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5 Surprising Guests to the Hot Springs in Arkansas

ARKANSAS - PART II

sunny 50 °F

The Hot Springs in Arkansas have been attracting an unusual cast of characters for centuries. This naturally flowing, super-heated water has been used through the generations for a variety of reasons making Hot Springs, Arkansas a hangout for an unusual cast of characters. Below is a list of 5 visitors that you may not expect to visit this national park in the middle of Arkansas.

Visitor 1 — Native Americans

Even before this area was discovered by explorers and settled by Europeans, the Native Americans were lounging in the hot streams flowing out of the mountain. Ever since the hot springs were found, people have been using them for therapeutic and medicinal purposes. The water that comes out of the springs fell as rain 4,000 years ago and seeped deeper and deeper into ground beneath the mountains. The water is naturally heated by pressure and earth's temperature before eventually being pushed back up through unique rock formations. And this is not just a little amount of water, we are talking 750,000 gallons of water a day!

Here is a view of the Ouachita Mountains and one of the naturally flowing hot springs that goes through the city (notice the steam!).

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Visitor 2 — The Sick

I guess sick people will try anything to get better! In the 1800s people believed that hot water would treat skin and blood diseases. Listen to some of these bizarre treatments that people endured:

  • Alternating between lounging in a 150° F hot spring pool to produce perspiration (which was thought to be an effective way to fight disease) and a cold-water stream. While sitting in the hot spring, people also drank the hot water.
  • Sitting in a wooden cabin built over the streams to breathe in the steam to treat respiratory illnesses for hours at a time
  • Enclosing oneself in a "vapor cabinet" (a box that you sat in that secured tightly around the neck) that heated up to 130° F

Eventually the government stepped in and limited some of the more crazy therapies by limiting baths to 20 minutes and showers to 90 seconds (but this may have been to conserve water since the park was becoming more and more popular). The average prescription for hot water therapy was a 3 week session, but people could stay for years.

Today there are still 2 bathhouses that still offer therapies. There are also water fountains throughout the park where you can drink the hot spring water. I drank from one of the fountains, and it tasted good (except it was hot!). They also have taps where you can fill up containers with the mineral water. I saw several cars lined up filling 5 gallon containers full of water.

Here is a picture of a vapor cabinet, a therapy shower and bath, and drinking from the water fountain.

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Visitor 3 — Major League Baseball

Starting in 1886, Major League Baseball teams starting their spring training in warmer climates. When the Chicago White Stockings chose Hot Springs as their training location, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Browns (Cardinals), Philadelphia Phillies, Brooklyn Dodgers, and New York Highlanders (Yankees) soon followed. Most teams continued this practice through the 1920s, and some continued to send pitchers/catchers through the 1940s. Babe Ruth was one of the many baseball players that loved visiting the hot springs.

Hot Springs was rising in popularity not only with Major League Baseball, but also with the general population. Hot Springs grew and grew, and the bathhouses became much more organized. The national park staff enclosed the streams beneath a street, and Bathhouse Row was created. 9 Bathhouses still sit on Bathhouse Row that runs along the Central Avenue. The park also collected, cooled, and distributed the hot spring water so that the individual bath houses didn't have to collect and cool their own water.

Here are some pictures of me and Jason out front of the bathhouses, a view from the walkway that lines the back of Bathhouse Row, and a view of the underground hot spring.

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Visitor 4 — Gangsters (including Al Capone)

Professional Athletes and the Sick weren't the only ones attracted to the therapeutic hot springs, criminals also flocked to Hot Springs. As far back as the 1880s, gangs were paying police to collect gambling debts. By 1920, ten full sized casino houses (along with smaller venues) and a dog/horse track could be found in Hot Springs. The Hot Springs was reported as a favored retreat by Al Capone.

The lavish lifestyles of professional athletes and gangsters eventually found their way into the bath houses. Everything in the bath houses was made of marble, statues decorated the individual rooms, and ornate stained glass decorated the ceilings. I thought it was very impressive, and invoked an image of Roman Bathhouses where the wealthy would hang out.

It wasn't until the late 1960s that the gambling was forcefully shut down (although there is still a racetrack).

Here are some pictures from the male bathroom (notice the naked women on the ceiling).

