Camp and condo in Yellowstone and Grand Teton

With camper and canoe, we drove from Minnesota to see Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and points in between. In 1990, we stayed in condos and campgrounds, enjoying magnificent scenery - each new spot more spectacular than the last. In 2003, we repeated the trip - this time able to take digital photos which we now add to this journal.

Lower Falls - Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Malahini on June 18, 2003

This is a place of otherworldly beauty and it's easy to see how the name was given. The colors run the spectrum. Add high canyon walls, sloping at 60 degrees down to a rapid strewn river fed by a thundering waterfall, and the scene might serve for a high adventure book illustration -- a la Tolkien.

As we watched in June 1990, a crowd gathered and we realized that a rescue was in progress on the opposite wall of the canyon. Two young men had decided they could climb down the slope, and indeed they made it to the bottom -- and almost back up again. But they were stalled short of the rim and park rangers were summoned. The rescue crew rappelled down from the rim and brought them out safely. We trust their fine was severe, for they put themselves and their rescuers at considerable risk.

Less risky, but still challenging, is a trail, far down the canyon wall to near the base of the falls. It's like walking up and down the Washington Monument. The stairs are endless. Try it only if you have lots of time and are in good condition. A sign at the top gives that warning. The view at the bottom makes it all worth while -- especially the rainbow we saw in the mist from the falls.

Back at the rim, a viewing platform at the edge of the falls allows a look nearly straight down at the huge free fall and the cloud of spray rising from the base.

Lower Falls

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 82190
(307) 344-7381

A punctual buffalo herd

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Malahini on June 14, 2003

"You can't rollerskate in a buffalo herd" the old song advised. Hey! Sometimes you can't even drive through one. Or so we found along the Park road from West Yellowstone in our morning and evening drives to/from our condo at Island Park. The herd evidently sleeps on one side of the road and crosses to a grassy meadow for a day of grazing. So every day, a large herd, with small calves romping along too, would amble across the road. A long line of cars always was stopped, passengers watching with fascination and snapping pictures.

Along that stretch of road, the river flows peacefully - a haven for fly fishermen. And the stream was shallow enough at the crossing for the buffalo to wade and frolic, even the small light brown calves. Up a steep slope on the meadow side they would go, bouncing and kicking their heels in the air, while their parents plodded at a steady pace. For all of them, there was as little concern for the cars and the tourists as for the fish in the stream. All in all, a tempting intermission for a day of touring the park.

Lots of photos. That's where most of the story lies. But I'll have to find a way to transcribe from videotape to digital still. A try at copying the TV image with a digital camera gives the poor results shown - hardly worth the effort.

Buffalo Herd & Elk Sightings
Road to West Entrance
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 82190
(307) 344-7381

Devils Tower National Monument

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Malahini on July 5, 2003

If you saw the sci fi movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you'll recognize this otherworldly tower in the sky. Out of a flat plain, it soars like a blasted tree trunk almost 1300 ft. The top is flat like a helicopter pad, the sides are grooved, and the whole mass is volcanic basalt. And now, you're wondering what all this has to do with Yellowstone. Well, we drove here towing a tent camper and a canoe on our way to Yellowstone. Smart stop -- we stayed two days in the adjacent campground. An experience in itself, it was also an apt introduction to the immense power of nature shown again in Yellowstone.

This tower was once the core of a volcano. But the molten core remained as a plug and very slowly cooled in place. This slow process allowd the lava to crystallize into octagonal needles a thousand feet long and perhaps 6-10 feet across These parallel needles, bundled like straw, form the tower and account for the grooved appearance. That strange appearance coined the Indian name "Bear Lodge" and the legend that three girls, chased by a bear, climbed a tree stump and prayed for deliverance. The Great Spirit made the stump grow out of the bear's reach. But in his fury, the bear clawed the trunk, accounting for the grooving.

Our own arrival at Devils Tower was equally mystic. It was in the heart of a thunderstorm, the sky was black, the ground covered by hail, and the tower lit by lightening. Scary to be sure, but also awesome. And awesome to consider - the span of time for the volcanic core to cool, and the land around it to erode away, leaving this 1267 ft platform in the sky. And after all that, so hard and resistant was the crystallized basalt that the huge crystals today, though sometimes fractured and broken, are as sharp edged and clean as if carved yesterday by Zeus himself.

Imagine our surprise when driving the rim of Yellowstone's Grand Canyon to see, like a snow fence atop the canyon wall, a line of the same huge basalt crystals. And if it's awesome to see these footprints in the sands of time -- just think what it would be like to be there when they were made!

Also see .

Devils Tower National Monument

Black Hills

Across Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Malahini on August 7, 2003

The lure was the beautiful afternoon, sunny and calm with the mountains mirrowed in the lake. We'd just come from Island Park near Yellowstone headed for Jackson Hole Raquet Club. Passing Jenny Lake with our canoe atop the van, we had to pop it in the water and paddle across to Hidden Falls. While we had a motor, we don't carry gas in the car while traveling.

