Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Other Things You’ll See In Yellowstone

Beyond the geysers, hot springs, canyons, lakes, and waterfalls, we noticed that  there were other things in Yellowstone in substantial quantities as well.  So, what these other things?  One day we kept a count just to determine how many we saw.

100_7644Rental Motor Homes – We counted 54 of these in one day.  You see them everywhere in the Park.  People who rent them don’t pull cars behind them so they are driving them everywhere that everyone else drives their much smaller vehicles.  Also, people who rent them generally have little to no experience driving such a vehicle.  We try to stay away from them as much as we can and get way over when meeting one on the road.  But we do have empathy for them as we were once motor home renters ourselves.

100_7760Roof-Top Cargo Carriers – We certainly identify with these people as we travel with a cargo carrier on our roof (the turd as it is known from one of our previous posts).  Ours carries golfing equipment, which isn’t used nearly enough to justify having a carrier on the roof.  We feel sure the people in Yellowstone are putting theirs to more practical use.  We saw 98 of these in one day.

100_7761The New Ford Escape – Being Ford retirees, we were happy to see that there are a lot of the new-design Ford Escapes out on the roads of Yellowstone.  We owned one of the old-style Escapes and the new one is a radical departure from the old so we tend to notice them and apparently they are selling very well.  We saw 20 of them during the day.  We can sponsor people for discounts on Ford Products – send us an email.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Camped In An Earthquake Zone?

100_7765We have been enjoying the fish camp that we are using to explore the Yellowstone area.  The fisherman have been very friendly to us including the Actor, William Devane, who let us short cut across his campsite when we were walking from the river back to our motor home.  He apparently is an avid fly fisherman and keeps a fifth wheel at this campground.


100_7715The extra miles into Yellowstone haven’t really been an issue as it is a beautiful drive east through the Madison River Canyon and past two reservoirs on the river.  But as you drive along, you see these roadside markers:  “Night of Terror”, “Refuge Point”, “The Lake That Tilted”, “Earthquake Lake”, etc.  So we had to investigate a bit.  Seems this area is one of the most infamous geologic areas of the US in the 20th century.  In August of 1959, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit this area.  That was the strongest quake ever recorded in the Rocky Mountain Range.  The quake was so severe that the bed of one side of Hebgen Lake fell nearly 20 feet causing the Lake to “tilt” during the earthquake.  But far worse was the massive and horrific landslide of one of the faces of the mountains of the canyon.  It is estimated that 6.8 million equivalent dump trucks worth of material fell off the side of the mountain, across the river valley, and back up the side of the mountain on the other side of canyon.  Shown below is part of the mountain face that crumbled.  The second picture shows a giant boulder, one of many, that rode across the top of this “river” of rocks to the other side of the canyon.


100_7737There was a campground right in the area of the rock slide.  Nineteen people were tragically buried under the rock.  Another nine people elsewhere in the quake zone were killed.  The roads leading into and through the area were destroyed.  Some 250 people were trapped in the canyon.  The earth slide across the canyon created a new dam downstream of the dam for Hebgen Lake.  The water behind this newly created dam rose rapidly.  The people trapped in the canyon had so seek high ground, now know as Refuge Point from which the injured were evacuated by helicopter.

100_7741The water behind the new dam was backing up to the Hebgen Lake Dam threatening its integrity and thereby risking a massive flood downstream of the two dams.  The Army Corp of Engineers had to come in quickly and dig a channel through the center of the dam created by the rock slide to lower the lake behind it.  There is still a substantial lake behind this dam, known as Earthquake Lake.  Dead trees still stand in the Lake and are known today as ghost trees.  And it is an eerie site, especially with ugly back Cormorant birds perched in the ghost trees.

