Musings and Info about life on the road

Beartooth Revisited…….

Hearing that the wildflowers were putting on their annual show in the high country we took a trip once again up to Beartooth Pass (10947 ft.), which is outside of the northeast entrance to Yellowstone. On the way to the pass, in the Lamar Valley inside the park, we saw a few thousand bison, and a big grizzly bear being harassed by a very large coyote or a wolf. The bear was trying to get some breakfast from carcase meat and so too was the pestering canid.

However, this not very wordy post is about flowers. I’ll let them do all of the talking:







Off to Fairy Falls….


Lately life here at Yellowstone has been work, work, and more work now that the summer hordes have arrived. The bookstore has been doing between $9,000 to $13,000 per day, and is packed with people from all over the world and across the country. Foreign visitors arrive by the bus loads and rented car fulls. They are comprised of mostly Asians (spelled Chinese) and Europeans, and are easy to pick out in that they are thin mostly thin and fit, while our countrymen are very large for the most part (spelled really fat). It’s rather appalling actually.

Last week I waited on a gentleman from my old stomping grounds in Turkey. I hit him with a formal greeting in Turkish and he was quite surprised and tickled to say the least. I think it helped to reassure him that everyone here in the U.S was not from the tribal areas of our country – such as West Yellowstonistan, Montana.


Later on in the week I was able to do the same for a young woman from Istanbul. It’s amazing what the Old Mind still remembers after 45 or so years.

If you want to get away from the crowds of people in the park, it is best to get out early in the morning if you have the desire to see any of the popular sites that are easily accessed by vehicle. The touristas it seems do not get up very early in the morning. Kay and I did just that and took a hike to see Fairy Falls via the Midway Geyser Basin at about 7:30 in the morning. The going early strategy proved to be successful. We were pretty much alone.

The geyser basin where we started our five mile jaunt is about 5 miles north from where we live, and lies besides the Fire Hole River which stays ice free during Yellowstone’s arctic winters because of all of the runoff from the hot springs and geysers along it’s banks. Here are some views of the basin:




The Midway Basin is home to the Grand Prismatic Spring – Yellowstone’s largest hot springs at 370 feet across. If you are on the Basin’s boardwalk you can walk right up to the spring, but to gaze on its real splendiferousness you must climb one of the nearby hillsides to really appreciate its glory. The colors around the perimeter are caused by bacteria that grow in the pool, and are specialized to live at a certain range of hot temperatures in the water. Here are some views of Grand Prismatic:




Carrying bear spray and bear bells and whistling a happy tune, we hit the trail to Fairy Falls past the far side of Midway Basin


through the dog-hair woods of lodgepole pine


where you wouldn’t see anything lurking in the wood until you were right upon it. In the time it took us to get to Fairy Falls we only saw two women walking back from the falls. Our early morning strategy was working! The forest was awash in flora. We saw, amongst many other types of wild flowers:




Fringed Gentian


Common Fireweed

It was a fairly easy morning’s ramble, and Fairy Falls was well worth the hike. The falls are one of Yellowstones’s tallest measuring in at 197 feet. Fairy Creek flows off of the edge of the Madison Plateau there and then continues on to the Firehole River. Fairy Falls was quite lovely and we were there alone. A difficult situation to achieve if you want to be alone at the popular sights in the park.


We returned to the trailhead the way that we came in passing many people who were heading to the falls solo or in groups – some with cranky children in tow. The trailhead was packed with cars as we headed home to continue our day.


About Wolves….or the Lack Thereof

Fast Tube by Casper

Many of the people who come to Yellowstone are serious wolf fanciers. Some bordering on fanatical. Whenever you pass through the Hayden or Lamar Valleys you can spot them in all types of weather in the roadside pull-offs manning their big lensed cameras and spotting scopes hoping to get a glimpse of a wolf. They are called Wolfies.


Yellowstone was home to about a dozen wolf  packs in 2012….the latest data that I could find. Since they were taken off of the Endangered Species List in 2012 their numbers have declined as they were hit with disease, wolf hunting was allowed again in Wyoming and neighboring states, and mostly natural pack attrition. The latest number of wolves I have come up with for the Park is 82. Down from 171 in 2007. Here is where they live in the Park:


I, however, am not a Wolfie. I have yet to see a wolf in our travels about the Park. This past Sunday we were in the Hayden Valley and spotted some people with spotting scopes so we stopped to see what they were watching. They said that it was a wolf. I took a look at what was a spot of white, not moving on a hillside, about a thousand yards away. Hmmm.  I figure that if it was a wolf it really didn’t count. Besides, I’m not really sure if they were true wolfies. If they were they would have known its official I.D. number, nickname, pack identity, and what it had for breakfast that day. You have to know those details to be a true wolfie.

