travel

Elliot's Backpacking Trip through Yellowstone National Park

10 Days and 9 Nights Journeying through Yellowstone National Park’s Back Country

Elliot’s Yellowstone Adventure Overview

When I first arrived in Cody, Wyoming I was hoping that I would be able to spend about a week in Yellowstone National Park backpacking through the wilderness. I did some research before on bear safety and precautions and had spent a good amount of time and money gearing up and preparing.

The idea was to start learning how to cope with snow while camping. Also to have my longest backpacking adventure yet. Though I didn’t get the mild snowy weather I was hoping for, I did get quite a challenging adventure logistically and mentally.

Every night was very different, ranging from anxiety about bear activity, to lack of sleep due to Elk and Moose trumpeting, to sleeping soundly in Yellowstone’s very fun and beautiful campgrounds of which the Madison area was my favorite.

Another big goal was to see lots of wildlife while staying safe. Yellowstone has the highest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 United States (Alaska has more) and I am a large animal enthusiast. It turned out to be a great time and I really started to get the hang of being out there about 5 days into the adventure.

The second day in Cody, I made a friend named Josh, who I met at Sunlight Sports on the Main Street Sheridan Avenue. Josh is becoming a really good climber and we got another chance to climb after this and also went bouldering with some local dudes that were super talented on the local bouldering routes up on Cedar Mountain. We went sports climbing a day later and I asked him if he could give me a ride to the park for some gas money. He agreed, so I found a small storage unit and put all of the climbing gear and things that I didn’t think that I would need backing into it. Tuesday morning I headed into the park with Josh as my driver.

I later sent a 5.10c on lead and am super psyched on it even though I topped out like a beached whale cause my arms had literally no strength left in them at the top.

Part 1 – Acclimatizing to Living in Nature

Day 1 – Into the park and the Yellowstone Lake Backwoods

can you see the grizzly bear’s shoulder hump in the photo?

Josh dropped me off at about 9am at the East Entrance to Yellowstone State Park. I paid the $20 for personal entry to the park and started walking. The first day was spent mostly hoofing it alongside the road. Yellowstone isn’t exactly the most pedestrian friendly place in the world and focuses far more on road maintenance than keeping up its trails. However, this setup does allow for easy and effectively managed wildlife viewing, so I definitely have mixed feelings about it. I saw my first Grizzly bear about 3 hours into the first day, at about 11:30am whilst walking along the road. A photographer up ahead of me had a massive camera and we chatted for about 30 minutes about the bear’s activity. The photographer was full of useful information and had followed the bear the previous season, as well as earlier in the week. It was a very interesting beginning to a very long day.

Sylvan River Sulfur Spring

After 15 miles or so of hiking it along the road and having people waving at me from both directions, I left the road from the East Entrance. At about 3:30 (plenty of daylight to get to the lake, or so I thought…) I followed the Sylvan River down into the back country where I enjoyed the nature far more than the vehicles (many of them were RVs). I found this fascinating sulfur spring pouring into the river and decided to pump my water far upstream from it, where the water was much clearer. I wasn’t and still am not sure if my filter would be effective against such a smelly and toxic looking thermophile deposit, but it seemed to do fine with the trace amounts that must have been in the river. I continued down stream, leaving the river at points because the back country travel was so difficult. I was bush-whacking over large and stacked pine trees and began to see lots of animal sign, scat and tracks. I knew to make noise and avoid being smelled and I had all of my bear equipment at the ready, but I still became very fearful of animal activity and interest in me as the day progressed. I really felt that an animal might get curious and approach me. But the sun was going down the horizon and it was getting super cold. I setup my pack and bear canister far away from my site and waited to cook until the following day to stay hidden from the bear’s incredible sense of smell. Additionally, the sulfur deposits leeching into the river would protect against something smelling me or my pack. I settled down into the hardest night of sleep while in the park, worried that a bear might smell and/or interested in my campsite.

Sunrise of Day 2

I had a hard time sleeping that night, but my dreams were incredible. It probably took me 1-3 hours to get to sleep each night and this was for sure the longest it took me whilst in the park. My first dream was about a bear attacking me, jumping on my back while I was in my tent. Surprisingly, this put me at ease, allowing me to find some peace with where I was and the situation. I let go. The night passed and I awoke to a hard frost, but no signs of animal activity near me. I had made the mistake of leaving all of my sweaty clothing out (away from my tent) and it had all frozen over. Next time I would keep my wet clothes in my tent to avoid that situation happening again. I waited for the sun to rise above the ridge-line of the valley that I had slept in and warmed up with my gloves and some backpacker’s pantry oatmeal for breakfast as well as the Instant Coffee I bought from Pour Choice in Auburn, CA for this exact adventure.

