Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yellowstone et al - Epilogue

My partner pestered me during the entire trip to mention that he did all the driving on this trip. Operating a car is a skill I have never mastered. You drove, I mentioned it. Are you happy now?

Race to Salt Lake City or We're not Lost, We Just Don't Know Where We Are

We left Jackson to catch our return flight to Salt Lake City before sunrise. By 7:30 the car was filled with gas, we had grabbed breakfast at the local McDonald's and we were on our way. The cabin resort had provided us with a map of Wyoming with what they said was the most scenic route back highlighted,. As long as we were in Wyoming we could pinpoint our exact location on the map. The tiny specks of towns showed up in the right order and all was well. We then crossed over into Utah. This is where things get a little fuzzy. Since we had a map of Wyoming, and only Wyoming, the information on Utah was vague at best. It was like two warring neighbors that refused to acknowledge the existence of each other. We knew route 89 would lead to route 15 which would in turn lead to Salt Lake City; we knew we were on route 89; we just had no idea where on route 89 we were.

As we left Jackson the sun was rising above the mountain ranges turning their snow dappled peaks red. One small town followed another.

Etna, Wyoming Population 200

You may be familiar with the term "one stoplight" to describe a small town. This tiny hamlet was so small it did not even have one stoplight. It did, however, have a sight which halted us dead in our tracks. One of the very few houses along the road bore a sign identifying it as an Art Studio and Gallery. From it's well kept porch proudly hung a rainbow flag. This type of flag is used as a symbol to express Gay Pride. It is also used to identify a business as gay owned or gay friendly. It was the only rainbow or rainbow flag we encountered in the state of Wyoming, or anywhere else on the trip for that matter. To me it served as a reminder of the old adage "We are everywhere", even in the middle of nowhere.

Afton, Wyoming Population 1100

This bustling, by Wyoming standards, metropolis possesses, as it's claim to fame, The Worlds Largest Elk Horn Arch. It spans the town's main street just down the block from Shelly's Cowboy Bar and Golden Spur Cafe.

It was outside this town where we had to stop and wait as a couple on horseback herded their cattle down the middle of the road. Picturesque indeed!

We then came to the town of Montpieler. It's place in history is due to the robbery, in 1896, of the Bank of Montpieler by Butch Cassidy and his gang. They made off with $16500 in cash and silver, a princely sum at the time. As they fled, the sheriff borrowed a bicycle to chase them down but was quickly outdistanced.

Throughout the trip my partner had remarked repeatedly about the absence of roadkill. This was definitely rectified by what we encountered out of town. On the opposite side of the road appeared a long bloody smear punctuated by equally bloody chunks of flesh. At the end of the smear lay a skinless, battered, almost unrecognizable cow's head. I gazed at my partner with a look that read, "So much for no roadkill. Are you happy now?"

We crossed the border into Utah. That is where the confusion began. Apparently the cartographer who drew the map decided when he got to Utah vague, seemingly arbitrary lines, directions and mileage to towns in that state would suffice. We had confirmed that 89 would lead to 15, we knew that we were on 89, but as I stated before, we just were not sure where we were on 89. Furthermore, we ascertained after a while that there was a route 89 and a route 89 scenic bypass. We figured this out when signs saying "89 Scenic Bypass" started appearing roadside.

We had missed a turnoff. We had made a mistake. A wonderful, wonderful mistake. One of the brown wooden signs which announce National Parks and Forests informed us we were entering the Cache National Forest. At first glance it looked quite like the other evergreen forests we had been seeing throughout the trip. Then the road narrowed and began to descend into a canyon. The road wound back and forth, up and down as it followed the natural topography of the land. Evergreens gave way to trees and brush showing off their brilliant fall colors. A kaleidoscope of hues collided with the stone canyon walls that towered over us. At the bottom of the canyon the road followed the bends and curves of the river that ran beside it, it's banks also overrun with fall's palette. On some hillsides, where thick stands of evergreens commanded most of the land, occasional leafy trees, wearing their mantle of fall, mixed with the evergreens in breathtaking juxtaposition.

The scene, lit by the early afternoon sun in the clear blue sky left us awestruck making us stop at scenic turnouts to take in and document it's beauty. The road began to ascend, twisting and turning it's way out of the canyon back to the more mundane roadside sights of strip malls, tract housing and characterless chain hotels. The same snow covered mountains we first saw upon our arrival towered above these and with their grace and majesty reminded us of the wonderful, memorable and remarkable places we had experienced on this trip as we continued to the airport and our flight home.    

