Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 32- Mammoth

On Saturday, we noticed the truck making a strange noise when we turned left.  However, it was a Saturday and nothing was open.  We drove on up to Mammoth and did find a place for David to take the truck today.  On his way to take the truck, he saw a bird fly over and got our best shots yet of the Eagle.  Since David will be working at Creekland where the mascot is the Eagle, we are going to blow some of these up and frame them for his office!  I can't get over those piercing eyes!

Once David got back, we had to adjust our plans for the day.  The tiny mechanic in Gardiner didn't have the part in so he can't fix it until tomorrow- but it is in such bad shape that we don't think we should drive it any more than we have to!  We were planning on driving up through the northeast entrance and doing a few short hikes along the way, (which also means that we would have driven on every paved road in the park) and hope to search for the wolves that we reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995.  We were told that seeing the wolves is a long shot because they typically stay 1-2 miles away from the roads.  We did run into some people yesterday that were able to see some through some very high powered binoculars that let them see the wolf pups over one mile away.  So, we went to plan B.  Those of you that know me well know just how well I roll with the punches when things don't go according to plan :)  Before lunch, we took the boys on the short trek up to Mammoth.  We couldn't access the trail because there were elk EVERYWHERE!  In addition, many of them had babies with them (one is pictured below) and that is the time that elk are the most dangerous.
If you look down in the trees behind the boys, you can see a few of the elk!.
We went to the visitor center, checked out the exhibits, walked through Fort Yellowstone (which used to be an army base), which is now primarily residence for those that work there.  We headed back for lunch and you can see David and the boys looking down into the campground to figure out what route to take back since the elk haven't left.
By the time we came back and got lunch together, many of the elk had started meandering through the campground.  You can see one below just a few campsites below us between the boys.  
After lunch, we headed back up into Mammoth and decided to walk the Lower Terrace.  This was not my best idea.  The two younger boys were tapped out after the hike from yesterday and there was a good bit of whining that took place on this walk.  We couldn't finish it fast enough.  It was very neat to see the formations that are formed by the springs up here.
In this spring, the water just started coming out again.
This was the view of the upper terrace from the lower terrace overlook.  At this point, we were moving fairly quickly because the boys were running on empty.
We did see this bird, called a killdeer who was playing in the springs.  Apparently, he likes it hot :)
As we were preparing dinner, I just had to smile.  The elk were everywhere and they didn't mind that they boys were riding their bikes right past them.   In fact, they didn't even lift their heads to look at the boys.  You can see how close this one is to Hunter!
At this point, one of the girls is in our campground- directly in front of our camper.
This one is taken when the elk is between our truck and the camper.  
It wasn't the day that we had planned, but we managed to salvage it and still have a pretty great day!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 31- Mount Washburn Hike

Another one of our bison friends just walking along the road.  I don't know if I could ever get sick of seeing them act so nonchalantly.  
Waterfall near the Golden Gate Area between Madison and Mammoth.
Love the colors on this bird- it kept visiting the people in the campsite beside us.
Lunch from our campsite with beautiful views of the mountains behind us.
Saw this bull snake right before we headed out for our hike.
As we drove into Mammoth, we kept seeing all these signs that said "Danger- Do NOT approach the Elk".  We thought it was strange because we didn't see any elk.  After lunch, we headed out for our hike and they were EVERYWHERE.  They just walked across the road, laid down on the medians, grazed and just took their old sweet time.  There were many moms with babies.
We saw this great owl as well.
We drove on a dirt road called Blacktail Plateau Drive and saw this bull elk and one other(which as I previously mentioned I absolutely love)!
Then we turned the corner and saw all of these people (which usually means bear and bear patrol).  There was no immediate place for David to pull off, so I grabbed the camera and jumped out of the car while it was still slowly moving.  I got out just in time to see this little fellow.  David stopped the car in the middle of the road (which you are not allowed to do), but there was no where to move because people were pulling their cars on and off the road.  We only stayed for a couple of minutes before jumping back in the car and heading out for our hike.

As you can tell, it was COLD and EXTREMELY windy.  We had several layers and the two little ones and I had hats and ear protection.  David and Jimmy declined when we were packing up the stuff!  I offered but they didn't need it (or so they thought)!  I would guess the winds were 30-40 mph as we hiked up!  I couldn't let Logan near the edge!
The views on the way up were just beautiful.

