Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 11, Mammoth Hot Springs to The Tetons and Jackson Hole

It is COLD! It is sunny! It is gorgeous! It is one of the prettiest days of our trip as we leave Mammoth Springs. I make AdventureMan stop several times, trying to capture how beautiful is the frost in the shadows between Mammoth Springs and Old Faithful. 

I’m trying to show you frost in the fields . . .
Can you see the white frost?
There it is! It shows up better in the shadows! (AdventureMan is very patient with me)
It is August 29th, and this field is still with thick white frost!
The heat of the volcanic fissures show up particularly well on cold days

We come to a traffic clog – buffalo crossing. We are patient, it is entirely possible on this route that these are people who have never seen bison before. They are jumping out of their cars and seem a little wild with excitement. 

I can never get enough of Roaring Mountain. AdventureMan is being a good-sport; see the halo of light spotlighting him?

We crossed the Continental Divide at least three times.

The drive is just breathtaking.

Lewis Falls

Around noon, we leave Yellowstone and are immediately in the Tetons, which we begin to see to the West.

We find the Flagg Ranch Lodge on our right, just in time for lunch. It is a lovely lodge, but you can see that the season is already lagging; the express shop is open but the gift shop is closed.

See the Pay Phone?

AdventureMan stops to get a map of the area and I see an oddity, a pay phone. When was the last time you saw a working public pay phone? After lunch, we try to call our son and discover we are in an area with zero bars. Now the pay phone makes all kinds of sense.

I have soup, and the Prismatic Salad, AdventureMan has the Pig Whistle Salad, and lunch is delicious. We talk with our servers; one is a trucker who works during the season with his partner at Flagg Ranch. Off-season, they go back to California.

Great Prismatic Salad
Pig Whistle Salad

We stop several places to take in Lake Jackson; we can see it has been greatly depleted by the drought, but also replenished somewhat by the heavy rains tamping down the forest fires. Near Lake Jackson, the air starts to get a little hazier from forest fire related particulate matter. 

Look at those gorgeous blues and greens!

The Tetons are grand. Impressive. Awe-inspiring. We can’t get enough. 

Coming in, we are directed by the Bossy Lady to Moose Wilson Road, isn’t that a great name? There is a large parking lot, and multiple signs warning people that this little dirt road is only for cars, no getting out of cars, no walking and no stopping. There is a ranger in the parking lot – in fact, every time we take this road, which is like four different times because the Bossy Lady sent us over this road to get to different places. In spite of the signs, inspire of the ranger presence, people were . . . stopping. Getting out of their cars. Walking. This is a protected wildlife track, bear, moose, deer. 

Alpenhof Hotel

We arrive shortly at The Alpenhof, in Teton Village, and our room is ready. It looks very German to me, but it is actually very Swiss, German Swiss I suppose. Our room makes me smile; it has so many familiar German touches. It is a nice large room, opening out to a balcony shielded by fresh smelling pines. We can hear the funicular in the background, squeaking now and then as the little carriers round the bend coming down and going up. 

Great reading lights 😉
Funicular going up mountain

We walk around, take a sweet nap and have dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant. AdventureMan and I met in Germany; we still have a weakness for German food. Reservations are strictly required, we must be masked, and we see people turned away who do not have reservations. 

As we are waiting, a couple comes in and asks the Maitre d’ if they have “Sloshies.” The Maitre d’ says no, but they can find them in the Bodega at the nearby filling station. The couple tell us that Jackson Hole is famous for “Sloshies” and exit to go find them. They also start a tirade against masking, social distancing and young people who won’t work because they are getting unemployment. If you’ve ever worked with the poor, you know that unemployment doesn’t do it. It is just a supplement.

Dining Room: The Alpen Rose
I really liked this beer, like beer with fruit on a hot summer day in Germany

We are seated, and the menu is lovely. We both decide on salad and a Jaegerschnitzel. If we had known how large they were, we might have thought to share one, but we didn’t, and in truth, while they appeared huge, they were pounded thin, and deliciously prepared with a wine-mushroom sauce. We each ate our entire schnitzels with no problem. We also shared a dessert they called Heisse Liebe, (Hot Love!) but we used to eat along the Hauptstrasse in Heidelberg and it was called Heiss und Eis, vanilla ice cream with a hot sauce made of fresh raspberries and a little liqueur poured over the ice cream. Divine. Heaven. 

We took another walk around the village and called it a night, glad we also have reservations the next night at the same restaurant. 

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Privacy, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 8, Roaring Mountain, Norris Geyser Basin and Old Faithful

This is the book we use that tells us everything we didn’t know we didn’t know.

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been traveling a week, and only have a week to go. We are having so much fun, and time is skimming by.

Today we drive south. We are up early, to avoid the crowds. Too late, there is already a line for coffee. They have delicious biscotti; huckleberry for AdventureMan and Cinnamon for me. It is cold, so cold I put on my levis for the only time on this trip. We are headed to one of my favorite places, the Norris Geyser Basin.

We beat the tour groups for the only morning

On the way, we stop at Roaring Mountain, another of my favorite spots. It is a cloudy day, but that is OK at Roaring Mountain, a sulpherous, misty site full of fumaroles, holes out of which pour hot steam. In the cold morning air, the steam shoots out, and then billows dramatically around the mountain. 

Clearwater Springs
Roaring Mountain
Emerald Springs

The Norris Geyser Basin had two great hikes, and the parking lot has what we call Rock Star Parking when we get there, very few people. 

