Gorgeous morning in Jackson Hole! Sunny with just a few clouds in the sky, fog lifting off the hilltops. Stopped off at the post office to mail a super cool holographic postcard to my nephew for his collection before we headed out. We’d just left town and found a herd of bison in a field right off the road. We were fortunate enough to catch a rather unsuccessful mounting attempt. Also saw two males charging one another; things didn’t get as nasty as we were secretly hoping, so we lost interest after a while and continued on our way.
Of course it had started to snow as we approached Yellowstone. If there’s one thing we learned on this trip, it’s that the weather is completely unpredictable and can change drastically every half hour. I just wanted to make it over the pass before it got too slushy. When we arrived at the south entrance, the gate was temporarily closed; there was a car accident and they estimated an hour and a half before they could clear the wreck. (Exactly what you want to hear right before it’s your turn to test your own fate, right?) We turned into the convenient store area just outside the entrance and decided to grab coffee and wait it out in the lodge. Luckily, the lodge concierge informed us all promptly that the gate re-opened only a half hour or so after we got there.
As soon as we gained entry, we noticed an electronic sign warning of bear and wolf crossings in the road for the next three miles. Naturally, Jeff and I were all kinds of excited for this, but to no avail. How cool would that have been? You don’t even have to go to them, they come right to you. Seems the animals got the memo that the Campbells were in the area and radio’ed into one another to take cover. We did see a ton of bison with calves shortly after, though. So cute. Almost cute enough to strap into your trunk with a seat belt clipped on like the aforementioned baby bison killers. It was at this point that we also got our first bison road crossing. There are signs all over the place to wait for animal crossings, but we hadn’t had one happen just yet. Looks like today was the day.
Saw some elk as well, just off the road. A much safer distance away this time around. So, I thought. They were on either side of the road and, after yesterday’s event, I was super paranoid about keeping an eye on where they were when I got out of the car to photograph them. As I was photographing, I’d notice another one behind this tree over here, and another, even closer, behind that tree over there. When I got back into the car, Jeff told me an elk had crossed the road right behind me. I didn’t even know it. I’m beginning to think elk are pretty sneaky. In fact, if you Google “sneaky elk,” this video comes right up. Proves my point exactly.
Our next stops were Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring. We had no idea what time Old Faithful was scheduled to go off and I desperately needed a bathroom break. All I could think of is how I might die a little inside if it went off while I was using the restroom and had to wait another hour and a half. I was in luck, though. When we arrived, some guys had said they’d been sitting there for forty minutes and nothing yet. We seemed to have good timing and only wound up waiting a half hour or so. It was pretty impressive, I have to say, but it was very commercialized. Grand Prismatic Spring was as well and it started to hail, hard, when we were at the far end of the walkway. It was pretty, but I think the best view is probably overhead from the Fairy Falls trail. (Not sure how long it would take to get to just the spring overlook.) I was really happy to see both because I don’t ever remember seeing them when I worked in here, believe it or not. We finished off the park by driving through Firehole Canyon, Mammoth Hot Springs, and past Sheepeater Cliff.
Our hotel for the night was just outside the north entrance in Gardiner, Montana and we were a little stunned when we arrived. Gardiner wasn’t nearly as large as West Yellowstone (not that West Yellowstone was a bustling metropolis or anything). It was literally two roads; no need to break out the map to find Main Street here, folks. Checked into our hotel, inquired about area restaurants, and grabbed an early dinner. Funny enough, our waitress was Bulgarian and we wondered why so many Bulgarians seem to be in the region. Just seems like a really random coincidence. She said they had a lot of student exchange programs and she’d spent every summer for the last three years in Montana; she’d actually traveled more in the United States than she had in Europe. She was very excited that we’d been to Bulgaria at all and told us, if we ever went back, to visit Seven Rila Lakes. Unlike our ice cream server, she was much more accepting of my “blagodarya” attempt. (I knew I could say it correctly sober…)
After dinner, we went next door to Red’s Blue Goose for “a” drink. …That really turned into a lot of drinks. More than either of us intended. We got to mingle with a lot of locals, which we always enjoy. We saw both a rainbow and our first pronghorn while hanging out. Met a chef who bought us a shot and invited us to for drinks at the restaurant he works at. He never showed, so we just went back to where we were. Is that a joke he plays on tourists or something? He was pretty drunk, so maybe he got booted before we arrived or just went home. Probably for the best. Met a construction worker who told us that Obama had systematically instituted Sharia Law in the United States. I have no idea what was meant by this and he had no examples, but it was interesting to hear this point of view in actual life. You sometimes have brushes with these points of view on social media, but this is the first person I’ve ever met who actually thought our president has an Islamic agenda. Nice guy, otherwise, and we got along swimmingly overall. Met another sad, sad man who told me about how he’d lost the love of his life twenty years ago and how she was remarried with kids now. So… I told him to friend her on Facebook. And he did. Thank you, Gardiner citizens. My work here is done. It was probably a good time to go back to the hotel after that conversation…
Up and Coming: Lewis and Clark National Forest and true Montana big sky country on the way to Glacier National Park!
Today’s featured photos: Killer geothermal displays and colorful earth at Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.
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