What a beautiful hike with spectacular falls and mountains at trails end. We forged on to Inspiration Point for a sweeping view back across the lake. But then an afternoon rainstorm moved in so we hightailed it back to our canoe and paddled back into the teeth of a freshening wind which tested our stamina. We made it back and loaded the canoe just before the storm broke. Now we know to use a motor and avoid the afternoon since we know rain's more common then.

Later in the week, with outboard motor assist, we circled the lake, amazed at how much smaller it seemed without the paddling.

For those without a boat, a hiking trail runs around the lake from the Visitor's Center (about 3 miles long), and a passenger boat will take you across the lake. However, we didn't see it operating while we were there.

Across Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls
Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
(307) 739-3300

Mammoth Hot Springs

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Malahini on July 12, 2003

We camped at Mammoth Hot Springs, a convenient location for touring although close to a main road. This location is open longer than others and this was in May with snow still falling at the geyser basin. Besides, it was spawning season for fish, which attract bears at some locations and we were in a tent camper. We were safe from bears at Mammoth Hot Springs, but were visited by lots of elk.

In this protected park, the elk and buffalo are not timid. In the town of Mammoth Hot Springs and on the terraces of the hot springs, the elk are almost always found sprawled on a lawn or on the warm rocks. And their curiosity in the campground was fascinating to the campers. Several times a day, a herd would stroll through the camp checking things out. Herds of campers often followed them (not always a good idea with these large animals). They liked to browse on the adjacent grassy field, where they attracted lots of photographers.

One family in particular was determined to follow the elk, which were easily able to walk just out of the crowd's reach. This family had a poodle in tow, and they became convinced that the elk were avoiding them because of the dog. So they tied the dog to a tree at their campsite. And the elk made a great circle, ahead of the crowd, back to the campsite where they investigated the dog. Of course, the dog was terrified.

Once, a coyote came strolling past. Camping offered a great way to see the wildlife. And, in spite the May temperatures, we were comfortable in our (heated) pop-up camper. But strolling the terraces around the hot springs, it was warm jacket time. On our drive into Yellowstone from the east entrance, we thought the lake was completely iced over. Not so, we found later. But loose ice on the partially frozen lake had been driven by the wind to our side of the lake -- and the ice field extended out of sight.

Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 82190
(307) 344-7381

Old Faithful Geyser - people watching

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Malahini on June 26, 2003

This geyser is one of the best known sights, on a predictable schedule - and at a cross road in the park. So, as we travelled around the park to other attractions, we passed it frequently and stopped often. It's an international drawing card and we found ourselves watching the people more than the geyser. The show takes a while, as the build up to a high fountain is gradual.

One Japanese couple with a small child were estatic - excitedly pointing and telling their child about the geyser. We couldn't understand a word, but the body language was delightful.

Next, we watched an older German couple carefully set up for photographs with every piece of camera equipment known to man. As the fountain began to rise higher, der Herr produced a tape recorder and began to narrate. Different, but also delightful.

Next came a family from my own country, who found the performance a little behind schedule. So they said "What's with this outfit?" -- And as the fountain began to rise, they said "Is that all there is?" --- And at the climax, they said "We'd better leave before the crowd jams the exits!" --- and when we pointed out to them the many other geysers in the area with a wide variety of appearances, they said "You mean we have to walk there?"

Most of the time, I'm proud to be from the US. Sometimes, I just keep my mouth shut.

Yellowstone National Park
Headwaters of the Yellowstone River
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 82190
(307) 344-7381

A SENSE OF WONDER - and of coincidence

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Malahini on June 26, 2003

Yellowstone and Hawai'i are among our favorite places -- and RCI's too, since they are designated as "hot locations". For geologists as well, they are well known "hot spots".

Two of the most famous, in fact -- where age old plumes of lava rising from the center of the earth penetrate the crust to make spectacular displays. The lava towers rising from the ocean floor at the Big Island have the greatest height from their base of any mountains in the world. And the lava intrusion under Yellowstone was enough to lift the mountains, cracking them as they buldged, so that water infiltration into the cracks has created geysers.

For a full scale version of shock and awe, consider the Yellowstone area of 600.000+ years ago when a gigantic explosion blew open a pit about 30x50 miles wide and thousands of feet deep. Earlier blasts in the Yellow area were thousands of times as powerful as Mt. St. Helens. Or reflect on the idea that the lava plumes are stationary, boring holes in the crust which drifts above them like lily pads on a pond (the theory of tectonic plates). I'm fully in tune with the psalmist who cried "When I consider the heavens . . . "

Geysers form when surface water percolates down to heated rocks below. The heated water rises, forming steam as it nears the surface. That steam powers the eruption of the geysers. "Geyser" is an Icelandic word meaning to "gush forth". As a last coincidence, consider the Hawaiian meaning of Waikiki -- it means "spouting water".

Yellowstone NP website

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Malahini on July 12, 2003

Yellowstone National Park website. Almost anything you want to know: maps, weather, activities, photos reservations. Hopefully, this makes amends for my inablity to transcribe our videotape photos into a journal.

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