Aug 19, 2014
|MONDAY, AUGUST 18, 2014
Left Apgar Campground this morning headed for the Going to the Sun Road. This road is the only way to traverse Glacier NP. This year it did not open until mid-June because of snow on the road. The morning started cloudy but turned bright & sunny as we progressed up the mountains. We wanted to stop at several places we drove by on the Red Bus tour. Our first stop was the 1.2 mile Trail of Cedars. This hiking trail wanders through a beautiful forest of cedar and cottonweed trees, many over 400 years old. Each turn is more lovely than the last. The National Park is designated a wilderness area so nature is allowed to take its course as to forestation. It is a serene area with a wide stream and waterfall rushing through the middle. The parking lots were full and cars would wait for one to pull out to park.
A few miles after leaving the forest the road quickly begins to climb up the mountains. This is a narrow 2-way road. The vehicle limit is 8 ft wide and 20 ft long - we just made the limit. Sometimes we were on the inside lane, sometimes on the outside lane with drop offs from a few feet to 3000! Very few places had guard rails. Needless to say we were not speeding along. It wasn't long before we were above the treeline and could enjoy the beautiful views. On Sunday our bus tour took us up to Logan Pass, today we headed down the other side. A couple miles past Logan we came upon a wreck involving two motorcycles. We saw two people lying on either side of the road and the squad had just arrived.
At mile 33 of the route we a hit major construction project that lasted for 20 miles. They are doing a complete rebuild of the road and trying to maintain traffic. The construction area was as bumpy as any road we've been on.
As we turned south out of the park the mountains gave way to flat land. Later plateaus and buttes began to appear in the distance. Looked like a Western movie set. The area is considered high desert. Sagebrush is the only green for miles. If you see green the area is being irrigated. Late in the day mountains again began to appear in the distance and finally we again were surrounded by mountains with trees. In this area towns are few and far between. Around 9 PM we rolled in to the Ennis RV Village. The office was closed but they had a list of available sites so we made ourselves at home.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 19
We awoke to a beautiful Montana morning. This is Big Sky Country and it certainly lives up to its name. This morning we got a chance to check out the RV park in daylight. It was one of the nicest parks we've stayed at. The restrooms and showers were neat and clean. We decided to do the laundry there also. $1.25 for a big Maytag front-loader and .25 for 10 minutes of drying. Most of the laundromats we have been to cost $3.25-$4.00 to wash and .25 for 4 minutes drying time. They even had an ironing board and iron for guests to use. We couldn't pass up this deal.
While waiting on the clothes to dry we talked with a woman who is involved in a study to preserve the wolf population is Yellowstone. She was a wealth of information about the area. She told us to be sure to check out Lamar Valley where we were sure to see bison and maybe elk and wolves. As we were ready to leave she stopped us with information that there were 2 carcasses in Hayden Valley and there were grizzlies in the area. She insisted we drive Beartooth Road after we leave the Park saying the views were better than Top of the World (although we didn't see many views on TOW because of the rain & fog) She gave us many reasons to return to the area in the future.
We headed down the road to Yellowstone NP entering in the SW corner at West Yellowstone. Heading toward Old Faithful our first stops was Fire Canyon Drive. There we saw four different types of thermal activity. Founrtain Geyser shoots hot water and steam into the air. The Fountain Paint Pots are bubbling mud. The Silex Pool pushes sulfer up from underground. The Celestine Pool is a hot spring. There were acres of steam vents and bubbling mud surrounding these four thermals. A boardwalk is constructed for the thousands of visitors to walk over the area. We could see the steam from the geysers and smell the sulfer from the road a half mile away.
Next we headed to Fire Hole Drive. The Great Fountain Geyser is here but we just missed the eruption. Lots of steam was still shooting into the air. The White Dome Geyser is also located in this area. This looks like a huge honeycomb. Again the area was filled with small geysers, bubbling mud and steam vents.
Farther down the road we came to the Excelsior Geyser. In the early 1900s the geyser erupted regularly until one day it just stopped. In 1958 it suddenly erupted again for 48 hours straight. It again stopped and is now a bubbling pool. The last eruption left a crater a football field wide. The water from the pool leaves beautiful colors behind as it flows.
The Prismatic Spring is next to Excelsior. The chemicals in the bubbling water leave iridescent colors all around the pool, thus giving it the name. I doubt my pictures do them justice.
We finally made it to Old Faithful. There is a very good Visitors' Center on site. There was an excellent wing with in depth information about the different kinds of thermal activity in the Park. On every road in the Park you can see some type of this activity. There are thermal vents on almost every hillside.
Old Faithful was "scheduled" to erupt at 6:10 (+ or - 10 minutes as the sign stated). Around 6:11 she did her thing! There was about a 2 minute spouting of hot water and steam. The air temperature was dropping so the steam was more prominent than the water spray. There were probably 500 people gathered around the perimeter of the geyser field for the event. The crowd was not disappointed.
We checked in at the Grant Campground in the Park. Had supper at the Lake Restaurant and found the General Store for an ice cream cone dessert. A good night's sleep was had by all.