Saturday, August 30, 2008

Nature's Jacuzzi

This is our last full day in Yellowstone this year. We have re-bonded with it and while leaving is difficult, we know that our next stop is just as beautiful: The Grand Tetons.

Today we wandered up to Mammoth Village, the Park Headquarters and explored the old Army Barracks that were built at the turn of the last century. Back then, the National Park Service did not exist, so the Army came and protected the Park from poachers, thieves, highwaymen and other miscreants. The stately stone and wood structures are still in use by the Park Superintendent and various other personnel. The Jail, built in 1911 is still in use too in case some modern day rule-breaker needs to be sequestered.

We also took a little bit of time to marvel at some of the water features at the park. There are not many places where you can see bubbling pools or geysers or smoke coming from the ground. Mother nature has played a lot of tricks on this landscape. However, one pool looked very inviting this afternoon. It's in a very quiet area--the water is blue--and it just bubbles away. A natural Jacuzzi, and if it's like other water features in "Colter's Hell," it's warm too.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mt. Washburn

Today we drove to the top of Mt. Washburn, which at 10, 243 feet is the tallest peak in Yellowstone. Henry Washburn was the general surveyor for Montana after the Civil War. He headed the Washburn Expedition into the Yellowstone area in 1870. Along with naming the tallest mountain in the area, that expedition is credited with naming Old Faithful too. We did not survey the mountain nor name any features, we just looked at the windswept view from the top of the world. The trees are stunted; the soil is thin; the views are enormous; the hand of man is not present.

One sad feature of the landscape is the devastation left by fire. Yellowstone had horrible fires 20 years ago. Today you can see the burned trees turned silver with age as well as lots of new growth. Yellowstone is a live ecosystem that is working. The fires cleaned out the old wood that was plagued with pine bark beetle and what has come back is a new healthy forest.

On our way home we saw a small herd of elk. One of them had on a radio collar. September is coming so the rut will begin soon.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yellowstone in a "Jammer"

Today we took a ride in a Historic Yellow "Jammer," a 1936 White Touring Car. Yellowstone had a fleet of these touring cars which they used from the 1930s to the 1960s. In 2001, Yellowstone officials decided to bring back the old cars. One by one, they were found, purchased from their new owners, and restored. The tiny fleet of 8 "Jammers" were put back into operation in 2007. The cars are wonderful. They give you a flavor of the "old days" in Yellowstone when they had to "Jam the gears" to drive the steep and curvy mountain roads.

The cars have canvas roofs that can be rolled back so you get an open air experience while you are getting a guided tour of the Park. Our driver/guide, Brooke, did a wonderful job explaining the geology, history, animals, and stories of the park. Along the way, we saw lots of bison, some up close and personal.

We saw this unusual license plate. You see strange and wonderful "stuff" in Yellowstone.

We had the perfect afternoon for our "Jammer" ride as the sky was blue and lakes were still. As we were rolling down Lake Bluff overlook, the sun was setting, gilding the clouds and glinting off Yellowstone Lake. The right way to end a wonderful ride in Yellowstone.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Old Faithful

A visit to Yellowstone would not be complete without watching Old Faithful erupt. So, that's what we did today. There are many good places to see the eruption, but we think the best is from the second floor porch/deck of the Old Faithful Inn. 

After each eruption, the Park Rangers estimate when the next eruption will occur. We checked the board as soon as we arrived at Old Faithful Inn and discovered we had about a 3 minute wait. We hurried up the stairs and planted ourselves on the porch to get one of the best shows Yellowstone has to offer. We were not disappointed. 

The drive to Old Faithful takes you past the Firehole River and the beautiful Firehole Falls. Nearby rivers were named by Lewis and Clark. I wonder if they named the Firehole River? It's very descriptive as Yellowstone is certainly a fire hole.

On The Road -- Again

It's always nice to be on the road...and that's where we are. Yesterday we drove to West Yellowstone, Montana. For the next few days we'll play and hike and revisit two of our Nation's wonderful Parks. Americans are lucky to have these natural resources where we can sit back and wonder what this beautiful country looked like before the hand of  man.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Summer is just about gone

Here in the high mountain west, summer is becoming a fond memory as autumn comes in on tiptoes. It's ever so gradual. The light gradually changes. The flowers change too.

Gone are the bright yellows and oranges of the sunflowers, salsify, dandelions and paintbrush.

Gone too are the bright purples of the flax. They have been replaced by the puffballs, seeds and berries. The landscape is literally, going to seed.

The aspens have not turned color yet, but when they do, every tree in the forest will change. Every one of the aspens in our forest are related, they are clones in fact. Aspens are the largest organism on earth. It's truly amazing when they change color from green to brilliant yellow, overnight, all at the same time.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

57 feet comes tumbling down

The problem with mighty aspens is they fall. Yesterday we had a huge thunder storm with lots of hail and here's the result: One aspen down. I wonder if more will follow?

Change happens quickly

It was tall and proud
A monarch in the forest
Thunder knocked it down

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Summer Haiku

Reaching heavenward
Tall pillars of the forest
Aspens brush the sky

Sampling new berries
The last sweetness of summer
Mule deer in my yard

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Floating Down the Snake

Here we are at Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons, getting ready for our scenic float trip down the Snake River through the Park. We had the perfect ride!

We saw beautiful views of the Tetons all along the way.

We saw quite a few animals. I only was able to take pictures of the elk, but we saw beavers, moose, bald eagles and osprey. A really good day to view the animals.

Needless to say, there were a few late season wildflowers in bloom which caught my attention too.

The day ended with a beautiful crescent moon over the Tetons. If you have the opportunity, take a relaxing scenic float excursion down the Snake.