Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More Of Us In Yellowstone National Park

Robert and I are still reminiscing about our trip to Yellowstone National Park. It seems like it was just yesterday…actually, it was only last week, but it was just one more great adventure in our lives that we will still be talking about years from now. Our life seems truly blessed at the moment.

Rae (left) in West Yellowstone

Robert and Rae (at right) at the Outpost Restaurant in West Yellowstone

Robert (below) looking for wildlife

Robert filling up inside the Park. Gas was $3.99/gal. Cheaper inside the Park than in West Yellowstone.

Us at Yellowstone Lake - 46-degrees

Rae (above) and Robert (below) at
the Wolf Pack Brewing Co. in
West Yellowstone

Robert (right) in the lobby of the Old Faithful Lodge.

Rae (below) inside the lobby of Old Faithful Lodge.

Robert and Rae await the eruption of OldFaithful Geyser.

Robert and Rae at Old Faithful.

Robert checking out the geysers at Norris Basin

Rae at Steamboat Geyser

The stone arch at the North Entrance to the park was created in 1903. The bison in Lamar Valley looked at us as if he was about to charge our car. Thankfully he didn't.

Robert has a bit of fun with the video camera.

Lunch time !

Another photo stop, this time in Lamar Valley.

Rae at Firehouse Falls

Robert and Rae at Calcite Springs Overlook

Welcome to Grand Tetons National Park! Both pictures below were taken at the Jackson Point Overlook.

Potty break for Robert !

Grand Teton National Park

Monday, June 13, 2011

Goodbye Yellowstone, Hello Grand Tetons...and Home (Days 5 and 6)

June 10, 2011

Day 5 had us entering Yellowstone at about 7 am. We said our goodbyes to our Bald Eagle and made a few more stops to get some last minute pictures. There seemed to be alot more snow than the day before, but it was a sunny and beautiful day, although it was cold! (32-degrees).

It took us only a few hours to reach the Tetons. The wildlife wasn't as abundant as Yellowstone, but we did see some bison and elk. We'd hope to see a wolf or moose, but it wasn't to be this trip.

We stopped at the overlooks at Jackson Point and Signal Mountain Summit, took a few photos, and then continued on to the Visitor’s Center. In many of the photos I see of Grand Teton National Park there is an old wood barn. The ranger at the Visitor’s Center directed us to Antelope Flat Road.

On the way to the barn, we stopped several times to take pictures of the mountains. I think Robert was getting irritated, because I kept asking him to stop every five minutes, but he would always stop and wait in the car while I snapped away. He’s so patient.

When we reached the barn there were several photographers already set up with their telephoto lenses. Under one of the buildings, a coyote had made her den. Three coyote pups were sleeping in the grass, but I couldn’t really get any good photos. We watched the sleeping pups for a bit, but then it was back on the road.

Heading out of Grand Teton, we took some back roads to traverse new territory. Eventually we reached Interstate 80, which took us to the 15 towards home. However, we had one more destination stop to make...Cabelas in Lehi, Utah!

Total Mileage: 459.2 miles.

June 11, 2011

Day 6

We got a later start than usual, because Cabelas didn’t open until 8am and since we were shacking up in the Super 8 just down the street, it would take us only a few minutes to get there. No reason to get up early! During our honeymoon, we stopped at Cabelas in Mitchell, South Dakota, so on our way to Yellowstone we agreed to stop in Lehi on our way back.
All I wanted was an elk sandwich and Robert a coffee pot, but three hours later when we finally had the willpower to exit the store, our arms were full of bags. Fun times.
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It was 93-degrees when we crossed into Nevada and another time change. Las Vegas was still dirty and we stopped only long enough to gas up and at about 4:40pm, Hello California! Another quick stop for fuel in Barstow and then HOME!

Total Mileage: 728.3 miles.

To see more of my photography from Yellowstone, visit my gallery. Comments are welcomed.

Our Adventures in Yellowstone Continue (Days 3 and 4)

June 8, 2011

Day 3 started with a quick trip to the grocery store and at 8:10am we were flashing our Annual Parks Pass at the entrance gate. Our Bald Eagle was in the same spot so we stopped to get some more pictures. We didn’t notice until after we got back into our car, that the traffic ahead of us had stopped, because a herd of bison was meandering across the road.

