Friday, August 30, 2013

An exciting day in Yellowstone!

I have no idea how many days we've been on the road.  I just know that it is Thursday the 29th 2013 and I have decided to share today as is because it was a pretty special one.   Please enlarge by clicking on the photo for better detail.

It started off simply enough, with me saying jokingly that we are a couple of poor old sods!  Gregg is complaining about the small of his back this morning.  I have also been having problems with a sore knee which I twisted on that last step I told you about, before we had the work done out front and took care of the problem of that incredibly steep step.  I think my other side has over-compensated causing some hip pain and an Achilles tendon flare-up on the opposite side of the knee sprain.  With all the driving and tons of walking we've done, it makes us realize that though we are having the time of our life, we are no longer Spring Chickens, but the Spring Chickens sure are enjoying themselves, minor aches aside.  I suggested maybe we ought to get some Bengay today.  Gregg thought about that for a few seconds and said, "Maybe, but I think we ought to drive down to Florida to try and find that fountain of youth first." 

11.27 a.m. and Gregg is filling up the car with gas and buying bear spray from their store.  He had heard their advertisement this morning and decided to buy a can, as it is recommended at all the Visitor Centers in bear country.  As we were hoping to see sign of bear this morning he thought it prudent.  

Bear attacks may be rare but we have heard how one couple was recently charged and they said their bear spray saved them from serious injury.  Not sure if it was in this park or at another.  I read that 80 percent of attacks are from bears who are protecting cubs, something that all mothers across the species can understand.  

I think the bears are safe however but the further north we go we thought we ought to have some with us just in case.  

11.40 p.m. we stopped by a real pretty river setting.   We watched as a fisherman tossed his line out several times and then left him to his peace and quiet. We also said goodbye to our grasshopper who has been traveling with us for two days.  Darned if we could find him but he finally jumped out of the door when we left them open at the river.   Thankfully a dozen others didn't fly in to join him.  I am wondering if these are actually grasshoppers because they seem to fly rather than jump.  They sure look like grasshoppers.

12.32 p.m. Sitting on a log near another beautiful river setting....

and giving the camera a well deserved rest.  Gregg and I have been giving her quite a work-out.

1.41 p.m. Just stopped at Canyon Village.  We shared a trout dinner with a salad.  I met two ladies in the bathroom, one from Nebraska, the other from South Carolina.  Yes there are even friendly people who even talk to you in the ladies loo!

Not far from Canyon Village we stopped at the north rim of the Grand Canyon overlook at the top of the hill.  Walking on the trail to one of the overlooks I spotted this little chipmunk.  Really cute!  There was also an osprey nest sign but before I saw the sign a lady came up to me and said she had noticed the long lens of my camera and would I mind looking at this nest on top of the pinnacle down below to see what was in it.  

She heard the birds before she saw the nest but wasn't able to make out what was making the noise.  I was very grateful as I had no idea there was a nest there.  I took several photos and loaned her my camera to take a look.  I asked her if she would like me to send her a copy if my photos came out okay.  She said yes and we exchanged e-mails.   They are a bit fuzzy but yes they are ospreys.

Here is the sign I saw later.  It reads: "Ospreys sometimes build nests in the cliffs opposite this overlook.  Though the nests may be five feet in diameter, they are difficult to spot against the vast cliffscape.  Watch for osprey riding updrafts throughout the canyon from May to September."

Here are other photos we took.

I believe this is one of the tour vehicles from Yellowstone Lodge.

You can just make out a river down there and it is the brightest blue color which doesn't really show in the photos.

A nice bench carved out of the rock to sit down for a spell.

Those dark clouds were moving in and we saw some lightning strikes in the distance.  Gregg was hoping to capture one.

It started to sprinkle but by this time we were in the car and ready to move on.  We have been very lucky with the weather.  There have been some showers but we seem to move through those dark clouds quickly.

So, we have stopped  at Grand View and later Inspiration Point, all beautiful places to rest for a while. We are stopping a lot today and getting out to stretch more often.  

