Kern goes West
(Photo heavy)
Folks, if you ever get the chance to go to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, go. They're awesome. Ok, so they are seven time zones away, but you should. Trust me on this.

We were heading to Salt Lake City but had a four hour layover in Boston. As Boston's Logan airport is only a ten minute bus ride from town, and well-worth spending $2 or so for the trip. We had around an hour and a half to run around the centre, and were able to see Boston Common, the State House, the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts (the regiment featured in 'Glory', one of the best war films ever), and Fanueil Hall.

bos1 (800x600).jpg

bos2 (800x600).jpg

Circuling Salt Lake City Airport at dusk meant we got to see very dramatic views of the mountains surrounding the city and the famous Salt Lake itself, but I didn't have a window seat so couldn't get any snaps. Taking a taxi through the city late at night to our hostel took us past the well-lit state capitol and the Mormon Temple but I wasn't too disappointed that we wouldn't be visiting the city itself on this trip.

The next morning, we picked up the car and, after being ripped off by the car rental people (TOP TIP: quotes online do not include insurance, additional driver fees, or, indeed, provided any clue as to how much you'll be paying), we set off to the Grand Tetons. The drive took us through the northern part of Utah and through Idaho. Delightfully, Idahoan number plates all advertise their state as having 'famous potatoes'. We didn't have time to visit the Idaho Potato Museum, alas.

idaho (800x600).jpg

Finally, we reached our campsite at the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and pitched our tents. This was where we realised our critical mistake: although it was mid-June, we were about 2,300 metres up, and it was snowing! We made a quick trip to Jackson Hole the next morning to stuck up on winter camping gear. Each pitch on the campsite had a firepit but we neglected to make a fire, which was a bit careless (we would make amends when we got to Yellowstone)

gt2 (800x600).jpg

The Grand Tetons are so-called because a French trapper thought the mountain range looked like a large, rocky, snow-laden, row of breasts. The name was anglcised, then slightly obscured to avoid settlers' blushes. The mountains and lakes reminded me a lot of the Alps, but on a far bigger scale. One lake in particular, Jenny Lake, was so perfectly idyllic we sat there for a couple of hours just drinking up the view.

gt3 (800x600).jpg

gt1 (800x600).jpg

After a few days of hiking, picture taking, and camping, we packed up and headed north to Yellowstone.

PS: Loads more of my photos of the Grand Tetons are available here on Sinister Facebook (if I've set this up properly you should be able to see it without registering)
Good work, chap!
Yellowstone. Where to begin? It's huge, mind-bogglingly beautiful, and we only really scratched the surface. Of course, as we were taking the trails we saw more of the park than the vast majority of its visitors do, but even then we knew it will take many return trips to see it all.

y1 (800x600).jpg

y4 (600x800).jpg

For me, the greatest thing about the park were its myriad of mysterious hot sulpher springs and geysers, spewing out of the ground, making loud rumbling noises, or just sitting there in their vast arrays of colours (formed, of course, by trillions of bacteria, each one specifically evolved to suit a particular temperature).

y7 (800x600).jpg

Sometimes, the colours and the steam would be so inviting, you just wanted to strip off, jump in, and be swiftly boiled to death.

y8 (600x800).jpg

Of course, the brittle crust and spewing geysers made much of the landscape bleak and mysterious:

y3 (600x800).jpg

y2 (800x600).jpg

Furthermore, the spewing geysers create mysterious formations as they grow over time:
y5 (600x800).jpg

Other natural wonders in the park include the mysterious petrified trees, millions of years old. Early trappers would talk of these petrified trees, adding that you could find petrified birds singing petrified songs, as everyone thought they were exaggerating anyway:

y6 (800x600).jpg
Excellent stuff.
Wow, nice Yellowstone shots, Kern.
Awesome stuff, glad you had a good time!
More Yellowstone pictures below. I took over 800 in the park. Again, a bigger selection can be seen on sinister Facebook without registering.

IMG_0276 (800x600).jpg

IMG_0280 (600x800).jpg

IMG_0297 (800x600).jpg

IMG_0363 (800x600).jpg

IMG_0392 (800x600).jpg

IMG_0418 (800x600).jpg
No doubt when I get bored over the next few months I'll keep posting Yellowstone photos to the pictures thread. A final handful before I describe the rest of the trip.

IMG_0525 (800x600).jpg

IMG_0536 (600x800).jpg

IMG_0817 (800x600).jpg

IMG_0843 (600x800).jpg

IMG_0976 (800x600).jpg

IMG_1011 (800x600).jpg
So, after leaving Yellowstone we headed to the town of Cody, Wyoming. Cody was founded by Buffalo Bill Cody at the turn of the 20th Century and it remains true to its Western heritage. The long main street is surrounded on both sides by early 1900s/late 1890s buildings with original facades, and you can just imagine the tarmac being replaced by sawdust and horsemen riding up and down instead of rental cars.

