Butterfly on Goat's Beard, Red Lodge, Montana, June 2017

Butterfly on Goat's Beard, Red Lodge, Montana, June 2017
Butterfly on Goat's Beard, Red Lodge, Montana, June 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Young Bucks and Towering Water, Part 2 - Sun., June 11, 2017

Continued from Sun., June 11, Part 1...

Upon heading west from Cody, we soon enter rock canyons on the way to Buffalo Bill Dam. One of the people we met in Cody told us about a walk not many people know about. Just about one mile west from the Cody Rodeo grounds you will see a bridge across a river down a hill on the right-hand side. Turn right and park at the bridge. The trail starts at the bridge and goes about two miles to the base of the Buffalo Bill Dam. The walk is pretty level most of the way. He told us it is a good walk to do on a hot day because most of the walk is in the canyon. When you get to Buffalo Bill Dam, the spillway spray cools you off. Plus, he says, the view of the Buffalo Bill Dam from the bottom is awesome because it's so tall.

The rocks are pretty impenetrable, so a tunnel had to be blasted through them. Once you are on the other side of the tunnel heading west, you will be at Buffalo Bill Dam. It's worth a stop when you're in the area. We did not stop today because we wanted to make the most of our time in Yellowstone this afternoon.

Tunnel to Buffalo Bill Dam
Once through the tunnel, the snowy mountains look so much closer. We are on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Highway through Wapiti (Native American for elk) Valley. There are beautiful campgrounds along this reservoir behind Buffalo Bill Dam.

Dramatic Rocky Mountain scenery
You can see three different stages of erosion here
In the photo above, look closely to see the small foothills of sandstone, the middle range of harder rocks, and then the Rocky Mountains behind. 

Not all is natural here, however. Below is a very bizarre house. This is the Smith Mansion built by Francis Lee Smith, an engineer, one might say a very eccentric engineer.

Francis Smith started building the mansion in 1970. (That's the year I graduated high school!) In 1971, Smith began digging and excavating for the house. It took three men two years to dig it up. For the foundation, Smith used a concrete mixer, mixing up five gallon buckets of concrete at a time. He built around large boulders in the floor when he got tired of digging them up. For the whole article that explains this phenomenal place, see "House on hill captivates," by Cassandra Sturos, August 31, 2016, published in the Cody Enterprise newspaper.

Photo by Susan Alton (as we drove by without stopping)
All along Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway are hoodoos. Hoodoos are what's left of eroded rock, sometimes forming fantastical shapes. For example, in the photo below, I see a wagon train. Some named hoodoos along the route are Elephant Head, Chimney, Holy City, and Hanging Rock. You can make up your own names for them, as well.

Woo hoo, we made it to Yellowstone!
When we arrived, our cabins had not been made up yet. During our wait time, we went to the Visitor Center at Old Faithful and watched a couple of movies, looked at the museum, and shopped in the Gift Store. After all that, my cabin was ready so I moved in.

While we waited for Susan and Darren's cabin to be made up, we hiked a 10k around the Upper Geyser Basin, up to the Scenic Overlook. We saw Old Faithful go off a couple of times. They weren't huge eruptions of Old Faithful and lasted shorter than I remember.

Marmots sunning
View of Old Faithful Inn from the overlook
Old Faithful geyser - people are lining up to watch
Old Faithful erupt
Another view from the overlook
From the overlook, we noticed people were gathering for the next eruption of Old Faithful. We hightailed it down the hill so we could watch from across the way, not where all the other people were.

Firehole River flowing through Upper Geyser Basin
Old Faithful from Geyser Hill
Old Faithful
We wound our way around a couple more hot pools and geysers when we saw the big geyser, Grand Geyser, start spouting. We hurriedly made our way to the Grand Geyser viewing area, getting completely steamed on our way there because of the direction the wind was blowing. We felt so fortunate to see Grand Geyser go off. It's much bigger and much more erratic than Old Faithful. 

Ear Spring
Grand Geyser from a distance
Grand Geyser
Grand Geyser and a vent geyser from the viewing area.
Grand Geyser goes on for a long time
Grand Geyser is so joyous and lasts a long time
Enlarge and you may see a rainbow on the left
I'm happy we saw Grand Geyser go off!
Next, we walked to Grotto Geyser, which reminds me of E.T., and then we continued to Morning Glory Pool.

The surreal landscape of Upper Geyser Basin
Hot pools overflow into the Firehole River
Grotto Geyser
Grotto Geyser spitting

E.T. phone home - Grotto Geyser
When we arrived at Morning Glory Pool we were happy we didn't have to go any farther afield! Bear activity noted, our safety can't be guaranteed if we go that way.

