Home Away From Homeless (part 1)

condo

So we had this great, yet small, condo (1,000 sq. ft. +/-) situated at the front door of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, our long desired retirement location. 

After much prayer and angst we decided to sell it to find something with a bit more room and a lot more autonomy (a unhappy association with our many investor neighbors was also a huge consideration).  In this decision, we failed to take into account the recent fire in Gatlinburg, which resulted in the shortage of available homes to purchase at our price point…DUH!

SIDE NOTE OF ADVICE:  If you buy a condo in a resort area, make sure that there are a large number of owner-residents onsite. We had a poor experience living in a condo community owned mostly by investors. Investors and homeowners are two different creatures…one treats it like home the other treats it like monthly income.

Pictured below are two examples of the devastating fire that swept through our beautiful park and the upper neighborhoods of Gatlinburg.

We had made plans, prior to selling, for a visit family and friends, out of state, and to go on a cruise out of New Orleans with close friends. Therefore, not being successful in finding a home to buy, in a timely manner, we packed everything and put it all into storage in time to head to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

First stop, Orange Beach for Mardi Gras with friends. Sweet husband’s 70th birthday fell on Mardi Gras this year and his youngest daughter gave birth to her first child that very day.

Did you know that south Alabama has a replica of the Stonehenge, called “Bama-Henge”?

Above Bama-Henge

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Second stop, Biloxi, MS for a Yellowstone Employee Reunion. Wonderful friends we had made in 2015 who lived and worked with us at Grant Village.  Two fun-filled days of catching up.

YS Reunion

Prior to this trip and because housing prices were on the rise daily in Pigeon Forge, we decided to move to the Mississippi Gulf Coast (for many reasons, much too long and an unnecessary rabbit trail for this post).  WE placed an offer on a house and started the painful mortgage process…UGH! So while on the coast, we went to tour the house in Long Beach, MS we were purchasing…yep, made the offer sight unseen.  (This purchase has another chapter to it to follow in Part 3).

From there we drove to my youngest daughter’s home south of Baton Rouge for a long needed visit with a cruise sandwiched in the middle of our visit there.

Cruise blog and pictures to follow in Part 2

The Revenant & Yellowstone National Park

Yesterday sweet husband and I took in an afternoon movie; The Revenant featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass (c. 1780 – 1833). Based on true events, Glass was an American frontiersman, fur trapper, and explorer of the watershed of the Upper Missouri River in present-day Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the Platte River area of Nebraska.

Although it was never stated where these events took place, there was one mention that someone was last spotted near the “yellow stone”. Yellowstone is called Yellowstone because the river flows through a yellow stoned canyon.

As you know by now, we spent the summer in Wyoming and Montana, therefore, from the scenery, I believe this part of the story of his life took place in that area; perhaps what is now the Chief Joseph Highway area?

I’m not a movie critic, but the cinematography was academy award quality.

Seeing this movie, which is extremely rough, took me back to Wyoming and Montana; it has haunted me all day.

It started with Glass walking through an overflowing creek in the middle of a forest. The first sounds were of an Elk Stagg trumpet. It is an unmistakable, loud and wonderful sound. One can actually go to YouTube and type in, “Elk Sound”, to hear it, you will never forget it – please do.

There was only one scene involving Bison, but they were stampeding away from a pack of wolves. The Bison’s trumpet or groaning sounds more like a lion. The rocks, cliffs, Lodge Pole Pines, rivers and waterfalls took me “home” to Yellowstone.

This 144 year old national park is located primarily in the state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho and oh how I love it and miss it.

The stats:

  • It spans an area of 3,468.4 square miles comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges.
  • Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-elevation lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano on the continent.
  • This lake has MORE thermal features under water than in the entire rest of the park.
  • The caldera is considered an active volcano. It has erupted with tremendous force several times in the last two million years.
  • Half of the WORLD’S geothermal features are in Yellowstone, fueled by this ongoing volcanism.
  • Lava flows and rocks from volcanic eruptions cover most of the land area of Yellowstone.
  • The park is the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest remaining nearly-intact ecosystem in the Earth’s northern temperate zone.
  • If you work in the park, naturally you live in the park. If you need something as simple as a haircut you will need to drive an hour and half, in good traffic (which is rare), one way.
  • They do have general stores and small health clinics in each village within the park.