Day 2 – Getting to Yellowstone Lake and Hitching my First Ride

The morning of the first was by far the hardest hiking I had to do. Two miles took me two hours and it took 5 to get to the lake. I attempted to follow the Sylvan river, but it was extremely slow going due to the downed trees, most likely from the flooding earlier in the season. Luckily my trekking poles came in very handy to effectively help me to cross over many of the larger stacked trees, but I still had to find my way through the maze. Sometimes I had to literally go backwards a bunch and find a new path forward. It took all morning and just a bit of the afternoon to reach the lake, which I had planned on staying at the first night.

My first view of the lake was spectacular, both in feeling and beauty. My stress levels diminished quite rapidly as I soaked my worn out feet in the lake, which were being gradually destroyed by my new Arc’teryx Acrux mountaineering boots that were not yet broken in. And I realized I had forgotten my favorite shoes, my Choco’s sandals, in my temporary storage unit back in Cody. I swam a bit in the icy cold water and then continued barefoot up to the road, where there was signage and all kinds of warning about bear activity in the area. I knew I was pretty lucky not to have encountered any wildlife other than squirrels and birds so far so I decided to recuperate and plan the next part of my trip outside of the lake area that I had originally planned to stay in for the duration of my backpacking trip to Yellowstone.

I hiked up to Sedge Bay and Steamboat Point picnic areas and met a really friendly Canadian couple who were traveling through the park with their car (like a normal person would). I asked for a ride and they graciously offered to bring me north, to Canyon Junction where they were staying at the expensive and beautiful Canyon Lodge.

We traveled for a few hours and roamed around the park, seeing Bison, checking out geysers, and learning about the conservation efforts of the park. I pretty much just went along with whatever they wanted to do, happy to not be alone in back country any longer. All the time we spent seeing the sights, I was wondering where I would stay the following night. At this point I learned that its really not allowed to just stay in the back country (even though I had previously signed up for a back country permit) and that you were supposed to stay in specific campgrounds throughout the park. But due to the off-season closures, I had a terribly hard time finding rangers to give me advice or any sort of guideance.

Once we arrived at Canyon Village, I talked to the very nice, however uninformative receptionist at the hotel, who explained that only one campground was really still open (actually there were two) and that it was on the Western end of the park, the Madison campgrounds. I was wary of staying in the back country for another night and didn’t have any idea of how I could get there, especially at the late hour that it was, around 6 o’clock. When I’m backpacking I definitely prefer to have my tent setup before dark. And Canyon Village had campgrounds, although they were closed for the season, even though the weather was still very agreeable. I got a hot plate for dinner, rice and chicken and veggies and then followed the Canyon Village road to the closed campground area.

I decided to stay just off the campgrounds in the forest around some trees that looked very healthy. I slept really well that night, but the dreams were still extremely vivid. And I could hear wolves and coyotes howling that night, which made for some interesting thoughts. Overall one of my good nights overall, getting to have a hot meal and feeling safe my camping area.

Day 3 – The Wild Greeble Lake

I woke up on the third day to the cold. The mornings were definitely a big temperature difference from the nights, so I would layer up in the mornings and then take off clothes as I started to sweat, doing my best to avoid moisture buildup in any of the layers.

I had studied a back country path out to the Cascade and Greeble Lake area so I got on the road early to find the trail. I got to the trailhead and began towards the lake, an easy hike for about 3 miles. Once I got there, the views were magnificent; this was the type of camping and backpacking that I had been looking for in the park. I passed a back country campground that allowed for fires and started to get super psyched to spend the night out there. I met three hikers along the trail and we chatted a bit about bear safety, they seemed to be very interested in my larger backpack so I was happy to chat and tell them about what I was doing out there.

I found an open site on Greeble Lake (some were closed due to wildlife activity) and setup my tent. It was only about 4pm so I went for a swim in the icy lake and got a fire going, cooked some dinner (actually my least favorite meal, New England corn chowder) and dried off some of my clothes, still wet from the first night’s hard frost.

Greeble Lake Fog

Pretty much as soon as the Sun went down, I heard loud trumpeting right next to my tent. And then swimming. The elk were for sure going out into the lake to swim and several of them were calling for mates. It was actually quite symphonic, they were beautifully calling out in the night and the moon was pretty full so I’m sure those elk were having the time of their lives out in the lake. Partially through the night, I heard a more distinctly large and deep animal trumpeting sound, that was more chaotic and louder. I’m pretty sure this was a moose, cause it came back to an area near my tent and started making tons of noise. I didn’t sleep so well that night, but it was so fantastic that I didn’t mind the next day. The dreams I had that night were the most vivid of the whole trip.

