Tempus Fugit

When I reflect over the past eight months on the road, it’s a focused blur. Like the miles that melt behind us as we’re cruising on the Interstates, our side-view mirrors only serve to remind us what we once observed before it’s gone in an instant.

“Did you see that?!” has been a common cue while driving, that could come at any time. It could be a natural phenomena like a double rainbow, or a dramatic change to an underwhelming landscape, or a man with no teeth whose nose touches his chin passing us in his hot-rod Mustang convertible.

Whatever the case may be, we usually have just a moment to react and make a meaningful connection before we’re on to the next moment in time. Our experience may be filed into memory, but memories can be sketchy, ambiguous and subjective.

“What’s your favorite place so far?” is a question that unquestionably comes up when meeting friends or strangers who hear about the progress we’ve made on our year-long odyssey. It’s also the hardest question to answer, considering the nearly 30,000 miles we’ve covered en route to 90 different destinations.

Leah and I often joke and reflect about our day at its conclusion, just to gauge if our recollections match.

“Was it a top 10 day for you today?” I’m likely to ask.

Certainly more than 30 times to date, she’ll respond with, “I don’t know if it was ‘top 10’, but definitely among the top 20.”

Looking back–with help from impressions of places from past posts–I’m now ready to answer the question, and reveal my top five favorites thus far, in chronological order.

1) August 2, 2017: Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada–Athabasca Glacier

Herbert detail (2)

Athabasca Glacier currently recedes at 16 ft. per year, and has lost over half its volume over the past 125 years.

Glacier water

2) August 21, 2017: Corvallis, Oregon–Total Solar Eclipse


Totality of the eclipse lasted one minute, 40 seconds.

partial eclipse (3)

4) August 29, 2017: Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

cinder cone1

The 750 foot ascent up the 35% grade of loose gravel to the rim of the Cinder Cone took 35 minutes.

cone crater panorama (2)

4) October 4, 2017: Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Sunset over Rainbow trail

7 minutes lapsed between the sun setting behind the Muddy Mountains to the moon rising over the Valley of Fire.

sheep and moon (4)

5) October 14, 2017: Albuquerque, New Mexico–Balloon Fiesta

lighting it up

The hot air balloon was aloft over Albuquerque after 13 minutes of inflation.

Balloons over Albuquerque (2)

Although each adventure is fundamentally different from the others, collectively, they represent before and after transitions.

The ephemeral existence of each event is temporary in its own special way, with its own time-stamp carved in soap. Fortunately, the moment can be captured and preserved in words and pictures, lest there be any doubt that something significant happened in our lifetime.


Valley of the Five Lakes

Clouds to the right of us…

overcast sky1

…and clouds to the left of us…

overcast sky 2

…left us completely surrounded by clouds. Now we had to figure out what to do on such an overcast day.

Park cognoscenti suggested a popular destination showcasing five distinctly different alpine lakes–each with its own signature green hue. I was hooked.

With temperatures dropping overnight to comfortable levels, an extended hike to the lakes became the likely candidate for the first half of our day, provided we could balance the second half of the day with a visit to Edith Cavell Mountain, located within the vicinity. However, the access road to the mountain was now restricted to limited traffic while the trail head parking lot has been undergoing needed repairs from a flash flood months ago. So, park headquarters–when it opens at 8:00 am– has been issuing a controlled number of passes to Edith Cavell at staggered times on a first-come first-serve basis.

We arrived at the requisite hour to encounter the line for passes winding around the building. 15 minutes later, Leah emerged with a 2:00 pm call time along with a two hour buffer. Our itinerary was set.

Surprisingly, when we arrived at the Valley of Five Lakes parking location, only a few cars occupied the lot. Maybe it was the threat of rain, or maybe it was our lucky day. Either way, we were not apologizing for feeling lucky.

Scanning the trail map gave us perspective for our hike,

park map

but we weren’t prepared for a sophisticated signpost at the start of the trail,


or an amber graphic touting the trail in greater detail, which made the impending hike seem more foreboding.

amber sign

According to the legend, we were being directed to the Fifth Lake first. I thought it odd to begin the first leg of the Valley of the Five Lakes hike at Fifth Lake, but then no one sought my counsel about the matter.

5th lake sign

The long and narrow lake was shallow, but a raft of ducks glided across the water effortlessly. Two rowboats were chained around a tree stump by a slumping dock with a rental notice painted across the bow, but both boats were taking on water.

Lake 5.jpg

Lake 5.1

We rounded the tip of Fifth Lake, to discover the Fourth Lake,

4th lake sign

which had been shrouded by the trees as we walked alongside it on our way to the first lake, Fifth Lake.

Fourth Lake was like a kidney-shaped pool filled with the illusion of a primordial incubus submerged across the diameter, but in an inviting way, drawing us closer.

Lake 4

It too was shallow like Fifth Lake, but Fifth Lake reflected a paler tone. And while Fifth Lake appeared serene, Fourth Lake’s personality rivaled the Sirens.

Lake 4.2

Hiking to Third Lake turned out to be only steps away from Fourth Lake, but I didn’t know it at the time. A footbridge crossed over a running stream from Fourth Lake that fed into Third Lake, so it appeared that Third Lake really belonged to Fourth Lake.

Yet the map showed a distinctive break between the two Lakes. I had my doubts about the legitimacy of Lake Three, but no one was asking my opinion on the matter.

And then Leah called out to me from around the bend, “I found the sign for the Third Lake.”

3rd lake sign

Gaining some elevation on the trail made all the difference, revealing an eerie luminescent halo hugging the shoreline of Third Lake.

Lake 3.1

Lake 3

which differed from Fourth Lake’s lack of uniformity, and the shape of Fifth Lake.

And it was on to Second Lake,

2nd lake sign

the smallest of the Five Lakes, which by comparison probably deserved to be called a pond and not a lake, but no one bothered to ask my opinion on the matter.

Lake 2

Nevertheless, the shimmering green soup of the Second Lake was haunting and other-worldly under gray skies, where the light seemed to emanate from under the water.

Lake 2.1

With only the First Lake left to see, we approached a crossroads in the trail. Either we finish the hike by passing the First Lake on our right, or we extend the hike another 2.5 miles by circling the final lake.

1st lake sign

After a quick look at the long ribbon of turquoise water disappearing around the bend, I knew I needed to see First Lake from the other side.

Lake 1.2

Yet it seemed like First Lake was playing hard to get. Along the way, thick tree cover offered only teasing views,

Lake 1 tease

until we reached an opening that finally offered a sweeping vista of First Lake.

Lake 1

A path of braided tree roots

braid of roots

led us to the top of First Lake,

Lake 1.1

where rock rubble challenged the overflow that fed the lush marsh grass downstream.

marsh grass

The hike was satisfying, but we emerged from the forest later than expected at 3:00 pm, giving us one hour to make the trip to Edith Cavell check-in. It was going to be a race against the clock.

Stay tuned…

The Texture of Water

The power of wind and water can carve a glacier* in uncertain ways.

But there is no mistaking the coarseness of glacial ice, compounded by the amorphous form of rushing water, which suggests a texture of turbulence.

ice water

* Athabasca Glacier at Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park