Jul 9, 2007

blogging Yellowstone and beyond: part II

Photos posted first. Captions will be added soon finished. If you're on the main page, click the timestamp or the post title to see all of 'em.

Thursday, July 5

Thursday's jaunt to the Tetons began with a brief side trip through Firehole Canyon, home of some lovely falls and querulous elk.

Once we arrived, we stopped at nearly every pullout for a photo op. In order: sister Cathy, bro-in-law Jon, wife Melissa, and yours truly. Don't ask me to name the peaks.

Our major destination: Jenny Lake, perhaps the park's most popular. We, lazy, took the ten-minute boat ride across the lake to the Hidden Falls / Inspiration Point trailhead. We would have stopped at the latter were it not for rumors of moose down the trail in Cascade Canyon. Verily, there were moose, three in number, largely just lazing about in the bushes, mugging for the Discovery Channel. As we gawked, an older couple noted that they had hiked the canyon several times, including in 1971, the year the mountain shed a mass of boulders. I don't know why, but I always think of rock slides as something that happened in the distant past--I'd certainly never imagine seeing one in action.

Lunch was spent at a picnic ground near the highway, where every centimeter of shade was contested. We washed off dusty feet in the adjoining creek, witnessing as someone's kid was nearly swept away by a deceptively strong current. ("He'll be smarter after that," one of his aunts remarked. There are no guarantees.)

As you can see, my parents are strange.

Our return trip to West Yellowstone led us to the Midway Geyser Basin, home to some of the most colorful pools, terraces, and rivulets in the park. It is the closest thing we have to an alien landscape--it may as well be the surface of Mars. I took many more photos than the few featured here; I wish we could have stayed for sunset. Next time.

We also detoured once more down Firehole Lake Drive, hoping to catch a glimpse of the White Dome Geyser. We waited twelve minutes and were rewarded with its small, but lively, presentation.

And thus ended the day's touring.

Friday, July 6

North this time, first to the Fossil Forest. Along the way, the Calcite Springs overlook gives a great view of the narrowest stretch of Yellowstone's Grand Canyon.

Give me a moment to describe the Fossil Forest trail. It is strenuous. That's what the guide books say, and they're right. Not because it's unusually steep--though it is steep in points--but because it's largely devoid of shade, especially in the steeper points. Some of the guide books say to start at an unmarked pullout, but they're wrong, as a kindly ranger explained. The old trail is going to seed, and on purpose. Instead, begin at the beginning, the marked trail just south of the Lamar Bridge.

If it's summer, bring plenty of water and resolve. The sun will not relent, and neither should you. Stay on the switchbacks--all of them--and eventually you'll reach the postcard stumps.

If you're too bushed just thinking about the ascent, be like the tourists we saw: stay to watch a bison wallowing among the wildflowers, take your photos, and then leave before the heat gets to you.

We were going to be ambitious and try two trails in one day, but oppressive heat kept us sane. Our second major destination was Mammoth Hot Springs, which has changed greatly over the decades, and, at least from a shoot-the-calendar-photo standpoint, for the worse.

A couple scattered shots:

Yellowstone's Golden Gate.

A bison lurks.

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