A Travellerspoint blog

San Francisco and Yosemite National Park

The end of April saw my trip to San Francisco and Yosemite National Park come to life. This was a shorter trip then usual but careful planning allowed me to see all the sites that I thought were important and worthwhile. I flew into San Francisco late Tuesday night and stayed over night close to the Golden Gate bridge and the beaches. The next morning I got up, jumped in the car and began my trip west towards Yosemite National Park as my first area to see on my list. I reached my first stop in Yosemite in about 4 hours which took me across the Bay bridge and thru large areas that were mostly vineyards near Sonora. I entered Yosemite at its North entrance near Mather California where I would then drive into Yosemite and along the highway known as Hetch Hetchy.

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As I reached the end of the scenic drive and came around a sharp bend in the road I saw directly in front of me a large body of water and a large flowing waterfall. As I got closer I then realized what I was looking at was a dam that was built to hold and control the water and was being feed by a pretty high waterfall that I had no problem at all hearing it when I got out of the car to take some pictures.
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Close up of waterfall flowing into the Dam
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I continue my drive towards the Yosemite Valley which is where the most popular waterfalls are located. Below is "Half Dome"
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Further down the road I come across yet another rather large waterfall that appears and flows into a river below it.

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Close up of waterfall above. I continue on my way towards Yosemite Valley

At the beginning of Yosemite Valley is the Bridal Vail Falls flowing from the top of a cliff down hundreds of feet which you could hike to the base of if you wanted to.
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Above view is called the Tunnel View because this is what you see once you emerge from a 1 mile tunnel built thru the middle of a mountain on the way to Yosemite Valley. Only in California!!! One of my favorites from Yosemite

More sites in Yosemite Valley......

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El Capitan above

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Another view of Half Dome

To wrap up Yosemite I finished seeing Yosemite Falls.......
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Yosemite Upper and Lower Falls

After my final stop in Yosemite I then head back to San Francisco to see the sites there and finish up the trip. I had several sites that were "must sees" and of course they included Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge. How can you not do those sites and call yourself a tourist? I had to see for myself what all the talk was about there is no known prisoner escapes from Alcatraz. How hard can it be?

The next morning I was scheduled for the 11:00 am Alcatraz tour. In order to get to and from Alcatraz you had to take a ferry that would take you the approx 1 mile journey in the San Francisco bay (hence the name Alcatraz Island)

The day started out to be pretty crappy with low cloud cover, rain and a wind that would gust to over 20 mph at times. I was not sure how that would effect the ferry ride to and from Alcatraz in the bay but decided that I would not try to show off in front of everyone and leap into the bay and just swim it. Remember, that cant be that big of a deal right? Its just water and a few small fish that might brush up against a swimmer on their journey to the island. I saw several ships out in the bay towards Alcatraz and they seemed to be just fine so I was pretty sure there would not be any issues due to the weather. I boarded the ferry and watched the brief video they were showing about Alcatraz and its history during our 15 min ride to the island.

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After the ferry docks at Alcatraz I got off the ferry and was presented with the following visual indicator informing me of my present location.
So much better then one of those stupid maps that just have a red circle that says "You are here". After my successful escape that will happen later in the day, they should put up another sign that says "Dave is no longer here" "He escaped!!!"

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Another indicator that gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling below.

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What a nice bird viewing tower! Those prisoners had so many things to do to keep them occupied huh?

Once on the island everyone was pretty much on their own to go explore and look thru all the buildings and exhibits on the island. There was a audio tour of the actual building that housed all the prisoner cells and facilities. It would walk you through the maze of hallways and buildings telling both the description of what you are looking at as well as stories about events that happened in the past such as prison riots and actual stories of some of the prisoners that were housed there such as Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and the "Bird man of Alcatraz", who actually did not have a single bird at Alcatraz. He had birds at another prison but never at Alcatraz.

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Cells for prisoners in Main Cell Block. There are several levels

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Prisoner Cell above

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Above is a cell for those prisoners who needed a "time out". Sometimes prisoners were kept in these type of cells for 2 weeks or more depending on the nature of their acting out

We all know the story of the most famous "escape from Alcatraz" that according to officials the 3 men that made the attempt to escape drowned in the bay on their escape attempt so "officially" they did not escape. Their bodies were never found but there is a lot of evidence that has just recently come to light that they did indeed survive and made their way to South America. There has been talk about changing the official report to reflect they did escape and provide evidence of this such as photos of the men some time later in South America and letters from family members of the escaped men that have been proven to be almost certainly the hand writing of the prisoners.
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Above is the Cell of one of the 3 men who may have escaped the island by cutting out part of the cell wall where a air vent was and constructed a "fake" head of themselves to fool cell guards during their nightly checks

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Wardens house after it burned down and was never rebuilt

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lighthouse on Alcatraz and was first Light House in the US

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Above is the view of San Francisco from Alcatraz Island. Notice one of the guards in disguise to thwart any escape attempts

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Golden Gate Bridge from the ferry on return trip from Alcatraz

Alcatraz from a distance on return ferry ride to dock in San Francisco
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Back on the main land I went to Inspiration Point to take a few photos. Great view of Alcatraz from the point.
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My trip to Yosemite National Park and San Francisco ends with this......................................
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Next inline are Budapest and Bucharest in September. Stay Tuned!

Posted by pensfan30157 10:42 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Amsterdam and Prague 2015

Amsterdam and Prague

In September 2015 I made a trip to Amsterdam and Prague to continue my travels related to World War II sites and events and also to strike 2 more locations off my travel list. The weather at the beginning of my trip was cloudy and a little cool with periods of light rain and mist which made for not the most ideal environment for taking pictures but I did the best I could to capture some of the sites I saw starting in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam has more canals then Venice. Some canal crossings were vehicles only, pedistrain only and a few are both foot and vehicle traffic.

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You can ride in some of the boats that traverse the canals.

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Due to all the water and most of Amsterdam being under the water level, some of the buildings were built and designed to "move" and adjust according to the water levels. Notice the space between buildings and how one of the buildings is tilted. This is by design to accommadate for the water levels that change.

Cars? Cars???? We don't need any stinking Cars!! Amsterdam is well known for its use of bicycles city wide as a mode of transportation due to its old and narrow streets. There are 2 bicycles to each each person in Amsterdam and you will see them everywhere. Everyone uses them, professionals, students, workers, police, the old, the young and I even saw many pets in the front baskets of people's bicycles and they were loving the cool breeze on their faces while their "transporters" peddled away to get them from point A to point B. By the end of my time in Amsterdam I was wishing I was someone's "pet" and could have been taken anywhere I wanted to go without having to walk so much!

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Bicycles everywhere!

Amsterdam still has many of the original buildings built over the centuries.
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Sunset view from balcony. Bell rings every hour which the birds didn't not appreciate

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Artwork on some of the older buildings. Usually found over the front entrance door.

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World War II Memorial

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Statue in convent

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View from my balcony. I don't see any birds for some reason?

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Amsterdam Train station at night

After 4 nights in Amsterdam it was time to head over to Prague which is the capital of the Czech Republic.

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Wait,.....can it be??? Yes......a view of Prague from my balcony!

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Powder Tower. I wonder what they stored in this Tower?

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Municipal House.

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Beef Goulash from Czech restaurant in the Municipal House. No, I would not share with anyone!!

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Church of our Lady before Tyn in Old Town Square

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Jan Hus Memorial in Old Town Square

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Astronomical Clock

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Inside Astronomical Clock

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Remembering those who resisted the Nazi's and those who died in Concentration camps in World War II

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Statue in a park near the famous Charles Bridge

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Prague Castle in the background as sun is setting

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Statues of Saints on the Charles Bridge

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Prague at night

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Prague Opera House

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Terezin Concentration Camp an hour outside of Prague

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Original bunk bed from when Terezin was being actively used in WWII.
Terezin was used as a transit Concentration Camp. Prisoners were held here until they were assigned to a Camp for either work or their death

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Original oven in crematorium for body disposal

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Cemetery at Terezin

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St Vitus Cathedral on the grounds of Prague Castle

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Inside St. Vitus Cathedral

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Inside St. Vitus Cathedral

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Posted by pensfan30157 10:02 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

70th Anniversary of Victory in Europe World War II Flyover

Authentic World War II aircraft flying over Washington DC

Friday May 8 2015 marked the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Europe during World War II. To mark the importance of this event in history there was a organized flyover of Washington DC's World War II monument which included several different type of aircraft that were utilized during World War II.
This was the first time several of these aircraft have actually flown again since the end of the war in 1945. The aircraft fly in different formations which represented different actions and events that transpired during the war such as Doolittle's Raid and the dropping of the first Atomic Bomb which brought about Japans surrender and the end of the most devestating war the world has ever seen. If you want to know more about the flyover and the planes here is the link:

http://ww2flyover.org

WWII aircraft formation that represented the aircraft that were used for training new pilots

