Saturday, June 4, 2011

Days 12 and 13: Yellowstone

June 3-4, 2011.  It was an outstanding day in the park!  Oh, what a day…

It started with COLD; it was 21 degrees outside when I woke up.  Cloudy and overcast, with snow spitting from the skies.  But it was a very light snowfall, and the ground was warm enough that transportation was never impacted.

Coffee and a muffin in the Lodge, and then on the road in the park.  On our first stop, we learned that it was REALLY COLD and that we were not wearing enough clothes to stay warm.  The main problem was the wind; it was blowing pretty hard, and with a 32 degree temperature, I would guess the wind chill was in the low 20s if that high.  So, we had to put on another layer of protection from the cold.  With the extra layer, it was tolerable, although I got cold at every stop until lunchtime.

We went to a series of geyser vents, each different and amazing.  Huge clouds of steam obscured many of the details as to color and shape; picture a hot cup of coffee open to the air at 32 degrees and a good wind.  Then make the coffee at boiling (which was the water temperature), and it creates a lot of steam.
I had been in the park about 1.5 years ago, in January, 2010, and even though the entire park was covered in snow then, I believe the vents were putting off more steam this trip than the earlier one.  Not sure why, but it seemed to be that way.

On our second stop, we spotted 2 buffalo near the entrance.  Camera time!  Little did we know then that we’d see probably another hundred during the day, including one walking straight up the yellow line in the middle of the road!  Had to stop and then slowly go by him, giving him the widest berth I could safely do.  They were numerous throughout all of the areas of the park visited.

We stopped at almost every turnout or parking area and took all of the side roads, trying to see as much as we could see.  Unfortunately, the steam was so dense that we couldn’t see the aquamarine blue-green waters from the springs.  The color of some of the springs is just beautiful, but we could not see the water in some of them.

Lunch at the Canyon Visitor Center.  A salad with soup was very good and filling.  Then a little shopping before leaving for the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

The canyon is beautiful.  While nowhere near the size and scope of the Grand Canyon, it was beautiful with its steep, yellow and red walls descending to the raging waters below.  And the Lower Falls were outstanding, with more water than usual due to the snow melt taking place this time of the year.  Breathtakingly beautiful!
By now, the weather had moderated and the clouds were breaking up, with big patches of blue showing as the clouds danced in the skies.  The wind was still blowing (as it has the entire trip), but it was comfortable outside.  As the day wore on, the clouds became fewer and the sun brighter, leaving each of us with a light sunburn from its rays.  It became an absolutely beautiful day outside.

Then on to Mammoth Springs, in the northern part of the park.  By this time, the cold had moderated to about 45 degrees, and we were very comfortable there.  Mammoth is a good word to describe the thermal actions going on in this location.  From bottom to top, it’s probably 600 vertical feet of climbing stairs or walkways to see all of them.  And we did!  I noted that a lot of the thermal features I saw with Gary several years ago had now dried up, but there were some new ones to see.  I’d say, as a whole, that there were fewer thermal features on this trip than the earlier. 

At the end of the top walk, we came upon a small herd of mule deer, feeding on new grass.  One was within about 10 feet of the walkway, and seemed perfectly comfortable with us taking pictures as he grazed.  It’s the closest I have ever been to a deer!  We took many pictures and then walked back to the car.  Mammonth Springs is a place not to miss!

Then back to the cabin.  I’ll digress for a moment to describe our cabin.  When I was trying to make a reservation for the trip, the only thing available was a “Frontier Cabin”, so I took it.  I don’t know how old they are, but I’m sure they date back some time.  Each building has 4 “cabins”, square buildings, arranged so that each cabin has its door opening in one of the 4 sides of the building.  The cabin is one room with a single and a double bed, a small desk with chair, and a hand sink.  There is a very small bathroom with toilet and shower.  It has a heater (thank goodness) that worked well enough to keep it toasty inside.  No phone.  No TV.  Two electrical outlets.  It met our needs, but was quite spartan.
We had a good dinner in the cafeteria in the lodge and settled in for the night.  I spent the night doing some maintenance on Bar’s computer, so I was too tired to write and post a blog.  Hence, this one is another twofer edition.  I’m actually writing this at 5:45am on Saturday, June 04, 2011, and hoping to post it tonight.  It’s 19 degrees outside as I write!  But today’s high should be in the 50s, which is more normal.
Today, more exploring my favorite national park. 

We got up, got breakfast and coffee, and headed out to the eastern side of the park (yesterday was the western side).  The weather has moderated, with the current temperature of 66 degrees (it’s about 8pm local time now).  It was an absolutely beautiful day.

We drove around the shore of Yellowstone Lake, looking out onto the frozen surface.  It is pretty much frozen from shore to shore, but there was a rim of thin ice around its edges where we were traveling.  I don’t know about the other side.  The thicker ice looked to be about 3” thick, based on some ice we saw broken in one place.  Not at all like we have at home!

For the most part, the eastern side is more calm than the other side.  We went to only 2 or 3 sites where the volcanic action was predominate.  The most interesting was the Mud Volcano area, where the steam was bubbling up through mud, causing a different sound and throwing mud up into the air.  It was something to see.  And it was another significant climb to see it all there.  But the scenery was worth the work.

We could not see the eastern entrance road due to snow issues.  The road is open only from 8pm until 10am due to the risk of avalanches.  So, we could not explore that area of the park.  And the road that connects the middle of the park to the northern part is closed due to snow, so we could not see that road.  The park got 200 more inches of snow than usual this winter.  Beartooth Pass got over 20 FEET of snow this winter.  So, they are late digging out this year.

We did get to see both Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls today.  I had not seen the upper falls before, so seeing it was good.  I learned that the lower falls is the highest and prettiest. And I learned that the South rim is the best viewing point for seeing the falls.  Just outstanding!

Coming back to the cabin, we drove to the western side and repeated yesterday’s afternoon route.  Again, lots of buffalo, but nothing else in the way of interesting animals.  There are reportedly some 3,000 buffalo in the park, and we’ve seen large numbers to substantiate their claim.

Back to the Yellowstone Inn for a drink.  I had a beer and she had a drink and we decided on some hot wings (yes, they were HOT!) and then a burger and fries for dinner.  The Inn is beautiful and so unique. 
From there, back to the cabin and blogging.  She went shopping while I blogged.

Tomorrow we leave the park and head to Gillette WY.

1 comment:

  1. It's hard to believe there's so much snow and ice there in June!