Yellowstone National Park
Going to the Tetons without seeing Yellowstone was not an option, although tourist attractions held no real allure. Traveling through the Teton National Forest was scenic; more fabulous road pictures of the Tetons offered themselves at almost every bend. Off we went, trailing a fluorescent green VW hippie van (sporting a peace sign and putting along at weed speed) through the forest. Entering Yellowstone lacked enchantment, the mountains balding with acres of trees lost to fire or disease, hard to tell. By this time we were used to the alternating speed limits popping up for no apparent reason – 25, 45, 35 – one rarely knew why or when. We crossed the Continental Divide at least 10 times on the trip, six times in Yellowstone alone. I couldn’t keep track of east or west unless it was clear which way the streams were flowing. Yellowstone held a certain fascination for me since childhood. My grandparents spoke of it and PBS lit a “great lodges of the West” fire in my imagination.
The lodge itself was monumental, a log cabin to dwarf all (and there were many) others. The shot I took inside the lodge does not do justice to the balustrades and massive stair railings, an odd marriage of Grimm’s fairytale meets cowboy campfire. Tourists of every age and stripe covered the ground like ants, scouring the mounds of holy smoke for that perfect shot, a camera safari at one of the West’s great wonders. Bill and I took to the boardwalk for a several mile hike around the main geyser area, waiting for the scheduled eruption of Old Faithful, watching the earth come and then rest for another 90 minutes.
The vivid colors, mineral smells and smoking, bubbling mud and water make for an atmospheric photo and sensory rich experience. It was not hard to imagine a time when this ground was hallowed, a place where the earth’s arteries spill precious minerals, whispering secrets from the deep in plumes of steam and mineral rain. I will not soon forget the sounds, smells and terrain of Yellowstone.
Aside from the crows, who were lured over to us by almond apricot treats, no animals were to be seen. On the way back to Jackson a small herd of elk stood regally by the side of the road but it was not until our hike to inspiration point the next day that we had any sightings. Tomorrow: hiking the Tetons.