As of the writing of this post, the only wolf I am familiar with is Huff n’ Puff of the Little Piggy Pack:



Bill the Buffalo

The other day the dogs and I were out for a walk around the campground. About one hundred yards or so from where we live we ran into Bill the Buffalo.



Harry, Fiona, and I were quite surprised by his sudden appearance to say the least. The dogs were so astounded by Bill they let out nary a woof. It turns out that Bill is a regular visitor to the campground. Local color I guess.


Lone Star Geyser….

Yesterday Kay and I took a hike to Lone Star Geyser which is a solitary geyser located fairly close to where we live. From the trailhead Lone Star is about a five mile hike, round trip, along the Fire Hole River which runs through the area here.   It erupts every three hours or so and we hoped to catch an eruption. Around  seven-thirty in the morning, while most of the tourists were still asleep, we set off armed with cameras, survival rations, and bear spray towards the geyser.




We were alone in the bear country for the hike to the geyser but saw no large mammals, or small ones for that matter, on the way to Lone Star. The wild flowers were finally blooming:


As we arrived at Lone Star there was a group of foreign visitors on there way out. They told us that we had just missed the eruption. One can spot foreigners easily not only by their obvious accents but also because they pronounce geyser as “geezer”. There was one Native at the geyser area. A big one taking a siesta:



It appeared that old Mr. Bison had been rolling around in the pale dirt of the geyser area.


This picture gives a good view of the geyser locale, and the geyser cone which is made up of mineral deposits from Lone Star’s waters. The sign in the foreground has the usual warnings about boiling water, and the danger of falling through the ground crust into water that will cook you in an instant in the area around the geyser.

Even though the folks we saw on the way in said the eruption had already happened, there was still some activity coming from the cone. Kay had read that Lone Star goes through a set of phases during an eruption, one of which is a preliminary to the full scale eruption, then a pause, and a long eruption of water followed by steam. She suspected that perhaps the other people had witnessed the first phase and thought they had seen it all. We waited and…. WAHOOO!






It was the main eruption, and it went on for almost a half an hour shooting water and steam sixty or seventy feet into the air. It was much more impressive than Old Faithful and well worth the hike in and out. With the start of the eruption the bison had made rapid exit and so did we when Lone Star became quiet again. We even returned home with a full can of  bear spray. It was a good day.


Road Tripping……

Last Saturday, one week before the first day of summer, Kay and I took a wee bit of a road trip. We planned to leave Yellowstone via the park’s Northeast Entrance and go over Beartooth Pass (elevation 10,947 ft.) to Red Lodge, Montana. From Red Lodge we would head south back into Wyoming and via Cody return to the park through the East Entrance , and head back to Old Faithful. Just a day of sightseeing and grocery shopping at Walmart, along with shoe hunting at Sierra Trading, in Cody. We left Old Faithful at six in the morning and arrived back home at six in the evening having experienced sunshine, cloudiness, rain, a ferocious hailstorm in Cody, and a bit of snow thrown in for good measure. Our day trip turned out to be a 347 mile scenic odyssey, and the longest trip to the grocery store ever!

Our epic journey had its highlights however. Just a few miles down the road from our casa we saw this early morning wanderer along the edge of the forest in a meadow stopping every few feet to munch on flowers.


With the late snow melt this year the rivers are still booming as you can see from this waterfall that was along the way as we neared Beartooth Pass.


Next is a shot from the near the top of Beartooth Pass.


The views from the summit are vast and quite majestic to say the least. Close to the top of the pass is a small ski area that had skiers a skiing. The ski area cannot open until the highway is plowed open in late May or early June. In fact, the pass closed down this week on Wednesday because of the snowstorm that came through. We leave Beartooth with this picture of Kay standing along the roadside. Summer was, I repeat, a week away.


We drove on to Red Lodge, a nice looking and touristy town and arrived in Cody about 1 p.m. Kay scored a couple of pairs of shoes at the Sierra Trading Outlet and we were hailed upon at Walmart. Our Saturday’s shopping done we headed to the East Park Entrance, and back in the park we came upon some of these young toughs a hangin’ out in the falling snow!



We then swung south down the shore of Yellowstone Lake and turned north again towards home. It was quite a Saturday’s jaunt.


Life At Old Faithful….

Two weekends ago we went to Bozeman, Montana on our days off from work to get a taste of civilization. While we were there we switched our Internet provider from AT&T to Verizon which provides much better service out here in the West. The service sometimes does slow down to a crawl when we have a few thousand people visiting and updating their status on Facebook from one lone cell tower.  So, with any luck and a bit of patience, I might be able to post more frequently. Oh, I forgot. Kay got herself an iPhone which could prove to be dangerous when she learns how to use it.

