Thursday, October 1, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation

I spent the second week of September 2009 in Yellowstone Country. This is my trip report.

Sean, Mike, Aubrey, ColinMy traveling companions were my parents, my brother, and his girlfriend. We met at BZN, where we rented a minivan for the drive to Yellowstone House. It was a rainy afternoon but between showers we caught glimpses of that signature Montana light that plays over the foothills and dramatically highlights the mountain peaks. We ate dinner at the Chico Dining Room, always a safe bet for fine dining. Yellowstone House has wifi and a PowerMac G4.

Barb et al.
For the next two days we went flyfishing with Grossenbacher Guides Bill, Bo, Brad Ehrnman, Brett Seng, and Brian Grossenbacher.

The thing to love or hate about flyfishing is that it emphasizes technique. The motion of the fly is determined not by its own weight (as it is in baitfishing) by the weight distributed along your line; there is physical complexity here that corresponds to a high degree of choice in casting. Beyond that, there is a pretty large space of materials and configurations in the flies, and the trout discriminate taking into account the season, time of day, and past experience. I'm a novice, but more experienced flyfishermen explicitly use ecological knowledge in addition to recent observations of insect activity and fish feeding patterns. So, I can recommend flyfishing if you enjoy skill acquisition.

Someone once expressed surprise that I'd participate in an activity that involves cruelty to fish. Well, I've not noticed a strong trend either way among baitfishermen, but every flyfishermen I've encountered has expressed concern for the health and well-being of the fish. They remove barbs from hooks in order to minimize injury during catch-and-release fishing, they take care to handle fish gently without damaging gills, and they release carefully. Those practices satisfy my moral compass.

We were not the only ones enjoying the river those days; we also observed eagles, ospreys, otters, and mergansers fishing.

On Monday we ate at the Pine Creek Lodge, and it was good. I will say though that the cinnamon fajita tastes like it sounds.

On Tuesday we drove to the North entrance of Yellowstone National Park at Gardiner, MT. On the way through Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful Inn we saw elk, mule deer, bison, and a black bear but very sadly no moose. We stopped off to hike up the Mount Washburn Fire Lookout, where we saw many chipmunks, a couple of marmots, and some big horn sheep. Unfortunately Dad stopped about a half mile from the summit due to pain in his knees.

At Old Faithful InnOld Faithful Inn we had drinks and bar food at the bar and then dinner in the Dining Room. I was disappointed that the Crow's Nest is off-limits, but I did see Old Faithful erupt. Our rooms were in a renovated section (early 1990s), so we had private bathrooms.

On Wednesday we hiked half way to
Artist Point along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Dad stayed back. The canyonlands supposedly harbor moose, but not surprisingly we didn't see them along the heavily trafficked trail. We drove to view a petrified tree and then we drove on to the Lamar Valley. There we photographed a Bison at Lamar Valleybuffalo at close range and did some fishing in the Lamar River, a tributary of the Yellowstone. At one point I misjudged the depth of the river and waded into chest-high water, drowning my phone.

We tried to eat at Helen's, home of the infamous Hateful Burger, but it was closed and for sale. Instead we ate at Zona Rosa in Livingston, where we had superb Latin American food at very reasonable prices. They were new at that time and did not accept credit cards or serve alcoholic beverages. Nearby landmarks include an enormous Taco John's sign and a car/truck wash.

Thursday we did guided fishing on the Madison River. The fish are generally larger and smarter than those of the Yellowstone. We caught very few whitefish, but a number of Large Brown Troutlarge trout. We ate at the Chico Saloon, which is definitely not served by the same kitchen as the dining room, while we observed some sporting event on TV.

Yellowstone House living roomFriday we hung around Yellowstone House, doing a little fishing from the bank of the Yellowstone River and reading and puzzle-solving. We had dinner again at Chico Hot Springs Dining Room, and then back to Yellowstone House for our last night in Montana.

We didn't see any grizzly bears this year, and I still have yet to see wild wolves or moose. Maybe next time.

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