Sunday, October 8, 2017

Iceland — Part 2

Strokkur Geyser.On Wednesday, July 22, we went to our farthest point of interest — Gullfoss Waterfall. I have not researched this place in advance, so its power and beauty took me completely by surprise. There were plans in the past to turn the fall into the power station, but luckily they never came to be. Nowadays Gullfoss is protected by the government, and I hope it stays the same.

Enormous Gullfoss waterfall.We were able to get really close the the waterfall. The path that leads to one of the observation spots is muddy and slippery in places because it gets water mist from the fall. I had to carry Anюta in some places for safely, and Danya held Arosha’s hand, but we have to do it in many American National Parks as well. It was pretty cold and windy, so children and I even wore hats or hoods.

Gullfoss Falls.On our drive to Gullfoss we enjoyed the view of some truly beautiful landscapes. Videos and pictures don’t do it justice. I thought that Iceland will be more bleak and kind of grey mouse-ish, but this little Northern country proved me wrong. Its allure is different from the lush riches of tropical forests or hardy red mountain ranges. It is subtle, yet powerful. The emerald velvety moss covering volcano stones, the grey sunless skies, the sheep and horses grazing on road sides — all of this resonated with me in unexpected way.

Strokkur Geyser.Anyhow, back to our sightseeing day. Our next stop was Geysir hot springs area, where Geysir geyser is located. Geysir was the first geyser known to Europeans, and the actual English word “geyser” originates from it.

Litli Gesir.We watched Strokkur geyser erupt 3 times. It was possible because it erupts very often, every 6-10 minutes, although the eruptions themselves are brief. You literally have to stand around with your camera ready if you want to catch it in the act.

German biker club.When we were walking to the geyser area, we saw a big group of bikers with German biking clubs insignias on their jackets. Daniel was curious, so he approached them and asked them where they were from and how did they got to Iceland with their bikes. They were very friendly and told us that they were indeed from Germany and that their club traveled to Iceland by boat from Denmark if I’m not mistaken. They also put our children onto their bikes when they saw that the kids were interested.

Geysir.We saw a few more geysers and hot springs, but Strokkur was the most impressive one. The whole area reminded me of Yellowstone, but I have to say that Yellowstone was much more spectacular — I guess, it is just considerably bigger and has a lot more fascinating things to see. But I still was happy that we were able to visit Icelandic geysers. Now I wish it was as easy to get to Kamchatka, but as far as Russian geysers are concerned, I doubt that I’ll have a chance to see them.

Geysir.There was only one food place open at lunch time. We ended up paying $80 for a set of subpar burgers (Arosha claims that he almost threw up eating his portion) and fish sticks. I think it was the worst food experience of our whole vacation if not ever.

Iceland landscapes.We ate dinner at the executive lunge. There was not much choice, but we filled on nuts and snacks and cookies. And it was free.

Thingvellir National Park.On Thursday, July 23, we checked out of Reykjavik Hilton. We had a not too early morning flight on July 24th, so in order to minimize the commute and all the variables associated with driving for an hour, we moved to Keflavik’s hotel, which was very close to our car rental place and the airport.

Continental rift between the North American and Eurasian plates.Before going to the new hotel, we continued with the exploration of Iceland and drove to Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir is worth seeing for multiple reasons. First of all, you can look at the rift between North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. If I did not know what it is, I would not have guessed, but it was pretty awesome to look at the continental divide equipped with that knowledge.

Trail through Thigvellir National Park.Secondly, Althing, or Iceland’s national parliament, was gathering in Þingvellir for over 900 years starting from 930 AD. This was the oldest parliament in the world, and all the free men of Iceland could participate. I was expecting to see some kind of old building and it took me a while to realize that this used to be different from modern day political realities. No buildings, but just the place to gather, discuss things and make laws. The parliament meetings were held in summer time every 2-3 years.

Thigvellir National Park.We took a nice hike around. The nature was beautiful. There was a small lake with wild gees and the children liked watching them.

Thigvellir National Park.For lunch we bought some vegetarian sandwiches at a local store and they were pretty decent.

Thigvellir National Park.Afterwards we drove to Start, our new hotel. We got a nice big clean two-bedroom suite. Then we drove to car rental place to check how much time it would take to get there from our hotel. It took us 5-7 minutes, which was nice.

Thigvellir National Park.After considering different options for a while, we decided to have dinner at an Irish Pub. To our disappointment, it only served alcohol, so we went to a highly rated pizzeria next door instead. The food at pizzeria was OK, but nothing to write home about. Our waitress was a Russian girl, who studies in Keflavik to be a pilot. She told us that weather in Keflavik is really severe, and it gets so windy in winter time that they have to cancel flights on that account from time to time. It was really interesting talking to her, but she had to attend to other tables. After dinner we went back to the pub and got a pair of nice blond beers.

Keflavik shore line.We took a stroll on the promenade by the water. It was nice, but so windy indeed. I put hats and hoods on the children and wore a hat and a worm coat myself and was still cold. We saw a metal anchor statue and an old decommissioned fishing boat Baldur. It was interesting, but we cut our walk short in fear of getting a cold from the chilly winds.

Anchor statue in Keflavik.On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at a gas station to fill up the car and impulse bought a package of dry fish and two Icelandic beers. Both fish and beers turned out to be mediocre, but they still had a flair of novelty and exoticism to them.

Old fishing boat in Keflavik.There was nothing much left to do, but to sleep. It was a little difficult on the account of white nights and flimsy curtains that did not block all the light, but we managed.

Keflavik.We got up pretty early next morning, had breakfast, which is served from like 3am at this place, and drove to return our car. We had to wait at the car rental again, since we did not fit into the van going to the airport and had to wait for it to get back. Oh well, we still made it to the airport with time to spare.

Our Start Hotel in Keflavik. Anna's bed.Funny thing at the airport is that Danya got confused for and Icelander by local airport staff. When they heard him speaking English, they switched to Icelandic on a few occasions. One of the employees explained to us that Daniel’s English accent sounds very Icelandic. I too had airport staff starting to talk to me in Icelandic twice, so I wonder if they also thought that I might be local.

Gulffoss Falls.Danya and I think that the reason for Russian and Icelandic English accents being similar is the hard sound “R” which is present in both languages, but is quite different in English. I have noticed the similarity of accents too, and I even thought that our waitress at VOX was Russian before I read her name on the tag.

The flight back was easy and uneventful.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Poconos Summer House

Summer house.В пятницу во время прогулки Илона пригласили меня и Эрику с семьями к ним на дачу в Поконо. С ночёвкой. Эрика сперва отказалась, сославшись на то, что Юра ни за что не согласться, а я сказала, что поговорю с Даней и возможно мы приедем.

Nearby playground.Я очень надеялась, что Даня согласиться. Дело в том, что Ароша очень хотел побывать на даче у Сени. Ему не раз снилось, что он там был, или что он с Сеней и Сашей ездили в совместный отпуск в другое место, например, на Коста Рику. Сеня тоже давно уговаривал Илону показать дачу своим друзьям. Вобщем, Даня согласился поехать, а когда Саша узнал, что Ароша едет, он смог уговорить Юру.

