A Day at Old Faithful

(Ken) May 30, 2013.  If you look at the park map, the Old Faithful Geyser Basin was only 29 miles away from our Bridge Bay camp site, so we would be able to pack in a full day of sightseeing after we finished there.

We headed out shortly after the sun rose hoping to see more wildlife along the way.  The bison that bedded down in the camp ground had already departed for the day, so we were hopeful that other animals would be on the move also.

Prior to arriving, we had absolutely no idea what a ‘turnout’ was but we were soon to find out.  For those who may not know either; a turnout is a pull off on the side of the road or a small parking lot to park and see the beauty of the park.

Well, we didn’t realize they were every 100 yards (or so it seemed) and we were not going to miss a single item of interest!  However, if you stop every few feet on a 29 mile drive, how long do you think it will take you?

Along the way, we came across the West Thumb Geyser Basin and made the stop.  Right on the shores of Yellowstone Lake, this basin was chock full of just about everything: geysers, paint pots, mud pots, mud springs, hot springs and fumaroles (vents).  Spectacular in its own right, we would find that it paled in comparison to what was to come!

Somewhere around 11:00 or 12:00, we finally made it to Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin!  By the time we arrived, the parking lot was near capacity.  By chance, we noticed they had ‘Fuel Efficient Automobile Only’ parking spaces.  This is where a Honda Fit comes in handy – front row parking.

We made the short walk to the Visitor Center and obtained a map of the basin and checked times of all the eruptions and headed for the boardwalk!  Yes, boardwalk; because over the past 150 years there have been too many people either try to swim, fall or fall through the fragile ground into 175+ degree waters and boil themselves!

I don’t know why, but I always had the impression that Old Faithful was a single geyser in the middle of a field.  Quite the contrary, it is just one of hundreds in the Upper Geyser basin.

The basin, approximately two square miles in area, contains the largest concentration and nearly one-quarter of all of the geysers in the world. A variety of spouting geysers, colorful hot springs, and steaming fumaroles.

Not only is all of this going on, the Firehole River runs right through the middle of the basin.  Near ice-cold water flowing directly from the ice and snow melt of the surrounding mountains.  It allows for tree and some grass growth in an otherwise dead landscape.

Somewhere around 4:00 P.M., we finally made our way around the entire boardwalk.  Our timing was perfect to stand and watch Old Faithful erupt for a second time.  Just as awesome as the first; steaming water shooting 100 feet into the air.

We headed back to the car and back to the camp ground; tomorrow will have us hiking into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, we needed our rest.

Until next time……………Cheers.

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Heading to Yellowstone National Park

(Ken) May 29, 2013.  Well rested and thoroughly relaxed, it was difficult to get out of bed after spending an afternoon and evening in the hot spring pools of Thermopolis.  But, we wouldn’t cover much ground by lounging in bed!

Merely looking at a map deciding which direction to travel does not depict anything you could encounter between point A and point B.  Luckily, we met a couple who had just come the way were planning to travel and they advised us of the construction, lane closures, delays and the mud!

They gave us an alternate route, which proved to be spectacular!  Route 20 out of Thermopolis has you travel along the Bighorn River and through the Owl Creek Mountain Gorge.  The light rain hindered some of the views, but it was gorgeous just the same.

The beauty only raised our anticipation and desire to get to and see Yellowstone.  Seeing things that we only ever saw in the movies or never dreamed of had us in complete awe.  A short stop in Cody, Wyoming for lunch and the Buffalo Bill Museum and we would be in Yellowstone!

The museum proved to be overly expensive and they offered no discounts (military or museum pass) so we opted for a longer lunch before we refueled and headed west.  We had all summer, we could come back to Cody when the weather was better to explore further.

We had our reservations at Bridge Bay campground within the park, so we would just get there earlier than expected and have extra time in the park.  Our only obstacle was Sylvan Pass, your initiation to the park just inside the East Gate!

