Monday, July 25, 2016

July 25, 2016 Alpine, Wyoming

We found yet another fabulous spot to camp for a few days. I was so busy taking pictures of the cats I didn't take any of our setup yet.

This time we are alone, no other campers around which means no dogs. Once we got set up and got the chairs out, the cats decided it was safe to come out. I was getting set up to do some yoga inside and Jay was outside enjoying the view. The screen door was left open and her comes Ruby with something in her mouth. She promptly dropped it in front of Toby who snatched it up and took it under the table. It was a little mouse. I wasn't sure if it was dead and I sure didn't want it taking off under the couch. While it was playing dead, I got it away from Toby and took it back outside, shutting the door behind me. It wasn't dead. In just a few minutes it was up and crawling to relative safety, that is until I let the cats back outside.

Ruby went back to where she found that one and found several more that she brought over under the trailer one by one for Toby to play with. They had hours of fun with their live toys.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

July 24, Old Yellowstone Trail

Part of the fun of being where we are is the opportunity to travel on the old road, the Yellowstone trail. There is a ton of history in this area about how people first came to travel to the park. There was a guy nicknamed Yankee Jim who built the first road into the park. He charged a toll for people to travel on it. Then along came the railroads and they wanted his right-of-way but they had to build him a new road. Apparently vehicles used to be able to travel on this old road all the way to Corwin Springs, but there has been a wash out on the down hill side and a slide on the uphill side both of which would be very costly to repair. It was a nice bike ride to a trailhead and the old Yankee Jim historic site. You can drive all the way there from Corwin Springs if you can find the road to get there. I couldn’t find it and there are no signs pointing the way.

It’s a popular section of the Yellowstone River for rafting and fishing too. I managed to float a small section near our camping spot. I have a small inflatable ring and found a good spot to put in just upriver from the boat launch. It was just the right length of a float in that cold water. It sure felt good on a hot summer day.

rafters on the river

downhill slide

 As I was watching the rafters float by, I noticed there was a person in the water, wearing a life jacket and a helmet. I thought it curious that he was swimming there and even more curious as to why he was climbing out of the water. As I followed him go up the bank I saw he was walking towards the opposite outcropping of rock. There were other people standing on the ledge there too and they were jumping in to the river!

After I rode back to camp, there was an old one lane bridge I had to cross over. There were three people on the bridge, dripping wet wearing life jackets and helmets. I recognized them from the cliff. They were climbing to the top of the bridge and jumping off of that in to the river too! Oh to be young and brave again.

our home for a week

Saturday, July 23, 2016

July 23, Grand Tetons adventure

We decided to spend a few nights in Grand Tetons National Park. It has a completely different vibe for me than Yellowstone. The mountains are magnificent, when we came around that bend in the road and I got the first sight of them I was awestruck. 

view from camp
We found a great place to park for a few days, just outside the park boundary on a bluff overlooking the valley. To dry camp in one of the campgrounds in the park was $25. That gets you a graded site and a pit toilet. Full hook-ups were $68-$70!! Our place was free, we had nice neighbors and that unobstructed view of the Tetons. 

We explored Colter Bay and took a nice hike through the forest there. The park guide said that there had been a moose sighting in the area we were going to hike and he was right. The moose was hanging out next to the water, munching away on some grassy stuff. Pretty nice to see that.
Two Ocean Lake

The next day I took a hike around Two Ocean Lake. Didn’t run in to any bears or any people until the last 1/4 mile, then it was only people. Again, I really didn’t want to run in to any bears. The views around the lake were stunning. This picture of the meadow on the opposite side of the lake has the mountains reflected in the water. Once I got on that side and started across the meadow, I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz as she left the Enchanted Forest across the meadow of poppies(my meadow was covered in wildflowers). The Emerald City in the distance being the green forest on the other side with the mountains in the distance. 

in the distance, the meadow of wildflowers
I had a feeling of blissful solitude. At that point I was not fearful of a bear approaching and was able to take pause and admire the beauty surrounding me. The firm earth below my feet, the carpet of wildflowers extending to the waters edge, up the hill and leading me to the next forest. The stillness of the water reflecting all of this against a clear blue sky. The fresh scent in the air of pine and sage, with a sweet undertone of flowers in bloom. The colors of everything blending in perfect harmony, but I didn’t feel that my camera could capture what my eyes were seeing.