One clear evening in August we drove up to Hayden Valley to hopefully see the asteroid events and the Milky Way and, of course try to hear the Elk and Bison trumpet and groan. We were successful on all counts.

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We made friends easily with several of our co-workers and hope to see five of them in the next couple of weeks.

I will not be working there again even thought we had probably the best store manager and cafeteria manager in the entire park. We won’t for three good reasons: (1) it is a long, long drive from Tennessee to Wyoming and (2) my body doesn’t do changing shift work very well and (3) Yellowstone had in excess of 4 million visitors this year; a record. Sadly the company we worked for did not or could not supply our general store with enough help. Oh, my heart will miss it, to be sure.

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Yellowstone (Part 3) Geysers and the Hydrothermal Systems

The most famous geyser in the park, and perhaps the world, is Old Faithful Geyser, located in Upper Geyser Basin. Castle Geyser, The Grand Geyser, Lion Geyser and Beehive Geyser are in the same basin.  There is a 1.5 mile board walk through this basin.  We were fortunate to have seen three of these erupt in our two visits.

Old Faithful erupting taken by Sweet Husband

Old Faithful erupting taken by Sweet Husband

The Grand Geyser erupting in the distance.  Notice the size of the people next to it.

The Grand Geyser erupting in the distance. Notice the size of the people next to it.

The Grand Geyser erupting in the distance.  Our friend Tee-gie in the foreground.

The Grand Geyser erupting in the distance. Our friend Tee-gie in the foreground.

The Grand

The Grand

During one of our visits to this basin we were walking toward the Castle Geyser just as it began to erupt.  Concurrently one of Yellowstone’s famous storms was moving in at the same time.  When the storm met the eruption it formed a Geyser Spout (pictured below).  We just stood there in awe, snapping pictures as fast as we could without a thought of getting wet or hit by hail, which is common in these passionate, but short storms.

Castle Geyser with geyser spout

Castle Geyser with geyser spout

Castle Geyser with storm approaching

Castle Geyser with storm approaching

Speaking of passionate storms, a co-worker was in Norris Valley when one came rolling in.  There was a large heard of Buffalo, with calves grazing when the hail began to hit them.  They immediately began to stampede into the nearby forest.  What a sight that must have been.

This is also the location of the second oldest Lodge, Old Faithful Lodge.  The Lodge was built as a series of detached buildings through 1923 and was consolidated into one complex by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood in 1926-27.  The Lodge includes a common lobby, dining spaces and a recreation hall, known as Geyser Hall, of log construction in the National Park Service Rustic style. The hall is arranged with a central nave-like structure, with subsidiary side aisles.  This Inn also featured musical entertainment each evening, but we never got to experience that venue as it was a little further drive and much more crowded.

The open nave of the Old Faithful Inn

The open nave of the Old Faithful Inn

The open nave of the Old Faithful Inn.  The central object is a four-sided fireplace with a copper clock.

The open nave of the Old Faithful Inn. The central object is a four-sided fireplace with a copper clock.

Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn

The park contains the largest active geyser in the world—Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin. It erupts more often than Old Faithful, but doesn’t last as long and does not reach the heights of Old Faithful (pictures below).

Steam Boat Geyser

Steam Boat Geyser

Steam Boat Geyser

Steam Boat Geyser

A study that was completed in 2011 found that at least 1283 geysers have erupted in Yellowstone. Of these, an average of 465 are active in a given year.  Yellowstone contains at least 10,000 geothermal features altogether. Half the geothermal features and two-thirds of the world’s geysers are concentrated in Yellowstone.  Some of these are under Yellowstone Lake, some require quite a hike to see, and naturally we did not see them all.  At 7,000+ feet above sea level, I do not hike well…I did not breathe well for the first 2 weeks.

Yellowstone experiences thousands of small earthquakes every year, virtually all of which are undetectable to people. There have been six earthquakes with at least magnitude 6 or greater in historical times, including a 7.5‑magnitude quake that struck just outside the northwest boundary of the park in 1959. This quake triggered a huge landslide, which caused a partial dam collapse on Hebgen Lake; immediately downstream, the sediment from the landslide dammed the river and created a new lake, known as Earthquake Lake. Twenty-eight people were killed, and property damage was extensive in the immediate region. We had friends (co-workers) in the park who hiked to this Lake. Pictures below are borrowed.

earth quake

I was told in March, 2014 a magnitude 4.8 earthquake struck almost the very middle of Yellowstone near the Norris Basin at about 6.30am; reports indicated no damage. This was the biggest earthquake to hit the park since February 22, 1980.

Norris Basin is where you get to see most of the Bison (American Buffalo).  They are the monarchs of the park.

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The General Store we worked in was built to float with the movement of the earth.  I got used to it, but almost every customer asked if the building was moving. The more people walking around in the store, the more it moved, too.

I finish by letting the beauty in pictures of the mud pots, hot springs, etc. speak for themselves.

Mammoth Hot Springs.  Called for it shear size.  It is constantly flowing and growing with mineral deposits.

Mammoth Hot Springs. Called for it shear size. It is constantly flowing and growing with mineral deposits.

Life around the hot springs

Life around the hot springs

Mud Pot

Mud Pot

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Fumaroles

Fumaroles

Fumaroles

Fumaroles

Morning Glory Hot Spring

Morning Glory Hot Spring

Yellowstone Lake, River, Canyon and MORE

While in the park this summer, we were located just a mile from the southern portion of The Yellowstone Lake area and The West Thumb branch of the Lake. Geysers, fumaroles, and hot springs are found both alongside and in the lake.

West Thumb’s shoreline has suspiciously crater-like contours. Its underwater profile is dramatically deeper than the rest of Yellowstone Lake. Only a massive explosion could have formed West Thumb.

Thought the blowout occurred 125,000 years ago, West Thumb is still thermally active. Hot springs, mud pots, and geysers stream and percolate along the shore, and temperature gauges record high heat flow in lake bottom sediments.

If the lake were completely emptied of all the water, it would hold more geysers, hot springs thermals and mud pots that the whole rest of the park. Unbelievable, but true.

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

Yellowstone Lake is the largest body of water in Yellowstone National Park. The lake is 7,732 feet above sea level and covers 136 square miles with 110 miles of shoreline. While the average depth of the lake is 139 feet, its greatest depth is at least 390 feet. Yellowstone Lake is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America.

We were told in winter, ice nearly 3 feet thick covers much of the lake except where shallow water covers hot springs. A sight to behold, I’m sure, but it won’t happen for me in this life as I hate winter…and they have REAL winter.

As of 2004, the ground under the lake has started to rise significantly, indicating increased geological activity, and limited areas of the national park have been closed to the public. As of 2005, no areas are currently off limits aside from those normally allowing limited access such as around the West Thumb Geyser Basin. There is a ‘bulge’ about 2,000 feet long and 100 feet high under a section of Yellowstone Lake, where there are a variety of faults, hot springs and small craters. Seismic imaging has recently shown that sediment layers are tilted, but how old this feature is has not yet been established.

Yellowstone Lake, view from the lodge

Yellowstone Lake, view from the lodge

Yellowstone Lake, view from the lodge - sunset

Yellowstone Lake, view from the lodge – sunset

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

The lake currently drains north from its only outlet, the Yellowstone River, at Fishing Bridge. The elevation of the lake’s north end does not drop substantially until LeHardy Rapids. Therefore, this spot is considered the actual northern boundary of Yellowstone Lake. Within a short distance downstream the Yellowstone River plunges first over the upper and then the lower falls and races north through the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. These two spectacular falls flow through the canyon area where the walls of this canyon are all yellow stone, therefore the park name.

At the head of the YS Falls with 4 of our Grand-wonders:  Teegie's three and our one

At the head of the YS Falls with 4 of our Grand-wonders: Teegie’s three and our one

Osprey nesting above Yellowstone canyon

Osprey nesting above Yellowstone canyon

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone falls, river and canyon

Yellowstone falls, river and canyon

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone falls, river and canyon

Yellowstone falls, river and canyon

In the 1990s, geological research determined that the two volcanic vents, now known as “resurgent domes”, are rising again. From year to year, they either rise or fall, with an average net uplift of about one inch per year.  Kind of scary…

One of our favorite spots in Yellowstone Lake was the Lake Lodge. It is the oldest lodge in the park (over 100 years old) and has been beautifully renovated. Each evening, in their large open reception area, sporting a spectacular view of the lake via huge glass windows, we were entertained by a sensational string quartet. Before you cry, “boring”, they played a range of music from Hendrix (yes, Jimmy) to Pachelbel to Broadway Pops.

Lake Lodge String Quartet

Lake Lodge String Quartet

Each night at 9:00 p.m., when the lodge lowered the American Flag, just outside the massive windows, they would play our national anthem and all would rise to the occasion…This made my heart smile with pride.

We went every other week as our work schedule allowed; often with our new, precious friends.  We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in this location, with these wonderful new friends.

Mel and Jerry at the Lake Lodge

Mel and Jerry at the Lake Lodge

Teegie and sweet husband at the Lake Lodge

Teegie and sweet husband at the Lake Lodge

Rose and Rob

Rose and Rob

Grace, Rose and Rob at the Lake Lodge

Grace, Rose and Rob at the Lake Lodge

Brandon, Lilly, Teegie and Grace

Brandon, Lilly, Teegie and Grace

Rose, Rob and me

Rose, Rob and me

Teegie, Grace and Mel

Teegie, Grace and Mel

If you want to stay in the lodge, one must reserve months in advance and be prepared to pay from $363.00 to over $600.00 per night, plus tax—these are the 2015 rates.

Our friends Gay Bissell and Fawn Fortman drove ALL THE WAY TO YELLOWSTONE FROM MISSISSIPPI to visit us.  We took them to visit our beautiful falls and had dinner together in the lodge.  Thank you for making that long, long drive.  We love you.

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Yellowstone Lake Lodge

Yellowstone Lake Lodge

Bear Tooth and Chief Joseph Highways

During our tenure at the Yellowstone General Store this summer, we are given two days off, in a row, each week.  We have taken day trips up to this point.  None of these trips will be posted in date order as each has its own unique subject.  This was our first overnight trip because it would be impossible to see this region without an overnight stay. Motels are almost always full in and around the National Park area during the summer months.  If one is fortunate enough to find a room, one must be prepared to pay a premium rate ($200. to $600. per night – no joke).  Fortunately, we know how to “Live In A Minivan”, so we secured a small lot at a KOA in Red Lodge.  It is a precious little town, by the way.

Red Lodge has a micro-brewery (Red Lodge Ales), which WE DO NOT RECOMMEND …save your money.  There are many other great choices in town for meals and cold beer. I have attached a crude map of our route out of Yellowstone from our temporary home at Grant Village.

ale red lodge2 Red Lodge1

Travel is slow through the park with bear, buffalo or elk jams to contend with, which is never a bother to us.  We were told, when coming to Yellowstone, one needs to pack a lot of patience.  I will pass along this very necessary advice.

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Osprey

Osprey

Moose

Moose

Grizzly

Grizzly

Black Bear next to our dorm

Black Bear next to our dorm

Elk

Elk

We left through the NE entrance to Cookeville, MT where we picked up the Bear Tooth Highway.  This route also took us through Lamar Valley.  This is an exceedingly large, open expanse, surrounded by mountains and striped with meandering creeks where wild life thrive in 360 degrees of calm, green beauty.  This is usually where one see wildlife; we did not.  I enjoyed it more than Sweet Husband, as he was the driver.

BEAR TOOTH is a winding, two lane highway climbing to an elevation of over 11,000 feet with many cut backs and 7% grades.  If you have any issues with altitude sickness or fear of heights, I would not recommend this trek.  However, it is one of the most beautiful drives in North America.

Grasshopper Valley

Grasshopper Valley

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This is "The Bear Tooth Mountain" from which the name of the highway comes

This is “The Bear Tooth Mountain” from which the name of the highway comes

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Glacier lake - naturally, frozen over in the winter

Glacier lake – naturally, frozen over in the winter

Ice caps (glaciers) still in July

Ice caps (glaciers) still in July

Ski Lift at the crest of Grasshopper Valley

Ski Lift at the crest of Grasshopper Valley

Glacier Lake

Glacier Lake

Grasshopper Valley

Grasshopper Valley

Grasshopper Valley

Grasshopper Valley

There is one location on this highway where skiers take snowmobiles to an area called Grasshopper Valley (see pictures above).  It has a near vertical slope to a valley of frozen glacier lakes.  They then can ride the ski lift back up to the road and repeat.  I wouldn’t do it in three lifetimes, but some people love these near death experiences.

MOTORCYCLE RALLY:  I promise, I’m not exaggerating, there was at least 3 motor cycles for every car (maybe more).  Red Lodge is at one end of the Bear Tooth Hwy and Cody, WY is on the other.  Red Lodge is where motorcycles converged going to two different cycle rallies:  The BMW Rally n Billings , MT and the 75th anniversary of the Harley Davidson Rally in Sturgis, SD.

I only saw two brave people driving an RV on that highway; I would NEVER, EVER do that.

IMG_2954 IMG_2951 IMG_2950B1 at Sturgis

Bikers are quilters - like who knew? Sign in Red Lodge at quilt shop.

Bikers are quilters – like who knew? Sign in Red Lodge at quilt shop.

We arrived in Red Lodge with time to drive past on to Billings.  We were told about an area near Billings where William Clark (of Lewis & Clark fame) and his company stopped at a site he named, “Pompeys Pillar (Tower)”.  The pillar itself stands 150 feet above the Yellowstone River and consists of sandstone from the late Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation, 75 – 66 million years ago. The base of the pillar is approximately one acre.  It is simply a giant rock in the middle of a vast valley, on the edge of the river.  If you are driving along highway 312 near Billings, you cannot miss it.  BTW:  It appears much grain, etc. is grown in this rich valley for Coors.  William Clark would probably approve.

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William Clark's signature in the rock

William Clark’s signature in the rock

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The pillar features an abundance of Native American petroglyphs, as well as the signature of William Clark, co-leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Clark’s inscription is the only remaining physical evidence found along the route that was followed by the expedition.

The inscription consists of his signature and the date, July 25, 1806. Clark wrote that he climbed the sandstone pillar and “had a most extensive view in every direction on the Northerly Side of the river”. He named the outcropping after Jean Baptiste Charbonneau—the son of expedition member Sacagawea—whom he nicknamed “Pompy”, as he had become quite attached to the 18 month old member of the company. His original name for it was “Pompys Tower”; it was changed to the current title in 1814.

DAY TWO:  Started with waking from an 11 hour night of much needed rest…we must have been extremely tired.  Red Lodge has a wonderful, locally owned bakery (City Bakery).  After a stop for breakfast pastries we headed south out of town to Chief Joseph Highway. This highway was named in honor of Chief Joseph, the Nez Perch Chief who resisted resettlement by the United States and fought in this region, but eventually lost.  His surrender speech is below.  This is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places Sweet Husband and I have traveled. Surrender Speech by Chief Joseph, born Hinmatóowyalahtq̓it, which means Thunder Rolling Down The Hills, (1840-1904) Chief of the Nez Perce Tribe:

Chief Joseph

Chief Joseph

“I am tired of fighting.  Our chiefs are killed.  Looking Glass is dead.  Toohulhulsote is dead.  The old men are all dead.  It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led the young men is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets.  The little children are freezing to death.  My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food.  No one knows where they are–perhaps freezing to death.  I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can find.  Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs.  I am tired.  My heart is sick and sad.  From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

We were the conquerors and they the conquered.  That is the way of life in all wars.  Much has been lost and much gained.  The land is preserved, but war cannot and will not change – until the day we beat our swords into plows.  Yes, that day will come.

Yellowstone Pause Button

We are currently working and living in Yellowstone. We have no wifi except our little Verizon hotspot. Last month I posted two blogs and sucked up all my data. I will continue writing, taking pictures and then at the end of the billing cycle, if I have enough data I will post…if not, we will be hitting the road again in a few weeks and then I will post all as I get real wifi.
I hope you are all having a wonderful summer.