We love this hike. The first attraction is Steamboat Geyser, which is unpredictable but is always looking promising when we see it, burbling up with little bursts of geyser enthusiasm. Along the track are many geysers, but also bubbling pits and brilliantly colored springs of boiling water. All the steaminess is exaggerated in the morning cold. We can’t believe it can be this cold in mid-August. 

Steamboat Geyser at Dawn
It’s inviting, and deadly

AdventureMan tells me – and this is really true – that a man fell into one of the springs at Norris Basin, and died, and that his body dissolved in the chemical rich pool. He didn’t die on purpose, but, like many tourists, he wanted to take a dip. His sister says he tripped over his own flip-flop, fell in and died a terrible death, boiling to death. Aargh. 

Rockslide en route holds us up a couple minutes while blockage is cleared
Firehole River and Falls, a great side route

We head on to Old Faithful. There is a long boardwalk there I have never walked, and we have little hope it will be uncrowded. We decide to have breakfast first, and discover the dining room is not open, does not seem to be serving meals at all. The grill is open, all grab and go, so we pick up breakfast and for me, coffee, and ask if we can eat on the terrace. They tell us yes, so we head upstairs, and there is a lovely spot with a bench and two tables overlooking Old Faithful, so we set up there and have one of the most unexpectedly lovely breakfasts of our trip. 

Old Faithful Inn
Last time we stayed here we were in the room in the upper right corner

We could watch Old Faithful erupt from our front row seat, but we decide to leave our location for someone else, and to hike out to another vantage spot good for watching the eruption. It is a great walk, we find a good place and just as I am about to walk to the prime location, a family stops there and claims it. We sit nearby, and a bison comes near. The family can’t resist, they decide to follow the bison, so we get the place after all. 

We sit, and an EcoTour comes and joins us. We get the advantage of all this knowledgeable young guide’s experience just sitting there and listening. As we are listening, a Park Ranger comes hustling up to try to keep people from getting too near the bison. It seems to be a never-ending battle; people seem to think this is like Disneyland and nobody gets hurt. Wrong. People get hurt all the time. These are WILD animals and they are becoming less and less afraid of human beings. That is a bad thing, and can become disastrous. 

The Bison is in the upper right quadrant of the photo

AdventureMan took the guide aside after Old Faithful did its thing and tipped him, told him to have a beer on us because we benefitted from his discussions even though we weren’t a part of his group. We love young people who love their jobs and do them so well. 

We learned that early-mid morning is a great time to visit Old Faithful. There were people, but not so many, even in this near peak of summer visitors.

What we noticed is that there were no buses full of Chinese. No buses full of Japanese. No large groups of visiting Indians. No large groups of students. No European youths. We met one French-Canadian biker along the Firehole Falls road; he had started at the Canadian border and said he had 20,000 more miles to go. The bikers in Yellowstone and Glacier earned our unalloyed admiration – they were riding up very long high hills with gear. They had their sleeping bags and small camp stoves and their clothing. I cannot imagine how they persisted, but they almost all looked strong and wiry and like they were loving every minute of their biking experience.

We got in over 12,000 steps today. AdventureMan is happy.

We went into Gardiner for dinner, to the Wonderland, a restaurant we discovered the last time we were in Yellowstone, a couple years ago. We were astonished – we went early. Almost every table was full! They did have a table for us, and we were very grateful. I had trout with aioli sauce, AdventureMan had elk chili (it was sprinkled with powdered sugar, and was sweet!) with their famous jalapeño cornbread. Wonderland was hopping busy; we were so impressed with the way the team all worked together. While the servers were taking orders, others would be taking plates away, filling glasses, bringing food from the kitchens – everyone helping each other. It was awesome to behold. 

Trout with mashed potatoes and aioli sauce
Elk chili with jalepeno corn bread

Back at our cabin, coming back from a post-dinner walk, we looked up the hill behind our cabin and there was a huge bull elk! It had a huge rack of horns, and looked so noble as he sauntered along the hill. Word spread quickly and people grabbed their cameras, mostly cell phones, and ran out to the street to catch a photo of this magnificent animal. He was far enough away that the few people who gathered didn’t bother him, he barely noticed our existence, and we were very quiet and respectful. I didn’t have my camera, only my cell phone. I took pictures anyway. Nothing could capture the full grandeur of this creature, but we all clicked away in sheer astonishment and admiration. There are hundreds of female elk and little elk calfs around, but this is the only bull elk I ever saw in Yellowstone. 

Bull elk behind cabins
Such a thrill I had to put in two photos

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Hotels, Local Lore, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 7, Mammoth Hot Springs and Yellowstone National Park

Chico Hot Springs is a mere 40 minutes from Gardiner, our favorite town just north of Mammoth Hot Springs where we will be spending the next four nights. We head straight for Tumbleweeds, a bookstore that also is semi-bakery and has breakfasts and lunch. But, as it turns out, only Thursday – Friday – Saturday these days, so we have to find someplace else. There is a long line outside the Antler Grill and there is something of a line at the Cowboy Bar and Grill, where we have never eaten but would like to give it a try.

There is a sign on the door saying help wanted, and several people seated outside. We missed those clues. We got inside, and the only person we could see who looked like she worked there totally ignored us. The sign said “please wait to be seated” so we waited. And waited. And waited a little more. It could have been annoying, but we had seen this same situation in Glacier and had a good idea what was going on. 