The Grand Tetons - By Horse and By Foot

By Horse

I have ridden a number of times beginning in my early teens, including twice in the mountain jungles above Puerta Vallarta, on farms in Michigan and Wisconsin during fall color weekends and in Smoky Mountains National Park. It had been 7 years, however, since either my partner or I had been on horseback.

Once astride the horse does most of the work. At 5'5" tall my biggest challenge is getting on and off the animal. Chosen for me was a massive chestnut draft horse. Lifting my knee almost to my chin, I hooked my foot in the stirrup, climbed aboard and settled myself in the beautiful, vintage hand tooled leather saddle. The various colors of my horses mane made it look as if he had recently gone to a salon for foil highlights. My partner was given an equally large blond draft horse while our guide was astride a black and white quarter horse which he claimed was an idiot who he hated and hated to ride. The horse did not seem to mind and had the attitude that he was in charge since he was bigger than the guide and could throw him at any time.

We had picked up our guide at a staging ranch in Teton Village where the three horses were loaded on to a trailer attached to a pickup. Our guide got into the pickup and we followed him to a ranch 20 minutes away where we now found ourselves, in the saddle and ready to go. The ranch has 1200 horses. The sitcom "Modern Family" had used this ranch for the horses in this season's opening episode, set in the Tetons.

The promotional material promises the guides are real cowboys. They do not lie. Our guide was a young, lanky Texan who competed in the rodeo circuit during the winter months. In his cowboy hat, jeans and muddy boots he certainly looked the part. His habit of chewing tobacco lent him an added air of authenticity. Twice during the ride he got the horse he was on, the one he called an idiot, to spin  explaining to us how he managed to signal the horse to do so.

The air was cool, clean and crisp and the sky a brilliant blue as we started off. My horse seemed to enjoy taking a more leisurely pace then the horses of our guide and my partner. On occasion I would have to hit his sides with my legs at which point he would gallop to the point of catching up with the others. Each time, as soon as he accomplished this, he would return to his poky gait. We soon reached the first of several steep grades which had been made slick and a little treacherous by the rains of the previous night. My horse sidestepped the muddy trail and climbed the hill on the grass along it's edge. Judging from his panting at the top of this first hill it occurred to me that the gray in his mane may have been the result of age. At each  hill the poor guy seemed reluctant but resigned to carrying me up it.

At one point the guide, claiming Rick Perry was a family friend tried to engage us in a political conversation. We sidestepped this with questions about the local flora and fauna and the altitude we would eventually reach (7800 feet). At the summit we rested the horses and took in the expansive view. The winding Snake River cut through the valley below us. In the distance rose the snow capped Tetons. Magpies flew above our heads moving from treetop to treetop. Autumn gold grass mixed with dull olive sage and the bright yellow fall leaves and pure white trunks of aspens covered the hills which led down to the valley floor dotted with the homes, barns and outbuildings of the area ranches.

My horse seemed even more reluctant to go downhill then he had to go up. Eventually, he relented and caught up with the guide and my partner who were a little distance ahead of us.

Near the conclusion of the ride we entered a meadow where several white horses and an adorable Shetland pony were grazing. My partner asked if we could post the last few yards through the meadow. After eliciting a promise from us not to tell anyone we did this (a promise I just broke) he allowed us to do so. This is the point at which my horse came into his own. His unrestrained glee at running fast over flat land made it difficult for me to slow him down at the ride's end. After dismounting, I mentioned to the guide how beautiful I thought the saddle on my horse was. He shared my admiration for it and gave me a quick primer on how they hand cut and stamp leather. He expressed to us how much he had enjoyed the ride as he gave us a firm handshake. We tipped him and climbed back into our car.

Before returning to Jackson for dinner and a good night's rest we drove out to the Tetons one last time. We stood at a scenic turnout contemplating and admiring their grandeur and beauty before bidding them farewell, thanking them for the memories they would leave us with.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Grand Tetons - By Horse and By Foot

By Foot

We had been told by several people prior to our departure that the best hiking trails were those surrounding Jenny Lake, which struck me as a great drag queen name! Being somewhat experienced hikers we chose a 6 mile round trip hike described as having a difficulty level of moderate. It would take us through the Cascade Canyon, Hidden Falls and finally Inspiration Point. Compared to the cold we had been experiencing on this trip, this day the air was temperate and we began our hike under bright sun which filtered through the trees and brush and reflected off the still water of the lake. Chipmunks dashed about the edges of the trail, communicating with each other with their odd, clicking call.

