The following few days didn't have a set of directions and instructions. I had a page of tips and "best of"s, two travel guides, a state map, and a park map. Naturally we didn't even hit all the highlights of such a large and diverse place as Yellowstone, but I was able to check a few lines off my list.
O.K. then. On the 29th we woke up early in order to look for wildlife in Lamar Valley. Prime time, prime location. When we started driving, the van's built-in external temperature gauge said it was 36*F. I had the heat and defroster going, and Bob asked me to run the windshield wipers so any pictures would be clearer. When the water hit the windshield, there was a pop, and a crack appeared across the glass, tracing a path from two existing chips (and beyond). As the temperature changed inside and outside the van (over the next several days), the crack disappeared and reappeared. It finally decided to stay, and is still there as of 11-2-2016 since it will cost about $500 to replace it - nearly our deductable.
Well. We drove all the way to the northeast park entrance and back. We spotted bison (those guys were everywhere), fox (just beyond the road sign indicating we had entered the Valley), a single elk WAY over there, a herd of antelope scampering about, and then more bison - coming straight at me! On the road, between a rock and a cliff! The head dude was charging the van. I came to a complete stop and he slowed and led the group around me and on down the road to a wider place, where they veered off into the grass. I rolled down my window and took a video. Could have touched them, but knew better. So that was pretty cool.
|Not the ones on the road, but a good picture.|
Back at the cabins, we had breakfast at the picnic table (it was warmer by that time), maybe showered or changed, and went back out. I just can't remember where! I will look at the pictures soon and probably edit this all out. I'm pretty sure we went to the Petrified tree, maybe Tower Falls, and for a mile and a half walk to see a waterfall that was dry!!! We had a picnic along that trail, supposing from the map that there had been a picnic area there, and having carried our supplies with us. Drove down the Blacktail Plateu Drive, which wasn't paved and was quite rough, hoping for more wildlife. Toward the end there was a deer right on the side of the road.
|petrified stump. It was bigger than I expected.|
OH! Heading back to our cabin that evening, Riah claimed to see a bear. There was a pulloff, and I came to a screeching halt, all the while denying the possibility. Bob and Riah jumped out of the van as a car from the other direction also careened into a parking space. Sure enough, a black bear had lumbered down the valley and hid behind a clump of trees. After a few minutes it came into view again, climbed a small pine tree, and proceeded to eat it. We watched for 30-45 minutes, as great crowds of visitors blocked the road to see. The second car on the scene contained professional spotters, and they kindly let us each look through their powerful lens to got a closeup of the bear. Ruth and Daniel even got to see, once they woke up. That was the highlight of the day devoted primarily to wildlife watching. I managed to not get a picture from Bob of the bear. Maybe tomorrow.
Having looked at the pictures, I remember walking the trail around a hot springs area. Because of the geothermal activity, that walk was HOT. I was glad that I finally found a sun hat to fit my head - a men's size XXL. On this walk I began to notice the effects of the current Yellowstone leadership's philosophy of wilderness before access. The untreated wood that made the boardwalk was quite rough, with nails missing in places; Elijah got a dozen splinters by leaning against the handrail; you had to watch your step at all times.
|cuteness. This rail looks new.|
This might be a good time to mention our driving arrangements. We "usually" sit in a traditional pattern of Bob driving, me in the passenger seat, and the children arranged throughout the back seats. However, we quickly learned that Ruth preferred me to sit beside her in the first back row, so I did as much as possible while Bob and Taryn took turns driving. Bob drove the more challenging sections, such as Colorado mountains in the rain, and Salt Lake City; Taryn likes long stretches of highway. But I was the designated driver while in Yellowstone, for a few reasons: I don't worry so much about falling off a cliff when I'm driving; I go slower so everyone can see more; Bob takes better pictures; Bob wanted to go on the walks, too, and driving hurts his knee. Sometimes I'd go for a good 30 minutes with my left hand behind me, holding Ruth's foot until she fell asleep (don't ask; I cannot explain), but overall we liked this arrangement the best.
We stayed a second night at the same cabin. I built a fire that night, though it wasn't as cold as the first.