Visiting Yellowstone National Park, Part 2

Awaking the next morning, I repeated my visit across the road to Yellowstone Lake. At first it looked like a promising day and that the very early light would give way to clearing skies. I walked up and down the beach. No other souls ventured out this day. As I walked and watched the Eastern sky, the break in the clouds never came, consequently, no sunrise.

With skies darkening even more, I quickly removed my dry bedding and stashed that in the truck. Then it began to drizzle as I worked to dismantle my tent. It was quick. I simply threw the wet tent in the back of the truck over a tarp. Then I drove away.

View from my motel room balcony, town of Gardiner, MT across the bridge.

Up the road I stopped at Lake Lodge and ate. There I discovered they have a fine old lodge and cabins that overlook Yellowstone Lake. It is a very nice setting, but I am sure the rooms were more than I cared to spend. Besides that my plan was to drive to the northwest corner of the upper Yellowstone loop and visit at Mammoth Springs. On the way, I came upon the same throng of cars and people out there looking at whatever they were seeing. This time, with fewer cars and people, I pulled over, got my binoculars and peered out into the grassy area where everyone else seemed to be casting their sights. As I scanned in the distance out some 200 yards or more, I DID see something move. Partially obscured by the uneven lay of the land, I detected a dark color and what appeared to be a hump. Buffalo was my first impression, though I could not see a head. Could this be a mate to the supposed killed buffalo from a few days ago? Continuing to gaze, the animal raised its’ head. It was a bear! Grizzley bear, no less! I could not see the carcass he seemed to be dining at, but he did seem to be busy with something. Then rather quickly, the bear just turned and wandered off further away from the crowds upon the hill (and away from my position further down the road). So, I got to see a grizzly bear, and at a nice, safe distance no less! That was much better than meeting one face to face.

In addition to the bear, this morning brought out a number of buffalo, most very near the road. In all I saw the distant grizzly bear, elk (on the hotel lawn in Mammoth Springs), buffalo and a deer. I’d love to have seen a moose and maybe a grizzly just a wee bit closer so that I could have taken his photograph.

On the way to Mammoth Springs I stopped at several places to see the hot thermal features. Mammoth Springs was once a military outpost and the major entryway into Yellowstone Park. The Army managed the parks for several years until Congress created the National Park Service. These early soldiers patrolled the whole park, greeted visitors and kept an eye on “shady characters” as well as poachers. The Army’s management of the park was from 1872 to 1918, when the National Park Service took control. Policies put in place by the Army were a blueprint for the new management of the National Parks. The buildings constructed while it was Fort Yellowstone, are unique wood or stone buildings, that are really quite elegant. Those quarters look very upscale and must have been like living in the lap of luxury.

Arriving in Mammoth Springs I inquired at the hotel for rooms and none were available. But the desk clerk told me to go 5 miles up the road to Gardiner, Montana, on the border, and check for motel rooms. A campground was open and on the way to Gardiner, so checking it out on the way was the plan. Though I was willing to set up my tent, hoping it would dry out once it was set up, Mother Nature intervened, AGAIN, and let loose with even more rain and drizzle. That settled that. I took a room in Gardiner, MT for 2 nights.

Gardiner, MT was the location of the gateway to Yellowstone National Park. A large stone arch, Roosevelt Arch welcomed all visitors through that portal. A train station was located near the gate in the early years and visitors were transported into the park via horse drawn coaches. In about 1915 the first automobiles were allowed. The town of Gardiner is rustic and in many ways is a throwback to another century. My room, however, was nice with a balcony overlooking the Yellowstone River. 

Rain continued through the night. In the morning low hanging clouds shrouded the mountain tops and it was dreary. With intervals of more sunlight “trying” to break through, the drizzle came and went all day. In the afternoon I took the eastern most segment of the upper loop road back to Canyon Lodge. This was, in my opinion, the best, most scenic of the drives. Up and down mountains, through grasslands, river views, a side drive up to Blacktail Plateau on an unpaved road, which was rough, with potholes filled with muddy water, and rocky most of the way. The views were awesome.

Returning to the main road I searched for Tower Fall but later found it is inaccessible to the public. On that  drive as I drove higher on Mt. Washburn, the fog enveloped the higher elevations. And, of course, it rained. At Canyon Junction, I turned back and returned on the same road, with no change in the weather. It seemed, at times that the sun was trying hard to break through, but the heavy clouds always won the battle. The rain was off and on all the way. 

