The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

I Fell In Love With Jenny Lake

Usually, I fall in love with old, old towns. Towns with weird names like San Gimignano, Mousehole and our own Mdina. They are generally places with a story to tell and many secret memories to share. And that’s what I like about them – peeling away their todays to discover their yesterdays.
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But sometimes, I fall in love with sweeping landscapes; with the incomparable architecture of a Higher Power. They are locations so majestic, so seemingly unchanging that, to them, our stories are but whispers in the wind. Jenny Lake is one of those places. Framed by the Grand Tetons and ringed by  enormous fir trees, it emanates an aura  of serenity; a feeling, that in a transient world it was, is and will be, until the end of time.
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If I were there by myself, I would have sat at the shores of that lake till the sun went down and the stars came out. I couldn’t tell you what fascinated me the most – the lofty Tetons, their reflection in the pristine waters of the lake or that glimpse of the infinite that this spot was giving me. It was all just so heart-wrenchingly beautiful; so unabashedly perfect.
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Why is it called Jenny Lake, I mused, as I walked through the fir trees, startling some noisy squirrels. And who was Jenny? A few steps away I found a plaque with my answer:
“The name Jenny Lake dates back to the Hayden Expedition of 1872 when Jenny Leigh, Shoshone Indian wife of Richard "Beaver Dick" Leigh, assisted the expedition.”
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A lake named after a Shoshone Indian woman in one of the most awe-inspiring locations of North America – I don’t think it could have been more appropriate. Behind me, the encroaching trees were starting to obscure my view but I managed one final glimpse of the lake and with that glimpse, that incurable, romantic part of me that is so in touch with the fantastic and the bizarre, had the distinct impression that Jenny’s spirit would always roam there, keeping watch over the lands of her ancestors. Deep in my heart I walked away with the promise that one day I would return.
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Location: Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Teton County, Wyoming, USA
August 2013
P.S. No, I do not think that Jenny Lake is haunted.

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Untamed Beauty Of Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park. Where do I find the words to describe it? For nothing quite prepares you for the immensity or diversity of this place; for miles upon miles of un-spoilt beauty. Trying to describe it would be futile. It is too different from anything that I have ever seen or experienced before.
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I was fascinated by it, and yet, a part of me feared it. I feared the primeval force that had caused it. I was in awe of the super-volcano that had birthed it. Because Yellowstone was born of fire. And what do I know of fire? I who come from an island that was thrust from the watery depths of the Mediterranean. Fire is as alien to me as a thunderstorm in July.
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But in Yellowstone, fire, or its effects, are a constant presence. From within the earth, it powers the geysers and the hot springs; on the surface, the forest fires that sometimes rage here during the summer months give life to new growth – saplings rise from the ashes of dead trees. The old makes way for the new in a constant cycle of renewal and rebirth.
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In Yellowstone, nature is constantly in motion. The landscape varies from valleys to mountains; from arid geo-thermal areas, with their skeletal trees, to brooding forests of pine and aspen; from cascading waterfalls to gently flowing rivers; from lush meadows to barren mountain faces.
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Life and death are everywhere in Yellowstone; in the constant struggle to survive; in the repetitious wheel of the seasons. We went to Yellowstone in search of the wild-life and, except for some small herds of elk and moose, came back none the wiser. No  grizzlies or black bears hurtled out of the trees to disturb our strolls. But we did get to see the eternal symbol of the west. Five times we spied a lone bison. Never in a herd; never with a companion, as lonesome as the winter wind.
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At the edge of a lake or in the shadow of a clump of trees, it grazed on the grass, its seemingly gentle demeanor belying its strength and bulk. Before white men came from across the ocean, he was. That he has survived, despite the decimation of so many of his breed, is a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy of Yellowstone.
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I have tried to describe Yellowstone to you in as concise a manner as possible. But I have failed, for no words can quite convey the true nature of this strange and fascinating landscape. The only way to truly experience Yellowstone is to go there and see it for yourselves. 
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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Highlights From A Summer Trip

We came back last Saturday. I am still a bit jet-lagged and not quite as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as I would like to be. But it will wear off soon. After all, the whole experience is worth the few days’ discomfort. On a less personal level, the change from a continent to a small island is quite drastic. The pilot starts to prepare for landing as soon as the plane has left the shores of Sicily. Approaching Malta, it seems as if the wings of the plane span the island from east to west. Quite a contrast to the huge land mass we’ve spent the last month travelling on.
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The Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, Utah
It has been a memorable trip and it would take me a month of daily posts to be able to share everything that we have seen and all the experiences we have had. I wish I had the time to record every single unforgettable instance but we all know that time is a luxury that few of us can afford to be careless with. There were moments when I wished that every second would last forever. I wanted to stretch time, and then stretch it some more, like an elastic band on a pair of old pyjama pants. Those are the moments that I will share with you, so that when time has passed, I can come back to rekindle those memories and they will warm my heart like a warm fire on a cold winter’s day. So here are a few glimpses into the highs, the lows, the likes and the dislikes of one amazing trip.
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The Grand Tetons, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Most breath-taking moment: seeing the Grand Tetons for the first time.
Nature’s most spectacular show: Old Faithful’s eruption (Yellowstone National Park WY).
Craziest moments: hiking down Snowbird (UT) in my wedge sandals and hurtling down the Alpine Slide (Park City UT).
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Stinkiest place: the Great Salt Lake (Salt Lake City UT).
Best souvenir shopping: Raindance Indian Arts (Jackson Hole WY).
Best breakfast: red velvet pancakes at IHOP.
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Nature’s best architecture: Meramec Caverns (Stanton MO).
Favourite chain stores: TJ Maxx, Hobby Lobby, Gordman’s.
Most beautiful building: Mormon Temple (Salt Lake City UT).
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Mormon Temple, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah
Best value-for-money outing: St Louis Zoo (general admission is free).
Favourite burger joint: Krieger’s Pub & Grill (Quincy IL).
Most impressive sight: an American bison just sitting across a narrow road from us (Yellowstone National Park WY).
Favourite scent: my father-in-law’s gorgeous roses.
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Biggest disappointment: not seeing any bears at the parks.
Cutest moment: watching a squirrel eat an acorn a couple of feet away from me (Grand Teton National Park WY).
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Most unexpected find in a store: a Triceratops skull for $450 000 (Jackson Hole WY). Any takers?
Favourite album on this trip: Voodoo Highway by Badlands (1991).
Holiday reading:  The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.


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