Tuesday, August 31, 2010


It was weird during my forced hiatus from blogging (due to lack of internet availability) - I kept a journal to remember my journeys but the writing style changed dramatically.  I've had trouble getting this started but I guess I just need to bite the bullet and start with the series that I talked about earlier.  (Oh!  Also, I've decided to move to Bozeman, MT for the winter with a group of friends - so I'll have a kitchen again!!) 

This first photo is from Dunraven Pass, which is the road in between Canyon (my home) and Roosevelt Lodge.  It's one of the most scenic drives in the park - it goes up through the mountains and winds back down through a valley before being dropped out near Lamar Valley.  This was taken very early in the season and has become one of my favorite pictures out here - I just love the blueness of the sky overlooking the ridges of the snow covered mountain.  It makes me feel at peace with the world.

My home is Canyon Village.  It's about a mile or so north of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  I often walk down to the Canyon and sit contemplating when I just need some time to myself.  The area called Inspiration Point, has a board with info and this quote: "I thought how utterly impossible it would be to describe to another the sensations inspired by such a presence.  As I took in this scene, I realized my own littleness, my helplessness, my dread exposure to destruction, my inability to cope or even comprehend the mighty architecture of nature."  - Nathaniel P. Langford, 1870 

Just to the south of the Canyon is Hayden Valley.  It's well-known for viewing wildlife and wildflowers.  The bison's rut season in Hayden Valley just ended, which is when they are fighting for the female's attention.  The valley contains geothermal features as well since it is right in the middle of the caldera.  (The caldera is the top of the volcano that Yellowstone is situated right on top of.)  One time I went on a hike through Hayden Valley (not on a trail) and we ran into a mini-geyser basin where I saw a wolf!  This is on the Wapiti Lake trail during the height of the wildflower season.

I didn't go all the way to the Wapiti Lake, which is about 20 miles out from the trail head, but instead turned in at the Silver Chord Cascade drop and went back towards Lily Pad Lake.  Lily Pad Lake is covered with wild water Lilies that have yellow flowers.  My old roommate once informed that water lilies are an endangered species so it makes me glad whenever I see them growing in their natural habitat.

The Silver Chord Cascade Overlook (on the opposite side of the canyon) is one of my favorite places to go and sit.  It's only about a mile or so into the Seven Mile Hole trailhead and not often traveled.  You can hear the roar of the river below you and I often run into not often seen animals (such as a short-tailed weasel!). 

I'd been wanting to get up super early in the morning and walk down to the Canyon to see the sunrise, which I did one morning (and will have to re-attempt) that ended up being mega foggy.  It added a neat affect to the forest - kind of made it feel forbodding.

However, once the sun came out and started burning the fog away the light was able to shine through the trees.  It was really beautiful in the forest.

One popular hike to do just north of us is Cascade Lake.  It has pretty good fly fishing on the lake and is a really beautiful area.  On my only fishing trip attempt, we headed out there (after a few beers) and forgot the reel for one of the rods and the other rod was too tangled!  We had a good time just sitting out on the edge of the lake though.

I talked about the time early on in the season when Adam and I hiked out to Cascade on a rainy afternoon.  The double rainbow appeared behind us while a sepia colored mountain was in front of us.  (I have seen more rainbows this summer than I have seen my whole life - they are so magically beautiful!)

There is a mountain on the side of Cascade Lake that you can climb up for an additional three miles.  It gives you a great overview of the area - the big lake is Cascade and the smaller one just to the west is Grebe Lake.  Off in the distance, you can see Hayden Valley (only a sliver of it is really visible of the far east).  The clouds were covering us like a blanket this day, but thankfully it didn't rain or hail on us!

We hiked Mount Washburn, which is Dunraven Pass and is the northern point of the Caldera.  It was soo incredibly windy that I didn't even have a desire to pull out my camera.  However, from the top you could see the Beartooth Mountains, Lake Yellowstone, the Tetons, Electric Peak - pretty much anywhere in the Greater Yellowstone Area.  We did get this group shot taken after multiple tries of the camera being blown over from the wind.

Further north (almost to Roosevelt Lodge) is a geological feature that I really don't know very much about.  These ridges just pop out of the mountain sides and create the designs.  

Just past Roosevelt Lodge is Lamar Valley, which beings with Slough Creek.  The Slough Wolf Pack lives on top of this rocky ridge; however, they are too far away that you can't see them without power scopes.  (Although, it's worth it to stop - there are so many people out here with their scopes and are usually kind enough to share.)  The sun and clouds were creating beautiul shadows and colors.

My mom and brother (and possibly my dad) will be here in a couple weeks.  I'm super jazzed to share Yellowstone with them!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hitting a Bison.

My roommate, Carole, and I went out to West Thumb Geyser Basin last night.  We really haven't explored any of the geothermal features and we wanted to see something new.  On our way down to West Thumb, it was raining and the wind was blowing (and lots of trees blew over).  However, as we approached our destination, the sun came out.  A beautiful double rainbow appeared (it's hard to see the second one) over where the forest had burned the previous year.  

