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Author Topic: BBB2010 - Yellowstone (Part 16)  (Read 2619 times)
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« on: August 03, 2010, 04:46:02 PM »
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Ahh... morning.  Time for Yellowstone!  It was fairly close to the Grand Tetons, and a few hours of riding through forests would be the order for the morning.   I got up and started folding up my tent.  At this point I noticed that my site was a little larger than I had originally thought  - there was a much nicer patch of soft grass where I could have pitched my tent, right beside the fire pit and picnic table that I had failed to observe the night before.  Oh well.  I had managed to orient the tent so that the tree roots didn't bother me inside the tent but I could have been a more comfortable distance away from the road.  Maybe next time I should be a little more observant.

Starting up the bike I was greeted by the same flashing dash I had noticed the day before.  As I write this I realize that I neglected to mention it on the previous update, but my dash turned into a brightly lit Christmas tree when I started it up outside of the Cold Coffee Cafe.  It had done a very good job of gaining my attention.  The bike had a few very important messages to communicate with me.  First, was the urgent need to immediately get the bike to a BMW dealership.  Alas, service was due.  Needless to say I chose to ignore that notification.  I could deal with it when I returned to town.  The most important part of the service was the oil change (in my estimation), I make a regular habit of checking over the bike and checking those things that BMW thinks I am incapable of  - brakes, that screws and fasteners are tight, fluid levels.  About the only thing that I am not capable of doing on their service is attaching a computer to the bike to read error codes and reset the countdown until the next time I hand over hardearned cash to the service desk... errr, I mean, the countdown until the next time service is due.

The other urgent message the bike had presented me with the day before was a little more troubling.  But I was astonished that the bike actually had a sensor in place to report the fault.  My headlight was burnt out.  This meant that I had no daylight running lights, and no headlights at night, except, of course, for my High Beam.  (The first thing I tested upon realizing I was fresh out of headlight).

A bit of research had shown that the bulb type was fairly standard (a real surprise for BMW), but the dance in replacing it was not so standard.  It appeared to involve removing side fairings, and messing around with a clip that the BMW forum reported was very, very fragile.  At least judging from the experiences of the many people on the board who had attempted to replace the headlight themselves only to end up snapping the fragile wire clip.  I decided that I would pick up a replacement bulb at the next open autoparts store I passed.  I had all the tools to replace it, and decided to replace it on the road only if the weather and conditions were optimal – unless the highbeam became an issue, or if a night time run was going to be called for.   Otherwise it was not going to be a large issue until I got home.

Even though I was already acquainted with reasons, the blinking alerts on the dash were a trifle unnerrving as I started the bike and waited for them to quiet down.

I set off planning to eat breakfast somewhere in the vicinity of the park.  Even though I had camped in the Grand Teatons the previous night, the “official” gateway for Grand Teton National Park was a short distance up the road.  It was time to pay the toll.  $20 for a motorbike.  $25 for a car.  Ouch!  That was the most expensive park admission I had found all trip.  The good news was that admission was good for both Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  Passing over my cash I got the customary receipt taped to a map, which I carefully stowed in my map pouch aware that I would need to show the receipt to get into Yellowstone without paying a second admission fee.  

The run through Grand Teton National Park didn't do much for me.  Trees.  Trees.  And more trees.  Forests have never inspired me in quite the same way as mountains, rock formations or oceans.  I paused at the side of the road and dug up my Ipod yet again.  I hit “shuffle” on the entire contents of the Ipod and once again was reminded that I would need to cull a few songs out of the library, such as the Christmas tunes that it kept on digging up to my absolute disgust.  The Ipod was getting a lot more use on this leg of the trip than it had seen on the Coast or through Utah.  

Signs indicated that Yellowstone wasn't far ahead, and I continued riding.  At this point in the day I still hadn't even found a morning coffee.  No small towns were on the highway and I didn't want to divert from my planned goal.  I figured that I would be able to stop somewhere before reaching Yellowstone for a bite to eat.  I was wrong.

Welcome to Yellowstone!  I presented my receipt from Grand Teatons, was handed a map of Yellowstone and was waved through the gates.  My next goal for the day was to find a campground so I would have  a place to stay overnight.  I remembered discovering on last year's trip that the campgrounds in Yellowstone filled up quickly, and didn't want to revist the remote campground at the end of the forestry service road where I had stayed the previous year.  I had nothing against that campground, but really do not enjoy riding the 800 down those types of roads.



I rode.  And rode.  And rode.  I passed a few signs advertising facilities (food and gas), and signs welcoming tourists to pull off the road and experience the wonders of the park.  I even saw signs for hotels.  But I had my own personal hotel strapped on the back of the bike, and figured it would be a lot more cost effective to find a parking spot conducive to using it, so I continued to ride.  Right past the turnoff for Old Faithful.  I hoped that I would be able to return to check that out, as it seemed to be the highlight of Yellowstone whenever the park was mentioned in popular culture.

