Sunday, September 18, 2016

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton mountains from Jackson Lake Lodge.Grand Teton National Park was the last destination of our Montana-Wyoming vacation. We spent three nights in Grand Teton, albeit in two different location to make the drive to the airport on our last day easier to avoid unexpected road blocks along the way.

From Jackson Lake.For the first two nights we opted in to stay at Flagg Ranch which is the same place we stayed at during our last visit to Grand Teton. Grand Teton National Park itself is pretty much adjacent to the southern end of Yellowstone. So Flagg Ranch is located on the northern end of the park and somewhere under 30 miles south of West Thumb — which is really on the southern end of Yellowstone — our last stop in Yellowstone itself, as Alёna wrote earlier.

Flagg Ranch cabins.We got to our cabins closer to the end of the day which we mostly spent in Yellowstone and were pretty tired. We had our dinner at the main lodge as there are zero other choices in a reasonable range. The food was nothing to write home about, but it wasn’t bad either. Soon after dinner we turned in for the night to recharge for park exploration on the next day.

Shore of Jackson Lake.We decided to set a hike along a trail on Jackson Lake as the goal for our day. The road through the park runs on the eastern side of Teton Range itself and magnificent views in the forms of lakes and vistas open up between you and the peaks of the mountains.

Throwing pebbles.The trail that we picked was in the Colter Bay area of Jackson Lake. There was a visitor center where we obtain a new set of stamps and acquired some Grand Teton National Park themed apparel. We also decided to eat lunch before heading out in order to avoid our awkward schedule of nobody being hungry for dinner in time.

Grand Teton National Park.The trails itself starts right near the visitor center and runs along the shore of the lake onto a peninsula. Once you make it to the west-most end of the peninsula itself you are presented with a grand view of the Teton Range reflecting in Jackson Lake.

Picking out pebbles.The water wasn’t as still as I wish it was and there was a considerable haze in the air. That seemed to be a theme throughout our stay at the park. On the beach itself though, while I was taking photographs, kids played in the sand and threw an uncountable quantity of pebbles into the lake.

Little boat.After we were done with this trail we drove south to Jenny Lake. Last time when we were here with Alёna in 2009 we took a ferry across the lake and then went on a trail up to some waterfall. The thing that I remember the most about that trail was a huge population of giant mosquitoes which that particular piece of the forest sported. Actually that’s not true. Last time mosquitoes were everywhere. Including at least 50 of them in our cabin at Flagg Ranch whom we proceeded to eradicate viciously with Eldar.

Jackson Lake shore trail.Anyhow — there was a lot of construction going on at Jenny Lake visitor area and we were all pretty tired either-way. So we settled for a set of new stamps and all the scenic views along the lake shore that we stopped at. However by that time the sun was shining directly into the lens along with all the haze presents a very challenging set of conditions for any decent photographs.

Tetons.We set course back north hoping to find a new place to have dinner at. We stopped by Jackson Lake Lodge which had multiple restaurants. Everything was extremely overpriced, so we decided to just go with Flagg Ranch dining room again.

Colter Bay.But at Jackson Lake Lodge one can walk out onto the back porch of the lodge which has one of the best vantage points to look at the mountains from. I remembered that this is exactly the place that I took a picture from the printout of which I had on my desk for the last 5 years or so.

Official Grand Teton National Park sign.Since the sun was still shining in our face we decided to make a stop here again the next morning on our way to Jackson for our last night stay of our road trip. The dinner we ate at Flagg Ranch, as I said, and for breakfast we stocked up on Cup-A-Noodle soups at the general store. These, for me, have a strong nostalgia feeling connected to our breakfasts in Shenandoah at the end of 2010.

Store. Great prices on awesome things.On the last day we did stop at Jackson Lake Lodge again for pictures and drove down to the town of Jackson via a route that runs through the town of Moran — a more eastern way to go than the route we took a day before. There were still numerous scenic overlooks that one can stop at — which we did — to take in the views of the mountains from all possible angles.

Janny Lake overlook.We grabbed some lunch at a visitor center near Moose — along with some stamps of course and decide to finish our Grand Teton stay with a place that we missed the last time around. There is an old abandoned Mormon town on the southern end of the park — Mormon Row with a number of old houses and barns. In fact one of those barns must be the most photographed barn in the world.

Jenny Lake.And that was pretty much it for the park. When we arrived to Jackson we checked into a huge two-story suite at Jackson Hole Lodge. This was probably the best setup for a family trip that we had — too bad we only had this for a single night.

