Saturday, October 6, 2007

Adventures in Yellowstone N.P.

First off, Greg Cresswell pointed out a neat artist’s rendition of the North view of Yellowstone. If you’d like to orient yourself with the park, try either the artist's rendition or this map.

Laura and I generally get Monday and Tuesday off from working at the Old Faithful Inn. For us, it means recharge time. Day's off exploring are one of the main reasons we chose to come to Yellowstone. There are hundreds of options to choose from, but our main focus has been bear sitings. Wildlife viewing in the Serengeti inspired us, and we can’t get enough of the large predatory mammals. Our initial weekend took us to the Lamar Valley in the Northeastern section of the park. The valley is famous for its size, visibility, bears, and wolf packs.A large section of roadway runs alongside the river valley making for numerous sitings, just look for the traffic jam. That’s what we did and found a lazy grizzly bear taking a rest next to the Lamar river. He was incredibly far away, so the only way to identify him was via a friendly tourist’s spotting scope. Not exactly what we were looking for. We eventually found a trailhead that followed the Lamar river away from the road and hundreds of tourists. We thought it was a great opportunity to see the elusive bear or possibly wolves. Our travels found us numerous wildlife: pronghorn, badger, buffalo, coyote, and moose, but no luck finding either of the predators we were searching for.

During our first week at the inn, we met Bob, a well-read, experienced, Montana bear enthusiast. He’s had a number of run-ins with bears in the Bob Marshall wilderness of Montana. For weekend number 2, we decided to head to Pelican Valley, just north of Lake Yellowstone. Pelican valley is a densely bear-populated area where numerous bear sitings have occurred.

As we travelled into the valley along the trail, we were forced to get off. A local bison was using the trail and decided he wasn’t moving. It’s kind of like being on a 1-lane highway where you are the Volkswagen Golf and the other vehicle is the 18-wheeler.

We headed off-trail into the forested areas alongside the valley where Bob had mentioned bears would most likely frequent. We saw lots of signs: scat, ground diggings, claw marks, etc.

As with most off-trail experiences, you’ll find a lot of wildlife there, just not always what you are looking for. We found a great grey owl couple which allowed us to get phenomenally close (10-20 meters).

Throughout the valley, numerous patches of scat were awfully fresh. During one moment, Bob told us “Are you good at climbing trees? Make sure you’ve got one picked out.” Our walk took us through some eerie forest where you felt like you were being watched (and we probably were).

We were dragged out from the forest at one point by some loud coyote howls. We spotted him in the middle of the valley perched on a hill. Once he took notice of us, he left his perch and his majestic howl through the echoing valley was lost.

In the end, pelican valley caused numerous rushes of adrenaline, but a bear was nowhere to be seen. We walked away happy to see the great grey owl.

The following weekend, a Polish friend of ours, Piotr, was leaving the park back to Poland. He needed a ride to Bozeman. In exchange for the ride, he was willing to show us a hot springs-river merge where people could soak and swim, mostly soak.

The boiling river carrying hot springs water merged into the Gardner river really close to the north entrance of the park.

People have built up a rock wall (right side of photo) to hold the hot springs water (left side of photo). The merge of the hot and cold water with a perfectly placed wall makes for a great quasi-natural swimming hole for the whole year. Piotr enjoyed one last final Yellowstone soak before a successful return to the homeland.

We decided to spend our last free day at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

This spectacular canyon contains the most popular waterfall in the park, Lower Yellowstone Falls. The trail that brings one closest to the waterfall is Uncle Tom’s trail.

Ten years ago, my parents and grandmother visited me in Yellowstone. My mother was the only one who was able to enjoy Uncle Tom’s trail. My grandmother’s legs weren’t strong enough and my father was just recovering from a heart attack. We found it quite easy to walk down the slippery metal stairs to the falls to get the spectacular view and sound of pure water force.

As with all canyons, the problem was coming back up.

In the end, the reward was worth the painful sacrifice! We've got two more free days left so we'll see where those lead.


Greg said...

Well another map of Yellowstone and numerous links. It's now an hour or so later after wandering around Yellowstone. Thanks JP.

I'll bet your momma is happy you did not find any griz close up; and are done looking. Numerous trips to YNP by us and not one sighting.

Cool and sunny here today. No snow here as there is on the ladder in your photo. Saw your dad's Saturn at Rite Aid. That made it a big no play day. So Brown Cow, walking, church, moving wood piles, solid but sporatic Pat victory and the like here today.

An appreciative reader - viewer.
Sunday 2220 EDST

Anonymous said...

another great entry into your chronicles of the 2007 year of adventure. I thought as I was reading about the falls that I had been there 10 years ago and remember looking down the staircase--I think I went down about 25 steps or so just to try it --bet I wouldn't go any further today either.. rainy day here DAD

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