Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ziplining in the Rain

After our drive on the Going to the Sun Road through Glacier National Park, Oscar and I decided to go ziplining.

I'll admit I was excited at first, then terrified that something tragic would happen, then excited again once we got there.

We couldn't resist going since we'd been wanting to zipline for a long time, but we couldn't ever justify the cost on a cheap thrill. On our Hawaii cruise it would have been about $100 per zip, going on your own to the ziplines on Maui was about $300 for 5 zips, and in Whistler, which we'd thought was a good deal, was $100 for 5 zips. So we were super excited when we saw that the ziplines in Montana were only $49 for 6 zips.

The first two are progressive in difficulty. This picture below was the first "training zip," and there was one other before we hopped on the chair lift. Unfortunately it started raining right when we got to the first zip. The ziplining was just as fun, but if it gets raining too hard, the rain will hurt your eyes unless you're wearing sunglasses.

Oscar had no fear whatsoever the whole time.

I was fine once we started, but got a little nervous before the big long zips. When we were on the chairlifts we could see the ziplines high above, and that was a bit scary. But once you're actually flying through the air, it's too exhilarating to worry about the line snapping.

The chances of injury are actually pretty slim. The more common and more concerning thing is getting stuck in the middle of the zip and having to be rescued. They tell you to hold the straight pencil position to go as fast as you can to make sure you make it all the way across. Timid people who are too scared to go too fast may actually make it worse for themselves because if they don't make it all the way across, they can end up stuck hanging out in the middle of the zip and have to wait a long time for someone to come get them.

After the pencil position, you go into the star position to slow down, then you put your legs up to lessen the impact of the break. Oscar ended up going to fast, not slowing down enough, and bouncing halfway back. The cool thing is that we got the whole thing on video. We'd asked someone to take a video of us with our camera as we both came across together, and he just continued shooting the whole rescue.

The actual video is much longer, and it didn't upload well. We'll have to figure out how to compress it and re upload it so you can see the whole thing.

These were our fun ziplining trainers. One always goes on their own first to show you how it's done and be on the other side to help you get undone. The other goes last to assist everyone getting geared up.

Of course, the weather cleared up as soon as we were done.

We spent one more night at Nikki's house in Spokane and took them out to Red Robin for lunch the next day.

Her kids were adorable and well behaved.

But it was hard to get a picture of all of them looking at the camera.

Our trip back from Spokane took us through the beautiful gorge near George, Washington.

It was beautiful, but a bit scary since there was a sign saying "watch for rattlesnakes" along the path to the lookout, and you could hear them rattling.

Fortunately Oscar showed me how to watch for rattlesnake holes and which areas to avoid getting too close to.

I loved how the water looked with the sun sparkling on it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Glacier National Park

After our brief stop at Palouse Falls, we stayed the night in Spokane, then took off for Glacier National Park. It was ideal to have a place to sleep for free at my friend Nikki's house. I hate paying $100 for a hotel when all I do is sleep. Oscar and I are definitely not the "go on vacation to relax" types, so a warm bed is plenty for us. But it's over 9 hours from our house to Glacier National Park, and it was definitely nice to see Nikki again and have a break from our long drive. We stayed with her again on the way back too.

I'd heard that Montana was the land of lakes, and those rumors were correct. The drive was really beautiful, and we enjoyed seeing so many lakes. It was nice weather for the most part until we got about 10 miles away from our hotel. We'd planned to go ziplining that evening, but we missed it by 5 minutes! I'd forgotten that you lose an hour when you change time zones, and I hadn't calculated it into our drive. So we went to our hotel and rescheduled ziplining for the next day. Luckily they had a pool with a pretty cool waterslide and two nice hot tubs. Hey, if we're going to pay for a hotel, we're going to do our best to use all of their amenities and get our money's worth!

