Sunday, May 31, 2015

Last day in Yellowstone

Our last day!  We took some "chill time," quite necessary after all the excitement from the previous days.  Still we managed to see a few things and of course I couldn't resist taking pictures.

Firehole Falls in an area of old lava flows:

We did a lovely hike from Kepler Cascades to the Lone Star Geyser - beautiful trail through the woods on a beautiful morning.

This "geyser predictor" is a bit lower-tech than the one for Old Faithful.  Each person can log whether they saw it erupt and what time it was.

We saw it steam and gurgle, but that was it.  John stuck around a while longer and witnessed a minor eruption, so that was something.  Hello Lone Star!

I did a nice run/hike up to Mallard Lake, another pretty spot in the woods:

Spring is kind of arriving, taking its time:

Off-trail travel would be almost as bad as at the Eco-Endurance Challenge:

Crazy jungle gym:

Another hot springs for good measure:

And one last fond look at the Grotto Geyser:

Chef John whipping up another excellent meal in Howie:

That evening we drove over to the Norris Geyser Basin - we weren't sure if there could possibly be anything different to see, but by gosh, that seems to be the Yellowstone Theme.  Just when you think you've seen it all, there's something else to gawk at.

A desolate, steamy landscape:

The Ledge Geyser is awesome!  It was the most powerful vented steam we have ever seen.  Photos cannot describe the sound and speed of this thing (and the amount of moisture it spews into the air, beware all glasses-wearers):

Not a lot of animal life here, just a bunch of fun little water spouts:

Evening vistas from the boardwalk:

Hey, there's some animal life!  Hello rabbit:

The other side of the basin, chasing daylight to see everything:

Our favorite was the Palpitation Spring, beating a slow rhythm of a large glug - glug - glug, just like a heartbeat.  Very cool.

One last look before we lose the light!

Thank you Mom for sharing an amazing and special trip to Yellowstone with us!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wolves of Yellowstone class

We took a FANTASTIC field seminar with the Yellowstone Association, called The Wolves of Yellowstone.  Our instructor George was fascinating and inspiring.  Our stay at the Lamar Ranch was fabulous.  Obviously I highly recommend this experience!

On a hike behind the ranch, checking out an elk skeleton:

George explaining bear claw markings on a tree:

A little toad:

One of the dens where the original wolves (transplanted from Canada) were held for acclimation before release into the park, really amazing to see the actual site and tall fences.  It reminded us of trying to keep Grete, our German Shepherd, contained in our backyard in Austin:

A bear had recently passed by... that's nice to know.  He left quite a large track in the mud:

The pretty Rose Creek behind the ranch:

Bison crossing the Lamar River:

We spotted many wolves!  A pack of 4 on the first evening, then 2 black youngsters who appeared a couple times across the valley.  They seemed to be learning how to hunt, chasing just about anything they came across - elk, pronghorn (good luck with that), bison.

I finally managed a half-decent digi-scope photo, yay!

An interesting method of animal watching, not sure if this is to stay warm (in which case, great idea) or something else:

We had time for one hike, so Tuesday afternoon John and I ran/climbed up Specimen Ridge:

View of the valley - and little heads of bighorn sheep peering up at us!

A minor summit photo:

John spotted a specimen of petrified wood, and once we started looking for them we found several more.  Some even still standing like the original trees, very cool.

At first it was afraid...

It was petrified...

Minor interruption while wolf watching, good time to return to the van for a few minutes.  Maybe he wanted a little attention.

Nice hike up to Wraith Falls:

Ranger John telling us a fascinating story of "the bears on the bridge" video that went viral on YouTube last month.  The news reports were not quite correct, the bears weren't "attacking" anyone, they were simply trying to get across the bridge amid a crowd of people.  A bit of chaos all around, as you might imagine.  The bears and people all made it OK, but it was quite an event.  We were enthralled to hear the story from someone who was there:

Our instructor, George, is not just a wonderful teacher, he's also a talented artist.  One of his pieces on display in Gardiner:

And a TED talk where he creates a sculpture on the fly, neat!

We finally got to see the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, nice one!  "For the benefit and enjoyment of the people"

Hey, we're at the 45th Parallel, AGAIN.  How did that happen?  John points in the direction he would prefer to go (take a guess):

I can't say enough good things about the YA field seminars, we might just have to go back and take another someday.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Parents weekend at Yellowstone

John got up extra early Saturday morning to come retrieve us from Mammoth and deliver us to Old Faithful where his parents were waiting for us - Beard parents at Yellowstone, yay!

Minor disruptions made for an interesting morning - first, a big blanket of snow fell on the whole area.  Pretty!  But slower driving.  John beat the plows initially, then we had plow-help for the next part of the trip.

So that was going OK, until we passed by Madison campground and started along the road toward Old Faithful.  Bison Jam!

A whole herd of bison apparently wanted to get up to the geyser basin that morning.  Who could blame them, it was probably warmer up there.  It was really neat watching the bison plod up the road in the snow.

After an hour and a half, the novelty wore off just a little.  It was still funny to think that in both of our visits to Yellowstone we have experienced falling snow.

Beasts of the Northern Wild:

We had a fabulous time exploring the geothermal features with Jenny and Jerry.  Seeing everything steaming on a snowy morning was unique as well:

Somewhere in the Midway basin:

Snow on the boardwalks was challenging but worth navigating:

Jerry enjoyed endless photo opportunities:

Beautiful hot springs - no snow here!

Love the mud pots!  All gurgling and boiling and burping:

Geyser viewing:

Taking in all the amazing sights:

Day 2 - on the way to the east side of the park, we saw this fox just hanging out posing for pictures, thank you fox!

Mud Volcano area - this place is so cool, but really more of a sensory experience that is hard to photograph (Dragon's Mouth roaring, steaming mud, smelly sulfur, misty steam).  It's one of my favorite places in the park, don't miss it if you get a chance to go.

Another interesting challenge for the weekend - the electricity was out in much of the park.  Happily we're off-grid in the trailer (solar-powered), and the Old Faithful area was apparently running on an excellent generator system.  We only ran into issues trying to find a place for lunch.  Our timing at Fishing Bridge was perfect - just as we were talking with the lady there about their lack of power, their generator came up and running.  Time to eat!

We managed to find a couple bears in Hayden Valley, yay!  Thank you, roadside watchers and folks who let us look through their scope.  Jerry was hoping to see a bear, happily we were able to help fulfill that quest.

And now - the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone!

The Upper Falls, for starters:

The incredible view from Artist's Point.  It's such a beautiful place, one of those where we all wondered "why haven't we heard about this before?"

Spectacular scenery:

Mom hiked down to the top of the falls to get a sense of the roaring water:

Remnants of winter snow waiting to fall into the gorge (that would be incredible to see):

The boulder that caused a trail closure a few days later, happily we arrived while the trail was still open:

View from the North Rim:

Strong wind and a slow boulder:

Fun at the park store:

It was a quick but action-packed weekend with John's parents, so glad they made it to Yellowstone!