Hike to Dingmans Falls.Мы выехали в субботу в 11:30, а вернулись в воскресенье около 21:00. Что могу сказать? Время провели просто замечательно. И детям, и взрослым из нашей семьи очень понравилось. Кроме нас и Илоны с Денисом и детьми были еще родители Дениса и Илонина сестра с мужем и млашим сыном.

Off the trail on a trail.Дача находится в очень зелёной части Пенсильвании. Дом большой, двор большой, там даже стоит довольной большой надземный бассейн.

Dingmans Falls.В субботу вечером мы ходили на реку немного порыбачить. Денис поймал аж 4 рыбы, включаы довольно крупного сома. Весь улов был отпущен обратно в озеро, потому что всем было жалко убивать рыб.

Us at Dingmans Falls.В воскресенье утром мы сьездили на Dingmans Falls, которые находятся милях в 15 от дачи. Оказывается, эти водопады находятся под опекой национальных парков, и там есть visitor center с печатями, картами, прочим. Вход на водопады бесплатный, и к ним ведёт отличная деревянная тропа. Мы провели там около 2 часов и получили массу удовольствия. Анюта прошла пешком около 2 миль и жаловалась на усталость буквально за 100 метров до парковки.

Dingmans Falls.Кстати, нам очень повезло, что мы приехали туда не слишком поздно. Около водопадов есть парковка, но она небольшая, машин на 50. Когда мы приехали, еще были места, когда мы уезжали, то на парковку стояла очередь из полусотни машин. Я думаю, что в такой очереди можно простоять больше часа.

Grilling.А еще мы жарили шашлыки, общались, пили пиво, а кое-кто и что-то крепче, ходили на детскую площадку и даже пару минут прокатились на велосипеде. Дети практически всё время играли вместе, хотя как всегда не обошлось без мелких стычек и драм.

Fishing. Yura in the front, Elona and Denis in the background.Спать было тоже очень удобно. Нам отвели отдельную комнату с 2 кроватями. Для Анюты мы прихватили с собой её складной манеж. Несмотря на то, что днём было жарко, а в комнате нет кондидионеров, спать было хорошо. Сначала мы укрыли тёплым одеялом только ноги, а под утро укутались в него до шеи.

Fishing.Вечером жгли костёр, и Илонин племянник запустил одну ракету с салютом. Детям очень понравилось.

Checking out the fish.Хозяева были очень гостеприимными и старались, чтобы всем было хорошо, весело и сытно. Вобщем, отличные у нас получились выходные.
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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Wilkes-Barre Labor Day

Locomotive at Steamtown National Historic Site.Планов куда-нибудь поехать в этом году на длинные выходные в честь дня труда у нас не было. Поэтому я немного удивилась, когда после обеда в пятницу Даня предложил: “А не сьездить ли нам куда-нибудь на пару дней?”. “Ха, а чему тут удивляться — тут же мысленно одёрнула себя я — было бы удивительно, если бы при его любви к путешествиям, он НЕ предложил бы куда-нибудь прокатиться.”

Kids by an old steam engine.Вобщем, пару идей у моего любимого мужа уже было, и после кратких раздумий мы остановились на относительно недорогом варианте гостиницы Hampton Inn в городке Wilkes-Barre (произносится “Уилксбэри”) в штате Пенсильвания. Ехать туда по нашим меркам относительно близко — около 140 миль. Мы приглашали и собой и даниных родителей, но в связи со скороспешностью наших планов, они не без сожаления отказались.

Taking a ride on an old train pulled by a steam engine.Я быстро собрала чемодан, Даня сьездил на физиотерапию всвязи со спиной, и часам к 6 вечера всё наше довольное семейство отправилось в путь.

Kids taking a ride on a miniature train model.Выехали из города мы без преключений. Я ожидала застрять на мосту Верразaно и/или на Стайтэн Айланде, но мы проехали эти, как правило забитые в такие дни, места без всяких проблем. По пути мы остановились поужинать в японском ресторане “Мизуки”.

Machinist room of a Big Boy locomotive.Это получилось случайно — мы сначала попробовали сунуться в один из сетевых американских ресторанов (Friday’s), но в пятницу вечером там была очередь минимум на 40 минут. В “Мизуки” же не было очереди, еда была очень вкусной, а счёт оказался совсем небольшим — нам с лихвой хватило двух порции хибачи на четверых.

Different generations of locomotives.В гостиницу мы приехали около 23:00 и сразу же отправились спать.

Italian festival at downtown Scranton.Следующий день, субботу, мы начали с посещения музея паровозов в соседнем городе Scranton. Музей Steamtown, основанный в 1960-х годах в депо, где когда-то оперировала большая железнодорожная компания DL&W, был выкуплен конгрессом в 1980-х годах и превращён в национальное историческое место — National Historic Site. Теперь он оперируется государственной службой парков, что для нас дополнительный плюс из-за коллекционирования печатей национальных парков.

Lunch at ale house.В музее было много разных старых поездов. Мне лично очень понравился вагон первого класса с купе на одного человека. Кровать там складывалась днём в удобное кресло, а в комнатке был умывальник.

Great beer is served. Waiting for food.Ароша и Анюта с удовольствием залазили в разные кабины паровозов, где можно было крутить разные колёсики и дергать рычаги. Мне было там скучновато, но это не главное.

Go-karts! Alёna's driving Anna.Еще мы там приобрели билеты на короткую поездку на паровозе. Честно говоря, там тоже было не супер интересно, но в какой-то мере любопытно. Сиденья там были составлены в ряд, как в автобусе, но их направление можно было менять, передвигая спинку с одного края сиденья на другое — такое я видела впервые. Ароше это дело понравилось, и нам даже пришлось его остановить из боязни повредить что-то в старом вагоне. После поездки на настоящем поезде, дети прокатились на миниатюрной версии, где сидеть надо было поверх вагонов.

Lunch before our hike. Waiting for food.После музея мы отправились в Скрэнтон пообедать. В центре города, куда мы приехали в пивную с высоким рэйтингом в TripAdvisor, как раз проходила ярмарка итальянской еды, но к счастью мы смогли запарковаться возле ювелирного магазине недалеко от нужного нам места. Хозяин магазина решил немного заработать, и продавал право парковки на лоте возле магазина по $6 за два часа. Что же, очень даже резонно.

On a trail.Когда мы проходили мимо палаток с едой, то был соблазн купить что-нибудь сьестное прямо там, недоходя до запланированного места, но так как на улице было жарко и есть бы пришлось стоя, мы всё же дошли до Backyard Ale House, о чем ничуть не пожалели. Еда там была вкусной, пиво лёгким и холодным, да и народу было немного. На ярмарке мы потом купили лимонада. Он очень понравился Ароше, и я обещала как-нибудь сделать такой же дома.

One of many many mushrooms we saw.Потом мы поехали в гостиницу и провели несколько часов в бассейне — наличие джакузи всегда сильно увеличивает время, которое дети могут потратить на водные процедуры.