We were a little concerned when it was gray and rainy the evening we arrived, and then rainy at 6:00am while we ate the free hotel breakfast (which I must add is something I like about staying at a Holiday Inn Express. In addition to the standard continental breakfast stuff, they serve bacon, eggs, and biscuits with sausage gravy. Yum!). Driving the Going to the Sun road is pretty much what you do when you go to Glacier National Park for the first time, so we were hoping it'd still be worth the trip and that we could still get good pictures. Luckily, the rain cleared up, but there were still some clouds obscuring our view.

We liked this little waterfall.

And our hopes rose when we could see some blue in the skies.

Such gorgeous shots.

I was expecting to see glaciers, and got pretty hills and lakes instead.

There are waterfalls like this everywhere, but they're far away from the main road so we had to super zoom in for this photo. We could see from the pictures at the gift shop that they look awesome in the spring as the glaciers melt.

Now we're getting into the heart of the park.

So beautiful!

This is the only glacier we saw in all of Glacier National Park, and it was mostly melted.

The valley below the road was also quite pretty.

But I kept being brought back to this vista.

I loved these waterfall stairs! You see this kind of thing in landscaping all the time. But I think it's even cooler to see it in nature where no man had any control of the design. Nature's stairs. It seriously felt like I could just climb them, though that would probably be super dangerous!

We could see much farther as the clouds started clearing.

And now the queen of stair waterfalls - birdwoman falls!

I definitely couldn't get it in one picture.

So I took multiple shots of different parts of the falls.

The only way to get it in its entirety would be from the valley floor, but it's not accessible to tourists. The road intersects it near it's top. There's much more below.

I loved looking back as these hills, mountains, and falls.

We hadn't thought we'd do the Hidden Lake Lookout hike, but the day kept getting nicer and nicer, and by the time we got to the start of the hike, I was wishing I'd worn shorts. The hidden lake was pretty, but so were the views along the way.

Though it was nice to have man-made steps, the hike was initially pretty steep.

These little guys are pikas. From a distance you couldn't tell the difference between them and squirrels, but up close, and we got to be pretty up close, you could see it in their heads and tails.

The hidden lake is in sight!

I love the turquoise blue color of the lake in the sunlight.

This is the view east from the lookout point.

We were delighted by how nice the day turned out.

Oscar and I have discovered that we generally have good weather luck on our trips. Days that are supposed to be rainy and cloudy end up sunny, and we're really grateful for that. On the negative side, we tend to have horrible traffic luck. We'll get random traffic out in the middle of nowhere, or we'll get close to our destination and hit traffic at weird times like 1:30pm and midnight.

I was loving the mountains against the blue sky with only a few white, puffy clouds.

The trip back down was easier, for obvious reasons, and had even nicer views than the way up.

We even got to see a Marmot.

Everyone was taking pictures, and it didn't even faze him.

He even turned and posed for us. Another marmot we saw scampered away immediately, but this guy loved the spotlight.

Then we got back on the road.

We stopped for these pics since they were doing some roadwork and only one direction of traffic could go at a time.

At least we had good places to be stopped.

We got lucky that this was the last day the road was open for the season.

They like to do some road work before mother nature takes its toll and makes it impossible to have large vehicles and men at work.

They'd posted that the road would be closed on Midnight September 19th, which technically meant Saturday night.

This confused a lot of people since the road didn't actually close until Sunday night.

Which was really lucky for us since the park officials told us there'd been a ton more people the day before, even though it was cloudy and rainy. They must have thought the road was closed on Sunday, so that left clear roads for us.

Towards the end of the road we came to beautiful St. Mary's lake.

Oscar didn't want to stop at this viewpoint since we'd just seen a tour bus there, but I could tell as we passed it that it would be a stunning view. I made him stop even though he didn't get out. I'm glad he let me off there. This was really the prettiest view of all! Plus all the tour bus people left as I got there, so I got the whole area to myself for my own picture taking pleasure.

The views were still pretty as we came out of the park.

And we were shocked by the random, wild horses blocking the road. There were tons of them standing in the road, with no owner or farm nearby as far as I could see, and no honking we could do would make them move. We pulled off to the side, and finally a semi-truck convinced them to get off the road.