Since I immigrated to the U.S. 22 years ago I have visited the Old Country 12 times. With one exception, I always traveled during the summer months. Now, we all know that flying overseas during the summer is very expensive. Why then don’t I, a very frugal person, take advantage of cheaper fares in the off months? The answer is:
Weather: Germany is not famous for great weather. In the summer I have at least a fighting chance to catch some beautiful days during a three-week stay. This year was no exception. I encountered blazing heat, mid-70s sunny temps, cool and rainy days, heat again, and rainy days. I needed everything from shorts to a windbreaker. And, while many cars now have air conditioning, houses do not.
Daylight savings time: I don’t like driving in the dark anymore. During the summer it does not get dark in Germany until around 10 o’clock in the evening. That enables me to go out with my friends in the evening and still return to my ‘home away from home’ before darkness sets in. It is much more enjoyable to sit in a beer garden or an ice café on a mild evening than facing long darkness and the prospect of black ice or other inclement weather.
Attractions: Many attractions are only open between April and October or at the very least, have longer opening hours during the warmer season.
The downside of traveling in the summer, of course, is increased traffic. Germany is situated in the center of Europe. That means that travelers from other countries who vacation in southern Europe must drive through Germany to get there. You better learn the meaning of the word Stau!
I’ve been to 22 countries, including dozens of trips to France. After all, it was my next-door neighbor when I lived in Germany.
I was once a recording artist. I was a member of a children’s choir when we recorded an album for the 25th anniversary of the organization. That’s when I learned that recording an album is not as glamorous as people think. It involves many repetitions because the slightest noise – such as rustling a piece of paper – makes a recording obsolete.
I was on TV twice: the first time on Pittsburgh’s KDKA after winning First Place in a bird photo contest, the second time on Moon Township’s Access TV after publishing my novel.
I used to dance in a folk dance group and participated in the July 4th parade at the Kutztown Folk Festival in Pennsylvania in 1979.
I have never owned a dog, but you wouldn’t know it if you observed my dog encounters. Dogs are drawn to me like yellow jackets to a plum cake, as long as they are not defending their own yard.
The day (September 24) began with rainy and cold weather. We donned our parkas and headed to Old Faithful because we had only stopped there for lunch on our first day in the park. By the time we reached the visitor center the rain had abated and we decided to walk Geyser Hill boardwalk to get away from the masses that surrounded Old Faithful geyser.
We found the many small geysers – with creative names like Beach Spring or Aurum Geyser – fascinating, even though we did not have the energy to walk some of the much longer trails. Words are inadequate to describe the smells, sights, and sounds in a geyser area, especially when one spots a bison not too far from an inn that looks like a Santa Claus castle.
After lunch at the Old Faithful Lodge we headed back toward the lake. Not far from Grant Village a small group of people was looking into a stand of trees. They saw an elk cow! Naturally, we joined them. The cow was unconcerned about those of us as we remained by the roadside, but some tourists began walking into the woods to get better photos. Such behavior is not only potentially dangerous for the tourists, but also stresses out the wildlife we came to observe.
While most of Yellowstone’s trees are evergreens, the few aspens were at their golden peak and begged to be photographed. The yellow aspen leaves provided a colorful contrast to the snow-capped mountains at the other side of Yellowstone Lake.
And so ended our last full day in Yellowstone Park. I enjoyed the serenity of the lake area and the wonderful view from the dining room windows at the Lake Lodge. The only sounds I heard at night were coyotes howling in the distance. And that’s how it should be.
On our third day in Yellowstone we decided to explore the area east of Fishing Bridge. We had only driven a mile when we spotted an elk bull across the road in an open space between trees. I managed to take a few photos before a tour bus showed up and the elk disappeared.
It had rained overnight and the morning air was cold and moist, but the sky soon turned blue again with beautiful cloud formations. East of Fishing Bridge we saw a herd of bison with calves. We drove on to a scenic overlook from which we had a wonderful view of Yellowstone Lake, but also of thousands of fire-damaged trees.
After visiting the Le Hardy Rapids we returned to Hayden Valley where we saw a bald eagle and a herd of bison in the distance. We looked out for birds wherever we went and were thrilled to observe five trumpeter swans along the Yellowstone River. Before heading back to our cabin we took another walk at the Mud Vulcano to see the Dragon’s Mouth again.
Hot springs and a mud vulcano; bison and trumpeter swans; endless skies and trees burned by a wildfire; we truly had seen the essence of Yellowstone in one day.
We just returned from an amazing visit to Yellowstone National Park. The weather forecast called for rain and even snow last weekend, but luckily it rained mostly overnight and the snow only capped the mountain tops. By afternoon we experienced blue skies, white clouds, and pleasant temperatures.
The drive from Bozeman Airport through the Gallatin River Valley to West Yellowstone was delightful and the golden aspens provided a beautiful contrast to the many evergreens. Early the next morning we headed into the park. It didn’t take us long to spot our first bisons along the Madison River. By the Lower Geyser Basin we had our first up-close encounter with bison and saw hundreds of them before we reached Old Faithful.
Naturally, we also stopped at several hot springs on the way. After eating lunch at Old Faithful, we drove on toward West Thumb Geyser Basin, but not before taking a break at a picnic area where we watched birds we had never seen before.
At West Thumb we walked the boardwalk around the hot spring area and marveled at formations near and even in Lake Yellowstone. We drove on to our home for the next four nights, a cabin at the Lake Lodge. Our wildlife total for the day, not counting birds: hundreds of bison, two elk, a mule deer, and a black bear!