Transit to Yellowstone NP and Fun Stuff©

Before I get into the meat of this post…a quick sidebar on Hurricane Irma…which as I write this is making landfall within about 20 mile of our winter home at Seminole Campground in North Fort Myers FL.

First…we’re in West Yellowstone MT as I write this…and there are no tropical storm or hurricane watches or warnings for the state of Montana. Nope…not a one. There’s actually not even a smoke warning today as the levels are down into the safe range. There are however…forecast temperatures in the high 20s by the end of the week…but that’s way better than 114F and also way better than smokey…or hurricane-ey for that matter.

So…we’re safe for now from Irma…but several of our readers and family members have asked us what’s our plan B now that Florida is going to be blown off the map. Short answer is…we have no idea yet.

We’re supposed to be in Cedar Key FL the last 10 days of October at the Low Key Hideaway…and then move down to Seminole on the first of November. Now there’s gonna be a lot of wind and water damage and power outages and toilet paper shortages and all that jazz…but that’s today and tomorrow in pretty early September. We’ve got over a month until we are scheduled to arrive in Cedar Key and going on 45 days until scheduled arrival at Seminole. As Emeril Lagasse would say…don’t panic.

Cedar Key had a direct hit from a hurricane back in early October 2015…when we were again scheduled to spend the last 10 days of October there. The RV park part of the Low Key Hideaway was back in operation in a week, the Tiki bar portion in just 2 or 3 days, and the rest of Cedar Key was pretty much back in operation in 3-4 weeks. We ended up cancelling our plans for that year but as it turned out we would actually have been just fine. That hurricane was much smaller than Irma is…but was the same category 3 at landfall as it was…and the predicted winds, rain, and storm surge are pretty similar to what happened in 2015…so my best guess is that Cedar Key and the LKH will be back in pretty much full operation by the first of October. Of course…we’ll check with them after the storm is over and keep tabs on the recovery efforts there…and if necessary we’ll go somewhere else for those 10 days…but I don’t really expect any delay in those plans this far out from the storm’s arrival.

Seminole…again we’ll talk to them next week and see what their damage actually is…and when they’ll be back in operation. As a normal winter Floridian RV park…they make their money in the winter…so again I expect that things will be just fine there by November 1. If necessary…we’ll figure out something else to do…but if we do then it’s likely not going to be in the Fort Myers area at all…my guess is that either all of the RV parks in the area will be operational or none of them will be. We’ll figure out Plan B if/when it looks like we need to.

This isn’t Florida’s first hurricane you know…in fact both Cedar Key and Cape Coral got slammed pretty bad in 2015…and both turned out just fine.

I gotta wonder about how much hype is included in both the media reports and the predicted storm surge numbers we’ve been reporting. There is one inundation prediction for the area just south of Seminole that claims there will be 8-12 feet…but that just seems like a little hyperbole to me. Seminole is 14 or 15 feet above sea level…and to get 12 feet of water in the park the surge at the beach would be in the mid 20 feet range. My personal guess is that there will be some water in the park at Seminole…but it will be rain flooding and not sea/river water flooding and that it will subside fairly quickly. 

In any event though…we’ll figure it out later and if we have to have Plan B we’ll let ya’ll know as soon as we know what it is.

One early interesting stuff from the net rather than leaving them all to the end…after all it is appropriate for the Irma.

Here’s an aerial photo of the emergency evacuation route looking north…the single car going south forgot his phone charger.


All of the above about the storm was written early Sunday afternoon MDT…we’ve just heard from all our RVing friends who potentially may have been caught in the storm…Bill and Linda Napier left NC yesterday to head to SD for the rally, Ray and Betty Danet left their home on the east coast of FL a week or so ago heading to SD for the rally, and Robert S. got out Friday and is in Natchez MS for the duration of the storm…so all are clear. Just heard from Jeff Burnett…our Seminole wintering over friend…he’s in TN and hasn’t come down yet. He’s in touch with Victor (the maintenance head at Seminole)…Victor is the only person there along with his wife. As of 1900 EDT today (Sunday Sep 10) Irma made landfall at Marco Island just south of Naples…water level at the ocean in Naples is up about 6 feet…winds of 120 or so in Naples. Seminole has lost power and is getting rain and wind but is apparently otherwise not too bad so far. As of now…the eye is ashore east of Naples and heading a little east of north…this will put the eye about 20 or 30 miles east of Seminole near La Belle FL and heading northeast toward Orlando. So…not looking too bad for either Seminole or Cedar Key. Looks like not even as much rain as they thought…just saw on the Weather Channel that the left (west) half is a lot drier than the east side so that means somewhat less rain and hence less to drain and hence less flooding at Seminole. Yea!

