Nov 23, 2015

Yellowstone National Park ( Day 5!!!)

This morning I climbed into the historic tub, and remembered I picked this historic hotel for the charm and not the functionality.  =)  I made it out for my last day in Yellowstone, and managed to talk to my sister in the morning before I lost cell service.  I had saved the most iconic stop for last, mostly because some roads were closed within Yellowstone, and because of where I stayed.  I managed to beat most of the crowds to Old Faithful.  On the drive up, the steaming hills gave me quite a laugh, as I first thought I was viewing a forest fire and was a little alarmed.

You can see why I was confused, right?  Ha. My timing was wonderful, and I didn't have to wait long for Old Faithful, and I spent my time chatting up a delightful couple from Australia.  After watching the eruption, I hiked around the boardwalk geyser trails and took some of my favorite pictures of the natural landscapes of Yellowstone.  

It was a gloomy day, but I like cloud cover.

Isn't this gorgeous? 

I loved the small grouping of flowers right by the areas devoid of life from the sulphur. 
Hello, Castle Geyser.  Best viewed where there are no placards for it.  Up close you couldn't tell what it was! 

I had to cross too close to a bison again, about 20 feet away on my walk back to the main parking lot to get to Black Sand Basin.  Sorry, Bison, I have a date with a park ranger.  Luckily he was too busy eating a snack to pay a bit of attention to me, although I watched him warily as I walked by.  I joined another great Ranger-led program and I had the crazy idea to ask the Ranger if she would take a selfie with me.  What was I thinking, I hate selfies!!! But it was fun, nonetheless. 

The weather on this day was spotty at best.  I went to see the Artist Paint Pots, and left my rain jacket in the car.  Of course it started to pour.  I stood in the shelter of a tree for a while, but then shrugged and happily walked to the car.  After all, what's a little rain? 

Another selfie!! Ack! 

My shift in attitude allowed me to have a great rain-filled day from that point on.  I went on to Mammoth and tried to see what I could before I lost all the daylight.  I took so many pictures, but here are a few more of my favorites from this day: 

The paint pots! 

I love how this felt like I was on another planet. =) 

And then, as I was tired and hungry, (Not to mention soaked!) I decided to head to my hotel to call it an early night.  I had to drive about 2 hours to get to my next stop, and it was already getting dark.  A quiet night in sounded delightful.  Let me tell you, the joke was on me! My stop for the night was in Three Forks, Montana at The Sacajawea. (Shoutout again to you, Jess, for the awesome hotel recommendation.)  I arrived feeling gross and sweaty and a little moldy. (Ha!)  I walked in the gorgeous lobby, and was offered a hot, lavender scented towel.  

Immediately after I was checked in, I was offered complimentary champagne, and was told that complimentary breakfast in bed was also included and just to hang my card outside the door by 11.  Uh.  What alternate universe did I enter??  Still feeling a bit shell shocked, I told the lovely front desk attendant that what I wanted more than anything was a shower and dinner.  She told me to come back for my champagne, anytime.  What the what.  I made my way down a short hallway to my room, and was left even more in awe by what was inside.

Classical music was playing softly.  Water was on the nightstand, as well as earplugs, calming mist for the linens, and the bathroom, while staying true to it's historic roots, was sublime.
They had: Thick, plush towels and bathrobes, Bath products I actually wanted to use, and overall, just a sense of calm and quiet.  Anything I might've forgotten, they had covered.  This place was heaven.  I ate my dinner, took a long, hot shower in that clawfoot tub, and then felt like a new woman.  On booking, I remembered there was going to be live music on this evening.  I went out to the front desk, asked where the live music was, enjoyed my free champagne in the gorgeous lobby, and then went down to listen to a cover band and drink Montana beer with the locals.  The music was great, as was the beer and company, and I may have even been convinced to line dance.  ;)  I went to sleep around 1 am, with a huge smile on my face, and looking forward to the breakfast delivery in the morning.