Day 4 – Arriving in Norris and Madison

The next day I awoke to no animal movement except for the little mallards on the lake. I woke up a bit later to get the sleep I knew I needed and to let the Sun warm up the fog from the lake. I pumped water, ate some breakfast and got on my way.

I passed Wolf and Ice Lake fairly early in the day and got out to Norris, where my trail disappeared into a giant meadow, with no landmarks in sight. I was completely lost for about an hour and heading into the direction I knew the road would be in. I trudged through the thick sedge grass in the meadow and followed power lines out to the road at Norris and the main road. Once I was on the road I decided to check out the Geyser basin. It did not disappoint, Norris has the most dynamic thermal activity in the park and is constantly changing. I spent about an hour exploring there, ate a little, then began to walk down the road to the Madison Campground.

At this point my feet were pretty destroyed, it was the first time I had worn my boots and I didn’t have a send pair of shoes to trade out. I was moving too slowly to get to Madison before nightfall so I decided to throw up my thumb and try to get my second ride of the trip. Probably 200 cars passed me before a truck stopped pretty far ahead, it looked like the guy who stopped was reorganizing his trunk space. I confirmed that he was going to give me a ride and a feeling of relief washed over me.

The next 15 miles took about 20 minutes rather than a whole day. Nate and his family of four, two younger boys, were my miracle that day, giving me lots of snacks and food to continue on with my back country adventure. They had previously traveled around Shoshone Lake and I figured that would be a good place to spend a night or two.

I got into the campground, tired and hungry and went to the local store to buy as much food as I could eat that night, including bacon, instant noodles, and BBQ style kettle chips.

I was getting my fire setup to cook the bacon when my Irish neighbors came over with some Bourbon whiskey to share!

These two gentlemen were from Ireland doing the continental divide trail on bike and were also looking to take a day and rest (I had covered quite a lot of distance in the past 3 days and needed to rest my feet from the heavy boots). We became friends quickly and began to tell of our lives back home, Tommy was a poet and Dermot, well I’m not too sure about Dermot’s story but he had traveled a lot and continued to love living in Ireland. We decided that the following day we would go fishing and take it easy at the campground, as it was one of the few places with accessible food. The rest of the park seemed to be completely shut-down for the season.

Day 5 – Fishing in Madison

I slept like a little baby that night, the bourbon kept me plenty warm and I was very happy to have a couple of friends to share time with. Tommy and I woke up late and went out to the river to fly fish and we spent the day exploring different flies and trying to entice the fish to our reel to no avail. Tommy had previously gotten his fishing license and I was happy to learn all about the conservation efforts for the local species of cutthroat trout. In fact, if you catch a bass in Yellowstone you are required to kill it. They are very intelligent about how they want to preserve native species in the park, I recommend checking out the rules simply because they are so interesting.

We came back to camp and had a couple of beers together and cooked some more bacon, I was definitely trying to eat as much fat as I could over those two days in Madison. And again I went to sleep a happy camper.

Part 2: Mental Acclimatization

Day 6 – Faerie Falls

The next day I woke up and packed up all my things, ready to try taping up my toes to keep them from forming more blisters from my boots. It worked out okay, but the first part of that day was still extremely difficult. The pain in my feet just didn’t seem to alleviate for any reason, no matter how I changed my walking technique. Eventually I found that stepping with my heels first was the only way to keep my toes from exploding with pain. I would use this type of walking technique for the rest of the trip, which definitely slowed down my pace.

The Madison River area turned out to be one of my absolute favorite places in the park. It was beautiful, everyone was friendly, and the fishing was really good. I could see myself going back during the summer months to stay for a couple of week and just follow the river and fish.

I got to following the Firehole River in the morning, which drains south from the Madison Junction. There was a beautiful waterfall feature as well as massive cascades, so I spent some time just following the water and ate a solid lunch sandwich from the Madison Campground area.

I got back onto the trail from the fountain flat drive where I saw herds of buffalo roaming around the Western side of the park. They seem to love the thermal features, even when it is hot out. Whilst on the trail, I saw a buffalo that was really close, but seemed to pay no mind to me. I knew these were the most dangerous animals in the park so I kept as much distances as I could between myself and these absolute units of pure muscle.

Bison that is too close for Comfort

Further down the Faerie Falls trail, which was spectacular, a group of about 4 bison herded together and were about 130 yards away from me. One of the bison stared me down from the side of his eye, looking at me like I was a wolf or some other predator. It stomped its hooves at me and began to paw the ground towards me. I hunched my shoulders and looked away to show that I wasn’t a threat and simply. continued along the trail. Another bison stepped in between myself and the aggro male, probably a female calming her mate, and I simply walk away into the distance.

