Monday, October 25, 2010

Yellowstone Park at its uncrowded best

Bulls testing their horns at Mammoth Hot Springs

Bison, as ever, everywhere in the park

Wolf "hunters" in Lamar Valley

We took our annual Yellowstone National Park fall trip over the weekend and hit some of the most glorious fall colors I’ve ever seen.
In years past the trees during this same weekend had been past the height of their colors.
Yes, the aspen were mostly gone this year.  But, the cottonwoods were bright and colorful, particularly along the Yellowstone and Gardner rivers.
We did the usual tour of the Lamar Valley looking for wolves.  No, we didn’t see any.  But we saw plenty of elk and bison, and even got caught in a lengthy traffic jam when a herd of bison decided to take over the main road.
The following day (Saturday) we went to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone near Canyon Junction and took an exceptional day hike beginning at the Upper Falls parking lot.  We walked the south rim over an old and beautiful, but now unused park bridge, to the Chittenden Bridge over the Yellowstone to the North Rim, where we walked a high trail to Artist’s Point.  We turned around walked back, this time stopping to walk down “Uncle Tom’s Staircase”, some 328 steps on a steep metal staircase and more than 500 feet to a grand overlook of the Lower Falls.
The entire hike of about 7 miles was breathtaking all the way.  We got to look into the canyon and see the falls’ from various vantage points.
Katie laboring up Uncle Tom's Staircase in Yellowstone Canyon
We passed only a couple of parties along the way; parties that walked from nearby parking lots to other vantage points on the North Rim trail.
Of course, we did the usual driving tours of the various geyser basins, stopping for a longer look at Artists Paint Pots.
We topped the trip off with a meal at Chico Hot Springs.  It was expensive, maybe a little too expensive considering how the place bustles with business. When I pay that kind of money for a meal I’m more interested in a quiet and peaceful place to eat.  The food was pretty creative.  I had a vegetable and Portobello mushroom dish; my wife, fresh Alaska salmon.
We were lucky enough to have had beautiful, clear and warm weather on Saturday until the evening.
The weather began to turn as we left the park. We could see the clouds over Electric Peak were dumping snow.
On the way home we saw that the Bridgers had pretty good snow, and that Porphyry Peak on the Showdown Ski Area had a small covering of the white stuff.
Yellowstone Falls 
Color at Mammoth

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