2019 Spring trip to Yellowstone

swalker

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We once again took a spring trip to Yellowstone this year. We went a week later than we typically do so that we would have a greater chance of good weather. Well, the weather was pretty bad for just about the entire trip. We had snow, sleet, hail, rain, thunderstorms, wind, and a very little bit of sun.

We had too many adventures while there to share them all with you, but I will try to share some highlights.

I drove our SUV pulling the trailer while my wife Lori drove the wheelchair van loaded with my backup Permobil C500 and the Magic Mobility X4 with its newly-installed lithium batteries.

We arrived with a threat of rain, but it held off until camp was set up. We spent the next few days resting and then sat for two days at Steamboat Geyser (the tallest active geyser in the world) hoping it would erupt. It did, about 3 hours after we left on the second day. During the first day of our wait, a large thunderstorm blew through with an impressive amount of lightning. We were caught in it with no place to go. I made it to a small, locked building and waited it out under and porch while my wife braved the worst of it trying to fetch the van. It is not something either of us is likely to forget anytime soon.

About a week into the trip we met up with some friends who are working in the park this summer. We went for a day of wildlife watching and were very fortunate to come across a female grizzly bear with two cubs (from one or two years ago). I was able to shoot a few pictures, which I will post below.

That is it for this installment. I will return to this thread and post more about the the trips from time to time.
 

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Such fantastic tales you get to tell! I'm sure with time your wife enjoys telling of her experience fetching the van, maybe not at the time :giggle:

Love those bear shots, how exciting that would be to see them. Love your threads!
 

KateEmerson

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Thank you, I always enjoy hearing and seeing about your great adventures!
 

vltsra

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Steve, thank you so much for sharing! Wow, such great photos of grizzlies! I've never seen one in the park.

My PALS and I are headed to Yellowstone in 2 weeks, barring any unforeseen circumstances and hopefully with a new vehicle that I must buy after my accident. I was able to get ADA rooms in the park last month which surprised me! It's my PALS first trip there. I have wanted to take him there for quite some time and am so excited for him to have this experience. I will share your post with him in hope that it inspires him as it does me!

V
 

blitzc

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I can't wait to see more pictures and hear about your adventures. We live through you...can't get there myself. :( I was there as a child, and only remember seeing Old Faithful and the paint pots. Can you still walk through the bubbling "paint pots" area. There was a boardwalk as I recall. (I don't know if that is the real name).
 

swalker

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We have been going to Yellowstone for many years and have made quite a few close friends there. One year, when camping at the Madison campground, we made friends with some workers there, John and Cathy. We have become good friends with them and were saddened when they took a break from Yellowstone for a few years.

Fortunately, they decided to return to Yellowstone this year, working in the Old Faithful area. It was a true joy to be able to spend some time with them. John and I were able to go out on a hike together, which was wonderful.

We hiked the old "freight road", which is a dirt trail that goes from Fountain Flats to the Fairy Falls trailhead (about 3.5 miles). It was a wonderful hike which ended just in time for me to put the wheelchair in our van as the rain started.

Here are a couple of pictures from the hike.

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plcare

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My wife is taking me on a bucket list trip to Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier in two weeks. I have wanted to visit these parks for many years, but waited too long and now I can no longer walk. We have been a little anxious/nervous about how the trip will go with me in a wheelchair, but your posts give me hope that it will be ok. Thanks!
 

swalker

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I have found that neither the Tetons nor Yellowstone are accessible by ADA standards. However, with a bit of persistence, I have found that I can easily get around both parks and take very long wheelchair rides in them.

In the Tetons, I highly recommend the new bike path that currently ends in the Jenny lake area. It starts in the town of Jackson, so you can take a really long ride, if you have enough battery and body endurance. I like the ride from the visitor's center at Moose Junction toward Jenny lake. the Views are spectacular. It is a paved path for the whole way and you will see many cyclists on it.

I also like some of the paved and dirt paths in the Colter Bay area of the Tetons. These are a bit more adventurous, but beautiful and very enjoyable.

For a bit more of an adventure in the Tetons, try out the river road. I prefer to start from the north entrance, but I have done stretches from both entrances in my four wheel drive wheelchair.

In Yellowstone, there are many, many trails that can be traversed in a wheelchair. The boardwalks and trails in the upper geyser basin (Old Faithful area) are worth the trip alone. I have a standard 7 mile loop that I do there. I can also do the boardwalks at Black Sands Geyser Basin, Biscuit Basin, Midway Geyser Basin, Fountain Paintpots, and Norris Geyser Basin. I can also do most of the mud volcano area, but it is really a challenge for my normal wheelchairs (Permobil C500). There is a steep slope to get to what I find to be most interesting.

I find that the Mammoth Hot Springs are not very accessible at all. The boardwalks are full of steps. I can do a short, beautiful loop at the top and also a short loop at the bottom. The areas in between are pretty much off limits to a wheelchair user.

