Gibbon Song

I wrote about the Gibbon Experience here about a year ago, but I've done a more detailed write up at Atlas Obscura for Animal Week (I also redesigned the AO logo with a cat for animal week, which we here in the office are fondly refering to as Catlas Obscura), and finally uploaded the Gibbon Song to the internets. This beautiful sound filled each morning in the Laotian jungle.

Olympic National Park

Last month Dylan and I spent a glorious four days camping in Olympic National Park. We saw it all - driftwood beaches, rainforests, crystal blue lakes, Victorian lodges, natural hot springs, a handful of the world's largest trees, mountain tops, and wildlife. The campsites were some of the most beautiful I've ever stayed at. It was heaven and I can't wait to go back one day.

End of Summer Excursions

This has been a banner year for travel. Since last September, I've visited Finland, Iceland, London, Montreal, Vermont, Woodstock NY, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Greenfield MA, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Appalachian Trail, New Hampshire, Maine...and this last month alone, the Catskills, the Delaware Water Gap, and Olympic National Park in Washington (more on that soon). Wow. I just got around to organizing my photos from my weekend in the Catskills, and after that, a weekend canoeing the Delaware Water Gap. Please allow me to share them with you! Natures!

First up, the Catskills, where our friend rented a house for her birthday weekend. We made new friends, played pool, swam in a swimming hole, and soaked in a hot tub on the deck while watching a thunderstorm roll in.

We stayed in this amazing A-frame, which glowed like an orange triangle in the night.

We took walks boldy, right in the middle of sleepy country roads.

We found a swing near a creek, which we called a crick.

We discovered a waterfall, and were surrounded by loud thunderclaps, but no rain.

We drove to a swimming hole, with water so blue, and so so cold.

Pretty picturesque, like a scene out of a movie.

Mist in the trees made the woods look like a painting.

Sunset after a storm.

The following weekend we rented a car with two of our friends and headed out to Pennsylvania to canoe and camp along the Delaware River Gap.

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We canoed off the main river to pull over for lunch. It was too shallow to canoe here so there was a lot of wading and canoe-pulling.

 You are free to pull over anywhere you like along the river for a swim or a hot rock sunbathe. We did both here.

Campsites dot the riverside. You see one you like, you simply canoe on over and claim it for the night. Look at this spot we got! The cicadas at night were deafening.

I mean, look at it!

We made ourselves right at home.

After much chopping and sawing of dead wood, we started on our elaborate dinner. This is me chopping lettuce.

And this is Katie, warming torillas for our tacos, hours later. They were worth the wait.

A firelight family portrait: Katie, Justin, and Dylan.

I have a feeling this is the beginning of a new summer tradition.

Arizona Road Trip

After driving 6 hours from Las Vegas, the first order of business was sausages.

IMG_0836We spent the next two days hiking the canyon and trying not to freeze in our tent at night.

IMG_0741There was oohing and aahing.

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IMG_0778Mules are for lazy people.

IMG_0762Purples!

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IMG_0826Dylan enjoys a campfire grilled cheese.

IMG_0846On the long drive back, we were up for anything to get us off the road for a minute, and Bedrock City, a roadside attraction seemingly unchanged since the 1970s offered an exciting respite.

IMG_0862We were the only two people in Bedrock City, which is made up of about 20 Flinstone's buildings against a lonely desert backdrop. Everything in Bedrock City is charmingly handmade, sometimes with frightening results (see next photo)

IMG_0866I mean, what is happening here?

IMG_0953Back on the road. We saw a train! How quaint!

IMG_0985Historic Route 66

IMG_0975We had burgers and shakes at the famous Snow Cap Drive-In.

IMG_0960Snow Cap is longer a drive-in, but it does have this neat business card/flyer filled order area.

IMG_0998I like signs.

IMG_1070The last stop of the day was the Hoover Dam, as you can see by the adorable signage on the old visitor's center.

IMG_1083These remind me of the towers in OZ when the Wicked Witch of the West is chasing the gang around. I love them, they somehow manage to evoke the art deco past and a dystopian future at the same time.

