Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vacation 2009: day 3

Despite the rain, last night was still pretty warm. And although we had little luck seeing wild animals yesterday, we heard elk calls through the entire night. It's mating season for elks but I still don't understand why they call in the middle of the night.

The day gets a foggy start... When we get to the West Thumb geysers area we can hardly tell the lake from the sky. Grasses all got heavy condensation on them. The pools in this area are not as impressive as I've imagined. Maybe we saw too many yesterday. But I still like this area - it has a surreal feeling to it. The dead trees, the fog, and the steaming pools (which look like smokes) give it an ancient battle field look. I almost expect an army of ghost soldier to emerge from the heavy fog.
heave condensation on the grass
the abyss pool
really really thick steam
the ancient battle field
there are thermal springs in the lake, too. these spots don't freeze in winter and become otters fishing holes.
water fowls. i'm counting these as wild life spotting, too...

We take a detour to hike the natural bridges trail on our way to the Fishing Bridge. It's a very nice and flat trail, 3 miles round trip. For most of the hike in we hike with an old couple we run into on the trail. They are from Ohio and on a road trip to California. I wish we could do a long road trip like that, hopefully before we get to that old :). Despite the bear warning signs, we don't see any animals on the trail except chipmunks.
trail head to the Natural Bridge.
the Natural Bridge

We skip the Lake Village to the Fishing Bridge area. My original plan was to rent a canoe and go into the lake, hoping to spot some wild animals drinking water on some remote lake shores. But after yesterday I feel the chance of actually seeing any wild life from a canoe is pretty slim and spending hours in a canoe on the vast lake doesn't seem such a great idea after all... maybe next time.

The Fishing Bridge got its name because fishing from the bridge used to be allowed. Now it's a good spot to enjoy the reflection of mountains and the sky in the Yellowstone River.

We take a short hike at Pelican Creek. There's a short loop trail that goes out to the lake shore. According to our guide book the Pelican Valley is a favorite fishing ground for bears in spring. Alas, it's not spring now. We probably would have had a better chance if we hiked deep into the valley. But two smallish people like us hiking deep into the bear country doesn't seem too smart :P. We should bring more people next time. The first part of the trail is very muddy. So although we don't seem any wild animals on the trail, we do manage to get our boots wet and dirty. But just as we are back to the parking lot and about to leave, a bison wanders along the road! Hey our first bison sighting in this supposedly bison-rich park! (we saw two yesterday up a hill, but we feel that didn't count). This guy slowly walks up the road towards us, walks around our car and onto the trail we just walked out. If we had stayed 5 minutes longer on the trail we'd be walking into the bison right now :)
the muddy trail
and it just walks around our car and onto the trail we just came off.

Yellowstone River, favorite fishing and grazing grounds for both species.

Lunch is sandwich (again!) at the Fishing Bridge general store. It's really getting old but there's not much choices. After lunch we head north. The first stop is the Mud Volcano. This place stinks! The air smells strongly of rotten egg. No other thermal areas we've been to smells nearl as bad. The main attraction in this area is a big pool of boiling, well, mud. The pools in Yellowstone is so fascinating: the clearest water could be just steps away from the muddiest. There's also a steam hole named Dragon's Mouth, for the strong puffing sound it makes.

The boiling mud pot

the grass is greener where the water is muddier.

puff the magic dragon

Next up is Hayden Valley. Now this is supposed to be one of the areas with high wild life concentration so we've had high hopes for it. Just minutes past the Mud Volcano we see hordes of cars parked on the road side so we pull off to the parking area with other and step off the car. And there they are! Vast span of valley floor dotted with bisons! In the past couple days we've seen 4 bisons, and now there're countless of bisons as far as we can see. The closest ones are only a stone-toss away and they don't seem to be paying any attention to the tourists at all. Across the road are just as many bisons up the hills. Now that's more like the Yellowstone I've heard about! The bisons don't do much other than grazing, even the new borns in yellow furs are not very playful. So the excitement wears off pretty quickly. I can't help thinking wolves must have a pretty good life here. This is a like a dinner buffet to them. Too bad we don't know when their reservation is.

this vast valley in front of us is littered with bisons.

two cubs still wearing yellow furs.

With plenty of day light left we keep driving north towards the canyon area. The now so peaceful Yellowstone River would soon become narrower and more violent as it goes down the Grand Cayon of Yellowstone. The main attractions of the canyon are the falls. But the canyon itself is nothing short of spectacle. It's quite deep and steep. The limestones are no match to the erosive water from underground and have been eroded into tall cones. Rich minerals in the water also gives the cliffs various colors. No wonder the first look out we go to is called the Artist's Point. Some seriously steep stairs called Uncle Tom's trail lead to a look out half way down the cliff on the south side. But we skip it and drive to the north side, where a less steep trail lead us right to the mouth of the lower fall. There are several lookouts on the north side, some require a short hike but it's all worth it. From the Inspiration Point you can look down the river and see steams coming out of holes near the bank.







We head back with plenty of sunlight to spare. But to our surprise, the traffic comes to a complete stop near Hayden Valley. It doesn't take long for us to figure out what's going on: the bisons in the valley have finished dinner and are crossing the road to higher grounds. Couple of rangers drive up and down this stretch of road trying to move the bisons off the road using their sirens. But bisons are apparently used to it and stick to their own paces.
looking ahead

and looking back, there's no end to this traffic jam.

all because these guys are ready to cross the street!

When we check in at the Grant Village Lodge it's already dark. We had dinner (buffet) at the lake house, which would have a fantastic view of the lake during the day. The food is quite bad, but at least it's not a sandwich! Back to our room we discover the smallest shower stall we've ever seen, with a shower head that ejects mists rather than a stream of water. The soap is quite cute, though, in the shape of a bear. So we decide to steal it :P

There's no TV or Internet in the room. But that suites our plan just fine. We are both getting antsy for not seeing any bears or wolfs, so we've decided to get up really early tomorrow and get to Hayden Valley before dawn for wild life watching. But just as we are getting ready to bed Juny is unable to find her glasses. We finally come to the conclusion that she must have left them in the campsite's bathroom this morning. A late night trip to the campsite turns out to be futile, and she has to settle for wearing her prescription sunglasses when not wearing contacts.

1 comment:

junyzhu2005 said...

my glasses...wuwuwu....