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Thursday, June 30, 2011

As we stumble along……

Well, the weather today is rotten.  Very windy and rainy at times.  The temp is in the 50’s but with the 20+ mph breeze, it really makes it feel cold.

We had thought about going back up the Going to the Sun road to take a hike along one of the paths, but it was too cold.  So instead we first went back to the visitors center to check out the movie we missed yesterday.  It was all about the major maintenance project (7+ years long) they have started to rehab the Going to the Sun road.  Given the steep drop offs and alpine terrain, it is really a challenge for the engineers.

After that, we drove over to Babb (about 7 miles north) and checked out state highway 464.  That is the suggested alternate to go between Browning and St. Mary.  As soon as we turned onto the road, there was a construction sign indicating road work for the next 10 miles.   They are repaving this route and looks like they have finished.  The road is in great shape and the road workers have left.  Also the road is an easy drive and we will take it tomorrow for sure.

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The above is a picture of the completed roadwork.  There is a stretch of the road for about 1,000 feet where the line painters got a little crazy.  This is just a segment of the lines (the two yellow lines at this point are about 18 inches apart!).  The second solid line wanders all over the place.  It looks to us like a trainee did the second stripe.

We then drove into Glacier Park, Many Glacier area.  This looked to be no big deal on the map and we just thought it would give us something to do.  Wrong!

This area has great scenery and beautiful mountain vistas overlooking lakes.

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View from roadside on road to Many Glacier

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Another roadside view.

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Similar view with zoom, note the rain clouds.

Up near the glacier, we stumbled upon a large park lodge.  We ended up having lunch there.  Unfortunately the dining room and adjacent rooms were being renovated so the interior scenery wasn’t all that great.  The food wasn’t either unfortunately.  But the scenery from the deck outside was great!

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Deck View

They also do boat tours from the lodge.  This is one of the tour boats.  This whole Many Glacier area was one we just stumbled into, never expecting it to be as good as it was!

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We came back to the RV and it is still windy and stormy.  Looks like we will get more rain coming soon.

Tomorrow we leave for West Glacier and we will be there several days before heading home.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Around and around we go and where we stop….

Before talking about today’s journey, let me bring you up to date on last night.  After I posted the blog, we had a fairly strong thunderstorm.  First, we caught the leading edge of the microburst winds.  Very strong from the west.  Then there was thunder & lightning accompanied by heavy rains.  The winds shifted to come from the south and eventually the east.  Took about 2 hours for it to pass.

Microbursts are an interesting phenomena.  Under a thunderstorm cell cloud, the winds can be very strong near the ground and have been known to cause airplane crashes.  That’s why airliners won’t take off if there are thunderstorms nearby even if their flight path wouldn’t go near them.

The rain from the storm produced an breathtaking sunset.  Check out the pictures below:

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This morning we left Helena and headed to the east side of Glacier National Park.  The first 25 miles or so was on I-15 and relatively easy.  Then we went on highway 287 and eventually to highway 89.  For the first 100 miles of that stretch, the road was one lane in each direction with no shoulder.  Driving a motor home on that road was exciting, especially each time a large truck or RV passed you going the other way.  No room at all for error.

The last part of the trip was between Browning and St. Mary.  Only about 30 miles, but a very windy road with sharp turns and u turns.  I felt like we were continuously turning around and back, over and over.  Then, there were also strong winds on that stretch which made it a real challenge to drive.

When we arrived at the RV park here, the counter person suggested we go a bit out of our way and take state route 464 back.  Yes, it is longer, but looks much straighter and will probably end up being quicker.  We will probably go that way on Friday.

Once we were all set up in our spot and had some lunch, we went for a drive into Glacier NP.  Here are some scenes from that drive.

 

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Mountain views

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Looks like they have bears here too!

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A view of St. Mary Lake toward the east

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A view of the same lake back west and into the mountains

It is raining right now, though no thunder yet.  The weather is supposed to clear over the next 2 days and be really nice when we are on the west side.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quit Bugging Me!

That’s what I say to the mosquitos, but it does not help.  Last night and this morning, the mosquitos and friends, collectively known as “bugs,” were really out in force.  There were hundreds of them all over the area.  Not sure if it was just that location, or whether more had hatched and were hungry.

Anyway, I loaded up with Off insect repellent and went forth to do the disconnects this morning and wash the front windshield.  Really could not stay out any more than that.  Wore long pants and sweatshirt to try to gain some protection, but there were just too many of them.

We headed out of West Yellowstone with a clear windshield which quickly got bugged up.  I guess turn about is fair play.  You try to bite me, I get 100 of your friends on my window.  Hey, maybe if we got all the RV’s to drive around town for an hour or so, we could really make a difference in the insect population<g>.

The trip to Helena was 183 miles with the obligatory Wal-Mart stop.  We needed to restock before hitting Glacier tomorrow.  It was a fairly easy drive though the outside temperature is now over 90.  We are down to about 4,000 feet altitude so it makes sense that it is warmer.

Tomorrow we go up I-15 and then over to East Glacier, about 193 miles. We visited Glacier NP in 2001 for a very brief stay, so this visit will be much more fun.