Eventually, the waitress – who was also cashier, and hostess, asked if we wanted to be on the wait list, and we said yes. She called the names of the people outside, and then, at the end, called our name, too, so we only had to wait about 40 minutes. 

For me, it was worth it. I ordered something called the sausage scramble, and one of the choices for sides was “greens.” I am wired to have a hunger for greens, so I ordered greens and I also ordered a side of jalapeño huckleberry sauce to go with my egg scramble. 

Breakfast actually came fairly quickly, even though everyone else in front of us got served first. The cook was quick and the server was also quick. My “greens” turned out to be a nice big bowl of mixed greens, covered with sunflower seeds, which I love, and dressed with an orange vinaigrette that was out of this world. It might have been that I was really hungry by then, but I remembered that bowl of salad as one of the best taste-treats of the trip. I also really loved the jalapeño huckleberry sauce.

AventureMan had the bacon scramble and focaccia bread, and the bread was also delicious. Things had slowed down and we had a chance to talk with the cashier/waitress/hostess and discovered she is Jamaican, a business student, and in a couple weeks she will be back at university. She is doing this as a summer job, and has worked very hard all summer, short-handed the entire time.

The hardest working people we found as we travelled were foreign workers and people as old as we are.

We shopped for dinner at this traveler friendly Gardiner Grocery Store
All traffic stops for bison

By this time it is maybe ten-thirty, we drive into Mammoth Springs and we don’t even stop because there is no way our cabin will be ready. We head straight out to one of our happy places, Lamar Valley. Near Tower junction there is a group of bison blocking traffic, just tarrying along, and people are going wild taking photos. We are patient, and head first for Roosevelt Lodge, which has never been open when we have visited Yellowstone previously. 

Probably the best Bison shot I’ve ever had, and it’s through a side window, no composition, just pure luck.

Nice clean restrooms. Roosevelt Lodge has the reputation of being a good place to stop for lunch, but they are not serving meals. They have a Grab n Go sign, and then entire lobby area is EMPTY. We headed on to Slough Creek, one of our favorite spots to tarry, and Lamar Valley.

There are restrooms at the entrance to Slough Creek, but we pass them by. We know there is also a restroom at the end of the road, but today we get a thrill – at the end of the road is a gate. The gate is open. There is no sign saying Do Not Enter, so that means you can enter, right?

The truth is, probably 90% of the people who visit Lamar Valley never go down this bumpy unpaved road to Slough Creek. Even fewer know that through the gate is the entrance to the Slough Creek Campground, one of the sweetest, most private camping areas in Yellowstone, right on the bank of Slough Creek. 

There is a hiking trail which goes beyond the campground. We hike out for a while, and we spot otter! Off in the distance, we spot a couple men riding out on horses, maybe they are rangers, although there is also a horse rental operation back at the area where we went through the gate. 

The are is so beautiful, so quiet and so peaceful that we settle for a while and watch the otter play, and the water ripple by in the large creek. We talk a little with people coming to camp there. There is also a nice clean restroom there, actually several in different parts of the campground. It is a serene and awe-inspiring place to just be.

As we headed back into Mammoth Springs to sign into our room, we passed a large group of cars parked desperately along both sides of the highway, watching a tiny bear walk along a path on a nearby hill. We understand this might be the only bear these people ever see, and we also wish they would be more respectful. Stay in your cars! Don’t whistle or call to the bear trying to attract his attention! Let the bear just do his bear thing. We drove by as quickly as we could, we just wanted to get away.

AdventureMan is edgy, he wants more walking. I assure him tomorrow will be full of walking. We check into our cabin, and AdventureMan insists it is bigger than the last cabin we had. I don’t think so. I think they moved some of the furniture out and it seemed more spacious, but it looks the same size to me. All these cabins were built about the same time, probably a WPA project. We have a bathroom; some of the cabins don’t. They use the group toilet and shower facilities in the cabin area.

As we walk around the cabin area, we see that many of the cabins are empty, which is puzzling, because when I reserved, back in December, the cabins were mostly sold out. We speculated that it was again, a demographics problem, too few people willing to take a chance of remote working conditions during COVID. People our age are retiring and, like us, traveling. Younger people may not want to expose themselves, or don’t have child care so that they can work. As we got to know the housekeepers, they confirmed our suspicious. This was the hardest they have ever worked, too much work to do, cleaning, laundry, maintenance of cabins, and too few people to do the work. 

We drove to the upper terrace road near sunset, and walked to Canary Springs. It was a beautiful time of day to be there for some dramatic photos, but not so dramatic as the cold mornings, when the steam would billow out of the hot springs.

Dinner was on our front porch, with a view of the Mammoth Springs terraces. We had picked it up in Gardiner at Gardiner groceries, where they had wonderful sandwiches, wraps and all kinds of condiments. I had my chicken wrap with Salsa Verde, and it was delicious.

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Wonderland and Last Trip to Lamar Valley

When we finish hiking the terraces, it is still early. We decide we do not want to eat breakfast in the Dining Room, so we go into Gardiner, back to The Wonderland Cafe and Lodge. The Cafe is already full, a few tables with couples and one very large table with a local woman’s group. They are having such a good time, it made me feel like home. I saw one bring in a bag of books for another, and I thought “I could be happy living here.”

We order and are delighted with our choices. My husband tried Avocado Toast for the first time, and thoroughly enjoyed the combination of flavors. I had the breakfast burrito.

 

 

It’s a hearty breakfast, and we know we won’t need to eat for a long while, so we head back out to Lamar valley, still looking for those wolves around Slough Creek. On the way back into the park, we stopped to take a photo at the 45th latitude. We thought that was pretty cool. You’ll note we are still in heavier clothes at this point.

On the way we hike up to Wraith Falls; it’s an easy hike, only half a mile there and back. You can’t really get too close with all the wood fall, but it is a lovely cascading kind of falls.

 

 

 

 

My husband had some interest in the petrified forest, but we figured maybe the next trip. What I like about this photo of the deer is that it looks like one would prefer to go one way and the other in a different direction. It kind of cracked me up.

Back in Slough Creek again, looking around for those wolves. Did not see any wolves, nor the babies we had heard about, but I took a photo of this wonderful rock. In Alaska, and in the Seattle area, people pay big money to have a great huge rock in their yard, like a landscape focus. I think it has to do with Scandinavian blood, and glaciation, the fact that these great huge rocks are brought from mountains, many miles, and then are dumped where the ice melts. You will see valleys full of great huge rocks, with no source in sight. Many have come for miles. This one looks to me like a very alien rock; he has a curved round head and on either side of his cracked (helmut?) you can see his alien eyes.

 

Also in the valley at Slough Creek, we find anglers; at one time three of them angling. We never saw them catch anything.

 

Out on the edge of a large plain between the mountains, a huge valley where the Bison were slowly brought back from near extinction, is this formation, called Soda Butte. It has a hot spring that kept springing up, depositing minerals, until it built this anomalous structure. We hiked around it to get a view of the other side.

 

 

 

 

We see bison grazing peacefully across the river, except for one, who is looking at us and moving quickly and purposefully toward us. Hmmm, those big guys can move pretty fast. We calmly and quickly walk to our car and get in. The bison comes all the way to where we were standing and fortunately, stops. After the adventure with the elk, we aren’t taking any chances. Most of the bison we have encountered have been placid and uninterested in humans, but wildlife is wild. They don’t think like we think, and we don’t take anything for granted.

No, I didn’t stop to take this photo, I was taking this photo when I noticed he was running towards us.

 

We see a clump of cars, and as we approach, we see a woman walking in our direction. “What have they spotted?” we ask her, and she says “Oh, there is a bear, high on the hill, they are watching him. He is the size of a little tiny dot.” We’ve seen a lot of bear. The rangers are already here, encouraging people to move their cars, park legally, but there a lot of sharp drops here, and not a lot of parking spaces.

I don’t know a lot about the Ranger program at Yellowstone, but it appears to me that there are a lot of trained people out observing animals, good at spotting them, and generous about pointing them out to others I would think they are photographers, but they are not. They have these super telescopes, like uniscopes, which are very powerful. If they are Rangers, out spotting game for the visitors, I think that is a lovely service.

We dawdle our way back toward Roosevelt Station, where the road heads out to Lamar Road. As we cross the Yellowstone River and head towards the junction, we see a large group of men and women walking in the direction from which we are coming. “What are you doing?” we asked, and they said “Ranger training.” How cool is that?

The Roosevelt Lodge isn’t open yet, but will open soon. How do we know that? We see stagecoaches, and what I take to be a chuckwagon, on rubber wheels, practicing in the large field where two days ago we saw coyote. They are having a lot of fun practicing. And note, a placid bison.

 

 

 

 

Back in Mammoth Hot Springs, we stop to take a photo of the old Fort Yellowstone church. This was our goal the elk attacked AdventureMan, and we never made it to the church. We have  a beautiful day for a photo.

We stop by the General Store, pick up some sandwiches for dinner on the porch, and some huckleberry ice cream cones to give us energy to pack up for tomorrow’s departure. The sandwiches in the General Store are huge, so huge we can never eat the whole sandwich. They are on big bread, and the bread is also thick. The filling is generous, thick. We hate to waste food, but we can’t eat the whole sandwich.

We’ve had a great visit to Mammoth Hot Springs. We can’t wait to bring our family here.

June 25, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Building, Civility, Customer Service, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Mammoth Hot Springs

There are crowds of people visiting Mammoth Hot Springs during the day. There are special lots just for all the buses that come to see the magnificent terraces. Suddenly, the afternoon is hot, and we are shedding layers. Late in the afternoon, we decide to visit the Upper Terrace, a one way road, very short, but you can park and hike in several of the areas.

This is not snow, although it looks like it might be. It is calcium carbonate, leached from the soil by heat and water, and laid down, layer by layer on these fabulous terraces. We are told this is the same material that makes up travertine tile, but it looks nothing like travertine. It is also different colors in different places, depending on which minerals are also mixed in and how long the deposits have been in one place.

We visited Pamukkale, in Turkey, many years ago with AdventureMan’s sister and her family, and were astounded such a wonder could exist. We had no idea that it also existed in our own country.

 

 

There are also crowds at the Upper Terraces, so we head back to the hotel to check in.

This is the Mammoth Hot Springs General store, where they have all kinds of souvenirs, t-shirts, jewelry, art works, ice cream and grab and go sandwiches and snacks. This was the best stocked General Store we found in Yellowstone. (Canyon was the most shopped out.)

This is what a view of the terraces looks like from the hotel – it is Mammoth.