You hear Cascade Canyon before you see it. Through the years the river has cut a gorge in the rock of the mountain. A small wooden bridge affords a birds eye view of he tumbling water.

When you hike you discover that hikers are polite, friendly and courteous to other hikers. Smiles and greetings are exchanged as you encounter others on the trail. Conversations flow easily as you experience the camaraderie created by the sights each of you see and the memories each of you are creating.

As you ascend higher into the mountains you find Hidden Falls. Water flows from a narrow crevice high above your head. The falls widen as they descend to the cascading river. A short distance further and you are at Inspiration Point which affords you a spectacular view of the serene waters of Jenny Lake surrounded by it's mantle of evergreens. Above you are the magnificent snow covered peaks of the Tetons, this day standing in stark relief against the bright blue sky. We have our lunch of sandwiches and string cheese sitting on a rock enjoying the beauty that envelops us.

Clouds seem to move in quickly in this part of the country. As we make our way back the woods on either side of the trail, sun dappled on our way up, have taken on a dark, almost brooding tone.

The one disappointment we had during our days at Yellowstone was that we had not seen a moose among all the wildlife we were fortunate enough to witness. As we are descending, we see a couple we had exchanged pleasantries with earlier standing off to the side of  the trail staring down at a meadow with a small body of water in it's center called Moose Pond. The name is especially appropriate this day as they point out to us a mother moose and her calf edging along the pond before crossing the meadow and moving out of sight. Another couple join us and relate how earlier they had happened upon the same moose along the trail they had been taking. The husband shows us the photos of their close encounter with this huge animal. My partner suggests to me that they are show offs. Actually, we find them to be friendly and interesting. After scrapping plans to visit Egypt due to the recent unrest there, they started out from their home in San Diego and were spending 3 1/2 weeks visiting as many National Parks as they could get to.  As we leave the wife is making sandwiches on the tailgate of their car in true vacation road warrior fashion.

On our way back to Jackson is the Chapel of the Transfiguration, which I had read about online during my advance research for the trip. I had not realized that it was part of a small complex of buildings called the Menor's Ferry historic district. In the early years of the 20th century a ferry crossed the river at this spot. At this late point in the season the buildings are locked and the small ferry boat is dry docked. Aside from the Chapel there is also a General Store. It now sells antiques during the tourist season in it's front section and has a period bedroom set up in it's back half. The store's small outbuildings include a smokehouse, cold house and on outhouse which gives the term primitive new meaning. The outhouse may explain the legendary mean temper of the store's founder.

The historic district also includes the Maude Noble cabin, a log structure where, in 1923, a meeting took place where the preservation of the unique western nature of the Tetons was first discussed. This meeting was the catalyst for convincing John D Rockefeller to purchase several thousands acres of the Tetons and donate them to the U.S. for use as a National Park.

We spent time peering into the windows of the locked structures. My partner rang the church's bell, which hangs in a small western style gazebo on the wooden boardwalk which leads up to the tiny chapel. He took a bow after his performance before we returned to the car and headed back to Jackson.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dining and Shopping in Jackson

Breakfast and dinner, lunch was generally a sandwich we made and carried with us, were taken at a Barbecue restaurant steps away from our cabin. The staff was friendly and fun, the food excellent, the portions generous and the price reasonable. At our first meal our waitress, young, heavyset, black eyebrows more pencil than brow with a piercing below her lower lip, was asked by my partner, "How's the corn on the cob?" Without hesitating for even a second she replied in a flat tone of voice, "I wouldn't". After a momentary pause she added, "I want you to enjoy your food". We did not order the corn on the cob. The half of a barbecued chicken I did order was divine except so heavily honey glazed that I felt compelled to wash my hands several times after eating it. I, let it be understood, am not complaining! Breakfast the next morning featured grits done to perfection, rich and creamy, not the least bit watery and a biscuit so large it looked as if it had been cut from the dough with a coffee can. My final meal there was topped off, at the suggestion of the young, blond, jewelry laden waitress by banana creme pie. Delicious, again rich and buried under a mountain of whipped creme.

The shops in the historic district teem with average to outstanding Native American, western and western inspired goods of every sort. One shop specializes in lush wool Pendelton blankets, shirts and jackets. In another beaded fringed garments are featured whose level of beauty and fine workmanship are matched by the level of the price on their tag. One store carries an assortment of mounted animal heads, animal pelts, antlers and an 8 foot tall stuffed Grizzly bear priced at $22,000. I neglected to ask whether it was guaranteed not to molt. Art galleries abound catering to the more well heeled visitors. There are also the stores, ubiquitous in any resort town, filled with tee shirts, fleece, baseball caps and magnets all bearing the name of the town or the sights that surround it.

