2004 - August - Yellowstone National Park & Mt Rushmore

by Scott  

Sunday 7/25/04

03:50 -  We?re off again, heading east on I-90 to Yellowstone. It?s been a hectic week and a half prior to leaving but we made it. Yesterday was Taylor?s birthday party, hot with the temperature in the 90?s but a nice breeze at their house. Dinner (Mexican) with Becky last evening, she leaves for Hawaii in a week and then off to New Orleans to college. We packed up the car when we got home, mostly Scott?s job, and here we are.

Scott has never been to Yellowstone and it?s been years since I?ve been there so this will be fun.

05:15 -  We stopped at the Indian Joe rest area, met a nice fellow from Naches. He was covering the coffee booth for the night.

08:00 -  Sprague, WA -  We stopped at the Viking restruant, unfortunately a smoking facility, but friendly people. Everyone who came in said ?good morning?, we had a good breakfast.

10:00 -  At Pinehurst, ID, we started seeing a bike trail, mostly paved, that follows I-90 and travels past Mullen, we think, and up toward Lookout Pass. We did lose sight of it though at Mullen.

10:55 -  We went over Lookout Pass, very appropriately named. It?s a beautiful, clear day, blue skies, the views are spectacular. As we entered Montana, we made a time zone change. It looks like the bike trail, we saw signs calling it the Hiawatha Trail, extends down the other side of the pass, following the St. Regis River. It?s not paved on this side of the pass though. The trail ended at St. Regis where we saw a train trestle in need of repair and then a golf course.

13:30 -  Missoula ? We stopped at Subway for lunch, not great, then we got gas.

16:15 -  We took 359 past Butte to connect with 287 to Yellowstone. We drove through a rocky canyon along a serene river, Jefferson river, we think. There was a white pelican on the river and a huge cavern up and to the left. As we came out of the canyon, the landscape changed to sagebrush and within another few miles, it became pasture land ? quickly changing landscape. Our next stop is Yellowstone, 106 miles ahead!

18:10 Arrived at Yellowstone, filled up with gas, and headed into the park. We are already seeing eagles and elk.

19:30 -  We?re here! We stopped to register and get the bear speech, then went to our campsite, #391, at Grant Village Campground. Nice big site, close to the bathroom but not too close. We think making reservations early gives us nice campsites, we noticed this in Canada and at Glacier also. It rained on our way down 287, it?s cloudy here, so we got the tent set up and supplies moved inside in case it decides to rain again. We drove over to get ice, look at the showers, check out the cost for a shower, etc. I?m sure a warm shower will feel great after hiking. Lots of mosquitoes! We ate pepper jack and summer sausage on rosemary flat bread, tasted great, then cleaned up and went to bed. Long day but we are here!

Monday 7/26/04

07:30 ? We?re awake, heard it rain during the night, lots of bird and chipmunk or squirrel sounds this morning. We got up, Scott made coffee, I started setting up the canopy. We kind of wished we?d taken the time to do it last evening, the table is quite wet. Coffee always tastes good in the morning, but out here, it?s especially good. Had our usual oatmeal w/cranberries plus juice, finished organizing ourselves and our site, then started out to go site seeing.

10:30 ? We drove up to Old Faithful first and as luck would have it, it erupted about 10 minutes after we got there. We followed the board walk and toured the Lower Geyser Basin, the area nearest Old Faithful. We learned about and saw more impressive geysers than O.F. Castle Geyser, for example, an eruption lasts about 2 minutes followed by a steam plume for another 30 minutes. It shoots 50 feet into the air and huge amounts of steaming water flow down the side. Plus it is a ?cone? geyser rather than a fountain geyser (inside a pool). But, OF erupts regularly and predictably for viewing, where Castle erupts twice a day. Not great for the large crowds that visit. There are many steam vents, and small ?spitting? geysers. Also, many hot pools, deep turquoise toward the center and down (160 degrees at the hottest area) to orangish lemon (cyanobacteria) around the top (130 degrees). Often, these have shelves that have formed along the inside. Of course, the smell of sulfur in the air is everywhere.

We stopped to do some shopping, then on our way out of the OF area we saw a lone buffalo laying in the dirt, we got a picture but I sure hope we see more bison than just this one, he didn?t look all that healthy. We drove to the Black Sand Basin, looked at more pools and small geysers, decided we had seen enough steam for the day, so we headed back to our camp site. We were pretty hungry by then, we?d had only a handful of gorp earlier, so we made supper, tuna patties and a spinach salad, then went over to the showers to clean up. Boy, did that feel good, only $3/shower. Back at camp, we built a fire, roasted marshmallows to make smores, and had a glass of wine with them. We watched the fire until around 22:00, then doused it and went to bed.

