--It is a fucking active volcano. All of the crazy stuff that you go there to see (and there is a lot) is because of the activity going on underneath the ground.
--It was founded in 1872.
--It is mostly located in Wyoming, though there are sections in Montana and Idaho.
--People were generally jackasses who behaved as though the park was their own personal playground and abused nature until fairly recently, like the 1960’s, maybe. I’m talking throwing logs or soap into geysers to make them explode more. I’m talking washing their clothes in the hot springs. I’m talking a big theater pit where people fed trash to the bears.
--The main road is shaped like a Figure 8, with other, minor roads branching off.
--It is divided into little neighborhoods, which surprised me at first, but in retrospect, makes tons of sense and is 100% necessary.
--Bison are EVERYWHERE!!
I will readily admit that I am not all that taken by the splendor of nature. I mean, snow on mountains. What did you expect? They are mountains.
On July 2nd, we flew into Bozeman, Montana. I really love Bozeman. More on that later. We rented a house in a teeny, tiny little I-Guess-It-Is-A-Town called Pray, Montana. The house was about 30 minutes from the park. We got in fairly late and instead of going to the park, explored the towns surrounding it, like Livingston. There was a fair. I bought gummi bears.
On July 3rd, we went to the park. $25 gets your entire car full of people into the park for a week. That is a very impressive deal right there. Because we were staying north of the park, we went in through the North Entrance, also known as the original entrance. Located there is the Roosevelt Arch, which bears the inscription “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.” Teddy Roosevelt himself laid the cornerstone in 1903. There is a time capsule underneath.
On the first day, we went around the top loop of the 8. A few things were closed, like the Boiling River (which my sister had particularly wanted to see) and the Norris neighborhood, which sounds AWESOME. Basically, we drove around the loop, getting out at various intervals to hike. And I think all of our hikes ended in waterfalls. And I stopped being able to tell them apart pretty much immediately. We also saw the petrified tree, which was boring, and bison, which made us freak out. A good litmus test for how long someone has been in Yellowstone is probably if they are freaking out about bison in the distance. They tell you to stay 25 yards away from bison, but that fails to take into account that bison don’t stay 25 yards away from you.
At the end of the day, when we returned to Mammoth, which is the first neighborhood after the arch, the place was overrun by elk. There are signs about staying away from the elk everywhere, so they probably usually run the place. This was also our first sighting of sweet little baby animals nursing on their mommies.
(For future photo reference, this was the day where I wore the black t-shirt with a crowd scene of Iron Men, War Machine, Tony Stark, and for some reason, the Guardsman.)
Disclaimer: there are no photos in this post.
On July 4th, we decided this would be our animal sighting day. The best places to see a variety of large animals are the Lamar and Hayden valleys. The best times to see them are two hours after sunrise or two hours before sunset. (Sunset in July in Wyoming is like...10 o’clock at night, btw.) So, we purposely got a late start on the day, drove out to the Lamar Valley to the Northwest entrance, explored Cooke City, turned around and drove through the valley again at the designated time. There was not really a lot to see animal-wise two hours before sunset.
We saw a grizzly bear WAY before that and the rest of my memory of the day is fuzzy. GRIZZLY BEAR. (The photos -- also fuzzy.) Was this also the day we went to the Mammoth Hot Springs?
There was also this really impressive sunset in the valley. The sky was very overcast and dark. In the distance are snowy, rocky mountains. The valley itself is lush and green. And the sky burst through the clouds casting very bright light on otherwise drearily colored scenery. You really need to see the contrast to believe it. Also--double rainbows! And lots and lots of bison.
(For future photo reference, this was the day where I wore a blue Iron Man shirt.)
On July 5th, we went down south to see Old Faithful. After much maligning of his character, Old Faithful turned out to be pretty faithful. We also went to the basin with the Grand Prismatic Spring and other brightly colored pools that are in that area. Sadly, you really need to see them from an arial view to appreciate them and we were quite unaware that there was a higher trail to take until it was too late.
(For future photo reference, this was the day I wore a green Iron Man shirt. You may find yourself asking if I wore a different Iron Man shirt every day. And the answer is yes. Yes, I did. Also, I was the only person that didn’t wash and re-wear their shirts.)
On July 6th, we went horse back riding from the corral near Mammoth. This trip was an hour. I am sure we did other things...