Ok…enough of that storm stuff.

Thursday we headed out about 0930 or so from Missoula MT for the 293 mile transit to the West Yellowstone KOA. Stopped for fuel just as we got off the freeway for the last 100 miles or so…not because we needed it but because it was 30 cents a gallon cheaper than the Disneyland prices just around the park. We quickly got checked in and pulled into site 164 for a 10 day stay.

While we’re here…there is plenty of Fun Stuff© scheduled and we’re also working on a meetup with blogging friends Clarke and TLE (The Lovely Elaine) Hockwald…they full time in a 1982 Newell Classic class A and have been on the road for about a year longer than we have. Neil and Clarke are both bikers and have been email buddies for a few years now in addition to following each other’s blogs. We were originally going to meetup when we were in South Lake Tahoe on our 50 trip that got cancelled this year…but they’ve moved on and are workamping at Yellowstone and working at the Mammoth Hot Springs General Store. We’ve swapped an email with them and will likely get together for some brewskis and food early next week. 

The first thing we said to ourselves when we got here was…there’s no air. Yup…we’re back up at 6,637 feet here at the campground…and the altitudes in the park range up to about 9,000 that you can drive to. There are several hikes that go up to about 10,500…but the likelihood we’re going to head out on an 8 mile round trip hike with 2,500 feet of elevation gain with a starting elevation of 8,800 is approximately equal to zero. We were originally going to do some 4 milers with altitude gains of 300-400 feet…but forgot to look at the starting altitude so we reevaluated and are only doing shorter ones. Plus…we worked way too hard having Fun Stuff© in Olympic NP…and are going to take it easier here. Still though…we’ve got 6 days of Fun Stuff© scheduled for our 10 days here…but two of those are primarily just driving stuff with no hiking outside of short walks at the overlooks and such.

Ok…the basic geography of Yellowstone is that it’s all volcanic in nature…lots of mountains, steam fumaroles, geysers (or geezers as the GPS pronounces it…that tickled our funny bones this morning on the way to Mass) along with mountains, grasslands, and a metric butt load of waterfalls. The park is about 3,500 square miles and is roughly square at about 58 by 58 miles. It’s bordered to the immediate south by Grand Tetons National Park…which we’ll also visit while we’re here.

Road-wise…there really aren’t that many roads in the park…there are entrances on all 4 sides with a giant figure 8 road that covers most of the park for access. West Yellowstone where we’re staying allows you to enter at the western side and Friday we headed clockwise around the northern half of the figure 8…mostly because the road on the western side of that half will be closed for rebuilding after today (Sunday) and there were a few things we wanted to see along that road. The highlights for the day were waterfalls, the old Fort Yellowstone from back in the early 1900s when the Army administered the park and whatever else seemed interesting. We would also hit up a few of the thermal areas…although to our thoughts if you’ve seen one of them you’ve seen them all…they aren’t really our thing and we would rather go see waterfalls…but we understand that other people might think that waterfalls are a “if you’ve seen one…” sort of thing…to each their own we say.

Anyway…the northern half of the figure 8 takes you from the west entrance to Madison on the Madison Road, then north to Norris along the Madison-Norris Road, then north to Mammoth Hot Springs, east to Tower-Roosevelt, south to Canyon Village, back to Norris, back to Madison, and back to the west entrance…all on equally imaginatively named roads I can tell you. The driving mileage is 126…and this is the small half of the figure 8…but the maximum speed limit is only 45 and by the time you take into account traffic, bikes, bison wandering across the road, bear jams, elk (and whatever other kind of wildlife might happen to be there) jams, and idiots just plain old stopping in the middle of the road to gape at something…well you only average about 30 while you’re driving. Add in stops for waterfalls, wildlife, lunch and such and it makes for a long day.

We headed off just about 0800 and quickly got into the park…one good thing we did figure out that if you’re just going from place to place without stopping then the estimated times to transit each of the road sections are only about 1/2-2/3 of what the park service claims on their park map. Our first stop was at Gibbon Falls as we headed north from Madison.

Gibbon Falls is right off of the road and is a cascade type fall of about 84 feet…even as we get towards the end of the dry season it was still flowing pretty well. Parking was a bit of an issue…although not as much as we thought it would be…there aren’t many school kids in the park but after Labor Day when school starts it’s mostly retired folks you see…and there’s a whole passel of ‘em.

Connie got this shot which includes both the falls and the wildflowers on the side of the gorge.

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As well as this one looking about 90 degrees to the right of the one above for more wildflowers.

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Meanwhile…Neil got the tripod setup and got the flowing, tripod-required shots.

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And a wider shot showing all of the trees and debris that gets carried down during the spring floods…I found a shot of the falls during the spring floods and it looked like about twice as much water flowing over as this. The upstream river is not accessible to fish for spawning from downstream but is stocked with Rainbow Trout and Arctic Grayling so there’s good fishin’ to be had.

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Next…we continued north and got some shots of various mountains, views, and thermal thingies (that’s a technical term that means I don’t have to figger out the difference between a fumarole, mud pot, geyser…although there aren’t any of those in these shots…steam vent, hot spring and various other thermal what-have-you-what-different-name-can-I-give-this-hot-thing names…as I said this ain’t our thing and I’m not about to look all of ‘em up.

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Just before the entrance to the Golden Gate (described below) was this waterfall.

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This is the bridge through Golden Gate Canyon…it was quite expensive to build when it was constructed to connect the Army fort in the northwest corner of the park to the northeast entrance that was relatively close to the railroad.

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One thermal feature worth mentioning is the Upper and Lower terraces just above Mammoth Hot Springs…where there’s a famous hotel where they used to take the waters back in the day…they still do today but it doesn’t have quite the same cachet now that they let the common riffraff people into them…anyways Mammoth sits down in a valley and above it is first the lower and then the upper terrace. These are larger concentrations of thermal thingies…including some that have made quite interesting formations.

These were taken in the Upper Terrace…the lower one is pretty flat and is just bazillion steam vents thing…really not photogenic at all from the top.

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Once we got down into the Mammoth Hot Springs valley…this shot is looking back up at the edge of the Lower Terrace…it’s about 500 feet above the valley floor.

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Then we headed on down into Mammoth Hot Springs proper to tour the fort. There’s a herd of Elk that make their full time home in the area around the hot springs…it’s warmer in the winter so I guess they only measure their snow in single digits of feet rather than multiple digits…anyway as you can see this bull made himself quite at home…that building is living quarters for some of the park rangers there. We never did see any of his harem…no cows around at all…just this solitary bull.

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And from the other side of the quarters…they were originally built as married field grade officer quarters back in the early 1900s and now house Park Service rangers.

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Lenticular cloud over the mountain next to the valley.

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Fort chapel.

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A couple more shots as we headed east towards Tower-Roosevelt.

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Looking back…a better view of the edge of the Lower Terrace.

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Undine Falls…we stopped and had lunch here. We were also going to do the 1 mile out and back hike to Wraith Falls…but it’s low water there and hence not much flow so we skipped it as we were getting tired by this point. Notice the red leaves turning on the right side…it’s only early September and it’s already fall here. The upper fall is 60 feet and the lower 38…there’s also a steep rapid section just afterwards as you can see in the second photo.

Lunch was leftover pulled pork sandwiches…which actually made it taste a lot better…and Neil’s making Pulled Pork Gumbo out of the rest of it tonight…yum.

