Numbers 6: 24-26

The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Monday, September 29, 2014

Things that make you go Hmmm...

We've seen some funny stuff and have some amusing stories so I'll attempt to share a few.

1. A Jedi's Mind Game: It's safe to say we have logged a lot of miles inside Yellowstone National Park now. So usually when we are driving through, we have a destination in mind and while one of us drives, the other watches the hills and plains for critters and we stay the speed limit. Not so for a minimum of 50% of the other drivers who are enjoying the view and want to take pictures and so forth. We have found if we wave our hand like a Jedi and suggest they pull over (into one of the hundreds of areas just for that purpose throughout the park), they pick the next pull over and drive right in. We've had quite a few laughs over this. The last though is the best. In Mammoth  Hot Springs, in the hotel, in the lobby, there are public restrooms. The fun part is to flush, you wave your hand over the valve. Do you think a Jedi came up with this one?

2. Think our course instructors don't work hard? There was some down time at the beginning of September and the weather had finally turned warm and sunny. A major project our boss wanted to get done was to stain the outside of all the cabins. He got permission to use any of the instructors that wanted to earn a little extra money to come up and help.

This is Katie. I took this picture of her to send to her Mom, to terrify her Mom but also prove that Katie is staying busy and actually does work.


3. On our trip out, we stayed at some ultra cheap hotels. I'm okay with's still better than camping on the ground! Anyway, this one room had the toilet next to the tub and the toilet paper about 2 feet away. Try finding that in the dark, at night!

4. Have you ever seen an elk chase her tail? I did! The other morning I was watching the herd in our front yard from the window and this female starts circling round and round. I thought at first she was trying to trample the weeds to lay down, as the others were doing, but she just kept going. She  finally lifted her hind leg to do some scratching so I have to assume she was itchy. Pretty cute to watch though.

5. Bob (and I) love tacos. I make them with the best tortillas ever from Trader Joe's and if we work together we can go from start to eating in 30 minutes. Here Bob is enjoying a local beer. Doesn't he look happy?
6. This little dude is a Yellow-Bellied Marmot. We saw hundreds of them in August but by September they all disappeared. Bob read recently that they hibernate for up to 8 months. Can you imagine sleeping that long? May-August seems to be their time to do all that is required in life. I can't decide if I want to be jealous :)


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lollie's Trail and 2 Funny Stories

This trail is named for a lady (Lollie) who gave Yellowstone Association a bunch of money and they named the Overlook Trail for her. She claims she has never seen it or been on it. Too bad for Lolllie!

The scrubby, dark green bushes behind the sign are sage brush. 

It's difficult to see, but right in the middle of the picture is a rock formation in the shape of an arrow. Wonder which way the path goes??

We decided to hike Lollie's Trail to see if going at this trail from a different direction (it hooks up to Eagle Creek which is an earlier blog) would take us down to a large bridge we've been seeing from up above.

 Are you having trouble seeing the trail? So were we!

The views were wonderful even if the trail was half washed away. Notice the trail in the middle of this rock slide area. Is this suicidal or what?

The river is the Yellowstone. It is down about one foot from where it was in August when we were having all the rain.

The mountains in the background are the Absaroka Mountain Range. They continue north up to Bozeman, MT.

This area was rather testy. I found I couldn't look up or down, just straight ahead, thank you very much!

These rocks you skirt around like this one are so amazing. One small earthquake and all bets are off for this whole area.

This is looking west. The mountain in the background is Electric Peak. It is the highest or second to the highest peak in Yellowstone.We haven't been able to get that information straight :)

Ok, I have to pause here. So we made it down to the bridge, took pictures of each other on the bridge, hiked another 1/4 mile past the bridge and had a little lunch celebration with Cliff bars and (for me) celery sticks. So we know where the bridge is and now how to get there. Where are the pictures you might ask? Yes, well, we are too. They were apparently not transferred onto the computer before the camera card was deleted. So, I suppose that will be a longer hike next year, only we'll be starting from an easier point that we also discovered.

Walking back from the bridge, Bob left the path to see how far the water was from the rock outcropping. Too far to fish from it turns out. So I'm standing on the trail alone and I notice a guy walking briskly toward me holding a rather large double-sided ax. Um, ok. Do I jump off the trail down to Bob, warn him not to come up or scramble up the hill? Oops, too late, he's already to me and he's wearing a Ranger t-shirt. This explains a lot! I stopped him and asked him if he realized how intimidating he looked and we had a good laugh. By this time Bob is back up with me. This guy explains he is heading to a back-country camping area across the river and that if we run across a group with 'stock' we should get off the trail and let them pass. We said fine, he went on and we went on. Did I get a picture? Of course not.

