Day 8-Thursday, July 16th-Our last day in Yellowstone-Norris and Canyon again

We decided to return to Norris Basin since when we were there earlier in the week it was rainy and we were unable to walk the entire pool and geysers. The boardwalk has since been repaired and reopened and returning today was a great idea. The view from the top of the visitors center and museum is dramatic but as we walked the boardwalk, the colors are phenomenal and more sereal than seeing them from a far. I have taken photos of most of the signs because each hot spring has a name and after you see one, the tendancy is to say they all look alike but that is not true. Here are a few photos from this first stop and the best is yet to come. It is really hard to see in the photo but the boardwalk curves around the entire basin and the walk is a little over a mile. Sure getting our hikes in each day. 

   

  

  

  New boardwalk just installed this week. The repairs are never ending.


  

  

  

  

  

Next stop would be the hightlight of our trip. We headed for a repeat visit to the Canyon area to see a site called Artist Point, so heading East toward the main road that would eventually take us to the South Rim turnoff. But boy were we ever in for a treat today. As we crossed over the Norris road turn where by the way, they had closed the road because there was no more parking in the lot. So we headed across the road and were commenting that other than the two Bison we saw when we started out this morning and they were way off in the field, we hadn’t seen anything. All of a sudden, right in front of us were so many rangers with the road traffic pulled off on both sides of the road. I asked the ranger what it was and he said a grizzly had downed an elk and was off in the woods in full view. He said just drive up and pull off safely onto the side of the road. We drove up for a bit and parked and then walked back. When we got to the spot you could see pretty well the bear at work making a great meal for himself. Then I spotted a coyote looking for scraps but the grizzly was having none of it and the coyote circled to the left. Tom pulled out the binoculars and I pulled out the Nikon with my great lens and went to work just shooting photos. The bear was not nervous despite the fact that over 200 people had now gathered to watch the ordeal. It must have started early because there were people with folding chairs just sitting by the road watching and having lunch. I cracked up thinking that maybe some of the bears friends who could smell a tasty meal 18 miles away, would want to share a great picnic basket. Ha! So the following photos are those of the coyote and bear. I was able to telephoto the bear then crop the photo and zoom in even more with the iPad mini. BTW, best investment in an Apple product ever made. So enjoy my pics before I move on to Artist Point. This day has been fabulous.

   

    
    
    
    
   
Check out this license plate. Everyone who know how much I love wolves will appreciate this plate. I couldn’t resist and we have not seen any wolves.  We were all very safe watching at about 150 yards away. The Park Rangers here are awesome.

Moving on to the Canyon Road, we went south to the turn off for Artist Point for a view of the Lower Falls along the Yellowstone River. When I say that this is a photographers paradise, I really mean it however, as good as a photo may be you cannot replace seeing it in the flesh. There is a whole story about the painter who took some liberties with the painting and of course I took photos of the signs because I would never remember all this information. At Artist Point the Yellowstone River thunders more than 308 ft over the Lower Falls. Many birds make the cliffs their home and a birder had his telescope like device (yes Paul forgot the name of it) trained on an osprey nest. But we were told that eagles, swallows and ravens also live in the area. We asked this morning after seeing the one legged Osprey yesterday and learned that they fly south for the winter. We wondered how he would servive with just one leg especially since they live on fish and food they dive for to eat.

While at Artist Point there was a Ranger talk which we stayed to hear. We have heard all week about the Caldera and the huge volcanic eruption that occured 640K years ago in Yellowstone, emptying a large underground chamber of magma (partially molten rock). In minutes the debris spread for thousands of miles. The roof collapsed forming the giant caldera 30 miles across, 45 miles long and several thousand feet deep. When you look at the official Yellowstone map, the caldera is outlined and it is scary to think that we are due for another huge explosion. It it blows again, the ash and destruction will spread over have the US.  All of this information comes from the small brochure I got from the visitor center. You could spend months if not years learning everything about the park. We are so ignorant when it comes to knowledge of this area of the country. 

Ending our stay in the park with a rootbeer float and then seeing our resident Bison on the way out. This was a fabulous vacation and I am happy to share the experience with all of you. 

So here are some photos from today. This is our last day in Yellowstone and it was so sad to leave. Who knows when we will come back. Tomorrow we venture down to Salt Lake City for the weekend to attend a wedding. Making a short stop along the way to see a friend in the northern part of Utah.