The main attraction in the town, other than a nightly Wild West shoot-out re-enactment (which started with a gun safety talk - it is sobering to see the damage a blank-firing pistol can do at short range), is the big Buffalo Bill museum. There's a brilliant collection of Buffalo Bill empherma, placing his Wild West shows into the context of the original West and how the Western myth developed as a result of his world-famous shows. There's also a large gallery discussing Native American culture and history, which is given equal prominence and worth going through. I always feel like I should read more on Native American history, and indeed am currently ploughing through 'Bury my heart at Wounded Knee', which is fascinating and very depressing. At the time I was there they were about to open a new gallery about a nearby internment camp for Japanese-Americans from WW2, another era of US history which has only recently started to be discussed openly.

cody1 (800x600).jpg

In the evening, we went to a Rodeo. It was very American, very cheesy, but great fun. Some of the contests required a great deal of horsemanship and skill with rope, in particular the 'team calf tying' where two riders tried to catch a calf, one lassoing his front legs, the other its hind legs. My only concern, other than lingering thoughts about animal rights, was when they brought out young rodeo folks and placed them on angry bulls. Watching a 12 year old be knocked out made me feel very uncomfortable.

cody3 (800x600).jpg

Outside the nearby town of Thermopolis, and after registering with the state park rangers in order to gain access to the site, is a ridge with over 5,000 years' worth of petroglyphs. It was quite honest of the guide to admit that they weren't entirely sure what they meant, but that hallucinogenics or visions caused by sleep deprivation are likely to have caused the images.

cody4 (800x600).jpg
From Thermopolis, we drove for six hours through the great empty space of Wyoming to Fort Bridger. I spent about two hours at the wheel without once seeing a corner, and hoping like hell that a state trooper wouldn't pull me over (of course, I was keeping to the limit, oh yes). My friend had a seasonal job at the restored historic fort, and it was good to see him again. Naturally, we were lodged in the Commanding Officer's headquarters. No, really.

Near the fort is the ghost town of Piedmont. It grew up around the trans-continental railroad, but after the line was re-routed the town just died. All that remains are tumbling-down shacks along the dirty track that marks the original rail line.

piedmont1 (800x600).jpg

piedmont2 (600x800).jpg

piedmont3 (800x600).jpg

After a couple of fun nights at the fort (it was closed to the public that weekend as the snowmelt coming off the mountains had flooded it out!) we headed back to Salt Lake and flew to New York. I spent a couple of days wandering around the city before saying my farewells to my friends. They had a few more days in the Big Apple, but I had pressing business in a small Pennsylvania backwater. I will at some point write about those three long days, but in the meantime here is a scan of an original tintype, a copy of the local paper, and a picture of a cannon.
gb3 (584x800).jpg


gb1 (800x600).jpg

Thanks for reading!
I copied code from various peoples graphics...
I also changed one a little and reposted it (the how much noob are you).
I made some of the code from scratch to get it all together.
Is that all good?
You crack me up DM613 :DD

How's DM612 btw? Still in pieces in a sack over a Wookies back?
Fiver says that you were secretly imagining battle scenes at every breathtaking landscape.

Between wolves and elk, yes.
I really need to stop reading the thread title at Kernye West.
Until such time as I get round to writing up the 148th Gettysburg, there are some nice photos of the event on the Gettysburg Daily. Annoyingly, they shamefully mislabel one of the images. Grr...
‘I enlisted to fight Rebs, not dig trenches’.

Briefly illuminated by a flash of lightning, I see him grin as he pushes his spade into the sodden ground to continue our already quite extensive system. I laugh, and carry on pulling the earth away from the shovel to build up the bank. All of us are drenched through, and it’s only around half past two in the morning.

Our trench is now passing through another company’s street. Some of their officers, who have either been awakened by the storm or have only recently returned from O’Rourke’s, start yelling at us. We ignore them and keep on digging. Shortly afterwards we hear our captain give them a few well-aimed Lancastrian expletives, putting them in the place. After all, the purpose of this trench is stop the entire Union army being flushed out, not just our company.

Our soaking jackets and shirts are hanging up in a hastily made line in the company awning, where most of us evacuated to once our pup tents had been flooded out. I had been quietly enjoying watching the electrical storm, but was one of the first up when I realised that water was coming up from below. The captain and one other had already got up. As the water was running off the hill straight into our company street, we wasted little time in digging a short trench to divert it away from us, despite the pouring rain. After a few minutes huddling under the fly for warmth, we realise that so much water is coming into our trench it is already overflowing, so we have to get back out with the spades and dig deeper and longer. By this point, more people have joined us, and as they are still comparatively dry we hand them spades to keep up with us. The awning and the officer’s tent stop being flooded, and we find spaces to stand or sit. We slowly realise that whilst we are diverting the flood away from our lines, we are slowly drowning the rest of our brigade. Out we go again, and we get back to work.