The cast of characters manning the stores were as fun and entertaining as the waitresses in the restaurant. In one store specializing in Native American goods an immaculately groomed woman launched into a long conversation with us regarding the prices of gold and silver and how they related to the economy in general. I felt, for a moment, that I was part of a round table discussion on CNN. Later, another, somewhat hefty woman with large, unnaturally black hair, wearing out sized jewelry to match her heft and hair suggests we look at her Native American pawn pieces. Before long I have a vintage silver and turquoise ring on my finger and my credit card out of my pocket. A perky blond leads us into the dingy "sale" area of a shoe store to retrieve the leather soled socks my partner had been searching for all afternoon., In the single antique store in the historic district the proprietor tells us about her picking methods and the stories behind some of her goods She keeps us in the store with a one sided conversation for a full twenty minutes even though after 5 minutes it was obvious she did not have what we were looking for and that we would be leaving empty handed.

Then there was the woman of European extraction, judging from her accented english, in the store specializing in cooking oils, vinegars and spices. I lost count of the number of things we taste tested off of tiny white ceramic spoons before settling on a vinaigrette marinade and spices for us and my cousin who we would be visiting for Thanksgiving.

Somewhat poorer that we started out that morning we returned to the cabin with our purchases and relaxed enjoying the gentle patter of the rain on the roof.


Jackson aka Jackson Hole Wyoming

The town of Jackson is small, under 9000 people, and tall, over 6000 feet above sea level. The adjective we decided best describes it's historical center, most of which dates form the first three decades of the 20th century, is cute. As in West Yellowstone, log structures mix with traditional "Wild West" architecture. Most of the sidewalks in the central district, many of them wood, are protected from the weather by the eaves and balconies of the buildings that line them. On each of the corner entrances of the town square is a large arch constructed of the antlers shed each spring by the local population of elk. An annual event in Jackson is an auction  of these antlers, collected by enterprising Boy Scouts, from the nearby elk preserve. A war memorial, topped with a statue of a cowboy on a horse, rearing up, front legs in the air, stands in the center of the square. The cowboy and the rearing horse seems to be a trademark of Jackson as it can be seen in several different incarnations throughout the town.

At one point, we get an old meets new moment when we see a long, lean man in traditional cowboy hat and boots, jeans and a sheepskin jacket, standing under the antler arch talking on his smart phone.

Among the sites of note in the historic district is St John's Episcopal Church. Constructed in 1915, it, like several other buildings in the town, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. As you explore the small historic district you see many buildings bearing plaques giving recognition by the town for renovations of structures over 50 years old. St John's is a small log structure. Inside, sunlight is filtered through diamond pane and new and original stained glass windows,. The warmth of the natural log walls and the soft light give the diminutive sanctuary an atmosphere of peace and serenity.

Our accomadations are in the "Cowboy Village Resort", a name that manages to sound butch and gay at the same time. It's logo is a cowboy, in full regalia, hat, boots and wide chaps, a cowboy queens fantasy man! It is a development of log cabins set side by side on the outside and in the center of a circular drive. It reminds me of a 1950"s era motor court.Our cabin is clean, compact but adequate, with a certain rustic charm. A small alcove contains a mini refridgerator/freezer, 2 burner stove and kitchen sink. The up to date bathroom contains a small window, which, unfortunately, looks directly into the cabin next door. Out the front door, from under the wide porch that runs along the front of the cabin, there is a view of one of the small hills that surround the town. It's chair lifts and ski runs are visible awaiting the snow and skiers which will arrive in droves later in the season. The sound of rain showers on the roof create a soothing white noise as we lie staring up at the large logs which support it.

The resorts anemnities include an indoor pool and hot tub, and a fitness center. Magpies flit through the trees and potted petunias hang from the eaves and lampposts still in full blossom even this late in the year.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Grand Tetons - Our First Glimpse

We drove out the south entrance of Yellowstone towards our second destination, Grand Tetons National Park and Jackson, Wyoming. As we leave a series of signs, erected by the park Service, proclaim:

We Saw Wildlife
From Afar
Until We Hit Them
With Our Car


Spying the sign announcing the entry to the park we slowed down and stopped for a photo op. Stepping out of the car the first thing we noticed was the heavy pine scent to the cold mountain air. A man stopped at the same spot offers to take our photo together and also gives us news of the roads ahead. All are open except one which is closed due to a mother grizzly and her two cubs having taken up residence in the area. This road remains closed for the duration of our visit.