IMG_1067Apparently the Hoover Dam Bypass here was only put into use three years ago, but I felt like it could have been part of the original design. It's incredibly elegant in person. It's hard to get an idea of scale from this photo, but this bridge was just enormous. It nearly dwarfed the dam itself.

IMG_1050There it is, the old H.D., that marvel of engineering! To be honest, by the time we got here, I was so exhausted from driving that I enjoyed the dam in stupified silence, followed by a little bit of whining. Until we stepped into the historic visitor's center, into the air conditioning, and my favorite part of the Hoover Dam experience.

IMG_1086Yes, it's a huge diorama of all of the areas that the Hoover Dam benefits! Before the fancy museum and the goofy film that is part of today's Hoover Dam visitor experience, folks shuffled into this small room, sat down, and listened to a recording about the Hoover Dam, while the diorama lights up the different areas of the scale model as they are mentioned. The recording is hilariously dry, and there is an especially giggly part in which all of the dams in the area are described in detail. It is like the South-West Dam version of the Bible's begats ("And Hoover Dam begat Laguna Dam: and Laguna Dam begat Glen Canyon Dam: and Glen Canyon Dam begat Alamaden Dam..."

IMG_1093The little signs! The little details! I wish I could eat it.

IMG_1092I love this little crops. This was the last thing we saw before we drove back to Vegas, I had a little heat exhaustion melt-down, and after plenty of time in the pool, we went on to explore Vegas. Which will be covered in the next post! Soon!

Wisconsin Winter Walks

Every year, Dylan and I spend 4 days around Christmas at a lodge in Wisconsin with his family. It is a festive event, annually including fireworks, games with the cousins, nightly nacho cheese and chips time, unlimited beers, and long winter walks.

This was a banner year for winter walks. Look at that snow! Drink in the majesty!

From inside the lodge.

We brought one cup of coffee, and then fought over it.

There seems to be a foot bridge up ahead.

There it is, as promised!

I'm on it! It made many alarming creaks and cracks as we crossed it.

Dylan's snowy feet balancing precariously.

Taking in the view.

This happened on a different day, but I had to include a photo of our chestnuts - roasted over an open fire! We burned most of them, but for those willing to search, a few were truly delicious. How to do so here.

Lapland

Dylan and I have just returned from an incredible trip to Finland. Our good friend Jessica recently finished her stunning documentary about a family of wild reindeer herders (the Aatsinkis) living in Lapland, and she invited us, along with two other friends, to join her on her most recent trip to screen the film for the family. We spent four glorious days in Salla, Finland, which is about 2 hours north of the arctic circle. I am still dreaming of creamy reindeer soup, chopping wood with a dull hatchet, throwing water on the sauna coals, and endless games of spades.

After an overnight train from Helsinki (how I love overnight trains–there's nothing like falling asleep to the sound and motion of a train) we finally cross the arctic circle.

The sauna, wood storage hut, and creepy falling-down building near our cabin. I'm off to collect some wood for a sauna fire.

Our cabin's stove, which was nearly the size of the cabin itself, with a few antlers thrown in for good measure.

The road to our cabin - and if you stay on it for a few more kilometers, you'll hit the Russian border!

There was much hiking. I loved the little wooden platforms laid out across the marshy areas.

Whoa, what's a jCrew model doing, posing in the middle of Lapland? Oh wait, it's just Dylan working his fall wardrobe.

In Lapland, fall color isn't just seen in the trees, it's also on the ground. In Finnish it's called maaruska (maa means earth and ruska is their name for the autumn colors) (also, I lifted that straight from Jessica's site, and her pictures of maaruska from 2011 are much more exuberant than mine.)

One of our hikes led us to a huge fenced-in area containing reindeer. It was like a deer park, except much much bigger, emptier, and nicer for the reindeer.

Handsome.

A reindeer and I having a heart-to-heart. Because it was a park, these reindeer are more comfortable with humans than those in the wild, which is why I could get so close. I actually touched his velvety antlers! It was a thrill. I was pretty sure I was going to be gored, but he didn't seem to mind.

After a nice hike and a long sauna followed by a freezing cold dip in a lake, the Aatsinkis prepared us an incredible traditional feast. We sat in this little hut on piles of reindeer skins. It was windy that night, as you can see.