We were lucky. Whilst we were digging (and being jeered at by officers and men of other companies), flashing lights are seen on the ridge. Five people, including a pregnant woman, had been taken to hospital for lightning strikes. Thankfully, they were later discharged safely.

Despite being completely and utterly soaked, there’s one thought at the back of my mind the whole time. It didn’t rain until the rebels started their retreat. A storm, two days too soon. How...farby.

It only rained that night. For the two previous days, and indeed for that Sunday, the weather was sunny. And hot. It was reaching around 100 degrees F (37 C), and someone’s small thermometer was recording 117 F inside their A-Frame. But, wilting in wool was all part of the experience. In fairness, we didn’t wear our jackets until the battles (and dress parade, which our company was excused on the Sunday anyway due to us have no dry uniforms). We drilled in our shirts, went to the sutlers and public areas shockingly underdressed (Victorians weren’t keen on men wearing just their shirts), and even paraded out to the battlefield with the jackets slung over our haversacks. To have tried to dress properly would have been madness. Annoyingly, one photographer saw us drilling like this and captioned the photo saying we were a bunch of Confederates. Grrr...

Although the heat prevented us from spending every moment drilling (we would tend to have a session in the morning before the shade disappeared, then another before the battle), there were plenty of things going on throughout the days that made braving the heat worthwhile. I was interviewed for the local paper about re-enacting in the UK, although the journalist subsequently completely mangled my words. My photo even made it onto the front page. I was thrilled to finally get a tintype made, and I manged not to spend too much in the sutlers, other than getting a new hat. There were various talks and displays going on all day, but I only caught an engaging and funny talk on the history of the film, Gettysburg, given by Patrick Falci, who played AP Hill.

As the 150th Anniversary of Bull Run was taking place a few weeks later, and 148 is not a Big Round Number anyway, there were nowhere near as many re-enactors as at the 145th. But, as a participant, I didn’t really care. Were I paying spectator, I might have been disappointed at the huge battlefield and lack of men, horses, and artillery filling it, but my only real concern was that the battles were over too quickly and we didn’t really get a chance to crush the rebellion. It was, indeed, quite depressing that in the final day’s re-enactment of Pickett’s Charge almost the entire of the Confederate Army was able to get up to the wall. The other two battles were enjoyable from our perspective, but perhaps were over too soon. Incidentally, one of the artillery officers looked like Craster in a straw hat, which was slightly disconcerting.

The three days were a fantastic way to end a brilliant trip to the US. Being nibbled by ticks might have lacked the glamour of the close encounters with grizzIies I had at Yellowstone, and being washed out of a pup tent was not exactly the most ideal way to get a good night’s rest, but other then that I really enjoyed the atmosphere surrounding the event. I would like to thank the 200th Indiana for their generous hospitality over the weekend. We were really made to feel welcome as part of their company. And sorry for possibly causing a mutiny over the right way to stack arms, but, then, our western method is so much better.

The next day was 4 July, and I was quietly amused to switch on the TV in the motel room at around 8 o'clock and see a lengthy report on William and Kate. I spent the day wandering the battlefield and buying souvenirs. After a good meal with some friends, they went off to watch some fireworks in a nearby town. I had known since the early days of planning this trip how I was going to end it, and I climbed Little Round Top on the battlefield and watched a magnificent sunset, reflecting on an excellent holiday. I can't wait to get out again.

Thanks for reading this. My photos from Gettysburg are available here.
So, once I'm done with a holiday, my favourite hobby is planning the next one. Hence this megabump!

Kern! What were the must sees and don't-bother-seeings from your trip? I'm currently thinking of doing Denver->Yellowstone->Salt Lake City. Maybe 2 nights Denver, 5 nights on the road on the way to Yellowstone, 5 nights in Yellowstone, 2 nights in SLC. Practical?

Has anyone else done that part of the world? Thoughts/suggestions?
Thanks for bumping this thread. Brought back many happy memories of last year's trip of awesome. Boy, that was almost a year ago now.

I'll write properly either today or tomorrow, but in the mean time if you want to borrow my Lonely Planet guide and the set of hiking maps I'll happily put them in the post for you (in exchange for a pint or two when we next meet to cover postage).
Ok, I'll probably add to this as time goes on and I think of more stuff but here's your starter for 10...


Assuming the supervolcano doesn't blow, the most important to thing to remember about Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons is the altitude. You'll generally be at around 5-6,000ft. Winter can last long into June - we disbelieved my friend on this and shivered in our tent on the first night. There was still ample snow about when we visited, and some trails were shut due to wintery conditions!