Any person from the East would consider a drive on May 29th to be a nice warm drive.  But, when you factor in a cloudy day and an elevation of 8,525 feet things tend to change quite rapidly.  It had been raining lightly most of the day; but up in the mountains, rain usually turns into that white stuff!

BLIZZARD!  I had heard stories of freezing rain, ice and snow from other RV’ers climbing in a motorhome.  Oddly enough, my fear was not that I would slide down the hill once over the top; rather, losing traction on the way up and sliding backwards.  Plus taking out the string of cars that were following me up the hill at 10 – 15 miles per hour in the process!

Obviously, we made it through safely.  Slowly, but safely!  It took almost three days for the color to come back into my knuckles, and for Jodi to open here eyes; but the slow and steady process worked just fine.  I, however, do not want to experience that again any time soon!

Once down to lower elevations and safer ground, we did manage to see the beauty of the park and some of its noted wildlife.  A black bear on the side of the road, a wolf crossing ahead of us, and a bison in a field.  I guess if you survive the entry, the park lives up to its reputation.

Shortly after we were checked into the campground and getting ready for dinner, we had a couple of visitors.  A pair of bison meandered through and decided they wanted to bed down for the night.  You don’t realize how big they are until they decide to sleep on your door step.

We decided to stay in for the evening and head out early in the morning.  First adventure – Old Faithful.

Until next time………….Cheers.

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Checking out Thermopolis!

(Ken) May 28, 2013.  After a wonderful week of visiting and all the necessary maintenance completed, Jodi and I were ready to continue our trek through Wyoming.  Only one more week and we would arrive at Luton’s Teton Cabins for our first Work Camping gig!

We had been on the road for nearly 60 days at this point and we were really ready to get back to work.  We still 5 days to occupy our time and 400 miles left to travel.  There had to be something we could find between Cheyenne and Moran, Wyoming to occupy our time!

Our normal daily drive time is usually between 4 and 6 hours; and the town of Thermopolis, Wyoming was right at the 4-hour mark. The town claims the world’s largest mineral hot spring – Geothermal heated springs where the water averages 104 degrees.

The heated waters have a very high mineral content, containing everything from simple calcium to lithium, and even radium. Because of both the folklore and the claimed medical value some of these springs have, they are often popular tourist destinations & disability rehabilitation locations.

We decided to stay at a campground in town and spend the afternoon in the Hot Springs relaxing.  With the springs high mineral content; one of the more prevalent minerals is sulfur; thus, the Hot Spring houses and the surrounding area have a wonderful (and pungent) odor.

A long week of visiting, maintenance, hiking, rock climbing and kayaking takes it toll and the hot water eased all the aching muscles and relieved any and all tension therein.  Once we got past the strong sulfur smell of the water; the relaxing began!

We lounged in the indoor pool, the outdoor pool, the natural hot spring water slide, and the vent sauna until we were both well pruned.  It was like taking a long, hot bath where the water never got cold!

Once showered (…in naturally heated water) we took a short walk around the mineral terraces and a short drive through Hot Springs State Park before heading back to the campground for the evening.

Needless to say, we both slept like babies that night….(I woke up every 2-hours wanting fed and needing changed!)  We rose early and readied ourselves for the next leg and our next destination – Yellowstone National Park!

Until next time our friends………………Cheers

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F.E. Warren Air Force Base

(Ken) May 19 – May 28, 2013.  After 20 years in the Air Force and another 10 years of sporadic travel to military installations within the United States, I think Jodi and I are in agreement that F.E. Warren Air Force Base is our favorite.

Not necessarily because it has the most options of things to do, but because of its actual size and the amenities it does have for its size and the history behind the base.

I won’t dwell on the mission, and why they are there today but touch on some facts about how the base got its start.  On the branch of the South Platte River, just west of Cheyenne, WY. Fort D. A. Russell was established in 1867.  It was originally named in honor of Civil War Brigadier General David A. Russell.

