Craters of the Moon National Monument

Between Yellowstone and Boise lies Craters of the Moon National Monument, a region of the Idaho desert filled with dormant volcanoes and fields of ancient lava beds. Having grown up in Idaho, we were both aware of Craters of the Moon, but had never actually visited before, so this was a natural next stop for our #Vanlife adventure.

It turns out that Craters and Yellowstone were both created by the same source of volcanic activity. Yellowstone National Park sits on the Yellowstone Caldera, a supervolcano spanning an area of 1,530 square miles (3,960 sq. km). The caldera is fueled by a hot spot that, over the course of millions of years, has migrated across the whole of southern Idaho. Craters of the Moon National Monument, then, is essentially Idaho’s Yellowstone of the past, a volcanic wasteland that stands as a testament to the raw power of the earth and the passage of time on an inconceivable scale.

Craters of the Moon National Monument - The Places We Live

Craters of the Moon National Monument

Craters of the Moon National Monument is located 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Arco, Idaho. The entrance fee is $20 per vehicle, or free with the America the Beautiful Pass. The major points of interest include the Visitor Center, loop road, and underground caves. Unfortunately, we were unable to enter the caves on our visit. A disease known as White-nose Syndrome has been sweeping the USA and Canada, decimating bat populations. Therefore, some restrictions have been placed on cave entry at Craters. Because our shoes had been inside of several caves within the last year (Seven Star Cave in China, Khao Sam Roi Yot Cave in Thailand, and Batu Caves in Malaysia), we were politely asked not to enter the caves. It was a bit of a bummer, but I would rather save the bats than take the risk.

Instead, we explored the stops along the loop road. Before getting to the loop, we first visited North Crater Flow Trail. If you’re in a hurry, this could easily be the only stop you make. It displays great examples of the types of volcanic rock found throughout the area. There were even Syringas (Idaho’s state flower) sprouting amongst the rocks. After that we walked Devil’s Orchard Nature Trail, which wasn’t nearly as exciting and could be skipped if you’re pressed for time.

Cinder Cone Fragments, Craters of the Moon National Monument - The Places We Live

Craters of the Moon Loop Road

After passing Devil’s Orchard, there is a one-way loop road that takes drivers past some of the monument’s best features. The first stop we came to was the 6,181 ft (1,884 m) Inferno Cone. It looked like a mountain made of black sand. It’s a bit of a hike to get to the top, but it’s worth the effort, as the crest offers a panoramic view of the park.

Inferno Cone, Craters of the Moon National Monument - The Places We LiveTop of Inferno Cone, Craters of the Moon National Monument - The Places We Live

However, our favorite stop was the Snow Cone. It’s a short hike to the top for an amazing payoff, home to long solidified lava tubes that still look wet and sticky, as if they’d just hardened moments before. Certain sections of the tubes had broken open over time, revealing the hollow core. The trail puts you right next to the volcanic rock, so you can feel how light and brittle the stone really is.

Volcanic Rock, Craters of the Moon National Monument - The Places We Live

After the Snow Cone, we enjoyed the remainder of the loop’s scenic drive, only slightly bummed at having to skip the caves (it’s kind of our thing). Craters of the Moon National Monument was a lot of fun, and definitely worth the drive for anyone traveling across southern Idaho. It was a short visit, lasting about two hours, the perfect scenic pit stop before continuing on across the desert on the way home.


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Idaho's Craters of the Moon National Monument - The Places We Live


Yellowstone National Park

After an amazing couple of days spent hiking and looking for aliens at Devils Tower, it was time to move on to granddaddy of all parks, Yellowstone National Park. The farther west we travel, the larger the states become, and each leg of the journey gets longer. In this case, we had a 450 mile journey ahead of us. I don’t like to spend more than four consecutive hours in the car, so we split up our drive and stayed at a  free campsite just outside of Billings, Montana. The next morning, we woke up early and drove the remaining 247 miles to Yellowstone so we could secure a camp site and explore the park.

