Friday, 7 August 2015

GEYSERS AND BISON AND BEARS, OH MY

Following my discharge from Lander General Hospital, I spent five more days recuperating in a nearby motel whilst being an outpatient. Slowly my walking was improving, and the wounds were healing well, enough to visit the Pioneer Village on the edge of town.

There were ten original buildings that had been relocated to the site to create the village. Among them was a house belonging to one time lawman Charles Stough, who made fame at the end of the 1800s by arresting the outlaw Butch Cassidy.

Early on the Tuesday morning I transferred 160 miles north, with Bob the driver, to the famous town of Jackson Hole, named after David Jackson, who trapped beaver in the area in the early 1800s. The "Hole" comes from the geological fact that it sits in a depression between the Teton mountains and the Snake River.

On the way we passed several touring cyclists and I felt quite jealous. Finally though I was in Jackson, just a few days later than originally planned by bicycle. Though the centre is very touristy, I loved the feel and look of the place, with its boardwalks and timber-clad stores. My motel this time was right on the edge of downtown, so everything was within easy access. In the centre of town at various places, were arch sculptures, made from thousands of Elk antlers, collected at the end of winter from a large refuge on the outskirts of town, where every winter 11,000 Elk gather. On my first night I went to the Silver Dollar Saloon for supper and was entertained by a live bluegrass band. 


 
The following morning I awoke to torrential rain and thunderstorms. This was my day to join a tour up to the worlds first National Park, Yellowstone, something I had been thinking of for months, and thanks to friends back home, here I was! It was roughly 70 miles before we were in the park proper, and the rain cleared and sun came out.

First stop was Old Faithful geyser, and within a few minutes of its predicted eruption time, it lived up to its name. We were just about to move on when an announcement went out that the Beehive geyser was about to blow, which only happens once every five days or so! It was bigger and louder than Old Faithful, and I thought much more impressive. I was very lucky to witness it.

Next stop was the Grand Prismatic Spring, which had always been my main goal. Had we had more time we would have trekked up a nearby hill to look down on it, but getting up close and personal was still a big thrill.

I've included an aerial picture here from the internet to give you an idea of why I wanted to see it so much. As everyone followed the boardwalk round we were treated to a hot steam facial! Most geothermal sites have this feature, but each has its own characteristic, be it bubbling water, roaring steam vents or boiling mud.


As we were on the way to our next geothermal  boardwalk, we noticed a large number of cars parked at the side of the road. Clearly something interesting was nearby. As we walked through long grass between Lodge Pole pine, the dominant tree species in the park, we came across a large adult male elk grazing, with antlers five feet long and just as wide between the tips of the two. Then, in a nearby clearing, something snorted. A bull Buffalo was quietly minding its own business, sunning itself in a clearing.


The landscape highlight of the day was the astonishing Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. If ever there was a geological feature with a wow factor then this was it. It looked almost artificial, it was so picture perfect. The drop to the canyon floor was vertical, varying between 800 and 1200 feet down. Words are hard to describe the view. We viewed it looking toward the falls, then journeyed to the brink of the falls themselves.


The skies were darkening again as a large thunderstorm started to move in. We had been very lucky with cool temperatures and glorious sunshine all day, so we had nothing to complain about. But it actually set the mood for what was to come next. As we headed for the exit we passed Hayden Valley, famous as the best place to spot the wild animals of the park, and where the wildlife encounter of the day was about to unfold.

On the side of a hill, roughly 250m away, was a Grizzly Bear and two cubs! It was too far to photograph, so I took a set of binoculars and just sat and enjoyed the moment. If that were not treat enough, just after we left, and wondering why we had suddenly become part of a large queue of traffic, we saw up ahead the cause. A herd of roughly 100 Buffalo were crossing the road! As we eventually got to the point where they had crossed, they had mostly finished blocking the traffic, but we still had close up views of several beasts.


It had been truly an amazing day, very much an out of this world experience. Yellowstone has the largest collection of geothermal features anywhere in the world, and it was a privilege to get up close and personal with many of them. But to see the wildlife at such close quarters in their natural habitat was the icing on the cake.

Today I have just returned from Jenny Lake, just 45 minutes out of Jackson. It is nestled directly under the astonishing mountain range of the Grand Tetons, something I have wanted to see for as long as I can remember. If yesterday was about geothermal events and wild animals, today was about jagged wild mountains over 13,000 feet. I felt right at home. A small boat takes you across the lake to a trailhead, and there are many trails to follow once over, but I had to be careful as I was still recovering. I'm notorious for pushing myself too soon after injuries and undoing all the recovery, so I cautiously set out on a signed short and easy walk to Hidden Falls.

Cloud covered the peaks all morning, and I thought I wouldn't be able to get an iconic shot of the Grand Teton. But on the way back by bus, the clouds cleared briefly. I told the friendly driver that I'd have to try again tomorrow, at which he pulled over to allow me to get the shots I was after.


My time in Wyoming, and America, is drawing to a close. Tomorrow I will fulfill the final goal of my journey when I finally get to meet Jennifer and her husband, in Missoula, Montana. Jenn is the cartographer for the Adventure Cycling Association, and we became friends in 2011, when I crossed America by bicycle with Pauline. But we've never met, so tomorrow will change that. Not only will I meet Jennifer, but also her cute dog Tiika, and do I have a surprise for her!

Next week I'll be back in Scotland and I'll tell you all about the final leg.

Lots and lots of photos on Flickr! (please scroll down the Flickr page to get to the most recent)


3 comments:

The Chronicler and The Navigator said...

Aha! Elk jams, buffalo jams and bear jams - leading to "what are we looking at?" jams. Great fun! However, 250m is about the right distance between me and a grizzly with cubs ;-)

Give our thanks to Jennifer and all the cartographers at ACA for their wonderful maps - we used them extensively when we were in the deep south a few years ago.

Glad you're still managing to get around and continue the adventure.

Lesley

Graham Kitchener said...

Will do. Really enjoying Missoula. You should make it here one day. Great town.

Jenn, Cartographer said...

Lesley,

Happy to hear the maps were useful to you! Rob, Tiika and I thoroughly enjoyed having Graham as a houseguest.

.Jenn.