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Entries about hot

Mountains and deserts at incredible temperatures

Written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

sunny 48 °C
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Once we had left Yosemite, it was fascinating to see how quickly the landscape changed.

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The road dropped quickly towards Lee Vinings at Mono Lake. It was tempting to stay at one of the National Forest campgrounds next to lakes with great vistas along the road – but they were all full and anyhow after three days without electrical hookup, we wanted to fill up our batteries. Consequently, we went down into Lee Vinings and arrived before 5pm such that our reserved campground was still available for us.
We did take a bit of time to explore Mono Lake and to read about how it rapidly decreased in size after the city of LA started diverting water from the streams.

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The next morning, we left towards south and passing signs towards ‘Devils Postpile National Monument’ we decided that we wanted to have a look. We had not realized that we were not able to go all the way there, but had to use a shuttle bus. But as we had already gone up quite a bit into the mountains of Mammoth Lakes, we figured that we might as well do that.

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And it was quite a sight to see the basalt columns of Devil’s Postpile. It seems that there are only very few places in the world where this geological phenomenon can be observed so nicely.

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After the sightseeing, we treated ourselves to Bavarian food. Kind of: Sam’s Yodler Burger was not too different vs. any other burger he had so far and I would have classified my Bavarian Chilli as just a regular chilli. After all, at least I am not aware of any typical food that is anything like a chilli in Bavaria.
Heading down towards Bishop and Big Pine we suddenly saw a sign advertising hot springs. We did not want to spend the money to stay at the RV park there, but realized that a bit further down there were a couple of other cars parked and there were people in swimsuits. So we tried our luck and enjoyed soaking in the hot water before heading on to our place for the night.

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The next day it was then time to get into Death Valley. On the way there we passed some nice mountains and also the National Historical Site of Manzanar. We did not stop there though and rather headed on to our hot destination.

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And yes, it was extremely hot. Neither one of us has ever been in such a heat before – well apart from in a sauna. The thermometer at Furnace Creek read 119 °F (48.3 °C) at 218ft below sea level.

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So Death Valley really counts as desert. We do love deserts, but fairly enough, Death Valley in the height of summer was after all just too hot for us. Due to the temperatures not even jumping dunes was an option. It seems that the only thing searching out such hot temperatures were fighter jet pilots (we saw an F18 passing just a bit in front of our car and it was really low!), test car drivers (Erlkönige) and tourists from far away. We clearly belonged to the last category and limited ourselves to viewing the sites from the car and just getting out for very quick stops such as the lowest point of the USA called Badwater or Artist's Palette and eventually retreating to our campground.

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We were easily able to resist the urge to play golf on the world’s lowest golf course. But the pool was very tempting and it was such a big relief to get out of the heat into the pool. Still, it was fascinating to see how the biggest pool we’ve seen so far on our travels was located in the middle of one of the hottest deserts of the world.

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At the pool we also met Jerry and got to talk a bit. Jerry is from Florida and came to Death Valley to support his friend Jodie to run the ‘Badwater135’ ultra marathon. We had seen a couple of cars with signs ‘Careful – runners on the road’, but had not realized what this was about. So for those who don’t know (i.e. just like us): the Badwater135 is a race over 135 miles (or 217 km) from the lowest to the trail head to the highest point Mt Whitney in the continuous 48 US states. It takes place on purpose in the extreme summer heat and all runners are supported by a crew of three people who join them running for the most parts of their run. So while Jerry was ‘just’ a crew member, he would be running 40 miles in the next day. And he told us that just a couple of weeks ago he had been running a 100 mile ultra marathon in Florida…

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We were thunderstruck. This was just way too crazy. And even though the Badwater135 site clearly says that the run is not intended to be viewed by spectators and that the recommended options to see it are competing, serving as crew or following on social media, we did watch the race. At 1pm we went out to the road and observed how the runners were passing after their first 17 miles by the checkpoint at the place we stayed overnight. Wow!

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We did sleep a bit overnight. But quite frankly, we did not sleep really well. It was just way too hot despite having the aircon running in the camper van. So we were happy to go to the pool again first thing in the morning before eventually leaving Death Valley via Zabriskie Point towards Las Vegas.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 14:29 Archived in USA Tagged desert springs death valley pool hot point marathon basin heat deepest mono temperatures Comments (1)

Exploring the Olympic Peninsula with Janis

Sequim Bay State Park, Hurricane ridge, Fairholme campground at Lake Crescent, Sol Duc Hot Springs, Hoh rain forest, Forks

sunny 24 °C
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The next morning, we headed north from Mt. Rainier towards the Olympic Peninsula to meet Janis. Around noon we finally managed to get a signal on the mobile phone again and got Janis’ update that she had landed well and was already on the ferry looking forward to meet us at the reserved campground in Sequim Bay State Park. Just a bit later we pulled into the state park ourselves and there she was.
Wow – we’ve seen a lot in the almost four months since leaving her place in Chicago and had many stories to tell. And Janis had lots of things to tell us as well, such that we’d have enough to talk about in the coming week.
The state park was really nice with a view towards the blue waters of Sequim Bay. As we realized down at the small beach, we’d even be able to legally catch crabs there. Well, except on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And in addition as it’s only allowed to take male crabs, we would have needed to know how to distinguish male from female crabs… So we just admired the view and had a nice barbecue for dinner. To do so we had to borrow the neighbors’ barbecue grill, as unfortunately due to the drought the county had declared a fire ban.
The next day we started to explore Hurricane Ridge - our first venture into Olympic National Park. The ridge offered not only sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and the ocean, but also the view to one of the wildfires raging in the park. We were amazed about the sheer amounts of ash creating enormous clouds.

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As usual we popped up the roof of our camper when preparing lunch, which attracted the attention of people walking and driving by. And once again this resulted in a quick tour of the van and its multiple features. Once that mission was accomplished and we had created enough envy, it was time to explore some of the trails up on the ridge before enjoying afternoon tea (and cake) at one of Port Angeles’ skate parks.

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After one more night in Sequim Bay, we moved on to Lake Crescent. It was August 25th, the 100th birthday of the National Park Service and consequently there were several special activities taking place at the Storm King Ranger Station. Even though it was tempting to stay longer, we had a mission to accomplish: we continued to the western shore of the lake in order to set up camp at Fairholme campground. And we were lucky to still get a nice spot in what seemed to be an ancient forest adorned by giant Douglas fir, hemlock spruce, ferns and mosses.

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We immediately fell in love with the beautiful campground and it did not take long to decide that we’d extend our stay to two nights. And as it was just nice sitting at the lake shore and enjoying the view, we just moved our plan to go to Sol Duc Hot Springs to the next day.

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This allowed us to leave for Sol Duc still in the morning and before too long we found ourselves soaking in one of the hot pools. In an attempt of bravery, we went to the cool fresh water pool first, but it did not take long to realize that 72 °F is just a bit too cold for being comfortable. To warm up for a start we chose the coolest one of the hot pools at 97 °F, but before too long we also tried the 104 °F one. And yes, it was very pleasant soaking there in the sunshine in a wide forested valley.
And we even managed to take a hike along the Sol Duc River after our baths – even though we had already predicted that we might be too lazy and tired afterwards. While the hike we nice, it was not nearly as fascinating as the Grove of the Ancients Trail we on the way out of the valley. We were really impressed by the huge ancient trees – about 700-year-old sentinels mixed in with younger trees and young growth starting on the decaying trunks of fallen trees.

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After another night at Fairholme and discovering also the nice campground trail there, it was time to leave. Our next destination was Forks, the location of the ‘Twilight’ novel and movies. Presumably Forks is one of the wettest places in the continental United States. Not surprisingly, it was drizzling by the time we arrived and it was significantly colder than it had been further east.
We were not surprised – after all our day trip was to Hoh rain forest and quite obviously there needs to be a lot of rain to support a rain forest. Even though we had seen already quite a lot of ancient forests in the last days, the rain forest was really amazing: long mosses hanging down from the trees and lot of fern all over the place. Still it was most impressing to see how young trees start growing on the fallen 200+ ft. logs. What looks cute initially eventually ends with gigantic trees all standing side by side. Most of them feature big cave like openings underneath – proof for a long decayed host tree they started growing on hundreds of years ago.

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It was only after we had done our (quite expensive) shopping at the local Thriftway grocery store, that we found out two pieces of trivia about it: they claim to be located in the western most shopping center of the continental US and this is the place where Twilight character Bella works and shops.
Our next venture took us to the airport to check out the ‘Hot Thunder Night’ and were disappointed that there was absolutely nothing going on. As the BBQ place we wanted to go to did not admit anyone below 21, we had to go back towards the town center. And lucky us: otherwise we might not have realized that this was where the Hot Thunder Night took place. The main street running through town – the US 101 – was blocked off and as we approached the start of the detour, we already saw a car doing a burn out and producing big clouds of burnt rubber in the process.
We parked and had a look at this spectacle which seems to be taken straight out of an old movie scene.

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Anything from vintage car, hot rod, old pimped car, motorbike and modern pickup truck took the challenge to spin the wheels along main street under the cheer of the crowd. The excitement was big – especially for the kids who were racing towards the hot asphalt after each round.

