Tag Archives: Yellowstone National Park

In a Hole in the Ground there Lived a Hobbit

If you enjoy trilogies, I’m sure you’ve seen The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Both trilogies were filmed in New Zealand and opening scenes of the trilogies start in the home of the Hobbits, at The Shire in Hobbiton.

When director Peter Jackson was scouting for a location to film Hobbiton, he flew a helicopter over New Zealand. Down below he saw a land of green pasture, rolling hills, and endless sheep and knew it would become the home of the hobbits.

Hobbiton

Hobbits are a small people, averaging 3 feet 6 inches in height, have hairy feet, an abundant appetite and sport a good-natured face.

The Hobbit

A people of such small stature don’t require large houses so they built small houses just under the surface of rolling hills.

Hobbiton

Hobbiton, New Zealand

During the filming of The Lord of the Rings, they created a movie set to show where the Hobbits lived. The town was named Hobbiton and the Hobbits lived in small houses built into the hills with grass roofs. They created this movie set on a sheep farm in the North Island of New Zealand. Once the trilogy was fully filmed, they dismounted the movie set.

The Hobbit Movie

Nine years later, they created The Hobbit trilogy and had to reassemble the movie set.  After reassembling the second time, they decided to keep the movie set and make it a tourist attraction so now you can walk around the movie set just as the Hobbits did in the movies!

Hobbiton

As we began exploring Hobbiton, we were surprised that there were actually 44 Hobbit houses and the village is quite large.

Hobbiton Hobbit Houses

You will also see Hobbit clothes dangling from clotheslines.

Hobbit Movie

Since Hobbits are only 3 feet 6 inches tall, most of the Hobbit houses have small circular doorways. However, since they filmed some of the shots with actors of average height, some of the houses actually have regular sized doors.

Hobbit House

The Hobbit movie

You will find all kinds of Hobbit houses here that represent the work that each Hobbit does (fishermen, etc.).

Hobbiton The Shire

Peter Jackson filmed the series and went through painstaking detail to ensure that Hobbiton was true to the original books. All of the surroundings are real (hills, trees, etc.) with the exception of one tree, it is the tree in the picture below. This is actually a fake tree that Jackson had created to ensure it was true to the books. In person, you can’t tell it is a fake tree.

Hobbiton

The village has a pond with beautiful surroundings.

Hobbiton Lake

Hobbiton

Beautiful Hobbiton

So you may be wondering what the interior of the Hobbit houses looks like? Well, sorry to fill you in on this but if you open the door, it is simply a cave of dirt, nothing behind the facade.

Hobbiton

Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Just outside of Rotorua is Wai-o-Tapu thermal wonderland. If you haven’t visited Yellowstone National Park, you will be impressed with the thermal pools and geysers. However, if you’ve visited Yellowstone, it’s not so special.

Due to dramatic geothermal conditions beneath the earth, the area has many hot springs noted for their colorful appearance. This area has been named in the “20 Most Surreal Places you need to see to believe” by Trip Advisor.

Wai-o-Tapu Thermal

Wai-o-Tapu Thermal

One of the main attractions is a geyser named Lady Knox Geyser that supposedly erupts every day at 10:15 a.m. We were wondering how it could be that consistent. Once there, we found out that if laundry detergent is placed inside of the geyser, it will erupt within minutes. So each day at 10:15, a ranger dumps a cup of laundry detergent into the geyser and it does its thing.

Lady Knox Geyser

Huka Falls

As we began making our way towards the ferry that takes you to the South Island, we stumbled on to Huka Falls. Huka Falls is a section of the Waikato River that narrows from over 300 feet wide to 50 feet wide. This narrowing causes a huge volume of water to collide and funnel through the rocky gorge, forming an incredibly powerful set of rapids.

Huka Falls

Huka Falls passes enough water through to fill up an Olympic sized pool every 11 seconds, amazing! If you’re traveling south and want to stretch your legs or take a hike, Huka Falls is a good spot to stop.

Huka Falls

Taupo

Close to Huka Falls is Taupo, a city flanked by mountains and a beautiful lake. It is also a good spot to stop for lunch, they have an amazing selection of restaurants.

Taupo

Taupo

#LoveTaupo

What’s Next?

Our next blog will take us to the south Island of New Zealand as we cruise the fjords from north to south. We will also visit the Marlborough, the premier wine country of New Zealand.

I’ll leave you with a picture of our beautiful wives and great travel partners. How lucky are we?

Our Wives

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2013 in the Rear View Mirror

2013 – A year of travels and self discovery

The end of the year always brings reflection, a habit I developed when running our business. For us, 2013 was the first full year of retirement, traveling and self discovery. With our year-end travels, we were not able to send out Christmas cards this year, so hopefully this will suffice in lieu of cards for friends that follow our blog. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy whatever-holiday-tradition-you-follow!

