I think this will end up being three parts. Next up, Grant Park and the Art Institute of Chicago.

On our first full day in Chicago, we walked to the Museum Campus up the Lake Shore Drive side of Grant Park and then back down the Michigan Avenue side after dinner (actually, we hadn’t planned to revisit Grant Park, but more on that when I do my blow-by-blow account of the actual trip).

First we passed the Seated Lincoln statue:

Lincoln Statue, Grant Park

The statue of Abraham Lincoln in Grant Park, 2016

I thought about cropping this so that we’re closer to Lincoln, but I like the AON Center (formerly known as the Standard Oil Building) and Two Prudential Plaza so much that I left it this way. This is cropped, however. The original photo was taken from so far away that you can see the pillars on either side of the statue.

I took a picture of the Chicago skyline from near Buckingham Fountain (my favorite photo of which is on my Tumblr), but I cannot find a good way to post it without weird diagonal lines on Mid-Continental Plaza.  I’ll continue working on this problem. Or maybe I’ll just give up.

Anyway, on our way back through Grant Park, I got a picture of what may be the oldest piece of public art in the park, the Joseph Rosenberg Fountain.  Rosenberg got his start as a newsboy and was never (or seldom, at least) able to find someone willing to give him a drink. So in his will, he left money to the city to put a fountain where people could get free water. The fountain still works, but the water is non-potable.

Rosenberg Fountain, Chicago

Joseph Rosenberg Fountain, Chicago, 2016

Another photograph that I’m wrestling with was of The Bowman, one of the two statues of Native Americans on horses that stand at Michigan Avenue and Congress Parkway. It was getting pretty late by the time we walked through Grant Park and the picture is pretty badly backlit. It is, however, the closest I’ve ever been to either statue, so I’d like to share it once I get the kinks worked out.

One of the first places we visited (just after the Marshall Field & Co. Building, the Chicago Cultural Center, and Millennium Park) was the Art Institute of Chicago.

I’ve been going to the Art Institute of Chicago for decades. When I was 14 or so, my parents joined the museum, giving us basically unlimited visits for free, so we could just kind of arrive whenever and leave whenever without a lot of pressure to “get our money’s worth.” So, while I was a little rusty on this visit, I once pretty much knew the museum like the back of my hand.

Ever since I was very, very little, I’ve had memories of my parents and me in a museum that had art and also had a spiral staircase with a large window behind it. I seem to recall that there was a statue of a mushroom in the center of the staircase. I thought for years that it was a very odd dream until we visited for the first time in years, when I was about ten or so, and I found the staircase.  I still have no idea about the mushroom.

Anyhow, here’s the staircase:

Art Institute of Chicago spiral staircase

The spiral staircase at the Art Institute of Chicago

I took a lot of pictures of some of my favorite, and some of the most notable, artworks in the museum’s collections, but those are mostly for my own amusement and for me to look back at them and go, “I remember that trip.” American Gothic had been removed from its customary location in favor of being in a special exhibition on art in the Great Depression, which cost extra money. I saw it through the exit door of the exhibition and took a picture, just for the entertainment value. I’m playing around with it in Paint.Net and if I ever get something usable, I’ll let you know.

I took some more pictures of the museum itself, including this one of the new Modern Wing:

Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing

The Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago

And this one of the reconstructed trading room of the Chicago Stock Exchange:

Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room

Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room, Art Institute of Chicago

This may be the final installment or, as I said above, there may be one more. I need to go through my pictures from our final day in Chicago and see if I got any good pictures of Lincoln Park that were of the park itself and not of Lincoln Park Zoo. It was really, really warm that day and we were meeting a friend for lunch, so we didn’t have a whole lot of time to explore Lincoln Park. It was pretty much visit the zoo, take pictures of the lake, and then get on the bus and get to our lunch meeting.

One way or another, we’ll be back in Chicago on or about October 1, I think. If not then, then October 5 for certain.  Probably.

I’m  a couple of posts behind here because this issue, which focuses on Yellowstone National Park, has an unusual structure. There are pictorials and things punctuating several pretty long articles, rather than larger and smaller articles. So I guess I’ll treat the photo essays and things as if they were articles as well.

America’s Wild Idea, by David Quammen

America’s Wild Idea is the first photo essay, which is accompanied by photos by several photographers. The text isn’t unified but complements the photos that are near it — a blurb about the prismatic springs near a photo of the springs themselves, a statement about interactions (and conflicts) between humans and grizzly bears near a photo of a man who was attacked by a bear, and so forth.

