Yellowstone National Park – 2018

This August we went back to Yellowstone National Park for our third time, and if you’ve never been there, you should put it on your bucket list, you won’t be disappointed. Instead of tent camping on this trip, we traveled in our small Roadtrek camper van which made things considerably easier for us. No setting up or taking down a tent for a change, but the rest of the experience wasn’t much different than before – it was as wonderful as ever.

Our Roadtrek Simplicity SRT at Grant Village Campground

We stayed at Grant Village again, a campsite that is centrally located and very convenient for day excursions. You can reserve a space, but all campsites are distributed by the park service when you arrive, and you cannot reserve specific sites in advance. Grant has a gas station, a store with a small quick-lunch counter, great free showers for camping guests, clean restrooms, and nice campsites. There is also a full-service restaurant there if the tasty burgers in the store’s restaurant don’t appeal to you. Although many campsites are close to each other, most of them allow enough room for setting up the necessities, and still give you some evening privacy.

Old Faithful draws big crowds

It seems like you learn something new every time you return to Yellowstone and this trip was no exception. Mid-August is very busy in the park, and parking at most of the major attractions during mid-day can be complicated. We got around that problem by rising early each day, between six and seven am, driving to the area we wanted to visit, securing our parking space, and then having breakfast on site before moving on to the attractions. Visiting later or earlier in the year is recommended, even though the weather can be a problem, especially in late September when it may snow.

 

 

A hot spring pool and colorful mats of heat-loving bacteria

Otto and Old Faithful

The morning of our first day was spent taking pictures at the geyser basin around Old Faithful, visiting the Old Faithful Lodge (nice restrooms!), checking out the tourist shops, and reading the information signs to remind us that we were indeed right in the middle of a volcanic caldera. In the afternoon we stopped on the way back to Grant at West Thumb Basin for another geyser walk. Not as spectacular as the Upper geyser basin where Old Faithful is located, but still an interesting walk, and no one seems to stay there for extended periods, so you can usually find parking.

Elk in Hayden Valley

 

The next day we drove to Hayden Valley, home to the Yellowstone River and several herds of bison, almost guarantying quality pictures of wildlife. There are several other attractions in this area including the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone try (Inspiration Point or Artist Point), and of course the Yellowstone River where ducks, geese, and fishermen can be found. After leaving there, a visit to the area around the Fishing Bridge can round out your day.

 

 

The Sapphire Pool at Biscuit Basin

On our third day we drove back past Old Faithful to the Biscuit Basin, which features the Sapphire Pool and Mustard Spring along with a few other colorful geysers.

Pam at Mystic Falls

Mustard Spring and the Sapphire Pool

There is also a nice one-mile-long trail to see Mystic Falls on the Little Firehole River. This easy trail features some of the local flora and very nice views of the falls and the river along the way. There are several other geyser basins in this area, and one can also chose several different trails if you want to stretch your legs a little farther.

 

A herd of bison in Lamar Valley

A bison in Lamar Valley

Pronghorn antelope

We spent our fourth day in Lamar Valley, and that was one of the best days of the trip. Lamar Valley is located by traveling through Hayden Valley past Canyon Village, over a range of hills on the Grand Loop Road, then down to a right-hand cutoff near the Roosevelt Lodge. You’ll drive through another valley first before reaching the Lamar Valley. We saw herds of bison, antelope, and elk, but we didn’t see the wolves that make this valley their home. Pam thought this place reminded her of the movie Dances with Wolves, and it was tops on our list for viewing wildlife up close and personal.

A bison controlling traffic in the Hayden Valley

There are a large number of well documented trails for hiking in Yellowstone, lots of wildlife, geysers everywhere, and scenic grandeurs galore. This is our country’s first National Park, and it remains one of the best to visit. One word of caution, however: tourists can be crazy. They will stop and park in the middle of the road to jump out and take a picture, relentlessly pursuing wildlife in all forms. Defensive driving is a must, and if you get stuck briefly in traffic, just relax and join the crowd. Very few people seem to be in any hurry here, and that’s not all bad when you think about it. We highly recommend Yellowstone for a trip, its right there near the top of our list.

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Otto’s new book is out – help him get it published!

bk5_front-cover3_lg2Hello Friends!

I’m asking for your consideration, help, and a moment of your time. I’ve written a new book and I’m asking you to become a Kindle Scout, someone who can read new, never-before-published books and nominate those they would like to see published (like mine obviously!). If the book gets published everyone who nominated it will receive a free Kindle copy from Amazon.

The name of my book is Aquarian Rising, and it’s a novel in the Science Fiction genre. In this book you will find my fantasies about a nation of people genetically designed to live and work under the sea, and yes, I may have stretched the science involved a little, but it’s fiction, isn’t it?   So the next time you go to bed and have trouble sleeping I have a challenge for you. Take time to let your mind soar and dream your own dream along with mine.  Imagine yourself being able to live and breathe underwater, and conjure up your own fantasy about what it might be like to face the pleasures, dangers, and creepy things that might be involved in your daily life under the sea. While you’re doing that here’s a word of caution, you may love the sea as I do but never think for a minute that the sea loves you. Remember, it’s a dark and dangerous place deep down there, so beware.  Now create your own fictional adventure, be it a heaven or a hell, and then compare it to mine. There are an infinite numbers of possible stories that might be told. I offer my adventure as one possibility, and who knows how close it will come to the truth.

