I didn’t mention our hotel for last night…it was actually an apartment in a fairly old clapboard house. Situated right on the Main Street in the middle of what you might expect from a ‘cowboy town’, it was very spacious but somewhat twee with hot water that came from the cold side (and for a shower that is tricky), a full range of kitchen equipment, a front porch with a rocking chair but no darned hairdryer!! No breakfast either – DIY all the way – so wet hair and empty stomachs was the way to go!
I thought yesterday’s experience of Yellowstone was immense, so today I hadn’t necessarily bargained for practically being blown away by its sheer magnificence. We started with overcast skies but were viewing waterfalls, canyons and rivers which had carved their way through massive cliffs. The sun made its appearance as we moved on (fortified by sticky buns and hot chocolate and coffee – doesn’t everybody?) and we started to see the geothermal part of the park in earnest. ‘Spectacular’ is a word that fails to do justice to the vast number of geysers, bubbling mud pools, calcified rocks, pools of many colours and the all pervading smell of sulphur. We found them stretching as far as the eye could see with boardwalks and platforms crossing the terrain for miles. We saw them by the roadside as we drove by, with steam wafting across the cars. We climbed hills to see more (no easy feat at this altitude) and we trekked across terrain you had to watch very carefully that you didn’t stray into somewhere that boiled beneath your feet. We marvelled at Old Faithful as we caught one of his ‘performances’ and saw the steam projected high into the air. We then followed the steaming eruptions of many other old geysers for miles to the huge lake, and still the lake shore was erupting.
As for the wildlife en route…we saw no bears but found a bison ambling along the road towards us. It was a bit unnerving when he decided to cross the road about a foot from our car. A pair of very fat crows hopped on and off cars at one of our stops, some deer skittered across the road as we left and a magnificent eagle soared above the huge cliffs enjoying the thermals in the late afternoon sun. We hadn’t gone to the part of the park where many wild animals roam, so we were very lucky.
Our drive out of the park was no less breathtaking and I must have worn out my camera and phone trying to capture the various vistas. However, one particular sight which occurred in a number of places was of thousands of dead pine trees, some collapsed but many still standing and producing the sort of eerie effect you might imagine from a nuclear holocaust. I have yet to find a cause. (Later read about Mountain Pine Beetles.)
We motored on to our resting point for the night, Cody, which is another Wyoming town featuring a regular rodeo and a Buffalo Bill Center of the West. We had dinner in an all-American bar, just as they appear in the movies, and I encountered a toilet like no other. The ‘Ladies’ consisted of two cubicles without doors but with half curtains you simply pulled across. Why bother? You could probably see everything anyway. I confess here, I scarpered without availing myself of the facilities, simply crossed my legs and limited my intake of beer. Don’t ever let it be said we don’t have fun on our road trips!
Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities
I had some apprehension about today’s scheduled visit to Yellowstone and, especially, the Old Faithful Geyser. What’s to like about a water spout which squirts into the air every 90 minutes or so? Particularly, when I’ve seen the Jet d’eau in Geneva which propels water to 460 feet.
However, I was wrong. Yellowstone is almost four times the size of the Lake District National Park and is regarded as the first National Park in the world – established by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. It spreads across parts of three States: Idaho, Montana and Wyoming – the State where we are spending tonight.
I thought of describing Yellowstone as the ‘Lake District on steroids’ but it’s much more than that. It is big… area, height, features, popularity, variety etc. But, it deserves its incredible reputation by tastefully allowing tourists to visit easily and productively. The road system and parking are superb around the Park despite the heavy usage. Speed limits on the roads help safety but also encourage viewing the natural beauty and ‘Awesome’ is not misplaced for the many elements. Odd facts like Yellowstone has between 1000 and 3000 earthquakes each year, and, it used to be one of the biggest volcanoes on the planet but had a cataclysmic explosion 640 000 years ago with the last lava flow being about 70000 years ago. Between fifty million and forty million years ago, multiple volcanoes continued erupting. (How do the fundamentalists square this with the earth only being – they say – 6000 years old?!) All that history with clear visible reminders.
So, some tremendous memories of a very special place. We can’t let you hear the sounds nor smell the aromas but you can see the photos.
Other curios – we crossed another Continental Divide which, this time, was about a mile and a half above sea level. High!
Tonight we’re in Cody. Trying to impress Kath with my childhood cowboy knowledge, I said how strange us having seen a bison (buffalo) and that we’re going to Cody. “Why strange?”, asked Kath in an oddly relatively disinterested way which typifies the usual reaction from others when I say, “Isn’t it interesting?!’ Anyway, the point I was making was that Buffalo Bill, of Wild West fame, was really called Colonel William Frederick Cody. QI, I thought. However, it transpires that the town was named after him as he helped found it! Even more QI, I reckon.
Talking of bison and buffalo – (attempt at joke follows):
Q. What’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison to someone from Birmingham?
A. You can wash your hands in a bison but not a buffalo!
Seriously, they’re the same animal but this one came close… within arm’s reach of the car but not near the speed limit indicated. Slow, steady and, somehow, menacing. I closed my window!
Finally, I suppose I should repost my two Old Faithful(l)s from Facebook…