The Paradox of the Park

No writer is credited on this section. We start out talking about, once again, conflicts between grizzlies and humans, and then go into the history of the park. One of the points that the (to the best of my ability to determine) makes is that originally Yellowstone wasn’t supposed to be about establishing a truly wild place. It was more of a place designed to protect prey species from predators. To this end, nearly every carnivore in the park, from grizzly bears on down to otters and skunks, were hunted. Then they discovered that bears could be a draw. The problem with this was that the bears in the park were habituated to humans and would eat out of garbage receptacles.

We kind of end this article on a cliffhanger — “But the grizzlies of Yellowstone were never tame,” and that’s it. I think that perhaps this was intended to be kind of artistic, wrapping around to the conflicts at the beginning of the article, but I was left less than impressed. I think that maybe this was because the article ends in 1929, but begins in 2015. That’s a gap of nearly 100 years. I guess that the attack could prove that the grizzlies weren’t tame, but it could also well indicate that something changed in the interim.

Other Pictorials and Things

Back when I made my posts on Yellowstone, I said that I’d read something where the superintendent of the park, Dan Wenk, said that they need to limit the number of visitors to the park. I found it. It was on the next page after The Paradox of the Park. I still think that limiting cars would go a long way towards the goal that Wenk espouses.

The rest of this part of the issue are more pictorials, It All Starts with Heat, The Fire Within, and For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.

Next up: More Chicago pictures and then we go onto the next article, Into the Backcountry.

There wasn’t much that was destination-y about this leg of the trip, but it was beautiful.  We also didn’t have a connection for the drive, which was frustrating. Even once we got back to where we did have a connection, my phone totally failed to see that we’d been following US 191 for most of the drive.

We did have a connection in Jackson, Wyoming. I figured that there would be some place to eat and, upon arriving in Jackson, we passed an Albertson’s supermarket. We picked up some pop and a lemon loaf cake just in case we couldn’t find a restaurant. We did find a restaurant, though. We stopped at Liberty Burger, which is in the historic town center. I ended up doing a little white-knuckle driving in the historic town center — the roads seemed too narrow for the traffic to me — but the burgers were excellent.

One of the times and places I can locate was in between Jackson and Bondurant, As we headed down US 191, I saw something white ahead. In Yellowstone, I got used to that kind of white being a thermal feature. As we drove closer, the white turned darker. Eventually it was nearly black and we turned the corner to see some burning trees up the mountain. We considered calling 911 but, I pointed out, we didn’t have a connection. We got closer and saw that there were emergency personnel nearby, so we wouldn’t have needed to to call 911 after all.

As we continued to drive, we were passed by all sorts of emergency vehicles headed that way, and when we stopped so that I could get some rest miles and miles later, we saw a column of smoke from that direction.

Later, once we got to our hotel in Utah, we looked up the area near where we saw the fire and discovered that there was a major fire near there that started at about that time, the Cliff Creek Fire. Later the Cliff Creek Fire became classed as a wildfire and it is still burning. They expect it to be fully contained around the end of October. I can’t promise that what we saw was the beginning of the Cliff Creek Fire, but either way, I can tell you that we were a few miles north of Bondurant, Wyoming sometime after (but not too long after) 2:30 p.m.

Wyoming Wildlife Bridge, 2016

Wildlife Bridge, Wyoming, 2016 (photo by Alex Ogden).

One of the other interesting things we saw was a bridge across the road. I had Alex grab my phone and take a picture of it. Later, I did some research and discovered that it was a wildlife crossing bridge, designed to let pronghorn antelope and mule deer cross the road safely. I have a time on that photo, but not a location. It doesn’t look like the bridge at Trapper’s Point near Pinedale, which comes to a point. I just spent too much time trying to figure out if this is the Trapper’s Point bridge or not. I finally looked at the bridge on Google Maps and it definitely looks different from this.

We got lost in Rock Springs, Wyoming, which is a very pretty little town, as it turns out. I was kind of disappointed when Alex figured out where we went wrong. It might have been nice to explore a bit more.

