Friday, August 10: Yellowstone
Wildlife and Waterfalls
I got up early again and went for a walk along the beach. I was hoping for some early morning light, but some clouds thwarted me. There was a spit running parallel to the beach that I wanted to explore. It was pretty long and looked like it completely enclosed a small sub-lake.
I walked the length of it, which was a bit of a pain, as it was loose sand and gravel, and it slid around a lot on each foot step. I had this irrational fear that the tide would come in and strand me, although since it was a lake, there were no tides.
At the far end, as I had feared, I found that the spit did not completely close off that smaller bit of water. I had two choices: I could jump a three foot section of water with muddy sand on either side, or I could cross about 12 feet of deeper water on rocks. I was wearing sneakers, which were definitely not water resistant.
I chose the rocks. However after progressing about 3 feet, it was looking more and more dubious, so I bailed out, went back, and decided to jump. I really did not want to walk all the way back on that gravel.
I got a running start and really committed myself. If I bailed at this point, I would end up in the middle of the water. I had to do some half steps at the end to get the take-off foot near the edge, but in the end I made it with only some sand in my sneakers.
The sun came out at the end of the walk, but a low cloud line/haze kept the sky near the horizon fairly white, so the pictures were not so good.
Last night was not the best. A new group next to us has a huge tent maybe 12 feet square and a second tent. Their tent is only 4 feet from ours. They were up talking until 1:30 in the morning. If they had been a little louder I would have complained, but I didn’t. Then they decided (finally) to go to bed, so there was a clatter of stuff being taken out or put away, doors slamming, etc. Being as they were probably the only ones awake in the camp, you’d think they would be a little quieter.
We had breakfast at the Grant Village Restaurant, then headed out for the day. Our first stop was the nearby West Thumb Geyser Basin. Mike stayed in the car while Amy and I walked around the larger than expected geyser field. There were a few geysers out in the lake a short distance. Rumor has it that normally these are submerged and the geyser just erupts through the lake, but now with the drought the lake level is lower so these are exposed.
There was also Abyss Pool, which is something like 85 feet deep, making it the deepest of the pools in the park.
Near the end of our walk, we ran across a ranger giving a tour of the field. I would have liked to have done that, but she was covering the area that we had just finished walking, and we wanted to get on with the day. Several tour busses stopped by, so it was rather busy.
We then drove north to the Lake Village area. We didn’t care for the yellow color of the hotel and cabins, but the inside was very nicely done--very Victorian.
We then continued past the Fishing Bridge to Pelican Creek, but we didn’t see any pelicans. For some reason, Mike is determined to see a pelican in Yellowstone.
We got some sandwiches at the general store at Fishing Bridge, then drove north to the first picnic area-LeHardy’s Rapids. It is right on the water and just a short distance downstream from them, with a nice path along the water to see them. Unfortunately there was too much light for good water pictures. I planned to stop back on the way back to Grant Village.
Our next stop on our way north was Mud Volcano. But when we pulled into the parking lot (which was very crowded), we were in for a surprise. There were three bison (including one big male) that was wandering around the parking lot!
We managed to park, get out, and start taking pictures. At one point, the big male looked like he was about to start a battle with a big RV next to him, but he didn’t. A park ranger showed up and started bleeping his siren to drive the bison away. He first got the big male to leave, then he had to go back and get the other two.
Now that that excitement was over, we could look at the geothermal things. My favorite was the Dragon’s Mouth Spring. It was a small cave at the side of a spring pool. Every few seconds waves would come out of the “mouth”, accompanied by booming, sort of like Thunder Hole at Acadia. Of course there was also steam issuing from the cave. I guess people earlier could envision this as the mouth of a dragon, but I could more easily envision this as a cave in which a (small) dragon lived.
On the way back down the hillside loop, I was temporarily delayed by a bison crossing the trail. Then Amy and I hiked across the street down to the river to get some pictures of other bison near a geyser. I wanted to get a picture of one in front of the steaming geyser, but they didn’t cooperate.
As we drove further up the Hayden Valley, we saw cars pulled over and people looking at something across the road. So we joined them. It turned out to be a coyote! We got some good pictures of him. It seems that most of the good wildlife viewing is finding other people looking at it, and then joining them. If we had been driving through without those other people, we would never have looked there.
When we got to Canyon Village, it was raining. We started to drive the north rim, but it was very crowded and raining, so we never stopped and just drove through to the other side. We decided to continue north to Roosevelt/Tower and see if the weather was any better there.
