August 18, 2007
Where to start. It has been a long time since my last update and I have made it to Oregon, at least to Ontario on the south eastern border of the state.
Let’s go back 10 days.
I, as mentioned last time, I did not go to the Joan Jett concert, instead I stayed in the Badlands and tried to get some good photos with setting sunlight. Well, I didn’t get anything too exciting. Just couldn’t find a good spot, oh well. Would have been too tiered to drive 3 hours to Sturgis for the concert anyway. I didn’t
even make it to the Wounded Knee that day, next time.
The Black Hills. I don’t know why people are so excited about those hills. Is it because of Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park? I had no expectations and I was very disappointed. Drove along the Iron Mountain Drive thru the mini tunnels to see Mt. Rushmore and headed straight north out of the hills. Other than the pine smell, there was nothing much to write home about. It might not have helped a lot that there were gazillion bikers there either.
Bikers continued to crowd the roads all the way to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. The bikers themselves are very nice folks. They just want to see the country as well. Some of them ride for 10 hours a day / 500 miles. I don’t even do that in the car. At the same time, they don’t really ride bikes; those Harleys are more like cushy chairs on wheels.
Devil’s Tower was pretty amazing. Not just a monolith in the middle of nowhere, but a monolith that is layered in a vertical way. It has something to do with the magma that was forced upward and when it cooled it contracted and fractured into columns. All this happened 60 million years ago. The drive from South Dakota to Devil’s Tower was suppose to take 1 ½ hours, it took me 3. I tend to drive very slowly in the beginning of the day to be able to see what’s around me and to be able to stop and take pictures. No, I don’t block traffic, I do pull over and let cars/bikes pass or there just is no traffic. I usually pay the price by the end of the day when I am nowhere near a campsite or motels. I made it to the campsite in Greybull, WY, about 3 hours east of Yellowstone. Thanks to the lack of sunlight, the sun was hiding behind clouds, I made it thru the Big Horn Mountains. If you ever make it out this way, you have to see these mountains they are stunning. The rock formations are amazing and the views are unbelievable. There is supposed to be a waterfall, which I missed since I was rushing to make it to the campsite before nightfall. Setting up tent in the dark is not that much fun.
The next day I was wiped out. Couldn’t get going, had a nice conversation with the people running the campsite, they were from Amsterdam. Didn’t leave for Yellowstone until noon! It is just too much, not the driving, but too many impressions to adsorb. I feel like I have visited 3 museums a day for the last couple of weeks. I am not doing the landscape around me any justice. Good thing that I have stayed away from museums so far, I would be on total overload. I sat in the truck starring at the outskirts of Yellowstone Park before I drove in. Didn’t know if I could handle anymore.
Yellowstone; I am not sure what to think of it. Ask me in a couple of weeks. The drive into the park from Cody, the east entrance now closed because of the wildfire (17,000 acres burning), was great. Again, the
rock formations are unbelievable and the colors. Once I entered the park I was saddened by all the dead trees. In 1988 Yellowstone had several fires, all caused by lightning, in which case they are not fought, but they let them burn out. Yellowstone lost 36% of its trees and they have not yet grown back. It is almost depressing to see so many bare trees standing there like matches just waiting to fall.
Geologically, Yellowstone is very interesting and I think there is even some wildlife.
The biggest wildlife comes on two legs and it is called humans. I haven’t seen this many people since I left New York. This makes me wonder how I will handle the masses of people when I get back. It seems that people checked their common sense at the entrance of the park. They see bison, of which there are a lot in Yellowstone, they stop and walk up to them to have their picture taken. They stop in the middle of the
road, walk across the road where they shouldn’t, pull into parking spots for which you already signaled (feels like NYC). They should really limit the number of people they let into the park at one time. I guess, summer is not the best time to come and visit. I spent 3 nights in Yellowstone. I did see a grizzly, but even thru my 300mm lens he was just a small dot. Saw Old Faithful go off and even better, saw the Beehive Geyser go off which only happens a few times a week. Did take a “bath” in the Boiling River, needed it after a 3 hour hike up and down Mt. Washburn. The highest spot in Yellowstone, 10,400 feet or so with a 1,400’ incline. At the end of the third day I was so tired of seeing people that I asked the ranger at the campsite check-in where I could go for some peace and quiet. She suggested a pebble beach along
Yellowstone Lake, near a boat landing. What bliss. Only a few people and some kayaks. I was in luck; I joined a small group of kayakers for a 2 hour tour on the lake. Not as relaxing as laying on the beach, but what an opportunity to see Yellowstone from the water. Paddled along some geysers and even saw an elk standing at water’s edge. I moved very slowly not to entice her to swim out to the kayak. Since I wanted to be back on land before sunset, I had to paddle a little faster than the rest of the group on the way back. What a work out, had a sore butt the next day.
Left for Grand Teton the next morning. Now those are real mountains. Had to control myself not to take too many pictures of the same mountain. There were fewer people in the Grand Teton compared to Yellowstone, but still too many. Went for a little walk, this time just flat no major inclines. Stuck my feet into Jenny Lake and headed for Jackson.
I stayed for two nights with friends in Jackson. They took me in with open arms. They are filmmakers / photographers and we had plenty of shop talk. They live outside of Jackson in a very quiet area surrounded by buttes. The hummingbirds were buzzing around our heads, I am not kidding. They have a feeder on the patio and those little birds dart for it often missing your head only by inches. The buzzing of
their wings is tremendous. Even saw a bald eagle pair and a juvenile eagle sitting in the trees across the Snake River from their patio. Who needs Yellowstone. Went to a local rodeo, was fun to watch it in person. I was very happy to have some company for a while and sleeping in a real bed with a private bathroom was not bad either. Since Richard and Diane had traveled the US extensively, they could give me some good travel tips. I changed my route slightly. Instead of going north thru Idaho to Washington State, I am only driving thru the southern part of Idaho and than into Oregon to a place called Sisters. From there I’ll head north to Mt. Hood and into Washington State, Mt. St. Helens and maybe Mt. Rainier. Since I am heading all the way up north to Bellingham to stay with a friend for a couple of days, I might save Mt. Rainier for the way back down. Looking at the calendar, time seems to be running away.
From Jackson I only made it to Twin Falls in Idaho. Saw several wildfires in the distance. Driving thru Arco, the air ways filled with smoke. There are fires burning all over Montana and the eastern side of Idaho.
I got eaten alive by mosquitoes at the Twin Falls campsite. Still itches like crazy. Twin Falls has a beautiful waterfall, 50’ higher than Niagara Falls and not commercialized and hardly any people!!!
I have to get some breakfast now, it is already 8:30 AM. Have been typing for the last hour or so.
Have a nice weekend.
I start to forget what day of the week it is.