Tuesday, August 14, 2012

No, we didn't drop off the face of the earth, we dropped off the internet. Yellowstone has just a couple of places with cell towers, and though we could get some phone service there. We couldn't get online. So we will combine the three days in Yellowstone into one entry.

It rained during the night in Greybull, and in the morning our campground host told us that the East Entrance to Yellowstone was blocked by a mud slide. So we got advice on alternate routes. However, by the time we were ready to leave we got the news that the slide was cleared, so it was back to Plan-A.

We got breakfast at a cafe in downtown Greybull. Looking around at the locals in this Western town we saw nary a Stetson or any cowboy boots. It was all baseball caps and tennis shoes --- obviously farmers. Sure enough, leaving town we drove past fields of various crops and scattered farms. It looked like the Midwest all over again, except that only the fields were green; everything was irrigated. Everywhere else it was back to dry grass and sagebrush. After a few miles, the farms gave out and it was all dry grassland again.

The valley is very flat right up to Cody. We stopped in Cody for fuel, then groceries, then information at the Visitor Center. Driving west from Cody, we ran straight into a wall of mountains. The road went through the Shoshone River canyon. It was narrow and dramatic, and in one place went through a series of three tunnels. Beyond, the canyon widened to a narrow valley.

We went through a couple of state parks --- with lots of campgrounds --- before we reached the Yellowstone East Entrance (52 miles from Cody). Back to mountain driving through forests of lodgepole pine (about the only thing that will grow in the acidic volcanic soil). Tall and straight, to Gene it looked like millions of masts waiting to be used. We passed the mud slide and continued onin to the park.
We saw this lovely Alpine lake on the way in.

Before too long, we drove through miles of fire damage from a big fire in 1988. This fire burned for months and we saw damage all over the park, both from that and subsequent smaller fires. Eventually we arrived at Jackson Lake, in the middle of the park.

We bought some sandwiches for lunch/supper and found a nice location to eat them.

 Then checked in at the Bridge Bay Campground. This is a huge campground beside the lake, but we didn't have a view through the trees.  We had an alongside parking space, so it is the first time Gene had to parallel park the motorhome. The first couple of times it was tougher than a back-in. Then we took a short walk in the campground but gout out of breath quickly. Big surprise, at 8,000 feet elevation.

Next day (Sunday 12 August) it was cold enough in the morning to cause us to run the furnace for a few minutes to take the chill of the motorhome. So Gene made a hot breakfast of kupwurst (from Wisconsin), eggs, and toast. What a way to rough it! A day of playing tourist.

 First stop was at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Lots of geyser basins, but you rarely see a geyser. Mostly was we saw were various hot springs --- of different colors.

The only place where you can reliably see a geyser is Old Faithful, so that was our next goal. Approaching it was like merging into a freeway. Once we got there it looked more like a football game. There were acres of parked cars, but not a free space in sight
As we cruised the parking lots, frutlessly, we spotted the geyser over the top of some buildings. That was basically good news because we knew a lot of those people would soon be leaving.

I know you've see it before, but you didn't think I wouldn't show one, too, did you?
Sure enough, after circling around on the endless one-way streets, we got back to the parking area and found a space right in the front row. We had an hour or so until the next eruption, so Jean made sandwiches while I tried, fruitlesly, to get online. We headed for the geyser about 20 minutes early to find all the seating taken (surprise) but a nice family made room for us in the front row. The geyser went off about five minutes early (can't they make these things behave?) and a little higher than usual according to an old hand sitting nearby.

 Afterwards, traffic was pretty heavy on the west side road. We stopped at Artists Paint Pots, but didn't do the whole thing, since it required a 1/4 mile walk followed by a climb up the hill. We looked at what was on the level and then went back to the motorhome.

We took the Firehole Canyon Drive --- incredible! A raging river running between sheer rock walls.

There was a spot in the canyon where the river calmed down enough for people to swim.

Went to Canyon Village and saw a display of the Yellowstone Supervolcano, then drove along the North Rim of Yellowstone Canyon. Not good for photography, we will try again on the South Rim in the morning when the angle and the light will be better.

I know one bison doesn't make a herd but is easier to see

We were told that no bison had been sighted anywhere for two weeks, but on the way back to the camp we saw a whole herd of them.

On the way back to the campground we were slowed down by people stopping at the side of the road and even in the road to look at some animals. They appeared to be elk. We stopped at a legal pull-off and Jean walked back about 1/4 mile only to find that some jerks wanting to get pictures on their cell phones tried walking up on the animals and spooked them so nobody got a look.

that we went by a large herd of bison  and stopped at an area where someone had seen a wolf. The serious wildlife watchers go to the good spots early and wait patiently.

We decided to stay another day, so we needed to extend our space. When we got to the campground there was a long double line of people waiting to check in. Jean managed to find a window that everyone else missed and got them, after a little delay to clear things, to get us another night. That meant we had to get set up in the dark.

Wolf or no wolf, it's a beautiful spot

Next morning we got up a little earlier and skipped breakfast to get to the wolf spotting pulloff "early."  It was already well occupied by people with binoculars and spotting scopes. There was a ranger there with a scope set up and aimed at a female (with 2 pups) lying low in the grass. Looking through his scope, Gene got a view of her as she popped her head up for 1 second, Jean saw her get up and move a short distance.

After a while we moved on the the South Rim of the canyon where we got some pictures. Then about 11:30 we went in to Canyon Village for some breakfast that turned out to be lunch.

After lunch we drove the long way around to Mammoth Hot Springs, at the north end of the park. Jean slept part of the way. At the Hot Springs, we went to see the Terraces. Much traffic, but we managed to find a tight parking place in the last parking lot. It was a high climb to see the springs, but they are unique in the park, coming down the hill in narrow steps, often with a rim around them. In the past Gene seems to remember pools of different colors, but this year they were all pretty much the same.

A bison can walk anywhere he wants to
Heading south, we stopped at Canyon Village for fuel. Diesel in the park is $4.19! We went back to the "wolf pullout" which was already (about 5:00) full of wildlife watcher. Some of them come every year and stay for quite a while (we met one couple who comes from Florida). Many of them are very knowledgeable about the wolves and can recognize individuals and know which pack they belong to. We stayed about 2 hours but there were no sightings. We left in time to get back to our site just before dark.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) we head for Grand Teton Park, to the south. Hope we can get on again soon.

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