Devils Tower to Yellowstone National Park - The Places We Live #Vanlife

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is an American treasure than spans almost 3,500 square miles (8,900 km²) and is spread out over three states. It is particularly famous for its geothermal features, hosting half of the world’s geysers and the world’s largest petrified forest. Sitting on the largest volcanic system in North America, the Yellowstone Caldera has been termed as a Supervolcano, which is reserved only for volcanoes that have maxed out the Volcanic Explosivity Index at a magnitude of 8.

Although the park is green, wooded, and full of wildlife, the volcanic activity is apparent at nearly every turn. It was chilling to wake up in the morning, hear the birds chirping and feel the cool wind on my face, then look to my right and see steam coming out of a random hole in the ground. Although a picture perfect landscape of solitude and natural beauty, this park is creepy AF!

Yellowstone National Park Welcome Sign - The Places We Live

  • Yellowstone National Park is open year round
    • Most campsites and service stations close for winter (Sept – May; for those keeping score, that’s an 8-month winter!)
    • During the summer months, roads and gates are open 24/7
  • It costs $35 per car to enter Yellowstone National Park for 7 days
  • The best season to visit Yellowstone is spring and fall
    • Summer – 40° to 80°F
    • Spring and Fall – 20° to 60°F
    • Winter – 5° to 40°F

Mammoth Hot Springs – Day One

We drove in from the north on HWY 89, so our first scheduled stop in Yellowstone National Park was Mammoth Hot Springs. This area hosts the park headquarters, gas station, hotel, Albright Visitor Center, and of course, the hot springs. Before we could even reach our first natural wonder, we came face to face with the park’s wildlife, spotting a bull elk wandering down the streets near the hotel/visitor’s center.

Water bubbles up out of Mammoth Hot Springs atop hills of travertine (a kind of limestone formed by spring water deposits). The water here is a little cooler than some of the other springs, allowing algae to grow and turning the travertine brown.

Travertine at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park - The Places We Live

There are two main terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs. The upper terrace does not allow RV or bus parking and leads almost immediately to a hike down some stairs (scaring off some of the seniors), so I strongly suggest parking and starting on the upper terrace. The hike around Mammoth Hot Springs is mostly on wooden boardwalks that provide amazing views of the travertine and the bubbling pools below.

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park - The Places We Live

From Mammoth Hot Springs, we had planned to visit Indian Creek, but unfortunately it was closed for the season. We visited in September, and much of the park was closed due to remodeling/repair or simple seasonal shutdowns. However, that didn’t keep the park from being busy – there were tourists EVERYWHERE. Several times we pulled in to hiking spots or water features, only to have to keep driving for lack of parking. If you are going to Yellowstone (which you absolutely should), be sure to bring your patience with you!

Norris

With Indian Springs closed, we continued on south to the Norris area. This section of the park hosts Norris Geyser Basin and the Museum of the National Park Ranger. We attempted a visit to Norris Geyser Basin without much luck. We drove through the parking lot three times before we finally got a spot, but once we were inside it was almost shoulder to shoulder traffic, and we were already tired and a bit grouchy, so we left. It’s supposed to be very nice, though.

Thankfully, our next stop was nearby and really gave our spirits a lift! Artists Paintpots was a fantastic hike and really something to see. It ended up being our second favorite stop in Yellowstone National Park. It’s a slightly longer hike than some of the others (1 mile round-trip), but well worth the effort. It starts out with a walk through the forest, which for the most part looked normal, except for the parts with dead trees and the ground steaming eerily. At the end of the hike are the “paintpots” which are bubbling mud and clay pits. Again, there is nothing quite so creepy as boiling dirt.

Norris Campground

Norris also happened to be the place where we camped for the night. We got a parking spot with a picnic table, bear box (to store food), and a fire pit. The campground included a lovely view and bathrooms, but no showers, electricity, or wifi. It got pretty chilly at night, dipping down to below freezing, but it was overall a comfortable stay.

Note on Bear Boxes – Yes, there are bears in this part of the country and yes, they will eat you and all your food if they get the chance. Bear Boxes are a common amenity found in campgrounds around the western USA. They are large metal cupboards with an awkwardly shaped handle. If visiting bears smell food, they are likely to trash whatever container the food is in in order to get to it. This means ripping tents apart and clawing at cars. It is just safer and easier for everyone to store all food in the Bear Boxes, which were created specifically to keep bears out.

Bison at Yellowstone National Park - The Places We Live

Bison are America’s national mammal. They are beautiful, majestic, and total dicks. They like to wander through camp sites like they own the place. Do not approach bison, as they are huge and can be grumpy as hell! Also, they are not super bright, and will walk through your clothesline and get all tangled up, which makes them angry and smashy. Not a good thing when Bison are in your campground. For this reason, campers are not allowed to hang clotheslines between trees. If you, like us, find yourself out of clothes and needing to do laundry, consider hanging your clothes from the back of your hatchback (assuming you have one).

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Canyon Village – Day Two

Canyon Village is a short drive east of Norris and hosts a visitors center, service stations, and the Yellowstone River Canyon. This was our absolute favorite stop in Yellowstone National Park! The canyon is stunning, and there are plenty of hiking options, all of which are worth the effort to visit.

Our first stop was Brink of Lower Falls which took us, surprise surprise, to the brink of the falls. It was a long, steep, switchbacked hike to the viewing area, but once we were there, we had a view of the valley and the upper edge of the falls.

Brink of Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park - The Places We LiveYellowstone Canyon, Yellowstone National Park - The Places We Live

Our next stop was Grand View, which Josh and I agreed was one of the best hikes we have ever done. It wasn’t particularly long, but included both dirt trails and wooden boardwalks. There were switchbacks, but also steps and long stretches of slope. The variety was great, but the view at the end was even better.

Grand View, Yellowstone National Park - The Places We Live

Lastly, we visited Inspiration Point, a short walk that overlooks the canyon from the opposite end of the brink. It was windy and a bit crowded, but still offered a nice view of the falls from afar.

Old Faithful – Day Three

A visit to Yellowstone National Park would not be complete without a visit to Old Faithful herself. We made a couple of stops along the way, including Lower Geyser Basin, Midway Geyser Basin (very crowded), and Biscuit Basin. We really enjoyed Biscuit Basin with its variety of colorful pools.

Biscuit Basin, Yellowstone National Park - The Places We Live

The Old Faithful area had a huge parking lot, three hotels, service stations, and visitor’s center. We, of course, showed up exactly as Old Faithful was doing her thing, glimpsing only the top of the spray above the trees lining the parking lot, so were forced to wait around for the next go.

After exploring the area and reading just about everything in the visitor center, I grabbed a front row seat (that’s a thing) for the show. Old Faithful is a large geyser and is the star of Yellowstone. It is called Old Faithful because it is very predictable, erupting every 70-90 minutes. Wikipedia says “Eruptions can shoot 3,700 to 8,400 US gallons (14,000 to 32,000 L) of boiling water to a height of 106 to 185 feet (32 to 56 m) lasting from ​1 12 to 5 minutes. The average height of an eruption is 145 feet (44 m).”

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park - The Places We Live

It was the perfect ending to our Yellowstone National Park adventure. After nearly three full days without a shower or internet, we were more than ready to move on. Next up, we’re back in our home state of Idaho for a volcanic adventure of a different kind: Craters of the Moon!


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3 Days in Yellowstone - The Places We Live


Cape Schanck

Our current house sit is in the little town of McRae, on the Mornington Peninsula. There are numerous hiking trails criss-crossing the peninsula, including one that runs nearly the whole length of the oceanside shore. While there’s no way we could do them all in our limited time here, we are on a mission to hike the entire Two Bays Walking Track, which spans the peninsula from north to south. So be ready for an upcoming, giant post about the Australian hike of a lifetime. Until then, here is a sneak peek at one of our side excursions hiking Cape Schanck in Victoria, Australia.

