My apologies for this rather long "cluster post". When we asked where the closest internet could be found, thinking we could tap into a good WiFi signal at one of the Yellowstone lodges, the friendly woman at the gift counter giggled and said, "Cody", which meant nowhere near here. This is wilderness, and they like it that way. So here's the entire Yellowstone entry collection, sent to you from somewhere near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. It's been a three-state day - Wyoming, Montana, Idaho - and we're spitting distance from Washington. More when we get settled in Seattle...
(For all the pictures, visit Facebook: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 )
We are in Yellowstone now, and I'm writing, of course, off line. If this does happen to get posted today, it will be because I found a lodge with WiFi somewhere here in the park. No matter, really. We'll catch up when we catch up.
We left Dubois yesterday morning, and made the pretty drive to Grand Teton National Park. There was a lot of road construction along the way, so I amused myself by taking pictures of the big Volvo earth movers for Danny, my kid the Volvo Technician. I didn't knit a single stitch yesterday, which is saying a lot. It was one of those days that was just non-stop interesting.
We stopped for a dog walk just as we were beginning to see the Tetons. It's astonishingly beautiful country, and I wished it could be more than just a stop-over for us on this trip. I'd like to go back sometime, and who says we can't?
We've heard that all the beautiful scenery aside, the wildlife in this area is the real reason to come here. Our first glimpse at this was the herd of buffalo that crossed the road in front of us. These animals are so huge and beautiful. They literally brought tears to my eyes.
Another stop at the Snake River Overlook was well worth the effort of wrangling the truck-n-trailer into a parking space. It's easy to skip some very cool things, just because the parking thing is not easy. But we've committed ourselves to not being lazy about these things, and Rick is getting really good at maneuvering all this metal we're dragging around behind us. He was even able to help an RV Newbie park his Prowler in a tight space here at the camp ground last night. Now he just needs to teach me how to do it...
There were some good informational signs at the overlook, which we dutifully walked along and read, furthering our knowledge of the Tetons. I always want to know how places get their names, and I wasn't disappointed this time. Here's my favorite sign...
From there we drove the 20 miles or so into Yellowstone National Park. We've now come out ahead on the cost of our annual parks pass, having visited Grand Canyon, Zion, Grand Teton, and now Yellowstone. Yay us, thrifty travelers! Looking over the park map, I was humbled by what I did not know about the place. It's much bigger than I'd ever imagined, and is packed to the edges with great things to see. We drove along the shore of Yellowstone Lake (which I'm embarrassed to say I'd never even heard of before), to West Thumb, and our first look at some incredible "hydrothermal features". This relatively small area next to the huge lake is filled with gorgeously colored steaming and bubbling pools, which can be viewed from the wooden boardwalk that loops all the way around the area. Of course I was impressed by the grandeur of it all, but my artist-eye was focused on the way the colors and textures bumped into each other. There might be some beads in this somewhere. I need to let it all percolate a while.
As we left West Thumb to make our way to the Fishing Bridge Campground, we stopped to watch a young elk and its mama make their own way through the pack of tourists, paying little mind to all the cameras and multi-lingual greetings. Later, tucked into our camp site for two nights - or maybe three - we took care to put away all our food and trash, and lock things up tight to discourage bears. We haven't seen a bear here yet, but there's a good chance we will. Today we'll load up in the truck and explore as far as we can, heading first for Old Faithful. Here we go!
August 31, 2009
It's hard to sleep in this amazing place. Maybe because of late arriving campers, clanging folding chairs and hollering back-in encouragement at all hours. Or maybe because of our restless old cat, who makes the delicate wiener dog nervous, while Lucy, the surprise angel in all this, ignores everyone and snores softly in her bunk. It could be noise or cold or sudden rain. It could be an unconscious fear of marauding bears who never arrive. But deep down, literally, I don't think it's any of these things. I think it's what's going on under us here, deep beneath the surface, that's keeping me awake.
Yellowstone is actively volcanic, with signs of life showing up everywhere from Old Faithful, to colorful bubbling pots of steam and stench. They're beyond beautiful, and they're caused by enormous amounts of heat and pressure, that threaten to burst the very seams of the place at any time. Don't get me wrong. I love it here. But it comes as no surprise that it's hard to sleep with that kind of power swirling just barely below us.
Our first destination yesterday was Old Faithful, which turned out to be much more wonderful than I'd imagined. I was so excited to finally see it for myself, after a lifetime of associating it with Bugs Bunny cartoons. Hundreds of people gathered at the predicted eruption time, which these days is about ninety minutes apart, give or take five or ten minutes. No, you can't set your watch by it, but the anticipation is part of the fun. We stayed to watch it twice.
I got a good cell phone signal there, so I called my Dad, just to say, Hi from Old Faithful. Sort of an audio postcard. Later, while we waited to see it again, Lauren called me. I told her what we were doing, and promised to call her back in a few minutes. When I did, I said something like, Wow, this is really cool, and she said, I know. I just watched it too. She'd gone online and found the live webcam, and was able to watch the exact same thing we were seeing, at the same time we saw it. Amazing. Try it. I won't be there, but you'll be fine without me.