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Visitor 5 — Armed Services (Army & Navy)

During World War II, the army considered 20 cities as a redeployment area before selecting Hot Springs. Soldiers were granted a 21-day furlough in the city and received discounted rates at the bathhouses. Soldiers received physical and dental treatment before being deployed. In 1944, the army had taken over most of the hotels since the Army and Navy Hospital couldn't house all the soldiers.

The Army and Navy Hospital still sits behind Bathhouse Row and looks over the town of Hot Springs.

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Visitor 6 — Me and Jason!

We enjoyed our trip to Hot Springs, but it would have been nice to have a little more time so we could have experienced the bath services firsthand!

Posted by Mike.Flynn 08:39 Archived in USA Tagged mountains museum national_park Comments (0)

Glacier National Park

STATE 22 - MONTANA

sunny 60 °F

We left behind the beautiful state of Idaho and entered another state just as scenic. Megan and I headed to one of the most awe-inspiring National Parks in the country, Glacier National Park!

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Driving through the Rocky Mountains was just as beautiful crossing from Idaho into Montana as it was driving through the mountains passing from Colorado to Utah. Forested mountains surrounded blue lakes, and it seemed like we were the only people for miles.

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To get to Glacier National Park from Sandpoint, Idaho, we were supposed to follow a state highway north to about 10 miles from the Canadian border, head a couple miles west through a mountain pass, and then come back down south to the entrance of Glacier National Park. It was a long loop, but apparently there are not many passes through the Rocky Mountains in this area. When Megan pulled up the directions to Glacier National Park, the GPS found a direct route through the mountains that would cut 2 hours off our drive. I'm not usually one for blindly following the GPS, but a 2 hour time savings sounded too good to pass up. I left the highway and followed the road heading straight east.

Turning off the highway, the road looked like a standard two lane country road. 15 miles later, it turned into an unmarked paved road.

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In another 15 miles, we were no longer on a paved road.

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At this point, we had been driving for about 40 minutes. We could only drive about 20 MPH since our tiny 2 wheel drive Ford Focus was not quite equipped for off-road travel. I figured that turning around would cost us 40 minutes of time backtracking, plus 2 additional hours of driving time. The road was probably only gravel for a few miles before connecting to another road. Unfortunately, that didn't quite happen.

It turns out that NFSR-401, the name of the road we were on according to the GPS, does not stand for "Neat and Fast Shortcut Route" as I had naively thought, but rather for "National Forestry Service Road". The narrow, unpaved road we were traveling on was used by the National Forestry Service to travel through the Kootenai National Forest. The slow progression down the road was bad, but seeing that we still had another 43 miles until the next turn was even worse. I took a couple deep breaths, and tried to focus on the beautiful scenery around me. That worked until we encountered a log laying across the road.

I slowed the car, and briefly considered turning around. We had been traveling on the detour for over an hour, and it was going to start getting dark soon. I didn't want to be caught driving through a National Forest, on a narrow dirt path, with hundred foot drops at night. I said screw it, and stubbornly decided to continue forward. I punched the accelerator and attempted to "jump" the log. The car slammed into the log, the steering wheel jerked hard to one side, and Megan and I were thrown forward. When we landed, we miraculously ended up on the other side of the the log, and I thanked God when the car still seemed drivable. Expecting that the worst was behind us (there was now only 10 miles until we left the NFSR), we ran into the next obstacle—a river was running over the road.

I always heard you shouldn't drive through standing water, but it's not like we had a choice. I didn't want to try log jumping again, and the water didn't look that deep. Megan, who kept uncharacteristically silent during the log incident, began to openly express her concern with going across the water. I told her that I would try to go through the shallower looking mud and just try to keep moving. Figuring it had worked well before, I punched the accelerator and tried to get as much momentum as possible before reaching the water and mud (while muttering a quick Hail Mary). Water shot off the side of the car as we sliced through the river. We slowed to a crawl, and I fully expected water to start coming in from the door jams. Somehow we made it to the other side without getting stuck.

Thankfully we emerged from the dirt road with our car still intact. Our route through the forest had taken over 3 hours. The previously white, shiny car was now covered in mud and dust. A thousand insects peppered the front grill and windshield, but at least Megan and I had made it through alive. I wish I had more pictures of the off-road ordeal, but honestly I had been too nervous to think about documenting the experience.

