The Yellowstone Expedition's Journal

Thursday September 8, 2005

The day started out at 5:15 this morning with my car service picking up the wrong person outside my building. After a phone call to Tel Aviv the car was back 15 in minutes to pick me up and I was on my way to the airport. Next time I am going to use Carmel . This is the second time in 6 months Tel Aviv screwed up. I met Roy at the gate and we were off.  I slept the whole way there on the plane and arrived in Jackson Hole refreshed. We were picked up by a guy named Donavan from Old West Transportation. Donavan was a cool guy and really informative, apparently though according to Donavan everyone comes here to either hunt or fish and we were doing neither.  

We picked up the RV which was a 23 feet long 2005 model. It had everything you could need a microwave, oven full service bathroom, running hot/cold water, refrigerator and a freezer. This being our first time in an RV we were highly impressed. Once we were checked out in the RV we made a grocery list and went to the store. We picked up food for the week and some adult beverages too. I even found my favorite Chile wine that we were drinking in Costa Rica called Casillero Del Diablo. 

So we headed north after stocking the refrigerator and drove through Teton National Park then into Yellowstone Park . When you enter the park you have to stop and pay a $20 entrance fee. You do this at a toll booth like structure which should be no problem for a  New Yorker like me, well as I am pulling up I am realizing at the last minute that that I had about 10 feet up vehicle above me and I swerve at the last minute to avoid the top of the toll booth overhang. It was a close one and the Ranger was laughing at me.  As we entered the park we were first hit by the remnants of the fire that had burned through the park 10 years ago. There is a lot of growth that has come back but you can still see the old taller burnt out trees.

We decided to stay the first night in Grant Village which is on the west side of Yellowstone Lake . We picked up a campsite and had a dinner consisting of Ham & Cheese Sandwiches, Lime Tortilla chips, salami and cheese.  After dinner we took a walk around the campsite and down to the lake where we saw 2 Elk which I took some pictures off. That capped off the night as we retired to our beds with the smell of campfires in the air. One last note on the day is that we are staying at 7800 feet and the air is thin compared to home. We can feel it on our hikes around the camp but I am use to it from skiing and hiking at higher elevations. Roy will take some time to get use to it as this is the first time he has been this high in elevation.


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Friday September 9th, 2005 - Old Faithful and on to Canyon area

We were up early this morning and took showers around 8AM. We grabbed breakfast at a place called Grant Village lake House where we sat right on Yellowstone Lake while we ate. I was an all you can eat buffet and the food was decent. With breakfast done the next stop was the Old Faithful region.  On the way we stopped at the Keplar Cascades which was a waterfall in a deep ravine. From a wooden platform built out over the ravine we were able to get a good view of the falls. When we got to Old Faithful we were greeted by a heard of Buffalo . We pulled the RV right up to the side of the road and I was able to get some great up close pictures.

We geared up for a hiking day with our back backs and set out for old faithful. We got lucky with the timing as it erupted within 5 minutes of us arriving at the geyser. The geysers are really impressive. We decided to hike a hill that overlooked the entire basin and I was able to take some great shots of Old Faithful . We spent the rest of the day hiking around the geyser basin.  The only challenge of the day was the weather.  It was raining on and off all day. Mostly sun showers with down pours here and there. But with our rain gear we were all set.  We finished out at the day at the Yellowstone lodge. The lodge was the most commercialized place we had encountered thus far in the park. It was actually really cool inside as it was built using massive logs over 100 years ago. The structure is over 4 stories tall and cavernous inside. 

After we left the lodge we decided to drive to the Canyon area of the park and stay there for the night. On the way we stopped at Gibbons falls which were about 60 feet high. Tomorrow we go to lower falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Park. We finished the night out with Roy getting his butt whipped in 2 games of Backgammon and a camp fire in the fire pit.

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Saturday September 10, 2005 – Canyon Area and on to Mammoth

            I was woken up last night by thunder and lightening so strong it actually shook the RV. It felt as if some one was rocking the vehicle yet the storm was still miles away. It was a bit cold this morning and there is a forecast of snow showers for the morning. In the morning we took showers and went for a walk through of the Yellow Stone General Store where I found a pair of my flame sunglasses. Now, you might be wondering why I mention this. Well I bought these Orange lenses and flame painted frames in Aspen Co 2 years ago. A few months ago they broke and I have been looking for them ever since. I walk in to the store and look at the rack of no name sunglasses and there they were. It made my day and it was only 9 AM. 

We moved on to the Grand Canyon of Yellow Stone Park. We drove to Inspiration point where we had a great view of the Canyon and the Upper and Lower falls. As we drove a long the North Rim we stopped at Grand observation area and then on to the South Rim where we geared up with lunch to hike down to the bottom of the Lower falls. On our way there it started snowing; we decided was better then rain. We hiked down the rim for about a mile or so and taking in awesome vistas. We turned back after we stopped to talk with a couple who were hiking along the rim and they told us how to get to the steps going down to the bottom of the falls. It has stopped snowing by the time we had reached the top of the 300+ steps. So down we went and went and went for a total of 500 vertical feet. At the bottom we were about 100 yards from falls. The way up was tough but after a few breaks we were back at the top. It was a tough climb for 2 guys from sea level. When we arrived at the top we decided to have lunch back at the RV and then head up to Mammoth.

