We woke up to the sound of pouring rain (we apologize to those of you who now have “I Remember You” stuck in your heads) and headed for Yellowstone by way of a ridiculously expensive breakfast at a lodge run by the same money grubbers that ran the showers. But it was too wet to cook, so we were glad it was there just the same. We drove along the Rockefeller Parkway, which connects Teton and Yellowstone Parks, and marveled at the devastation still evident from the 1988 wild fires. A PR person must have gotten a hold of their signs, as they proclaimed particularly unscenic areas to have been “Naturally reseeded by wildfire in 1988.” In the gloomy weather, the dead trees were spooky and kind of cool. We actually enjoyed the “reseeded” areas the whole way through the park. For one thing, they didn’t block views of the mountains, and for another, being from New Hampshire and having driven through much of the country, pine forests aren’t what you would call a novelty for us anymore. But the remnants of a fire, that’s cool.
We stopped at Lewis River Canyon to take some photos of Ceridwen’s family canyon, then at Lewis Falls. There sure is a lot of Lewis stuff here. Since we were in Yellowstone and every guidebook we had read suggested that we make reservations months in advance, we decided it would be best if we got to a campsite early to stake a claim. The guidebooks were clearly insane, since we wound up finding a site at the oh so late hour of 11 am. (This really is late for popular campgrounds that operate on a first come, first serve basis). We once again showed occupancy by leaving out our camp chairs and headed out to do the Lower Loop of the park.
We stopped at the Ranger Station and asked what hikes the Ranger would do. She suggested one nearby, so we took her suggestion, some maps and headed on our way, after participating in a Junior Ranger ceremony (we clapped). We started out on the hike we thought she suggested and came to a lake that was not supposed to there. It was pretty though, so we took photos, then doubled back. Upon further inspection of the trail guide, we discovered that the hike she had meant to send us on is smack dab in the middle of a bear habitat. In fact, you should not hike it in groups of fewer than four and should carry bear spray. Hmm. Was she trying to get rid of us? We decided against this hike, as we had already decided against backcountry camping. Grizzly bears are big. They run fast. They can have their habitat and we will leave them to it.
By leaving the grizzlies to their habitat, we encountered the absolute zoo that is Yellowstone frontcountry in August. Eek.
One of the main attractions to Yellowstone is the geothermal activity. We stopped to look at one of the geyser basins, which was home to some coolly named bubbling mudpots. Dragon’s Breath shot steam out of a cave and several others gurgled menacingly. The entire thing stank and we renamed it the Bog of Eternal Stench. Ceridwen got a headache, so we headed back to the van and got hailed on as we drove along.
After the hail stopped, we stopped at several overlooks along the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Unlike the falsely named Little Grand Canyon in Kentucky, this canyon was actually quite grand. We walked down towards the bottom of the Lower Falls to look at them and found them beautiful, particularly the rainbow emanating from the mist. We then took a little hike to Artists Point, which was rife with people being idiots and going onto these unsturdy ledges to get photos, despite the perfectly good views from the lookouts. Incidentally, a day after we left, some guy fell forty feet into the canyon after walking out past the fences. Duh.
After this experiment with social behavior, we got back in the van. Along the drive, we saw Virginia Cascades, a thin rush of water over rock that isn’t quite flat, the effect being a sort of horizontal looking waterfall. We climbed down to the edge, avoiding suspected poison ivy so as not to be itchy.
To end our Lower Loop drive, we decided to brave Old Faithful. Since it was late in the day, and there had been showers off and on, it wasn’t terribly crowded. We arrived just in time to watch it go off, which was pretty cool and interesting, and then started on our way back to the campsite for dinner. As we walked to the van, the sky opened up and it began to pour. Once the rain let up, things got really interesting.
We were driving along, under the recommended speed limit, when a mule deer darted out of the woods and tried to do battle with our side panel. Both the deer and Keath realized that this would be bad and took evasive action, Keath by swerving and braking and the deer by changing its direction to move parallel to us. Just as we thought we’d had a near miss, we heard a thunk from the back of the van. Horrified, we turned around in time to see the deer on the ground. Our hearts sank, then abruptly lifted as the deer executed a graceful roll out of the momentum, got to her feet and stod away into the forest, apparently unharmed. Shaken, we pulled over. The people who had been driving behind us stopped to let us know that they had seen the deer get up, unharmed, and run into the woods. We thanked them and got out to see if any damage had occurred to the van. There was no indication that we had been attacked by wildlife, so we continued on, royally pissing off people behind us by driving 35 MPH. We constantly scanned the horizon, but no other wildlife seemed to want to run into us.
Between dinner (it was raining, so we had dinner at another lodge, this one much more reasonably priced) and our campsite, we saw a double ended rainbow that was unbroken the whole way through. We hoped, rather childishly, that this was an omen that Mary Sue (our name for the deer) was as fine as she had seemed to be and would just have a sore shoulder for the next few days. Corny, we know.