Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Traveling Around


Never trust the sighting of a binocular-bearing tourist in a large group, especially in a spectacular viewing area like the Grand Teton Lodge patio, who wants to be the first to see the bear...when they scream out, "It's a bear," the it almost always turns out to be a rock or a dead tree limb.


On our last day in Yellowstone. Moved from the south (Grant Village) campground to the upper (Mammoth Springs) one....about 75 miles north. Although it is spectacular and the geothermal features interesting, Yellowstone is an over-visited park. Most of the features are accessible (or secret -- see below) by strolling a boardwalk. Buses unload groups at one vista and pick them up at another parking lot below so folks don't have to hike up (while Alan and I are some of the few who enjoy the hike-through's). Even the more strenuous trails -- like Uncle Tom's -- seem as crowded as a Disney attraction.

So, we found a more isolated trail -- the Beaver Pond trail, a little more than 5 miles. Starting with a sharp ascent, the trail soon rewarded us with a lush wildflower strewn meadow -- again, that brilliant tri-color palette of primarily purples (lupines and geraniums),yellows (profusion of small western sunflowers and butter-and-eggs) and green foliage accentuated with some pink roses and white yarrow. Next, we viewed ducks (and ducklings) on a pond and got bitten as the mosquitoes congregate in this area.

We momentarily lost the trail as we had to cross a stream and then as we wended down hill, we were back in full sun on an arid hill. Around the bend we were "caught" in a large herd of elk crossing the path. Only a few other hikers were on this path. We felt lucky and rejuvenated.


Crowds sitting on rows of metal seats according to a posted time schedule. Like many natural phenomena, Old Faithful doesn't end with a bang. Its trajectory is like a upside down U. Starts sputtering, builds to crescendo, and then slowly and gracefully ends. But we people are used to climaxes from musical finales to fireworks displays. So people walk away in droves as the geyser continues..


Many of the wonderful Yellowstone features -- geysers and steaming springs -- can be seen by walking along boardwalk paths. When Alan and I first visited this park briefly about thirty years ago, my favorite feature was the hot bubbling mud pots.This time we looked for them and couldn't find them and then discovered that there was a "Mud Pot Special," a ranger-led hike, offered twice a week.

Disappointed that the hike was already full when we tried to register for it, we decided to walk the area by ourselves. So began our inquiries...where exactly are the mud pots, where does the mud pot special hike go? One ranger responded that the hike was in the Pocket Basin area -- but he didn't know where that was exactly. When asked about Pocket Basin, three other rangers said they never heard of it. When we finally seemed to track it down, one ranger called the hike leader to get the info....we were then told that the leader wouldn't disclose it. Overhearing our discussion (and our increasing frustration) another ranger piped in...lecturing us about why we couldn't get the info and that people have gotten burned hiking on their own and we couldn't.. yadda yadda.

So, we gave up. We weren't persistent enough sleuths. We never tracked it down, never saw the special mud pots. Maybe we will on our next visit --in another 30 years?


With images of Smoky and Yogi and Bullwinkle, is it a surprise that we humans have an unrealistic view of animal behavior? The signs are everywhere, Don't feed them, don't get too close. And then we are reminded about how long this has been going on. Old photos of Yellowstone show guests hand feeding the bears. And the story that it took awhile for the Park admin to figure out feeding the animals was a problem and then they killed over 250 bears because after being fed they were spoiled -- and aggressive.

After I wrote the above I came across this quote from the novel, Blood Lure by Nevada Barr. The main character, Anna Pigeon, is a Natl Park Ranger.

"The Glacier rangers routinely lamented the fact that the American people were such idiots they thought of these wildest of animals (grizzly bears) as big cuddly pets. One man had been stopped in the act of smearing ice cream on his five-year-old son's cheek in hopes of photographing a bear licking it off. "

No comments: