Mar 20

Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center

Right outside of Yellowstone on the Montana side is the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. This center is a non-profit that rescues grizzly bears and wolves and also provides education to visitors.

We started our day with a tour of the facility and animals, the tour was great and our guide extremely knowledgable. Our first stop was a grizzly habitat that housed Kobuk and Nakina. They are brother and sister, their mother and other brother were killed in Alaska. That was our lucky day, our guide said they were usually pretty docile in the mornings, but today they played.  It was a little scary looking too (see the pictures).  Although these two were playing, the behavior was similar to bears in heat.

After the bears we moved on to the Wolf area.  There were only a few wolves out that morning, but they were beautiful.  We learned about the alpha male and the hierarchy of wolves, very interesting.  It also reminded me of Twilight.

There were also a few birds on property, including a Bald Eagle who had been poisoned.  His brain was screwed up from that and he was always looking in funny directions and was obviously screwed up, it was sad.  But it was also nice to know that there was a safe place for him to go.

After our tour of the animals we were invited to go inside the museum, they just displayed a few things to learn a bit more.  This section is probably more appropriate for someone who is not on a tour, but it was nice to take a walk around.

Outside there is a display of bear safe containers.  When containers want to be certified for bear safety, this is where they come for testing.  Kobuk it seems is very good at getting into containers, so they give him the containers and if he can’t get into them in a prescribed period of time (don’t remember what the time is) then they are certified as bear safe.

After that we all went into the shop.  The shop had a good selection, but my favorite thing was that there was a giant bear chair, and that was just fun.

If you’re in the area of West Yellowstone I think it’s absolutely worth it to stop here, if for no other reason then it is your best chance to see bears and wolves in yellowstone.  But it’s also nice to learn a bit about these animals and why you should not get too close to them in the park.

Mar 06

Yellowstone – Old Faithful and Norris Geyser

For my last edition of Yellowstone posts it’s all about Geysers, specifically Norris Geyser Basin and Old Faithful.  I’ll start with Norris Geyser since I know after you read about Old Faithful you’ll probably want to move on and we can’t have that.

At Norris Geyser there are several different geyser areas.  Steamboat Geyser is probably the most popular because it is the tallest geyser.  But, I went to the Porcelin Basin, which was very pretty and had some steam pockets, but nothing went off.  I didn’t feel so bad though because nothing went off at Steamboat Geyser either.  This are though represents a more baren type of geyser area, some others are more woodsey.  But it’s the type of place you could hang out at all day and nothing happens, which would make me sad.

Old Faithful is not the most regular or the largest geyser, but it is the most regular large geyser.  At Old Faithful there are two large lodges, one with food and shops, the other as more of a visitors center.  Old Faithful goes off every 35 to 120 minutes, when I was there it was on a 45ish minutes cycle.  She went off for about 2-3 minutes when we were there, long enough for me to watch a bit and take over 150 pictures.  When you enter Yellowstone the guards should be able to tell you when she’s scheculed to go off, you could probably also find out from just about any ranger at the park too.

The area is sectioned off and has a large seating area of benches.  People will be seated at least 15-20 mintues before, if it’s a crowded day you’ll probably want to find seating early.  The restaurant there will be busy after she goes off, you may want to plan your time around that if you don’t like crowds.  Is Old Faithful worth it?  Of course, it’s pretty cool watching a geyser go off and the wind blow the water off in one direction.  It’s a cool aspect of nature.  And since Old Faithful is pretty regular, it’s a great choice to guarantee you see a geyser go off.

Feb 13

Yellowstone – Yellowstone Falls and West Thumb

Moving past the less attractive sites of Mud Volcano and Mammoth Hot Springs to some of the nicest spots in Yellowstone today I’ll talk about Yellowstone Falls and West Thumb.

Yellowstone Falls are beautiful, my picture of them even made it my bathroom.  Yes, that is actually a compliment, it was not easy to find the perfect picture that was serene, beautiful and the right colors to hang in my bathroom.  At the falls there is an overlook/photospot, there are a few stairs here, but you can see the falls without climbing the stairs, it’s just not a great view from there.  For the more adverturesome there is also a hike here.  I am not a hiker, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know hiking is not my thing and I actually have a fear of hiking down hill, falling to my death is NOT on my bucket list.  The hike is about 45 minutes and not too strenuous.  There is a bit of up and down hill, but if I can do it, then the average healthy person can do it too.  But it does offer some great views and a breathe of fresh air.  I did skip the extra bit where you go down close to the falls, mostly because I wasn’t sure I would make it back to the bus on time, the people who went said the hill was pretty steep and the view wasn’t that much better.  Of course this hike makes more sense if you have someone to pick you up at the end.  I believe there is a bus system at Yellowstone, but I don’t have a clue how it works, but it may be an option.

