Y is for Yellowstone

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Today is the second to the last day of the A to Z Challenge! So for today, Y is for Yellowstone. Yellowstone National Park is located in the state of Wyoming in the US. It was established in 1872 and is the first US National Park. It’s famous for wildlife and geothermal features, as it sits on a hot spot with lots of volcanic activity. It’s also a supervolcano that has erupted at least 3 times in the past 2.1 million years!

Old Faithful at Yellowstone

Old Faithful Geyser at Yellowstone National Park – photo by kei

The volcanic activity underground creates many hydrothermal features, such as the world famous Old Faithful Geyser. There are also fumaroles with dry steam, bubbling mud pots, and bright blue hot springs. There are several geyser basins throughout the park, and since the entire park is on a volcano you are never far from a geothermal feature. This means that you should be careful when walking through geothermal areas, stay on marked paths, and never try to touch the hot springs. Continue reading

W is for Wyoming

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For today’s A to Z ChallengeW is for Wyoming. Wyoming is a semi-arid state which is usually dry, and primarily receives precipitation in the form of snow, which can close down roads in the winter. Wyoming is the least populous US state, with plenty of wide open spaces perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.

Bighorn Basin Wyoming

Near the town of Lovell in the Bighorn Basin, WY – photo by kei

The state consists of many geologic basins (low spots), which formed in between mountain ranges (high spots) due to tectonic plate movement during the Cretaceous through Eocene periods. This is called the Laramide orogeny, or mountain-building episode, and this is what formed the Rocky Mountains in the US and Canada. This also means breathtaking views from mountains across the expanse of the basins. Continue reading

S is for Sakura

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S is for Sakura for this installment of the A to Z ChallengeSakura 桜 is the Japanese word for cherry blossom, the light pink flower that blooms for only a few weeks a year in the spring before falling to the ground in a flurry of blossoms. Cherry blossoms have fallen for the most part in mainland Japan, although Hokkaido is still due to be in full bloom next week. So I thought I would post about these beautiful flowers.

Sakura at Shiroyama

Sakura (cherry blossoms) in Yamanashi Prefecture – photo by kei

Japan has a whole flower-viewing culture 花見 based around cherry blossoms. When spring hits, sakura themed food, drink, and cute characters bloom like the flowers they represent. School ends during cherry blossom season, and many graduation songs reference cherry blossoms. School rejection letters have even been known to contain a metaphor that goes something like “the cherry blossoms are falling.” Continue reading

A is for Ali’i Kula Lavender Gardens

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Today marks the start of the A to Z Challenge! As I announced before, my theme is travel, and so I will start it off with A for Ali’i Kula Lavender Gardens on the island of Maui (that’s in Hawai’i).

I spent 2 weeks in Maui one year while I was in grad school, and after getting super sunburned in the first couple of days, I decided to travel up the hill (or volcano) to a cooler part of the island and visit the lavender gardens. This place stands out in my memory as an escape from the tropical sun where I wandered the garden paths, and watched as the sun chased the mists up towards the top of the volcano Haleakala. It was a completely different atmosphere than the beaches of Kihei, but it took less than an hour to reach the farm.

Ali’i Kula Lavender is a commercial garden in the upcountry of Maui which practices environmental stewardship, and for only $3 you can gain admission to the farm. Tours cost $12 but you can wander the gardens on your own for just the admission cost. There are a variety of lavender goods to choose from at the gift shop, and you can order them online even if you can’t make it to the gardens. I think the best way to explain why I love these gardens is to show you!

Ali'i Kula Lavender Gardens

Watching the mist move up the volcano at Ali’i Kula Lavender Gardens – photo by kei

Continue reading