Jellystone

July 20-21

Miles: 190

Wildlife:  Bison, Elk, Grizzly Bear, Badger, Tundra (?) Swan, Longhorn Sheep, Hawks of some ilk

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We spent three nights at the Rocky Mountain campground in Gardiner, a good basecamp for exploring Yellowstone Park, especially the Mammoth Hot Springs area.

FLS_6505The Mammoth Hot Springs are really big.  Which one would assume given the name “Mammoth,” unless one were reading “Alaska” by James Michener, in which case one might come away with the impression that the woolly mammoth wasn’t reallly all that big.

After walking through the Mammoth basin, we drove down the road a few miles to the trailhead to Bunsen Peak.  We hiked the trail to the peak, an ascent of about 1200 feet.  It was a significant hike since it was Rebecca’s first real hike since the accident.  She succeeded with flying (not literally) colors.  At the top of the mountain, we encountered a fellow Georgian, Andy from Thomasville, who was spending the summer working at the park.

We also saw a beautiful aerial ballet performed by three hawks who, at the beginning, were below us.FLS_6565

The next day we drove the whole double-loop of the park.  We saw spectacular vistas (no photos available), geysers, boiling mud pots, and a grizzly.  The grizzly had stopped traffic, but we got moving and had a perfect view of it.  Unfortunately, when it was our turn in the traffic line, I had not turned on the camera when I handed it to Rebecca, so we got no photo.

Later we went to Old Faithful, which we saw erupt twice, since it takes about 90  minutes to walk the geyser basin in Old Faithful’s neighborhood.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

That night we dined at the iron Horse in Gardiner.  We had elk nachos, which were probably the best nachos I’ve ever had.

Incidentally, elk line the parking lot at the Mammoth visitor center, in case you’ve been failing to bag any elk on hunts in eldk country over the past decade or so.

The park was rife with wildflowers, among them astors, Indian paintbrush, lupine, yarrow, some pretty little blue bells, and a bunch of yellow flowers.

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Tower Falls

Tower Falls

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U.P. UP

Destination: Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park
Miles Driven: 184

Rebecca atop Summit Peak.

Rebecca atop Summit Peak.

June 16

Bloomsday. I was pondering the quote “U.P. Up” since we were on the U.P., and wondering if I didn’t recall it from Ulysses. Sure enough, Google found it for me. It also reminded me that today is Bloomsday.

How’s that for coincidence.

The Porcupine Mountains rise out of Lake Superior pretty close to the farthest northwest you can go in Michigan. It’s getting close to the summer solstice, and it doesn’t get dark much before midnight. It helps that we’re close to 600 miles west of Maine, the easternmost segment of the Eastern time zone.

The campground at Union Bay has ten prime sites located right on the shore of Lake Superior. Ours isn’t oneFLS_5751 of them.

We got in our best hiking of the trip so far in this park.

First we drove to the Summit Peak loop trail. (I didn’t name it.) The trail starts from a parking lot, rises to the highest point in the park, and third highest in Michigan, about 800 feet above the Lake Superior shoreline. There’s a long stretch of steps, leading to a small, wooden observation tower.

The loop trail descends rapidly from the summit, bottoming at Mirror Lake. It was too windy for there to be any mirroring effect.

FLS_5685The park has had more than normal rainfall this year (eat your heart out, N.C.), and we had our first encounter with swarms of mosquitoes. Yea, Deet.

Surprisingly, the ascent back to the parking area was not nearly as strenuous as the trek down would have suggested

Next we drove to the Lake in the Clouds area. This is the crown jewel of the park.

FLS_5726The Porkies were formed by volcanic lava flows. The Lake in the Clouds area provides a dramatic overlook of a lake, from a walkeway perched along the edge of a sheer cliff that drops a couple hundred feet. TheFLS_5702 scenery is breathtaking.

We hadn’t had enough hiking, so we took the trail down to the lake’s edge and back.

FLS_5722I should mention that Rebecca has been perfecting her recipe for S’mores whenever we build a campfired. Tonight she got pretty close.

The next two days will be driving-intensive as we approach the Badlands of South Dakota, where the temperatures are apparently more South-like. It didn’t get out of the 50’s here today.

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