Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Yellowstone: Early Morning on the Travertine Terraces

 

The sun is shining, and we slept wonderfully. The cabins have no heat, and no air conditioning. We slept with the window open; it is very quiet in the cabin area. It is early – maybe 6 – when we get up and go to walk the lower terrace while the sun is rising.

It is COLD! We are all bundled up and I even wore socks with my sandals; fashion faux pas maybe but I don’t care, my toes are toasty and I take the socks off when we have finished the hike – it’s warmed up considerably.

Here is a photo from inside our cabin of how people toured the terraces back in the day.

This is the famous “Liberty Cap.” I see a grumpy man’s face under the cap, do you? Look for the downturned mouth.

The sun is rising, and in the hour we spend hiking from view to view and up to the upper terrace, we see only two other couples, and one single.

 

 

Did I mention it was cold? Really cold?

I want you to see how close we are to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel; you can see it at the top of the photo. I remember counting these steps, a lot of steps, going up and up and up, but now I can’t remember how many there were. It was daunting looking up, but exhilarating looking down.

 

 

Much of the boardwalk is still covered in frost, but the sun is bright and warm, and there are places with no frost at all.

 

Some of these photos I am putting in so you can see the variation in colors depending on the minerals leached, and the amount of time exposed to the elements.

 

 

This part really reminds me of Pammukale, in Turkey. In Turkey, people bathe in the hot springs. I can’t imagine. You could get really badly burned in some of these springs.

 

 

 

 

 

On the upper terrace we came across this: a boardwalk viewpoint is now off limits; it is sinking. We contemplated how difficult it must be to install these boardwalks to allow visitors to safely walk these terraces, and how difficult it must be to repair, maybe impossible. The ground is constantly shifting and reforming. How to balance the need for the tourist dollar to preserve and protect the park with the costs of keeping the visitors safe and amused.

 

 

 

I am just a sucker for this terrace formation process. It is endlessly fascinating. Does anything like this exist anywhere else in the United States?

 

 

 

It is barely 0730 and a few other visitors are arriving. We feel so blessed to have had this beautiful morning on the terraces.

June 25, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Environment, Exercise, Geography / Maps, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Turkey | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Mammoth Hot Springs

There are crowds of people visiting Mammoth Hot Springs during the day. There are special lots just for all the buses that come to see the magnificent terraces. Suddenly, the afternoon is hot, and we are shedding layers. Late in the afternoon, we decide to visit the Upper Terrace, a one way road, very short, but you can park and hike in several of the areas.

This is not snow, although it looks like it might be. It is calcium carbonate, leached from the soil by heat and water, and laid down, layer by layer on these fabulous terraces. We are told this is the same material that makes up travertine tile, but it looks nothing like travertine. It is also different colors in different places, depending on which minerals are also mixed in and how long the deposits have been in one place.

We visited Pamukkale, in Turkey, many years ago with AdventureMan’s sister and her family, and were astounded such a wonder could exist. We had no idea that it also existed in our own country.

 

 

There are also crowds at the Upper Terraces, so we head back to the hotel to check in.

This is the Mammoth Hot Springs General store, where they have all kinds of souvenirs, t-shirts, jewelry, art works, ice cream and grab and go sandwiches and snacks. This was the best stocked General Store we found in Yellowstone. (Canyon was the most shopped out.)

This is what a view of the terraces looks like from the hotel – it is Mammoth.

 

This is a map of the USA made out of US woods. The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is undergoing renovations, and rooms IN the hotel are not available, but they do have cabins. The facilities – the lobby, the Xanterra Gift Shop and the Map Room and Bar are open, and in a separate building, the Mammoth Hot Springs Dining Room and the Grill.

Guide to the woods used in the giant map of the USA.

 

Map room bar

Map room place to hang out and use internet. There is no internet in the cabins.

.This is a view from the lobby to the Xanterra Gift Shop. This is important to know if you are obligated to bring back gifts. The General store has souvenirs. The Xanterra shops are totally different, and have different – and often nicer – gifts to buy than the General stores. Don’t think that because you have shopped in one, you know what is in the other. They are different!

Now for the fun part. Well, fun for us. Not everyone would prefer a cabin to a hotel room, and they have their reasons, too. We love cabins, and we reserved far in advance, thanks to my friend’s warning, so that we could get a cabin with a bathroom. Do you want to go walking to a communal bathroom at night when there are huge wild animals walking about?