Check out our beautiful and FREE accommodation in Australia.

Cape Schanck Lighthouse

The Cape Schanck Lighthouse is only about 20 minutes from McRae by car. It was a pleasant drive through open farmland and sprawling wineries. The parking lot had plenty of space (even on the sunny weekend) and admission was free… my favorite price.

The lighthouse was built in the late 1950s but has been out of use for some time. It is possible to take a tour of the lighthouse for a fee, but we opted to just walk around it and get some pictures. Even without a tour, there were plenty of things for us to do.

Cape Schank Lighthouse in Victoria, Australia is white with a red roof. There is a large grassy lawn on the land side with a cement walking path and scattered picnic tables.

The Cape

There were a few different walking paths that shot off from parking lot. The two on the Southwestern border, next to the free-use bathrooms, eventually merge together and lead down to the cape. After the merge, the dirt trail becomes a series of wooden staircases and boardwalks.

Cape Schanck in Victoria, Australia on the Mornington Peninsula is a cape surrounded by Busherangers Bay and the ocean. There is a wooden boardwalk leading from the hilltop to the end of the cape.

The views are absolutely beautiful! We were able to catch the sunset behind the lighthouse and the evening glow of the nearby Bushrangers Bay. The walkway was a bit narrow, but felt plenty sturdy. It was a really enjoyable walk to the bottom.

We love hiking. Read more about my favorite hike so far. 

Once at the bottom, we were free to explore the rocks and tide pools. We didn’t see any cool creatures, but I enjoyed the large kelp that littered the beach. I had no idea they were so big! I also really liked the various rock formations. The stack at the end is called Pulpit Rock.

Pulpit Rock at the end of Cape Schanck is a rock pillar surrounded by water and tide pools. A family looks on at the rock from the nearby tide pools in Victoria, Australia.

Bushrangers Beach

The cape trail isn’t technically part of the Two Bays Walking Track, but it is accesible from the Cape Schank parking lot. So, after exploring, we got back to business and headed for the trail access at the Southeastern corner of the lot. After walking for about an hour along Bushrangers Bay, the trail splits. To the North, the Two Bays track continues. To the South, there is a trail marked Bushrangers Beach. Since we’d already spent most of the day wandering off of Two Bays, we decided to head down and check out the beach.

Learn more about Cape Schanck walking tracks. ♦

The beach sits in a small cove surrounded by cliff edges, the bay, and a lovely farm. There were a surprising number of people on the beach, given that you have to hike in, but at the same time it didn’t feel crowded. It still had a wonderful, secluded feeling to it. It almost seemed like our own secret beach.

Bushrangers Bay is part of the Mornington Peninsula National Park in Victoria, Australia. The sand shows footprints of heavy foot-traffic. Past the sand, dark rocks break the ocean waves. In the distance, Cape Schanck and Pulpit Rock is visible.

Two Bay Trail – Cape Schanck

I can not wait to share our 16 mile hike of the Two Bays Walking Track. Each segment has provided us with views of wild kangaroos, beautiful birds, and stunning sunsets. We still have three segments left to hike, but I saved some of the best for last. Next up, is the southern half of the Greens Bush section. I can’t wait. Stay tuned!


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Cape Schanck Lighthouse Cape Schanck I hiked Bushranger


 

Valley County, Idaho

Our hot springs guidebook described our destination as “a turn out with rocks on the other side”. There were turnouts ever mile or so, and all were rocky, so it’s actually a bit of a surprise that we were able to find Trail Creek Hot Springs.

Things have been a bit busy here at the blog, and I have been getting a little behind on my posting. Rather than get overwhelmed, or worse, not post at all, I have decided to start a Throw Back Thursday post on the weeks that I need them. So, I would like to formally introduce you to my very first The Places We Live #TBT post: Valley County, Idaho!

