We began the day at the ‘Lodge’, the Lake Lodge, having breakfast. It is one of the classic lodges of Yellowstone.
Pretty fancy, overlooking Yellowstone lake, white cloth napkins, with a waiter who had the personality of a zucchini. At one point, Gary, to try to open him up, asked him where he was from. He turned away and scraped the dishes off the next table. Later we saw him sitting at the bar nursing a drink. Hmmm. I think he’s in the wrong occupation.
But, breakfast was good and an excellent excuse to get to the Lodge where we heard that we might be able to get Verizon wi-fi coverage on our mi-fi gadget. We found the lounge and set up. Now, isn't this a nice place to spend a few hours? Note the ice water with fresh strawberries. My kind of place.
Not really, we waited for our online service more than we used it. Finally, I got a few things done like paying bills, writing a thank-you e-mail, calling for our mail to be deliered to the next town we would be staying. But, the wi-fi was so slow, we gave up.
Our real goal was to get to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, about 20 miles away. On the way, of course, we found a bison jam, or two. And, of course, we stopped and watched them. Mostly they just meander and circle around, posing for the tourists. This herd had a few young ones and some other males strutting their stuff. But, then, the big bull bison male strut through the herd and the younger males skulk away.
Then there’s the mating dance. So, trying to make this a clean blog: here’s the scene: a big bull bison pees into a sand pit, rolls around in it,
stands up all dusty and smelly and saunters over to a cow, a female bison. He smiles his best smile, doffs his hat, tosses his blond locks ala Rod Stewart and then breaks into a chorus of ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ Enough to turn any female’s head and, true to form, I have yet to see any of the female bison do anything but turn away and in walk the opposite direction.
Oh, yeah, the Canyon. We wanted to hike the South Rim trail which was described as ‘Easy’ but 6 miles with a stop at Uncle Tom’s Trail and Artists Point on our way to Point Sublime. ‘Easy’ sounds ok to us. We parked our car, geared up and were on our way. Cool hike alongside the Yellowstone River, past the upper falls which we could hear aroaring before we ever hit the bend. Note the omnipresent rainbow in the lower right hand corner.
We had some great views down the river towards the other end of the canyon and the colors were exquisite. The pinks, oranges, rusty reds and all hues in between with yellows on either side of them. A palette of color.
Then we hit Uncle Tom’s Trail, a stairs heading down into the canyon. Only 328 steel-meshed steps down and only 328 steps up (although one ranger described it as: ‘328 steps down and 2000 steps up.’ Uncle Tom was Tom Richardson who pioneered a trail down in 1898. With all the people coming to the first National Park, he wanted to give them a real sense of its majesty. He ferried customers across the river above the Upper Falls, helped them descend the 500’ into the canyon with the aid of rope ladders, plain ropes and ladders. He then fed them a picnic lunch while they viewed the falls from the depths of the canyon. Unfortunately, when the bridge across the river was completed and a trail was developed, he lost his permit to guide visitors on the trail. Today the trail is more secure but the descent and the stunning view of the falls from inside the canyon are still the same.
Oh, yeah, the ascent is still the same too - a real huffer. This is the kind of hike where I stop every now and then ‘to take in the gorgeous view.’ But we’re soon back on the trail around the South Rim and the views of the river and the sounds of the falls and rapids follow us. We reach Artists Point again and again take in the beauty of the Lower Falls. As we passed through, we had seen two large white buses in the parking lot and sure enough, there was a group of about 90 kids and chaperones sitting there having lunch.
(Funny thing, we saw this same group tomorrow at the Mammoth Entrance to the Park and found out that they are from Ottumwa, Iowa, our home state. They are on a 13-day Western trip hitting several national parks along the way. They are tenting at night to save money though they did stay in the Old Faithful Inn last night (probably to get some good showers). We spoke with one of the bus drivers and she told us that her company had a hard time finding bus drivers who wanted to ive in a tent but she volunteered thinking it would be nice to see the West.)
Yellowstone in the summer is not the place to look for solitude and Artists Point is one of the most popular stops.
We continued on, the trail had dips and hills along it but it followed the river. Finally, we decided that the trail could go on forever and it was time to turn around and head back, especially since the sky was starting to spit a bit. Yep, it’s about 4:00 and time for the rain.
Then we noticed this - looks like bear claws - they strip the bark to get at the under layer which is sweet.
We got back to the parking lot in a light rain, and, as we were getting into the car, we noticed this bull elk just grazing in the grasses beyond the parking lot. There were only about 6 people around to enjoy the sight and we all just stood around watching this magnificent animal doing what elk do: eat. Two hiking duos came by him but, except for raising his head and taking notice of them, he just kept on eating.
Now I’d like to find whoever called the trail ‘easy’ and tell them that any trail that is 7 miles round trip with an elevation change of 1200’ is probably not ‘easy.’ ‘Moderate’ is more like it.
Here’s a trail ride - yep, in the rain. They were just heading up the hill from the stables.
On the way back from Canyon, we saw at least 4 or 5 bison jams: cars parked at the side of the road and people standing on a hill looking at: one lone bison laying down in the grass, across the river, a mile away at least - a brown dot against the sea of green grass. On the road, others were stopping, grabbing their cameras and rushing up the hill to see what was going on. We actually asked someone who was getting back to her car about what there was to see and, when she sighed and said: ‘just one bison a long ways away,’ we decided not to stop. 2 miles down the road was a whole bison herd on this side of the river, about 50’ away and only 3 cars and 10 people were watching them. Then one lone bison strolled over to the road, turned down the middle and did his best John Travolta ‘Stayin’ Alive’ strut down the yellow line in the road.
Gary got a movie of it but flinched when the bison walked right by us. All we could think was that he would choose our Jeep to test his horns. But he strutted on by and we rolled on down the highway back to our RV.