Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Elk, Waterfalls, Buffalos (Bison) Up Close, Dinner with Son, Yellowstone Lower Loop

We got up early, before 6, and we were out the door a little after 7 having made a spinach quiche the night before so that we could have a good breakfast before we left.  By the time we got to the Yellowstone entrance, it was 7:45 and I was surprised at the number of cars lined up to get in....but not nearly like the line we faced yesterday.  I guess we are visiting Yellowstone during its peak season.  But it is a big park, and except for a few idiots who think they MUST go 50-60 mph, most people seem to be content with the 45 mph limit or under.  And one always has to have their foot near the break because you never know when someone, including ourselves, are going to exit into a pullout real quick, or just pull over to the shoulder to look at something.
Yellowstone's main roads are like the number 8, two loops on top of each other, with 5 entry points, two in the top loop and three in the bottom loop, and many side roads, as shown on the map above.  Today we planned to drive around the bottom loop, and sometime meet up with Michael for breakfast, lunch or dinner, most likely lunch or dinner.  We enter through the West Yellowstone entrance because Henrys Lake is about 15 miles to the west of this entrance.  Most of Yellowstone is in Wyoming, West Yellowstone is in Montana, and Henrys Lake is in Idaho, so we go through three states each day we visit Yellowstone.

Our first attraction was Gibbon Falls.  Our very nice ADA booklet, which is free at any Visitor's Center and probably at the entrances if you ask for it, showed that the path to see the falls is very ADA friendly, so we would not have any problems with the GoGo.  Now Marcia is still a little leery of anything that has a grade ever since the GoGo stopped while we were in Yosemite visiting Bridalvale Fall.  This had a 7% grade, and I assured her that there would be no problems...and there were not.  And the views of the falls was very much worth it.
The hardest thing about seeing these waterfalls and other scenic areas is "how many pictures do you want to take".
The hardest thing about doing this blog is, "selecting the pictures you have have taken to share with everybody."
The path gives many views.  Many people seem to walk about 1/3 of the way where you get this shot, turn around and leave...but they miss out on  other wonderful views by failing to walk what amounts to be 1/10th of a mile down a paved walkway....their loss.

Having seen enough boiling pots, geysers and hot springs yesterday, we continued along the road going past the various springs and geysers on the way to Norris Geyser Basin.  We did stop there, but only to use the facilities.  The ADA guide did not show an easy path to really see the many geothermic features around this area....and frankly, we might visit this place later along with a few others.  Our main focus today was to see more scenery, and try to find at least one elusive buffalo for Marcia to see.  

Our next stop was Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to see Yellowstone Falls.  I pulled into Canyon Village just to see what it was like, and they have major construction going on here completely redoing the lodge and building a Visitor's Center to equal the one we saw yesterday at Old Faithful.  But this does cause a bunch of traffic problems as they are still trying to offer the many services that normally offer while all this construction is going on.

Now, as for the "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone", it is nothing like the real Grand Canyon, but is still an amazing site....that part that they allow you to see without doing a major hike.  
But as these two pictures (above and below) show, the canyon is pretty, and you sure don't want to miss it.
The Yellowstone River is what "carved" it out, along with still active hot springs which are along the lower canyon walls, which causes the many color variations within the rocks.