I walked a fair distance to the Faerie Falls waterfall, which is so beautiful, and met German couple who were celebrating their halfway point through medical school. Their English was very good and we got along great until I split from the trail to head to my campsite for that night. I slept in the forest that night, entranced by the beauty I had been able to enjoy that day.

Slow motion capture of low water flow of Faerie Falls

Day 7 – The end of the Faerie Trails and Old Faithful

I woke up to the sounds of baby birds and squirrels in the trees. Packed up camp and got ready for the next leg of my adventure. I was just starting to run low on food and gas so I knew that I would have to get to a store soon. I left the forest campground and headed back into the plains, where there were lots of tourists exploring the thermal features just north of Old Faithful.

I enjoyed walking along the decks by all kinds of amazingly unique natural wonders heading down to the national monument that I had visited once before with my friends from college. I got into the visitor area and talked with the rangers about where the southward back country campsites were and got a fishing permit and fly fishing rod to go out and have some fun in the rivers and lakes. I was running out of butane so I also grabbed some gas and bought a few food items, but they didn’t have any of the freeze dried meals that I knew I would need in the back country. I also had my first cheeseburger of the trip, which was just ok. I get spoiled by the incredibly good food in California.

I continued out of the highly trafficked area to get back into the back country and took the Howard Eaton trail down to the first back country campsite along the Firehole River, which had lots of thermal activity. I decided against a fire that night and setup my camp site as the sun dropped below the horizon. I was ready to get back into the sticks and see some more wildlife and nature and beautiful unique thermal features that Yellowstone is known for.

Castle Geyser

Day 8 – Shoshone Lake 1

I woke up a little late as I usually like to when its really cold out and packed up all of my things and made breakfast, which was usually instant coffee and a backpacker meal. I realized I only had one breakfast left and I cursed myself for not getting more food at Old Faithful. I had been too focused on getting fishing going for myself and idealizing about catching and eating a fish while I was out. I got going onto the trail heading south to Shoshone lake and figured I would just go as far as I could.

Shoshone Lake Sunset

My feet were finally feeling a lot better; I had bought moleskins, Neosporin, and blister medic kits at Old Faithful so I was completely ready to start experimenting with the optimal way to keep my feet from re-blistering. I walked along the Shoshone Lake trail for a long time until reaching the area that forks north. I surveyed several campground that didn’t allow for a fire, which greatly disappointed me because I was hoping to catch and cook a lake trout!

I continued on for about 15 miles that day which I was very happy with due to the state of my feet. I got to the northern campsites of the lake at dusk and setup my tent and 0 degree sleeping bag and that night I slept great. I was used to the trumpeting elk and got through the whole night without waking up too much. There were lots of sounds throughout the night, but I think I just got really used to them.

Day 9 – Shoshone Lake 2

I woke up happy and ready to start fishing, I had setup my pole the night before was stoked to get to lake fishing. However, in Old Faithful I purchased a fly fishing rod which is definitely used to running water and not the still water of a lake. I fished for about 2 hours, took a desperately needed bath and pumped water to get ready for another day of walking, all day long.

Shoshone Lake, Yellowstone National Park

I got about a half a mile further along the trail when I discovered a couple of park rangers that were assessing the back country campsites along Shoshone Lake. I stopped to talk to get as much information about the area as I could and was told that Lewis Lake Campground was still open and that there was a store down there. I was stoked! I needed to get more food and it would be so nice to be around other people again; I thought maybe Tommy and Dermot would still be there, as they had planned for two nights camping in Lewis Lake…maybe they would stay for a third?

I headed down the Delacy Creek Trail by the river and made excellent time heading down to Lewis Lake. I had started the day late due to fishing and bathing so I hadn’t met the rangers until about noon. I got to the DogsHead Trailhead and went east until the road, where I walked down to Lewis Lake Campground.

I got to the ranger station and they had several reserved, but unused, campgrounds. I guess there are some reserved for hikers and bikers there, but she sent me to a regular campground that can house up to 6 people. But there was no store! And no way of getting more food for that matter. I was pissed! Both at myself for listening to the rangers and at the campground for not having at least granola or chocolate bars to sell. It just seemed so silly to me to have a remote campground that didn’t sell food.

I was down to two back country meals, Mushroom Stroganoff (which is delicious, highly recommend) and Green Curry. Sleep that night came easily, but with the stress of knowing that the time had come to leave the park. I had exhausted my resources and my mental energy and I was ready to head back out to Cody. And I knew that getting out of the park, I would need as much luck as I could get.

Day 10 – Lewis Campground and Exiting Yellowstone Park

In the morning I woke up rather early, I was planning on fishing again to see if I couldn’t catch something awesome to keep me fed for another day. I packed up my stuff and headed to the restroom where I met a guy named John, who was traveling through the area with a supped up Jeep. We chatted for a minute (I let him use the bathroom first because I was in no rush) and I learned that he was from Sacramento! I told him about my situation, how I had arrived at the campground to find no store and no way of buying more food and he took me back to his camp site and fed me!

