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Yellowstone National Park

Flying the Edge of America

Saturday, July 12, 2008: Yellowstone National Park

On the way to Yellowstone

We left Glacier International airport bright and early to ensure we caught the cold morning air and bright blue skies for our flight to West Yellowstone airport. I was a little worried about this flight as it was over high terrain all of the way, but we had perfect weather for it and the flight went exactly to plan.

Julia posing next to an artistically decorated bison which was distributed all around town

To avoid the high ground I tracked a course via all the valleys I could find. The scenery between Glacier and Yellowstone is truly fantastic and more than I imaged we would see on this trip. The USA has to have the most beautiful countryside in the whole world. I do not say this lightly as I have seen a lot of beautiful countryside in other countries. Every county has something to offer, but the USA has it all from deserts to snow capped mountains and almost everything in between; it is really hard to compete with the natural beauty of the USA.

Our motel room was very nice and made us feel like we were in a home instead of a motel as it had a kitchen. We were able to buy groceries and cook our own food. Not since our camping in California and Oregon have we been able to treat ourselves to home cooking.

Flight to Yellowstone

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The view as you enter the park

We arose with the sun this morning. We were very excited about seeing and hiking the Yellowstone park. After breakfast we were on the road about 9:00 a.m. and as our motel is just outside the west park entrance we soon found ourselves surrounded by Yellowstone's natural beauty.

The chick being attended to by mom

It was going to be a hot day so we decided to do our nine mile hike in the morning while the air was still cool. We headed out on the Mallard Creek trail which is in the Old Faithful park area. About ten minutes into our hike we came across a Bald Eagle nest resting atop a tall dead pine tree. We first sighted the chick only but on our return we got to see both parents too; a truly wonderful experience.

Good Old Faithful.

The hike took us through some of the burnt out pine forest, now regenerating. We walked on crushed volcanic pumice-stone, which had the consistency of dead coral, and black volcanic glass scattered all along our path. These were all reminders that Yellowstone Park is the top of the world's largest subterranean and active super volcano.

From our hike it was a quick trip to visit Old Faithful which went off right on time as predicted by the park rangers. Much water was squirted into the air to the pleasure and gasps of the gathered crowds.

first day in Yellowstone Park

Monday, July 14, 2008

Our humble abode

We got really hot on our hike yesterday so we decided to hike later in the afternoon; this would give us cooler air to hike in and a better chance to see the wild life as they tend to be more visible at dawn and dusk. Julia also was ravaged by mosquitoes on our hike yesterday.

Yellowstone River cascade

Their bites did not make themselves felt until the next day but Julia had been bitten all over her ears and scalp; very nasty. So the first order of business after breakfast was to find a sporting shop and buy personal mosquito nets, which we did. After eating a lunch of buffalo burgers we were back on the road in the park headed for the Canyon region.

Colorful palette of the canyon

After speaking with a ranger yesterday the Canyon region sounded like a real wonderland, and it was. We hiked for about ten miles. The walk took us down into the canyon and along both banks. This exposed us to many waterfalls and spectacular scenery. On the final park of the hike we left the river and hiked into the back country were the scenery changed dramatically back to a more volcanic one with bubbling mud pools and smoking sulfurous gas vents.

Julia looking at bison

Plus we were mobbed by mosquitoes again. There were hundreds of hungry bitters all drawn to us by their inferred, and Julia tells me, carbon dioxide detectors but this time completely thwarted by our netting and insecticides. The scenery changed again to open green and lush pastures filled with herds of roaming bison.

We were now bathed in the gorgeous late afternoon light and treated to the scent of wild flowers which covered the pastures and surrounded us with color.

Canyon Hike Video

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Julia on the Beaver Ponds hike

It had to happen, we were grounded by the weather; our cruel mistress. Our plan was to leave Yellowstone on Thursday but our mistress had other plans. However, if you were to be stuck somewhere I could not think of a better place than Yellowstone National Park.

Julia with a beaver dam in the background

Today we drove to Mammoth in the northern part of the park. While at Mammoth we hiked the Beaver Ponds trail. It is surprising to me that every time we walk in Yellowstone we encounter very different terrain and scenery. It also seems that each walk we do just gets better and more beautiful; how can this be? The Beaver Ponds hike climbed slowly up wooded hills and surrounded us by magnificent wild flowers. The views in this area of the park were reminiscent of Northern California our home; brown rolling hills but covered with thick sage bushes and every color of wild flower. We finally reached the beaver ponds which other hikers we met assured us they had seen beavers swimming in.

These other hikers also assured us they had spotted a bear, just in front of where Julia and I were walking. As for us we did not see anything but a baby rattle snake which Julia almost stood on.

Beaver Ponds Video

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Today we had a day of rest. We hung around the town of West Yellowstone, went to the IMAX Theater, ate lunch, and kept our eye on the weather forecast. It looks like the weather will give us a window to leave on Saturday, let's hope.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More wildflowers

We hiked up 2,000 feet to the top of Mt. Washburn which is in the Tower-Roosevelt section of the park. It was a very pleasant hike up a steep switchback fire access road that led to the fire observation tower at the top of the mountain.

At the top of the park

Along the way we were treated to the fragrant smells of wildflowers as the wind blew up the side of the steep hills which were covered with them. At the top we had a great view of most of the park. As we started back down the trail we came across a red-tailed hawk perched on a rock. After the hike we drove the northeast section of the park on our way back to the motel.

This area of the park is noted for its wolves so we stopped regularly to scan the open terrain in hopes of spotting the elusive animal; but alas we did not see one. It rained heavily on the back with much thunder and lighting.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Julia surrounded once more by wildflowers

Our hike today was our last hike in the wonderful Yellowstone National Park for this trip. We drove to the southeastern section of the park which is where the Yellowstone Lake is. This lake is huge and is the power source behind the Yellowstone River which carved out the Yellowstone Canyon. Our hike followed the river for three miles to the Hardy Rapids the first of many white water sections in the river.

We were advised by a ranger to watch out for bears as there had been many sightings. It was an extremely divine walk. We saw many bear droppings on the trail, a heard of elk, three bison, but no bears. They must have been close but they did not reveal themselves to us.

Once back at the motel we checked the weather and it looks like we will be leaving tomorrow morning to continue our trip around the USA. Next stop is Billings Montana for a one night then on to Rapid City and Mt. Rushmore.

Wayward Bison Video

Trip stats

Obama:11

McCain: 1

Miles Hiked: 83

Miles Flown: 1,736 States Visited: 5


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