I realize at this rate, I'll be finished blogging about my trip in time for next summer's adventure.  Hahaha, thanks for hanging in there with me! 

Sep 29, 2015

Yellowstone National Park (Day 4, Part II!!)

I left Fishing Village after my memorable hike, and headed around the rest of the curve on my way out to West Yellowstone.  Along the way I stopped to view the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  Everyone must've been home eating dinner, or who knows where, as I had many moments of peaceful solitude while listening to the falls and taking pictures.   The parking lot had so many spaces (for peak season), but there were 3 cars in the parking lot while I was there.  Three.  I don't know what lucky star I made a wish on, but I'll take it.  I once again felt like I had the entire park to myself.

I'll never forget these moments and even asked a passerby to snap my picture. (Completely against my personality.)  She took about 12 and never said anything like, "Okay, here we go, 1, 2, 3, smile..." Or anything.  Thus my awkward Chandler smile.

I was yet again hungry and tired after walking around this area, as well as hiking for most of the day, so I decided to head to my home base for the evening.  There was just one problem with my plan to head home: a traffic jam.
We were stopped for quite a while while this beauty showed us who the park actually belongs to. :)

I saw another herd of bison and couldn't stop myself from snapping a few more roadside pictures on my way to my hotel.  The light in this valley was magical, and these pictures just don't capture it.

The sun was setting as I continued my drive to West Yellowstone.  When planning my trip, I'd picked a few fun places to stay.  (And by fun I mean nerdy and historic.)  I was excited to get to this overnight stop, The Madison Hotel, and I was the last guest to arrive.  The front desk clerk laughed and said she approved of my day, as I told her I used every inch of daylight that I could in the park, thus my late arrival.  The hotel was built in 1912 and has many different parts, such as a youth hostel, hotel and motel.  I didn't really understand the quirks when I booked it, but my room was over a tourist store.  It was quite cozy, but I'll mostly remember that I could hear the store employees downstairs counting out the register while I lay still on the bed from exhaustion.

Lukewarm water and a tub.  Just like 1912.  Kidding.

I finally rallied enough strength to walk out around the very touristy West Yellowstone and find a bite to eat.  I picked a random cafe, and had a nice dinner.  At this point in my trip I was definitely used to restaurants alone, and just soaked in the sights, while reliving my day.  When I asked the waitress if she had, "huckleberry anything" for dessert, she smiled warmly at me, and brought me out a free scoop of huckleberry ice cream.  I'm still dreaming about it. :)  

As I walked back into my room and heard the old, noisy floorboards creaking beneath my feet, I tried to imprint on my brain the smell of sulphur from the park that had been wafting in and out of my nose all day.  I attempted to bring back the memory of the very quiet moment at the falls, my great ranger experiences that day, and that single cool scoop of ice cream that had soothed my road-weary soul as much for the kindness as for the fantastic taste.  And when I close my eyes now, I can remember all of these moments as vividly as if they were yesterday.  

Aug 30, 2015

Yellowstone National Park (Day 4, Part I!!)

I slept like the dead again, waking up only to think of how my legs were aching.  Upon waking, I remembered how worth it all the hiking was, and I jumped out of bed to begin my next adventure.  I had a ranger led hike to check out at 10:30, so I left Grant Village, where I stayed the night, and headed to meet my newest ranger crush at West Thumb.

I had half of the tour alone with Ranger Ellen, and the other half with one other person.  Let me tell you, having a private guide to Yellowstone is not usual, and I learned so much.  Thermophiles, geyser plumbing, volcanoes, and earthquakes, oh my!  Probably my favorite part was learning so much history that wasn't on the boardwalk placards.

