Oasis in the desert

The Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a protected wildlife refuge in southwestern Nevada directly east of Death Valley. Ash Meadows is a haven for rare plants and animals. Dotted among miles of sandy brush, you will be surprised to see intensely blue ponds of water. These ponds harbor ancient species of fish such as the rare Amargosa pupfish and form the last remaining oasis in the Mojave Desert.

The view is amazing as you come away from the desert to see this surprising, scintillating blue in the middle of an expansive ashy nothingness. I love the teal and orange color scheme.

The intense blue pool:
Teal and orange pool in Ash Meadows

The expansive, ashy nothingness:
The scruffy, alien-looking landscape of most of Ash Meadows

Where should I put my travel stories?

I used to have two blogs, one primarily for photos, and one primarily for writing. So where do I put my travel stories? They always contain a number of photos, but, there’s also a lot of story to go with them. An example is this post I wrote about Rhyolite, Death Valley. Do they belong here? Or there?

In the end I decided to host them all here, in the one blog to rule them all. This blog may be all over the place with photos, writing, and whatnot, but at least I’m not splitting my brand.

Quinault Rainforest

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6094 U.S. 101, Amanda Park, WA 98526

A cluster of ferns in Quinault Rainforest

Quinault Rainforest

Quinault Rainforest, part of Olympic National Park, is on my shortlist of places to visit again. In July 2013 on my way from San Francisco to Boston, I visited this mossy, verdant wonderland in the northwest corner of Washington State. I could have spent a month taking photos there. The park features overflowing ferns, moss growing off giant trees, and numerous other epiphytes that only grow where it rains all the time. Epiphytes are plants that grow on other plants in a non-parasitic way. Examples include ferns, mosses, spike mosses, and lichens. It rains almost fourteen feet a year in the park, so the place is very green.

Quinault Rainforest is verdant and amazing

The paths were particularly beautiful because the sunlight shone through the hanging moss and ferns and created a green backlit effect. Much of the lush greenery was brightly dappled. The mixture of shadow and light was spectacular. Many fallen trunks in stages of decay were thick with moss growth. Shades of green were very intense. This place is loaded with ferns and moss.

Quinault Rainforest could have been a lovely home for elves and gnomes

Plants grew from every square inch of the earth. Moss draped from every tree. Light filtered through everything. The park was scenic and postcard-perfect. There are hikes of shorter and longer durations, all radiating out from Lake Quinault in the center. It’s a very family-friendly park. There’s even a seafood restaurant on one edge of the park with a view of the sunset.

More ferns and moss in Quinault Rainforest

Quinault Rainforest

Even more ferns and greenery

Quinault Rainforest

Posted in response to It IS Easy Being Green!

Vacations and happiness

I have spent a lot of time thinking about happiness. A few years ago I visited Kauai, Hawaii on a vacation with a boyfriend. I was pleased with life: happy to be in a relationship, happy to travel with someone, and happy to be away from the office. The photo below shows my vacation strategy.

  • Take photos of every rainbow
  • Smile like a goof
  • Wear tacky, comfortable Hawaiian shirts
  • Let my hair fly in every direction

Kristen on vacation in Hawaii.

Can happiness ever be a constant, or is it just one of those things that comes and goes? Can I be happy in the office, working, under a deadline? Can I be happy when I’m old and gray? Do I need a vacation, with rainbows and balmy weather, to be happy? Do I need the wind in my hair and the sun in my eyes?

I have more questions than answers, but I found this book on the subject by Alex Korb to be fascinating and insightful:
https://www.amazon.com/Upward-Spiral-Neuroscience-Reverse-Depression/dp/1626251207

This shorter (and free) article does a mostly good job of summarizing:
http://time.com/4042834/neuroscience-happy-rituals/

According to the Time article, there are four habits that will improve happiness: be thankful; label emotions; make decisions; and optimize touch.

Being thankful and expressing gratitude seems both the easiest, and the most surprising. I’m enthusiastic to do this; you may seem posts expressing what I’m grateful for in my blog.

Labelling emotions also seems easy. Hangry. Done! If I had a dollar for every time hunger ruined my mood, I’d be a millionaire. I recently started carrying around Clif bars. Oatmeal raisin walnut is my jam.

Decisions are a little harder. I have decided I want to publish a novel. I even have 46,000 words written. But getting it published is something else entirely. That task is not 100% within my control. I’m working on breaking it down into achievable steps that are within my control.

Touch also seems a bit out of one’s control, but okay sure, I’ll make sure to get it where I can. Firm handshakes, enthusiastic hugs, massages, the works.

The article seems to overlook two key ideas that were prominent in Alex Korb’s book: get good sleep, and exercise. Why didn’t the article highlight these two items? Is it because sleeping well and exercising are notoriously pesky habits to achieve? Speaking as an insomniac who avoids the gym, I think it’s harder to sell sleep and exercise. Regardless, I am going to try all the ideas from the book, including the hard ones.

Happiness takes work. Though we can’t be happy all the time, and circumstances are what they are, I think choices have a large influence. Happiness is not an island vacation. It’s a journey of an entirely different sort.

See some bison

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
A bison is a two thousand pound behemoth that is impossible to miss if you visit the right park. That park is Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Heres the plan: Park your car. Stay in your car. Wait in the car with your camera. The bison will come to you. Don’t get out of your car. Take a picture. Carry on with your life.Here’s the whole sequence as it happened to me. A swarm in the distance looked like dots on the horizon.

It took me a while to register them as bison. The swarm came closer, and the individual animals appeared larger.

It was clear they were coming straight for me. I felt a certain sense of dread. I locked my car doors and took pictures. Bison moving inexorably closer to my location.

The bison were heading right towards me now! They were all around me! They were relentless! They came from all angles! What would I do? Well, keep the car door locked. I didn’t think bison would knock my car over. Where was this guy planning to go?

One of the bison stood right in front of me and watched me. Spooky! Is he winking at me? DID THAT BEHEMOTH WINK AT ME? I am not your type, bison guy. You need to find yourself a lady bison. Gross.

At long last! The beastly creatures sauntered past! I was safe! The swarm moved past my car. I live to tell the story!

This concludes the beast-swarm portion of my Badlands National Park adventure. Badlands is a beautiful park, and it is very easy to see wildlife. Also, in the summertime there werent many visitors.However I recommend visiting in July so as to avoid the cluster of traffic surrounding Sturgis. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is held in South Dakota in early August. Its lovely to meet so many bikers on the road and in the diners, but it does create havoc for traffic and renting motel rooms. I had to avoid South Dakota completely in order to find a room at a reasonable price or even any room at all. Many motels and hotels were booked completely near Badlands because of the motorcycle rally. Next time I will travel this part of the country in July or September.

Posted in response to Variations on a Theme