Monday, June 25, 2012

Mystic Lake Hike

This Saturday, I went with a couple ladies from my work on a hike to Mystic Lake. It was a 3 mile trail that had a 1200ft elevation change. We started at 6500' and climbed to 7700'. One of the ladies had a really cool watch that shows your elevation and she would keep us informed of how far we had ascended. It took about 2 hours to get to the lake. The topography was varied; starting out fairly level and wooded and eventually getting steeper with more rocky terrain. Once we reached the peak, Mystic Lake was in a small valley between all the surrounding peaks. There were a few other people there. Most of them were fishing. It was a beautiful day for a hike, and I could not have asked for better picture taking scenery.
I had a lot of fun getting to know my co-workers a little better, and was surprised I was able to climb this trail while talking the whole way without passing out. :)

On Sunday, I spent a lot of the day visiting with my friend from PT school who, as I mentioned in a previous post, I saw on the way into Billings. He and his family live about and hour and a half east of Billings on an Indian reservation. It was awesome getting to hang out with them again. It hardly feels like 2 years has gone by since I saw them last. We had a nice dinner together and some amazing home made cherry turnovers! But the best part was when I got to practice shooting one of his handmade bow and arrows. My friend literally made the whole thing! He took a tree branch and carved out a bow, heated the wood to bend it into a bow shape, made the arrow heads, and the tree sap/charcoal mixture that glued the arrow head to the arrow. He even shot the birds to get the feathers for the end of the arrow. Anyway, long story short, I was shooting arrows at a target and actually made a bulls-eye! I was so proud. :) Beginners luck I'm sure, but don't tell anyone I said that. Next time, its tomahawk throwing lessons. Better watch out. I'm gonna be dangerous.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A weekend getaway to Yellowstone. (Lots of pictures and videos in this one.)

How cool is it that I am living where I can just take a quick weekend jaunt over to Yellowstone National Park! I love that I am so close to some of the most beautiful hiking trails and sights in the country. I think the only reason the Mormons called Utah their "Eden" was cause they hadn't made it to Montana. :)
On the way toward Yellowstone I went from Billings to Cooke City and into the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone. Along the way, I passed by a town called Red Lodge which was very cute and I would recommend it as a vacation location (just an FYI). After passing through Red Lodge, highway 212 earns itself a new name... The Beartooth Pass. The road cuts and curves its way over the Beartooth Mountain range. This was such an extraordinary drive on the most majestic day imaginable. After climbing higher and higher the views continued to amaze. I didn't even get anxious about the snow piles that were taller than my car on the side of the road because it was impossible to have any emotions other than awe.

Craziest GPS screen I have seen.

                                                                                                                       There was a serious change in temperature between the top and the bottom of the mountain.
As I rounded one corner I noticed a ski lift and people skiing off in the distance. It was so weird to me that people were still skiing in June! What a totally different mindset. There were kids playing in the snow and making snowmen at some of the pullouts and beautiful lakes still iced over. It was a whole different world up there.

Coming down off the mountains I came back to reality and a normal landscape. I entered Yellowstone and headed south along the eastern side of the north loop toward Canyon campground where I would be staying the night. Along the way I could always tell where animals had been spotted because there were a ton of cars stopped. I was in Bison jams and Elk jams regularly. Unfortunately, no bear jams though.
 At one stop I watched as the adult bison and their calves attempted to cross a river. The current was flowing very fast and the adult bison were easily swept pretty far down stream before making it to the other shore. The baby bison even more so, and a couple of times I thought they weren't going to make it. For as long as I watched, however, everyone of them eventually made it across and met back up with their group.

At about noon I made it to the campground and set up my tent. Just south of the campground were Upper and Lower Falls. I went to the look out points for both of these and did some short hikes. Then, I went to a thermal area called Mud Volcano. There were some neat looking features here, but the thing that had everyone talking were the bison that were warming themselves by these features and how close they were to the trail.


That evening I spent a very cold night in my tent. Thankfully, I have a cold weather sleeping bag so I was able to stay warm, but I would say it easily dipped into the 30's while I was bundled up in my tent. If you can imagine... I have a "mummy" sleeping bag and there is a drawstring that you can tighten around where your face is. I had the thing pulled as tight as it would go and only my nose was poking out so I breathe. I am surprised my nose didn't get frostbite. I really did not want to get out of there in the morning, but I did. My fingers went numb as I was packing up my tent, and I had to keep reminding myself that it was not actually winter because it sure did feel like it.

That morning I went to Norris Geyser Basin. I was one of the first ones there since the sun woke me up so early. It was really pretty there, but a little cloudy. I wish the sun were shining more because that makes the colors in the thermal features so much more vivid. I walked the entirety of the trail system, and was hoping the whole time that one of the many geysers would decide to go off while I was there, but no such luck. Oh well.

   My final major stop was at Mammoth Hot Springs. This is an area where the hot water that flows from the Norris Geyser Basin through a fault line has deposited a large amount of calcium carbonate, and has formed huge hills of this white mineral. In some areas where algae has grown there are orange and rust colored portions.

 Every sight was different and unique on this trip and I certainly packed a lot into this short trip... as always. :)
For those of you who don't know I get a pin at every major sight I see and put it on my backpack. I am quickly running out of space!

I will leave you with some cool pics of the varying landscapes of Yellowstone.