Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Yellowstone: Dunraven Pass, Tower Falls and Lamar Valley

Today we are headed north out of Canyon Village, through Dunraven Pass, which just opened a few days ago, up to Tower Falls and Roosevelt Lodge, and out to Lamar Valley. Lamar Valley is where after decades of killing wolves, wolves have been reintroduced and are rebalancing the Yellowstone ecosystem.

The early morning is cloudy and dark, we worry about ice on Dunraven Pass. We watch the temperatures drop below freezing as we head up, but soon we are safely on the other side. (We had snow on the way home, coming through the pass.)

Along the road – you have to keep your eyes open.

We took a short hike to the outlook over Tower Falls – it is an easy hike, and if you get there early enough, there is good parking. The General Store was not open, though, so we fixed apples and peanut butter for breakfast.

 

 

This is not a tour bus. This is a Yellow Cab, a special kind of tour vehicle that makes me smile every time I see it. I heard they stopped using them for a while, but they had so much appeal that the management brought them back. Good call!

 

Little deer jumping over a creek

Bison on the road at Slough Creek, one of our favorite haunts in Lamar Valley. Unpaved, but drivable. Rumored to be one or more wolf packs that hang out there, but we never saw them.

 

AdventureMan getting a snack at Slough Creek

AdventureMan loved these little rodents; they were everywhere.

 

It’s past noon and we head into Cooke City, outside the northeast entrance to the Park for a bite to eat. We find The Bistro, and I have a meal I love – trout, pan fried with garlic and parsley in butter. Simple, and so good. AdventureMan has the same meal, with fries. The Bistro also has burgers and salads, but we wanted trout.

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to think about dinner when you’ve just had a meal so satisfying, but we remember the horror show dinner of last night and decide to order food to take with us. AdventureMan goes to one restaurant for a chef’s salad, and I cross the street to Buns and Beds for an Italian Sandwich.

 

 

 

Next door is the Beartooth Cafe, a place I would love to try next time:

 

 

 

We buy some T-shirts for the grandchildren at the Yellowstone Trading Post, and they tell us we spent enough that we get to go in and see the wildlife exhibit. Someone has an amazing skill with taxidermy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have the National Parks Senior Pass? I think we paid $10 or $20 each to get one; you can get them when you turn 62, but now the price has gone up to $80. I still think it is a deal. If you have the pass, you have free entry into all the national parks – starting, for us, with Fort Pickens, here in Pensacola, and taking us to all these amazing places we’ve been going through the years. They pay for themselves quickly.

 

Leaving Cooke City

 

Heading back into Yellowstone through “Silver” pass:

 

 

Big horn sheep

Coyote running near Roosevelt Station

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June 23, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Geography / Maps, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone Grand Canyon and Canyon Village

We first drove the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, getting out and taking photos, then hiking down to the brink of the falls on the North Rim side. We had to wait and go back later to hike the North Rim side because the parking lots were full, and cars were blocking the road, parking wherever they could create a space. It was chaotic, and it was unsafe.

These are the vistas that attracted and astonished the Park’s earliest visitors.

Honestly, too many people, I took the shots and got out so the next person could step up.

 

 

 

 

I think it is only fair to tell you that Canyon Village is the part of Yellowstone I like the very least. It is high on the tour bus schedule, because they have lots of services there to deal with high volumes of people. They have lots of space.

Some of those high volumes of people kind of don’t know park etiquette, like if you are on a narrow trail with a steep drop off, you don’t go barreling down on people, passing, and putting them at risk.

Some of the people on the trails were older than I am, making a valiant effort to get down and back up. There were children. There were a lot of people. The worst offenders seemed to be large groups of men traveling together, and oblivious to the needs and vulnerabilities of others, running over the weak and less capable.

Then again, world round, you put too many people in a small space and things happen. People run over other people, and people get hurt. Mostly, I just try to stay out of the way, and keep my eyes open, watching out for the heedless. AdventureMan and I are strategists – we find ways to avoid the crowds, as much as possible. Fortunately, our body time is an hour earlier than this time zone, and getting up early isn’t hard, and so totally worth it to avoid the frantic short-on-time visitors.

Our room was beautiful. Canyon Village is central to many different places. Canyon Village has stores, food places, a gas station, a post office, an outfitter, camping grounds, cabins. There are good and valid reasons to stay there, but we will never stay there again.

