Tuesday, July 22, 2008 Yellowstone National Park
Today I went into West Yellowstone and visited the Bear and Wolf Discovery Center. I am loathe to go to tourist attractions but I needed a low gas usage day so I paid my $10 and entered the facility. I was pleasantly surprised! It is a very well done exhibit and I was able to photograph the bears and wolves in a very natural looking setting. While I have seen both wolves and Grizzly Bears in the park and surrounding area I am happy to report that the bears were always too far away for good photos. Yesterday I did see a wolf only about 20 yards from the road, but alas I was in a construction convoy with a pilot car and could not stop. Figures, as the critter was just sitting there watching the traffic and I could have gotten some great shots. Here are some photographs from the discovery center.
I then headed into the park for a short drive and found these elk in the Madison River. They were trying to escape the ferocious bugs. It is the peak of bug season here, about two weeks later than usual.
Did I mention that the park was busier than I have ever seen it. So much for high gas prices keeping people at home. Here is a picture of what happens when an animal comes within sight of the road.
I then drove up Mt. Washburn and the wildflowers were truly amazing.
Next I stopped at Tower Falls. This was always my favorite falls in the park, but now it has changed. When you look at the pictures the point of rock on the right side used to have a large boulder sitting on top of it. A few years back gravity won and the rock fell to the base of the falls. In typical overreaction the park service closed the trail that leads to the base of the falls and stopped maintaining it. Now it is washed out and impassable. The only view of this is from an overlook at the same elevation as the brink of the falls. Now let’s think about this. That boulder sat up there for hundreds of thousands of years. It fell. Now there is no boulder to fall and it will be thousands of years until another large chunk of rock falls. Doesn’t make sense to me. Every activity in the wilderness has risks and in most cases the risks are worth taking. Please do not protect me!!!
A storm was building over Electric Peak and made for some good shots.
I stopped in at Sheapeater Cliffs and the storm was really coming on!!
Oblivious to all the lighting, hail and winds this fisherman kept focused on the trout.
Wednesday, July 23 Yellowstone National Park
Today I felt pretty good and decided to try a hike. This would be my first since my leg went bad almost a month ago. I decided on a hike over flat terrain to Fairy Falls, another of my favorites in the park. It is about 3 miles each way and this proved to be a bit too much for my leg. I really paid a price in the pain department following the hike. I last hiked this one in 1987 the year before the fires. . As you can see the area was hard hit in 1988,
The falls were much prettier with mature tress framing it. In ’87 this was a single track trail and I usually found very few people in the area. Now the path is 8 feet wide for much of the way and while I was there I never saw fewer than 40 people swarming around the base of the falls. It was hard to get a shot of the falls without people in the frame. Along the way I passed Grand Prismatic Spring, one of the largest hot springs in the park. When viewed from the air there are thousands of multicolored tentacles spreading out in all directions. These are caused by different algae growing at different distances from the spring as the water cools. Here are some shots of the spring.
I did add two new wildflowers to my photo collection.
The waterfall is about 140 feet high.
Thursday, July 24 Outside Yellowstone National Park
As my leg is still recovering from the hike I did another driving tour. I drove about 90 miles to Virginia City. When I last visited the area in 1979 it was an old mining town with a couple of shops, a restaurant or two, and a restaurant. Well now it is a tourist trap deluxe. You have stage coach rides, shootouts, and every conceivable kind of trinket shop. The hills above the town are now dotted with million dollar homes that detract from the historic nature of the town. I got out of Virginia City fast and did not bother to take any photographs.
I then started driving the forest roads that spur off of the highway between Ennis and West Yellowstone. I saw a sign for Bear Creek Road and took it. After an 8 mile drive I came to the “Bear Creek Campground” at the end of the road. It was a pitiful excuse for a campground. The water pipe was broke off, the sites were overgrown with 4 feet of grass and weeds, and the road was rough. It was free however. There is something about campgrounds named “Bear Creek” . If you will recall that was the name of the campground in Oregon where I was visited by a wounded murder suspect and rousted at 7 am by agents armed with automatic rifles. I think I will pass on other campgrounds called Bear Creek.
After trying a couple of more forest roads that dead ended in a couple of miles I hit a winner. I took the Jonny Ridge Road and it was a winner. Climbing up the mountains I encountered a barn against some dynamic rock outcroppings.
Then an old homestead with many buildings.
On the mountains on the other side of the Madison River Valley I noticed some thunderheads building. Later in the evening these storms would provide some real nice photos.
The grasses were very beautiful and I could not resist a picture.
Next came a herd of antelope who surprisingly stayed still long enough for a couple of shots.
As I looked behind me I noticed the thunderstorm was really building.
The road continued to climb until I was above tree line. The views were amazing.
I never reached the summit as the road was getting very rough and it was late in the day. I did not want to risk getting stuck that late in the day and having to spend the night so I turned around and headed back. I saw this old dead tree as I departed the mountains.
The sun was setting as I came to an area of beaver ponds along Hwy 287 and the sunset was catching the thunderstorm I had watched all afternoon.