Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Finally Yellowstone East Gate - Part 2

After driving and eating and drinking and climbing in and out of the truck multiple times for multiple hours we finally decided to pull into a picnic area slash marina so that we could really all stretch our legs.
Although we had found snow on a few occasions we were reminded that we were actually traveling through Yellowstone during the summer.
It was hot and we needed a break.
And my sweet trooper needed to walk and wander and explore in those ways and in that time that dogs need.............
After parking the truck and wandering down to the water dictated by Jamie's speed as she explored, we finally made our way to the shore.
This trip touched me emotionally in ways that I did not expect.
Juneau was an intense experience for me and although when I was finally done I was done absolutely and could not leave there fast enough, there are still things that I really miss.
As we had made our way through the park I had been constantly reminded of Alaska, but when I saw this scene it brought back all the feelings I had experienced while communing with nature on so many hikes in so many places in Juneau.
All the times I had stood at the dock in Auke Bay looking out over the water and the mountains and the pine trees and the boats.............. 
A bored seasonal employee doing pull-ups..............
Continuing further we quickly pulled into another large parking area when we realized that there was a large elk herd grazing close to the lake...............
As we moved closer to the southern edge of the park the Teton mountain range began to dominate the landscape.
We had not planned on it but LC and I looked at each other and realized that we were going to continue further south along the highway.
Beyond the gates of Yellowstone and immediately into the Grand Teton National Park.
I babble and ramble and verbalize in endless blog posts about love of the mountains.
But I am not the only one.
He loves them too.  
My Mountain Boy loves the mountains as much as I do.............

Teton Mountain

  by: Lew Sarett

She walks alone against the dusky sky,
With something of the manner of a queen--
Her gesturing peaks, imperious and high;
Her snowy brow, serene.

 Under her feet, a tapestry of pine;
Veiling her marble figure, purple haze,
Draped with a scarf of clouds at timber-line,
In a billowy silken maze.

 And in the moonlight a spangled necklace shakes
And shimmers silver-blue upon her shoulders--
A fragile thread of crinkling brooks and lakes
In the glimmering ice and boulders.

 Among her eagle-winged and starry host
Of lovers, like an austere virgin nun,
She broods--yielding a moment at the most,
To the lips of the amorous sun.

A raven walking in the parking lot - not fat and sassy like the downtown Juneau ravens that gorge on the junk food fed to them by tourists and locals alike.
A leaner raven comfortable and unperturbed by the masses............
One more river and pine tree and mountain view...........
So beautiful it could make you cry............
Two artists quietly sitting and standing, and also unperturbed by curious tourists, capturing on canvas the mountain scene in front of them...........
There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks.  Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough to pay attention to the story........Linda Hogan

Finally Yellowstone East Gate - Part 1

This past Sunday we loaded up the cooler with food and drinks, filled up the gas tank, grabbed some jackets and finally made the trip into Yellowstone National Park through the East Gate.
When we first moved to Cody I foolishly and naively imagined that seasons were the same here as what I was used to in Tennessee.
What that meant to me was that temperatures gradually increased through the Spring and that by May (or June 1 at the latest) this state would be firmly entrenched in Summer.
That the grass would be growing, the flowers would be blooming, the birds would be singing and that certainly the snow would all be a long-distant memory.
So it has been an interesting learning curve for me to realize that all the rules of engagement re: the seasons that I was used to in Tennessee do not actually apply to a state where cities are located many thousands of feet above sea level and are surrounded by endless mountain ranges.
We had snow here in Cody into April and May.  We had freezing temperatures.  And then we had very warm temperatures.  And then cold again.  Not cool, but actual cold.
It was a learning curve that I have gradually figured out over the past few months but even that gradual realization did not prepare me for what we encountered in the Beartooths only a few weeks ago when we came across twenty feet or more of snow piled stories high along the highway.
And then were greeted with endless fields of snow being enjoyed by snow mobilers and para-skiers and tobogganers in the middle of Summer.
The East Gate of Yellowstone Park opened later than normal this season due to the unusually large amount of snow that fell this past winter.  
In some places more than 200% above average.
After the gate opened it soon closed again due to avalanches and rock slides predominantly in Sylvan Pass, and then for a few more weeks was open only for a few short hours each morning - again due to the threat of avalanches.
Everyone was eager for the gate to open.
Those who wanted to simply travel through the park to reach other places in all directions beyond the park (instead of having to travel all the way around the park as they must during the winter).  
Gateway cities who depend of tourist dollars for their very survival.
Lodges and guest ranches and campgrounds and surrounding national forests.
And finally it did.
Open that is.
After only a short drive through the gate we climbed up and through Sylvan Pass.
As we traveled through this dreaded section it quickly became obvious why road crews have so many problems keeping this pass clear.
Sheer rock and dirt bluffs ready and very able to drop its contents both down onto the highway and the very deep gorge down below it.
And surprisingly (although I should not be surprised at this point) still a good amount of snow.
Sylvan Lake melting quickly but still mostly covered in snow and ice............
LC and I had heard about Yellowstone Lake, and had even seen it on the map, but were still not prepared for either how beautiful nor how large it was.
There was one buffalo standing on one side of the highway grazing and unperturbed by all the traffic and associated gawkers................
And two of three other buffalo standing on the opposite side of the highway.
I have seen these animals many times now since arriving in Wyoming and am still in awe of them..........
We spent a very very long day traveling and exploring the southern portion of the park and then wandering for a while down into the Teton National Park.
What amazed me about Yellowstone was that the terrain seemed to change around every bend in the road.
One minute we were in snow in the mountains.
The next we were in the middle of dense pine trees on both sides of the road.
The next bend found a raging and fast flowing river.
Around this bend in a hugely adventurous journey we found hot springs............
To get to Yellowstone we had left the pale green ridges and sage brush of Cody, traveled 50 miles through the grasslands of Wapiti and the beautiful rock formations and pine trees and rivers of Shoshone National Forest.
And only a short way into the park we found this.
I stood looking out over the lake, the snow covered mountains, the pine trees and small islands, and then turned to look at my Mountain Boy and said "this could be Alaska".............
My new camera is partially FUBAR'd.
Ever since I fell off my bike and into a mud puddle on BLM land not long ago there are certain pictures I take where I see a small grey mark at the top of the picture, and pictures that I take (such as this one) where there is a grey spot smack in the middle of the picture.
Maybe if I hadn't mentioned it nobody would have noticed it but I guess I know what I want for Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or National Cheesecake Day or sometime else that is supposed to be designated as an occasion for gifts.
One more camera and this time I'll always keep it in a Zip Loc.
Just in case I find another mud puddle..........
Again and again and again throughout the day I stood beside a lake or a stream and felt like I was back in Juneau.
Only without the emotional price tag attached with living in Juneau.
Yellowstone North East Entrance just beyond Cooke City opened up to vast amounts of beautiful buffalo and elk covered hills and wonderful grasslands and streams.
But as I stood looking out over these mountains I fell in love with this place on Sunday.............
More hot springs.............
For all the beauty there is to see in this place (and we saw only one small section of it) there are places that display much devastation from both unintentional forest fires and beetle damage.
It is sad and difficult to see.
Some areas damaged by fire have not yet begun to regrow.
Other areas are now completely filled with small pine trees that will eventually rejuvenate sections of lost forest land................
Yellowstone River, as with all waterways in Wyoming right now, is full and very fast flowing.
I never ever imagined before living here that mountain snow runoff would still be melting at the end of June, but am beginning to learn that snow will be continually melting until it begins to snow all over again.
A continual cycle and interesting rhythm to life in Wyoming..........
The story of forest fires and canyon winds...........
It all took my breath away.
Everything I had gone to Juneau for was unexpectedly standing right in front of me.
When I drove into Cody in early March and was greeted by the beige moonscape of the terrain I had no idea how diverse of a state Wyoming really was.

You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.......James Whittaker