Finally, we returned to Utah. We stopped at Flaming Gorge so that I could rest my backside for a bit. The overlook was very nice, but it was getting later in the day, so the gorge was pretty badly backlit. We also spent some time at Flaming Gorge Dam. We stopped at the overlook, thinking that was all there was to it. Then the road took us actually over the dam, which was a nice surprise. We passed the Visitor’s Center and stopped again for a bit.

I had hoped to make it to Dinosaur, Colorado that day, but with stopping in Jackson for lunch, stopping along the way to rest, making that wrong turn in Rock Springs, and our explorations at Flaming Gorge, it was nearly dark by the time we reached Vernal, which we had to go through to get to Dinosaur. So when we passed our hotel, we stopped for the night.

Europe’s Wild Men, photographs by Charles Fréger, text by Rachel Hartigan Shea

Europe’s Wild Men is a collection of Fréger’s photographs of men dressed in traditional costumes evoking spirits, monsters, and animals. The subjects of these photographs are apparently all men, but occasionally women do wear these costumes. Shea’s text explains some of the costumes and the history behind them.

Mahogany’s Last Stand, by Scott Wallace, photographs by Alex Webb

In this article, we look at the business of tree poaching in Peru. The primary target of these poachers is mahogany, but other trees are targeted as well. The government of Peru stopped mahogany logging in 2001 and has been including most mahogany forests in national parks and in reserves for indigenous people, in hopes of preserving them.

Apparently, the poaching of mahogany continued after 2013, because I found a Sierra Club article about mahogany with falsified documents being imported into the United States in 2015.

These are both fairly small parks, so I figured I’d put them together.

Fox Park is not particularly exciting, I’m disappointed to admit. The parks website says that there are walking paths and such, but Fox Park mostly functions as a trailhead for the Leon Creek Greenway. If you blink, you’ll miss the park entirely.

Gorrell Park is still small, but has more going for it. The full name of the park is Officer Edwynn J. Gorrell Park, and the park is named for a police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 1988.

Gilbert Barrera, The Letter

Gilbert Barrerra, The Letter, 2012. At least it looks like Barrera finished it in 2012, judging by his Facebook. I took the photo in 2016.

Gorrell Park has a playground, picnic tables, and a quarter-mile walking trail, which is an out-and-back trail, rather than a loop. There is also a statue which for a long time was wrapped up, apparently to deter vandals. I have never been able to find a name or attribution for the statue, but it is titled The Letter and the sculptor is Gilbert E. Barrera. It is a widow holding a dove, which represents not just the widows of fallen police officers but also anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one.

I mentioned vandalism. I’m not sure if it’s specifically anti-police vandalism, since the park is named for a fallen officer as such, but there has been some vandalism in the park. I would blame the vandalism more on the park’s proximity to Tom C. Clark High School, which is right across the railroad tracks. Clark is one of the best high schools in the area, and not at all bad in the national rankings, but kids are kids, and I seem to recall a study saying that homes that are near schools face more vandalism, so I suspect the same may be true of parks near schools. If the vandalism makes you want to be cautious, make sure that other people are in the park when you visit, and don’t go alone.

It’s a lovely park, despite the vandalism and perhaps worth a visit.

History’s Backyard, by Adam Goodheart, photographs by Michael Melford

First, I was kind of surprised to find that “backyard” spellchecks. Upon further research (and contemplation) I realized that I’ve generally seen noun as two words, but the adjective as one. So it should spellcheck, but it definitely looks like it should be “Back Yard” in this instance. I keep expecting it to be History’s Backyard Something (barbecue? garden?)

Anyway, the “backyard” in question is the Brandywine River in Delaware. The article goes into some of the historical events that took place along river. As this issue went to press, the government was contemplating including an area including the Brandywine River in the National Park Service. They did eventually do just that. Originally, it was made First State National Monument, then in 2015, it became First State National Historical Park, the first national park in Delaware.

When Push Comes to Shove, by Mel White, photographs by Paul Nicklen

When Push Comes to Shove is about conflict over manatees in Kings Bay, Florida. When this issue was written, over 600 manatees would spend the winter in the bay, and the manatees are a huge draw for tourists and drive quite a bit of the local economy. You see, the nearby town of Crystal River is the only place that allowed people to get into the water with the manatees.

The conflict is that the government, which has an interest in preserving biodiversity (which means preserving the manatees in particular) for future generations, wanted to enforce speed limits on boats in the area to protect the manatees.  Ideally, they would have liked to make Kings Bay off-limits to swimming with the manatees entirely.

