Yellowstone National Park

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The Yellowstone slice of this journey remains active and thrilling for the Lindfors–a delicious opportunity to explore America’s first, and perhaps most famous, National Park. From Sunday, August 22 to Wednesday, August 25, Steven and gang were north, south, east and west in the Park, using their comfortable accommodations at Grant Village (on the West Thumb of Lake Yellowstone) as their hub and refuge.

Quick Overview:

Juicy details:

Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls: The Upper Falls are 109 ft. and the Lower Falls are 308 ft.  Visitors have to stop at one or more Park lookouts to see the falls; they cannot be seen at the same time because of a bend in the Canyon that is rightfully known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  According to Steve, the family spent most of Sunday getting in and out of their car, pulling over at stops and lookouts to see all the beautiful sites the “Falls area” has to offer.  The kids really enjoyed the mud pots.   Sometime during the day they found themselves by gigantic Yellowstone Lake with enough time to practice rock skipping on a perfectly calm lake.

Old Faithful and his Buddies – Norris Geyser Basin &  Lewis River: Totally awesome. “We have been lucky this entire trip; hit it right a lot of the time!”  marvels Steve. The Lindfors were enjoying an awesome lunch at the Old Faithful Visitor Center and, as fate would have it,  Old Faithful erupted while they were munching. Right out the window.

Then, they stayed to actually watch the show outdoors and to get “up close”  and were rewarded by seeing not only Old Faithful  but a companion geyser decided to plume at the same time. I think it was Castle Geyser?” Steven searches.  “Is that lucky or what? It’s hard to keep track; we’ve seen so many cool things.” You can tell he’s having trouble processing the wonders he’s seen in just this one half day.The pictures say it all. We saw Beehive Geyser, one of the highest shooting geysers and then, later, we saw two blasting at the same time, pretty near each other.  It was just so neat.” Experiencing the incredibly “organic” geothermal activity in the Yellowstone area should never be taken for granted. When you’re in the planet’s most prolific area of activity, you know you’ve reached sacred ground–or at least ground with an incredible story. In Yellowstone there are an estimated 10,000+geothermal features and  200- 250 active geysers.

The River and the Lake. “We were driving along and came upon a lot of cars pulled and parked to the side of the road. No big deal in Yellowstone, but we saw kids going along the side of the highway in swimsuits. So we pull over to check it out.  Kids are jumping off rocks into the river!”  Steve is psyched.

Jump!You guessed it. Steve, Steven and Eric run back to the car and change into their swim trunks; Janet grabs the binoculars and camera and proceeds to document what is simply “a spontaneous good time.” Steve referred to this escapade as cliff diving –but I think he exaggerates. He said he checked things out first and the river seemed deep enough.  Again, the pictures say it all. (This time I was the one incredulous.) I asked Steven if he ended up jumping in the river too and he “fessed up.” “The kids were fearless,” he bragged. “It was a blast. What can I say? What’s not to love?”

Shopping and Old Faithful Inn.  Janet has indulged shopping in the National Park gift shops all along, this one did not disappoint–none of them have disappointed, we are assured.  The family enjoyed hanging out, touring the historic Old Faithful Inn: climbing its incredible lodge pole-pine stairway, scoping-out the hotel’s huge rhyolite fireplace and 7-story lobby, open balconies and enticing hallways.  A true classic in rustic architecture.  The Old Faithful Inn is one of the few remaining log hotels in the country, built in 1903-04.  The area around Old Faithful Inn give tourists a peek into the Park’s lodging history.  There are several historic structures worth visiting.

The Lindfors actually stayed at Grant Village which they also liked. Being so close to the lake made it easy to kick back. Reflect.  Catch a breath and skip a few stones.  Explore nearby Fisherman’s Bridge and the Village itself.

It’s Tuesday night, they’re all tired after their day of geyser hopping, shooting the rapids and shopping. Tomorrow they continue their journey across the  Yellowstone Plateau, south to Grand Teton National Park and famous Jackson Hole Wyoming.  They’ll be staying at Forever Resort’s Signal Mountain Lodge; it sits on the shore of Lake Jackson, overlooking the spectacular Teton Mountain Range.

