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Yellowstone National Park: Visiting Advice

July 15, 2009

oldfaithful3I’m finally feeling well enough to incorporate some activities into my life – first stop – Yellowstone National Park! Yay! I’m happy enough to be able to do some short hikes and manage some car camping, nothing too spectacular, it’s enough just to be able to be in that glorious place, that slice of heaven. While I’m dreaming and scheming, I thought I’d share some advice to those folks that are looking for some inside information when visiting the Park.

I worked in Yellowstone Park for 6 seasons, 1978-1982 and then again in 1989, during that time, I was the front desk manager of Canyon Village Lodge, so I think I can speak as some sort of expert. I have several considerations for you as you plan your trip through the Park. To begin, it’s important to realize the scale of the Park – it is huge – as an example, from the Northeast entrance to the South entrance of the park is approximately 102 miles. When you imagine that you’re travelling through mountain passes, curvey roads and then mixing with “bear or bison jams” (cars stopped to see wildlife), just driving from point to point will take a great deal of time. But don’t lose heart, the park is one of the most beautiful places in the world – you won’t mind the traverse. Here’s a great link to Yellowstonenationalpark.com that has the distance map as well as a huge array of interesting information: http://www.yellowstonenationalpark.com/maps.htm

The large distances also create a wonderful opportunity to see the park in “portions”. Consider staying one or two nights in a couple of different locations within the Park. There are countless more lodging options outside the Park borders, but the driving distances involved really prohibit touring the entire Park comfortabley if you’re planning on staying several nights near one of the Park entrances. I recall while working in Mammoth Hot Springs that the drive to Old Faithful would take nearly 2 hours, and this was during the off-season, meaning no traffic to speak of.

Each of the Park’s 8 lodging locations have plenty of nearby attractions, all will have various wildlife wandering about and the grocery and gift shops offer a wealth of kitchey souvenier goodies. For activites beyond sight seeing, I recommend the “Scenic Cruise” on Lake Yellowstone – it’s a fun hour guided boat tour of the lake and inexpensive. Horseback riding is also available in 3 locations: http://www.travelyellowstone.com/dates-of-operation-rates-1724.html#horseback
Bike rental is also available from Old Faithful Snow Lodge: http://www.travelyellowstone.com/Bicycle-Rentals-5498.html

Make reservations early! I started planning our trip more than a week ago, and most of the park lodging is sold out into August. We were lucky to arrange reservations for Xanterra’s campgrounds: http://www.travelyellowstone.com/camping-250.html The National Park Service also operates several RV and Tent campgrounds in the Park, but these are not available for reservations, they are first come, etc. and typically fill up by 11am during peak season. There’s always a mad rush to the next location in the morning, where everyone is driving around in madness trying to capture that night’s campsite. Kind of a bummer when you get caught in that rush. Also, anticipate that you may be in a campground with hundreds of other campers – expect uneven tent sites, the possibility of nearby RV generators, loads of campfire smoke, people playing music and generally being annoying ūüôā

Also, Checking In for whatever camping or lodging in the Park can be a real hassle – If you have the patience, wait until after dinner time to checkin to your room or reserved campsite – this way you’ll avoid standing in long lines and driving yourself buggey.

If you’re planning on seeing Old Faithful, my advice is to see it on a sunny morning, that way you’ll get this gorgeous deep blue sky behind the geyser as it kisses the pretty sky. Just for snicks, here’s the live Old Faithful Webcam: http://www.the-great-outdoors.net/yellowstonewebcams.htm Same idea with viewing the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River in Canyon – you’ll see this astounding waterfall with that same deepest blue backdrop and the water sparkling in the sun. Viewing Norris Geyser basin and Mammoth Hot Springs is perfect for sunset times if the weather has been warm, since both of these locations can be hot in the afternoons.

lakeyellowstones If you’re staying at Lake Yellowstone, try to get up at dawn to see the sun rise over the Absaroka’s, the last time I did this, I heard the call of the wolves in the distance mixed with loons on the lakeshore. The pretty pink clouds turned the Lake into a rosey glowing glass sea – it was one of the most magical moments of my life. The sunset over Mt. Sheridan and the Tetons can be just as captivating as you sit along the lakeshore.

Seeing bears: In my experience, it’s easy to tell when it’s a real “bear jam” when the traffic has stacked up in front of you. I noticed that people get out of their cars when it’s a bear or a wolf, and they tend to stay in their cars when it’s a bison, moose or elk. Best to bring your binoculars too – I worked in the Park for all those years and have only seen a bear twice – one black bear, one mother grizzley and cubs, both were amazing experiences.

