Tuesday, September 15, 2015

NW Day 16, Friday: Lovely Last Day

We got up and out of the room by 8:30. We stopped at the general store for sandwiches for lunch, and then drove on to Old Faithful. The road between Grant Village and the Upper Geyser Basin wound back and forth over the Continental Divide. I think we “crossed” the Continental Divide three times. No joke.

We pulled in to the parking lot at Old Faithful just in time to see the plumes of the geyser over the roofs of the buildings. Too late for the geyser.

Not too late for the bison. This, folks, is not a statue.

At first I was pretty bummed that we had just missed Old Faithful, especially since the next eruption wasn’t expected till 11:26. But we went up and asked the ranger what he’d recommend. We were right next to a nice loop around the upper geyser basin, but if there were no geysers erupting, I was afraid that walk would just be a boring boardwalk in the hot sun with some holes in the ground that were steaming a bit. That would not be a win in the eyes of the family. The ranger said that Grand Geyser is one of the tallest in the world of predictable geysers. It was predicted to erupt at 8:30 that morning, but it hadn’t erupted yet. He said that meant it could go at any time, and since it was a little late, it would probably be a good eruption when it went. He said the walk up to Grand Geyser was just a 12 to 15 walk past up a paved bicycle path and then turn onto the boardwalk at Castle Geyser…

And take the bridge over, the Firewater Stream? River? 

And up to Grand Geyser, which started erupting JUST as we got to it.

We stayed and watched the spectacular ten minute display.

Then we walked along the boardwalk along the Upper Geyser Basin. 
We dallied a little taking pictures. And then realized that maybe we had dallied a little too much and might be risking missing the next eruption of Old Faithful. So we sprinted the last few hundred yards of the path. (At 7000 feet in altitude, but it was mostly downhill.)

We found a nice spot to watch Old Faithful on the far side of the crowds. 
It erupted at 11:25.  Pretty much right on schedule.

So, by just missing its earlier eruption, we got to see two AMAZING geysers erupt. (And the general consensus among the four of us was that the Grand Geyser was even more impressive than Old Faithful.)

Our next stop was the Midway Geyser Basin, which also empties into the Firewater River.
 Excelsior Geyser pours 4000 gallons of water a minute into the Firewater.

Impressive as this is, the main reason we stopped here was to see The Grand Prismatic Spring. Ground photos don’t do it justice.

We saw people on a path going to a hillside overlook on the far side of the spring, but it seemed a not-insignificant hike to get around over there. Next time, maybe.

There was LOTS of stuff to get out and walk around and see in the geyser area of Yellowstone. But, we wanted to make it all the way up to Mammoth Springs, have time to walk around that area, eat dinner up there AND drive back south to Grant Village before dark. So, we drove straight through to Mammoth. 

Or, we tried to drive straight through to Mammoth. There was a bison on the road clogging up traffic. 

When we got closer, we saw that he was lame. We wanted to report that, in case the rangers kept track of those things, but we didn’t have any cell signal at that point. We saw a ranger at the next turn off, and we pulled in to tell him about the bison. (He said they did know, and thanked us. He also told us that bison can’t see directly in front of them. Their eyes are so far to the sides of their heads to watch for wolves and other predators on their flanks that it creates a blind spot directly in front of them. He said if you watch a bison walk, they also swing their heads from side to side as they move. He said they do that because they need each eye to be able to get a view of what’s coming up directly in front of them. He also said that their heads are super heavy compared to their bodies.)

And while we were there we took some pictures from Gibbon Falls.

I loved the hot springs of Mammoth. I loved the colors. I loved the flowing shapes. 

Here's a backlit photo just for a sense of scale--
 It was like walking around a series of giant sculpted fountains.

Sweetling thought it was like walking above a giant ice cream sundae with caramel sauce flowing down it.

 The elk love it too.

I don’t even remember what we ate at the little café for dinner. But I do remember that if we took our café receipt over to the nearby lodge gift shop, we could purchase a Yellowstone blanket for $14. Guess who’s coming home with a Yellowstone blanket?

We had encountered a LONG construction delay on the road between Norris and Mammoth, and rather than drive back through that we decided to take the northern most edge of the Grand Loop, and then drive back to Grant along the east side of the park.