In the picture above, Ranger Ellen was telling us about Fishing Cone, which you can see in the background, and how people used to catch fish, and then fling it into the cone.  She had a picture of people in the 20's doing this, standing on the cone itself, which was amazing to think about.  The heat of the geyser would cook the fish in a few short minutes.  (But think of how it would taste - yuck!)  Ranger Ellen also told us about an elk calf carcass in on of the pools, decomposing, and we talked about the dangers to wildlife in Yellowstone National Park.  Finally, I learned that the clearest water was the hottest, like this pool here:

 Overall, the whole experience at West Thumb was just fantastic.  Here are a few more of my favorite photos from this part of the park.

The view of the lake, with the geyser steam... Amazing. 

Also amazing to me was the contrast of rich green life, and the sulfurous spots devoid of life next to it.  

Here at Yellowstone, I actually ran into the couple of couples that I had met the day before in Grand Teton National Park.  We were all astonished that in these huge parks we would meet twice.  As they were also headed to Glacier National Park, they invited me to meet them for dinner there.  Although it didn't work out, the kindness of these people to someone they just met will stay with me for a long time.  They talked about how I was brave for going on this journey alone, and I talked about how I didn't want to regret not taking this trip.  My favorite comment was when I was called a "modern woman." I guaranteed them I would be safe, and hoped to meet them again.  Again, it didn't happen, but I hope to run into them again somewhere else in my life.  Another perk to traveling alone, is the kindness of strangers and the new friends you meet. =)

 With the intent of making the most of every inch of daylight that I could, I headed to Fishing Village and mud volcano.  Here are a few of my favorite nature shots, as I saw elk, bison, pelicans, ducks, swans, and a fox.  

From the shores at Fishing Village.


Yellowstone River

I went on another Ranger led hike in the afternoon with Ranger Mike.  Storm Point trail would take 2 and a half hours, and was time well spent. I learned a lot, but by far my favorite memory of this time was how Ranger Mike started out his talk/walk by telling us what to expect.  He went on to say everyone fears a bear, but that the creature he most feared in Yellowstone was the bison.  He said bison were unpredictable, stubborn, and unstoppable.  (If you spray a bear with bear spray or make human noises they will most likely take off.  If you spray a bison, he will be angrier when he tramples you.) He let us know that bison can jump a six foot fence, standing still, and can gore you faster than you can run away.  

Ranger Mike talking about how bison roll around in their own funk and mud. 

Then we started our hike, and not five minutes in, a bison approached us.  

This is not a joke.  It really happened.  Ranger Mike had us stand still, but the bison kept coming our way.  My heart was pounding as he seemed to be heading directly for me.  Ranger Mike put himself between me and the bison, and the bison eventually got interested in a snack and we were able to continue our hike.  In the meantime, before he was too close and I almost died of fear, I snapped this picture. ;)

I love how his body glistens in the sunlight. :)  

We had storms move in all around us, meaning cool temps, but no rain.  I also met another couple on this hike who befriended me.  You can check out their adventure here. We passed by a crop of rocks where marmots live, but as it was downright chilly, they were safe and warm inside.  I'm going to end with these last pictures I took while on the hike in the woods.  I have such great memories of this trip, I hope you're enjoying the recap! 

Lodge Pole Pines

Just a deer, but I love the reflection on the water.

Part II to come soon! 

Aug 9, 2015

Grand Tetons (Day 3!)

There's a note in my journal here that says I'm packing SO MUCH into my days that I felt like I should stop and journal in the middle of the day... but who has the time! =) That's your warning that the posts will be long and adventure filled from here on out!

I started my morning in Jackson Hole, with a stop at the visitor center.  I wanted to talk to the information desk to see what hikes they thought I could do alone.  It was early spring, so the bears were out and about.  Rangers had reported so many, I wanted to err on the safe side.  I knew I had all day to cover 60 miles of road, and I was really looking forward to it after the preview I got on the way in!

After stopping at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor center, and lucking into a Ranger talk (Have I mentioned I have the biggest crush on NPS Rangers?) I took my first road less traveled and walked around the back of the building.  Literally NO ONE was out there, and I snagged this picture, which I will always remember.

