Saturday, April 29, 2017

Lions and Tigers and Bears ... Oh My!!!

Okay, there weren't any lions or tigers and although there probably were some live bears at Yellowstone, we didn't see any. When last heard from we were about to leave Portland, Oregon, after some maintenance was done to Timmber Wolf. It was just one of those regularly scheduled things and we were soon on our way eastwards towards our next stop, Yellowstone National Park.

Much of this leg of the trip was a repeat of the route headed into Portland but we did spot some mystery railroad cars on our way. We simply could not fathom what these structures on the cars were intended to hold but we sure saw lots of them being trundled along the tracks.

Further down the road we finally solved the mystery when we spotted this not quite fully loaded car where we could see some of the structure ... lumber, lots of lumber! A few months later after we were home we even saw one at a lumberyard unloading. No camera was readily available so I'm stuck with this one taken through a fence.

The long straight stretches of Interstate 90 in Idaho and Montana lend themselves to speed although I don't know if that was a contributing factor to either of the accidents we saw that day. The one pictured was a nasty rollover and there appear to have been some young children in the car as a couple of young ones were being tended to by some of those who stopped. There were already people helping so we did what was best and simply got out of their way.

Further down the road we turned south towards Yellowstone. Although the park itself occupies the northwest corner of Wyoming, the northern approach is through Montana. The countryside is beautiful, running along the Yellowstone River where we stopped at a nice roadside rest area and had a couple of Cinnabons bought at a truck stop earlier and simply enjoyed not moving for a few.

Traffic seemed sparse until we got close and then it got crowded! Winding our way through the town of Gardiner and the approach to Yellowstone itself was tricky in a 27 foot motor home but we saw bigger ones so persevered!  I think the line to enter the park was close to a mile long, two lanes wide, although admittedly it was a summer weekend.It was a good thing we had NOT planned on staying in any of the campgrounds as most were full and the ones that were not were not the sort that take RV's.

Now came Geoffrey's real driving test. The roads in Yellowstone were built years ago and although well maintained are still the older narrower one lane each way with practically no shoulder! Some of them such as the turn for Firehole Lake are clearly marked, prohibiting any RV's or buses from taking them. I wonder if perhaps a Jeep would be better here!

We did see some wildlife: buffalo, moose and elk in several places including some rather tame ones at the Albright Visitor Center a few miles into the park. At one point a coyote was brazenly strolling down the middle of the road definitely disrupting traffic until it finally veered off into the brush and trees along the roadway.

We pulled aside into some of the geyser areas and caught glimpses of vistas and waterfalls but learned that pulling an RV to the side of the road especially when the area is crowded just doesn't work.

We eventually arrived at Old Faithful which although not the largest of the geysers is more frequent, erupting every 90 minutes or so. Of course we apparently arrived not long after it had erupted so had a wait of over an hour. This is a large area entailing a lot of walking or, better yet, out came our PoGoGo so I could trundle around to my heart's content.

To maintain our communications we left our commo hats on so we could keep track of each other which worked excellently including giving me time to peruse the gift shop and find an appropriate souvenir, a bison!

Which now puts me to wondering what is the difference between a bison and a buffalo?

Geoffrey mostly just sat in one place and relaxed after all that tension filled driving but PoGoGo and I zipped all over the place including down the walkways where you could see other geysers going off or at least thinking about it with little poofs and bits of steam rising into the air. I kept an eye on the time being predicted for Old Faithful at the ranger's desk and kept Geoffrey advised.

Eventually the appointed moment arrived. It doesn't go off in one big explosion but starts out gradually, increasing the size and height of the geysers until it is done. Even then sometimes there is one more and then one more!

I am sure there are many better shots of Old Faithful than the ones I took but what is special is that I was there for these! Like the Grand Canyon, it is different being there than any movies or pictures you see somewhere else.

We continued towards the south entrance out of the park through an area where the road is, like many of the park roads, closed from early November to mid-April or May. After a bit the road at least straightens out some but was still a narrow challenge to Geoff's driving abilities.

The south end of the park runs into Grand Teton National Park, running alongside Jackson Lake. Although we had planned to spend some time there, it was late afternoon and we were getting tired. We did get some splendid views right from the road across the lake towards the Tetons, possibly as good or better than if we had gone into the main area of the park especially since the main activities there are hiking and biking and other outdoorsy stuff that is not exactly our strong point.

We continued south through Jackson, a smallish town full of tourist stuff and headed for a fork in the road about 15-20 miles south of Jackson. Route 191 headed southeast towards Interstate 80 and Route 89 headed southwest also eventually to Interstate 80. Unfortunately as we headed for Route 191 we came up to a turnaround and a sign saying that the road was closed due to forest fire!

Back to the fork in the road and 89 was closed for the night due to construction! The choices were backtrack for many miles and maybe get around it, go hunting a motel room back in Jackson which would have been tedious and quite possibly unsuccessful with the road closures or simply pull into a small parking area and get a night's sleep, which we did.

At the start I did warn Geoffrey that although we were going to have adventures for sure, not all of them were going to be good!

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