Archive for May, 2010

Hey, Gov. Palin

How’s that “Drill, Baby, Drill” thingy workin‘ out for ya?

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Yellowstone Trip Summary and Photos

We had a great time. Going early in the season turned out to be a good choice. We encountered tour buses and school groups only at Old Faithful and the only wildlife traffic jam was for the mother bear and the cubs on our last day in the park. At times, ours was the only car on the road. A few side roads were still closed as was the route through Dunraven Pass and Mt. Washburn, the highest drivable destinations. We were fortunate weather wise. Other than a thirty-minute shower on the 18th, we had dry conditions and temperatures mostly in the 60s. So we will continue our off-season travel schedule. It was so pleasant having so much of the space to ourselves with the option to slow down and pull over whenever we wanted. Photos….

We were surprised at the mostly dated or simplistic accommodations and dining options in West Yellowstone and Gardiner. I guess you don’t travel to Yellowstone for an upscale hotel experience. Before the next trip we’re going to get some really good binoculars to enhance wildlife viewing. I also learned to always, always have the camera at hand. I missed our only chance to get a photo of a wolf and a bison strolling through a supermarket parking lot because I left the camera in the car. And I’m very tempted to get a much more powerful telephoto lens as well.

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Long Drive Home

The last day of our trip took us from Gardiner, MT to North Bend, 726 miles in twelve hours on the road. We passed through a brief snow squall near Butte and a few rain showers east of Coeur d’Alene but otherwise the weather was pleasant enough. We listened to the second half of Scott Turlow’s novel Innocent on CD and had lunch at Five Guys hamburgers in Missoula.

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Northern Half of Yellowstone

Day 6: What a way to spend your birthday. From West Yellowstone we headed north to Mammoth Hot Springs. What a weird and wondrous sight. The formations there are unlike any others in the park. From Mammoth, we headed east to Tower-Roosevelt, then a few miles south to Tower Fall where the road was still closed from winter snow. The afternoon was a long leisurely drive along the Lamar Valley to the Northeast Entrance. We saw many bison and a few pronghorn sheep. Once we turned around to retrace our path back west we were prepared for boring repeat of earlier sights and scenes. But what a great surprise. First, we had to wait for several bison to clear the highway and then, finally, we got to see a mother bear and two adorable cubs. Along with scores of other park visitors we watched the trio nose around for food no more that 200 feet from us. It was a marvelous birthday present to watch these wild critters cavorting in the woods.

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Southern Half of Yellowstone

Day 5. We headed out from our very dated Holiday Inn to the renowned Norris Geyser Basin. Just a couple of miles into the Park we stopped to visit some elk relaxing by a stream and soon after encountered a group of bison with calves. After Old Faithful, Norris probably represents the prototypical geyser landscape: a vast expanse of steam vents and boiling pools with unearthly colors. The afternoon portion of the day was mostly driving the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with its famous views of the Yellowstone River Falls. It’s a spectacle you never forget. Finally, we followed the west bank of Yellowstone Lake to the West Thumb Geyser Basin where the thermal features merge with the Lake itself. Our last stop of the day was the little-discussed Black Sand Basin. It was one of my favorites. Iron Spring Creek meanders through many interesting geysers and pools so it’s a seemingly impossible juxtaposition of a simple wilderness creek you might see in any forest with those weird thermal features only seen in Yellowstone.

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Jackson to Yellowstone

Day 4. We dropped the Volvo off at a car repair shop then spent a few hours looking around the art galleries in downtown Jackson. Most of the shops focus on wildlife and western themes. We were particularly impressed with the wildlife photography of Henry Holdworth and spent a few minutes talking the the very amiable Mr. Holdsworth himself and fawning over his sleepy yellow Labrador. Before leaving Jackson we stopped at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. What a gem of a collection. Arrived at Yellowstone south entrance around 3:00. We got to Old Faithful just about an hour before the next eruption so had some time to wander around the adjoining geysers and pools.

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Jackson Hole wildlife

Day 3. We were up at 5:00 a.m. to rendezvous with our wildlife guide at six sharp. Got to see lots of bison and elk, including several babies. Our expert guide, Lynette, was super well-informed and wonderfully enthusiastic. We rented a car for the second half of the day to let the Volvo get some extra rest and retraced some of the same areas we has seen earlier in the day taking more time for photos and just enjoying the incredible mountain vistas.

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