The West Thumb Geyser Basin is another beautiful spot at Yellowstone.  Although this is a “geyser basin” the area isn’t known for its geyser activity, instead it has colorful, deep and really hot pools of water.  We stopped at the Abyss and Black Pools.  The pools are beautiful and unique, and just a treat to see.  This area also provides a great view of Yellowstone Lake.

Yellowstone Falls and the West Thumb Geyser Basin should be on everyones list of places to stop at while in Yellowstone.  They are beautiful and offer totally different landscapes and pretty ones at that. They are also very different landscapes then Mud Volcano and Mammoth Hot Springs.

Have you been to either?  Which is your favorite?

Jan 30

Yellowstone – Mud Volcano and Mammoth Hot Springs

Ok, I’ll admit it, neither Mud Volcano nor Mammoth Hot Springs are the prettiest places in Yellowstone.  But they are interesting because they are different then the typical landscapes you would see elsewhere.

Mud Volcano is where the not pretty is emphasized.  Unless of course you like mud…  The landscape here is similar to several other areas of Yellowstone, except instead of pretty water there is a mud like substance.  Mud Volcano was discovered in the 1870s, and “went off” shortly after.  It has left behind as a smelly, bubbling spring.  It would be wrong of me not to warn you, the place smells of sulfur or rotten eggs.  But because of its uniqueness it’s worth a quick visit, I just would choose to do a hike in this area.

Mammoth Hot Springs have an interesting formation, from the NPS website, “The step-like terraces form as heated water moves along the Morris-Mammoth Fault. The hot water carries dissolved calcium and bicarbonate to the surface of the terraces where pressure lessens. Carbon dioxide then escapes as gas and the carbonate combines with calcium to precipitate as travertine.” This means that the formations are constantly changing.  You wont notice a difference from day to day, but if you visit years later you may.  If you climb to the top you’ll get the payoff – the view of the valley below is gorgeous.  So, although it’s a hike to the top, it’s worth it.

Jan 16

Yellowstone National Park

Back in June on my Contiki Northern Adventure we had a day and a half stop in Yellowstone.  I’ve been to numerous National Parks, all very beautiful, but Yellowstone is MASSIVE and has a wide variety of beautiful scenery.

On our trip we visited several different areas of the park; Mud Volcano, Yellowstone Falls, Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin and on our last day we visited Old Faithful and West Thumb Geyser Basin.

In this post I’ll just talk about the overall experience there.  First, we were very lucky on our trip, we saw all of the infamous animals, which is not normal for a group traveling as quickly through the park as we did.  Buffalo were everywhere.  Actually, it was annoying the second day when we were stuck in traffic by all the people who apparently had not seen a Buffalo and were not used to seeing them everywhere.  Yes, Buffalo were everywhere.  As were deer and elk.  But wolves, bears and bald eagles are not everywhere, yet we managed to see them all!

A couple points of interest, Yellowstone is volcanic, as in, one day a volcano will erupt there.  Luckily, this is highly tracked so they’ll know well before it happens.  Yellowstone is also considered our first National Park.  But most importantly, it was chilly there for June.  Hey, when you’re sensitive to the cold that is an important detail.

But if you’re planning a trip here you really need to plan.  There are so many different types of things to do there, that you really need to plan what types of things you are interested in doing and find the best spots to do them.  If you just show up there, you’ll drive by pretty lakes and stuff, but you’ll miss the most interesting sites, some of which don’t sound like the most intersting from their names.

Have you been?  What are your favorite areas of the park?

Nov 07

Mount Rushmore And All The Presidents Heads

After Badlands, Wall Drug and the Corn Palace we finally moved on to one to one of the more anticipated stops of our trip, Mount Rushmore and 2 whole nights in the same hotel.

We headed out early in the morning for Mount Rushmore, only a 10 minute drive from our hotel in Keystone.  The setting is absolutely gorgeous, and we had a great day.  Sadly, we only had about an hour and a half at Mt. Rushmore, which wasn’t quite enough time.

We started out in the visitors center, which gives nice views of the mountain from the inside (handy if you’re visiting in bad weather).  Inside the visitors center they show a short film about the making of Mount Rushmore, it’s a great little movie and will make you appreciate the lengths they went to in creating this. it was all done with dynamite!  There is also a series of displays about the making of Rushmore and a small shop.  There is a much larger shop at the entrance to the park.

There is a lovely trail at the site that goes around the amphitheatre and gives some different views of the Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt.  It also has some museum like stops where you can see some of the models used in the design of Mount Rushmore.  The trail takes about a half an hour and if you start on the left the end of the trail involves walking up a lot of stairs.  Not fun when you have to meet the bus!  But the walk is worth it on a nice day to get a little closer and see the presidents heads from a different angle.

Amphitheater

Mount Rushmore was a great stop, one I was quite excited about on this trip.  It has a beautiful setting, and was where my tour did our group photo.  I also got the opportunity to kill someone in our assasins game on the tour.  Of course I was assasinated shortly after, but it was fun while it lasted.