Thursday, August 27, 2009

Eight Days in Yellowstone and we only saw two bears!

Neither John nor I have ever visited Yellowstone, so we were blown away by the entire experience. From the east entrance, we traveled to Fishing Bridge RV Park, where we spent the next eight days. (John loved the irony of Fishing Bridge being closed to fishing! However, we were told that, due to heavy fishing in years past which greatly reduced the population of native cutthroat trout, it has been off-limits to fishermen for some time.)

One problem with camping in National Parks is that they are not very dog-friendly. Our four-legged friends are restricted to the campgrounds and parking areas.....not permitted on trails or in the back country. We understand that this is for their, and our own good due to the presence of bears in many areas as well as to protect the wildlife. However, it's a pain to get enough exercise for them. John and Nickie demonstrate our solution to the problem...... It's not perfect, and in fact it can be hazardous, but we're adapting!

The park offers numerous ranger-led programs covering every aspect of Yellowstone's history, architecture, geology, plant life and wildlife. We took full advantage of them. We were a bit disappointed in the "abundance" of wildlife in the park. The "abundance" was mainly bison (Bison Bison, or Buffalo). There were plenty of them.....including in the middle of the road! It's mating season for bison, so there were plenty of bellows, pawing the earth, and "courting" going on.

The bison consider the highway an easy way to get from here to there, so they take full advantage of the roadways. "Bison Traffic Jams" are common, and can sometimes hold up traffic for an hour or more. We learned to allow extra time whenever we traveled around the park. (These visitors are standing way too close to the Bison. We were told to stay at least 25 yards away to avoid being gored!)

Bears are another story. We only saw two during our stay in the park. John spotted a grizzly beside the road, but it was gone by the time we backed up for a better look. This large black bear was very busy foraging near the north rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and didn't mind at all that we stopped to take a picture. We're calling this the "Three Dollar Bear." Before Gage left for Maryland, I made him a $3.00 bet that I would see (and photograph) at least one bear while on our trip. O.K., Gage, here is a picture of your $3 bear.... cash, check or credit card? Love, Grandma

One of our favorite places was the Grand Canyon of the's a fantastic sight! I've seen the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but this one can just as easily take your breath away.

The upper and lower falls are spectacular, and we were told that in the entire length of the Grand Canyon (on the Yellowstone River), only one trail goes to the bottom of the canyon.

It's an incredibly wild and remote place, and awe-inspiring in its own right. There are a number of overlooks, and each has a different view of the falls and canyon. You won't find any white-water rafters here!

The park's geothermal features offer quite another focus. We toured the West Thumb Geyser Basin, as well as the more-well-known Upper, Middle and Lower Geyser Basins. We learned the difference between geysers, hot springs, mud pots and fumeroles--the four types of geothermal features in the park.

We also learned that Yellowstone experiences approximately 3,000 earthquakes each year. Most can't be felt, but all have an impact n the geysers and other geothermal features of the park, which are constantly changing their eruption patterns.

We were also impressed and very pleased to see how well Yellowstone is recovering from the devastating fires of 1988, which burned approximately 40% of the lodgepole pine forests in the park (as well as serious fires in subsequent years). Remarkably, very few large animals were killed in the fires. Even though thousands of acres burned, the following photo shows that the new growth is vigorous and is replacing the standing dead trees and the "blow down" trees that follow the fires.

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