In Which we Have A Host of Firsts

After last week’s longer post, this one will be a tad shorter.  Yep, Earl, Yogi, and I headed up to Yellowstone.  We also ticked another couple of states off my map and saw some national monuments.  You know, just a normal run-of-the-mill week.  Firsts include visiting the first National Park, the first National Monument, and two firsts-for-me States, plus seeing some animals in the wild (and ‘wild’) for the first time.

Our first night was at Pinedale, “all the civilisation you need” is their motto, a town of 311 people is pretty spot on if you ask me.  At an airbnb (that will be a theme) just south of Jackson Wyoming – you may remember that from our new years eve trip.  We got up at a normal time, had a workout while we waited for Denver traffic to abate, then got on our way. The trip up to Pinedale is only 6.5 hours so the later, about 0930, start was perfectly fine.  We got into town and had a wander, stretching our legs and planning our next day.  We got to the tourist info place and had a good chat with the ladies there, best advice they gave us was the number to call to see the predicted time that the Old Faithful geyser will pop, apparently it’s only every 1.5 hours (plus or minus ten or so minutes), and that bus tours are rampant in the park from 1100 to 1300.  They also warned us about how horrible the Rangers can be, if you have empty water bottles in the back of your truck they’ll fine you; apparently a bear can smell if you ate sandwiches and drank from that bottle and will be drawn to that (I call bs).  We returned to the airbnb, I did an hour of work, then crashed out.IMG_2017-06-01_11-56-04

Yogi got himself situated quite early on, that grin eh!

This trapper guy looked pretty cool, I thought viking but maybe I just like Vikings, really he’s a trapper from the local area.

This is a little story about the first white men to visit Pinedale. I love the language used!

Stuart wrote: [The cabin] must have required great labour and time in erection, from which we infer the personages on whose account it was constructed were not of the common order”.

Pure gold if you ask me, ‘not of the common order’! 😀 Oh, and they spelled labour correctly!!!   Having called the Rangers and determined the geyser would pop about 0930 we got up at 0500 and left by 0530 to head up to the park. At 0800 we were sitting in line to get in to the park (yay lines).

Yogi eagerly awaiting entrance to his home.

These are the Grand Tetons, the while area looks remarkably different to when we were here in January, though there is still snow. 

We got through the dratted gates and headed up to the geyser.  The people waiting was nowhere near as mad as expected.  I snapped a pic of the details of the geyser on the way in, key points:

  • The duration between eruptions is increasing, the signage blames tectonic movement and vandalism (clogging);
  • The interval between eruptions is based on the duration of the previous eruption, hence the predictions are only for the next eruption;
  • There is a constant steam, then a few feet of spurts, then an eruption.

The sign and the steam behind, pity I couldn’t see it properly.

All the people, all waiting patiently, some more so than others. I thought we should all stand and start dancing the can can. Pity chinese-whispers wasn’t an option unless enough people knew more Chinese.

We were all waiting faithfully for Old Faithful. She (he?) kept popping a little then cringing again.

And finally she blew. I was shocked by how long it went for, much longer than those in Iceland, but then Old Faithful only pops every 1.5 hours not every eight minutes.

I had heaps of time for photos then video then some more photos.

With that done we started wandering the general area, there are many many different hot pools, springs, and geysers.  I have to admit my interest started to wane, especially with so many tourists and so many of them not at all respectful of personal space.  Turns out that Yellowstone has the most active geysers in the world, or something like that.  No where did I see reference to the word geyser being derived from the Icelandic / Viking word Geysir, from which all other geysers are named.

This one looks like a stingray from here, I think they called it Chinese hot spring, no clue why.  With so many in the area they surely had troubles naming them all.

No Yogi, don’t jump! I know there are many people but I’ll look after you, kinda.  A large person thumped by on the boardwalk here and he fell to the ground.  Luckily the ground was only a foot ish below the boardwalk or Yogis trip would have ended abruptly.

Then I saw my first ever bison in the wild. Okay, this area isn’t particularly wild, but he isn’t fenced in and it is no zoo…aside from the human zoo of course. He was pretty darned chill.

I hope you can hear the munching sound he’s making, and the birds twittering. I got photos too but given his location right by all the people I barely believe he was that close.