View from Jackson Lake Lodge.Town of Jackson turned out to be a pretty busy place with a ton of people. It’s somewhat surprising seeing how it’s quite a long way away from Yellowstone and not all that close to most places in Grand Teton either. It’a great place to finish one’s trip, but not so much as a base of operations.

One of scenic stops.We went for a walk along the busy streets of the town, stopping a numerous souvenir and jewelry stores. But windows shopping was all we could afford as most prices really make no sense. Too much tourists equals to too high prices.

Mormon Row.Here, however, we ate probably the best dinner of our vacation. We stopped by a Spanish — as in Spain — tapas place called Bin 22. We ordered a bottle of Beaujolais wine and a good number of tapas. In fact we just tried to recreate the experience with Alёna yesterday in a placed called Brook Vin in Park Slope. Parents also enjoyed the experience very much which made us happy that we had them try something new.

Barn at Mormon Row.And then we walked to the central square of the town which had four sizable arches — on each corner — created of antlers collected at a nearby National Elk Refuge. The square, by the way, was full of people complete obsessed with Pokemon Go — it was that week when it just came out.

Jackson central square.The next morning Alёna and Arosha brought us all breakfast from a nearby bagel place. Afterwards we drove to the airport, turned in our banged up car without any hassles and boarded a plane to New York with a layover at Salt Lake City. There the flight was delayed many times so we arrived home very very late. Thus another one of our great road trips has concluded. Another trove of great memories.

Antler arches at Jackson Hole.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Labor Day in Catskills

Catskill Mountain Lodge. Main building.We didn’t really have any plans for the long weekend and were thinking that we’ll end up spending it in hot, humid and noisy Brooklyn. But on Wednesday I had a strong urge to just get away and unwind a little bit from what seemed to be a barrage of bad news and annoyances that has been getting to us in the past month. So I opened Google Maps, navigated to Catskill region and typed in “lodge” in the search box.

Our rooms at the lodge. Second floor, center.We didn’t want to spend a lot of money — our favorite cabins in Pocono run $1,200 for 2 night stay. I looked through several sites and saw a place that looked like it could work for us. Their website didn’t have rooms available, but a call turned up 2 free rooms, next to each other with a single queen bed in each for only $95 a night. Even though the place had very mediocre ratings on review sites I figured — how bad can it be?

Arosha near the lake.I booked it right there on the phone for a two night stay. Even if the place turned out to be bad, we wouldn’t be spending too much time indoors anyhow as there were tons of parks around and things that we could do. That was a good call on my part. Now we had a family getaway set for the upcoming weekend and we would be staying in Catskill Mountain Lodge in Palenville, NY.

The drive to the lodge on Saturday morning ended up being much better than expected. We only got stuck in some mild traffic outside of the city and got to our destination in a pretty decent time. On our way we stopped by a Chinese buffet which was a new experience for Arosha and a well forgotten experience for the rest of us. Arosha liked picking and tasting a large variety of food — even though he might end up not liking something he never minds to try — anything and everything.

North-South Lake.The lodge turned out to be just fine. The owners were pretty friendly. They instantly checked us in and even gave us a refrigerator free of charge once we requested one to be put in our room — mainly for Arosha’s milk. The interiors were pretty dated, but rooms were clean and side by side to each other — as promised.

There was a what looked like a nice pool on the premises, but we never got around to trying it out. Either way — the people who leave bad reviews are just not living in the real world — don’t expect to get a five star Hilton when you’re paying $95 a night on a holiday weekend. Just be realistic and you will not be disappointed.

North-South Lake.We decided to spend a second half of our first day exploring a nearby state park — North-South Lake Campground. This place was familiar to Alёna and myself as we discovered it back in 2003 while spending a weekend in the region. In fact, we liked it so much that we ended up bring the whole circle of our friends here — twice — for camping.

Lots of flowers around the lake.I wanted to take a couple of pictures of the lake and everyone else just wanted to go for a walk. At some point Arosha managed to escape far enough from Alёna and by the time Alёna realized what was going on Arosha made a run for the lake and took a complete dive fully clothed. Alёna seemed distressed, Arosha was ecstatic. At this point she just took off his clothes and let him have at it.

My picture taking though didn’t go too well. I was taking long exposure shots while forgetting to block off the viewfinder. As a result all the photos ended up being overexposed in the center of the frame. I had a couple of normal shots which were OK, but all long exposures are junk. But it was a good end of the day nevertheless.