100_7722So where are we camped in relation to all this?  We are at just about the last bend in the river that you can see in the picture to the right.  That is about two miles downstream from the rock slide dam of Earthquake Lake with the dam and Hebgen Lake setting right upstream of Earthquake Lake.  The thought has crossed our minds more than once while here about what another quake of this magnitude could mean to us with a steep mountain face on at least one side of us here at the camp and with all that dammed up water upstream from us in the canyon.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Yellowstone Trip 3

It was another long and grand trip into Yellowstone National Park.  This time we did the entire southern half of the “figure 8”.  We started with a waterfall (Firehole Falls)  and then took in one of the geyser basins that we hadn’t toured with Old Faithful – this time it was Midway Geyser Basin.  This basin has two huge features.  One is Grand Prismatic Spring which at about 400 feet across is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone.  The other is Excelsior Geyser located right next to and pumps 4,000 gallons a minute of boiling hot water from a large pool over a rock terrace it has created and into the Firehole River.


From there we caught another waterfall (Kepler Cascades).  We continued up across the continental divide only to go down into somewhat of a valley, then back up over the continental divide a second time.  We saw some small alpine ponds full of lily pads that were in full bloom. 

As we headed toward Yellowstone lake, we noted that there was another Geyser basin at the West Thumb of the Lake.  We actually thought about passing this one up.  After awhile all these thermal features have to start looking the same, right?  Moreover, how could there be an impressive geyser field right next to a huge and cold alpine lake that would have to cool the area?  Well, we were there so we went ahead and toured it.  Once again, Yellowstone did not disappoint.  No way had we seen it all.  There were some of the clearest hot spring pools we had seen yet with great apparent depth to them.  And there were bubbling hot springs even out into the lake itself.


100_7597And then there is Yellowstone Lake itself with over 100 miles of shoreline at an elevation of over 7,700 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountain peaks.

Nope, this wasn’t the end of the day yet.  We drove north from the lake to an area that has a ….. mud volcano, Dragon’s Mouth Spring which belches steam and hot water out of a cave-like opening, a giant mud pot, and  a huge sulfur caldron.



And just for some added beauty, we drove through the Hayden Valley, with perhaps the lushest meadows in the Park on each side of the Yellowstone River and cruised by this buffalo specimen running right along the side of the road.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Our Travels Have Been Published!

We were contacted awhile back by a freelance writer who asked us if we would participate in an article about full-time RVers he was trying to sell to a magazine.  Our travels in a magazine?  Sure!  He sold the concept, we and a couple other couples were interviewed, we offered up a few pictures, and some time later the article actually came to fruition and recently was published.
So, in what erudite travel magazine are we appearing?  National Geographic?  Travel and Leisure?  Conde Nast?  Motor Home?  Trailer Life?  Nope, none of the above.  We are appearing in……………. ALL ABOUT BEER.  Huh?  Yes, we are in article about people who live on the road and visit lots of breweries.
So how did this all come about?  Well, before we went on the road we had taken up the hobby of home brewing beer.  We actually became somewhat accomplished brewers.  We won two ribbons and an engraved glass beer mug at the Home Brew competition of the Michigan State Fair one year.  We were members of the Downriver Brewer’s Guild and we all shared our brews with each other at the monthly meeting and had at least one outing each month that involved the quaffing of craft beer.  Whenever we traveled, we consulted the “beer maps” and sought out the craft breweries of the area.  And it wasn’t just a beer thing.  Most small breweries serve food and there are generally three good things about food in breweries:  1) it won’t be fast food, 2) they won’t be chain restaurants, and 3) good brewers are also good cooks who will serve up tasty fare.
So, it was natural for us to carry on these traditions as we travel.  We still consult the beer maps and when we are dining out first and foremost we look for a brewery to dine at.  There was a thread on the Escapees forum where we posted along a few others about our brewery visits.  Somehow the freelance writer found us from that thread and the rest is now history.
And without further ado…………..here is link to the article.  The link we had posted stopped working so we now are trying to display the article another way through the photo album link below:

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Second Trip to Yellowstone


Our second trip to Yellowstone was a far longer one than the first.  The main road in the center of the park is shaped liked a figure eight and then there are five tentacles off the figure eight that are the entrance roads.  For our Old Faithful trip we probably only drove about one fourth of the bottom half of the figure eight.  This trip we drove the entire upper half of the figure eight.    Our first stop was at Gibbon Falls – there are a lot of waterfalls in Yellowstone.

100_7448Next it was off to the Norris Geyser Basin.  This area is the hottest of Yellowstone’s thermal areas.  Our panoramic shot does a pretty good job of showing the thermal landscape ones traverses in this geyser 100_7470basin. 

