Follow the Rules!

Danger - Keep off Thermal Area

We actually follow the rules in the parks we visit.

It shouldn’t, but it often surprises us when others don’t, like the fellow below.  The area he is standing in is a thermal area off the trail at Norris Geyser basin.

People have stepped and fallen through fragile surfaces that look very solid. Some have been injured by scalding hot liquids that may lie under any of the thermal areas off the designated trails.

Writing his 1995 book Death in Yellowstone, park historical archivist Lee H. Whittlesey sifted through National Park Service records to identify 19 human fatalities from falling into thermal features. – Geothermal Attractions Can Be Dangerous

Danger - Keep off Thermal Area

About 20 minutes after I shot the picture above, I spotted a hole in the surface of the thermal area about the same distance off the trail.

Danger - Keep off Thermal Area

The surface of these areas often looks perfectly safe, but looks can be very deceiving.

people, photography, safety, travel
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That’s a bear!

Driving into Yellowstone, August 15, 2014

Leaving Fox Creek campground, the air was clear and the sky was beautiful.  This morning was the first time we’ve used the heat.  Karen’s quilts kept us snug and warm, with the outside temperature about 38°.  Out of bed at about 5:30, though, the temperature inside was 58°F, a bit chilly for sitting at the computer editing pictures and writing.

View from inside the camper, standing up, looking out through skylight:

View from inside the camper, standing up, looking out through skylight, Fox Creek Campground, Wyoming, August 15, 2014

The drive into Yellowstone took us through Lamar Valley, one of the places in the where buffalo (American bison) often congregate.

Buffalo (American bison), Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 15, 2014

Turning onto Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road at Tower Junction, our drive took us over Dunraven Pass near Mt. Washburn.

Dunraven Pass, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 15, 2014

Further down the road, we cam across the first of what we call “critter jams” – vehicles pulled over as well as slowed down because someone has spotted a wild animal, usually something large.

“That’s a bear!” and I pulled over and joined the critter jam.

Grizzly Bear, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 15, 2014

The image resolution isn’t as good as I’d like, but, without a doubt, it was a grizzly.

We’ve visited Yellowstone a number of times over the years.  We’ve very seldom seen a bear and, though they were reintroduced into the park in the 90s, we hadn’t seen any wolves.

Grizzly Bear, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 15, 2014

Grizzly Bear and park ranger, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 15, 2014

Grizzly Bear, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 15, 2014

Our campsite for the next five days would be at Bridge Bay Campground, which is across the highway from the north shore of Yellowstone Lake.  We couldn’t see the lake from our campsite, but we could from a couple of points when we took a walk through the campground after supper.

Yellowstone Lake from Bridge Bay Campground, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, August 15, 2014

The next day, we took a drive to Norris Geyser Basin and more.

critters, landscape, mountains, parks, photography, places, safety, travel, wildlife
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Beartooth!

Driving the Absaroka Range in Montana and Wyoming, August 14, 2014

With having to go to Cody for a water heater drain plug and inclement weather threatening, a drive over the Beartooth All-American Highway appeared doubtful early in the day.

Heading up toward Dead Indian Pass on Chief Joseph Highway, the tops of nearby mountains were hidden in the clouds.

Absaroka Range, Chief Joseph Highway near Dead Indian Pass, August 14, 2014

In Cody, we finally found an RV repair shop, which wasn’t where the GPS and iPhone Seri thought it should be.  The technician had a hot water heater plug that was a bit more in size and expense than we needed, but we needed the plug.

Broken plastic hot water heater plug from Atwood and water heater plug with zinc (not needed for Atwood heater)

The extra length of metal is a zinc anode.  It’s job is to corrode away in a tank instead of the iron of the tank corroding. It’s sometimes called a sacrificial anode, because it is sacrificed to protect the tank.  However, since our water heater is aluminum, the zinc is not necessary.  A cheap plastic plug would have worked just fine.   Oh, well.