Kids throwing stones into some river at Ricketts Glen State Park.Поужинали мы в ресторане “Lucky’s Sporthouse” возле гостиницы. И еда, и пиво были так себе, но мы были слишком уставшими, чтобы ехать куда-то в более заманчивое место.

Steep stairs.В воскресенье мы запланировали поехать в какой-нибудь парк и погулять на лоне матушки-природы. Вариантов было много, но мы остановились на Ricketts Glen State Park — там должна была быть живописная дорога к водопадам, а водопады мы любим. Ехать туда от нашей гостиницы было миль 30.

People by a cliff at the brink of the biggest fall on the trail.По пути мы совершенно случайно увидели небольшую площадку с go-carts и минигольфом. Так как времени у нас в принципе было много, мы решили на этих самых go-carts покататься. Честно говоря, я ужасно трусила и даже немного поотпиралась, когда Даня сказал, что я тоже буду кататься. Как оказалось, я зря боялась, и было очень даже весело. Даня ехал в машинке с Арошей, а я с Анютой. Детям тоже понравилось, хоть они и не рулили. Ароша просился поиграть в мини-гольф, но было жарко и много народа, поэтому мы поехали дальше.

Snack break.Перед тем, как пойти на прогулку по парку, мы зашли подкрепиться в небольшую забегаловку. Там продавали roast beef sandwiches и картошку фри. Ароша от сэндвичей с мясом, само собой, отказался, и мы купили ему салат с овощами на гриле — овощей там оказалось мало, но он поел и поделился с Анютой. Было не очень вкусно и дорого.

Family units.Мы боялись, что идти по парку будет тяжело, потому что была как раз середина дня и ярко светило солнце. Но оказалось, что тропинка идёт через прекрасный теснистый лес, где царят полумрак и прохлада. Лес оказался очень грибным. Примерно раз в минуту мы слышали радостный Арошин крик “грибы! смотрите, грибы!” и первые раз 7 мы честно шли и смотрели. Потом нам надоело, а Ароша всё время сокрушался, что с нами нет дедушки, который наверняка просветил бы любознательного внука и рассказал бы ему какие именно грибы он имеет счастье лицезреть.

One of many waterfalls on the trail.Гуляли по лесу мы пару часов. Видели три мелких водопада и один побольше. Спускаться до конца, чтобы лучше увидеть самый большой водопад, мы не стали, потому что дорога стала скользкой из-за воды, и мы решили, что с маленькими детьми туда идти опасно — плюс у нас с Даней была неподходящая обувь.

Daniel.На обратном пути Ароша и Анюта уговорили нас снова заехать на площадку с го-картс, чтобы поиграть в мини-гольф. Они даже отказались от бассейна — и то, и другое было бы слишком утомительно — в пользу этой забавы. Что ж, почему бы и нет. Лично мне мини-гольф кажется ужасно скучным, но дети получили удовольствие. В какой-то момент Анюта отправилась там на небольшую детскую площадку с качелями и горочкой, а Даня с Арошей еще раз прокатились на машинках — Ароша помогал рулить.

Mini golf.Поужинали мы в мексиканском ресторане. Было очень вкусно, особенно приготовленное на наших глазах гуакамоле, и совсем недорого.

Putting apples into a bag.На следующий день, в понедельник, мы отправились домой. По дороге, мы решили заехать в большой торговый центр (mall) в надежде купить что-нибудь стоящее с хорошей скидкой в честь дня труда. Когда мы заехали на битком забитую парковку, то начали сомневаться в правильности нашего решения идти по магазинам в такой день. Но, как говорят, охота пуще неволи, поэтому после 20 минут кружения по лоту, мы наконец запарковались и отправились за покупками. В результате мы купили всем пару необходимых и не очень вещей (зимние куртки детям, спортивные штаны и тёплые рубашки Дане, юбку мне), и поехали на ферму собирать яблоки.

Lots of apples. Heavy.Поесть в торговом центре, как мы планировали заранее, мы не смогли — слишком много людей было в кафетерии, так что там были грязь, шум, очереди и отсутствие свободных столиков. Вместо этого, мы немного проехали в нужном нам направлении и быстро перекусили фаст фуд. На нормальный ресторан времени не было — боялись опоздать на сбор яблок.

Apple picking.Несмотря на небольшую пробку, мы успели приехать на ферму где-то за час до закрытия. Мы были на этой же ферме два года назад, когда Анюта была еще совсем крохой. Мы насобирали 30 фунтов яблок, 12 початков кукурузы, и пол небольшой коробочки малины (больше не было).

Kids on a farm.Дети получили кучу удовольствия, а яблоки мы потом ели две недели (в холодильнике осталось еще штуки две). Еще я купила баночку очень хорошего местного мёда. Жалею, что не две, потому что Ароша с удовольствием пьёт воду с мёдом и лимоном. Кукуруза оказалось слишком сладкой на мой вкус, но детям она очень понравилась, и они сразу же стрескали по два початка (просили еще, но я не разрешила).

Corn picking.Добрались мы до Бруклина без больших пробок, и к 7 часам уже запарковались возле дома. Данины родители пригласили нас на ужин и накормили вкусным пловом, что было очень кстати, потому что к вечеру мы изрядно проголодались.

Raspberry picking.
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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Glacier National Park

Saint Mary Lake.Glacier National Park was the new destination for myself and Alёna on this trip. We’ve been to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in 2009, but Glacier was a bit too far off for that trip so we left it for some time later. So seven years and two kids later we finally got around to booking this trip. We also did look forward towards the rest of our family enjoying all three of these places already knowing that two of them will definitely be awesome.

Glacier Park Lodge.But I’ll start from the beginning. We arrived to Great Falls, Montana at around noon. It was the closest airport that we could get to without having to do more than one plane change. We rented an enormous three row Chevrolet Suburban which fit all six of us quite comfortably along with for large suite cases. As for Great Falls itself — we really didn’t find anything to look at or see, so after driving through a couple of streets we got on a highway and left for our first destination of this vacation.

Entering Glacier National Park.We were staying in East Glacier Park Village in an old lodge — Glacier Park Lodge — right on the edge of the park — 10 miles away from the nearest entrance. The drive from Great Falls was 140 miles which wasn’t too bad. Everything started on large plains, often covered by fields of flowers with dark silhouette of the mountains visible on the horizon. The mountains themselves are located inside Glacier National Park — the continuation of Rockies which run through the whole continent from top to bottom. As we were getting closer, the mountains were getting bigger and we could make out their snow covered peaks.

Two Medicine Lake. On our way to Stain Mary entrance.We arrived at our lodge at around 5pm local time, which is 7pm in New York. We were pretty tired. We got a pair of rooms next to each other at this magnificent looking lodge made out of enormously sized logs. The lodge itself was built over a century ago and it feels nice. The rooms were not akin to a 5 star hotel, but that was expected. I’m sure they were renovated from the time that the lodge has been built, but not quite obvious how long ago.

