Friday, August 24, 2007
Road Trip, Day 7
Today was a full day. We are both completely exhausted, but still exhilarated.
We left the lodge at nine this morning, managing to make it in one trip to the car with all our baggage and cooler and crap. The shower situation was not a problem; maybe everybody else gets up way earlier, or else just doesn't bathe.
It was overcast when we set out. We went off in the same direction we went yesterday. Almost immediately we saw people stopped by the side of the road. There was a bison off in the field beyond the trees. We looked on in awe at the distant bison, trying to take pictures. If we'd only known...
Not five minutes later, another bison, this one much closer to the road. A bunch of stopped cars means some kind of wildlife. One stop at some hot springs later, there was yet another bison, this time practically on the road. And despite the warning, some people out right next to it, photographing it. No, they didn't get gored.
So, the major theme of the day had been set: stops at geyser and hot spring locations, and stops along the road for wildlife. The next animal up was a big bull elk. Right on the side of the road. Then almost immediately on the other side of the road, a mule deer. But he was further off, and we'd just seen a much more impressive elk. Ah, the jadedness already sets in. We almost didn't stop for the next traffic slow down -- yeah, yeah, we've seen it -- only we hadn't: it was a coyote. So we stopped for that one; unfortunately he stayed pretty far away.
Every half kilometer or so, there was something to stop for: some beautiful vista, some chain of hot springs to walk along, some wild animal to see. It was amazing. The sun was coming out, and even though the air temperature was still pretty chilly, it felt very warm in the sun. Being up at around 2000 meters altitude helps make the sun feel stronger, too.
So, just when we thought it couldn't get any better, a vista stop turns out to be a swimming hole. I couldn't resist, changed into my swimsuit and went in the river. It is somewhat geyser heated, because a mountain stream that deep should be a whole lot colder than this was. It was great, deep, and with a nice current to drive you down to the beach part if you started further up. At this point the sun was out strong, all traces of rain were gone, and it was just a beautiful day.
Our first destination for the day was to be the Old Faithful geyser, just to get that out of the way, but it was after twelve already, and we were getting hungry, and our progress thus far had been slow. So we decided to heck with it when we passed this beautiful picnic area by the side of a creek, and pulled in to eat. The river was shallow and running over a bunch of stones -- I couldn't resist and waded in. Food always tastes better when you're out in the open and have been exercising. I was getting pretty tired, after swimming, and all the walking around various geysers and hot spring sites, and the sun beating down. So, good moods all around.
After eating we went up the river a bit, where there was a hot spring feeding into the river. It was like a bathtub of boiling water, spilling into the running stream. I waded in the creek, which was cold, but warmed up where the hot water ran in. I even got a little too close and scalded my ankle.
More geyser stops, hot springs deep blue in color, bubbling mud pits, sulfur smelling steam. (I must say the rotten egg smell either isn't as strong or just doesn't bother me as much as when I was here as a kid -- I remember it being nearly unbearable; now it's just bad when the wind blows the steam right at you.)
Another traffic jam, this time for a whole herd of elk crossing a river right beside the road. There was a bull, four or five females, and various juveniles. And a whole herd of Homo sapiens staring at them. This stop had the worst traffic so far, and even it was nothing at all like the dire warning we had been hearing about traffic congestion at Yellowstone. It really hasn't been bad at all. A few slow downs where there is wildlife, but almost everybody pulls over, and you can get by if you want to, and any delay is minimal. Maybe if you live in Wyoming your conception of traffic congestion is different than if you live in the greater New York area...
We finally made it to Old Faithful around 3:15. We were very lucky with the timing, because the next eruption was scheduled for 3:37, +/- 10 minutes. We sat down to wait, and at 3:31 the geyser spouted. Next show at 5.
By this point we were pretty beat. We went into the lodge to use the bathroom, buy postcards, and sit for a spell. Then I copied all the pictures I'd taken so far to the laptop, 'cause the camera was acting up, while Fernanda wrote her post card. We were both feeling sleepy, and we weren't in a hurry since all the post geyser show traffic was leaving. We found the post office to mail the card, and finally headed out toward the lake area.
The Western Thumb is an appendage to the main lake, a crater formed from a volcanic eruption, and ringed with geysers and hot springs. We caught part of the ranger tour as we made our way among the hot springs and geysers. There was a whole slew of Chinese tourists at this stop. There are cars from just about every state, and tour groups from around the world all over the park. Everyone seems laid back and in a good mood. Everyone is friendly. Maybe the world is always like this, and I've been living in Jersey too long to remember.
I must say that at this point we were tired and not as full of enthusiasm as at the start of the day: we didn't bother to stop at every stop. Another hot spring, another bison. Seen that. Next. Still, even completely jaded, Yellowstone manages to top itself. An even more spectacular vista of a river cascading down some sheer cliffs. An even more interesting geyser or a hot spring in an even deeper shade of amazingly blue blue. Wildlife even more in your face than you thought possible.
One geyser was in a cave, hissing and roaring, appropriately called the dragon's cave or something like that. It really was as if an angry dragon was living in that cave. The scenery was ever more stunning, as we passed the lake, drove along a high cliff with a waterfall below, and the sun started to set. Then we passed a Bison right on the side of the road. Gave Fernanda, who was driving, quite a start, because she could have hit it, it came up so suddenly. Then, just down the road, another, this time actually on the road -- we had to pass him on the right. Another driver, completely jaded at this point, just zoomed by between us on his right, and the bison on his left, in a hurry to get to where ever he had to get to, bison be damned.
It was now 7 and we were finally approaching the exit of the park and our night's lodging in a town just outside the park; we were almost completely gone, we pulled into the grill by the lodge to have some food. We had planned on going swimming one last time before exiting the park and arriving at our motel, but being as it was now nearly 8, we decided just to check out the location before moving on to the motel. We'd gotten the tip at the first swimming hole, that there was a swimmable hot spring, and we really wanted to go. It is not prominently advertised, none of our guide books mention it. Recharged by the food, we got there, and talked to some people coming out, and we were so inspired we decided to go for a dip after all, rushing back to the car to change, and hurrying down the path to get there in the twilight. It's a good ten minute hike down the trail, but then you get there, and it's all worth it. A hot spring spills into the river, and a bunch of pools are on the side of the river, where boiling hot water mixes with icy cold river water. It's great, you can choose just how hot or cold you want it by moving a little one way or the other. A three-quarter moon was out, and it was just magical. We are definitely going again tomorrow morning.
And so, finally, at around 9:15, we pulled into our motel. Turns out they don't have wifi, so I'll have to wait some more to post this, and yesterday's entry. Bummer. It is now nearly midnight, and I'm exhausted, it's been a full day, and I can't wait to get started with tomorrow! Too much to do, too little time!
Our New Bathroom Saga
Road Trip South
Our Trip to Ireland
Google Map of our Trip
Road Trip: The End
Road Trip, Day 27
Road Trip, Day 26
Road Trip, Day 25
Road Trip, Day 24
Road Trip, Day 23
Road Trip, Day 22
Road Trip, Day 21
Road Trip, Day 20
Road Trip, Day 19
Road Trip, Day 18
Road Trip, Day 17
Road Trip, Day 16
Road Trip, Day 15
Road Trip, Day 14
Road Trip, Day 13
Road Trip, Day 12
Road Trip, Day 11
Road Trip, Day 10
Road Trip, Day 9
Road Trip, Day 8