Friday, July 22, 2016

July 12-14, 2016 Paradise Valley and Yellowstone Park, continued

I was busy from July 12 to the 14th taking some wonderful hikes in Yellowstone National Park near the Mammoth Hot Springs area. Even in this peak season of masses of tourists from all over the world, with many children in tow, it is possible to get away from the crowds and find solitude in the wilderness. 

The weather was cooler with thunder showers off and on so we decided to go exploring outside the park. We drove down to the end of Tom Miner Rd. to a National Forest Service campground where there is a trail to a Petrified Forest. Jay agreed to go with me, it’s only two miles. We took it nice and slow, as it was all uphill through the forest. We didn’t make it all the way to the petrified forest, the trail dissipated in to a rocky scramble, not something I wanted to try and really not something Jay wanted to experience. I also didn’t want to get caught in a rain storm which looked to be pending.

yep, that's Jay on a hike!
I mentioned that we are staying just outside the park, about 30 minutes to the north entrance.
My second day into the park, there was a twenty minute wait to get through the gate. There were two lines of traffic, and it was the same time of day as two days ago when I came in. Must have been a Tuesday special or something.
 I made my way back to the same trailhead, Bunsen Peak, but this time I took the low road to Osprey Falls. It was a longer hike, around the peak, along an old service road. 3 miles through alpine meadows with a few stands of small timbers and areas a past fire damage. Then I get to the last mile and a half, 700 feet down a narrow switchback trail to the falls. Absolutely worth the walk, the falls were beautiful as was the hike down. Now for the hike back up, well, that’s an opportunity to practice patience and being in the moment. I was definitely tired by the end of all that.

me and Brownie at Osprey Falls
any tasty bugs in this log?

Next day, we decide to go all the way to Norris Geyser Basin, my favorite place in the park. We left at about the same time, to get to the park entrance anticipating a big line, but there wasn’t any! Then as we made our way south, we knew there was road construction with the possibility of a 30 minute wait and we lucked out and got on the tail end of the long line of cars going through. The stars must have been in alignment for us as we found a parking spot right away in the already crowded lot. Even with all of the people there, it is possible to walk all the way out around both basins, and if you wait for it. Have moments of solitude among the billowing steam, the colorful springs and the boiling cisterns.

On our way out at noon time, the line of cars was all the way out to the main road. Good timing on our part.

Undine Falls
bridge over Gardner River on the way to
Tower Junction
After lunch at the Mammoth Hot Springs dining room we drove east towards Tower Junction about 5 miles to the Lava Creek trailhead. Jay dropped me off there and I had 3 hours to hike along the creek(with a 1/2 hour extra before Jay starts to worry). Another place of solitude and a great view of Undine Falls. I saw only 3 other people on this trail. I was trying to imagine what it must have been like to a person who had never seen Mammoth Hot Springs to have been on that trail, to come around the corner to see a very large outcropping of white rock. If it had been at a time when the springs were more active and on a cooler

day, it would have appeared that the mountain side was on fire without flames. Now, the springs are not as active as they once were and it was a warm afternoon so there isn’t much steam. Still a breathtaking site to see that in the distance on the mountainside above the lush green valley of the confluence of the Gardner River and Lava Creek.
Mammoth Hot Springs in the distance

are horses dumb enough to try to cross
a bridge like that?
A friend of mine, who has never visited the park and has plans to do so this fall was asking me about how I feel when I am here. Is there a sense of spirituality about the park, or is it just overrun with tourists and all of their noise making devices, including loud human voices? And Jay was asking me too, what do I think he should see in the park? He knows how much I enjoy being here and what it means to me to be alone in nature. I asked him, what does it matter what I think he should see? It needs to be something you experience for yourself. 

