09/22/2001: Saturday 9/22/01
After having explored the cute little town of West Yellowstone the night before, we were in a hurry to get going in the morning, and back into Yellowstone. So much in a hurry, in fact, that we forgot a few things. They had *great* tasting tap water in W. Yell. In fact, we found out from a ranger the next day that it was the best-tasting in the whole Yellowstone area. We had intended to fill up our water jug. We, in fact, forgot to even top off our water bottle. And then when Dan topped the car off at the gas station, neither of us thought to wash the windshield. We soon discovered that we were nearly out of washer fluid.
So, while trying to drive directly to the geysers, without sightseeing on the way, we had to slow for the occasional rubber necker slowing or stopping to see (yet another) elk or (even more) bison. At one point, the bison had actually blocked the road both ways. There were several vehicles in front of us. We stopped the engine, and waited, listening to the other engines, and the buffalo grunting. Occasionally, we'd gain a fractional car-length forward. I'd start the engine, inch up, and shut down again. Karen finally thought to clean the windshield. We always carry a little scrubber/squeegee thing, and there still were dregs of cleaner fluid in the system.
So, Karen hopped out, and I spurted fluid for her as she manually scrubbed the windshield. In the middle of the process, the behemoth Winnebago before us crept up a few feet.
Some guy behind us yelled, "C'mon, lady! Whaddaya doin'? Move up!"
Karen yelled back, "Nobody's movin' here, anyway!"
When we finally did move, we managed to slip by the bison behind the 'Bago.
Mr. Impatient got stopped by a calf. Laugh.
So, on to the geysers. We drove along the Firehole Falls loop, and pulled into the Midway Geyser Basin. The main feature there, Grand Prismatic Pool, was billowing huge clouds of steam, and dumping thousands of gallons a minute of near-boiling water into the stream. The steam bath along the walkway was nice in the cool morning. The columns of steam rising from spots all over the landscape were somewhat reminiscent of rust belt cities.
We next visited the Biscuit Basin area. It was named after biscuit-shaped rocks which had formed around one large geyser. The geyser had a major eruption following an earthquake in the 1980's, and the biscuits are no more. As we walked up the path to one of the colorful hot springs, a bison stepped up onto and across the boardwalk a hundred feet ahead of us. Naturally, by the time I got my camera limbered, it was over the hill and barely visible. I'd been noticing the bison tracks all over the "Keep Off, Thermal Area" zones. I figured they wandered onto the hot spots at night. This one stayed into the morning. Karen dubbed it the Biscuit Basin Bison incident.
Old Faithful, cappuccino. Finally checked phone cell messages.
Yellowstone Canyon. We first stopped at Artist's Point, to see the most-photographed view in Yellowstone. There you look up the canyon to the lower falls, which are twice the height of Niagara. Many cameras. To find the best vistas, just look for the clumps of Japanese. Two guys had wooden plate cameras, and were discussing photographic arcana which reminded me of my high school darkroom days.
Next, we took the Uncle Tom Trail. You park high above the lower falls. Walk down a steep path to about the level of the precipice, from which the mist-cast rainbows are quite pretty. Then there are 300 steel steps anchored to the cliff. Down was easy, but we saw a few pale, panting climbers heading the other way. It is a nice view from near the bottom of the falls. Thunderous.
We had to rest several times on the way back up. A couple of fearless hikers with two tiny children were making the decent. When the mom and older daughter passed us, she looked at our expressions, and said, "Okay, consider me warned." The father and smaller girl were slower, since the littler one was more afraid of heights as she gamely made one step at a time progress down. I was pooped by the time we got back to the car. Then, yet another stop, to the much lesser climb down to the brink of the upper falls. Clear water, a meter or so deep as it plummeted over the rocky brink toward the short rapids before the tall lower falls.
Drove past Mammoth Springs, steeply descending, striking views of geology en route, to Gardiner, MT outside the North Gate. Sun touching only the mountaintops. Late, tired, expensive. Karen impulsively turned into the Westernaire Motel. 1950's vintage, $20 cheaper than the Motel 6. Small nice room, tiny shower, no phone.