Sticking to the main road, we eventually found ourselves on the outskirts of the National Park. We entered an Visitor Center to get more information on which trails through the park were closed. Never did I expect that we would have to worry about trails being closed due to snow at the end of July. It can snow at Glacier National Park at any point during the year, even the middle of summer! The Visitor Center didn't have any information on closed trails because it was actually the Alberta Visitor Center (for traveling into Canada). I took a picture with a mounty, looked around quickly, and then got back into the car to head into the park.

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Glacier National Park is humungous, over a million acres in size. Wildlife is abundant. Mountain goats, black bears, grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, lynx, cougars, wolves, moose, deer, and plenty more can be found throughout the park. Megan was scared to death of encountering a bear while we were out hiking, and I had spent a good portion of the road trip assuring her that we would not see a bear. However, not 30 seconds after paying the entrance fee to enter the park, we came across our first bear.

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It was awesome seeing the bear walk through the forest, although also a little scary. Megan had read up on what to do when encountering a bear (play dead when encountering a grizzly, fight back when encountering a black bear). She had also tried to convince me to get bear bells (bells attached to your backpack that jingle as you hike so you don't sneak up on a bear) and bear spray (heavy duty pepper spray). My fears grew upon stopping at the Visitor Center when we learned that of the top 3 trails we wanted to hike, 1 was closed due to snow, 1 was closed to a bear attack the day before, and the third had both a grizzly and black bear sighting earlier in the morning. To get Megan's mind (and mine) off of bears, we walked outside to take in the view of Lake McDonald and head to a bear-free trail.

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We took the bus to the Avalanche Trail trailhead. There is only one road that winds through the mountains of Glacier National Park, Going To the Sun Road. It is incredibly scenic, as we caught spectacular views of Lake McDonald and the surrounding mountains.

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We did a quick hike through the Trail of the Cedars before heading up Avalanche Trail. The trail was only a couple miles long following an ice-cold, cool-blue stream. The trail was fairly busy, with a large number of people jingling from their bear bells. With all the foot traffic, it seemed unlikely that a bear would be anywhere close to this trail (I was both relieved, but also disappointed). Bears, or no bears, the hike along the stream and through the woods was great.

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At the end of the trail we encountered a glacier lake, Avalanche Lake, that was the source of the stream. The sun was warm, and encouraged us to wade out into the water. The water was like ice! Waterfalls streamed down the mountain ridges in the distance, and the clear, blue water sparkled magnificently.

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We sat on the edge of the water and took in the scenery. It was late in the afternoon, so the crowds had thinned out, and we were almost left alone. Once our feet had thawed from wading the water, we put our boots back on and made our way back down to the bus stop. Tomorrow morning we planned on getting an early start to do a full day hike on the trail with the multiple bear sightings.

We parked our car at the trailhead leading to the Granite Park Chalet. The sun was just starting to rise over the horizon, and everything was eerily quiet. The trail lead straight up one of the mountains to an overnight camping lodge, although we planned to hike back down later in the afternoon. We were the first ones on the trail that morning, and a sign that said "Entering Grizzly Country" reminded me that this trail had bear sightings the day before.

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As we hiked, Megan did her best to engage me in a conversation (one of the tactics to prevent a bear attack is to make noise while hiking, such as talking loudly, to make sure you don't surprise them), but I am not much of a conversationalist on the trail. Plus, I thought, I would be able to spot a bear well before we got close enough for it to be a threat. About that time, the bushes rustled 10 feet in front of me and a large animal jumped onto the trail.

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It was only a deer, but it could have been a mouse and I would have been just as startled. If I didn't see a deer 10 feet away, I was just as likely to miss the bear. On either side of the trail, grasses and flowers rose 4 feet, almost totally obscuring the immediate view. Once my heart started beating at a normal pace, we started back up the trail.

The first part of the trail wound through a section of dead trees. A wildfire had burned 10% of the park in 2003. The dead trees weren't as pretty as the live ones, but they allowed clear views of the surrounding mountains while we hiked.

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Wildflowers were everywhere on the trail, adding vibrant color and contrast to the green fields and trees. Pink and purple, yellow and white, big and small, flowers were in every color and size.

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Eventually the trail wound above the treeline and offered awesome views of the mountains and glaciers off in the distance.

