August 5, 2015

8/1/15 - Yellowstone National Park (revisited)

This was a repeat visit to Yellowstone National Park.  (We only saw one buffalo the first time, and I wanted to see the animals.)  First time we came in through West Yellowstone; this time we stayed at a campground in Cody, Wyoming, and came in through the East Entrance and over Sylvan Pass.

Yellowstone National Park is definitely worth going to again--and again and again.  In case you haven't been there yet, I will share what I call:
Jane's Common Sense Guide to Yellowstone
  • Geysers are not showers; caldrons are not hot tubs; mudpots are not spa treatments. Stay on the boardwalks.  Do not try to test the temperature by putting a finger in the water/mud.
  • Do not store food in tents; it's an invitation to dinner for bears. They smell hot dogs for appetizers; people for the main course. 
  • Wildlife is WILD, and most of the critters are bigger, and probably meaner, than people. Bison (AKA buffalo), elk, bears, and wolves are not pets and do not want you to get close. They'll be happy to explain what wild means and demonstrate exactly how much personal space they need.
  • Vanity is considered one of the 7 Deadly Sins; selfies with wild animals in the background could end up being just plain deadly. (But if you do it anyway, be sure to keep your finger on the shutter so the rest of the world can see just how stupid you were.  Keep your kids out of the picture.)
We wound through some old burns with dead trees still standing before we got to Yellowstone Lake. It's the largest high-altitude lake in North America. And the water is blue, blue, blue.
It's been almost 50 years since fishing was allowed from Fishing Bridge, but we weren't interested in fishing anyway.  We stopped at the at the Fishing Bridge Museum &Visitor Center. I wouldn't want it in my house, but this is a rather impressive chandelier.  I could do without the skulls but the antlers and bighorn horns are cool. And they were hung high enough that George didn't have to duck--always a plus!
From there we drove north along the Yellowstone River through the Hayden Valley where the buffalo are supposed to roam.  Fishing is allowed here, though we still weren't interested.
We stopped at Mud Volcano, one of those thermal areas where hot mud boils out of the ground. The ground is really treacherous so you have to stay on the boardwalk. It's a really long boardwalk.  You sure don't want to fall into this stuff! It's not only hot mud, but it stinks like sulphur. (See Common Sense Guide above.)
Grizzly Fumerole changes all the time. Sometimes it's a steam vent that's almost dry, and sometimes it's more of a mudpot.
This is Dragon's Mouth Spring:
There are some caldrons in the area with roiling hot, but not boiling, water. (I don't know why they don't just call it simmering.)  First is Churning Caldron--you can see it churning around the edges.  Sulphur Caldron has water, but mudpots around the edges...and obviously smells like sulphur. Not a lot of imagination naming some of these places, although I admit Dragon's Mouth Spring was pretty good.
Back on the road through Hayden Valley and suddenly there was a Buffalo Alert!  These alerts are easy to identify because the dozens of cars in front of you hardly move.  The rangers try to keep the cars moving and the tourists and buffalo separate.  For some reason, people get really stupid around buffalo and try to get too close to take pictures or turn their backs on them to take selfie pictures. They're really big...and really scruffy looking.

(By the way, they really DO own the road, and they can give "road rage" a whole new definition!  My theory is these descendants of the ones that roamed the Plains before they were annihilated have passed on stories about people on trains shooting at them. Cars look like trains; cameras look like guns; tourists look like people. These big old critters don't feel threatened when they attack--it's simply payback time.)

We bypassed Canyon Village this trip, and continued on to the Tower General Store--but headed back to the truck when we found they don't have Passport Stamps. Nearby is Tower Fall, surrounded by towers.
At the Roosevelt Lodge we headed east through the Lamar Valley.  It's a pretty valley, and there were more buffalo, but they were as scruffy as the ones we'd seen earlier. (Scroll up if you want to see a picture again.)  We did NOT, however, see any bears, and we did NOT see any wolves. I'm not quite as disappointed as not seeing bears as not seeing wolves.  For all the animals I don't see, I should probably schedule in a trip to a zoo sometime.  
Leaving the critters behind, we left Yellowstone through the Northeast Entrance--which I suppose would have been the NE Exit as well.  We started out on the Beartooth Highway, then headed SE on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway back to Cody.  This is the route Chief Joseph took as he lead the Nez Perce Indians out of Yellowstone in 1877, trying to flee the US Calvary and escape into Canada.  We did the 46 miles in a truck; they did it on horseback. I doubt if they thought it was a pretty drive.
We stopped at an overlook just across a bridge--which might be the Sunlight Bridge.  If it is, then it's the highest bridge in Wyoming and crosses Sunlight Creek.  Or maybe it's another bridge which crosses the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone River.  I didn't see the sign.  All I know it that it was really pretty, and a long way down!!! 
We stopped at Dead Indian Pass--for the view and the history. How would you like to ride a horse up this mountain?  
The mountains above are part of the North Absaroka Range.  South of the pass, as the sun was thinking about sliding down the mountains behind us, it was lighting up the top of this peak in front of us. (And, no, I don't know what it is either--but I could find it again!)

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