After lunch at Pizza Hut,  we decided that the weather had cleared enough that we could go back to the campground by way of Red Lodge Montana, in red, and, then, Beartooth Highway, in blue.

Cody, Wyoming to Fox Creek Campground via Red Lodge Montana and the Beartooth Highway

The route to Red Lodge took us past the old Smith Mine, the site of the worst coal mining disaster in Montana – February 27, 1943. (Wikipedia)

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The Beartooth Highway was once called “the most beautiful drive in America,” by the late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt. Because of heavy snowfall at the top, the pass is usually open each year only from mid May through mid October, weather conditions permitting.  (Wikipedia)

We travelled the Beartooth back in 2007, after which I wrote, “The drive from our campground to Cooke City was 125 miles. We’ll probably do it again someday, but we’ll be staying someplace closer — because it was also 125 miles back to Billings.”

Despite the extra mileage to Cody and then to Red Lodge, our 2014 driving day was much shorter than the 2007 visit.

Rock Creek Vista Point, Beartooth Highway, which travels the Absaroka Range in Wyoming and Montana, August 14, 2014

View from Rock Creek Vista Point, Beartooth Highway, which travels the Absaroka Range in Wyoming and Montana, August 14, 2014

View from Beartooth Highway, which travels the Absaroka Range in Wyoming and Montana, August 14, 2014

View from Beartooth Highway, which travels the Absaroka Range in Wyoming and Montana, August 14, 2014

View from Beartooth Highway, which travels the Absaroka Range in Wyoming and Montana, August 14, 2014

View from Beartooth Highway, which travels the Absaroka Range in Wyoming and Montana, August 14, 2014

View from Beartooth Highway, which travels the Absaroka Range in Wyoming and Montana, August 14, 2014

Not too far from the campground, we came across a beautiful waterfall I remembered from our drive across Beartooth in 2007.

 

Waterfall just off  Beartooth Highway, which travels the Absaroka Range in Wyoming and Montana, August 14, 2014

Next: We head into Yellowstone

camping, landscape, Montana, mountains, parks, photography, places, recreation areas, river, safety, stream, travel, Wyoming
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Bear Country.

Reflections on bear safety, Fox Creek Campground, August 13 &14, 2014

Grizzly Bear image form Wikipedia

On July 28, 2010, three bear attacks, two with injuries and one a fatality, occurred at Soda Butte campground,  just a few miles from our 2014 site at Fox Creek campground. The bears involved were a grizzly sow and her three cubs.

The next week, we camped a few days near Livingston, Montana and, after that, moved down into Yellowstone to the Fishing Bridge campground.  I wrote about the incident on August 2, 2010 in Grizzly Country.

Terror at Soda ButteWanting to know more about the event, I came across a couple of very good references.  The first is Terror at Soda Butte, by Scott McMillion.  The other, a bit dryer and quite repetitive, is the Investigation Team Report – Bear Attacks in the Soda Butte Campground on July 28, 2010.

The bear safety takeaway from both of these sources is.

  • the people who were attacked did everything right with regard to bear safety.
  • the mother grizzly’s behavior in attacking and killing was highly abnormal and authorities have been unable to identify any specific reason for it.
    • From the team report: “The summary morphological diagnosis was a bear with a thin body condition, moderate to numerous numbers of tapeworms and roundworms, and enteritis (inflammation) of the small intestine probably associated with the parasite load.“ The report declines to identify the bear’s physical condition as even a contributing cause.

Knowing that we were going to be in bear country and that this incident had occurred made little difference in our plans.  We always keep a clean campsite and try to be aware of our surrounding on the trails.

Next – I still need to replace that pesky heater plug.

critters, forest, history, in the news, mountains, safety, wildlife
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Into the Absarokas.

Travel Day – Wyoming, August 13, 2014

Our drive this day wasn’t all that far.  We were going from the Big Horn Mountains of north-central Wyoming to a campground in the Absaroka Range near the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park.  The route took us through a variety of countryside, some of it pretty desolate, with a beauty of it’s own.