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About 2/3 the way up the trail, snow and ice began to dot the side of the mountain and eventually covering the pathway. The trail also wound back through a heavily forested area. Megan began trying to talk to me loudly again, so I knew she was nervous about entering the forest. After an hour or so of clear visibility, we could no longer see what was waiting around each turn.

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Deciding it was time to take a break, I turned around to give Megan some water. I noticed she was carrying something in each hand. When I asked her what she had, she held up a rock in each hand. She had picked up weapons to use in case a bear attacked. One rock was her "stunning rock", a larger baseball-sized rock, while the other rock was the "cutting rock" due to its sharp edges. In the event of encountering a bear, I was now more likely to be pelted with rocks as to be attacked by a bear.

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We made it safely through the woods and up to the Granite Park Chalet. The view was outstanding.

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We sat down outside the lodge and ate a light lunch. Chipmunks scattered about, anxiously awaiting for us to drop something. From the lodge, the trail forked to go different directions. We watched hikers attempt to cross snow covered passes off in the distance. Only one group made it successfully across, the others turning around to come back to the lodge. The cold bite in the air encouraged us to begin the hike back down the mountain.

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We got back to the car and decided to drive the rest of the Going To the Sun Road through the park. The entire road was over 40 miles long, but it offered magnificent views of roadside waterfalls, valley views, and mountain ridges. The road was uncomfortably tight, and delays due to road construction gave us plenty of time to soak in the views. Upon reaching the far side of the park, we encountered a totally different view of the park. The great plains of the middle of country stretched out as far as we could see, a stark contrast to Rocky Mountains behind us. We circled around the park to begin the long drive back into Washington to catch our flights home.

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Posted by Mike.Flynn 10:10 Archived in USA Tagged mountains animals hiking national_park world_heritage_site Comments (0)

3 Reasons to Visit Idaho Other than the Potatoes

STATE 21 - IDAHO

sunny 75 °F

When I (someone living in the opposite corner of the country) think of Idaho, I think of the Idaho potatoes. I have never met anyone from Idaho, and I've never been there personally, so there really hasn't been anything or anyone to educate me about the state. Well, I am going to set you straight (if you are as clueless about Idaho as I used to be). I am going to share 3 reasons to visit Idaho other than the potatoes (although there is a 1 in 3 chance your potato came from Idaho)!

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Western Idaho (along with eastern Washington) is known for its great tasting wines. Vineyard after vineyard passed by the first hour driving through Idaho. The slightly arid climate and hilly landscape give long period of sunlight during grape-growing season. The grapes have a concentrated fruit flavor, perfect for making wine (similar to the wine country in South Australia). Here is one of the vineyards we passed just after we entered Idaho.

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The hills grew larger, eventually forming mountains. Trees filled the countryside, and lakes filled the valleys. Western Idaho is very scenic. We turned north to head to Sandpoint, ID in the skinny northern section of the state. Few cars were on the road, and there were even fewer towns. Most of the area here is reserved for National Forests. This leads me to Reason #1 to Visit Idaho Other than the Potatoes: Lots of forests, trails, and rivers. It's an outdoorsman's paradise. As far as the eye can see, the land is unspoiled by humans, and the land that is being used is for growing grapes for wine!

We eventually wound our way into Sandpoint (couldn't miss it, the highway slows to 25mph when it forms the main street in town). It had the feeling of a small beach town. Most of the people were on foot wearing bathing suits or riding bikes. We parked the car and walked through the town. The town was only about 5 blocks long, but it was the biggest town I had seen since entering Idaho (most of the people in the state live in the southern end near Boise). It was relaxing, no one seemed to be in a hurry to go anywhere. A bluegrass band played some mountain music while people moved in and out of the shops.

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Megan and I went into one of the wineries in town to try some of the wine we passed by on the road. The winery was called Pend D'Oreille, named after the local Indian tribe that lived around the lake. They had a variety of wines, choosing not to focus one particular type of grape. Megan got excited when they had 3 different types of desert wine for her to try.

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We chatted with the bartender about being from North Carolina, and he kept our glasses filled. I could have sat in there all day, but we wanted to see Lake Pend Oreille and some of the trails in the area. We thanked the bartender and headed back out onto main street.

We walked through town towards the lake access. To my surprise, a giant beach surrounded the park next to the lake. No wonder it felt like a beach town! This was the closest beach for some of these land-locked Idahoans.

