesn't cooperate and closes slowly and quietly.

Oh, it was fantastic dinner theater! Afterwards, we went back, picked up and folded the laundry, stowed it in our handy dandy storage system in the trunk and went "home".


Arches National Park day! We tried our best to start early, because we really had two big things we wanted to do: number one was to go on a hike (Sam's wish) and number two was to paint (Whitney's wish).

Though we really try to spread the love when it comes to eating out, we went back to the Peace Tree Juice Cafe for a second meal. Part of that was certainly that we had a very nice time there the first time around, but because the activities took priority going back to the cafe also saved us the time and effort that sometimes comes with trying to find a good eatery. 

I think it works in black & white

After eating we sensibly decided that since I am the more important person, we would go and do the hike first. I had heard and read about that one of the more spectacular areas in Arches, was Devil's Garden with it's many arches and rock formations all accessible with relatively little effort. There I had in mind that we would start to hike along the trail that leads all the way up to the Double O Arch and just see how far we would make it without settling on a final turnaround point. The map at the trailhead estimated the roundtrip to the Double O Arch as about 2-3 hours.

This is also the moment when Whitney started to rethink whether or not I was the most important person and whether it really was sensible to do the hike first. See, at the beginning of the road trip we'd set a goal to do some painting. Since at least Austin, we were traveling with four blank 18x24 inch canvases and we'd brought with us a storage bin of each paint brushes and acrylic paints. Though neither of us are painters we had spent a wonderful weekend in Vermont some time ago and done a painting each that time. We both had enjoyed that experience so much that bringing painting supplies somehow had always been the plan.

Especially when you're a novice, painting something big and interesting is perhaps easier than to paint something more mundane. I'd wager that it takes considerably more skill to get something ordinary just right. That's exactly what these arches were: huge, both vertically and horizontally, with a distinct and bold color palate and they were interesting looking. Also this was likely one of the last opportunities for us to paint this kind of spectacular scenery, since we hadn't taken advantage of Big Bend, Grand Canyon or Zion.

And that's why Whitney wanted to paint the arches.

Now that we had an official estimate for the length of the hike, Whitney became more and more concerned about the timing of our painting session. On one hand we both agreed that sitting in the blazing afternoon sun wasn't a particularly bright idea, on the other hand Whitney didn't think that squeezing in perhaps two or three hours to paint was going to be enough time. Perhaps we should have tried to paint on two days instead of just one?

Landscape arch in landscape

And so the hike through Devils Garden became a negotiation-in-motion. Regardless we got to see the Landscape, Partition and Navajo arches. They're all very, very different something I wouldn't have expected. Landscape arch is the most spectacular, just because it is so narrow and long and so high up. What makes Partition arch special is the view you gain, when you look through it. It's more of a window in a rock, I guess. And finally Navajo arch is a massive arch, that's low enough that you can really get a sense for scale. Walking underneath the arch is more akin to the feeling you get walking through a short tunnel or underground passage. You know what I took some pictures. Why don't you click yourself through them and perhaps that'll show it a little better than I can explain it?

After we visited Navajo arch, we decided to turn around because we were hungry and because we wanted to give ourselves a little bit more time to look for a spot to paint later. But since we were already there we figured we might as well stop by the Tunnel and Pine Tree arches. Tunnel arch is special because of the viewing angle. It really reinforces the notion that everything is a matter of perspective. You're only able to get a good view of the Tunnel arch from a certain distance. Go any closer and you'll lose the view of the actual hole. Pine Tree arch was one of the arches that you could easily walk up to and walk through. It was also perhaps the most literally named arch: there were a lots pine trees.

Mini people!

We left the park for the 2nd time and decided to grab lunch and margarita's at Eddie McStiff's (the margarita's were very good, says Whitney). While in town we also picked up ice for the cooler and gas. Then we returned to the park and while Whitney was questioning the rangers in the station about where we were and were not allowed to walk as well as about possible picturesque places to paint, I called my Omi to check in.

Armed with new information (walk anywhere you like, so long as the ground is rocky and don't crush the mini ground people!) we headed back up the serpentines and into the park. We'd spotted a place to paint on the first day and wanted to see if that would work out, but in the end there was no real place for us to set up. So we drove further and further into the park and perhaps more out of desperation then anything else decided to drive by the Windows section.

Fish eye in the desert

We parked, got out and walked up to the Double Arches. This was better. We could get right up to them and they were big. It was in the shade. After we looked around for a little bit, we both settled on a spot. Next we trucked our supplies up to the arches and found ourselves a rock that would serve us as easel and soon enough we were painting in peace and quite.

Or so we thought.

Our painting sessions ended up being a lot more interactive then anticipated. Our very first visitor fittingly was a professional landscape painter! He gave us some friendly tips and after hearing that we were trying to get a painting done before sunset slowly shook his head and murmured something about "not enough time". So no pressure at all.

After that we were visited by a steady stream of hikers and tourists. It's interesting how you feel like you can feel people looking at you. Okay, well and it also really doesn't help that due to the acoustics you can hear the mother whisper to her son: "Shhhhh! If you're quiet you can look. Just walk around behind them so you can see the paintings, but keep your distance honey, okay?".

We however were not to be deterred from coming home with colorful canvases and after about three hours our efforts seemed to pay off. Whitney wasn't very satisfied with her work, but I really think that it's pretty nice, right?

To say goodbye to the park, we climbed up into the Double Arch shortly before the sunset and looked out the other side. It was a short but pretty tricky climb, because the rock face at first seems to be offering so many opportunities to hold onto, but once you're a little ways up the rock the steep angle makes it hard not to keep your balance.