As I drove along I wished this visit to Yellowstone National Park had not been in a weird weather pattern of low temperatures and endless days of rain. I still am impressed by the beauty it possesses and would love to revisit it at a time with the temperature are warmer and the sun is dominant in the sky.

One advantage of the cold weather is that I wasn’t sweating at least. 

Jokingly I’ve said this weather is like winter weather - in Phoenix. 

This morning, Saturday, it was raining again. I took most of the morning to get up the gumption to move on and decide my next steps. On the way south I stopped again at Old Faithful to see if I could get better photos of its’ eruption. I waited around for over an hour and, as in the few days before, the skies were gloomy not allowing for very good pictures. During the time I was there it had not rained and it even looked like a break was coming in the Western sky. Ha. No such luck. It started to drizzle again as I made my way back to my truck. The one place on the loops that I had not yet seen was Grant. I stopped there, then after 4:30, and found no accommodations were available. I was given a list of hotels, however, in Jackson, Wyoming and called two, finding one with vacancy. I booked it before leaving Grant. The drive was 80 miles, more distance than I had figured. Though I would liked to have explored more around the Grant location, by then I was just ready to throw in the towel and find another warm place to stay the night (maybe two).

Dropping down from Yellowstone National Park, it is a short distance before entering Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming which is further south of Grand Teton. 

Again, as I drove along, nearing Jackson I saw actual blue sky and a what appeared like a possible break in the weather. Mother Nature must have been rolling with laughter, for just at quickly it was all clouds and drizzling again. However to the West, the Grand Teton Mountains had come into view, showing some clearing around them. Heavy clouds capped those rugged mountain tops and remained in place as the brighter skies there also retreated in favor of the clouds. I did capture a picture of the Tetons in their partially unveiled status.


Now I am in Jackson, WY, enjoying the comfort of a warm, well lit room and dry bed. The weather forecast  tomorrow is for partial clearing, then two more days of rain, again. I’m thinking of booking another night here so that I might go explore around the mountains or lakes. If that does not work out, I will keep heading south, possibly putting an early end to my month’s vacation. 

And wouldn’t ya know, Phoenix has been getting a fair amount of rain over these past few weeks AND, get this, the temperatures are only going to be in the 90’s for several days. 104/105 is about average for this time of year. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Before going to bed last night I booked this same room online (saved $33 too). I decided to give Mother Nature a second chance and she presented us with a brighter day. As I look out the window, the sky is blue with lots of the large puffy white clouds that make for an excellent visual (and great for photographs).

I intend to go to Grand Teton National Park, back north of Jackson, WY and to check out a place recommended by Mark H, Granite Hot Springs. Though my left knee has been aching the last day or two, I might try a hike up into the mountains also. 

Weather forecast for the area calls for afternoon rain, which continues into tomorrow. By tomorrow I’ll be heading to Southern Wyoming/Northern Utah and checking out a few other recommendations. 

Yellowstone area is large and incorporates not only the National Park. It varies considerably from one place to another, all with outstanding natural beauty. I do wish the weather had been more cooperative especially during my ventures into the actual park. Dreary, cold days do have an affect on me if they persist, as they have. Today, with brighter skies, I also feel brighter and more content than yesterday. 

While visiting this National Park, or other popular ones, one can expect large crowds during the summer months. That can be annoying at times, but I’ve had to practice patience and realize we have a whole lot of visitors who want to experience these places, especially, it seems, a lot of foreigners. Cultural differences are bound to bump into our own, particularly ones of respecting how many Americans feel about their “personal space” in crowds. While I’m not used to being crowded, blocked by others on pathways as they stop and take photos or swarm about in large groups, hoards of viewers at the best overlook sites, and general hustle and bustle and scurrying about like ants on an anthill, I realize that, in the grand scheme of things, what appears as insensitivity to common civility (as I would like it), is an enthusiasm of others to see these grand places in the ways they experience their lives. Perhaps they live in very crowded societies and that those cramped situations are a way of life which is of no bother to them. The point of this, is that being out in the backcountry as compared to being in the more populated and more visited sites, is the only true way to avoid crowds, confusions and jangled nerves. I enjoy both, but, despite the more rugged conditions of life out in the wilds, the experiences I have had in the back country is much more preferable as my way of truly experiencing the natural beauty that is present upon our Earth.

It is my pleasure to try to capture and share what I have seen and experienced with interested readers and others.

To view more of my photos, go to this link on my Shutterfly photo web page:


Soldiers Barracks


Officers and some soldiers lived in these houses. 

Senior officers homes.

Yes, that is Old Faithful. © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments