Saturday, July 7, 2012

Geezers, bears, mud and stuff in Yellowstone.

Before you read this I would like to say that I make no apologies for such a long entry or for all the photos. There are literally hundreds more to see if you follow the picasa link.

Miles City to Yellowstone.......

After my excellent night in the cabin in Miles City, I woke up and left about 10am. It was another reasonably long drive west and then south to Yellowstone. I was really surprised by the surroundings of Montana. It’s beautiful. Some of it is much like a desert and other parts have sandstone peaks and strange formations much like those in Cappadocia in Turkey. But running through the middle of the desert is a river which creates a Green zone around it. A lush oasis where plants trees and of course, humans congregate. It’s beautiful and I found a great spot to look down over it. I also saw signs warning of rattlesnakes, but didn’t see any actual snakes.

After a lunch stop I headed south and took a little detour to the town of Joliet. This place has more roadside attractions – This time a local artist has created sculptures out of steel. These are really fascinating pieces of art though and include a 20 foot high zombie as well as 3 petrol pumps, sitting around a bonfire enjoying a beer – that is so cool! I had a good look around the town and spotted a few cowboys too before continuing on my way south.

It was a bright morning.... no snakes though.

Beers around the fire!

The back of the zombie!

A lovely afternoon

Arriving in Yellowstone

I drove a bit of country road as I headed south, getting enveloped in dust clouds from passing trucks, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a Clint Eastwood lookalike, riding his horse along the ridges of the hills that shadowed the road. It really is the wild-west out here and I love it. I stopped a few times to take in the sights and enjoy the sunshine.

Eventually, I hit the town of Cody – I won’t say much about it now as I’m passing through again in a few days, but it is the home of Buffalo Bill and has a few good things to see later in the week. I took the Yellowstone road and had a quick pit stop at the Buffalo Bill Dam before finally reaching Yellowstone Park late in the afternoon.

It’s a big place and I still had a 50 mile drive to my campsite. On the way I stopped at a couple of viewpoints over Yellowstone Lake and also when I spotted some Bison enjoying the refreshing water of a small lake. There are warnings of Grizzly bears on every track and notice board, but I haven’t seen any yet!!
Night one around the campfire

One of the geysers

Me and  morning glory

Plume Geyser

Old faithful....fffffffhhhttt!

Finally, I made it to the Grant Campsite and found my spot – E153, where I set up my (Buffy’s) tent and went for a tour of the area. It’s right next to the lake and has stunning views and a small beach too. Along the way there is a small shop and a cafe, plus the lodges where I found an electrical outlet I can use to charge my camera and phone. I had a good shower and am now sat next to my campfire (Can one person sit AROUND a campfire?) and am enjoying a beer that is being chilled by free ice, ‘borrowed’, from the lodge. I really like it here so far and can’t wait to have a proper look around over the next few days.

Well after a good night’s sleep – actually a little too good – I was planning on getting up at about 8, but slept in till nearly half 9 – I woke up to a cloudy and cooler day. I started the day off at the nearest Geyser.  (For all you North Americans out there, Geyser is pronounced exactly the same as Geezer – Not as the spams say – Geyser (sounding like EYE) Dicks. It just happened that the nearest one to my campsite is ‘Old Faithful’, so I stopped there to find out I had an hour till the next expected blowout. I decided on a walk up the boardwalks to see some of the other Geysers and hot pools that lie around the area – such as ‘Morning Glory Pool, Plume Geyser, Heart Spring and lots of other such names. In fact there are hundreds if not thousands of them, but they all have their own characteristics. Geysers that blow every few minutes, hot pools with crystal clear waters in varying colours – greens, reds and yellows, dependant on what chemicals are abundant and what the public has done (If the public throw things in, the pools get clogged up and cool down, changing colour). I saw some stunning sights as Geysers blew and pools bubbled all around. My favourites though were the little pools and geysers, some with no names, which range from the size of a teacup to a sink. These little fellas are close than the big ones and some are directly under the paths, so that you can see right down into them.
I returned to see Old Faithful erupt right on time at 1152, but was a little disappointed, as it is a cloudy day and the grey plume was almost invisible with the grey background. Small ones are better!

I then drove north, stopping to see more pools and Geysers at various spots along the way and even seeing a bubbling hot pool of mud as ‘Artists Paintpot’. I looked at my watch and saw that I had been out for over 5 hours and had seen hundreds of differing thermal things. But by now I was getting tired, not only of all the walking, but once you have seen 100 geysers and pools of bubbling boiling water, they all start to look the same. The weather gods agreed with me as just then it started to rain and so I hopped into the car and drove around to the nearest lodge and cafe, where I sat in a cool 1950’s style diner and had some dinner. That is where I still am now, looking out of the window waiting for the rain to stop.

The rain did stop, but only after I got back to the campsite. On the way home I pulled over again and had a really nice wander in the rain around the mud volcano and some more sulphur spouting mud pools, before finally heading back to the tent for a mellow night in front of the bonfire (I had stored dry wood in the boot of the car just in case of rain) and then a good night’s sleep.