Our rental Suburban.By the time we got to the lodge everyone was pretty tired and I was quite sleepy since I woke up way too early in the middle of the night. And I can’t sleep on the plane at all. So we just went to the diner room of the lodge, ate our dinner and I turned in for the night to explore the park the next day. Alёna though took kids to the pool if I remember correctly, but I think I slept through all of that.

Us on one of the meadows.We had two full days in the park and thus we had two different locations that we wanted to visit, both on the east side of the park as the western entrance was too far away to drive to and back to the lodge on the same day with kids. We decided to start with a further objective on the east side of the park — Saint Mary entrance and visitor center. That’s where Going-to-The-Sun Road starts that runs across the whole park to the western exit.

Saint Mary Lake.On our way there we stopped by a couple of lakes to take in the views and eventually got to the visitor center. We stamped our passports and inquired about hikes that we could take. I always imagined Glacier National Park to consist of multiple lakes surrounded by mountains and I wanted to visit something like that. Out of all the possible hikes we decided to take a trail leading to Hidden Lake which starts at Logan Pass Visitor Center and is 2.7 miles long.

Trail to the Hidden Lake.And while driving to Logan Pass we made numerous stops along the highway. The most spectacular view was on the shore of Saint Mary Lake. There was no wind and the water was very still and mirror like. That’s where I took one of the best photographs of this trip — mountains reflecting in the water of a lake — just like I imagined this park would look.

Snow on the trail.When we got to Logan Pass Visitor Center parking lot we were surprised to find out that there is absolutely no parking. After circling around the parking lot for some time we eventually got lucky with somebody driving off right in front of us. This turned out to be a common theme all-throughout our vacation. Yellowstone was the worst.

Mountain goat.While the trail itself didn’t seem all that hard if you’re a young adult it ended up being fairly steep for kids. And my 77 year old dad a lot of the pain in his knee lately, so he ended up not going — the only trail that he missed. As soon as we started up Arosha decided that he urgently needed to use the bathroom, so Alёna had to go back with him. And Anna’s pace was — well, not fast, her not being even 3 and all.

On the trail.I had my tripod with me and Alёna told me to just continue and not wait for them. So I did. The fact that the trail was fairly steep was exacerbated by the fact that soon after you start the climb the trail is covered by snow that still hasn’t melted by the end of July. So climbing up the mountain via a slippery snow is not exactly fun, but I was determined to get to the lake.

Hidden Lake.On my way up I ended up seeing at least 10 mountain goats in different places. I was feeling sad that I’m going to be the only one to see all this, but I took enough photographs to show all this to the rest of the family. And eventually I got to the overlook of this lake. It turned out that the lake itself was still quite a bit away down from the mountain and I felt that I probably should head back after taking the pictures from the overlook since everyone was waiting for me.

Hidden Lake overlook.And as soon as I turned around I saw Alёna and Arosha standing next to me. I was so happy to see them. They actually did get to see all the snow, the lake, the goats and I really at all didn’t expect to see them here. I knew Alёna could easily do the hike, but the fact that Arosha was there with her made me very proud. She says that she kept her own pace and he kept up with her just fine.

Hidden Lake.After taking in all the views we decided to head back. And when we were somewhere in the middle of trail down we ran into my mom who was carrying Anna up the hill. That was another very surprising discovery. We took over Anna and my mom continued all they way to top of the trail. Interesting things about my mom is the fact that it’s really hard to pull her out of the house for a walk around Brooklyn, but when we go to a vacation she turns into a hiker that doesn’t miss a single trail.

Inside our lodge.Heading down the trail was actually quite a bit harder than it was going up. Some places which seemed just fine on the way up looked downright scary on the way back. One wrong step and you are sliding down a steep mountains into somewhat of an abyss. So we took it really slow, holding kids by their hands or in the hands in Anna’s case. Anyhow, the hike felt really exhilarating. And the fact that we ended up seeing so many wild animals on our first day was exciting too.

Glacier Park Lodge.And that was mostly it for our first day. On our way back we drove by the shore of Saint Mary Lake again and the view has changed completely. There was a slight breeze and the water has lost all of the reflections. We were glad that we stopped by the lake in the morning and didn’t leave it for later.

Two Medicine Lake.When we got back to East Glacier Park Village we decided to go to a Mexican restaurant that had high ratings on TripAdvisor, but it turned out that they have a long line. So we went back to the lodge for their not exactly stellar food. It was decent, but not anything to write home about. And I think I started falling asleep again. Kids played around the lodge on a big grass field that it had for a long time. And that’s how the first day ended.

One of the meadows on the trail.On the second day our plan was to explore the other of the two eastern entrances to the park — Two Medicine entrance. This entrance was only 10 miles away from our lodge. The main event would be a hike along Two Medicine Lakes to Aster Falls.

Meadows.Before setting out to a hike we stopped by a general store to buy a pair of light aluminum hiking sticks for my dad. A lot of people use them on the trails and we thought it makes a lot of sense to take some of the weight away from his aching knee. We spent some time in the store picking out the sticks and some other souvenirs.

Aster Falls.When we walked out and put our hiking gear on — backpacks, hats and all it started raining. Within 3 minutes of us starting our hike it switched from raining to pouring and it got really cold. We were glad that we decided to pack our light rainproof jackets with us, but the weather was not hikable at all. So we figured we should have a quick lunch and see if our fortune changes.

Photographing.We went back into the general store and had a nice hearty lunch — I had a chili soup and a hotdog. We bought hotdogs for our kids, but they have a strange way of eating those. Anna only eats the hotdog itself and refuses to eat the buns and Arosha does the exact opposite. Also we figured by having an early lunch we would be hungry just in time for dinner.

Aster Falls.By the time we were done even though the sky stayed very dark and ominous the rain has stopped. So we set out for the falls which ended up being a four mile three and half hour hike. We made a lot of stops along the way to take pictures — tripod setup takes time, Anna is not a quick walker yet, but the views were worth it.

Two Medicine Lake.Most of the trail took us through the forest and multiple blooming meadows and valleys. Some valleys had lakes by them with magnificent reflections. The sky though was dark and uncooperative for photography, so it’s really hard to really convey how beautiful the setting was. So many flowers.

Us by the lake.The waterfall itself was usual. Just your average waterfall. But as I said before — the final destination was not the point. There was a ton of people with little kids at the falls. Some of them kept falling into the water from time to time, but we managed to keep ours from getting wet.

Trail to Aster Falls.On the way back we made a little detour to get directly onto the shore of one of the lakes — the trail itself starts from the opposite side of the lake. I again tried to take some photographs, but Saint Mary shot from the previous day was still my best.

Trail to the falls.By the time we were back at our car everyone was tired and hungry. So we drove back into East Glacier Park Village. We again tried to go the Mexican restaurant I mentioned above and again there was a ton of people outside, waiting. I decided to try my luck and asked for a table anyhow. And what do you know — because most parties were smaller they were waiting for smaller tables, and because there was six of us we got a table right away.

Hidden Lake overlook.Our kids love Mexican food. One of Arosha’s favorite cuisines — mix rice with black beans, add some guacamole and sour cream — there is nothing better. I love fajitas and Anna just eats a bunch of meat of all kinds. We also washed it all down with some nice margaritas.

