Tuesday, August 13, 2013
But then it was time to get going, to actually do something. Sean had spent some time talking to the fishing experts at the sporting goods shop in Canyon Village, and they had told him that Cascade Lake was a good place for trout. About 5 miles round trip, and close to our campground, it sounded like a great place—fishing for Sean and the kids, knitting for me.
Within a few minutes after arriving at the lake (a hot, dry hike, with raincoats at the car), these clouds rolled in.
We weren’t convinced that the storm was coming to us, so they fished a bit…
…and caught only algae.
The thunder was sounding, and we saw a few flashes of lightning so we called it good and headed back, with an eye out for wildlife. Several times, we got excited by something moving on the other side of this meadow…other hikers, on another trail.
Mostly, we saw a lot of downed trees from the 1988 fires, and hoped that the burned trees still standing and creaking and swaying in the stormy afternoon did not finally fall that afternoon. Thankfully, none did.
We did see a couple bison through some trees, but no pictures since they were hard to see, and we were realizing that bison are everywhere in Yellowstone, anyway.
Owen has always been a restless sleeper. He wakes in the night, he wakes early in the morning. Me, in Yellowstone—I was a restless sleeper (so much to see, do, “is that a bear?” sounds, etc.). So when he woke up early on our second full day, and wanted to talk rather than go back to sleep, I suggested that he and I go looking for wolves in the Hayden Valley.
We didn’t see any wolves, but we did see lots of “pretty.”
Owen at Sulphur Cauldron (holding his breath, I’d bet).
The Hayden Valley at sunrise.
After giving up on finding wolves, we made a quick detour to Artist Point, on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The light was cool—it made the pictures look more like paintings.
Sean and I had been trying to convince Owen that his smile, with teeth, looks much better in photos. It was about this time that he started to listen to us.
After the canyon, we headed back to our campground. But just a few minutes before getting to our site, we saw an elk off the side of the road (actually, a bunch of people saw it—we saw the people, then the elk). The coolest thing about this elk—the velvet on his antlers was starting to shed off. I had never seen or thought about that before. Elk antlers are the fastest growing mammalian tissue—they start growing a new set every year in March, when the previous year’s antlers are shed. In about August, the nice soft velvety covering (apparently very sensitive as they are growing) starts to kind of scab up and itch. The elk rub their antlers against tree trunks and such, trying to peel off the scab. The velvet comes off in bloody strips, leaving bloody bone behind (you can see the velvet in the picture below—it looks like moss). In September, the bull elk start their rut and fight with other bulls to win the rights to mate. Then in March, they start all over again.
Monday, August 12, 2013
We traveled to the southern end of Hayden Valley to check out the Mud Volcano area; our first “in-depth” look at geothermal features.
The Dragon’s Mouth Spring was neat. Lots of continuous hissing steam.
The mud volcano was…muddy? And hot, boiling, and steamy.
Like good tourists, we stayed on the boardwalk, but several lone bison did not. We didn’t see any drop through to the boiling springs below, but many posters informed that it could happen, you never know.
After the North Rim of the canyon, we set out to Hayden Valley, a good place for wildlife. In Guyan’s words:
“Today we saw TONS! of bison! It was CRAZY! I got some good pictures… I think I saw more bison than I’ve seen rabbits in my whole life!!! We see even more bison than chipmunks here!!!”
FYI…Many of these pictures were taken near the Mary Mountain Trailhead. Three days later, after we left this area of the park, two hikers (out of a group of four) were attacked by a grizzly bear about one mile down the trail. So much for the idea that grizzlies never attack groups of three or more hikers. Good thing we got two bear spray cans. By the way, the hikers used their bear spray (two cans) and were treated and released the same day.
The Canyon Village area is a pretty busy place. The campground, where we were staying for three nights, has about 275 sites, and just across the road is a lodge, grocery, sporting goods store, and Visitor’s Center/Museum. We started the day at the Visitor’s Center and got the boys set up with their Junior Scientist Program (gosh darn, they were going to LEARN something in this vacation if it KILLED me!). We also visited the gift shop, and I bought a couple field guides to help identify animals and give me hints on where to find them. I had been watching an app on my phone daily for the past 6 months or so that posted wildlife sightings (YNPWildlife; it’s awesome), but in the park, cell service is sketchy at best…I needed a good old-fashioned guide. Owen, it turns out, is my natural born shopper—he found a wolf puppet that he HAD to have (two days later, he bought it—I make him think about purchases, so mean).
After the museum visit and getting our bearings a bit, we headed off to our first tourist destination—the North Rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It was beautiful.
See the osprey nest? Right in the center of the photo below.
After hanging out with the hordes of tourists at the parking lot, we set out on our first “hike.” Flat along the canyon rim, a couple miles…no biggie, but at about 7700 feet elevation, I was winded anyway. It was a bit of a blow to the ego (we all need that sometime, anyway).
See our car? The white dot to the left of my finger is the “Big Mac” pod on the top of the Mazda.
When we got to Inspiration Point, it was truly less than inspirational. “Really?” was more the reaction. A long walk (paranoid about bears the whole time, since it was our first hike), and the real Inspiration Point—a ledge that reached out into the canyon to give a nice view of the falls—was closed off. Oh well. Apparently we had already been spoiled by the previous views from the parking lot.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
No more than five minutes into the park, we came across our first "Jam.” Tons of cars, some pulled off the side of the road, some parked in the middle, pedestrians everywhere…it was a Bighorn Sheep Jam. They are often spotted in this area, on the rock cliffs of the Gardiner Canyon. I can see about five in this photo. Look for a white butt just above the tree, in the center of the photo (I promise, the wildlife pictures get better).
I was so excited! Two minutes in, and I had already seen large mammals! This was going to be awesome.
We needed to get to Canyon Village and our campsite before dark. About an hour drive, without animal jams…so we got back in the car and continued on.
In Mammoth, the elk were EVERYWHERE. This stop took a little while.
And then more elk after we left Mammoth. Apparently they were fighting just before we got there.
Given we had only traveled about 10 minutes into the park by this point, we were thinking it was going to take a while to get to Canyon. Fortunately, we only caught a couple glimpses of lone bison on the way (no pictures), so we made it to Canyon long before sunset.
We were intent on getting to Yellowstone.
There were all sorts of destinations to distract us on the way, but we didn’t stop…
…except for a couple times.