We had to double back on I-90 to get to the state highway into Gardiner, Montana and Yellowstone National Park (YNP) but we didn't mind. The scenery is so gorgeous and this time Durwood was awake for the drive through the mountains so he got to enjoy it too. You know I'm a big fan of the sky and there was a lot of sky to like on this trip. We were driving south on the state highway toward Gardiner, clouds and storms were scooting by, topping the mountains and sagging into the valleys. It was a challenge to get decent pix from the moving van but I think I didn't do too badly. Then in just a couple hours we rounded a big bend and there in the distance was Gardiner with YNP's Roosevelt Arch just to the right of town. (it's the very tiny brown thing to the right of the town in the 3rd picture) We were there! We stopped in a market in Gardiner for gin for Durwood (we'd forgotten it--again) and a cookie for me and then we were in the park. Just after we passed under the arch and even before we got to the entrance sign there was a trio of male pronghorn antelopes grazing right by the road. Score! They're skittish and shy so it was a real coup to see them so near and so calm. We drove in spitting rain up over Dunraven Pass (8862 ft.) to Canyon Village where we checked in and went to our cabin. As soon as we got there and got settled we knew we couldn't stay. Durwood could barely catch his breath even with his continuous oxygen machine going full blast. We agreed to stay the night since it had been a challenge for him to get into the cabin but I went back to the office right away to say that we needed to move to a lower altitude tout suite. I lucked out and the lodging manager was the person free to help the next person and that was me. She was very sympathetic and offered immediate assistance and no penalty for leaving. When I got back to the cabin Don realized that we'd forgotten to pack our usually travel games, didn't even have a deck of cards, so I showed him how to play Angry Birds on my iPod. He was immediately hooked. The rest of the night I kept answering questions--"the red ones just fly, the blue ones explode into three, the yellow ones fly harder and faster"--but he didn't think about his difficulty breathing quite as much. That was just fine with me. We both survived the night. When I checked with her in the morning there wasn't a place for us at Mammoth Hot Springs (5600 ft.) so we retired to the Super 8 motel in Gardiner for one night before we moved on to lower altitude Cody, WY. We were both brokenhearted that we had to cut our YNP stay so short but we decided that it's better to live through your vacation. After packing up from the cabin we dawdled our way down to Gardiner, stopping whenever and wherever we wanted to snap pictures. Don stayed in the van and I hopped out to stroll a few feet and take the pictures he wanted but couldn't get, and I took a half hour walk at Norris Geyser Basin while he stayed in the van in the shade and took a snooze. We took a one way road to a cascades and after taking scads of pictures we stopped for lunch at a picnic area. It was drizzling so we stayed in the van but we had
an interested bystander to our meal. A raven fluttered up onto the hood and clomped around peering in to see what we had and if there was anything for him. We were greatly entertained. At Mammoth Hot Springs we came upon some crazily tumbled boulders that we could drive through. We loved the angles and the juxtaposition of them to the earth. Of course, each time we came over a hill or rounded a curve and then had a wide valley open up below us was always a treat.
We checked into our motel in Gardiner, then I called my cousin and arranged to meet him and his daughters for supper. Good food and good company that night, and on the way to the restaurant a herd of about a dozen elk stopped traffic crossing the highway. The next morning we drove through YNP again to catch the highway to Cody, WY and finally saw a couple buffalo. One was pooping and DD said that counted for two, but the coolest thing we saw was what we at first thought was a far off bison in Hayden Valley but turned out to be two grizzly bears feeding on a bison carcass (a ranger said it had been hit by a car and dragged itself into the meadow). I managed to get a parking place in the next pullout, draped myself in cameras, and climbed up to the ridge where it was safe to view the bears. I was not the only person up there, not by a long shot. The bears were at least 200 and probably more like 300 yards away and none of my cameras pulled them in really well but I got some adequate shots. There were people up on the ridge with spotting scopes that were gracious enough to allow people to peek through as long as you didn't touch the scope. It brought them right up to you, very cool. I sat down, zoomed as far as I could, braced my arms on my knees, and took a video that's terribly shaky but if you don't get seasick it isn't bad for seconds at a time. After I got back to the van we had our car picnic there looking out over the river valley and then turned toward Cody. It took us a long time to get out of the park because we kept having to stop to take pictures but we weren't in any hurry, it was only a couple hours' drive. On one of the last downhill spots before leaving the park I spotted a porcupine on the side of the road. More wildlife!
Seeing the grizzly bears almost made up for having to leave YNP so quickly.
Today I got the chicken vegetable soup made so the house smells good again, and I've got some chicken breasts and vegetables marinating in Mrs. Conder's teriyaki marinade for grilling for supper. I'm a big fan of grilled veggies, and I ran across a recipe when I was looking for a particular chicken soup recipe for Mu Shu Pork wraps to make with the leftovers and a bag of broccoli slaw. (pork's like chicken or chicken's like pork, right?) They should be outstanding. I'll report.
Enjoy your day.