Sunday, November 15, 2020

Mosaic Monday #105: Road Trippin', Part III

October 15: Winter arrives in Yellowstone

We had big plans for the third day of our road trip.  A visit to Lamar Valley, a wolf watching destination since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995.  A hike to the summit of Bunsen Peak.  Well, do you want to read the "rest of the story"?

Departing the cabin at 7.45 AM, the temperature gauge read 27 degrees.  Brrr.  Perhaps I should not be surprised that it did not seem to faze the cow elk we observed standing in the Madison River.

Or the bison grazing along the road, as you see in the video below.  Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.  Yellowstone bison are special because they are America's largest bison population on public land and have not been hybridized through breeding with cattle.

By 9 AM, it was snowing.  Our truck was still sporting summer tires, so we took it steady.  We reached Canyon Village around 9.30 only to find the road north closed.  (We assumed because of snow, but I later learned - by reading the Park brochure - that this section of road was closed all year for construction!)  This basically ruled out a visit to Lamar Valley, as it would take too much time to reach the Valley through Mammoth Hot Springs and still fit in our plans to hike/visit the Mammoth complex.  I abhor backtracking, but there was no alternative.  Reaching "new" territory, we headed north from Norris Basin and shortly passed Roaring Mountain.

We tooled along, speculating about the visibility from Bunsen Peak, our chosen hike.  A few miles short of the trailhead, we could see red taillights.  Hmmm - more wildlife?  We pulled up behind a stopped car, the last in a line of at least a dozen vehicles, and the truck skidded slightly sideways.  Oh dear.  Not good.  Ahead, we could see some flashing lights, but not much else through the falling snow.  We waited 15 minutes, studying the map and watching several cars turn around and head back south.  One paused to talk to us, but couldn't offer any information.  We surmised that there was an accident ahead; the map showed the road entering a canyon with twists and turns.  Shortly, a plow came southbound, and we made the tough choice to turn and follow it.  No Bunsen Peak or Mammoth Hot Springs for us!

Our decision was rapidly affirmed as we squeezed past trucks skewed sideways on the road, and witnessed several vehicles in the ditch.  Our day seemed blessed by comparison!  We paused at Roaring Mountain for a couple of pictures.  Amid the steam and sulfur-rich gases, microscopic organisms are hard at work.  This barren slope, inhospitable to humans, is the perfect home for Sulfolobus acidocaldarius.  Billion and billions of these thermophiles live here, wearing away the mountain.  We also took the opportunity to select another hike - we don't give up easily!

Most of the route to Wolf Lake passed through a tangle of downed trees, among which lodgepole have emerged, sometimes quite thickly.  It must have been an intense fire about 20 years ago.  We encountered two stream crossings.  Downed trees had to serve as make-shift bridges, and with a slick covering of snow, it was tricky!

The sun was shining when we first arrived at Wolf Lake, but suddenly the wind picked up and it began to snow, so we didn't linger.  On the return journey, we took a spur to Ice Lake.  A log made for a snack spot, as we watched 2 coots bobbing on the lake, and listened to the screeches of a Clark's Nutcracker.

The clock read 3.45 when we reached the truck, and the temperature had risen to 37 degrees.  We contemplated another attempt at visiting Mammoth Hot Springs, but rejected the idea due to the late hour and the condition of the roads.  A bit of a disappointment, but we were soon comforted by the warmth of the cabin and another delicious meal from Head Chef.

October 16: Exploring Teton Valley

In my research of "things to see" for this trip, I read several recommendations for the drive through the Teton Valley for its scenery and quaint towns such as Tetonia, Driggs and Victor.  As we departed Island Park, with a temperature of 30 degrees and high winds, we were content to be in the truck for a bit!  We hurtled down Highway 20, noticing the numerous signs for snowmobiles - obviously a popular spot for this sport in the winter.  We also whizzed by a prominent sign for the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, and a quick consult of the map showed this would not take us much out of our way and could be interesting.  So Spousal Unit made a safe U-turn, and I am so glad he did - this road led to the Upper and Lower Mesa Falls - spectacular.

The Upper Falls had an extensive set of boardwalks that provided several vantage points and numerous placards with historic, geological and nature information.

If you would like to see (and hear) the Upper Falls in action, check out this video.

As we left the Falls, I was amused to see this snow pole.  If you had any doubt about the snowfall they get in these parts, that pole should erase it!  (The Lower Falls had only a distant overlook; we could see tiny people who had walked from the Upper Falls.  We will have to make time for that walk the next time we come this way.)

Our next destination was the Darby Wind Cave, which I had also discovered during my Internet research.  We were pleased to find that the temperature had warmed to a comfortable 42 degrees, and we set off with great anticipation.  The trail was remarkably diverse - pine forest, canyon, alpine meadows.  About halfway through the hike, you can spy the Wind Cave across the canyon.  Can you see it near the middle of the picture to the right?  If not, the collage below is from a closer vantage point.  Near here, Spousal Unit spotted a bright red bird at the top of a pine tree.  I grabbed my binoculars and soon had it in view.  Later, I was able to easily identify it as a pine grosbeak.

As we reached the headwall of the canyon, we crossed a dry creek bed and began the final ascent toward the mouth of the cave.  At one point, a rope is secured between trees to help hikers pull themselves up a particular steep section.  We were grateful for a set of steps that had been constructed to climb the final 30 feet or so.  That section was wet and icy and would have been treacherous without them.  (The blue speck at left is Spousal Unit.)  We had read ahead of time about the highly technical nature of this cave - with steep drop-offs and deep, cold water, most of it should only be explored by experienced spelunkers with full caving equipment.  We ventured about 50 feet inside, enough to get an an interior shot and an interesting picture looking out of the cave.  (There is a passageway from the drop-offs to a nearby ice cave, which produces a cold wind.  This is what lends its name to the Wind Cave.)

Looking at the thick brown foliage in the meadows, and the uncountable bare-branched aspen, I could imagine that this hike would be even more jaw-dropping in the summer and early fall.  The barren trees make it slightly easier to spot the Clark's nutcrackers and a Steller's Jay, while a hawk lazily circled overhead.  The sun came out as we re-traced our steps, and I thoroughly enjoyed the downhill tramp, absorbing the earthy autumn aroma and the pine scent cast into the air by the sun's rays.  (In studying the map for this post, I have just realized that while the trailhead for this hike is in Idaho, the cave itself is in Wyoming!)

We cruised on down Highway 33, with the Tetons looming on the southeastern horizon.  As you reach the summit of Teton Pass (8,431 feet) the valley that encompasses Jackson, Wyoming spreads before you.  I literally gasped out loud.  My picture of the valley is not the best, but perhaps you can get the general idea.

We passed several appealing bars; people were seated outside, soaking up the autumn sunshine.  On a normal day, we would have selected one and enjoyed a beverage.  But it is not a normal world, and all of them were much too populated.  We decided to go straight to our accommodation for the next 3 nights, a cabin at the Cowboy Village Resort in Jackson.  We sure were ready to eat when Head Chef put this on our table.  A fitting end to another wonderful day.

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  1. ...that sure is a beautiful part of the country, but I'm prepared to wait a bit longer for the snow to come. Thanks Angie for hosting.

  2. Snow can wait here ...we love autumn with colored leaves. It's such a lovely season.

    Wyoming is a wonderful landscape, thank you for sharing.

    Have a good week.

    Happy MosaicMonday

  3. There's so much beauty in our country, thanks for always showing s the best.

  4. Another wonderful pots with beautiful countryside, so good to see the bison, do the cars have to give way to them in the park? Or do people naturally slow to have a look as they go past.

  5. What a beautiful journey and thank you for sharing. I love the falls!
    Dawn aka Spatulas On Parade

  6. Oh, what a fabulous post.
    Glorious country. I especially liked the second photo, and the one taken from Teton Pass, well, that one certainly would make one gasp. Spelunkers-spelunking I've always admired that word. And what a cave to explore.
    Many thanks for sharing.
    Best Wishes...Dixie

  7. What a great little getaway. I'm glad you took it easy in the snow with your summer tires - yikes! What a beautiful part of the USA.

  8. I'm making notes along your journey for a future trip to see some of these sites. We enjoyed Yellowstone in June of 2016 so we had no snow issues but lots of traffic issues. Those falls in Idaho really are something. Glad you have a great head chef along for your journeys!!

  9. Just look at you with outspread arms....and a meal fit for kings and queens, to boot. Gosh, such treacherous conditions you adventurers had....and a herd of mighty big bison, too!! But....what beautiful scenery you enjoyed. You truly do have the best little holidays, Angie.

  10. Angie you may have missed some of the usual tourist sights in Yellowstone but you found wonderful and interesting out of the way sights that make up for it! The waterfalls and cave were so unique!

  11. Thanks Angie for hosting us at another Mosaic Monday.
    Happy Monday to all linking in

    much love...