2.58 p.m. We just saw the biggest bull elk we have ever seen.  We watched as it ambled along in the woods until it eventually made its way into a clearing.  We heard its bellow, a surreal sound, first at high pitch and then in a deep low tone.  We had seen its mate also in the wood, a fleeting glimpse. And that's why I love Yellowstone, you just never know what the day will bring.  

We have a fellow traveler and his family to thank for this wondrous experience.  If we hadn't seen their car pulled off the road we would probably have driven by.  I rolled my window down and asked what they were all looking at.  They pointed into the trees and told us they had spotted a bull elk, a really big one.  We pulled in just ahead of them and strained our eyes.  There was definitely a big animal in there but the trees were thick and it was hard to see. 

(This is a short video I took, stopped because a car eventually got in our line of view and I only wish I had kept the video going because you'll read what happened immediately afterwards.  You might hear some chuntering on my part.)

It wasn't long before we were joined by a dozen cars who totally blocked us in.  We could't move backwards or forwards but in the end, on this narrow one-way road with woods on each side, and thankfully a clearing we saw the elk moving toward, well, those cars did us a big favor by blocking us in, as when they moved to get away from the oncoming animal, we had front row seats to nature at its best.  

I am in complete and total awe of this magnificent animal.  I was halfway out of the passenger side of the car to try to get a better look because of the car blocking our view, and at that time the elk seemed a good distance away.  But all of a sudden that car suddenly got out of there and we saw why.  That beautiful beast was heading straight towards us.  I was so shocked I may have said a rude word as I quickly jumped back in the car and shut the door fast.  We had no time to move.  

When that car had the sense to get away, it gave us a full view of the elk heading toward us, he was next to us in moments.

As Gregg was taking the photos and he suddenly realized how fast the elk was coming.....

and literally thought he was going to stick his head in our window, he wound it up fast but the back window was still open, as I had been trying to get a better look by straining my neck trying to see beyond the car blocking our view, and I kept saying, "Back window's still open, back window's still open!"  I thought that elk was going to stick his head right in.....   

antlers and all

The elk's head was so close at one point that I couldn't see anything beyond him, but thankfully he suddenly turned and went behind our car, filling up the whole rear window with his bulk.  He couldn't have been more than two inches away from our rear bumper.  

Other people who had stopped to get out of their cars for a better look, scattered in all directions as the bull approached.  Gregg handed me the camera to take pictures from my side, but wouldn't you know it as I saw him retreating into the woods  the camera's memory started flashing "full"!!!   Ah well, Gregg got these great photos of him coming towards us, but not a photo of his retreating behind.   It was an amazing experience.   When those big guys want to cross the road they are going to cross the road.  

We wondered afterwards what we might have done differently as the situation was precarious.  We stayed in our car which is always recommended, we were at the recommended distance from the animal but it came towards us at a full trot, we didn't go towards him.  

I'm glad we didn't see any bears today.  This was enough excitement of a close encounter, and one we never expected.  You just never know what is going to happen in Yellowstone.  It's always best to be aware that the unexpected can happen.

Heart-stopping excitement over with, we happily chatted about what had just happened until we stopped at Virginia Cascades.  Again, real pretty down by the water.

Not too far from where we exit the park we came across another elk who appeared to be bathing.  If you see a line of cars with people pointing cameras, it's a sure bet that there is another treat in store. This elk was a younger one but he was giving everyone a show.   He seemed to have an itch on his back and nonchalantly twisted his head to give himself a scratch.

I didn't know elk liked water so much but he looked very comfortable and kept company with several Canada Geese who were swimming nearby.

Today we got to look at a waterfall, a river, a glacial rock, the Yellowstone Canyon, ospreys on a nest, a tiny chipmunk and a huge bull elk, and another smaller one cooling itself in a river.

This is our last night in West Yellowstone.  We are heading for the Grand Tetons tomorrow.