Friday, 23 November 2012

The Final Instalment

My apologies to anyone who has been waiting to read the final instalment of our wonderful trip to the US and the Yellowstone National Park. I have been frantically busy lately editing for clients, and had to push my blog to the background for a while. But I sent off my latest edited manuscript, so now I’m free to finish what I started!

There were only two days of our holiday left, and we had decided to spend them at the Lake Yellowstone hotel. This is situated right on the shore of Lake Yellowstone and was originally built in 1891. It underwent a full restoration in 1990. Because we had booked our trip a little late, we could not get a room in the hotel itself and would be staying in the annex adjacent to the main building. However, we had a full day to enjoy before arriving there, so we packed our things, had a nice breakfast, and said a fond farewell to Mammoth Hot Springs.

We drove toward Tower Fall and were fortunate enough to have a closer encounter with an animal we had only glimpsed a few days before. There was a large cliff right next to the roadside and two days before we had seen a couple of bighorn sheep right at the top of this cliff, just peeking over the edge. Today, however, two bighorns plus two cute kids were giving a wonderful display of agility right close to the road as they skipped over the sheer loose scree of the cliff. We just had to stop and watch them for a while, even if it was a bit disappointing that there were no male sheep showing off those beautiful, huge horns!
Bighorn sheep with kids.

We went on to see Tower Fall, and ate some juicy apples overlooking the water. The Falls were spectacular as ever. Then we moved on toward our chosen picnic site and received another unexpected treat. Our route took us close to where we had seen the mama black bear with her two cubs right next to the petrified tree. I would never have imagined we’d get lucky enough to see that family again, but when we saw the ‘bear jam’ and got out of our car, there they were! The two cubs had climbed a tree and were sleeping soundly, draped across a branch. Mama was keeping watch on the ground but was also grazing, clearly not bothered by the fascinated tourists clicking their cameras and whirring their camcorders. We used our video camera too but as the cubs were some way off, Dave had to rest the camera on my head to stop his hands shaking. I couldn’t stand that still though, and the resulting film makes me feel queasy when I watch it!
After our picnic, we carried on to Canyon Falls. It must have been our lucky day for we were going to see a scarce creature, one I hadn’t dared dream we’d spot. By now we had mastered the art of the sudden car stop, so when we chanced to look across at a small group of people who were off the road and training cameras on what I was convinced was a wolf – a WOLF! – we were safely parked and out of the Jeep in seconds. This was a wooded section of the Park and there was a narrow clearing perpendicular to the road. The wolf – it was a wolf and it was white! – was making its way away from the road down this narrow clearing. It was obviously nervous as it kept looking over its shoulder to check no one was following it. Once it reached the end of the clearing, which took only a matter of seconds, it looked to its left and bounded off that way, as if running to join some other wolves. Dave and I hadn’t had time to grab our camera, we knew we’d never get the chance to photograph it before it disappeared, but nevertheless we were elated. Had anyone asked me at the start of this trip which animal I’d most like to see, the wolf would have been top of my list. But it was also top of the list of creatures I least expected to see, and now we had seen one! I simply couldn’t believe it.
On arriving at our hotel we booked in and dumped our cases in our annex room. The main hotel was very 1920s and looked pretty comfortable, but the annex was rather basic. It was the smallest room we’d had so far and could have done with a lick of paint. Still, we were only there for two nights. We walked over to the main hotel and had a drink in the lovely lounge overlooking the lake. There was a lady pianist playing some period songs, and we sang along for a while. Then we took a walk by the lake and admired the restored yellow tour buses.
Lake Yellowstone Hotel tour bus.

After that we decided to have a drive before supper. We only saw the West Thumb end of the lake when we were here the week before, so now we explored more to the north. We parked and walked over the attractive Fishing Bridge, having a good giggle at the sign that said ‘No Fishing’. We returned early to the hotel because our all too short sighting of the white wolf had made us eager for more. We knew the Lamar Valley was the place to spot them, so after a very nice supper we drove out that way and waited until evening, with our binoculars trained. It was a cool clear night and beautiful, but unfortunately the mosquitoes chewed us to bits. Defeated, we returned to the hotel.
The next day – our last in the Park – we made the most of the glorious hot weather. We drove to Old Faithful and shot the video I wanted. We played the tourist and bought T shirts and posters. At Midway Geyser Basin we marvelled at the fabulous colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring. Back at the hotel, our final supper was delicious salmon and because we asked so nicely, our waitress made us a special plate of different cheeses for dessert. Then we drove out for our last evening wildlife watch, not expecting to see anything to add to our list. The wolves kept themselves hidden, but we did see two muskrats. I even educated some Chinese visitors who were convinced the muskrat was a beaver. They were disappointed, so maybe I shouldn’t have told them!
Incredible Colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring.
The mosquitoes hadn’t gone away and we had a long drive back to Salt Lake City the next day, so we returned to the hotel by 9.30 pm. It had been such a wonderful holiday, one I will never forget. One day we will return to the US, and explore more of this fascinating country and its wildlife.

Normally I am quite content to return home after a trip away, and I was certainly missing Milly and Milo, my two rescue dogs, but I did feel quite sad when we got into the Jeep the next morning for our final drive back to Salt Lake. It was a long but fabulous drive, and I even saw a couple of hummingbirds when we stopped at a roadside pull-out. We arrived back at the Garden Hilton Hotel and it almost felt like coming home after the experience of Rhemalda Publishing’s Got Stories conference and all the lovely people we met there. I’m hoping we can attend next year’s conference, wherever it may be, and meet even more of my fellow Rhemalda authors.


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