As we continue the glorious yellow leaves set against the white trunks of Aspens fill our view. A brilliant blue lake forms a backdrop to the leaves, white wood and evergreens. Then, we get our first look at the Grand Tetons mountain range. Magnificent, snow covered peaks rise straight up from the meadows that surround them as if dropped there by accident by some massive hand. Glaciers nestle near their craggy summits, waterfalls drop from heights that seem improbable. "Purple Mountains Majesty" could have been written with this range in mind as these peaks are truly majestic.

We pull into a scenic turnout and gaze in awe at this sight. It is a view we will return to several times over the next few days. At each return visit the sense of awe does not diminish.

We have been on the road for several hours. Fatigue and hunger are beginning to overtake us. Since we have several days here we bid the mountains farewell for the moment and head towards the ski resort town of Jackson.

Thanks Teddy R!

We have Teddy Roosevelt to thank for creating this first of our National Parks and ensuring that it's wonders and beauty are preserved for the enjoyment and enrichment of all.

Discovering the Unexpected - Yellowstone's Waterfalls

While fooling around on the Internet one Sunday prior to our visit, I came across a website detailing the waterfalls of Yellowstone. I had never associated the park with waterfalls. I now stand informed. They range from tall, softly flowing ribbons of water to short powerful cascades. Hunting them out was a high point of our visit.

Kepler Cascades

This was the first water feature we visited. As the name implies, cascades of water flow into a river creating rapids at their base. They are viewed from a bridge built over the swiftly moving river.

Gibbon Falls

This waterfall is on the shorter side. It is split into two distinct parts. A gentle flow on one side, while the other side, forced through a more narrow opening, gushes powerfully before mingling in the river below with it's more placid other half.

Lewis Falls

Serendipitously discovered while we were on our way out of the park, this 30 foot high majestic cascade empties into a river which winds through marshes and a meadow clad in the beautiful golden hues of autumn.

Undine Falls

Set against a craggy rock wall, 3 large tiers of water empty into sloping rapids rumbling down a deep narrow channel.

Tower Falls

A beautiful and graceful lady, tall stone pinnacles stand along her sides like sentinels before her extremely long, narrow ribbon of water plunges to the valley far below.

Wraith Falls

This one requires a 1/4 mile stroll down a meadow trail and across boardwalks erected over fragile marshy wetlands. A thin sheet of water first slides down a sloping rock face and than a winding staircase cut by nature into the stone wall before disappearing into the small stream at it's base.

The last two mentioned here are the most powerful and best known falls in the park.

The Upper Falls

Strong, quickly moving rapids lead up to this muscular powerhouse of water. Caves have been carved into the red lichen spotted rock wall along one side of the top of these falls by the force of the river before it makes it's roaring plunge. The viewing platform at the brink of this waterfall is remarkably accessible. At it's base a river flows leading to -

The Lower Falls

Although reaching the brink of these falls could be difficult for some, it is well worth the effort. The falls, although beautiful, full and powerful, are not as awe inspiring as what they have created over the years, the "Grand Canyon of Yellowstone". A deep channel whose steep walls are shades of yellow, orange and gray. Evergreens line the canyon's top and sprout along the walls in crevices and outcroppings. The canyon is a place of supreme beauty which should not be missed. 


Yellowstone - Mammoth Hot Springs Traps Tourists

Mammoth Hot Springs is a small, very historic settlement at the far north end of the park. It is dominated by a huge white mound created by the superheated thermal features it contained within it which hiss and steam. A boardwalk, again, carries visitors who wish to view these around and over the massive mound. Nearby, mid and late 19th century buildings mingle with more modern structures and the elk herd which resides in the settlements central square.

