September 6, 2011: Yellowstone, Northeast Quadrant

This was probably the most eventful night sleeping I had the whole trip. I was awoken around 4am by the eery calling of some elk far off in the park, but was a little disturbed because I didn’t know it was an elk until I was educated on their calls much later in the trip.  At the time I was sure I had been awoken by some sort of animal ritual, but I was able to get back to sleep only to be woken up for good around 6am when a small earthquake struck.  Figuring that it was a sign it was time to get up, I indeed did just that.

We headed out to scout the northeast quadrant of Yellowstone where we quickly stopped for our first walk away from  the safe confines of the Mitsubishi.  I felt like a baby taking its first steps as I strapped on my bear spray holster and prepared myself for the likely pack of grizzly bears that was sure to be waiting for us down by the river we were approaching.  All that greeted us was the strong smell of sulfur though and it really began to dawn on me that I was standing in an active volcano.

If the smell of sulfur didn’t confirm things were getting volcanic….the bubbling acidic pool we came across next did.  We stopped to stand in the acidic steam that was rising from the pool and it helped dissolve some of my fears of running into a bear, because I realized I should be more concerned about myself dissolving inside the acidic steam cloud.  After this dance with acid, we pushed further into the northeast quadrant of Yellowstone.

As we drove on, we realized that the park was merely visited by us humans but it belonged to the buffalo.  The buffalo are well aware of this too and have no problem holding up traffic while they mosey around pooping everywhere and eating all the grass.  We took a few moments to introduce ourselves and then moved on.

Our  next destination was the Yellowstone Grand Canyon and the Lower Falls where we got out to do our first real hiking, and soon noticed that they were not lying about the elevation being at 8,000 feet.  We wheezed our way down a path and then a flight of 4,000 stairs that seemed like they were held up by twigs.  Not sure why they have not installed an elevator here but I plan on writing to the buffalo to complain.

After enjoying our encounter with the falls, we hiked back up the 4,000 stairs and figured since we had seen the falls up close…..we might as well take a look from far away.  So we hiked along a trail at the top which led further back to a nice viewing area.  Of course when we got to the end we saw that they had posted a sign warning of an imminent bear encounter…..not sure why they didn’t post this at the other end of the trail as well but maybe they did and the bear ate it.

After all this hiking, we decided it was time for a picnic and drove on to stop at a little clearing a little ways up the road.  It was a nice little area to sit down and have a bite to eat and perhaps get eaten.  After our gourmet meal, we once again pushed further into the northeast quadrant.

This time our destination was the Tower Falls and here we decided to start from a farther away view and then hike our way closer.  We checked out the falls from the upper viewing area but as we moved down the trail to get a closer look,  we encountered a lot of people coming up that were grumbling that the trail was washed out and you couldn’t get close to the falls.  Since I’m a huge proponent of washed out trails, I was convinced we should continue on and show our support.  We never did make it all the way to the falls but I did get down to the river to join some other Yellowstone travelers who had thrown caution to the sulfur.

After hiking back up, we decided it was time to get serious and meet the wolves and bears head on by descending into their stronghold…..The Lamar Valley.  They must have gotten a good laugh at us though because we drove for a couple hours through the valley and back, but only spotted a coyote out for his late afternoon stroll.


We finally struck gold on the way back to the lake though when we saw a crowd of cars and people stopped at one of the pull outs.  We hopped out and were happy to hear that their were two wolves off in the distant field and I was able to spot them in my binoculars. I left the north east quadrant feeling very pleased with myself and headed back to the lodge area.  We had fancy dinner reservations at the lake where I celebrated by trying some buffalo tenderloin which was quite excellent and called it a night.

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