Category Archives: National Parks

Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake in Oregon, where our young sons, in shorts and tees, pelted us with snowballs one sunny August day.

The lake itself taught us that we could see nearly 100 feet into the water if that water is clear enough. Unblemished with the sediment that river-fed lakes carry, only rain and snow feed this 1,934-foot deep puddle in the caldera* of a volcano. 

We hiked from the rustic, sturdy parkitechture of Crater Lake Lodge, singing a song our youngest, Cole, made up. We climbed enormous stone steps and steep trails high enough up a mountain to find sticky and heavy snowball-snow that hadn’t melted.

After a few battles, we hiked back towards the lodge, stopping at a scenic overlook high above the lake. An older couple joined us, standing at the same rail. 

Unfortunately, as I backed up to take a photo, the older woman’s knees buckled, and she slid under the rail. She was lucky that both her husband and my own grabbed an arm, or she might have fallen 1,000 feet into the caldera.

Was it steep? Yes, look at how trees planted roots horizontally but grew vertically:

Strangely, she insisted on continuing up the mountain.

We said good-bye, but even our 4- and 6-year old wondered if that older man would be able to catch his unsteady wife on his own. We decided to report the incident at the lodge, ordered some hot chocolate, and settled into rocking chairs on the porch. 

When a bulked-up rescue ranger asked to speak to Brad, my husband, we expected bad news, but Brad came back laughing. The guy cussed him out for reporting an incident, saying we had caused an unnecessary rescue operation, and who the hell did we think we were. 

As the burly guy ranted, our youngest threw up on his shoes. 

Ditching a Ranger Talk on Storm Point Trail

Most Ranger talks are informative. This one was, but it was, as my youngest would say, not information-dense. So we ditched it and hoped we wouldn’t run across the group on the way out.

We escaped into a forest so green, lush and dark that we needed a flashlight.

Storm Point Trail Bracelet inspired by this trail.

Storm Lake Trail Bracelet @

The darkness broke up at Storm Point, overlooking the serene Yellowstone Lake. We spent some time taking pics of each other’s crazy wind-blown hair, then headed back into the verdant woods.

I feel a little guilt ditching the Ranger Talk. Park Rangers are among my favorite people. But sometimes you just want to take in the view. That moss…wow.

How About Bison Repellent?

The next jam was the most common wildlife traffic snarl in Yellowstone: bison.  Bison are huge and ubiquitous.  Husband Brad calls them rattalos because they are everywhere!  A calf approached our car very directly.  While I was composing a shot, I found out that bison are not as doped up as they look.  A huge, male bull shrieked a bellow at the calf and shook its black tongue at me.  Thought I was going to need bear spray.

Bison shrieking so close its eyeball fills my viewfinder.
Bison shrieking so close its eyeball fills my viewfinder.

Eleven hours later, we still had seen no bears other than that smudge in the field.  No more elk, no moose, big horn sheep, mule deer or antelope.  Other than bison, we saw chipmunks, squirrels, Canadian Geese and a vole, which is like a mole, only Northwestern.   After eleven hours, we were beat.  Honestly, as we headed back to Old Faithful Inn, it would have taken a big horn sheep riding a bear to get us to stop.

Arms Like Popeye support Old Faithful Inn

I Hate to Leave this Beautiful Place – Howard Norman

Old Faithful Inn is authentic National Parks architecture: a massive stone and log lodge like El Tovar (Grand Canyon), Crater Lake Lodge and Many Glacier Lodge (Glacier National Park). Built with lodge-pole pines as long as corridors, these structures center around immense, multi-story lobbies whose rock fireplaces draw weary visitors in the evening. Despite the parks size, Yellowstone has only one grand lodge, but it is easily the nations most impressive.

Beams with arms like Popeye support the inns six-story lobby. Built in 1903-1904 without Starbucks or power equipment, Robert Reimers design included electric lights and steam heat. Light cascades into the interior from three stories of dormers and casement windows so high they need ladders. One can see the catwalks of an even higher balcony The Crows Nest but cant go up. Orchestras once played from the Crows Nest until an 1959 earthquake made that level unstable.

Arms Like Popeye Bracelet inspired by Yellowstone Lodge @

We played a lot of cards on these balconies, one night listening to a cellist. She ended the evening with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonat” on a grand piano that looked small in this massive structure.

Lounging in the lobby, I wonder what flipped-out worker volunteered to pave the ceiling 92 feet above me with logs. What an insane job. The Old Faithful Inn, what an insanely beautiful, mellow place to vacation.

How to See a Wolf in Yellowstone: Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

My husband, Brad, was lost hunting at fourteen years old.  Really lost.  Feeling the heebee jeebees from behind, he turned to find a wolf staring at him on the trail — five feet away.

“And then what?”

“I raised my gun.”

“And then what?”

“It walked off.”

That was it.

If you want to see a wolf in Yellowstone, don’t get lost hunting.  Stop at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.   Or in this year of Covid, check out their Bear Cam or Wolf Cam, open 24 hours, 365 days a week.  

Wolf in Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.
Wolf in Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.

Yellowstone 009The animals at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center are unable to live in the wild, so are rescue wolves, bears, eagles, etc.  Without the stress of hunting and protecting a territory, these animals can be viewed at their most relaxed states.

And you will also be in your most relaxed state.  Believe me, when you see a wolf or grizzly in person, you won’t have composure to admire it’s coat and wonder what’s on it’s mind.


Grizzly and Grizzly&Wolf Discovery Center.
Grizzly and Grizzly&Wolf Discovery Center.

The Discovery Center does an excellent job of education, offering talks throughout the day, like the “Bear Spray Demo” we heard.

The naturalist demonstrated bear spray, shooting blanks from her holstered demo can so we could see how far the spray travels (not far enough for me).  She explained that we should be patient if a bear charged us because, after all, it could just be a false charge. She also advised, “Do not run.  A bear is a predator.  If you run, a bear has to chase you.”

If you run, a bear has to chase you.

Finally, she showed how to windmill one’s arms, slowly backing away from a bear.  She mentioned that someone she knew survived a bear encounter by doing this for seven hours until the bear turned and walked off.  Got all that?

Yellowstone 015

Meanwhile, the bears entertained us by playing in the habitat behind the speaker, wrestling, splashing and ignoring ravens who stand around criticizing them.

Uptight ravens are no fun.
Uptight ravens are no fun.

Jago Peregrine Falcon, Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.
Jago Peregrine Falcon, Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.

Yellowstone 029The Bird-of-Prey area of the Discovery Center was full of personalities, like the gentle-looking, “who, me?” Jago Peregrine Falcon and the judgmental bald eagles.

We have kept up with the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center via their web cams for both bears and wolves.  It’s a great place worth supporting.