Yet again there has been lots to see and do ...

Trip Start Jul 23, 2002
Trip End Jul 23, 2003

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Flag of United States  ,
Thursday, August 29, 2002

Yet again, there has been lots to see and do in the last week or so, and lots of miles to be covered along the way. We finally made it to some of the things that Nomed had been looking forward to (and he was in heaven - or hell - whichever is better for an evil bear). And to give you an idea of the things an evil bear loves - pools of water that lie on the ground and boil, others that suddenly erupt with streams of hot water and steam, boiling mud pots, holes in the ground that shoot out steam and not forgetting the lovely smell of eggs from hydrogen sulfide. Yes, we've been in Yellowstone for some of the time, but there were other things to see aswell other than just hot stuff. There were forests of pine (although a large proportion of the park had been burnt to toothpicks in a major fire and was just starting to recover), rolling hills and mountains, wildflowers of many different colours covering whole fields, deep canyons with a multitude of colours over the rock walls, rivers and streams criss crossing the country side, dramatic waterfalls and cascades and lots of wildlife.

You certainly could see some wildlife close up - we saw herds of bison grazing near the road and thought they were pretty close until the next day we came across one just strolling right along the side of the road next to the cars, and then another herd grazing on either side of the road and strolling across from one side to the other without caring about the cars. And then there were even more further on that were again right along the roadway. Then there were the moose - they spent some of two days wandering around my tent when I was camping in the back country. The first time I saw them I was making a fire to cook dinner and heard a noise about 40m behind me (after being warned extensively about camping in bear country you tend to check out those noises!). Found it wasn't a grizzly or black bear but just a moose, and that moose didn't care that I was there and just went on it's way grazing and I later discovered that it wasn't alone, there was a pair there. The moose stayed around the campsite for several hours and returned the next day (and night - you wake up in the middle of the night to hear hoof steps and heavy breathing a couple of metres outside your tent door). And there were also mule deer, elk, coyotes, lots of birds including a bald eagle and many more species that we didn't see. It is definitely an area full of animals.

We ended up spending about five days in Yellowstone with two of those day just driving around the main roads seeing some of the main highlights and then I spent two and a bit days camping in the back country. Yellowstone is not one of those places that you can see in a day - you definitely need a few days, and it's even better if you can get off the road and head into the backcountry for a day or two. I ended up camping in a group of pine trees right on the edge of Grebe Lake with the nearest people a mile around the lake in their own group of pines. Going backcountry camping was one of those last minute decisions and I reckon that's the fastest I've packed to go camping for two and a bit days - from getting the permits to starting on the trail was less than an hour (excluding driving time). I think that's an indication that I've spent too much time living out of my backpack lately!

Camping in bear country brought with it a whole new set of considerations - things I've never had to consider camping in Australia. Having just sleeping gear in your tent and everything else you brought hung up over the bear pole in your pack 10 feet off the ground and away from the side poles means you have to really be organised with what you want to use otherwise you are hauling that pack up the pole multiple times - and that is a pain to do. This is where the Keep It Simple Stupid idea really comes into play.

One thing about Yellowstone is that it brought with it a different set of temperatures. Yes something other than Hot! When we arrived in the park we were greeted by rain, which very rapidly turned to hail. The first night camping in the park saw the sleeping bags being zipped up fully with hoods tightened around our heads for the first time the whole trip and it was actually cold. When I was in the backcountry I went for a walk to Observation Point, and it was fine while I was climbing up that hill, but as soon as I reached the top of the hill the rain clouds I had seen in the distance now had lightning coming from them - and I was on about the highest point in the area with not much cover. Now there's something wrong with that picture (especially when the building at the peak has wires coming down from the roof to the ground) and since those clouds were heading my way I kind of didn't hang around at the top for too long. Nice view except for the approaching storm. The rain came as I was heading down, and again it wasn't just rain, it was hail, which is never good when you are walking, so I hid under a bit of overhanging rock till the hail past. And naturally as soon as I was part of the way down there was nice weather again - just not when I'm at the top to enjoy the view!

Yellowstone is like the other national parks in that it has lots to offer and you don't know what is waiting for you around the corner - although it is never what you'd expect. We've been covering a lot of territory in the last month but the rest of the travels are going to have to wait till I've got more time on the computer. We have headed back towards more populated areas now with a brief stop in Vancouver (Washington) and in a couple of days it'll be Seattle and probably Vancouver (Canada) - not quite sure what'll happen but we'll see.

Anyway, Nomed is now a happy bear after seeing his hot stuff and getting to see Witches Brooms in the Devil's Orchard at Craters of the Moon (although Paddles was not too impressed by the boiling water pools - he's seen better places to call home). And it's now onto the home stretch of the holiday section with Uni starting in Canada next week. On the upside though it will mean that I can actually sleep in a bed for a change. After a month in a tent a bed starts sounding very inviting.

Well must go now.
(and Paddles and Nomed)
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