Monday, September 19, 2011

Belated Birthday

With all of my vacation blogging, I overlooked posting about Garrett's birthday! Garrett turned 17 on August 25. Last week Garrett went to Denver to MEPS and is now in the delayed entry program for the Marine Corps. He will likely leave for basic training in August 2012, entering the Marines exactly 20 years after Jay got out. We are so proud of him!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Grand Tetons Again and Going Home (August 20)

We packed up camp and left Yellowstone and headed back to Grand Teton National Park. We hadn't stopped at the Colter Bay before and we had enough time to go to the Visitor Center and Indian Arts Museum.
Willow Flats Overlook.
We walked a little while on the trail around String Lake.
This was my last shot of the Tetons. I put my camera up after this. I had been wearing it around my neck the majority of the past two weeks! We drove to Pinedale, Wyoming and stayed at the Best Western that night, a nice way to end a camping trip with a hot tub and indoor swimming pool. We got home about 12 hours before the first day of school and our cat was so happy to see us!

Where There is a Carcass, There Will Eventually Be a Grizzly (August 19 Part 7)

You may have to use your imagination for our last adventure in Yellowstone National Park since I was so far away from the wildlife. After our day of visiting geysers, we noticed a crowd in Hayden Valley and thought we should check it out. They were watching a bison carcass in Yellowstone River. There had already been a grizzly and wolves on the carcass earlier that day. There were a few spotting scopes set up and the owners are usually very nice and share. I sure wish my camera had as great a view as some of those scopes! Remember you can click on each photo to see a larger version. In this photo in the center there are some eagles on the land, a young eagle and an older bald eagle with a white head. The carcass is sticking up out of the water.
A grizzly bear came out of hiding in the trees and ran down the hill toward the water. He is just a dark dot sort of left of center in this photo.
This little blue arrow points at the bear.
The grizzly had to swim across the river. You can see his head in the top right corner. The carcass is in the right lower corner.
The grizzly had to fight against the current of the river, but finally made it across and had to scare the eagles away seen here on the left. You can imagine the excitement of the crowd viewing this!
The grizzly finally made it over to the carcass.
Eventually the bald eagle came back and sat in his spot, and the grizzly was standing over feeding on the carcass. We were really hoping to see wolves, but they never came down while we watched. It was getting late and we still had to make dinner, so we left while the grizzly was still there.
That was the last time we saw the buffalo next to the road! What an exciting day!

Fountain Paint Pots Trail and Firehole Canyon (August 19 Part 6)

The Fountain Paint Pots trail in the Lower Geyser Basin was our last geothermal area to visit. I'm getting tired just remembering how we all felt that afternoon after almost two weeks of camping. First up was the Celestine Pool. I think this pool is beautiful, but like many areas in the park it has a creepy story. Jay bought the book, "Death in Yellowstone," and thank goodness he didn't read it until after we got home. In 1981 a Great Dane jumped into Celestine and his distraught owner followed by diving in to save him. The temperature of this pool stays around 200 degrees, so I'm sure you can guess how that story ended. It is an interesting book, but I definitely recommend only reading after a trip there. Silex Pool.
None of my photos really captured the bubbling Fountain Paint Pots very well.
Clepsydra Geyser.
Jelly Geyser.
I only took a couple of photos of the Firehole Canyon. It is well worth the short drive. The water levels were still so high that the swimming area above the falls still wasn't open as of August 19. I don't know if that area opened at all this summer.
Firehole Falls.
We made it up to the Museum of the National Park Ranger five minutes too late. This museum closes at 5 p.m. We'll have to catch that one next time.

Firehole Lake Drive (August 19 Part 5)

Firehole Spring. Surprise Pool.
Great Fountain Geyser.
Steady Geyser.
Hot Cascades.

Midway Geyser Basin and the Grand Prismatic Spring (August 19 Part 4)

I guess we saved the best for last during this trip because finally on the last full day in Yellowstone I got to see the area that I wanted to see the most. The Midway Geyser Basin is the most amazing area of the entire park to me. Crossing over the Firehole River we saw the runoff from Excelsior Geyser flowing into the river. It looks like it would be a fun waterslide if the water wasn't nearly boiling.
Excelsior Geyser used to be the largest geyser in the world, but stopped having eruptions in the 1880s and since then had much smaller eruptions in 1985. Thousands of gallons of hot water flow out of the geyser into the Firehole River every day.
You can feel the heat radiating off of the Grand Prismatic Spring as you get closer on the boardwalks, and the colors seem to be floating up into the steam. The Grand Prismatic is 370 feet in diameter and is the third largest hot spring in the world. The two larger ones are in New Zealand.
There are a lot of buffalo footprints in the area. Since this geyser basin stays so warm in the winter the bison and elk like to stay there. As exciting as it was to be so close to the Grand Prismatic, I wasn't satisfied with this view and knew how to get up above it to see it better.
It's easy to see where the Turquoise Pool got its name. This pool has an underground connection to the Excelsior Geyser.
I wanted to scramble up the hillside on the other side of the Grand Prismatic Spring, so we drove back to the Fairy Falls Trailhead. About a mile down we left the trail and went up the hill on the left.
These lodgepole pine trees are still young. This area burned in the 1988 fires, but someday when these trees grow taller it will block the view of the spring, so I thought we should do this hike while we could.
This is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen!
Zoomed in on the boardwalk between the Grand Prismatic and the Excelsior.
You can see what this climb was like at me and Savanna's feet here. It was loose sand with downed trees everywhere. We had to take our time and find the best way up and down, still with some sliding.
Here is one more shot of Jay and the spring before we headed down. Maralee was just too tired to do anymore hiking at this point, so Garrett stayed with her at the bottom of the hill. Hopefully if we are there again they can both get up there to see it.