This stretch of road is different from any other we’ve taken in eh park. It goes up and over the shoulder of Mt. Washburn, so it had more up and down, some big drop-offs, and switchbacks. As a result, it was also slower than most of the other roads.
When we got to <@J33686_RJ Tower Falls Tower Falls, it was still raining a bit, so I put on my rain jacket and went to see if this was where the falls were or just the gift shop. I found that after a 150 yard trail, there was an overlook of the falls.
So I went back and got Amy and Mike (and my camera and tripod). Mike lasted until we were passing the gift shop, when he bailed. Amy and I continued to the overlook. I set up my tripod, and with the rain, I could get some reasonably long exposures. After spending a few minutes taking pictures, I moved aside so that other people could get the view, and I looked for Amy. I couldn’t see her.
There was a continuation of the trail past the viewing area, but there was a sign saying that due to slides etc., there were no views or access to the falls along the trail.
It seemed pointless to continue on that trail, so I figured that Amy had returned to the gift shop. I did the same. But at the shop, I found only Mike. I checked the car, but still no Amy. So I went back to the overlook and started down the trail. As I expected, about a third of the way down the trail, I ran across Amy coming up. Apparently, she hadn’t seen me at the overlook, assumed that I had gone further on the trail, and hurried to catch up. She hadn’t noticed the sign saying no views or access to the falls.
On the other hand, there were some good views of the river. So I continued down while she continued up. By the time I got to the bottom of the canyon, there were some good views of the Yellowstone River, and it had stopped raining and the sun came out. So it was definitely worth the hike down. We then walked up the highway a bit from the gift shop. We got some so-so views of the creek just above the falls, but they were doing a lot of construction in this area, so we were limited in where we could go.
We continued driving north to Roosevelt. This was where there were some really big drop-offs. We could have gotten some good shots of the canyon, but most of these pullouts were full of construction equipment and closed, and we couldn’t stop on the roadway.
At Roosevelt, which was named in honor of Roosevelt camping there, we found the stage coach and western cookout area. The lodge there, however, did not impress us.
So we returned to Canyon Village and ate at the hotel dining room. They had some really wonderful photos along the walls, and I bet you could buy a print for an equally wonderful amount. I was also impressed with the fireplace (which was not in operation). It looked like it was hanging from the ceiling, but there actually some unobvious stout beams holding up the huge weight.
Mike was very tired during dinner. I don’t think he’s been getting enough sleep lately. So we decided to head back early (yeah, right!). We would make a quick stop at the Leharvey rapids for some photos, and otherwise go straight back.
Near the start of the Hayden valley, we ran into a bison-jam. We didn’t stop for pictures, but we got a few from the car as we crawled through the traffic. There was one bison just standing in the other lane. There was a huge backup of traffic heading (or trying to head) north. In our lane, we could slowly crawl past it. At Amy’s suggestion the head north-bound car tried its horn, but we were past before we could tell if the buffalo had moved.
Then it started raining again, sometimes heavy. We decided that it would be pointless to stop for pictures at LeHarvey. However, as we got there, it looked like another bearjam. There was a ranger trying to keep the traffic flowing. As we passed her, we asked what was up. She said that there was a small bear down there.
So of course, we pulled off at the next pull-out (at the south side of LeHarvey). Michael grabbed the umbrella and ran. Amy and I had to get our rain jackets on and follow (along with half the park, it seemed).
Both Amy and I pictured a bear cub (where’s mommy?) between the road and the river, surround by a hundred maniac tourists, and we were surprised that the ranger was letting this happen.
However, the reality was that the bear was on the far shore of the river, and the near shore was covered with photographers (tourists). I quickly realized that my normal lens would not be good enough, so I ran back (through the throng) and got my big lens (I already had my tripod). I found a clear space on the ground (the boardwalk bounced too much as people hurried past) and took a boat-load of bear pictures. (I also got a few cascade pictures.)
Honestly, I think the pictures are such that you can clearly identify the bear and see what it is doing, but they are not “good” photos; i.e. the kind you would print and hang on the wall. There was too much distance and not enough light. But we definitely *did* see a bear in the wild. On the plus side, by the time I was finished taking bear pictures, I realized that it had stopped raining.
We continued south, getting more rain, but it was not raining at the campground. Unfortunately, it was again 9 when we got in. So much for getting Mike to bed early.