As we pulled into the parking lot, we notice a herd of elk that were grazing just off the edge of the parking lot.  There is a family that is extremely close to the big bull elk (it's almost bugling season!) and I'm afraid that are going to get gored.  I asked them to move back away from the bull elk and the babies, but they just stayed.  He kept pausing to watch them, which is a bad sign.  I thought something was going to happen - thankfully, nothing did.

We walked around the geyser basin.  They have beautiful pools.  The light blue pools, which was what was mostly in the area, are the hottest.  They are too hot that they really can't support the thermophiles that are found in many of the springs - so they are just a crystal blue color.

This is Carole standing next to the edge of a spring overflow.  The overflows are able to cool off a little bit and provide life to red thermophiles.

The blip in the water is called the Fishing Cone.  It is an active geyser that is found just off shore in Lake Yellowstone.  The setting sun was casting beautiful shadows on the mountains on the other side of the shore while the almost full moon shone brightly above us.

This is a different extremely hot pool - called the Abyss Pool.  The hot springs are incredibly large and can easily burn a person to nothing but bones in a matter of a few minutes.  (There is a book, Death in Yellowstone, that gives very gruesome descriptions of this - for more details, check it out.)

West Thumb is a fairly small geyser basin but it's known for being one of the most scenic since Lake Yellowstone is situated directly east of the area.  It was really beautiful.

We did a short (1/2 mile) hike out to Duck Lake, which few people have probably walked out to.  It was a neat lake with a black sand beach and lots of elk prints from where they went to get a sip of water.

On our way back to Canyon (about a 2 hour drive), we were going around a curve in the dark.   There was a bison standing in the middle of the road that we didn't see until we were about 5 feet away from the 1 ton animal.  We smashed into his rear (in Carole's Mini Cooper!) and he slid up over the roof of the car and smashed into the windshield.  Luckily, Carole had just gotten her windshield fixed or else he might have slid right on through.  Carole and I were shaken and had some minor scrapes - but overall we were very lucky.  

Unfortunately, when we struck the bison's rear end, the impact looked like it broke his hip bone.  He limped off the side of the road (while 20 bison surrounded our car - grunting the whole time).  The rangers had to put him down.  (There is going to be a rather blurry picture at the bottom - so if you don't want to look, don't go all the way to the very bottom.)  The other bison kept circling around him and licking his head.  It was extremely sad.  However, he will become part of the food chain and be food for a bear.

This morning, I got up bright and early and went out for a hike.  (I wasn't able to sleep for some reason.)  The lighting on this field was perfect and there were a few bison that were hanging out, eating grass.  I felt oddly at peace with the bison this morning.

Don't go further if you don't want to see the picture...

The red is from the flashing ranger lights.  Poor guy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Glacier National Park.

This past weekend (four days and three nights) I went to Glacier National Park with a few friends.  It's about 11 hours away - on the Canada/Montana border.  It was truly magnificient and so different than Yellowstone.  The evening that we arrived was rainy but it added a rainforest feel to the trip.  When entering from the west, you drive along Lake McDonald for about ten miles.  There was an amazing rain cloud swirling over the lake around dust.

No one else really wanted to stand out here with me because it started to rain.  The clouds/drizzle stayed throughout the next day (which means that we missed the amazing meteor shower that happened the night we arrived!).

We started on a hike to Ginnell Glacier but when we got about halfway there the trail was shut down due to large amounts of bear activity.  We sat at the lake for a while skipping rocks.  There are rocky mountains that surround U-shaped valleys.  You can see the layers in the rocks that were created when the area was the sea floor about three million years ago.  The glaciers that have slowly worked their way through the area carved through the rocks creating the valleys. 

We went on a 6ish mile hike to three different waterfalls.  The first was Baring Falls.  The water was so clear over the red rocks. 
I went wandering and figured out how to climb up on the cliff that over looks the waterfall.  The rock that's beside my head looks like it has a water spot on the lens; however, that was really the color of the rock.  

On my way down from the cliff, I found this little guy hanging out on a moss covered log.  The forest floor was covered in moss and ferns.  It was such a contrast to the muted sage brush flats and lodge pole pines that we have in Yellowstone.

The second waterfall was St. Mary Falls.  I didn't really get a good shot of the falls - it was sort of awkwardly falling down these two different shafts.  In this shot (below), the waterfall was behind me and you can see the water as it swirled out from the falls.  All of the water was an amazing shade of blue due to the freshly melted glacial snow mixing with sediment from the rocks in the area.

The final falls was Virginia Falls.  It was really the most breath-taking of the three.  It wasn't directly on the trail so you could hear the water falling beside you for a while before you were able to cut across to see a four tiered fall.   There was a mountain that perfectly shot up behind the falls that allowed you to realize all of the aspects of the park.

There were Scotch Bluebells that grew all around the falls.  