Kaaterskill Falls.On the way back to our lodge we stopped by Kaaterskill Falls and I took a couple of photographs that I ended up liking. And by this time there were practically no people there as opposed to the time when we were passing them on our way to the park. It was a long weekend after all. Everything was crawling with people.

We finished our evening off with a dinner in a steakhouse located on the lodge premises. The restaurant actually had a live jazz band inside, but it was a bit too loud — we wanted to be able to have a conversation during the dinner, so we opted for a table outside. Since the sun was down at that time the temperature was very pleasant and we still could hear the music just at the right volume.

Kindred Spirits Steakhouse & Pub. Our lodge restaurant.My steak was very good (a filet mignon) as was Alёna’s duck. My parents decided to try a ribeye and a New York strip and while they were not bad they weren’t as good as my choice. We started the dinner with baby clams in garlic souse and topped the whole thing off with a nice bottle of red wine.

Overall it was a very good start of a nice little trip except for the fact that Arosha kept needing a diaper change about 10 times a day which is not normal at all. At the end of the day his butt hurt so much that he couldn’t sit which was putting a damper on all our moods.

Arosha at an apple orchard.Our second day was even simpler than the first. After waking up and eating a breakfast (sandwiches, eggs) that we brought with ourselves we decided to find an orchard and do some fruit picking. But at first Arosha went for a ride on a set of ancient swings and carousels that were present on our lodge territory.

On our way we were stopping at numerous yard sales and then we stopped by a supermarket to buy some ointment for Arosha’s butt. At that supermarket Arosha ran off from us and my dad ran after him. Apparently at the end of that chase my dad fell down pretty hard while trying to avoid Arosha who fell down in front of him. That was quite unpleasant for everyone.

Arosha on apple tasting quest.Finding an orchard wasn’t a problem. There is a number of them nearby and we picked the closest one to our lodge. Even though their website hasn’t been updated since 2011 we decided to take our chances and we lucked out. First of all this orchard was huge — they had rows and rows and rows of apple trees covered with apples and basically no people at all. A very different experience from our last fall.

Two of many many rows of apple trees.I think Arosha took a bite out of every kind of apple that orchard had and it had a lot. We picked 2 full bags of different kinds of apples and then 2 small boxes of raspberries. Arosha of course was picking raspberries right into his stomach. I tried a few too. Raspberries and apples were delicious. The staff was very friendly and we bought a liter of their fresh apple cider which also was very delicious.

Lunch at a local market.Then we ate lunch at some local spot that we stumbled upon accidentally — thin crusted pizzas. Everyone liked these very much. At this point we didn’t have any more plans so we started driving home. However on our way I saw a sign toward a historic lighthouse located on Hudson. We decided to make a small detour and stop by.

Lighthouse trail.It ended up being a very nice hike along Hudson shore through the luscious woods. This was the first time when I actually touched Hudson waters. My dad also showed us a plant that he used to show us when we were kids. It has small bean like things growing on it and when you touch it they explode with their seeds. Alёna saw it for the first time and every time one of these would explode at her touch she would scream loudly and jump about 2 meters (almost) into the air. Arosha also enjoyed popping these things up.

The trail got flooded. Lighthouse is barely visible.Even though the hike was nice we didn’t get to our final destination. There was a high tide and it flooded the final part of the path. We did see the lighthouse, but could get close enough for good photographs. The hike was still worth it. I’m glad we did take that detour.

Hudson shore.And we finished the day at the same steakhouse at our lodge. This time we decided to simply go for burgers with a round of beer. And again it was nice and thus our second day came to a conclusion.

Ashokan Reservoir.On our last day our main objective was to get back home and hopefully avoid getting stuck in a lot of traffic. But before leaving Catskill region we decided to make one last stop near Ashokan Reservoir — the main source of drinking water for New York City as it turned out.

Bridge crossing Ahoskan Reservoir.The lake was beautiful with somewhat menacing looking clouds and dark mountains on the horizon. We walked along the shore and I took a number of long exposure shots, remembering to close off the viewfinder this time around. I ended up with a good number of photographs and some of them came out well.

Ashokan.All that came to an abrupt conclusion when a police officer approached us and informed us of the fact that we were trespassing. Turns out that there were indeed signs hidden in the bushes stating that you can only get down here with a proper permit, which we obviously didn’t have. Luckily for us he was a nice guy who ended up just giving us warnings and asking us not to do it again.

Flowers near North-South Lake.And that was pretty much it. We got into the car, stopped on our way for lunch and got all the way home without many problems, while Arosha slept. It ended up being a really nice Labor Day family getaway.

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