To answer my friends question, yes, I feel a sense of spiritual peace here. It is a place where I can be and sense how vast our world is. How small a piece of it I am. To see how amazing this earth is, sending boiling water out of holes in the ground and how there are microscopic organisms that can thrive in the hot water. How resilient the plants and animals in this environment are and how they have adapted to the presence of humans in their home. How we are given the opportunity to get off the main road, away from the masses of people and in to the wilderness to share the space with them. Yes, there are a lot of people who come to enjoy this place, some are noisy and disrespectful. They think it okay to talk loudly, approach the animals for that once in a lifetime photo(yes, because your life ended when you got gored by that bison), or to walk off the trails putting themselves and others at risk for injury. People get excited about seeing new things and forget to be mindful of the space. But you can find your peace in the park. Get up early to avoid the crowds. It’s colder then, but the animals don’t care and that’s when you’re more likely to see them. And the parking lots are empty early in the morning too. 

Most of all be safe and respectful. Now, get outside!!

Monday, July 11, 2016

July 11, Paradise Valley and Yellowstone National Park

Oh how I love it here. Yellowstone National Park.  Yes it’s a bit crowded in the summer, but this time we have opted to dry camp outside the park, just north of the north entrance at Mammoth and Gardiner, Montana. It can be challenging to get a camping spot in the park without a reservation. You have to make reservations ages in advance at the big campgrounds that take reservations, or try your luck as you drive in. Some are first come, first serve and you better be an early riser to be there to wait for someone to leave. We have been here at different times and have gotten in to those campgrounds with our camper or tent, but that always lends a certain amount of anxiety to the trip. “Where will we go next if we can’t get in here?” There have also been times when we have been tent camping for a few too many days and roll in hoping to get a room or a cabin. On three different occasions over the years we have done just that. One time we thought we would try to get a room at the Old Faithful Inn. Scored that. Another time we lucked in to a cabin at Lake Yellowstone Hotel, and another time at Lake Lodge cabins. But I digress. This time we opted not to deal with the crowds in the park and found Carbella Recreation Area, a BLM managed boat launch/camping spot. Right on the Yellowstone River and just 30 minutes from the north entrance to the park. Which is perfectly fine, there are tons of hiking trails in the Mammoth area that need me to explore them. 

Today I started with a short hike to Bensen Peak. It was only 2.2 miles one way, with a 1300’ elevation gain. Fantastic views from up there. The wind was howling once I got to the top. The weather otherwise was fine for a hike, at least for me. Warm, but not too hot, nice breeze, with occasional gusts. I definitely would have sat around for a while longer at the top had the wind not been blowing so hard, but another time.

Where did all these people come from? I got in to the park at 9:00, found a place to park near the visitor’s center to get the trail map then headed to the trailhead. When I came down, there were a dozen more cars at the trailhead, then down in Mammoth the place was swarming with people! No where to park if I had wanted to take a walk on the boardwalks, and just lucked in to a space for a quick stop to get a cold drink for the drive home. That’s what I mean about this being a super busy time to be here. That’s the trade off for wanting to experience it with some warmer temperatures. When we have been here early on in the Spring, we had snow at times. I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t care for the really cold parts of the year. I’ll let others who enjoy the snow have that to themselves. 

We'll be here for a few more days. Getting some laundry done in Livingston, wish I hadn't forgotten to bring the sheets. It's not like I can run home realy quick and get them as the trailer is about 30 miles from here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

July 10, Montana

Some beautiful places in Montana. Truly is Big Sky country.

This view is from the continental divide looking east.

This is the first dam on the Missouri river, just east of a little town called Toston. The pelicans like it here too.

This is an old bridge at Toston, built in 1920. Jay didn't want to drive over it, but I convinced him it was safe especially after we watched another vehicle drive on it.

It went across this big, wide, flat slow moving Jefferson River.

a happy cat

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