Next, we came upon 2 female Rangers walking briskly carrying shovels. We thought, ok, the guy is a very fast walker and the girls were chatting and going a little slower. Whatever. We got halfway up the Eagle Creek Campground trail and Whoa! We jumped off this little bridge and watched the following come by:

Female Ranger leading the pack on a horse.

A guy that looks like a back-country outfitter on a horse leading 6 mules with these large packs on.

And a light dawned on us. The 3 rangers are walking ahead to clear any debris off the trail to make the passage easier for the horses and mules.

This is the end of the mules. One missed the bridge but quickly jumped up. It's just a boggy area so wasn't dangerous. The guy was simply holding a rope behind him as he rode and called to the mules. They were all tied to each other with a simple rope. Seriously!

Last was another ranger on a horse holding the rope for 5 more horses and/or mules.

We don't know what they plan to do at the campsite but it looks like they'll be down there for a few days. Fortunately, the weather was still drop-dead gorgeous!

We finished this hike deciding not to take Lollie's Trail next year to get to the bridge.

Total miles hiked: 126

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Animals and Fowl - Part 2

These are more of the awesome shots Bob has gotten on this trip. I believe he's taken 500 apiece of bison and elk so I've chosen a few more to show case today.

This little critter is a yellow-bellied marmot also known as rockchucks.

This dude was strutting his stuff along the road. He still had velvet on his antlers so he was practicing his strut and bugling for the "girls."

One morning in Lamar Valley, the bison (buffalo) were close to the road and Bob shot a gazillion pictures.

A few of the males were watching the vehicles closely.

This makes me think of the 'wild wild west' and how the plains might have looked to people that crested a hill and saw hundreds of bison dotting the landscape.

 Here's a calf. The proper name for a new bison is Red Dog. They 'come out' with a deep red coat and it turns brown as they grow.

Here is the prolific Magpie. They are fairly large birds and numerous in Montana/Wyoming. The black feathers are so deep that it looks blue. They are very pretty birds.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mount Washburn

Named for Surveyor-General Henry D. Washburn from the 1871 Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition, Mount Washburn is 10,243 feet high and provides 3 trails to reach the top.

Oh look, another member of the greeting committee! We didn't stop to say hi, he wasn't in a friendly mood. After using the fence for a scratching post, he meandered down the entry road to challenge cars as they came up. You never know what type of entertainment you'll run across in Yellowstone!

Last year we hiked up the Dunnraven Pass trailhead. This year we chose the Chittenden Road path. The ranger station is the little peak on the highest mountain. That's our destination.

This road is used by the ranger that lives at the top all summer watching for fires. The temps were a brisk 40+/- degrees with wind in our faces so we bundled up and took off. 

This  area is a good example of the 1980 fire that consumed over 60% of the park. It's amazing that through the intense winters, wind, and rain, these trees are still standing like ghosts of time. It's also surprising that there is very little vegetation coming up to replace these trees.

The ranger station is getting closer. Note the orange sticks on the right side of the road. These start appearing all over the park in mid-September and act as snow gauges for the depth and also as road boundaries for skiers and snowmobilers.

We're over half way up and yes, it's still cold!

And we made it! The ranger in residence apparently owns a Honda FITT! The road is steep, very rocky and has several switchbacks so the fact a Fitt makes it, is pretty commendable. This should definitely be a commercial for Honda. I think they missed the boat on this one!

All the walking finally warmed us up, however, we put the jackets back on for the descent. The wind was present and making itself felt.

With all the rain we've had this year, the skies have been crystal clear blue and beautiful. But California and Idaho are battling some large fires and this one day, for our biggest hike, the wind brought the smoke in and, like last year, our pictures are hazy. We'll try again next year for the spectacular views.

We are on the way back down now. You can see the burned out tree area below that I showed the close up of above. It covers quite an expansive area. Other trees have filled in the burned areas below.

This is a great example of an obsidian cliff left over from the volcanic period.

These two were grazing on the side as we walked down. This hike is special for seeing Big Horn Sheep. Not so on this day. But doesn't this Bison look like he's big buds with this Pronghorn? (By the way, Pronghorn's are just Pronghorn's. They aren't a part of the deer family. Also, People mistake these for antelope, which are not present anywhere in YS.)