So Castle Geyser pops every 14 to 16 hours according to the couple who I over-heard chatting. Looked like they were camped out waiting for it with their cameras.  They were in luck, it blew about 15 minutes after we walked by (hence the different angle), and it kept going for a good 15 to 20 minutes.

I kept missing the moment that one popped!  I think it was called Sporadic Geyser….apt!

Haha, don’t mark the bacterial mats unless you’re a bison and you need to poop, I guess that is fair.

After fleeing from the tour busses that started to arrive at 1100, Old Faithful was due to pop again about 1130, we headed up the road to find the Morning Glory Pool.  I wonder what it’s like in the mornings?

On the way we found Artemisia Pool and some others that may or may not have had names.

About the only time I could get a view with no people in it. Ah the serenity.

It’s a cool pool!

Yogi agrees, I struggled to drag him away.

Oddly, this discourages me from doing the right thing.  They evidently pump the pool out to remove the debris, which is predominantly natural and normal. They also remove animals when they get stuck. Now I agree that getting out the trash people throw in is admirable, but dead bison and deer are a fact of life for a geyser surely. One gets blocked another opens….is cleaning it out really natural?  Oh, and that’s a Ranger cycling past the no bikes sign, because Rangers are above their own rules.

I hope you can hear the sounds of the springs and creek in this video.

Another little drive up the road, maybe ten minutes, and we happened upon this pool and another bison!

There is red grass in the water!

Mister Bison chewing his cud and chilling by the road.

The colours at this pool were pretty darned cool.

Back in the car, getting a little tired of pools and geysers, and more likely the hundreds of people, we got into some sloopy sounds.

Can’t hear much in this…try the video. There is a recipe though so you can make your own at home!

Please excuse the obnoxious sounds other than the plopping.  Tourists.  What can I say.

Another little drive to some more mud pools. Oh no, wait……

Distraction of bison! I wonder if that’s the collective noun for bison, people were stopped all over the place.

This mud seemed thicker and more goopy here.  They do of course get more sloopy and wet in spring then dry out to more goopy and sloopy in summer and autumn.

The colours from up here were great!

And, aside from our ugly mugs, the views were great too.

I suspect Yogi is channeling the titanic here…

Okay, so we climbed down the hill and headed off in the car again.  We had a few stops along the way, the best is this:

See, mister bison just wandering down the road. So super cool!!!

We were on our journey up to Gardiner for our airbnb, with the intent to stop in at mammoth hot springs. So we did 🙂

I can’t wait to drive over that bridge tomorrow. 

This is mammoth hot springs. It got about 2ft taller between 2009 and 2011.

After that hot spring, the last for the day, we popped into the visitor centre so I could renew my national park pass, I sure got my eighty bucks worth out of it this last twelve months and I guess I’ve used $45 already of the $80 this year.  Then onto Gardiner to our airbnb.  This place was somewhat more dorm style than house but we have our own bathroom so that helps.  We were thoroughly done with geysers by the end of the day, if it’s hot and goes pop, splash, splash, or plollup, I’m done.  Tomorrow is waterfall day and it promises to be pretty darned good. Here is a teaser from a local creek, it sure is in a hurry!

Spring rains, snow melt, and a good storm last night. Here’s hoping for another storm tonight. Even without the rivers are up and it should be fun.

So I managed to forget a story yesterday.  We were walking some place, someplace with many many tourists (narrows it down I know) when this tourist going the other way gave us mega stink eye. Earl remarked on it a reasonable distance later and we couldn’t work our why. Then it dawned in me, a Mexican with a white girl totally deserves stink eye, mixed race and all.  [Note: This is actually funny because Earls dad is half Mexican, I cracked myself up!] Lucky he found it quite funny too.

Okay, so Saturday morning dawned…well the alarm rang before the dawn, and we got moving into the park again.  We were  headed towards a hike along the southern rim of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon (yes, that is the name).  I got a little distracted.

The arch is here at the original entrance; I needed a shot of the sign; and we’ll that is kinda cool!

We then toddled up to mammoth hot springs. Okay, I missed the road and got distracted by a major feature with only two (three?) tourists present.

Turns out mother nature likes popping a hot spring where humans put roads; Yogi was so excited by the lack of people, almost as pleased as me!