This was our Lodge; do you see all the snow? Parking was great, and although there was a large hiking group here, they were quiet and well mannered, no problem.

 

I loved having shutters on the windows instead of curtains. We had a patio, which I stepped out on from time to time, but it was too cold to sit outside.

 

We both liked that the bathroom had a sink area in addition to this vanity area having its own sink. The hairdryer was tiny, but strong.

 

All the lodges had little Teddy Bear soaps, which I loved. The Lodge was nice enough. No fridge, no microwave. Here’s the thing. The same people that run the lodges run the food places, so they want you to eat in their food places. I wouldn’t mind, if the food were good. It’s not.

Remember I told you we picked up foods for the road in Bozeman, at the Walmart, at the beginning of the trip? It was a God-send.

We had just hiked down 11 switchbacks to the brink of the lower falls and then  – 11 switchbacks coming back up, and we were hungry, so we decided to go to the food area for dinner. It was still early, maybe 5:30, so we had time to figure out what we wanted, and get in line. The line wasn’t that long.

The not-that-long line took us 45 minutes. One  woman ordered several meals, each on a separate tray; it took forever. Many foreign men ordered two or three meals, one to eat and two to take with, probably for the next day (?) I can only speculate, because I don’t really know. The line inched forward. A lot of people didn’t understand how the ordering system worked. Others didn’t speak English, and had problems making themselves understood. When we got to the front of the line, several things were already out, and many of the condiments that go with the meals were not yet in stock. It was a nightmare, worse than a college dormitory. Here is my order:

Intlx:  I’d like the noodles, please, with peanut sauce

Counter person: These noodles are cold! More are coming

(wait) (wait) (wait) (More noodles show up)

Counter person: No more peanut sauce! All gone!

Intlx:  I’ll have Teriyaki

Counter person squirts large amount on, then looks up in horror and says “Oh no! I just put hoisin sauce on!”

Intlx: (thinks “get me out of here”) Hoisin is fine. Green onions and chopped peanuts on top, please.

Counter person: Oh! We’ve run out of the chopped peanuts!

At least in a dormitory, once you have your food you can go sit down, but here, you have to go to the centralized cashier stand and – yep – stand in line. Once again, there are problems with currency, problems with communication, people letting others in line, it is a disaster, it is chaos.

After you pay, you try to find a table that has been cleaned off and that no one else is waiting for.

We were really lucky – we had gotten there early. Things only got worse as more and more people came in trying to get fed. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

For the rest of our stay, we never ate in Canyon Village again. We spent our days out and away, mostly in Lamar Valley. We discovered good food in Cooke City, just outside the northwest gate. We discovered that the Grab-and-Go sandwiches in the General Store were not bad: tuna, chicken and cranberry, turkey and apple, all kinds of meats for those who like ham and roast beef. We had our own favorite snacks already, apples, oranges, chocolate, and would refill our water bottles from our faucets in our room. The water was cold and delicious. From time to time, we would buy pie. We did fine. We just hate to see food service done so ineptly, with so little care for delighting the customer.

Our other thought was “and this is just the beginning of the season. What is it going to be like when the real crowds hit?”

June 23, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Customer Service, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Old Faithful to Canyon Village via Grant Village and Lake Village

Have I told you how great AdventureMan is? We’ve had a terrible night’s sleep, but he is awake at six and says “Let’s go.” He knows I really want to see the Grand Prismatic Spring, but it is one of the major attractions in the park, and is bound to be crowded if we go later. It is also back the way we came, not the way we are going, but he is game, and off we go.

I try not to go into a trip with high expectations; I try to sort of let the trip expand before me, but I really wanted to see the Grand Prismatic Spring. I am really into color, and just look at this colors! Go on the internet and see the colors!

But the first thing we see when we get to the Midway Geyser Basin, where the Grand Prismatic Spring resides, is something spectacular that is not the Grand Prismatic Spring. (Remember about letting the trip unfold before you?) This is Excelsior Geyser, glorious in the morning sun. We were mesmerized.

 

It is a bitterly chill morning, and the steam is everywhere. There are two other couples in this huge area, so essentially, we have this gorgeous area all to ourselves.

 

The “hike” is along a frosty boardwalk, and it is a sweet sunny morning. We come next to the Turquoise Pool:

 

So we are shooting across it, there is steam everywhere, and it is impossible to get a photo that will show you how impressive the colors are, but the pond is, indeed, very turquoise.