  12. Another wonderful virtual trip, thanks for taking us along, Angie.
    (PS: The yellow flower in last week's post you asked about is a wattle - a native of Australia, with many species. See: )

  13. Hello Angie,
    The views of the Tetons and waterfalls are just beautiful. Your hike to the cave sounds interesting. I would love all the wildlife and bird sightings. The snow would have freaked me out, I do not like driving in snow. Sounds like a great day and an awesome trip. Thanks for hosting. Take care, have a great new week!

  14. I enjoyed this very much. I could almost feel my lungs filling with crisp cold air as I followed long.

  15. You two are intrepid hikers! It’s great that you don’t give up easily when Plan A is thwarted. And what great rewards you had on each of your hikes. Thank you for sharing the beauty with those of us less intrepid! I enjoyed the food-related rewards as well. I’m curious — did you pack all the wonderful food (and, I assume, beverages) before you left home or did you hunt out grocery stores along the way? We’ve found that hunt can be kind of interesting too, but only since we’ve had almost unlimited travel time.

  16. Hi Angie :) Oh that's so neat about the bison, I would just love to witness that!!! Too bad about the road conditions, I'm sure a visit to the hot springs would have been memorable! I love the video of the Falls too. The view from inside the cave (looking out) is so neat! :) What a great trip! The valley is so beautiful, your trip reminds me of the first time I visited Mount Orford in Quebec...I had that gasp-out-loud moment too when I got to the peak and saw the beautiful valley of the Apalachian mountains! Your dinners look so yummy! :)

  17. It's always wonderful to be ready for a change of plans and go with the to speak. We never know when God is changing our plans for our own good and safety. You sure saw some beautiful scenery and the wildlife and birds are a real bonus. I love that waterfall! Oh...the food is perfect for a relaxing evening! Happy MM!

  18. Another great trip! I loved the pics. We took our honeymoon in Jackson Hole in the Teton Valley in March 1978. The snow around Jenny Lake was up to the roof of the lodge. Such a beautiful place. :) Kit

  19. I played the waterfall video. Waterfalls are always hard to photograph. The gradeur is hard to catch. Great hike!

  20. I love these road trips you take us on as they are places I will probably never be able to visit. Thank you. Stay safe and happy travels.

  21. That was quite the adventure! Thanks for hosting and have a good week!

  22. Thank you for bringing us along on your wonderful travels. Someday I hope to go to Yellowstone and that Darby Wind Cave looks amazing! I feel like I just escaped for a a quick get away without having to leave my house! The tour is quite amazing (even if virtually).

  23. Wow … you are right that you don’t give up easy and the payoffs were spectacular. The bison video was soooo inspiring. Too often we deprive animals of freedom so it’s glorious to see these majestic creatures roaming at will.

  24. Wow! Fantastic road trip and awesome photography ^_^ ~ Yellowstone was one of my favorite places ~ good to see it again ^_^

    Live each moment with love,

    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  25. Hi Angie. I was surprised to see that wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone. I suppose I imagined they had been left in peace by the early settlers? Were guns the worst invention ever? At least bows and arrows gave the creatures a sporting chance.
    The winters here have been so mild that I cannot remember the last time I drove on snow or ice. And there’s no sign of any just yet. Maybe the early snows caught those drivers out just like they do here.
    There’s a whole generation of drivers here in UK who have never driven on ice or snow because of the run of mild winters, even more so in maritime Lancashire. And it shows if and when the ice and snow arrives and they hurtle along at full pelt.

  26. Hi Angie, wonderful trip around your country. Lovely waterfalls, and the Bison's, beautiful.

  27. The park is gorgeous in the snow!

  28. the mosaics are such a wonderful way to display a lot of images, yours are so beautiful!!

    you are right, the world is not normal right now and eating in some restaurants is just not the right choice. we have eaten out only 2 times, both times we sat outside, that is not possible anymore because of the temperatures.

    yellowstone is beautiful with the snow, i have never been and would like to see it before i die. the video of the falls is gorgeous, they reminded me of my trips to niagara falls, 2 trips i enjoyed so much!!!

  29. What a wonderful adventure. Beautiful photos and great narrative. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend.

  30. A great adventure, Angie. Yellowstone in winter (or wintry conditions) is not for the faint of heart obviously!

  31. I'm hoping back over to let you know I posted the pics of the Barred Owl...I know you wanted to see them. AND...I'll miss Mosaic Monday next week. I need to take a few days off from the computer. So Happy Thanksgiving my friend!

  32. I love your spirit. If you can't do what you want, do what you can and you had done enough homework to have some great alternatives.
    The view from Teton Pass over Jackson Hole is wonderful.
    The wind cave, I have never heard of that. What a great outing.

  33. What a great adventure, such lovely photographs.
    Stay safe and well.

    All the best Jan


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