John and his wife (whose name I do not remember) was literally one of the nicest people I have ever met. They made me hash browns, eggs, and bacon and we enjoyed stories about their own backpacking trips through Desolation Wilderness, an area just outside of Lake Tahoe that I also love to spend time in. They also got me some backpacker meals and snacks to take with me, for which I will always be grateful. What an amazing twist of events from the night before! I asked John if he wouldn’t mind giving me a drive to West Thumb and he happily took me to the gas station there, which was only open for gas.

I went to the ranger station in West thumb to see about additional campsites, but they were all at the southern end of Yellowstone Lake, pretty far into the back country. However I still reserved a campsite for that night, just in case I couldn’t find a ride out of the park to Cody, I might as well have a decent place to sleep that wasn’t off the trail.

I got out of West Thumb after checking out the geysers, which in my opinion weren’t even close to as interested as the Norris Geyser Basin or the area north of Old Faithful and managed to hitch a ride to fishing bridge with a Mexican dude that lives in San Francisco. He was super nice and gave me a Blue Moon on the road, and we chatted about how great the wilderness was.

I continued down the road from fishing bridge and kept my thumb up, hoping that someone heading to Cody, WY wouldn’t mind picking me up. About 20 minutes later, Allen (same name as my dad, different spelling though) who is a Scottish man living in New Zealand and Perth, Australia picked me up. We drove about 10 minutes just talking when we saw a commotion on the side of the road.

There were two bears up on the side of a mountain foraging for food with a huge crowd of people watching them and taking pictures of their every move. The bears seemed not to care at all and rangers were watching the people very closely to make sure they didn’t do anything stupid.

I had a good chat with two of the rangers about the bears and how they manage them and apparently there is a little less than one bear attack a year, which in my opinion is really good. I guess there were 3 bison attacks earlier this year from people getting too close. Anyways, Allen and I got some great photos of the bears and then continued on our way back to Cody, where we had a couple of drinks. Then Allan took me to the end of the South Fork Road where the water ice forms that I came to Cody to watch and we marveled at the beautiful, but barren mountains. I really hope I get to see some of those infamous south fork pillars form this year, but I won’t see them on this trip due to the unusually hot October weather. Allan will always have my gratitude for taking me about 100 miles out of the park, he was a really fun and nice guy to hang out with for a day.

In Conlusion

This concludes my journey through Yellowstone. Huge shouts out to the people that helped me to get from place to place, I definitely would have suffered a lot more without them! John, Allan, Tommy, Dermot, Crissy, Terri, Isabelle, and Alex, and of course Josh, I really really appreciate your kindness and it will not go forgotten.

The Gear Reviews

mountains_w_path

Modena & Verona, Italy | Zurich, Switzerland | Paris, France

The past few days have been a blur of beauty, incredible meals, unforgettable architecture, and time to share with my sisters and mom. I think I will look back on these last few weeks fondly for a long time in the future; so much has happened in such a short time.

Two days ago, we arrived in Modena, Italy with the specific purpose of eating lunch at Osteria Francescana, recently named the second best restaurant in the world with 3 Michelin stars. I will write a whole blog about it later, when I have my blog’s storage situation figured out, but it was a 12 course meal paired with wines and quite literally the coolest and most luxurious experience of my life; quite a contrast to Dhaka, Bangladesh. We moved on to Verona for the night, had a great pizza, then left for an eight-hour drive to Zurich today where we ate yet another pizza. Zurich speaks German, but is an interesting mix of Italian, German, and a smidgen of French, though my French has been all but useless here. I am really looking forward to speaking my second language tomorrow when I meet up again with my best friend from Paris. He’s probably the biggest reason I was a French minor to begin with, then later decided to go all out with the major and switch from International business, so I could spend a year in Paris.

Suffice to say that I am very tired of traveling at this point, but also very happy to see some great friends over the next few weeks. It’s ironic how traveling comes in waves and you simply have to go with the flow, disregarding how you feel oftentimes.

I am excited to feel the French side of my personality return to the foreground of my mind; over the past couple of weeks adjusting to my family has done the same for some deep seeded aspects of my personality. The oldest sister is particularly responsible, but in the best way; she reminds me that I only have to be human and that there’s only so much I can do. Sometimes I can be too ambitious.

Verona and Modena beckon return journeys; Italy is a city far removed from certain technologies and has a culture of presence and amiability. I would love to spend a month there at some point in the far future. Zurich does as well, but perhaps in a trip all to its own; if this journey has taught me anything, it has been finding the gentle balance between movement and stillness, activity and resting. I should simply do what my nature beckons me to.