 

This is a map of the USA made out of US woods. The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is undergoing renovations, and rooms IN the hotel are not available, but they do have cabins. The facilities – the lobby, the Xanterra Gift Shop and the Map Room and Bar are open, and in a separate building, the Mammoth Hot Springs Dining Room and the Grill.

Guide to the woods used in the giant map of the USA.

 

Map room bar

Map room place to hang out and use internet. There is no internet in the cabins.

.This is a view from the lobby to the Xanterra Gift Shop. This is important to know if you are obligated to bring back gifts. The General store has souvenirs. The Xanterra shops are totally different, and have different – and often nicer – gifts to buy than the General stores. Don’t think that because you have shopped in one, you know what is in the other. They are different!

Now for the fun part. Well, fun for us. Not everyone would prefer a cabin to a hotel room, and they have their reasons, too. We love cabins, and we reserved far in advance, thanks to my friend’s warning, so that we could get a cabin with a bathroom. Do you want to go walking to a communal bathroom at night when there are huge wild animals walking about?

We also just like the privacy of having a little cabin. So don’t be shocked, it is tiny but it has enough space for people who are out most of the day.

 

It has a porch! We ate dinner out here on our second night of our stay.

 

Little washstand, and that is what works as a closet next to the washstand. We kept our suitcases in the car, parked right next to the cabin, and brought in what we needed for the next day in our backpacks.

It may be tiny, but you can shower and toilet without having to walk outside in your bathrobe, or wrapped in a towel or something.

AdventureMan loved these little chipmunks (?) squirrels (?) which were everywhere in the park. This one had a burrow with two entries right under our porch. He wasn’t shy about inviting himself to share our dinner, either.

Our first night in Mammoth Hot Springs, the end of a very long and eventful day, we decide to try dinner at the Mammoth Dining Room.

The Dining Room is entered from the right, the Grill Room (burgers, etc) is entered from the left.

 

The interior of the Dining Room; nice high ceiling, everything looking freshly painted.

 

We each had soup, Butternut Squash for me, French Onion for my husband. The soups were good. The Flatbread and the Hummus Plate were not what we expected. They felt assembled, not prepared. They didn’t feel fresh.

 

After such a nice lunch in Gardiner, this was a let down.

You are probably ready for this day to be over, but not us. We want to take a walk through the old Fort Yellowstone historical area before we close down for the night. We love that Mammoth Hot Springs is so walkable. Just have to watch out for the local residents:

 

 

But what happens if the Elk approaches you, at a rapid pace?

 

 

There are wonderful old military quarters, and stables, and an old PX, all with signs. As we were looking at the old PX, one of the residents (park employees live in the old military quarters) hollered out to us to watch out for the cranky old Mama, that she had a baby hidden somewhere nearby and could be a little hostile. We moved away, and were reading a sign when we heard yelling again, only this time “Run! Run! She’s coming!”

I got behind a nearby car so she couldn’t see me, but it wasn’t me she was interested in, it was my husband. He kept a sign between them, terrified, he tells me later, because an elk is big and muscular, and this was a big muscular mad mama elk. Someone else clapped hands at her and yelled, and she backed off long enough for us to move far far away. We didn’t know, but we must have moved too close to the hidden baby. Not her fault, our bad.

(In the newspaper two days later I read that an elk had attacked a park employee in that same residence area and the employee had to be hospitalized. The mama elk had to be relocated.)

This was a very appropriate finale for a day full of fun and adventures of all kinds.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Building, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Roaring Mountain

Mostly I don’t give an attraction a post all it’s own in a travel article, but of all the sights I saw in Yellowstone, Roaring Mountain struck the deepest chord. It was a beautiful morning. We were mostly the only ones there. A couple RVs pulled up and didn’t even bother getting out.

I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. I imagine the earliest explorers coming across it and wonder at the wonder they must have felt. Although there was a breeze, the springs and steam were so continuous that they never fully blew away. You hear a constant rush of steam, a sizzle, bursts.

Sometimes, on this beautiful earth, you get a feeling you are truly standing on Holy Ground. I felt that way at Saint Simeon’s in Syria. I felt that way at sundown on the desert of Sossossvlei in Namibia. And I felt it here. It i beautiful, and eerie, and if you are not filled with the awe of the great Creation, I can’t imagine what will move you.

 

 

 

And here is where Roaring Mountain is located:

 

We joke about Disney-does-Yellowstone, which is sort of what it’s like in some of the more commercialized and traveled places, but there are moments and locations when all the Disney-esque goes away, For me, Roaring Mountain is one of them.

Just north of Roaring Mountain, en route to Mammoth Hot Springs, is an Obsidian Cliff, where you could hike for many years, but the visitors and hikers kept taking obsidian home as a souvenir, and now the site is unmarked and closed to visitors.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Faith, Geography / Maps, Photos, Road Trips, Spiritual, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone National Park; Bear En Route to Mammoth Hot Springs

I’m posting this Yellowstone National Park map again to help you orient yourself on today’s adventures. We go from Canyon Village to Artist Paintpots (at last!), stop a lengthy time to watch a sedate mother grizzly and her cubs, view an awesome mountain, arrive in Mammoth Springs, have lunch in Gardiner, Montana, outside the North gate to the park, visit the upper Terrace at Mammoth, and spend the late afternoon once again in Lamar Valley, our happy place. This evening, my husband gets attacked by an irate Mama elk.

Yellowstone is so do-able. We did all the above, and never felt rushed.

