Driving to Yellowstone
This is the first of three parts--our trip to the Ruby Mountains, Yellowstone, Tetons, Rocky Mountain NP, Dinosaur NM, and back home. This part gets us from Napa to our first days in Yellowstone.
DAY ONE: Off early to go over Sonora Pass-- there was no snow at all--and then on to Yerington, Fernley (where I bought 2 really good bottles of Crozes-Hermitage from Jaboulet from their bargain basket along with lunch). Then on to Elko where I gave a Zoom lecture for the OIV students at UC Davis from the Starbucks in Albertsons, only to arrive at Lamoille Canyon with a thunderstorm. We hid in the van and ate dinner. It ended soon after dinner, so we walked around the campground and took in the stunning scenery.
A good long day...
Before we left for this trip, I had been stung by a yellowjacket, and that really swelled up and made me a bit nervous, since it was the back of my neck. I made sure to travel with my epipen, and took a Benadryl and a Zyrtec. The sting finally began to stop swelling this evening. The AC on the van seems to come and go, but if it holds out, we should be fine. Looking forward to an easier day tomorrow.
DAY TWO: A quick drive up the canyon, and we hiked up to Island Lake...tons of flowers on the lower sections. That's my delightful daughter on the trail below, with a flood of flowering fireweed. We had the lake to ourselves, then hiked down, meeting a family of fisherman on their way up. We drove back down canyon, stopping to see the Beaver ponds, take the nature trail, and hike to the cascade above the CG.
Ate lunch in the Powerhouse picnic area, then drove into Elko to resupply...and off to Angel Lake. Took a dip, rested, and waited out a few light showers. This campground was less attractive--we had a next-door neighbor group who played loud music, yelled profanties for much of the evening ("Let's fucking get wasted!") but happily got so wasted that they dropped off to sleep about 8 p.m. Still, not an ideal night in the Ruby Mountains.
DAY THREE: A big wind came up during the night. Our daughter was impressed with the stability of the tarptent, but still didn't get much sleep. So we left early and had an expensive breakfast at Bella's, then drove for hours through alternating thunderstorms and sunshine to eat lunch at a small reservoir outside of Idaho Falls. From there it was over Teton Pass to Jackson...where the traffic was backed up for miles and parking was impossible. Ugh. We stopped in at the airport to leave a cooler for our other daughter, who was arriving later, and then checked in at Gros Ventre CG. More than six hours on the road, so we just ate dinner and collapsed into bed.
DAY FOUR: The morning did not begin auspiciously. M badly twisted her ankle on the curb in the campsite. So we decided that there would be no hiking today. We drove into Yellowstone and tried to check in at Bridge Bay Campground, but we were too early. We took the rest of the day to drive the West Loop--picnicking in the Hayden Valley, hiking the Mud Volcano loop, stopping to watch bison cross the river in the Hayden Valley, taking lots of side trips, short loops, stopping to see whatever looked interesting (Firehole Gorge) and ending at Old Faithful at tea time...so stopped for the ladies to have hot beverages...still babying that ankle. We had cell service here, so we called and left a message for Liz and Jason to let them know how to find us...and had a visit from a massive bull elk who grazed away the evening near our campsite. The final touch came when he bedded down fifteen feet from E's tent at dark...and didn't leave. E slept in the van with us...although the elk was gone by 1 am. The photo below doesn't really capture how close the elk was to Estelle's tent. It was about fifteen feet away.
DAY FIVE: A late start put us on the trail to Pelican Valley about 10 a.mm. We hiked out into the valley, watchful for bears, (there was quite an impressive sign about bears at the trailhead, and the first mile of the trail goes through a very dense forest--we were not carrying bear spray.) We spotted a couple of bison, noted some small geothermal pots, saw a flock of pelicans, and watched a heron gobbling a fish from the river. A bit past the trail junction we found wolf prints and scat on the trail. That was impressive. And that's where we decided to turn around, walking back to the trailhead with our heads on swivels. Very cool, but also a bit disconcerting. The prints were quite large--about 4-5 inches across.
Near the geothermal features we saw tons of bison hair on the ground near a grove of trees--it was clearly a scratching post.
We were back at Le Vin Blanc by 1, then off to eat lunch at a spot overlooking the lake...and then to Lake Village for a nap in the shade at the picnic area by the beach. It was lovely. Back to camp to meet Liz and Jason, only to find the intersection jam-packed with rubberneckers. We parked then van and went to look...the very elk that had slept in our campsite was now walking along the road. yawn. But Liz and Jason are here! Much celebration and conversation. After dinner we drove to Hayden Valley to see bison, deer, elk, and a even saw a distant grizzly walking through the high grass above the valley. At dusk we want to camp to meet our friend the elk, this time with park staff to manage him--waving an orange vest and honking an air horn to make him less comfortable. It worked.
That night everyone was able to sleep in their own bed!