The weather here as of late has been dreadful. Cold rain, on top of more cold rain, with hail thrown in for good measure and a bit of snow to boot. The low tonight is supposed to be in the 20′s with snow in the forecast. Lovely. I really do feel sorry for all the poor folks, especially the foreigners, who have come thousands of miles to see Yellowstone and have to put up with this crappy weather.

I thought I’d show you what it is like here in the Old Faithful area where we are working. The Yellowstone Association Bookstore where we work is located in the Old Faithful Visitors Center:


The Visitors Center is about a half of a mile from where we live, and most days we walk to work. The main attraction here is, of course, Old Faithful which erupts about every 90 minutes or so, and is located right outside the Visitors Center. The crowds gather to watch the show:


And thar she blows!


In the Upper Geyser Basin where Old Faithful is located there are many more geysers (150) and thermal pools, but none erupt with the regularity of Old Faithful.

Another attraction of the area is the Old Faithful Inn built in 1903 of native timber, and its grand fireplace was built with 500 tons of stone!


Here is a shot of the interior of the inn:


Lastly, here is a picture of our place of employment without the crowds. The numbers of customers has been growing now that the summer (NOT!) vacation season has begun. This photo was taken during an eruption. The entire Visitors Center empties out when the crowds go out to witness Old Faithful going off giving us a 15 minute break. The store itself has four cash registers going for most of the day and it is open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. We work varying six hour shifts  during our week which runs from Sunday through Thursday.


Bye!  Time to walk the dogs and get ready for work.


Out and About in Yellowstone…….

Kay and I have finally settled down into a day to day routine here at Yellowstone having learned the ins and outs of the store where we work here at the park. This is a view of one of the spots we walk by each day on our way to work:


Not to shabby is it? The Memorial Day Weekend here was fairly busy as this photo of the West Entrance to Yellowstone shows:


We’ve had a run of nice weather lately which has melted most of the snow in our immediate area causing torrents of waters to boom in the rivers and creeks. Here is a photo of Kepler Cascades which is a few miles away from our campground.


Also quite near to the campground, within walking distance anyway, is a small geyser  called Black Sands. It contains a hot springs called Emerald Pool shown here:


The colors of the pool are caused by minerals in the water, light refraction, and heat-loving microorganisms. At Black Sands there also is a small geyser called Riverside that Kay has dubbed Happy Geyser because it seems to happily sputter and spout the days away:


A few early flowers are starting to appear here and there, but there are no deciduous trees. Every tree to be seen is a pine, mostly Lodgepole Pine. Having lived for so many years amongst the aspen, cottonwoods, and oak, the lack of leaves is very strange and the pines become monotonous quite quickly. .

Also making an appearance are many, many bison and their young’uns who are called Red Dogs for some peculiar reason. The newborn babes in turn lead to many roadside bison jams, as you may well imagine.



The larger, shaggier animals are in the process of losing their winter coats and they have become rather scroungey looking. Take a gander at these Bighorn Sheep for example:


So that’s what’s a going on in this neck of the wilderness. On Friday we drove about 120 miles one way to Cody, WY. just to get to a Walmart for supplies. We are in a remote spot to say the least. Cody, by the way, was named after for this hombre:


Buffalo Bill.

He was one of the people who were responsible for the near extinction of the bison in this country that everyone now enjoys so much here at the park. It’s rather odd that the only two people of note I can think of that are from Wyoming are Buffalo-killer Bill, and Dick (the war criminal who should be in jail) Cheney. Not so odd I guess…just scary.

Bye now!


In the Heart of the Volcano……

Sorry for the delay in posting anything lately, but the internet service here at Yellowstone N.P. leaves a lot to be desired.

Nevertheless, we are now ensconced at Yellowstone after a really gnarley trip up here from Fort Hall, ID. The last 100 miles or so of the drive was over wet roads and falling snow. As we entered the park and headed towards Old Faithful and our new home, it began to really snow and blow. We are talking May 9th here. I had never pulled the trailer through any weather worse than rain, and now I still had 30 miles to go. A two lane road through the mountains and woods. I was more than a bit nervous and all I could think of was You are pulling your only home through a snowstorm…..don’t do anything stupid! When suddenly a buffalo, yes a BUFFALO like this one,

ran out from the trees off to the right of me and proceeded to pace me for a few hundred feet or so until he dropped out of sight. It was not a good afternoon. Fortunately we arrived safely at the employees campground without further incident and got ourselves settled in amongst the snow piles. The campgound itself is no great shakes, and not nearly as nice as the one we had at the Bosque Del Apache. Things are really run down, but we are here and it is what it is.