WWII aircraft formation that represented the aircraft that were used for training new pilots

Curtiss P-40 Warhawks.  Known as "The Flying Tigers"

Curtiss P-40 Warhawks. Known as "The Flying Tigers"

A bomber with its fighter escort in the distance approaching the Washington DC area

A bomber with its fighter escort in the distance approaching the Washington DC area

formation of B-25 Mitchells.  These were launched off a aircraft carrier and used to bomb Tokyo after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Minimal damage was done, but the psychological factor to the Japanese showing them that we could bomb  Tokyo was enormous

formation of B-25 Mitchells. These were launched off a aircraft carrier and used to bomb Tokyo after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Minimal damage was done, but the psychological factor to the Japanese showing them that we could bomb Tokyo was enormous

P-38 lightning.  This is the plane that was used to ambush, shoot down, and kill Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.  Yamamoto personally planned the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941 which lead the US to enter the war.

P-38 lightning. This is the plane that was used to ambush, shoot down, and kill Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Yamamoto personally planned the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941 which lead the US to enter the war.

C-47 Cargo transport and aircraft used for paratroopers

C-47 Cargo transport and aircraft used for paratroopers

A-26 Invader

A-26 Invader

A-26 Invader after it flew over me

A-26 Invader after it flew over me

P51 Mustangs.  You had no problem hearing them flyover!

P51 Mustangs. You had no problem hearing them flyover!

F4U Corsairs

F4U Corsairs

B29 Superfortress on approach to the World War II memorial and Washington Monument

B29 Superfortress on approach to the World War II memorial and Washington Monument

B29 Superfortress.  Both Atomic bombs dropped on Japan were from B29's stationed at Tinian Island in the Mariana Islands.  The sound of the B29 as it flew over was incredible.  This plane was certainly a crowd pleaser!

B29 Superfortress. Both Atomic bombs dropped on Japan were from B29's stationed at Tinian Island in the Mariana Islands. The sound of the B29 as it flew over was incredible. This plane was certainly a crowd pleaser!

Flyover concludes with the last formation of planes flying in the "Missing man" formation as TAPS is being played. The Missing Man formation serves to remind us of those who sacrificed their future for that of our nation, and is a tradition which dates back to World War II

Flyover concludes with the last formation of planes flying in the "Missing man" formation as TAPS is being played. The Missing Man formation serves to remind us of those who sacrificed their future for that of our nation, and is a tradition which dates back to World War II

Posted by pensfan30157 10:43 Comments (0)

Teton and Yellowstone National Parks

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View Yellowstone and Teton National Parks 2015 on pensfan30157's travel map.

May 17 - May 24 2015 marked my second attempt to visit both Teton and Yellowstone National Parks as my first attempt to visit both parks was stopped dead in its tracks due to the Government Shutdown that happened in October 2013. During this Government shutdown, all National Parks were closed but I still went outwest and changed my places of visit to include the Durango to Silverton train trip in Colorado instead.

On Sunday May 17th I fly into Salt Lake City and drove to my "Base Camp" located in Park City approx 30 mins away in the mountains very close to several large well known ski resorts. I decided to use one of my 1 week "banked" usage weeks from my timeshare at this location so as not to lose the week as it was getting ready to expire and I of course didnt want to just throw that week away and receive nothing in return.

My planning from my intial trip in October 2013 had me flying into Salt Lake City and using Park City as my "base camp" again and then driving from Park City Utah to Jackson Wyoming for the Teton National Park and then from Jackson north thru Teton National Park into Yellowstone National Park at the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park. I decided that this would be the same route I would take on this trip and noted the same on my Tripit application (http://tripit.com) that I use for trip planning and documentation. There is both a free and paid version of Tripit and I highly recommend at least checking it out as I use it for all my travels since I ran across it a while back.

I stayed in the Park City area Sunday May 17th thru around lunch time on Tuesday May 19th at which time I headed out of Park City north towards my first overnight stop in Jackson Wyoming. The drive was partial Interstate but the far majority of it was smaller state roads that went thru the back country and mountain areas. There were large areas of nothing but fields and mountains with little to no civilization in the majority of the area I drive thru. The weather for the drive was cold, rainy and actually a little snow and sleet in some of the higher elevations but nothing that was anywhere close to effecting the drive.
The drive was about 250 miles and around 4 hours or so. Checked into Hotel and then went to dinner at the Gun Barrel Steak and Game House. http://jackson.gunbarrel.com/index.cfm I had the Big Sky Ribeye with the Onion Straws and it was very good. I thought about the Buffalo or Elk but was really hungry and decided i better go with something I knew I would enjoy eating. Besides, there should be plenty of other opportunities to try the Elk and Buffalo during the next week!