One of the hot springs there was called pearl geyser.  It has a very different milky blue color to it.  We might have called it opal geyser or blue topaz geyser, but then no one asked us for a name.  We wondered who had named them all.


From Norris we drove north to the Mammoth Hot Springs area.  We had seen other areas where the mineral-laden waters of hot springs had flowed down hills to create terraces of rock, but nowhere in Yellowstone are these terraces larger than at Mammoth.  We drove north out of Mammoth to see the Roosevelt Arch.  This arch marked what for a long time was the main entrance to the park, now the north entrance.  President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Park in 1903 and asked to lay the cornerstone to the arch and it has been known as the Roosevelt Arch ever since.  The top of the arch is inscribed with a quote from the Organic Act of 1872, the legislation which created Yellowstone, which reads "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People."




We then took off for the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and its two beautiful waterfalls.  The rock walls of the canyon are so colorful.  It was just not possible for us to capture all the glory of this spectacular canyon.


On our last blog someone commented about how buffalo and bear can cause traffic jams in Yellowstone.  Here is some proof as this buffalo was just sauntering down the road tying up traffic on both sides.  To say that he passed close to our window as he strode by would be a bit of an understatement.  Hey fella.


And just for the added challenge of a really long day, we stopped at Artist Paintpots and caught this shot from high on the trail that shows all the pots that look like they belong on an artist’s palette.  And we also saw our first mud geyser just a plop, plop, plopping along.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Our First Day In Yellowstone

100_7490The day after our arrival at the campground, we made our first foray into Yellowstone National Park.  After only one trip, we quickly extended our stay here.  We told the campground owner we wanted to stay at least a week, but after one trip to the Park, we extended to 12 days.  Why?  This Park is massive and each trip is going to be a major adventure that we will have to recover from.  Yellowstone is larger than the States of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.  And as we have over a 60 mile round trip just between our campground and the park entrance, these are going to be big travel days.

100_7317So what did we do on our first day in the Park?  We went to the Old Faithful area of course.  We had heard that the crowds here are huge this time of year.  We had a bit of a time finding a parking space the in huge 100_7328parks lots of Old Faithful.  And here is a picture of the crowd assembled for one of the “showings” that occur about every 90 minutes.  They have built a section of bleachers (well, benches at least) to accommodate the crowds.  You also quickly figure out that Yellowstone is not just an American treasure; it is a worldwide one  You hear about as many languages being spoken as at the United Nations.  Enough already.  Here she is – Old Faithful in all her glory.



We also saw the eruptions of Castle Geyser and Daisy Geyser in this geyser field, but we didn’t get to see Riverside Geyser or Giant Geyser, so we will have to go back for those.


100_7400The other major feature that we saw in this basin was Morning Glory Pool a beautiful hot spring with many gorgeous colors.  These are only a few of the many sites in just this one geyser basin.  There are reportedly over 10,000 thermal features in the park.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

On to Yellowstone

100_7312We made the final decision not to go up to the Canadian Rockies.  We just didn’t think we could take the time to do justice to that area.  We turned south so we guess this is the top of our north/south loop this year.  We planned to take two days to drive from Glacier to Yellowstone, but instead it turned into three.  Near the end of the first day, we had to pull a grade of a few miles on the freeway.  The diagnostic monitor on the dash flashed something about fuel pressure on the screen.  The next exit on the freeway was the one we were taking anyway.  There was a truck repair shop right at the exit and lo and behold there was a campground about 50 yards down the road as well so it was an easy call just to stop and stay the night only about 60 miles from our planned destination. 

Gary checked a few things and concluded that the fuel filters needed to be changed again.  We apparently still aren’t completely rid of the infected fuel we had back in December.  The next morning Gary walked over to the truck repair only to find that the shop was out of business, but as further luck would have it there was another car repair shop about 100 yards down the road and they said they could change the filters for us and did so right away.  And we didn’t have any further problems after the change.