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Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Pass --above timberline

Beartooth Pass, as far as I’m concerned, is the most scenic highway in the United States,” Steve Lindfors says emphatically. The drive from Billings to Yellowstone was “beyond wonderful” pronounced Steve.  “The views are spectacular! The glacial valley, the mountains–some of them over 11,000 feet!  There’s lots of switchbacks and beautiful trees. We all just loved it!”  (Beartooth Pass is the highest elevation highway in WY, MT and the northern Rockies and takes our explorers 10,000 ft.+ high, above timberline.)

It seems their last night in Hill City was a fun one. They had dinner reservations at the famous Alpine Inn, known far and wide for its prime rib. They go in, they’re seated and come to find out that prime rib, wedge of head lettuce “with the best homemade ranch dressing I may have ever eaten,” baked potato, and Texas toast were the ONLY items on the menu, IF there had been a menu. The only choice is 6 oz. vs. 9 oz.. And, surprise again, they only accept cash.  “Incredulous,” says Steven. I can see him shaking his head is amusement as he relayed the story. “But…delicious!! Really delicious.”

It’s Friday, August 20, and the Lindfors are headed for their first night in Yellowstone–toward the NE Entrance, of course. (I’m sure this was part of the trip plan from the get go. If you recall, the Ranger’s home located at the NE Entrance of the Park was the first house Steven Lindfors lived in. And, I find out later, his brother also “landed” in a Park Service cabin–only at the SW corner of the Park. Their father worked for the Park Service and was transferred around Yellowstone during the 50′s).

“It was right where my mom told me it would be,” exclaimed Steve. “You go in the Entrance, look to the right, up the hill, and the house should be sitting there. And, sure enough it was! I got out and took pictures and we walked around a bit. It was really cool. The kids visited with the Park Rangers at the Entrance and got a check-off list of mammals and birds to watch during their stay.”

“So let me tell you where we stand,” Steven continues. “Already we’re only missing two animals: a moose and a grizzly bear. We’ve checked off wolf, black bear, bison, bald eagle and elk. Jan and Steven, our family’s binocular nuts, even spotted a family of river otters today. At first they thought it was beaver–but it turned out to be playful otters. They totally entertained us–popping in and out of the water, wrestling around with each other.  It was just too cute!”

Chuck Wagon at Yellow Stone National Park

Chuck Wagon dinner in Yellowstone National Park

As you’re apt to do in Yellowstone, you drive around and look for scenic vistas and interesting stopping points.  Steve reports they did that for a good part of the afternoon. “You know, we stopped at the geothermal pools and bubbling mudpots. We stopped with all the other gawkers when there was an animal to view,” he laughed. “Then in the evening we loaded into an authentic Conestoga Wagon and a guide took us and some other folks out to an open field and we had a real chuck wagon dinner. It was fun and very ‘different.’ The kids really liked it, though. It was magnificent out there. What a beautiful day too.”

Tonight our chat is abbreviated. The Lindfors are tired and sunburned. They learned the hard way how harsh the sun is at high elevations.  They’ll wear hats tomorrow when they engage their hub-and-spoke day trip down to Cody, WY to take in a rodeo and some Cowboy & Western history as only WY can deliver it.

-Discoverette


View more pho
tos from the Lindfors’ family trip here.

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Eric and Steven Lindfors at Wind Cave National Park.

Steven and Eric Lindfors at Wind Cave National Park.

Our frisky family of four continues to gain speed and momentum as they whirl through another day of adventure and exploration. It’s Thursday, August 19, and the Lindfors are “full-throttle” visiting Wind Cave National ParkCuster’s Battle Field, and Devil’s Tower National Monument. They’re in the car, motoring toward Billings, Montana, when Steve Lindfors calls to recap.

Feeding the burros.

Feeding the burros.

Before hearing the “two steps forward” update, I heard the “one step backwards” tale. “Did I tell you about the burros? They were brought to the Black Hills during the gold rush and eventually turned loose once the miners left. They have grown in numbers, of course, and now they’re ‘running all over the place and begging for handouts.’ They came right up to our car window!” He couldn’t believe he forgot to tell me this. Although not sanctioned by officials, the burros unabashedly beg for food and motorists gladly oblige. Steve confessed; the guys actually fed them Twizzlers.  And, he didn’t seem that apologetic either.