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It wasn't exactly hot outside compared to a North Carolina summer, but it was roasting for northern Idaho. Everyone was at the beach, playing in the sand and splashing in the water. People were riding skateboards and bikes along the walkway lining the beach. We both waded into the water, and then promptly got out (it was chilly!).

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We continued down the beach. People were grilling out and sunbathing, while kids dove off floating logs serving as a swimming barrier. Every person for miles was probably on the beach, and it was hardly crowded at all. The mountains rising over the clear, blue water was very pretty. Reason #2 for Visiting Idaho Other than the Potatoes: It is hard to beat the views.

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We followed a trail going around the lake. A few people passed us on bikes, but for the most part the trail was empty. We passed by some swimmers that were doing half mile loops in the lake (most of them we wearing wetsuits). Megan found the "biggest dandelion in the world", and proceeded to blow the seeds into the wind.

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The trail eventually went over a bridge, so we stopped to watch the sun set over the water. The lake and surrounding mountains were absolutely beautiful. The air was clean and refreshing. A train went over a nearby bridge, adding to the backdrop.

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We walked back into town to try the local brewery and get some dinner. Megan has come a long way, from disliking all beer to now enjoying a few of the darker varieties. It is my belief that she makes up her mind whether she is going to like something before she even tries it, so I challenged her to a blind beer taste test. I ordered a sampler of beer and had her blindly taste all the varieties in the brewery.

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She started going through the beers randomly, ranking them 1 to 5. The darker beers scored much higher than the hoppier beers, so it seemed that she genuinely didn't like the bitterness of a hoppier beer. Instead of randomly handing her beers, I started just handing her only the hoppy ones, just to see her bitter-beer face. It was hilarious. After taking a sip, she involuntarily shuttered and made a bitter-beer face.

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To make Megan feel better, I started making a bitter-beer face after every drink. Here is my bitter beer face.

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To try some authentic Idahoan food, Megan and I ordered the Idaho specialty, the magnificent spud. Megan opted for the french-fried variety, while I stuck to the homemade chip.

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Reason #3 to Visit Idaho Other than the Potato: It was one of the most relaxing days I've had in a long time. And the potato was pretty good too!

Posted by Mike.Flynn 13:44 Archived in USA Tagged mountains beer beach local_food Comments (0)

Columbia River Gorge

STATE 19 - OREGON

sunny 85 °F

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This picture appeared in my National Geographic Traveler magazine that arrived just days before my trip out west. This picture is the reason I am looking forward to visiting Oregon. Waterfalls, giant trees, moss covered trails—a hiking wonderland. This specific waterfall was to be my destination immediately upon leaving the airport. Unfortunately it is a six-hour drive west to reach this waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge from Spokane, Washington where I landed.

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To my surprise, the drive from eastern Washington into eastern Oregon looked nothing like the photograph in National Geographic.

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Where were the trees? Where were the mountains? Where were the breweries and the birkenstock-clad, bearded men I had been promised? Much like there is more to North Carolina than sandy beaches and the Appalachian mountains, a large portion of Oregon is void of mountains. The Cascade Mountain range cuts through the western edge of Oregon, and along with a prevailing westward wind, keeps most of the moisture near the coast. I was driving through an arid plateau, and it would be a while until I see any trees.

In fact, the first trees I saw where obviously planted by man. The trees formed perfectly straight lines, it looked like a never-ending tree farm.

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This tree farm was gigantic, stretching for miles down the highway. The Boardman Tree Farm stretches out over 30,000 acres. Eventually the tree lines ended, and I was presented with more dusty scenery. The highway I was traveling on, Interstate 84, runs along the Columbia River, the river that separates Oregon from Washington. Although the river was visible next to the highway, it was far from the view presented in National Geographic.

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Way off in the distance, I saw what looked like a mountain. A solitary mountain surrounded by dusty plains. In the middle of the summer, it looked to be covered in ice. What I saw was Mount Hood, the tallest peak in Oregon. The Cascade Mountains are actually part of the the Pacific Ring of Fire, the volcanic hotspot that we all learned about in 4th grade that circles the Pacific Ocean. This giant mountain was actually a volcano similar to Mount St. Helens. I was finally getting closer to the mountains and the waterfalls.