Tuesday 7/27/04

06:10 ? We are up a little earlier today as we have about a s hour drive to the Glen Creek trailhead. No rain last night, clear skies this morning, and we can see our breath. I can only guess what the temperature is, but it is cold! We made the usual breakfast, coffee and oatmeal, then sat in the care to eat ? what a couple of weenies!.

We got dressed, got our hiking stuff together and were on the road by 07:30. A few distant elk sitings on the way, plus a lone eagle flying overhead, no other wildlife this morning. In my notes I have written that we saw Gibbon Falls on our way also, it can be seen from the road, but there is also a view point.

We are hiking the Cache Lake trail, and need to find the Glen Creek Trailhead. This hike is in a Bear Management Area so of course, I am a nervous wreck. But I?ve got my whistle and air horn to let them know we are in the area.

09:45 ? We arrived at the trail head. I had fleeting thoughts about hiking to Osprey Falls, away from the Bear Management Area rather than into it, and said this to Scott. He said that would be fine too, but as I thought about it, I didn?t want my fears to control our plans, so off we went to Cache Lake. I started tweeting my whistle almost immediately, and scared Scott to death when I blew my air horn (I was behind him). He pointed out that we didn?t get to the BMA until we?d hiked about 2.5 miles. The hiking area, initially, is very open, lot of sage brush and wild flowers, very different from what we are used to in Washington. At 2.1 miles the trail splits into 3 hikes, Snow Pass, Fawn Pass and Cache Lake. Here we walked along a lovely stream through a wooded area, the flies were extremely annoying. They stayed with us most of the way up to the lake. At about 3 miles we think we entered the BMA so my whistle didn?t leave my mouth. Also, tested my air horn, we both thought we might have lost our hearing after that. Guess it should work pretty well as a deterrent if needed. We entered a beautiful large meadow, and just at the beginning Scott spotted an owl on the lower branch of a tree. We were able to get within about 20 feet of it, got pictures, sure hope they turn out. It was huge, we thought maybe 2 feet tall. The remainder of the hike was uneventful, frequent whistle blowing and lots of pesky flies. The lake is beautiful and the view of Electric Mountain behind it is spectacular. Only 3 other people up here. The elevation gain is only about 400 feet, but we climbed it more than once with the ups and downs in the trail. We ate our lunch, enjoyed the view and the serenity, soaked our feet in the stream, then headed down. Scott had a rough time on the trip out, he loses a lot of fluid and electrolytes due to excessive sweating. Even with replacement drinks, water and bars, it really takes a toll on him. Perhaps gels rather bars or in addition to bars, might be better.

On our trip back to camp, we saw a large herd of elk in a field, stopped and took pictures, then continued on. We thought it best to make supper, get some food and fluid for Scott, then shower, so we did. We built a fire but didn?t watch for too long, we were pretty tired, plus there was a lot of thunder and lightning. We doused the fire, went to bed and a huge rain storm hit.

Wednesday 7/28/04

07:00 ? Slept like a log!! As we were making breakfast and getting ready to go, I thought I saw a bear about 50 feet from our campsite. Of course I didn?t have my contacts in my eyes, I yelled to Scott, he looked. It was the rear end of an elk! We got ready and headed out for the Canyon area. We had heard that there are up to 30 minute delays due to road construction. Also, there are reported huge buffalo herds in the Hayden Valley, along the same road. Can?t wait!

We stopped at the Mud Volcano, pools of bubbling mud and sulfur ? it reminds me of a huge witch?s caldron. There were traffic delays along the road, not terrible though and we saw a couple of small buffalo herds, but not near the road. We did see some lone males that were closer. Next stop was the Canyon area, called the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone ? we parked here, spectacular views. We followed the South Rim Trail, first stopping at the view point of the Upper Falls, lots of water going over the falls. We next came to Uncle Tom?s Viewpoint which dropped us down to the bottom of the Lower Falls, initially following a walkway which changes to metal steps, 328 of them, built into the side of rock. Easy going down, just a beautiful view of the Lower Falls, even larger (3x) than the Upper Falls. Then the climb back up, we just took our time, didn?t have to stop, I counted ?only? 317 steps. The original Uncle Tom?s Trail had 528 steps and was made up of rope ladders. Not a trip I?d care to take. We followed the trail along the South Rim, multiple viewing points, and ended up at Artist?s Point, the most frequently photographed/painted spot in Yellowstone. We hiked back to one of the viewpoints to eat our lunch then returned to the car. We saw bison on the way back, but again no herds near the road. We stopped to see the old Fishing Bridge, then returned to camp.

