If you’ve stuck with my updates this far, bless you. We took 118 photos on Day 5, but I won’t share all of them with you because they will take forever to upload.
Day 5 was possibly the most exciting day of the entire vacation. At this point, we’d seen a lot of cool things, and I was really wondering if Yellowstone could top Grand Canyon. Honestly, I don’t think you can really compare them; they’re apples and oranges. Yellowstone is just WEIRD, and the Grand Canyon is just mind blowing. I liked both, but I think I enjoyed Yellowstone more because of the sheer variety of things to see there. But here’s the story:
We left Andrew and Stefani’s house at 6 a.m. to head to Yellowstone. On the way out of town, we received an early morning phone call from Jacob’s mom, Judy, who had been watching our house while we were gone, and she reported that OKC had a hailstorm and that our south-facing windows on our house had been smashed out, and the windshield on my car was broken… Yay… But Judy truly came to our rescue and called our landlord and got our house windows fixed before we even returned from vacation. She’s our hero.
We left SLC and drove into the Grand Tetons, which were positively GORGEOUS. We were stunned by the view for about 6 hours, in the time that it takes to drive into Yellowstone Park itself. The park is actually 2.2 million acres, so it takes a long time to get anywhere once you’re inside. Here are some of the views we took in of Wyoming:
Also, Yellowstone National Park is actually an active volcano, and its strange landscape is created by the magma that lies just beneath the thin crust that separated us from certain death. It’s populated by geysers, springs, pools, mudpots, mud volcanoes, sulfur springs, waterfalls, canyons, petrified springs, a petrified tree, and weird fallen trees that have been “cooked” due to the thin crust separating the roots from the magma.
Here we are at the entrance:
Let me mention that at this point, it was really cold out, like 40s. Since we were used to 80-90-degree heat, we really were kinda shocked by how cold it was.
We stopped for a picturesque picnic lunch just inside the entrance to Yellowstone Park.
Let me just back up a bit and let those of you interested in the state park aspect of this trip in on some interesting information. There is an annual national park pass that you can purchase for $80, and it covers the entrance fees for any park you visit for an entire year. We knew about this before we went on the trip, but we thought we wouldn’t be visiting that more than Yellowstone and Grand Canyon, and it wouldn’t have been worth our time. It ended up that we DID actually need this pass, because we paid $75 in park fees, and that’s only $5 short of the $80 pass. However, the park rangers cut us a break, and because we had saved all of our receipts from other parks, they gave us credit toward an annual pass with all the money we spent. So we forked over the extra $5, and now we have an annual park pass, and we get in free to any other park from now until May 2013. Look at us.
After eating and obtaining our pass, we immediately headed for Old Faithful. Here’s something I didn’t know: Old Faithful is not the only geyser in the park, and it’s not even the most predictable one. In fact, they can only pinpoint its eruptions between 45 and 120 minutes! It doesn’t actually erupt at the same time every day. But it’s right next to the entrance to the visitor’s center, so I guess they just find it easier to deal with than others farther away in the park. So anyway, we walked up to Old Faithful and completely lucked out, because it erupted within minutes of us arriving! The eruption is particularly cool because the water and steam is heated by the magma beneath the earth’s surface, and then it slowly builds pressure. Then, when it can take no more, it erupts through a 4-INCH hole in the earth’s crust, creating steam and water that bursts through the surface. Four inches, people! That’s no bigger than your fist, and it’s like thousands of gallons of water for 3 minutes. It’s incredible.
After Old Faithful, we took in a tour of the geysers in Old Faithful’s area of the park. The hot springs, geysers, and steaming landscape are totally weird. It’s stinky and steamy and foggy. On our tour of the geysers, which is 3 miles of boardwalk (because you can’t walk on the ground at Yellowstone. It’s very volatile. It can eat your shoes. There are pictures), it is STINKIN’ cold. We decided we were a bit unprepared for this weather. Also, we stopped by this pool in the geyser area called Morning Glory. It had a sad story: apparently, the pool used to have rock formations in the shape of a flower, hence the name, but because visitors over the years have thrown coins and debris into the pool, it has lost its beautiful shape. They even drain the pool once a year to get all the crap that people throw in out of it and preserve what it’s got left. I just got so irritated at that. I mean, who would ruin a national landmark? Perhaps it’s the green in me coming out, but I was positively perturbed at hearing that story.
Once we made the loop around the geyser area, we got back to the visitor’s center near Old Faithful and picked out some wicked awesome souvenirs, which included Christmas ornaments and a blanket with bears on it. Jacob was positively DYING to see some bears (more on THAT). Once we finished our shopping, we headed toward our reserved campsite in Madison Campground.
On the way to the campsite, we stopped by the Grand Prismatic Springs, which are springs tainted with weird bacteria that makes them look rainbow colored. Steam rises off the top of them, and it looks really crazy. We walked around a boardwalk that took us through the springs, and we were BOMBARDED by Asians. I mean, the place was positively crawling with them. And they’re SUPER annoying. I’m no racist, but these people were irritating. They all had their cameras out and were bumping into us, and this boardwalk was really narrow. I thought we were going to fall into boiling hot water and die. We’ve been listening to Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded during this trip, in which he posits that everyone tries to replicate the consumption and lifestyle of Americans, including Asians. This became brutally obvious to me when I saw more Asians than Americans at the springs in Yellowstone Park. And it didn’t really even look like they were enjoying it; they had gotten off a tour bus and were just running around with their cameras and knocking people around. I vow that if I visit an Asian country, I will be kind and courteous to all I meet! And don’t even get me started on their driving. The park is 2.2 million acres, as I mentioned, and the speed limit is anywhere between 45-55, but the Asians were driving like 30 everywhere and wouldn’t let us pass them. SERIOUSLY? And I’m not discriminating here. You can ask Jacob. But hey, here are some pictures! Also, I will cover this more on Day 6, but Yellowstone is CRAWLING with wildlife. It’s home to black bears, grizzly bears, antelope, pronghorn, pelicans, sheep, goats, osprey, bald eagles, I could go on. But thing we saw the most of were buffalo.
After the prismatic springs, we headed for our reserved campground in Madison. We were on a loop of quite a few people, but it was fairly quiet. Jacob and I gave the Yellowstone Madison campground 4 S’mores. It’s not very secluded, but it’s doing everything else right! There is scenery, stuff to do, silence (surprisingly), and something amazing: Bears, geysers, etc. I made a delicious experimental meal of cubed ham and sweet potatoes garnished with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar in hobo packets, with s’mores for dessert. Jacob deemed it a success, so we will be adding that to my limited camping food repertoire.
Also, something to note about Yellowstone: It’s very innovative in the energy-saving green department! They had a really fantastic recycling program! They recycle plastics 1-7, glass, aluminum and steel, and also mixed paper and cardboard. You can’t beat that. Plus, many of the park rangers drive hybrids, and a lot of their buildings use solar energy.
Here are pictures from our humble campsite. At this point, we were not really worried about the bears. What’s that, you say? Why would we be worried about bears? BECAUSE THEY GIVE YOU A BEAR SPEECH. They also make you sign a waiver. The bears of Yellowstone are hungry, and you have to lock your food in your car, not spill any food on the ground, arm yourself with bear spray, and generally be prepared to run away in fear. So that night we bedded down in preparation for a fun-filled day. Our dreams were bear free, until we woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a small child screaming, “IS THAT A BEAR!?”
…To be continued…