We’d get stuck in several bison traffic jams throughout the park. It’s not like they will move for you. You have to wait for them, but we didn’t mind these kinds of traffic jams so much. We got lots of pictures and video. The bison passed so close that I could have reached out the window and touched them, but I chose not to. They are quite intimidating creatures when they are only two feet away!

Did some hiking around Norris Geyser Basin, saw a couple of coyote, a herd of elk, more bison, and had a lunch of bagels w/cream cheese all within three hours of entering the park. Afterwards we visited Mammoth Hot Springs and bought more souvenirs, saw some more elk, and headed to the North Entrance to see the stone arch.

The stone arch was fantastic. The arch was built in 1903 to welcome visitors into Yellowstone. I’ve seen pictures of Teddy Roosevelt standing next to it when he dedicated the park. Now I have pictures of Robert and I standing next to it, some 100+ years later. Very cool.

More rain, more buffalo, more elk…the wildlife was never-ending, especially in Lamar Valley. Got stuck in another bison traffic jam and found some huge antlers near Pebble Creek. We were reluctant to take the antlers, but some guys saw us with them and said if we didn’t want them, they’d take them. I knew that they would take them out of the park. My idea was to take them to a ranger’s station and let them have them, so we stuck them in the back of the Honda.

We continued with our sightseeing, but as we drove we were plagued with the most horrific smell! I blamed Robert and he blamed the many geysers we’d past, but eventually we figured it out. It was the antlers!

Somewhere near Dunraven Pass, we stopped and Robert chucked them far out over the embankment so no one else would be tempted to take them. I guess that’s why we found them so easily in the first place. Someone else probably dumped them, because they stunk up their car.

Dinner that night was at Bullwinkles. I had a delicious meal of Rainbow Trout and Robert had Bison Meatloaf. We had a good laugh during our meal with a couple of ladies next to us. They were from Australia and had trouble figuring out our currency system. They didn’t know which coins were nickels and which were dimes.

Total mileage: 203.7 miles.

June 9, 2011

Day 4 started out cold: 37-degrees and raining. It was a short day of sightseeing, but a fantastic one nevertheless. We spent a couple of hours at Old Faithful watching the geyser spew 130-feet into the air, souvenir shopping, eating, and exploring.

We’d seen lots of elk, but none as beautiful as this (see pic at end of blog). He had a huge rack still covered in velvet and he wasn’t afraid of the people crowding around him to take his picture. We drove away as the crowds became ridiculous once again…

...And then there it was along the shores of Yellowstone Lake. A sight I will never forget: A GRIZZLY BEAR! I think I started to cry. He was foraging in a field, aware that a crowd reminiscent of those at a Chargers/Raiders football game was forming, but not caring in the least. And I thought bison caused a big traffic jam! Wow. Eventually, several rangers came to manage the situation. That’s exactly what it was too, a situation. People were screaming with excitement, cars were parked in the middle of the street, and the big camera lenses were out in force!

Robert watched through his binoculars and I through my telephoto lens. At one point, I was looking through my viewfinder thinking, “I’m getting some great shots” but what I didn’t realize was I was getting great shots, because the bear was getting so close! I mentioned this to Robert and he had thought the same thing. Great minds think alike.

Park rules state we’re supposed to stay at least 100-yards from the bear, but as he foraged he came probably within 60-70 yards. It was then I realized that the only thing separating me from ‘death by bear’ was a fresh-faced kid in a Park Ranger uniform holding a can of bear spray. I overheard him saying that last year a bear charged the crowd and he had to deploy his bear spray. He said that’s what saved them. OMG! That was about the time I started moving back to the safety of the cars.

I overheard another tourist say to leave your cars unlocked, because if the bear charged and the crowd scattered, he was jumping into the nearest vehicle. It didn’t quite come to that, as the bear eventually moved away as his foraging took him into the opposite direction of us.