We also just like the privacy of having a little cabin. So don’t be shocked, it is tiny but it has enough space for people who are out most of the day.

 

It has a porch! We ate dinner out here on our second night of our stay.

 

Little washstand, and that is what works as a closet next to the washstand. We kept our suitcases in the car, parked right next to the cabin, and brought in what we needed for the next day in our backpacks.

It may be tiny, but you can shower and toilet without having to walk outside in your bathrobe, or wrapped in a towel or something.

AdventureMan loved these little chipmunks (?) squirrels (?) which were everywhere in the park. This one had a burrow with two entries right under our porch. He wasn’t shy about inviting himself to share our dinner, either.

Our first night in Mammoth Hot Springs, the end of a very long and eventful day, we decide to try dinner at the Mammoth Dining Room.

The Dining Room is entered from the right, the Grill Room (burgers, etc) is entered from the left.

 

The interior of the Dining Room; nice high ceiling, everything looking freshly painted.

 

We each had soup, Butternut Squash for me, French Onion for my husband. The soups were good. The Flatbread and the Hummus Plate were not what we expected. They felt assembled, not prepared. They didn’t feel fresh.

 

After such a nice lunch in Gardiner, this was a let down.

You are probably ready for this day to be over, but not us. We want to take a walk through the old Fort Yellowstone historical area before we close down for the night. We love that Mammoth Hot Springs is so walkable. Just have to watch out for the local residents:

 

 

But what happens if the Elk approaches you, at a rapid pace?

 

 

There are wonderful old military quarters, and stables, and an old PX, all with signs. As we were looking at the old PX, one of the residents (park employees live in the old military quarters) hollered out to us to watch out for the cranky old Mama, that she had a baby hidden somewhere nearby and could be a little hostile. We moved away, and were reading a sign when we heard yelling again, only this time “Run! Run! She’s coming!”

I got behind a nearby car so she couldn’t see me, but it wasn’t me she was interested in, it was my husband. He kept a sign between them, terrified, he tells me later, because an elk is big and muscular, and this was a big muscular mad mama elk. Someone else clapped hands at her and yelled, and she backed off long enough for us to move far far away. We didn’t know, but we must have moved too close to the hidden baby. Not her fault, our bad.

(In the newspaper two days later I read that an elk had attacked a park employee in that same residence area and the employee had to be hospitalized. The mama elk had to be relocated.)

This was a very appropriate finale for a day full of fun and adventures of all kinds.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Building, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone; The North Entrance and Gardiner, MT

This is all the same day, still, the day we left Canyon Valley early in the morning and it is only about 10 a.m. and we’ve had all these adventures.

But AdventureMan and I also love to eat good food, and we are (ahem) fed up with the Yellowstone offerings. We know Gardiner is just across the border, in Montana, mere minutes away. I haven’t had my coffee this morning (not a good thing if you are traveling with me) and we can’t get into our cabin until later.

Gardiner is FUN. We spent time in Gardiner three times. This time, we discovered the Wonderland Cafe and Lodge, where I had coffee and AdventureMan had hot chocolate. The Wonderland Cafe has all the things we love; high ceilings, lots of light, wood, comfy furniture – it has a great feel.

 

 

 

 

 

The view from Gardiner is purely grand:

 

 

 

And here is the famed Roosevelt Gate at the North Entrance:

We decided to head back out to Lamar Valley, our happy place, but first, we needed to have a good lunch. We found Rosie’s Bistro, loved the look, and had a great meal.

You know we are careful eaters. We have fruits with us, and crackers and peanut butter. We drink a lot of water. If you are that kind of people – stop reading now.

At Rosie’s, we went off the rails.

We could smell wonderful smells.

AdventureMan ordered a BBQ Pork sandwich, and did not bother ordering a salad. The french fries were fantastic. I ordered the not-on-the-menu ribs, which were so tender I only needed a fork. I ate them all. I barely even pecked at my salad. We did not order dessert.

 

View from Rosies Bistro:

 

 

I took this picture because of the picture. I thought I had a cool photo of the bison in the steam, but this one, oh WOW.

 

 

 

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Food, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Roaring Mountain

Mostly I don’t give an attraction a post all it’s own in a travel article, but of all the sights I saw in Yellowstone, Roaring Mountain struck the deepest chord. It was a beautiful morning. We were mostly the only ones there. A couple RVs pulled up and didn’t even bother getting out.