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After we had seen enough and gaped at the donut one of the cars made instead of just going straight like everyone else, it was time to warm up and have food. We were lucky to get one of the window seats at the adjacent Chinese restaurant, such that we could continue watching the spectacle. It was a fun evening and accompanied by the sound of Queen’s ‘We will rock you’ we eventually headed home.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 07:41 Archived in USA Tagged rainforest springs park lake tree national fire hot out twilight ridge fern olympic janis Comments (2)

Picture perfect Canadian Rockies

Canmore, Johnston Canyon, Banff, Lake Louise, Radium Hot Springs, Fort Steele

sunny 19 °C
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It was a great night staying inside Uwe, Carola and Aiyana’s house in Canmore. And luckily enough, Carola had a day off that Monday such that she and Aiyana could join us the day to do some hiking. They suggested to go to nearby Johnston Canyon and it was an excellent choice. And the weather was simply perfect!

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The kids enjoyed the climbing and balancing options the trail to the upper falls had to offer and the adults were pleased with the kids entertaining themselves and therefore having enough time to enjoy the views of the canyon and the waterfalls.

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After nice lunch at the Canyon Diner, we headed back towards Banff and Carola was kind enough to stop at multiple occasions such that Sam could take nice pictures of the Rockies in sunshine. What a difference a little sun makes – not only in regards to pictures, but also in terms of our mood. It was great!

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As if the children did not have enough activity already, we got home to Canmore and headed off right away in direction of the local bike park, where Max and Aiyana were racing the hills. Eventually we had to stop them and move on. A herd of deer had come to the park and one of the deer seemed a bit nervous about all the activity going on so close by.

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So we headed back home, where Max and Aiyana had fun playing together and we enjoyed having nice conversations about Germany, Canada, cultural differences and the standards for building houses in both countries. It was a nice evening and we felt sad to say good bye again to our kind hosts. Still, there are good chances to host them again when they’ll be in Germany once we’ll be back, so we’ll be looking forward to that.
Still, Sam and I also took a bit of time to firm up our plans from there on. There were several options and after a bit of brainstorming, we decided to go back to Lake Louise once more to see it again in nice weather and to head on to Radium Hot Springs from there.
We took the scenic drive up to Lake Louise along the old parkway and luckily we did, as otherwise we’d not seen the deer crossing the river.

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Lake Louise looked quite different in nice weather than two days earlier in fog and snow. This time, we had a really nice view of the lake and Victoria glacier in the background. And at the lake shore around the Fairmont hotel, it was very crowded.

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So we did not stay for long down there, but started to hike the 3.6km up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse right away. That was not only a nice hike, but allowed us to get away from the crowds. And we were rewarded by excellent tea and cookies at the teahouse including a breath taking view Lake Agnes in the afternoon sun. And by the time we got back to the lake, there were even a bit less people there. Seems like the bus tours had left by then.

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It was late enough in the afternoon, that we enjoyed the ride through Kootenay National Park to Radium Hot Springs, but did not make any stops or hikes along the way.

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The next morning, we went from the town of Radium Hot Springs back into the National Park to the actual hot springs. And it was really relaxing to enjoy soaking in the hot water.

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After all that soaking and relaxing, we continued towards the south, which proved to be a really nice drive through the Eastern Kootenay Rockies. While we were surrounded by mountains, they were a bit in the distance such that we found ourselves driving through a long hilly landscape. We really liked the area around Lake Columbia and commented to each other that this is the kind of landscape we could see ourselves living in. Well, at least theoretically. I’m not quite sure if we’d really want to live hours away from any larger towns.

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Eventually we reached our campground at Fort Steele, a really nice spot hidden away from any roads. So it was really, really quiet. It was just a very short drive the next morning to get to the Fort Steele Heritage Site, which is more or less an outdoor museum featuring many buildings from the gold rush era. In the years around 1865, gold miners dug more gold out of Wild Horse Creek than in all of California.

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We enjoyed our day at Fort Steele and were happy that we went there. Not all attractions were still operational, but we probably preferred anyhow having less people around and more solitude. Even though the railroad was not active that day, we took the detour to have a look and that side trip clearly paid out.

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Still, eventually we had to take the decision that had been pending for the last couple of days: Option 1 would mean to continue east via Canada, passing through Fernie and then following the trans Canadian highway east towards Regina and Winnipeg. Option 2 would go down into the USA, lead us though Glacier National Park and then east along US highway 2.
We did a bit of research, found out that the Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier NP had just opened again today after a couple of days of being closed due to snow and ice. And we concluded we might as well go there, as we had met so many people on our travels who praised the park. So it was time to say good-bye to Canada on a gorgeous day, wondering when (there’s no question about the if) we’ll be back again.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 09:12 Archived in Canada Tagged springs canyon fort lake museum sun hike hot outdoor teahouse goldrush Comments (1)

More thermal activity

Taupo, Waikite, Rotorua

semi-overcast 25 °C
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Heading north towards Taupo, we once again passed along the Tongariro National Park. This time, we got to see the Eastern slopes of the volcanoes from the so called ‘Desert Road’. And while not necessarily desert like, there was not too much to be seen. And due to the fact that large areas are closed to the public and serve as a military training area, it is advisable to stay on the road and not to venture further out.

