Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the seventh day of our travels.
We packed up our van at the Canyon Campground and headed out for our return journey to Salt Lake City. The Artists Paintpots was the one remaining attraction we hadn’t seen that was still on my wish list, so Susan graciously agreed to make a stop there on the way. I thought the Artists Paintpots was a roadside attraction like the other geysers, but upon arriving we learned there was a 1.2-mile hike for the round trip to the paintpots. Kay was not up for this, so Susan returned with her to wait in the van while Peter and I made the hike.
It was worth the trip. We’d seen geothermal features by Lake Yellowstone in West Thumb and in arid basins in the Old Faithful area, but this was the first time we saw them in a forest. The rising steam in the woods gave it a fairy tale feel. I did have the impression there would be more bubbling mud than we actually saw, but I guess it was the dry season. We returned to the van at the right time, because a wave of other tourists were just heading in. In fact we’d see a lot of inbound traffic heading into the park for the Labor Day weekend as we drove out. Not all the congestion was human-made, though, as we delighted in the awesome experience of seeing a large bison bull saunter down the road.
Leaving Yellowstone through the west gate, we arrived in the town of West Yellowstone, Montana. We stopped here to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a small zoo for rescue animals that would give us the chance to see some of the wildlife we didn’t see in the parks, including grizzly bears, wolves, raptors, and otters! We arrived at the right time being the last family admitted for a noon entry group. Inside we saw the grizzly bear Nakina, and then the change over when the twin sister cubs Condi and Seeley enter the enclosure. One of the cubs climbed the tree to get a feeder left by the center’s staff, but had some trouble getting back down from the tree.
Susan spent a lot of time talking with the naturalist, learning facts about the bears and their behavior. She also got confirmation that she and Peter probably saw a glimpse of a bear several days earlier on the Moose-Wilson Road. I spent a lot of time watching the otters until dragged away by the children. We headed into Yellowstone and were able to get lunch from a 50s-style diner. Then it was on the road again for a long drive to Salt Lake City. The route back through Idaho was less scenic than on our drive to Grand Teton, but we did pass numerous locations for boating and tubing that were attracting Labor Day crowds. We arrived in Salt Lake City just after sunset, happy to check into a hotel room with comfy beds and a television.
Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the sixth day of our travels.
We had a full day catching on many Yellowstone attractions we hadn’t seen yet. Since we didn’t make it to Old Faithful on our geyser day, we headed there first. We arrived in the confusing complex of parking, access roads, hotels, and support buildings wondering where the actual geyser was located. But it was Kay who pointed and said, “It’s right there, Dad!”
The next eruption was not expected for another hour so we went into the Old Faithful Lodge to pick up breakfast food from the cafeteria. We took it outside to eat on a bench under the eaves of the Lodge and watch the steam rise from Old Faithful in the distance. People were already gathering on the crescent of benches around Old Faithful, so after breakfast we claimed our own socially-distanced bench. Peter & I went for a walk on the trails around Old Faithful and saw some of the smaller geothermal features in the area.
On schedule, Old Faithful erupted as it always does. Kind of remarkable to think it has been doing so for hundreds probably thousands of years. Having fulfilled our Old Faithful obligation, we returned to the van and drove to the Midway Geyser Basin. It was also crowded and we ended up parking down the road along the Firehole River instead of the parking lot. This gave us a nice walk along the river before reaching the boardwalks around the Grand Prismatic Spring.
The Grand Prismatic Spring was lovely and the boardwalks were nowhere near as crowded as all the parked cars would indicate. I also began to notice that it was “Wear Lycra Leggings to Yellowstone Day” but we didn’t get the memo. So embarrassing. There is a path that leads to an overlook to see the Grand Prismatic Spring but we didn’t know where it was and after being in direct sunlight at both Old Faithful and Midway Geyser Basin, it was getting too hot to consider hiking up a hill.