Today, it is the oldest, continuously active military installation in the Air Force.  When plans for the transcontinental railroad were originated, they recognized the need for a military installation to protect Union Pacific workers from hostile Indians. On July 4, 1867, the railroad established its mountain region headquarters at Crow Creek Crossing, later known as Cheyenne.

Besides my son and his wonderful family being stationed there, Jodi and I enjoy walking and riding our bikes around and reading all of the historical placards posted throughout.

The wildlife is also free to roam without provocation, in fact they are protected.  Makes for interesting driving early in the morning and around dusk.  But, you simply stop and watch the deer and the antelope play; or at least move out of the middle of the road so you can pass!

There aren’t any of the original buildings left on the base; but once the outpost was made a permanent military installation in 1884 new, brick structures were built throughout.  Many of these original brick structures still stand and are in use today.

During our first visit to the base, Jodi and I stayed in visiting Officer Quarters that were built in 1888!  The trip to the outhouse…….just kidding.  It was a beautiful building.

This visit, we stayed in the Family Camp campground named for the original Camp Russell, and it was located in a small valley with a creek flowing through.  I don’t think they could have found a more peaceful location on the base.

On a Sunday morning, we decided to take a bike ride.  We were up early and dressed, so we were out around 6:30 a.m.  There was no traffic on the roads and only the birds making any sounds.  This is the time of the day to really take in the beauty of the base!

If we are ever travelling through the Cheyenne area again, and need a place to stop for the night, I am sure we will drive a few miles out of our way to stay there again!

Until next time our friends……………..Cheers.

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Curt Gowdy State Park, Wyoming

(Ken) May 24 – May 25, 2013.  While visiting Jim, Ashley and our Grandchildren at F.E. Warren AFB, Cheyenne, Wyoming we decided to stay in town over Memorial Day Weekend rather than drive across the state to Yellowstone National Park.

Instead of driving for two days, we decided to stay local and visit Curt Gowdy State Park.  Personally, I think this was a wonderful idea because it gave us more time to spend with them and the babies.

On the first visit to the park, we all wanted to hike the trails and climb the ‘hills.’  So we set out early for the 30-minute drive to the park.  It was the beginning of a holiday weekend and the weather was great – it was going to be crowded!

Jim took us on a fantastic scenic route through the park before we stopped at the main reservoir.  He wanted to show us a few of the highlights within the park before we stopped.  It was a wonderful drive on a warm sunny morning.

When we arrived at the reservoir, we were able to park in an empty lot right at the trail head.  The crowds had not arrived yet, so we had the entire trail to ourselves.  We were able to take our time and let the kids explore at will.

Once at the top of the highest point on the trail, we spread out a table-cloth and all sat and had our lunch.  It was so peaceful sitting up there that a Mule Deer decided to join us.

From time to time, Jim and I let our inner child take over and we just had to climb a rock formation.  Even Ashley and  little James got into the act a time or two.  It was so enjoyable to spend the time with them; doing things we all enjoyed.

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After the climb down, we followed along a finger of the reservoir.  If the water hadn’t been so cold, I think we would have taken a swim.  But the rock formations on either side awe-inspiring enough.

It was at this point that Jim and I decided to spend some father/son time and return the following day and take our kayaks out on the reservoir.  Unfortunately, someone forgot to bring the camera with him (only Jimmy would have forgotten MY camera……kids) and we were unable to take any photos.

We still had a wonderful time on the water together and could have spent all day out there.  But, a weather front rolled in and the water got real rough for our 7-foot kayaks.  So when we decided to call it a day, we headed back to the base for a brew and a BBQ.

The two days at Curt Gowdy State Park was a wonderful time.  An escape for anyone living in or near the city.  It’s places like this, little niches along the way that are too often missed.  In comparison to other State and National parks within the area, it is quite small, but we could have spent all week there!

So, until next time my friends………….Cheers!

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