Fatigue is setting in at the apartment in Zurich, but the city is beautiful. Even the gas stations in Switzerland are health oriented, we stopped today and got an amazing green salad, fruit salad, and sandwich before our salmon pizza dinner. I can truly say that I am getting used to the amenities and absolute luxuries of the western world once again, though there is a newfound appreciation that is unexplainable.

My New song is being uploaded now, head over to alienmusique.wordpress.com to have a listen. A new Wanderer post is also on the way, which I have not forgotten about, but am spending a lot of time on the next major section of the “to-be” book. Thanks for reading ūüôā

"Panoramic view of Budapest 2014" by Katonams - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Panoramic_view_of_Budapest_2014.jpg#/media/File:Panoramic_view_of_Budapest_2014.jpg

BudaPest, Hungary

Budapest is one of my new favorite cities! It’s rare to see a historic city with lots of modern touches and a culture that is very friendly and accommodating to match. Hungary has seen a lot of tragedy and the memorials there were fantastic; there is an obvious Jewish heritage and luckily I was able to stay in Mavericks Hostel which is in the Jewish quarter. I will admit that I saw more traditional Hasidic Jews in Boston, but I definitely saw the tall point black hats and sideburn¬†curls on several occasions.

Budapest is the largest city in Hungary and its capital, one of the largest in the EU. The metropolitan area houses 3.3 million people while the city proper has a population near 1.74 million and covers 525 square kilometers, though the older and most beautiful part of the city could be covered by bikes in a day (which we did!). In 1873 Budapest became a single city when Pest and Buda joined from opposite sides of the Danube river.

It was originally a Celtic settlement that became Roman, then Hungarians arrived in the 9th century and it was pillaged by the damn Mongols in 1241 (those jerks really kicked ass). It was re-established in the Renaissance (15th century) and was heavily affected by both WWI and WWII, because of its importance to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which fell after WWI. After WWII, the country struggled with communism until the fall of Soviet Russia in 1989. To put it simply, the city has a ton of history.

It is also home to the largest thermal underground cave system in the world, the second largest synagogue in the world, both of which I was able to visit and can say that they were both incredible experiences.

I also spent a couple of nights out which were just as fun as touring during the day. I met people from all over, including an Australian guy who had traveled through all of South America in the same way that I traveled through Southeast Asia; it was a blast to share the experiences because both were rough and extremely rewarding!

The architecture of the city is breathtaking; spires line the skies and buildings hundreds and hundreds of years old are completely commonplace. Statues line the streets and sit atop rooftops, though the river is definitely the central point of the city. All of the bridges were destroyed by Germany during WWII, so none of them are nearly as old as the Charles Bridge, which I mentioned in my article about Prague.

The weather was spectacular, but very cold during certain parts of the night so I could have used a warm jacket. During the last day we visited one of the 80 thermal springs in the city that was in a cathedral-like building, and enjoyed 100 degree+ water. One of the nights where we ate at a nice restaurant across from the Opera, we were able to catch a classical band performing. It was an amazing city full of experiences I will remember for a long time; I would love to visit Budapest again.

Today I am in the city of Zadar and have a lot to talk about from Croatia, next stop is tomorrow in Split. Yesterday we spent the day in SplitVice, in possible the most beautiful national park I have ever seen. Feeling so grateful and lucky to be where I am, above all with my family to share it all together.

Check back soon for more updates on the trip

Mysore Palace, India

Mysore, India

Arriving in Mysore concluded one of the longest days of my life. I have trouble sleeping on planes and I was sitting in the middle the whole time, thank god for spinal twists. I got into the airport and paid for a taxi to Mysore which was about $80 for a 4 hours trip. It was 3am and my only option until 9am. Pretty easy decision to make.

So I get my driver, he is very nice and respectful, etc and we drive for a while until stopping for tea. Now this was an obviously milk based tea, in India they call it tapas, and I was very happy to not get sick. This is when I started to realize that nobody here really speaks english, but some can communicate a little. I need to learn Hindi.

I arrive while the sun rose, though there wasn’t a sunrise due to the indian_cow_eating_trashfog. Trash is everywhere. So is shit. So are stray dogs. Cows line the streets. Some are yellow, probably from eating curry and such, it didn’t seem to be a problem of malnutrition because a lot of the white cows were eating¬†trash too.

So the driver found my hotel and I knew that I would have to stay up as long as possible to beat the jet-lag. So I strapped on my Vibrams, took out my camera, and went to go explore Mysore.

The first thing that really caught my attention was the stray dogs. They are everywhere, and you can tell they are nocturnal because stray dog in mysorethey were active in the morning then slept in the afternoon. So they litter the streets, searching through trash and tend to be individuals, at least from what I saw, there wasn’t much pack behavior during the day.