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Petrified tree near Tower-Roosevelt. This was a Redwood…genetically identical to the California Redwoods we have today…that was buried in a landslide about 50 million years ago and quickly petrified by the silica in the slide. Sorry ‘bout the fence.

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This bull bison walked right up to us…we stopped and noticed there was a bison jam (i.e., stupid assholes stopping right in the middle of the road…because)…Neil pulled off into an empty pullout and turned out to have perfect positioning for a couple of nice shots.

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Spotted this young doe mule deer next to the road…she wasn’t payin’ any attention to anybody.

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The Yellowstone River…this is well downstream of the two major falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone south of here…we’ll see those later in the week.

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Tower Falls…a short walk off of the road.

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The hoodoos just above Tower Falls.

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OK, quiz time. Take a look at the two panoramic shots below…they were taken within about 30 seconds of each other.. One was taken with about $3,000 worth of semi-pro camera gear and post processed with about $2,500 worth of computer gear (although you could have accomplished the same post processing with a $1,000 Mac just somewhat slower) and the other was taken with Neil’s iPhone 6s+ and has zero processing…it’s straight out of the iPhone camera. Shows you how far camera phone technology has come over the years. I did suck the iPhone shot into Lightroom but that was just to preserve and export it…I did no post processing of that shot. Even at 100% magnification in Lightroom…and with a camera lens on the DSLR that we know is out of calibration and needs some adjustments back at Nikon…I really can’t see much difference between these two shots.

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Got your guess locked in? Final answer? Ask a friend?

Space left here so you won’t accidentally see the answer while you’re thinking on it.

Ok, the first one is the DSLR shot and the second is the iPhone shot. Dang those things are good.

Interesting stuff from the net this week.

Bacon flow chart…’nuff said.




Favorite country to visit.


Ta Da.



About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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2 Responses to Transit to Yellowstone NP and Fun Stuff©

  1. s says:

    Lordy, where ta begin…

    great fotos as always – as Darth would say, “your skills are complete”… mite wanna gitya ona those iphones though, dat one shot is purty good…
    ok, yellowstone park – we need a yellow stone. dey seem kinda brown ta me – mebbe shoulda called it yellowflower park… (did i see snow on some of ’em?)
    dat road goin’ ’round dat hill ? – not me…
    ’bout them thermal thingies – ain’t they mostly gas ? gassy sound effects would be hilarious…
    any bears ?
    da petrified tree is cool – dunno why it’s petrified though, dat fence don’t seem all that scary…
    the river shot is gorjuss – you’d never git me out of it… ferget grayling (not edible), go for the ‘bows – you’ll need a 4-weight, 4x leader (’bout a rod-length), coupla basic stonefly imitations, mebbe some terrestrials(a tiny ant and a black Joe’s Hopper, #10)- local fly shop oughta have hatch info + matching patterns – find Dan Bailey’s (Bozeman, i think…) – dey’ll fix ya up.
    no indians ? oglala? shoshone? you know, Tonto, astride his mighty steed? we need a injun – yer like costner, seein’ the west before it’s gone… Alex still wants a tomahawk… (me too)…
    forget irma – i got this storm situation figgered out (see yer email) – if my plan works, das great – if not it’ll be a hoot ta watch…

    yall be good.


    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      There might be a little snow up on top of the peaks, out west and this far north it almost never completely melts.

      I was surprised at the quality of the iPhone photos as well.

      Grayling are certainly edible…it’s a trout and the Alaskans and Brits eat them routinely. Taste pretty good…nice white fish like a rainbow or cutthroat. Ya gotta fish for whatever is in the river you’re in ya know.

      I posted some videos to youtube for ya…they’ll be in the blog eventually but I put up one of a bubbling hot spring, small geyser, and a couple of Old Faithful. Here’s the urls and descriptions from youtube.

      Shell Spring @ Yellowstone NP. It’s a bubbling spring and we were about 8 feet away. Disregard people speaking French.

      Jewel Geyser…about 20 feet away, erupted about 10 feet high.

      Old Faithful…about 100 yards away. First one is in between eruptions and it just steams a little. Second one is an eruption. Disregard camera shutter noises.

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