Day Five  
    Sunday, August 29, 2004
    Yellowstone National Park: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Howdy Pard
Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Day Six
Day Seven
Day Eight
Day Nine
Day Ten
Day Eleven
Day Twelve
Day Thirteen
Day Fourteen
Day Fifteen
Day Sixteen
Day Seventeen
Happy Trails
Visited one national park.
Yellowstone icon.
Pile of rocks; cairn.
Buffalo hoof print.

8:00 a.m.
We were ready for breakfast in the Lake Lodge Cafeteria. Hana had a bagel and granola cereal with milk and coffee. Mirek and I had scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, gravy, and bacon. Mirek had coffee and I had orange juice. Anne had an omelet. The fellow from Slovakia was there again, as well as the young woman from the Czech Republic. I think that is really nice for Mirek and Hana to have even that bit of contact with their homeland. Anne and I paid $13.71 for our breakfast; Mirek and Hana paid $11.48 for theirs.

8:57 a.m.
We were finished with breakfast and ready for the day’s adventures. The morning was clear and cool. We drove north from the Lake Lodge area toward Canyon Village.

9:00 a.m.
We stopped at Mud Volcano. We took the advice of the trail guide and walked the asphalt trail counter clockwise. The climb was supposed to be more gradual going in this direction. (See map.)

We took a look at Mud Geyser, which was making quite a bit of noise and very active. Then we proceeded up the trail to a slight bend, where we encountered a good number of buffalo. They were taking their time, grazing and slowly moving down slope toward the Mud Geyser area. We watched them for a short while, hoping that they would pass by and we could continue. But then we noticed another group coming up over the hill above us. Not wanting to get encircled by the herd, I suggested that we retrace our steps and walk up the path in a clockwise direction.

By then a large tour bus had pulled in, but the Chinese passengers seemed more interested in using the restrooms rather than viewing the geysers and pools.

We noticed a new geyser cutting through to the surface, through the asphalt, in the parking area. The Park Service had set up barricades to prevent stupid tourists from stepping off into the steaming cauldron.

A ghost moose.We stopped at Dragon’s Mouth Spring and Mud Volcano. Both were spewing steam and churning up gray mud like we were looking into the top of a huge washing machine full of terribly filthy clothing. We then continued on up the trail, which was mostly boardwalk and asphalt, to Grizzly Fumarole and then on to Sour Lake and Black Dragon’s Caldron. From there we turned back toward the parking area, down the path we had originally come up, and visited Churning Caldron, Sizzling Basin, and Cooking Hillside. Most of this entire area consists of a gray mud and stinks terribly of hydrogen sulfide (that rotten egg smell).

As we moved through the Cooking Hillside area, back down toward Mud Geyser, we spotted the buffalo again. They were mostly below the trail, but were still too close for comfort. We stopped to debate whether to continue the short distance to the Trooper, which we could see, and risk the ire of the buffalo, or to do the safe thing and turn around and walk back the way we had come. The total distance of the loop is .75 miles (1 km).

While we debated, two men (I suspect they were foreigners) pushed through us and went on ahead, shooing the buffalo off of the trail as they went. I thought they were either more courageous than I was, or very stupid. Either way, they did get the buffalo to move out of the way.

But, when the men walked onto the Mud Geyser observation platform, a wooden deck-like constructions with a wooden railing, they moved much closer to the herd and especially several of the large bulls. I think the bulls, already irritated by their presence and pressuring the herd, came toward the men, seemingly challenging them, kicking up dirt and grunting. It looked as if one of the older, larger bulls would attack. The men backed off and continued down the trail to their car.

With the trail cleared, we cautiously went ahead down the trail, but were a bit nervous at our near proximity to the large creatures. I suggested that we stay together, keep moving, not stop to take photos, and not look the critters in the eye until we got past. When we made it to the area of the Mud Geyser observation platform we met other tourists coming up the trail. We spoke with an elderly couple who asked about walking past the buffs. I suggested that if they wanted to go along the trail that they should move slowly and not make eye contact with the bulls.

We continued on a short ways and hearing some commotion, turned to see the buffalo moving back up Cooking Hillside toward the trail. The elderly man was standing in the observation platform area, but the woman had gone up the trail by herself. Tourists were telling her to come down, but she seemed confused, and froze where she was. Her husband waved her on, so she started forward, but a large, young bull ran across the trail in front of her, and on up the hill. Her husband then yelled excitedly for her to come forward. She obeyed, apparently just in time. A large older bull dashed up the hill just behind her. From where we stood it looked as if the big guy was going to butt her. But he passed without harming her. There was much indecipherable chatter among the tourists. The woman got lucky, and I don’t know if she even knew how close she came to becoming a statistic.