The area around Old Faithful is packed with things to do. There's a visitor center, hiking trails, food, gift shops, and the grand old lodge that, thankfully, seems to be in every national park. We weren't allowed to climb up to the crow's nest, but somebody was. I wonder who you have to know to get up there.
We drove around some more, stopping at various places to stroll the boardwalks and marvel over the steaming pools of color. The whole thing seems impossible, but here it is. I'd love to see it in the winter too.
If you really want to take the tour in style, hop one of these vintage busses, just returned to the park in 2007. There used to be hundreds of them. Now there are seven, fully restored and pretty darned adorable.
The last stop of the day was the Lake Lodge, where everyone we met told us to be sure to stop and look at the scale model of the lodge, just completed last week. We did just that, and they were right to be so proud of it. It's really impressive, and the detail is amazing. We met Victor Sawyer, who manages the lodge, and built the model. He told us that it's made mostly from things found here, and the shingles on the roof are actually made from shingles on the lodge itself. There's tiny furniture, glowing lights, and even pay phones on the wall. It's amazing. I have his email address. Let me know if you want a model built of your lodge and I'll hook you up.
I don't have a picture of the real lodge, because there were a couple of buffalo out front as we tried to leave. The porch was crammed with people and cameras, and one poor security guy, trying to keep us all from putting ourselves in harm's way. Apparently, quite a few people are gored by buffalo each year. They're wild, after all, and they're cranky too. We waited until they wandered off, and then hopped in the truck and headed back to camp. These long days make an explorer tired and hungry. This is nothing like the Taos Party Days. We head for bed early here, and sleep or no sleep, I'm ready to take a different road today, and see some new things in beautiful Yellowstone, the first of all the U.S. National Parks.
Sept. 1, 2009
There are names on RVs, like Prowler, Coachmen, Winnebago, Lakota. Ours is a Sprinter, which is sort of nice. Next door to us is a Daybreak. I once saw one called an Intruder, which I would never want to own, but which sadly, is the mentality of many RVers. The mobile lifestyle is not seen the same way by all participants. While most people are lovely and respectful of the other folks in any given temporary neighborhood, it seems there's always some big buffoon, usually with a large group of buffoon friends and family, who thinks the whole park is theirs alone, and anyone else who might have strayed in is deaf. Two nights ago it was the late arrivals who hollered at each other at 2AM. Last night it was a group of very loud French people, whooping it up outside, hours past the designated "quiet hour" of 10PM. I lay there steaming like a Yellowstone geyser, trying to conjure up enough high school French to politely tell them to shut their traps and go to bed. Finally around 3:00, the ranger on duty must have made his rounds and conveyed the message for me. They got suddenly quiet, but I was still so mad I didn't fall back to sleep for hours. And even though they were the rude ones, the resulting problem was mine, all mine. If this life experiment is going to work at all, I need to be the one who can let the buffoons slide on by, into the past where they belong. These are instant and frequent lessons in "being in the Now", and the lessons are for me. So...
Right now, right this moment, it's bright and early on a beautiful Yellowstone day. I'm drinking tea, looking out the window, and the sun is slowly lighting up the side of the Daybreak RV next door. Rick is on the couch drinking coffee and reading, the pets are all still asleep, and the cosy little electric fireplace is taking the chill off the morning air. There's absolutely nothing wrong. Deep breath... onward!
But first a quick look back at yesterdays sights. We drove to the mud pots, which were intolerably stinky. I couldn't stand the sulphur stench, but as I scurried back to the truck to make my escape, I saw a Japanese woman from a tour bus standing over a steaming vent in the parking lot, wafting the stinky stuff into her face. I looked at her puzzled and held my nose, tilting my head in question. She held her nose and nodded back, and went right on wafting as we both laughed, and I made a run for it. Japanese women are on the cutting edge as far as beauty treatments. Maybe she was onto something there, but it sure wasn't my idea of a day spa.
We spent the rest of the day touring the waterfalls, which smelled fresh and clean, and were wild and beautiful up there at over 8,000 feet in elevation, surrounded by lodgepole pine forests. There's also what they call the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which is a deep, impressive river canyon that's actually a yellowish color. It was a day of dramatic, refreshing scenery, topped off with a relaxing early evening at the old Lake Yellowstone Lodge, where we sat by huge windows in the solarium, sipping merlot, reading, watching the lake lap on the shore, and listening to live piano music.
Back in our own little house later, I realized I'm very happy with our minimal space. I don't wish for anything bigger, at least not yet, but I do like to borrow a large space now and then. This morning we'll load up and hit the dusty trail again, destination, Spokane, Washington, and then Seattle, but mindful all the while, to quote the late Dan Eldon, that "the journey is the destination".