And the views of the Lower Yellowstone Falls is spectacular!  If you look closely in the bottom left picture below, you can see a boardwalk.  Yes, they have a path which will take you all the way down there to the brink of the falls...but fortunately for me, the GoGo would not even make that trek!
The above pictures were all taken from the Lookout Point Area.  We continued by car down to the Grand View area.  Now all along the canyon wall in this area they have a paved path which will take you all the way to Inspiration Point, and I'll bet the views along here are wonderful.  We wisely chose to put the GoGo back into the car, and get it out again at the next stop...which was Grand View.
One of the best views of the river at Grand View is along the path to the Grand View.  In fact, a lady told us, "this is the best view there is."  At first, Marcia thought about not going further..but I convinced her otherwise.
And thank goodness that I did, because we saw the best view we have had of a flying Bald Eagle we have seen along our journey.  Above you can see it in the middle of the picture, and can even make out the white head.  Below is a view as it flew overhead.  I wish the camera we have did better on something like this...but unless we wish to lug around a large camera with a variety of lenses, our little Cannon will have to do.
So much for animal sightings up close and where the heck are the Buffalo?  The Canyon Rim Drive brings you back to the Canyon Village Area, and the construction going on there does not hinder ones return to the Bottom Loop we were following today.  As I turned onto the Loop, I see this ranger police car with its lights on, and I thought, "hmm...looks like someone is going to get a ticket."  Then I saw the problem....
"Marcia, look at what we have here...a Buffalo right in the middle of the road!"  I was so busy doing my "I told you so" dance, that I forgot to take a picture of the creature in the road...but got him there alongside the roadway.  We continued along our route...
We won't talk about how many times we slowed down for a picture of another Bison from afar...but we finally came upon a herd, and it was worth stopping for.
Ok, we have seen the Buffalo, it is time to move on because I have not had a cell phone signal for a few hours now, and I am not sure if we are meeting Michael for lunch or dinner or what...
But wait, this one over here looks like it is going to cross the road!  So we pull out going the "other way" than our route would take us to "get the shot..."
Perfect, I stop giving the animal the 25 yards the Park has asked us to give...and the animal is moving right along, and then this %@&*! pulls out and passes us and takes away our shot....thank goodness we have already gone through Oregon because I would be cursing every Oregonian we saw had still been going through there... 
Oh well, our close up and personal encounter with the Buffalo has been nice, let's turn around and head on..... We go another mile or so and then we came upon another herd..this one is on both sides of the road, and in the road, and that which they leave behind was all over the road too.
Hmmm...this is going to be interesting....after the shot above, I turn the camera over to Marcia while I try to get through, but at the same time try and keep distance.  
Keeping the proper distance is just not going to happen here..
The car which was in front of us got through...but these guys are not going to leave the road now...
 I felt for a bit there that I was herding them along...until we got closer to the trees and the older, smarter, "we are in charge" beasts stepped in.
 "You want me to do what?", the beast says...."I will move when I want to move!" 
 And then it happened....Skruffy woke up, looked out the window, and SKATA!  BARK, BARK, BARK, swat on the butt, shut up girl, these animals mean business!  This guy above heard her...I wondered what might happen now.... in car means "let's get back into the street and go slower!"  Yes, that is a buffalo passing between the truck above and the car behind it....and if you look close, there is a few motorcyclist another car back.  I told Marcia, "I wonder who would win, the "Hog" or the Bison?"  One motorcyclist came through, going around vehicles and beast, and with a big smile on his face just goes, "WOW!" 
Is the classic Buffalo look or what?  What a shot Marcia!!  "No hun, I will look at the picture later," I said as she tried to show me the picture in the camera with my white knuckles holding hard onto the steering wheel looking for any sign of one of these massive beast looking like it is going to charge at the car...especially one of these mothers of the young ones....all the while wondering, "What would I do if one of them did charge the car???"  But I remembered that this might be the first encounter "we" have had up-close and personal with the Bison, but the Bison have up-close and personal encounters all the time with man and vehicles. 

However, I remember reading this exert from the newspaper as I was doing research on Yellowstone just before our arrival to the area....

"A 65-year-old male British national from Bangkok, Thailand, suffered injuries Monday when he was thrown into the air by a bull bison at Mammoth Hot Springs. He was transported to Memorial Hospital in Livingston, Montana. Park officials have not released the man’s name.

Last month, a Massachusetts man suffered a broken collarbone, shoulder blade, several ribs and a groin injury when he was tossed nearly 10 feet in the air and pinned to the ground by a bison."

It was reported that the British man was 5 yards from the bison and headed even closer when he was attacked.  Our car is well within that range....but we moved as they moved....not forcing the issue, just going with the flow.  From time to time we would hear a loud snort, observe a "I am in charge here" gesture, and along the way, watching those bison who were not on the roadway roll in the dirt, rub their heads up against trees, or just sit there and contently watch the action.
Above you can see a buffalo doing his "Bubba" imitation.  Speaking of Bubba, he slept through the entire episode!  We wonder if he believes the tales that Skruffy has told him about it...especially how daddy spanked her bottom....sorry girl, but we needed you to be quiet, and it did work...even if you gave me that "I can't believe you did that to me" look the rest of the day.
Above are some of the Buffalo which were rubbing themselves on the trees, and just watching the action.  Just as we thought it was all over...that we were through, out from the trees alongside the road these four monsters come running...and yes, that one is running right at us.  I guess they wanted to join the action.

We get past these final two below, and we are home free.  I don't see a car in my mirror, and going the other way, the line of cars is a good mile long, and getting longer every minute.  We are stopped by "heads and hands" leaning out the windows of people trying to find out what the problem is.....I finally just keep saying "Buffalo"  "Buffalo" as we slowly slid past the long line....
So Marcia, what do you think about the Buffalo in Yellowstone now?

We finally make it down to Yellowstone Lake and got cell service.  Michael had sent me a text, wants to meet for dinner.  I call him and we made plans to meet at the Lake House Restaurant in Grant Village area where the family reunion is taking place.  Marcia and I are spent, and head to the motor home for a light lunch, rest, and then the trip back to Yellowstone to meet Michael.  By-the-way, not a bad place to catch a good meal if you are in the area, and the view outside the window of the lake is something else.

Due to the high haze, we decided to skip the many opportunities to take pictures along the lake, except for this departing one after dinner just to give you an idea of the size of this lake. Yellowstone Lake is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America.
The small lake in front is Duck Lake  Yellowstone Lake continues to the right and to the left of this picture as wide as it is shown above.  There is no road all the way around the lake, and we sure hope to get a picture in the future showing the mountains in the distance on the far side of the lake, which are hidden in the haze and the dusk which is just setting in.  

Tomorrow we are going to give Yellowstone a break, and will probably drive around Henrys Lake, go to a laundry mat and get some major items washed that we don't wash inside our motor home washer/dryer, and just have a relaxing day...because on Thursday we are sure to do the upper loop of Yellowstone, and that will take all day.

Oh, and I forgot to mention....the Elk along Madison Meadows were there too....but I think we are done taking their pictures...unless, of course, they get up and close and personal like the Buffalo did.

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