Thursday, June 13, 2013

Yellowstone National Park - Day 16 and 17

The next stop of the Rocky Mountain Ramble was Yellowstone National Park.  Driving north from Grand Teton, its a short 20 miles up the road.  I came in at the southern entrance and for the next 22 miles there is not a lot.  The scenery is pristine coniferous forest with streams and ponds.  It reminded me of northern NH and northwestern ME.  I turned west at the West Thumb junction and did the Old Faithful to Madison loop.

I did the tourist stop at Old Faithful.  I saw it go off twice and did a small hike through Geyser Hill.  I was somewhat unimpressed with it.  Old Faithful goes off every 84 minutes for about 90 seconds.  The other geysers , hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles are interesting once you’ve seen a couple. But once you’ve seen a couple you essentially have seen them all.  Think of watching a boiling pot of water except its in the ground.  There’s not much difference to them other than size.

I stopped at the Madison Information Station and saw the pretty Madison River Valley.  I also drove Firehole Canyon and saw the falls.  It was all very scenic and for me I enjoyed the scenic vistas and wildlife more than the geysers.

Firehole Canyon

Madison River Valley

Upper Firehole River
A few observations on my first two days in Yellowstone.  Its geographically huge.  Plan on driving 50-100 miles per day just to see stuff.  Its very spread out with beautiful valley‘s and mountain passes.  There’s water everywhere; from geysers to lakes, ponds, and rivers.  Most roads follow river valleys and the rivers are wild and pristine.  Its high up with elevations between 6,500 to 8,800 just on the main roads.  Plan on drinking lots of water.  The dry air sucks moisture from your body.  Wear a hat and sunscreen because the UV rays are six times more intense at these altitudes.  And plan on getting a little winded even on  short walks.  There’s wildlife everywhere; mostly buffalo and elk.  The first few herds are interesting and seeing them up close is very neat.  By day three, it sort of becomes how-hum. And the animals, while not tame, seem indifferent to humans. 

Here’s some pictures of the scenery on my first two days.

Norris Geyser Basin
My destination was West Yellowstone, which is outside of the park.  Coming from Grand Teton, I wanted a place to get re-supplied, have a decent meal, and have some reliable internet service for a couple of days.  I stayed at Grizzly RV Park.  It is a little pricy at $54 per night but lovely and very well maintained.  I was able to get a site on a Sunday, but it was pretty full by the time I left.  It was a good choice for my first two days.  Gas and food are all pricey when you’re in the park.

Grizzly RV Park
On my second day, I drove up to Mammoth Hot Springs, which was a 100 mile round trip.  I saw some good vistas and even saw a brown bear with three cubs.  Traffic was very heavy once I got to the main area. 
Mammoth Hot Springs from the Upper Terrace

Another observation - the hubs like Old Faithful, Canyon Village, and Grant Village all have nice new facilities, large visitor centers, and plenty of parking to handle the crowds.  And there were crowds.  I came in early June expecting cool temperatures and minimal crowds.  But the weather was sunny and in the 70’s (40’s at night) and it was very busy with lots of tour buses and rented RV’s on the roads.  By mid day, the parking lots at key scenic spots were pretty full.  The major campgrounds were also full by mid day (four of the campgrounds had yet to open).  I can’t image what its like in July and August.  I heard someone say that the park attendance is going up each year and its getting busier earlier each year.

On day three headed east for the first time in 17 days.  I’ve driven over 3,200 miles and have turned the corner heading back east.  I’m about half way through my trip.  My next stop, Canyon Village to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

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