Oh! Before I took off to the US I travelled to Durham to meet up with some instrumentationalists to talk about integral field units. Co-supervisor Ian Parry was giving a talk on our various instruments here in Cambridge. It was a very informative visit.
Greetings from hot hot sunny Cambridgeshire, England. It's my third summer here slaving away as a graduate student. A few weeks ago it was constanly raining and very cold. But I missed all that bad weather. I was "on holiday." :)
Not to say that I take off a lot. I have been very busy here in the lab. We have been awarded telescope time in Hawaii on UKIRT (United Kingdom Infrared Telescope) for the commissioning run of my thesis instrument-COHSI. And boy do we have a lot to do before then! So life is mostly busy. *gulp*
But I was almost going crazy with my attempts at calibrating the first stage of a three spectrograph "end to end" system. :) So I wanted to dash away. And also, Doug's sis Barb was getting married on the solstice in Leavenworth, WA, so timing was perfect!
Doug and I had a great time. I think he also really needed to get away after teaching a semester and having a "to do" list longer than mine. On June 14th (Sat) met him in DIA (Denver International Airport) and we drove up to Laramie, Wyoming, where he lives. I recovered from my jetlag and we packed up his new Toyota 4 wheel drive Rav4 to set out north the next day. Our objective was Leavenworth, WA, a town with a "Bavarian" theme, in central Washington. This would be my first long drive trip (It would take up three days) and my first driving through a time zone change (Montana-Idaho border).
We made a few side trips on our way out West. I am still so awed by the beauty of the open west: prairies stretching for miles, snow capped mountains popping up in the distance, and wildlife galore. Doug is very lucky to live in Wyoming. There are hundreds of these pronghorn antelope which run wild along the prairies of Wyoming and Montana.
We next headed to Montana, the state with no speed limits and drove for HOURS! Like 12! And never left the state. :) We camped on the MT-Idaho border at LoLo National Forest, exhausted. We did take a nice interpretive trail through the forest learning all about the ponderosa pines and douglas firs and ways a forester views the "health" of his/her forest.
The next day we breezed through Idaho. (We went through the skinny bit). The roads were awful but the moutains were great. And sped into Washington. Eastern Washington was quite rural, reminding me a lot of south-eastern England. What was quite neat was seeing large boulders in the middle of sloping rural pastures. They had been deposited thousands of years ago by big glaciers. Amazing powers the earth has. I betcha that these boulders caused havoc for the large farming tractors.
We reached Leavenworth and rendezvoused with Doug's family and his sis's fiance Jayson's family. (Wed) The next day Doug and I headed off to explore our surroundings, set in the basin of the eastern Cascade Range with a roaring Wanatchee river. There had been a forest fire in 1994 which had devasated about 80% of the forest in the area. It was so humbling and impressive when we walked through acres and acres of recovering forest. We headed off to see some mountain lakes. On Thursday we hiked up to Little 8 Mile Lake and 8 Mile Lake, Dougie taking the time to try out some rock skipping. :) We picnicked at 8 Mile Lake and took in the beautiful site. What was really neat was our attempts to read the geography and predict where a mountain lake would reside. We were actually quite good at it. We also had some USGS contour maps with us which were quite helpful, especially beacuse these trails had hardly any info signs. On Friday we returned to this area, often known as the Enchantment Lakes area, and went on a 12 mile hike to Stuart Lake. We had a great time!
The ceremony was quite moving and beautiful. The reception was potluck and full of freshed caught salmon and fresh fruit and great pasta salads, all brought in by local friends. A three piece Cajun-style band provided some great music. There were toasts by the best man and maid of honour and lots of smiles and laughter in response. The bride even toasted me, saying that I was the furthest to come to her wedding, all the way from Cambridge, England. And then her mum piped up saying that I was the lady in the hat. :)
You see I borrowed a hat from a British friend Liz who told me that all ladies wear hats at British weddings. :) So I said I'll give it a try and you know what? I was the only woman there wearing a hat! :) :) :) :) It was great!
Doug and I shared a few dances which made me so happy. I had not danced ever since I hurt my back. It was a wonderful feeling. I was doubly excited since he was really very good at dancing, trying out steps which I taught him from my ballroom dance classes and improvising on them. :)
Doug and I stayed in Leavenworth the next day with Barb and Jayson and their friends and imbibing on a great peanut butter and chocolate milkshake. We headed East the next day (Mon) back home to Laramie via Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is neat and BIG! I must return because we only got to see some of it.
We hit the geysers first. I was duly impressed by the hot springs, fumeroles, and bubbling mud pots in addition to the geysers. There were walkways which brought you real close to all the neat geothermal activities in Yellowstone. And the smell of sulfur and the views of the orange and pink bacteria thriving in T>90F wet conditions were just incredible.
Yellowstone lies over a "hot spot" in our mantle, having also been an active volcano about 400,000 years ago. Rain water seeps into the cracks and gets heated by the underlying mantle. If it collects in pools it is called a hot springs. If it gets caught in undergound chambers, it heats up and boils and after a period of time bursts upwards with steam and water. This is a geyser. They seem to predict the geyser bursts pretty accurately. Doug and I watched Old Faithful go off right on time. :) If the water stays collected in a pool but the conditions around it are acidic, the rock surrounding the pool will decompose and you get a mud pot, which gurgles and blurps our mud as the gas escapes. Neat stuff!!!
This lion's lair geyser spurted off while Doug and I walked bye. Most impressive.
We then left Yellowstone the end of Thursday. Yellowstone said her goodbyes to us with a big black bear and a female moose about 5 minutes from the east exit. We had a great time and I do hope to return to backpack someday!
I hope my email has found you well. Do let me know if you had any adventures this summer.
Very best wishes for the summer,