Tuesday, August 28, 2007

(24) Grand Teton Wyoming continued.. Yellowstone NP

Grand Teton, Continued….
Yellowstone, South End, Grand Loop, North End

Barely minutes go by, and my adventure continues. Back at the Teton Lodge, I send out my last report and then I find the table and chairs that were used in the signing of an accord between Reagan and Khrushchev. I sit in both chairs, butt to butt where Reagan and Khrushchev sat hoping to pick up a vibe. No vibe today, probably for the better.
I then go outside, and find the path to Lunch Top mountain, where John D Rockefeller the II used to go when he was first introduced to the Grand Tetons. It was his favorite spot to view the mountains and have lunch. The other trails outside of the lodge were all closed due to recent bear sightings. After hiking up the hill, it too had the rest of the trail blocked due to bears in the area. But the views from the top are very inspiring. And probably are what made him decide to buy up so much of the valley for future generations to enjoy.

I then drove over to the Cunningham cabin. One of the original ranch cabins in the Jackson Hole valley. Another one of those places where you walk around the pastures surrounding the cabin, with constant views of the Teton Mountains off in the distance. Prairie dogs peaking their heads out of there dens, or standing on their hind feet, with their front paws just hanging there, looking so darn cute. Solitude and peace fill the air as I silently walk along the dirt paths. Streams gurgling through the pastures. Others come and go, as I walk the paths one more time, not eager to leave this place. I sit on a wooden fence, worn from years of harsh weather and snows. The sun feels warm as I gaze out over those bewitching mountains. What is it about them that makes one constantly want to see them.

Later as I go back to the campsite, more moose are out and everyone has to stop and watch including me. While at the campsite, reading a book, just enjoying a quiet afternoon, a silver fox walks right through my campsite. His big fluffy tail straight out behind him, making him look twice as long as he really is. Wildlife, it’s everywhere. Thrilling. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this place.

And then it’s time to go. I’ve packed up once again, and I’m heading up the road into Yellowstone. You know, it backs right up to The Grand Teton National Park. All yesterday I was in a bit of a tizzy knowing I would be leaving the next day. The Mountains got me good.
But, the excitement of exploring a new destination awaits as I head out early in the morning. I had already driven into Yellowstone a couple days before just to get a feel for the place. Once there, I decided to go check out the main feature, Old Faithful. It is what it is and the hike around to the other steaming caldrons and geysers made for a full day. On my way back, I stopped at the grand Yellowstone Lodge and bumped into my camping neighbors from Teton who had already moved on. What a pleasant surprise. We chatted about old times… (two days ago). They have a cottage up on Lake Tahoe. Invited me to come on up and stay a while…. Now isn’t that nice.

But back to my trip into Yellowstone…. The road is narrow and crosses the Continental Divide a couple of times, so I wanted to get into Yellowstone before the road traffic got too heavy. And to my great surprise, I saw a black bear cross the road. What a great way to start a day. Do you know what the continental divide refers too??? I had a couple ask me and (smarty me) told them it refers to the land where the rivers to the east of the continental divide go east, many connecting to the Missouri and Mississippi and the rivers to the west of the divide flow west. It’s not a straight line by any means and I’ve crossed it numerous times while out west on this trip. The pioneers travels along the Oregon and Santa Fe trail were eager to get to the Continental Divide, hoping to be able to use the western rivers as a means of transportation. Most of the time, they had no idea they had crossed the divide and besides the rivers were too rugged to use for transportation and they had to walk or ride theirs horses the rest of the way.

So you see, a short drive into Yellowstone becomes an adventure and a part of history. I even stopped at one of the Continental Divide signs at 8,762 ft elevation in Yellowstone. A small lake covered with lily pads had the distinction of feeding rivers to the east and west of the divide. Ok, so I thought it was pretty cool anyway.

Today I drove the lower loop in the park. One really gets the feel of the park taking one of their loop tours. Mine took well over 6 hours. This is a big park. The first leg I traveled along the western edge of the Yellowstone Lake, all misty first thing in the morning. Traveling through the park, I was able to see the devastation of the 1988 fires and the rebirth of a forest. The new growth is anywhere from about 10 feet high to about 20 ft. Where ever the burn occurred, I’m able to see the topography so much easier. It’s rather inspiring to see all the new lodge pole pines growing back and so healthy. Fireweed, a lavender wildflower that easily blooms for a couple of years after a devastating fire are still blooming in the open fields. Maybe natures way of saying it’s going to be ok. Hmm maybe that’s why they have cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. each spring…. Hope for a better future.

