Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Yellowstone In November - Part 1

I am still having a lot of issues downloading pictures onto the blog from the house, so I finally broke down and spent some time at the library this afternoon downloading a whole lot of pictures from a long day trip we took to Yellowstone National Park late last week.
Gary, LC's lost brother, has been here in Cody and then to North Dakota and then back to Cody and now (as of a couple of days ago) back to Minnesota over the past month.
Even more lost than LC and I am.
He had never been before and came with us to Yellowstone.
We set the alarm for 7am, and as I lingered in bed for a few more minutes, I could hear LC and Gary talking while making coffee.
Finally resigned that I had better get my sorry butt out of my nice warm bed, I quickly got dressed, grabbed some coffee and headed outside onto the front porch where I could hear the guys talking.
They were looking at the sunset.
As I turned to look east I quickly went back into the house to grab my camera.
It was a cool but also very beautiful morning, and with coffee cup in one hand and camera in the other, I walked to the end of the driveway and snapped these pictures................
Historically we have always had difficulty getting to the East Gate of Yellowstone without stopping along the way.
The drive from Cody, then through a large swath of Shoshone National Forest, is very beautiful, and at this time of year I thought that there was a real possibility that the elk, bison and big horn sheep had already moved down from the mountains to graze through the winter in the lower lands.
We did see a handful of buffalo but nothing else during our journey to the gate and so, on this day, for the first time we did not stop until we were well into the park.
There was a lot of snow and ice from the gate all the way up til our first stop at Sylvan Lake.
We have had periods of very cold weather in Cody to this point, but it has only lasted for a few days at a time before bouncing back into the 50's and 60's again.
There is snow on the peaks of the mountains surrounding us, but I was not prepared for how much snow we actually saw after first entering the gates.
Sylvan Pass is the source of many avalanches and mud slides late into winter and early into spring, and it is this specific area that often pushes back the East Gate opening date each year.
LC, Jamie and I have stopped at Sylvan Lake every time we have been there, and it is a beautiful, serene and majestic place.
Lots of ice and snow.............
Only a few miles beyond Sylvan Lake is the much larger Yellowstone Lake.
Last summer we saw buffalo across the road from Yellowstone Lake, saw many fishermen fishing from the shore and (late one day on the way home from the park) a huge storm coming across the lake and heading towards us.
Early in November the place was now deserted.
The weather was very changeable during our trip - warm in places, freezing cold with freezing cold and strong winds blowing, warm again.
As with the terrain, the weather seemed to change around every bend in the road.............
As we stood beside a rock retaining wall looking out over the lake I glanced over to my right and saw smoke.
It took me a second to realize what I was looking at.
The first geyser we saw that day.
We would see many more on this very long trip through Yellowstone (but interestingly, we still have not seen Old Faithful yet)...................
After looking at the first "hot spot" near Yellowstone Lake (and while still standing at the retaining wall) I looked down at my feet and was surprised to see this footprint.
It was fresh, and I wondered just how long ago this animal (wolf?) had passed this way...............
Upright yard sticks next to the wall, and ready to measure snowfall when the time comes..............
I have visited more state and national parks that I could count, but there is something magical about Yellowstone National Park.
It is geographically beautiful (as all of these parks are), containing rugged mountains, vast and wonderful valleys, lakes, rivers, interesting rock formations and so much more.
I have visited many pretty parks, but Yellowstone is more than a pretty park.
There is adventure around every bend in the road.
Unexpectedly you see a bear alongside the road, or a buffalo in the middle of the road, or an elk in the middle of a river, or a pelican on a rock who sits in the same place for hours, seemingly eager to pose for visitors.
The terrain changes suddenly and completely unexpectedly, and often it seems that there is no smooth transition - one moment you are driving through a rugged and rocky mountain pass and the next moment you see endless miles of rolling hills and grassy pastures.
There is snow for miles and then abruptly no snow.  Turn a bend in the road and you are suddenly surrounded by winter again.
I love this place.
Absolutely love it..................
Our next stop was at Fishing Bridge.
Which seems like a strange name for a bridge that prohibits fishing.................
It was mid-morning by this time and the sun, that had struggled valiantly to shine for a while, finally disappeared for good, and the remainder of the day was cool and overcast.
There would be no bright blue sky pictures on this day.
But as I stood with Jamie looking back towards the bridge I realized (as I have a thousand times over the past couple of years) that I loved the quiet, the lack of people, the starkness and sharpness of the terrain at this time of year................
Views from the bridge............
What this place looked like last summer when we were here last:
What would I do without him?
Where would I be without him?
I never imagined that I would ever find somebody such as this man.
Wasn't looking for him.  And then suddenly there he was.
The kindest man I have ever met................
The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom..........Theordore Roosevelt

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