I have to admit there will be a lot of loving sounds again today, this is the sizzle and drizzle of the hot springs.

The reflections were amazing!

There are so many videos to choose from, so gran and gramps you can watch them all! Incentive. This one looks like snow, but it’s steaming.

This one shows some of the early morning colours.

Just another nice shot at mammoth. There weren’t many at all…..

This is just around the corner from mammoth, I’m not sure if the photo quite gets it but there were sheets of hot water pouring down…a damned expensive water feature.

We then got driving and I realised the error of my ways, I’d missed the turn well before mammoth. No regrets at all, that was amazing to see with no one there. We followed the Yellowstone river and there were one or two pretty spots along the way but many many elk and a few bison.

The first waterfall for the day, quite pretty but it gets better.

The views out this side of the park are very different. 

More bison…

We arrived at the planned parking and got to the trailhead and there was an annoying sign saying that the south rim trail is closed. Ergh, annoying! So we kept going to the Artists Point where there was one tour bus already there, by the time we looked at that view and determined a walk was in order, one that wasn’t closed, there were three tour busses.  Yay, super yay.

I guess the artists point is aptly named, super pretty colours all over the place.

The roaring of the river was awesome! 

The goal of the walk was Point Sublime, the most sublime part is the lack of other people, the view itself was ho hum. Earl made nerdy jokes about sublimation etc, but it was nice and peaceful.

We took a slight detour on the way back and snapped these gems. The lake, aptly named Lilly Pad Lake, was quite pretty. (enjoy the appropriate riddle further on in the post!

And this creek was actually warm water!

We then thought that the canyon area was all done so we headed down to the lake area. Here we had been recommended lunch in the lake lodge but it was closed, so we had salad and wraps with a peaceful view of the lake.  We paused at the dragons mouth cave:

Apparently the waves used to lap at the deck, now they’re small.

This lake feeds into the Yellowstone river.  It’s quite the large.  The Yellowstone river was flowing at about 25000cfs, which is huge!  You can now understand why the roaring.

After a yummy lunch and giving the girl making coffee some guff (she got nothing right) we cruised back towards the canyon north rim, not expecting much to be open, because that is what the newspaper said.  We were mistaken and I was kicking myself for not popping in there first. Here will be many videos because I love the roar!

This is the upper falls, 33M tall.

And this is the best bit, the 93M lower falls. So amazingly awesome.

Earl and Heights, always a giggle, I’m sure you can see how white his knuckles are.

We walked around to another vantage point and we’re not at all disappointed, even with hundreds of stairs and some decently steep areas. Worth it!

Great shot, not sure how mister-dont-like-heights got it! Thanks Earl.

On our way back to Gardiner we had two major slow downs on the road.  The first was for a black bear. Turns out she had two cubs with her.  This was a moment for a giant lens, the road was swarming with old white guys with giant lenses and Asian people with ipads, there is no way the latter got a decent shot but they almost got run over many times.  That’s my first ever bear in the wild and I saw it from a safe place, so I feel content now on the bear front.  The second time we had a big slow down I was hearing an odd noise as well, turns out there was a coyote (or wolf but for many reasons I think coyote). It was howling and chirping and making a right racket, then it trotted off and the cars were able to move again, not sure why it was being so noisy. Just around the corner there was another coyote, not causing as much of a slow down, but it was pouncing on something as we drove by.  So cool! So I know I’ve got some awesome photos, but there are a couple I’ve missed because I don’t have a mid-life-crisis camera and lens.

We eventually got back to our beds, ate dinner, and crashed. The next couple of days are big driving days. Sunday we got up nice and early again and got in the road, 6.5 hours across the state to the Devil’s Thumb then on to Whitewood, South Dakota, another couple of hours.

The sun rising through the valleys was pretty cool, hard to get a good shot at 140km/hr.

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Some more stunning scenery……for a morning and all!IMG_2017-06-04_11-17-19We had breakfast at some no place place, I think it was Corona or something like that. I had the bear necessities for breakfast and a giggle at the loo sign by the lock.

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We saw an awful lot of open greenery. Sure, spring helps, but it’s pretty stunning here.

