Monday, May 27, 2013

2013 Yellowstone--First Yellowstone Trip of the Year

First Bison of the season

My travel is going to be a bit limited this summer until the middle of July.  Not only am I teaching spring semester, but I also am cast in a play which means my days and evenings are already scheduled.  Saturdays are pretty much out of the question until early afternoon, and because of church obligations, Sunday is out too.  That means I have to take what I can get until the show closes.  There's always a trade-off.  I don't mind so much, though because I have been itching to get back on stage for awhile.  Now is a good time to do so.

We talked all last week about going to Yellowstone on Saturday, the 26th of June.  We knew we wanted to go, but weren't sure of what we wanted to see.  This time of year I don't like to hike so much because the bears are somewhat active.  There are more negative bear encounters in the spring than any other season it seems.  That and it was a little chilly still in the park kind of made it a driving day instead of a getting out and walking day.

As we pulled out of Rexburg, I asked everyone what they would like to see, and overwhelmingly they wanted to try to see a bear.  So that is what we attempted to do.  Last year, on our anniversary, Chimene and I saw ten bears.  The boys were a little jealous that they didn't get to see any last year, so that is what they wanted to do.  Later on in the season, the bears are less active and away from the populated areas of the park, so this was the ideal time to try.  That meant the northern loop.  That's where the bears usually are.

On the way up to Yellowstone, Garrett and Rhys and I played the landmark game where we tried to spot all the landmarks I used as a kid to make the trip to Yellowstone go faster.  Sometime this summer I intend to stop and photograph each of the landmarks and make a blog post about just that.

When we got to West Yellowstone, the traffic was backed up from the park gate to the intersection at Eagles Store.  Then it continued down the other street almost to the Dairy Queen.  I've never seen it backed up that far before, but then again I don't think I've ever gone in the park on Memorial Day Weekend before.  When we were within about a hundred yards of the entrance, the rangers just started waving people through.  No fees, no checking of park passes.  It was all they could do to alleviate the problem.  Once we were in the park, the traffic became manageable and we didn't really feel like it was overcrowded.

When we got to Madison Junction, Chimene asked if we could go to the Firehole Falls Drive because the falls are more impressive in the spring when the runoff is occurring.  The loop drive was only a couple of miles out of our way and it was a pleasant time.  Very few people were on it.  We also noticed that most of the cars were headed toward Old Faithful instead of Mammoth.  That made the decision to go north all the sweeter.

Firehole Falls in the spring

We headed north after that and just drove until we reached Sheepeater Cliff.  The boys love to climb at Sheepeater Cliff, and so do I.  We climbed for about a half an hour, but didn't take any photos there, since we have many photos of us climbing there already.

We headed on into Mammoth and bought some ice cream.  Apparently, the boys believe it is customary or traditional to get ice cream at Mammoth.  While we were there, I took some pictures of some of the park architecture.  Mammoth is the headquarters of the park and has been for more than a hundred years.  It was the place to be in the early days.  Since that time, the thermal areas around Mammoth have begun to dry up and it is sadly a shadow of it's former self.  Other areas of the park have gained in popularity in recent years as Mammoth has declined.  Still, there are some great old buildings there.

Visitors Center

United States Post Office

United States Engineer's Office

Private residence

An old interdenominational Christian Church

Carved bear flanking the post office steps

Detail of lichen on the post office foundation

More lichen on the foundation

From Mammoth we headed toward Tower and saw a traffic jam at Petrified Tree.  We stopped and asked why people were stopped.  There was a sow black bear and two cinnamon colored cubs playing in the canyon.  We were able to hike in a quarter mile and a ranger was there keeping the crowd at a safe distance.  He wasn't trying to scare the bears away and he wasn't trying to scare the people away.  He was there to make sure that everyone, including the bears had a nice time and didn't come into contact.  He was very kind and indulgent, but still commanded respect.  I told him he did a good job, and appreciated what he was doing.

Sow black bear

Sow and cubs

Sow and cubs on the trail

More bear shots

The sow

What I learned about the bear sightings was that I need a new lens for my camera so I can zoom in.

We drove past Canyon and Norris to Madison Junction and headed home.  Just as we got to the pullout where the wildlife exhibit is, we saw a small herd of bison, with babies and stopped to watch them for awhile and to get some pictures.  One baby had a lot of energy and was racing around in circles at full speed.  It was fun to watch and Chimene bemoaned the fact that youth was misspent on the young.

Bison with babies

Bison.  That baby in the middle is the one that was playing

Yellowstone is one of my most favorite places to visit.  I never tire of it.  We had a nice time, even though it was a bit chilly.  Rhys and Garrett got to see some bears, mission accomplished.  Later on this summer, we intend to hang around Lake.  We have never spent a lot of time there and wish to see that section of the park and all it has to offer.  This was a day well spent.

P.S.  On the way home, we saw a large moose cross the road in front of us.  I've been hoping to see a moose for a few years.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

2012--Idaho, Craters of the Moon National Monument

The Hot Chick at Craters of the Moon National Monument

Last October, 2012, I was invited to present at the ISATA (Idaho Speech Arts Teachers Association) conference.  The annual conference is held in Sun Valley, Idaho.  I have posted pictures of a previous Sun Valley Trip before.  That travelblogue entry can be found here.  We didn't take many pictures in Sun Valley this time as we arrived just after dark and I had to continue to prepare for my presentation the next day.

Swan in the pond at the main entrance of the Sun Valley Lodge.  Yes, I really was that close.

I presented on how to make Magical Tomes and that blog post can be found here.  My brother, Bruce is a member of ISATA and he is the one who recommended me to them.  I have presented to them twice now.  I hope to have the opportunity to present to them again.  When the presentation was over, Bruce asked if he could catch a ride home with us.  We stopped at Craters of the Moon National Monument on the way.

I love Craters of the Moon.  I've always been a freak for geology.  Unfortunately for me, I don't get to that part of the state very often.  When I do go there, it's usually because I'm going somewhere else so I don't have a long time to visit.  This was one of those cases.  We were only able to spend about an hour in the park.  That was just enough to whet my appetite.  There's always next year.

We did get to do a little hiking this time but it wasn't nearly enough.  It is my goal to explore the entire park someday.  The first thing we saw on this trip was the remnants of a previous volcano.  The last time The Great Rift erupted, it blew apart an ancient volcanic cone and the pieces of it floated around the site and came to rest in an area that looks like an alien landscape.

The Hot Chick and my brother in front of the cone remnants from the ancient volcano

More cone fragments

Cone fragments

Cone fragment

Cone fragment

Chimene and I climbed up a small hill to look out over the valley.  There are several trails out onto the lava flow.  This was a short one.  The view was spectacular.  While we were climbing we were amazed at how much life there really is in this "barren" wasteland.  Life will find a way to exist in any environment.  There were these little desert plants finding purchase in what little soil there was.  They looked pretty neat next to the black lava rock.

White desert plant juxtaposed to the black basalt

The magnificent view over the valley

A pahoehoe flow.  Fun to say, fun to type.

The trail to the top of the hill

A very small natural bridge

I liked this rock

What I imagine a lunar landscape could look like

More of the alien landscape

Different colored lava rock.  I think it was scoria

Small cave.  Occupied sometimes

 There is a very large cinder cone in the middle of the park.  There's a trail up to the top.  I believe it is the highest point in Craters of the Moon.  I sprinted about halfway up, then walked the rest of the way feeling like my heart was going to explode.  Next time I try that I'll train for a few months first.  The view at the top was magnificent.  Surprisingly, there were trees and plants on the top of it.  From that vantage point, you can see a kipuka, which is an area within the flow that didn't get covered by the eruption.  In other words an island in the middle of the lava flow.  The thing that is neat about a kipuka is that the plants on it are genetically isolated from all the plants around them.  Scientists study the kipukas to get an idea of what the landscape must have looked like before the flow.

Trail to the top of the cinder cone

A view from the top. 

Huge cedar tree that somehow managed to take root on top of the cone

The beige spot on the horizon is the kipuka

Strange colored rock on top of the cinder cone.  Probably was brought here by someone

The last thing I saw while in the park were a couple of mini-volcanos, side by side.  There is a gentle, improved trail up to the cones.  I believe it is wheelchair accessible.  The volcanos were very small and you can climb right up to the rim of the crater and look down.  It was interesting to imagine, while looking into the craters what was happening 2100 years ago when it last erupted.  2100 years.  Cedars are very slow growing trees and for a cedar to be that big on top of the cinder cone, must be several hundred years old, maybe even a thousand.  Wow.

The small volcanos from a distance

A natural bridge on the side of one of the volcanos

The crater of the smaller volcano.  It seemed just large enough to drop a 55 gallon drum down.

Pahoehoe flow on the way to the second volcano

Trail to the second volcano.  Very easy, paved path

Crater of the second, larger volcano.  I think you could fit a Volkswagen Beetle in this one

The rim of the crater of the second mini-volcano

Path leading into the crater

View from just outside the crater of the second mini-volcano

The barren landscape.  Lava rock as far as the eye can see.  And this is just the most recent flow.  Events happened here beginning 15,000 years ago.

Parting shot of the mini-volcanos

I really love Craters of the Moon.  I wish I would have had more time to explore.  There are trails and mountains and caves to spelunk in.  So much to do, so much to see.  I think we really need to take the time when we can make this park a destination instead of a pass-through.  The scenery is truly breathtaking.