The weather has been less than stellar. Often cloudy with rain or snow and the temps haven’t got much above the 50′s. Nightime temperatures have been any where from the mid to upper teens into the mid thirties. Let me tell you it’s been quite a shock after Arizona!

We are still in training for our jobs in the Yellowstone Association store where we work. It is in the Visitor’s Center at Old Faithful. I was surprised at the amount of people visiting the park even though the Summer season hasn’t yet begun. There are a lot of tours groups. I cannot imagine how busy it will be when the Summer crowds hit. Black Friday everyday perhaps. Luckily Old Faithful erupts every ninety minutes or so and then the entire building empties when everyone runs out of the place to witness the event.

There are a lot of critters around the campground, mostly Red Squirrels, Uinta Ground Squirrels, Chipmunks, and this little beastie who was hanging around when we first arrived.

It is a Pine Martin. They are a member of the weasel family about the size of a house cat and very cute.

As I write this post there are signs posted at the far edge of the campground warning everyone about a bear in the area. This Grizzly to be precise.

I took this picture of her a few days ago when she and her cub were first spotted along the road that runs by the campround. It’s presence caused a very large bear-jam of tourist’s vehicles along the road. The mere fact that she is in the area adds a sense of anxiety when the dogs are taken for walks. We have also purchased a can of bear spray after seeing her, and hearing numerous horror stories about our ursine neighbors.

On our second day here Kay was thrilled when we spotted this Trumpeter Swan on the Madison River.
She really has a “thing” about swans.
As for other birds we have seen Juncos, Ravens, Jays, Ospreys, a lone Golden Eagle, Clark’s Nutcrackers, and, oh yes, Robins in the snow.

We took a walk on the Firehole River which runs by the Old Faithful Visitor’s Center and some of the geyser basins.


It was on one of the rare nice days so far. The geysers and thermal springs are really fascinating to behold with the water being heated by the magma chamber below us here in the heart of the super volcano. There were about 15 geysers in a 2.8 mile walk and that doesn’t include hot springs and pools. This one is called Morning Glory:

A few days back I went to West Yellowstone, the nearest town from where we are (about 35 miles) to refill one of our propane tanks and on the way home ran into some very slow and heavy traffic:

Fortunately I was going towards the bison as the line of tourista’s cars behind the lumbering beasts was about a half a mile long, and the buffs weren’t showing any sign of pulling over. I understand, from what I’ve been told, that this is not an uncommon occurrence.

The next day we took a drive around the southern end of the park towards Lake Yellowstone. It was a rather grey and dreary day not good for photographing ice and snow. The lake, which is huge, was still frozen over. Stopping at Yellowstone Falls the sun made a bit of an appearance. The falls are quite spectacular.

Next up on our schedule we will be going to the Park Service Headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs near the northern entrance to the park for a daylong Park Service training session. Then it will be the Memorial Day Weekend when everything breaks loose. Katie bar the door!

Have a nice Memorial Day everyone.


On To Yellowstone……

Tomorrow we leave Fort Hall, Idaho for Yellowstone. We have been staying in the RV park at the casino on the Fort Hall Reservation since Monday. It’s a nice park with bathrooms, showers, laundry and full hook-ups. Yesterday our friends from the Bosque, Bill and Pat who will be working with us at Old Faithful, arrived here. We will be doing the final run to the park with them. A mini caravan.

The countryside here in Southeastern Idaho sure is pretty with a lot of very neatly kept farms and ranches. It must be because of the heavy Mormon presence in this part of Idaho. The weather has left a lot to be desired. It has been generally cloudy and cool with some rain, and that’s supposed to continue for the next week with snow forecast for Yellowstone. Yuck!

We took a day trip around the Fort Hall-Pocatello region on Tuesday to Lava Hot Springs and Soda Springs which are two small towns southeast of here. Lava Hot Springs has a big water park, and many other soaking pools throughout the town. However, all of the town was pretty much closed up as their season doesn’t begin until this coming weekend. It was a cute little town though.

About the only thing Soda Springs has going for it is this:


It is a man-made geyser. Way back in the last century, even before I was born, the town decided to build a swimming pool. When they were doing some drilling they hit a pocket of natural soda water and voila they had their very own geyser. The water spout was continuous though, so they capped it and now allow it to erupt once an hour.

Again. Tomorrow we are off to Yellowstone. I’ll let you all know if we made it when I can – which all depends on the availability of the Internet Gods in the wilderness that gets 3 million visitors a year.


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