We passed uneventfully through the night in the parking lot, and woke in the morning like people on a mission. We preened in the Walmart bathrooms, grabbed coffee and drove through to the west gate of Yellowstone National Park. We were amazed to see how many people were already at Yellowstone, so many of whom were international travelers. It’s strange when you see these famous beautiful places in pictures, because you never see a single person in the photographs. I suppose it’s because the photographer works very hard to make sure that you can look past the tourism and see in to the preserved majesty beyond the boardwalks and fences.
We entered the park and began to make our way to the attraction sites, and noticed that there was an inordinate amount of traffic, and throngs of people walking along the roadways. We pushed on and stopped first at Turquoise Pool, and the Grand Prismatic Spring, which are unbelievable sulfur pools that boast extraordinary colors, created by the harsh environments they occupy. There is a boardwalk that surrounds these unbelievable hot pools and mini geysers, allowing you to get an up close look at the wonders that nature evolved for itself.
I must admit, waiting in the parking lot for half an hour trying desperately to find parking, while pedestrians flood the lot simultaneously is harrowing. Trying to take unblemished photos of Mother Nature’s most oddly made, and intensely dangerous, landscapes is also difficult when the boardwalk around is 4-foot-wide, clogged with your fellow man, and has no fencing preventing you from falling straight in to the scalding and fragile lakes of bacteria and sulfur. The rangers were very helpful and did their best to make sure everyone stayed safe, but given the sheer volume of people who toured this park, I’m confident in saying that their job is not an easy one.
After walking the boardwalks, one begins to sense a theme – people are jerks. Every person was more concerned with their photos, and their tour instead of waiting their turn. There was pushing, line cutting, errant elbows, and a shocking amount of litter. However, I like to believe that Mother Nature sought her own quiet revenge, and stole the hats of some of her visitors. An eye for an eye kind of karmic reward – even if that means that the hats are now litter themselves.
If, however, you’re fortunate enough to snag a high point of view safe from the crowd, or if you can extend your arm and camera past their furthest limits, out past all the other outstretched arms, and selfie sticks, you capture images that are forever painted into the deepest parts of your heart. Murals of magnificence that imprint themselves in your mind’s eye whenever your day is too hard, and you feel like running away. Images like these:
After spending some time admiring the eerie grandeur of the Sulfur Lakes and Pools, we headed down the Park Road to Old Faithful, where we waited 45 minutes to see an eruption. We decided to use that time to eat some food. Foolishly thinking that we could take our time and eat like human beings, we realized that the surrounding viewing decks around Old Faithful had filled up with a considerable horde of people. We took a seat off to the far right of the benches and watched as more people piled in as the minutes to the next eruption counted down. That meant making friends with the random strangers who settled on our piece of boardwalk for a glimpse of the big event. What it also meant, was the crowds were growing restless for the promised eruption that was fabled to inspire. So, what’s a crowd to do? Fixate heavily on a singular raven whom was occupying the base of the notorious geyser, busying himself with picking the bugs from the trembling ground. Many times, the crowd itself erupted in nervous noises, trying to scare off the raven from the impending explosion of water, creating a tenuous nervousness for the fate of our feathered friend. As a group, we were unsuccessful, and when Old Faithful finally unleashed its deluge of blistering water, we mourned as a community the loss of our protagonist to the scalding waters – positive he was broiled alive and suitable as a freshly cooked feast for scavengers. But Hope! From the raging column of water, seen flying away from the plumes of sulfuric clouds was the raven! The crowd erupted itself in triumphant victory and cheered for the raven who had no idea he was the center of our imagined dramatic play. Old Faithful forcefully spewed for several minutes, and then equalized after all of the pressure had been released, settling to again to fill itself for boil in another hour or so.
We left Old Faithful to entertain the next groups of people and moved on down the road, crossing the official Continental Divide, and made our way towards the East Entrance to soak in to the rest of Wyoming. This drive was said to be one of the most beautiful that our far-reaching country has to offer, proffered by Theodore Roosevelt himself. It was there in the outskirts of the land that we battled the most feared and unrelenting modern day struggle – no cell service.
The decision was made, we had been dirty hippies long enough, a shower was needed and laundry was on the agenda. So, for a night we would stay in a hotel, but that’s damn near impossible to book when you go from no service to 1x to no service in the span of a few minutes. Ultimately, we managed to find a place called “A Wyoming Inn” that was in the town of Cody an hour or so outside the park, that had a room available. Unbelievably, in this same town they had a restaurant called Adriano’s that was terrifically versed in Celiac, and made incredible pizza (Truthfully, I still dream of it). While we waited for our pies to cook, at the urging of the restaurant staff, we walked around the corner to Juniper to buy a bottle of wine, and apparently have a glass because not only is it a liquor store, it’s a bar. (It’s around this time that we started to understand why all these international people come to Wyoming, it’s fabulous!)
We introduced ourselves to Chet the bartender, and chatted with him and another patron about our adventures that brought us to their home town. After a glass of wine, we walked back to Adriano’s picked up our pizza, and drove back to the hotel for a nice date night, involving pizza, wine, and laundry. Our room offered an unobstructed view of the sun as it set over the horizon, giving off the most incredible hues of orange pink and red as it drifted slowly past the mountains. We hung up our freshly laundered clothes on our make shift drying tow-strap clothesline, and relaxed the night away.