Swimming: Most of Yellowstone’s waters are just too frigid for swimming, but there are three river locations in the park that have waters that are warmed by thermal pools further upstream. The most popular is the Firehole River. You’ll see this picnic road on the drive from Old Faithful to Madison. Moose Falls, is very near the South Entrance of the Park – I haven’t been to this site, but it’s well known among the employees. Up North of Mammoth Hot Springs is Boiling Springs, this is a small swimming area where you can take a dip and feel the thermal springs very near. If the summer is hot, you’ll also see people swimming along Lake Yellowstone’s shore, but this is relatively uncommon.

My best advice: Get yourself on a trail! There are many short hikes at all the locations in the Park. Stop at the closest visitor center and ask the ranger for some suggestions. Of the 3 million visitors that come to the Park, very few get their bodies out there and experience the best of Yellowstone’s experience – the wild. Some of my favorite shorties: Elephant Back (high overview of the Lake), Grebe Lake, Shoshone Lake, Wraith Falls. They’re discussed here: http://www.us.national-parks.net/hike.htm

Feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you’d like additional info, I’m happy to help if I can.

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Where I’ve been, where I’m going….

July 11, 2009

I’ve been travelling through some astounding chronic fatigue days of late. I’m feeling better still. I remember those days of pouring myself into the closest chair, not being able to get a drink from the fridge, showering only when it was absolutely necessary and dreading that thought. I’ve come so far and now I’m going further. I’ve had some recent and confusing developments in terms of some new vitality – two things happened and I don’t know which one of them is the reason for my newfound vigor.

Two weeks ago, I stopped for coffee at the local gas station. You know the coffee (sucks) and you know the kind of cup (paper with the ridiculously stupid paper sleeve), as I tried to get out of my car, I grabbed the coffee cup from near the top – too freaking HOT! and while trying to adjust the cup in my hand, I promptly spilled the steaming hot coffee all over my left hand. It turned out to be a 2nd degree burn – nasty white seared skin that blistered horribley and hurt like a screaming mimi for more than a week. Strangely, on this same day, I developed a UTI (urinary tract infection) – I get these fairly frequently, probably due to an overgrowth of candida, but who knows. Anyway, I take D-Mannose to cure these when I get them – it works pretty well, I just drink 1/2 teaspoon in water about every four hours. (word to the wise here, if you’re experiencing a UTI with fever, chills, outrageous frequency, urgency and pain – quit messing around and get yourself to the doctor today!)

d-mannoseD-Mannose is a common treatment for those seeking a non-antibiotic answer for urinary symptoms of frequency, urgency, minor pain. D-Mannose is a natural sugar that your body produces and it can be purchased at your healthfood store in powder or gel-pill form (it’s cheaper online though). Related article on D-Mannose: http://www.tahoma-clinic.com/mannose.shtml

So all that week, I was supplementing with d-mannose and at the same time nursing my nasty burn. By Friday of that week, I had huge huge huge energy! Me! I went swimming at two different public pools (if you’ve had cfs at all, you know ding dang well that even wriggling into your suit is out of the question, let alone swimming some laps, let alone all the showering!) By the following monday, I was at the local track, *Running* UP the aluminum stadium steps over & over again – I probably ran up these steps 8 times & back down again – my big fat heart raging, heavy breathing and me sitting on the top after each course, smiling like a little ninny ūüôā

So which of those two happenings was the one that increased my energy by such proportions? It’s well known that your body goes into overdrive when you experience a severe burn – waking up all kinds of cellular activity. Or, is it some currently unknown property of the D-Mannose ? I dunno! But the D-mannose is cheap enough for me to continue that regimine – $15 for about 10 days worth. So I’m gonna continue that treatment before I whip out my curling iron and smack my upper arm with another nasty sear on my flesh. I’ll let ya know how it goes…

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Chronic Fatigue versus Christmas: I’m Dreaming, I know…

December 12, 2008

christmaswindowA heartwarming fire in the fireplace, even a fake one would do. The scent of fresh pine boughs conjuring up memories of Christmas Past, coupled with the blossoms of sugar cookies in the oven that I’ll soon fashion with sparkling sugar flakes. Sharing a cup of Christmas Cheer while gazing at a brightly glowing tree all ashimmer with tinsel and colored lights. It’s a wonderful dream, these tangible elements of a romantic Yuletide, and one that most of my friends and family are able to create. But Chronic Fatigue and Christmas don’t mix and for me at least, even to admit that to my family and friends, is wholly embarrassing.

There’s no decorating: I’d love to bring my house into the land of the living with vibrant displays of ornaments, garlands and snowy character scenes. But I’m not even capable of bringing down the Christmas box from the top shelf in the closet. Then to imagine creating bits of flair around my livingroom sounds like it’s beyond anyone’s energy reserves. Nor can I imagine myself decorating a pretty tree (how would that get into my house?). That activity represents a long term standing session coupled with daunting strains of bending, reaching, squirming. I suppose I could manifest the energy, but for me as always, there is an energy cost analysis of where to best spend my daily outlay.

Does my family understand? No, I’m sure they think that I’m lazy, or lack Christmas Spirit, or that I’m too self absorbed. I’m so fortunate that my husband doesn’t care and doesn’t even mention it. Then too, I can well imagine that this is a source of difficulty for families everywhere, in houses where the would-be decorator suffers from CFS.

There’s no Shopping: I imagine wrangling with coats, mittens and then mangling through slippery traffic in the winter wonderland. Bustling then through parking lots, shops, and cashier queues to gleefully find the perfect representation of my love to offer. This too is a complete impossibility. If I love you truly, you’re all getting the same imported cookies that are the one undiscovered secret of my local grocery. I’m so happy to be able to simply visit my grocer and manage that task without contemplating a mobile grocery cart. If I love you more than truly, I’ll be able to burn a CD of my favorite music for you, because here at my computer, I can sit and create with ease. If I hadn’t lost my job, I would certainly take advantage of shopping online. But as everyone can acknowledge, lately this is much too weighty on the pocketbook.

There’s no wrapping: To any normal person, doesn’t this sound like the most simple of tasks? For the CFS person, this little ditty can become a rigorous onslaught of terror. Where do the pretty papers, ribbons and bows come from? Where on earth did those sticker gift tags run off to? I suppose it can be managed, but when combined with the other stresses of the season and the dedication of time and attention to the matter, this task represents yet another CFS hill to climb. If I put a sticky bow on your untagged box of cookies, will you love me just the same?

Feast without Expectation: I will do my very best to create the perfect Christmas Dinner. Fortunately in my house that allows for a roast chicken rather than turkey. My energy does afford the ability to stock the household with festive feastings and I’m quite able to manage cooking a lovely glazed spread of delights. But for many I know, this too is another holiday expression of love that falls to the wayside. At the very least, this is one area where local restaurants or caterers can assist those that are still struggling.

Dreaming of a Splendid White Christmas: As one given to outrageous fantasy, I dream of days of shooshing on the ski slopes of Telluride and then exchanging romantic gifts with hubby in our suite during our fabulous red-cheeked Colorado Christmas. Or I still envision sculpting christmas bears and bunnies on our front lawn and stringing them up with lights for nighttime neighborhood display. My mind still yearns to be dressed to the hilt in red velvet or satin and share drinks and flirtations at hubby’s company christmas party. All in a dream, my friend.

The Spirit of Christmas Still Lives: Your chronic fatigued spouse, mom or dad, family or friend still loves you just the same. Even if we fail to meet your holiday expectations, even if we fail miserably in expressing our love and heartfelt Christmas greetings, even if we’re entirely incapable of sharing in the fun, please know that we want to show our love and we’re all trying the very best that we can.


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Cooking for Health: Mexicali Stand-off Chicken Tortilla Soup

June 25, 2008

Sometimes soup is just the right thing. Oh I know it’s the middle of the summer for youse people out there in bloggyland, but that ain’t gonna stop me from steamin’ my house up with the sweet aroma of chili spice. I’m always affected by the weather, in particular high pressure systems (sunny days not me, I love the rain!)…. So here’s my answer to the seeming Evangelista Torricelli barometric shape of my olefactory caverns and their resulting difficulties (I chose to speak cryptically here so I don’t gross people out.) Anyway, hot and spicy soup is the answer for today, good for what ails ya!

I’m just not good at following recipes… so I always end up making my own:

Lightning Fast Mexical Stand-Off Tortilla Soup (This recipe makes one liquid ton, well capable of serving 6-8, or my husband for just one meal.)

2lbs Chicken tenders
1 Vidalia Onion diced or any onion ya got!
1tbsp olive or cooking oil
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies – mild or hot
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn
(2) 32 oz. Chicken stock or Chicken Broth (College Inn is the best tasting)
1 7oz can chopped green chilies
juice of one lime
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumen
1/2 cup seriously smashed corn tortilla chips
salt and pepper to taste
hot sauce to taste
corn tortilla chips to add at the table

Roast up the chicken tenders by sauteing in a frying pan with the onions and the oil. Try to get a nice browning on them. Then add the chopped green chilies and let that groove for a couple of minutes. At this point, you should be able to chop up the chicken tenders with a pancake turner or other firm spatula or spoon. (I love it when you don’t have to put the meat back on the cutting board to chop it up!)¬†¬† I actually did the sauteing in my giant non-stick soup pan, so I could gather up all that browning goodness.¬† Want to use a frying pan and then transfer¬†to your soup pot?¬† Just wrestle out the tasty chicken brownings with your can of diced tomatoes for a minute on a fairly high heat.