This is the amazing firepit thing where our meal was cooked. Lasse here is making "pancakes" which were like delicious crepes, into which we spooned reindeer salad. He put the batter on a pan which swung in and out of the fire as needed. It's hard to tell from this picture, but all around the fire there are boards with salmon attached with wooden pegs, which sat there smoking for hours. In the corner of the fireplace is a cast iron kettle, which provided us with hot coffee after the meal was over. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Effingham, NH; Part Two

More photos from our weekend at Ann's house!

Without any lighter fluid to get the charcoal going in the grill, Dylan decides to attempt to cook our dinner over the brasier. After much tending and fussing with the flames...

The chicken goes on...

and grills up with greatest success! Dylan was inordinately proud of his cooking vessel switch-a-roo.

Night barn

Night porch

Berries and cream before bed.

Canoeing down a little river to Ossipee Lake

We pulled over onto a little sandbar for a picnic.

It took all of my willpower not to enhance this crazy rainbow sunburst in photoshop - this is what we saw in all its un-enhanced glory!

Effingham, NH; Part one

Dylan and I spent this past weekend at Ann's house in New Hampshire, Ann being Dylan's second cousin, and her house being the location of our wedding last summer. It was so wonderful to go back there, I don't think there is a more peaceful place on the planet.

Violets everywhere!

The stately front door

I got real close to a butterfly.

A displaced gravestone in the small family cemetery on Ann's property.

Dylan learns to chainsaw! What a guy.

I'm hauling away sticks on the tractor, in a funny hat.

What could be more charming than a basket of flowers?

I'm making little bouquets to put around the house. Bunches of these lilacs came home with us, on a 5 hour car ride, a train ride, and two subways.

Dusk and a little mountain.

Dusk engulfs the barn and outhouse.

Birds of Hanoi's Zoological Museum

One of the highlights of our trip was the chance to see the incredible Bảo tàng Động vật, a little-known French-Colonial era zoological museum in Hanoi, Vietnam. The museum consists of three rooms - Mammals, Reptiles and Fish, and Birds. While all of the rooms were bursting with charm, the bird room boasted recently installed lights in the antique display cases - the lights were a harsh white shade, yet despite that harshness, they were also quite dim. The resulting photos of eyeless birds and lifeless skin studies in this odd light have a slightly eerie tone that I love.

Southeast Asia: Halong Bay, Vietnam

Before we left for Asia, everyone who had been to Vietnam told us to go to Halong Bay. They all said the same thing: it's really touristy, and totally worth it. They were all right. Halong Bay is an magestic landscape of limestone rock formations jutting out of a moss green sea. It is also chock full of "junks" - 15th(?) century style boats, each one housing a tour group. That said, there are long stretches on the water where no other vessel is in sight, and in those moments, the landscape's mysterious and lonely quality are stunning. We actually quite loved our tour. It was fun sleeping in our own wooden room on the junk, and kayaking among the towering formations was a highlight of our entire trip so far. On the second day we biked and hiked through Cat Ba National Park, a jungle-y tangle of plants and vines, and stopped at Monkey Island, where Dylan nearly lost his face to a monkey attack. So if you're planning a trip to Vietnam, go to Halong Bay: It's really touristy, and totally worth it.

Pulling out of the harbor with a mess of other junk boats.

We didn't have the best weather, but the thick grey skies certainly added to the eeriness as formations emerged out of the fog.

A floating village, of which there were many dotted throughout the bay.

This woman seemed to be scooping water into her boat, maybe keeping the day's catch wet?

The dock to the beach where we had lunch.

Dylan takes in the view as we chug along.

A spider in Cat Ba National Park - just about the size of a grown man's hand.

Dylan loves the hiking!

This photo was taken seconds before this outraged little monkey tried to attack Dylan. It leapt at his head, and as Dylan spun around to protect his precious face, the monkey sprung from his backpack into a nearby tree, and moments later, repeated the action. Dylan was so scared, he shrieked like a girl and pushed me into the monkey's path, so I think it's safe to assume that if this was a dominant male attack, Dylan's response promptly ended it.

We never wanted to leave.