We will be here in the Yellowstone area for the summer and rather than give a day by day description, we thought we'd write a quick overview of what we see and experience every week or two. It'll be kinda random, but we don't really know how else to tackle our summer here.
Two weeks ago we were able to drive into the park a few times. It was often quite chilly, but we had a wonderful time and were able to see some wonderful sights.
Yellowstone Park is very large. There are hundreds of miles of roadway. It takes days to drive them all - even longer to explore. Our first few trips into the park we just took in the scenery and stopped a few places to explore.
Yellowstone is an old super-volcano that has canyons, geysers, mountains, valleys, rivers, and lakes. On any given drive you can see vast vistas, dense forests, or flowery meadows. The Continental Divide passes right through the Park. It is difficult to describe this park in its entirety and there is no one look that Yellowstone has. It is an amazing place to explore and we are so thankful that we've have the opportunity to spend the entire summer here.
We've viewed a variety of scenery even while driving through less than half of the park.
We have driven past meadow lands and valleys.
We've stopped a couple of times to detour off the main road. There we have seen some interesting formations.
We've walked to a couple of waterfalls.
Big or small, waterfalls are always a great place to stop and absorb the wonders of God's creation.
We have also taken a couple of short hikes. This is the Harlequin Lake Hike. We walked about 3/4 mile through a dense new growth forest. This was an area that burned in a wildfire in 1988. We are trying to learn a little about the history of Yellowstone while we are here and learning about the fires is a big part of that. See how thickly the trees have reseeded themselves after that fire? It would be interesting to revisit this area every 10 years to see how the forest thins itself out to sustain life (or burns again).
That thickly wooded trail that opened to a little lake nestled between the mountains.
The lake was abundant with flowers. Mostly water lilies...
Here is a roadside lake that rests on one of the Continental Divide (there are three crossings in the park.) The cool thing about this lake is that water exiting the lake on the east side, flows west to the Pacific Ocean and the water exiting the west side of the river flows south and east to the Gulf of Mexico. Funny how mountain ranges and rivers twist so!
One of the coolest things about the Yellowstone area is it's volcanic history (we are learning about that, too.) Yellowstone NP is considered a supervolcano and it is active, so the area is filled with thermal features. It also gets many small earthquakes each year. There was a larger one, around 4.? shortly after we arrived that could be felt in West Yellowstone (15 miles from here.) In church the following Sunday one man spoke of it occurring during weekly Bible Study. We have not felt the earth move under our feet yet, but then again, we live on wheels. Not sure we would feel a small earthquake even if it was right under us.
On our trips to the park, we have explored some of the geyser areas and plan to see more in the future. Here is a sampling of what we have seen.
Near Yellowstone Lake is a geyser basin with some beautifully clear hot springs like this one.
Most view-able geysers in Yellowstone are surrounded by boardwalks (miles of boardwalks!) to keep people off the dangerous areas, but still allow folks to experience these thermal features somewhat close-up.
Temperatures in these acidic geysers can be close to 200 degrees at the surface and are dangerous. People have died in these geysers and hot springs. A couple of weeks ago, a young man was severely burned when he fell into one.
At the Norris Geyser Basin we listened to a Ranger Talk on geysers, specifically Steamboat Geyser.
Since we have all summer here, we are trying to get in various Ranger Talks as we explore the park. When you get an experienced Ranger, they can be quite informative. One of the most disappointing things to hear from a Ranger is, "I am excited because this is my first year at the park." The talk will probably still be interesting, but you will miss out of some of the personal experiences and knowledge many long-term rangers have.
Here is a geyser field where you can see several geysers in the distance. When the warm steam blows over you and you smell the sulfur (cough-cough) from the depths of the earth, it is a pretty unique experience! The video linked below will show you some of that.
There are many more pictures, and much more we have learned about geysers, but we will save some of those for later. Partly because this post is long enough, and partly because we are still learning and will post more when we are more knowledgeable.
We took a short video of the different types of geysers and springs we saw on our walks. You can click on the link to open the video (about 40 seconds long) in a separate window.
We expected to see animals at the park throughout our stay - especially bison - but what we have seen already has exceeded our expectations for our first few trips in. Many of these pictures were taken from the back of the scooter. Occasionally we stopped, but mostly we would just point and shoot the camera in the general direction of interest and hope we got what we wanted digitized (and not too blurry or grainy.) Not a great way to get pictures, but there will hopefully be more time as we spend more time here and plant ourselves at various locations for longer observations.
