Nature

The Open Mike RV Tour West: Yellowstone’s majesty

Today was a big day. Everything at Yellowstone is big. Very big.

We had every intention of driving the upper loop today, another 100 miler after the 100-mile lower lop we did yesterday.

But, as we suspect is common at Yellowstone, we got waylaid by the grandeur and lingered over the attractions we were passing. As with yesterday, it was full dark when we gave up for the day, our eyeballs once again exhausted.

You quickly fall in love with this park. Everywhere you look are waterfalls, fast moving rivers, geysers, sheer rock faces, towering lodge pole pines and framed by mountains under the bright blue cloudless Montana sky. Or Wyoming. Or Idaho. Depending on where you are in the park.

The place is immense, 2.2 million acres, 3,468.4 square miles, larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Awe-inspiring. Spiritual, almost. This the very first American National Park, established in 1872.

For starters check out this picture of our Roadtrek heading down a mountain road this afternoon. It gives a great perspective on how everything here is on a grand scale. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road when your eyes are tempted in every direction. I’ve taken almost 500 photos so far. You can stand in one spot and take a picture in every direction and they will all be breathtaking.

Speaking of pictures, scroll below for today’s shots.

But from today’s excursion, I think this is my favorite. Jennifer took it as I navigated the mountain road.

 

We did lots of hiking today along the rims of Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. It’s a 20-mile long valley carved out by the Yellowstone River that is as deep as 1,200 feet. Here’s the beauty shot of the 309-foot waterfall.

You can get right on top of the lower falls by hiking down a dirt trail that switchbacks down the mountain for 600 feet. It was not a hike for the fainthearted. But at the bottom, we stood right on top of the falls as it tumbled over a cliff.

Looking the other way, you can see how the river carved out the canyon, seen over our left shoulders.

The hiking is awesome here at Yellowstone. Albeit with some warnings.

Everywhere you go in the park, there are bear warning signs. For good reason. Last year, two visitors to Yellowstone were killed in separate attacks by grizzlies.

On a bike ride in the Galatin National Forest which begins ten feet from where my Roadtrek is parked for the night in West Yellowstone, I saw bear tracks this morning on a dirt trail not 100 yards from our RV. That’s why there’s no grills and warning signs everywhere about keeping food from your site.

One of the workcamping RVers here told me there was a grizzly that wandered in and scored some Dr. Pepper out of one of cooler an RVer here had carelessly left out. And, he said, at the KOA a few miles away, a grizzly had to be put down after continually visiting the campground.. West Yellowstone police routinely patrol campgrounds in town and give $50 tickets to campers who have left coolers or food items outside.

While we didn’t see any bears, we did go back to the Hayden Valley at sundown for the nightly crossing of the Yellowstone River by one of the resident herds of bison. The bison bulls are in rut, doing a lot of courtin’. I shot this picture of a bull whispering, I’m sure,  sweet nothings to this cow.

 

Jennifer is quite taken with bison. It reminds me when we were in Bahrain and Jordan in the Middle East a few years ago and she fell in love with camels. She couldn’t get enough camel pictures. Out here, it’s bison. But they really are magnificent creatures. In a typical year, more than 3,000 bison roam the grasslands of Yellowstone National Park. And while they look docile and lumbering, bison are really agile and quick for their size, capable of speeds in excess of 30 mph. Each year, bison injure park visitors who approach too closely. We saw why both nights. The herds cross right in front of traffic, stopping vehicles. People pile out of their cars and buses and RVs, cameras clicking.

I got these shots from a safe distance, with a telephone lens. But I saw a lot of people almost taunting these creatures by getting way too close.

Anyway, here’s my favorite bison photo. For today, anyway.

Tomorrow, we hope to learn about wolves and bears and, if we are very fortunate, get some photos.

One last photo, from Jennifer. After bison, she seems to like every geyser and thermal feature we’ve seen. This is her favorite from today, a boiling geyser and caldron called Artist’s Paint Pot.

The Open Mike RV Tour West continues…

 

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