Hope you all have enjoyed seeing the park from my perspective. Since the photo parts have been so easy, I am hoping that the wifi will be as good in Spain next month. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
   

Day 7- July 15- Fairy Falls and Fountain Paint Pots

Day 7 of this magnificent vacation proved all that it can be. The plan of the day was to hike six miles to see Fairy Falls. They did not disappoint. While the trail was not very challenging, just the distance and altitude alone made it long. Before reaching the Falls, there were two sections that were challenging to cross. One over water and the other over marsh with fallen trees. The effort was so worth it in the end seeing this beautiful waterfall. I am including some photos of the path and scenery along the way. Six miles, piece of cake. The first photo was our car parked across the street because the lot was so full. We are between the two cars you see. Then some stupid people decided to feed the Raven ice cream in a cup on the hood of their car. You can see his white beak.

I had never seen a baby pine cone so this was a treat. The path was gravel when it began then as it turned inland it became more narrow and moved from gravel to dirt. The chipmunk was a special treat.
 
  
    
    
    
   
While at the Falls we took some photos for others and had them take us.

   
    
    
    
    
 
Backtracking a little bit to show that every day we have entered the park, we have been stopped by a walking Bison. I think it is the same one that lives near the West Entance. He has created a traffic jam every day. The males will be moving on soon as it is almost mating season but for now they are solitary animals. The sign was from the path beginning after already walking over 1.5 miles just to get to that spot. The geyser was at the bridge before the trail began.

Next up is Fountain Paint Pot

We made a quick drive to get water and make a pit stop then backtracked to the Fountain. This hike would be much shorter and is all boardwalk that has been recently updated to Trex. It is so smooth. The amount of mud pools and bubbling geysers, odd looking springs and beautiful rock formations. We are constantly reminded that there is volcanic action happening right below our feet and it could blow any time but the predictions are that it is far in the future. There was actually a geyser too and silly me tried to take a video but put the phone on time lapse and only had the small camera so we got what we got. Here are a few with the names on the signs ahead of the hot pool.

   
    
    
    
    
    
 
We saw this Osprey on the way back to the hotel. He only has one leg and we wondered how he is able to hunt. This is the second time we took the Riverside Road back from Madison. It is a detour that hugs the water. Finally saw a beaver today but we went by it too fast to stop. It was just sitting by the side of the road. Just hoping it was not hit by a car. That is all for today. The adventure continues tomorrow and it is our last day in the Park. We leave Friday for Salt Lake City to attend a  wedding on Saturday and return home on Sunday. Time sure goes fast when you are having fun. 

Day 6- Tuesday, July 14-Covering a lot of ground

This morning we decided that we will never see a wolf in the wild. They don’t want to be near humans and we aren’t able to get to the sites where the possibility exists to actually only have a chance at seeing or hearing them. So on that note, we decided to go to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center located just at the West entrance to the Park but outside the gates, of course. This place is a not for profit Wildlife Park and Education Facility. If you are ever here, I would highly recommend it. What they do with the animals is amazing. There are Grizzly Bears, three sets of wolves, a raptor section and ground squirrel exhibit. The bears are ones that for whatever reason could not be placed back in the wild after finding someones picnic basket. In other words, they cannot be relocated because humans were too careless with food and the bears can smell a tasty meal 18 miles away. The Center offers programs all day long regarding all the animals living there. None are touched by humans and their habitats are staged to change the scenery and add new items. The education piece is incredible. There is far too much to write about so if you want more information, check out their website at: http://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org

Photos to follow:

   
    
    
    
   
After our visit, we entered the park to the daily long line awaiting entrance. Often the left lane will be reserved for pre-paid entrance fees but not today. 

Our first quest was to finish up the Canyon visit since we wanted to get to the Lamar Valley yesterday, we did not get to do the Brink of the Upper Falls or the South Rim overlooks so we did that this morning. Breathtaking views and the hike was not too strenuous. At this altitude, you must take your time. I forgot my water bottle today but had one in the car from yesterday. When you need it, it does not matter if it is yesterday’s water.  In one of the photos you can see across the Yellowstone River to see people looking over the edge. We viewed the North Rim brink of the Upper Falls first then crossed the bridge and viewed it in the spot where the people were standing in the photo. Here are some photos.

   
    
    
   
Our next stop was Mud Volcano so we ventured south.  There are two ways you can walk along the trail (boardwalk to protect the land), clockwise (the less steep route) and counter clockwise which is the route we took. It was steep but a good workout. Again, working extra hard with the altitude. The Mud Volcano is more of a cluster of bizarre landscapes consisting of cauldrons and hot springs and geysers. We hiked to see them all and the photos I selected to show were among my favorites.  The dragons mouth and mud cauldron were neat and just the surrounding areas were incredible. Upon leaving, we sat in the car to eat an apple and a bison, our second sighting for the day gently walked right past us in the parking lot. The big animals are not gentle giants and hurt more people each year than any other animal. They own the park and we simply visit their territory. That cannot be understated.  On to the photos:

   
    
    
    
    
 
We were off to a quick stop at Yellowstone Lake. The lake is huge and we both put our hands in to feel the water. It was the same temperature as the air, in the 60’s. After a short visit, we were on our way to West Thumb which would be our last stop of the day. West Thumb Geyser Basin overlooks Yellowstone Lake which is the largest lake above 8,000ft. in North America. We got there in time to listen to a Park Ranger talk about the caldera. Under the lake lie active active hydrothermal features. You can see the boiling water extend to the beach. There are hydothermal vents at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake. My photos don’t even do the place justice but I will post a few anyway. All in all, it was a great weather day and today was the first day we did not have an afternoon shower in the park. In fact, it was a no rain day. Until tomorrow. 

 Yellowstone Lake  
    
    
    
    
    
    
 
Really hard to pick a favorite.

Day 5- A full day in Yellowstone Canyon Village and Lamar Valley

Today we had a chore to do in the morning. The chore was to get up early and visit the post office for postcard stamps before entering the park. Yes, I still send postcards and send some to myself so that I can keep the journal straight with photos. I do have to admit that writing the blog does help me as well to know where we were and on what day. And I also noticed today in downloading photos from the camera to the iPad that the date and time was noted. 

Canyon Visitor Center had so much information as well as two short films describing Yellowstone Today another about the erruption of the land that created the canyon. This is called the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Having never been to the Grand Canyon (on the bucket list), I can say that this was very impressive. It is 20 miles long and more than 1000 feet deep. The width ranges from 1500-4000 ft.  The height of the upper falls is 109 feet and the lower which we went to first is 308 feet. The age of the Canyon lava flow is 484,000 years ago. Impressive for anyone to see. My photos do not do it justice. We hiked the lower falls then drove up to the upper falls to view from Lookout Point.  I took some panoramic photos and not sure they are going to translate to the photos but I will give it a try.

After moving on from the Canyon visit,  the weather today was so pristine so I wanted to cover the Lamar Valley. This area is in the upper East side of the park and near the Northeast Entrance Gate. We did not need to go as far as the gate. The herds of Bison are massive along this route and most of the wolves of Yellowstone live here too. Now everyone who knows me, knows how much I love wolves but I am also smart enough to know that they don’t really want to see people and therefore would not be frolicking around in the Valley. How silly would that be? Now we did see many herds of Bison and some Pronghorn antelopes, as well as a few Elk roaming the fields. 

All in all it was a fabulous day. The wildflowers along the route and switchback mountain roads leave little to errors in judgement on the roads. So far we have covered the entire Loop Road but there is still so much more to see. Three more full days and I will know the park inside and out. The more people we talk to the more I think it would be worth spending an entire summer up here doing some work and volunteering. Perhaps my next move, you never know. For now, I am content being a Bean employee but hmm, to be in nature is sereal. 

Here are some photos of the day.  I hope you all are enjoying learning as much as I am.

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 
As we were driving back to West Yellowstone, a male Bison passed right in front of our car. I just prayed that he didn’t ram the SUV. I would hate to have to explain the damage to the rental company. The Mazda CX-9 is not that small but would be easily destroyed by this huge animal.

Until tomorrow. Ciao….

Day 4- Sunday Mass and Mammoth Hot Springs

The town of West Yellowstone, while small does contain a nice variety of religious services. And of course I found the only Catholic Church. Only one Mass for the whole weekend and it was at 10:30am on Sunday morning. Instead of getting up very early, we took our time knowing that we could eat breakfast and have plenty of time to get to Mass. The Church is called: Our Lady of the Pines and true to form the church is made of pine. I was thrilled to get my three wishes. The priest was a Jesuit and had a fabulous message. He talked about Grizzly Bears and how they teach their young everything they need to know to complete formation as a full grown bear in two or three years. You can only imagine where it led but what a wonderful analogy to our learning our faith. There was one woman who was confirmed and since there is no Bishop nearby, the priest was able to confirm her in the faith. Photos of inside and outside the church below.

   
    
 
Sister Patricia took all the children to hear the liturgy of the word. What a great start to Sunday morning.

Next we drove into Yellowstone with the plan to go to Mammoth Hot Springs which is close to the North entrance of the park. It was a long ride from the get go with so many people in line to pass the entrance gates. Traveling north after Madison Junction, a site we have now become very familiar, we hit a traffic snag of construction and a dirt road for 8 miles. Mental note to go another way back was already on my radar. It began to rain just as we reached the first parking lot for Mammoth Hot Springs and there was a huge back up in traffic awaiting a herd of elk to cross the street. Some of the animals were so timid that they were afraid to cross. A nice ranger showed up and tried to coax the elk across but a couple were not hearing of it and stayed put. Of course I have photos.

