So here we are, travelling back in time to a place situated some 4,700 miles (7,540km) from my temporary home in Birmingham, UK. I decided to reward myself when I submitted my PhD after 6 years of turmoil and not going out anywhere really, which did help save money but not my sanity :) Anyway, after putting these research skills I acquired from academia to good use, I found a 20 day tour around the Rocky Mountain National Parks of the USA!
Armed with a flimsy A5 notepad, a couple of pens and a large gym bag with some clothes rolled in, I was ready to start documenting this adventure; an experience that still brings a smile to my face 4 years on. These journal notes haven't been read by any one else except me... until now ;) So you're about to join me on this adventure, live it through my ramblings and meet my travel group as we fly over to Seattle and make our way to Mount Rainier National Park in part #1! Any modifications from the original written journal are there for readability's sake and have been put in [square brackets]. Seemed I was quite a novelist on this trip :D
The non-fancy travel journals ready to have their stories told!
Arrival In Seattle
Journal Entry - 9th June 2014 - Deluded Excitement
At last, I have made it to USA with some glorious views of the Rockies from my air plane window seat as we flew over [them]. Cannot wait to start hiking up them. Sent an email over to the group on Trek America and looks like we will be meeting for dinner in an hour or so (6pm local time)! I'm pretty spent but the excitement is well and truly latching on now! This is going to be one heck of a trip!
I remember writing this in the Clarion hotel room in Seattle shortly after I arrived (just to get in to the habit of writing more than anything) but once dinner was finished, I couldn't stay up any longer and hit the sack. Not really much to report other than deluded excitement it seems!
Meeting The Group
Journal Entry - 11th June 2014 6:45am - Names, Glorious Names
Still trying to adjust to the 8 hour time difference but I was up at 5am, awakened by the beautiful sound of a million birds singing in our campsite and the brightness of a cloudless sky (and of course the not so beautiful sound of man-made vehicles droning in the nearby freeway)!
Ha, I had forgotten about the freeway til re-reading that and don't know why I felt the need to write the time of writing! :D
Alas, let's talk about the first day of the trek. After meeting all the folk at the [Clarion] hotel with the conventional introductions and risks etc. of being outdoors, I was thinking, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, let's go!!" The final number of people is 11 + our tour guide, Jay, and we have 5 UK, 3 German, 2 Dutch and 1 lad from South Korea. If I remember all their names after the first day, it's a miracle... which didn't happen but here's my attempt:
- UK - Robin (Carlisle), Leela (London), Clare (Dorset), James (Leicester)
- German - Julia (Bremen), Lars & .... ? (I will find out)
- Dutch - Pim & Andre
- Korea - Sejin
- Tour Guide - Jay
The Group! Back row from left to right - Clare, Vera, André, Pim, James, Lars, Me. Front row from left to right - Julia, Leela, Sejin, Robin.
Hey, not bad! I'm usually pretty terrible with names but maybe I just asked each person individually, "Hey, who's that?" and it stuck somehow :D Turns out the girl's name was Vera (spoiler alert)! We'll find out more about these folks in a later travel diary blog. First, we have Mount Rainier to visit!
Mount Rainier National Park
We set off from the Clarion [hotel] in cloudy weather but [the] temperature was pleasant enough. We had to stop off at a supermarket to get a few things and I bought a fleece, which came in handy late last night as the Sun went down and the temperatures plummeted. It wasn't all driving but we did spend a lot of time in the travel van or "Selene" as it is affectionately known by Jay!
We stopped off at Mt Rainier (said "ran-eer") National Park and went for a 4 mile-ish hike. I wasn't sure of altitude but maybe 4000-5000 feet. The Sun opened up a little bit as we walked further up and once we got out of the massive amount of tall pine trees, we got to "Inspiration Point" where you could see an impressive view of the peaks leading towards Mount Rainier. Unfortunately, the cloud never went away from the summit so we couldn't see its glory but being immersed in the mountains is enough for me!
Mountain scenery at Mount Rainier NP
After we finished the hike, we set off and drove up towards the visitor's centre, climbing ever higher in Selene. My goodness, the views going up the road were awe inspiring and all conversation fell silent in the van as we collectively took it all in. A vast amount of snow at this place, talking about a couple of feet! We still couldn't see the summit of Mt Rainier but it's tricky with the geography. Basically the mountain ranges on the western side gets the brunt of the weather systems and thus dumps all the rain down there, leading to awesome green scenery.Turns out that I was trying to convince "future me" that I was a geography expert... not fooling anybody Nicky, carry on :)
Snowy landscapes near Mt Rainier Visitor's Centre - Thanks Clare!
The Case Of The Sour Skittles...I was going to close off this blog after Mt Rainier but decided to include this funny but ridiculous tale about a packet of Sour Skittles as we made our way to Montana.
Journal Entry - 11th June 11:00am - On The Road
We set off around 9am and [had] been on the road now for a couple of hours. Just stopped off at a "gas" station and thought I would chance a purchase of some USA Sour Skittles seeing as I enjoy a dabble in the UK version. Having made a shocking purchase at the store yesterday of "spice drops" (I will never buy these horrible anaseed/sambuca flavoured sweet ever again!), my confidence in buying these sweets was not high. Especially with pressure from Leela, a keen photographer with a video camera ready, threatening to film the "grand opening". The nervous tension contained within was brewing!
With a single rip, I opened the packet, revealing the sugar coated sour droplets of doom, of which, I summoned two. In they went, releasing an instant devastation of soury goodness and with it, supreme relief that I made a good purchase. And with a glint in my eye, smiled at the red recording light of Leela's video camera and challenged her back.
Film still rolling, her reaction was expected [as she] looked away in the initial rush followed by a face and [declaration] of, "those are AWESOME!" Redemption :D
We must never speak of those other sweets."
I had completely forgotten about this silly episode of the trip but reading back through the notes, I can remember it pretty clearly now and the filming that happened! Really enjoyed those sour skittles but don't know if that video still exists or it got trashed like those "spice drops" did :)
The next leg of the travel blog will see us staying at a ranch in Montana, finding out more about the group we'll be spending the next 19 days with and who knows what other random things will pop up!
Hope you enjoyed today's blog and catch in the next one :)
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