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.

The Grant Museum of Zoology's Micrarium

I just got back from a whirlwind last-minute trip to London - it was primarily a work trip, but time was made to see some of London's more curious sites. I have more than 1,000 photos to comb through, but I thought I'd share a highlight; the Micrarium.

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A mirror on the ceiling makes the Micrarium appear to go on forever. Unless you accidentally photograph yourself in that mirror.

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The Grant Museum of Zoology is amazing all on its own. Founded in 1828, the museum walls lined floor-to-ceiling with wet specimens, taxidermy, dissections, skeletons, wax models, and even, inexplicably, a collection of jars full of multiples - a jar of snakes, a jar of moles, a jar of starfish, a jar of turtles.

I am obsessed with old collections, but amazingly, my favorite feature of the museum is brand new. The Micrarium opened in February of this year, and is a magical room of backlit microscope slides, more than 2000 of them.

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An estimated 95% of the known animal kingdom is smaller than a human thumb, so they say, and the Grant Museum decided to dig into their slide archives and give some of these smaller specimens in their collection a bit of time in the spotlight.

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Old Magic lantern slides line the bottom of the Micrarium.

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Each slide deserves a moments' pause.

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Each one is more beautiful than the last. Dare I say, this may just be my favorite spot in London.

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Boyce Thompson Agricultural Institute

IMG_1853 Last Friday a small contingent of the Atlas Obscura team went out to Yonkers to explore the abandoned greenhouses and building that formerly housed the Boyce Thompson Agricultural Institute. I am normally extremely risk adverse so trespassing makes me embarrassingly nervous, but the beauty of these abandoned greenhouses transported me away from my fears. Wandering atop a thick layer of broken glass under a green-tinted roof felt like an eerie fairytale.

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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!

Montreal Retrospective

Last month Dylan and I took an impromptu trip to Montreal, thanks to a special promotion on train tickets. The 11 hour train ride hugs the banks of Lake Champlain for much of the journey, which was very beautiful and very relaxing. I thought the train ride might end up being my favorite part of the trip, but just walking around Montreal took the cake. (A close second was warm poutine on a cold night.) Anyway, here are some things we saw.

 I think of these as Harry Potter houses, maybe because of the Gryffindor red and yellow.

The Buckminster Fuller designed Biosphere, a relic from the 67 Expo.

We managed to get a tour at McGill University's appointment only McPherson Physics Collection. Sciences!

Me and a giant robot.

The achingly beautiful Notre Dam Basilica.

Abandoned factory along Canal Lachine.

Ship votive at the Notre Dame de Bon Secours Chapel, aka The Sailors' Church, where sailors stopped in for one last prayer before long and dangerous sea voyages.

The Riviere du Nord, and some little people doing something at its edge

The lovely Redpath Museum at McGill University, two levels packed with natural history specimens and ethnography artifacts.

I want him.

Puffin!

 Triceratops head on a cabinet.

Olympic building from the 1976 Montreal Olympics French Pavilion, now Le Casino de Montreal

24 Hours in Iceland

It's been five months since my trip to Finland, but today's grey and rainy Brooklyn reminded me of our grey and rainy 24 hour layover in Iceland. I hadn't even looked at the photos since we returned. So here they are. 5 months late. As is my way.

 First stop, straight off the plane, was the blue lagoon. This is the part that people can't swim in, thus, the prettiest.

We kept jumping out of the car the whole way there, as we passed beautiful alien landscapes. Here we have Dylan proudly perched on some mossy volcanic rock.

This is the store where I bought my hat. It was the most expensive hat I've ever owned. It took all day of hemming and hawing before I went back to buy it. I knew that buying an expensive furry earflap hat was the first stop on the way to losing it somewhere and being devestated. I lost it one month later on an Amtrak train. But anyway, look, a reindeer!

Hey, what is that extremely out of place futurist building?

Oh, just Hallgrímskirkja, a crazy dystopian concrete cathedral.

 The inside reminds me of Oz. (As in The Wizard of, not the HBO prison show)

Reykjavik is so cute.

Our hostel was a lot hipper than we were.

24 hours! Not nearly enough, Iceland. Not nearly enough.

Congdon Anatomical Museum

I just finished writing up an article and photo tour on Atlas Obscura of one of the best medical museums I've ever visited (and I've visited a lot!). Traveling through South East Asia last year (oh god, was that already a year ago?), the Congdon Anatomical Museum in Bangkok was one of the last places we saw before boarding that 15 hour flight. It was well worth the wait. A few pictures of fetal skeletons below, but for more photos and more about the experience, check out the article on Atlas Obscura. (WARNING: Images in the link may be disturbing to some people)

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.