Thursday, June 18, 2009

Yellowstone: Day one (Monday)

All three of my readers are getting restless about not having any Yellowstone Updates/Photos...

We wake up and get everything packed back into the car, while munching on some Nutrigrain bars. And then we head north. The weather holds steady in a drizzly state and we play around with the Prius climate controls. We exit out of the Grand Teton National Park without ever having seen the Tetons because of the low hanging clouds.

Grand Teton Buffalo

There's work being done on the Rockefeller Memorial Parkway and so we have to stop and wait for them to waive us through. So we wait, and we wait a little longer. And Shawn turns off the car because while the car is a hybrid, it still uses some of our planets' finite resources. The construction crew waives us through and the cars in front of us start to move.

Shawn tries to start the car by hitting the power button (yes, it's like a giant iPod). It beeps at us twice and then all the idiot lights turn on. Turn off the power, remove the key. Turn on the power again with the same results. This goes on for a few more minutes and finally the people behind us just go around. At one point, a guy pulls up beside us and his wife rolls down the window. She gives us a dumbfounded look as they roll on by. We sit in the middle of the road like dumb-dumbs because at this point we can't even figure out where the emergency flashers are (a few minutes later we find it--a large button on the middle console--in the same place it is in both my car and Shawn's truck). Finally the construction crew waves for us to halt moving--haha, that's funny! like we were moving. ha! We continue to try to figure out what is wrong with the car--you'd think with this ginormous LCD they have on the middle console that tells you when your car is using battery power and when it's using gasoline, that it would tell you what is wrong with your car, or perhaps maybe that the problem you're having right now is directly related to the fact that your foot is not pressed firmly on the brake pedal when you hit the power button. But no, that would be too easy. You may ask yourself why we didn't look at the users manual, and the answer is "because there wasn't one." The bigger question really is how Shawn managed to start the car at least 2 times prior to this point without any glitches.

Anyhoo, so we move on, and into Yellowstone. Where we proceed to stop at every 'town' we come to to see if they have the Yellow Heet (menthol alcohol) for the camp stove because the Red Heet (isopropyl alcohol) really sucks. We drive through the snow, the rain, the sleet, the sun, the clouds, and the snow again. We never find the Yellow Heet, in Yellowstone at least. As we're driving along we come across our first Bison Jam. That is, Bison on the roadway so you can't drive. We take some pictures, and Shawn seems pretty excited about the buffalo on the road. Because we're at the Mud Volcano location, we decide we might as well stop and see something that everyone who goes to Yellowstone sees.

When we're finished with the mud volcanos, we notice that the buffalo have now moved to the near side of the road, so we walk to the end of the parking lot to get some photos (still more than 30 yards away). Then the buffalo start moving toward us. I start backing up and Shawn tells me to just watch the other two and warn him if they get too close. We were probably much closer than we ever should have been, and the only thing we had going for us was that we didn't move, the buffaloes did...not that that would prevent them from charging and goring you...

Not zoomed in.

We decide we might as well stop at some of the other sites along the way since we probably won't go past the same places.
Lower Falls of Yellowstone Canyon

Around 3 pm we get into Mamoth Hotsprings. A place that Shawn thought we were going to get to by 10 in the morning. We check in with the Backcountry Office, where Shawn tells the guy that we'd like to do no more than 6 miles. The guy looks at the list of primitive sites available and tells us that he'd like to suggest this one trail, but we can't do that one because there's a carcass a couple hundred yards from the site so they've closed off the trail. Instead we should stay at one of these other sites, and of those, only this one allows campfires, and seeing as how it's cold out, we should probably go with that option. Shawn signs everything while the guy makes me watch the "what to do if you run into a grizzly" video. Shawn asks if he knows where we could pick up some denatured alcohol, and the ranger recommends that we drive into Gardiner, MT to The Flying Pig outdoor shop. The Flying Pig doesn't have any fuel of any sort according to the girl working the counter, and she recommends that we walk a couple blocks down to the grocery store for the alcohol (I don't think she knew what Shawn meant by de-natured, and thus thought we were looking for Everclear). Luckily, the grocery store had an automotive section that did have the Yellow Heet so all was good.

We head back into the park and practically run over a small herd of elk. After that thankfully avoided fiasco, we drive out to the trail head for the backpacking. And it starts to rain as we pack up our packs. We check in at the trail head--you have to check in and out at the trail head register, otherwise they will come looking for you. We start our journey and the sun comes out, but everything is still mud. We hike for a while, the clouds start rolling in again. We turn at the fork and continue walking. About an hour or so into this, I ask why we're not following the river anymore...of course this was AFTER seeing the black and grizzly bear prints, and the mostly intact bleached bones of an elk. Shawn pulls out the map, and that's when we realize we're on the wrong trail. And it's going to rain. And there's an antelope with a baby watching us like we're going to get her. Admittedly, we went off trail at that point and started heading for the river. Just as we hit the trail we were supposed to be on, it started raining. And it proceeded to rain all the way to our actual camp.

Antelope, on our way to the trail head.

We got into camp, got ready for bed and bear bagged all of our food and what-have-you. Shawn started pacing off 100-yards (the distance you're supposed to be from your food), and then I hear cussing. The previous jerkwad that stayed at the camp (likely the same one that made the 'artwork'--see Day 2 for pictures of said 'artwork') decided to take a dump in the middle of the area where you're supposed to set up your tent. So we had to walk another 50-yards or so and set up our tent in the middle of the field. We set up our tent in the rain and then pretty much went off to the bathroom and then crawled into bed. Probably at about 930 or so. I do remember praying to the dear lord that we not be eaten by bears (we had passed another set of undulate bones on the way into camp). I also remember having a dream that night...a nightmare really--we were on the airplane flying from Jackson Hole back to Denver when I turned to Shawn and yelled, "We forgot the huckleberry syrup!!!"

Because we all know that's the most important thing when you're out backpacking in grizzly country* --not forgetting to buy commemorative huckleberry syrup.

*and not just grizzly country, we were staying in an area known to be densely populated with predators in Yellowstone.

**pictures that didn't make it to the blog are on my Picasa page

***Because some of you (okay, only one of you) may be interested in WHERE we stayed while backpacking, you can find the Yellowstone Backcountry Trip Planner here: On the top of page 9, there's a close up map of the area we stayed. We stayed at campsite 2H9, and we were on our way to hiking to 2C1 when we figured out we were on the wrong trail. We started at the Hellroaring Trail Head. The campsites that were closed down were the 1A1, 1Y6 and 1Y8 because of the carcass.

****The official park map of Yellowstone can be found here: For whatever reason, the whole park map is the last PDF on the page, so look at the bottom of the webpage for the correct link. We came in from the south and did a 6 loop (we couldn't take the road between Canyon and Tower because Dunraven Pass was covered in snow.


Bond said...

Awesomeness! I am really wanting to go on vacation NOW. Yes, I have one coming up at the end of August, but all of this (even the fiasco parts) and a conversation with Andrea/Johnny yesterday about vacations has made me antsy to go. David and I need to plan a camping trip for the Fall. I'm keeping everything crossed that I get in to UCD so I can do classes online and therefore go on camping/fishing vacations in the Spring and Fall when the weather is actually nice in Texas.

Pam/Digging said...

I enjoyed your Yellowstone posts. The number and variety of animals you saw reminds me of our trip about 9 years ago. What a fabulous place.