Lodges in the park fill up quickly, so we just used the campsites. Most are non-bookable, so it's first-come-first-served. When camping, remember that you will be in bear country so everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - must be locked in the boot of your car when not in use. Each pitch on the campsites come with their own fire pit, and firewood can be bought at the stores. Sitting round a fire whilst the sun sets behind a mountain was wonderful. Most of the sites offer nightly talks by a ranger on some aspect of the park, which were worth going to. You can use the facilities in the lodges, however, and can pay to use their showers. However, when we were there last year, there was no Internet access in any of them and we had to leave the park grounds to get a connection.

The vast majority of visitors drive to a location, get out their car to take a picture, then drive on to the next one. Follow a trail for five minutes and you'll suddenly find yourself alone in a great and beautiful landscape. Watch out for bears, however. Some hikers would wear bear bells to ward off grizzlies, but my mates and I just sang the old Scout songs whenever we entered a woodland or area likely to see a bear, mostly the infamous 'Yogi Bear' song as it felt apt. With hindsight, however, 'Yogi has a cheesy knob' would have been really crap last words. Be warned that trails would also be shut due to geothermic activity.

Traffic. Although we went before the main season, we would still occasionally find ourselves in a slow jam caused by an elk or a bear in the vicinity. It happens - get your camera or field glasses out and enjoy the show.

Thinking of animals, the wildlife comes out in the evening - find a nice spot and spend a few hours watching. You might get lucky and see wolves hunt down a lame elk. We didn't get that, but a man offered us a peek through his telescope and on the hill I saw a wolf, which was cool. Be sure to bring binoculars!


As I detailed in this thread, the Buffalo Bill museum is highly recommended. You could spend a day there or longer and not see it all. Go to the Rodeo too - ok, so it's cheesy, but it's fun slice of Americana.

Other places
I only flew in and out of Salt Lake, and other than the taxi ride through the city enroute to the youth hostel where we spent the first night I didn't see anything. From what I hear, if you do visit the Mormon stuff, expect to receive a very pro-LDS view of history. Bring your own golden plates, too...

The petroglyphs at Thermopolis were impressive, though we had to ask at the tourist information for directions as they really are out in the middle of nowhere!

More details when I think of them - I've sent the link to a friend who lives in central Wyoming so he might have some suggestions too.
Thanks Kern - and the Lonely Planet and trail maps would be greatly appreciated. We're old hands at bear country after doing Sequoia/Yosemite and the Canadian Rockies over the last few years, so I think we're sorted on that front. I think we'll definitely stay at Cody - too much driving in one go otherwise.
Why did I not notice this thread before? Because I'm an idiot, that's why. Excellent old report there, Kern. And cavalry - glee! I tried reading that newspaper attachment pic but it was a bit too blurry, got the gist though. And awesome tintype!

Craster, you lucky dog, you! I'm curious to see what Salt Lake City's like ever since glimpsing it on Alastair Cooke's America series, which is essential viewing. Oh, don't forget to stock up on almond M&M's too.
Thanks Pete. It was a truly fantastic trip, and I'd love to go back to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. I was so pleased with the photos I got that I got large prints done of some of them and they're hanging up at my parents' house (I got myself a set of coasters of the fresh bear print we saw, because bears are awesome).

Nowhere near as many cavalry as there were at 150th Shiloh, of course, but still way more than we normally get.

NervousPete wrote:
I tried reading that newspaper attachment pic but it was a bit too blurry,

The reporter completely mangled my words, by the way. The reporter who put my picture and a quote in the 'Daily Corinthian' this year was way more professional (having spent the previous two months trying to meet him then bumping into each other during a battlefield hike on my last weekend might have had something to do with it...)

Here you go (see also the gallery on sinister Facebook):

gburg 1.jpg

gburg 2.jpg

Kern, talking about Gettysburg wrote:
Incidentally, one of the artillery officers looked like Craster in a straw hat, which was slightly disconcerting.

Cripes, I'd quite forgotten about him!
Heh, just thinking about that front page photo, I was a little concerned (but very flattered) when the photographer was snapping away not only whilst I was putting my jacket on, but then when I was removing it...

Held every summer in towns such as Oxfordshire and Essex
Kern wrote:
150th Shiloh

Pound, please.
My Wyoming-based palaeontologist pal said that if you're passing through Sheridan, the main attraction is the Sheridan Inn , which might make for a great lunch stop as it was built by Buffalo Bill. He recommends the hot springs and formations at Thermopolis, and also says that the Wyoming Dinosaur Center is one of the best in the region and definitely worth stopping at.
Ooh, lovely. Thanks Kern.

Yes. Your great-great-great-granddaughter is pretty fine.
Page 1 of 1 [ 31 posts ]