Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Westbound - Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, & Bighorn Canyon National Forest & Recreation Area

So... mostly awesome, quality family time-wise (it's never perfect, but you grow closer nonetheless).  Not so great training wise, but it makes me appreciate the running opportunities at home! 

The last time we went out west, our trip coincided with what became the government shutdown, so many parks were closed.  We were better off this time!  There are threats again, but they have kicked the can down the road to December, so we were safe.  My parents had planned on visiting my mom's middle school friend, so they asked us kids if we wanted to come along.  My dad had been to Yellowstone previously, and he loved the animals and all the geothermal features.  I was excited to do an American version of an African safari. 

We flew into Denver and made the drive up to Wyoming.  We stopped for a couple of geocaches on the way.  My goals for the trip were to get a geocache in each state that I visited, and to eat a bison burger.  There were a couple of awesome gadget caches in Fort Collins, CO.  My dad figured one out, and I figured the other one out.

We stayed at a hotel on our way there.  There was no running water at the house where we'd be staying for most of the trip, so we savored the last chance to take a normal shower.  I also went to the fitness room, to squeeze in a run, while I could.  It's tough on family vacations, since there are always family activities going on, and my parents don't like me running late at night or in potentially unsafe locations. 

Sunday, September 20:
4.5 in 38:23, 8:32 average, on 2 degrees of incline.  The run felt way harder than it should've.  My parents had come to the gym with me, to also get in a bit of exercise while they could.  I made a rhetorical statement aloud to them, about wondering if we were at elevation.  And someone answered - didn't realize she was in the room, too.  It turned out that we were at 5K feet - no wonder!  After the morning run session and shower, we drove through Bighorn National Forest to get to the outside of Yellowstone.  It was fun making stops along the way, as we found cool things.


Next day, Yellowstone.  My sister wasn't flying in until later that week, so we wanted to save seeing the best sites for my mom and my first time with her.  They're all great, though. 

The next two days, we just chilled at the house.  It was nice to not have to work, and to have no obligations.  I did actually work for a couple of hours, but aside from that... it was nice.  Sitting around, eating, listening to my parents' conversations in Chinese.  Also saw a wild west gun fight show one evening, where I also found a geocache whose container was bullet casings.

Wednesday, September 23:
After eating all morning, I had to get in a workout.  In the afternoon, I decided to do a strength session.  So... the reason I appreciate running in the Southeast now is that you don't have to worry about running into buffalo, elk, and bears.  We'd come across them while driving, and there are warnings everywhere in Yellowstone about maintaining a safe distance.  So... running wasn't much of an option.  I found stones and other stuff to do my workout with... being resourceful.  I did stuff, but still didn't have a full workout worth of time logged, so I decided to run down and up the steep switchbacks leading up to the house, which took about 12 minutes for each of the two laps.  I had to powerwalk up, it was so steep... and I had to gingerly tread down, with the steepness and the loose gravel. 

The house was heated on, and we could cook with, an old-fashioned stove.  Our host cooked yak in it, too!  Tasted like tender, bland beef.

Time to pick up my sister from Billings, Montana's airport.  On our way there, we stopped by Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, where we saw wild mustangs, and a cool canyon.

We picked up my sister, and the next morning, I squeezed in the quickest of runs, before we had to head out to northern Montana for Glacier national park.

Friday, September 25:
3.5 in 26:14, 7:30 ave, 2 degrees of incline = 7:13 effort.  My dad only gave me 30 minutes to run, so I pushed it.  After not having run in so long, the run felt easy.  It was only 3K feet of elevation, vs. the previous run's 5K feet, so it wasn't noticeable.  Since the run was so short, it felt like a workout "snack", instead of a full workout "meal", but it was good nonetheless.  Glad to get at least something in.

We spent 1.5 days exploring Glacier NP.  It was a great time to visit, since it was towards the end of the season, when there are fewer cars, and the trees were turning a brilliant yellow, too.  And the weather was warmer than usual.  It would normally be in the 30s for the lows.  

The first night there happened to be the last night that a local restaurant would be open, before they closed for the long, rough winter season.  I got my bison burger (well, 2 bites of my sister's), and a vegan red pepper and sweet potato soup.  All were awesome!

 After a day and a half in Glacier, it was time to drive back down to Yellowstone, so that my sister could see it.  It was a special weekend to go, since it coincided with the Supermoon Blood Moon Lunar eclipse!  They had a ranger tour that night, and it would be great to watch it in the lands of the west, with little light pollution.  Before that, though, we had half a day in Yellowstone to explore, including visiting Old Faithful!  It's kind of weird that people wait around, sitting in benches, for 1.5 hours, to watch the thing spout for 2 minutes.  It teases you with spurts, too, before doing the main gush.  And the exact timing's unknown.

Time for the eclipse! The moon was a bit reddish during the eclipse. 

We stayed at a hostel overnight, and went back to Yellowstone the next day.  Highlights: The Roosevelt arch (although you couldn't get close because of the construction), Old Faithful again, seeing elk everywhere, learning about how to deal with bears if you encounter them, and taking an awesome tour of the Old Faithful Inn.

The next day, back to Billings.  My sister and I got in a quick workout before our flight.  I went on the bike, while she went on a run.  There was only 1 treadmill, and she hadn't run in a while, and I was happy to bike.

Tuesday, September 29:
60 minutes of a recumbent bike, covering 16.2 mi.  Didn't have any water, since the water cooler had run out.  Feels so good to work out again.

My sister and I had different destination cities, but we got to sit together on our first leg.  It was fun waiting at the airport with her, and sitting with her on the flight.  Alaskan airlines gives free craft beer, even on their domestic flights!!!  The flight attendants gave me the bottle caps for my collection, too!  Getting to spend all that time with my sister was a nice way to finish an awesome trip. 

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