So we returned to the van for a nice, long air-conditioned ride through the scenery to the park entrance in the northwest corner. This included passing through a windy, mountain pass and into lower elevations than we had been to since arriving in the park (although still higher than most of the peaks in New Hampshire’s White Mountains!). We visited Roosevelt Arch, the formal gateway to Yellowstone dedicated in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt himself. We did some shopping at a Yellowstone gift shop – where Kay got a bison hoodie – and then ate lunch at a pizza place.
We reentered the park and made our next and final stop at Mammoth Hot Springs. These springs deposit minerals creating terraces of stone with remarkable patterns. Susan said it was like the inside of cave on the outside. We walked up and around the boardwalks increasingly noticing that we were feeling quite warm. The kids had enough so I took them to the van while Susan did some more climbing to an overlook. While in the van we checked the local weather and learned that it was 90°! I guess this is what people call a “dry heat.”
Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the fifth day of our travels.
To lift our spirits after feeling tired and cranky the day before, we started off our fifth day by treating ourselves to a hot breakfast from the eatery at the Canyon Lodge. We ate at the picnic tables outside under the watchful eyes of the local ravens. Fueled by scrambled eggs and French toast, we spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon taking in the views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
We started on the south rim stopping at Artists Point and Uncle Tom’s overlooks. Then we saw everything again from the north rim at Lookout Point and Inspiration Point. The Yellowstone River dropping over the Upper and Lower Falls never failed to please and we enjoyed the many colors of the canyon, including the stones of yellow. We also enjoyed watching the osprey soar over the canyon. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is very photogenic. Not that it stopped Kay from stealing our phones to take selfies and silly photos of her family.
After resting in the afternoon, we went to the Canyon Corral. Susan and the kids went horseback riding on an hour-long guided tour and saw elk from the saddle. Kay bonded with the wrangler Jonathan by talking about Star Wars. Meanwhile, I went for a drive through the Hayden Valley where I saw a small hide of bison (with very cute calves), a coyote, and many spectacular vistas.
I saw two different films related to Yellowstone National Park available on Disney+ so I watched them both in preparation for my trip to Yellowstone.
Title: Yellowstone Cubs Release Date: June 1, 1963 Director: Charles L. Draper Production Company: Walt Disney Productions Summary/Review:
This 45-minute, live action short tells the story of two bear cubs, Tuffy and Tubby, who are separated from their mother. She is marked as a “bad bear” and exiled from the park and then spends the whole summer tracking down her cubs. Meanwhile Tuffy and Tubby cause mayhem like causing a trailer to roll down a hill and take out a tent, stealing a motorboat, and eating all the food left out unattended in the kitchen of the Old Faithful Inn.
It’s pretty clear that domesticated bears were used in making this films, and bear paw props were used for closeups when a paw manipulates a boat engine or a can of whipped cream. To be fair, this movie never claims to be a documentary or even a True Life Adventure, merely a funny story about bear cubs. It is surprising to see the opening credits confirm the involvement of the National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park, and Montana Game and Wildlife (I guess Wyoming wanted no part of this even though it’s where the movie takes place).
The message of this movie is made clear that feeding wild bears is dangerous for the bears and for human visitors for the park. And yet the folksy narration seems to undercut that with jokes about bears working the passing traffic for handouts (in front of signs prohibiting the feeding of bears). Times have certainly changed since this movie was made and so this movie serves as an odd time capsule rather something anyone should expect from a visit to Yellowstone.
Title: Wild Yellowstone Release Date: December 3, 2015 Production Company: Brain Farm Digital Cinema Summary/Review:
This two-part documentary follows much the same structure of the BBC Yellowstone documentary with an episode for winter (“The Frozen Frontier”) and summer (“Grizzly Summer”) focusing on the survival strategies of various animals. Unfortunately, despite some beautiful captures of animals in the wonderland of Yellowstone, the movie takes a sensationalist approach in its narration as well as editing tricks which involve quick cuts among slow-motion and time-lapse. I give this points for having lots and lots footage of otters as well as treating fights among hummingbirds as dramatically as fights among sheep, elk, and bison.