The next morning, when we woke up there was a fairly big black bear on the hill behind our campsite.  She was eating the Huckleberries that grew on the hill.  We saw five bears while were in the park, which is about the amount of bears I've seen in Yellowstone total!  (No moose though - and Glacier is supposed to be moose country.)

The sun finally came out to play around noon on our last day.  We hiked out to Hidden Lake.  There was this giant marmot yelling just to the side of the trail.

This was the time when my nice camera died (AHHH!) so I switched to my point and shoot.  The colors didn't turn out as good but I'm still pretty happy with most of the pictures that I ended up with.  To get to Hidden Lake we hiked around this mountain, which was covered with waterfalls from the melting snow above.  (The whole park was laden with waterfalls since they pretty much have snow on the tops of their mountains year round.)

Hidden Lake was absolutely gorgeous.  The mountain behind it reminded me of a Mayan Pyramid with stepping stones up to the top.  The blue water reflected the surrounding trees and mountain.

While we were soaking in the sites, a mountain goat and her baby came to the area.  They hung out there for quite a while just eating the shrubs that grew underneath the trees.   They were about 5 feet away - the mom had no fear but the baby (which I didn't get a good picture of - sorry!) kept making noises and was really frightened of a ground squirrel.

We hiked about a third (because we were taking so many pictures) of the Highline Trail.  It follows the Going-to-the-Sun Road but about 30 to 100 feet above it.  We walked through about 20 waterfalls, which were pretty frightening.  It was slick rocks above a cliff!

We were able to view down into the valley below us and the mountains that stretched out into the distance.  (It was really frightening if you tried to look at as you were walking along a narrow cliff - it's not recommended.)

The wildflowers were still out in pretty good numbers.  This looks like a variation on a sunflower; however, I'm not positive what kind of flower it is.  The bee was certainly enjoying it though.

At one point, we were surrounded by Rams.  There was one walking the trail in front of us and one walking the trail behind us.   We have these in Yellowstone; however, I haven't seen any in the park.  

This is Jackson Glacier - between the trees.  What technically makes a glacier is when more snow falls in an area than melts each year.  All of the glaciers (about 20 or so) in Glacier National Park will technically be melted by 2020.  I'm thankful that I got to see one of the glorious natural phenomenia.

This lake was in front of our campsite.  This is the morning that we left - notice not even a cloud in the sky!!!  

On our way out of the park we did the Trail of the Cedars.  The Red Cedars were giant, which caused a good shade covering that allowed the ferns to flourish in the area.

Glacier was an amazing experience.  Go!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Employee Photo Contest.

I've decided that I'm not going to try to catch up on all the stories - but to show some of my favorite pictures/stories based on specific categories (and then start sharing more of the specific stories).  The categories are: landscapes, sunsets, animals, geothermal features, flora and the Grand Tetons.  (I am going to Glacier National Park in about a week - so that will be a category too!!)

We have an employee photo contest in about a week and I've decided that I'm going to enter.  You can enter one photo per category and I'm going to enter Landscape, Wildlife (and possibly Up Close).  These are the photos that I'm debating between - and input would be appreciated and awesome.


When we first arrived, we went on a sunset tour in a Historic Yellow Bus.  We were supposed to go up to Lake Butte Drive but there had been an aggressive bear in the area so the road was closed.  Instead, we went past it for quite a while before heading back to see the sunset off the lake shore.  I was so worried that we were going to miss the brilliant sunset that was occurring just on the other side of the mountain that I was taking pictures of things with light reflecting off them.  This snow covered mountain looks like a push pin with all the burned lodge pole pines sticking out.

The first time that I went to Lamar Valley, I was speechless at the beauty of the area.  The valley dips down in between hills of lodge pole pines and sage brush flats that make feeding pastures for the Bison and Prong Horns.  The light playing on the snow patches and trees reminds me of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  I can image that the cove of trees are the Grinch's home as the paces hatefully over Whoville.

My friend, Adam, and I hiked out to Cascade Lake one rainy afternoon shortly after we moved into Canyon.  It was still super early in the season so there were slushy pits to try to avoid and rivers overflowing with snow melt to jump over.  We were looking for a way to cross an extremely wide river.  I tried crossing a tree that had fallen across.  I got stopped midway breathless at the sun peeping through the mist that was enveloping the valley in front of me.  The whole scene glowed before us for only a few brief moments before the mist cleared.  (When we turned around two gorgeous rainbows arched fully across the sky.)


These are the beautiful dragonfly pictures that I started with my re-introduction back to my blog.  I just can't help it - I'm so excited by how wonderfully these turned out - even better than I had imagined!  I just need to decide between the two...

Close Up

This picture was taken the same day as the dragonflies.  I was almost home when I saw this spider web glimmering in the sunlight.  The amount of work that a spider has to put in to build all these intricate homes to survive is amazing.  I'm captivated by the amount of work that they must do.

I'm undecided about if I should but the dragonflies under Wildlife or Close Up...  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.