The first 5,000 words of Aquarian Rising are posted on the Kindle Scout website, and the URL access code is: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/3ECDF0M0SDO7H .  Nominations have to be made before December the 9th. You can influence the probability of this book’s publishing success with your nomination and input by clicking the box at the bottom of the page. Oh, and one other thing. If you know of anyone else who might be interested in reviewing this book, and possibly receiving a free Kindle copy for their time, please pass this information on for their consideration, too. I need all the help I can get in support of my other fictional dream, the possible publication of Aquarian Rising.

More information about me and my interests are available on my web page at www.ottogasser.com . I enjoyed writing this book and I hope you will enjoy reading it and support its publication with your nomination.

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The National Parks of Western North America: Sequoia and Kings Canyon

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Otto at Tokopah Falls

Located in the central eastern part of California, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are a very popular camping and hiking attraction for tourists worldwide. Pam and I enjoyed a wonderful five-night/four-day vacation here in late June this year, and we’d like to share our experience and offer a few tips for those who might want to plan a future trip to this scenic area.

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Along the Wuksachi Trail near Lodgepole

The parks are open almost year around, weather permitting, but most visitors prefer the warmer days of late spring through late fall before it turns wet and snowy during winter months. You can access this area from the south via Highways 65 or 99 to Highway 198 East, or from the north through the Fresno area via 180 East. From there, just follow the signs. If you’re towing or in a vehicle larger than 22 feet, the recommended route is through Fresno as the southern entrance road is very narrow with many switchbacks. Plan for speeds no greater than 30 miles per hour coming up the grade on this southern entry road. There is an entrance fee of $30 dollars per vehicle, which is good for one to seven nights. The usual passes are honored, and individual or group fees are also available. Camping reservations are a must as this is a very popular area throughout the summer and sites fill up fast. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance via recreation.gov (name your park). Wilderness permits are required for backpacking. There are cabins and other lodging facilities available within the park, and this is also a popular area for retreats and weddings. Pets are not permitted on any of the Park trails, but they are allowed in campgrounds and must be on leash at all times. There are restrictions on where you can bicycle. No hookups for trailers or RV’s are available. Check the website for Sequoia and Kings Canyon for more information.

DSC_3352creWe stayed at the centrally located Lodgepole Campground and found the surroundings very pleasant. The campground has paved roads, drinking water, and flush toilets. Each site features fire rings, food storage boxes (required because of the bears) and a tent pad. Our site overlooked the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River, which was quite nice. DSC_3113creLocations and tent pad sizes vary, but you can check the campground on recreation.gov to see the layout when you make your reservation. The campsites are fairly close together, but the surroundings are beautiful. Lodgepole Village is a short quarter mile away where there is a Visitors Center offering ranger programs, a small grocery store, a small deli-style restaurant, and three-minute showers available for a $1 fee (bring quarters). There is a limited free shuttle service available for travel to nearby areas from Memorial Day through Labor Day, which made access to most of the places we wanted to visit very easy.

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There are a ton of hiking trails in the area, including the High Sierra Trail which will eventually lead you to Mount Whitney. You could spend months exploring all the different trails, but we were limited to four days so we hit the high spots with fairly easy day hikes. Of course, this included visits to several groves of giant sequoias including the General Sherman tree, the world’s largest tree. The sequoia groves are extremely popular and family friendly, so expect company almost anywhere you go. One day we went to the Giant Forest to see the General Sherman and General Grant trees, traveling by shuttle from the campground to easy walking trails at this grove near the Giant Forest Museum.

DSC_3127creWe followed that up with an afternoon hike around Crescent Meadows where we saw Tharp’s Log (a rustic home built inside of a fallen sequoia log), lots of wildflowers, and a bear in the meadow. Another day we hiked up the trail along the Kaweah River from our campground to see Tokopah Falls in the morning, and then took an afternoon road trip north to Stoney Creek Village to check DSC_3176cre
out other nearby areas including Dorst Creek Campground and the Lost Grove. A third day had us taking the shuttle from our campground to Wuksachi Lodge and then hiking the Wuksachi Trail and a part of the Twin Lakes Trail, a scenic, mostly downhill, hike back to our campground in the morning. We spent the afternoon sitting by the river at our campsite, just kicking back.

20160622_105322smeOne of the highlights of our trip was a morning tour of Crystal Cave, a cave featuring formations made from the action of water moving through and over marble and limestone. This is a popular spot—advance reservations are a must and should be scheduled early (you can book your tour reservations for Crystal Cave through recreation.gov). Also, there is a fairly steep quarter mile hike down to the cave from the parking lot. Bring mosquito repellent and plan on a slow climb back up to the parking lot after the tour.

All-in-all, this was a wonderful experience for us and we recommend this area for a summer getaway if you’re so inclined. The scenic beauty here is marvelous and even breathtaking at times, and that makes this adventure more than worthwhile.

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