Friday, October 16, 2009

Yellowstone Pics Of The Day: Days 4 & 5

Days 4 and 5 were filled with bike riding and kite flying, scooters, books, and exploring the town of West Yellowstone, good food, great company, and a wonderful back-country hike. I'll get straight to the pictures, because there are lots of them (almost all of them from that splendid hike.) Click on 'em if you want to see them biggified.

This wood and stone edifice is an old Union Pacific Dining Hall, in West Yellowstone, currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This lodge, designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood to accommodate railroad passengers, was finished in 1926, and was intended to mimic national park architecture. Looks like a pretty successful attempt to me.

Note the use of native materials.

All this examination of dining halls made Ked hungry, so soon after our inspection we headed back to camp!

On the way back to the trailer we passed by this man-made horizontal waterfall. We talked to a maintenance worker who told us that the region around West Yellowstone had so much snow last winter, and so much rain last spring, that the town's water supply was full to overflowing--about six months worth behind schedule in water usage! When Ked and I wandered by they were purging some of it off. There was an awful lot of force behind that temporary fountain. They put that bucket there to keep the water from shooting way off down the street and hindering traffic. (Such traffic as there was, anyway.)

At some point the whole gang piled in the car and went out looking for adventure. We started our quest in the Canyon Visitor Education Center, where we learned all about the geology of Yellowstone. Interactive topographical maps like the one above are just one of the cool things about this new visitors' center in the park, and all four adults, and even the kids, enjoyed our exploration of this cornucopia of knowledge and information. As you can see, Scott, being a teacher, took full advantage of the opportunity to give his daughter a science lesson or two.

Emma found the science very interesting, I'm sure, but seemed a lot more enthusiastic about "hugging" a bear, if truth be told!

After our morning spent inside the halls of learning, we were all happy to hit the trails in the afternoon. On this day, our wanderings took us to the Upper and Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Ben got a thrill or two when Scott held him out over the canyon for a better look at the view that most of us could see just by leaning out a bit. The Boy was a little lacking in height, so Dad helped him out.

Here's what he saw.

A little later in the day, we crossed this bridge to the other side of the canyon for a ranger-led hike and some truly impressive water. In case you missed it, those little blue and yellow specks on the right side of the photo are people! (Click on this one if you need proof!)

Backing out a bit puts this view into perspective. The people are still there, but the water looks a whole lot bigger when you can see how far those falls tumble. It really is a magnificent sight--one of many on the Canyon hike we experienced that day.

Our guide was interesting (if a little too enamored of the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming), and we learned a lot about varieties of trees and lichen, among other things. It was pretty fun that she picked Ben as a helper, and even more so when, taking his duties very seriously, he explained to us that he needed to stay with her because she was his assistant!!

I mentioned in an earlier post that we had lots of thunderstorms while we were in Yellowstone, and the day we explored the canyon had its share of lightning. In fact, the lightning got close enough that our guide bailed on us! The ranger did not want to continue up the trail and approach this metal fence (which we thought was a little silly, because the storm never did get that close), so we few intrepid souls travelled on without her. Scott knew of a back-country trail we wanted to take later on, and turning back would mean we didn't get there, so off we went. A stranger was kind enough to snap this photo. I post it, despite the glare and blur, not as proof that we were more brave (or more foolhardy) than a forest ranger, but because I think it might be the only picture we got of all six of us together the entire trip! Proof that we were at Yellowstone with our very dear friends--that alone makes it worth posting!

Further up the trail we came to another massive plunging torrent of water. I think this is the lower falls, but I'm not sure. Again, there are little, tiny people there for scale.

Here's a nice one of Scott and Mary, don't you think? If you look closely, you can see those little people behind them.

As we followed the path, we saw how this canyon is still changing shape. I would recommend to any squirrels that live in this tree that they might want to pick another home. After all, there's plenty of nice real estate in Yellowstone!

Of course, that particular tree does have an awfully nice view!

Continuing up the path, we found that others were more than happy to brave the weather. We reached a popular viewpoint (with a parking lot close by) that proved to be quite crowded.

You can understand why the crowd gathered when you see the view. Remember where those little people were behind Scott and Mary? They're looking a bit microscopic in this one.

Okay, now for the really backed out view. No way you'd even know those little people exist now, is there? It kind of gives you a feel for how big this canyon really is.

This is about the time we headed off the main trail for a trek through the undiscovered country. Okay, okay, clearly it's not undiscovered, but we were completely on our own from the minute we took the road less travelled. It was great!! Scott scoped out the whole hike before we went exploring, so we felt perfectly safe (Scott's bear bell helped with that part), but we did feel wonderfully adventurous in breaking with the crowd.

Here's our last view of the river.

We did find more water on the journey. This charming spot is called something like Lily Lake. I don't really remember, because its rightful name is Mosquito Central. Ked did an amazing job of looking calm for this picture (which I should never have begged him to pose for), because he was being eaten alive at the time. I'm glad it turned out to be a nice picture of him--I definitely only got one shot at it.

You can see that getting away from the canyon took us into some rather desolate country. It never ceases to amaze me how you can walk a trail in Yellowstone and find both sulfurous wasteland and thriving forest right next to each other. So, so very cool.

Hey! We got to see clear evidence of why they call it Yellow Stone!

What's this, you may ask? Why post this one? Ked is filming, and Scott is directing traffic, and there's really nothing to see in this shot, right? So why put it out there for public consumption? Well, you see that bubbling pot of mud in the background? Do you notice what's missing? There's no fence!! There is no barrier to keep us safe from our own stupidity! It was very liberating--at least adult-wise it was liberating. We did have to stop Ben from running headlong in the wrong direction occasionally, but he managed to come out of there alive, and it was totally worth it to feel we were really out there in the wild. Loved it.

One thing that was definitely not missing--the smell! That sulfur packs a wallop. However, to its credit, it's also rather good at keeping the mosquitoes at bay. So we had that going for us, which was nice.

Being on our own, there was no one to stop us from doing dangerous science experiments, like seeing what we could find if we went fishing in this mud pot.

What do you think? I'd call that some lovely goop from the gloppetta-gloppetta machine!

Occasionally we found our journey taking us back to the land of water, where we saw lovely views like this one. Evening was fast approaching at this point, and we needed to pick up the pace (after the photo, of course.) This lake had the obligatory mosquito infestation (especially since night was coming on), but here the sky was filled with swallows who seemed to find the insects a very satisfactory evening meal. They don't show up in this picture, but they made a pretty sight swooping about below that bank of clouds.

Hooray for cameras that compensate for fading light! This was the part of the hike where we were most grateful for that bear bell. The light really started to dim, and we knew that the evening is when the bears come out to play, so we were getting a bit nervous. Scott insisted on walking in the front, so that he would be the first target spotted if we encountered wildlife. The rest of us played our part in ensuring that he wouldn't have to sacrifice himself for the greater good, though. Ked and I, especially, sang at the top of our lungs, so that the bears would know we were coming and make tracks. The wind was howling around us, too, and Ked and I found it lots of fun to sing "They call the wind Mariah" in keeping with the weather. "Oklahoma" made its way onto the program, too, although that one was a little problematic, since we were in Wyoming at the time. Oh well. It kept the bears away, in any case. Really, though, it turned out that it wasn't bears we had to worry about. Something far more menacing waited on the trail ahead. Be prepared. It's pretty frightening. It was...

Zombie Deer!!!
And with that, I will leave you to return to your own world. Hope you had a little fun in mine.