Saturday, July 07, 2007

vacation highlights (part three- yellowstone national park)

vacation highlight number six: an unlikely compliment

after landing at the west yellowstone airport (see previous post) and stopping at the local grocery store to pick up picnic supplies, my dad, stepmother and i headed into the park to meet up with the rest of the stepfamily for dinner at the grand canyon of the yellowstone.

apparently, the stress of the day hadn't taken too much of a toll on me, because as i strolled to a scenic overlook at gibbon falls, where this next photo was taken, a grizzled old biker (ok- not that old- early fifties, maybe) looked straight at me and said, "wow". since the scenery behind me wasn't very impressive (once you've seen one lush, tree-filled valley, you've pretty much seen them all), i can only assume he was appreciating the sight of me.

that's my story, and i'm sticking to it.

in front of gibbon falls, post-"wow"

vacation highlight number seven: da bears

during the car ride to the canyon, i was informed that the previous time spent at the park had been chock-full of bear sightings. to hear daddy tell it, it was impossible to walk around the yellowstone lake lodge area without tripping over at least a black bear, if not a grizzly or two.

my response?

"don't worry- you won't see any more, now that i'm here."

after another day and a half in the park (followed by about 24 hours down in the tetons), he no longer doubted me. i can only hope my luck continues the next time i go camping in the area. i mean, i really have zero desire to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to see the silhouette of a bear on the wall of my tent.

vacation highlight number eight: thar she blows!

when i came to yellowstone last year, i'd purposely skipped old faithful, figuring it'd be little more than a crowded tourist trap. i mean, when you mention "yellowstone national park" to people, 97 out of 100 times, they picture old faithful. (one person might be able to come up with another feature of the park, such at the lower falls or maybe possibly the lake, and the other two, like the hairdresser down in phoenix (see previous post) are too busy trying to figure out where yellowstone is to picture any of its features.)

however, this year i had more than a slight interest in seeing the geyser. not only would we see old faithful, but several other geysers as well, as the world's most famous geyser was located in the very active upper geyser basin. the hiking book i'd picked up last year had trail suggestions, and my stepbrother's family seemed willing to wander around with me.

finally, and most importantly, by missing the geyser last year, i'd missed out on one of the twelve yellowstone national park stamps in my national park passport. (i'm down to one as of this writing- which just means i'll have to go back again sometime.)

you'll never guess where i am...

yellowstone's most "regular" geyser. there must have been nearly 1000 people waiting on this eruption.

after old faithful erupted, we wandered down the trail through the upper geyser basin toward the now-unimpressive morning glory pool. (the pool used to be a deep blue hue with yellow along the outer fringe, but litter tossed into the pool by visitors clogged the spring and lowered its temperature, causing the delicate algae balance to shift, and now the pool is not nearly as attractive as it used to be.)

some sights along the trail:

castle geyser, which erupts for 20 minutes at a time, then smokes and spurts for the better part of an hour. this one actually erupted while we were waiting for old faithful- too bad i didn't think to run down the hill and get a picture or twelve. this is what the geyser looks like during its post-eruption smoking period.

morning glory pool, which isn't nearly as gorgeous as it used to be. (if that's not a good enough argument against littering, i'm afraid i don't know what is.)

artemisia geyser, just past morning glory pool on an alternate trail. this one was recommended to us by a group of retired folks we dubbed the "geyser groupies" for their obsession with tracking eruption times and literally moving as fast as they possibly could in anticipation of eruptions in the upper geyser basin. apparently, artemisia geyser is nothing short of impressive when it blows. it's a pool that slowly fills up with hot water, and when it's full, there's an earth-rattling explosion and water is thrown everywhere. it takes several hours for the pool to refill after each explosion, and as you can see, it's a gorgeous deep blue color.

vacation highlight number nine: practicing self restraint

dinner that night was near the canyon again. we ate cafeteria-style, and since i finished before anyone else, i decided i'd wander over to the gift shop to resupply my postcard stash. as i wandered into the shop, noting that it closed in ten minutes, i passed a penny squisher machine. i have a weakness for those stupid rip-off machines. (actually, i can't really consider it a rip-off to get a souveneir for the low, low price of 50 cents-especially when you consider what t-shirts cost these days.)

i strolled up to the checkout with not only postcards, but also a shirt and a book for my squished pennies. when i paid, i asked for a dollar in quarters so i could afford to squish a couple of pennies. as the cashier rang up the person behind me, i wandered over to the penny squisher and began turning the crank. after my first penny, i carefully lined up my next desired design, loaded in my two quarters and the shiniest penny i had in my wallet, and suddenly a woman appeared to inform me that i needed to stop what i was doing and leave immediately, in seeing as how the store had closed five minutes ago. i told her i'd be done in just a moment- all i had to do was squish my penny- and she responded by taking my coins out of the machine, handing them to me, and informing me that the store would be open again in the morning. i told her (through clenched teeth) that i would no longer be in the area in the morning, and it would have taken me less time to squish the penny than it had taken her to inform me of their operating hours.

did i mention there were still other customers in the store?

as she chased me to the door, i wished her a very curt "good evening", and stormed angrily back to the restaurant.

i didn't catch the woman's (i still can't bring myself to call her a "lady") name, but i spent the rest of the evening wishing a severely infected hangnail upon her.

vacation highlight number ten: oh, what a view

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