I saved this picture from yesterday’s journey because that blog entry already had enough pictured.  I was able to use the digital zoom on the video camera to capture it.

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This is a dad out with his son in a small boat.  No one else around for probably 500-600 yards at the least.  They really seemed to be enjoying Jenny Lake and the Grand Tetons.  If you haven’t visited these national parks, do it before you can’t!

(But bring insect repellent!)

Monday, June 27, 2011

But Wait, There’s More!

How often have we heard these words when listening to a commercial on TV or the radio.  That’s kind of how I felt this morning as we set off on our adventure today – our last full day here at Yellowstone.  We had pretty well covered the park already in our previous adventures, so today, we decided to go south through Yellowstone and do a quick survey visit to Grand Teton NP.

So, to beat the traffic again, we got up early and left the RV about 8:15 and headed into the park.  Two things we noticed – one, no traffic, which was great.  Two, no bison – wonder where they all went.  In previous trips between West Yellowstone and Madison Junction, we saw many bison on the side of the road and out in the meadows.  That is usually what caused the traffic tie-ups.  Today, we saw just a few along the way.

But later we did come across some really active thermal areas.  The temperature was 27 degrees when I got up this morning and the cool air really made the geysers steam more so they were really visible.

Along our journey we crossed and re-crossed the continental divide several times, all at different altitudes. 

One surprise we found on the road leading out of Yellowstone on the south side was Lewis Falls.  This waterfall, about 30 feet high, really had a high volume of water coming through it and it made for a high volume noise too!  Later on our return trip, after the sun had been melting snow all day, we noticed the water volume had almost doubled!

Grand Teton starts about 9 or so miles south of the Yellowstone boundary.  Interestingly enough, there is an entry station from the south for Yellowstone, but none for Grand Teton from the North.  When I asked a ranger about that, they said that if you enter Grand Teton from the North, you must have gone through Yellowstone and paid.  Makes sense.  But then why is it not also true that if you enter Grand Teton any other way, you already paid at entry, and if you head north into Yellowstone, you must have come from Grand Teton.  So why pay again in only 1 direction?  Weird.

The Grand Teton NP is all about the mountains and lakes.  The views are awe inspiring. 

The mountains are too big to fit into one picture!


Also, the meadows (and there are plenty of them) are filled with great looking wild flowers.
 

At the Jackson Lake Lodge, as you walk into their main lobby area, the mountains are framed in a great view.
Here is the same mountain view outside the lodge on the deck.
Note the highest peak on the left – that is Grand Teton.
We drove about 15 miles further southwest to Jenny Lake.  There the mountains appear so much closer and you can really see the detail.  These really look similar to the Alps in Bavaria.

This interesting formation below actually sits in the valley in the middle of the picture above.  I zoomed in with my video camera and was able to capture this peak.

After Jenny Lake, we headed home.  Total trip was 236 miles.  As you can see, the skies were almost totally clear all day which really gave great contrast to the snow covered peaks.

Tomorrow we head north to Helena for the night.  We were both sad leaving Yellowstone today and already are planning to return to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone for longer visits.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Wolves Are Back

Yesterday I didn’t make a blog post.  It was somewhat of a relaxing day for us after three really hectic adventure days.  In the morning we went for a bike ride around one of the neighborhoods.  It was a bit windy, but it is so level here, that the exercise really felt good.

In the afternoon we took a ride to the Southwest to visit Red Rock RV park and Henry’s Lake State Park.

We had seen Red Rock RV Park featured on an RV show so were interested in checking it out.  It was nice, but not all that special in my mind.  Out in the middle of no where as far as surroundings.

We then drove over to Henry’s Lake SP.  The volunteers at the gate were really nice and gave us a free temporary pass to check the place out.  The campground was nice, very open, and clean.  Unfortunately, it lacked sewers.  2 bars of Verizon cell service, so that is good.

This morning we moved from Wagon Wheel RV Park to Grizzly Bear RV park.  Only took 4 minutes between locations.  The park is nice enough and well maintained.  I’m sure Carol will have some great pictures of it on her blog soon.

This afternoon we went to the  Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.  It is a not-for-profit mini zoo featuring wolves and bears.  They are adding an otter habitat too.  It was well done and we got to see wolves and bears out in their habitats.

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The wolves were eliminated from the park and surrounding areas back in the 1930s.  In 1996, the National Park Service decided to re-introduce them to the park to bring things back to the way they were before.  They started with 3 packs of animals, each with 6-7 wolves.  Today there are 21 known packs yet with all the elk kills, the elk population is maintaining a steady population.  Surely nature has adapted to the new predator besides the coyote and grizzly bears.

Not sure what we are doing tomorrow, our last day here before leaving for Glacier NP.  We may take a boat tour of Yellowstone Lake or we may drive down to Grand Teton NP for a quick survey visit.  We actually visited there back in the mid 1990s with our first RV.  Unfortunately, I was sick most of that time and didn’t really do much.  So maybe, if it looks good, we may come back someday for a longer visit.