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The Columbia River Gorge is the only natural passage way through the Cascade Mountain range. The highway twists and turns as it follows the steep slopes of the mountains. I tried to follow the signs to get to the Eagle Creek Wilderness Trails, but I never saw the exit I needed to take off the interstate. After a couple wrong turns, I eventually was stopped by park security as I tried to enter a secure zone. Explaining that I couldn't find my exit, the park ranger informed me that the exits were only available on the westbound side of the interstate, there were no cloverleaf style interchanges. Following the ranger's directions, I was able to find the trailhead and start my hike into Columbia River Gorge.

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A 5 mile trail from led from the parking lot to the waterfall from National Geographic. The trail was beautiful. Gigantic trees loomed overhead (although not quite as big as the ones I saw while hiking in Tasmania or the Tingles in Western Australia). A picture doesn't really show how big the trees are because no one is in the picture for a reference, but the smaller tree in this picture was easily 50 feet tall, and it would take at least 4 people to form a circle with their arms around the big pine.

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The trail hugged the slope of one of the mountains, and a large pass hung precariously over a drop. A steel cable was bolted to the rock for support, but it was nerve-racking when I had to let go to pass someone on the trail. You couldn't beat the views though.

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The trail started to make its way down to the bottom of the gorge, and I was presented with my first view of the falls.

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Upon reaching the bottom, several waterfalls cascaded down the valley. People sat on rocks taking in the scenery, while others briefly swam in the cold waters. You can't see the waterfalls in this picture looking downstream, but it gives you an idea of what it was like standing on the edge of Eagle Creek.

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Following Eagle Creek upstream, I finally found the waterfall that inspired the entire trip.

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The waterfall (Punch Bowl Falls) is much larger than it looks in the picture (which surprised me). It is over 30 feet tall, but you can't get super close without swimming out to it. I saw a crowd gathering to watch the falls, and then noticed someone fly through the air and land in the water beneath the falls. A group of younger guys were jumping off a ledge 4 times higher than the waterfall! It looked insane, and only a couple actually braved the jump (I assume the rest climbed back down via a trail). I rested my legs and watched a dog fetch rocks from the water. I got someone to take my picture in front of the falls, and then hiked back to my car. My travel through Oregon has only started, as I planned to spend the next week in Portland, Oregon.

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Posted by Mike.Flynn 07:14 Archived in USA Tagged waterfalls mountains hiking state_park Comments (0)

Winter Olympics & Sundance Film Festival - Park City, UT

UTAH - PART III

overcast 65 °F

When I wrote about hiking on Antelope Island, I mentioned several times how beautiful the mountains looked off in the distance. It is now time to go into those mountains and up to Park City.

Megan originally got me interested in Park City because of an article written in National Geographic Traveler. This edition focused on places to visit during the winter, and the article focusing on Park City described it as a top ski destination. The article also mentioned the art scene, the shopping, and the lively nightlife. When doing my own research, I found something the article missed when talking about Park City that certainly would have piqued my interest. Park City was also the location for filming the Aspen scenes in Dumb & Dumber.

Driving into Park City, it is obvious that the area is big on skiing. When Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics, it only made the skiing more popular. Who wouldn't want to ski on the same slopes as Olympic athletes? As you get closer, apartments built for the Olympics begin to line the side of the road. Three different skiing areas are right next to one another, one set of slopes ending directly in town.

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Just like Salt Lake City was surrounded by mountains, Park City is surrounded by ski slopes. The picture above doesn't do a great job illustrating the view, but look at the slope furthest to the left. See the big jumps?

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I did a double take when I first saw the giant mounds, thinking that some type of optical illusion was taking place. I wasn't even close to the slopes and I thought the jumps were humongous. I squinted to try and see if anyone was actually stupid enough to go off those jumps, but it looked like there was no activity on any of the slopes. Everything looked closed, I guess it was just late enough in the season for conditions on the slopes to be unfavorable.

We continued into town and found a place to park just off Main St. The main strip is full of colorful looking shops and people walking everywhere. The largest independent film festival in the country, the Sundance Film Festival, is held here every year. Every building becomes a theater and other temporary theaters are built in any open space. Most stores had pictures of the street during the festival, and it looked like people were standing shoulder to shoulder up and down the street. It was still crowded when we were there, despite the ski slopes being closed and there being no film festival.

