MapQuest removed free access to their tile servers with one month of advance warning — and no, requiring an API key is not free access, especially not with an imposed usage limit.
I've made a new interactive map while I was playing with the GIS stuff again. This time to visualize the U.S. National Parks, National Monuments, National Recreational Areas, and National Seashores / Lake Shores I've visited over the last eleven years.
Look, it's a shiny new map! And even with two more US states I've visited:
This is a road trip after all, so let's hit the road and spontaniously decide to make a detour to Craters of the Moon National Monument. Okay, it wasn't that spontanious, we decided on that the night before, depending on how late we'd be in Idaho Falls. Actually, faster than we anticipated, so we drove through the arid rangeland of Snake River Plain until we reached the (cold) lava fields of Craters of the Moon. Interestingly, this is still considered being an active vulcanic area which lays dormant until the next eruption within the next 1000 years or so. It looks like a vulcano in Hawaii, but without the flowing lava. Is there any other place in North America like this? In any case, a strange area. Inferno Cone is basically a tall hill made of ash (a cinder cone), a trail leads to tree molds in a vast lava field, and we climbed through Indian Tunnel, a lava tube cave. No bats there, but the home of some feral pigeons that looked exactly like the Good Feathers...
Yellowstone is great, but there is more in the area to see. Grand Teton National Park, for example. So we checked out in the morning, left the Yellowstone through South Entrance and took the scenic John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway (what a name) to Colter Bay at Jackson Lake. A short hike rewarded us with a great panorama of the mountain range West of the lake. And angry squirrels.
At least my foot was relatively fine. It hurt, but differently than before. A sore neck due to the backpack, never mind. But we probably shouldn't overdo it. So, what to do? Sizzling Basin sounds good, so we went there and... Oops, that's Mud Vulcano, we've been there before. Okay, back. Hmm, Gull Point Drive, that might be a nice detour. And indeed, it has a very nice view on Yellowstone Lake. Next, West Thumb. Pools, springs, geysers. Partly in the lake. A bit overrun by other tourists.
They say you can experience four seasons in one day in Yellowstone. Except during Winter, if I may add, as then there's only Winter. But we went there in late Summer. And while it was mostly warm and dry during our stay, of course it had to be cold an wet on the day we started our two day hike to Shoshone Lake. Thankfully, we were prepared for (almost) everything.
We stayed at the Red Lodge Comfort Inn for the night, and after breakfast we filled up gas and finally proceeded to the North-East entrance of the park over the Beartooth Pass. The NPS, every travel guide, every travel report I've read recommends this route, so if everybody else says we should do it, of course we will! Even though it started raining, and we were in the clouds on the plateau, it was really worth it, indeed. A mountainous landscape unlike every other I've seen.