Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yellowstone-Part II

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(Jan) This place is huge! There is just so much to see and do. Camping here has been great. Each campground in the Park is in a forest setting and we’ve stayed one night at Madison and the past four nights at Grant Village.

The wildlife in the park is abundant. Buffalo are so plentiful in the Hayden and Lamar Valleys that it is not 028unusual to see several hundred grazing in one spot. Often you can watch elk and deer as they graze near the road. We did have two different grizzly bear sightings yesterday. The first was on a hill above the road we were traveling. We saw it briefly before it bounding over the hill. The second sighting was a 2-3 year old male that we watched for 20 minutes as he ate berries and then meandered down to the river for a drink and a soak.

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Old Faithful Geyser is everyone's favorite as you can see from the crowds. This impressive geyser erupts every 55 to 75 minutes.28July 014 One of our favorite places to view the show is from the front porch balcony on the second floor of the Old Faithful Inn. This massive, impressive hotel was built in 1903 and is one of the few remaining log hotels in the country. 28July 023With it's four story four sided stone fireplace and unique log balconies lining the main lobby, it has been designated a historic Landmark.

The Falls on the Yellowstone River are also a ‘must see’. 28July 046 Upper Falls, which tumbles 109', is followed by Lower Falls plummeting 308' into the canyon below. Stunning views are offered in several spots on either side of the canyon and are worth the hike. 28July 051

28July 062We also visited Kepler Cascades and Virginia Cascades. Near Virginia Cascades is a favorite picnic stop for us that we found a couple of years ago. The winding stream in this lush meadow is an idyllic place.

The We011st Thumb Geyser Basin was a fun surprise. With a mile of Boardwalk along Yellowstone Lake and through many pools and springs, it is a fascinated glimpse at some very interesting thermal features. A leisurely morning was spent strolling through this wonderland however, we were absolutely amazed at these tourists! Despite numerous warning posted 016about the fragile landscape and boiling hot water, they were stepping off of the boardwalk to take pictures. There was a visible fault line near the edge where they were standing and it’s surprising that we didn’t see someone fall in!

28July 044 Driving through the park offers two mountain passes, Dunraven and Craig. Near Craig Pass the highway passes over the Continental Divide twice. At the West Divide there is lovely lake Isa, complete with beautiful lily pads, that is fed by a spring.

28July 055If you chose not to drive in Yellowstone, there are tour busses to use or these neat Yellowstone vehicles. The tops are canvas and can be rolled down in good weather.

Each village is Yellowstone has a Visitors Center or Ranger station. The Center at Canyon is new and very good. We especially liked the huge topographical map of the park that shows the caldera boundary and recent seismic activity. There’s also a good topographical map of Yellowstone Lake at the Fishing Bridge Center that shows the depth of the lake, crater locations and hydrothermal activity. 28July 082

What an amazing place! I’m sure it would take weeks to see just a portion of it but soon it will be time to move south to the Tetons.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Yellowstone National Park

(Chuck) We started working on reservations for YNP about a week ago. For those of you who know me, you know that I just hate reservations. Anyway, it became apparent to me that the only way we were going to stay in the park was to call and make a RESERVATION. With the first call we got a Saturday stay, the next day we got Tuesday, then Sunday, then Monday. Yesterday’s call finally got them consolidated in two campgrounds. The first day at Madison and Sunday – Wednesday at Grant which is in the southern part of the park. That works well, since we will be leaving by the south entrance and meeting Dean and Judy at Moran Junction about the 3rd of August.

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Yesterday we were caught in a huge Buffalo jam. It is apparently the start of the rut and the buffalo don’t find the need to move off the road very fast. In addition to that, many tourists will simply stop on the road and watch them. Not just stop, they will stop for quite a long time. As each car takes its turn stopping and taking photos, there is a huge Buffalo jam. The one we were in was several miles long and took at least an hour.

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On the left is Undine Falls and on the right is Tower Fall. Tomorrow we may get up to the Upper and Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River.

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This is LeHardys Rapids, We noticed that the Yellowstone River carries a lot more water in July than it did on our last visit which was in September. It is a large and powerful river.

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88burn The 1988 fires in Yellowstone burned 793,000 (about 36%) of the park’s 2,221,800 acres. It was a huge blow to the ecosystem, however it was a natural occurrence and it was actually healthy for the Park. New growth is evident in all areas of the burn. The new growth is very thick and in time larger trees will dominate and it will became a mature forest.

Tomorrow we will again get out to see the sights. Hopefully we will have some good animal photos, We did see a black bear and her two cubs at a distance but we have not seen a grizzly bear or moose in the park.

Over the years we have struggled with photo arrangements in the Blog. They seem to take a terribly long time to edit and re edit to present them in a pleasing fashon. Today's blog was written with Windows Live Writer. I had understood that it would lessen the flustration of composition. It did not seem to accomplish this. I will mess with it more and see if I can get some bugs out of it, we will see. Thank you for your patience.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cody, Wyoming

(Jan) We left our boondocking site SW of Buffalo Monday afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed our drive through Ten Sleep Canyon. It's a steep, switchback road heading down and we were grateful that we have an exhaust brake on our diesel truck to manage the 7 & 8 percent grades. The drive after Ten Sleep is mostly through arid ranch land dotted with several small interesting towns. We arrived in Cody, Wyoming by early evening.

Cody has been a very good stop for us. There are many things to do in this town and we have enjoyed many of them. So where have we been? The Buffalo Bill Historical Center, The Cody Dam, the Gun Fight at the Irma Hotel, strolling on Main Street and the Chief Joseph-Bear Tooth Mountain Pass drive. Plus that we found a good Tire Business to get a trailer tire replaced; Rim Rock Tire. We highly recommend them! And we also, had a great laundry stop! For a traveler, finding a clean, well equipped, well-taken care of place is a find. Hats off to Cody Laundromat.

We drove up the North Fork of the Shoshone river, earlier called Stinking River by the Indians because of the sulfur smell, to the Buffalo Bill Dam. Originally built in 1910, it's height of 325 feet made it the tallest dam in the world at that time. The Visitors Center sits near the dam and gives a wonderful view of both the reservoir and the deep gorge as the river plunges down the valley below it.

We mosied on down to the Irma Hotel one evening to find seats for the evening Gun Fight. They've got a great deal going; you can rent a chair for $1 and come back just in time for the show. Featured in the gunfight were Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp, the Sundance kid and Fred. Fred? Well, you just had to be there! The Irma Hotel was built by Buffalo Bill in 1902 and was his headquarters in this area. It's an amazing place; fun to wander through the Lobby, elaborate Dining Room with an elaborate back bar which was a gift from Queen Elizabeth of England and world famous Barroom with it's stone and fossil fireplace and cherry wood bar.

(Chuck) Cody, Wyoming is through and through a cowboy town. It features a nightly rodeo which has a performance every night from 1 June to 31 August which has earned Cody the title: Rodeo Capital of the World. This town is comprised of two kinds of people, cowboys and tourists. Cowboys wear boots and hats and the tourists wear tee shirts, it seems to be a rule and that is the way it is. When you walk the sidewalks of main street you will notice the unmistakable smell of leather from the shops that feature saddles and horse equipment. (Hats and boots frequent here.) Other stores on Sheridan Street feature art and trinkets that are well attended by the tee shirts. Colonel William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody founded the town of Cody in 1896. He was a soldier, hunter, adventurer and a gigantic showman who took his Wild West show across America and toured Europe.
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center is actually five Museums Under One Roof. This is as they are listed in the brochure.

Buffalo Bill Museum …. The Life and Legend of Buffalo Bill Cody. Whitney
Gallery of Western Art …. Artworks Portraying the Beauty and Myths of the West.
Plains Indian Museum …. Native American Cultures, Art and Heritage of Yesterday & Today.
Cody Firearms Museum …. A Grand Exhibition of Thousands of Rare Firearms.
Draper Museum of Natural History …. Humans and Nature in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
The Historical Center is more than a one day excursion. They offer a two day pass for $15 per person. Just be cautious because you will “wear out your legs” at this place. It has a lot to offer and you have to pace yourself.
One thing Jan and I have noticed from Rapid City, SD to Buffalo, WY and now Cody, Wyoming is that there is a great expression of art in the towns. We have enjoyed the large outdoor bronze sculptures. There are many store fronts with paintings and bronze works that don’t have the “trendy feel” but do have a genuine Western appeal. The Historical Center relies heavily on the arts and it mixes well with the actual history of the West. It is a good stop and I recommend it to anyone who journeys through this area.

Yesterday we took a drive North of town up the Chief Joseph Highway and on to the Bear Tooth Highway to Red Lodge, Montana. Forty years ago we drove the Bear Tooth and it has always been one of the most enjoyable mountain drives of our memory. It was truly one 'wow' moment after the other. We were overwhelmed with the beauty of the mountains and the flowers that carpet the valleys. It is a beautiful sight and we feel privileged to be a part of it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Buffalo, WY near the Big Horn Mountains

(Jan) Buffalo, Wyoming, located along the historic Bozeman Trail, was founded in 1878 to provide services to soldiers at nearby Fort McKinney. This town and area have been the center of events such as the Johnson County Cattle War, the Wagon Box Fight and the Fetterman Massacre. Buffalo, at the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains, is a delightful, friendly town and home to the Jim Gatchell Museum and Occidental Hotel. The Museum is a gem, chock full of exhibits and historic items. Touring the Occidental Hotel, Bar and Victorian Restaurant was like stepping back in to 1890’s complete with furnishings from that era and a back bar that still sported bullet holes from days gone by.

At the outrageous hour of 6:00 A.M., we rolled out of bed Saturday morning to go look for Moose which are native to this area. We headed up Hwy 16 and enter Elgin Loop drive. Not too far along the trail we found a juvenile and momma moose in a sparse stand of pine and aspen trees. What a thrill. Next came a scenic canyon drive. Crazy Woman Canyon Road is a one lane gravel road that drops down the canyon over 1400 feet in several miles. The canyon is a beautiful, peaceful place of trees, a mountain stream and wildlife. Near the bottom are house sized boulders, the stream, a shear cliff on the other side and you on the gravel road between them. Awesome ride!

Sunday morning found us at Saint John Baptist Church, worshiping with a lively congregation and an excellent sermon on Human Arrogance vs. God’s Heart by Fr. Johnson. We went to find Breakfast after that and ending up at the Best Western Motels’s restaurant, Hoot and Howl. We weren’t sure what we were getting ourselves into but what we had was one of the best Breakfast Buffets we’ve ever had! Fabulous food and the bacon was out of this world.

Tomorrow we will leave here and head to Thermopolis to meet with friends Ron and Sharon Mead who are on their way east from Yellowstone. Will head up over 9,666 foot Powder River Pass and down through Ten Sleep Canyon. Ten Sleep received it’s name from early Native American tribes that traveled through this area. The ‘Old Sioux Camp’ at present day Casper, WY and another large Indian settlement north of here at present day Bridger Montana were both ten sleeps or nights away in either direction.

(Chuck) Buffalo, Wyoming, Big Horn National Forest. We have been here for the last four nights and it has been a great pleasure. We enjoy boondocking, the fresh mountain air and million dollar scenery… This has it all.

We are in a high meadow of the Bighorn Mountains that we share with several hundred cow calf pairs. The cows are enjoying an extraordinary amount of grass this year. Normally in July the pastures would be brown and sparse, this year grass is abundant and the condition of the cows shows it. They are carrying a good amount of flesh and the calves will show good rate of gain. Since the cows are in remarkably good shape, there has been no rubbing or scratching on the rig or our pickup. The worst that has happened was this morning about 6:00 a calf knocked over a lawn chair.

We have taken several hikes in the area, some through beautiful woods and valleys and one that brought us on a very hard uphill horse path which we soon found to be unpleasant. The rocks were so bad that we could not enjoy the scenery around us because we could not safely take our eyes off the path. Top that off with an abundant supply of mosquitoes and we were defeated after about 40 minutes. We returned to the pickup and went home tired and crabby.

I have included a photo of a plaque that is in Buffalo, on the bridge across form the Occidental Hotel. As I read the plaque, it seemed that it spoke to me that it could be from each of our small and large communities in this nation. Please take a minute and click on the photo to make it legible to read.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Devils Tower

(Chuck)We stopped in Belle Fourche, South Dakota to see the Tri State Museum. Jan had noticed it on a billboard and it turned out to be a great visit. We toured many displays of western heritage and local history. For a bonus we had also found the Geographic Center of the Nation. I had an uncle who had claimed to be from the center of the Universe, and I myself am from a distant planet which has to be the center of something, so this was quite a bonus.

From Belle Fourche we journeyed to Devils Tower. It has been one of our favorite stops in the Black Hills area for most of our lives. We first visited it in 1969, and each time we are in the area, we stop for a visit. It became America’s first National Monument in 1906. The tower rises 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River and is 867 feet from its base to the summit. Unfortunately we saw no climbers on the tower the last two days. It has been a treat to watch them in the past. An average assent on the Durrance Route with an experienced climbing team is 4 to 6 hours. It takes about one to two hours to rappel down. I was astounded to read today that in the 1980s, Todd Skinner – a Wyoming native - free-soled (climbed alone, without ropes or protection) the Walt Bailey route in 18 minutes. We are limited to the hiking trails in the area and enjoy them very much. This morning we took the traditional 1.3 mile hike around the tower and this afternoon we did the Red Beds Trail which was 2.8 miles. Geologists agree that Devils Tower is an igneous intrusion. Magma welled up into the surrounding sedimentary rock. There it cooled and hardened and formed columns that are 4-5-6 and seven sided. Ages of time and erosion then revealed the tower as we see it today. As you walk around the tower there is a boulder field that is re result of fallen columns. There have been no major falls of columns in modern history.

We have stayed in the Devils Tower Belle Fourche campground for two nights. It is a beautiful area with huge mature Cottonwood trees throughout. The Belle Fourche River wanders through the valley. We will leave tomorrow for the Bighorn Mountains. I found a promising spot to boondock and we are looking forward to seeing the mountains again.
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