Saturday, August 11: Yellowstone
The Pelican Hunt
I awoke at 7-ish. I heard drops on the tent, and figured that it was still raining lightly. But I figured that I would get up, type up my trip report in the car, and let Amy and Mike sleep in. (Amy had just gotten up to relieve her bladder.)
But when I dressed and left the tent, I found that it was sunny with a blue sky. Amy asked if I were going to Old Faithful to get some pictures from high--Observation Point. I hadn’t been planning that, but with the good weather, and wanting Mike to sleep in, it was a definite thought. I briefly talked it over with Amy, and we decided that I should go.
I made reasonable time that early in the morning (I left just after 7:30), and when I got to Old Faithful, I found that I had about an hour to wait. So I got a bagel and cream cheese and worked on this journal. I wondered if it would be better to try to get the sun shining through the geyser, but I decided that the sun was probably high enough that it would just be shining over the geyser and giving me lots of lens flare. So I stuck to the original plan.
20 min before the start of the window, I put my big lens and tripod in my backpack, and started over to Observation Point. After crossing the river, the trail is described as being a half mile long with a 200 foot elevation gain.
The hike up to Observation Point was special--the early morning light peeking over the ridge, the smell of damp earth from last night’s rain, the blue sky overhead, and hiking on a real trail. It was a “magical moment”.
I started the hike up at a fairly fast pace, but halfway up I got a bit winded, so I had to drop to a medium pace. Still it only took me about 10 minutes to reach the top. I ended up needing my big lens. I put it on the camera on the tripod, got it adjusted, and waited. Just a few minutes after the start of the window (i.e. earlier than the nominal time), I noticed a little burbling out of the hole, which was almost immediately followed by more and more until a full eruption was in progress.
I got a bunch of photos, but only time will tell if they were worth the trip. As soon as it finished, I packed up my stuff, hurried down the hill and back to the car, and sped off.
I made reasonable time back, but when I got to the campsite, I found that Amy and Mike were up and waiting for me, and that they had been for about an hour. It was around 10:15. The restaurant closed at 10, but the Lake House was open until 10:30, so we hurried there for breakfast.
After breakfast, we stopped by the shower facility to take showers and change into clean clothes. We all desperately needed it. It was a very nice facility with loads of clean washers and driers. It felt awesome to be clean and in clean clothes for a change.
Our mission for the day was to go Pelican Hunting. Michael desperately wanted to see a pelican, so that was our goal. We stopped at the visitor’s center to ask about Pelican sightings, but they could only give us the generic “near Pelican creek” or in the Hayden Valley.
We saw that there was a 10-min ranger program at West Thumb Geyser Basin, which started in a half hour, so we decided to drag Mike to that. We drove over and walked to the Abyss Spring. It is deep and a really nice shade of green.
We talked with the ranger there for a while. It seemed not so much to be a presentation as much as just having a ranger around to answer questions. Still, it helped Mike towards his junior ranger award.
When we left the geyser basic, we headed north to Fishing Bridge. Apparently it is called that because in its heyday, the fishermen would be lined up almost shoulder to shoulder along the entire length of the bridge, and they were decimating the fish population. Now the name remains, but you can’t fish there.
I got out and looked around with Amy and Mike. Then I went back to the car to work on this trip report while they did more wildlife viewing. When they came back, the net result was no pelicans, but lots of butterflies. Mike did see, however, a bald eagle.
At that point, it was 2:30. We drove to the Lake Hotel for lunch. Unfortunately, the restaurant closes for lunch at 2:30, and we were after that. They have a small “deli” down the hall. Amy got a prefab sandwich, while Mike and I each had a bowl of chili.
Our next stop on our pelican tour was the Hayden Valley. We pulled off at a number of pull-outs, but didn’t have any success (although I got more journal written). North of the Sulphur Caldron, however, we pulled off overlooking a broadening of the valley with a bunch of small pools extending from the stream. Amy scanned the area with her binoculars and...pelicans!
I got out with my tripod and big lens, and I got a bunch of pictures before trading lenses with Mike. Eventually, I took all of the pictures that I wanted to, and retired to the car to get caught up with the journal.
Then we drove another pull-out north. I didn’t see much of interest, so I stayed in the car working on the journal. I am now caught up as Amy and Mike return to the car.
It was probably 6:30 or so when we finished our bird watching and headed back south. We got into a minor bison-jam and a minor elk-jam, but we didn’t stop for them. It was just after 7 when we arrived at the Lake Hotel and tried to get in for dinner. The estimate is that we might be seated in an hour. So if we end up eating at 8, it will probably be another 9 to 9:30 night at the campsite.
This will be our last night sleeping at Grant. Tomorrow morning, we’ll be packing up the tent so that we can head up to Canyon Village and tent there for one night.
In one sense, technology is wonderful--it allows us to do things that we couldn’t do before. With digital photography, I can take many more pictures much more cheaply than with film. On the other hand, the vagarities of technology can be a real pain. Amy’s and Mike’s cameras take SD memory cards. I can read that directly on the netbook, and copying one over will take up to 6 minutes, depending on how full the card is.
My camera (like my old one) takes Compact Flash. This is in theory faster than SD, but not for backing up. If I load it into the hyperdrive, then it will take between 45 and 90 minutes, depending on how full it is. I have a dongle for reading these cards directly into the netbook via USB, but that wanted to take 5 hours!!!!
So my current approach is to upload my card into the hyperdrive, and when that fills up (40GB), copy that to the netbook (which takes an hour). I used to do this in the evening, but we are usually not up long enough when we get back. So now my new approach is to do the backups during dinner. It is a pain, but it beats the alternatives.
Right now, I’m sitting on a bench in front of the lake house, listening to live piano from the sunroom behind me, and typing this. This would be real peaceful if I could convince myself to relax. But instead I’m typing this, thinking about when the hyperdrive will finish, whether we can get another night at Yellowstone at a lodge, and how long before the buzzer for dinner goes off.
We made a series of mistakes today. One was that we hadn’t planned on any big outdoor activities, just a bunch of small ones. So we neglected to put on sun screen. As a result, all three of us got rather pink.
We also screwed up plans for dinner. In hindsight, we should have eaten at the Lake Lodge cafeteria, and planned to eat at the Lake Hotel restaurant for lunch tomorrow. Instead, we got a beeper for dinner at the hotel. The estimated time was an hour wait. Instead, it ended up being almost an hour and a half. So we didn’t start eating until about 8:30, and we didn’t get back to camp until 10. I think this is our latest night at Yellowstone.
It was also one of the colder nights (it was 45 at 8 the next morning), but we were better prepared for it. Still, maybe because of the late dinner, I had to get up at 12:30 to empty my bladder. I was also feeling badly dehydrated, but the water was locked in the car, and the keys were in the tent. I would have to crawl over Amy or Mike to get them. Also, I was concerned that if I drank too much water at that point, that I would have to make a bathroom break again later in the night. So I drank just a mouthful from the sink faucet and left it at that.
I was too warm at that point, so I took my shirt off and just used my sleeping bag, but then later in the night, it got colder and I had to put my shirt back on. Then this morning, I had to make an urgent run to the bathroom as soon as I got up. Not the most restful night.