Finally I found a campground in an area called Madison that wasn't signed as “full”.  I paid my fees, rode the bike in and set up the tent.  I also unpacked my luggage so I didn't have to lug everything with me for the day.  I always feel uncomfortable leaving things sitting like a tent or luggage without being there, but threw a padlock on the tent to discourage visitors.  If someone wanted in it would be easy enough to circumvent, but it made me feel better that I had done something however minor to secure my belongings.  But really, who would want my sleeping bag?  Or a pair of leggings?  Or a t-shirt?  I figured that it was reasonably safe to leave them with the tent.

Having completed that chore, I checked for the nearest gas station... West Yellowstone.  The first detour of the day was to head out the west exit of the park to fill up the tank that was getting a little emptier than I felt comfortable with.  I might have been able to make it back to a gas station at Old Faithful, but didn't want the added drama that would be engendered if I ran out of gas.  I also grabbed a coffee and quick bite since it had been my first opportunity to stop for the day.

Heading back into Yellowstone I noticed a number of cars pulled to the side of the road and people milling around with cameras.  That's usually a good sign of a wildlife sighting.  A mother and young – and not just any mother and young.  They were Moose.   Given the placement of tourists and trees I couldn't get a clear shot of Mom, but I did get this one of the youngest Moose that I had ever seen.





I headed onwards into the park, and turned past the campground heading back the way I had initially came.  There were a lot of things to check out in Yellowstone, and I couldn't see all of them from the road.  I pulled off in an area marked as the Paint Pots, and went for a short hike with the camera.

Here a small geyser is blowing off steam and water.  The patterns changed as the wind affected the spray.  This is one of the random geysers in the park that do not erupt on a predictable schedule.











The Paintpots



Water bubbling up from the earth's crust forms colourful pools.  Given the reported temperature and chemical components I doubt you would want to go wading in these, no matter how welcoming they look.











A fumerole





Some do not look welcoming at all – this is one of the mud pots.  Splashing mud can be seen at the rim, but the feature appears to have collapsed underground.



There is something about standing there in front of these chemical pools.  It almost feels as if you are an observer of a much younger earth, one being formed by massive tectonic and geothermal forces.  Bubbling ponds making a chemical soup and reshaping the landscape almost seem to take on an ethereal quality – it almost seems unreal.  Yet the feeling of being connected with something larger much like the ocean and rock formations of Utah persisted.  I was a spectator, but also part of what was unfolding in front of me.   Even with my poor sense of smell I caught the acrid scent of sulphur bubbling up from deep underground.  It was a moment where it was just nature and myself.  I wanted to spend some time alone with my discovery, but Yellowstone was a crowd magnet and the jostling crowds wouldn't leave me alone for long.



I headed onwards to a tourist magnet, Old Faithful.  The parking lots were huge, and completely packed with cars.  I opted to pull into a space beside some other bikes and share their space.  I changed my boots and went for another hike.  It was a warm day, especially in the leathers, but I didn't have any way to lock them on the bike and didn't feel comfortable just leaving them sitting.  

Inside a large resort hotel I found a sign advising the next eruption of Old Faithful, an event that happens approximately every ninety minutes.  Despite the regularity predictions for Old Faithful and a few other significant geysers are called in to the hotels on a regular basis for the benefit of tourists.  The prediction was supposed to be plus/minus ten minutes.  I had enough time to take a short facility break, and then headed outside to join the crowds on the boardwalk.  Since I still had a bit of time I walked around the boardwalk to see if there was a better vantage point with fewer people.  A short distance up the path I found something that suited my needs and settled in to wait.  But I didn't have to wait long.  Old Faithful was smoking and releasing steam..  

A few preliminary splashes of water hearalded the big event.















Old Faithful wasn't as large or impressive as I had expected.  I had read so much hype about it in my life that the reality failed to live up to my expectations.  But it was something that I needed to experience for myself.  

After the geyser eruption, I continued along the circular path to look at some of the other pools and geysers in the area.  Most of the other small geysers were not active – and unlike Old Faithful, there was no predictions on when they would next give vent to water and steam.  

Some of the geothermal activity was evident in small pools bubbling up from the fragile earth's crust, such as this one called Chinese Spring.   (Much like Utah, every feature was given a name so that tourists could check off that they had indeed seen the Chinese Spring while they were in Yellowstone.  Almost like a boyscout collecting badges).



A pool a few steps away – very different in shape, colour and form.  No two features are alike, yet they are clustered very close to one another.





The Beehive



The geysers and pools drained into small streams that cut through the area.  Discolouration of the rock from the runoff was very striking.



I took my time hiking around the area, and just before I left I saw another eruption, but from a different vantage point.  Here you can see some of the crowds on the boardwalk - the crowds I spent most of my visit at Yellowstone trying to avoid.



« Last Edit: August 03, 2010, 05:15:04 PM by Olive » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2010, 04:46:34 PM »
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In many areas the ground in Yellowstone is very fragile and tourists are cautioned against straying off of the boardwalks.  The Yellowstone Caldera is considered to be the largest super volcano on the continent.  The Yellowstone volcano has erupted several times in the last two million years, and is still considered to be an active volcano.  Reading about that on park signboards makes one question if visiting Yellowstone is a good idea.