 

This is an easy day, and our plan is to get up when we feel like it, but we are both awake by seven, and in fifteen minutes we are ready to go. We shake the dust from our feet!

From Canyon, we take the road directly going West. When we get to the junction, we turn South, just to get us to Artist Paintpots. We’ve tried twice before, and the parking lot was jammed and overflowing. This time, we are the first car in the lot. It’s only about 7:30 a.m. and the long weekend is long passed. There are fewer visitors, and even fewer who are out and about this early. (We are still early in the park season, once the summer rush starts, even early may not be early enough.)

 

 

Yep, you guessed it, Artistic Paintpots is so named because of the wondrous colors created by the variety of minerals leached into the boiling hot water, and the bacteria that thrives in the steaming springs.

 

I cannot even imagine a caldera this big, but as we drove, we tried to identify the ridges. The floor of this caldera thinly covers molten lava and the geysers and springs are caused by the heating of water in the ground which expands and comes out with varying degrees of force. This is how I understand it; someone with a more technical background can give you a more thorough explanation. So Yellowstone is a super volcano, and last erupted 700,000 years ago. It could erupt again. We were constantly aware of how very thin the crust of the earth is here, and now we obliviously walk over the possibility of instant, painful death.

But oh, the combination of heat, and minerals creates some magnificent colors and an eerily beautiful landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

It is a beautiful hike, one of the best on our trip. It is worth finding a serene time to visit the Artist Paintpots.

Back in the car, we see a big jam of cars on the road, and people running. Anywhere else, you would think someone had a car accident, but in Yellowstone, a jam like that with people parking anywhere – sometimes just leaving their car in the middle of the road (!) means that some kind of game has been spotted. This time, it was a Mama Grizzly and her two cubs.

So many people! Many of them had powerful, huge lenses, and tripods. They were all set up to take photos when the bear would be in clear view. I just use a little Lumix with a big telephoto, and it takes surprisingly sharp photos, considering it has a very light and easily tucked-in-a-purse kind of body.

There was an empty place where no one wanted to be. We really just wanted to watch. (Yes, we had backed up to a real viewing point and parked legally. The rule is – or is supposed to be – that you are supposed to be outside the white line delineating the outer boundary of the road.

We watched the very placid sow dig up some roots, keeping an eye on the playful cubs.

 

 

 

 

I just got lucky. The bear and her cubs moved to directly in front of me. It’s . . .well, it’s like a God thing, if the photo is put right in front of you, you are meant to take it, right?

More and more people came. They were quiet and respectful of the bear, and of one another, but their parking was not respectful of the trucks and RVs that needed to get through. Soon, the park rangers arrived. We were told they can ticket anyone not parked outside the white lines, and that the fine is HUGE, but this is a tourist attraction, and the rangers we saw used good humor and persistence, and cajoled people into moving along and parking legally. We never saw anyone ticketed, and we also never saw anyone argue with a ranger.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Customer Service, Geography / Maps, Law and Order, Lumix, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Dunraven Pass, Tower Falls and Lamar Valley

Today we are headed north out of Canyon Village, through Dunraven Pass, which just opened a few days ago, up to Tower Falls and Roosevelt Lodge, and out to Lamar Valley. Lamar Valley is where after decades of killing wolves, wolves have been reintroduced and are rebalancing the Yellowstone ecosystem.

The early morning is cloudy and dark, we worry about ice on Dunraven Pass. We watch the temperatures drop below freezing as we head up, but soon we are safely on the other side. (We had snow on the way home, coming through the pass.)

Along the road – you have to keep your eyes open.

We took a short hike to the outlook over Tower Falls – it is an easy hike, and if you get there early enough, there is good parking. The General Store was not open, though, so we fixed apples and peanut butter for breakfast.

 

 

This is not a tour bus. This is a Yellow Cab, a special kind of tour vehicle that makes me smile every time I see it. I heard they stopped using them for a while, but they had so much appeal that the management brought them back. Good call!

 

Little deer jumping over a creek

Bison on the road at Slough Creek, one of our favorite haunts in Lamar Valley. Unpaved, but drivable. Rumored to be one or more wolf packs that hang out there, but we never saw them.

 

AdventureMan getting a snack at Slough Creek

AdventureMan loved these little rodents; they were everywhere.

 

It’s past noon and we head into Cooke City, outside the northeast entrance to the Park for a bite to eat. We find The Bistro, and I have a meal I love – trout, pan fried with garlic and parsley in butter. Simple, and so good. AdventureMan has the same meal, with fries. The Bistro also has burgers and salads, but we wanted trout.

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to think about dinner when you’ve just had a meal so satisfying, but we remember the horror show dinner of last night and decide to order food to take with us. AdventureMan goes to one restaurant for a chef’s salad, and I cross the street to Buns and Beds for an Italian Sandwich.

 

 

 

Next door is the Beartooth Cafe, a place I would love to try next time:

 

 

 

We buy some T-shirts for the grandchildren at the Yellowstone Trading Post, and they tell us we spent enough that we get to go in and see the wildlife exhibit. Someone has an amazing skill with taxidermy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have the National Parks Senior Pass? I think we paid $10 or $20 each to get one; you can get them when you turn 62, but now the price has gone up to $80. I still think it is a deal. If you have the pass, you have free entry into all the national parks – starting, for us, with Fort Pickens, here in Pensacola, and taking us to all these amazing places we’ve been going through the years. They pay for themselves quickly.