I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. I imagine the earliest explorers coming across it and wonder at the wonder they must have felt. Although there was a breeze, the springs and steam were so continuous that they never fully blew away. You hear a constant rush of steam, a sizzle, bursts.

Sometimes, on this beautiful earth, you get a feeling you are truly standing on Holy Ground. I felt that way at Saint Simeon’s in Syria. I felt that way at sundown on the desert of Sossossvlei in Namibia. And I felt it here. It i beautiful, and eerie, and if you are not filled with the awe of the great Creation, I can’t imagine what will move you.

 

 

 

And here is where Roaring Mountain is located:

 

We joke about Disney-does-Yellowstone, which is sort of what it’s like in some of the more commercialized and traveled places, but there are moments and locations when all the Disney-esque goes away, For me, Roaring Mountain is one of them.

Just north of Roaring Mountain, en route to Mammoth Hot Springs, is an Obsidian Cliff, where you could hike for many years, but the visitors and hikers kept taking obsidian home as a souvenir, and now the site is unmarked and closed to visitors.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Faith, Geography / Maps, Photos, Road Trips, Spiritual, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone National Park; Bear En Route to Mammoth Hot Springs

I’m posting this Yellowstone National Park map again to help you orient yourself on today’s adventures. We go from Canyon Village to Artist Paintpots (at last!), stop a lengthy time to watch a sedate mother grizzly and her cubs, view an awesome mountain, arrive in Mammoth Springs, have lunch in Gardiner, Montana, outside the North gate to the park, visit the upper Terrace at Mammoth, and spend the late afternoon once again in Lamar Valley, our happy place. This evening, my husband gets attacked by an irate Mama elk.

Yellowstone is so do-able. We did all the above, and never felt rushed.

 

This is an easy day, and our plan is to get up when we feel like it, but we are both awake by seven, and in fifteen minutes we are ready to go. We shake the dust from our feet!

From Canyon, we take the road directly going West. When we get to the junction, we turn South, just to get us to Artist Paintpots. We’ve tried twice before, and the parking lot was jammed and overflowing. This time, we are the first car in the lot. It’s only about 7:30 a.m. and the long weekend is long passed. There are fewer visitors, and even fewer who are out and about this early. (We are still early in the park season, once the summer rush starts, even early may not be early enough.)

 

 

Yep, you guessed it, Artistic Paintpots is so named because of the wondrous colors created by the variety of minerals leached into the boiling hot water, and the bacteria that thrives in the steaming springs.

 

I cannot even imagine a caldera this big, but as we drove, we tried to identify the ridges. The floor of this caldera thinly covers molten lava and the geysers and springs are caused by the heating of water in the ground which expands and comes out with varying degrees of force. This is how I understand it; someone with a more technical background can give you a more thorough explanation. So Yellowstone is a super volcano, and last erupted 700,000 years ago. It could erupt again. We were constantly aware of how very thin the crust of the earth is here, and now we obliviously walk over the possibility of instant, painful death.

But oh, the combination of heat, and minerals creates some magnificent colors and an eerily beautiful landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

It is a beautiful hike, one of the best on our trip. It is worth finding a serene time to visit the Artist Paintpots.

Back in the car, we see a big jam of cars on the road, and people running. Anywhere else, you would think someone had a car accident, but in Yellowstone, a jam like that with people parking anywhere – sometimes just leaving their car in the middle of the road (!) means that some kind of game has been spotted. This time, it was a Mama Grizzly and her two cubs.

So many people! Many of them had powerful, huge lenses, and tripods. They were all set up to take photos when the bear would be in clear view. I just use a little Lumix with a big telephoto, and it takes surprisingly sharp photos, considering it has a very light and easily tucked-in-a-purse kind of body.

There was an empty place where no one wanted to be. We really just wanted to watch. (Yes, we had backed up to a real viewing point and parked legally. The rule is – or is supposed to be – that you are supposed to be outside the white line delineating the outer boundary of the road.

We watched the very placid sow dig up some roots, keeping an eye on the playful cubs.

 

 

 

 

I just got lucky. The bear and her cubs moved to directly in front of me. It’s . . .well, it’s like a God thing, if the photo is put right in front of you, you are meant to take it, right?