Likewise, the Artists Paintpots are not wheelchair accessible.

For hikes, I can highly recommend the old freight road that goes from Fountain Flats toward the Fairy Falls trailhead. It is much easier to start at the Fountain Flats end, as there is only 1 handicap parking spot at the Fairy Falls trailhead end (and the parking lot is always full to overflowing there). As you traverse the old freight road (a cider path wide enough for a car), you will pass hot springs and beautiful views of the Firehole River. The side trail to Imperial Meadows is quite lovely, though also quite a bit rougher. It offers wonderful views of Fairy Falls, though. The side trail to Fairy Falls is also very nice, with a few rough spots. Wheelchairs can't make it to Fairy Falls, but can get within about 1/4 mile of the falls. The best views of the falls are from the Imperial Meadows trail. I have done all of the above on a Permobil C500. You will likely run out of battery before you run out of trail!

I also like the Natural Bridge trail in the Lake area, as well as the first part of the Mary Mountain trail (from the west trailhead).

I especially like the trail to Lone Star geyser. It is an old road that is now closed to cars. The asphalt is degrading, but it is an easy ride in a wheelchair.

The thermal features in Yellowstone are truly amazing. I encourage anyone visiting Yellowstone to plan on at least a day (or a week:)) in the upper geyser basin. Download the Geyser Times app, which provides predictions of when geysers might erupt next. If you see someone with a radio, they are probably a geyser gazer. Be sure to ask them for information on what might be worth spending time waiting for.

Most geyser gazers are members of the Geyser Observation and Study Association (GOSA), which was founded by Paul Strasser, who was a PALS.

If anyone has specific questions about visiting the Tetons and/or Yellowstone, please post them here. I will be glad to help in any way that I can.

Steve
 

Nikki J

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Thank you Steve. You are amazing and you should write a book ( or two the other being on power chairs). Or your memoir!
 

blitzc

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I have done all of the above on a Permobil C500.
My new pwc is a Quantum Q6 Edge 3. We have not used it hardly at all. Can it handle the kind of terrain and usage you are describing?
 

KarenNWendyn

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Steve, I wish you lived in Oregon. I’m looking for wheelchair- friendly trails. Paved is best. I could do your Vail Pass road.
Cathy, I think yours can handle anything paved.
 

blitzc

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Ok, so let's meet up in Vail!

Oh, so how do you get a pwc on a plane? Cargo?
 

KarenNWendyn

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If we could apparate, Harry Potter style, with our pwcs, it would solve so many problems. It would revolutionize the transportation industry.
 

swalker

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Cathy, the Quantum Q6 Edge 3 is a fine and very capable wheelchair. I have spent a small amount of time in one, so got to know it a little bit.

The limitation of the Q6 is that it is mid wheel drive. In uneven terrain, it is possible for the front and rear casters to lift the drive wheels off the ground enough that they drive wheels lose traction.

I think the Q6 will be fine on most of the boardwalks, but could struggle a bit on some of the transitions off of boardwalks/aslphalt onto dirt trails. Likewise, rough, uneven trails could cause problems. My recommendation is to gently try things until you get a feel for what the wheelchair can handle.

All wheelchairs will struggle with steep grades. There are many steep grades on Yellowstone boardwalks and trails (way beyond the grade allowed by ADA). I encourage you to try out a few grades of varying angles before committing to going down a hill you might not be able to get back up. Loose surface material can defeat a wheelchair even on a very gentle grade.

Five years ago, I could say that I had never ridden in a wheelchair and did not know a thing about how they worked! I learned about what a wheelchair can do by riding paths and trails in the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and around Vail.

Nikki: I would love to write a book or two, but they would probably have titles like "Geometric Image Transformations: Fundamental Principles" or "Theory of Geospatial Data Management". I doubt anyone would want to read those, though.

Karen, I would love to visit Oregon. It is one of four states I have not made it to. Perhaps we will make it there with our new to us motorhome.

Steve
 

swalker

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Cathy, I neglected to answer your question about wheelchairs on an airplane.

I have not yet flow with my wheelchair (on an airplane, that is:)).

In the US, airlines provide free transportation for your medical equipment. This is apparently not limited to just power wheelchairs, but includes other equipment you may need. I would confirm this with the airline before purchasing tickets, but I am pretty sure that information is correct.

I do know that US airlines will transport a power wheelchair for free. They will meet you at the gate, where you will transfer to an aisle chair or you can walk to your seat on the airplane (if you can). The wheelchair will be loaded into the cargo hold. It will meet you at the gate when you arrive at your destination.

One of the wheelchair users at NuMotion told me that he often flies with two power wheelchairs, as he is on a power wheelchair soccer team. Both chairs fly for free.

Note that not all wheelchairs will fit on all planes (the cargo door has to be big enough). Also, there are a few things that need to be done to the wheelchair to prepare it for loading in the cargo hold. There are numerous videos on youtube about flying with a wheelchair.

Steve
 
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