The Morning Glory Pool is and has been effected by people through the years. It used to be bluer and clearer. Because people keep throwing things into it, it throws off the beautiful natural color of the geyser. The National Park Service (NPS) spends thousands of dollars trying to keep it cleaned out.

Photo of NPS employees cleaning Morning Glory Pool

Morning Glory Pool now
We finished our walk around the Upper Geyser Basin by heading back to the Old Faithful Inn and then to our cabins.

Old Faithful Inn ahead
One more eruption of Old Faithful, please.
Dinner consisted of a picnic in Susan & Darren's cabin. We had more of the crackers from the eclipse basket, plus summer sausage, cheese, and some excellent rose moscato.

We then called it a night. Tomorrow we plan to do the Fairy Falls Volksmarch very early because this is a 14k (8.68 mile) walk. After the walk, we want to go to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Bad weather is supposed to come in after noon. We will be cutting it close with the weather moving in.

A word about our cabins...they have a sink with hot and cold running water, but no toilet or shower. The cabin with restrooms is next door to our cabins. I have a flashlight and my room key by the door in case I need to go in the middle of the night. The shower house is a couple of rows away. I skip a shower tonight. I will take one after the hikes tomorrow.

Travel Bug out.

Young Bucks and Towering Water, Part 1 - Sun., June 11, 2017

Clouds blanket the high plains between Meeteetse and Cody, Wyoming, as we drive to our start point for today's 10k walk in Cody. A chill is in the air, necessitating jackets and gloves, as we head out on the trail. Today is the first day in our 12 days of travel that I wear a sweatshirt under my windbreaker, and I'm happy for it until almost the end of our walk.

Moody clouds descend over Cody and we have a good view of them from the upper plateau/shelf/bench(?) where our walk takes place.

Overlooking Cody, Wyoming from an upper neighborhood
Strolling through beautiful neighborhoods with park-like backyards, we enjoy the view toward the northwest. Other walkers ahead of us, who have gone to the checkpoint and are coming back toward, tell us there are two deer across the river from the checkpoint. Sure enough, when we arrive, the two young bucks are still there, as content as can be.

Two young bucks in the 'hood.
The neighborhoods here are peaceful; we encounter no barking dogs or raucous children. Interesting sites in yards are few and far between, but we do see a few things we like.
A whole hedge of gorgeous yellow roses
Ford Falcon "Time Machine"
A new Retro White Water travel trailer
Pretty Glendale neighborhood park
About this time, I'm really needing a restroom, but none are mentioned in our walk directions. We head up a small hill to Markham Reservoir recreation area. Certainly, there must be restrooms here! 

As we come up to the main maintenance building, we see a sign for restrooms at the far corner of the building. Could they be open? 

Alas, there is a key code on the door. I see other Volksmarchers coming out. I try the door and the door opens. Apparently, no key code is needed this morning. Yay, relief!

Our walk takes us all the way around Markham Reservoir. The sweeping vistas, birds, and sidewalk chalk statements give this otherwise flat trail some local interest. 

Let me explain the sidewalk chalk statements. Someone had a whole lot of fun with the chalk. It looked like maybe there had been a run or bike ride through here, maybe over the weekend. The chalk statements said things like, "Throw your arms up in the air and shout 'Yahoo!'," "Yell happy birthday to the person you're with," "Do some zig-zags" [zig-zag pattern to follow on the trail], stuff like that.
"Enjoy the view"
"It's a beautiful day!!'
Markham Reservoir seating
for resting or birdwatching 
Markham Reservoir
Big vistas with dramatic skies
Volksmarchers going around the reservoir
An osprey fishing
View of Absaroka Bay Campground
We stayed at Absaroka Bay Campground in 2012 when we were on our Yellowstone/Grand Teton/Thermopolis swing through Wyoming. It's a perfectly nice campground, well-maintained, and clean, but there's not a lot of room on the sites. We were there for only one or two nights.

At Markham Reservoir there is an awesome bicycle course.

A very cool race course
This course is well cared for by volunteers
I love this sign...so true
Volksmarchers on the opposite side of the reservoir
"These boots are made for walkin'!"
Again, a stunning vista
After our walk, we went to breakfast/brunch/lunch with Mike and Kathy Schwencke. Yelp helped us choose our restaurant and it didn't disappoint. We went to Rocky Mountain Mo Joe. Turns out they had something for everyone: gluten free, low glycemic, breakfast or lunch. We ordered at the counter and, when the food was ready, they brought it to our table. Hint: The oatmeal is fantastic!

After food, it's time to head to Yellowstone National Park. "Go west, young man, go west!" and so we do, both men and women.

This is a good spot to transition to Part 2 of our day. To be continued...