Thursday, September 22, 2011

In search of grizzlies

Grizzlies at the Discovery Center

We went to Yellowstone National Park at the wrong time of the year to see grizzlies. The park service tells me they're more easily seen in early spring or late fall when they're at lower elevations.

In all my trips to Yellowstone I've only seen bears twice. The first time was on my first trip back when I was eight years old. I came out of a restroom at Fishing Bridge to see a black bear running by; I immediately went back into the bathroom. The second time was on a trip in the mid 1980s when I had to use binoculars to watch a grizzly running up a distant hill.

But this time I figured out a way to see grizzly bears: Visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center at West Yellowstone. The center had six bears and eight wolves in residence the day we were there. The center has a marvelous exhibit on bears which tells everything you wanted to know about bears but were afraid to ask. You can read an article I wrote about the center here.

After touring the center, we headed off to the Yellowstone movie at the IMAX theatre nearby. There were a couple of scenes with a six-story high grizzly growling at you. Now that was frightening! I much preferred the real-life grizzlies which look fat and sassy and live behind high wire fences at the center.

The fine print
The Federal Trade Commission requires that I tell you that our visits to the center and IMAX were complimentary. Even if they hadn't been, I still would have visited them and wrote the same thing. These were two cool experiences.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Camping at Yellowstone

An elk  passes by our scooters.
We recently returned from a 10-day camping trip to Yellowstone National Park in which we spent six nights inside the park. We stayed three nights at Mammoth Hot Springs campground, where we had elk trooping through our campsite almost every night, then moved down to Madison campground for another three nights. No elk, but RVs were parked so close together, an elk couldn't possibly squeeze between them.

Although I've been to Yellowstone previously, this was by far the best visit. Probably because we hauled our motor scooters over there, and rode daily. While we were at Mammoth, we rode the north loop one day. It was uphill all the way to Canyon, and our scooters just gulped up the gas at $3.99 a gallon.

Plans for riding in the park were almost derailed the day we moved down to Madison. We checked into our campsite, and decided to take an afternoon ride down to Old Faithful, even though we would be stopping there the day we rode the park's south loop. About halfway there, I pulled over to let some cars go by -- I was doing the 45 mph speed limit, but it apparently wasn't fast enough for them.  Just as I was slowing down at the pull-out, the rear tire went flat. I thought for sure my scooter riding was done in the park.

My husband rode back to camp, and brought the van and motorcycle trailer back to rescue us. We went into West Yellowstone where we had the good fortune to be referred to Centennial Auto Repair. They located a tube for the tire in a town 40 miles away, and made a special trip there to get it for me. We went back to camp and my husband took the wheel off my scooter. We dropped it off at Centennial the next morning, then took off for the appointments I had for my writing assignments about Yellowstone. We picked up the tire on our way out of town, after being pleasantly surprised at the very reasonable bill Centennial presented for everything they did for us. So many times, businesses will try to gouge tourists in difficulty because they know they'll never see them again. If you have car problems while you're visiting Yellowstone, I would definitely recommend taking them to Centennial.

While we were in the park, we say many, many motorcycles on the roads. I found it very surprising no motorcycle shops were to be found in West Yellowstone.  I can't be the only rider who had problems. (I also had a couple of mechanical problems, but my husband, a retired motorcycle mechanic, was able to handle them.