Josh and I grew up in McCall, Idaho in Valley County, and had been debating on whether or not to return during our month in Boise. The answer should have been an obvious “Yes” since it is, in both of our opinions, one of the most beautiful areas in the world. But there is a sadness about going back to a home town that is no longer your town. Both of our families have left the area, as have most of our school friends, and the town has seen a growth spurt in the 18 years since we’ve been gone. Will we even recognize it? Will anyone recognize us? Will it still feel like home?

Thankfully, my step-sister saved the day and whisked us off to the emotionally safer neighboring town of Cascade, Idaho (also in Valley County) for a trip to a hot springs. Cascade is about 1.5 hours north of Boise along a beautiful, winding canyon highway. Once in Cascade, we pulled off onto Warm Lake Rd and drove for what felt like forever on the lightly plowed, snowy road. Our hot springs guidebook described our destination as “a turn out with rocks on the other side”. There were turnouts ever mile or so, and all were rocky, so it’s actually a bit of a surprise that we were able to find Trail Creek Hot Springs.

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It was an awesome, non-commercialized but still a well-constructed natural hot springs. There were a couple of ropes to help us climb down the steep and snowy slopes, and a couple of warmed rocks to put our clothes on while we were soaking.

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There were three different soaking pools, each with handy nozzles to let in some freezing river water and maintain a comfy temperature. It was empty of people when we arrived, so we had plenty of space to explore and relax.

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Then the time came to decide whether or not to make the 30 minute journey to McCall. To face our worries and fears in order to visit the most beautiful place on earth. How could we not?

McCall, Idaho is the most adorable town that anyone has ever seen, ever (at least, in the humble opinion of Mrs. Dr. Lowry). It is located 100 miles North of Boise and hosts a lake, ski resorts, camping, fishing, hiking, and so much more. The current population is around 3,000 people, but that increases significantly during the peak tourism seasons of summer and winter. Even when at night, when the lake is frozen over, the view will take your breath away.

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Like many of my irrational fears, it turned out to be… irrational. McCall was beautiful, we were recognized by a couple of locals, our favorite shops were still there, and the memories were still fresh. I love and will always love my foresty wonderland.

 

KL Forest Eco Park

The KL Forest Eco Park hosts the oldest permanent rain forest reserve in Malaysia, and it’s the only natural rain forest in the world to be located in a city center. If that wasn’t enough to earn a star, then maybe it was the fact that the KL Forest Eco Park ticket price was free (March 2018). 

When we told our friends and family about our plans for the year, Kuala Lumpur (known as “KL” to the locals) was not on the list. This wasn’t intentional, we just didn’t know we would be coming here! We ended up booking a two-week house sit, and since the whole plan is to go where the wind takes us, it seemed like a great opportunity to go somewhere new and unexpected.

With only two weeks notice, I didn’t have a lot of time to plan and had no idea what to expect. I had done a one-day guided tour from Singapore into Malaysia once when I was kid, but it was through some poor fishing villages in the south. I had no idea whether or not the entire country was like that; we came in almost completely blind, with no idea of what to expect in terms of local culture, food, economy, and adventures.

Thankfully, I am an avid travel planner. Every time I see a travel picture I like on Pinterest, some delicious dish on Instragram, or an enticing adventure on my favorite travel shows, I “star” it on Google Maps. I have stars scattered all over that thing in every corner of the world. So I already had a number of stars around Kuala Lumpur when we arrived.

As Josh and I were walking around on our first day I noticed a star on KL Forest Eco Park. I had starred it so long ago I couldn’t remember why.  Is it good for birding or hiking? Is there a rare plant or animal inside? Does it have historic significance? Without internet, it remained a mystery. We decided to check it out, hoping I would know what I was looking for when I found it.