The next morning I checked out of the hotel and filled the car up with gas for the journey into Teton National Park and Yellowstone. Teton National Park entrance was only about 30 mins away and the weather was clearing up and looking like it might be a great day to get outside and hit some trails and see some of the parks from outside the vehicle. _DSC2157.jpg

Arriving at Teton National Park I paid the $25 entrance fee that was valid for 1 week for both Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. I began driving on the main road thru the park and shortly came across a sign pointing down a small gravel road to "Death Canyon Trailhead". Decided then was as good as anytime to hit a trail and start exploring so I turned down the gravel road and parked beside a few other cars and started walking toward the trail. There was a park sign explaining the length of time and distance to walk the trail and what you would see and I began heading down the path towards a lake called Phelps Lake. The trial was muddy and had some puddles of water due to the rain and seemed to head up hill passing across several small flowing streams which you could hear before you got to them due to the lack of any noise on the trail. As I continued along the trail I could see a waterfall coming out of the rocks on a mountain directly in front of me. Got some great pictures of it as I was able to zoom in on it with my nice 300mm lens. Continuing on the trail I came across several people walking back down the trail in the opposite direction and each one said that just a little further ahead there was a Moose with its calf just off the path on the right eating grass. I continued up the trail and shortly I saw the Moose on the right eating grass about 40 yards of the trail. I began taking pictures of it while also looking for the calf but unfortunatly I was never able to identify where the calf was but I am sure it was close to its mother. The moose gave me a few "what are you looking at" stares and continued about her business as she walked further into the woods away from me. As I lost sight of her, I proceeded up the trail towards the lake.
Moose

Moose


I finally arrived at the top of the trail and it overlooked Phelps lake. You could see reflections of the sky and clouds on the surface of the water and the water seemed to change colors as the reflections changed. Spent some time overlooking the lake and was able to take some pictures of some birds and more of the lake.
Phelps Lake

Phelps Lake


As I began to walk back down the trail another hiker stated that just in front of me was a marmot running around. I found him and took a number of pictures of him from about 15 feet away. He gave me no mind and did his thing, all the while I was taking pictures of him. I would swear that he knew what I was doing and was actually "posing" for me. He reminded me of a cross between a beaver and ground hog but officially they are actually large squirrels. He could care less about what I was doing and after a little while I went on my way.
Marmot

Marmot


Further along on my return journey down the trail I heard a strange noise that was definitely coming from some sort of animal. As I stood still and looked around I was able to get closer to the source of the sound and out of the corner of my eye I saw a small chipmunk sitting with his back to me on a log maybe 10 feet away. What caught my eye was his stripped tail was going back and forth while he was making this audible sound. I started taking some pictures of him and noticed that when he turned towards me, he had something in his mouth. As I zoomed in closer, I could see that he had a bundle of grass in his mouth. In my mind I figured he was making this noise, waging his tail side to side and "offering" a gift to a potential suitor of the opposite sex. This went on for about 10 mins as he went from log to log and thru the grass right beside me. Thinking I was messing up his "mojo" I decided to move on.
Chipmunk

Chipmunk


In this same general area I was able to get some pictures of yet another smaller ground creature that also looked like a squirrel. He was leaning against a log while he had his head up over the log taking notice of everything around him. I decided to give him his space also and completed the journey back down the trail to the car so that I could move on to the next stop on my journey for the day.
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Further down the road in Teton National Park I start to see more wildlife out and about usually in the open fields or right at the tree lines. The far majority of what I saw during this time is Elk, but gave them the name of "white butts" because thats usually all I saw of them...their white "butts" facing me.
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"white butts in the rain"

"white butts in the rain"