More and more people came. They were quiet and respectful of the bear, and of one another, but their parking was not respectful of the trucks and RVs that needed to get through. Soon, the park rangers arrived. We were told they can ticket anyone not parked outside the white lines, and that the fine is HUGE, but this is a tourist attraction, and the rangers we saw used good humor and persistence, and cajoled people into moving along and parking legally. We never saw anyone ticketed, and we also never saw anyone argue with a ranger.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Customer Service, Geography / Maps, Law and Order, Lumix, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Yellowstone National Park: Old Faithful and Old Faithful Inn

I love this photo, which I owe to my husband. we were out for a walk after dinner and he spied this old bison in front of the steaming geyser, just walking along, not at all concerned about the dangerous ground.

 

Forty two years ago, (we were so young) my husband and I spent six weeks driving across the USA in our Volkswagon Bus with our six month old baby and our cat, Big Nick. Mostly we camped; one time Big Nick, who was dog-like and usually came when we called, didn’t come. We had to cool our heels for a couple hours before he sauntered out of the meadow and rejoined us. We stopped in Yellowstone, and stayed at the Old Faithful Inn. Big Nick had to stay in the car.

So when we started planning this trip, we knew we had to stay in the Old Faithful Inn. This time, we wanted a bathroom, in our room, not down the hall.

We loved our room. It is so quaint and cabin-ish. It even had a radiator, and because it is very cold, the radiator feels good. For a while.

This is the view from our room:

 

 

 

I loved this old time bathroom with it’s clawfoot tub and octagon-tiled floor.

 

We watched Old Faithful erupt, and quickly went to the Bear Pit so we could grab something to eat. We had looked at the dining room, which is grand and atmospheric, but even the staff told us it was too expensive for the unreliable quality of the food.

The Bear Pit Lounge is a bar that serves food. It seemed odd to me – it was a large space, with few tables, mostly for six people. Not much food, a few items. We thought we would try the bison burger, in honor of being in Yellowstone. It took a loooonnngggg time to get there. The fries were cold. The bison burger was ok.

 

 

I took a couple photos of the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room. Normally I love lodge dining rooms. Not so much this one.

 

 

After dinner, we take a walk over to the Old Hamilton Store – remember, you saw a photo of it from the Museum of the Rockies? On our way back, we were far enough away that when Old Faithful erupted, I could capture the whole thing. The firs time, I was too close.

 

 

 

 


So I can be a little wonky about old lodges, but we were so delighted to be at Old Faithful Inn . . . until we went to bed. I had taken a bath in the claw foot tub, fighting my guilt about using all that water, but the room was hot – all that radiant heat. We had the window wide open because we couldn’t get the radiator to stop radiating. We were also in a bed that called itself a Queen, but hmmm. . . . we used to sleep in a double bed, and this bed was very small, like a double bed.

We could hear every conversation, from the outside, from the rooms on either side of us, from the hallway. Any time, all night, someone went in our out of their room, we could hear it. It was very atmospheric, and it was the worst nights sleep of our entire trip.

I wouldn’t recommend skipping the Old Faithful Inn. You can visit. You can sit in the galleries and drink coffee or have ice cream and listen to the cellist. You can make reservations and eat at the Dining Room. You can do all that. You can take a tour of the historical parts of the hotel. We are actually going back next year, we already have reservations, but we will stay in the newer part of the hotel . . . with bathrooms.

Why stay at Old Faithful Inn? Early early the next morning, before any of the tour buses or day-trippers arrive, you can have Old Faithful all to yourself, to give you a private eruption with the sun gleaming off the steam in the icy cold morning.

(Thinking of all my old Kuwaiti friends and the Kuwaiti sunrise series I used to run)

June 22, 2019 Posted by | Food, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | Leave a comment

Entering Yellowstone National Park – A Day of Thrills

You know I am a map lady, and a navigator. Being a map lady is really helpful when you discover that in spite of the fact that you downloaded all the relevant maps (you thought) into your smart phone, there are times the smart phone won’t show you the next section of the map in the detail you need. This is our plan for today, with a side trip up to Norris Geyser Basin, which I really want to see.

We love our car. We rented from Enterprise, and when we got there, they gave us a little SUV, not unlike our own cars back home, and it was plenty of room, very comfortable, and all wheel drive. Our only tiny criticism of this car is that the turning radius is not that of a Rav4. We are spoiled. We love being able to turn on a dime.

There is one other little thing. You know there is a thing, in Seattle and in Montana . . . a thing about Californians. When the Californians leave California because housing prices and taxes are too high, they move to Seattle and to Montana, and then the housing prices start going higher in those places and the Californians get the blame.