So remember the beautiful info sheet I showed you on Grand Prismatic Spring? This is what we could capture:

You can see how large it CAN be, but this is not Disney-does-Yellowstone, this is the real world, where life doesn’t always happen the way you want it to. I am disappointed, but oh my, Excelsior is a thrill (just to back to the Excelsior photo and see why I am so thrilled.)

There is a trail, only .6 mile, that starts at the Angel Falls Trailhead and takes you to an overlook of the Middle Geyser Basin, and maybe this would all be more impressive from there. AdventureMan asks if I want to go hike the trail and I say no, there is too much steam. Even from above, cold morning, hot steam, visibility is poor. We’re coming back next year, maybe I can hike it then on a different day and get a different result.

As we cross the bridge, I see that the cold air is showing up a variety of hot springs going into the freezing river.

The river goes pretty fast at this time of year, swollen by snow melt. I wonder what it is like to swim this river in the summer months?

Just to keep you up to speed, we are leaving Old Faithful, headed toward Grant Village, then up to Lake Village, then to Canyon Village, where the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is.

 

Just past Old Faithful, heading across the Continental Divide is Kepler Cascades:

We head across Craig Pass (elevation 8262) to Isa Lake and we have high snow on both sides of the road. We only see a couple trucks the entire drive. This road has only been open to traffic for a couple days. Yellowstone National Park has a website where you can keep track of which roads are open and which are not. It matters.

This is from Wikipedia on Continental Divide:

A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea, and the basin on the other side either feeds into a different ocean or sea, or else is endorheic, not connected to the open sea. Every continent on earth except Antarctica which has no free-flowing water has at least one continental drainage divide; islands, even small ones like Killiniq Island on the Labrador Sea in Canada, may also host part of a continental divide or have their own island-spanning divide.

You may not think it is important now, but one day you may come to a continental divide sign and wonder what exactly it means. It means on one side, water flows in a different direction, to a different outcome, than on the other side.

We crossed the continental divide several times, twice on this same road and then again later.

By this point it was only around 8:30 in the morning, but we had been hiking, and in and out of the car, and it was really cold out. There were piles of snow taller than me by far in the parking lots. Can you see what a beautiful day we are having? We get to Grant Village and start looking for a place to eat. We find the Lake House Restaurant. Inside, it looks like this:

Wow, huh? Those very high ceilings, all that glass looking out at a spectacular view. The staff is all recruited from across the USA, and some from other countries, too. Our first waiter was of Arab descent. So fabulous physical setting and really helpful, energetic, patient (dealing with a lot of foreign visitors who spoke little English, didn’t understand the procedures, maybe didn’t understand the currency) and kind staff. I think that a lot of their customers don’t tip, but the staff gives the same wonderful service to everyone. The food wasn’t anything to remember, but they had great coffee, great service, a lovely facility and a drop-dead gorgeous view.

Above is before the haze blew away. Below is after. Wow.

I’m going to bore you with four photos of Lake Yellowstone that I just love. I just loved this drive. It reminded me of places in Alaska, where I grew up. There is still ice on the lake, although it is breaking up.

 

 

 

We see lots of cars with boats on trailers in this area; I love boating and fishing, and I cannot imagine this is a good time of the year to be fishing, but I could be wrong. It must be REALLY cold out on the water.

We head up through Lake Village, which has two beautiful lodges and a camp ground. I cannot tell you from personal experience, but reviews had all said the Lake Hotel has the best Lodge food on Yellowstone. This is what ThrillList has to say:

The Lake Hotel

If money is no object and you’re looking for absolute class, anyone who knows anything will tell you to go to the Lake Hotel. Breakfast and lunch are first come, first served, but reserve in advance for dinner, when you can go for fresh fish or bison but also lobster florentine or Montana wagyu beef, depending on the mood.

In addition, ThrillList recommends that you do a lot of picnics – the prepared food you buy in Yellowstone National Park restaurants is not that good, and it is expensive.

From Lake Village, we head north through Hayden Village towards Canyon Village and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. You are paralleling the Yellowstone River all the way. We stopped a couple times, once for bear and once to view the Sulphur Cauldron / Mud Volcano. It smells like fire and brimstone!

June 23, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Food, Random Musings, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel, Weather | , , , , , , | Leave a comment