There is a lot of activity in Yellowstone – pools and geothermal, fumaroles features are abundant.  Apparently half of the world's geothermal features are located within Yellowstone and are fueled by this active volcano.  Domes are constantly rising and falling in the park and numerous earthquakes a year are measured, although the majority of them are low enough magnitude to be virtually undetectable to people.  The area is monitored closely by the US Geological Survey, which pays special attention to swarms or groups of earthquakes that occasionally happen at the park.  This past January over 250 earthquakes were detected within a two day period, so it remains a very active area.



Enough of the geological lecture, and back to the road.  I decided that I had enough time in the day to follow the south loop to take a look around the park. 

Yellowstone Lake



The roads were full of tourists and traffic.  A definite drawback of the area for me. 



A little further along the road more signs of seismic activity.

This is a Sulphur caldron.  The photo doesn't convey the activity that is evident as it is constantly bubbling like a pot on simmer.  But in many ways Yellowstone is a volcano that is constantly on simmer, just waiting for the right combination of circumstances to cause it to boil right over yet again.







I stopped in Canyon Village for dinner.  Or I tried to.  All of the park restaurants were run by the same group and were either buffet or cafeteria style.  There was no way to ascertain if the prepared food was allergy safe, so I opted for dinner of champions.  A bag of chips and a can of pop.

As dusk was quickly approaching, I decided to head back to the campsite.  Along the way a lot of wildlife was out near the roads.  Herds of Buffalo.  Deer.  Some were even on the roads like this fellow.



Next on the agenda was a construction zone, another single lane that was shared by traffic traveling in both directions.  As I was waiting for my turn to ride through the flaglady walked up to me and informed me that I needed to be really careful as she had seen quite a few bikes go down that day.  Hmmm... How inspiring.  And it wasn't as if I had any options – to turn back and go around the loop the opposite direction would be a two and a half to three hour detour.  I smiled and thanked her for the advice, and asked her to let the car behind me know that as well.  She looked a little puzzled at first, but then clued in to the fact that I really didn't want to serve as a speed bump. 

Finally it was my turn to head through the construction zone.  I followed the cars ahead of me to a hill.  A very muddy steep hill that curved around a rock face.  It was fresh mud as well, as a small waterfall was literally feeding right onto the roadway.  I stopped at the bottom and waited for the cars ahead of me to clear the hill.  I wanted a clear run at it because I knew that the minute I hit the brakes I would join the statistics of biker down.  Once it was clear I gave myself a good run at the hill and felt the bike slewing a bit in the mud.  I just kept on going, and made it to the top of the hill.  I noticed that the vehicle behind me was being very polite and was giving me all sorts of room.  I guess the driver had paid attention to the flaglady's message.  The rest of the construction zone was reasonably flat and much easier to ride.  Once again both my leathers and my bike were covered in fresh muck.

About fifteen minutes later I got back to my campsite, and parked the bike for the night.  The campers from the next site over came over to say hello and retrieve their children who were expressing a little too much interest in the bike.  The woman commented that she recognized me from the Paint Pots earlier in the day.  Yes, the distinctive yellow leathers had given me away.

Another sunset, but very different from the ones of the coastline.



The campground offered special programs at night, and once I had cleaned myself up I headed over to the Amphitheatre for a discussion on Astronomy.   The talk ended late in the evening, and since the pathway I had followed into the amphitheatre was pitch dark, I decided to walk back along the road.  This proved to be a poor choice as it was too dark to read signs.  Most people who had come to the Amphitheatre had driven over, so I was a lone walker.  I headed along the road for a while, and decided to turn back, realizing that I had obviously made a wrong turn.  Sure enough, hiking back I found a sign indicating that I was on the main park road and that the turnoff for the campground was another 500 yards.  It made for a long evening walk lit only by a small flashlight.  Eventually I found the entrance to the campground and my tent where I settled in for another evening.
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« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2010, 04:59:50 PM »
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 icon_salut Great writeup once again O. Hope to make it to be one of the tourists in Yellowstone someday. Shouldn't this be Part 16?
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« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2010, 05:16:29 PM »
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Fifteen, sixteen... the ride at this point is beginning to blur together.  But thanks for pointing that out - I fixed it.
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« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2010, 07:27:49 PM »
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You're welcome...sorry I just had to point it out...it's the "editor" in me. I have to look at stuff like that all the time at work...I'm sure you can relate. I am not looking forward to the reports ending. It has been very good so far but I know at some point you will say ... "and now I'm back home". LOL  laughing7
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« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2010, 06:58:46 AM »
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Another great installment in the adventures of O....... headbang
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« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2010, 01:26:52 PM »
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Another great installment in the adventures of O....... headbang

--Dit O ! --
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« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2010, 08:31:41 AM »
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As usual, a great write up and even greater pictures.
One minor detail you got a little wrong was this.  are you real

ELK



Moose
« Last Edit: August 05, 2010, 08:33:34 AM by RRW » Logged

I got a new helmet for my birthday. Mom said maybe someday when I'm allowed to go outside by myself I can have a bicycle. YEAAAA!

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« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2010, 11:33:06 AM »
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 laughing4 laughing4
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« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2010, 04:12:01 PM »
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I was thinking it looked like a Llama, doesn't look like Bullwinkle
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