Author: Kurt F. Johnson Title: A Field Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks Publication Info: Farcountry Press (2013) Summary/Review:
A really spectacular guide book to the animals, plants, fungi, waterfalls, geysers, and even the night time sky in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. This is an excellent reference to have handy when traveling in the parks and wondering just what exactly is that!
Isolating during the pandemic sucks, but it’s provided scientists the conditions for scientific research not possible during normal levels of activity, such as: air pollution, boredom, vaccination, and redesigning cities for people not cars.
An historical event I’ve never heard of before involves Coya Knutson, the first woman elected to Congress from Minnesota (in 1955), and the letter allegedly written by her estranged husband telling her to come home. Her election opponent used this scandal to win the next election.
Title: Yellowstone Release Date: March 2009 Director: [none listed] Production Company: BBC Natural History Unit | Animal Planet Summary/Review:
Yellowstone is a three-part nature documentary series filmed in Yellowstone National Park. The episodes each focus on a season: winter, summer, and autumn (spring gets short shrift but since the snows don’t melt until June, maybe there is no spring). I think if you drop some decent cinematographers with quality cameras into Yellowstone you’re guaranteed to get a gorgeous film, but nevertheless the visuals in this documentary are absolutely spectacular. The theme of the series is “The Battle for Life” so it does veer toward overly dramatic narration.
Winter – Yellowstone’s geothermal features and landscape contribute to long, severe winters with heavy snowfall. Wolves thrive in the winter as they are able to hunt weakened herds of elk. Bison use their heavy heads like a snowplow to search for edible grasses. A red fox dives through the snow to capture mice. And in my absolute favorite part, otters practically swim through the snow and use an opening in the ice created by geysers as a place to fish.
Summer – The season sees the emergence of a bear and her cubs. Other animals including pronghorn, bison, and wolves are also birthing young and keeping them alive in dangerous conditions. Cuthroat trout swim upstream to spawn and are hunted by otters and osprey. Toward the end of the season, bear climb high in the mountains where they feed on army cutworm moths (like blue whales living on krill!).
Autumn – Trees devour their chlorophyll and erupt in gorgeous colors. Whitebark pine cones are spread with the help of squirrels, bears, and Clark’s nutcrackers. Beavers repair their dams and stock up food for the winter. Male elk and bighorn sheep fight among themselves for the right to mate with their respective females. For the first time in the series, we also see humans as the elk and pronghorn migrate to lower ground outside of the park, with the wolves hot on their heels. The wild animals have to face the dangers of hunters, motor vehicles, industry, and residential development, while ranchers are uneasy about wolves attacking their herds.
My wonderful family gifted me a weekend at a cabin in the White Mountains near Jackson, New Hampshire to celebrate my 45th birthday. In addition to some cozy time in a cabin by a stream in a wintry wonderland, we went to Jackson Cross Country to do some snowshoeing (with our lovely guide, Rob) and rode the Santaland Express on the Conway Scenic Railroad. It was absolutely sunny and gorgeous on Saturday for snowshoeing and rainy and miserable for our rail trip, which is ideal compared to the opposite.
Our first day in Jamaica Plain for JP A to Z brings us to the Arnold Arboretum. A link in the chain of green spaces that make up Boston’s Emerald Necklace, the “Ahbs” is part Harvard University tree museum. Whether you’re studying trees (or the animals that inhabit them) or just going for a walk or bike ride, Arnold Arboretum is a place enjoyed by JP residents in all four seasons.
Author: Helen Macdonald Title: H is for Hawk Narrators: Helen Macdonald Publication Info: Blackstone Audio, Inc. (2015) Summary/Review:
After the death of her father, Macdonald works through her grief by adopting and training a young goshawk, Mabel whom she calls “Thirty Ounces of Death in a Feathered Jacket.” This lyrical book is part memoir and part reflections on nature. It also is informed by T.H. White’s The Goshawk. While I’ve never read that book The Once and Future King and Sylvia Townsend Warner’s biography are among my favorite books, so I appreciate the back door biography of White. And I can’t help but love Mabel.
Recommended books: T. H. White: a biography by Sylvia Townsend Warner and Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell. Rating: ***