David realized that he didn't lock the truck, so he and Jimmy ran back down to do that while the two littles and I trekked on (since they hike at a much slower pace)!
They also like to goof off a good bit on the way !
The hike still had a good bit of snow!

There is a warming hut at the top that we could see from the bottom of the trail when we started up.  It kept getting closer.
You can see the snow drifts that had been plowed were taller than me!

We finally made it to the top- it was ridiculously windy up here.
They had to take their hats off or lose them.
Some of our views from the summit.  You can see some of the trails going down.

At the top, the warming hut has three levels.  On the top level, there is one park ranger who stays there during the duration of the summer months (once the snow is clear enough for him to get up there) and monitors the fire tower.  He doesn't come down at all during the season and is usually down by the beginning of October.  You could see why it would be a fire tower because you can see for miles in so many directions.  There are three monitored fire towers in Yellowstone during the summer and one more if that area is at a high fire risk.  There are two ways to the top of the hike- one from Crittenden Road and one from Dunraven Pass.  Jimmy and I hiked down a different way and David took the two little ones down to get the truck and then they drove to get us at the other trail head.  I wanted to go down a different way because the guidebooks said the Dunraven Pass trail had a population of big horned sheep that lived there and I was in search of a male big horn sheep with curly horns.
I didn't see any males, but this colony of females were literally 10 feet from the trail.  I am glad that Jimmy and I came down this way.  The last time we saw big horn sheep, they were really far away.
At the end of every hike, I am constantly reminded of how awesome the boys are.  They didn't complain one time during the approximately 6 miles hike- they continue to amaze me.  I am so blessed!  Once Hunter and Logan go to bed, David and I will often go to a close town and have some time to explore.  Tonight, we walked up from the campground to Mammoth (less than half a mile) and when we got to the top of the trail, there were elk everywhere.  They tell you to stay 25 yards or more away from the animals, but there was no way that was possible (we were lucky to be 5 yards away).  We altered our trail but still couldn't get that far away from them.  I love this picture that David took on our way back to the campground.
It doesn't get dark until very late out here (9:30 or so), but we did catch a beautiful sunset!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 30- Norris Geyser Basin

As you can tell, we are huge fans of the Bald Eagle and we looked for these in the same area every time we drove past! 

We also saw these beautiful bowl out on our way to the Noris geyser basin.  We learned that with Al, typically the females and cabs stay together… Brother males go off in small bachelor groups and eat in higher elevations.   Typically they are only seen together during mating season.  I love seeing the bowl out.
Today, we hike the Noris geyser basin… Which has a back basin loop and the porcelain loop.
Clearly, Logan was not a fan of the smell!
Love the steam rising off this Blue spring.
This Geyser (while currently dormant) used to short water in the air 300 feet... 
Steamboat Geyser still has a team and small spurts of water coming out of it, but no major eruptions.

Arch steam vent
Blue mud steam vent 

Vixen Geyser- another one we were fortunate enough to see erupt.  The geysers are really interesting – their eruptions may be Constant or unpredictable. In addition, they can change - Without anyone knowing the reason why or what the new election schedule is!
Here we stop for looking in the porcelain basin.
Heading down into the porcelain basin… We made it into the porcelain basin before it started raining and then it was just a slight sprinkle before we made it out.
Crackling lake
View of the entire basin
We barely got the picnic in before the rain started back! 
These signs have been on every picnic table since we entered the Tetons!
Looking down on the artist Paintpots!  We got as far away from our car as we could on this hike before the bottom fell out of the sky and we got rained on! 
We wished we could have slowed down and spent more time here because we really enjoyed these! 
We stopped at Gibbons Falls which was hidden front heroes prior to the 1988 fire.  Speaking of the fire, you could see evidence if the fire through most of the park!

A bear in downtown West Yellowstone- he was fake :-) 
On the way out, we saw this Osprey Couple.  They too are a beautiful bird- just not an Eagle!

Having fun downtown- we needed something to do because it was too muddy for the boys to at outside or ride their bikes... So we just fiddled around town!  Logan hit the coin return button on a newspaper dispenser- it gave him $2.75 so now he wants to do it for all of them- can't say I blame him!