Thursday, November 1, 2007

Norris Geyser Basin, Canyon, and Chittendon Road

We broke camp in the cold rain, which started overnight. Before departing, I sat on the pit toilet and the deer stared boldly at me. Mt Sheridan was still in the clouds.

Rain changed to snow as we made our way out of the valley, a welcome alternative to the icy rain. A bear bellowed from across the meadow and we stopped to listen. A short while later, we rounded a corner and surprised two great horned owls at close range. They turned their heads and stared wide-eyed at us before screeching and alighting into the forest. Munching on trail mix and beef jerky, we made our way to the van.

Ranger Roy discussed his favorite campsites at the backcountry office, all fishing holes. After 20 years in the park, Roy and his wife were still avid anglers. We were hoping to hike into the wilderness again, but the weather forecast was cold and wet. Tim and I agreed on a tentative itinerary for tomorrow. We would camp tonight at Grebe Lake Trailhead.

On our way to the Grebe Lake we met a herd of bison. We waited patiently as they cleared a path for our vehicle. We stopped at a nearby thermal area to see the “Dragon’s Mouth.” One of the more interesting features(and arguably the smelliest), “Dragon’s Mouth” is a roiling mud pit that erupts from a cave, spitting gallons of scalding muddy water with each belch. A worthwhile side excursion.
That night we camped in the VW at the Grebe Lake trailhead, thankful for the roof over our heads.

In the morning, we opted for a guided tour of Norris Geyser Basin. The rain and snow kept us out of the deep woods. We met our tour guide/park ranger a few minutes before the tour began. Anticipating his return to Iowa, Curtis was finishing his last day (and tour) of the season. After finishing his degree in geology, he volunteered for the national park service in Hawaii for a year. He was surprised when Yellowstone responded to his resume and he accepted the position in the park for this summer.

Tim and I made up his audience. He cleared his throat and introduced himself to us again. We followed him along the boardwalks in the basin for an hour while he discussed the different thermal features and their histories.

Next we headed to the Canyon area, known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. There we found a handful of paved hikes that led us to different viewing areas of Yellowstone Falls and breathtaking views of the canyon. The waterfalls are amazing.

Somewhere along the way we picked up a freeloader, which we concluded was a chipmunk. Known as “chippers” to the rangers, this bold ground squirrel jumped into our camper and dined on our granola bars, raisin bread and cheddar potato chips before silently exiting the camper at another stop. We stowed our remaining food items inside the fridge to prevent another incident.

We chose scenic Chittenden Road as the route to our next stop, Mammoth campground. The roadways inside Yellowstone offer some of the best wildlife viewing. Generally, you can determine the species of animal by the number of cars parked on the side of the road. We assumed there was a bear before we exited the car. A black bear and her two cubs grazed on the hillside while we (and many others) watched from a safe distance.

The restaurant at Mammoth was bustling with well-groomed visitors when we arrived around 8:30 P.M. We washed our faces and hands in the bathroom and ignored the stares while we sat at our candlelit table. The unappetizing smoked trout and cream cheese appetizer was overshadowed by a glass of red wine and an Irish coffee. It was nice to be back in civilization.

1 comment:

Stacey said...

Hey Lis! You are an amazing writer! Holy cow! I feel like I'm reading a book! Awesome! Matt and I love your pics and keep checking back often for some more! Where are you now? Will I ever see you again...Horses 4 Sale!! Love ya!

Stacey & Matt