The KL Forest Eco Park hosts the oldest permanent rain forest reserve in Malaysia, and it’s the only natural rain forest in the world to be located in a city center. If that wasn’t enough to earn a star, then maybe it was the fact that the KL Forest Eco Park ticket price was free (March 2018). We walked right in and enjoyed a couple of different, well-maintained trails that weaved through the park. The trees were old and tall and thick with leaves. I didn’t see a lot of birds, flowers, or even bugs, but there was a lot of greenery and almost all of it looked tenacious.

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One path we ran into had a larger sign than the others and looked quite lovely. We enjoyed a stroll up the side of a small hill and noticed what looked like a tree house off to the left. Although Josh was interested in checking out the tree house, he was also skeptical due to his fear of heights. But, he was a good sport, took a deep breath, and climbed up.

The view from the top not only gave us a beautiful view of the tree tops, but access to what must be the REAL reason I starred this particular park: KL Forest Eco Park Canopy Walk. 650 feet long and 69 feet off the ground, the series of sky bridges was formidable. Josh immediately panicked when we got to the top to see them towering through the forest in all of their glory… and with a small child bawling her face off trying to walk across one.

After some (I’m using the word “some” simply out of politeness) goading, I was finally able to get Josh to walk across the bridge. Little did he know, that the other side didn’t provide a way back down to ground level, but instead another sky bridge… and another… and four more. He was a good sport, sweating, and slinking across each bridge with the poise of a scared cat. And, to both of our surprise, he made it all the way to the end. He claims it is the scariest thing he has ever done.

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My story isn’t nearly as dramatic. The Canopy Walk looked scary with wood planks and rope sides, but hidden underneath was a thick layer of metal gratings and steel reinforcements. The sky bridges were steady with only a little bit of movement. The view was awesome. I loved looking at these old and gnarled trees up close. I only wish we had seen some of the monkeys that are said to be spotted there.

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I think it is a good sign that our first adventure in Kuala Lumpur was successful and blog worthy. I have had a chance to review some of my other Google Map stars and am really looking forward to the adventures we have ahead of us… including ANOTHER rendition of Adventures in Eating at KFC!

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Adventures with Jen – Yangshuo

We’re just a few days away from moving to our next destination which means it’s that time again to tell the stories of my less-than-totally-epic adventures. Yangshuo was amazing in almost every way, but had its fair share of not so brag-worthy moments. Join me again for: Adventures With Jen! [cue theme music]

Downtown Art

West Street and the area surrounding it are fun and exciting at nearly all times of the day. With our daily walks, we were able to explore the area top to bottom, front to back. On top of all the fun shops, restaurants, and music/sounds loud enough to blow an eardrum, there is also a healthy amount of art. We had fun wandering around and taking pictures of the weird and wonderful.

Markets

There are several markets in town. There are two small ones right near our hostel, one large one downtown, and a huge one in the next town over. The small markets near our hostel are fun to walk by. They mostly sell fruits and vegetables, but there are a couple that offer duck or fish. The large market downtown takes up the first floor space of two large buildings. There are stalls for everything from nuts and herbs to fish and snake.

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On one of the sunny days, we rented an electric scooter again and rode about half an hour out of town to the neighboring town of Fuli. They host a large market every few days and had good reviews on all the travel sites. The drive took us through busy, loud traffic, but the market itself was pretty cool. I was particularly happy that we went at this time of year because the whole place was filled with red shops selling goodies for Chinese New Year.

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Hike – Xi Lang Shan

There are so many beautiful mountains throughout Yanghuo, most with pagodas perched on top. It isn’t always easy to find the way up, however. There was one mountain in particular with a nice pagoda on top that looked like it gave a view of the whole city. We walked around nearly the entire thing looking for the stairs. There were several sets of stairs that led up to little caves and hobo camping spots. After several attempts, we did find the right stairs and worked our way to the top.

It was free, not too high up, and did indeed have an excellent view. Although physically easy to climb, it was a mental challenge with stairs that were not well maintained and clinging to some sketchy cliff edges. We worked our way up and down very carefully and celebrated a successful climb when we safely reached the bottom.

