Last night for dinner about a quarter of the Public Administration Class of 2005 at the University of Kansas had dinner in Dallas, Texas. During the course of normal dinner conversation Kate observed that more students from the Class of 2005 work in the State of Texas than any other state. Only one student from the Class of 2005 is not working at either the local, regional, state, or federal level of government. After graduation, one student made the choice to pursue the acquisition of knowledge through the journey known as higher education at Walden University. Making the choice between working in local government and staying in school to endeavor to understand the world by pursuing knowledge was not without consequences.
Part of the dinner had that getting the band back together feel and the rest of the dinner was about understanding and sharing differences in decision-making. A major topic of conversation during the dinner involved trying to understand the major life event of buying a house for the first time. Issues under discussion ranged from the tidal wave of unexpected expenses to the tendency to overspend on renovation projects.
Kate thought it would be a good idea to visit the Dallas World Aquarium. Before the trip to the Dallas World Aquarium even started, rain fell in Dallas, Texas. Jimmy decided to plan a late breakfast at the Café Brazil before heading downtown to the Dallas World Aquarium. For some reason, the Cafe Brazil was busy enough to have people crowing the entryway to purchase overpriced coffee and breakfast snacks. Oddly enough, similar food was actually available at the Dallas World Aquarium. From the artificial habitats to the underground aquariums, the entire building design revolved around a walking tour. Tickets to see the Dallas World Aquarium were highly overpriced and the number of habitats outnumbered the aquariums. Perhaps the Dallas World Aquarium should consider changing names to reflect the focus on habitats instead of aquariums.
Today the drive from Boulder, Colorado, to Wichita, Kansas, was uneventful. Toward the end of the drive, a full moon graced the sky as the setting sun colored the skyline. In January, snow normally covers the western Kansas terrain, but during the drive today, the only highway related highlights involved the passage of tumbleweeds. Traveling throughout the United States highway system provides an opportunity to experience different landscapes at different times of year. Kansas experiences a wide range of weather including tornados, hundred-degree summer heat, and occasionally large snowdrifts. Anyone driving across Kansas has to be careful to avoid the potential risk of tornados and snowstorms.
Speaking of tornados, several years ago, a tornado touched down within a block of the old apartment in Lawrence, Kansas, just past Clinton Parkway near Clinton Lake. For some reason that is still unexplainable, at the time, it seemed like a good idea to stand in the parking lot and on the balcony of the apartment and take photographs of the tornado. Naturally, news organizations were happy to get digital copies of the tornado photographs without sending reporters into hazardous conditions. After several years of reflective thought devoted to the experience of taking tornado photographs the fact remains that the apartment complex still does not have a basement or tornado shelter, running from the tornado was impossible, and driving away from the tornado would have only been possible with advanced warning.
Additionally, on the subject of tornados, during the drive from Bolder, Colorado, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, last year a tornado formed and touched down several miles from the highway. Oddly enough, in this case, inclement weather developed during the long drive and the local radio stations did not provide a warning until after the first tornado touched down. At this time, it should be noted that tornados do not actually occur very often making them manageable risk. After previously having the experience of seeing the devastating potential of a tornado, the idea of getting close to a tornado again from inside a car hiding under a highway overpass was terrifying.
Throughout the day different radio reports talked about the rare occurrence of tornados in the month of January like the ones reported on the eastern coast. However, during this time of year wildfires can devastate the Midwest if high winds and drought conditions develop.
Any hike that starts by completing the less than a mile hike to Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park should be a good way to start the day. Joni wanted to leave the Glacier Gorge Trailhead and make the somewhat lengthy hike to Black Lake. Maybe experienced hikers are in better shape and ready to take on the six-mile journey to Black Lake, but any hike that results in twelve miles round trip is always going to be challenging to a armchair quarterback. Without question the almost two thousand feet of change in elevation is enough to classify the hike as strenuous, but the hike starts to get treacherous just before Ribbon Falls and continues to be a workout all the way to Black Lake. For those hikers willing to kick it up a notch and climb a little bit of rock face Frozen Lake is just over the next mountain ridge and supposedly spectacular. Gus carried a wide variety of snacks for the journey including a few grab bags of cheesy goodness. Two liters of water is probably not enough to keep somebody fully hydrated during an entire day twelve-mile extravaganza, but carrying three or four litters of water can really be limiting during strenuous hiking. Last night a hike-induced hunger drove the group to Outback Steakhouse for a series of filling snacks and of course one blooming onion. After hiking twelve miles, a full dinner is in order with appetizers, salads, and at least one main dish. Gus had some kind of prime rib steak that seemed to be more like a floating soup than a steak, but the garlic-mashed potatoes certainly were filling.
Over the last two days, Gus has been sleeping on the sofa enjoying a set of flannel sheets and a Spiderman enhanced comfort pillow. Yesterday, during the morning hours it seemed like a good idea to drive to Golden, Colorado, and then to the Grand Lake area of Rocky Mountain National Park. Maybe the goal of the journey was to travel from Grand Lake to Estes Park, which involved the need to transverse the Trail Ridge Road. No road in the United States of America can claim to be higher than the 12,000 feet above sea level with eight miles of the road actually being above 11,000 feet. Today will be a little less challenging than the Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, since the Denver Museum of National Sciences does not require traveling to the top of any mountains only to the ends of the imagination.
Thanks to the rich tradition of the Boy Scouts of America an external frame technical backpack, right now is sitting on a rack in a basement closet. Touring the national parks is not meant to be technically challenging therefore it was time to get a new day hike centric backpack. After looking at a fair number of online catalogs and stores throughout the greater Boulder, Colorado area the pack that stood out was the backpacking internal frame North Face Terra 40. Setup with a suspension system that is both comfortable and lightweight, the North Face 40 is capable of supporting enough gear for overnight backpacking, but is better suited for carrying enough gear for two hikers on a full eight-hour national park tour.
Backpack makers over the yeas have become enamored with the daisy chain loops system for quickly attaching tools and gear. The front pocket setup with multiple compartments and accessible map pocket at the top of the pack are better accessories than a daisy chain of loops. One of the nice features of the pack is a set of hip belt pockets that are accessible and useful for storing gear that needs to be quickly accessible like a navigation tool and a nice snack bar. North Face went to the trouble of making the Terra 40 hydration compatible for whatever that is worth between the internal compartment for a bag of water with a funny straw and two external water bottle holders the pack is capable of sporting four litters of water. North Face claims that the moderate difficulty long day hike that requires medium storage capacity inspired the design including the side compression straps and lightweight suspension.
With enough space to hold a significant number of snacks, water, a change of clothes, and an emergency first aid kit the North Face Terra 40 should enhance any endeavor to tour every national park in the Untied States of America. Now some of the national parks are remote and might require an external frame technical backpack that can carry a larger amount of gear and float if necessary down a stream. Most national parks are accessible through roads and support auto touring with several park and hike trials that are not remote enough to require overnight camping. At Rocky Mountain National Park, it is even possible to summit a mountain in a single day and be back in the car at nightfall to catch a steak dinner in celebration.
Andy Phelan says that leaving the couch is highly unlikely and hiking in every national park is an impossible dream, but then again the pictures will be online to prove that the journey happened. A snack master reference aside visiting every national park is not a dream it is an achievable reality. Hiking in every national park will take hard work, dedication, and leaving the comfort of snacks on the couch. In this case, Andy Phelan has it all wrong and with visits to Rocky Mountain National Park and Mesa Verde National Park already this year it is only a matter of time before Andy receives a camera phone picture of the next national park visit and eventually a camera phone picture of the celebratory taco snack.