Summer 2008 Trip: Day 29 – Yellowstone National Park

I made it out to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River this morning for some sunrise photos. Sadly, the sky was pretty cloudy, so I only had patchy light to shoot by. Regardless, I’ve got some shots and we’ll see how well they pan out.

I followed up my sunrise photos with a trip to the lower falls of the Yellowstone River, down a short little trail called, “Uncle Tom’s Trail.” Well, it was short in a horizontal direction. Since it descended 3/4 of the way into a canyon over 300 feet deep, the vertical ascent coming out was something other than easy. It was one of the most impressive waterfalls I’ve been to though. Shoshone Falls in Idaho was prettier, but a large part of that was due to the intricacy of Shoshone; the falls on the Yellowstone River flow through relatively small openings, while Shoshone is made up of several large falls going over a fairly large cliff.

About the time I got back to the car, it started to rain again (it actually rained off and on earlier in the morning as well,which I waited out by doing a bit of reading). Once it let up, the sun came out for a bit and I headed south on the loop road hoping to spot some wildlife. My first stop (for some mallard ducks) came up empty and left me with a pair of muddy pants. So, I headed back up the road a little ways and was rewarded with a heron who wanted to pose for me.

After schlepping my gear back to the car, I headed a bit further south to the Mud Volcano area, where instead of thermal vents and geysers, the soil and acidity of the gases have turned what in other areas of the park are founts of water into boiling pits of mud. Kind of cool, very smelly and not particularly photogenic, but I got some shots in anyways and we’ll see what turns out.

I headed a bit further south, found a nice turnout and took a rather satisfying 2.5 hour nap parked by the side of the road (I found that if I shuffle things around, I can actually shove enough stuff out of the way in the back to pick up the rear passenger seat and recline the driver’s seat). I woke up around 3 in the afternoon and after making a lunch of Ritz crackers and cereal bars, I paid a visit to Fisherman’s Bridge.

At one point, Fisherman’s Bridge was a very popular fishing spot until the Park Service found out that the overfishing was destroying the Cutthroat Trout supply of the river. My civil engineering friends will be interested to know that the bridge is made of wood with a layer of asphalt covering it. (I know because hunks of the asphalt are missing in some places.) I was quite excited to find that there was a whole… flock (is that the right word) of pelicans on the water along with a trail running off the side of the bridge that let me walk a ways along the water to get close enough for some decent pictures. Coming back to the bridge, I took a side trip down to the Visitor’s Center at Fisherman’s Bridge and was actually semi-impressed with this one.

(To be honest, I’ve been rather unimpressed with the Visitor Centers that I’ve seen in Yellowstone, Old Faithful especially. Coming from other parks, there just isn’t that much information in the Visitor Centers; in fact, the one at Grand Teton dwarfs Yellowstone by a wide margin).

I hoofed it back to the car, found out how the showers and laundry facilities work (I’m a clutz, I got chocolate on one pair of pants while traveling and I’d muddied up another pair earlier in the day – probably take care of that Saturday) and popped into the general store there. Now I know where they keep all the memorabilia at Yellowstone; unlike other parks, most of the stuff isn’t in the Visitor Center store, but in the General Store instead.

The rest of my night hasn’t been too interesting really. I finished Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, started another book and took a few short hikes looking for wildlife. Not much found, but I did manage a shot of a couple goslings that I think I can work with.

And now, a little bit of thinking I did earlier, which means you can save yourself a few minutes by not reading:

It struck me earlier, as I was attempting to fall asleep at a pullout along the road that loops through Yellowstone that the park road is significantly more busy than any road I’ve lived on before (excluding the highway by my parents house when the road is blocked a little ways up for the Fourth of July parade). It seems odd to get in your car, drive for hours and hours, to sit in a traffic jam hundreds (if not thousands of miles) from home so that you can at least due it among trees and geysers that explode every once in a while.

Aren’t these parks supposed to be about solitude and communing with nature? Instead, people hop in the cars, or their RVs (Why does anyone need a private bus?) and drive around a 130 mile stretch of road with all the other people from the city, leaving their cars only when they need to take a picture that they can’t hang out the car window and get. Not to mention that when you do actually go on a hike, it’s from an established trailhead with a giant parking lot with 100 of your closest friends you’ll never see again as soon as you step back into your car. I suppose that with 1,000 miles of backcountry trails, if you’re willing to walk a few miles away from the road you can escape a lot of that though. I don’t think many of the city slickers are really into that kind of “adventure.” With camping only allowed in backcountry sites though, you’re likely to have company for the night.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just really missing the Keweenaw, where you can go out for a day and never see another soul quite easily. Sure, the ground doesn’t explode in founts of water there, and there’s no three or four hundred foot canyon running through the middle of it, but by god, you experience nature and you leave having gained an appreciation of it. Hopefully Alaska can provide me with some of that feeling. At this point though, I’m seriously considering coming back through the U.P. so I can spend a little more time in the Keweenaw, I’ll just need someone willing to put me up.

Ah well, I’ve got to get to bed, sunrise comes early and I have a little ways left to drive tonight so I can get to my morning shoot location.

P.S. Does anyone know if you really have to refrigerate jelly after you open it? I bought a squeeze thing of Smucker’s at the General store for sandwiches and will be disappointed if I have to eat 38 sandwiches tomorrow morning before it warms up just so I don’t waste it.

Picture 2

Travel Distance: 53 miles

3 thoughts on “Summer 2008 Trip: Day 29 – Yellowstone National Park

  1. I’ve always refrigerated jelly but I don’t know if it’s a requirement. If you need a place to stay, I’ve got a couch available.

  2. I don’t know, maybe I’m just really missing the Keweenaw, where you can go out for a day and never see another soul quite easily.


    I’m seriously considering coming back through the U.P. so I can spend a little more time in the Keweenaw


  3. I don’t think many of the city slickers are really into that kind of “adventure.”

    My understanding from some such outings in this part of the universe is that such city slickers miss “people” when they are in the woods, quite opposite to folks like us. Moreover, most o f them are tourists and they just want to stop in some key spots just so that they can claim to have see it (all)…

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