Two Medicine Lake. Panorama.And that’s how our introductory trip to Glacier National Park came to an end. The park has a lot of beautiful places and trails, but we’ll have to explore its other parts on some of our future trips. We spent our last night at the lodge and in the morning set course south, towards Yellowstone.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls. Both sides.We arrived at Niagara Falls, Canada via Rainbow Bridge. There was a long wait line of cars for passport check, and children were getting a little stir-crazy, but as always we survived with only minor damage to our nervous systems.

Our hotel. DoubleTree Fallsview Resort and Spa.We stayed at DoubleTree Fallsview Resort and Spa. It is the same exact hotel where we stayed with Daniel and his parents last time we visited this town. We got a nice room at high floor, albeit one level below the executive one.

Us in Niagara Falls.We were pretty hungry by the time we got there, so we decided to have a light lunch at the hotel’s restaurant. The restaurant was quiet and empty, and the lunch food that we ordered was not bad, with the exclusion of Caesar Salad. I think once I started making it at home, restaurant versions with their bottled dressings got much less satisfying.

On a ship to the falls.After lunch we headed for the falls. They were a relatively short walk away from our hotel. It was cold-ish outside, but bright and sunny. To our surprise, the boat ride underneath the falls was running, and Arosha REALLY wanted to go. What do good parents do when their five year old is bubbling with need to go into the cold mist of giant waterfalls? Of course they do exactly as he asks!

Red raincoats.Since it was so early in the season, the line was very short, and we had hardly spent any time waiting for the ride. Each one of us got a red disposable raincoat, which we put on right away. In fact, we put two of those on Anюta (one was smaller, one was bigger) to make sure she’ll stay dry. We all enjoyed this little adventure. When we were near a big waterfall, the mist turned into a full fledged pouring rain, but luckily, it did not last too long.

Inside the casino.After the ride, we walked along the waterfront, admiring the views and smelling first daffodils. For dinner we decided to go to the buffet in one of the casinos, but they were really strict and did not let us pass through the casino to the restaurant on the account of children. For me it was quite unusual after the family-friendly atmosphere in Las Vegas, but oh well.

Alёna and Arosha.We wondered around the shopping area attached to the casinos, and ended up going to the Chinese buffet. The food was very mediocre, but they had sushi, and Arosha stuffed himself up with them. There was also a pretty decent variety of vegetables (not so with meat), so I did not left the place hungry either.

Whirlpool on Niagara.We started the following day with the trip to the Niagara whirlpool. The day was nice and sunny again. There is a cable car running over the whirlpool in season, but it was not open yet. I am not sure if we would have taken a ride anyhow, since to me it seemed like a pretty scary endeavor.

Ride over whirlpool was closed for the season.When we were in Niagara Falls area last time, we visited the Butterfly Conservatory. I remember being very impressed by it, and we wanted to share this experience with the children. They’ve been to similar thing during our visit to the Museum of Natural History, but their butterfly exhibit was tiny compared to this conservatory.

Arosha hoping that a butterfly will land on his hand.Arosha and Anюta both liked the butterflies, although at some point Anna ran to us all excited holding a big butterfly in her hand. I honestly hope that she did not catch it, but picked up from the floor, but who knows.

At Butterfly Conservatory.We explained to her how we should never do such things and that she might have accidentally killed the poor insect. It made a lasting impression on her. She was not very upset, but to this day she remembers it now and again and tells us that she is sad because she killed a poor butterfly.

Алёна с бабочками.We went to the hotel after this, and had lunch at the local restaurant again. The kids were really excited at the prospect of going to the pool, so that’s exactly what we did. We spent a good chunk of time there, since there was a Jacuzzi to get warm after a cool pool.

Skylon tower.Our next objective was the Skylon tower. We walked around the observation deck for a little bit and enjoyed the falls views from high up. Originally we wanted to have dinner at their buffet, but it was only open for lunch on that particular day. There was a highly-rated revolving restaurant on the tower as well, but we decided to save the experience for the CN Tower in Toronto. Plus it was rather expensive, as one might expect from a place like that.

Conquering the fear of heights.Instead, we ended up going to a Brazilian steakhouse, and it was just so good! It was probably our best dinner of the whole vacation. It was not cheap either, but the children ate for free, so it was a very good deal for us, considering that Arosha ate more meat than I did, and Anюta was in a close lead to me.

SkyWheel.I have to say that normally Arosha is not a big fan of meat. He oftentimes refuses to eat meat that I cook at home, unless it’s in the form of meat pie or samsa or part of the soup. However, he loves shish-kebabs and good steaks in restaurants, and when we go to Brazilian places, he always surprises me with his appetite.

View of the waterfalls from the top of SkyWheel.Our last day at Niagara Falls was cloudy and grey. We started our adventures with the ride on the SkyWheel. For some reason, our children really enjoy Ferris Wheels, so we try to take a ride on one whenever the opportunity presents itself.

View from our window.After the ride we went to some arcade place. The most interesting thing there was an air hockey table. Danya and Arosha played a game, but Anюta was too small to hit the puck. To be quite honest, I get really bored with arcades after spending more than 5 minutes in such places. I think Danya feels the same, so we did not linger.

Clifton Hill.We walked around the city down the Clifton Hill street for a while. There are a lot of souvenir shops, different strange entertainment places, where the visitors are either being scared or are supposed to laugh. There are also some “museums”, most notably the Guinness World Records one, but they did not look interesting enough to spent our time and money on them.

Lunch at Niagara Brewery and dinner at Rainforest Cafe.We were not sure where to have lunch. We almost went to Friday’s, but the prices there are unjustifiably high. How weird is it, that they charge almost a third more than in our local TGIF? The Outback Steakhouse had the same issue. So we ended up going to the Niagara Brewing Company. I really enjoyed our lunch, and so did Danya. The children were not impressed with the food, but I am still glad we went there instead of some chain place.

Waterfall with a ship.After lunch, we walked by the falls again and headed to the hotel. My head was starting to ache, which unfortunately happens to me at least ones on vacation with kids. I am not sure if I just get overtired and my body protests in such a way, but this seems to be the trend. I think we went to the pools again, but I am not sure 100% if we did.

Brazilian.By dinnertime, my headache got worse, but the children were getting really hungry especially considering that they barely ate anything at lunch. We decided to head for the nearby Mexican restaurant with good reviews, but unfortunately it was closed.

View from our window.We could not find anything good close to the hotel, and ended up going to the Rainforest Cafe, which we spotted during the day. It was pretty far from the hotel, but since we did not anticipate going there beforehand, we did not take Anna’s stroller. She did not mind walking by herself, but sometimes we carried her for better speed.

Crossing the street.The food in Cafe was nothing special, but the atmosphere was perfect for the children. We were sitting next to the gorillas, and our little ones were fascinated when they were moving and talking. Arosha also went to explore other parts of the restaurant to get a closer look at elephants and waterfalls, and Anюta followed him around like a little pup.

Niagara Falls.I was feeling quite nauseous, so I just ordered hummus and water. I think I would have been better off skipping dinner altogether, but I did not know that at the moment.