Bison have been the most abundant animals so far. They are everywhere, and everywhere they are, tourists are stopping along the roadside (and in the middle of the road) to view them. This makes getting anywhere in the park a lengthy process.
Most bison are just beginning to shed their winter coats. This one is still prepared for cold weather.
It is always cool to see a herd of bison in the valleys of Yellowstone; much better than on the roadways where they also tend to walk.
Almost anywhere we have seen a herd of bison, we have also seen bison babies. There is a video linked below that shows this baby frolicking in the spring grasses.
As we were leaving our first day in the park, we came across a traffic jam but couldn't figure out the issue. Many people were looking on the side of the mountain, but we could not seem to get a good look at what they found so fascinating. There was a brown blob way up on the hillside, so Susan pointed her camera and clicked. She tried to zoom in on that spot, hoping to get it somewhere in the frame and clicked again. It wasn't until we got home and saw the zoomed image on the computer screen that we realized we passed a mama bear and her cub(s?) eating dinner.
The next day, we drove north and saw another grizzly with her cubs. This time we were able to stop for a few moments.
We shot a quick video of this scene and the running bison calf and posted it online. Just like the previous, if you click the link the video will open in a new window.
Elk are also prolific in the park, but often tend to congregate in safe areas (away from predators). One of these safe areas is the lodge at Mammoth Springs. Here is a young elk (cow?) relaxing on the lawn near the general store. The sidewalk in front of the resting elk was closed and one lone ranger was charged with keeping folks off it. As we ate lunch outside nearby, we lost count of how many times she said, "The sidewalk is closed, please walk to the other side of the road." Most folks were watching the elk and oblivious to the signs and cones blocking their way. That didn't make her job any easier. We watched several folks walk right up to the "sidewalk closed" sign then sidestep to avoid it and get closer to the elk. Some times it is more entertaining to watch people than nature. (Just don't watch too long or you will get a bit depressed!)
We have seen a few Elk in the wild, though. Most move too quickly for us to get a picture. Once, after crossing over the Continental Divide, we stopped by a quiet lake to rest a bit. Down the hill and through the trees we saw movement.
We got one of three elk before they bounded away.
Some of our wild friends don't seem quite as wild as others. These young prairie dogs joined us for a picnic lunch. I guess it would be better to say we joined them since the picnic table was in the middle of their neighborhood.
This fellow was pretty much a chatter box the entire time. Not sure what the big news was, but a prairie dog on the other side of the field kept asking questions and talking back to him.
There is a field just behind our RV at the park and we have a few of their relatives living nearby (about 100 feet away.)
Between our RV park and the National Park is a beautiful 15 mile drive across the Continental Divide from Idaho, to Montana, to Wyomming. We drive over the pass, across the valley, and through the woods to get to Yellowstone each visit. In the valley are trail rides and a rodeo. On non-riding days the trail horses relax and graze in the bright green fields along the roadway. What beauties!
Cool, then Warm, then COLD
Our rides into the park were pretty chilly, but we bundled up and seemed to be okay. The following week, weather was predicted to warm into the 70's each day so we were looking forward to future drives.
Unfortunately, we both got colds; Trey first, then Susan a couple of days later. For the past week and a half we have dealt with these colds, trying to rest enough so that we did not get worse. We stayed home and rested some, worked some, and rested more. After a week and a half, we were feeling a bit better. We found that we were almost out of groceries and desperately wanted to get away from home for a bit. We took the truck and drove to the nearest big city - a little over an hour away. While we are able to get some supplies in the small town about 15 miles away, the fruit is very expensive and in pretty bad shape. We don't mind supporting local business, but we paid $5 for a very small container of blueberries and had to throw the rest of them out after the first day. We needed something fresher. On our visit to the city yesterday, we ate The World's Best corn dogs again (still so good!) and ran into multiple different stores before we completed our list and headed home. It was an all day run to the grocery store!
It was 85 degrees in the city, but got colder as we drove closer to home. Going over one pass, we arrived just after some freezing rain had covered the highway with a slushy debris. It looks worse than it actually was. It was 65 degrees in this particular area, so nothing was frozen. We did, however pass a guy on a motorcycle going the opposite direction. I bet that 65 degrees felt much colder to him!
We are both feeling (mostly) better now, even though yesterday wiped us out, and hope to go into the park again soon - just in time for the colder temps to return! We know it will be warm eventually. We have time to wait.
It is a bit disheartening to be sick in such a beautiful place, but we were thankful that this time we do not have to leave the area so quickly.