I have been unable to determine what, if anything, has changed about this situation in the last three years. I am thinking, though, that a happy medium would be to have licensed manatee tour operators. If visitors who are allowed to swim with the manatees are required to go through a tour operator, then the tour operator would be required to limit swimmers to those that they can supervise (and thus keep from harming the manatees) successfully. Manatee Visitor Supervisor could become a new growth job in the region.

 

Look it’s September 3 and we’re back. I probably shouldn’t be as surprised by that as I am, but it is nice when my schedule works out as planned.

We got out a little earlier on our second day in Yellowstone, but not as much earlier as I would have liked. We actually bought breakfast in the hotel for once, so that used up some time, and then we went to the supermarket in West Yellowstone, which was *not* like the supermarkets back home. The produce section was very small and most of the store was prepackaged food. We generally like to get our pop from a supermarket rather than convenience stores, because we can get six bottles for the price of two or three from a convenience store. I’m never going to be able to retire on those savings, but it helps. The supermarket we visited didn’t even have six-packs of pop, just the same individual bottles you get at the convenience store. So that used up some time.

Then we hit the traffic. It was a Saturday, so Yellowstone was more crowded than it had been on Friday, but the biggest problem was road construction. It’s winter for quite a long time every year at that elevation, so tourist season is also construction season.  And while we were there they were fixing the Grand Loop Road leading to Old Faithful. We wanted to get to Lake Yellowstone anyhow, so I suggested that we go around the long way, past the lake, and back to Old Faithful. We realized that would be at least a two-hour drive, so we opted to try our luck with Grand Loop Road. I have basically no sense of time, so I don’t actually remember how long we sat there; it certainly seemed to be longer than the half hour they expected it to be.

I had also just recently read that National Geographic article on Denali where we find out that there is a big parking lot by the visitors’ center and that everyone who goes into the park takes a bus. Visitors can get off the bus pretty much anywhere and then get back on the bus pretty much anywhere as well. I sat there in traffic wondering aloud just what it would take to implement a similar program at Yellowstone.*

Finally we made it to Old Faithful and, in contrast to the previous night, we had trouble finding a parking place. Our rental car was white, as were a lot of the other cars in the lot, which made it more fun to find the car in the lot on our way out.

We got there so late that we wrapped around to being really early, so we ended up with time to kill. We bought some souvenirs and a couple of soft pretzels in the Old Faithful Lodge while we waited. Then when we went back outside the only benches available were way off to one side, so we sat on the boardwalk itself, which ended up being a nice place to sit, because it gave me a nice angle on the grasses in front of the geyser as they waved the breeze.

Old Faithful, 2016

Old Faithful, 2016

A helicopter landed out behind the Old Faithful Inn while we waited for the eruption, and Alex loves vehicles of all types, so we went in search of the helicopter. It was a nice walk, and Myriad Creek, which runs behind the Inn, is very pretty, but we could have just followed the signs to the medical clinic, because that’s where we found the helicopter.

After that we went into the Visitor’s Center because I promised myself that I would go into the backcountry at least once, but I’m also not an idiot. I know that people can get hurt or killed if they exceed their hiking abilities. So I asked the park ranger there what he would recommend for a “baby” hiker. He recommended a fairly easy path that would take us two hours to complete. We ended up walking 45 minutes or so, out and back. We did head into the woods briefly just to do it, but I put hiking mode on my phone so that we wouldn’t get lost; we were able to just follow the path that we’d walked out back (take that, Hansel and Gretel!).

Back to Old Faithful, though. We considered having ice cream at the Old Faithful Inn before heading back out, but the lines were tremendously long and we figured that we could get ice cream at Lake Yellowstone (spoiler alert: we were never able to find it). So we headed out.

We stopped at Isa Lake, which sits right on the Continental Divide and is notable for being the only known natural lake that drains into both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Then we made it to Lake Yellowstone, which is not the easiest place to find parking, believe me.  The parking lot for the hotel was full, as was the parking lot in front of the hotel, and there was exactly one spot available in the parking lot for Lake Lodge. Since we didn’t find ice cream there, we chose to go somewhere we were certain would have ice cream — the Canyon Village Deli, where we’d had sandwiches the previous day. So we headed back up towards Canyon Village and got ice cream. I tried the huckleberry flavor, which was pretty good, but after all of that driving, I needed chocolate. So Alex and I both got cups of Moose Tracks and mint chocolate chip. And, as with the previous day, the people there were great.

We would have liked to have spent more time at Yellowstone, but I wanted to make an early night of it so that we could head out for Vernal Utah early the next morning. We didn’t make it out (of the park or of our hotel) as early as I would have liked.  You see, on our way out, we finally had our first wildlife-induced traffic jam. We’d had gapers’ blocks from wildlife alongside the road (a black bear, a grizzly bear, a bull elk, etc.), but on our way out, we actually ended up behind a bison. Alex attempted to take a picture, but the bison was near the center line on the road so he couldn’t get it for me. As luck would have it, the car in front of us came to a complete stop at one point, giving me a chance to stop completely and put my car in park long enough to snap a quick picture.

It was nearly dark by the time we made it back to the hotel, so we went right to bed and, the next morning, headed for Vernal Utah.  We’ll return for that drive on or around September 11.

*I did some research later and by my calculations, you would need a 2700-car parking garage just outside each entrance, which would be about half the size of the parking garage at the San Antonio International Airport. You could drop San Antonio into Yellowstone and still have space around the city, so if you can drive past the airport parking garage and not notice it (which you can), it should be possible to build those five garages without too much disruption. Alex objected, saying that most people would probably want their cars.  So I figure that you let the most motivated drivers bring their cars.  Let a couple of hundred cars in at each entrance (for an extra fee) every day. This would reduce the size of the garage that you would need to maybe 2500 cars. Of course, RVs that are headed towards the campgrounds would always be allowed in, so long as they go pretty much right to their camping spot.

I definitely am starting my fifth year of National Geographic issues here. And things should pick up soon. Alex is back in school, so we won’t be going anywhere together on most of my weekdays off. This means that I will return to my hiking-and-listening-to-19th-century-National-Geographic-issues trips. I should be done with 1889 by the end of 2016. I hope.

Bringing Them Back to Life, by Carl Zimmer, photographs by Robb Kendrick

The “them” of the title here is extinct species. Humanity is causing, directly or indirectly, the loss of species, perhaps on a daily, or even hourly, basis (depending on the model you use). Most of these species are likely to be bacteria, invertebrates, or even plants that were never identified in the first place. But the fact remains that there are hundreds of species that we can identify that have gone extinct and it would be nice to stop the resource use (particularly deforestation and rerouting of water) that causes these extinctions.

About a century ago, we lost the passenger pigeon. At one time, there were millions of passenger pigeons in North America, and then westerners moved in and started eating them. Within a couple of hundred years, they were all gone. So, since they once existed in such high numbers and because their loss was relatively recent, this is the example given of how manipulation of rock pigeon genes could create new passenger pigeons, or at least a new bird with the same genetic traits as the passenger pigeon. It would look like a passenger pigeon and likely have some of the same behaviors as the passenger pigeon. Hopefully it would fill the same niche in the ecosystem that the passenger pigeon once filled. At worst, it seems to me that it would be a prettier rock pigeon (and I say this as someone who finds rock pigeons to be a fairly nice-looking bird).

Will this kind of manipulation ever successfully be done? Well, it’s three years later and we haven’t seen the return of the passenger pigeon, so it doesn’t look like it’s been attempted. But perhaps someone someday will attempt it and it will be successful. One of the problems with the plan is that they would have to produce a lot of passenger pigeons in that first generation to succeed, because passenger pigeons naturally formed large flocks.

And even if we do see the return of the passenger pigeon or the Western black rhinoceros, or the Pinata Island tortoise, it will be a long, long time indeed before resources are such that we would have a Jurassic Park-type revival or even the return of animals that coexisted with humans such as, well, the mammoth. Hey, that leads nicely into the next article . . . .

Of Mammoths and Men, by Brook Larmer, photographs by Evgenia Arbugaeva

No, we aren’t talking about the return of the mammoth from extinction. Instead, Of Mammoths and Men is a profile of the residents of northern Siberia who hunt mammoth tusks for a living. As of 2013, a mammoth tusk could earn a hunter at least $60,000.  The hunter that we follow has an exceptionally good year while we follow him, bringing in at least $150,000 worth of mammoth tusks.

Alex and I took a trip to Chicago on August 8 through 11, 2016. Partly the trip was because I was homesick; I hadn’t been home in six years.  But part of the trip was because my now-ex has most of our photographs from our previous trips to Chicago. I started writing about Chicago destinations in past posts, but since my ex has the pictures, I couldn’t post any pictures with them.

So here are a few pictures that I will, ideally, be moving to those posts, and probably a few more that I’m particularly fond of.

First, is the Field Museum of Natural History. Arguably my favorite museum in Chicago (if it’s not my favorite, it’s a very, very close second to the Art Institute of Chicago). I’m not sure which image(s) I’m going to use, so I’ll post three of my favorites here. I reserve the right to come back and say, “Ooh! Here’s another nice one!” at some later date.

Field Museum Chicago 2016

The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois, 2016. Alex and I were in the Museum Campus until after the museums closed so I was able to get this nice photograph of the north entrance without any people in it.

Tsavo lions, Chicago, 2016

The Lions of Tsavo, two of the most famous “residents” of the museum. These lions (well, the lions that used to wear these skins) killed and ate around 35 people in Tsavo, Kenya, in the 19th century. The lions’ skulls are also on display in the same case. You can see one of the skulls there in the lower left-hand corner.

Sue the T-Rex, 2016

Sue the tyrannosaurus rex. Sue is yet another popular “resident,” visible in Stanley Field Hall

Millennium Park was my next post, so here are a few of my favorites from there. I will definitely include the first image because I attempted to describe it in the post and failed miserably, so why not include a photo?

decorative wall, Millennium Park, 2016

The back of the plot of land that eventually became the westernmost part of Millennium Park had a wall similar to this along the back of it.

I spent several minutes trying to find the best reflection of the skyline on the Cloud Gate (also known as the “Bean”), but didn’t find any that really spoke to me. Maybe later, after further examination, I’ll find one, or maybe I’ll just have to make the sacrifice and go back to Chicago at some point other than the height of the tourist season (imagine a fake sigh here). So, instead, here’s one I really liked of the Crown Fountain.

Crown Fountain, 2016

Crown Fountain, Millennium Park Chicago, 2016

I think I’ll stop here for now and return to this topic in two weeks or so with photos from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, also perhaps of Lincoln Park, though most of those pictures I took were of the zoo, which I haven’t posted on yet. And then, two weeks or so after that, we’ll go forward with (in two-week increments) Lincoln Park Zoo, the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, the Chicago Botanic Garden, and some of the highlights of Chicago architecture. We should be in November by then.

I’ve run some numbers and it looks like I’ll be able to return to Chicago to take photos of the Museum of Science and Industry, the Oriental Institute and perhaps some suburban destinations, in 2018 or 2019.

I don’t know how long my discussion of Yellowstone will turn out to be, so I’ve tentatively labeled this as Part 1.

Alex and I got kind of a late start on our first day at Yellowstone. The drive from Salt Lake City had taken a lot longer than we had expected. In addition to the two hours of scheduled stops, and the unscheduled more than an hour Rocket Display stop, I forgot my rescue inhaler, so we had to transfer it to a Walmart in Idaho and wait for it to become ready. I estimate that rather than taking four or five hours, it took eight or nine. At this point, I was not in a rush to get back in the car, even though I thought that I’d get plenty of time out of the car at Yellowstone.

I didn’t get lots of time out of the car at Yellowstone. Let’s put it this way. San Antonio is the 67th largest city in the world in terms of land area. You could drop San Antonio on top of Yellowstone (not that I’d recommend this) and still have lots of space around the edges (19 miles all the way around, if my math is correct). So, yeah. Unless you book a bus tour, expect to spend lots of time in the car.

Overall, I have to give Yellowstone a solid four out of five stars for producing megafauna to gawk at. Minutes after entering the park, we saw our first bison. By the time we left Yellowstone heading for Dinosaur National Monument, we saw even more bison (including several herd of bison in the distance, one ahead of us blocking traffic, and one alongside the road so close to our car we could hear it breathing — that was unnerving), a black bear (which was too close to the road, but we stopped and took a couple of pictures anyway, a grizzly bear (likewise), at least one yellow-bellied marmot, and at least one elk (or maybe one elk and two moose cows, or possibly two elk and one moose cow). I think I saw some pronghorn antelope in the distance once. We also heard something howling on two separate occasions (I’m not sure if they were coyotes or wolves). No dall sheep or actual sightings of wolves, and also it would have been nice to have gotten a picture of the things that I thought might be pronghorn.  If I’d gotten those squares on my megafauna bingo card, Yellowstone would have rated five out of five.

Yellowstone Madison River Bison 2016

Believe it or not, that brown lump pretty much right in the center of the image is a bison. I also have some closer photos of it, but I wanted to share just the tiniest bit of the scale of the park as well. The water in the foreground is the Madison River.

We chose not to go to Old Faithful first because Alex wanted to do some stargazing and I read several things that said that the area around Old Faithful is a good place to stargaze, largely because there are people there pretty much around the clock. Since it was just the two of us, I figured that keeping to populated areas after dark would be a good plan. As it turned out, 81% of the moon’s disk was visible that night, so the light pollution from the moon ended up causing us difficulty with the stargazing. I still owe Alex a stargazing trip.

Back to that morning. We’d heard that there had been snow at the higher elevations in Yellowstone, so since we started out kind of hungry, we chose to eat at the Canyon Village, which is the highest in elevation (I hoped that perhaps Canyon Village would be close enough to the highest elevations that we could see if there actually was snow up there and maybe find a route up to it). We ended up eating sandwiches at the deli and while they were, you know, sandwiches, and not terribly exciting as cuisine goes, the people there were very pleasant and helpful. This set a very nice tone for the day.

After we ate, we stumbled across the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which is a place where the Yellowstone River cut into the rock and, well, created a canyon (just like it says on the tin). We found, and spent entirely too much time photographing, the Lower Falls. We saw a boardwalk that led down towards the river and, because I’m too adventurous for my own good sometimes, I convinced Alex to go down there with me. The trip down was great, but the trip back up was a bit strenuous. Just a year ago, he and I had climbed the Statue of Liberty with no problem, so I was sort of distressed about just how difficult I found the walk back up. However, the elevation of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is around 6,000 feet, so perhaps that made at least some of the difference.

After this, we went in search of even higher elevations, which led us up into the northwest corner of the park. I didn’t want to attempt to climb Mount Washburn. Oh, who am I kidding? I probably would have totally been up for it (despite the adventure I had coming back up at the Grand Canyon). Alex talked me out of it. Mount Washburn was probably our best shot at seeing snow on this trip, too. Oh, well, maybe it’ll snow in Dallas this year and we’ll luck out and be able to go up to Dallas to see it.

While we were in that corner, we drove into Fort Yellowstone, where we saw an animal that I at first identified as a horse. Alex was taking pictures of it, and I asked him why he was taking pictures of “that horse.” He told me that it clearly was not a horse and later, when I looked at the pictures, I think it might have been a moose, though it was more of a yellow color than I was expecting. Looking at other pictures of moose and elk, maybe it was an elk.

We parked and kind of knocked around a while at the Mammoth Hot Springs area (and I would like to go back and stay at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel some fall or winter) and took a lot of pictures of the thermal features there.

At this point, it was getting pretty late and we were looking at an hour and a half drive, so we headed towards Old Faithful. We took even longer than that, because we found a whole area of thermal features that needed to be explored and photographed.

Finally, with the sun beginning to sink in the west, we headed for Old Faithful. We got there just after an eruption, so we had an hour or so to kill, and during that time, the sun went down almost completely. I took some photographs of the geyser before the sun went down and then again afterwards (I also videoed the eruption, but my phone camera is not fantastic at night photography, so the video is mostly whooshing noises and blackness). We stuck our heads into the Old Faithful Inn (I had wanted to visit the Inn because I remember the 1988 wildfires that came *this* close to threatening the Inn). We then went to the Old Faithful Lodge and got a drink and two huge cookies to eat while we waited.

One of the nice things about watching Old Faithful erupt after nightfall is that almost no one is there. We had fantastic seats. And the geyser gave us a nice several-minute show. After the eruption we looked at the stars for a bit, but I wasn’t sure if they really would let us out of the park that late at night, and we still faced a 45-minute drive (during daylight hours — we were driving just a little more slowly because I didn’t want to end up wrapping the car around a moose or something) back to West Yellowstone, so we headed back out. We stopped along the way and looked at the stars again on the way, as well.

And, since we’re at over 1,000 words, this looks like a good place to stop for now. So I will end up with at least two posts on Yellowstone. We’ll meet here in Montana/Wyoming again on September 3, I think?