 

Leaving Cooke City

 

Heading back into Yellowstone through “Silver” pass:

 

 

Big horn sheep

Coyote running near Roosevelt Station

June 23, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Geography / Maps, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Old Faithful to Canyon Village via Grant Village and Lake Village

Have I told you how great AdventureMan is? We’ve had a terrible night’s sleep, but he is awake at six and says “Let’s go.” He knows I really want to see the Grand Prismatic Spring, but it is one of the major attractions in the park, and is bound to be crowded if we go later. It is also back the way we came, not the way we are going, but he is game, and off we go.

I try not to go into a trip with high expectations; I try to sort of let the trip expand before me, but I really wanted to see the Grand Prismatic Spring. I am really into color, and just look at this colors! Go on the internet and see the colors!

But the first thing we see when we get to the Midway Geyser Basin, where the Grand Prismatic Spring resides, is something spectacular that is not the Grand Prismatic Spring. (Remember about letting the trip unfold before you?) This is Excelsior Geyser, glorious in the morning sun. We were mesmerized.

 

It is a bitterly chill morning, and the steam is everywhere. There are two other couples in this huge area, so essentially, we have this gorgeous area all to ourselves.

 

The “hike” is along a frosty boardwalk, and it is a sweet sunny morning. We come next to the Turquoise Pool:

 

So we are shooting across it, there is steam everywhere, and it is impossible to get a photo that will show you how impressive the colors are, but the pond is, indeed, very turquoise.

So remember the beautiful info sheet I showed you on Grand Prismatic Spring? This is what we could capture:

You can see how large it CAN be, but this is not Disney-does-Yellowstone, this is the real world, where life doesn’t always happen the way you want it to. I am disappointed, but oh my, Excelsior is a thrill (just to back to the Excelsior photo and see why I am so thrilled.)

There is a trail, only .6 mile, that starts at the Angel Falls Trailhead and takes you to an overlook of the Middle Geyser Basin, and maybe this would all be more impressive from there. AdventureMan asks if I want to go hike the trail and I say no, there is too much steam. Even from above, cold morning, hot steam, visibility is poor. We’re coming back next year, maybe I can hike it then on a different day and get a different result.

As we cross the bridge, I see that the cold air is showing up a variety of hot springs going into the freezing river.

The river goes pretty fast at this time of year, swollen by snow melt. I wonder what it is like to swim this river in the summer months?

Just to keep you up to speed, we are leaving Old Faithful, headed toward Grant Village, then up to Lake Village, then to Canyon Village, where the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is.

 

Just past Old Faithful, heading across the Continental Divide is Kepler Cascades:

We head across Craig Pass (elevation 8262) to Isa Lake and we have high snow on both sides of the road. We only see a couple trucks the entire drive. This road has only been open to traffic for a couple days. Yellowstone National Park has a website where you can keep track of which roads are open and which are not. It matters.

This is from Wikipedia on Continental Divide:

A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea, and the basin on the other side either feeds into a different ocean or sea, or else is endorheic, not connected to the open sea. Every continent on earth except Antarctica which has no free-flowing water has at least one continental drainage divide; islands, even small ones like Killiniq Island on the Labrador Sea in Canada, may also host part of a continental divide or have their own island-spanning divide.

You may not think it is important now, but one day you may come to a continental divide sign and wonder what exactly it means. It means on one side, water flows in a different direction, to a different outcome, than on the other side.

We crossed the continental divide several times, twice on this same road and then again later.

By this point it was only around 8:30 in the morning, but we had been hiking, and in and out of the car, and it was really cold out. There were piles of snow taller than me by far in the parking lots. Can you see what a beautiful day we are having? We get to Grant Village and start looking for a place to eat. We find the Lake House Restaurant. Inside, it looks like this:

Wow, huh? Those very high ceilings, all that glass looking out at a spectacular view. The staff is all recruited from across the USA, and some from other countries, too. Our first waiter was of Arab descent. So fabulous physical setting and really helpful, energetic, patient (dealing with a lot of foreign visitors who spoke little English, didn’t understand the procedures, maybe didn’t understand the currency) and kind staff. I think that a lot of their customers don’t tip, but the staff gives the same wonderful service to everyone. The food wasn’t anything to remember, but they had great coffee, great service, a lovely facility and a drop-dead gorgeous view.

Above is before the haze blew away. Below is after. Wow.

I’m going to bore you with four photos of Lake Yellowstone that I just love. I just loved this drive. It reminded me of places in Alaska, where I grew up. There is still ice on the lake, although it is breaking up.

 

 

 

We see lots of cars with boats on trailers in this area; I love boating and fishing, and I cannot imagine this is a good time of the year to be fishing, but I could be wrong. It must be REALLY cold out on the water.

We head up through Lake Village, which has two beautiful lodges and a camp ground. I cannot tell you from personal experience, but reviews had all said the Lake Hotel has the best Lodge food on Yellowstone. This is what ThrillList has to say:

The Lake Hotel

If money is no object and you’re looking for absolute class, anyone who knows anything will tell you to go to the Lake Hotel. Breakfast and lunch are first come, first served, but reserve in advance for dinner, when you can go for fresh fish or bison but also lobster florentine or Montana wagyu beef, depending on the mood.

In addition, ThrillList recommends that you do a lot of picnics – the prepared food you buy in Yellowstone National Park restaurants is not that good, and it is expensive.