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A bit later we knew the roads already from our visit three days earlier. And it did not take Max long to realize that we were stopping again at the bike park where he had ridden his bike already. Once we had eaten and Max had biked some rounds, we ventured out to hike along the Waikato River – New Zealand’s longest. The hike was really nice and we even got to see from above the spot where we had camped a few days ago.

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After we had enough exercise, we turned back. This time all three of us took a dip in the River at the spot where the Otumuheke hot stream joins it. We found a spot with just the right temperature – not too far up the hot stream and not too far towards the cool Waikato. Sitting there and enjoying the soak in the sunshine, Sam once more felt a small tremor. After all, we are in a zone known for its volcanic and seismic activity!

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Still, we all agreed that there’s no need for a larger shake or eruption just now. We’d rather be far away in such an event. The world’s largest eruption of the last 5000 years took place in 186 AD in Taupo. In one of the visitor centers we had seen the comparison of the ash clouds of various outbreaks: Mt. St. Helens was a spec, Krakatau’s eruption sizable, but still half the height of Taupo’s ash clouds, which were allegedly 50km high. Thanks to the notes of Roman and Chinese historians, the date of the eruption can be dated. After all, at that stage there were no humans living in New Zealand yet with the Maoris only arriving almost 1000 years later.
Despite the soak in the hot stream, we had plans for even more soaking and left for Waikite Thermal Pools. We had reserved a spot for the night at the campground which belongs to the pools. Once we arrived, we had a quick dinner and then headed straight to the pools. We had six different pools to choose from at temperatures between 35 and 40 °C. It was a magical atmosphere – specifically as the sun set over the steaming valley with the pools. The next morning, we went to the pools once more to have a look at daylight.

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We did not spend too much time, as we were keen to be at the ‘Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland’ at 10am. This is when the daily eruption of the Lady Know Geyser is taking place – perfectly timed due to the help of a little soap that sets the eruption off. As we had seen our share of geysers in Yellowstone with the similarly predictable Old Faithful (even without soap or other helping agents!), we did not go to the geyser, but took the tour of the rest of the area. Thanks to the simultaneous geyser show, the parking lot was empty and there were hardly any people around. The strategy that our excellent guide book ‘NZ Frenzy’ had suggested, worked perfectly.

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Just like we had in Yellowstone, we enjoyed the multitude of thermal features enormously. The Champagne Pool was the predictable highlight of the area, but also the Artist’s Palette, Primrose Terraces and Sulfur Pool were absolutely impressive. By the time the other visitors came returned to the thermal area after seeing the geyser, we had seen already completed most of our sightseeing and were happy to leave.

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We headed straight into Rotorua. We were hungry and had a couple of errands to run – tasks that are easily completed in a small town like Rotorua.

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On the way back to our car, we took the scenic tour via the Government Gardens with its bowling lawns. A tournament with international participation was going on over four days and the enthusiasts were taking their sport seriously. We were fascinated by the accuracy of the bowls and also by the unusual attire these older men were wearing.

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Scattered throughout the gardens were fenced off steaming pools – proof that Rotorua is a town that is located on top of a huge caldera. And there was a not just a slight hint of sulfur in the air. At times, it got so strong that we started to understand why some of the campgrounds in suburbs far away from the center make a big point around the fact that there are no sulfur in their locations.

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The campground where we stayed for the night, was located close to the airport. We were not bothered by the few airplanes making their descent into the airport and there were no wild sulfur smells either. Max was happy to have a trampoline and playground just next to our spot and we were happy about the excellent wifi.
The next day, we spent some more time in Rotorua. The Kuirau Gardens are much more than a normal city park. There were lots and lots of hot pools, steaming vents and mud pools. All of that, along with warning signs about staying on the paths. After all, as the area is subject to geothermal activity and due to its nature previously stable ground might become unstable. Together with some locals and other tourists, we took a footbath in the thermal water.

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At the skatepark, there were no other tourists around and actually no locals either. Max had the place for himself and enjoyed the solitude. A bit of shopping and back to the campground to enjoy the rest of this quiet day. And yes, after the many kilometers we had driven over the past days, we deserved a bit of rest.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 23:10 Archived in New Zealand Tagged park pool hot geyser thermal bowling Comments (1)

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