Although I wasn’t that overly impressed at seeing the Old Faithful area, once you see the caldrons, mud pots, steaming vents, mud volcano’s and bubbling water coming out of the lakes and streams all around the lake and Caldara, it’s much easier to get inspired and awed by the size of this collapsed volcano. Of course it’s still active and knowing that and seeing the visible results really gives one an odd feeling, knowing your inside of an active volcano. I loved the sounds that were made by the dragons tongue. It sounded like a violent ocean crashing out of the cave, the water roaring and churning from the gasses pushing up against the cave opening. Other hissing and gurgling.

From a part of the old forest, with it’s huge lodge pole pines reaching for the skies, the road suddenly opened into a vast rolling prairie, right in the middle of the park. And as if on queue, bison came running across the plains, down into the valleys and back up over the rolling hills. What a site, hearing their hooves pounding and dust flying all around them. An awesome site that gave me a brief glimpse of what it would have been like a hundred years ago when our pioneers first set eyes on the bison. Of course back then, there were, I’ve been told, millions of buffalo and that it would sometimes take days before they would all thunder by.

I still hadn’t seen a male antelope with it’s big antlers and after almost giving up, now heading south back to the campground, I passed a sign that said “Antelope Meadow” and their was a lone antelope and a coyote. Easy to spot, with all the cars and campers pulled over to the side of the road. Both seemed oblivious to all us tourists watching from the edge of the road. The coyote sniffing out his prey, small squirrels and mice, then smelling their scent or movement, he’d leap up and pounce down on them. Catching his prey most times. The antelope and coyote passing each other in complete disregard for each other.

My last three days, I’ve arrived at the north entrance, Mammoth Springs. It’s where a small Army post was first established to protect this new National Park back in the late 1800‘s. Many of the original buildings are here. Since no funds had yet been assigned by congress to pay for staff and make roads and all those essentials in a new park, there were many poachers taking advantage of the big game in the area. The Army helped bring order to this new park while it grew and became what it is today.

My campsite is on the side of a valley, the old Army post, visitor center, museum above me along with Mammoth Springs on top of a plateau. I have an expansive view of the valley with the road leading north out of the park. Opposite me is a high sparsely treed mountain range. Big sky with rolling white clouds above.

Mammoth Springs was ok, except that many of the springs are currently inactive, making the once shimmering pools created by the lime stone mostly dried up. The hike along the extensive boardwalks certainly gives one plenty of exercise. The smell of the old wooden planks wet from a couple of days of rain. An earthy smell, rich and pure. Sulfur smells drifting from the few active pools along Mammon Springs. Fresh mountain air.

And I took a short ride to Boiling River which flows into the Gardner River. It’s the only place I know of in Yellowstone where you can enjoy the hot springs and a swim. The Boiling River is the super hot water from Mammoth Springs, flowing underground until it reaches an opening in a cave next to Gardner River. The hot water flows over the lime deposits along the river and people have made rock pools to separate the very cold Gardner river. Just enough to mix the hot and cold waters into these wonderfully warm pools all along the rivers edge. It was a blast walking along the very rugged river bottom to these pools. The water rushing past me on it’s way down river. Then dipping into the warm waters and feeling the rush of water like a huge water jet sooth all the muscles. What a great way to spend part of a day. Then a refreshing hike back to the parking lot, about a mile away. Gorgeous scenery along the river the entire way. Chatting with strangers along the path, everyone enjoying an adventure that Disney could never create.

Gosh, I guess I really should have made this into two reports…..

Ps, Can you believe along with all this touring and sight seeing I was able to finish reading the last Installment of Harry Potter. Every time I opened the book it seemed the clouds got darker and it would eventually start to rain…. Was it a part of my opening this enchanting book, or just a couple of rainy days? It sure seemed magical, setting the scene for reading a great book with a super ending. Hope you have a chance to read it.

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