Sunday, November 15, 2015

Yellowstone National Park: Bunsen Peak & Goodbye

Yellowstone National Park - 7/28/15 – Bunsen Peak & Goodbye – 4.2 Miles

Our last day in Yellowstone, eyeing Bunsen Peak from my original list of must-do’s, but sleeping in luxury delayed our start (until 7:15 a.m.)  A sumptuous breakfast and real coffee dragged it out a little more.  The overnight rain ushered in a cold front and a surprise:  snow on the high mountaintops.

Interesting facts about Bunsen Peak:  It is named for Robert Bunsen, inventor of the Bunsen burner. Bunsen Peak looms over Mammoth Hot Springs. The summit is 8,564 feet high.  The trail up is 2.1 miles, gaining 1,300 feet of elevation, strenuous enough to get my attention.  A weather station greet hikers at the top.

The frosty morning sent us searching for all our warm hiking gear. Still July! On the trail at 9:15 a.m. 

The first mile wove through an area impacted by wildfires in 1988, numerous standing dead trees and new growth, similar to our hike yesterday to Fairy Falls.  In a meadow a majestic doe exchanged glances with me before she melted away.  From left:  Trilobite Point, Dome Mountain and Antler Peak.

Each glance over the shoulder showed the big sky and the landscape expanding.  Swan Lake in the center.

Still climbing

Cathedral Rock

Feeling small

The last stretch consisted of tighter switchbacks over loose talus that we were now familiar with skating across.  Awesome views at every turn.  The hike felt effortless due to our slow pace and frequent stops. 

Electric Peak in the center background

Are we there?  Not yet.  Bunsen Peak consists of three bumps.  The weather station and hut at the first bump are not the true summit.  This photo was taken by a young woman we met at the hut.  She was chaperoning a group of teenagers from Alabama.  Small world:  she's a teacher at an elementary school in Charlotte, helping out her father who worked with the group.

Yellowstone River

Electric Peak straddles the state line of Montana and Wyoming, dominating the western view

Looking at Electric Peak

We spent more than an hour scrambling around on the summit, soaking up the view that we may never see again, taking photo after photo trying to capture the feeling.  On the hike down I felt reflective and a little sad to be leaving when there is so much more to explore in Yellowstone.

We spent our last hour in the Park on the lower boardwalk terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs, back with the crowds, but I’m glad we took the time to see Minerva Terrace.

At the Visitor Center I bought a photography book and we donated the bear spray we had purchased (did I mention that we finally did that?) to the backcountry office.  Can’t take it with you, so might as well give it to the rangers. 

Last look:  a placid elk at Mammoth Hot Springs

The drive back to Bozeman was more scenic than I remembered, plus today we enjoyed snow-covered peaks.  Hint:  Take Highway 540, the East River Road that parallels Highway 89, to get closer to the mountains. 

We stayed at a hotel in Belgrade, MT to be as close as possible to the airport for our early morning departure.  Looking for a local restaurant, we found the Desert Rose, all organic, natural grass-fed beef (one of their suppliers is a local all-female run ranch).  The steaks were tremendous and the blueberry-huckleberry pie with ice cream was the exclamation point at the end of an extraordinary vacation.

In the hotel parking lot we purged our teeny red rental car, threw out the trash, and donated our tailgate chairs to Goodwill.

How do you summarize Yellowstone National Park?  You can't.  Just…go.

"I do not bring back from a journey quite the same self that I took." ~W. Somerset Maugham

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