It was about this time that I started asking Earl riddles.  My favourite one was on Monday, but I’ll start it here.  Note it is also relevant to the beautiful Lilly Pad Lake we saw the other day:

There is a pond with a patch of lilly pads on it.  Each day the patch of lilly pads doubles in size.  It takes forty eight days for the lillies to cover the entire pond.  How long does it take to cover half the pond?  This one had Earl stumped for oh so long.

Sure, we were tired at this point, but I believe he was (or should be) embarrassed about how easy that one is and how many times I emphasised the key words.  And he still had to be told!  So while doing all this driving and riddling we eventually got to the Devils Tower.  This is the first National Monument.  Its pretty cool.

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Yogi again waiting in line!

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This is the tower, pretty special for sure.  Not seen anything quite like this before.

“Whoa… Finish on the massive random bump” – Ben Cooper

Then we headed in to the airbnb for the night.  This night gave me my first trip to South Dakota, and it absolutely counts – not even at a stretch – because I slept there!  We stayed in Whitehall, which is a tiny town just north of Deadwood.  Deadwood is a place with a whole lot of wild west history.  Wild Bill Hicock, who is some famous cowboy, was shot here.  Now it is a casino town.  I understand why that happens, and the casinos actually do a decent job of preserving the history of the area, but they also inject an insane amount if tourism.  We ate at some place which was named for the place that Wild Bill was shot, but was not the place that Wild Bill was shot (I recognise that I’m tired, but re-read it, I’m sure it makes sense).  The food was decent but the service was rubbish.

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The main street followed by some of the town highlights.

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I sincerely hope this is a genuine Calamity Jane quote – that would be amazing!

Then back to bed, we were darned tired.  We woke quite early again and had another riddle.

What rock group has four men that don’t sing?

While we worked out the answer to that one we drive the long way – think 2.5 hours instead of one hour to the place I affectionately titled the giant dead presidents.  The road we took was a ‘must see’ according to our airbnb host Chris.  And he wasn’t much wrong, the park is stunning!  The Needles Highway and the associated state park are both amazing and I suspect that I’ll be back to that region to do some hiking and spend some more time exploring.  Its only six hours from Denver if you go the direct route and you don’t miss a few turns.  And the whole area, not just the Needles, is absolutely stunning, rolling hills with some interesting rocks, and some creeks that make it look like it really is green most of the time.  And its cattle country – so highly recommended for Ma and Pa!

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We were also told to stop by this chocolaterie, the Chubby Chipmunk, by our Hostess Angela.  Apparently they put their truffles in the bags of goodies at the Grammys.  Its a no-place place with a vending machine for those who are unable to visit inside visiting hours.  The truffles I have to admit were really quite special.

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This is a taster of the Needles – just go there, seriously!  And my first Groundhog.  There was a family of three at our side of the tunnel when we got there, and we slowly followed them as they ran through the tunnel and out the other side to eventually sit on the barrier.

Then we got to Mount Rushmore.  Initially I was not impressed, then as I got closer and the sheer scale pressed itself upon me; I became more interested.  When we wandered around the museum for ten minutes I got super impressed, seeing how they actually executed this monstrosity in that time, before 1942, is pretty darned cool!

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There they are in all their glory.

They had this super cool thing where you chose an area and the picture came up on the screen, then you pushed down the blasting button-bar-tnt-thing and the video of the blast went off in the movie.  Super cool…I pressed them all 🙂

Then we headed home, all six hours of it, as efficiently as possible and with many more riddles…only hampered by the lack of phone reception in areas so I couldn’t confirm the answers.  I’m sure you worked out the two riddles I gave you: 47 days and Mount Rushmore.  This is the route we did, all 1785 miles which turned into 1847 miles (which I don’t think is too bad) by the time we did some back and forth and some oops, wrong way (my fault) on the last day, and other minor explorations.

When we got home we ordered Chinese for Earls birthday dinner, a day early, and he proceeded to follow a host of riddles to find his presents.  Yep – I was training his brain for this moment for two days!  Sure, I had planned to give him a few riddles over the trip, but then he liked them so much and they kept him amused thinking and me amused laughing my head off that we just kept going.  Another:

Can you name the two days that start with ‘t’ other than Tuesday and Thursday?

No, the answer is not “no, I cannot”!

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