From Lake Village, we head north through Hayden Village towards Canyon Village and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. You are paralleling the Yellowstone River all the way. We stopped a couple times, once for bear and once to view the Sulphur Cauldron / Mud Volcano. It smells like fire and brimstone!

June 23, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Food, Random Musings, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel, Weather | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Entering Yellowstone National Park – A Day of Thrills

You know I am a map lady, and a navigator. Being a map lady is really helpful when you discover that in spite of the fact that you downloaded all the relevant maps (you thought) into your smart phone, there are times the smart phone won’t show you the next section of the map in the detail you need. This is our plan for today, with a side trip up to Norris Geyser Basin, which I really want to see.

We love our car. We rented from Enterprise, and when we got there, they gave us a little SUV, not unlike our own cars back home, and it was plenty of room, very comfortable, and all wheel drive. Our only tiny criticism of this car is that the turning radius is not that of a Rav4. We are spoiled. We love being able to turn on a dime.

There is one other little thing. You know there is a thing, in Seattle and in Montana . . . a thing about Californians. When the Californians leave California because housing prices and taxes are too high, they move to Seattle and to Montana, and then the housing prices start going higher in those places and the Californians get the blame.

For example, when we got to the South 9th Bistro, in Bozeman, we weren’t sure it was OK to park where we parked, so we asked the head waitress if it was OK. She said it was, and I said “well, our rental has a California plate,” and she gasped, then said “I think you’ll be OK,” and we both laughed. The point is, if you have a California plate, you need to be a little more careful. It’s just the way it is.

We didn’t hurry to hit the road this morning, as it is only a short drive to our next overnight, and we are feeling relaxed.

Marriages are funny. You don’t know what you don’t know when you get married. I thought every family travelled like my family, i.e. you get up really early and hit the road and drive a few hours and then stop for breakfast at some rest stop along the autobahn, then you get back in the car and drive more hours until the next meal or Dad has to gas up the car and then you drive more until you get “there.”

My husband was all about stopping all the time to enjoy a view or stretch or have a soda, and by the end of the day were often weren’t “there” yet and had to keep driving, making us both cross. Sometimes we were barely speaking by the end of the day.

After much soul searching, we slowly through the years adopted new, better practices. Now our phrase is “Shorter Days, Longer Stays.” It seems to be working.

We headed straight back to Feed for breakfast. It was phenomenal. AdventureMan had biscuits and gravy with a hit of eggs on top and the best fried potatoes ever. I had an omelette, and grilled toast. Total Wow.

 

Leaving Bozeman, we followed Highway 191 down to the West Entrance of Yellowstone, and before we even reached the entrance to the park, the great adventure began.

This was sheer good luck. I had my camera ready to take a photo as we drove by and just by chance caught a group of white water kayakers and rafters on their own grand adventure.

 

Not long later, we had to stop. There were bison on the road, with bison babies (probably called calfs) and they were huge, and not the least bit interested in us.

 

 

There was quite a line at the West Entrance – it was the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. I imagine the lines only get worse as the season goes forward.  We headed for the Artist Paintpots, and were heartsick when we saw the parking lot full and people parking outside the parking lot all over the place, and buses and people rushing as if they might never get another chance to see the paint pots. We really wanted to see them too, but we were spending several days in the park, and we knew we had time.

We headed on to Norris Geyser Basin, which for me, was one of the highlights of the day. First, there weren’t a lot of people, and most of the people there were hiking the much shorter Porcelain Basin, while we were hiking the Back Basin. It was mostly all boardwalk, with a considerable number of stairs near Steamboat Geyser and some woody trails coming back. In between are some of the most desolate, eerie, and fascinating natural wonders I have ever seen.

Steamboat Geyser was the most fun. We must have spent 45 minutes there, while the geyser spurted and gurgled and growled and totally teased us into believing it was going to erupt full scale, but it never did. We were told we were lucky to see it so active, but it reminded us of Africa were the tourists are constantly told how lucky they are, that this is a very rare sighting. You get a little skeptical after a while. I already felt lucky enough, watching boiling hot water bubbling out of the earth.

Here is something I took very seriously.

 

It’s hard to show you how spectacular this scenery is with a static photo. Please imagine the steam coming sizzling hot out of the ground and drifting up. Imagine acres of steam coming out of the ground.

 

Emerald Spring

 

Steamboat Geyser

 

 

 

 

 

Look at those colors! Bacteria that thrive in the unimaginable hot temperatures create rainbow like colors, some all reds and oranges and yellows, some all greens and blues and purples, all, for people who are addicted to color, irresistible.

 

 

Below is the Porcelain Basin walk, much shorter.

 

 

 

 

We left en route to the Old Faithful area, trying one more time to get into Artist’s Paintpots, but the parking, it is hard to believe, was even worse! We continued on.

We found a one way side road along the Firehole River, which was a lot of fun. We always love the side roads.

The Firehole River is wild. It is pounding hard as the mountain snow cover melts, but it is also fed by the natural hot springs along its bank. In warmer times of the year, people are actually allowed to swim in this river, but you have to be careful. You can be comfortable and then suddenly find yourself in very hot water (not just a figure of speech.)

Our last stop before getting to the Old Faithful Inn was the Black Sand Basin, and Spouter Geyser.

 

 

Spouter Geyser

One really nice thing about our National Parks – at just about every stop, there are restrooms. Some are more primitive that others, some are long drops, but most are fairly clean and supplied.

June 22, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Environment, Geography / Maps, Marriage, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment