Thursday, September 8, 2016

Yellowstone NP #1

Our trip into Yellowstone National Park on August 31 was uneventful, and that’s a good thing.  We had previously taken the road from Cody into the park through the east entrance and to Fishing Bridge Campground.  However, when we visited in 2009, the road through the middle of the park was closed, so we weren’t sure what adventures it might hold.  This trip, our goal was to see some parts of the park we missed previously and to revisit some old favorite locations. The scenery was awesome, as it was the last time we visited.

We camped at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park just outside the west entrance to the park, and were been pleased with the accommodations.  The sites are pretty close together, but there are grassy yards at each and nice picnic tables on a concrete base.  Our favorite amenity, though, was that the park backs up to the national forest and offers lots of nice roads and trails that are very hiking- and dog-friendly.

Everyone has cautioned us about the several fires burning in the park, and we paid close attention to the news reports to be sure our trip wouldn’t be impacted.  Each day, the Forest Service posted updates like this one to keep people informed.

Fire has been an important part of the life cycle of this area for thousands of years, and is essential to maintaining plant diversity and for returning nutrients to the soil.  Generally, the Forest Service focuses its efforts on managing the naturally-occurring fires so that communities and structures are spared, but otherwise allows the fire to burn.

I believe most of the several fires burning in Yellowstone at this time were caused by lightening.  The Boundary Fire, Maple Fire and Fawn Fire are burning in the northwest part of the park.  While a total of some 40,000 acres or more are involved, most of this area is back-country.  The fires have come within about 3.5 miles of West Yellowstone, but aggressive action by firefighters have kept the blazes away from populated areas.  There is some smoke, usually in the mornings, but it hasn’t been a problem for us.  Here are a couple of pictures of smoke rising from fires in the back country, and one area along the road where the firefighters set back fires to protect the road.

The Santa Fe Hot Shots were deploying on Friday morning when we set out to visit the park, and on a couple of occasions we have seen fire crews coming back at the end of their shifts. 

We appreciate their efforts and their bravery, and are in awe of what it takes to do such a tough, demanding job.  

We spent Thursday and Friday with some heavy-duty wildlife-watching and geyser-gazing.  Of course, we saw quite a few of the park’s bison.  These were busy dusting in one of the many wallows you see throughout the park

We were also fortunate to see a couple of beautiful bull elk along the Madison River.  The first was following several cow elk through a thicket.

And this fellow was strolling through the meadow.  He is a beautiful 6x7, and if you look closely you can see the shreds of “velvet” still hanging from his antlers.  He will be a force to be reckoned with once the rut begins.  I’ll bet he has a very large harem.

We hit a number of old and new geyser locations.  Some of our favorite images follow.  The first three, Excelsior Geyser, Turquoise Pool and Grand Prismatic Spring, are found in the Midway Geyser Basin.

Excelsior Geyser

Turquoise Pool
Grand Prismatic Spring

Steam rising from Terrace Spring made a rainbow above our shadows on the pool.

The Upper Geyser Basin had a very other-worldly feel to it.

The formations at Mammoth Hot Springs looked like they were covered with freshly fallen snow, or maybe icing on a giant wedding cake.

And that's just a very small sample of the wonderful sights in this magnificent place!

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