In the middle of the night in Cortez, CO

Then we packed up and got on the road. After all we still wanted to grab dinner (Buck's Grill House, try it... it's good), before heading out to our next roadside stop at the El Capitan Motel in Gallup, NM. By the way, we didn't do a whole lot of night driving on the roadtrip. That was mostly intentional, because night driving is more strenuous and also it's dark and you know it's hard to see stuff. This however was an exception and I'm glad about it. It was one of the more surreal drives in my mind because we were driving through reservations for long stretches at a time. We stopped once at the Handy Mart, but most of the drive was in the pitch black night with only a brilliantly clear night sky above us. If I was into hard drugs...

P.S.: I'm back to my old tricks and uploading all additional pictures to flickr again. Have a look!

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. 

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!

The Southwest with Sue: Part Two

Samuel Herbig

Everyone Loves Vegas?

This post is obviously also brought to you by the number two. The only reason it isn't one long post is because I wasn't sure I could hold your attention for that long and because I wanted to throw another two in somehow since these posts are sponsored by 2 (as you can see in the endorsement up top).

Sorry Omi, but . . . 

Back to the action! We took a gorgeous route to get to Zion. We drove through the painted desert where I took a bunch of pictures of our progress. Some of them even turned out. Oh! And the Omimobile turned 90,000 miles old, so we had to capture that as well. 

We made a little rest stop on a bridge that went over the Colorado river and saw two cool animals: a weird bug, but more importantly, a California Condor. These birds are highly endangered. Our little buddy was tagged H9 for those counting at home. The view of the river was something else as well.

After a stop for lunch in a Utah town that was having a grayhound festival, we were an hour away from Zion. When we finally arrived we could not believe our eyes. The mountains looked like they were made of white lava that cooled, or like wasp's nests, or pulled taffy, or syrups of bacon. We had seen some pictures if Zion, but nothing like that! 

Without naming names: Some call it the O'Keefe Mound

Without naming names: Some call it the O'Keefe Mound

After passing through two tunnels (one very short one and one very very long one that had windows carved into it every hundred yards or so) we got to the other side of the park that had formations that were more familiar to us. We stopped by the visitors center to get our passport stamped and to ask a ranger about hiking The Narrows. It seemed that the conditions for this sometimes perilous (or even completely closed) hike would be ideal.

We got up the next morning and got outfitted for waterproof pants, neoprene socks, fancy river shoes, and a walking stick. We watched an informational video about the hike that covered everything from "don't splash strangers on purpose" and "collect solid human waste in bags is you need to go on the hike" to "if the water gets muddy, seek higher ground, you're likely going to see a flood. Good luck." Lots of preparation, but we wanted to be sure we were well equipped to handle any needs that should come up for any of the three of us so that we could truly enjoy a very unique experience.

I realize I should explain what the narrows hike is exactly because it is not a normal hike. We took a 40 minute park shuttle to a paved trailhead, walked about a mile and when the trail ended we went down some stairs to the Virgin River*. The river is actually at the bottom of a slot canyon and the hike is through the river. The canyon walls reach high above you, over a thousand feet in some places. The water was around 50 degrees and since we would have wet feet for several hours we thought having the gear might help us last longer on the hike. Indeed it did. Sure, there were some guys doing it in flip-flops and I envied them at first, but when we got to the deeper and shady parts of the river I was glad for the shoes and the waders.

Here we are at the start of the hike. Fresh, nervous, excited.

Before . . .

Before . . .

As we hiked along we passed someone who reminded us to be happy and enjoy it as much as possible because we were seeing the canyon and the river in a way many people never would. He was right. I smiled as I passed the little waterfall he told us to look for. I became happier and braver.

If only Rosie the Riveter was into nature, the poster would have had her in The Narrows

If only Rosie the Riveter was into nature, the poster would have had her in The Narrows

My mom became a bit meditative and awestruck.

Sam took his camera out of the waterproof bag so many times he stopped putting it away, as you can see. 

Our goal was an area called wall street and after a few hours of slow wading and photos galore, we arrived. Just two miles from our start, but the water slows the hike. 

Both my mom and I had cold feet, but Sam, ever the explorer and completely used to having 12 hours of cold feet (from working New York's film jobs in January and February for years) forged on for a little bit. Here is what he saw:

[Wall Street]

[Orderville Canyon]

By the time we turned around we knew we faced a time crunch. We had to return the gear, wanted to go back to the other side of the park to get some pictures of the taffy rock mountains, and then had to drive to Vegas.

That's right, Vegas. One night only! At the Mirage! thanks to my mom's research, generosity, and her coworkers' travel tips. But I'm ahead of myself. We did it all though. Returned the gear. Drive to the other side of the big tunnel and to pictures of the taffy mountains.

And minutes after my mom said "I'd love to see some long horned sheep," guess what we saw? And guess how many. No. Not two. Twice that! Two grown up sheep and two babies. Here's proof!

And then we drove. We got to Vegas. We bathed. We walked the strip on a Friday night. We went inside of the Bellaggio and Caesers. We ate. We slept. My poor mama only got an hour or two of sleep before she had to leave for the airport.

And in the morning we walked around some more, ate breakfast at the Omelet House (cheaper and tastier than anything we could afford on the strip), and then started the long drive to California.

Mom, thanks for taking the time to meet us out West. I am so glad we spent that time together, so proud of what we accomplished, and so glad for the memories we made together.

* Every geographic feature at Zion, including the park itself has a religious name. The Virgin River. The Court of the Patriarchs after Abraham and two other old testament guys. Angel's Landing.