100_7315We got close to Yellowstone on the second day, but stayed a ways up the road as we wanted to get an early start as we were targeting a National Forest Campground near the west entrance that doesn’t take reservations – it is first come first served.  We had already checked and all the other close campgrounds were full.  We arrived at the campground at 9 AM, but after making two laps through the campground, it became clear that we weren’t going to get a spot.  We stopped at the entrance and called all the local campgrounds again – no cancellations, no vacancies. What were we going to do?  Here we were in West Yellowstone with no camp site and no prospect of one.  We had had great success at obtaining most all our campgrounds without reservations but it looked like this time we had been burned.

We had seen some campgrounds on the road into West Yellowstone so we decided just to drive back up the road until we found something further from the park than we planned.  The first two campgrounds we stopped at were completely full and we were afraid we might not find anything before where had camped the night before, 75 miles up the road.  But at the next stop, we hit the jackpot.  It was a fish camp that had one single spot open only because someone had left early.  We leaped at it and secured a full hookup site for $30 a night, about half the rate of the private campgrounds in West Yellowstone.  It is 30 miles to the west gate, but the great rate will easily offset the additional driving.  The campground is right on the Madison River apparently one of the finest areas of trout fishing in the country.  We might even try our luck at fishing while we are here.  http://slideinn.com/blog/

Monday, July 15, 2013

Waterton NP, Alberta, CA/Border Crossing Fiasco

Right across the border north from Glacier National Park in Montana, USA is Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada.  Although they are each administered quite separately, they are together known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.  We are not quite sure what that international designation actually accomplishes, but hopefully it is a good thing.

But Waterton is an equally spectacular to park to Glacier.  And it houses the historic and iconic Prince of Wales Hotel opened in 1927.  In order to show the aerial view of the hotel on its hill overlooking the lake and mountains, we had to borrow a shot from their website, but the rest are ours.

prince of wales100_7221


We had a splendid day touring this park.  We saw mountains, lakes, waterfalls, canyons, moose, bear and wildflowers.



But the real excitement occurred on the way back from Canada.  We cleared Canadian Customs earlier in the day quite easily going North, but we did notice that Customs station closes at 10pm.  This is a very remote border crossing that is only open for the tourist trade in the tourist season.  About the only cars that cross here are ones traveling between the two parks. So on the way back we pull up toward the US Customs station. There were no cars up ahead at all.  There are only three lanes.  One seems to be for trucks, RVs and taller vehicles, another lane goes under a roof of a building and the through lane going toward the Canadian booth.  We pull up to the under-roof lane.  At the stop-here point, we see there is a cone ahead right in the middle of the lane.  So we back up a bit and approach the truck lane. There is a cone in the middle of that lane too.  There is no sign of anyone at the booth.  Did the US side close earlier than the Canadian side?  So there is a space to the left out of the truck lane and into a through lane and that is where we went, out and around the Customs station and on our way back in the States toward our campground as we still wonder how the station could have been deserted.  Well, about three miles down the road, we see the red flashing lights roaring up behind us.  One Customs officer approaches each side of the car.  They confiscate our passports and tell us to return to the station, as they follow up lights flashing where they have told us we may be arrested.  We explain everything and anything we can without giving them a blast that if anyone had been in any kind of sight, we would have stopped.  After interrogation, inspection of our car, the arrival of two other officers in green uniforms who cased the car and us for awhile, with the approval of someone up the chain of command in some other location, and an hour and half of sitting in the uncomfortable chairs, we finally were released without arrest and allowed to continue on our way with only a warning NEVER to do that again.

We had been debating whether to go on up in the motor home to the all the Canadian Parks west of Calgary, but this episode made the decision for us.  Gary asked the officer if we now were more likely to be inspected anytime we might leave the States and come back in through US Customs.  He wouldn’t directly answer that question, but he did say, “you should always be prepared for an inspection whenever you return".  That was enough for us, we could pretty much figure that we now are flagged for inspection anytime we try to clear US Customs.  No way are we going to sit through the motor home pulling the toad all being torn apart with us having to put it all back together.  We decided to turn south from Glacier and we will be on our way to Yellowstone instead of Lake Louise.

Yes, what we did was dumb and we should have perceived that at the time, but sometimes after a day of driving and hiking you just want to get back and make a snap decision even if it is a very bad one.  We paid for this one.