Sapphire pool



Night time by the lake

My 2nd and last full day in Yellowstone started early – real early. I had been awake since about 5am and decided to get up and head out just after 6. It was a great decision as the roads were clear and within a mile I had spotted some Elk feasting right by the road, before passing a few Bison later on. There was hardly any traffic about and with a low mist covering the road it was an exciting and chilly morning.

I suddenly found myself above the mist and fog though as I rounded a corner on the side of a mountain. The views over the plains and hills were spectacular and with the mist reminded me a little of Mt Huangshan in China (Not for the last time today...). I continued my drive north though and eventually reached my destination, ‘Mammoth Hot Springs’ just about 8am. This is a hot spring which has left Calcite deposits all over the ground, building up over thousands of years and creating what looks like a winter wonderland, but is in fact a hot, boiling, steaming waterfall which cascades over the cliffs. There is also the spring itself, which is a deep red in parts and flows just under the boardwalk – close enough to touch if you dare – but I didn’t due to the warning signs stating – Very Hot – Will scald!

Morning mist

Bison having Breakfast

Above the clouds

Mammoth hot springs

Really hot!

A straggly wolf?

Back in the car I started back south and found a track leading away from the main road, so I took that for a while coming across some little critters staring at me from the road and hiding just out of reach as I stopped to look at them. When I made it back to the main road I was caught up in traffic which had stopped for no apparent reason – but the reason appeared as it ran between two cars and passed right by me – what looked like a straggly wolf, trying to get away from all the attention.

Just a mile or so along the road I stopped completely as the traffic built up again. I had nowhere to go and so this time I parked up and went to see what was causing the hold up. It was a bear and her cub, frolicking in the field next to the road, eating grass and with the cub climbing trees. There were loads of people trying to get photos and the rangers intervened to move some people back when they got too close. We sat and watched for ages as the two bears enjoyed their breakfast and meandered back and forth along the field. I moved my car half a mile or so and then went back just as the bear got really close to the road and the rangers started to usher people into their cars for safety, but there was really no danger as the bear headed back into the woods with her cub.

Theres a bear over there...



Theres the bear!

My next stop was at The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone – a stunning canyon with not one but two waterfalls – the upper falls falling about 40metres and the lower falls falling 93 metres. The lower falls are spectacular, with a permanent rainbow in the mist and Uncle Toms Walkway, which leads down the side of the cliff face to a viewpoint just in front of them. There were so many different viewpoints for the two falls you could stay all day moving from one to the other and the steps up and down once again reminded me of Huangshan. Especially when my knees started to play up again I decided it was time for a break and headed to the Canyon Lodge again, where I could get out of the hot hot sun and get a cool drink. It’s now 4pm and I have been going since just after 6am this morning – a long but brilliant day. 

That was 2 hours ago and was supposed to be the end of the days blog – But on the way home there was more traffic and next to the road, mellowing out in the shade of a tree, was a huge Bull Elk, with antlers about 6 feet long. That should have been it for the day, but a few minutes later the traffic slowed again, but this time instead of something by the road there was something ON the road. A massive, fully grown Bison was making his way along the centre on the road, staring into the windows of the cars as they sat there wondering what to do about this 3 tonne beast, which could make this a very bad day for them. He seemed to love it and almost walked with a swagger towards me and my car, before kindly moving onto the side of the road before passing by me. It made me laugh as not more than half a mile away, there were hundreds of tourists straining through binoculars and cameras at some bison in a meadow about 800 metres from them and here was I with one brushing up against the car.

Lower falls in the Grand Canyon

Some bloke 

Panorama of the falls

If he hadnt bought and Ipad, he would be able to afford a real camera!

I’m now back in camp and that really is it for the day. A shower and a read around the campfire tonight I think before heading off Eastwards tomorrow morning.

Yellowstone – what to say about it? I don’t really know. There is so much to see and do here and all of it is just nature at its best. The thermal features like the Geysers and hot pools and springs are amazing and since its all on top of a huge volcano they are constantly changing and surprising everyone. The views are stunning – from the Mountains, lakes and rivers to the forest and waterfalls of the Grand Canyon – all amazing. Then the wildlife – How many times have you seen a bear, a wolf and then an Elk and a Bison all within a few feet of you within a couple of miles of road? Plus there are birds, fish and loads of little creatures like prairie dogs and chipmunks everywhere to look at.

Elk!! Having a break

Me. Having a break by the Yellowstone river

Haahaa What the fuck!

Please dont hit the car....

The word I will use to describe Yellowstone has been used far too much in normal life for the last few years, but this is using it in its proper way – with the full meaning of the word. There is only one word to describe Yellowstone National Park. AWESOME, 

If you want to see more then as I say, just click the link for picasa and look for week 14 - the photos are all there!!

Phew  - He missed me!

The river.

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