Add chili powder and cumin, stir. Add chicken stock/broth, lime juice, the two cans of tomatoes, frozen corn, and smashed tortilla chips. Bring to heat. Now’s the time to taste your creation. If your soup isn’t deep enough in flavor, add 1 tsp of catsup and 1/2 tsp of worcestor sauce. If your soup is too acidic, add just a touch of sugar – 1/2 tsp. I added catsup and that balanced out the acidity immediately. Simmer this gorgeous soup for an hour or so to meld the goodness into paradise on wheels. Serve with more crispy tortilla chips on the table – I’m gonna smash mine right into the soup for a crispy crunchy heat-seeking groove.

Traditional renditions of this soup include hand-fried corn tortilla strips (who’s got time for that?). This soup is also traditionally served with sour cream or shredded cheese garnish. Yum!

This spicey rendition of a classic soup is good for your health. The capsaicin in the chilies and chili powder releases endorphins, the steamy hot soup will cure my pressure head, and capsaicin has been proven to help Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, CFS, sufferers both topically in creams and by adding a boost to your metabolism when ingested. Related article: Hot Peppers Add Zing (sorry about the stupid pop-up!)


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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Cortisol Treatment? It Makes Me Skeptical

March 27, 2008

I am the first to admit that I have¬†a distrust of the medical community, perhaps it’s more reasonable to say that it’s pharmaceuticals, either/or let’s say.¬† Recent reports show CFS symptoms can improve through the application of cortisol shots administered by your physician.¬† Another “non-cure” and yet effective treatment.¬†¬†¬† Cortisol is low in CFS Patients Study , Cortisol Treatment Study Shows CFS Symptom Improvement¬†.¬†¬†

¬†Not too long ago, I watched a PBS special with Dr. Perricone wherein he stated that my cortisol levels were at the root of my weight gain and aging complaints, he’s termed it the “death hormone“.¬†

I’m no scientist,¬† I know adrenal fatigue is a major factor in my CFS symptoms and cortisol injections would indeed further adrenal fatigue.¬† It makes me suspicious once again of the medical community.¬†¬†Like my¬†most recent experience with the drug Advair for asthma, I stopped using it for this reason¬†– millions of asthma patients use it, yet¬†people are dying¬†from its use?¬† Advair Article¬†¬† I am again suspicious of the cortisol treatments until there’s a long term treatment study.

The variances between the formal medical community and natural healing methods can be so enormous and worrysome, that it makes me tend toward natural methods exclusively.¬† I hope that¬†my diet and supplement path works¬†as well as cortisol injections.¬† If you’re a CFS patient and receiving these cortisol shots and no other medications, please comment on your results!


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Walking – Change Like Miracles

March 19, 2008

Once were carefully metered steps

Every pace, ache, a shake in my bones

Breathless, worthless, fettered in pain

Silent suffering in open wind.

Change now, promise like Spring

Strides overcome painful footprints

I sing into the gray breeze

lifting my weary head

thankful to the sky

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Top Ten Ways to Tell You Have Chronic Fatigue

January 29, 2008

Having chronic fatigue syndrome is a tough go, sometimes it just helps to make light of the situation.  This little list will ring hauntingly true for many of us though.   

10.¬† You wake up, walk into the livingroom and immediately pour your body into¬†the couch, feeling like you’ve already accomplished¬†a great¬†achievement¬†for the day.¬†

9.¬† Somehow you’ve managed to brush your teeth and you’re brilliantly proud of yourself, but now you’re spent.¬†

8.¬† All your friends and neighbors simply refer to you as “The Hermit”.

7.¬† ¬†Your tummy is hounding you and you’d like to have something to eat, but the kitchen is wayyyyy over there.¬† Maybe later.

6.¬† You pretend that not showering¬†every day¬†is¬†your personal¬†expression of ¬†“getting back to nature”.

5.¬† When you are able to grocery shop,¬†your shopping cart doubles as your¬†super secret walker.¬† You’re certain no one will notice that you only have four items.

4.   You prefer emailing over telephone calls, this way you can embellish your writings and make it appear that you actually have a life.

3.¬† You’d consider calling in a maid service to clean, but you’d have to answer the door, actually speak to the person and wear normal clothes.¬†

2.  You can recite every line from any infomercial, but prefer to reiterate Kevin Trudeau because his shows seem the most intelligent.

1.¬† You’re too tired to change the tv channel and the remote is in your hand.


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