Mike-Ward.Net

Yellowstone - Day 7 and 8

We’ve arrived at Yellowstone at last! The day’s driving was relatively easy despite the mountainous terrain. Towing a large trailer takes a little different attitude. The cruise control is worthless. It’s designed for lightly loaded vehicle. I’ve found if I accelerate early and keep the RPM’s up the truck does a very good job of pulling the trailer. Also, I’ve been adjusting the load levelers and I think I’ve found the sweet spot. Despite pulling some pretty steep grades, most of the time I could maintain 55 mph.

At the RV park we checked in and discovered only hard-sided campers are allowed. Our camper has pop-outs on the ends for sleeping. Apparently the bears find the sleeper sides a bit too tempting. After seeing the sites, it was fine that we could not stay there. Nothing but asphalt and tightly packed campers. We opted for the more primitive tent sites. It means no 110 volt but we have battery for lights and water and gas for cooking. Not exactly what you would call roughing it.

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We came through the East entrance which took us over some 8000 ft. passes. It’s almost July and there’s snow on the ground. Temps go down to the 40’s at night and only hit 70 during the day. Actually, for me, these are great conditions. I’ve slept like a brick in the camper with the cooler conditions.

Despite my reservations about hauling a camper around, I’ve found the camping experience to be delightful. The cozy space of the camper is a welcome retreat at the end of the day. Make no mistake, there is a bit of extra hassle in setting up and tearing down camp and the trailer does make for some long driving due to the reduced speeds. Still, on balance, I’m feeling it was the right decision for us. The kids love the adventure of camping and we can cook and eat our own food which is always a plus in my book.

Nights are very cold here still (late June). Temperatures dipped into the high 30’s last night. Thank goodness for down sleeping bags. There is snow every where above 7,000 feet. Two weeks earlier, many of the park roads were closed due to blizzard conditions. The heavy snowfall has meant very high water levels. Many of the creeks look more like small lakes.

We met our guide the next morning at the historic Yellowstone Lodge. It was built in the 1920’s and has that grand style of early turn of the century buildings sometimes had. It has been recently restored and has one of the best views of Yellowstone Lake and the mountains in the entire park.

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Our first stop was Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The upper and lower falls are perhaps the most spectacular feature of the park. We’re told the light is best in the early morning. The falls were thundering with the excess water from the heavy snow melt. The water would bounce off the bottom and fly 75 ft back into the air. The surrounding rock contains minerals that turn it yellow. This is where the park gets it name from. There is closer observation point called the “Brink of the Falls”. Here you stand at the top of the lower falls. The water is mere feet from us flowing by at an impossible rate. The noise is thunderous.

Next was the Sulfur Caldron. It’s supposedly the smelliest area of the park. It was. But the thermal activity was incredible. Large pools about 50 ft across boiled with a yellow sulfuric fury. Further back, there was a giant mud pot about 25 ft. in size plopping and gurgling like an angry caldron.

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Further down the road we moved into Hayden Valley. It’s a great stop for watching Elk and Wolf packs, but not today. We moved on over the pass and into Northern end of the park. Here we saw Osprey (Fish Hawks), Peregrine Falcons, and Golden Eagle nests. Bison and Elk littered the area. On the way back we stopped at a large rapids and watched Cut Throat Trout jumping to get upstream.

After dinner, we went to the Fishing Bridget Visitor Center. The kids played on the beach while a stole a few watts from the park service to recharge my laptop. My wife spotted a herd of Elk on the shore to the West. Several juveniles were running about. Coming back from the visitor center we ran into a coyote trying to cross the road. He was a healthy, fluffy specimen rather than the emaciated ones I see back East. He made for quite a traffic jam.

Tomorrow we go out at 6 am with hopes of seeing a bear or two. Then on to the geysers and mud pots.

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