Summer Road Trip 2000

Few people are fortunate to be able to take two months off every summer (or dumb enough to take two SEPARATE road trips out west). But with burn out fast approaching, I told my boss that I needed to take two months off- whether or not it was a vacation or a firing, that was up to her. Fortunately, summertime is not the busy season in fine-dining (or in my case, cigar/martini lounges of fine-dining establishments), so I managed to get away with little hassle. Or perhaps I just tuned out the hassle- a common tactic I take with authority figures.

The only craw in my little plan to take July and August off was that I had to move at the end of July, so I would have to return to Ann Arbor at some point (hence the TWO separate road trips). Luckily, I really enjoy driving, so it wasn't too big a deal. Of course, my car has now seen more miles than the Bush campaign, but this is the price one pays for a vacation ("vacation"- from the Latin word "vacare", meaning to spend lots of money, and the Greek "tionos", meaning to take lots of pictures).

My plan for Phase 1 of the vacation was relatively simple: the Pacific Coast Highway. This stretch of road runs from the southern end of California all the way up the Pacific Coast (go figure) to Washington state. I had planned to do this in '99, but I ended up over-vacationing (read: overspending) in Montana. I still desperately wanted to see this amazing road, so this seemed to be the time.

I set off by myself one Sunday morning for California. I made St. Louis, MO, by early afternoon, and like all sane people do when the mercury is at 107 degrees F, I stopped and walked around the asphalt-covered downtown area. Six liters of bottled water later, I found the mighty Mississippi River, and took a riverboat cruise. The gentle breezes flowing past me reduced the temperature to a mere 105, and I wondered why I had not brought my coat and flannel-lined pants...

After this brief respite from the road, I pressed on into the evening, taking a back road through Missouri which was actually one of the most scenic parts of my trip. I made Denver early the next morning. I had never been to Colorado, so I was in awe at the Rocky Mountain State. I did what all good numismatists (coin collectors, for the uninitiated) do: I stopped at the Denver Mint. In a typical stroke of government planning genius, the line for the hour-long wait stretched along the sun-drenched sidewalk outside the building. Luckily for me, the high elevations cooled the air to a downright chilly 97 degrees (note to self: take next July vacation to Alaska), so I only needed five bottles of water.

My real interest in Colorado was stopping at the beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park. This gem of a place is nestled in the Rockies and is bordered by the world-famous Estes Park on one side. Bad luck struck here, though, as I was misinformed about the length of a hike and got stuck out on a trail VERY late one night- I had just finished hiking five miles in to a mountain lake (which, in hindsight, was the "Mystery Spot" of Colorado) when the sun set behind the mountains. This is bad because:

As it was, I did end up hiking the last two miles in the dark. Even though I was aided by a full moon, I almost missed the turnoff at the end of the trail. The REAL problem began the next morning, however, when my knee hurt so bad that I could barely walk. In my mad dash to make it out of the mountains the night before, I had put an inordiante amount of strain on it and developed iliotibial (IT) band syndrome. The only cure for this is about 10 weeks of time, and this seriously put a damper on my hiking. Instead, I spent a couple more days driving around the scenic areas of the park (not to mention 6 hours driving all over B.F. Colorado to try and find an oil cap for my car, but that is more of a story for the Darwin Awards...), but my serious hiking days were over for the duration of the summer. And I am only now beginning to break my Motrin addiction. The halfway house has helped a lot, though, and... but I digress.

After a brief stay in Vegas (city motto: Relative humidity under 10 per cent, or your money back!), I headed out to L.A. to start my northward ascent.

Story will be finished soon, I promise! Enjoy!

The rest stop in St. Louis that turned into a riverboat cruise...

At the Continental Divide- Milner Pass, Rocky Mtn. Nat'l Park (Colorado).

Venice Pier in Venice (L.A.), California.

Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay

At the same spot, with my cousin David.

San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Bridge.

My favorite travelling companion, posed precariously next to a banana slug.

An even more precarious position...

Heceta Head Lighthouse in Oregon- the most photographed lighthouse in the world (really).

The beautiful Kathy, at our dinner stop in Wisconsin.

A colorful view of Badlands Nat'l Park, South Dakota. The colors are real.

Kathy, surrounded by hoodoos...

Kathy, with some of the stunning mountains of Glacier Nat'l Park.

Beautiful scenery. Beautiful girl.

On Lake McDonald.

The breathtaking vista at St. Mary Lake.

The view from Glacier's "Many Glacier" park entrance.

Grinnell Lake- a rugged two hour hike.



Kathy, surrounded by flowers, moments before receiving 5 bee stings and a wild ride to the paramedic station...

Kathy, on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Our second fish of the trip (the camera with the first fish fell into the river with me...).

Avalanche Lake, my favorite place on earth.

More of the same.

The spectacular view of Hidden Lake.

Both of us at Hidden Lake.

A nature trail.


Heavy Runner Mountain in the background. We never did figure out how it got that name.

Have fly rod, will travel.

At Upper McDonald Creek.

At the Dancing Cascade Loop.

It was a hot day. Really!

At St. Mary Falls, after waiting forever for some guy to take pictures of his daughter from every conceivable angle.

Part of the beauty of Glacier is the random roadside waterfall. There are dozens.

The "postcard shot"; that's Wild Goose Island in the background.

One of the many road hazards in Kanakaskis Country, Alberta.

Lake Hector, in Banff National Park, Alberta.

A big-horned sheep, on the road from Banff to Jasper Nat'l Park in Alberta, Canada.

An amazing view from our "side-trip" to British Columbia en route to Jasper.

An amazing mountain view on the return from Jasper.

A random roadside elk, also on the way back.

Hoodoos, at the end of a slightly overrated hike in Banff.

At the Provincial Gardens in Banff.



James C. Knapp: Master Fire Builder (even in the rain!).

The amazingly-colored Lake Louise.

One of the feeder streams for Lake Louise.

On the Louise trail, at a point where five glaciers meet.

Kathy on the trail, with the lake below.

They don't call them hot springs for nothin'- 20 minutes is about all most people can take.

I'm beginning to think that the mountain man's life is for me!

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, made entirely out of corn. I swear I am not making this up!

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The Homepage of James C. Knapp, Jr./ Last modified 23 December 2002.