Day 18 - Yellowstone
Monday - September 23, 2019
We had a good nights rest last night. It was QUIET and DARK and COOL. After a light continental breakfast consisting of pastries, cheese and coffee we were off at about 8:00. This was late for us, but for a couple of reasons. It was 28 degrees and I had to warm and defrost the car before we could leave and it also was very foggy, so I didn't want to get out before good light.
We had decided to drive to the Mud Volcano area and work our way back. The trail at the Mud Volcano was just a little over a mile long and pretty easy walking.
The mudpots and fumeroles were interesting, but smelly. A great deal of hydrogen sulfide is released from these guys.
After that we drove back about 6 miles to hike the Elephant Back trail. When we arrived at trail-head, there was a crowd of photographers, serious photographers with 10's of thousands of dollars in glass. What I found was a Great Horned Owl in a tree by the roadside. I was happy to get a few photos myself.
We entered the trail behind another group and hiked about 200 yards only to find the trail completely closed. No explanation, just closed to all traffic. It was very disappointing. As we all trekked back to the road, we learned the other group was from Birmingham, Alabama. We recognized each others accents. :) Speaking of accents, it seems there are more foreigners in Yellowstone than Americans. There are Chinese and French speaking tourist everywhere you go. I just try to remember that the dollars they are spending were converted from Yuan.
Kay and I regrouped after consulting my Alltrails app and decided to hike the Storm Point Loop trail. It was only 2.3 miles instead of the 3.2 miles of Elephant Back and actually considered an easier trail to hike. It turned out to be a good decision. There was some beautiful scenery and even a few Bison.
After the hike we had planned to visit the Yellowstone Lake Hotel restaurant for lunch. We just couldn't face the cafeteria in the Lodge today.
Many people think that the oldest lodge in Yellowstone is the Old Faithful Inn. Actually it’s the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. It is a grand old hotel. The service was fairly formal, the surroundings beautiful and the food excellent. I had a bison burger with a Moose Drool draft beer. My absolutely favorite brown ale. Kay had sauteed trout.
Leaving the Hotel to get back to the highway to Old Faithful, we came across this fellow..
Following our meal, we drove another 20 miles back toward our lodging, stopping to hike the West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail. This was only a mile trail on a boardwalk because it was through a Geyser and mud pot field. I did not take too many photos of the geyser and mud pits, because, well, photos are just a disappointment compared to seeing it in person.
At 7:00 PM each night there is a ranger presentation at the Visitor Center / Education Building. Tonight the topic was the Cycles of Yellowstone. It was a great presentation and explained many things we had seen and not completely understood.
Two things really stood out. They have a natural burn policy. If a forest fire is caused by natural forces, such as lighting, they let it burn unless it threatens buildings or people. This is how the forest renews itself. Without fires, diversity becomes threatened.
We saw a lot of areas like this. It was good to know the fires are beneficial.
The other factoid was in regard to coyotes. The proliferation of coyotes all over the U.S. is a result of the extinguishing of the Timber Wolf, it's only natural predator. Without the wolves, the coyote population soared and they have migrated thousands of miles east from their original natural habitat. There has been a lot of discussion on our community blog about all the coyotes we have. Maybe we should get some wolves...