This brought me into the streets. Litter is everywhere, though there isn’t too much fecal matter on the sides of the streets, because it’s mostly in the gutters and in random grassy patches.

Mysore city Streets

Mysore Streets

Mysore Streets

So I spent the day meeting people and taking their pictures and just generally trying to be friendly and nice. People here are extremely nice and just want to share a smile, I think a few of them think that me taking their picture is a big deal. Most just make jokes with me about it when I try to take their picture though.

So I headed over the palace after a while, I wanted to see where the Ashtanga Yoga Shala was because I have to register today. I got lost.

There’s nothing quite like being lost in a foreign country with no knowledge of the local language or customs. It’s like a whirlwind of trying not to get hit by cars or scooters as you walk, avoiding stepping into a big pile of cow dung, trying to find a bottle of water, telling rickshaw drivers to leave you alone because you just want to walk. Seeing weird crow-like birds, stray dogs, cattle pulling carts, markets with random stuff I have never seen before makes me feel free in a way that nothing else can. There is a lot of pain and suffering here, but¬†there is so much happiness. I’m writing another post about the people, so you will see some faces in my next post.

So I made my way to the palace after finding a map and it was 200 rupee to enter. 3 bucks, pretty expensive for India. Inside, some kids saw me and wanted to take pictures with me and as soon as one saw that I was responsive, the whole group started taking photos together with me. It was fun for a few minutes while we were messing around and I was trying to get them to take serious and funny pictures, but a line started to form and people started to encircle me. I was not down with that so I said thanks and took one more, then left to keep walking around. Here are my good pictures from the palace:

Mysore Palace Statues

 

Mysore Palace Wall Statues

Mysore Palance Entrance
Mysore Palance Entrance

Mysore Palace Towers Mysore Palance Trees Flowers in Mysore Palace

The architecture here is amazing. There is a juxtaposition of rich and poor, so close in proximity that you see such nice things surrounded by absolute poverty.

After my trip to the palace, I headed back to the hotel assisted by a rickshaw driver that definitely took advantage. Instead of about 10 or 12 cents, it cost me half a dollar. Suffice to say I am putting my game face on and that is not happening anymore (I am on a strict budget). I don’t like people trying to take advantage of me because they feel they deserve my money, because they don’t unless they provide enough value in their service to earn it. I don’t like charity or donations, because economically it is unsustainable and I usually find there is a lack of responsibility behind how the money is used, making it wasteful. How can I know if that driver used my money for his own booze, or for food for his children? I can’t and it’s not my responsibility to know.

I’m always kind of surprised at how impervious I am to people selling me things and trying to convince me of things. Must be all of the propaganda I am regularly exposed to. What can I say, it is the American in me to be skeptical of everything.