Inside Wind Cave.

Inside Wind Cave.

So, now on to Wind Cave National Park, one of the oldest National Parks in the system and, to this day, remains sacred to the Lakota Nation. Wind Cave is known for its Boxwork formations–thin blades of calcite that project from the cave walls and ceilings and look like scrambled spider webs. Steve Lindfors is a self-proclaimed cave lover and reports being “happy as a clam” visiting yet another impressive, underground display. This remarkable cave is the world’s 4th largest and is still being mapped and explored–by spelunkers and visitors alike. Our group enjoyed  touring Wind Cave but collectively agreed that Jewel Cave was a bit more picturesque.

At Custer's Last Stand.

At Custer's Last Stand.

Next stop: the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn (also known as Custer’s Last Stand). “I hadn’t seen anything like this since touring the Battle of Gettysburg site,” said Steve.  Fitted with an interpretive pamphlet, the Lindfors conducted a self-guided tour, recounting the history of one of the most decisive Native American victories in the Great Sioux War of 1876-77. This battle would leave George Armstrong Custer and more than 225 of the men and commanders of the Seventh Cavalry dead. Native Chiefs, including Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Little Wolf and Dull Knife, with their Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapahoe warriors, outnumbered Custer’s men nearly three to one and made fast work of defeating them in a battle known for its savagery and carnage. Steven reported that this is the only battlefield in the United States that has commemorated those who died by marking the spot where each man perished. There were white markers for US soldiers and red markers for Native Americans. It’s no surprise the family was in awe at what they witnessed. “It was very sobering, to be sure,” Steven concluded.

Eric and Steven Lindfors at Devil's Tower.

Steven and Eric Lindfors at Devil's Tower.

Devil’s Tower National Monument was the next destination, and love it they did. “You could see the Tower from 6-7 miles out, peeking up over the hills.”  Once they arrived the family piled out of the car and hike around the base of the volcanic Tower. “It’s probably about one and half miles around. Gigantic!” Steve exclaimed. “The boys spent quite a lot of time watching climbers as they repelled down the side of the Tower.” (A little research about Devil’s Tower reveals that it’s 867 feet from base to summit and is known to geologists as an igneous intrusion, or an “ancient volcano’s core” as Steve put it. This area also remains a sacred site for Native Plains tribes. Origin stories accounting for the Tower’s deep crevices vary amongst Tribes–but they all include a very large bear clawing and gouging the sides of the rock.) Steve noted the native prayer blankets all around the  Tower. “Most of them were draped over the branches of trees. You can tell this is a very special and sacred place.”

Our vacationeers are still zipping down the highway when Discoverette hears a lot of commotion in the background.  “What’s going on?” she asks, thinking that maybe driving and talking is not such a good idea. “Eric just lost a tooth,” brother Steven yells from the back seat. I over hear Janet obviously concerned about the tooth and about Eric getting blood on the upholstery.  Steve is laughing. I am laughing.  (Ahhhhh–the family vacation! Otherwise known as “anything can happen” days!)

Trying to get focused and concentrate on driving again, Steve quickly ends the conversation with a preview of  upcoming planned activities. “We’re heading to a Holiday Inn in Billings. The kids can’t wait to get in the pool. Then we’re going out to dinner. Tomorrow were going to Yellowstone and I’ll see the house I lived in as a new born.” (What?? This is a bombshell. Tell me more!)

“Didn’t I tell you that my Dad was a Park Ranger stationed at the NE entrance of Yellowstone National Park?  Yep, I spent my early years living in a National Park Ranger’s house! So, I’m ‘going home’ tomorrow!”

Wow, what a story. I can’t stand it, knowing that I’m not going to get the details of this news flash until later. Waiting is not my long suit. But, wait it is. We say goodbyes and set up a time for our next phone rendezvous.  This journey has all of a sudden taken a very intriguing twist. I can hardly wait to hear the “going home” to Yellowstone details.

-Discoverette

View more photos from the Lindfors’ family trip here.

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