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.

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