Colin_Wright

An Interview with Colin Wright

About 5 days ago, I wrote to Colin Wright, an indie author, expressing how much I appreciate his work and how he has really inspired me for 2015. He travels and has written a buncha books. Well, being the responsive young chap that he is (though I think he’s a bit older than me), he responded and said he would be happy to answer some questions for my blog.
I couldn’t resist the chance to ask a fellow traveller about their perceptions of yoga and go figure, he’s a yogi. He also written over a dozen books and travels constantly, exploring the world and staying in each country for about 4 months at a time.
Besides having some incredibly interesting things to say about yoga, Colin has developed a very balanced approach to traveling and never being in one spot for too long, so he has a great perspective and a provocative voice. Enjoy!
1. Do you have any experience with yoga? Favorite poses? styles? Any experiences you would care to share?
CW: You know, I actually practiced yoga every day for about ten years. Love it as an exercise and means of better understanding my body/managing my health. Have never really been into the spiritual side of it, but I think the health/meditative benefits speak for themselves.
I’ve tried a lot of different modalities, but tend to prefer those that focus on postures and stamina. Doing yoga was one of the few things that allowed me to wear myself out and sleep well back when I was working myself to death in LA. Very valuable habit.
2. I heard you visited India. What was that like? What were your favorite places?
CW: I lived in Kolkata for about 5 months, and it was tragic and educational and inspiring in equal measure. There are so many problems that operate on the foundational level, there, and so many people suffer day-to-day as a result. On the flip side, I met some incredible people, and learned a whole lot, especially in terms of attaining new perspective; it was so radically different from anywhere else I’ve lived, and far astray from any lifestyle I’d lived before.
3. What are a few places you are planning to travel in 2015?
CW:¬†I’m in Seattle at the moment, and will be heading to Missoula, Montana for three months at the end of February to prepare for a two-month book tour through the western half of the US and Canada. From there, I’ll tally the votes my readers cast through my blog and see what country I’m headed to next.
4. What kind of music do you listen to on the road?
CW:¬†All kinds. And I don’t mean that in the ‘I have no preference’ way; I actually have a collaborative playlist on Spotify that allows folks from around the world to add whatever it is they’re listening to, so I get to ‘taste test’ all kinds of genres, artists, and styles. I like mixing it up and having stark contrasts throughout my day, and music is one means of achieving that.
5. What is your social life like on the road?
CW: Usually one of two extremes: either very social and meeting and meeting up with many people every day, or completely hermetic, only leaving my flat to take long, silent, meandering walks, and then returning home to sit and write and be entirely in my own head. I need a balance of both to be at my best, in terms of happiness and creativity (and productivity).
6. What is the nicest hostel you have stayed in?
CW:¬†I don’t stay in many hostels, actually. I tend to rent flats in the countries I visit, as I generally stick around for four months or more. I will say that renting is a pain in Kolkata (which is sometimes called ‘the land of paperwork’) and super-easy in Prague (which has many Facebook groups that act as short or long-term person-to-person real estate listings).
7. What was your favorite read of 2014?
CW: Oh, there were a lot of good books last year. One that stands out (and that I find myself referencing in conversation quite a bit) is called How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson. Really compelling read, and some fascinating stories.
8. Any recommendations for India?
CW:¬†Be friendly, be open to new experiences, and be aware that the cops will sometimes hassle you (or even pull over your taxi) looking for bribes. Eat all the food (it’s cheap and delicious), but know that most of it isn’t very good for you. Don’t stick to the tourist track; try and check out some legitimate neighborhoods where people actually live. Have fun.
Thanks Colin, I’ll be sure to have a good time over there. Good luck with your tour and thanks for sharing!
If you are interesting in seeing more of Colin’s work, head over to his blog¬†exilelifstyle.com, you won’t be disappointed!
India_1909_map

India 2015 Itinerary

Planned 2015 Travels in Asia and Europe

I am starting to get excited to leave for India, I bought some great hiking boots and a solid camping backpack for traveling around Asia. I will be trying to post the entire time I am there, but am leaving room for lacking technology in Asia. Things have started to come together in the past few days in ways that make me ecstatic to leave, including time with my girlfriend in Southeast Asia!

I’ve also bought all of the flights that I will be needing, except for the one home. I’m hoping to stop in Paris and London for a week a piece to say hi to friends, so that is what I am still figuring out.

I leave for India on the 22nd of January, to fly¬†into Bangalore where I will immediately head out to Mysore. In Mysore, I have a high luxury hotel waiting, with Wifi, a queen size bed, and satellite TV. A whopping $16 a night haha, this will be my nicest accommodations of the whole trip, at least that’s how I am planning it now. I am hoping to stay in places for about $2 a night for the rest of the time, after I stay for three days in the hotel.

On the 26th of January, I start practice with Saraswathi. This will last until April 1st, when the Shala closes from Summer and Sharath goes on tour.

On the 3rd of April, I leave Bangalore for Kathmandu. I am looking forward to this city more than anything else, the fusion of Buddhism and Hinduism is something I am really looking forward to. Nepal is also somewhere I have been hoping to explore for a while, maybe I can spend some time in a monastery there. In any case, I will have hiking boots and a backpack, so hopefully I can check out the mountains while I’m there.

On the 17th of April, I fly into Yangon, Myanmar. I will be meeting up with Talia there and together we will start to explore southeast Asia, flying to Chiang Mai on the 22nd and then traveling down Thailand through Cambodia to the coast of Vietnam, then up the coast to Hanoi. This is the part of the trip that is a little more disorganized and discovery oriented. We essentially have 26 days starting on April 22nd to get Hanoi by the 17th of May. We’ll be traveling through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and possibly Laos, hopefully we’ll get to play with some monkeys!

On May 17th, I will arrive in Berlin. This is my first visit to Berlin and am ecstatic about Germany. This is where the second leg of my journey begins, with my sisters and mom! We will be backpacking and traveling though Eastern Europe together, starting in Berlin, Germany.

We arrive in Prague on May 21st. From there, we move onto Munich, Salzburg, Budapest, then spending a full week in Croatia. I am really, really excited to experience Croatia, I’ve heard some incredible things about the country and moving around eastern Europe is going to be so cool after having done the same in Asia.

We fly to Zurich on the 4th¬†of June,¬†afterwards I am thinking about going to Paris for a week, then London for another week. This is still up in the air and depends upon a couple of friends, so I’m not planning on it right now. But this is pretty much the end of the trip, and I will be heading back to the states to work again. Hopefully I won’t be completely broke, but I am sure as fuck going to be close!

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