In the past, if you’d had asked me what one of my biggest fears were, I would have said “Grizzly Bears,” but as I watched, it wasn’t fear I felt, but amazement. I was awe-struck by his beauty in the way he moved, the expression in his eyes. I will never forget that moment, standing there watching him watching us. Truly amazing.

After our bear encounter, we headed to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. After snapping a bunch of pictures and enjoying the views, we headed out of the park. The Bald Eagle still perched high on his tree watching all the cars pass by, the occupants totally unaware that he was even there.

Total mileage: 136.2

To see more of my photography from Yellowstone, visit my gallery. Comments are welcomed.

Yellowstone Here We Come! (Days 1 and 2)

June 6, 2011

Normally waking up at 4am puts me in a bad mood because that’s the time the alarm starts it’s morning shrill, but not this time. We actually woke up well before that and we weren’t headed to work. Today we would follow the long white line of the highway towards Yellowstone National Park.

Day 1 reminded me of the song “…and the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round….” It was a long day of traveling, 895.9 miles to be exact. We said goodbye to the cat at 4:45am and into the dark we drove, well, Robert drove. I slept.

An uneventful day as we stuck to the freeways to make good time.

Las Vegas sucked as usual, a time change as we crossed into Utah, weather got a bit yucky (WINDY!) as we cruised through Provo, hit some rain as we headed into beautiful Idaho, and arrived at our first day’s destination around 8pm.

We stayed at the Riverside Hot Springs Inn in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. The hotel was old and the floor squeaked with every step, but it was cozy. I’m sure it was haunted, but I was too tired to do any ghost hunting.

Shortly after we arrived, we soaked in the mineral hot springs in the basement of the hotel. The hot water helped Robert relax after a long day of driving, but the water was too hot for me. I emerged looking like a tomato.

A rough night of slumber in a strange place and off again we went the following morning.

June 7, 2011

Day 2 was a much better traveling day. We checked out at about 8am, took a quick tour of the town, and off we went. Didn’t take long for it to start raining again, pretty heavy rain as we drove through St. Anthony…and cold too (37-degrees)!

As we passed into Montana our excitement level started to rise and at 11:07am, welcome to West Yellowstone! Check-in at the Brandin' Iron Inn wasn’t until 3pm, so we had a quick bite at the Outpost Restaurant and at exactly 12:12pm, we entered Heaven, otherwise known at Yellowstone National Park!

Less than 15 minutes into the park, we saw a bald eagle and a herd of bison. We knew it was going to be a great day to see wildlife... and it was. We would actually see the bald eagle several times during our trip as we entered/exited the park. He kind of became our welcoming committee.

Our plan was to get off the pavement and do some hiking, but the weather wasn’t very conducive for that. There was lots of snow still on the ground and it rained quite a bit during our trip. We even hit some snow flurries, but we did do some short walks through some of the geyser areas.

We walked the Fountain Paint Pot Loop in Lower Geyser Basin and got some great pictures, picked up some souvenirs at Grant Village (46-degrees) and at about 3pm we saw our first BEAR! Oh, she was pretty, with a big sunspot on her shoulder.

When there were more than two or three cars parked along the road, we usually saw wildlife, mainly elk or bison. But when there was a traffic jam, we knew it was more than an elk. And it was. The Black Bear was oblivious to the throngs of people snapping its picture. It was moving parallel to the road and eventually went back into the forest. I can get a bit excited and I think I might have exclaimed, “Holy shit, it’s a bear!”

At exactly 7:47pm, we would see the 2nd of three bears during our trip. Another beautiful black bear, but the people were completely out of control and I got rather upset. There was a group of Japanese tourists fresh off the tour bus who actually chased the bear while waving their little instamatic cameras. Really? Let’s chase a bear. I guess they forgot there were no fences separating them from the animals like at the zoos. The bear got spooked and ran up a hill and into the dense forest to safety. I half hoped the bear would charge and maybe eat one of the smaller ones running after him. Now that would make for some great photography!

Shortly after seeing the bear, we returned to West Yellowstone, checked into our hotel, and had dinner (pizza) at the Wolf Pack Brewing Co. It was a good day.

Total mileage: 355 miles.

To see more of my photography from Yellowstone, visit my gallery. Comments are welcomed.