That was nice in that we got to see a stretch of the park we wouldn’t have otherwise. 

And, the color of the evening sun on the hills was just so lovely.

A lovely end to our last full day in the park.

Monday, September 14, 2015

NW Day Fifteen, Thursday: "All This Cool Stuff"

We made an 8:30 run to the Grant Village General Store  for food for breakfast, since the last day the Lake House offered a breakfast buffet was Labor Day. A quart of milk, a bottle of apple juice, two small containers of yogurt, and locally made cinnamon rolls were secured.

We made it out of the hotel by 9:30, because everyone was tired so we took it slow and easy. We only made it as far as the gift shop though. Nearly an hour was spent there, but we secured several small items (including *titanium*) and breakfast for the next day, so not bad. (Also, Boybot is clearly feeling back to his usual silly self. He picked out a great postcard to send home to his sweet Grandma. I’m sorry, Mama, all I can say is that at least they didn’t have any shark postcards.)

Our first real stop was West Thumb Geyser Basin.

 (Originally, we had planned to do Old Faithful and the west side of the Grand Loop on our first day in the park, but that was going to be a pretty active day, so we swapped itineraries to give Boybot extra time to recover.)

The conversations we had were about the top ways people die in Yellowstone. The number one cause of death is hypothermia/drowning in Lake Yellowstone where the temperature never gets about 40 degrees or so. People fall in (or jump in) and their muscles cramp so that they can’t swim. The number two cause of death is from scalding. People fall in hot springs, climb in hot springs thinking they are like hot tubs, or walk on the fragile crust near hot springs, which breaks and plunges them into scalding water.

West Thumb was especially exciting because it presented the possibilities of freezing or boiling right next to each other. 

We stood next to Abyss Pool(?) Spring(?) and Boybot speculated about whether or not anyone would be able to recover the body of someone who fell in there or if maybe the bottom of the pool was full of skeletons or if maybe even the bones dissolved. 

Sweetling and I really loved the amazing colors that were present.

All in all, it was a great start to our Yellowstone visit. A cool, and short, boardwalk path around some neat features.

After discussing how cold Yellowstone Lake always stayed, even in the middle of summer, the next thing that had to be done was to experience this for ourselves. Without the hypothermia, of course.

We then drove north along the east side of the Grand Loop.

We saw an elk in the forest, and three more on a sandbar on the lake.

We made an unscheduled stop at LeHardy Rapids, since we were driving past it. Boybot and I enjoyed throwing pinecones and leaves into the rapids to watch what happened to them.

Then we drove through Hayden Valley.

Where we saw more bison and some really beautiful trumpeter swans.

We also saw a coyote hunting in the field across the river, but he was too far away for the camera zoom lens. (But not too far away for binoculars. Boybot ran back to the van to get his binoculars. Later in the day, he told me he thought Yellowstone would be boring…just me and the Jedi taking pictures of scenery. He said he didn’t know it would have all this cool stuff in it.) 

Also seen, but not photographed was a bald eagle hunting over a distant lake. I know for sure that he was a bald eagle, because the ranger who was standing next to us also watching wildlife identified it with her binoculars. 

From Hayden Valley, we drove into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone for a view of the falls.

Sweetling also made friends with a baby pine tree.

Late lunch (or “Linner” as Boybot said, was at the Canyon Cafeteria. The Jedi had a bison sloppy joe. I chickened out, but tried some of the Jedi’s sandwich and regretted my cowardliness.

Driving out of the Canyon area, we encountered a “bear jam”…which is a traffic jam caused by too many cars pulled over, slowing down, or simply stopped on the road to take a photo of a bear.

We drove back south through Hayden Valley again…

And then drove across the Yellowstone River at Fishing Bridge to Steamboat Point, where we had a beautiful view of the sunset over Yellowstone Lake.

While we were waiting for the sun to set, we were joined by two ravens who were very interested in our van. And also by a bison, who was just walking up the road next to our van. (I have a video of this, but no photographs to share at this time.)

After sunset..

We had dinner in the Lake House Lodge.

Then we drove back to our room in Grant Village in the dark. And by dark, I mean PITCH dark. We could see a little of the road in front of the van, and a few trees along side that road. But if you looked out the side windows or the rear window of the van, it was like staring into the abyss.