Early 2013

After spending last Christmas 2012 with our boys (Cameron and Ryan), we started out 2013 by moving Cameron from Maine to Colorado. After a semester at the University of Maine, Cameron missed Colorado and wanted to spend his college years at CSU in Fort Collins, Colorado. That suited us, as Ryan was already enrolled there.

Ryan, Cameron and I flew to Maine, cleared out his dorm and made the 3 day trek from Maine to Colorado. We were packed into his Ford Mustang like sardines, sharing the backseat with half of his belongings.  Not the most comfortable ride across country, but we spent a lot of quality time talking, joking and just having fun. We rotated driving duties, so we only had to drive about 2 hours at a time — a cool way to travel. Lynn met us in Colorado and we moved Cameron into his new apartment and he enrolled in college.

After returning to Florida, I spent my time fishing and golfing on warm dry days. Fishing in the bay was great, a friend (Tom Helderlie) and I caught lots of red fish. We had plenty of cold days that brought on the first bout of boredom since I retired so I decided to start working on a new software project, discussed in my March 2013 blog.

Spring 2013

In February, Lynn and I talked about traveling again. We had an epiphany — what if we rented our condo to fund more travel. Getting the condo ready for the rental season was a bit of a chore, but by early March, it was fully rented for Spring break. So we hit the road again by visiting our boys in Colorado, then on to California. In California, we spent several days in Napa Valley, learning more about wines than ever before.

Red wines fermenting

Red wines fermenting

Then we were off to Sequoia National Park, the home of some the biggest redwoods in the  world. I was literally in awe of the size of these trees.

Huge redwoods

Huge redwoods

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Lynn and I had seen lots of Ansel Adams photography but had never visited one his most photographed subjects — Yosemite National Park. We took the chance to take some of our photos that could never rival his.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Before we left for California, a friend (Craig Bromley) mentioned that we had to visit Big Sur and the Sonoma coast. We tasted wine in Sonoma, visited Big Sur, the Hearst Castle, and spent a few days in San Francisco — what a cool town.

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Iconic Golden Gate Bridge

Iconic Golden Gate Bridge

We ended our trip by taking in a Criss Angel show in Las Vegas.  That was my first trip Las Vegas, so we also took that time to visit the Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

After traveling for a little over a month, we returned to Florida. April and May in Florida is very nice. Warm days, cool waters, and almost no crowds. On nice days, I fished and golfed as much as I could.

Canoe

Right outside our door in Florida

On cool or rainy days, I continued to work on my new software project (aMemoryJog). I wanted to have a solid business plan and software prototype before summer and I was able to accomplish that.

Summer 2013

By the start of Summer, our condo was fully rented for the season so we jetted off on our next adventure. We decided to spend some time with our boys in Colorado, then visit the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. We saw more mountains, wildlife, lakes, streams, geysers, hot springs and mudpots than you can imagine (I almost said “than you can shake a stick at” but I visualized Lynn rolling her eyes as she read it).

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Old Barn on Morman Row

Old Barn on Morman Row

Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake

We then made our way to Oregon — starting in central Oregon and stopping to see Crater Lake — simply spectacular. Then we headed to the coast (Cannon Beach) — we had spent a weekend here when our boys were really young, but this time we spent a week really exploring this area.

Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake, Oregon

Haystack Rock -- Taken in 2013

Haystack Rock  – Cannon Beach

Oregon Coast - My favorite picture

Oregon Coast

Our journey then took us to Washington.  We started in Seabrook, Washington, a town fashioned after the movie “The Truman Show”. It is an idyllic town, reminding me of Seaside, Florida.

Seabrook, Washington

Seabrook, Washington

Seabrook, Washington

Seabrook, Washington

Lynn and I briefly lived in Seattle Washington when our kids were young but never spent a full summer there. Most of you know that Seattle is miserable during the winter, autumn and spring — it rains constantly. The summer, however, is another story. So we visited the Olympic National Park then headed for Seattle for a couple of weeks. It was spectacular. We discovered a new found appreciation for Seattle’s beauty.

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach

Kestner Homestead Trail

Kestner Homestead Trail

Kestner Homestead Trail

Kestner Homestead Trail

Space Needle

Space Needle

Seatle

Seattle

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

We then journeyed to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.  There we explored the city and saw Butchart Gardens — probably the most beautiful gardens we had seen. Victoria is a cool town with lots of history. We learned more about Canada than we ever did in school.

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Leaving Victoria, we headed for a 3 week trip to Vancouver, British Columbia and Whistler. Vancouver is a really cool town, probably one of the coolest towns I’ve ever visited. It is trendy, has lots of great restaurants, is a waterfront community, and has tons of biking and hiking trails. The city looks similar to Hong Kong, with high rise apartments and condos on each block. Stanley Park is an incredible park — reminds me of Central Park in New York.

Vancouver Canada

Vancouver BC Canada

Whistler Canada

Whistler BC Canada

It was also here that I started experimenting with meditation. It really helps calm the mind, I highly recommend it if you have not tried it. I also accomplished a challenging hike called “The Grind“.  It is a 2,800 foot mountain climb that is nicknamed “Nature’s StairMaster“.  I summited in just over 1.5 hours and found a new confidence by completing it.  After finishing this hike, I pledged to train for a 50-mile bike ride upon our return to Florida.

Warning: Not for Wimps!

Warning: Not for Wimps!

The final leg of our Summer trip took us to Alaska. We spent 2 weeks cruising Alaska and visiting Mount McKinley. We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and then onto a land tour in Denali National Park. During this time, we visited breweries, took a helicopter ride up to mountain glacier, rode a dog sled across a glacier, and visited the iconic Glacier Bay — watching glaciers as they crashed into the sea.

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

Landscapes

Alaska Landscapes

Fall 2013

Returning from over 3 months of Summer travel, we made our way back to Florida.  This was mid-August and the weather was hot and humid.  There were still crowds during some weeks and some weeks were quiet.  It was a great time to catch up with our Florida friends, share dinners and play golf.

Rosemary Beach, Florida

Rosemary Beach, Florida

At the same time, I decided to begin working on my next challenge — training for a half century bike ride (50 miles).   After 6 weeks of training, I accomplished my goal and lost 1o pounds during the process. I also became passionate about bike riding and am still riding each week.

IMG_0724

Training for a Half Century

October and November were more mild with some really beautiful days. We spent weekends watching Bama kick butt in the SEC (until Auburn humbled us) and with the usual ups and downs of watching Dallas Cowboys football. Our boys came to Florida for Fall break and we spent Thanksgiving with the Miller family. My brother and his wife graciously had the entire family over for an incredible meal. Thanks Chris and Danielle!

Also during this time, I committed myself to finishing the first phase of my new software project and before we left for our next set of travels, I had accomplished that goal and blogged about it in early December.

End of 2013

We are spending December and January in Colorado with our boys. In fact, we rented a place in Fort Collins so that we can spend more time there in 2014. It is surprising how much we missed Colorado since we moved almost 2 years ago. Upon returning, we’ve been eating in our favorite restaurants, biking the Fort Collins trails and learning our way around the city. We plan to get some ski days in during January.

Our journey to Colorado started rough. We decided to leave a day early because there was a huge snow storm coming to Arkansas and Oklahoma.  On our first day, our car broke down in Birmingham, so we spent 2 days waiting for parts and getting it fixed. On the third day we made our way to Arkansas where it started sleeting. The next day was spent trudging through the snow storm, slowly making our way through Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. White knuckle driving for a day, but we made it through the storm the next day and it was smooth sailing after that.

As I sit writing this blog, it is December 22.  The snow is falling outside, it is cold, and the boys, Lynn and I will be having dinner together tonight followed by playing board games.  What a wonderful life.

Our Top 20 Pictures of 2013

Traveling in 2013 – Our Favorite Pictures

After traveling for about 7 of the past 12 months, you can imagine how many pictures we took along the way.  That is why it was so hard to narrow down the list that (I think) represents the best 20 pictures.  Each picture brings back memories and reinforces how fortunate we are to have been able to experience this in 2013.

1 – Oregon

Crater Lake has to be the most beautiful lake on earth.  We felt a connectedness to nature as we sat along the top rim of rocks overlooking the lake.

Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake, Oregon

2 – Grand Tetons

It took 3 days to get this picture, as the first 2 days were overcast.  It was worth the wait, the old barn in the Grand Tetons is very photogenic.

Old Barn in Grand Tetons

Old Barn in Grand Tetons

3 – Oregon Coast

I took this picture without even getting out of the car.  I figured it would be just another picture but once I started reviewing the pictures at the end of the day, this picture really grabbed me.  I love the saturated blue hues juxtaposed with the grey trees in front.

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

4 – Whistler

After taking the gondola to the top of Whistler mountain, we spotted this small lake at the top, which really stood out among the mountains in the background.

Whistler, British Columbia

Whistler, British Columbia

5 – Rosemary Beach, Florida

Just minutes from our front steps, we took this picture on the beach as the day was coming to a close.  We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful place.

Rosemary Beach, Florida

Rosemary Beach, Florida

6 – Point Reyes, California

I love seeing the waves come crashing in during Spring at Point Reyes National Park in California.  Notice at the end of the peninsula is the Point Reyes lighthouse.

Point Reyes National Park, California

Point Reyes National Park, California

7 – Washington (State)

We came upon this rusty old truck when hiking in the Olympic National Park in Washington State.  One of friends once told me that anything old and rusty photographs well.  I agree.

