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June 1997 Journal Entry July 9, 1997

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.

On the river Wear in Durham. Raining in England as usual. Beautiful Norman Cathedral built in 995AD.

Hi All,

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.

On our drives through the praires of Wyoming we saw hundreds of wild pronghorn antelope munching for dinner or racing along the miles.

We stopped first at the Medicine Lodge State Archeological Site in north Wyoming to check out the petroglyphs and pictographs of some Native American Indians. Years earlier archeologists had discovered arrowheads from 7000 and 10,000BC. Great stuff! We camped by a river, narrowly escaping the mosquitos, which I may add were out for blood. The next day we headed off too see the Big Horn Medicine Wheel in the Big Horn Mts. It is believed to be an ancient astronomical observatory, made up of stones placed in the shape of a wheel. I was disappointed in it since it was all gated off and the interpretive tour promised at the foot of the hike up to the Wheel did not come to be. It was placed at a beautiful site, high in the Big Horns, but Doug and I wandered about it wondering what it all meant. I have been reading up on it recently and supposedly the rock piles (or cairns) would mark out the dawn-rising stars of Aldebaran, Rigel, and Sirius as well as various settings and risings of the sun on the solstices. It also had religious meanings as well for the ancient Indians.

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!

About 10 miles drive from Leavenworth, WA, we hit some incredible hikes in the Cascade Range-Enchantment Lake area. One day we hiked 6 miles to reach picturesque Stuart Lake.

Picture of Doug and me on a hike to Stuart Lake.

Saturday was Barb and Jayson's wedding to be held at a Mountain Lodge in a picturesque valley in Plain, WA. The weather had been gorgeous up to a few hours before the wedding. It was looking dark! I helped set up the reception tables and ceremony chairs outside since the wedding was to be held outdoors.. We all hoped the weather would blow over, as it normally does in the mountains. Well, about 5 minutes before the photographer came (about 35 minutes before the actual wedding ceremony), the heavens opened up and not only did it rain, but it hailed! And it hailed for about 15 minutes covering everything in white. Meanwhile most of the guys were in their suits and they frantically carried in the tables and chairs as best they could. They got soaked and we had to throw their clothes and tablecloths into the lodge's clothes driers. It was quite the sight, but Barb and Jayson have a great bunch of friends who really helped sort things out and lickedly-split the outdoor wedding became an indoor wedding, held in the big lounge area of the lodge.

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!!!

Yellowstone is noted for its incredible "geothermal" activity from geysers, hot springs, and mudpots to silica ridges.

This lion's lair geyser spurted off while Doug and I walked bye. Most impressive.

We saw lots of neat wildlife. We ran into lots of elk and deer in the park. One night we saw a coyote running across the rode. We went off on a hike to Specimen Ridge in the NE corner of the park in search of wolves, having been recently reintroduced to the park. The hike turned out to be full of mosquiots instead. :) We did manage to see a little black bear on our travels out and I witnessed this "bear jam" phenomena in which all the cars block the road as everyone tries to catch the bear on his/her camer or videocamera.

Minerva plateau at Mammoth, Yellowstone

The next day (Thursday) we visited the silic terraces of Mammoth (formed by hot water venting from the Noris geyser basin south of Mammoth and saw lots of pretty waterfalls. We went on a 10 mile hike into Hayden Valley in search of bison. It was the Mary Mountain trail and I highly recommend it! We walked along a valley carved out by a 14,000 year old glacier. And I might add it was a very muddy valley! *big grin* We ran into 3 buffalo immediately. These creatures are amazing. I remarked to Doug that they look like Klingons! :) We picked up a lot of their mossy hair along the way, removed from their scratching themselves on the trailposts. :) We turned around when we came within 100 feet of a bull buffalo. I sure wouldn't want to get into a fight with him!

Yellowstone lower falls.

We hit Yellowstone on our way back to Wyoming from Washington. Here's some bison (buffalo) we encountered on the Mary Mountain Trail down into a glacial valley.

Upon reccomendation of Doug's sis Barb who is a fisheries biologist in Leavenworth, we made a stop down at Le Hardy Rapids to see the cutthroat trout. It was spawning season and they were trying to get upstream. I saw one attempt to jump the rapids. I am not sure whether it succeeded. Doug and I saw a few trying to climb the rocks. A few made it. It was neat!

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!

Black bear.

We headed back to Laramie and rested up for a day and then Doug and I had to part as I headed back to Cambridge.

Doug's backyard: Medicine Bow State Park. Doesn't he look right at home?

Making home-made pasta in Laramie.

So it was a jammed pack holiday. I have been back here a week now and slowly getting back into the groove of things.

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,