Friday, June 24, 2011

You’ll wonder where the traffic went……

Well, we finally figured out a solution to the traffic problem at Yellowstone and it really worked.  Since the west road in is the most popular and that is also where the large herds of bison are easily seen, all you need to do is to come at a time when there aren’t many cars coming into the park.  For us, it meant getting up early and going through the park gate at 8:35.  We arrived 20 minutes later at Madison Junction, way past all the previous traffic snarls.  So if you are planning to come here, don’t enter between about 9:30 and 11:30 or you will be stuck, at least during May and June when the bison are out.

So we went in today and took the northern loop in a clockwise direction.

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We entered from the bottom left and went from Norris to Mammoth Hot Springs to the Lamar Valley then to Roosevelt and Canyon and then back to Norris and from there back to the RV.  All together probably 100 miles or so.

While in Mammoth Hot Springs, we went to the visitor center which is an old army fort.  The army cared for Yellowstone NP until there was a National Park Service.  There were many elk roaming the grounds.

This elk seemed to really enjoy the grass

After that we went on a short hike around the hot springs.  The ones we saw were interesting but dry.  They randomly get deluged with spring water but are totally unpredictable.  This area had not had the deluge for several years.

This is Liberty Cap, an interesting rock formation

After leaving Mammoth, we stopped at several of the roadside spots for the various views.  At one, I was able to zoom in quite a distance to capture these yellow wild flowers.



Also as we were driving, we came upon a coyote on the hunt.  Can’t tell what he was after, but he was stalking and totally oblivious to us.

Later we saw another coyote out in the grass hunting

At one of the roadside stops, we hiked in to see the canyon views and saw bighorn sheep on the opposite wall.

These two were munching on the plants.

This appeared to be a young sheep crossing over to mommy.

From there we drove to some waterfalls.  There were several waterfalls along the way here, but this one was the best.

We went onto Canyon and briefly checked out the visitor center.  I liked this one the best because they had one of those table top relief maps in 3D that showed the whole park.  Others had just their sections shown.  Seeing the full park gives you a great sense of just how big this place is.

From there, we went on to the Norris area and visited the thermal region there.  It was a bit daunting for us.  Too hilly, too high and too long.  Wish we were 10 years younger and we probably would have done more than we did.

View from the Norris Museum down towards one of the pool areas.

Emerald Pool at Norris


Which brings up a slightly different topic.  If you have been saying that you’d like to go to Yellowstone, but just haven’t got around to it.  You had better do it while you can enjoy it.  Soon enough, age will catch up with you and the altitude will become a barrier.  So don’t put it off.  I’m so glad we came when we did, but now I wish we had done it years ago. 

From Norris, we drove back towards Madison Junction.  On the way we made one final stop at Artists Paintpots.  Here there was a small geyser erupting continuously.

Tomorrow we plan to sleep in a bit and maybe do some things outside the park. 

Last night was also a great sleeping night.  No problems at all to report.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

We beat our record!

Today we beat our record from yesterday.  If you recall yesterday, it took us 3 hours to go 14 miles.  Today we did it in 2 hours!  We improved by 33.3%!  We were better prepared for the traffic and had brought along Carol’s IPOD with some podcasts for us to help pass the time.  And that really worked well.

The same stretch of road (West Yellowstone to Madison Junction) had traffic for the same reason – bison on the roadway.  Except today the traffic never really stopped, just went about 5mph at its slowest.  The bison were still at the same places and pretty much doing the same thing.  And the humans were too!  Unfortunately most drivers just stop in the middle of the road to take pictures.  Not smart!

Turns out that the bison are always in this area in May and June and so this is no surprise.  But everyone always hears how there are so many animals in Yellowstone and that they are so easy to see, I think when they first see these bison, they stop driving wherever they are and start staring and snapping pictures.

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They really are all over the park.  Today we drove the southern loop of the park.

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This loop first took us past Old Faithful again, though we didn’t stop.  Then we went down to Grant Village and West Thumb, so named because the lake seems to have a thumb on this part of the coast.  We had lunch at a picnic spot in Grant Village.

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Yes, there is still some snow here!

The road between Old Faithful and Grant Village crosses the Continental Divide at an altitude of over 8,500 feet.  It crosses again a few miles further and a few hundred feet lower.  So I guess it is no surprise that there is still some snow in this area.

West Thumb had some thermal vents and geysers for us to see:

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This was really a pretty day – better than forecast!

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You can see the ramps they built to go over the thermal areas.

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This was a really interesting “behive” geyser

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This is a hot thermal pool but the water is really pretty

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This pool is clear, but colored differently – not sure why

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Some pools are full of dirty water like this one

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You can see clouds beginning to grow

It did rain a bit on us while we were in this area and there was also some thunder from the dark clouds.

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I’m going to save the rest of my pictures for a day when I don’t have anything else to say and show.

On the health side of things, last night I slept well and when I woke up about 3:30, my O2 reading was 94% which is great.  I did sleep with my window open which I think helped by allowing fresh air to come in and the already breathed CO2 to leave.

Tomorrow we plan to do the north loop and will try getting up earlier to see if we can beat some of the traffic.