Further down the road still heading towards the south entrance to Yellowstone I noticed a wide field on my right with light covered brush and shrubs and a few vehicles pulled over on the right hand side and some people outside of their vehicles pointing and looking at something thru camera lenses and binoculars. I slowed down and thought I saw something light colored about 100 yards from the road in the brush. I pulled over and looked thru my zoom lens and I see a single grey wolf sitting with his back to me and the road. He blended in so well with the brush that it was really hard to see him until he moved. As he started walking towards the left I was able to really see him thru the zoom lens and began snapping as many pictures as I could as this was one of the top animals I really wanted to see in the parks. Wolves are very elusive and there are only approx 2000 in the Teton and Yellowstone National Parks so their numbers are limited for such a large area of land. He acted like he was on the trail of some sort of animal in the area but I was never ever able to see any animals beside this single grey wolf. I was able to zoom in on him and clearly see his fur and right into his eyes. If I was to end my trip and return home right then, I would have still been on cloud nine! I was so excited to say that I actually saw one in person and actually get some really good pictures of him before I lost him in the brush.

Wolf with back to me

Wolf with back to me

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Wolf close up

Wolf close up

Continuing towards Yellowstone thru Teton National park I would get glimpses of the famous Teton peaks but due to the cloudy and rainy weather they would be obscured from full view most of the time but I did get a few pics when I could.

Teton Peaks

Teton Peaks

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Jackson Lake was the next stop. Great views of the peaks with the lake in the foreground.

_DSC2326.jpgJackson Lake with Teton peaks in background

Jackson Lake with Teton peaks in background

Not far from Jackson Lake was Oxbow Bend where the Snake river is cutting thru Teton National Park.

Oxbow Bend

Oxbow Bend

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Beaver sighting!

Beaver sighting!

I have been detected!

I have been detected!

Finally entering Yellowstone National Park I see Yellowstone Lake on my right as the sun is beginning to set. I thought to myself this might be a great time to see wildlife out and about for the evening. I would not be disappointed.......
Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake


Bison

Bison

Bison playing

Bison playing

Big Boy

Big Boy

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Bison herd with calves


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Bison clearly have the right of way

Bison clearly have the right of way


This guy was taking a nap and he actually had the head bobbing going on.  One not so smart visitor got way to close to him and he started snorting at her and got irratated with her.  She actually got even closer but thankfully it ended without any incidents

This guy was taking a nap and he actually had the head bobbing going on. One not so smart visitor got way to close to him and he started snorting at her and got irratated with her. She actually got even closer but thankfully it ended without any incidents

Old Faithful was next on the list. I had read some info about it and seen it on TV so I was excited to see it with my own eyes. Unfortunatly I was disappointed in its performance live. I had thought I would feel, hear and get wet with the eruption but actually none of that happened. As it errupted I could hear it a little but no feeling thru the ground and certainly didnt feel any moisture at all. The height of the spraying water was not nearly as high as I had expected and it really only lasted maybe 30 seconds total. Glad I saw it, but felt like it was a real letdown to my expectations.

Old Faithful geyser

Old Faithful geyser

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Continuing thru the park I see several waterfalls on the Snake river.
Snake River

Snake River

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More sights to be seen as I head north thru Yellowstone towards Gardinar MT. The road weaves and winds thru several mountain ranges with some great views.

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Can you see the little guy who is playing hide and seek?  I only saw him because I heard a strange noise and while focusing on where the sound came from I saw him move just a slight bit

Can you see the little guy who is playing hide and seek? I only saw him because I heard a strange noise and while focusing on where the sound came from I saw him move just a slight bit

After staying the night in Gardinar MT I went on a 2 hour horse back ride in the Gallatin National Forest looking down on Yellowstone National Park. The trail we went on was rocky and sometimes uphill but the horse I was on (Sunset) had no issues and was actually pretty easy to control as I headed up the back of the pack. The scenary was gorgeous and it was completely quiet except for talking between the other riders and the occasional verbal outbursts the horses felt compelled to utter.
Here is our guide...just kidding!!!

Here is our guide...just kidding!!!

some of the horses at the ranch

some of the horses at the ranch

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Snake river in distance


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Finishing up Yellowstone is the Yellowstone Grand Canyon.
Snake river

Snake river

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon


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looking down to the lower Grand Canyon observation area

looking down to the lower Grand Canyon observation area


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letting me know that he disapproves my decision not to share any of my Funyuns with him

letting me know that he disapproves my decision not to share any of my Funyuns with him

This is only a small sample of the pictures I took on my Teton and Yellowstone National Park trip. This trip ranks pretty high on my list of trip experiences I have taken thru out my life. Look out Yosemite and Mount Rushmore, your time will come soon enough!

Posted by pensfan30157 07:09 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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