Saturday, July 10, 2010

Not Your Average Saturday

Yellowstone National Park, WY
Happy Birthday, Ann!! 
Today, we planned a very full day.  We had many stops on our agenda, but plans changed soon after we began the day. The first stop of the day took us about an hour from camp to Tower Falls.  It was a lovely waterfall, but exploration of it was cut short because the trail to the base of the falls was closed; there had been a washout of the trail.  Hoping for more entertainment and hiking, we then turned back in the direction of camp.  We had a few stops to make before returning to Bride Bay, the first of which was Mt. Washburn.  Tom and Ann headed up the trail to take in the sights, while Brian and I debated whether to be practical or adventurous.  If you know the two of us, you can likely guess who was practical and who was adventurous.  We opted for adventurous, and I soon found myself hiking the three miles to the top of the 10,000+ foot mountain.
As Brian would say, at least I’m still smiling.
There was a lot of snow near the summit, but Bri assured me that he was warm enough in his shorts and T-shirt.
The hike, though sometimes a bit strenuous, was certainly rewarding.  Atop the mountain, we were able to see for miles.  I was able to see much of the mountain range that crosses though the park, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and many of the thick valleys, though there were no animal sightings to speak of at that point.  There is a fire tower at the summit, and from it I was even able to call home.  After talking to Mom, it was time to continue on.  We had three more miles before the hike was complete.  Sine we opted to hike up one side of the mountain and down the other, Tom and Ann moved our car to another parking lot.  We headed out in that direction, and before long, we found what we had really been hoping to find – wildlife.

The first critters to cross our path were a marmot and a pika.  The pika was too fast for my camera, and the marmot was too far away.  Other animal photo-ops would present themselves in due time.  Shortly after starting our decent, we came across a small herd of big horn sheep.  There were probably a dozen adults and nearly as many babies.  We took pictures and shook our heads at the people who disregarded all requests/warnings and approached the herd, and on we went.  Not much later, we saw a lone sheep; this one had horns, though they were small.  A short time later, while talking about how small the sheep looked, another sheep came running by.  He was much larger and had bigger horns.  Though he was moving with much determination, we got a few pictures of him.  At he bottom of the trial, just before the parking lot, we had our last animal encounter of the hike.  Another marmot appeared; this one seemed to appreciate having its picture taken, and it sat very still while I took its picture. 

After our six-mile, three hour hike, which included some hang-out time at the summit, we had some celebratory cheese and crackers, and then set out in the direction of camp.  We were surprised by two things; the weather had changed dramatically (it went from sunny and warm to rainy and cool), and  there was a “bear jam”.  Though I had not wanted to even think of that four letter word, it was exciting to see a bear.  In fact, there were three to be seen.  A mother and her two cubs had spent the afternoon walking about the hillside, and the rangers were sure to keep everyone a safe distance away.  If the mother turned toward the road from which we were viewing her, we were asked to step back.  If she made any movement in our direction, we were asked to move further away.  The rangers fear that the bears, and especially this particular bear, are becoming too familiar with people.  This bear will get within a few hundred feet of people and has even posed for pictures.  In the interest of the wildlife and the people, this isn’t a good thing. 

I think the pictures says it all.
After our bear watching, Brian and I toured the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  The pictures likely will not do it justice.  The sheer volume of water was impressive; add to that the amazing emerald color, the huge cliffs, and the rush and spray of the water careening over the rocks, and it gives the Grand Canyon of AZ a run for its money.  Our final stop of the day was the mud volcano.  Upon arrival, we were greeted with the familiar smell of sulfur.  ICK!  We didn’t explore the entire area, but did check out the main volcano, that is now an inverted cone instead of the typical volcanic shape.  After a few pictures, we headed back to camp to celebrate Ann’s birthday with some tasty burgers.  The excitement of the day and all the effort we put into it sure caught up with us, so we called it an early night.  Tomorrow we will pack up and head out to Glacier National Park. 

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