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It was already getting late in the afternoon, so we wanted to check out some of the art galleries and the Park City Museum before they closed. The museum was at the top of the hill, so we started making our way up Main St. Megan made a big deal of me getting her cowboy boots in the picture, so make sure you notice them.

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We did some window shopping on the way up Main St. Clothing stores lined both sides of the road, while a hot sauce shop that gave free samples and a cheese shop added some variety to the scene. People were standing outside the bars and restaurants. Then Megan saw it, the store named with her own personal catch phrase, "Livin' Life" (spend a day around Megan, you'll hear her say it).

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The museum looked like another store front from the outside, but the National Geographic Traveler article spoke highly of it. We only had an hour before the museum closed, and the lady at the front desk spent 10 minutes telling us all the stuff that we had to see while we were there. We moved away slowly from the front desk (the lady was still yammering on about the Pony Express exhibit and how 30 elementary school kids contributed blah blah blah) and began going through the exhibits. The first exhibit was a train that you entered to hear an intro about Park City and watch various scenery go by (I guess it was supposed to be like riding the train into the city). I only lasted 5 minutes into the video, I was feeling the time crunch too much to sit through a somewhat interesting video.

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The museum was much larger than it looked from the outside, and was actually 3 separate floors. The main floor talked about the history of Park City itself. Its migration from mining town, to ski resort, to hosting an international film festival and Olympic games. We stepped off the train and entered a recreation of an old grocery store. There was a display of people wearing ski equipment from the past 100 years (originally just strapping a piece of wood to your boot). There was a video showing the city during the Sundance Music Festival which described how people camped out just to get a ticket to any showing.

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Park City is surrounded by mines. Rich veins of silver run through the mountains, and mine after mine was commissioned to extract it. The museum had a two story model of how a mine looked, and it was incredibly detailed. We followed the model to the floor below. Here were the real hands-on exhibits. You can actually climb into an old mine cart and see how people descended thousands of feet below ground. Megan sat in an old subway car that used to carry mine workers, and was later converted into an underground ski lift.

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They explained how the mining process worked and how the silver was extracted from the ore. They had a huge cart full of unprocessed silver ore so we could see it in its raw form.

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The best part of the mining section was the drill and TNT simulators. Watch the videos below of me mining for ore using the drill and Megan blowing up the mountain with TNT.

The museum was also built on top of the old jail, so there was a whole section dedicated to the prisoners (who were typically union strikers). It certainly would have been a miserable place to be locked up.

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We finished looking through the rest of the exhibits, and started to head out of the museum. Just as the lady at the front desk began to open her mouth to talk more about the exhibits, we dashed out the front door.

Megan had been excited to check out some of the bars and restaurants in the area. There is a whiskey distillery in Park City that has a restaurant, so we headed there to try the local spirits. The restaurant was so packed that we couldn't even get in the waiting area. We went over to the bar, and after waiting 15 minutes without so much as even getting noticed by a bartender, we left. We then tried to go to a bar that made their own beer and served bison burgers next. There was hardly any room to walk inside, much less a place to sit down. We walked next door to another bar that was almost entirely empty (which is never a good sign). We ordered two local beers, and upon realizing that they were $7 a piece, we decided to leave. Park City was nice, but it was also a ski resort town and therefore twice as expensive as it needed to be.

Deciding that the crowds and prices weren't worth hanging around for, Megan and I headed back towards Salt Lake City. A heavy rain started to fall, and it was nearly impossible to see driving down the mountain. While the rain didn't help with visibility, the main issue was the lack of street lights and reflectors on the road. I guess roads that get plowed frequently don't have reflectors, and it would have been a pain to put street lights through the mountains.

When thinking of a place to eat dinner, we decided to go with what we knew we liked. We went to the same place as the night before, Red Iguana. Megan took just as long to pick out what she wanted, the food was just as delicious, and we enjoyed our meal just as much.

We made it back to the hotel and watched a movie until we fell asleep. We had left the window open because the hotel had not turned on the AC yet, and the next morning our room was freezing. Overnight, six inches of snow had fallen. Yesterday had been in the 70s, while today was below freezing. Thankfully we were able to make it back to the airport without any issues, our road trip out west had come to a close.

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Posted by Mike.Flynn 16:51 Archived in USA Tagged mountains museum Comments (0)

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