This is the site of Fort Yellowstone, built to ensure law and order in the park before the founding of the National Park Service. The current Park Ranger uniforms are a holdover from that era. The fort, troop and officer quarters, constructed of limestone, which abounds in this area, still stand. The bachelor barracks are a dormitory like structure while the officer quarters, now private residences, form a line of gracious homes standing along the square. There is also a general store, now a gift shop, which, like many of the buildings, also dates from the late 1800's. Inside the former fort headquarters are exhibits detailing the history of Yellowstone. A modern hotel and restaurant, operated by a corporate concession, also sits here, somewhat out of character with the older architecture. It is apparent that many park visitors do not venture much farther into the park than this judging from their excitement regarding the elk herd grazing in the square. At this point, we had viewed scores of the animals in much more natural environs. We later saw a small group of modest, modern homes nestled in a valley nearby. Presumably these are the homes of the service personnel at the exhibits and concessions. As the saying goes; if you love nature and the park "It's nice work if you can get it."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Yellowstone - Geothermal Wonders or God Dropped Acid

Perhaps the thing that Yellowstone is most known for is it's geothermal features. When we got close to Old Faithful it's next eruption was predicted to be at 1:37. I wondered how they could be so precise. We soon found out that the predicted time is not always the time of the actual eruption.

We got to the geyser early. We watched, with about 35 other people, as the famous geyser erupted at 1:15. As the crowd grew and 1:37 came and went, an unfortunate park ranger was sent out to tell the crowd that the eruption had already happened and the next one was not predicted to occur until 3:00. The geyser does not go very high, although the coldness of the ground this day may have dampened it's power. It did go on somewhat longer that I had expected however.

Other features are scattered about the park. The first of these we encountered required a short walk to a small pool of boiling water spouting a thick cloud of sulfurous steam. Boardwalks surround most of the sites as the geothermal features are very fragile and the earth around them is thin and can give way easily which would result in  quite a nasty injury. Grisly signs repeatedly inform visitors of the dozen people that have burned to death.

At another point there were bubbling pots of mud. A small geyser spit water out of a diminutive cone. A somewhat larger geyser spouted off in the corner of a scalding pond. The ground was orange from the lichen growing around the boiling pools.

The colors of the Finger Paint pots look as if God took acid or a healthy dose of mushrooms before creating them. Brilliant blue, translucent pools reveal the white rock formations inside them. Around them grow various shades of green lichen. Here the orange color of the ground is the result of the sulphurous emissions from the pools. One very renown pool contains eye jarring, otherworldly bands of colors radiating from it's center to it's edge. Green pools remind me of Easter egg dyes.

Viewing the Artist's Paint Pots requires a walk through  grove of evergreens which reminded me of a Christmas Tree lot. In this spot the sulfur steam has not only stained the ground orange, it has also turned the ferns growing in the area a bright red. There are bubbling pots of water colored white, pink, blue and green. Again, various shades of lichen thrive in an atmosphere that would be lethal to other plant life. The total effect is a mad kaleidoscope of colors, textures and motion.

Then there is the Mud Volcano. A boardwalk takes you past boiling pits of mud and steam. A crowd pleaser and my personal favorite spot is the Dragon's Mouth where steam escapes from a cave as scalding water simmers and leaps outside it's mouth.

The Midway Geyser basin contains some of the largest of the geothermal pools in the park. They are also some of the most difficult to view due to the enormous amounts of steam and sulfur emitted by them. The Opal Pool located here has an iridescent red edge that surrounds a deep blue center. There is a crater created by a massive geyser eruption with steaming water in it's deep basin. These are all set in a barren, almost lunar landscape where magma heated water streams in a thin sheet across the earth. This water eventually runs off into the Firehole River at the rate of 4000 gallons per minute.Waterfalls of the boiling water descend into the cool river down a riverbank stained orange and green. One waterfall appears to travel down a set of emerald green steps, the rock stained by lichen and eroded by time.

Steam rising from the numerous other hot spots in the rivers, creeks and lakes are a constant companion as you travel through this wondrous landscape.


Yellowstone - Senic Beauty

The wildlife of Yellowstone wanders through a place of awesome scenic beauty. Our first day the trees and ground carried a blanket of brilliant white snow. When it melted autumn gold meadows with patches of purple sage were revealed. Rising high above them were sheer rugged cliffs of limestone and prehistoric volcanic rock dotted with evergreens. In the distance, majestic snow covered mountains could be seen . Sulfurous steam from the park's geothermal features floated across the fields and meadows. The high altitude allows one to cross the Continental Divide several times as you travel the winding roads.

A massive wild fire in 1988 burned 40% of the park. Some mountainsides were untouched by the fire and boast large stands of old growth forest. In the fire affected areas young trees have taken root among the remains of their charred ancestors, growing thick and lush. Occasionally you can see a more mature tree, miraculously spared by the fire, standing tall among it's younger brothers.

Lakes, wetlands and the rivers that snake through the meadows complete the visual feast of this very special place.