16:00 ? We got back to camp, Scott wrote postcards, I did a cross word puzzle. We biked around the campground area, then made supper. We were so hungry. We went over to the showers, then to the general store so Scott could mail his postcards. Back at camp we started a fire, took down the canopy, and sat by the fire to have smores. This is our last evening, it always seems to go by so fast. Beautiful evening though, no clouds, the moon is almost full.

Thursday 7/29/04

05:30 ? Time to get up, eat breakfast and take down our tent. We heard coyotes or wolves during the night. On the road and headed for the Black Hills at 07:45, later than we planned but, oh well. On leaving the park, we entered Shoshone National Forest, beautiful! Spire-like rock formations on the hillsides, many guest ranches along the Shoshone River.

10:00 ? We passed through Cody, Wyoming, the ?Rodeo Capital?. It looks pretty much like a tourist town. As we left Cody the landscape became very flat and desolate. Made us wonder what the early pioneers thought when they came upon this. I bet they had second thoughts about continuing on. 53 miles later we arrived in Greybull, population 1000 or so, a very nice, clean town. From here we entered the Big Horn National Forest, and started climbing almost immediately. Beautiful rocky, craggy peaks, but very dry looking. We stopped at Shell Falls to eat lunch, then continued to climb from there. We had our eyes pealed for big horn sheep and buffalo in the huge mountain meadows. Scott spotted some black shapes on a distant hillside, we thought bear?? since they were black, but no, on closer inspection, they were black cows with ear tags no less, at 9033 feet. A little further down the road though, we did see a moose and got pictures. This is an absolutely beautiful area, unexpected on this section of the trip, but totally surprising and delightful. We haven?t made great time on these mountain roads but we are about 25 miles from I-90, then we can make up some time.

Very windy across eastern Wyoming, we had to stop and do some bike rack adjustment. Also, no service or inconsistent cell phone service and I need to call Sonya. Ahead of us looks like a major storm, but as it turned out, we skirted the edge of it. We saw lightning in the distance, but just got a few drops of rain.

18:30 -  We arrived in Keystone, checked in to the Super 8 and walked along the main street to check out the tourist shops. There is a lighting ceremony at 21:30 of the Four Faces, so we are heading up to Mount Rushmore.

20:30 ? We had an hour until the lighting ceremony so we looked at the display depicting the history of the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, his planning leading up to the project and a little history about each president and why he chose the ones he did. The ceremony itself is quite moving with a sense of national pride and our country?s history. Again a history of each president was presented, America the Beautiful and the National Anthem were sung, then the lights gradually came up on the faces. This was really worth taking the time to see. We got back to our room at about 22:00.

Friday 7/30/04

06:00 ? We wanted to make another trip to Mount Rushmore with the morning sun lighting the faces, we also hiked the Presidential Trail which goes right up under the faces. Reading about the sculpting process was amazing.

09:00 ? We are on our way to Valley City, we ran into road construction on 83 North in S.D. causing about a 20 minute delay, and a herd of cattle on the road, being herded with multi-purpose vehicles rather than horses (what is this world coming to?), otherwards the drive was uneventful. I?m anxious to see my family. We called Dad and Mom when we got a cell signal which wasn?t until we?d been on I-94 for a few miles. They sound really good and mom said ?Supper is in the over?. We should get in around 19:00. 19:00 ? We made it to Valley City, Mom and Dad look great! Supper is waiting so I?ll sign off.

Thursday 8/5/04

05:45 ? We are on the road heading back to Seattle. As always, it was wonderful to see my family, and hard to say good-bye. We spent some time at the lake, celebrated Scott?s (my brother) birthday and Dad and Mom took us to dinner the last night. The sun is rising behind us, a huge red-orange ball on the horizon. We?ll stop in Bismarck for breakfast.

Friday 8/6/04

07:00 ? We spent the night at the Super 8 in Missoula, $59/night and everything was great, they had a good free breakfast as well. Yesterday was an uneventful drive but very long, we drove until 19:30 plus we lost an hour. Along the Clark Fork just west of Missoula we saw quite a few osprey nests, some with adults and babies in them. On to Seattle and the end of a wonderful vacation.

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