After several of the guests were mounted on horses, a little boy’s horse went berserk and threw him off while still in the corral. He was crying, but he walked away, so things could have been A LOT worse. Being stepped on was a very real possibility, which thankfully did not happen. A grown woman was also thrown, as her horse threw a fit in reaction to his. She landed in manure.
And then over half the guests left. Can’t really blame them. But the ride was very nice, so we are glad we stayed. My horse’s name was Bashful, but his name should be Impatient. He was raring to go and not really keen on stopping or having someone in front of him in line. We rode the trail in single-file.
My sister, riding Jasper, was very keen on seeing the Backcountry of Yellowstone, which most visitors to the park do not do. The famous trails and sights are either paved or boardwalks. Backcountry refers to unpaved trails. We went through the backcountry on horseback, which is a pretty nice way to do it.
(For future photo reference, I wore a black Iron Man shirt, featuring the classic red and gold armor. He is shooting a replusor and the text reads ‘The Invincible Iron Man.’)
On July 7th, we drove all the way down south again to the West Thumb of Lake Yellowstone to go kayaking. I was not looking forward to kayaking at all. Traditionally, I really hate boats and and I have not been on any sort of man-powered boat that I was expected to row in like 14 years. And I’ll tell you right now, I never did my share of the rowing as a kid. So, I was pretty aghast at this idea that I was expected to paddle a kayak for 3 hours.
But, no, kayaking was great. It was not at all strenuous and we paddled right over submerged hot springs and geysers and lava tubes. It was very neat. Look down. Huge hole. Stick your hand in the water and its warm when six inches over, it is hypothermia levels of cold.
This was when we learned about the higher trail to see the Prismatic Springs, but it was too late in the day for a long hike by then and the south end is so far from the North Entrance that we were unable to make the trip again. It’s 80 Yellowstone Miles, which are very different from normal miles. Yellowstone miles are on the side of a cliff half the time and bison jams are common.
Also, black bear jams.
With little baby black bear cubs.
Yes, you read that right. BEAR CUBS. ALL THE CUTE.
(As if anyone cares about things that are not bear related, I wore my Hall of Armors shirt as a shirt and IM 2 movie shirt as a bathing suit cover up.)
Because we had such a fun time horse back riding in the backcountry on Wednesday, we decided to go horseback riding again on Friday. We couldn’t get horses in the park for a 2-hour trip, so had to go to a corral outside the park. Outside the park is just as pretty as inside, so that was okay but the drive there was SCARY. Gravel road. On the side of a cliff. With Livestock at large.
My horse’s name was Drambuie. I barely drink and he was named after some kind of liquor I’ve never heard of, so I had a hell of a time remembering his name. In my head, it kept becoming Jamboree. Anyway, Drambuie was 25 and crotchety and basically did whatever the hell he wanted. Also, I have really bad horsemanship. Still, this ride was also very nice. Drambuie is a Belgian draft horse. Once I saw they had draft horses with fuzzy feet, I totally loitered in the corral until I got one. I REGRET NOTHING!
We ate dinner at a really fantastic restaurant that day. All the food was good, but this place tricked me into eating Asparagus! (They smothered it in curry sauce, the devious bastards.)
(My Iron Man shirt was yellow.)
On the 9th, we went home! Only, it wasn’t that easy. My sister and brother-in-law’s flight left way before the flight of my parents and myself and we only had the one wild west mini van. So we went to the airport, had breakfast and dropped them off. Then we wandered around Bozeman for a couple hours.
I LOVE BOZEMAN. BOZEMAN IS AWESOME. We went to the historic district and looked at small local shops, including two fabulous bookstores. I bought two books on the history of Yellowstone -- history of the park as far as what people did, that is -- and a super gorgeous amazing hardcover edition of Dostoevsky’s The Gambler, that when you flip it over, becomes Notes From Underground. It is my favorite thing ever and sometimes, I just hug it.
The flights home were miserable and there was much motion sickness and puking in bathrooms with no power. Thanks, Chicago!
That is kind of a downer, let’s not leave it at that.
My favorite activity was kayaking.
My favorite sight is the Dragon’s Mouth Spring.
My favorite animal is teeny black bear cubbies.
My favorite hike is the one with the crazy incline.
My favorite bison is the one under his tree at Mammoth.
My favorite neighborhood is Tower-Roosevelt.