Miles hiked: 115

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lone Star Geyser and Old Faithful Inn

The Old Faithful Inn is named for the geyser which is nearby. The Inn was constructed in 1904 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It exemplifies the use of rustic architecture at a large scale to complement a natural landscape. Rhyolite that formed Yellowstone's caldera during volcanic upheavals provided the stone for the building's foundation, and local lodgepole pine were used for the walls and much of the internal structure. (Taken partially from the Yellowstone Resources Book).

This is a favorite destination during our stay and we take the same pictures each time but it never gets old.

The restaurant is also rustic and serves a great bison burger (so says Bob :) and the food is reasonable which can't be said of every national park eatery.

This is a shot of the upstairs. There are two floors with rooms but the wood carries all the way up to the ceiling.

Here is the check inn counter. Note the lodgepole pine in the roof and back wall.

We were about one hour away from seeing Old Faithful (OF) erupt so we opted instead to drive a mile down the road to the Lonestar Geyser. We did this last year and it actually erupts higher  and longer than OF. And last year we made it just in time to see it start up. Will we be so lucky this year?

 It was in the steam-spitting stage when we finished the 3 mile hike into the geyser. It's called the LoneStar because the nearest geyser is OF. It only spews hot water out every 3 hours so it's hit or miss to get to see it.

While we waited, I decided to try a sketch of it. Bob captured a rainbow over my head from the steam floating my direction. Does this mean I'm blessed? You betcha!

I also got a great facial sitting there from the ensuing mist from the geyser. 

And yes...we got there is time to see it again. The cone itself is 10-11 feet tall so you can see how far up the water is going. 

And this is pretty much the peak. It continued in this manner for the full 15 minutes before going back down to the spitting and then the steam phase which will last for the next 2 hours and 30 minutes. 

Where does all that water go you might ask? This is another creek that starts in the mountains and is fed by numerous water features along the way.

Even without rain for several days, you can see the water is still rolling along at a good clip.

Another beautiful day, another terrific hike.

Total miles hiked: 106

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Lower and Midway Geyer Basins

We're really headed to Old Faithful geyser and Old Faithful Inn for lunch. Our history of hitting our goals are sometimes not realized, leaving open other exciting adventures.

The geyser basins are 3 in a row: lower, midway and upper. After that you eventually reach Old Faithful Inn.

This is the Lower Geyser Basin. If you don't believe Yellowstone is a volcano in waiting, take a look at these pictures. Rangers and volunteers have built a boardwalk all the way around this area. It's quite amazing to walk over to these boiling fissures and just look down into them.

We started out early and it was chilly still so the steam was very visible. I don't know that anyone can ever duplicate the colors that you see as you walk around.

Next we drove to the Midway Geyser Basin. 
Home of the trail head for Fairy Falls if you pass a several acre flat area of mud pots, small to large geysers and many ground level springs. Our intention was to hike to Fairy Falls on this spectacular day. So we suited up with jackets, hats, camera, back-packs, and hiking sticks and headed up the trail.

Ahh, the greeting committee of one.

2nd plateau

What is it about a challenge that I can't resist?? The trail head to start up to Fairy Falls is one mile from the parking lot. We were about 3/4's of the way there when this guy with a large camera stops us to say "If you want a great picture of Grand Prismatic, take the 3rd trail up to a small plateau area." This was totally unsolicited but we looked at each other and said, sure, we're game, let's go.

Top Bluff Area

So we get to the first area and another camera buff says "if you go straight up there (pointing up!) you'll get a better view and less obstructions for your pictures." Okay, so up we went.

We got there and a 3rd camera buff was just leaving and said "go across this small valley and up to that bluff and you'll get a totally unobstructed view and pictures."

Grand Prismatic Spring


Well, of course we went there...(with me huffing and puffing by now). But oh my, what a view.

This is looking to the left of Grand Prismatic Spring to the Firehole River. It's very appropriately named as it is basically created from all the water running off from the springs, mud pots and geysers.

We're back down now. This is another smaller spring. When you look into it you see trees that must have at some time grown along the edge and they died from the intense heat and are preserved in the mineral water. It looks like you can just run and jump in there but it's not advised. Well, unless you enjoy losing your skin...ahhh, nevermind!

The amount of water these water features dump into the various creeks and rivers is astounding. The Firehole River runs into the Gibbon River runs into the Gardiner River that runs into the Yellowstone River. When it rains, oh buddy, does the water level go up!

We never made it to Fairy Falls. We instead hiked these 3 miles for a surprisingly wonderful view. But we were still on plan for lunch at the Inn!

Miles hiked: 100