Tag Archives: National Parks

National Parks trip – Glacier

Our National Parks trip ended at Glacier National Park where we stayed at the Lake McDonald Lodge.  Glacier is not named for its (diminishing) glaciers but for the process of glaciation that formed the park’s terrain.

There are two routes that run north/south on the eastern and western side of the park.  Lake McDonald Lodge is reached by the western route.  Going-to-the-Sun run cuts directly across the park from west to east through Logan Pass but, due to the high elevation and heavy snows, it is often closed until late June.

Since we took our trip early, the road was only open to Avalanche Creek.  We did get to hike the Avalanche Creek trail up to Avalanche Lake and were rewarded with breathtaking views as well as siting both a black bear and grizzly bear!

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Glacier Black Bear

Glacier Grizzly

 

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National Parks trip – to Butte, MT?

 

Butte, MT is not on most people’s list of places to visit when going to National Parks.  In fact, it is not of most people’s list of places to visit period.  It is, however, halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.  We decided to break up an over eight hour drive by spending the night at the Copper King Mansion, now a bed and breakfast in Butte, MT.

According to Wikipedia, the Copper King Mansion is a 34-room residence of Romanesque Revival Victorian Architecture that was built from 1884 to 1888 as the residence of William Andrews Clark, one of Montana’s three famous Copper Kings.  We stayed in the Master Suite.  The owners, Erin and Pat, were very gracious and knowledgeable about the mansion and its restoration and upkeep.  After a delicious breakfast and a full tour of the mansion, we continued on to Glacier National Park.

Copper mining in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was done by pit mining with headframes, the structural frame above the underground mine shaft.  Open pit mining – the Berkeley Pit – did not occur until the mid-twentieth century and was closed in 1982.

National Parks trip – Yellowstone

A favorite saying goes “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes.”  I believe that Yellowstone has all other locations beat.  After the Grand Tetons, we made our way from the Jackson Lake Lodge to Old Faithful Inn.  The first picture shows the snowy, overcast weather we encountered and the traffic jam caused by a motorist’s car stuck in the snow.  A helpful park ranger got the motorist unstuck.  After arriving at Old Faithful, we decided to drive up to Mammoth Hot Springs and the second picture shows the snowless drive.  Same day, different weather patterns.

Yellowstone is too fascinating to cover in just a few pictures.  Over 3 million visitors go each year and most of them, I suspect, make the trek to the Old Faithful Inn and Old Faithful geyser.

Both are worth the stop but there are more geysers than just Old Faithful.  In fact, within a single square mile around Old Faithful are half the geysers on the planet.  There are also fumeroles, hotsprings and mudpots in the park.  A few days are not enough time to see all the wonders of Yellowstone but we did manage to see Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, West Thumb, Lamar Valley, Upper and Lower Falls and Grand Prismatic Spring.

 

[Next up is a brief stop at the Copper King Mansion on the way to Glacier National Park.]

National Parks trip – Grand Tetons

 

I know, I know.  I have been absent and have failed to fulfill my complement of bitching and grousing.

I will return to that subject but first – another trip, this time to three US National Parks; the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier.  My wife and I took this trip in May, starting at the Grand Tetons then moving north first through Yellowstone and then Glacier.  Taking the trip early in the season meant some chanciness in the weather.  The Grand Tetons had some rainy weather but we got an improvement in Yellowstone and Glacier.  We also got a look at a number of critters including black bears and a grizzly.  More on that later.

First up, the Grand Tetons.

The first four pictures are the classic one (though a bit cloudy) of the Snake River in the foreground and the Tetons in the background.  The Tetons are unusual in that, unlike most mountain ranges (the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Cascades and Sierra Nevada’s), they rise directly from a flat valley without any foothills.  It’s all due to tectonic activity and the fact that one tectonic plate is moving directly under another and, as one plate rises, erosion levels the valley floor.  At times, it is as though there is a flat valley floor and the Tetons are huge fake drapery to convince you that there are mountains.

During our visit, we took the boat ride across Jenny Lake and the next picture shows the approach to the landing dock.  A hike with a 600 foot in elevation change took us to hidden falls (next picture).

A Mormon community attempted to establish a farming community in the latter part of the nineteenth century and this barn is often captured in photographs of the now abandoned buildings of that community.

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Next is a picture taken from our bedroom balcony at the Jackson Lake Lodge and the last is one on our departure to Yellowstone as the weather cleared.

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[Next up is Yellowstone.]

Walking Sticks and Death by Selfie

 

“Get up off your butt and stop sleeping! I’m tired of doing nothing.”  In such dulcet tones did I receive the proclamation of She Who Must Be Obeyed*.   (*from Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer.)

I, in turn, responded in my most Rumpolean manner by stating: “Huh? What? But, my dear, I am not ‘doing nothing.’  I am, in fact, emulating the habits of my good friend the Koala Bear.”  Koala Bears sleep, on average, 22 hours a day and spend the remaining time eating Eucalyptus leaves.  I create something similar by putting Eucalyptus leaves in my drinks.

“Emulating Koala Bears. Nonsense.  We are going to do something by visiting the National Parks.”

“Oh wonderful. Uh, wait… by National Parks, you mean outdoors and hikes and uh, more hikes.”

“Yes, exactly. Now get up because we are on our way.”

Thus began our trip to some of the more storied National Parks of the western United States – Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, and the Petrified Forest. Despite the exacting toll on my feet and the interruption of my Koala Bear studies, it was a very pleasant trip and allowed me to observe some unnatural wonders among the wonders of our National Parks.

The first is the use of the walking stick.  It seems that nowadays no visit to a National Park is complete without the use of one.  My own unscientific observations have concluded that there are only three categories of people who use walking sticks:

1. Dudes who look cool with walking sticks.

Walking stick1   Walking stick2   Walking stick3

2.  People with disabilities or injuries who need the aid of a walking stick.

3.  Everyone else.

Only categories 1 and 2 should use walking sticks. Unfortunately, category 3 predominates in National Parks.  Actually, the device should be called a carrying stick because most users are carrying rather using their walking sticks.  I think that the organizers of National Park tours highly recommend a walking stick as de rigueur for the upcoming visit and then just happen to have them available at highly inflated prices.

Those who actually use walking sticks use modern ones in tandem like ski poles and have determined that their use entitles them to the right of way on any park path. Failure to yield will result in being pushed aside or poked with the sharp ends of the stick.  I have reserved a new ring in hell for category 3 users of walking sticks.

My other observation is the occurrence of the ubiquitous selfie and selfie stick. Most of the people who take selfies are instant candidates for a Darwin Award.  For the uninitiated, Darwin Awards are given to those individuals who improve the human gene pool by eliminating themselves from it.  A double Darwin Award was given in 2014 to two men in Kenya who were capturing selfies with a wild elephant when they were trampled to death by the irate pachyderm who proceeded to bury the corpses with brush. The two men were actually touching the elephant’s face while taking the photos.

Similar Darwin Award candidates inhabit our National Parks. The idea is to get a picture of yourself overlooking as close as possible a treacherous chasm, cliff, overhang or precipitous drop.  While endangering themselves, and often unsuspecting visitors nearby, the selfie taker fails to understand some basic rules of photography.  First, you are taking up most of the picture so no one really sees the natural wonder to which you are adding yourself.  Second, most selfie pictures can be composed at a safe distance from the dangerous perch or drop off with the same result and no requirement to jeopardize yourself.  But where is the fun in being practical?  Most selfie takers get an “A” for enthusiasm and an “F” for practicality.

Thankfully, the Darwin gene pool remained unaltered, my sore feet recovered, and I was able to return to my study of Koala Bear sleeping habits.