For example, when we got to the South 9th Bistro, in Bozeman, we weren’t sure it was OK to park where we parked, so we asked the head waitress if it was OK. She said it was, and I said “well, our rental has a California plate,” and she gasped, then said “I think you’ll be OK,” and we both laughed. The point is, if you have a California plate, you need to be a little more careful. It’s just the way it is.

We didn’t hurry to hit the road this morning, as it is only a short drive to our next overnight, and we are feeling relaxed.

Marriages are funny. You don’t know what you don’t know when you get married. I thought every family travelled like my family, i.e. you get up really early and hit the road and drive a few hours and then stop for breakfast at some rest stop along the autobahn, then you get back in the car and drive more hours until the next meal or Dad has to gas up the car and then you drive more until you get “there.”

My husband was all about stopping all the time to enjoy a view or stretch or have a soda, and by the end of the day were often weren’t “there” yet and had to keep driving, making us both cross. Sometimes we were barely speaking by the end of the day.

After much soul searching, we slowly through the years adopted new, better practices. Now our phrase is “Shorter Days, Longer Stays.” It seems to be working.

We headed straight back to Feed for breakfast. It was phenomenal. AdventureMan had biscuits and gravy with a hit of eggs on top and the best fried potatoes ever. I had an omelette, and grilled toast. Total Wow.

 

Leaving Bozeman, we followed Highway 191 down to the West Entrance of Yellowstone, and before we even reached the entrance to the park, the great adventure began.

This was sheer good luck. I had my camera ready to take a photo as we drove by and just by chance caught a group of white water kayakers and rafters on their own grand adventure.

 

Not long later, we had to stop. There were bison on the road, with bison babies (probably called calfs) and they were huge, and not the least bit interested in us.

 

 

There was quite a line at the West Entrance – it was the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. I imagine the lines only get worse as the season goes forward.  We headed for the Artist Paintpots, and were heartsick when we saw the parking lot full and people parking outside the parking lot all over the place, and buses and people rushing as if they might never get another chance to see the paint pots. We really wanted to see them too, but we were spending several days in the park, and we knew we had time.

We headed on to Norris Geyser Basin, which for me, was one of the highlights of the day. First, there weren’t a lot of people, and most of the people there were hiking the much shorter Porcelain Basin, while we were hiking the Back Basin. It was mostly all boardwalk, with a considerable number of stairs near Steamboat Geyser and some woody trails coming back. In between are some of the most desolate, eerie, and fascinating natural wonders I have ever seen.

Steamboat Geyser was the most fun. We must have spent 45 minutes there, while the geyser spurted and gurgled and growled and totally teased us into believing it was going to erupt full scale, but it never did. We were told we were lucky to see it so active, but it reminded us of Africa were the tourists are constantly told how lucky they are, that this is a very rare sighting. You get a little skeptical after a while. I already felt lucky enough, watching boiling hot water bubbling out of the earth.

Here is something I took very seriously.

 

It’s hard to show you how spectacular this scenery is with a static photo. Please imagine the steam coming sizzling hot out of the ground and drifting up. Imagine acres of steam coming out of the ground.

 

Emerald Spring

 

Steamboat Geyser

 

 

 

 

 

Look at those colors! Bacteria that thrive in the unimaginable hot temperatures create rainbow like colors, some all reds and oranges and yellows, some all greens and blues and purples, all, for people who are addicted to color, irresistible.

 

 

Below is the Porcelain Basin walk, much shorter.

 

 

 

 

We left en route to the Old Faithful area, trying one more time to get into Artist’s Paintpots, but the parking, it is hard to believe, was even worse! We continued on.

We found a one way side road along the Firehole River, which was a lot of fun. We always love the side roads.

The Firehole River is wild. It is pounding hard as the mountain snow cover melts, but it is also fed by the natural hot springs along its bank. In warmer times of the year, people are actually allowed to swim in this river, but you have to be careful. You can be comfortable and then suddenly find yourself in very hot water (not just a figure of speech.)

Our last stop before getting to the Old Faithful Inn was the Black Sand Basin, and Spouter Geyser.

 

 

Spouter Geyser

One really nice thing about our National Parks – at just about every stop, there are restrooms. Some are more primitive that others, some are long drops, but most are fairly clean and supplied.

June 22, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Environment, Geography / Maps, Marriage, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment