Sunday, August 23, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - YNP Part I

We planned our trip out west meticulously to fit in the 8 days between the last possible date for the state baseball tournament and the start of football camp and even that was a stretch.  Then the dates changed and the team went further than we anticipated.  We spent a week letting it play out realizing it was all beyond our control.  We cancelled the front end of our trip to South Dakota, but we would've had to eat the house we rented in Montana on VRBO and disappoint one patient little girl.  Lily may have never really forgiven us so we wanted to make it work.  After the boys took state (14-3) on a Tuesday eve, we skipped the post win celebration and instead packed up the van and got on the road.  Coach drove from 9 p.m.- 4:30 a.m. while the rest of us mostly dozed.  I took over somewhere in Minnesota so he could get some rest.  The roads were wide open like runways. Traveling over the road in the veil of night gave me the eerie and exhilarating sense of vastness and solitude...of being small and alone.   The incredible depth of the chiaroscuro sky slowly and then all at once sharpened with the rising sun.  I watched it rise and my kids sleep in my review mirror as Jack Johnson sang Go On and it was a "universe" moment.  The veracity of his lyrics hung on my heart for the duration of the trip resonating like the Sunday gospel.  I felt blessed to be making these memories with my family, and grateful that we didn't give up on our trip.

I love looking out the window watching the world go by.  I think Coach about had it with my excitement over clouds, livestock and hay bales.  Midway through North Dakota I suddenly understood Claude's affinity for them.  They are perfect studies of pattern and texture and light.  He may have also had it with my rudimentary use of cruise control so even when I was driving he had one eye open.  
Trains in the distance.  

Checkers after breakfast somewhere in North Dakota.

These two traveled like royalty.

I think Judy Collins wrote a song about these clouds.

Sunflower fields lined the interstate. 

Bales and bales.

A butte. We're in Montana now.

I did a great deal of oooing and ahhhing before we even made it to Yellowstone.

We  all cheered when we saw this sign after about 15 hours of being cooped up in the car.

And we finally reached our riverside cabin after 18 hours.  It was a sight for sore eyes.

Not too sore to spot a herd of elk across the river in our first 5 minutes.

A bald eagle fishing too. 

Sage and Jack were quick to welcome and entertain us.

A cabin with a view.

The home was cozy and clean and filled with gorgeous artwork.  I'm still coveting that owl.

El is a gifted artist and she and John are wonderful hosts.

Wednesday night we simply ventured to the nearby Lighthouse for a well balanced dinner before turning in early exhausted after the drive and 24 hours worth of junk food.  We were up very early Thursday morning in order to get to Old Faithful before the crowds at El's urging.  The cabin was 10 miles from the Roosevelt entrance to the park so very well appointed.

This verifies that we did indeed get on the road early.

We arrived at the park shortly after 5 a.m. and were pretty much the only fools ambling about at that hour.  Literally it was us and the elk.  Elk everywhere.  Before the sun came up, the forest was all eyes.  The animals lined the road like soldiers in waiting and occasionally crossed the road too.  Mammoth, which is the quickest route to the geyser basins, was closed because of new geothermal activity encroaching on the road thus requiring off hours maintenance.  It took us a little bit in our sleep deprived state to figure out that we needed to take the Tower/Roosevelt route which is significantly longer, but incredibly scenic.  It took us up and over.  

The early morning fog hung heavy like an otherworldly miasma.

Slowly the sun showed up and burned off the low lying clouds.

Active roadside geothermal features added to the smaze.  

Mystical landscape thanks to about 10,000 thermal features.

Through the valleys.

As we climb, the air clears.

Roadside geyser on the way to Old Faithful.  

There are close to 300 geysers in the park.

View of a very active Upper Geyser Basin as we approach.

Along the Firehole River.

We're getting closer.

Old Faithful had just erupted when we arrived.

So we spent the 91 minutes until the next eruption exploring Geyser Hill.

We gathered evidence of this truly enchanting basin.

Obviously this is Beehive Geyser.

Not sure which geyser we have here, but that's the historic Old Faithful Inn in the background.

Old Faithful getting steamy.


9:14...91 minutes like clockwork.

Girl and geyser.

The eruption lasted about 2 minutes.

Ted spotted a bison, our first, from the road so we stopped to check out Black Sand Basin  No picture of that guy because we stayed the recommended 100 yards from the lone bull. But below are a couple of some of the most awing geysers of the park.

Emerald Pool.

Opalescent Pool.

Our next stop was Biscuit Basin.  Jewel Geyser at rest.  It erupts every 7-9 minutes.

 Aptly named Sapphire Pool.

The water looks inviting, but it's over 200 degrees.

Pictures of pictures.

Picture of a geyser erupting at Biscuit Basin.

Shell Spring.

Mustard Spring is full of color contrast due to the thermophiles that inhabit it.

On the way to Grand Prismatic Spring.

View through the trees of the largest spring in the U.S.

 View of Grand prismatic from the tree tops.  Photo creds to Ted.

It's colors match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism.  You can see blue, red, orange, yellow and green.

We literally could have spent the entire day and maybe two just looking at all the geysers, springs, fumaroles and mudpots, but we decided it was time to move on.  The mercury was climbing and as the temperature headed close to 90 degrees, we couldn't take any more steam.  We decided to check out the Grand Canyon of  The Yellowstone River.

Our first view was from the north rim on the Brink of Lower Falls Trail.  

It was rather stunning.

We all took a moment to take in the view.

I'm pretty sure this is Lily trying to commit it to memory.

Mike works to get the best aerial shot.

The kids work to keep him from falling into the canyon.  

Then we headed to the south rim to Artist Point.

Three of nature's best creations: Teddy, Lily and Artist Point.  

Active hydrothermal features line the river.

 This is one of the most photographed views of Yellowstone.

The falls are a mile away from this viewing spot.

The last stop for the day was the Hayden River Valley where we were happy to find this guy.

And then thrilled to find an entire herd roaming around the river basin.

On the way out of the park, we spotted a few female elk.

 They were curled up like cats in the middle of the boulevard at Mammoth Hot Springs.  We also saw some bighorn sheep atop the near vertical, rocky cliffs as we exited.

 After 12 hours in the park, we were ready to head home.

Home to our cabin for a little downtime.  

Mike and I headed out to the K Bar for a little adult time while we waited for our carryout.  After gloaming, we all gathered for pizza and a game of Monopoly before calling it a night.

Moon over the Absaroka Range.

(All of these photos were taken with my i phone.  We have yet to load the pictures Coach mostly took with our Nikon.  So I guess this is both a disclaimer that these are not the finest quality and a warning that this blog may be inundated with images of YNP for some time to come.)

Days 2 and 3 coming soon.