Swimming in the Great Salt Lake

On our return trip from Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, Darlene and I camped overnight on Antelope Island in Utah… and waded out during sunset into the Great Salt Lake.

Click through for pictures and video:


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Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

This is a fantastic place to visit!  The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is in West Yellowstone, Montana, near the border of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.  It’s a non-profit, wildlife rehabilitation and education center specializing in grizzly bears and gray wolves.  All the animals at the center were rescued: nuisance bears that would have been killed or wolves born in captivity at other facilities that could not care for them.


The animals are rotated through large enclosures where they can be seen by the public and are given frequent stimulation by hiding food or bones, rearranging habitat features, planting unusual scents for them to discover, stocking trout in the ponds and streams, etc.

Short video of some of the animals at the Discovery Center.

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Road Trip: Through Idaho

Highlights from the Idaho portion of our summer road trip to Yellowstone:


We stayed several days in Boise: biking through town and up on some of the trails above the city, floated the Boise River through town, successfully solved (and escaped) the house in Boise Escape and made a side trip to historic Idaho City. After Boise, we visited the World Center for Birds of Prey, stopped off at Three Island Crossing (Oregon Trail crossing of the Snake River) and camped overnight at Craters of the Moon National Monument.  After exploring the lava formations we continued on to Idaho Falls, stopping off for a tour of the world’s first nuclear power plant, Experimental Breeder Reactor #1.  Our final leg included the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway and camping near West Yellowstone.

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Summer in Iceland

Well, “almost summer” anyway: Iceland (and most of the North Atlantic) experienced the coldest summer in decades this year – this after one of the warmest and wettest summers ever last year.  So while we remained bundled up from the cold, wind and rain,  Darlene and I had a fantastic time.  It’s a very beautiful place and full of so many places to see and experience that even with 19 days in Iceland we were still forced to skip so much.  Iceland is definitely a wonderful and easy place to visit.  The hardest part is having to pick what not to see (and trying to pronounce or even just copy down the Icelandic place names).  I tried to book lodging to give us multiple days to stay and explore in each area and we consciously left off whole large areas of the country but even so it wasn’t enough: we still felt like we didn’t have enough time in any given area.  Gotta go back!  And yes, I’d like to see it in winter too.

A short video montage of our 19 days in Iceland.

Click through here for my full gallery of pictures and videos from the trip.  Here are just a few highlights from our trip though:



This is an incredibly colorful (and popular) mountain area to explore in the highlands.  Many will set out to do the two-to-four day Landmannalaugar backpacking route to Þórsmörk (I’d like to someday) but we just enjoyed a day of hiking some of the nearby trails through this colorful terrain, followed by dipping in the natural hot springs there.  This was also our first taste of the many rough, gravel roads (including river crossings) that are needed to access many parts of the country.

Skógafoss and the Fimmvörðuháls Trail


This is a gorgeous waterfall to begin with, particularly how it falls on to a flat plain, and even though Iceland is covered with incredible waterfalls, the trail that starts here covers the most fantastic series of waterfalls I’ve ever encountered.  It’s not just the sheer number (as in dozens) of falls that you see along the trail, but the incredible heights, splendor, variety and ferocity of the various falls that tumble down this beautiful gorge that lead up to where the two glacial ice caps (Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull) meet at Fimmvörðuháls Pass.  Many people will hike this trail up and over the pass to Þórsmörk (or all the way to or from Landmannalaugar) but if nothing else, you’ve got to at least spend a day hiking as far as the bridge crossing (as we did).  While there’s an overnight hut at the top of the pass, they say you can do the one-way hike to Þórsmörk in 10 hours or so but I don’t see how it can be done so quickly if you try to take in all the incredible views along the way.