The actual Mammoth Hot Springs are magnificient looking and remind me of reading the Jean Auel series about life after the last ice age.  Today was a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Visitor Center for Mammoth Hot Springs so they gave out pins and postcards with a photo of the Visitor Center. Near the hot springs is a huge rock called Liberty Cap which comes right out of the ground and was once an active geyser.  Attaching some photos before I lose everything again.

Below is the line to get into Yellowstone, then the traffic backup with road construction. Our daily Bison fix along the highway.   
    
    
    
 
Above Mammoth Hot Springs

We had a bite to eat to get out of the rain and met a couple from Arizona who were orginally from Iowa. Passed the time and waited out the rain then went to the Visitors Center. I have been filling up my NPS passport and it looks great. 

A couple of funny photos in the post office in Mammoth. Tom is holding the massive zip code directory. And I am standing near a scale that is glued down for weighing your own mail. 

When we left the visitor center, we drove the Loop Road to avoid the dirt road and stopped along the way at a waterfall called Tower Fall. Had a woman take our photo with the falls behind us. Too much scenery to post everything so that is all for tonight. Tomorrow we head to Canyon Village and are planning a nice hike. The altitude is fine but you do lose a lot of air when climbing up stairs at these sites.

   
    
    
    
   

Day 3- Old Faithful and Yellowstone

We awoke early since going to sleep at a more ‘normal’ time, whatever that is. The quest for today was to view Old Faithful. Little did we know until later in the day that it was not the tallest geyser in the park. We grabbed a small bite to eat and made our way to the Yellowstone gate. Yes, it is Saturday and along with the multitude of folks who are after the same thing, we slowly made it through the gate then were stopped for a bison sighting just inside the park. A ranger was standing by to move people along so that no one would get too close. A ranger told us that more people are malled by bison in the park than any other animal. There is no animal that a human can outrun, so don’t even think about it. 

Old Faithful is amazing and we were lucky to find a parking space despite our early arrival. Don’t know why I picked a Saturday to see it as we are here for much longer than the weekend visitors. Of course we had to do the usual photo ops at the signs. I think everyone needs one of those, I have not downloaded the big camera of photos from today but only have what I took from the point and shoot.  Most of the photos are self-explanatory. There are so many turnoffs in the park that it is really hard to race through them and no reason to when you are on vacation. After Old Faithful, we went to a couple of other sites and of course some were so crowded, but we got through Bisquit Basin, Gibbon Falls and Norris Geyser Basin where we learned that the highest geyser in the park (Steamboat Geyser) had its last erruption on Sept. 3, 2014. It was more than twice the height of Old Faithful. Been walking at least 6 miles a day and that is so necessary.

When the traffic came to a sudden halt (more like a ten mile backup) we discovered the reason with a lone male Bison walking on the road. A quick snap of the photo out our car window and we were on our way. 

Not sure if I described the hotel we are at. It is called Stage Coach Inn and was built in 1948. Since then there have been many renovations but it maintains it rustic and Western look. Most interesting is the number of stuffed wildlife gracing the lobby. Photos for another day.

   
    
    
    
    
    
 

Day 2 Grand Teton National Park

It is really day 3 but I am recreating day 2 for the point of posting. My best laid plan was to get to the Teton Village and take the tram up to the top of the mountain. It was a little rainy but we decided to go anyway. Took a couple of wrong turns and we finally made it to the top. At 10,450 ft with winds whipping 45-50 mph, it was amazing. At the top is Corbetts Cabin which serves waffles and hot cocoa. The cocoa was a must after the tram ride. We had earlier entered the park and went to Jenny Lake which was a pristine lake. On the map, it looked small but it was huge. Of course later we would learn that it was actually a small lake.

The photos I am attaching are of the views of the mountains and some from the tram. I tried to caption each one but the fat finger slipped off the button and everything was deleted. 

We arrived at our hotel around 6:30pm and was concerned that this town too would roll up the sidewalks but it is a quaint small town. West Yellowstone sits just outside the park in Montana. So in two days, we were able to navigate through four states. We cross over into Wyoming each morning to go into Yellowstone. Driving from Utah through Idaho then to Wyoming and finally to Montana. 

Enjoy the photos: The tram, view from tram, Jenny Lake, view on the way to Jenny Lake and some wildlife grazing next to the entrance to Jenny Lake.

So far we have seen Elk, Bison, cranes, and some ground animals. Waiting for the herds. 

   
    
    
    
    
   
Above is Tom’s silly nature and our selfie in front of Jenny Lake.

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