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My 2011 Summer–A Photography Documentary

25 Sep

I guess we could all go to the beach for one more time, but the summer of 2011 is sadly over. As I was doing my seasonal photography archiving, the captured moments reminded me what a wonderful summer I had.

So I decided to do a post about this summer—places I visited, people I met, food I ate, and some random moments when I happened to press the shutter of my camera.

2011.7---Yellowstone, a trip of lifetime

2011.7---Grand Teton, hiked on some unforgettable trails

2011.6---New York City, a different skyline of the city from the Highline

2011.6---Hoboken, just another quiet Sunday evening

2011.9---Jersey City, Home, Summer fun cooking

2011.9---Jersey City, Home, Summer fun cooking

2011.8---New York, Grand Central

2011.9---Houston, TX, taking off with the first sunlight

2011.9---EWR, getting ready for another 11-hour trip

2011.9---Portland, OR, waiting for a table for brunch

One Man’s Trail–A Single Man in Grand Teton & Yellowstone

18 Jul

So I survived from another national park trip after hiking on back country trails on my own for over 30 miles, suffering serious sunburns (you will see some pictures of my poor face) and bug bites, driving for more than 1200 miles and flying over 4500 miles.

If you follow my Twitter or is a friend of mine on Facebook, you would know on my first day in the Yellowstone there was tragic news that a couple got attacked by a grizzly bear and the husband was killed. And the day before, I just hiked on a back country trail in Grand Teton National Park for almost seven hours.  For more than four hours in the deep woods I didn’t see another human being. And I think I should mention I did see pretty fresh footprints of bears. So you can imagine I was a bit scared when I heard about the news. But I followed what the brochure I got from the trail head told me: keep clapping and making noises to reduce the chance of encountering a bear. I guess the technique worked. The only animal I saw on the trail was a deer. While you are back in nature, you just have to follow certain rules. It’s not a man-made environment, so it’s important to show your respect.

The respect includes don’t get mad at AT&T for no reception at all in some areas, for days.

I almost hiked or biked everyday. I was regretted I didn’t bring my running shoes so I could even run everyday. I burned so many calories and I slept like a baby at night. The next day, I got up at 6 am, feeling fully recharged and starting a new day of adventures in the wilderness.

Most part of the trip wasn’t quite comfortable by any standard though. First of all, as I mentioned before, the bugs in the Grand Teton had been ridiculous this year. No matter how much bug spray you put on your skin, it just didn’t work. And two hours after you started on the trail, I found my arms and legs were so oily because of the bug spray. To make things worse, I had to put more of the greasy lotion on top my skin. Then it was the heat. Although the temperature during the night could drop to lower 30s, the highest temperature during the day when I was out hiking or biking or driving still reached over 90s. So my shirt was always wet. Another challenge was the sun. Since the average elevation of the area is above 7,000 feet, the sunlight is so much stronger than I expected. I didn’t realize that until the third day when I was shocked by my red skin from the sunburn. And apparently it was already too late to put any sun-protection—the damage had reached to a point where only time could perhaps heal it. Finally, the snow. Yes, the snow. I didn’t expect at all to hike in more than 15 inches of snow while wearing shorts and sweating. But there was still a lot of snow on many of the trails and for some sections you couldn’t even pass through without winter gears.

It was a trip full of all kinds of surprises–the crazy bugs, the snow in July, the sunburns, the bear saga, but most importantly, the views. The views of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone can seriously make you stop breathing. The most powerful adjective to describe beauty from any language is too weak for the tetons and the meadows, springs, snow mountains and geysers at Yellowstone. I spent two hours just sitting on a rock by the Yellowstone river overlooking the Hayden Valley, feeling extremely privileged to have the chance to get so close to a place that’s probably older than the time and see the view that has barely changed for hundreds of thousands of years. Only when I stood in front of the permanent glacier of one of the Tetons, did I realized my whole life would just be perhaps one tenth second to the Tetons.

A trip like this was indeed needed–it makes you realize how short our lives are, how meaningless to be bothered by some of the things we thought important and how easy life could be.

Now please enjoy some of the photos I took along my trip. More photos can be viewed on my Flickr page.

Flowers & the Tetons

Road

Snake River & the tetons

Sunset at the Grand Teton

A Morning at Colter Bay

Peaceful

There's a catch for this view--8 hours of hiking

Old Faithful

Hayden Valley

A bison at the Yellowstone

A tiny piece of the Yellowstone beauty

The tan on my face says everything about the sun

Falling in love with Seattle in 24 hours

28 Dec

It’s been a very relaxing holiday season for me this year. No travel at all. Well, guess it’s a great thing given the nasty blizzard we’ve been dealing with in the last two days.

Christmas is gone but the New Year of 2011 is something that keeps the holiday spirit still up. I wish all my readers are enjoying the holiday season as I am.

Before we say goodbye to the year 2010, I suddenly realize there is one trip I haven’t gotten a chance to blog about. An unforgettable weekend trip to Seattle a few weeks ago. You may call me crazy because I got on a 6-hour long flight to the west coast just like hopping on a cab in the city. I flew out Saturday morning and got back Sunday night, managing to spend a little bit over 24 hours in the raining Seattle and realizing how much I have fallen in love with her.

The typical Seattle weather

The rain started before I land and that was how the city welcomed me, which I did not mind at all. Growing up in Chengdu, a major city in southwest of China, I have pretty much gotten used to raining and cloudy days. Actually I love the weather a lot. It reminds me of home.

The warm and comfortable light rail from the airport to downtown cost $2.5. Is there a better way for a city to showcase its hospitality by offering almost-free but pretty decent public transit from the airport?

My first stop, the Pike Place, a local farmers market where you can find fresh seafood, vegetables, fruits, handcrafted decorations, homemade sweets and the very first Starbucks shop.

Pike Market

A latte from the first Starbucks shop. It didn't taste any better though.

Seafood at Pike

Fruits at Pike

The most fascinating thing about Seattle is that you can find so many local stores–coffee shops, bakeries and restaurants, which do not have franchises in other cities. This also means you need to come back here often if you truly love the seafood, the people and the rain here, which is exactly what I will do in the future.

Latte from Starbucks' neighbor, a local coffee shop. So much better.

To best use my 24 hours, I did a highlight trip on Saturday: Pike Place–Space Needle–Waterfront–Elliott Oyster House. The highlight of this highlight trip was no doubt Elliott Oyster House. The super fresh and fat oysters from the Pacific Ocean were phenomenal. The champagne ice sauce only added the excitement of the oysters. Every flavor worked so harmoniously, like an orgy in my mouth.

Oyster plate from Elliott

My main course clam linguini

The second day, I came back to the Pike Place again. While I was taking some photos of golden smoked salmon in one of the many seafood stands, a middle-aged guy who appeared to work there asked me “hungry?” I laughed “always!” He grab a big piece of smoked salmon with a plastic bag and handed it to me. I was totally shocked and excited about this quarter pound free smoked salmon.

Smoked salmon. I just couldn't resist.

And it tasted like heaven. His strategy obviously has been proved to be very effective–I ended up getting over two pounds of the salmon.

Then it was about time to leave. I paid another $2.5 and got to the airport very smoothly. The rain stopped as my flight was about to take off. I knew I was already looking forward to see the next rain in Seattle.

One word for Seattle--fabulous!

A road trip to Vermont

27 Oct

It’s been almost three weeks after I got back from a road trip to Vermont. It’s about time to write a wrap-up before I totally forget what happened during that crazy weekend (Like many people who work like crazy, I constantly feel the onset of my Alzheimer’s already started).

It was a long, dramatic and crazy trip featured a car accident (everyone involved was fine and it was not my fault at all), breathtaking views, more than 800-mile driving, an improvised itinerary and heavy highway traffic.

Getting out of the heavily populated tri-state area through I-95 was once again proved to be a nightmare. The heavy traffic extended till New Haven of Connecticut where our rental car was slammed by an old Volvo from the back. The driver turned out a high school girl who was totally freaking out. Luckily no one got injured. But it was impossible for us to continue driving the damaged car to Vermont. Long story short, the tow truck managed to take us to New Haven airport one hour before the Hertz counter closed so that we could replace the car. The process was smooth and efficient. We hit the road again around 11:30pm. Thumbs up to Hertz! (But wait…Just yesterday, I got a phone call from Hertz telling me that they didn’t find the damaged car in the parking lot of New Haven Airport and asking me which tow company I was using. This is truly a bit absurd because you would imagine a rental car company should make sure it gets the first car back before it gives you another car. Anyway, I simply gave Hertz the tow company’s name and told the agent on the phone again what happened that night. Hopefully things can be sorted out soon…)

When we finally got to Vermont, it was already 2:30am. And the rest of the trip was all about driving. I consider myself a quite experienced traveler and I understand the importance of doing the homework BEFORE a trip. But with a busy job during the week, me and my travel buddy decided to take a risk for this time and improvised our itinerary while we were on the road. Not so surprised, things turned out not very brilliant—although we did see a lot of nice views, we ended up driving across Vermont and New Hampshire in one day, which was about 8-hour driving.

I don’t have many interesting stories to tell you this time but I do have a lot of photos to show off, a lot!

Morning of the first day in VT

nice color, that's the point of this trip

You know what is this. I got two though I'm not a big fan of sweets.

Made a stop at Dartmouth College and had the lunch. Feeling smarter.

Somewhere on the road. Had to stop to take this photo.

Almost the end of the first day. Made it to the White Mountain in New Hampshire. But our hotel was in VT. Another 3.5-hour night time driving.

The temperature dropped to 40 degrees.

Then came the best view of the trip

Captured the sunset. Amazing view.

Turned out a historic site

I feel this looks like somewhere in the Jurassic Park.

The second morning. Skinny Pancake restaurant at Montpelier, V

What do you think of the menu? Everything was great.

Pancake wrapped with cheese and bacon. Best ever!

Hit the road again, heading to Stowe

Here we are. Stowe! a nice small town.

Made it to the top of the mountain. Some exciting mountain dirt road driving.

Chef Shie feels like taking a photo of himself.

only wish I could stay longer

PM, in the Little River State Park. so peaceful

breathtaking view

Heading back home. Something is not so right. where's the highway???

Turned out Tom Tom took us to a ferry back to NY.

A busy ferry

Heading back to NY

wondering when was the last time i was on a ferry

Perfect light

New York does not only have New York City

A road trip, indeed!

24 hours in Rochester

3 Sep

Is a 24-hour visit to Rochester in the upstate of New York too long? Not necessarily.

Got up at 5am, took 5:20am Path train to 33rd street, walked up to Penn Station and got on the 7:15am Amtrak train. 7 hours later, I was at the train station of Rochester, a station that only has 2 tracks and one platform.

Visitors who just got off the train at Rochester quickly got picked up by families and friends. The train station suddenly became strangely quiet, in the afternoon of a Saturday. Gustav, the friend I was visiting was running late and I had to spend another 20 minutes in the station by myself, imagining what he could possibly propose to make the next 24 hours a bit less boring in this little town, or the third-largest town of New York State.

Gustav was a long-time friend of mine. He was the other major character in the famous story I often tell my new friends. A story about hiding in a tiny bathroom on a night train from Rome to Paris for 10 hours.

For many people who live in New York City, Rochester may be far from interesting. You basically could count the number of cars on the main street. And only a few restaurants in the downtown area were open during weekends. Gustav apparently did some nice homework and we ended up having dinner at a very popular local BBQ place–Dinosaur BBQ, a Food Network’s triple-D-style restaurant. The place was packed and smelled like happiness wrapped with butter, cheese, charcoal and hot sauce.

Gustav always had big apatite and after 7 hours of train-ride, I was also hungry. We ordered 6 honey mustered wins and a whole pack of BBQ ribs with four home-made sides. Any description of the food would be powerless, so I decided to just throw the pictures here.

Following the feast that might already have put 5 more pounds on me, came the wine/beer and Smirnoff drinking and some long chat. Pursuing his Ph.D. in marketing , Gustav was so excited about his future life (which is at least 5 years away) as a professor and feeling bad for me, who needed to get up everyday in the early morning to join other commuters and inhale the dirty air of Manhattan. “A sad life,” as he said. He was partially correct, partially, about the air part.

Escaping away from the chaos of the city for 24 hours and spending some nice 15 hours on the train reading from my iPad turned out not too long at all. Don’t mind to do this again. So what’s the next destination?

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