As we headed north we drove as high as 9000 feet as we headed over the mountains in to Tower Roosevelt. Along the way we stopped at Tower falls where we once again hiked to the bottom. The trail was washed out at the bottom so we could not go to the bottom of the falls, instead we went to the rivers edge down river from the falls which turned out to be an awesome place. We took a lot of pictures there. Once again we were faced with a long hike out of the canyon but only about 200 feet would be my guess. On the way out we hiked past an older guy from Texan who was about 10 steps away from a heart attack. We stayed with him until we were a little short of the top. We saw him after we hiked out  the final section and he looked like he was going to make it.

So on we went, next stop the Petrified tree. Now first we had to park a ¼ mile down the road because we had a big vehicle. Oh and by the way a Wyoming ¼ is different from a NY ¼ mile. When we got there it was the biggest let down, it was a 10 foot high tree that looked like any other tree in the forrest. So after that waste of time, on we went.  We pulled in to Mammoth, made a stop at the Visitors Center and got a campsite. The area around Mammoth is much different from the rest of the park. Its very arid and has very little trees.

We took a 5:30 Ranger guided tour of Fort Yellowstone . The Ranger George Nill had a plethora of information and was very entertaining. It was a great tour. On the way back to the campsite we got into a traffic jam when a Stag decided to hang out in the middle of the road. Now a stag is a male Elk and during the fall they “in heat” and you are suppose to give them a large berth of space. These Elk are running around all over Mammoth. Well this particular Stag was crossing the only road to the camp grounds so we had to wait about 10 minutes for him to get off the road. Later tonight he decided to visit us at our camp ground as here came trotting by the front of our RV along with his harem of female Elk. Roy opened the door and pointed the flash light at him. He gave us the look of death so we quickly shut the door.

Tomorrow we are headed Gardiner Montana then to Boiling River to go for a soaking in the hot spring there.

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Sunday September 11th 2005 Montana

 This morning we hit yet another breakfast buffet and headed north to the town of Gardiner . Gardiner is the gateway town to the north entrance to Yellowstone Park . This was also the first entrance to the park back in the late 1800s. At the entrance is an arch that was built out of stone and stands at least 50 feet tall. It’s very impressive. Now, there is not much to Gardiner but gas stations, bars and casinos. The one thing Gardiner does not have is a stop light which can give you an idea of the size of the town. We decided to drive further north in to Montana to see what the state was all about. We drove about 30 miles into Montana and I have to say it’s absolutely beautiful but desolate. We were at a lower altitude and the mountains opened up to flowing plains allowing us to see for miles and miles. We drove past a lot of ranches and hay farms. We stopped at a place called the Devils slide which was this rock formation that was turned on their side thousands of years ago and looked way out of place. It looked like the ultimate ski chute. Only pictures can describe it and I have a few of those.

After that we entered back into the park via the north entrance. We stopped at the 45th parallel which is not only the border of Montana and Wyoming but half way between the equator and the North Pole. Now besides being the 45th parallel it is also the home to Boiling River where you can go for a soak in the Gardner river where it meets up with the hot spring water from Mammoth hot springs . This was Roy ’s first time in a hot spring and he absolutely loved it. I had been in hot springs before in the Costa Rican jungle but it so cold up here that you really feel the extremes of the temperatures. There were a few people there and yes a couple of cuties in bikinis too.

After we were done soaking we decided to go and see the source of the hot water. We went up to the terraces of Mammoth hot springs . Once again Yellow Stone provided awesome display of nature for us. These springs are wild. They are ever changing which was proven by the changing boardwalk maze. The terraces rang about 300 vertical feet and are accessed by a series of boardwalks. If you venture off the board walks you risk the possibility of falling through the thin crust of the terraces and getting scalded

After the hot springs we headed to the General Store for supplies. Then over to the village green to see the Elk heard and take some pictures.

After dinner Roy decided to hike up the hill next to our campsite before darkness set in. He wanted to see if he could spot the Elk heard back in the village. I stayed behind because we had started a campfire and some one needed to watch it. So, there I am watching him hike up one side of the hill and on the other side I see the heard of Elk and close to the top is the Stag with the big horns. I am about a quarter mile away so yelling a warning to him is not an option. So I sit there and watch it unfold along with a few other people from the campsite. Roy makes it to the top then realizes that the heard he is looking for is right there. Fortunately, the bull was not spooked by him and he left with out incident.

Dilemma of  the day happened on the way back to Mammoth we had a wine bottle fall out of the closet and break and go all over the back of the RV so we were smelling wine for a while in the RV.

 Today is four years after 9/11.... its the first time I have not been in the city on this day... although it was in my mind all day today, it was uplifting to be out here in the mountains living life to the fullest and doing what I promised myself after that day. That promise was to travel the world, embrace and take advantage of every opportunity and live every day with out regrets.

