Monday, August 12, 2013

2013 Montana--Mountain Man Rendezvous

The boys and me at Black Sands
A couple of years ago, we happened to be in West Yellowstone on the same week as the annual Mountain Man Rendezvous.  We stopped and the boys loved it.  Every time we went back to the park, they asked if they could go again.  The Rendezvous only happens for one week of the year and we didn't know when it would be.  We didn't look it up very well either.  A couple of weeks ago, when the two older boys were at band camp, Chimene and I took the youngest to Yellowstone and discovered that on August 2nd to the 11th the mountain men would be there.  I resolved to take the boys.  Chimene was going to be out of town for most of the week so it was just us boys.  We had a good time.

We stopped for a picnic at one of our favorite rest areas, Howard Springs.  The boys like Howard Springs because the water is so good and I like it because of the wildflowers.  It was the first place I ever saw Lewis Monkeyflowers.

Lewis Monkeyflower after the rain

Yellow Monkeyflower and friend

This is either Cowparsnip or Water Hemlock.  Haven't taken the time to really identify it.

The picnic.  Haydn has mastered the teenage art of the half-smile
We picked up one of my all time best friends in West Yellowstone, Jeff Carter and he went to the rendezvous with us.  We stopped in to say hello and he asked if he could tag along.  It was awesome.  Completely unplanned.  He didn't know we were going to stop and when we got there he decided he needed a break and we hung out for a couple of hours.  You can do that with a true friend.

We went to the Mountain Man Rendezvous, which is really just an outdoor shopping mall/flea market with all the vendors dressed in leather.  The last time I attended, I saw these old timey mountain man flint and steel sets.  I decided ahead of time that I would get one of those this year.  I was at a vendor's tent and he let me try one out.  On the first pass, I misjudged and sliced my finger open and bled all over the steel.  I told the vendor that since I had bled on it I probably ought to buy it, so I did.  I did learn how to make a spark, so that was cool.

After that, I told Jeff that we wanted to go to Black Sands.  I hadn't been there since before I had been married.  We remembered back and decided that the last time I had been there, we had been there together.  I wanted to show my kids the old watering hole.  This summer I have shown them four springs.  Warm River Springs, Big Springs, Howard Springs and Black Sands Springs.

The water coming from Black Sands, according to Jeff, hasn't seen the light of day for sixty-thousand years.  It was covered by the lava flow and has been trapped all that time.  Black Sands is so named because the lava flow that covered this area was all obsidian, so the sand is black.  Black Sands is the headwaters of the Madison River.  From there it flows to the Jefferson River and then to the Missouri and finally to the Mississippi and out into the Gulf of Mexico.  I don't know how long it takes the water to go all the way to the gulf because it sits in several reservoirs and lakes along the way.

It is a very peaceful, beautiful spot where we used to like to go when we were younger.  The water is really fine there as well.  The headwaters of the spring were covered with yellow monkeyflowers.  There were many other flowers as well, and I did see several fringed gentians.  Those and monkeyflowers may be my new favorite wildflowers.

Jeff and the boys at the rendezvous

Of course I'd photograph a skull

'nuff said

Lodge of one of the mountain men

I discovered that mountain men don't like getting their photos taken

The mountain man flea market

Jeff at Black Sands

Black Sands

Monkeyflowers at Black Sands

Black Sands

Yellow Monkeyflower at Black Sands

Fringed Gentian at Black Sands

Mosquito Gulch

Mosquito Gulch

Jeff had to get back to work, so we dropped him off and I took the boys on a drive up the South Plateau.  I had been up there a few times when I was a boy.  The South Plateau is an old obsidian flow and I wanted to show my sons an entire mountain of obsidian.  The obsidian is so fractured though or so full of impurities that you have to search long and hard to find any pieces that are suitable for flint knapping.  The old LDS church in West Yellowstone, where I attended services as a boy was made of obsidian that was quarried from the South Plateau.

I remember once, going up the plateau with friends and picking wild strawberries in a meadow there.  As I recall, I harvested enough to make a pint of jam.  It was very good.  Wild strawberries are very sweet.  The taste of the wild ones is richer than the taste of the domesticated and hybridized ones.  I hate biting into a big beautiful strawberry only to find that it doesn't taste like anything.  The wild ones are always good.

Obsidian boulders in a roadcut

More obsidian boulders

This one weighed probably a thousand pounds

The old LDS church made of South Plateau obsidian.  Now a residence.
We had time after the South Plateau trip so we decided to take a hike into Yellowstone.  We hadn't seen Mystic Falls for a couple of years so we decided to go see it again.  It's a short hike of about a mile and the trailhead is at the back end of the boardwalk at Biscuit Basin.  Biscuit Basin is a cute little thermal area that is worth seeing, although it is not nearly as spectacular as Midway Geyser Basin or the Fountain Pain Pots.  It's not as spectacular and therefore not nearly as crowded.  We saw several hikers coming back from the falls as we approached and we saw several hikers going to the falls as we departed, but while we were at the falls we were there alone.  It was very peaceful.

Mystic Falls is a three tiered waterfall that cascades approximately 70 feet down into the canyon.  It's kind of unique because thermal activity is visible for the whole length of it.  The steam rising from all the thermals gives it a mystical feel, hence the name.  It's an easy trail and the views are spectacular.  There were a lot of wildflowers along the way as well.

On our way out, it began to rain.  It was just a drizzle at first and then became a great deal more committed.  Finally it started to hail.  We were quite soaked by the time we made it back to the car.  I didn't mind, it felt kind of good, actually.

Aquatic plants in the Firehole River at Biscuit Basin

One of the thermal features there

I thought this was pretty

Yellow algae

Pretty pond, similar to Morning Glory Pool without the long hike

Hoodoos along the trail

What the trail looked like for most of the way

The river

First view of the falls

The boys

Hoodoos along the canyon near the falls

Best view of the falls

The trail out

I think these are cool

Travertine being formed

Pearly Everlasting

Pretty wildflowers amid the charred timber from the fire of 1988

Fringed Grass of Parnassus

Nice variety


Tons of Fringed Gentian on this trip

This was becoming a day that I was showing my boys what I used to do when I was their age.  On the way home, we stopped at the Firehole Falls Loop road and we stopped at the old swimming hole.  It hadn't been opened for several years, but on this day it was open and there were a lot of bathers there.  I spent many hours at Firehole when I was a kid.  Loved being there.  We used to go to Norris, watch Echinus Geyser and eat a bag of potato chips with bean dip.  Then we'd go to Firehole and swim for a few hours.  We did that a lot.  I wanted to show this to my sons.  They all decided they wanted to go swim at Firehole sometime this summer.  I think I'll indulge them.
From the cliff we used to jump off

Down Firehole Canyon


Random delicate cairn someone made.

We used to call this Teakettle.  I don't know why.

Fir tree found purchase on the side of the cliff.  Life will find a way, no matter what.

On the way home we saw a beautiful sunset.  Had to capture it.

Why I live in Idaho

My boys all agreed that I can make a full day out of a Yellowstone trip.  We had a great time.  We enjoyed being bachelors for a few days, but it was time for Chimene to come home.  She had a wonderful time with her friends down in Utah.  I was glad she got to go.  I was more glad when she got home.

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