Tag Archives: hot springs

Spa Day in Radium

Radium Hot Springs, BC, with mountain in backgroundSo let’s say I went on vacation and while looking forward to a relaxing time in a hot springs pool, I injured myself in three different ways, thus negating the healing effects of 105-degree water and instead identifying new effects of walking with a limp. But let’s also postulate that in order to combat said accident-proneness, I agreed to get a Swedish massage. Well, that would probably be memorable, too.

It really started with the couches at the condo rental, up in Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia. Maybe they were from the dreaded IKEA store, where furniture looks great until it leaves the Swede-designed showroom. The middle supports in the loveseats that marked the boundary of the living room area were three inches lower than the parts of the cushions nearest the armrests. In other words, there was no way to sit on the sofas and keep one’s hips even. We took to lying across the furniture at odd angles, vainly searching for comfort. By the end of the first day a small spot next to the small of my back began radiating pain outward, an epicenter of activity that foretold of destruction, soon to follow. I noticed I had begun walking with a hitch as the muscles nearby had held some sort of summit regarding what to do, and had agreed to stiffen up in response to the sore area. I was on my way to a full blown back ache. Read More…

The human race is doomed

Another brief run-down in numbers of our trip. We’ve now spotted:

  • a beaver, who regarded us from about 10 yards away and let us get a couple of good pictures
  • a white wolf, who went running by our car on the side of the road at the Grand Tetons
  • two bald eagles, separate sightings
  • a hawk or osprey, who flew away when we got too close
  • a mountain blue bird, who literally posed for me
  • at least 30 bison, one of whom walked next to our car
  • an elk couple, gnawing on some grass
  • a grizzly bear, too tired to stand so decided flopping over on his side was preferable
  • a couple pronghorn sheep on the side of a cliff

The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone are really incredible, simply put. There are so many different kinds of features I have a hard time fathoming that we’re in the same 300,000 acre area. Hot springs, geysers, mud pots, and volcanoes on the west side of the parks, enormous canyons, mountain-fed waterfalls, iced-up lakes and evergreens on the east and southern sides. And everywhere, precarious cliff drops, beasts and birds of prey, natural wonders I’ve never laid eyes on before, I could look in the same direction for 10 minutes and keep seeing new and interesting things.

The other thing I’ve realized on this trip is that it takes a hell of a lot of work to make a national park functional, from building in trails and roads without disturbing the ecosystem, staffing the park with rangers who know what they’re doing, writing up points of interest accurately and interestingly, and effectively keeping people aware of safety hazards and relevant laws. This last one cannot be understated as challenging for the park service. There were so many times Susanne and I saw people behaving with total ignorance of their surroundings, or what I can only imagine was disregard for rules, laws, and guidelines.

Passing a sign telling us that this area was “frequented by bears,” a hiker pulled out a sandwich and started eating it as she walked. Mm, tasty human with tasty roast beef sandwich!

At a hot springs basin in which all manner of sulfur-living bacteria floated on the water, smelling like dead bodies, a woman dipped her hand in the water, for what reason I have no idea. Susanne and I were astonished at her carelessness—she could contract a parasite, or worse, become the Undead Swamp Woman. Or so I imagine.

At the same hot springs basin, a sign warned travelers of the thin crust to the earth, and to stay on the raised platform. Here is the sign:

dangerous ground signThis sign clearly shows a boy off the raised path, regretting his action, while a woman with a pained expression on her face looks on, trying to figure out what to do as the child begins boiling himself. Notably, a man with a bag in the background walks on, aloof and indifferent to the entire ordeal, which tells us something important. Never trust a guy with a man purse. Let’s please also note that this sign is in five languages, and topped with an eye-catching red banner. There really is no reason not to at least glance at this sign. You’re about to walk through a lava field, people. Aren’t you the least bit interested in what the rangers saw fit to share with you?

hot springs in yellowstone

Does this look like you should stand next to it?

So what did we see happen four feet from the start of the trail? An entire family, one by one, getting off the platform, walking right up to a bubbling crevice, kneeling next to it, and pointing at it, the other members of the clan gleefully snapping pictures. Of what could be their last moment on earth. I think my jaw dropped.

Later that day we saw several vehicles stopped along the side of a road, and we figured something interesting must have been happening, so we slowed down, since rubbernecking is okay in these parts. Lo and behold a grizzly bear was sitting in the brush, just hanging out. We had also read by this point no fewer than 10 pieces of instructions regarding bear encounters, everything from how to photograph them safely, to proscriptions against feeding them, to what to do if one attempts to rip out your throat (note, it does not involve climbing a tree).