Washington State

Washington State

8 – Alaska

We were on a photography tour when the guide showed us how to simply point our camera towards the sun when pointed right behind plants.  I was surprised how this little trick created such a cool picture.

Alaska

Alaska

9 – Grand Tetons

The Grand Teton mountains make a great backdrop to this lake we saw just outside of Yellowstone National Park.

Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons

10 – Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco offers so many great photo opportunities, the iconic Golden Gate bridge never disappoints.  We missed a better shot of the bridge.  One day fog was hovering all the way up to the middle of the bridge but we could never get into a good position to come out with a good picture of it.  I also used Photoshop to take out all colors but red for a cool look of the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco California

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco California

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco California

Just the reds of the bridge

11 – Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone provided so many great pictures but this one stood out.  I love the foreground reds with the smoke coming out of the geyser in the background.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

12 – Cannon Beach, Oregon

Haystack Rock is probably one of the most photographed places in Cannon Beach. One day we were strolling the beach and found ducks going for a swim in the ocean. This felt very odd, as I had never seen them do that before. They lined up perfectly with Haystack Rock in the background for a great picture.

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

13 -Vancouver

Vancouver and the surrounding British Columbia area is incredibly beautiful, especially in the summer. We snapped this picture on the way from Vancouver to Whistler.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver, British Columbia

14 – Butchart Gardens, Victoria

We took lots of great floral pictures in Butchart Gardens so it was hard to narrow it down.  I really like the aperture of this picture, with the flower focused while the greenery of the background takes a backseat.

Victoria, British Columbia

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia

15 – Alaska

I love photographing waterfalls.  We came upon this one in Alaska and it did not disappoint.  I set the shutter speed (ISO) at about 100 and set the aperture small enough to maximize focus (around f/10). That gives the water a more silky look as it falls.

Alaska Waterfall

Alaska Waterfall

16 – California Coast

The California coast is beautiful. I love the color of the water, the green grass and the orange cliffs.

California Coast

California Coast

17 – Alaska

The shadow of the rock is what struck me when I snapped this picture.  People stack these rocks — we saw lots of this when traveling around Alaska.  Not sure why they do it, but it does create a nice photo opportunity.

Stacked Rocks in Alaska

Stacked Rocks in Alaska

18 – Washington Coast

We stumbled onto this secluded beach when traveling along the Washington coast.  A lot of debris gets washed up along their shores and the trees are heavily washed by the thrashing ocean.

Washington Coast

Washington Coast

19 – Glacier Bay, Alaska

The glacier is obviously awesome but I happened to catch this seagull in mid flight, which adds a new dimension to the photo.  He was changing his direction, almost stopping on a dime.

Glacier Bay, Alaska

Glacier Bay, Alaska

20 – Husky in Alaska

How can you resist photographing such a cute puppy?  This Alaskan Husky will most likely run the Iditarod in Alaska when he grows up.

Alaskan Husky

Alaskan Husky

Beautiful Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

I can’t believe this was our first visit to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.  It has a lot to offer.  Geysers, waterfalls, hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles (steam vents), wildlife, and mammoth hot spring terraces are everywhere.

To see a slideshow, click here: http://www.webetripping.com/Gallery_USA_WY_Yellowstone.asp.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Geysers

Old Faithful lives up to its name.  We arrived at the visitor center around 5:00 and it was only 10 minutes from erupting.    We came back the next day and saw it erupt again.  Very cool.  It seems like we saw a hundred geysers, they were everywhere.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Castle Geyser

Castle Geyser

Hot Springs

One of my favorite attractions was the hot springs.  The water is incredibly clear and shows hues of many colors.   We saw a lot of hot springs, here are just a few.  The water is really hot (most over 160 degrees), so you might be tempted to jump into the spa, but that is highly ill advised!

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Mudpots

Mudpots are an interesting phenomena.  They are acidic features with a limited water supply. Some microorganisms use hydrogen sulfide, which rises from deep within the earth, as an energy source. They help convert the gas to sulfuric acid, which breaks down rock into clay. Various gases escape through the wet clay mud, causing it to bubble.

Mudpots

Mudpots

Mudpots

Mudpots

Mudpots

Mudpots

Wildlife

We encountered a lot of wildlife during our time here.  We had buffalo come right up to our car, saw black bears, eagles, coyotes, and elk.

This buffalo was right outside our car window

This buffalo was right outside our car window

Mom feeding her calf

Mom feeding her calf

Huge Elk - Was not afraid of us!

Huge Elk – Was not afraid of us!

More Nature

We visited Lower Falls and ended both of our days at Yellowstone around 10 p.m.  We got all we could out of the park in our 2 days!

Lower falls

Lower falls

Lower Falls

Lower Falls

Sunset at Lewis Lake

Lewis Lake