Geysers and Grizzlys
Trip Start Sep 14, 2010
10Trip End Nov 16, 2010
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We had warm jackets, waterproof shoes, and were ready for the cold and snow in Montana and Wyoming. Everyone we spoke to about heading north said we would encounter snow, possibly knee-deep in the stuff and lucky if we got through before the roads were closed. We were lucky. The snow was left behind in Utah and although there was snow on the mountains, the only weather we had to deal with was the freezing cold!
Idaho is better known for its potatos, but it's a lovely state full of cowboy towns and some lovely fall colours as we travelled through on our way to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Before entering the park, we stayed in West Yellowstone (in Montana). It was absolutely freezing, 26deg F (-3 deg C) when we arrived, and 9deg F (-12 deg C) overnight. The buildings are so well insulated, you are not cold inside and despite the sub-zero temperatures and to the low humidity, there was no frost on the ground or car in the morning
At the crack of dawn the next morning, in the freezing temperature, we took off into the park, over the Wyoming border, in search of some more wildlife - grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, bison and deer. Yellowstone was the world's first National Park and comprises lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. Yellowstone Lake is centered over Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano on the continent. Driving the grand loop road, we were able to view the beautiful snow-capped lodge pole pine trees, the last of the fall colours, and the wildlife from the car, but also get out and enjoy the park at many of the roadside stops and pullouts, such as The Falls. The waterfall was surrounded by spectacular rock formations but it was a few degrees below freezing so we didn't linger there too long! Luckliy, the main roads were still open, but in areas, the roads were very icy and covered in snow (thats when Courtney handed the driving over!) and the lodges and many of the services had closed down for the winter
As the sun rose, we came across a herd of elk crossing the road, and on the side of the road, two bison were happily munching away. Undisturbed by us, the elk continued to cross the road, followed by a nice looking buck. This set the scene for the rest of the day; lots of elk and bison! We stopped at one area where we saw a group of men waiting with cameras etc. They had seen bear and wolves there in previous days and showed us some footprints of where they had walked right in front of them, but none had been that morning so we continued on our way. As it is nearing winter, it was possible the bears would be more active, trying to get as much food as they could before hibernation. Maybe they had already started going to bed when we arrived! No wolves either, but we did see a coyote! As a result of the volcano, there is a lot of geothermal activity and we stopped to watch Old Faithful. This geyser puts on a show every 90 minutes and although it was good, we thought the geysers and hot pools in Rotorua, New Zealand were better; more of them and closer together. Yellowstone is an amazing and beautiful park and although the animals remind you how wild these areas are, sometimes they can surprise you. In a small town called Mammoth Hot Springs, at the northern end of the park, elk were happily lying around the front yards of people's homes!
As we left the park, we crossed in to Montana, The Big Sky State and its easy to see why. We seem to always be surrounded by mountain ranges and the sky spreads far, wide and high. We stopped at a little cowboy town called Ennis where the buildings in the main street look just out of a western movie and the bigger city of Missoula, which appeared hip, funky and cultural. There are still a truck load of massive pickups and so many of them are driven by men with moustaches dressed in camouflage
We plan to spend a couple of days visiting an old school friend of Pete's in Vancouver, Washington before heading down the Oregon Coast to California. As we left Montana on our way to Oregon we passed through four states in one day including Idaho (again!) and Washington State (not Washington DC!).
We are having a wonderful time and expect these last two weeks to fly by! We wish you were all here with us! Love Courtney, Dawn and Pete.