Askja (Vatnajökull National Park)


This was to be our deepest adventure into the highlands of Iceland. Askja is a large volcanic caldera (and crater lake) in the remote central highlands and part of the vast Vatnajökull National Park of volcanic formations, glaciers, lava fields, and the largest ice cap in Europe.  (Notably, this was the area that the Apollo space program used to train their astronauts in geology.)  This excursion was potentially going to be trouble for our little Subaru Outback due to some potentially deep river crossings. As it turned out, the cold weather played in our favor and the river in question was not running too strong (and the weather clear), so we were good to go on our own rather than needing to sign up with a tour operator and their monster trucks/busses. We camped out at the base of Herðubreið but, once again, there was much more to see here than we had allotted time for and I would love to come back and explore more of the area.

Lake Mývatn


This lake region is filled with tons of different geologic formations: geothermal areas, volcanic cones, lava formations, caves and lava tubes, etc.  The name Mývatn means (“the lake of midges”) and oh boy, we can attest that there are a bajillion of them along the water.  I know we short-changed this popular area, having only a day left to hit up the some of the many sites before having to head on to Akureyri.  We did get to see the fissure and water-filled cave Grjótagjá, the tephra crater Hverfell, the lava formations of Dimmuborgir and walk around Höfði to see some of the lava pillars in the lake (and the aforementioned bajillion black flies).  Lots more to see, like the Lofthellir cave and its ice sculptures but it would be a half-day tour just for that.

Herring Era Museum (Siglufjörður)


This sounds ridiculous, but the Herring Era Museum in Siglufjörður (on the northern coast) is a really wonderful experience.  We almost blew it off.  I mean, come on, “Herring Era Museum”?  But it’s really well done.  You get to explore several buildings from the “glory days” of Iceland’s herring fisheries from the early 20th century, including the living and working quarters.  Every room is furnished and filled with personal belongings as well as tools and equipment as it would have been at the time – and not behind glass: most of it is just laying out open and unprotected.  It’s deservedly won several museum awards.  It really feels like walking into the past.  You can pull out a suitcase from under a bunk bed and find it filled with clothing and mementos.  It’s quite the experience!  There’s another building housing a couple of fishing boats “docked” to a pier that’s staged and lighted and feels more like you’re on a movie set than in a museum.  And of course, you can climb aboard and explore below deck or on the bridge.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula


The centerpiece is the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is the glacier-capped, volcanic mountain of Snæfellsjökull and the peninsula is surrounded in fjords, more cool geologic features, and rugged mountains and coastline.  The hike between Arnarstapi to Hellnar was wonderful in particular (with a fantastic cafe at the turnaround in Hellnar…. oh, that skyr cake!!)  We also checked out the Vatnshellir lava tube, the Sönghellir “song cave”, the impressive and intriguing cleft in the cliff Rauðfeldsgjá and made a driving tour of the northern coastal towns on the peninsula. We spied on a seal colony in twilight, tested our strength with the old fisherman’s lifting stones and tried hiking up to the glacier itself but the road was still closed due to snow and the visibility too poor to go very far without a trail to follow.  After three nights at a guesthouse on the peninsula, there was still much we were unable to get to see or explore.

Langjökull and “Into the Glacier”

This is a new experience, opened in June of 2015, where they’ve dug out a series of lighted passages and chambers into the Langjökull glacier.  After being driven up and over the glacier by massive, converted missile carriers, you get to walk down into the man-made tunnel, into the glacier, inside the ice and even see fissures and ice formations from within the glacier.  Very cool!  When we were there, it had just rained heavily the night before and so water was still dripping and seeping through everywhere in the glacier.

And More…

A couple of other little surprises to mention are Petra’s amazing stone collection in Stöðvarfjörður in the eastern fjords (and she was quite an interesting character) and the entertaining Settlement Centre presentation in Borgarnes of the Saga of Egil.

Wish we could also have gone to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft in Strandagaldur or toured the western fjords or gone backpacking in the Hornstrandir, etc.  Like I said, much to see and experience in Iceland!

Click through here for my full gallery of pictures and videos from the trip.