We rounded one corner of the winding forest road and there were two HUGE elk just strolling down the center of the road. Fortunately, the Jedi was taking the ink black roads slowly, and was able to stop in time. 

Before we turned in for the night, we stopped off a parking lot in the Grant Village area to look at the stars. You could see the Milky Way stretching from one side of the sky to the other. A beautiful ending to a beautiful day.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

NW Day Fourteen, Wednesday: "This Place is Great"

Poor Boybot was sick overnight, but neither the Jedi nor I heard him up. The Boybot didn’t want to wake us, so he just took care of himself and brought a trashcan over to his air mattress in case he needed it. 

He waited till he heard me get up and then came over and told me that he wasn’t feeling well and was there any way he could get some gingerale? I could only find sprite in the hotel vending machines. The Jedi got up and went on to a grocery store in town, but still no gingerale. Boybot made do with a few sips of sprite and a ginger root capsule. I brought him some apple juice from the breakfast room, which he also sipped from.

Because we’re on some kind of hotel plan, the Jedi was able to make arrangements with the front desk so that we could have a 1 pm check out instead of an 11 a.m. checkout.

The Jedi and Sweetling walked the couple blocks to the downtown/historic section of Jackson Hole and explored there and took a few pictures. 

When they got back, three of us heated up assorted dinner leftovers for lunch. (Have I mentioned that several years ago the Jedi found a small refrigerated cooler that sits between the front seats of the van and plugs into the dashboard? We use it on road trips to be able to take leftovers with us.) And then three of us took all the clothing bins back out to the van and got the van all loaded up. And then (high school English teachers everywhere are cringing at my writing style), and then, just before one, Boybot went out to the van and lied down in the back seat of the van. (Is it lied down? Lay down? Laid down? Don’t make me look up grammar on vacation.)

The original plan for the day was to spend the entire day in Grand Teton. We had to check out in Jackson at 1 pm and we couldn’t check in at Yellowstone till 4:30, and we had to drive through Grand Teton to get to Yellowstone, so the revised plan was to determine what one thing was most important for each person to experience in Grand Teton, and to do just those things, provided that one adult could stay behind in the car with the sleeping Boybot.

So that’s what we did.

We drove into Grand Teton, taking the obligatory picture by the sign. (Boybot’s favorite thing for the day might be that he didn’t have to pose for a single photo.)

Then we drove up to the Jenny Lake area, where Sweetling and the Jedi went down to the lakeshore so Sweetling could go wading. (Her pick for the park).

And we stopped at a few pulloffs and took some photos of the scenery (my pick for the park). Although, Sweetling also really enjoyed this scenery. I believe her exact words were, “This place is great!”

And we drove over to the Snake River overlook (the Jedi’s pick for the park, because a photo of this scene was what motivated him to save for and plan and drive this ENTIRE trip.)

And I found a small piece of quartz for Boybot, because I knew collecting rocks would have been his pick for the park.

And we also drove past a herd of bison, which wasn’t anyone’s pick…but there they were!

With horses in the field across the road...

We drove the hour to Yellowstone…

 We passed over the Continental Divide for the second time this trip. This time there was a sign. (The Jedi wasn’t in favor of me getting out of the van to take this photo, because we were right up against the forest on not a very high traffic road with bear warning signs every 500 feet. I yelled really loudly before I got out of the van, and you could see through the forest somewhat, so….)
AND we actually reached our destination (Grant Village, altitude 7770 ft), well before dark. Three of us got unloaded what was need from the van (and checked the beds) and then, when the room was ready, Boybot came in and collapsed in a bed. 

He was feeling a little better, and was interested in something to eat. Sweetling and I were also hungry, so the Jedi and I hiked down to Grant Lake House to pick up a carry out dinner. 

We got there right before sunset, and got some pretty pictures of the sky. 

Then we hoofed it back through the forest at twilight, carrying a box of delicious smelling food. (A small bowl of udon noodles and chicken broth for Boybot, a small bowl of udon noodles, broth and roasted chicken for Sweetling, a small bowl of udon noodles with spicy peanut sauce and sautéed vegetables for me, and a large bowl of spaghetti noodles and marinara sauce for the Jedi.)

The Jedi made a run to the Grant Village mini-store for more apple juice for Boybot, and we’ve all chilled in the room.