None of the people taking pictures of this grizzly were abiding any of the very incredibly sensible rules around bear trauma avoidance. No one was keeping a safe distance, all of them were out of their cars, presumably going on some kind of numbers game—he’ll probably attack someone other than me, so I’ll have a chance to run back into my Hummer3. One woman with her crappy Canon PowerShot (hey, I’ve got one too, so I know about these things) asked another person, “do you see any cubs?” What the hell, lady? Susanne rightly knew that if there were cubs around, this bear would not be nearly so docile-seeming, and chaos would have already ensued. There’s nothing like a real vacation killer than running for your life because you had to get a close up of a baby animal and your zoom just wasn’t cutting it. People seem not to realize that the professional photographers of the wilderness world have amazing equipment that lets them get extremely close shots from very safe distances. The amateur’s stupid Pentax is not going to be the same. Just by the $10 poster print in the national park store and be done with it.

I can only glean from all of this bad behavior that our time is fairly limited on this planet. Those hot springs have been pulsing out boiling water way longer than we’ve been around, and they’ll be here after we lose out to the cockroaches and sparrows of Earth. But it’s a shame—we humans went to the trouble to create language, and then we spend so much energy not listening.

And all that aside, the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone are really amazing places. More on that tomorrow.

Had me a blast

us with mary tyler mooreSo we’ve sketched out and thought about and worked our way through to some summer plans, and wireless connectivity what it is, will be relaying our journey on this very blog, in what will wind up being a reverse travelogue of our trip in August 2008. Once June rolls around I will also be guest blogging for Bitch magazine, so I will have to get a bit creative in the early part of the month on ways to get my posts published. But as far as trans/plant/portation goes, here is a preview of our trip back east:

Hot springs in Idaho—non-sulfur pools like the one we’ve been to in Radium, British Columbia

Grand Teton National Park—Susanne revealed to me that “tetons” is from the breast-like mountain silhouette. Yeah, she had to go make it dirty.

Yellowstone National Park—we’re aiming to reach this park on my actual 40th birthday, because I can think of nothing as wonderful as standing next to “Old Faithful” when I enter my 41st year.

The Badlands of South Dakota—I have no expectations, but I am told it will be breathtaking, so I’ll bring some extra air with me.

Mt. Rushmore and the Corn Palace—I feel an itch to write this blog post very badly, juxtaposing the majestic grandeur of the presidents with . . . corn.

Minneapolis/St. Paul—no trip cross-continent would be complete without at least a short visit to the land of the Fargo Accent.

I think it may be fun to make some kind of flip book like I’ve seen for little kids. It could combine the destination, the beautiful feature of the destination, and how I could wound or maim myself. Roughing out the idea a little, here are some examples:

Everett got splinters | taking pictures of trees | in the Grand Tetons

Everett got sunburned | looking at the sculpture garden | in Minneapolis

Everett was bitten by a bear | hiking the stunning cliffs | of the Badlands

Mixing and matching only makes it more fun! I see a children’s book here, really.

After all of this traveling, we will land in DC, just in time for the DC Pride weekend, which will, it nearly goes without saying, be completely unlike Walla Walla in tone and demographic. And just watch, I’ll probably get overwhelmed from so many people. The desert’s always greener, or something.

Newbies on the Kootenay

Having been a fan, in my youth, of many a water flume ride, I often wondered if white water rafting was merely a few degrees higher on the dial of the same animal, or an entirely different adventure, not the least because it was off a metal track and in the open outdoors.

I now have my answer.

We dragged ourselves groggily to the meeting location, most of us wearing layers like we’d been instructed. The Kootenay river runs very near the much larger, longer, Columbia, but the Kootenay is home to more sacred Native lands and is said to be the source for some ancient medicines. One by one we lumbered in, and I watched the cousins, some of whom Susanne hadn’t seen since the wedding, greet each other and start to wake up. We read over the liability releases, made sure we had everyone we were waiting for, and piled into the yellow school bus for our 1/2 day trip to the river.

“Cousins on the river,” they shouted like a pre-game warmup cheer, and we rumbled to the rafting site.

We listened to the guides give us our safety instructions, but we were ready on our own accord, coming armed with 5 epi pens in case an evil peanut or honey bee should come at us in one of the rapids. I chatted up the guide at the back of the raft, our conversation repeatedly redirected so that we could “paddle forward,” “left back, right front,” and so on. The Kootenay has dug through a lot of earth over the millennia, and we found our selves in some deep river canyons, limestone cliffs on our right, deep dark soil thick with evergreens off the port. The cousins at the front of the boat were soaked head to toe. Wet cousins do indeeed look like drowned rats.

We hurtled over class 3 rapids like young bucking bronco riders. Twisting alongside the Canadian rockies, we declared the experience thrilling and vowed to take on a more challenging river next summer. Hooray for the river!

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