Somewhere east of Cody, Wyoming, August 2014

After lunch in Cody and some shopping for groceries, we headed over more mountains on the Chief Joseph highway.  This road follows part of the route that the 1877 flight of the Nez Perce Indians took.

1877 flight of the Nez Perce Indians

Traditionally, Nez Perce lived in separate bands and were led by various warriors. This fluid social and political system allowed them to move in small groups during times of low resources (such as winter)and as large groups during times of abundance (such as summer). But this system—used by many tribes—also confused U.S. treaty negotiators who assumed the signature and agreement of one band bound the entire tribe. This confusion is part of what caused the troubles of 1877: several bands never sold their land to the federal government and never agreed to move to a reservation. The most famous leader of these bands, Joseph, was one of several who led their people on the journey of 1877. (Flight of the Nez Perce)

Chief Joseph led his band of Nez Perce Indians over a rugged pass in the Absaroka Range –  today known as “Dead Indian Pass” – as they were being pursued the U.S. military in 1877.  There are at least 3 different stories about the origin of the name, Dead Indian, which is also applied to several other features in the immediate area.

Dead Indian Pass in the Absaroka Range on Chief Joseph Highway, Wyoming, August 13, 2014

The Chief Joseph Highway has multiple switchbacks on both sides of Dead Indian Pass.

Dead Indian Pass in the Absaroka Range on Chief Joseph Highway, Wyoming, August 13, 2014

Our campground for the next 2 days was Fox Creek campground, in northwestern Wyoming, just a few miles from Cooke City, Montana. We picked it because it was on the western side of the Beartooth Highway, a very scenic high mountain road we wanted to visit the next day – without driving the RV over it.  Beartooth is very curvy and not recommended for RVs.  We were a little concerned about the weather as the forecast was not looking favorable for our planned drive.

Fox Creek Campground, Absaroka Range, Wyoming, August 13, 2014

After getting to the campground and setting up the camper, we decided to take a short drive to the nearby town.

Cooke City General Store, Absaroka Range, Montana, August 13, 2014

Cooke City, Montana, is a small mountain town that lies near the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. There are three main routes to the town, Beartooth, Chief Joseph and Yellowstone Park’s northeast entrance road.  During the winter, the only road that is kept open is the road through the park.

Unlike many mountain towns, I wouldn’t say that Cooke City is a tourist trap.  Instead, I think, it caters more to visitors looking for mountain and forest experience and adventure.  There are, of course, a couple of touristy type stores.  One interesting establishment is the Cooke City General Store, a general merchandise store in business since 1886.

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Cooke City General Store, Absaroka Range, Montana, August 13, 2014

We often take notice of colorful flower baskets and displays when we travel to cooler areas and Cooke City certainly had its share.

Cooke City, Absaroka Range, Montana, August 13, 2014

Cooke City, Absaroka Range, Montana, August 13, 2014

Of course, since we were so close, we just couldn’t resist driving into Yellowstone and a ways up the Lamar Valley, even though we has reservations for 5 nights in the park coming up soon.

Back at the campground, I noticed that the camper water pump was cycling occasionally without any faucets being open.  I looked around a bit to see if I could find a cause.  It looked like the drain plug on the water heater was leaking, so I decided to tighten it.

It was already tight.  When I tightened the plastic drain plug more, it broke and water started pouring out.  It wasn’t hot as we had not yet turned the water heater on.

Atwood RV hotwater heater plug

I managed to get the rest of the plug out.  However, without a plug in the water heater, we couldn’t use the water in the camper.  If we turned the pump on it would try to fill the water heater.  Fortunately, we carry extra water in gallon jugs and we were near a campground faucet, so we had water for drinking, cleaning and flushing.

I figured the nearest place I could get a replacement part was back at Cody – which meant that the Beartooth Highway drive might be out of the question.

campground, camping, desert, forest, landscape, mountains, parks, photography, places, plains, Wyoming
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