Wide Open Spaces

On Wednesday we headed out to Yellowstone National Park. We went up to the west entrance from our place in Victor. Along the way we stopped at Mesa Falls, which is a beautiful set of waterfalls a little south and west of Yellowstone. There are a couple of walkways that lead you down to a safe viewing area to see the waterfalls. Along this trip we saw a lot of waterfalls, which seems to be characteristic of this part of the country with the large rises and falls in elevation. Yellowstone itself has many waterfalls, of which we stopped to see three. The most beautiful of the stops that we made was Painters Point, which gives a great view of the lower falls of the Yellowstone River. It made for some beautiful photographs.

About 3 hours after we had started we arrived in Yellowstone. A major fire consumed much of Yellowstone several years ago and the effects are still evident. The trees are still pretty thin and there are a lot of charred tree stumps – this was pretty much a constant for most of the trip. On both this trip and the trip through Grand Tetons there was remarkably little wildlife to be seen – this was a disappointment to me, but it’s understandable since we were going through in the middle of the day. In Yellowstone we saw a good number of Bison, a few Bald Eagles and 4 Elk, though we could only see the elk antlers because they were laying in the grass – it was kind of neat looking. We stopped to see some paintpots – areas where underground steam had burst up to make soft clay thus resulting in bubbling clay. There are many areas like this within Yellowstone, but we only stopped to see one set – once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

We made the required stop to see Old Faithful. We we got there it started to rain – the normal afternoon thunderstorm – unfortunately we had forgotten to bring sweatshirts or raincoats. Fortunately enough < he said sarcastically > Yellowstone has plenty of souvenir shops, so we ran into the one at Old Faithful. Jen didn’t really want to buy a poncho that we’d only use once, so we bought a sweatshirt for me and a rain jacket for her and headed out to see Old Faithful. We had bad timing for to see it, because it went off just before we had arrived, and since Old Faithful is faithfully going off every 90 minutes, we had a 90 minute wait to see the old girl go off. There has been a lot of stuff built up around Old Faithful, which is understandable considering it is the most popular attraction at the park. One of the most spectacular of the man made attractions is the Old Faithful Inn, which is a 4 or 5 story log building. Every floor has an open balcony that you can see from the foyer. There is a huge stone chimney that has a big clock attached to it and it has a huge fireplace that it services. Our 90 minutes past and we got to see Old Faithful erupt, which was quite spectacular. It was kind of funny at the start. The rangers give an estimated time of eruption – in this case it was 10 minutes before or after 6:42 – so people gather in the viewing area starting about ten minutes before. Jen in front of Old Faithful About 6:35 the steam starts to get a bit thicker then a little bit of water shoots up and all of a sudden everyone with a camera, including me, starts taking pictures, then the water goes down and it’s just steaming again. There were two or three of these false starts and every time it got the crowd into a tizzy. Finally at right about 6:40, the real thing happened and it was great. Being that it was now 7:00 we stopped in at the Old Faithful Lodge and had some dinner, then we headed home.

We drove south through the south entrance/exit straight through Grand Teton National Park – since it’s due south of Yellowstone and was the quickest route back home. We saw a pack of elk or caribou in Grand Tetons – unfortunately it was too dark to get a good photo even when I set my camera to 1600 ISO. I got a couple, but they’re kind of blurry. Nonetheless we continued to drive and made it home about 11 p.m. and our tour of two major national parks was complete.

I’ve known for some time that there are some distinctly beautiful places in this country – heck the Puget Sound region that I live in is one of them. I’m glad that I got to see these areas. Grand Tetons was an awe inspiring place, never have I been so in awe of an in animate object as I was standing in the shadow of these mountains. I haven’t seen so much wild open spaces as there was in Yellowstone. It was nice to see so much wild. Being a suburbanite, even one in a granola area like Seattle, the amount of wild that is readily available is limited. A reminder of how this land once looked – even with the paved roads winding through it – was nice. It was indeed a good trip, even though I didn’t get any great epiphanies, which would have been nice, it was relaxing and enjoyable – exactly what a vacation is supposed to be.

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