14.06.2011 - 18.06.2011
Who switched off the heat?? I knew Yellowstone was in the Rockies but I didn't expect to get snowed on in summer! We've had four magical days in Yellowstone National Park which, having left the research up to Ben, was such a surprise to me in so many ways.
We stayed in the Canyon area of Yellowstone; really central to get around to all the areas of the park. Our first full day we explored the Canyon area on foot. There is a superb trail along the north rim starting about 1 mile from our campsite so we headed straight for Inspiration Point high above the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and walked along the rim of the canyon as far as the Lower Falls. Most of the walk was at or near the canyon edge and there were some stunning but sheer, scary drops down to the Yellowstone River. There was 250% more snow this winter than last and it is still melting away (causing the flooding we came across back in Iowa) so the river was really raging.
The trail also cut into wooded areas and involved the occasional bit of snow stomping but it was a great walk and it was my first chance to stretch my legs under the weight of Arthur in his new backpack. The wind was fairly strong which made for some nervous moments when near the canyon edge. Ben had to say a sad farewell to his cowboy hat - a gift from his work colleagues prior to the trip - which flew off and landed in a tree overhanging the canyon. There was a valiant effort to rescue the hat with a long branch but without success.
The sweet, eggy smell of home awaited us in the form of thermal springs, mud pools, geysers and other volcanic wonderments. We spent a day at the Steamboat and Old Faithful geyser basins. While there were plenty of similarities to Craters of the Moon in Taupo and the bubbling muds of Rotorua, here there was such a concentration of every colour you could imagine in a mineral spring, mud pools, huge explosive geysers and incredible formations in a relatively small area.
We got very lucky with our wildlife spotting and were privileged to see so many different animals in the wild. We had some kind of good bear karma and had six separate bear encounters, mainly black bears but we also got to see some grizzly bears. Once a bear is spotted, a 'bear jam' quickly develops as people in RVs and SUVs flock to look. But on three of the occasions, we were the first to spot the bears and had them to ourselves for a few minutes (at a distance of course). We also saw coyote, vole, elk (wapiti), bull snake, uinta ground squirrel, yellow-bellied marmot, snowshoe hare, pronghorn (type of deer), longhorn sheep, badger, mountain goats and hundreds more bison. Apart from the bears, our really special sighting was on a dawn trip we did with a guide, where we saw a male gray wolf. There are only around 120 of them in the whole park, having only been re-introduced in 1995. He was a beautiful animal. We only have a regular digital camera with no fancy features so our wildlife photos are very amateur and at times not even worth trying to take (the wolf for example). But here is a sample of our encounters.
Yellowstone really is an incredible, wild place and to see bears and a wolf in the wilderness were really special moments for us. It really is worth visiting for a few days...just take lots of winter woollies even in summer! And for anyone mystified by the title... a sloth is a group of bears and an obstinancy is a group of bison.