Grand Teton National Park is just surreal.  One of my friends said I was living in a postcard, and I couldn't have put it better myself.  The volunteer from the visitor's center had told me not to miss The Chapel of the Transfiguration, so I made this stop next.

(No words can even capture this place, so I'm not going to waste my breath trying.)  Just across the way was a hike to Menor's Ferry.  Absolutely NO ONE was taking this hike.  It said it was 0.3 miles, and I said to myself, "Eh, why not, it will be a short walk."

Past the closed ferry and past the Maud Noble cabin, where the thought of a National Park first started, was a mercantile shop.  I thought it would be a replica and I would just cruise through.

However, inside the small building was a real store with things for sale.  I cruised past them, but being as it was early morning, empty, a bit chilly, and most importantly, since I was BY MYSELF, the volunteer in there chatted me up.  He gave me a bit of a history lesson on the building, and as we walked into the second room, which had a working wood burning stove, he said, "I just pulled cookies out of the oven. Would you like one?"

This photo is horrible, but I love this man.

Would I like a warm gingersnap? Uhhhh yes.  As we ate cookies by the stove, he gave me some great tips on trails that would be busy enough, I could hike them alone with ease.  We talked about education, and politics, and Grand Teton and Yellowstone.  And then, on my way out, he gave me the ginger snap recipe.  Which was, of course, from the original owner of the mercantile store.  Be still my heart!!

One hike he recommended to me was Jenny Lake.  I stopped at every scenic turnout, the entire day, but was excited to get my boots dirty. ;)  The hike to Hidden Falls turned out to be the highlight of this day.  If I hadn't made the decision to take the 0.3 small hike detour... Well, you get it. I befriended a couple of couples I kept passing back and forth on the trail up to the falls.  They could hardly believe I was alone and also seemed amused by me.  =)

Jenny Lake

 Hiking, hiking, I love hiking!!

Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls turned out to be even more hidden because of some trees that had fallen, but it made the adventure even more fun.  I sat on a rock and just watched for a while, and breathed in that amazing mountain air.  As I left the couple of couples, they shouted, "We'll look for you again!"  And I fell in love with them. =)   

At the end of the hike, I stopped in the store at Jenny lake and bought some ice cream.  (Hey! I'm on vacation!) I nibbled on Dibs as a chipmunk came and circled my feet... I felt like a damn Disney princess.  A group of hikers at a nearby picnic table who were watching the chipmunk, got a big kick out of me when I froze and asked them, "You guys would tell me if it was climbing up my leg, right?!?" I later gave them the Dibs I couldn't eat, which they kindly accepted. =) 

Next I went to Signal Mountain.  The views of Jackson Valley from the summit were marred only by the fierce mosquitos, who, despite two layers of insect repellant, hovered around me, trying to get a bite. 

At this point in my day, I'd had exactly: 1 bowl of cereal, one granola bar, and one half package of Dibs. ;) I decided it was time for dinner, and remembered from my map that Jackson Lake Lodge was coming up and on my way.  The Lodge, while not my style, was an amazing pit stop. I circled the place to check out all my options and saw plenty of outdoor benches that were wide open.  So, I grabbed dinner to go, took it outside, and just enjoyed the view!

With a view like this mostly to myself, I felt like I was robbing people blind.  I looked back behind me into the Lodge and I saw people having their fancy dinner on the other side of the glass.  I chuckled, and felt so content.  

Timing, as you can tell by the turn of events in my day, was everything on this trip.  As I finished dinner, a storm started to roll in.  I took that as my cue to leave Grand Teton National Park.  I made it to Grant Village in Yellowstone (my stop for the night) after an easy drive, with only the mosquitos standing in my way. 

I said, "Wow!!" a lot more than I have in a long while.  The Tetons are truly amazing.  I must admit, I have quite fallen in love with their jagged peaks, and can hardly wait to go back to do more hiking. A quick repack of my pack, and an exhausted sleep lay ahead of me... until Day 4! =)