Rainforest Cafe.We went to the hotel afterwards, and Danya had to carry Anюta most of the way, since I felt too sick to do it. When we got to the hotel, he and Arosha took a car and drove to the Falls to see the night illumination. They only saw the white lights, since the colored illumination comes up fairly late.

On a ship.I felt even worse, but after throwing up a few times, I took tylenol for the headache and was able to fall asleep. I felt just fine the next day, to everyone’s relief.

Skylon Tower.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Finger Lakes

Taughannock Falls.We are back and we can declare that our Canadian road trip was a success. We ended up driving for a total of 1,416 miles throughout these 11 days with Toronto to Montreal drive of 340 miles being the longest single stretch.

That’s how we ended up spending two nights and a full day in Finger Lakes region of New York state — we wanted to break up the longest stretches of the road as much as possible to make it easier on the kids. Kids, which I must say, handled the road just fine. They didn’t do a lot of sleeping, although Anna did more of that than Arosha, but they were perfectly content with looking at the surrounding areas and holding conversations with us and between themselves.

Our hotel.We made it our policy long ago to avoid any devices in the car, so as such kids don’t even ask for them. By looking at the world around them they come up with a lot of different topics to discuss. For example we talked about the names of Finger Lakes, then we talked about their depth, their length, differences between seas, oceans and lakes, moved over to Great Lakes and eventually even have gotten as far as Lake Baikal.

We picked Finger Lakes as stop point because there really is not much else interesting in between Brooklyn and Niagara Falls — our first major destination. Another reason was that after having lived in New York for over 20 years I have had yet to visit those lakes and famous town of Ithaca. And we picked Seneca Falls to stay at simply based on hotel pricing, even though there was a large selection of Hilton chains in the region.

Winery.We drove out at about 3 o’clock on Thursday right after Arosha’s school ended. Kids ate a quick lunch, we packed the last of our things — well, mostly Alёna did — and were on our way. Arosha and Anюta were very excited. Anna kept exclaiming from time to time that she really wants to go on a vacation and Arosha was counting the days and really barely could wait. He, as the rest of us, was very worried about one of us getting sick which would cause us to cancel our trip.

In order to reach Seneca Falls we had to cover a little bit over 300 miles which makes it more than 5 hours of driving. Luckily because we left early we beat any major traffic around NYC which helped us get to our hotel earlier than I expected. Along the way we made a stop for dinner and Anna took a little nap. Arosha stayed awake the whole time and only fell asleep when we were 10-15 minutes away from our hotel.

Wine tasting.The next day kids woke up very early — too much excitement about going to the buffet for breakfast. I think Arosha doesn’t really like the food as much as he loves the processing of picking stuff out on his own. After breakfast they wanted to go swimming at the pool, but we wanted to do some exploring of the area first and convinced them to leave the pool for the second part of the day.

We didn’t really have much of a plan, except for the fact that we were on the top of the lake and Ithaca was at the bottom. So we figured we’ll just drive down to Ithaca by taking a scenic road along the shore of Cayuga Lake and figure out what we want to do on the way. The only sad thing was that the day turned to be quite gloomy and it was raining from time to time. But everything worked out in the end as it would just stop raining when we wanted to take a walk.

Taughannock Falls.On the way to the lake we stopped by a historical women’s rights site, looked at the museum and got a couple of stamps in our National Park passports. I think this time around Arosha has gotten noticeably older. He was much more excited by the “right” things to be excited about at each location. He was asking about the Finger Lakes, the Great Lakes and kept explaining to Anюta what our next stop was suppose to be when she would get confused.

Our first activity on the way down to Ithaca turned out to be wine tasting to our surprise. We kept driving and we were passing one winery after another. Eventually the signs convinced us that we should stop. It so happened that we stopped at Varick Winery & Vineyard — just a complete random choice on our part.

Hike on a trail at Taughannock Falls State Park.The kids spotted a box of gummy bears which we agreed to buy them and they also discovered a couple of rocking chairs on the porch of the winery. So while Alёna and I went through a bunch of wines which were served with various snacks that matches the wines kids entertained themselves by climbing and rocking on those chairs.

We ended up buying a bottle of white wine, a jar of garlic olives, a jar of soft cheese and were given a bag of croutons as a bonus. The kids also ended up running around the big green lawn in front of the winery thus expanding some of their extra energy.

Ithaca.And even though it was raining slightly the winery was located in a beautiful place on a shore of Cayuga Lake, the wine tasting went well, the day was shaping out quite nicely. We were all in a great mood.

The next thing we spotted on the way down was a sign pointing to falls overlook of some kind. So naturally we took that road and in a couple of minutes were parked inside Taughannock Falls State Park as it turned out. And a short walk from the parking lot there indeed was an overlook of a quite impressive waterfall. Because of the gray sky that I mentioned before the photographs didn’t come out well, but there was a nice trail running around the edge of the canyon that we took.

Little swimmers.Kids played with all kinds of sticks and cones and the whole setting was very serene — except for the loud kids of course. And the weather was kind enough to us to stop raining for the duration of our walk.

Eventually we made it to Ithaca. We stopped over for lunch at some Korean-Japanese place recommended by our trusty TripAdvisor. Arosha loves sushi and Anna liked the noodle soup that she got so kids ate quite a bit — our constant problem to deal with — they’ve gotten quite picky lately.

Pool.We walked around some central square, acquired some nice crystal necklace-earring set for Alёna and drove over to Cornell University campus. It was raining at that point, so we just drove around it, but decided not to stop and just go all the way back to the hotel instead for the long awaited pool time.

And that was our stop at Seneca Falls. A day well spent.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Weekend in Poconos

Echo Valley Cottages. Our cottage.It’s been a month, but I only got a chance to write about our little Pocono trip now.

Morning grilling. Burgers.I have to say, I love my husband! One of the great things about him is that he loves traveling, so in the beginning of November he had an urge to go someplace. He checked a number of cabins, but they were either too expensive or out of vacancies. He did find a good deal for my birthday weekend though, so we booked a cabin in Echo Valley Cottages. We invited Daniel’s parents to come with us, and they happily agreed.

Stream near the cottage.We left Friday evening after Danya’s mom came home from work. The ride was only about 100 miles, but it took us 4 hours to get there — first we got stuck in traffic getting out of Brooklyn, and then we spent almost an hour doing food shopping at Wegmans in NJ. I have to say that Danya wanted to specifically go to this store, since Wegmans that we visited by Arsen’s house was really great, but we were disappointed. They did not have organic grass fed beef or burger shop; it was still big, so we spent a lot of time trying to find items that we needed, while in a smaller store it would have been quicker. But whatever.

Bushkill Falls. Trail start.We got to the cottages at around 11pm. The owner came by and gave us the key. Arosha was pretty excited about the trip and he did not even fall asleep in the car. The cottage was pretty big — bigger than I expected — and although it was not as fancy as the other Pocono cottages we’ve been to in the past, I still liked it.

The falls themselves.We traveled on two cars this time around — with two car seats we can’t fit 4 adults into the car anymore.

Wooden paths.The next morning I was woken up by Arosha, who was so excited that he got up after about 7 hours of sleep and said that he wants to grill. Our three men went to the store to get well burning coal and lighting fluid after unsuccessfully trying to start a fire with regular coals. Danya’s mom, Annushka and I prepared meat and vegetables for burgers.

More falls.Soon enough the burgers were ready. Danya did an amazing job — he doesn’t cook at home, but grill is his domain. They were really good. I have to say that Arosha really likes grilled meat. He ate as much as adults!

Different part of the falls.After that we went to see Bushkill falls. They were a short ride away from the cottages. There was an entry fee — $12.50 per person. Not exactly cheap, but I guess they need that money to maintain an impressive infrastructure of wooden paths, steps, bridges and other structures around the falls. The paths were not stroller accessible, so I was mostly carrying Anechka in my arms. We spent around two hours walking around and enjoying the views.

Grandparents.After that we went home and Danya got to grilling the dinner. It gets dark early, so we wanted to at least start the process before the sun was down. The meat (skirt steaks) and vegetables (peppers, zucchini, corn) came out delicious. I was again amazed at how much food Arosha ate.

Wooden stairs on the trail.After dinner we drank tea with my birthday cake. Arosha helped to put candles in, and he also helped to blow them.

Dad on one of wooden bridges.I went to feed Annushka and tried to put her to sleep for the night. She was not cooperating, and threw a long screaming fit. I think she was crying for over 30 minutes overall, which does not happen often.

Lunch on the trail.Danya, his dad and Arosha made fire outside. Arosha really enjoyed it. He wanted to add firewood himself and as often as possible, but I don’t think that he was allowed. What he was allowed thought is light up sticks and wave them around. He did not want to go back inside.

Climbing.The next morning we grilled some more burgers and left. Arosha asked me in the morning if its possible for us to stay until the evening and was a little bit sad that we had to leave before noon.

Jumping.Another thing that Arosha liked is just to play outside. There was a small creek nearby and he pretended that he was a fisherman (one of his favorite games) and that long sticks were his fishing rods. He also liked playing with all kinds of things he could find — stones, leaves, mushrooms, you name it.

Grilling.On our way home we stopped at local outlets and got two pairs of Levi jeans and a few flannel shirts for Danya since the winter is coming. We also stopped to eat at Olive Garden, but the food was so so.

Dinner. Skirt steak and grilled vegetables.We got home at around 7 — exhausted, but satisfied with how our weekend went.

Alena's birthday cake.Arosha keeps saying that he wants to go to the cottages again. I think he definitely took after his daddy!

Campfire.
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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 Alena 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 Alena and by the time Alena realized what was going on Arosha made a run for the lake and took a complete dive fully clothed. Alena 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 Alena’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. Alena 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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Alena on the west coast of Big Island.Из мест, куда мы ездилии, больше всего запомнились следующие.

Гавайский вулканический национальный парк


Bottom of the caldera. Cooled lava.Видели кальдеру, из которой валил дым (она еще светилась красноватым в темноте). Прошлись по пещере, проделанной когда-то лавой (lava tube). Спустились в старую и неопасную кальдеру и прогулялись там по хрустящим под ногами вулканическим камням (вообще иногда казалось, что всё простаранство залито асфальтом). На стекаующую лаву мы смотреть так и не поехали. Маруки сказали, что для того, чтобы что-то увидеть, надо брать экскурсию на лодке — и так как впечатления у них от экскурсии остались смешаные (было страшно, когда лодчонка прыгала по волнам), то мы решили не ехать. На вертолёеную экскурсию мы тоже не решились — не знаю почему, но мне жутко страшно… Может, зря, конечно, мы такие нерешительные, но уж как было, так было. )

Водопад Акака


Довольно симпатичный водопад высотой 135 метра. Мне очень понравилась окружающая природа — прям джунгли, почти как из приключенческих фильмов.

Akaka Falls.Парк, где расположен водопад, очень маленький — прогулка по проложенной тропинке заняла минут 15. В целом – стоило поехать.

Pu‘ukoholā Heiau национальный
историцеский парк


"Castle".В этом небольшом парке вроде бы и нет ничего особенного — ну если не считать развалин “крепости”, построенной королём Камехамеха, которые лично для меня выглядят просто грудой камней — но в местечке есть какое-то спокойное очарование.

Sun rays coming down through the dark clouds.Мы прошлись по окресностям, посмотрели на развалины, а потом просто посидели на деревянной скамеечке и полюбовались океаном, небом, лучами солнца, пробивающимися из-за туч. Еще мы там видели двигающиеся над водой рыбьи гребни, которые, как нам потом обьяснил парк рэнджер, принадлежали серым рифовым акулам (по размеру они достигают 1.5-2 метров).

Пляж с чёрным песком


Black sand beach.На самом деле мы немного ошиблись с этим пляжем. В отеле нам сказали, что на острове таких мест несколько — и единственная разница между пляжами, это рассторяние до них от отеля. На самом деле пляж с вулканическим песком на острове только один (и когда мы поняли что да как, мы на него уже не успели доехать), а остальные представляют собой гибрид – вулканический песок смешанный с перемолотыми белыми кораллами.

Salt and pepper sand -- lava and corrals. Вобщем, мы попали на пляж с песком а-ля “соль и перец”. Тож ничего, но впечатление от “настоящего” пляжа, думаю, было бы сильнее.

Гора Мауна Кеа


К моему удивлению, это гора является самой высокой в мире. Да-да, именно ей, а не Эвересту принадлежит пальма первенства. Дело в том, что высота горы считается от ее подножия, а подножие Мауны Кеа находится на дне океана (примерно 6 км горы скрыто под водой, и чуть больше 4 км возвышается над водой).

On our way to Mauna Kea.Изначально наш план был поехать на макушку горы (~14 тыс. футов на уровнем моря), где, кстати, находится известная астрономическая обсерватория, построеная еще в 1967 году. Однако, в свете бедного Даниного глаза, конечной точкой нашего восхождения стал центр для посетителей, расположенный на высоте ~9 тыс. футов. Возле центра висели предупреждающие знаки, что давление на вершине горы сильно меняется, и людям с разнообразными проблемами здоровья лучше туда не ехать.

Looking over the clouds from Manua Kea.По совету работников центра мы прогулялись минут 10 до места, откуда хорошо смотреть на закат солнца. Было очень интресно смотреть на облака сверху, а не снизу, как это обычно происходит. Пошли мы на прогулку в свитерах, и успели немного подмерзнуть. Температура снижалась буквально на глазах. )

Moon.Когда стемнело, мы посмотрели документальный фильм, посвященный горе, её значения для гавайцев, постройке обсерватории и установке разнообразных телескопов. После этого работники центра (вернее, добровольцы) рассказли нам немного о созвездиях, видных с горы, и очертили некоторые из них лазерной указкой. Потом мы имели возможность посмотреть в телескопы на луну, юпитер и некоторые звёзды. Нам не очень повезло с небом — половина луны нагло сияла ввышине, и из-за этого мы не смогли разглядеть даже млечный путь. Еще было жутко холодно. Мы одели еще по одному свитеру, куртки, шарфы и перчатки — и всё равно мерзли. ) Спасибо Марукам, которые предупредили нас о таких погодных условиях.

Pu`uhonua o Hōnaunau национальный исторический парк


City of Refuge.В этом парке находится так называемый “City of Refuge”, где когда-то могли укрыться от смерти гавайцы, нарушившие определённые законы, а так же раненые в бою воины. Опять же — ожидала я от парка большего. В разных местах очень небольшого парка стояли вырезанные из дерева фигуры (наверное, божества?) и не особо впечатляющие дервянные постройки. Больше ничего в голове не отложилось.

Mahaiula Beach, Kekaha Kai State Park


In the water.В этот “штатный парк” мы поехали главным образом потому, что могли. Именно так! ) Дело в том, что дорожка к парку (а вернее её отсутствие) представляет собой сплошные колдобины и выбоины, естественно ничем не заасфальтированые. Некоторые люди ехали туда на обычных легковушках — не знаю, чем они думали (хотя застрявших машин мы на дороге таки не встретили). Качало-мотало нас солидно, но зато наш джип наконец-то смог показать себя во всей красе. )

Mahaiula beach.Парк оказался пляжем, где мы увидели несколько довольно больших компаний полностью экипированых для пикника (стульчики, еда, питьё в переносных холодильниках). Мы на пляже пробыли довольно недолго (купальников/плавоок у нас с собой не было). На обратном пути мы увидели семейную троицу козлов — причём всё они были разных оттенков серого и довольно неплохо сливались с окружающим вулканическим пейзажем. К сожалению, запечатлеть на память эти лёгкие создания нам
не удалось.

Кофейная ферма


Coffee on the trees.На острове оказалось довольно много кофейных ферм, и мы решили заехать на одну из них и взять небольшую экскурсию. Расставленные вдоль шоссе рекламы кофейных ферм напомнили мне рекламы виноделен в Мэйне и Нью-Йорке (Hudson Valley area).

Coffee beans.Вообще Гавайи знамениты кофе “Кона”, которое из-за места произрастания по вкусу немного отличается от других видов кофе. Мы попробовали разные смеси этого кофе на ферме, но если честно, то мне не понравилось. Может, дело в том, что я всегда пью кофе с большим количеством молока, а на ферме молока нам на предложили. Данька (известный “любитель” кофе) тоже рискнул снять пробу, но неожиданной любви к этому напитку в нём не проснулось. )

Coffee farm.Небольшую эскрурсию для нас провёл молодой работник фермы. Он показал нам кофейные деревья; аггрегат, который отделял кожуру от кофеный ягод; чан где в воде отмачивались свежеобработанные ягоды; ну и наконец длинную платформу, где на солнышке сохли кофейные зёрна. По словам нашего экскурсовода, большой частью бизнеса для них является продажа сырых кофейных зёрен разным японским компаниям.

А ещё я на этой ферме впервые в жизни увидела авокадовые деревья. Вот уже не думала, что они могут быть такими высокими. ) Экскурсия, кстати, была беспланой, но можно было в благодарность оставить любую сумму в специальной корзиночке (мы оставили $5).

Post Scriptum


Scenic route near Hilo.В заключение, хочется сказать, что отпуск — это всегда хорошо. Да, в этот раз у нас было несколько не очень приятных моментов, которые немного омрачили общий тон поездки, но в целом я осталась довольна. ) Ну и еще приятно воткнуть новую булавку в нашу карту путешествий! )
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Friday, July 31, 2009

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park. View from Jackson Lake Lodge.Second part of our road trip was dedicated to exploring Grand Teton National Park which is located directly south of Yellowstone. We left out most of Wednesday (excluding the small drive to reach it in the morning) and an early part of Thursday for this task.

Cabins at Flagg Ranch Resort.We started the day off by eating a breakfast at Grand Village and driving south to our next lodge — Flagg Ranch Resort, picking up 2 last Yellowstone stamps on our way. Check-in was quick, but we were quite shocked when we got to our cabin. It was completely infested with mosquitoes. About 40 of them at least. We tried killing them off, but they would just not end, and they kept biting us in the process. Alena especially.

Grand Teton mountains. View from Leeks Marina.I was really angered by this, so I called the front desk. I was informed of the fact that they can not spray mosquitoes because they are located inside the national park and that I can have my money back. mad shock Luckily after that they connected me with a manager, who switched out our cabin. Quite honestly we expected to see the same thing, but the other room was good. I guess somebody left the door open in the other one, hence the problem. Either way I would think twice before staying there again.

Grizzly bear.However for all the time that we wasted there we were handily rewarded. We got into the car and drove off in the direction of Jackson Lake. Right when we got onto the main road I noticed that there was a traffic behind us. I don’t remember any construction being there, when we passed that piece of road an hour ago, I thought to myself, and then it clicked. “Turn around!” Eldar made a U-turn and we started looking.

Grizzly bear was not more than 2 meters away from the road.People were cautious. Everyone was taking pictures, but nobody was getting out of the car. And they had a good reason not to! There was a grizzly bear right by the side of the road! We couldn’t believe our bear luck. We took another a million photos yet again, and made several video clips. He was not 2 meters away from us. This encounter made it all worth it. And if it wouldn’t be for the problems at the lodge we would’ve left long time before that and would’ve missed everything.

Hiking around Jenny Lake.After that we made a bunch of stops at all visitor center collecting the stamps, and took some photos of the mountains from the outlooks alongside the road. Our next point of interest was Hidden Falls. Half a mile hike from Jenny Lake.Jenny Lake, where we were planning to take a 2 mile hike around the lake and another half a mile to Hidden Falls. There is a ferry running for those who want to avoid this 2 mile hike, but we enjoyed it a lot. We did take the ferry back.

Now for all the falls we’ve seen inside Yellowstone this one impressed us much more. It wasn’t the fact that it was bigger or wider, but we were standing right at the bottom of the follows starring right at them. The others we saw from quite a big distance and it was OK, but this was certainly impressive. A big river crashing down from the top of the mountain right at your foot. Well worth the trip. The only annoying thing were swarms of blood thirsty mosquitoes all over the place.

Grand Teton Mountains reflecting in Jackson Lake.At this point we drove back up, ate a nice dinner at Flagg Ranch restaurant and turned in for the night, for tomorrow we had a long drive ahead of us, back to Colorado.

Grand Teton and Middle Teton mountains in the background.Thursday morning we made another pass through some outlooks to take shots of the mountains while they were lighted by morning sun from the east. We also stopped by Jackson Lake Lodge and I imagine it would be a hell of a place to stay at. The views from there were magnificent as well.

Rainbow in the sky. I've never seen anything like this before.Soon after we left the great parks of Wyoming and set out on our way. We took a slightly different route back and the views where great for the most part of the drive. On the way there we were driving mostly through huge plains and here we were surrounded by ever changing mountains. I don’t remember anything more about the drive back, but the fact that we placed through a “town” called Muddy Gap. Must be a nice place to live at. o.O

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