10:34 a.m.
We left the Mud Volcano area and skipped the Sulphur Caldron because there was some sort of repair work being done to the small parking area. In the Hayden Valley we saw many more buffalo and Canadian geese. Then we ran into a large buffalo jam that kept us idle for at least 20 minutes. A large herd of buffalo were moving beside the road and onto it, mixing in among the cars and RVs. Buffalo passed right next to the Trooper, and we watched one group of buffalo cross the Yellowstone River. There were many youngsters in the mix. A Ranger finally came along and used a whistle to herd the big critters in the direction he wanted, so that he could get the cars moving again.

11:27 a.m.
We entered the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone area at Canyon Village, near the Canyon Lodge and campground. The road becomes one way in this area and we drove to Inspiration Point. This was our first view up and down the canyon. (See map.)

Fern in a hollowed out fence post.11:45 a.m.
We next stopped at Grand View and took more photos.

12:00 Noon
Next we stopped at Lookout Point and hiked down to the Red Rock Overlook so that we could see the Lower Falls from below. The trail drops 500 feet (150 meters) in 3/8ths of a mile (0.6 km). At this point you are just about directly across from the Lower Falls. We pointed out the steps for Uncle Tom’s Trail across the canyon. Then we walked back up the trail to the upper overlook at Lookout Point. This is almost the same view, but from a high vantage point. On our way back up the trail Mirek and I spotted what looked like six Golden Eagles circling overhead.

We drove then to the Brink of the Lower Falls Trailhead, but the trail is closed. It appears that they are doing construction work in that area. But the restrooms were open. They have both vault and flush toilets available, and drinking water.

1:10 p.m.
We stopped at the Brink of the Upper Falls and walked down to the overlook just above the falls. This view is always exciting, and noisy. There is so much energy emanating from the plunge that the river makes. There is a lot of water going over that edge. We spotted a marmot sitting on a rock sunning itself. At one point Mirek said, “Water water water.” A good impression of the area. There are restroom facilities near the parking area.

We then crossed the Chittenden Bridge and stopped in the Wapiti Picnic Area for lunch. Most of the tables were occupied, but we got one right near our parking spot. Our table was in the shade of the tall pines, with the sound of the rushing river drifting up through the trees. There were also three large ravens begging for food. And, of course, the inevitable Steller’s Jays, waiting to find something to steal.

2:34 p.m.
We left the Wapiti Picnic Area and drove the short way to the Uncle Tom’s Trailhead parking area. We used the restrooms and then walked along the rim trail, back toward the view points overlooking the upper falls. From there we moved down canyon, along the rim, stopping at the various view points.

When we reached the Uncle Tom’s Trailhead we walked down the 327 steel steps to the view point which is across and below the Lower Falls. There were only a few people brave enough to make that trip, but the view of the falls, and the sound, is incredible. But then, of course, we had to climb those same 327 steep stairs back up.

Hana playing Annie Hall.They are metal and the steps have holes in them, so you can see beneath. There are some places that are a bit frightening, as the stairway is built out of the side of the cliff. But if you watch your step and hold on to the railing, before you know it you are back at the top. Every few steps there is a small platform, and I used those to stop and look around. The steps are so steep that if you slipped or stumbled you might find yourself back at the bottom, or worse. But we all did well, and met at the top.

From there we continued our hike along the South Rim Trail toward Artist Point. However, we did not quite make it that far. We stopped and then turned around at the overlook just before Artist Point. From there we could see throngs of people occupying the railing, and it just didn’t look that appealing at that moment. We turned back and walked along the Rim Trail back to the Trooper.

4:40 p.m.
We finished our hike along the South Rim Trail and decided that we’d had enough sight-seeing for the day. We headed back toward our cabins.

4:54 p.m.
Along the Yellowstone River in the Hayden Valley the traffic was backed up because of an auto accident. It looked like a small car had driven off the road and into the Yellowstone River. We had heard emergency sirens about two hours earlier, but it’s hard to believe they were still working on the site. By the time we arrived they had already pulled the car from the water and were preparing to load it upon a transport. Emergency workers were cleaning up the mess along the bank of the river, and down in the water.

5:30 p.m.
We made it back to our cabins.

7:00 p.m.
We walked down to the Lake Lodge Cafeteria for dinner. Mirek and I had turkey again, but this time he had the child’s portion. Hana had trout and Anne had a salad. Mirek drank a Bud, Anne and Hana had wine. I had lemonade. Anne and I paid $20.00 for our meal; Mirek and Hana paid $23.58 for theirs.

After dinner we sat on the porch of the Lodge in rocking chairs and looked out at the view of Yellowstone Lake and the surrounding pines, and watched the tourists arrive to check in.

Mirek set up his digital camera on top of a trash can in front of the porch and used his remote control to take several photos of the four of us relaxing and having a good time. After dark we walked back to our cabins and packed for the next day’s drive home.