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Pirates of Cache Creek

Pictures and video from this year’s annual Pirates of Cache Creek event with the Outdoor Adventure Club – click through for the full gallery:


And a short video montage (130 seconds) of the weekend:

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National Automobile Museum

Darlene and I visited the fantastic National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada (“The Harrah Collection”) recently.  This is a cool place and definitely worth a trip to visit, even for non-car aficionados.  It’s super-easy to get caught up and lose several hours in this place checking out the hundreds of vintage vehicles.  It’s fun to see and learn how things evolved so haphazardly from the original notions of the “horseless carriage”.  It’s quite an amazing collection and full of surprises.


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Atlas Obscura: A Dentist’s Creations

I recently discovered this online, collaborative catalog of “wondrous and curious places”, The Atlas Obscura.  It’s a great source to find odd things to see and explore both near home and afar.  Browsing the listings, I found plenty of little local surprises in addition to the places I had already seen or been.  Check it out in your own area or the next time you’re traveling somewhere!

The first one Darlene and I ended up checking out was The Statues of Ken Fox in Auburn. I’d seen the giant sculpture of a gold-panning prospector along Interstate 80 in Auburn, but I wasn’t aware of the artist/dentist’s other, similarly massive creations in town.  Here’s a more complete backstory on Ken Fox and his creations.

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We also went hiking around the intersection of several historic routes (wagon, train and automobile) in the Sierra Nevada, at Donner Summit: the first wagon trail to California, first transcontinental railroad, first transcontinental highway.

Click through for more pictures.

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Riding the Segway

While visiting with Darlene’s family in Wisconsin/Minnesota, we went for a Segway ride and tour in La Crosse this past Sunday with Shel, Dan, Kathy and Shelly.  It was my first time trying one and it was a lot of fun.  The handling is very intuitive and responsive – to the point of being a little addictive!  If you have yet to try one, look for a tour or rental in your area (like La Crosse Segway Tours) – it’s definitely worth it!

Click through for the full gallery of pics and video:


A short, 75-second video montage from our Segway ride in La Crosse, WI.

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“Have you played Atari today?”

A little while ago, after reading “Ready Player One” again (Spielberg is making a movie!) and after seeing a couple of tech talks by old Atari game programmers, I was lamenting that I sold my old Atari VCS so many years ago.  Well, Darlene jumped on this comment, found a bundle someone was selling on eBay and surprised me with an early birthday gift.  Yup, an old Atari VCS/2600 (four switch version), a set of controllers and a bundle of game cartridges. Sweet!  (I think my brother and I actually had the six-switch, Sears-rebranded version, but still very cool!) Thanks, Darlene!

I immediately had to go fill out the set of 40 cartridges with a couple of other games I remember us playing a lot.  Of course then was the challenge of hooking it up: the Atari outputs an analog RF TV signal… on an RCA-plug cable.  Okay, can use an adapter to go RCA to coax-TV cable but tough to find any analog TV tuners these days except in old TV’s and VCR’s.  But then, rather than pulling a VCR out of a box in a closet, I hooked it up via my old USB EyeTV tuner/video converter to my MacBook – success!

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Yeah, you can play any of these games via emulation on a modern computer, or even a smartphone/iPad, but there’s something very different about jamming the physical cartridge into the old physical console and handling that classic Atari joystick.  (And having to use cotton swabs and alcohol to clean the contacts on all of the Activision cartridges to get them to work again!)

It’s been fun to pick these up and rediscover old visual/procedural memories, like the admittedly-simple path through the Adventure maze.  Some titles are only vaguely familiar until you plug them in and see the game again and then go “aha!!”

So… to paraphrase Atari’s old marketing… have you played your Atari today?


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Bay to Breakers

Darlene’s hometown friends, Vicky and Diane, joined us this weekend to participate in San Francisco’s “Bay to Breakers” run and craziness, plus a little sightseeing….

Click through for the full gallery:


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