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Monday September 12, 2005 – Mammoth to Fishing Bridge via Norris

This morning we were up early and back to the Boiling River for a soaking in the hot springs again. This time is was snowing and about 32 degrees out.  Once again this was the highlight of the trip for Roy .  After we dried off and warmed up we had breakfast and headed out on to the road.

Our first stop was the Park Ranger museum where we met a retired Ranger named Bill. He talked with us about his 30 plus years with the National Park Service as a Ranger. He was a very interesting person. After touring the museum we headed off to the Norris Geyser Basin . These were some cool geysers. They were very colorful and one of them continuously blew steam like a Con Ed man hole in Manhattan .

Then on to the mud Volcano, where there was a lot of sulfur. In fact to much sulfur at one point I thought I was going to puke. By far though the coolest thing I we saw on the trip was the Dragons Mouth. This was a cave which would roar with steam as it bellowed out of the cave. You would think that there was actually a Dragon in the cave spitting fire.

We left the Mud Volcano and headed to Fishing Bridge where we checked in and took showers for the first time in 2 days, there were no showers facilities in Mammoth. We also did a load of laundry. Dinner this evening was at the Lake Lodge in Lake Village . We had some great views of the Yellowstone Lake and took a walk down to the lake shore after dinner.

Thought of the day is still the crazy weather. Through out the day the weather has gone from very cold and snowy to sunny then snowy again to overcast and sunny to an all out Blizzard to finally a nice sunset after dinner.  I am glad we did not push the trip back another week otherwise we would have been in the beginnings of a Wyoming Winter. 

Tomorrow we plan on hiking the Elephant loop then moving on to explore the Tetons.


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Tuesday September 13, 2005  - Flying Bridge to the Tetons

 We started out this morning with Breakfast at the Lake Lodge and yes if you have not noticed everything seems to have the word “ Lake ” in it. We made arrangements for a campsite with hook ups at Colter Bay in the Grand Teton National park which is south of Yellow Stone. We checked out of the RV site in Fishing Bridge with a refund for tonight and headed to Elephant Back trail. This trail was about 2.5 miles with a vertical rise of 800+ feet. It was a great hike which took us up into the snow elevations where we saw a bear track. Well, we are debating whether it was a bear track or just some snow that fell from the tree that looks like a bear track. I took a close up of it and you can decide for your self. When we got to the top the views were awesome. We could see all of Lake Yellowstone as well over into the mountain range on the eastern side of the park. When we got down to the bottom we had to sign out at an unmanned Ranger station. We had signed in when we started but some how had failed to notice until we signed out that yesterday 4 grizzly bears had been spotted at the summit of the mountain we just hiked. Yes 4 Grizzlies! There was a clear note at the bottom of the sign in sheet. Oh well.

We then set out for a 60 mile drive to the Tetons. Along the way we stopped at Lewis falls and also at a neat over look into a deep canyon in the southern portion of the park. This Yellowstone River was at the bottom of this canyon and this was also where the fire had managed to jump about 500+ feet over the canyon, back in 1988 and continued to burn through the park.

As we pulled into Grand Teton National Park we were both taken back by the magic of the mountains. We checked into our campsite and did some errands. Yes errands. Roy needed stamps for his Post cards and I needed to file for my unemployment check for the week. Luckily there was an internet access terminal in this campsite’s office so I was able to do so. You have to appreciate the modern convenience that a internet terminal can provide. We decided to have dinner at the Signal Mountain Lodge but first we drove about 10 miles into the park to take a further look. It’s amazing how the mountains continue to change with every minute of the day. As the sun moves across the sky, the mountains seem to take on a new look every minute. Tomorrow we plan on taking a ferry ride across Jenny Lake to the base of St. John Teton where we will hike a trail through one of the major canyons areas of the Tetons.

Oh and by the way I beat Roy AGAIN in Backgammon….

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Wednesday September 14th, 2005 Jenny Lake , Grand Tetons  

We were up early this morning and decided to make our own breakfast of bacon, eggs and English muffins. We then moved on to Jenny Lake where we grabbed a boat ride across the lake to the base of the Tetons. We started our 4+ mile hike up Cascade Canyon at Inspiration point which had a great view of the lake. There were a lot of people there as this is a popular hiking area. As we moved further up the canyon we saw less and less people. The views were some of the best all trip. The canyon walls had to be at least 4000-5000 on each side. After hiking to the “Forks” which was 4.1 miles we had lunch on the side of a smaller canyon. I ate my peanut and jelly sandwich sitting on the edge which did not please Roy very much.  But I did not fall off so I had that going for me. After lunch we started our hike back to the dock and the boat ride back to the other side of Jenny Lake . On the hike back we finally saw 2 horses on the trail. This solved the mystery of what animal was responsible for all the dropping along the trail. We are resting now in the parking lot at Jenny Lake and will head for dinner soon. Our last night here will be spent cleaning the RV and packing. We have an early start tomorrow down to Jackson to return the RV then off to the airport.  

This has been a great trip. The parks never ceased to amaze us, every day there was something new an awesome. Roy and I survived living with each other in a 23 foot RV for week and I am the official Wyoming Backgammon Champion.

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