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Geysers & Geezers

by Richie

Yellowstone National Park

Today we took an all-day bus tour called Circle Of Fire. There were 12 of us on the bus, and Tim & I were by far the youngest passengers. We toured the southern loop of the park, about 106 miles, and stopped at all the prime features of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone is a wild place, fraught with danger and peril. Rangers and tour guides are fond of telling stories of hapless tourists, most who fall victim to their own foolishness. The guy who chased a pair of grizzly cubs – mauled by Mama Grizzly. The gent that tried to shove a buffalo over to get a better photo – gored. The woman that let her dog trot into a hot spring – boiled.

Then there’s the overly cautious folks, like the elderly couple that wanted to buy a $50 can of Bear Spray just to drive through the park. The ranger told them, “They ain’t gonna come in the car with ya!”
We were quite safe viewing the highlights of the park from a sidewalk or windshield.


Kepler Falls
Old Faithful Inn
Old Faitthful
Fountain Paint Pot
Red Spouter
Spasm Geyser
Upper Falls
Artist Point
Artist Canyon
Hayden Valley
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Two Days Ago
Yellowstone National Park


We rode the scooter over to Lake Hotel for an early lunch and a look-around. The hotel is the oldest structure in the park, originally built in 1891. A short walk from the porch through a grassy meadow leads to the shore of Yellowstone Lake, where a century ago a steamboat ferried train passengers to the hotel from West Thumb.


On the path we spotted buffalo tracks, buffalo chips, and buffalo tree rubs where the bark is worn away from many a good back scratch. Way in the distance was a bull bison. Ta-Tonka!

Tree Rub

Later in the day we took a tour in an iconic Yellowstone bus, newly refurbished with modern engine and tranny. Our guide, Nat, was well informed and drove us to spots where we watched herds of bison and elk. Yesterday Nat saw a lone wolf trotting unconcerned across the road – an unusual sighting as they typically travel in packs. He also told us that park employees call our campground Grizzly Central. Last week a bear was napping on the sidewalk where we checked in.

Bison are about the height of cattle, but stockier and broader. They use the park’s roadways as their trails – in fact, the roads were built on buffalo trail. Our bus was caught in a bison jam, the park version of a traffic snarl. Noble beasts were on both sides of the road, crossing intermittently. They don’t eyeball the cars or the people in them, they seemed unconcerned with our presence. But they do keep a sideways glance on the traffic. And should someone dare to pass them too closely, they’ll toss a shaggy head and snort.


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by Richie

Fishing Bridge
Yellowstone National Park
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We’ve made our way at last to Yellowstone. A short drive from the Tetons put us at the South Entrance. Here again, the terrain change dramatically within a few miles. The approach on the south side winds through a thick forest of tall, slender Lodge Pole Pines, occasionally offering a view of lively streams and crystalline lakes.
We stopped at West Thumb to gawk at the prismatic springs and bubbling mud pots. These geothermal features are the result of steam rising through the earth’s crust, heated by magma way down below. The smell of sulfur lingers about the area, but gladly it’s not overpowering. How strange and beautiful the colors of the springs are! You can peer down into the depths of underground caverns from which the boiling water emerges.
We followed the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake to Fishing Bridge. This wooden span was built in the ‘30’s and crosses the Yellowstone River where cutthroat trout spawn. It used to be a popular fishing spot, folks would line up shoulder to shoulder, but now fishing is prohibited to protect the species. Coming off the bridge, we were surprised by a group of buffalo grazing in the margins.
Our campground is set way back in the woods, remote and spooky. It is darkity-dark at night, with the pines looming ominously overhead. At check-in, we had to sign a consent form stating You’re In Grizzly Country. Then we were handed several pamphlets about bear attacks which absurdly instruct, “Do not run away!” A chirpy park attendant pointed vaguely into the glooming, where our campsite presumably was, and told us to “Have a good night!”.
Right. Lock the doors.
In fact, we’re kind of close to civilization. Only a 15 minute nervous walk to the big General Store and gas station outpost.
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