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Yangshuo’s been a great home, but it’s time for us to move on. We’re heading up to Chengdu next, home of pandas and spicy food, where we’ll be house-sitting for a few weeks. Chengdu is quite a bit bigger than Yangshuo, and I’ve got a lot more little fun adventures planned!

Bike Ride – Yangshuo’s Ten Mile Gallery

The sun finally came out and we have been trying to cram in as much fun as possible while we still have it. One of the first things on my to-do list was a bicycle along the portion of the ten mile gallery that we missed during our last excursion. This loop portion splits off at the bridge and follows the river instead of the valley.

The sun finally came out and we have been trying to cram in as much fun as possible while we still have it. One of the first things on my to-do list was to cycle along the portion of the Ten Mile Gallery that we missed during our last excursion, which took us through a little valley. This time, instead of crossing the river into the valley, we turned at the bridge and followed the river.

We rented bikes from our hostel for $0.75 each. My bike was missing front brakes and was stuck in high gear. Josh’s was stuck in low gear and had a persistent squeak if he touched the back brakes. But overall, I was quite happy with the bikes and enjoyed a comfortable ride.

Our first adventure was to get to the Gallery’s gate, where traffic becomes limited. This requires a 15 minute journey through the busy streets of our small town. I took the lead. The key seems to be: ride like you aren’t scared to death and just go with the flow.

Once through the gate, it was smooth sailing, with only a few cars, scooters, or cyclists along the way. Rather than an “out and back” like last time, our route took us off on a small street that runs along the river, eventually looping back into town. The wind and rain from the day before pushed out most of the pollution, and the sun finally made an appearance, so the day was beautiful! The colors were vibrant and clear. The majority of the road was very scenic, winding between the mountains and rivers, but there were also large sections of farmland dotted with small villages that were super cute. Everything about it was amazing! Best Day Ever!

Yangshuo, China karst mountains behind bike on road

Each place had a small collection of people going about their business. Some would shout at us to stop and check their menus, some were doing laundry in the farm canals, kids were playing with dogs, and men were washing their cars using buckets of water and rags.

[Tangent Alert] I’ve noticed a real lack of hoses in China. For example, there is a farm outside of my window at the hostel. Since I am a horrible snoop, I spend much of my morning watching the neighbor woman attend the farm. It is the same routine each day. She walks through her fields, bends over every so often to either collect something or discard something, then fills a bucket with water from the central well. The bucket has a rope attached that she wears across her chest. She lumbers from one patch of green to the next and ladles out water to the plants using a large soup ladle. It takes her nearly all day to get through her small patch of land. I am sure she isn’t a representation of all farmers here, but it struck my curiosity and really made me consider the farming fields surrounding the path we were riding on. There were well-planned canals webbed throughout the fields, but I didn’t see any sprinklers or tractors. Do they all water the fields by hand?

Farm and karst mountains with bike on road in Yangshuo China

Of course, my favorite part was the mountains! I have been looking at these strangely shaped pimples on the earth for a month now and I am still mesmerized by nearly every one. My camera is full of pictures of this mountain, and that mountain, and the one next to it. I think Josh is over the glamour (or maybe never had it to begin with), but I am still in love and have found my bliss.

riding bicycle bike in Yangshu China at 10 Mile Gallery. Karst mountain and farm

Although the ride took a few hours due to my constant need for pictures, the trip was only a little over three miles and dropped us off on the other end of town. The plan was to have lunch at a popular expat pub on the way, but it looked like they were closed for the season (seems to be the case at many places). So, we followed our noses and found a block of Chinese fast food restaurants.

We enjoyed some beef and potatoes, green beans with sausage and chilies, egg-wrapped pork meatballs, a giant bowl of noodle soup, and two bowls of rice. All this for only $2! We left stuffed and happy.

Somehow, we were able to drag our full, tired bodies back home, and finished off the afternoon with a nap. What a day!